Mask Wearing Part 2

Dear Madlovics:

Thanks for your kind words. I think your assessment is brilliant.

Best regards,

Walter

From: Madlovics Bálint

Sent: Thursday, September 10, 2020 4:52 AM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: Re: The libertarian case for mandatory mask wearing and quarantine

Madlovics ezt írta (időpont: 2020. szept. 10., Cs, 11:40):

Dear Walter,

I got into a debate with someone on mandatory mask wearing. I generally argued against it, but came up with the following argument showing how it can be possibly justified on libertarian grounds:

The non-aggression principle prohibits any act of violence or the threat thereof. It is clear that spreading the virus counts as violence. The question is whether people who are not proven contagious but have a probability of spreading the virus can be compelled to do anything about it (wear masks, quarantine themselves etc.).

My answer is inspired by your reply to David Friedman (http://libertarianpapers.org/wp-content/uploads/article/2011/lp-3-35.pdf), who speaks about Russian roulette played while pointing the gun at your head instead of mine, and therefore presenting only a probability of coercion. You say that this counts as “clear and present danger”, as opposed to Friedman’s other, supposedly analogous example, an airplane with a very small probability of falling off.

Inspired by your argument, I make the case that a very small probability of having the virus does not constitute clear and present danger. But a higher probability could. How much higher is, of course, a continuum problem, but suppose that it has as high probability as a bullet being shot while playing Russian roulette–1/6. If every sixth person spread a disease as deadly as a bullet to the head, I would see countermeasures justified, every person being a “clear and present danger.”

Obviously, this is not the case with COVID, and probably not even the bubonic plague would qualify (Wikipedia says it has 10% mortality with treatment, probably lower than the mortality of headshots). However, being a continuum problem, even a Rothbardian judge could make the case that a bubonic plague epidemic, if not properly contained, makes everyone such a clear and present danger that countermeasures are justified. Such as mandatory mask wearing or quarantine.

I wonder what you think about this argument.

Best wishes,

Bálint

P.S.: Thinking about it, I think the deadliness of the virus might not even count. Only the probability. (If Russian roulette is played with pointing the gun at my leg, not my head, it’s still coercion.) So it doesn’t have to be the bubonic plague or something similarly deadly, it can be anything which is so infectious that almost anyone can spread it. In my point, that would justify universal countermeasures, involving those who are not proven contagious as well.

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2:15 am on September 11, 2020