Make the COVID vaccine mandatory

Political division, disinformation and, frankly, stupidity are costing lives. It is not authoritarian to mandate vaccines in America. In fact, there is historical precedent. Making vaccine uptake a requirement will save tens of thousands of lives and maybe many more than that. There really aren't two sides to this argument, there is just the science.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Hope you're having a good week. I wanted to kick it off by talking about vaccines. We all know the recent spike in cases and even hospitalizations that we have experienced in this country over the past couple of weeks. It looks like that's going to continue. It is overwhelmingly because of Delta variant. The hospitalizations and deaths are overwhelmingly because too many people are un-vaccinated.

So, a controversial and unpopular opinion from me, I think we should legally mandate vaccines. Unless you have a legitimate medical reason, let's make it the law. I understand a lot of you are not going to agree with me. I see no one in the government is willing to make this argument right now, Democrat or Republican. But I'm neither, and my mom wouldn't be happy if I was only saying stuff to everybody that you already agree with, so let me try to lay out this argument.

We have tried convincing people. We've tried cajoling, we've tried education campaigns, we've used the media, we've used government, we've used the doctors, we've used the scientists, we've done lotteries, we've done free MetroCards, and still, we're talking about 50% of the country that is fully vaccinated right now. We are awash in vaccines as Africa, a billion plus people, only 1% of the continent has been vaccinated fully. In the United States, people won't take them. We are not where we need to be. Furthermore, we've already been passed in vaccination rates by Canada, by the United Kingdom, and in the next few weeks, we'll be passed by fully vaccinated people in the European Union as well. Despite the fact that the United States has by far the biggest initial advantage in getting these vaccines produced and distributed.

It is political division in this country, it's disinformation, it's stupidity. It's a lot of people saying no and then getting dug in and refusing to listen to facts in an environment that is increasingly tribal. It's us versus them much more so than in any other advanced industrial economy in the world. Big numbers. A majority of people that say that they're not going to get vaccinated at this point in the United States, say that they believe that the vaccine will implant a microchip into your body. This is insanity. This is not something we should be presenting two sides of an argument. There isn't two sides. There's one side and there are a bunch of people that refuse to actually listen to facts.

I think that part of this is because Democrats and Republicans both find it valuable to be sniping at each other on every single issue. Part of it is that a small number of dishonest brokers can make themselves famous and money by pushing conspiracy theories and fake news. And part of it, is the ineffectiveness of social media in taking down this information because it drives more clicks and more eyeballs. The arguments are getting stupider. Mask mandates are getting caught up in all of this as well. I saw Dr. Fauci coming up and saying, "We don't need masks." Initially, because he was worried that there wouldn't be enough for everybody. He lied to the public. Didn't mislead, lied. And he did it for what he thought were good reasons, but undermined the science, undermine his credibility. I personally think that was indefensible by Dr. Fauci at the time. Now I hear him saying, "You're either getting vaccinated or you're going to get the disease, but also that we still need to wear masks." Which is it?

It's increasingly getting impossible to convince people that there is a scientific side of this argument that is correct. The "gotcha" politics have just made people go with their political team, their political side, and increasingly not know who to believe. I have to say, I don't like taking away people's liberties under any circumstances. I support gun rights, I support free speech, I support legalization of marijuana, gay marriage, you name it. But here, we are talking about saving tens of thousands, possibly even hundreds of thousands of additional lives in the United States. We've lost over 600,000 people in large part because we didn't have vaccines.

But going forward, anyone we lose is due to stupidity. It's due to political failure of our government, of our leaders. Not only that, but absent getting vaccines to everybody, millions of livelihoods are going to be affected because you're going to have more social distancing, and you're going to have more calls for a lockdown. You're going to have a stop-start, stop-start economy, which is problematic, particularly for those that are the poorest. Now, I want to be clear. I'm not talking about sending people to jail. A fine would work. It's like buckling up. You do it or you get fined. It's an imposition, yes. It's the government telling you what to do. A lot of people won't feel like it, but most people buckle up as a consequence, even if you think that it's an imposition on your liberties. I do believe that we are so divided right now, that carrots by themselves aren't going to work. We need some level of stick.

Is this authoritarian? Is it one step away from Hitler? I've seen people respond with crazy stuff because of course it's social media, and so that's what you need to do, is respond with crazy stuff. No. No. In fact, vaccine mandates and fines are American history. We've done it before with the smallpox vaccine. It was mandated after an epidemic. And an anti-vaxxer took the US government to court and the Supreme Court ruled on it in 1905. Jacobson vs. Massachusetts and the US Supreme Court, Democratic country, what did it say? It concluded that states can require vaccine via mandate, accompanied by a criminal fine. There you go. This is not something that is a slow step towards authoritarianism.

I also want to say that after 9/11, we took away liberties. We took away a lot of liberties. We spent billions and billions of dollars in the United States. I'm not just talking about the failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I, you, can't get on a plane without taking off our shoes, our belt, our outer jacket, get all the metal out of our pockets, a full scan, arms over your head, take a look at us naked! Unless, you want to do a TSA PreCheck that gives all your info to the government, and then you can keep your shoes on. Awesome, right? How about the PATRIOT Act? Huge amounts of intrusion passed after 9/11. Because of national security, we've got all these surveillance laws, and now it's much easier for the government to spy on ordinary Americans by expanding their ability to get phone and email communications, to get your bank and credit card reports. We did that, so that 9/11 wouldn't happen again. We did that to save what we believe would be a few thousand lives in the United States from terrorism.

I understand why we did that at the time, and I understand why the entire country came together to support it, even though I believe that there were excesses, even though I believe that we spent too much, and then we went too far in taking away American liberties at the time. But I understand why we did. Today, this country is so divided that I don't think we could pass a seatbelt law. There's too much stupidity in just the political tribalism.

And so, if no one else is going to say it, I'm going to say it. I believe that saving those tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of lives is worth a vaccine mandate. Let's get it done, and as a consequence, let's save some lives in the United States. Thanks. Sorry to be a little annoying about all of this. We'll see what you have to say. I'll see all of you real soon.

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