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Vaccines, Autonomy, and Mandates: A Libertarian Analysis

Vaccines, Autonomy, and Mandates: A Libertarian Analysis

Prefatory Note Given the subject matter discussed below, I believe it prudent to state at the outset that I am not at all opposed to vaccinations themselves: indeed, I have received a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as all other normal-course vaccinations recommended for someone my age. Yet there are, it seems to me, interesting, difficult questions surrounding the state’s role in promoting or mandating vaccines. The goal here is to start a conversation not about the effectiveness of vaccines, but about the individual’s sphere of autonomy and what kinds of medical decisions are within it, and thus...

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Gene Editing Goes to Clincial Trials

Gene Editing Goes to Clincial Trials

Gene-editing using the groundbreaking CRISPR technology is about to be put to the test in the first-ever clinical trial of the treatment in humans. CRISPR is a protein in bacteria that can be used to manipulate genetic material to, according to Jennifer Doudna, who won last year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of CRISPR technology, “alter[] DNA sequences in any cell in a precise fashion, in a programmable fashion.” This remarkable technology has the potential to eliminate all genetic disorders and is already delivering results that scientists say were unimaginable just a few...

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How Partisan Politics Rots Your Brain

How Partisan Politics Rots Your Brain

Recent research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques is allowing us to peer into the connections, yet shrouded in mystery, between local brain activity, cognitive processes, and partisan attachment. This developing body of knowledge has revealed the profound importance of evolution in shaping the ways in which our brains process all kinds of information, in particular political information. At the center of this evolutionary journey is the importance of groups—of being initiated and accepted into them, of aligning ourselves with them, of being loyal to them...

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Presidents Are at Their Worst In War

Presidents Are at Their Worst In War

Last week, as he began his administration, President Biden vowed to wage a “full-scale wartime effort” against Covid-19, signing several executive orders, including a new interstate travel mask mandate. That Joe Biden desires to be and sees himself as a wartime president offers hints as to his attitudes about the power of the presidency and government power more generally. Today’s “liberals” aren’t very liberal at all; they see actual liberal principles like due process and respect for the dignity and autonomy of the individual as having been rendered obsolete by faith in...

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Abolishing the Police in the Anarchist Tradition

Abolishing the Police in the Anarchist Tradition

The tragic murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department has provoked a national conversation about police—their role in society, their protection from accountability, the unique danger they pose to civil society. That conversation has begun to pose a radical question, one that, if it seems novel, has been explored by libertarians and anarchists for generations: could we get along entirely without the...

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Toxic Partisanship: A Gateway Towards Authoritarianism

Toxic Partisanship: A Gateway Towards Authoritarianism

For years a consistent refrain in American politics has bewailed an increasingly polarized political atmosphere. As the Pew Research Center observes, for the first time in almost 25 years, “majorities in both parties express not just unfavorable but very unfavorable views of the other party.” Americans, the Pew study shows, now look across the aisle with fear, anger, and contempt, committed more strongly than ever to their respective teams. On college campuses, disagreements that might have been thoughtful, even friendly debates have erupted into violent melees, ending in injury and damaged...

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The Murderous Modern State

The Murderous Modern State

The “Long Peace” Thesis Having considered the modern nation-state as a unique subject of historical and political inquiry, we turn to the widely popular notion that we are right now living amidst a “Long Peace,” characterized by falling rates of war and violence more generally. Among the intellectuals notably associated with this thesis is the Harvard cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, who argues that wars between the world’s great powers have steadily declined, and that even the nightmarish violence and genocide of the last century was, population sizes properly weighed, a move in the...

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The Right to Rule

We reject the idea that some people are born superior to others, with a right to rule them. What, then, if anything, justifies a state’s power over its citizens? In any American election, the vast majority of people don’t vote. Even among the portion of the American population that is eligible to vote, less than three-fifths turned out for the 2012 presidential contest, with over 90 million eligible voters staying at home on that November day. For those who do vote, the risible scene of the American electoral circus presents them with a choice between two wings of a fundamentally unified...

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