Herd Immunity vs. Herd Mentality

About a week ago, I noted here that the global governance consortium and its media spokesmen are currently in a race against time to impose universal vaccination on every human being as a moral and regulatory condition for being allowed to participate in “normal life” again. They are doing this partly to serve the financial interests of the big pharmaceutical companies and their lobbyists, to be sure; but also, and perhaps most importantly, for another reason:

If the world were allowed to emerge from the pandemic without universal vaccination having been achieved first, the people who advised restraint, moderation, and the necessity of reaching herd immunity from the outset would be completely vindicated, while the unjust and unreasoned power grab of lockdowns and mandates would be thoroughly exposed as a deadly folly.

Amusingly, the day after I wrote that, I read a New York Times headline directly crediting the vaccine with slowing the pandemic, and of course urging the necessity of immediately vaccinating everyone. Every day now, we are inundated with urgent warnings that without universal vaccination, implemented immediately, the next and most deadly wave of the virus is sure to begin soon. I see that a Texas hospital system has demanded that its employees submit to vaccination or be fired, and a Texas judge has just upheld this order, which decision (right or wrong as a strictly legal point) will be used to amplify the chorus — once a background murmur, now a global chant — that vaccination, and vaccination alone, is both the only way out of this “unprecedented health crisis” (scare quotes essential) and the only means of earning the “right” (scare quotes also essential) to continue or resume one’s normal human life, including one’s employment, travel, shopping, visiting of loved ones, attendance at community events or performances, and general social acceptance. “Mandates” in private hospital chains or other businesses are one thing, of course, since they are not really mandates, but merely privately-imposed conditions of employment or service; government-imposed mandates are quite another, and that is self-evidently where all of this is headed. At the very least, if government uses fear-mongering and other “incentives” to bully enough private businesses and industries into enforcing vaccination requirements for most normal social activity, then this will leave no practical choice for anyone who wishes to work, travel, shop, attend events, and so on; these government-prodded “private mandates” will become de facto government mandates. The designer-colored “I’m fully vaccinated!” wristbands (with little happy faces or hearts on them, no doubt) will be the global standard for being granted full access to ordinary social life around the world this time next year, one way or the other.

Here is a problem: A recent largescale study has found, and common sense agrees, that vaccination gives no added benefit to those who have already had the virus and thus developed immunity naturally. Now as of last October, before the supposed “third wave” of the outbreak (or was it the fourth?), the U.S. CDC was already estimating, based on a projection from known cases (positive tests), that at least fifty million, and perhaps upwards of eighty million Americans may already have had the virus, though of course most of them had experienced no discernible symptoms. Since that time, a long winter (aka flu season) has passed, during which period there were millions of additional positive tests, thus undoubtedly expanding the number of unidentified cases proportionately. In short, we have no way of knowing for sure how many people have had this virus, but based on the CDC’s own estimates, it is entirely plausible that over a third, maybe even half, of the U.S. population has already been infected, and is thus producing antibodies. In other words, it would appear that America is nearing herd immunity on natural terms, in spite of the government’s best efforts to prolong the outbreak as long as possible by “flattening the curve,” i.e., reducing the short-term burden on healthcare facilities by sustaining the virus’s period as an active public health risk for as long as possible. (Are we still allowed to interpret phrases like “flattening the curve” in plain and non-euphemized language, or is that now strictly forbidden?)

However, if the pandemic waned naturally, due to herd immunity achieved in the normal way, then the World State’s tyrannical power grab of lockdowns, mask mandates, stay-at-home orders, nation-bankrupting and perpetual “stimulus packages,” and so on, would be exposed even further as the moral (and medical) outrage it has been from day one. The World State therefore has the most urgent vested interest in preventing that result from being achieved, or at least from being noticed and acknowledged by the general population, aka “the masses.” Hence the mad rush to vaccinate everyone on the planet immediately against a virus for which hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of humans have already developed antibodies. In short, without the worldwide assertion of tyrannical, fluid, arbitrary restrictions on human activity, this might all have been effectively over with some time ago — but then the statists would not have had the time they needed to exploit it to alter the global power structure and economy so radically and irreversibly. 

