Thursday, March 4, 2021

Preventive war and quarantining the healthy

A “preventive war” is a war undertaken proactively against a merely potential enemy, who has neither initiated hostilities nor shown any sign of intending imminently to do so.  The Japanese attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor is a famous example.  This is not to be confused with a “preemptive war,” which involves a proactive attack on an enemy who has shown signs of intending to initiate hostilities.  The Arab-Israeli Six-Day War is a standard example. 

The Iraq war of 2003-2011 was sometimes characterized as a “preventive war,” though in my opinion that is, whatever else one thinks of that war, not an accurate characterization.  Rather, I think it fell under the category of “punitive war,” a war fought to punish an enemy nation for some offense (such as a violation of treaty obligations).   Whether it was justifiable under that description is not an issue I am addressing here.  What is relevant is that critics of the Iraq war who characterized it as a preventive war took it to be ipso facto unjust.  For while preemptive war is generally thought to be justifiable, preventive war is – rightly, in my view – widely thought not to be justifiable. 

The reason should be obvious.  Until a potential enemy has actually done something – such as actually attacking (which would justify a defensive war), or preparing to attack (which could justify a preemptive war), or in some other way actually committing a sufficiently grave offense (which might justify a punitive war) – said potential enemy is in all relevant respects innocent.  You cannot justifiably attack a nation merely for what it might do, any more than you can punish an individual for what he might do.

This is why we don’t arrest and punish gangsters even when we have good reason to suspect that they will at some point commit crimes, and don’t fine corporations even when we have good reason to suspect that they will at some point pollute.  You can justifiably inflict harm on people only for what they have in fact done, not for what you think they probably will do in the future, and certainly not for what they merely might do.

But don’t we rightly punish people for certain negligent acts, even when they don’t actually result in harm?  Yes, but that is because such punishments are relevantly analogous to preemptive war rather than to preventive war.  Suppose I use a flamethrower to clear away brush or scare off raccoons in my backyard.  Suppose I don’t actually end up igniting your yard or house.  I still have in fact put your property in imminent danger of harm, even if I had no hostile motive but was just being stupid.  And it is reasonable to forestall actions that are per se dangerous in this way by prohibiting them altogether, as well as by punishing them after they occur.

It would not be reasonable, though, to prohibit ownership of (say) chainsaws, merely because someone might be so stupid as to use them in a way that endangered others.  It is very difficult to use a flamethrower in your backyard in a way that does not pose an imminent grave risk to your neighbors.  But it is not difficult to use a chainsaw in a way that poses no serious risk to others.  Sure, I could do something really stupid with it – say, tying it to a rope, starting it up, and then swinging it around in a wide arc that crosses over your property line – but it is extremely unlikely that many if any chainsaw owners would do such a thing.  Flamethrower use in a neighborhood context is per se dangerous to others in a way that chainsaw use is not.

Now, this is the principle on which quarantining disease carriers is justifiable, at least when walking around with the disease is more like using a flamethrower than it is like using a chainsaw.  Hence, it is reasonable to quarantine people with bubonic plague.  But it would be unreasonable to quarantine people with the flu, even if occasionally there are people who die from the flu.  Quarantining someone with bubonic plague inflicts a harm on him – it takes away his freedom of movement and may thereby prevent him from making a living or going to school, cause emotional distress, and so on – but this is justifiable given that his walking about freely would impose a grave and immediate threat to others, just as using a flamethrower in your backyard would.  Quarantining such a person would be analogous to a preemptive war – the forestalling of a grave and imminent threat that the person actually does in fact pose.

But it would not be reasonable to quarantine a person simply because he might get bubonic plague and pass it to others, or because he does in fact have an illness but one which merely might cause grave harm to another (such as the flu or a severe cold).  That would be analogous to a preventive war rather than a preemptive war, and illegitimate for the same reason.  You can justifiably quarantine Typhoid Mary.  But how can you justifiably quarantine Potentially Typhoid Mary, any more than you can justifiably attack a potential enemy?  Or how could you justifiably quarantine Severe Cold Mary on the grounds that some people might in theory die if they catch her cold, any more than you could legitimately ban chainsaws on the grounds that someone somewhere might use a chainsaw foolishly? 

Now, COVID-19 is not remotely like bubonic plague, and while for some people it is certainly worse than the flu, for most people it is not.  And we know who is most vulnerable – the elderly and those with certain preexisting medical conditions.  So, how can it possibly be justifiable to quarantine those who do not have the virus, on the grounds that they might get it, and then might go on to spread it to someone among the minority of people to whom it poses a grave danger?  Especially when there is an obvious far less draconian alternative, namely quarantining only those who do have the virus and those who are at special risk from it?  And especially when there is no proof that the more draconian measures are really necessary, and evidence that in fact they have no net benefit over less draconian policies? 

In short, how are lockdowns for vast populations of healthy people any more justifiable than “preventive war”?  How is the argument “If we don’t quarantine the healthy, grandma might die if they catch the virus and spread it to her” any better than the argument “If we don’t proactively attack country X, grandma might die if X attacks us”?  If those who start a “preventive war” are war criminals, what are those who have “locked down” the healthy and thereby destroyed livelihoods, inflicted severe mental distress, and set back the education of millions of children – and all for nothing, given the evidence that such policies have at the end of the day done little or no more good than less destructive ones have? 

Don’t answer: “But killing people in a war is worse than quarantining them!”  Of course it is, but that’s irrelevant.  Destroying the livelihoods, etc. of innocent people is not as bad as killing them, but it hardly follows that it isn’t extremely bad.  And since when is a government morally permitted to inflict whatever damage it sees fit on innocent citizens, as long as it stops short of killing them?

Related posts:

Lockdowns versus social justice

The rule of lawlessness

The experts have no one to blame but themselves

What “the science” is saying this week

The lockdown is no longer morally justifiable

The lockdown and appeals to authority

The burden of proof is on those who impose burdens

The lockdown’s loyal opposition

Some thoughts on the COVID-19 crisis


  1. I have been thinking about this and the issue of subsidiarity a lot lately. At what point is it legitimate for a larger government entity to force the actions of a smaller government entity? Surely it would be unjust for the Federal government to try to correct every imprudent actions of the California government, because that violates subsidiarity. But at what point can the federal government step in, and at what point must it step in? The same can be said for international coalitions imposing their will over a sovereign nation such as the United Nations sending in troops to Rwanda during the genocide. Some evil should probably be tolerated, but how much, and what is a principled way of making that discernment?

    1. The question about the US Federal Government was resolved with the civil war. The question was whether or not individual states were sovereign and the Federal Government was a contractual agreement between them, vs the Federal Government was sovereign and the individual sates were subordinate jurisdictions thereof. The civil war resolved this dispute firmly for the latter case, so in the case of Federal Government intervening in California, I would argue it doesn't violate subsidiarity because the Federal Gov't has superordinate jurisdiction. California must listen to the Feds, not the other way around.

      An international coalition like the United Nations is more like the former case, where it exists as a contract by the multiple and several parties. The United Nations would be able to impose its will only insofar as the contractual parties have agreed to those terms. Which is another way of saying the international coalition can intervene only with the permission of the party which requires intervention.

    2. Scoot:

      Re: "The question about [when it is legitimate for a larger government entity to force the actions of a smaller government entity] was resolved with the civil war."

      I quite agree, but I also strongly disagree.

      We should make some distinctions.

      As I read Scott's question, it seems to me he's asking a question of principle: A sort of query of the Natural Law in general (applied to principles of governance) which might be then be applied in any nation or historical situation, whatsoever.

      But Scoot (not Scott), you seem to be replying by citing a precedent which is applicable only in American law...and which is open to interpretation, at that. To be sure, the outcome of the Civil War might be viewed as a wholesale ruling-out of secession in all times and places for any reason: "No secession for you!" And I don't doubt that, for obvious reasons, any modern Federal court will be inclined to rule along such lines! But there are historical and philosophical difficulties with that view.

      In my own view re: the Civil War, there are five distinct, intersecting issues at play, here:
      1. The origin of the governing authority of a nation-state;
      2. The just right of subsidiary territories to secede, generally;
      3. The just right of subsidiary territories to secede for a particular reason;
      4. The just right of the government of a nation-state to establish more-perfect subsidiary jurisdictions within its own boundaries; and,
      5. The minimum requirements an organization must maintain to be considered the "government" of a territory, and the triggers for a government losing validity and authority.

      Re: #1: Now the first question is answered in a high-level way with a single word, "God": "All authority in heaven and on earth" comes from Him. But how? About this, the American tradition may or may not be correct vis-a-vis Natural Law; but the American claim is that God grants authority to individuals to govern themselves within the bounds of the Natural Law, and they, "the People" then delegate a subset of that authority to the government. In the Federal context, there is a further detail: The People delegate a subset of their self-governance to a state, and the states and people together delegate a further subset to the Federal government (see Amendments 9 and 10; also the bicameral structure of the legislature and the ratification procedures of the Constitution).

      Re: #2: It follows from the above interpretation of Natural Law that there is an unalienable (but qualified) natural right of secession, and indeed that it is this right which was exercised by the 13 colonies when they seceded from being governed by the King of England. (C.f. Montesquieu's ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence.) The Confederate States in theory had an abstract right of secession if "in the course of human events" it was necessary; but prudence dictates "that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes," and "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation." Ay, there's the rub, as we'll see in....

      Re: #3: The southern states held that their rights as states were being violated by the northern states, and that this constituted sufficient justification for secession. Abstractly one might argue such a case simpliciter, but secundum quid the case falls apart because the "rights" being violated were in relation to the continuation of institutionalized chattel slavery, which is contrary to Natural Law: No man has a natural right to do an evil thing. So there was no just cause for secession. By analogy: California, today, would have no just cause to secede if its purpose for doing so was to maintain its citizens' rights to abort their children after the government of the United States outlawed the practice.

    3. The question was whether or not individual states were sovereign and the Federal Government was a contractual agreement between them, vs the Federal Government was sovereign and the individual sates were subordinate jurisdictions thereof. The civil war resolved this dispute firmly for the latter case,

      Scoot, that's a little overly simplified, on two counts. First, because it isn't SIMPLY true that the fed gov. has the sovereignty, and second, because the Civil War didn't decide the philosophical question at all. Details:

      Before the US Constitution was ratified by 9 (former) colonies, they were each operating as independent sovereign states. Because the agreement to form a larger entity out of them had no per se, by nature form or structure, it could only have such form / nature as those entities MADE FOR IT out of their agreement. And it is at least as true that the form of entity they created was one that had LIMITED sovereignty, whereas the states retained also some aspects of sovereignty: i.e. a SHARED sovereignty situation. This is clearest from 2 points: first, the federal gov. only received such powers as were enumerated in the agreement, (and those inherently necessary to carrying out the offices delegated to it), whereas the individual states retained "plenary" authority not handed over to the fed. gov. Secondly, the 10th Amendment reaffirmed this by formal writ.

      Because the agreement that the states made did not say that "states cannot secede once they join up", then the formal nature of the agreed-upon entity they formed did not have this as an element of its constitutive nature. Briefly: a "state" is a natural or at least quasi-natural being, in that God made men to live in society and therefore to have some sort of a polity to which they owe their obedience and pious loyalty. But forming a supra-polity out of existing polities (and one which does not simply subsume the former polities but they retain their existence) is not something necessary in the very nature of forming societies, and so the supra-entity formed is one that only holds its form from what is EXPRESSLY provided for by human agreement. And no-secession was not expressly provided for.

      The Civil War certainly put paid to THAT EFFORT of secession. It did nothing at all to settle the nature of the political order, any more than a bully physically forcing a smaller kid to hand over money "settles" who is the rightful owner of the money. Physical force in war will eventually decide who is the winner, but it cannot tell you who had just cause in the war; the alternative theory would require us to assert that (by definition) all winners had just cause.

    4. that there is an unalienable (but qualified) natural right of secession, and indeed that it is this right which was exercised by the 13 colonies when they seceded from being governed by the King of England.

