AT LEAST some of the vitriol aimed at the vaccination refuseniks relates to the so-called free rider problem.
The populist tone of much of the push for mass vaccinations to thwart COVID has the ring of Aussie jingoism.
“Roll up your sleeve for Australia” is merely the most egregious and simplistic, typically wheeled out by those who pass for “personalities” at Channel Nine.
It comes from the same stable as the appalling, inaccurate and offensive “we are all in this together”. Patently, in an emerging regime of medical apartheid, we are not in it together.
No issue has so divided Australians. As the retired Federal Court Judge Stuart Lindsay has pointed out starkly in relation to his own culling of friends: “I ceased to meet or even talk to old friends whom I knew would turn out to be collaborators. I made this decision very early. Blokes with whom I went to school, saw regularly through the 45 years that followed and had supported through divorces and deaths of parents and other crises and who did the same for me, I cut them straight away, right at the time the ‘flattening of the curve hoax’ was being promoted.
“Anyone who faithfully carries any part of his inheritance in his heart intuits these things clearly and at once. I knew that these mates were lining up to consent to the hundred other humiliations quisling bureaucrats had prepared for them.
“It was as if all of my capacity to let ride the ways they had disappointed over the years with their lack of fealty to the things we had treasured in our youth vanished in an instant. All of them would have submitted to the mask.
“You might be thinking I’m very harsh but I know I made the right decision. It straightened me up. It also made me more vigilant of the many acts of cultural defenestration I had permitted others with whom I had been associating to wink at over the years. There would be no more of that. And rest assured, I wielded an even sharper knife during the self- inventory that followed this culling of friends.”
We are a nation very much divided. Not in it together. Anyone who actually believes the tripe offered as infomercials by the government and its friends in the corporate media most likely also believes (with apologies to the late Senator Peter Walsh) there are fairies at the bottom of the garden.
The implication of the vaccines push is that those who do not submit to the State injectable are escaping a national responsibility, are not “pulling their weight”.
Having just locked down two million citizens of Hitler’s country of birth, the Austrian Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein urged everyone to “pull their weight” to beat the virus.
According to the Leftist Salon magazine in the United States, “no doubt Delta is more contagious, but the main problem is still right-wingers who refuse to pull their weight”.
Labor politician Chris Bowen – yes, he is still around – wrote in mid-2020 that Australia was not “pulling its weight in seeking a vaccine for COVID-19”.
So, what is the free rider problem? According to The Intelligent Economist: “The Free Rider Problem occurs when there is a good (likely to be a public good) that everyone enjoys the benefits of without having to pay for the good. The free-rider problem leads to under-provision of a good or service and thus causes market failure.
“The Free Rider Problem occurs because of the failure of individuals to reveal their real or true preferences for the public good through their contributions.
“For example, when a town wants to construct a vital bridge, it will ask the people of the town if they will contribute towards the construction costs. Everyone says they will, and they also know that even if they don’t contribute individually, other people will contribute enough or the local municipality will find a way to pay for the bridge. This means no one will want to contribute towards the building of a bridge because they know that even if they don’t participate in paying for the bridge, someone else will, and the bridge will get built anyway.
“This situation leads to the underproduction of such goods. Since these goods are non-rival, it means that they cannot exclude other people from consuming them. For example, you cannot prevent anyone from utilising the benefits of a street lamp, even though they haven’t paid for it.”
Is there a shortage of vaccines? I think not. Does vaccine dissidence add up to market failure? Nope. Do vaccines constitute a public good? The unchallenged evidence to have emerged with the advent of the Delta strain is that the vaccines are ineffective in preventing the spread of COVID. Given that this was their stated (public health) purpose, they therefore do not constitute a public good.
New research at Oxford University shows that: “Revelations about the reduced effectiveness of vaccines after 12 weeks was highlighted in research led by the Nuffield Department of Medicine, based at the University of Oxford, which co-developed the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“It found vaccinated people were almost as infectious as the unvaccinated 12 weeks after their second AstraZeneca jab.”
The paper stated: “Transmission reductions declined over time since second vaccination, for Delta reaching similar levels to unvaccinated individuals by 12 weeks for [AstraZeneca] and attenuating substantially for [Pfizer-BioNTech]. Protection from vaccination in contacts also declined in the three months after second vaccination.”
The paper echoes research in The Lancet last month which found “the vaccine effect on reducing transmission is minimal in the context of Delta variant circulation”.
This is merely the most recent research. Anyone involved in the vaccines debate who is not aware of the evidence is simply not keeping up, perhaps wilfully so.