Counterargument: But if the disease had been allowed to run its course unrestricted before the development of vaccines, then even more people would have died. At least the vaccines might reduce the total number of deaths from this pandemic here at the tail end of the outbreak. Are you suggesting that more lives should have been sacrificed before vaccines were available, merely to speed through to the end of the pandemic, when the vaccines now available could at least lower the eventual total mortality?

Allow me to answer this counterargument in two ways, first in terms of its medical logic and then in terms of its moral logic.

First of all, it does not follow from the fact that a certain number of people have died from a virus over an artificially prolonged outbreak that the same number (let alone more) would necessarily have died in a shorter time frame had the virus been allowed to run its course more swiftly. The opposite calculation, after all, was precisely the case many formerly respected and elite “experts” in the medical world — who suddenly found themselves relabeled pariahs and laughingstocks — were making at the outset for pursuing a more moderate strategy of protecting the elderly and recommending reasonable flu season precautions, while otherwise allowing this new virus to spread as was inevitable through the healthy majority of the population. This was the so-called herd immunity argument that the official government medical-officers-cum-television-celebrities were snickering at and ridiculing as absurd at the time, in lieu of having any actual argument to make against it — until, of course, those same government-approved experts started using the herd immunity language themselves, once the tyranny their supposed expertise had been exploited to facilitate was firmly entrenched, and universal terror of what is in effect a bad new flu been allowed to fester in the global imagination for months, overwhelming common sense and the basic human self-respect and daily courage essential to a civilized citizenry.

The concept of herd immunity is, and always was, based on the mathematical calculation that if a contagion is allowed to spread through the healthier and more active segments of the population quickly, among whom it will do little harm, but will produce antibodies, this will establish a web of “dead ends,” if you will, cutting off or reducing the available conduits to further dispersal for the virus. By artificially slowing this development of a web of dead ends, through coerced social distancing and lockdowns, you effectively grant the virus more avenues through which to disseminate itself to the more vulnerable segments of the population for a longer period of time.

Would the full-on herd immunity approach likely lead to more deaths in the early stages of the outbreak? Yes. But the hypothesis, supported by the math, is that the long-term death rate would be lower. Hence, it is at best questionable, and perhaps completely untenable, to suggest that slowing the spread of the virus for over a year through artificially imposed social distancing actually reduces mortality rates at all in the end. On the contrary, it may well cause many more deaths, by preserving more paths for the virus to spread itself over such a long time — which, by the way, was more or less the admission, though quietly stated, of the world’s “flatten the curve” advocates during the early months of the pandemic.

In any event, it is far from obvious that the case against lockdowns, mask mandates, and enforced social distancing entails any sort of choice to “sacrifice more lives” for the sake of fewer restrictions on normal life. But what about that accusation, on its face? Even if there were any truth in it, which there is not, would it really be an unqualified evil to suggest that the possibility of greater loss of life would be a rational, though in some ways unpleasant, bargain, given the alternative? Is not that bargain, in fact, the one we all accept every day with regard to the common flu, which kills hundreds of thousands of people annually, or traffic accidents which kill almost as many, or any number of other somewhat dangerous behaviors that we admit as reasonable risks, i.e., as the normal price of pursuing our ends as rational, happiness-seeking animals?

This brings us to the second objection to our hypothetical counterargument. The moral premise underlying the accusation that allowing the pandemic to run its course more naturally would entail coldly and unnecessarily sacrificing additional lives, is that preventing risk is the only or overriding priority of life, regardless of what must be sacrificed to prevent that risk. This premise, and the fact that governments around the world may now subdue their populations with it so easily, is evidence of a fundamental shift in the modern world’s understanding of the proper calculations necessary to life in a political community.

The great early modern thinkers, in their zeal to combat religious zealotry and the tyrannical abuses of social hierarchy, bravely sought to redefine human nature in accordance with its most basic and universal inclinations, rather than in accordance with its rarest and most elevated aims (wisdom, virtue, heroism, piety), which had previously been the standard. Grounding everything in the elemental desire for self-preservation, they attempted to derive the nobler or more human aspirations — freedom, community, civilized coexistence — from this basic will of every material animal to stay alive. It was essential to their project, however — essential both theoretically and with regard to the practical feasibility of the project — that the desire for self-preservation be understood as the source of human moral development, but not the end of it. That is to say, the desire for self-preservation, they held, leads to reasoning about the best means of securing that end while maintaining the aspirations that make survival worthwhile. Morality, on this view, is a natural discovery of rational man calculating the best means of living a properly human life with the least risk to his preservation, which necessarily implies the mutual respect for and protection of property, liberty, and so on. In other words, the calculation of the need to protect the self-determination essential to self-preservation leads men to agree upon certain rules of behavior with regard to one another, i.e., moral tenets.