      R.C., I would argue that there is a better and stronger basis for the colonies having a right to separate from England: The formation of the colonies as political effusions of Britain was hardly more than a polite fiction than a reality in the beginning. (I suspect the natives would have considered even "polite" at that.) It was - much more than usually - mere lines drawn on a map: they didn't really know the outlines of the territories, they didn't know who did or did not live there already, and they did not know whether the natives could or should be suppressed, dominated, removed, made co-partners, or simply left alone. For instance, the writs of the British government "granting" fiefs to British lords (and their moneyed corporate puppet-masters) was nothing more than words on paper, since the British had done nothing to secure the land nor make it their own. The actual efforts to make something of the place was left to private parties operating privately, not on behalf of the throne. The grant of "Virginia" seems to have been as far north as some vague line in New Jersey-ish, and the Pilgrims originally made agreement with the Virginia charter company to use some of their land, but seeing as how they were way off course up in New England, their settlement was arguably "independent" of any explicit writ, right from the start. The settlers / pioneers were often people who were entirely not-wanted-in-England, and the Puritans had already emigrated to Holland first before they tried their hand in the New World, so they were hardly setting forth as British subjects carrying British rule (which they wanted to escape) into the new land.

      There was, for the first 50 years or so, little to no effort of the government in Britain to exercise actual governance, leaving it almost completely in local hands. (The "governors" hardly ever even went into the colonies.) As a consequence, the transplantees generated their own governmental forms and processes. Due to new and difficult conditions, the settlers were forced to formulate new social structures adapted to their new needs, and these structures were not readily and wholly compatible with British social and legal forms.

      In a word: they were busy constructing a new society, with its own governmental order. It wasn't until the 1660's to 1690's that the British government could be said to take enough notice to actually formulate a governmental presence in reality (rather than fiction). Through the Revolution the colonies weren't simply seceeding from Britain so much as enunciating an already existing distinct social and (partially distinct) political reality, hence denying the polite fiction America "is" British: it had only ever been so in a limited sense at best.

    5. I've been character limited so this will take a couple comments.

      Taking your comments in turn, starting with RC.

      You say: "it seems to me he's asking a question of principle: A sort of query of the Natural Law in general (applied to principles of governance) which might be then be applied in any nation or historical situation, whatsoever. (...)you seem to be replying by citing a precedent which is applicable only in American law...and which is open to interpretation, at that."

      I think the principles I am applying apply universally and not just specifically to American Law. Look at other democratic states and look at whether they fit into what I will abbreviate as the "Subordinate" or "Confederal" models. The United Nations fits the confederal model quite well, and the UN intervention in Rwanda fits my further application in that Rwanda is a member state of the UN. I don't know whether Rwanda invited intervention but it's membership is certainly a tacit approval of the process by which the UN intervened. Again: i don't think this way of thinking about things is specific to American law.

      You say: " the outcome of the Civil War might be viewed as a wholesale ruling-out of secession in all times and places for any reason: "No secession for you!" And I don't doubt that, for obvious reasons, any modern Federal court will be inclined to rule along such lines!"

      No I don't think the question is specific to Secession. I believe (and maybe this is the radical bit) that the Civil War decided "No sovereignty for you" for the states. The Confederal model requires the states to have some measure of sovereignty, with some smaller measure given up for the purposes of the greater Federal Government. The Civil War was fundamentally the resolution of an open question not resolved by the revolution or the constitution.

      Re: Your excursus on your first point that "1. The origin of the governing authority of a nation-state"

      There is a great writer by the name of Don Colacho whom you may have heard of but if you haven't I encourage you to look him up. One of his collection of Aphorisms is this:"Either man has rights, or the people is sovereign.
      The simultaneous assertion of two mutually exclusive theses is what people have called liberalism." I personally disagree that the people can be sovereign. I certainly do not delegate any authority to God, and I definitely do not believe there is any authority intrinsic to me that is mine to delegate. Monarchy is simple in that there is a distinct sovereign and I don't pretend to bear any of the responsibiliy of governance. Democracy is complex because we (Americans, anyway) have crafted this mythos that we are the source and summit of national governance, and it puts us in this weird position of both being both sovereign and subject of our elected officials.

      Why is this point important vis a vis the civil war: The Civil War resolved the disagreement Don Colacho described by stating unequivocally that the people do not delegate their authority and the people do in fact have rights granted to them by the government. If the united states accepted citizen sovereignty then an act of secession is the simplest act possible and in fact should be permissible under this model. I will pose the question this way: If Citizens delegate their authority up, why is secession a bad thing?

    6. (part 2)
      Ah, I see you realize this point In Re: #2...

      However, your rebuttal rests on American political theory, which is what is at issue here. Even if we suppose a precondition of secession is having a good reason (I don't believe that follows from the political theory I outlined above, but it does follow from the Declaration of Independence which you cite), I think we can at least agree that to the CSA they *thought* they had a good reason. Why secede otherwise? So then who adjudicates differences of opinion about what qualifies a good reason to secede? I will further add: Most of the secessions which occurred happened after the USA mobilized military forces against her own citizens. I won't dispute the relevance of slavery to the Civil War but I think there's room to question the primacy of that issue. That is a can of worms that deviates from the OP significantly so I will leave it at that, I hope you don't mind :)

      Bringing it all back around, tangent to your point #3:
      The question posed by Scott in the OC was about intervention in states committing evil. The potent question here is *according to who*. I think if California is committing a moral evil which is reprehensible to God, the Church, and Natural Law, then there is a tacit obligation to intervene reasonably and proportionally. Subsidiarity, in my view, means exhausting all possible levers before getting to, say, deploying the national guard and quarantining the state. If the supposed evil is 'high taxes' or 'being governed by a political candidate of the wrong party' then we get back to what is the measure we are using and who decides?

      I'll make one last point Re: #5
      "5. The minimum requirements an organization must maintain to be considered the "government" of a territory, and the triggers for a government losing validity and authority."

      There are many kinds of legitimate governments. The Church doesn't seem to take a position on whether or not a given government is legitimate, but does recognize that government has duties and a moral government must fulfill those duties. The question of "losing validity and authority" cannot be decided, in my opinion, by entities outside that country. Many tyrants have been elected by the valid and legitimately established customs of their land. Their acts have been varying degrees of evil. Outside entities can only react to the acts of leaders (on the geopolitical scale). Otherwise subsidiarity means that bad leaders must be dealt with internally (according to the same laws and mores that elected them).

      Tony, i'm coming for your comment next!

    7. Last Comment, I promise.


      I disagree with your assertions here:
      "it isn't SIMPLY true that the fed gov. has the sovereignty, and second, because the Civil War didn't decide the philosophical question at all."

      I agree that the letter of the law aligns with the situation as you have described here: "first, the federal gov. only received such powers as were enumerated in the agreement, (and those inherently necessary to carrying out the offices delegated to it), whereas the individual states retained "plenary" authority not handed over to the fed. gov." But I ask again, *IF* sovereignty is delegated up, then can that authority be withdrawn? Can not a state revoke permission of a superordinate organization to govern it? If this is not allowed, then how can you argue that states delegate authority up? If it is allowed, why did secession in this case lead to war?

      The Civil War did not change the letter of the law but it did change the relationship the States have with the federal government and that citizens have with their elected officials: it was a de facto change in status. Regardless of who won: to be clear, I am not arguing the justice or injustice of the outcome of the civil war nor the casus belli for it either--regardless of those things, the outcome was a change in status where the Federal Government was supreme and the contract the states supposedly had with it was *irrevocable by them*. We have had some examples of American territories being released (the Philipines are independent now, for example) so this contract *is revocable* by the Federal Government. Which means that the States just are parts of the Federal whole, and not a union of many wholes.

      Applying this to the question in the OC, I can intervene in a wound on my foot to heal it because it is a part of my whole. I cannot intervene in the wound of my friends foot if they do not wish me to intervene. The Federal Government can intervene in the affairs of California because California is a part of the federal government with authority delegated down to it. The Federal Government cannot intervene in Rwanda unilaterally without permission.

    8. I had a second half of that ^^^ replying to Scoot. It appears to have been lost somehow.

      Lemmy try again...

      Re: #4: This one's tricky, because the American notion of authority goes from the People, to the states; and then from the People and the states, to the Federal level, which is why the 10th Amendment says what it says.

      Consequently, at first glance, it doesn't seem correct for the Federal government to dissolve the CSA governments and reinstitute new state governments. That has authority flowing in the wrong direction. Since authority flows to the Federal government from both the states and the People, one could argue that the People could institute new state governments...but it isn't the people of New Jersey who can remove and replace the government of South Carolina. That ought properly to be the role of the people of South Carolina...just who you didn't want creating the new government, if you were Lincoln!

      But that leads us to the fifth issue...

      Re: #5: The bare minimum requirement for being a government is the ability to forcibly control territory, defending it from outsiders and enforcing laws therein. In the aftermath of their failed (and unjustified) secession, the people of South Carolina lacked that power: Only the Union armies had that. They, if anyone, were "the government."

      Of course mere force doesn't make a just government, and in the end, if the United States were to act in accord with its founding philosophy, it would need to build a new government for the people of South Carolina (and the other former Confederate states) and restore the vote to them. Over time, even its police forces and militias must be restored, since without these it would not have territory-control and law-enforcement, and thus would not be a valid government.

      This can be generalized, even outside the post-Civil War situation: Without territorial defense and law-enforcement power, an organization can't claim to be a government. We say it isn't "valid" as a government. With that power, it has the bare minimum to qualify as a government; but a government is a force-wielding activity like war, so like war it can be just or unjust. "Deriving its just authority from the consent of the governed" is required for jus ad imperium just as initiation by the proper authority is required for jus ad bellum. Wielding that authority in the proper way and for the proper ends in accord with Natural Law is required for jus in imperium, just as moral prosecution of a war is required for jus in bellum.

      By an admittedly-imperfect process, the new governments of the former CSA states were restored to their proper status within the American system: Their people select their elective officials; and their people and those governments select officials at the Federal level (although direct selection of Senators by state legislatures should really be restored to make this more explicit).

      The best interpretation of these events, then, is not to claim that the CSA's failed unjust secession invalidated all secessions for all time. It shouldn't even be viewed as establishing a judicial precedent against the right to secede, since (a.) the U.S. based its secession from England on that right; and (b.) the absence of a right to secede for an unjust cause in no way falsifies the right to secede for a just one. (You might as well claim that because at least one law has been unjust, it's unjust to ever pass laws!)

      So there you are: A state can't justly secede in order to keep having slaves (when slavery is outlawed) or to keep doing abortions (when, by the Grace of God, that's eventually outlawed). But a state (or county, or town, or whole region) can justly secede for just reasons. That's a Natural Right...but the exercise of it is often imprudent, and controlling territory against all comers is difficult, making the constitution of a new and lasting valid government a big practical challenge.

    9. I agree that the letter of the law aligns with the situation as you have described here: "first, the federal gov. only received such powers as were enumerated...

      Scoot, I will grant that there is a difference between the de jure situation, and the de facto situation: de facto, the federal government is supreme in NEARLY all ways, with a few still-not-fully-settled matters. But because the official formulas still pay LIP SERVICE to the de jure situation (i.e. the Constitution and shared sovereignty), it would still not be a true revolution for the US to turn its back on the current de facto situation and say "we are going to go back to doing what the Constitution actually says". There is room for a change without explicit warfare to become in fact what we say we are on paper.

      "Either man has rights, or the people is sovereign.
      The simultaneous assertion of two mutually exclusive theses is what people have called liberalism."

      I have read some of Don Colacho's stuff, and I must it sounds interesting, but doesn't bear close examination. For example, this one case is just plain wrong. If one accepts that God is the true and ultimate sovereign, and limits what we mean by political sovereignty as "what God allows here on this mortal coil, He retaining ultimate sovereignty", then we can agree that it is possible to discuss that LIMITED (earthly) sovereignty without ever denying God's - but also without re-affirming it in every sentence.

