The pathogenic risk of life in human society

To live is to bear the risk of death. This risk exists in every moment of human existence preceding death, and ends only with death itself.

To live in society is to bear the risk of human-to-human infection by one or more pathogens. Such infection may lead to disease or death.

Every human being living in society exchanges pathogenic agents with other human beings regularly, both receiving and transmitting them. No one can account for these exchanges.

Each of us has almost certainly transmitted a disease-causing pathogen to another human being, resulting in that person’s illness or even death. In substantially all cases, we lack awareness of having done so. We cannot live among others without infecting them, and receiving infections from them.

In rare cases one human being will seek to infect another for malicious purposes. Such acts are unquestionably criminal. But excepting those rare instances of deliberate, malicious infection, the transmission of a pathogenic agent by one person to another is non-criminal.

Human beings are social creatures. Living among others benefits the individual in countless ways. But social life is also a choice. With independence comes the ability to withdraw from the society of others and to live in seclusion instead.

For the secluded, the risk of human-to-human, pathogenic infection is nil. Through the exercise of free will, an individual who wishes to reduce or even eliminate his risk of illness or death via such infection may do so through voluntary separation from others. In so doing, he brings no harm to any other person.

Though the secluded individual escapes the risk of infection from others, the price he pays for elimination of that risk is loss of society. No other bargain is tenable. He who receives the benefit, bears the burden.

Other than by voluntary seclusion, only a criminal act can insulate an individual from the risk of infection that accompanies life among others. That criminal act is the forcible seclusion of others, undertaken in lieu of voluntary seclusion of self.

Voluntary relations among its members is a predicate of society, however. To the extent aggression brings people together or keeps them apart, people live not in society but in a form of prison camp.

Any who initiates the use of force against another is a criminal. The ability of individuals to benefit from society depends upon their ability to avoid coercion. In effect, society is a mutual bargain. Each of us conditions our participation on the willingness of others to deal with us in a peaceable manner.

All aggression is destructive of society, no matter its aims. Forcible seclusion of individuals in society to reduce the risk they may transmit pathogens to others is aggression, and therefore criminal. As aggression, such forcible seclusion is destructive of society. For those who wish to reduce or eliminate their risk of infection, their only non-criminal choice of action is voluntary seclusion.

Advocates and practitioners of government assert its legitimacy on grounds of its ability to protect individual members of society from aggression and to punish those who aggress against others. When government itself acts as aggressor, any pretense as to its legitimacy fails. Given that forcible seclusion is a form of aggression and therefore criminal, any government engaging in such conduct contradicts the predicate propounded by its advocates and practitioners and acts illegitimately.

For those who wish to mitigate or even eliminate their risk of infection, their only legitimate, non-criminal option is voluntary seclusion–that is, to remove themselves from society–to be undertaken at their sole expense. To the extent they act directly or indirectly to bring about the forcible seclusion of others, they engage in, encourage, or support criminal activity that is destructive of society.

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