Letter: Nobody has the ‘right’ to put others in danger

From: Michael E. Day


We see a lot in the news these days regarding people complaining about the mandates to get vaccinated or to wear masks, whether by government or their employer.

The interesting part of their protest is that it often has little to do with the efficacy or safety of the vaccine and other protective measures and more to do with just not wanting others to tell them what to do. They seem to consider these mandates are an infringement of their liberty or freedom.

My answer to that is "yes," of course it is. All public health and public safety measures and laws do restrict a person’s freedom to some degree.

I serve on the Brown County Health Board. I know there are rules to mandate that you do not have the freedom to pump your wastewater onto your neighbor’s property. There are regulations that require children to have certain vaccinations before starting school. One is not at liberty to sell food that has not been stored at appropriate temperatures.

You would not get much sympathy if you told a law enforcement officer that you went through the stop sign because it restricted your freedom of movement. You do not have the right to travel as fast as you might like on a highway, as you are expected to obey the speed limit.

All of these examples I mention have to do with public health and public safety, and all restrict a person’s freedom for the common good.

One can certainly question the effectiveness of a medicine or a procedure. This is especially true in a novel disease such as COVID-19. We are often left to depend on our knowledge of what has worked or not worked in previous similar pandemics. But that is completely different from questioning whether a government or an employer has the right to demand compliance with a certain procedure to protect the health and safety of the population as a whole.

There is a good and logical reason why laws are necessary in certain situations. For instance, requiring motorists to stop at a traffic light.

I, myself, have some libertarian leanings and tend to oppose rules that, if broken, do not harm anyone else. But the mandates concerning masks, social distancing, and vaccines, if not adhered to, do have the potential for making others ill.

Don’t be selfish. None of us has the right or freedom to behave in ways that harm others.