      Next: if natural law provides that man should be ordered into a society (or several of them), then it also provides that man needs a government. But natural law does not prescribe WHICH KIND of government, nor prescribe WHICH MEN shall run it. So, it is left to the genius of men to decide, which is what the Bible says: "God made man from the beginning, and left him in the hand of his own counsel." (Sirach 15:14). This means that at least in ONE sense, any government formed by men achieve its status as a valid, legitimate government, precisely because men made it so. By some series of choices - and (if you examine the historical cases) there were always at least some FREE choices which could have gone some other way. And while it is "natural" that men erect some sort of government, there is no necessity that they have the absolute freedom to dissolve it whenever they might wish for any reason or no reason: once existing, such political order has a claim of stability that OUGHT not be overturned for no good reason, and men attempting to do so would violate natural law.

      But natural law, after prescribing THAT men should have a government, also prescribes that men - not being ants - are to be left to make at least SOME choices without being directed by government. However straightened the circumstances are that demand heavy government rule, no government can claim to rule EVERY SINGLE ASPECT of a man's day. And no legitimate government can claim to outlaw certain kinds of things, such as the right to life of an innocent man.

      That is, while men "make" the state and therefore are a more original source of ruling authority than the government is, that does not mean that men can unmake the state at will. And while the state has authority, it may be blocked from SOME forms of exercise by natural law which make some uses of power off limits. Neither "the people" nor "the state" are wholly sovereign, because both have a LIMITED sovereignty under God.

  2. This is a non-issue now.

  3. Interesting post, Dr. Feser, the war analogy is pretty helpful in understanding your view. two things i feel are missing:

    1. While Covid is not THAT dangerous to a healthy individual, it spreads pretty fast, so it is dangerous as hell on a social level, as the number of deads show. While not the bubonic plague, it can be discussed if it is enough of a thread to society at large to justify a preventive action. Here it is, to you guys from Murica! i don't know.

    2. How would you quarentine only the more vulnerable? If Grandma is at home them she can easily be infected by the healthy persons who live with her. You could put they in a separate place, but i doubt that it could be done fast, if it could.

    Just remembering, of course, that i'am commenting from a totally diferent context, so what i say maybe is not relevant in the USA.

    1. Yes your first point becomes like the example of using the flame thrower; by using it (not locking down) you are risking burning your neighbour’s property (killing them by spreading infection). Your second example shows that it’s a reasonable comparison (not necessarily a correct one, but the evidence is mixed still, complicated, and changing with new variants).

      So the question must go to the effectiveness of lockdowns for this specific virus versus the risks/impact those poses overall. On the first point I would say that the jury is still out, but our knowledge was certainly not good enough at the start to be sure. However if it was ebola, then everyone would agree it’s the right option. So balancing the impact of the measure versus using the precautionary principle (its too late to undo a decision like this) means it will always be a moral judgement call. Those who believe we only have this life will probably have a different point on the weighing scale. If covid affected children, more parents (at least) would have very different views etc

      This is not an issue of moral black and white. I think our society is so afraid of death due to the materialist mindset that we end up with a different balance point (though it’s not really a balance, more a divide) and “media moral high horse” interrogation narrows the choices of politicians. However if we were to get a new virus which needs a new vaccine each year for a decade, I suspect permanent lockdown would be seen as less appropriate at some point if it’s still inflicting the likes of such economic damage.

    2. Just out of curiosity, where are you from Talmid?

    3. You raise a good point. The major distinguishing factor is how transmissible Covid-19 is.

      While it is reasonably benign to most people, the fact that so many people can get infected so quickly, it ends up killing a lot of people just be sheer number of attempts.

      But Feser still makes a good point. There really has been no indication that large-scale lockdowns have worked to control spread compared to less restrictive measures.

      At the beginning, it was understandable for govts to do it, since they didn't have much time and very limited information. But if they are still doing it now, it requires serious questions to be asked and points at major incompetents.

      Even in places like New Zealand, which was covid-free in the community, it has just locked down the most populated region again over a handful of community transmission. One thing being asked is: Why, after a year of information to work with and without the pressure of dealing with covid running rampant in the community, has the govt not come up with a much more granular and thorough answer?

      I can understand that lockdowns can work if the transmission is still small, such as NZ has shown. But to continue with lockdowns seems to be an admission of incompetents.

    4. What is the percentage of people who get the virus that die from it?

    5. To rejoin, there is a commonly held falsehood believed about COVID:

      "We are enforcing lockdowns because it is a dangerous illness."

      This is not why government officials are enforcing lockdowns. This is the real reason:

      "We are enforcing lockdowns because it is a disease which puts a lot of strain on hospitals to treat."

      This conversation cannot be held if people are ignorant of the true motives behind these lockdowns.

    6. For 1, you also need to determine whether general measures actually provide much of any benefit and especially when compared to more limited measures, such as shielding the vulnerable, and you have to then weigh such benefit against the considerable harms of lock-downs.

      For 2, shielding would have to be on the household level (or other sensible units...) - I'll leave aside whether this is voluntary (perhaps with state aid to cover lost wages, expense of deliveries, et cetera) or mandatory - which would restrict far fewer people than a general lock down, with many of those left free being people who are in their most productive working and educational years. I expect many would, if that was the situation, move away from the vulnerable, where it was feasible, so as to individually enact your separation plan, and I bet quite a few would do it very quickly.

      People adapt, if allowed.

    7. Geocon,



      My PM explicitly said this the other day, as justification for lockdown: "Covid kills people. We must never lose sight of the reason we take these measures...It is to save our people's lives and to save their livelihoods."

    8. @Simon Adams

      I admit that i don't know if lockdowns are our best bet, at first it looked like it was. It is sure true that a fear of death is tiping the scale to the lockdown side, the deaths are mentioned a lot here by media and by people in general. While i think that so much deaths can't be ignored, it sure can be a bit damaging, for(like BTO said above) we can forgot the real meaning of lockdowns: garanting that the hospitals don't become full.

      The worse thing seems not that it is a hard choice, is that it also has a lot of non-rational elements tiping the scale, like the materialistic culture and the political factors involved. I assume that it will take some time before we can be certain of the right course of action...


      I'am from Brazil. Before you ask: not exactly a fan of the president, thought the guy is producing a lot of meme material...


      I'am not sure the lockdowns are our best bet or not, i tend to favor they, but our neighbour Argentina did one and it flooped hard, so i don't trust they 100%, especially now that the economic effects are showing.

      If the lockdowns are not the best bet we have, them they probably remain the first option for other factors, less rational ones, as Simon noticed. Here, the president negacionism and the health colapses that happened did so much impact that even if you could prove that lockdowns are worthless you likely would not be heard. It seems to me that the more democrat part of there is not THAT far from that, so non-rational factors can't be ignored when analysing the government choices.

      @S. F. Griffin

      I'am all for a plan that only shields the vulnerable, the economic, social and psycological damage caused by lockdowns can't be ignored, it is more that i lack a clear vision of how it would work. Maybe it is a level of caution that violates the golden mean if aplied to the EUA, i dunno.

    9. Billy, I think you may have missed a decimal place. I have heard an awful lot of numbers for the IFR, but the most common recent number among responsible reports seems to hover in the range of 0.3%. This article

      points out a lot of the difficulties of measuring and a lot of causes of biased figures, but concludes the IFR is about 0.23%.

    10. Sorry, what I showed was the number of people who have died compared to the number of people on earth, not number of people infected.

      You're right. My mistake.

    11. OK, good to get that clarification. Thank you.

    12. If "what's the percentage of people who die from it?" was asked because we're taking that percentage as a relative approximation of harms, then it's probably wise to factor in additional costs; e.g., the percentage of people who suffer difficult recoveries lasting weeks or months, and the consequent loss of work hours, stress on family life, and so on.

      In saying that, I don't intend to suggest that weeks in bed or bad lingering coughs should be considered as bad as deaths, of course. But I mention it because, on the other side of the equation, we face all the harms -- lost small businesses, aggregation of competitiveness to only a few mega-large firms per industry, the crushing of certain highly-affected industries, the delays of education, delayed cancer (and similar outpatient) treatments leading to early deaths from a variety of non-COVID causes, a rash of suicides and household violence, bad civil-liberties precedents, and so on -- caused by our response to the pandemic.

      Naturally one suspects our response of being too-much sledgehammer, too-little nuance, and of doing more harm than good...more harm even than would be done by the increased disease spread in the absence of lockdowns. Such comparisons are uncertain, being more art than science...but if one is determined to make them, one must include all the harms on both sides of the equation (to whatever degree that's possible).

  4. "You cannot justifiably attack a nation merely for what it might do, any more than you can punish an individual for what he might do."

    But you can give someone a Nobel Prize for what they might do. Just say'n.

    1. Er, come again. When are Nobel Prizes dished out for what someone might do?

    2. ‘It is true, Obama did not do much before winning,” Lundestad, 74, a member of Norway’s Nobel Committee until 2014, told The Post. ‘But he represented the ideals of the committee. And when we have an American president who supports that message, we like to strengthen him.’

      The article also points out the problem of giving the prize to a man who ordered drone strikes on civilians.

  5. Respiratory viruses go up in the winter, and down in the summer; it’s what they do. Charts for different jurisdictions all look the same regardless of whatever measures that given jurisdiction may have taken—lockdowns, inexplicable school closings, whatever. And you cannot look at case charts and pick out where the mask mandates and lockdowns happened. You cannot look at case charts and pick out where Fauci said Florida would be on fire.

    Up in the winter, down in the summer. Virus’, like honey badgers, don’t care.

    “The curious task of economics [and epidemiology] is to show man how little he knows about what he imagines he can design.” -- F.A. Hayek

  6. Fun fact: The WHO is claiming that this disease is as or more deadly than the Bubonic plague.

    Last figure I saw was 2.3 million dead worldwide - that's 3% of the population in 1 year. The Bubonic plague killed 10% in four years. The Spanish flu, 3-6% of the global population in four years. So, according to the Big Brains at the WHO, this is a scarier disease than either of those.

    I wouldn't trust them to tell me what colour the sky was.

    1. 2.3 million of 7.8 billion would be .03% of the population.

      The WHO worst case scenarios early last year predicted 1 in 30 might die from CV19.

      Don't let the name fool you, the WHO is more concerned with self preservation of it's bureaucracy and promoting abortion as a universal human right than the health of the world.

    2. But you trust the WHO.

  7. Regarding your discussion of preemptive war, I will quibble a little with whether or not that is justifiable. You point out that you aren't discussing the justification for the Iraq War (which I am not disputing) but you do state that preemptive war is generally thought to be justifiable. NB: You don't state that you think it is justifiable, just that it is generally thought that way.

    I take the position that a preemptive war is not justifiable.

    The example you give is taking action against an openly hostile enemy who has the intentions of engaging in hostility. In the 6 Day War example Egypt was clearly posturing but had not made a positive action against Israel.

    This means that no actual grievance has been suffered at the time the pre-emptive attack happens. The difference between prevention and preemption seems to be intent of the party attacked, but in both cases the attacked party hasn't done anything. Intent matters but surely it doesn't justify an act of war?

    A hyperbolic example I like to use is that what if the US detected the Japanese Navy on their way to Pearl Harbor, and what if they had nuclear bombs at their disposal at this time. If they nuked Japan before Japan arrived at Pearl Harbor, again, Japan hadn't yet done anything even though their posture and intent was clearly one of war.

    Bringing it back around, Quarantine is different from preemptive war because Quarantine presents an active danger while a posturing enemy presents a passive danger. Israel has the right to defend itself through defensive means, and quarantining an infected individual is a defensive measure. Israel does not have justification to attack Egypt without having first been attacked, because that is an offensive means to a defensive end. The proper equivalent in my opinion would be euthanizing an infected individual as soon as they contract the illness to prevent it's spread.

    1. "This means that no actual grievance has been suffered at the time the pre-emptive attack happens."

      A man is running at you with a knife and a very angry expression while he is yelling that he's going to gut you like a deer. You have a loaded gun in your hand. You think you cannot shoot because you haven't been stabbed yet?

    2. He has ALREADY taken overt action clearly threatening direct and immediate harm. That condition, that he HAS taken such actions means that you can react to his actions rightly.

    3. Tony,

      Yes, and so the question is not whether or not preemptive actions are justifiable in principle(contra scoot), but what circumstances justify preemptive action.

