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Why we must take the vaccine

By Peter Bowden - posted Monday, 13 December 2021

John Ruddick in the current issue of The Statesman has published an article: "I won't take a COVID vaccine. Here's why.". It is a pseudo-philosophical argument, couched in terms of the long-fought battles on the major social and political developments of the human race, He starts with the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia 1787 as "the finest gathering of political thinkers since Ancient Athens" – Thomas Jefferson considered it "an assembly of demigods". Then, as now in the United States, political opinions were strongly opposed. An often bitter divide in the drafting of the constitution was between the Federalists (who wanted a competent central government) and the Anti-Federalists.

The Federalists won the first round, and the constitution ratified in 1788 centralised power. The Anti-Federalists launched a comeback, and in 1791 the Bill of Rights was added to the constitution in the form of ten amendments. The Anti-Federalists were the libertarians of their day – preoccupied with individual liberty and suspicious of concentrated power.

Ruddick notes that the Bill of Rights is of greater significance than the constitution. Woven through the ten amendments was the principle that majorities under the guise of democracy cannot override minorities. Minorities were given the freedom to practice any religion, to say whatever they wanted ( Freedom of speech, the First Amendment) and to publicly protest whatever cause they wished.


Ruddick then noted endless other examples of the persecution of the less powerful by the majority: early Christians, the women in Salem accused of witchcraft, the nobility in 1790s France, Tutsi's in Rwanda, the Rohingya in Burma, and the Uyghurs in western China.

The escalating malice towards the unvaccinated is the early stages of mankind's worst impulses Ruddick claims. "The good news is that mobs eventually burn out – the only question is how much damage will be done to the liberal fabric between now and then?"

John Ruddick is the Liberal Democrat's senate candidate in New South Wales. Wikipedia tells us that this party "espouses smaller government and supports policies that are based on classical liberal, libertarianism principles, such as lower taxes, opposing restrictions on gun ownership, privatising water utilities, increasing the mining and export of uranium and the relaxation of smoking laws."

That should be enough in itself to consign Ruddick's article to the waste bin.

But there are stronger reasons, even overriding reasons, why we must vaccinate, Moral reasons. We must protect the majority of people, We can even use Ruddick's own argument in that we should protect the weaker segments of society – the old and already immunocompromised, But a stronger reason is a moral reason, We have an overriding moral obligation in any of our actions to help those who need help, and to make sure that we harm no-one. This has been a moral rule since the time of King Solomon three thousand years ago; reiterated in the teaching of Jesus Christ in the Parable of the Good Samaritan and the Sermon on the Mount. This rule is encapsulated in the Hindu Jain and Buddhist concept of Ahimsa and repeated by several modern moral philosophers.

If you search through every major social and political development over the centuries, you will find that it obeys this guideline.


For example

  • Eliminating discrimination against homosexuals.
  • Children from same sex relationships: Research from more than 70 studies has found that these children are at no disadvantage.
  • Attempting to eliminate the gap between the rich and poor. The question here is whether this gap causes harm to those less well off. A 1993 study does show that income inequality and relative poverty have a negative impact on infant mortality. Since then, the gap between the rich and poor has widened. Some writers claim that this gap causes a high crime rate, social unrest, and political instability.
  • Gun control in the United States, is currently a controversy. Application of the minimum harm rule will show that gun control is the desired moral response.
  • Racial discrimination is obviously a harm, and therefore a wrong.
  • Abortion. The argument at issue here is the right to life of the unborn foetus. Our reasons for holding that the killing of a human being is wrong is, according to Peter Singer, that we deprive him or her of the expectation that they have on their future lives. To take away this expectation is to do them harm. But an embryo has no mind, no expectations, so they cannot be harmed. We must also balance the pregnant woman's wishes against what for most right-to-lifers, is a religious belief..

Universal Health Care is now a given in most developed countries. Obamacare - or the Affordable Care Act - is still a much-disputed issue in the United States. Those of us in Australia, beneficiaries of a highly regarded national health scheme, cannot understand the objections. They appear to be a right-wing US objection to big government: that Obamacare reduces the freedom of the individual to make his or her own choices when obtaining medical services. This argument for dismantling Obamacare is not at all obvious to outsiders.

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About the Author

Peter Bowden is an author, researcher and ethicist. He was formerly Coordinator of the MBA Program at Monash University and Professor of Administrative Studies at Manchester University. He is currently a member of the Australian Business Ethics Network , working on business, institutional, and personal ethics.

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