Today, by contrast, and signaling the full and unequivocal collapse of the modern political project as conceived by its seminal minds, morality, at least for purposes of political life, has been reduced to little more than the pre-rational urge to self-preservation itself. A clear demonstration of this may be seen by comparing the current pandemic, which politicians and their media mouthpieces have frequently described as a “war,” with our near predecessors’ approach to a real war.

The planners of the D-Day invasion at Normandy, for example, knew full well that their daring strategy would lead to massive casualties, regardless of outcome, and that the outcome itself — victory or defeat — was far from clear. They also knew, however, that the stakes were freedom versus tyranny, and therefore decided that the overwhelming risk of massive allied deaths, and even ultimate failure, was a reasonable, though heavy, burden to assume, granting that succumbing to tyranny for the sake of avoiding material risk was not an option. The instinct for self-preservation itself was not morality for those men, but rather the source of certain rational calculations about the acceptable conditions of survival which gave rise, in turn, to properly moral considerations — the chief of which, in that case, being that freedom purchased at great risk and loss is better than safety purchased through enslavement to unlimited government power.

A more universal, but perhaps also more immediately relevant, analogy: Disarming the entire private citizenry of a nation would certainly help to reduce the number of weapons-related crimes. However, disarming the citizenry would itself be a much greater crime than all the accumulated weapons-related crimes that might thus be prevented. There can be no criminality more comprehensive than that practiced by the state itself, such as when it effectively renders the citizenry defenseless against any current or future expansions of state power beyond the legitimate limits and purposes of government.

Likewise, then, in the current case of the pandemic, an early decision was made, by men whose interests clearly lay on the side of governmental or global quasi-governmental authority (political leaders, high-ranking bureaucrats, and the various factions that live parasitically off of those two groups), to assert extreme and extraordinary coercive powers, and to justify these on the grounds that every loss of life is unacceptable, which is to say that bare physical survival or “safety” supersedes all other concerns or interests. Alarmingly, the vast majority of the world’s private citizens, displaying the effects of decades of moral diminution and infantilized dependence on the will of authority, simply accepted this premise — better safety through tyranny than freedom with risk — without blinking. And to the extent that humans today still recognize any meaningful distinction between freedom and enslavement, we must conclude that they knew they were accepting the latter in the name of something they called “safety.” They said so repeatedly, often in furious and frustrated tones, to any of us who questioned their moral logic.

Do you remember those conversations from early 2020? I remember them well, and some of them, in my own case, have even been preserved online. In every instance, they invariably went something like this:

Us: Voluntary changes to behavior aimed at reducing the spread of the virus among vulnerable people are one thing, but mustn’t we draw the line at relinquishing to governments the authority to commandeer or restrict the private actions and choices of innocent citizens in the most overtly intrusive and arbitrary ways — ways that plainly and unmistakably transcend the proper limits of government authority in a free republic?

Them: So you’re saying you don’t think saving an elderly person’s life is important?

Us: No, I’m saying that sacrificing everyone else’s freedom is too high a price to pay for the hope that maybe, just possibly, establishing the dangerous precedent of granting the government open-ended “emergency” powers might help “save an elderly person’s life,” and further that if I were the elderly person in question, I pray to God I would have the dignity to reject the enslavement of my fellow citizens to my personal physical survival.

Them: Well then I guess I value life more than you do, because I am willing to pay the price.

That is the final formula right there, expressed in a thousand thinly veiled ways at microphones, keyboards, and dinner tables all over the formerly civilized world a year ago: Bowing to tyranny equals valuing life; resisting tyranny equals not caring about life.

Eventually, the conversation, mired in futile repetition, simply ended, and the two sides parted ways — one to enjoy the fruits of victory in his newly unlimited paternalistic state, the other to a lonely life of alternately pounding his head against the table and staring wistfully out the window, wondering how his fellow human beings, after centuries of painful and intermittently glorious struggle for a faint breath of practical freedom on this Earth, finally reached the conclusion that merely continuing to breathe was life enough for them.

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