    4. Thank you, Tony. Yes: The man running at me with a knife has already taken a hostile action.

      If I have a loaded gun in my hand and I see a man with a knife on the street and I kill him, that is a preventative action (is unjust).

      If I have a loaded gun in my hand and I hear a man say "I have a knife and I'm going to gut you like a deer!" but he takes no action and I do not see the knife, and I kill him, that is a pre-emptive strike.

    5. In comparison to the 6-day war: as I understand the history (possibly tinged with biased claims), Egypt and Syria had already coordinated their forces for a strike about to take place, which is a good deal more than "posturing". In a large country like Russia, one might argue they have a lot of room to absorb the initial offensive and then take successful defensive action. In a tiny country like Israel, this is inoperative: a plan for a solely defensive strategy for AFTER the enemy has struck its opening blow is pretty much a losing strategy. I don't argue that this necessarily justifies preemptive war on their part, but I think that it must at least be considered as a significant element of the analysis.

    6. Tony, I think there are two competing ideas here.

      1- Is a pre-emptive strike justifiable.
      2- Is a pre-emptive strike effective

      I do not deny that the pre-emptive strike was an effective move on the part of Israel, and that they made that decision partly out of necessity. But until they are "running at you with a knife" any attack is not justifiable. My understanding is that Israel struck while Egypt was still staging it's forces--which I agree is an overtly hostile posture but is not an act of war *per se*.

      I think staged forces moving towards the border in concert with aircraft and allied nations mobilizing, that's not pre-emption any more, war is upon you. Israel can justifiably strike.

      Again--this might be less EFFECTIVE but I believe it is more justifiable.

    7. Scoot,

      From Feser in the O.P.:

      “preemptive war,” which involves a proactive attack on an enemy who has shown signs of intending to initiate hostilities.

      From you:

      “but he takes no action and I do not see the knife, and I kill him, that is a pre-emptive strike.”

      You don’t see the difference?

    8. But until they are "running at you with a knife" any attack is not justifiable. My understanding is that Israel struck while Egypt was still staging it's forces--which I agree is an overtly hostile posture but is not an act of war *per se*.

      Scoot, I see that we are mostly disagreeing about the facts-on-the-ground. As I have heard it, (which I don't claim is reliable), the Egyptians were not merely staging its forces in the sense of "putting things into order IN CASE war should come"; they had explicitly decided that war WOULD come, and were engaged in the last stages of preparation before the final "Charge!" was issued. When you earlier used the expression "posturing" I thought you meant "making yourself look dangerous to intimidate the other guy" - but without any actual intent to attack. That's one way to take a military's heightened activities. Your later use is more generic "putting your forces into a new posture that is closer to being immediately available", which covers everything from going from defcon 4 to defcon 3, or going from defcon 4 to defcon 1 - it ALLOWS that maybe you're new posture is not intended for attack, but that usage doesn't EXCLUDE that the new posture is meant to stage an attack.

      One thing I have learned over the decades is that there is this little mind-game that is played out between military and political leaders, a game that some politicos know about consciously, and others don't. Either party can be the first one to ask, but it goes like this: "I'm not saying I want this, but what are the possibilities for us to wage a war? Just give me the best 3 options, OK?" "Well, sir, we would have to do an expansive study." "Ok, go ahead and get back to me." 3 weeks later: "Ok, I don't want you to assume that we will be going to war, but in case we have to, Option 2 requires a large-scale mobilization of certain forces. Go ahead and call that up, but the decision of whether to wage the war is still off in the future, we can decide later to go or not go." The problem is that the increasingly extensive (and expensive) momentum of a military engaged in getting ready for war creates a psychological pressure of its own to USE it, regardless of how much it was intended to make the decision "later". At a certain point, weak leaders find that the decision NOT to go to war has past its prime, they have already missed the window. The "decision" was made in a hundred small choices prior to the final "go ahead" making the final moment a fore-gone conclusion, impossible to turn back from.

      The consequence of this is that after Israel (or any little-guy country) has watched its neighbor prepare all the machinery for war, and has been waging a propaganda campaign in favor of war for years, the notion that "they haven't actually DECIDED whether to use the military to go to war" may in fact be a mistaken view of how these things happen. I know that this blurs (possibly to the point of impossibility) the line between preventive war and a defensive war where you just happen to get in the first strike, but IN PRINCIPLE hitting the enemy after they have made the decision to go ahead but before they have actually struck is not contrary to waging a "defensive war". And this is what Scott was arguing is "preemptive" war. (I think) you are disputing not about WHETHER there is room between preventive war and letting the enemy strike first, but in DESCRIBING it clearly enough. "Show signs of intending to initiate hostilities" comes in an infinitude of different degrees, some more remote and some more proximate. Scott was assuming proximate.

    9. TN,

      "Shown signs of intending to initiate hostilities" can be anything from screaming murderously at me to brandishing a knife. The crux of a preemptive war is an intention of war, not an act of war. I don't believe intention is sufficient to justify war.

      Let me put it this way:
      You are the King of TEE-EN-dinavia, and I am the king of Scootburg.
      Tell me at which stage you would declare a preemptive war and attack me:
      -I close our shared border
      -I have a massive military parade in our capitol
      -I condemn Tee-En-dinavia as an evil nation
      -I mass troops to our border
      -I send you a letter that says "I'm going to invade if you don't change your policy on kosher dills!"
      -I actually invade.

      I am arguing that anything before the final step, an actual invasion, is premature and unjust. At which stage that i've outlined would you have invaded? And why do you think it is just to have done so?

    10. Scoot,

      “The crux of a preemptive war is an intention of war”

      No, it’s the “shown signs” part that matters. You are acting as if Feser is claiming that a justifiable, preemptive attack is based on mere belief about what the adversary might be thinking in their private thoughts without any concrete action to show. Not true.

      Later in the O.P. Feser writes:

      “Until a potential enemy has actually done something . . . or preparing to attack . . . or in some other way actually committing a sufficiently grave offense . . .”

      The scenario you offer about scootberg is just debating what criteria justifies a preemptive strike, not whether a preemptive strike is justifiable in principle. Then you give absurd examples as if any example short of the actual invasion is silly.

      Here’s one: scootberg, which has a long history of hostility toward TEE-EN-dinavia, tells TEE-EN-dinavia “we are building an nuclear weapon to wipe you off the planet”, and TEE-EN-dinavia has evidence that scootberg is in fact doing what they claim, then a preemptive attack is justified.

      “I am arguing that anything before the final step, an actual invasion, is premature and unjust.”

      So scootberg should be allowed to build a nuclear device and push the button before TEE-EN-dinavia can do anything? Really?

    11. Tony,

      You say: "the Egyptians were not merely staging its forces in the sense of "putting things into order IN CASE war should come" "

      I don't dispute this. The reason I am harping on this point is that Egypt's intent was clearly to engage in war. The intent part seems to be the crux of the matter. But I don't believe Intent is a high enough standard. Essentially, until Egypt declares "Charge!" I don't believe Israel can strike, because after the Charge is declared then Israel is not engaging in first strike anymore and is in fact engaging in a defensive war, which is just.

      It would be imprudent of Israel to not make reciprocal preprations just as it would be imprudent of an individual to not defend his or herself from a knife wielding mad man. But I do not believe just war can be built on intent (real or perceived) or an enemy.

      Lets take a look at the conditions for Mortal Sin as a rough analog. It must be 1) Grave Matter, 2) we must have full knowledge that the matter is grave, and 3) committed with full consent of the will.

      If any of these three things are missing, it is not a mortal sin. Still a sin! but not a mortal one.

      Egypt in this case engaged in conduct which was Grave, and with full knowledge that it was grave, *but had not committed an act of war* even though they had the full intent to do so.

      Intent isn't *nothing*, so I am not saying that intent to commit a mortal sin is perfectly fine. Many people would commit a mortal sin if given the opportunity and just have not had the opportunity (thanks be to God that I have not been tested in this way). But a sinful intent *is distinct* from a sinful act. Likewise, intent for war *is distinct* from an act of war. Therefore any military action taken prior to an *act of war* is unjust.

    12. Scoot, so in the situation of a small country for which "invasion" is equivalent to an attack throughout the entire country including its population centers, and for which effective defense is nearly impossible because it would tend to require demolishing YOUR OWN country, it still remains that attacking before the enemy actually launches their attack is unjust and morally forbidden. That's what you are saying.

      It is possible that this is the moral answer, but it is not obvious that this is the only moral answer. For one thing, I would strongly urge caution in drawing conclusions from private individuals and states: private individuals do not have the authority to incarcerate someone for a long period of punishment, nor to put people to death as punishment for grave crimes, but states do. Similarly, private individuals do not have the authority to declare and wage war, but states do. Arguably, there is enough dis-analogy here that what is the constraint of justice in the case of an individual is not present in states.

      Be that as it may (or may not, YMMV), there ARE situations where society allows a certain degree of greater latitude for a private citizen to act with force than the "usual" case. One of them, for example, is in the case of "fighting words" which are of such a nature as to actually incite a violent response: such inciting words are criminal and can lead to a conviction and punishment. Threatening language can fall into that category (depending on the degree, but if the language is sufficiently specific as to indicate clear intention to attack, that will typically satisfy the criteria, which labels such acts "injurious of themselves"). If civil and criminal law accepts the notion of "fighting words" being used in the context of individuals, it seems at least plausible that a similar concept can apply at the level of states: at a certain point, words (and conforming behavior such as pointing a gun at you) are "injurious of themselves" and would create a just cause of forceful response.

    13. TN,

      "So scootberg should be allowed to build a nuclear device and push the button before TEE-EN-dinavia can do anything? Really?"

      Yes. It's the only way it's just. Otherwise you are attacking first and are the aggressor. It might seem absurd to you but I think for Just War there has to be some definitive act of war against you.

    14. Scoot,

      Allowing a terrorist state to wipe out millions of people is what you call "just".

      Oh, ok.

      "It might seem absurd to you"

      Uh, yeah.

    15. @scoot

      I don't get it. If the guys WILL push the button them they already are a danger to you, so attacking they is already self-defense.

      Also, Dr. Feser, if you are reading still, how would you see someone translating and them posting online some of your blogposts? There is a lot of gold in this blog.

    16. Talmid,

      The situation TN describes as absurd can be simplified this way:

      "We should kill their people who haven't done anything before they kill our people who haven't done anything".

      Posing a danger isn't a sin. It would be imprudent to ignore obvious dangers, but it is unjust to kill people before exhausting all other means. Life is sacred, even the life of our enemies. So if they launch a nuclear bomb and kill millions of people, there is no way this can be construed to weigh on *my* conscience.

      If we know someone is dangerous, we know someone has dangerous intent, but they have not made a dangerous act, we cannot do anything other than prepare a defense for their inevitable dangerous act. If we attack first, we remove the possibility of our enemies deciding not to attack, AND we have, in fact, killed people who have not done anything.

      Here is another way of framing the question.

      Abe is sitting next to Brian on the bus. Abe intends to kill Brian. Abe hates Brians guts. Abe doesn't say or do anything, but in fact he has a gun in his coat pocket. Unprovoked, Brian stands up and shoots Abe, killing him. Do you consider this to be a just act?

    17. Scoot: you have passed over one point in getting to "Brian stands up and shoots Abe": how did Brian know that Abe (a) hates Brian, and (b) that Abe "intends to kill Brian."

      Arguably, Brian can know this only because of something Abe has already done. I.e. actions Abe has taken in the past that gives these to Brian as knowable. Otherwise, Brian would not be acting on anything known.

      Given that Abe has at some prior point made Brian aware of (a) and (b), Brian is not acting in a knowledge vacuum. As I mentioned above, both criminal and civil law make explicit room for what are called "fighting words". In that context, if Abe has both expressed "I hate you" and "I intend to kill you" in concrete and specific enough terms, Brian IS INDEED allowed to act with force to stop Abe, even potentially lethal force. For example, if Abe had made it known by saying "in 5 seconds, I am going to pull the knife out of my pocket and stab you in the eye, and enjoy twisting it around" after having made other (less lethal) threats in the past that he followed up on with actual violence, Brian would be lawfully allowed to use violence to prevent Abe from succeeding even before Abe starts to move.

