Typhoid Mary

Dear Ken:

Thanks for your sympathetic interpretation of my views on government. I am an ancap, and of course was speaking sotto voce as a minarchist when I said “govt is justified.” I know Murray is up there somewhere, and I hope he was looking in the other direction when I wrote that.

As for quarantine, I am taking a VERY MODERATE position. This is why I am known far and wide as Walter Moderate Block, well, at least in my own mind. All I am saying is that it is possible to conceive of a case where the disease is so deadly, and so contagious, that it would be justified to take what would otherwise be considered coercive actions against such people.

Your example of the invasive plants is an excellent one. But, it doesn’t undermine my claim. To wit, that it is not necessarily a contradiction of libertarianism to use violence against peaceful but dangerous infectious persons; yes, it almost always is, and I can’t think of a single counter example, certainly not covid, but I think we have to be open to this possibility.

From: Kenn Williamson

Sent: Friday, August 28, 2020 6:46 AM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: Quarantine Typhoid Mary?

Dear Walter,

I think your analysis of Typhoid Mary being justifiably quarantined is flawed.  Now, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that when you say “the gov’t is justified” you mean that insofar as they are the de facto primary protector of property in our statist system, not that they are justified in being the primary protector of property.

However, even if they are the de facto protector of property, mandatory quarantine, face-mask wearing, and/or vaccination represent a prior restraint on right violations that have not yet occurred.  Consider a non medical example.  Given there is an invasive species of plant (VINE-19) that is making trouble for local property owners.  If there was suspicion that Person A had patches of VINE-19 on their property what could be legitimate responses from other property owners in the area?  Could they force you to stay on your property based on the suspicion that you might be carrying seeds of the plant around with you?  No.  Would they be justified in checking your person before they allowed you on their own property? Yes.  Could they force you to build a fence around your property? No.  Could they build their own fence on their property? Yes. Could they force you to spray your property with possibly harmful pesticides? No.  Could they spray their own property with pesticides as a preventative measure? Yes.

I hope this example illuminates the problem with mandatory quarantine, face-masks, and forced vaccination.  Libertarian justice does not allow prior restraint on possible rights violations.  It only outlines proportional punishment for actual and demonstrable rights violations that have already occured.  Now of course given our statist system there is a little murkiness surrounding what constitutes any particular person’s property right in commonly owned (gov’t owned) land.  However I don’t think that changes the basic analysis.  Any person has the right to regulate who is coming into their property but they do not have the right to regulate the activity of others on their own property.  So in my view, the gov’t is not justified in mandating quarantine, face-masks, vaccines or any other invasive preventative measure.  People voluntarily regulating their own behavior and the behavior of people on their property is the only pathway forward.  If there is a problem with determining the right of people on gov’t property then the solution is privatization.

Best regards,



2:40 am on August 30, 2020