Richard Myers is 79 years old. He’s retiring in a few months, having served admirably as the president of Kansas State University.

Before that, he was in the most powerful military position in the world. He was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, running the U.S. armed forces as our country fought two wars at once.

Do you really think, at this stage, that he’s at all interested in grabbing more power for himself?

I was struck by that rhetorical question when I read that he said recently that he would have liked to require coronavirus vaccinations on campus. That comment came in response to a question after his last “State of the University” address at the end of last week. The state Legislature made it impossible for K-State to implement such a requirement.

One of the arguments of the anti-vax crowd is that it’s really all just about power. The argument goes that government bureaucrats are motivated predominantly by the desire to control your life, the desire to accumulate more power for themselves. Requiring masks, or requiring vaccinations, or, oh, I dunno, requiring you to pay into Social Security, are really all just about increasing the government’s leverage over you.

Seen in that light, the fight against masks and vaccination requirements are a principled battle for individual freedom.

There’s a little truth in that argument, I think. The government does, in fact, tend to want to DO SOMETHING. Faced with a problem, government officials often think they need to do something to solve that problem. Sometimes, though, the best thing is for the government to specifically NOT do anything, so as to let the society at large solve the problem. That’s the argument for free enterprise, generally, and it’s often a solid argument.

But not always. In matters of public health, for instance, our society has decided, collectively over the years, that vaccine requirements against certain communicable diseases make good sense. That’s why you have to show proof of several vaccinations for your kids to go to public school. This is normal stuff; we have essentially made a deal to protect one another.

The vaccine for the coronavirus is remarkably effective and safe. There’s no scientific argument against it.

The argument, at this point, is about whether the government ought to mandate it, and of course that’s a different argument. I’m saying there’s precedent to do so, and it seems a reasonable thing to discuss.

I’m also saying that the next time a vaccination opponent tries to make the argument that it’s really just all about the government trying to grab more power, you might think about Richard Myers. He’s had just about all the power a person could have, and he’s leaving office in a few months, and so...why exactly would he be at all interested in accumulating more say over whether you have to be inoculated in a viral pandemic?

And if power doesn’t make sense as a motive, then, well, don’t we have to debate the issue on the merits?

That’s also a rhetorical question.

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