      Now, you might claim that this is a defect of the law, morally speaking Brian is not allowed to impose upon Abe with force until Abe has ACTUALLY acted with violence, but then you start to run into some really silly conundrums. Suppose Abe pulls out the knife: can Brian act now? But he hasn't actually STUCK it into Brian, maybe he is just pretending or just intimidating Brian, enjoying Brian's fear. Suppose Abe starts moving the knife toward Brian's eye: can Brian FINALLY react with violence? But no, maybe Abe doesn't actually intend to, you know, go all the way, he is still just trying to terrorize Brian, he really just wants to enjoy Brian's fear, so he has no actual intention to go through with it! So, Brian has to wait until the knife is actually touching his eye before he is morally allowed to act?

      Probably not.

    18. @scoot

      The original example we where discussing was of a country ready to push a button and send nuclear bombs on another. To your example to work Abe would have to be already pointing his gun to Brian.

      If that is the situation, just shoot the dick, he is a mortal danger already.

  8. Here, iny part of the world(South Africa) we have endured a rather severe lockdown that has caused immense economic damage and loss of livelihood.

    And for what? What did we achieve? Our national blood transfusion service reports that just under 70% of our black population have Covid-19 antibodies, 50% for Asian people and just over 40% of people identifying as coloured while around 20% of people identifying as White.

    This accurately reflects social crowding due to socio-economic circumstances.

    The virus has had its way with us regardless of the measures we have taken. And we imposed a heavy cost on our society that will take a long time to repair. Was it worth it?

  9. I think your numbers are wrong ... 2.3 million is not 3% of the world population :)

    The IFR (fatality rate) of Covid is about 1% overall - higher for older people and lower for younger people. Of course we are using modern understanding of disease and virus transmission to control it in ways that were not possible then, and also in hospital, so that would potentially make the IFR higher in the past. However this particular virus is mainly bad for unfit, old and obese, all of which would have been a far smaller portion of the population in the middle ages.

    So compared like for like, I agree that their claim seems suspicious.

  10. Serious question: 1934- 1937 France, England or Poland takes military action against Germany fir violation of Versailles treaty. How do you categorize? Is it OK?

    1. Provided that the Treaty of Versailles was just, it would be justified to take a military offensive against Germany in that situation.

    2. Right. Punitive rather than preemptive. In fact, France did take military action against Germany in 1923 for treaty violations. Unfortunately, the political cost of doing so was so catastrophic that no subsequent French government dared try it again even for much more dangerous and flagrant violations. Hitler had carte blanche to tear up the treaty and fling it in the face of the French, and he knew it.

  11. The analogy used in this OP is so loose and ill-fitting to the reality of how a pandemic might be dealt with in a community as to be little more than a silly polemic and somewhat mischievous in character. It is largely a personal crusade, or beef, that Feser is engaging in to beat the liberals in office [eg the California Governor] over the head. If unsure, one only needs to read the inferred conclusion in the final question he asks, a crystallising moment on the understory purpose of this OP.

    We not dealing with a person here, with or without a chainsaw. We're not talking about an enemy with a thinking brain. Feser wants you to imagine that this virus is akin to a person with a chainsaw, with a thinking brain. This is agency attribution gone berserk. (Remember HADD) How risible an analogy. Everyone in this story is an unwitting victim, not wielders of flamethrowers. We're dealing with a live virus here, for goodness sake, not a bloody chainsaw or flamethrower; you know, one of those little living buggers that your god so 'benevolently' bestowed upon us at creation, one of god's little wondrous creatures. We mustn't forget in this precipitate moment of appeal to logic and reason, that that's what you actually believe, right. It's a pandemic, not a war. It is one living creature that simply could care less in mindlessly and efficiently destroying another living being.

    Feser says: "Now, COVID-19 is not remotely like bubonic plague, and while for some people it is certainly worse than the flu, for most people it is not."
    So, safety in numbers is your answer, right? The sacrifice of a few lives for the social and economic comfort of the others. Tell that to the relatives of the nearly 530,000 dead in the US alone, who actually see Covid as just as bad as the ebola virus, because the outcome is exactly the same. What matters here is that each person that died was a mum, dad, brother etc to someone else. To them those lives were precious and real, worth saving, in whatever way might have been possible. From any standpoint Newsom did the moral and righteous and proper thing. At least he tried. And he should not be blamed for caring. He thought each life was worth saving despite the economic cost. De Santis and Abbott worked on the numbers, a trade off, trading out a life to ease the discomfort of the few selfish living whose business might be compromised. It seem Dr Feser in is favour of preferring Lt Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick's, position HERE.

    The article Feser cites on California/Florida is not evidence per se but an anecdotal observation between three NPR journalists on the management style of the Governors. One interesting piece of information was that many more older Floridians died of the virus compared to California.
    "...Florida's have fewer cases per capita than California. It's had more deaths per capita than California. Florida ranks 28th nationally versus California, which is 34th. But epidemiologists say one factor there is that Florida has a significantly older population."

    California, six states higher than Florida. So, despite being armed with the knowledge that he was responsible for many more elderly living in Florida, De Santis' policy to 'protect the elderly', has proven to be no more successful than doing nothing.

    To be continued:

  12. Continuing:

    The other article Feser refers to about Covid Lockdowns again, does not advance the conversation or offer a scintilla towards a remedy. Again it is a sidebar with minimal relevance. What it does clearly shows is that the US, despite being the most 'advanced' nation on the planet it has failed dismally, and was unable to come to grips with the existential reality challenge. Comparable numbers around the world attests to that failure. American exceptionalism might be touted as a good but therein lies its achilles heel when protection of community it most needed. Every man for himself is not really a good look or a proper path into the future.

    What's lost here is that the US has the worst record of both infection and death by Covid internationally, by far the worst performer of any country or region no matter the metric against which the numbers are plotted.

    Feser's final conclusion: "And since when is a government morally permitted to inflict whatever damage it sees fit on innocent citizens, as long as it stops short of killing them?"

    The US, particularly the Republican Party, have been inflicting harm on innocent citizens for decades, if not a century or more, from the moment it broke its commitment to the legacy of Lincoln; racial inequality, racial discrimination, voter suppression of black and brown Americans, deeply entrenched economic division and access to health disparities, forcing people to work for poverty wages, destroying workers' dignity by suppressing payment to less than a living wage, all an example of the draconian policies driven by a conservative congress mindset with depraved indifference and self-centred tribal motives as their modus operandi.

    Equally, another coup for the debased and unprincipled conservative right wing that has caused enormous suffering and inflicted much damage on innocent citizens was the passing of the act bestowing personhood onto big corporations. Any and all power relationship between the individual citizen and the corporation is rendered moot and as farcical and useless as any 'level playing field' concept could be imagined. SEE HERE

    So it seems a little pretentious and somewhat tendentious to be shovelling one's ire out of this basket when there are far greater and more meatier concerns that could better our communities if you really had the moral and ethical concern to do so.

    Just sayin'.

    1. Papalinton, as usual you have no idea what you are blithering about, and a line-item fisking of your nonsense would take far too long. I shall confine myself to this bit:

      Equally, another coup for the debased and unprincipled conservative right wing that has caused enormous suffering and inflicted much damage on innocent citizens was the passing of the act bestowing personhood onto big corporations.

      ‘Personhood’, as applied to corporations in the law, means merely that a corporation is entitled to enter into contracts under its own name, and can be sued under its own name for breach of contract. If, for instance, you buy Internet service from Comcast, your contract is with Comcast as a corporate entity, and not with the individual cable guy who may be at some entirely different job six months from now. If you can’t see why this is desirable and indeed necessary, there’s no help for you.

      However, there was never any act that gave corporations that status; it evolved out of royal and ecclesiastical charters going far back into the Middle Ages, and the jurisprudence established by legal cases involving chartered bodies. The legal fiction of personhood is bestowed on incorporated entities, not by some misdeed of the U.S. Congress or courts, but by case and statute law in every jurisdiction in the world that permits people to organize joint-stock businesses and non-profit associations. Somebody should have mentioned that to the editors of the Atlantic before they bought the article you cite.

    2. Tom Simon,

      Agreed (on all points).

      I really never understood why this is so hard to understand, or why this is so controversial among lefties.

      Joe puts wheels on cars for Ford Motor Co. Someone buys a car and the wheel falls of killing someone. Who do you sue? Joe? He gets his life destroyed for a mistake? Who can measure up to that standard? Joe's immediate supervisor? He gets his life destroyed for Joe's mistake? How about everyone collectively responsible--the entire corporation. Why is this hard to understand?

      But, then again, these same people can't figure out what restroom to use.

    3. Tom Simon,
      I wish it were as straight forward as that. 'Personhood' in US corporate law was enacted by Congress as the article illustrates and it was based on a lie. There is no mention of it 'evolving' out of medieval times in the series of law suits in the 1880's that established personhood in American corporate law. The bestowing of personhood on a corporation actually gave corporations the same rights and privileges of an ordinary citizen but without the concomitant responsibilities of any one citizen under law. How many ordinary citizens do you know have been successful in suing a corporation? What justice ensued in corporate responsibility of those 'personhood' institutions that perpetrated:
      1. The predatory lenders who marketed homeownership to people who could not possibly pay back the mortgages they were offered.
      2. The investment gurus who bought those bad mortgages and rolled them into bundles for resale to investors.
      3. The agencies who gave those mortgage bundles top investment ratings, making them appear to be safe.
      4. The investors who failed to check the ratings, or simply took care to unload the bundles to other investors before they blew up.

      Answer: Nothing.

      Explain the practice of a 'level' playing field between the corporation defined as a 'person' and the ordinary citizen defined as a 'person'.

      It is not the notion of corporations having 'personhood' that is of concern or issue here. Certainly not from me. Rather it is the gargantuan hole where legal obligation and responsibility under the law would normally be ascribed to such 'personhood' that is being questioned by so many far smarter than me. The systemic abuse of the concept of corporate personhood has resulted in the lives of countless citizens being harmed and indelibly damaged with no redress, despite your notion "... and can be sued under its own name for breach of contract".

      If corporate 'personhood' is to function as it is meant to then corporations need to act like citizens. Personhood should not be a legal corporate strategy to shield the organisation from responsibility and accountability. <a href=">SEE HERE</a>

    4. Yes!
      Check out the book Unequal Protection How Corporations Became People and How to Fight It by Thom Hartmann in which he describes the origins and cultural consequences of such

    5. "How many ordinary citizens do you know have been successful in suing a corporation?"


      Papalinton: complains corporations aren't persons. Offers as evidence claims that are irrelevant to whether or not corporations are persons.

    6. Papalinton: your diatribe only confirms your OWN political bias. Needless to say, a strawman argument on Freser's analogy doesn't prove anything.

      The point is whether lockdowns are a necessary measure to take. Science says no. Politicized consensus "science" isn't science at all.

      If you think lockdowns are so necessary, then why didn't we have them in 2009 with the H1N1 virus? Why not every year with the flu? Why not stay in a lockdown indefinitely at this point? Also, the numbers are cooked: deaths being carelessly counted as Covid related when having nothing to do with it all. Cases being counted off of faulty tests, and even multiple results on ONE person counting as separate cases. Cooking the numbers only fits political agendas. If it wasn't, you would have a variety of expert's opinions and tests on the matter. However, you see the opposite, and you also see the blatant censoring of opposing (and sound) views.

      Even with the death count you speak of, it still doesn't warrant a nationwide (worldwide) lockdown. Forwarded from another conversation:

      "According to Canadian human rights lawyer Rocco Galati it’s not even really a pandemic as the definition of pandemic is 7% mortality whereas this only has a .05% mortality which is more or less like any other flu historically and is nothing like the Spanish flu back in 1917-19 in which perhaps 40 million died."

      So spare the drama. The Lockdowns have caused more harm than anything. It SHOULD be considered a human rights violation. Forced vaccines ARE a human rights violation according to the Nuremberg Code. Your argument has no basis on reality, or science, and is completely politically charged.