Studies done across States (in the USA) and nations across the globe show that highly vaccinated countries and States do not suffer from fewer cases of COVID than less vaccinated countries. If vaccines work, why is this so? If vaccines work, why are there boosters? If vaccines work, why is the Queensland government checking that people crossing the border to enter that State must also have proof of an up-to-date negative COVID test, as well as proof of vaccination?
Why are other governments doing this as well? (For example, Scotland is now actively considering this option for public venues). Why is the most vaccinated country on earth – Gibraltar – cancelling Christmas for everybody, amid a “surge” of cases?
No, the vaccines do not constitute a public “good”.
The free rider argument was attempted by Greg Melleuish in an article in The Australian (aka The Daily Vaccinator) in September 2021, titled “there can be no free rides in the journey to vaccination”.
I say “attempted” because Melleuish, normally quite perspicacious, provides little in the way of argument, and much in the way of assumption and assertion.
Although not an economist, Melleuish exhibits all of the fatal flaws redolent of economics – facile assumptions, simplistic understanding of complex phenomena, false attribution of motives, for a start.
It is sloppy scholarship of the kind that is far too prevalent in the COVID era.
Those endeavouring to present intellectual arguments and so claiming to be above the fray are no less invested in a narrative than any of the other partisans, and should say so.
Melleuish believes that the unvaccinated are akin to tax evaders. Like a tax dodger who uses public infrastructure, perhaps: “It is commonplace to attack the idea of vaccine passports on the basis that they deny individual liberty. Everyone should have control over their own bodies. This argument supposedly allows those opposed to vaccine passports to attain the moral high ground.
“There is, however, another moral argument in favour of vaccine passports that is derived from the argument from free riders – those who take advantage of the majority of people behaving appropriately to break the rules and thus attain a personal advantage.
“… Another comparison may be taxation. We must all pay taxes. The libertarian fantasy of voluntary contributions to finance government activities – that is, lotteries and the like – is not viable.
“In taxation, there are also free riders who seek to evade taxes while enjoying the benefits provided by the taxes paid by the majority. Tax evaders rightly are seen as immoral because they seek to exploit those who make a contribution.
“Vaccine passports can be viewed in the same light as taxation: those who contribute should enjoy the benefits conferred by their willingness to take a small risk for the wider community.”
Melleuish thinks that those of us who argue a human rights case against thuggishly imposed vaccine mandates – we are not against vaccines per se – seek or claim the high moral ground.
This is quaint, given the abuse hurled at the deplorables from the ruling class “on high”. We claim not the high ground, but merely equal treatment before the law. A fair go. That other famed old Aussie catch cry, now cast aside in favour of ruthless conformity backed up with rubber bullets and pepper spray.
Break the rules? What rules? The public health orders of trumped up, unelected bureaucrats who feign an “emergency” when there is none?
The rules never debated in the elected parliaments of Australia? Perhaps Melleuish needs to brush up on philosophical debates on the social contract, on the consent of the governed and on moral duty to disobey immoral “laws”, as James Allan pointed out recently in relation to the ideas of the eminent legal philosopher HLA Hart.
A personal advantage? This is a weird reading of what the unvaccinated believe they are doing.
Many, perhaps most, of the refuseniks do not take the jab because they know it doesn’t work. The young and the healthy especially believe, correctly, that it confers zero personal advantage.
In medical terms, for 99 per cent of the population, the vaccines are placebos. Nothing more, and nothing less.
If he means that the unvaccinated will gain the “personal advantage” of keeping your job or being able to go to the pub, well, one only has to appeal to the words of that other supposed conservative defender of personal freedom, the NSW premier, who has claimed – at more or less Melleuish’s precise time of writing, that it is not the role of government to dole out “freedom as a service”.
Freedom is an inherent right, not subject to State fiat. This has been core-conservative philosophy for hundreds of years, something Melleuish must know.
Given all of the things that the emerging medical apartheid denies to the unvaccinated – like jobs, future career, incomes, access to friends and family, good mental health, freedom of movement and access to public amenities and at the same time ostracising and isolating them – it seems an odd way of looking at the world to describe such people as obtaining a benefit for nothing. Very odd, indeed.
Beyond this, let us look at the so-called “benefit” derived by the unvaccinated, many of whom are perfectly healthy and who correctly conclude that the risk of dying from COVID, of even getting moderately ill, is close to zero.
There is not the remotest public health argument for mass vaccination of the very young, for example.
Against this minuscule risk, there is mounting evidence worldwide of substantial risk to your health from submitting to the vaccines.
The latest reported figures on deaths following vaccination – widely assumed by professionals working in the field as a massive under-representation of the true extent of adverse reactions – are as follows: USA 18,461; European Union countries 29,934; United Kingdom 1766 and Australia 633.
