Monday, March 24, 2008

Idiot Parents Refuse to Vaccinate Their Children

Megan McArdle links to this New York Times article about what Megan calls "twee Bobo sociopaths" who refuse to vaccinate their children, either due to religious beliefs or woo-woo personal antipathy toward vaccination. As the article points out, kids who aren't vaccinated expose other kids to possible infection, not to mention adults whose immunity has faded. They think vaccines are dangerous -- which they are to some small extent -- and so they expose their own children, and other children, to the much greater risk of the underlying diseases, effectivley free-riding off the parents who have had their children immunized.

But some parents go beyond leaving their children unvaccinated. They actually expose their children to the actual diseases the vaccines are intended to protect them from:

Some parents of unvaccinated children go to great lengths to expose their children to childhood diseases to help them build natural immunities.

In the wake of last month’s outbreak, Linda Palmer considered sending her son to a measles party to contract the virus. Several years ago, the boy, now 12, contracted chicken pox when Ms. Palmer had him attend a gathering of children with that virus.

“It is a very common thing in the natural-health oriented world,” Ms. Palmer said of the parties.

Oh, well, then it's OK then. If it's common in the "natural health" world, then it's fine and dandy.

Megan thinks that the unvaccinated ought to be barred from exposing members of the public to risk of disease:

Of course, I recognize that people have a right to abide by their conscience, and I would not want public health officials to force children to be vaccinated. I just think that people who are unvaccinated, unless they have a legitimate medical reason for same, should not be allowed to use public roads, public sidewalks, or public services. They have a right not to vaccinate their children. But they do not have a right to risk my health.

I suppose we could have "Natural Health Colonies," along the lines of leper colonies, for those who forego vaccination. They might get wiped out by diseases from time to time, but I suppose that there would always be a new crop of natural health nuts to fill them back up. And yet administering this system seems a bit difficult. What are we going to do, tattoo a "U" on the forehead of the unvaccinated?

I prefer the option she rejects: have public health officials force children to be vaccinated, even if the parents object on religious or other grounds. In general, I believe in personal freedom, and if people want to risk their own health, so be it. Jump out of airplanes, smoke cigarettes, drink raw milk, go to an acupuncturist when you have cancer -- I really don't give a damn. Your body, your life.

But we all agree that children are a special case, because they are not yet mature enough to make decisions about their own lives. (Some adults aren't either, but that's another post.) So somebody has to decide things for children. But who?

Well, one answer is that the state could do it. The problem with that is that the state tends to do a pretty bad job at that sort of thing. Most parents love their children and in general are motivated to do a good job of taking care of them. That doesn't mean they don't screw up at times, but they do a better job than the goverment would if it tried to raise all children en masse.

But we recognize exceptions to that general principle. Parents are required to give their children basic nutrition, clothing, and shelter. If Jewish or Muslim parents don't want to feed their kids pork, that's fine, but they have to feed them something. Spanking is still legal, but severe beatings are not allowed. Nor does it matter if parents are motivated by religion as they abuse their kids. Christian Reconstructionist parents are allowed to believe whatever they want, but they can't stone their children for talking back. If parents lock their kids in the attic, as in that awful Flowers in the Attic book, then social workers are supposed to come and take them away to a nice foster family, where, one hopes, the children won't be locked in the attic or sodomized by the kid in the next bunk. Granted, that's not always a given, which is why children are only taken away for good reason. But abuse or neglect is a good reason.

Failure to vaccinate your child ought to be considered a form of neglect, just like denying that child any form of medical care. Now, some kids have legitimate medical reasons to not be vaccinated, and of course they should be exempt. But "personal beliefs" or "relgious objections" Give me a break. Somebody might have a religion that requires him to sodomize his kid every Tuesday night, but we don't let people do that.

If a person't religious or personal beliefs cause them to forego medical care, fine. But their children aren't capable, yet, of making an informed and rational choice. Since the parents obviously aren't either, the state should require vaccination. And anybody who takes their kid to a "measles party" to intentionally infect them ought to lose all parental rights and have some serious time in the slammer.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Mr. Intellectual Honesty Is At It Again

A few months ago, I chided "Reality-Based" blogger Mark Kleiman for a post in which he simultaneously claimed that his side -- however defined -- had the edge in intellectual honesty while at the same time urging his allies to refrain from criticizing General Ricardo Sanchez, apparently even if such criticisms were true. I argued at the time -- and it still seems to me to be true -- that it's self-contradictory to trumpet your own intellectual honesty while at the same time urging your political allies to refrain from advancing what they believe to be

Well, he's at it again. A couple of weeks ago, he declared a "Cease-Fire" on Hillary Clinton, saying that "anyone looking for criticism of Hillary Rodham Clinton or her campaign will have to look elsewhere from now on" Why? Because, in his estimation, Obama had it won and Obama supporters should "aim their fire at John McCain."

Today he threatened to revoke his unilateral cease-fire, in a short post:

Yes, we've been observing a unilateral cease-fire.

But if you keep lying about our candidate, we might just have to start telling the truth about yours.

And that wouldn't be fun for anyone, would it?

To begin with, I am not at all sure that his fellow Obama supporters have been observing the cease-fire. Or maybe Kleimain means "I" here, and he's using the "Royal We." Nor am I sure he has the authority to declare cease-fires or the resumption of hostilities on behalf of the Obama campaign.

But leave that aside. Kleiman seems to be saying that there are true bad things about Hillary Clinton that Barack Obama supporters haven't been saying? And, as of a week ago, when he though it was in the bag, that he thought they shouldn't say. Where is the intellectual honesty in that? Shouldn't Kleiman just say what he thinks the truth is, rather than refraining out of short-term political expediency? And if we know that Kleiman will lie by omission, by refraining from saying bad things about Hillary, and if he urges others to do the same, why should we believe him when he says (or fails to say) stuff about other candidates? He's already admitted that political maneuvering takes precedence over telling the truth as he sees it.

His attitude makes perfect sense for Senator Obama himself, or for people officially-connected with his campaign. If he wins the nomination, he's going to need the support of Democrats who supported Hillary Clinton. At some point, it makes sense for him to ease off if he's got it won. Running up the score doesn't do him a lot of good.

But so far as I know, Professor Kleiman isn't officially connected with the Obama campaign. He's a Professor who happens to support Barack Obama. Which is, you know, perfectly fine. Call me an idealist if you want, though, but I think that Professors ought to think of themselves as Priests in the Temple of Truth. They might believe in a particular political candidate, and they should certainly feel free to advance arguments in favor of the person they support. But figuring out the truth and stating it ought to be Job One.

Heck, even if he supports Obama, he ought to be willing to criticize Obama if and when he thinks the Senator is wrong. And the same is true of supporters of Senator McCain, of course. Recently, McCain stated that "there's strong evidence" that thimerosal causes autism. "Nonsense on stilts," as Megan McArdle put it. So what should a McCain supporter do? And intellectually honest McCain supporter, I mean, and one not deluded into thinking that thimerosal causes autism.

An intellectually honest McCain supporter should say "I support Senator McCain for these four reasons, but he's spouting crap on this." Given his statements, there's absolutely no reason to believe that Professor Kleiman would take such an intellectually honest position were Obama to make a similarly nonsensical statement. He may think himself "reality based," but his statements about the "Cease Fire" make it clear that he values political outcomes ahead of telling the truth as he sees it.