  13. Lt Governor Texas, Dan Patrick's view of elderly Covid sufferers:


  14. Prudential risk management.

    It makes sense to grossly err on the side of caution when:

    (a) You are facing a situation with many unknown unknowns (we do not have decades of data about it to be sufficiently certain that the data we do have is representative)
    (b) The potential value at risk is large (tens of millions of deaths and deep economic collapse
    (c) It scales exponentially rather than linearly

  15. This type of rational analysis is great . . . for rational people. But it is not much use on unhinged loons: people who think destroying people’s lives is just fine if it’s done under the pretext of saving them from the Covid sniffles; or people who think one of the greatest problems of our time is male access to female restrooms (I write this as I’m reading an article on high school girls who won’t drink water before school because their restrooms are full of teenaged males). I long for the simple days when catcalling was our biggest problem.

    I’m afraid we have much penance to endure before we can return to the good ol’ days of hashing out the finer points of moral philosophy.

  16. I visit the site almost daily and although I commented here only once and for some reason my comment didn't appear, this was too strong a temptation. Probably like many of the old regulars here, I thought Papalinton had grown up, married, procreated and thus had a new take on life. I was wrong.

    1. I have no idea of Papalinton's personal circumstances vdorta, but it may surprise you to learn that not everyone remotely desires to marry and procreate ( and so do not ), and although doing do no doubt influences one's take on life, it does not necessarily do so in a positive or otherwise desirable direction.

    2. Unknown, marriage and family always influences us in positive and desirable directions. Not desiring these things - and failing to be happy in them - is self-selective eugenics, and adverting to the existence of people who don't "remotely desire" such goods is awkward and self-disqualifying.

    3. You know, guys, we can talk about the virus too.

    4. If bad-mouthing people is all you have to contribute, vdorta, then perhaps I do myself a disservice in responding to you. And as it happens I have reached all of the milestones during my rites de passage from childhood just as you lay them out. However, I have also matured sufficiently to have taken that additional step in closing the chapter on all religious god-belief and superstitious nonsense and put that book on ancient mythology back onto the library shelf among the other tomes that have traced humanity's jejune flirtation with entities of the theological netherworld.

    5. Teppy

      Of course marriage and procreation do not always influence us in positive and desirable ways, Very many people do not desire these things, and many people fail to be happy with them. These are the facts of the matter, but of course , advertising to reality is 'awkward ' and 'self disqualifying'. What kind of reality shielded bubble world do you inhabit?

      So, not desiring marriage and procreation is 'self-selective eugenics' is it? My response would be to ask 'so what'?

    6. "So, not desiring marriage and procreation is 'self-selective eugenics' is it?"

      Interesting for Teppy to offer this observation. So the foundation principle of the Catholic priesthood is the practice of 'self-selective eugenics'. It seems to be working. SEE HERE

    7. The huge numerical decline of the Catholic priesthood is yet another indication that their entire world view is baloney. Entering the priesthood is meant to be a calling from god, yet this omnipotent deity cannot even keep its 'one true church' properly staffed.
      As with the vast majority of people throughout history who have been atheists, non-theists, non-Christian theists or the wrong variety of Christian, the omnipotent deity of Catholicism seems peculiarly inept on the inspiration front. Human, all too human.

    8. God does not need to worry about your expectations of him. If only you had the first clue what you were talking about, you would become a quivering mute by your own choice.

    9. Simon

      The problem is Simon, absolutely anything can be made consistant with your belief system with sufficient apologetic inventiveness. An omnipotent, ominiscient deity ( with 'middle knowledge' according to some ), which we are epistemically as amoebas in comparison with, is a wonderful resource to draw upon when concocting excuses for embarracing facts.

    10. Simon Adams still doesn't get it. I for one have no expectations of any god, be it Shiva, Ganesha, jesus, Allah, or any other of the current crop on offer.

    11. No one is forcing you to believe anything. If you focus the whole of your being on truth, set your telos on truth, only compromising on that for love, then you will surely find god.

      If you believe you already know the truth, or accept the absurd relativism that comes from building an epistemic foundation on the rubble of roofing tiles, then it seems less likely...

    12. "If you believe you already know the truth, or accept the absurd relativism that comes from building an epistemic foundation on the rubble of roofing tiles, then it seems less likely..."

      Oh! My goodness. How can one compete with the blinkered views of a sanctimonious pompous ass?


    13. “Oh! My goodness. How can one compete with the blinkered views of a sanctimonious pompous ass?”

      Unknown stated that declining priest numbers is an indication that their entire worldview is baloney. So was their worldview true when there were plenty of priests, but now not true? The only way to even try to get to the bottom of such flawed reasoning is to look at their epistemic and ontological roots.

    14. Simon

      Only an indication - together with very many other facts - so your outburst does not stand. To anyone looking at RC from the outside, it appears human, all too human. Certainly, the god that you believe is guiding and protecting your church seems to be doing an abysmal job of it, what with the reformation, other divisions and schisms, and now the advance of secularism and Islaam.Not that the original supposed revelation was remotely clear on do many crucial issues, which is why Christians ( at least those not whipped into line by your magisteroum ) can agree on so very little. As well as being an atrocious protector, your god also gets an E- for clarity. Why, it is almost as though he does not exist!

    15. Slightly better argument, but that’s not saying much :). We believe that the creator of the universe incarnated in a barn with the livestock, and very deliberately ended up naked on a cross, dying slowly while people jeered him. The presence and goals of god are clearly not described by your measures of success. As well as all the beauty and good stuff we have in this life, part of its purpose is to be refined, made ready for the next life, to take up our crosses. Many of the things that have happened to the church would not be things any of us would choose, and are about the choices men made, not god. Nonetheless it’s exactly as it should be. Maybe when the church was bright and shiny and powerful, dominating society, it attracted some of the wrong type of people? I think the church in the US has managed to get a bit too caught up in politics and tradition, but the church is doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing, feeding his sheep.

    16. Unknown, if you think marriage and family have not influenced you and everyone you know positively, persist - I don't argue with fools, but I'm comforted somewhat that you're at least some kind of enunch, wether by choice or the consensus of women kind or both I'll not speculate.

      Papalinton, not even sure what your point is. Priesthood in the roman church is expressly celibate. A healthy priesthood is not going to be composed of the surplus of men or (as the internet has it) 'incels', but in the main by men who pledge to renounce sex to follow God. A good priest is as exceptional as men like Unknown are common these days, I'll grant you. Possibly you mean that the priesthood and men in general are in the same decline? Or do you mean that men like Unknown make up the most of our priesthood? I don't know you from Adam but I wouldn't be too surprised if men like yourself made up a not inconsiderable portion of the priesthood in some days gone by.

  17. A flamethrower to scare off raccoons... I like that! I think the lockdown issue is a no-brainer for anyone not immune to evidence. What about mask mandates? The evidence for benefits of masks seems just as weak, but in the mask case you're just arbitrarily forcing people to do probably useless stuff, not directly destroying their livelihoods, etc. So no big deal? It's rather like the theory that forcing women to cover up might prevent rape, adultery, etc. So since rape, adultery, etc. are terrible things that we should try to prevent, it would be a good idea for government to make it mandatory for women to wear burkas (or whatever). The mask thing seems just as absurd. The other thing is, apparently masks (or is it mask mandates?) have done little to nothing to stop covid(?), but have effectively eradicated the flu (at least in some places, so I've heard)?! So make of that what you will, but given this apparent wonderful unintended, unforeseen public health benefit of mask mandates, I suppose it must be considered justified to make mandatory mask wearing a perpetual statute. Cause hey, flu kills people too, ya know! A little inconvenience is a small price to pay.

    1. A health system near me recently said they normally see 13,000 cases of flu, but now have less than 20. They attribute this to masks.

      Two weeks prior, the same source said Covid cases were claiming because people were not wearing masks.

      Whenever their predictions don't come true, they don't ever say "gee, we were wrong", instead they just do mask shaming. If cases go up (because it's winter), they say "see, you rubes aren't wearing enough masks!". And when cases go down (because it's Spring), they say "see, people are wearing masks!" Win, win!

    2. That's what I'm observing too. Virtue signalling has become everything, rational persuasion has become anathema. I'm curious to know what Feser thinks about mask mandates...

    3. David McPike,

      Coincidentally, I just learned today that the CDC has put out results of their new study showing mask mandates don't do anything to stop Covid transmission. So naturally they continue to recommend masks.

  18. It has nothing to do with masks or Coronavirus anyway. It has to do with attainment and retention of power.

    Power. The ring that dives anyone who possesses it insane. Even Froto felt it's seduction. That's why they don't care that they are hypocrites; they don't care how stupid they look; they don't care what idiocy comes out of their mouths. They have seen the ring and it is making them insane.

    1. Yes TN. Trump got that ring and for four years the American people were abused, misused, berated and trodden on, allowing the fringe of nutters to have their 'Brown Shirt' moment in history. And even though the election demonstrated what a complete loser and sucker he was and is, a reprobate let alone a failed president, it is embarrassing to see the Rethuglican Party still kissing and licking his smelly ring.
      I always thought Americans in general were that much smarter, well educated, and aware people than your average bear around the world, even that much more sophisticated enough to spot a snake-oil salesman when confronted with one. Boy! Have I been proven wrong. But this last year of the Covid debacle, and how Trump and his corporate henchmen mishandled the pandemic, speaks volumes of how fragile our democratic institutions really are; there for the taking by any arsehole with chutzpah. It is frightening.

    2. Papasmurf,

      I read as far as "Trump". Yeah, yeah, Trump, Trump, Trump.

      Go haunt someone else.

    3. Well, blow me down! TN is a Trumpian.

    4. Bit emotional this TN fellow, prone to silly name calling. So 'Papalinton'makes you think of Papa Smurf does it. Well, whenever I see 'TN' I think 'total nob'.

    5. To be fair, Papalinton, most of your posts consists of you saying talking points that were refuted years ago by The Last Superstition without addressing the arguments made therein and since and complaining about Donald Trump.

    6. The Last Superstition? Arguments? Refuted?
      Mr Geocon's fifth new testament Gospel: The Gospel According to Saint Ted. :)

      I'm afraid the title 'The Last Superstition' has already been registered as a TRADEMARK™ by the Congregationalist Minister, Samuel P Putnam (1838-1896), long before Dr Feser, when he crafted the proverb:

      "The last superstition of the human mind is the superstition that religion in itself is a good thing."

    7. Papalinton,

      Yes. Unlike you, Dr. Feser makes arguments. And they are actually good ones.

  19. "So, how can it possibly be justifiable to quarantine those who do not have the virus, on the grounds that they might get it, and then might go on to spread it to someone among the minority of people to whom it poses a grave danger? Especially when there is an obvious far less draconian alternative, namely quarantining only those who do have the virus and those who are at special risk from it?"

    So the position here is that general (as opposed to targeted) quarantines and lockdowns are not justifiable preventive-war-on-covid measures because (1) general lockdown damage is serious and widespread and (2) targeted quarantines are much less damaging and are almost certainly just as (or more) effective than general ones. Okay, fine. But seriously, what about forcibly quarantining anybody? If a 95-year-old person is compos mentis and chooses to take the allegedly grave risk of coming in contact with covid by not being "locked-down," power to 'em, I say. Why not? Why should they not be free to exercise their basic rights to freedom of assembly and movement and worship, etc.? Why should they be forced to suffer the often grave damages associated with quarantine? Because they might die?? What are the odds, and how high do they need to be to impose that kind of thing on somebody?

    Is it perhaps a bit like saying there should be no general permission to wage a preventive war against some country that is fomenting murderous hatred of Jews, but since Jews are the vulnerable ones, they at least can justly wage, and indeed be conscripted to wage, a preventive war. That would be a just war, because much of the damage, and especially the grave imposition on basic personal freedom, is limited to those who are classified as vulnerable? Anyway, I think that this is an extremely important element missing in Feser's analysis: that it's not just about against whom we are justified in waging war, but also about whom we are justified in conscripting to wage that war. It's not like an unjust ("preventive") war becomes just, so long as we only conscript the elderly and obese to fight it.

    1. David McPike says: "If a 95-year-old person is compos mentis and chooses to take the allegedly grave risk of coming in contact with covid by not being "locked-down," power to 'em, I say. Why not?"

