Conrad Black, Coronavirus, and . . . the Fat Man

Conrad Black writes a great column, even if the language is, sometimes, over the top—which doesn’t at all bother people who love a good over-the-top exposition. Black could describe grass growing in a riveting and hilarious manner. It’s tempting to try a grass-growing ’graph á la Conrad Black—but perhaps some other time.

That doesn’t mean Black never gets things wrong—and he certainly did in his American Greatness column of September 14. In a piece written to show Republicans how to compromise on highly emotional issues, he wrote: “The government has a right to require vaccination for its employees or regular proof of not being afflicted by the coronavirus.”

Really? Would the government have the right to control its employees’ diets—so they don’t become obese? Or is that thinist? Or lookist? We know that obesity and the Chinese Flu are a deadly combination. Why not require government employees to be fit, perhaps even to exercise—perhaps even to be led in calisthenics each morning by the secretary of Health and Human Services or his/her/its/their designee?

Getting vaccinated obviously is a good idea for people who are at risk of getting seriously sick or dying from the Chinese Flu (e.g., people already afflicted with other conditions). But once they have been vaccinated, they no longer face the same risk. They might get sick with the Chinese Flu, as they might get sick with the regular flu, but the danger of dying is no longer as acute. 

Once the people who choose to get vaccinated have been vaccinated (and that today is almost everyone who desires it) there’s no longer any reason to worry about them, or—and this is the important point—to impose conditions on their fellow workers. 

There’s no reason to require A to do something “because it will protect B” if B doesn’t need the protection. That should be obvious.

But what about A—someone who has not been vaccinated and hasn’t had the Chinese Flu? Why should the government require him to do . . . anything? There’s only one risk to the employer: the employee might get sick and not be available for work. But that’s true—and surely even more true—for obese people, or even people who engage in dangerous sports.

So: the government shouldn’t require its employees to get vaccinated. 

But even if the government should be able to require vaccinations, as Black mistakenly claims, there is an escape route for the employees: they can quit. 

Not so for people serving in the military. They sign up for terms certain, which means they must get vaccinated or go to the brig. That is certainly wrong. If the military is going to require COVID vaccinations, it should also permit anyone who doesn’t want to get vaccinated to resign from the service. 

Black also says:

A better course [than requiring vaccinations] would be to invoke public health justification for the obligatory vaccination of everyone above the age of 60 and all people with defined states of vulnerability to any variant of the coronavirus. 

Here we go again—maybe it’s Black’s Canadian upbringing. It’s true that older people are more at risk from the Chinese Flu. But the deaths have been mostly (though not entirely) of older people with a comorbidity. Why shouldn’t people be allowed to take that risk if they so choose? The answer can’t be, “Because they might infect others,” because the “others” can get vaccinated if they so choose.

This stuff may not be exciting to read, but it’s important because the Biden Administration’s default position on these kinds of issues seems fascist. And to have Conrad Black peddling even a remotely similar line requires a response. 

Black also writes: “Republicans who claim it is oppressive to require anyone to be vaccinated are not behaving responsibly. There is a legitimate public health argument to require the vaccination of those who are statistically most vulnerable.” Actually, as we’ve just seen, there isn’t a persuasive public health argument—at least not one that would exclude civil (criminal?) penalties for obesity. 

According to the National Library of Medicine, “The estimated number of annual deaths attributable to obesity among U.S. adults is approximately . . . 325,000 based on HRs [hazard ratios] from only nonsmokers and never-smokers.”

By comparison, the Washington Post reports that the Chinese Flu has killed “at least 664,000” people in the United States since February 2020, which is an annualized rate of about 443,000. But there are two points about that figure: It probably includes people who died with COVID, not from it; and the rate is going down. That means that obesity kills, every year, almost three-quarters of the number of people who have died from the Chinese Flu, and there’s no indication that the obesity death rate is going down. 

That’s a persuasive case for a huge tax on Coca-Cola, or perhaps a mandated limit of only two Cokes per week per person—to single out just one of the woke companies that supports the Biden Administration.  

Compromise, Black’s topic, may be essential to success in the political process. But letting the government force workers to take a shot for the Chinese Flu is a compromise too far. 

Conrad Black should have written about grass growing. His piece would have been a sketch!

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About Daniel Oliver

Daniel Oliver is chairman of the board of the Education and Research Institute and a director of the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was executive editor and subsequently chairman of the board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review. Email him at Daniel.Oliver@TheCandidAmerican.com.

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