N.H. should let the market sort out private-sector vaccine policies


When New Hampshire Republicans start asking the state to regulate private businesses, something’s stopped making sense.

GOP Executive Councilors Joe Kenney and Dave Wheeler last week suggested the state should forbid private businesses from requiring employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Florida and Texas have passed such big-government dictates, and Montana adopted a similar one in May.

But most of the 12 states that have passed some form of restriction on vaccine mandates have prohibited only government entities, not private ones, from requiring proof of vaccination. (New Hampshire is one of those.)

The reason for the distinction is simple. While it’s undisputed that government can set its own policies for its own facilities, it’s generally accepted, in Republican and conservative circles at least, that government ought to have only the most limited authority to impose its will on private business.

That the Biden administration is pursuing a legally dubious (read: blatantly unconstitutional) nationwide vaccine mandate is no justification for New Hampshire to impose a legally dubious mandate of its own, even in response.

It’s not difficult to parse out where the free-market, limited-government Republicans should fall iu this dispute.

Employers, as property owners, have the basic right to control access to company property and to determine what level of risk is acceptable within that property.

Government has a strictly limited role, intervening only to protect individual rights or to prevent externalities that harm others.

That’s why it’s illegal to dump raw sewage into the Merrimack River, or to racially discriminate. 

But the choice not to vaccinate against communicable diseases never has conferred a similar legal protection against discrimination because, obviously, no one has a natural or civil right to transmit dangerous communicable diseases.

Employees who choose not to get vaccinated against a potentially fatal communicable disease simply do not have a right to keep whatever job they happen to hold, even if their reasoning for refusing vaccination is sound and their concerns are valid.

They also have no right to force others to associate with them. Though they remain free not to vaccinate, they have no legal basis for then turning to the government to force others to associate with or employ them.

The state has no grounds for intervening in these private business decisions.

Gov. Chris Sununu called a state ban on private-sector vaccine mandates “Communism.” That goes too far. But such intervention certainly would represent a small step toward statism and away from property rights and personal freedom.