      Your argument smacks of a rather egregious double standard. Picture this; if a 95-year-old person is compos mentis and chooses in all good conscience to end his life through physician-assisted euthanasia at a time of his choosing, power to 'em, I say. Why not?

      Then we get into the ethical question of whether we can allow him to take that risk with Covid, knowing full well from the evidence of the exceedingly likely probability that his choice will end his life. To argue that the decision he makes on a possible Covid-related death is justified, founded simply on the pretext that it is OK to leave it to chance or happenstance, is a very weak and tendentious argument to make, albeit so long as he is free to make that decision to join the Covid party. Knowing the risks of Covid for the elderly, and he dies, doesn't make it any less a suicide.

      I actually support people wishing to end their life at a time of their choosing and timing. So I don't have a problem with your position. I agree with you that if this 95YO wants to take a chance on ending his life, at his own choosing, so be it. But to be consistent, he must also be permitted to decide when and where to end his own life in differing but equally deliberative circumstances.

      One can't play the high or low moral ground here. It is about the freedom of individual choice and the exercise of it.

    2. There is a stark difference between actively intending to bring about X on one hand, and actively intending to bring about Y knowing that you risk inadvertently bringing about X on the other.

      Also, if Y is a good we have a natural right to pursue and X is an evil, which we have no natural right to pursue, there is a stark difference between pursuing good and pursuing evil.

      Also, assisted-death explicitly involves the intentional cooperation of someone else in bringing it about.

      The comparison of the two is just way off here.

    3. Billy makes a good point.

      I would also like to play the Nazi card and point out that they had perfected the process and techniques required for their final solution for Jewish extermination by first practicing on the elderly, the sick, the mentally ill and mentally retarded. Accepting Euthanasia takes you down that road. It is a horrible and selfish thing to want.

    4. Hey David,

      I think it comes down to the odds. And that is somewhat of an arbitrary measure. For example, as a comparison:

      Coronavirus deaths in US so far since Feb 2020

      538,628 / 328,200,000 = 0.0016 risk of death (0.16%)

      2018–2019 deaths during the influenza season in US

      34,200 / 328,200,000 = 0.0001 risk of death (0.01%)

      2018 Deaths by car accidents in US

      39,404 / 328,200,000 = 0.0001 risk of death (0.01%)

      Clearly we don't shutdown an entire country's automotive system because of a 0.01% chance of death by auto accident. And the same goes for influenza. But the jump from there to covid is high, assuming the covid numbers are not inflated.

      With regard to your comment about why the elderly should not be able to just risk their lives ... good point. But what is the alaternative? Do nothing? Leave it up to individual preference? Or impose no conscription at all, just strong social messaging, like if you don't want to risk dying, don't go out? What about the consequences of overwhelming the health care system? If we assume that the quaranteen did flatten the curve, what would things have been like had nothing been done? Perhaps instead of a number like, 538,628 it would have been twice as bad at 1,077,256? And would that have caused a cascade reaction with regard to other grave illnesses that could not be addequately treated because the health care system was overwhelemed?

      I think doing nothing is definitely not an option. Someone has to wage this war.

    5. Also, I think its important that we extend the analogy beyond the elderly and the obese as the only combatants. Those who are not quarantining will also be in the fight since they will not be protected by lock-downs. I don't know what the exact rate of mortality would be for this category of the population, but I'm sure their risk would not be negligible.

      I think the thing our societies are really trying to protect is the healthcare system. If they can keep the healthcare system from being overwhelmed, then most societies will accept the casualties.

    6. Daniel @ 4.33pm
      You say:
      "I would also like to play the Nazi card and point out that they had perfected the process and techniques required for their final solution for Jewish extermination by first practicing on the elderly, the sick, the mentally ill and mentally retarded. Accepting Euthanasia takes you down that road. It is a horrible and selfish thing to want."

      False equivalence. The Nazi final solution was a whole-of-government deliberative executive decision. To suggest that euthanasia-by-consent is equivalent to the Nazi final solution simply doesn't make sense nor is it supported by the evidence. Oregon and other states around the US as well as other countries around the world, such as The Netherlands, have had a policy of voluntary-assisted dying for decades with little controversy [apart from the knuckleheads] or ethical and legal problems. Over that time there has been absolutely no evidence that such policies are subject to any form of external or internal pressure or influence to turn into state-run euthanasia programs. So your claim, that "Accepting Euthanasia takes you down that road", is just that, emotive scuttlebutt.

      Interestingly, here in Australia, almost every State and Territory legislature has now passed laws allowing 'voluntary-assisted dying'. Dying with dignity and at one's own choosing of time and place is the morally and ethically correct thing to do.

    7. @Daniel:
      "But what is the alaternative? Do nothing? Leave it up to individual preference? Or impose no conscription at all, just strong social messaging, like if you don't want to risk dying, don't go out?"

      Do nothing is not a real option. Inform and leave it to personal preference is bang on. That's not doing nothing. "If you don't want to risk dying, don't go out" is just wrong (if you think about it), so that's also not a real option, if we're being honest.

    8. By "if we're being honest," I mean, if we're committed to being honest as opposed to fomenting paranoia. (The argument "covid is worse than flu so we have to do something radically different in response to covid" is just a non sequitur and also begs all sorts of questions about ignoring the funny data. What we need is some intelligent scrutiny of what would be really informative, namely, excess mortality.)

    9. "What we need is some intelligent scrutiny of what would be really informative, namely, excess mortality."

      Agreed - I think it comes down to that. Hopefully with numbers a little better than what I found from a google.

      I wish there was a source everyone could trust to crunch those numbers.

    10. "Those who are not quarantining will also be in the fight since they will not be protected by lock-downs."

      You're just begging the question and also misunderstanding the terms of the analogy. The question about what counts as just war has nothing to do with the fact that non-combatants are still "in the fight" in a broad sense, because there's still a risk they could get attacked/killed.

      "I don't know what the exact rate of mortality would be for this category of the population, but I'm sure their risk would not be negligible."

      This is the fallacy of argument from ignorance. Also you have no non-ad hoc way of defining what should count as a 'negligible' risk, so your claim to certainty here is pure handwaving.

  20. Being "locked down" is usually, though not always, significantly different from being "locked up," and, usually, presumably, a significantly less damaging evil. But it's still a grave moral imposition, quite apart from resulting damage to livelihoods, mental health, etc. And "since when is a government morally permitted to inflict whatever damage it sees fit on innocent citizens, as long as it stops short of killing them?" (hem hem... abortion, euthanasia...) Then again, since when have governments, or the folks who elect 'em, given a shit as to what they are morally permitted to do?

  21. New study from the CDC shows . . . guess what? . . . mask mandates don't do anything to stop Covid transmission. So naturally they continue to recommend masks, because that's how it works in loony world where up is down, and girls are boys, and everything is white supremacy.


    TN You are delusional. I will take the findings of the U.S. National Academy of Science over your far-right conspiracy website.

    1. Anon,
      Far-right conspiracy website to be sure:

      SEE HERE.
      Read through the various entries about this rag which started in August 2019.

    2. Anon,

      I will read your link later today.

      You read the document from the CDC? I did. Now kindly show me where I'm delusional.

      I read several sources about the report, and the report itself, and used the site I referenced because it very succinctly stated the findings, provided the relevant quote from the report, and a link to the report. I have no idea if it is a “far-right conspiracy website” (I’ll leave that to you), but I do know that it accurately characterized the CDC report.

      The report states that mask mandates were associated with a 0.5 percentage point decrease in daily COVID-19 case growth rates 1–20 days after implementation and decreases of 1.1, 1.5, 1.7, and 1.8 percentage points 21–40, 41–60, 61–80, and 81–100 days, respectively. And with a 0.7 percentage point decrease in daily COVID-19 death growth rates 1–20 days after implementation.

      It also says: “Daily case and death growth rates before implementation of mask mandates were not statistically different from the reference period.”

      The CDC, therefore, says that mask mandates are not statistically relevant.

      Is that not what the CDC says? Show me where I’m delusional?

    3. Paparoach,

      Did it characterize the CDC report correctly?

    4. Paparoach calling in. :)

      No, TN. What that QAnon-like conspiracy rag, National File, did was to pick out the raw numbers of the report related to the mask mandate and applied its own unsubstantiated spin. And as the report properly records, the mask mandate had no surprising data to tell.

      But the dishonesty of the National File article declaring that masks made no difference is a complete load of bullshit because the CDC report was not about the effectiveness of masks. It was a report on the effectiveness of the policy of the mask mandate and its application in bars and restaurants, two of the most notorious venues for the spread of the virus, not about the use of masks themselves. And this is where basic statistical information has been so dishonestly and egregiously misrepresented by National File. It's called, lies, damned lies and statistics that National File engaged in here. Let me say it again. It's not a failure of masks but a failure of the mask mandate policy. In fact the CDC report, in its conclusion, clearly states three factors that the study did not account for:

      "The findings in this report are subject to at least three limitations. FIRST, although models controlled for mask mandates, restaurant and bar closures, stay-at-home orders, and gathering bans, the models did not control for other policies that might affect case and death rates, including other types of business closures, physical distancing recommendations, policies issued by localities, and variances granted by states to certain counties if variances were not made publicly available. SECOND, compliance with and enforcement of policies were not measured. FINALLY, the analysis did not differentiate between indoor and outdoor dining, adequacy of ventilation, and adherence to physical distancing and occupancy requirements."

      In easy-to-understand language, TN: [1] Other policies might have affected the result,
      [2] Compliance of the mask mandate, and [3] Should be self-explanatory to anyone with two brain cells to rub together.

      The real kicker here, that affected this report is the level of 'compliance'.

      And as we all know, Trump and his Rethuglican henchmen, be they Republican Governors, Senate and House members of Congress made damn sure that any mask mandate was never going to work. [The more honourable and ethical Republicans like Governor Larry Hogan and Mike DeWine and a few others were the exception.] All the others like, De Santis, Greg Abbott, Kristi Noem, Greg Gianforte, and Pete Ricketts made it absolutely plain that they were not going to be guided by the science, portraying depraved indifference for the care and safety of the constituents under their responsibility. If there was any failure, it was the utter failure of leadership on their part, made public by the killer-in-chief, Trump. Over half a million dead in the US alone in ONE year. Trump must be proud of his achievement.
      These awful people went out of their miserable way to make sure a mask mandate was never going to be successful.

      So, TN, please stop propagating this conspiracy nonsense and spreading low-life lies right now. It serves you no purpose in looking like a thoughtless dunderhead. For your own dignity's sake, please stop it.

    5. Additionally, just to be sure TN understands how the shifty sleight-of-hand was done in the National File article:

      "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report Friday in which it quietly admitted that the mask mandates in America were allegedly responsible for less than a 2 percent decrease in COVID case growth after ONE HUNDRED DAYS. But still the CDC advises wearing masks, despite their own numbers."

      Notice how the devious reporters performed the slippery deal. In the first part of the sentence it talks about the how the CDC 'quietly' admitted [as if by some form of surreptitious or clandestine move] the low numbers of success of the mask mandate. And what was reportage on the mask mandate suddenly segues into the apparent failure of mask wearing per se.

      OF COURSE the CDC still recommends the wearing of masks, because the evidence is unequivocal that masks, in conjunction with observance of other related steps, do indeed help prevent the spread of the virus. The jury is in on that one.

      Conflating the marginal results of a mask mandate study with the actual wearing of masks reflects the underhanded, dishonest, corrupt and unprincipled conduct by the National File in its reporting.

    6. Hey Papalinton - apart from your political attack, this was a good response to TN on the statistical data. Spin happens just as much on the right as it does on the left. We need to be honest when we are being spoon fed bullshit from either camp.

    7. Hey Papalinton, ever had the impression that you are being condescended to?

      Thank you for your accurate, incisive and fully relevant political critique, in addition to the stuff that Daniel approves of!

    8. Daniel @ 7.13am
      "We need to be honest when we are being spoon fed bullshit from either camp."

      Couldn't have said it better myself. Hat tip to you. :)

  23. Papajohn's

    This is TN

    I will agree with Daniel and Anon that this is a rare moment of lucidity for you; you showed remarkable restraint in only ranting about Trump a little bit.

