I have no problem forcing sick people into quarantine. But government actions that impinge on people’s rights need to be based on science and costs and benefits. There is no scientific basis for the actions against Kaci Hickox. These actions would not pass any rational cost-benefit analysis.
The actions taken against Kaci Hickox, first by the governor of New Jersey and next by the governor of Maine, were motivated by whimsy and caprice.
There is a very large economic and philosophical literature on the proper role of government. My thoughts on this topic are partially formed by the Michael Sandel’s televised course on justice.
A Comment on Justice and Government: Sandel’s courses discusses different views of the role of government. He contrasts the libertarian view with its emphasis on individual rights and the utilitarian view with its emphasis on a government that bases decisions on costs and benefits. He also looks at Locke’s attempt to rationalize these approaches.
An analysis of the draft based on Locke’s world view, may be the best analogy to quarantine issue. Drafts are permissible if they are not arbitrary or capricious. A draft of people with green eyes would be both. A nation may draft a person and order him to a position leading to certain death. The army has almost absolute power. But as Sandel states in one of his lectures no officer in command can take a dime from the draftee.
Comments on Hickox’s Treatment:
Comment One: She was detained for seven hours in New Jersey and isolated in a tent. She had been in close quarters on the plane with many others for probably around 10 hours. To the best of my knowledge, none of the other people on the plane with her were detained or tested.
Comment Two: It has been confirmed that she does not have Ebola. People who were hospitalized with Ebola have been set free from the hospital and hugged by politicians within days. Why would it be permissible for a person who tested positive for Ebola to be released within a week and continue to detain a person who never tested positive for 21 days?
Comment Three: It is possible that Governor Christie and Governor LePage moved against Hickox because of their political interests? This is not permissible. Remember the analogy to the draft. The military can order you to certain death but they can’t take a dime from you.
I recently read that the Democrat opposing LePage in the election in a few days supports the quarantine. This is disgusting. The Democrats have a major problem in their inability to stand for basic principles.
Comment One: there have been other pandemics in the past that have killed people.
I wrote a post suggesting that government can and should be more proactive.
I am not against all forced quarantines --- only capricious politically motivated ones that have not medical rationale.
Despite the ACA we still have a large number of people in this country without health insurance. The uninsured often only get a quick exam at an emergency room before being sent home.
The number one thing that needs to be done to prevent health insurance is to increase and expand the quality of insurance coverage so people with Ebola and other diseases are not routinely sent home from the emergency room back into the community.
Quarantining an Ebola-free nurse is not useful.