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Judge Napolitano Versus Forced Quarantines

  • Forced Quarantine

Tags HealthThe Police State


One can make the case that in a thoroughly decentralized and anarchistic society, persons may find themselves in a state of practical near-quarantine because private owners of airlines, airports, lodging facilities, and even communities with private security may refuse entry or passage to persons suspected of being contagious. In such cases, persons would be restricted to places owned by themselves or by those who will agree to allow the person on the premises. Thus, in such a situation, a "quarantine," practically speaking, is less like imprisonment and more like house arrest depending on negotiations with numerous private owners. In modern states, on the other hand, the widespread nature of "public goods" and prohibitions of discrimination by private owners often means that quarantine becomes a function of the central state and often ends up being little better than a jail sentence where the person in question is locked inside some official facility for a period of time.

Thus, quarantines (of a sort) can arise within a totally (or mostly) privatized society, but how they look and are carried out in practical terms can vary significantly.

For an example of the arbitrary, slipshod, and due-process-less way that American governments deal with such issues, we need only look to the case of the nurse in New Jersey who was being confined in spite of the fact that she had been proven to be Ebola-free. (Note: she has now returned to Maine, where the State of Maine promises to confine her although she continues to be symptom-free.)

In the US, travelers are subject to the arbitrary edicts of politicians who can imprison people with the stroke of a pen,with  no prior warning, and no due process. As Napolitano explains in this video, US governments have known about the Ebola outbreak since March, yet did not warn healthcare workers traveling to west Africa that they could be subject to quarantine upon return. Any responsible government body would have done so. When such persons returned, no steps had been taken (at least not in New Jersey) to administer a quarantine in any way that might be described as humane. As Napolitano notes, when they quarantined the NJ nurse in question, they "put her in a tent in a parking lot" and "gave her a porta potty and a granola bar." It seems the government intended to keep her in these conditions for 21 days.

Moreover, the NJ government detained the woman with no evidence.

Now, in a world of small, radically decentralized, and non-monopolistic governments there is no reason to assume that it would be easy for someone who fit the nurse's profile to freely travel about the world. She would have to obtain permission to fly through numerous privately-owned airports and small self-governing cities and states. It is likely she would have to jump through many hoops to return home under such conditions, possibly with the use of third parties that would vouch for her health status. At the same time, however, someone traveling to West Africa in such a world would have behaved accordingly and would have made the appropriate arrangements with a return trip in mind. In a world of modern states, however, it becomes impossible to predict what the whims of untouchable politicians may be, and what may lead to one's imprisonment or exclusion from an entire continent (but with no right of exit) based on no evidence.

Napolitano's comments assume the status quo with an existing state, but even in that situation, any decent legal system would demand the use of due process and the presentation of actual evidence. The fact that the governor of NJ could decree the seizure of private citizens without any due process is worrisome to Napolitano, and understandably so.

Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com

Ryan McMaken (@ryanmcmaken) is a senior editor at the Mises Institute. Send him your article submissions for Mises Wire and The Austrian, but read article guidelines first. Ryan has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado, and was the economist for the Colorado Division of Housing from 2009 to 2014. He is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.

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