    A disproportionate issue has been made of the irrelevant organization whose link I merely happened to use. But you attribute nefarious intent on my part, so fair enough.

    Whenever data show mask mandates don't work, the rejoinder is that the stupid rubes aren't doing it right, an unfalsifiable claim.

    As I wrote above to Anon, my argument is that the CDC's study shows no statistical effect of mask mandates. You have not countered that claim, it's just that you wish to make a different argument that the mandates would have a meaningful effect if criteria X,Y,Z were implemented.

    Whatever steps could, or should, happen, what right the government has to tell people how they should think and live, and whether those steps (whatever they may be) are realistic is a different subject. If we had the gestapo wrap everyone in plastic and lock them in their broom closet, no one would get covid. Whether that is realistic is another question.

    As it stands, the mask mandates have made no statistical difference and claims that they would work if we had the government somehow force people to do whatever, are not falsifiable.

  24. TN as 'Anonymous' at 10.56am

    Neither Daniel or me ( Anonymous at 9.14am ) stated that Papalinton's contribution was a rare moment of lucidity for him, as you claim. Why do you have such a prediliction for making things up?

    Whatever Daniel may or not think ( in oppose to what he actually said ), I always find Papalinton to be highly lucid, and a welcome antidote to the bizarre nonesense that all too often clogs up this site.

    1. Anon @ 12.04pm
      It goes with being honest with yourself and the integrity of your conduct, which TN and TN as 'Anonymous' simply don't possess. Some years ago I accused Dr Feser of plagiarism. When I was realised I was wrong, I retracted the charge and apologised saying something to the effect, paraphrasing if I recall correctly, that I had 'egg all over my face'. It is difficult when your interlocutors such as TN and TN as 'Anonymous' are not troubled over the lowest of ethical or moral standards to which they subscribe. To them decency is anathema to their cause of right-wing lunacy. Because they are so cavalier in irresponsibly spreading nonsense and falsely charging with impunity those they dislike/disagree, I know I am at a disadvantage in holding them to account. But nonsense must be challenged at every level.

    2. Truth is important. More importantly, truth is God.

    3. No Daniel. Truth is truth. It's the only currency that holds humanity together regardless of the colour, flavour and stripe of your particular GOD icon.

    4. To verify, I am anonymous at 10:56.

      Since you retracted your claim that Feser was a plagiarist, you are now perfectly justified to troll his blog and type out endless rants about Trump and non-sequiturs about corporate personhood, euthanasia, and more. This shows your integrity and makes you a great guy.


      So, it is the case that the CDC has said that mask mandates are statistically irrelevant and my saying so was not "delusional" and "conspiracy theory nonsense".


      I would add one thing to my previous post. To argue that incompetent rubes are messing it all up by not doing it right, means that all the mask wearing we see everywhere; all the people who do do what they're told; all the endless social reinforcement to obey and wear 10 masks, does nothing to move the needle at all? If you want to argue that some rebels put a dent in the program, fine. But to argue that the people that do everything scrupulously are making no impact at all is absurd. If just a few people don't do it exactly right, all progress goes to zero? Na.

    5. TN, thanks for the heads-up on your identity.
      But please, just stop it. Being an angry bee simply doesn't cut it with me. And it really isn't a good look at any time.

      I really would like to engage you on matters of importance to both of us. I don't comment on all OPs on this site as there are many that simply don't interest me and are largely irrelevant or spurious at best, being couched as or dressed up as 'philosophical'. But if tribal or parochial god-nonsense perversely impacts on the community such that it is being pedalled for merely tribal or parochial sake only, then I am obliged to challenge it.

    6. TN: Please Stop Feeding The Trolls

    7. Mmmmmm you not have the same advice for your pal Daniel?

      Yes TN, only engage with people you completely agree with, or at least share a bizarre faith based and uber ight wing take on the world with. And of course, label the rest 'trolls'. There's a good boy.

  25. Has Feser weighed in definitively on the morality if universal mask mandates? I am really interested in this debate. My child’s Catholic school imposes it on all children pre K through 8 and on all teachers (average age in the 30s).

    The efficacy of masks is not what we are sold and case, hospitalization, and death curves all look incredibly similar across neighboring states or countries, despite many times wide variance in masking mandates. And there still has not been one scientific study, controlled trial, that shows significant reduction in a respiratory virus due to the imposition of universal mask mandates. The primary and most immediate potential harm of such remains self contamination due to a dirty mask.

    That being said, is it licit to coerce the healthy on this? What about a toddler? And what is all this talk about the dignity of the person if we can force a healthy soul wear a covering over his face to go about life.

    1. And the mortality rate for these kids is... zero. So why the masks?? (Oh, I know, someone will offer some stupid question-begging argument, but a good one? I'm not hopeful.)

    2. Er, because they might transmit the virus to each other, and thence to teachers, or to a vulnerable relative at home, and so establish chains of transmission which engulf even more people? Are you such a moron that you cannot figure this out? And can you not further foresee that this is particularly probable in congested and poorely ventilated communal areas?

    3. Uncharitable response. Your logic implies it is always licit to force a mask on anyone, any age. I just do not currently understand that position but am open to it.

      It seems to me we must admit what we know. We can’t un-know the fact that kids and young people are relatively unaffected. Can we continue to validly impose such restrictions (most extreme being quarantine of asymptomatic or restricting the natural breathing of an asymptomatic by forced masking) on them because their sick or elderly family members may catch the virus and become gravely ill or die?

      How can we ignore that establishment sources still question the efficacy of masking the entire public? The WHO in June 2020 stated that “the widespread use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not yet supported by high quality or direct scientific evidence.”

      And of course the pre-March 2020 consensus position of western scientific community was that universal masking has greater harm than benefit. So in fact there is a lot of precedent here and it is not a moronic position as you say.

      Here it seems we have a highly speculative potential benefit versus very likely harm. I can’t currently consider this coercion as ethical.

    4. Unknown 9.55am

      We have very different ethical perspectives and standards I am afraid. Requiring young people to mask up in communal areas , and to self isolate when carrying the virus, are hardly monsterous impositions, and you asking if we have the right to do this 'because their sick or elderly family members may contract the virus and become gravely ill or die' is incomprehensible to me. Of course we bloody have! A certain amount of pragmatism is needed here, as very young children will not really understand what is required of them and why, and will play with and remove their masks. That is why here in the uk children younger than age 11 are not required to obay mask mandates, an
      age which is considerably too high in my oppinion.

      Your comment about mask wearing 'restricting the natural breathing' of young people- as if the typical face covering or mask is equivalent to a gag -is just rhetoric. Individuals who do not have relevant medical or psychological conditions ( in which case they should be exempt from any mandate ) have no difficulty at all breathing through standard masks.

    5. Anonymous at 10:56

      If your breathing is not labored when masking, you either aren't doing it right or aren't getting much protection.

      I too am interested in this debate. To what extent can we morally force healthy people to stay within the confines of some physical location or obstruct some natural and fundamental physical activity.

      Also there is this notion of an individual being responsible for the health of his passersby. That, to me, seems fraught with potential abuse.

      Can we rightfully require the obese to eat a diet of fish and chips so as to reduce pressure on the hospital system and ultimately save lives?

      I know there is the precedent of forcing someone to not smoke around others, but that doesn't seem properly analogous to the breathing function.

      Are such things only morally acceptable during rough times? If so, on whose authority? How is it defined? etc etc

    6. a diet of "fish and kale" is what I intended above :) too close to supper time!

    7. Anonymous at 3.31pm

      I thought that you really meant "fish and chips', and that you were envisaging reducing the nunber of obese people ( a terrible burden ) by giving them heart attacks.

    8. Them i guess he would be someone PRETTY commited to reducing the number of obese!

    9. @Unknown at 9:28:
      That is literally the first time I've heard someone defend stupid pandemic policies using an implausible slippery slope argument that ignores all real evidence... No, wait, I remember, that's been the standard (of) argument from the beginning.

  26. Unknown @ 4.21am

    You say: "The efficacy of masks is not what we are sold and case, hospitalization, and death curves all look incredibly similar across neighboring states or countries, despite many times wide variance in masking mandates."

    I think we need to be a little careful in equating the efficacy of masks with the success or otherwise of a mask mandate. There are many factors, from incorrect wearing, level and time period between sanitizing of masks, single use compared to multiple use, level of general compliance and of enforcement of any mandate, etc etc. that would be difficult to control. I think, though, lessons on mask use will be learned from these past twelve months.

    I am somewhat guided by medical protocols that have been in use for decades and decades, in hospitals, isolation wards, clinics or during combating regional or country-wide epidemics around the world. I don't think there is any operation, surgical procedure or epidemic mitigation process that does not appreciate the high value of wearing masks or protective facial coverings, let alone other types of PPE.

    So I think erring on the side of caution is probably a prudent move, mindful of the very long-time and ubiquitous use of protective masks in the medical/health sector, which I would imagine sufficient data and evidence was collected over that time period to justify mask wearing as a reasonable first step in this instance.

  27. Papa

    I agree that masks have the potential to be effective, in short bursts and with intimate wear and care. But when we force it upon everyone, it is incumbent upon us to take into consideration how people will actually wear and care for it.

    Home dialysis equipment is a great thing, right? But would a nephrologist sign up all his or her patients for it?

    It is irresponsible to assume the toddler or the everyday Joe will wear and care for a mask like a surgeon. And remember, the primary harm of mask wearing is self contamination from improper wear and care! Will we ever know how many folks have gotten the disease because of all the filthy masks in usage?

    The studies that show they work are on mannequins or in some lab created environment. I think the precautionary principle actually points to us not mandating people wear masks. Go back to the WHO quote; no direct or high quality evidence. Why does that not matter!?

    1. Why does no evidence not matter? I saw an interview where Adam Carolla explained it to Dave Rubin pretty well. He said it's like when the crops are failing so the people in charge say, "We gotta throw a virgin in the volcano!" And someone says, "How's that going to help the crops?" And they say, "Shut up, the villagers are restless, we gotta do something."

    2. Anonymous@March 11, 2021 at 4:55 AM,
      I agree that masks have the potential to be effective, in short bursts and with intimate wear and care. But when we force it upon everyone, it is incumbent upon us to take into consideration how people will actually wear and care for it.

      Much like any other medical approach, effectiveness diminishes from the ideal. However, "diminishes" =/= 'disappears', and the level of protection is still substantial.

      Home dialysis equipment is a great thing, right? But would a nephrologist sign up all his or her patients for it?

      My getting dialysis does not protect other people with kidney disease. My wearing a mask protects other people from my germs.

  28. “Surgical facemasks are designed to be discarded after single use. As they become moist they become porous and no longer protect. Indeed, experiments have shown that surgical and cotton masks do not trap the SARS‐CoV‐2 (COVID‐19) virus, which can be detected on the outer surface of the masks for up to 7 days. 7 , 8 Thus, a pre‐symptomatic or mildly infected person wearing a facemask for hours without changing it and without washing hands every time they touched the mask could paradoxically increase the risk of infecting others.” (1)

    CDC conclusion after 75 years of studies:

    “In our systematic review, we identified 10 RCTs that reported estimates of the effectiveness of face masks in reducing laboratory-confirmed influenza virus infections in the community from literature published during 1946–July 27, 2018. In pooled analysis, we found no significant reduction in influenza transmission with the use of face masks (RR 0.78, 95% CI 0.51–1.20; I2 = 30%, p = 0.25) (Figure 2).” (2)

    Add this to all the other comments - there are tens of these scholarly articles and studies warning against what we are doing. We got hysterical. We were fed daily negative propaganda and reacted without reason. It is time for selfish baby boomers to rip off the band aide and snap out of it.


    1. Score 1 to Unknown. Good points.

    2. Unknown@March 11, 2021 at 10:59 AM,
      CDC conclusion after 75 years of studies:

      Under conditions where a very small percentage of the population has gone masked.

      If your position were correct, we would be seeing normal levels of the flu this year in addition to covid19. Instead, we've had historically low levels of flu. The reason both of these are true is that masks do more to protect people near an infected person who wears a mask than they do to protect the person who wears the mask, so when you have large numbers wearing masks, transmission is reduced.