I originally wrote this post in April of this year but I find it even more relevant today than when I wrote it. We’ve seen the vaccine discussion metamorphosize in a way even I didn’t anticipate at the time of this article’s write.
Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) tweeted that “Vaccine Passports are unconstitutional”.
Well, guess what? That’s actually not true.
But let’s back up a bit.
What are vaccine passports anyway?
A vaccine passport is a digital QR code on someone’s phone that individuals scan when entering any form of private industry (grocery, airlines, parks, cruises etc) to give proof of having taken the COVID-19 vaccination.
It’s as simple as that.
Three Layers of Powers
The Biden Administration has stated that it will recommend that private industry implement vaccine passports but will leave the actual implementation of the passports to the private sector–and to state and local governments.
So, I reiterate, are vaccine passports, currently, unconstitutional?
Again, I try to emphasize that private industry and private individuals cannot violate the Constitution. Only government can violate the Constitution because the Constitution is government’s job description.
Why don’t people in government, like the aforementioned Lauren Boebert, know this simple and fundamental truth? Instead, she and everyone else loves to throw around the word “unconstitutional” as if it’s the one and only effective insult or argument we can use to attack a political action we don’t like.
It cheapens the power fo the statement that something is unconstitutional.
The Constitution only applies to the institution who’s job it describes.
So, as long as the federal government is not mandating and legally requiring passport vaccines, the federal government is not acting unconstitutionally regarding passport vaccines.
STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT:
The same goes for state and local governments. As long as they aren’t mandating or requiring something that goes against their Constitutional confines (which, I don’t know for each state), they aren’t doing something unconstitutional. Some states may be able to require vaccine passports–per their constitutional confines.
I haven’t read through each state Constitution yet, so I don’t know which ones could or could not… but the question as always is, what is the state government’s job description and does such a mandate fit within their job description? If it doesn’t fit in their job description, and the state government requires it, the state government has violated their Constitution and is acting arbitrarily. Should this happen, immediate and swift action should be taken by the citizenry and other branches of government to right the wrong done by government.
This leads me to the last realm of power.
I tend to see power is terms of a pyramid. At the top of the pyramid is the federal government. Federal power is the most dangerous power because it holds the potential for the most widespread and effective abuse of power. Therefore, it’s the institution who’s power should be most confined and most watched over.
Next are the state governments. Their power is allowed to be a bit broader as their power only affects their one state and escape is easier should abuse happen. However, the citizenry should still be heavily invested in confining and maintaining state government power as well. The next layer down is made up of the city and local governments. This is where all the primary, important, practical, relevant and applicable governing should be done. The power, still confined and held accountable, hold much less potential for widespread damaging abuse than than an overblown, unconfined state or federal government.
And finally, at the bottom layer of power, lies the private sector. It is teeming with power and larger than the rest of the pyramid combined. Its power is unlimited, aside from a few loose regulations by government. The only confines it has are the few laws the federal, state and local governments are allowed to impose on the private sector to protect the private sector from itself. For instance, people can’t steal, kill, and the like. In a free society, these impositions and regulations are few and limited. This means that abuse is guaranteed to happen in this layer of power even if the abuse may be confined to a single business enterprise or perhaps to an industry.
So, with this imagery in your mind, let’s look at the last layer of power regarding these vaccine passports.
Social Coercion Via the Private Sector
The challenge that opponents of the vaccine–or vaccine passports–face when assessing the very real possibility of vaccine passports becoming a reality in the private sector is that there is little they can do about these private industry requirements. In other words, if government begins requiring that private citizens get the vaccine, government has violated their job description and citizens can appeal to the Constitution for protection from an arbitrary government.
However, if private industry requires that citizens have the vaccine in order to patronize their stores, to whom do citizens who don’t want to be forced to take the vaccine appeal?
We could appeal to government. But, is it government’s job to regulate the private sector or tell private companies how to run their businesses? Do we really want to give more power to the top layers of power?
This is the challenge the citizenry faces. Can the private sector coerce other private citizens to put something in their bodies that some may not want to put in their bodies? Such coercion, or potential coercion, makes me think of the “my body, my choice” argument that many on the left use when supporting abortion. Shouldn’t citizens be free to make this decision without crippling consequences?
Well, yes. But free from who? Free from government coercion is a given and we have the Constitution to back that up. But free from private industry?
Can the private sector coerce other private citizens to put something into their bodies that some may not want to put in their bodies?
Technically, in a free society, yes.
This is the side effect of liberty and the reason that those in power are so set on manipulating the private sector to mandate and control where government cannot. And this is a hard pill to swallow for many Americans… including myself.
On a personal note. I think the idea of a vaccine passport is terrifying. The fact that the U.S. citizenry is being forced into adopting a certain behavior by social coercion rather than government coercion doesn’t make the situation any less terrifying for me. In fact, it may make it more terrifying for me because I’ve realized that if we don’t appeal to government to protect us from the coercion, there really is nothing to do to prevent such coercion. It’s what happens in a free society.
Coercion, of any kind–even if it’s for something presumably good–, is still coercion and only opens the door to greater levels of coercion. Where does it stop? Does private industry start refusing customers based off of religion, political preference, race (although federal government has had a word on that in the past)?
The power of the private sector is vast and, when manipulated by the press and government, can move the very course of the nation.
The private sector is free to do this and there is no “Constitutional” crisis as long as it’s simply private industry coercion.
Part of me wonders if we would be safer with private industry shirking the passports and government attempting to coerce because then, at least, we’d have the Constitution to appeal to.
The Liberty Belle