The unkind might believe this to be State-endorsed murder at worst, manslaughter at best. The risks to young males (from myocarditis) and to pregnant women are far from infinitesimal, and have been the subject of considerable medical research.
This is not even to discuss the under-reporting by vaccine companies of deaths during their trials.
So, a rational actor (so beloved of economists) might well choose non-vaccination, on the balance of risks. But here I, too, am making an assumption – that those who choose not to be injected do so simply because of an assessment of risk.
Anyone bothering to ask why jab-refuseniks choose the position they do, something blithely reduced in the public consciousness to “hesitancy” without normally any attempt made at real understanding, would find a raft of reasons for refusing the vaccine. For someone claiming to be so attuned to economic thinking, Melleuish’s avoidance of even a cursory discussion of risk and rationality is perplexing.
It beats me how anyone with a conservative and/or classically liberal bone in his body could attempt to mount a defence of the COVID totalitarian order to which we are all – everyone, not just the unvaccinated – now subject.
The growth of a military State that is all about control and fear, with curfews, lockdowns on a whim, border closures at random, “papers please” shopping regimes, rampant bureaucracy and the rest, should be appalling, well, to anyone, but especially to those who have imbibed the philosophies of Burke, Mill, Hayek and Oakeshott.
We are well along the road to serfdom, and here we are debating whether the pilloried, victimised, excoriated people who, whether because of principle or prudence, have refused the jab, are getting a “freebie”. This is simply absurd.
Melleuish asserts: “It is quintessentially selfish behaviour. Most people react to free riding badly as they find it to be immoral.”
What of the highly principled vaccinated who only got the jab so they could take a holiday, and who couldn’t give a rat’s about anyone else? Vaccinated means selfless?
Most governments now admit, albeit very, very quietly, that the most good that vaccines do is to minimise symptoms and to prevent serious illness and death.
Does anyone seriously suggest that those who get the jab in order to avoid serious illness are doing so in order selflessly to protect the community or the hospitals, and not simply to avoid pain?
“Do the right thing”? On what precise grounds does taking a therapeutic that is experimental, unapproved except for the emergency that does not, in fact, exist, dangerous to many, unneeded by most, and patently not fit for purpose amount to doing the “right thing”?
Melleuish does not even define “emergency”, the supposed basis for totalitarian oppression, a fundamental flaw in his vain, backdoor attempt to justify the COVID State.
Herd immunity provided by vaccines? Nope. There is evidence to hand that suggests that vaccines diminish herd immunity, not strengthen it. They make things worse, not better. (Some studies suggest 13 times worse).
It merely enables the virus to spit out new variants that will do even better against far less well-immunised citizens.
Elimination of the virus? Never a remote possibility, certainly not through mass vaccination. To suggest otherwise, worse, merely to assume it to be true without testing it, is scientifically sloppy.
As for the so-called duty to “make a contribution for the wider community”, like the dumb old taxpayer, who sees even in good times his or her income thieved by the State to pursue ends seldom thought wise, does “making a contribution” to a wasted end (net zero COVID) pursued by ineffective means constitute either wise or moral behaviour or being economically rational?
A small risk in having the vaccines? Err, no. The risks associated with the COVID vaccines are greater than any associated with all the previous vaccines developed in recent decades put together.
As experts like Mike Yeadon, formerly head of research at Pfizer, have pointed out, any previous vaccine being tested that exhibited the adverse reactions that these ones do, would have been removed forthwith.
Even by the shabby standards of the Murdoch press, this one is a doozy. It is simply tarting up epithets such as “selfish” and “granny killer” with a very slim, indeed a laughable, veneer of intellectualism.
Calling them free riders is simply one more insult, one more example of the gaslighting now rampant across a corporate media that is openly campaigning rather than seeking the truth.
To mount such an argument at a time when many Australians, who have done absolutely nothing wrong, are struggling under the oppression of a far-from-minimal State is, frankly, tasteless.
In trivialising their suffering, it is offensive. It is vaccine Karenism. And it is homework-free.
Instead of likening the unvaccinated to tax evaders, the argument could well be stood on its head.
The far more pertinent question is whether the unvaccinated, who are denied access to so many of society’s benefits and so denied their fundamental human rights (as Geoffrey Robertson and many others have pointed out), are morally obligated to pay tax at all.
The fully vaccinated crushed by lockdowns and the like might also want to make this argument.
Arguing against the unvaccinated on the basis of them being free riders while endeavouring at the same time to mount a case in support of the COVID State, with its vaccine passports, completely misses the mark. No cigar. Not even close.PC