The Vaccination Problem Is The Military Problem Is The Regulation Problem

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 10.854% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So here’s the problem with vaccination:
It works.
It works really well.
It works so well that there’s not enough residual problems left to remind people Hey wait, this will make our lives miserable if we stop doing it.
It’s not like fighting terrorism, where even the best anti-terrorism campaign slips up occasionally and then we get a bloody reminder of The Need To Stay Vigilant: no, a successful vaccination program is defined by the absence of kids in wheelchairs, of zero deafened children, of not watching 10% of the five-year-olds at your local pre-school get mangled by measles.
Vaccination is so goddamned successful that people forget what the pre-vaccination world was like.
So they start to think, “Well, all this health is the baseline.”  They forget that vaccination is the reason for all this health, and come to believe that somehow, naturally, in the wild, things would just go fine.
Which is the logic of a six-year-old believing that everybody just gets a house to live in, and it’s so terrible that Daddy has to work for nine hours a day because if he just quit his job then they’d still have a house and everyone would get more time with Daddy…
But that’s what happens when people are shielded from the downsides.  Most six-year-olds haven’t been close to the realities of being homeless.  Even if Mommy and Daddy are working overtime to try to stop their landlord from kicking them out, the kid’s clueless – they just see the stress of working so much, and they’ve always had this apartment, so why is everyone so concerned about losing it?  You can’t lose a home, that’s silly, it wouldn’t happen.
So the anti-vaxxers start dismantling vaccination.  Because they have no concept of what the alternative is like.
Which is a lot like regulation.  Regulation works.  It works disturbingly well.  Yet you see tons of libertarians asking not the sensible question of “Why do we need these particular regulations?” but the more terrifying question of “Why do we need regulations at all?”
And these libertarians haven’t read up on their history, because the 19th century was exactly what they wanted – almost no taxes, practically zero regulations, things mostly handled by private industry – and if you want a glimpse at what this glorious future brought us, read The Poisoner’s Handbook for a solid compendium of nonregulatory horrors that the free market failed to solve.
(Spoiler: things were bad enough that the voters demanded these regulations.)
But it’s the same problem.  Because this new and safe generation have never dealt with butchers putting sawdust into putrid meat to sell it to you for cheap, or personally watched a tenement burn because a cheap home-owner built his fireplaces out of wood – no, that happened – they think that businesspeople will just miraculously be nice to their customers because the customers have infinite time to research and infinite alternatives to buy from and the business people certainly won’t indulge in propaganda to muddy the waters.
Your restaurants are sanitary because regulations force business-owners into actions they wouldn’t normally take.  And it’s fine to argue to reduce regulations if there’s too many to follow, because regulations do start choking business after a time – but when you start saying, “Hey, business would just fix this stuff on their own if we left them alone, why do we need regulations at all?” then you’re back to the vaccination problem.  You forgot history.
And it’s the same way that American liberals seem to think that the military is just this frippery we keep around for no good reason, and all the other countries would just miraculously be nice to us if we sold all of our F-18s off in bake sales, simply because America’s in a comparatively isolated area and the military’s been good at keeping local revolutions down.  (And you may be like, “I don’t like it when they suppress our revolutions,” but then you look at the way the National Guard got brought in to keep the civil rights movement safe from the locals who’d overrule the law, and realize that it cuts both ways.)
That’s a problem.  If a solution works really well, within a few generations we have naive idiots who think that this new, hard-won order of things is just how things are naturally.
And they start looking at all the downsides of this solution and come to the foolish conclusion that the downsides outweigh the upside because there is no upside, things would be exactly the same if we removed the solution, so why not get rid of the military or regulations or vaccination?
How do you convince them when they refuse to look at the past?
And that’s an insolvable problem.  It’s frightening to think that our future may be this continual battle for civilization, because things won’t collapse all the way.  The people who remember how bad things are won’t let them collapse all the way.  And the forgetful idiots won’t see the problems they’re causing – because remember, to them, all the goodness is just what happens naturally.  So when more kids get measles, then a microscopic-and-also-totally-imaginary chance at autism is worse than the school-wide pandemics they don’t realize they’re causing, and when businesses have their regulations taken away and yet still mysteriously choose to fuck over their workers and customers, that’s because something else is blocking these job-creators from unleashing the kindness that’s clearly present in their hearts.
The truth is, we’ll probably be battling naive idiots all our lives, and these people will never understand that they’re actually agents of total fucking chaos.
I don’t know how to solve it.  The only way I can think to solve it is to start with almost propaganda-like levels of schooling – long curriculums showing kids the horrors of the days before vaccinations and regulations and a sturdy military.
The problem is, if that worked, then eventually some idiot would start saying, “Come on, man!  Who wouldn’t understand that regulations and the military and vaccination were good things?  People just know that.  There’s no need for these classes.”
Next thing you know, it’s another battle. And there we go again.


  1. John Murphy
    Mar 29, 2016

    One of my favorite political passages of all time was written by G.K. Chesterton, and seems apropos here:
    ‘In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”
    This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion.’


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