Monday, December 29, 2008

Voluntary Vaccination

In some places in the United States you are not required to have your child immunized against childhood diseases. For whatever reason, some people decline to do so and place all unimmunized children at risk. But that includes some children (under 12 months old) that are too young to be immunized. So the risk pool includes more than those whose parents have chosen not to have them immunized as a matter of choice. Assume there is some risk of immunization. Assume if everyone else gets immunized, I don’t need to – since the chance of my child becoming infected false to near zero. Then altruism aside, why should I get my child immunized? The set up is ready made for me to act as free rider – but so it is for everyone else, which would place us all at risk. Here is a prime example in which making choice an individual matter produces an outcome to the disadvantage of all. A collective choice sidesteps that by limiting individual choice. But in a democracy, we are then put in a position of having to (individually) choose to limit our own freedom. Why would we do that? If I elect not to be a free rider, I need to worry that others will. A vote guarantees that if I elect not to be a free rider, nobody else can either. But as with vaccination so with energy.

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