Holistically individual responses to COVID vaccination have been:
“Yes, I’m in! I believe!”
“Okay, I’ll go along.”
“Not just yet.”
The vaccine-hesitant, “Not just yet” crowd, and to a degree “NEVER!” crowd, struggle with concerns about the newness of the vaccines, future unknown effects, and conflicting messages from authority figures, and information posted on social media pulling in various self-serving agenda directions. It boils down to a lack of trust in scientists, the health care system, political leaders and “Big Pharma” whom the government have protected from lawsuits related to vaccine symptoms.
A person’s reasons for accepting or rejecting the COVID vaccine are complex and varied, not predicated on definitive political ideologies. Nevertheless, the pandemic has brought one political divide to the surface—whether individuals should be held responsible for their life choices.
Proponents of left-leaning politics believe many individuals aren’t entirely responsible for their current circumstances. They claim an individual’s economic class at birth, race, and sex often limits their opportunities; thus, distribution of opportunity is unjust. The left’s remedy is for the government to intervene and make “life’s playing field” equitable for everyone.
However, the left doesn’t consider a person’s ambition to overcome any “environmental” obstacles they face as being essential in determining their circumstances. Personal responsibility for your life choices is a conversation those on the left tend to avoid.
Individuals on the right of the political spectrum believe a person is responsible for the consequences of their life choices. Right-wingers will tell you that anyone can take advantage of the many opportunities surrounding them if they make good life choices
Political affiliation aside, ideally, each of us would heed the words “Everyone is really responsible to all men for all men and everything.” from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov (1879), but pursuing our respective self-interest has a much greater appeal.
When Quebec’s premier François Legault proposed unvaccinated Quebecers pay a ‘no-vax tax’ I asked myself two questions:
Was this a political left or political right move?
Is Legault proposing a ‘no-vax tax’ as a punishment or to offset the burden the unvaccinated are supposedly putting on Quebec’s health care system?
What doesn’t sit well with me is the assertion the unvaccinated are placing a burden on the health care system not being quantified. According to mainstream media reports, the unvaccinated people make up a disproportionate number of hospitalizations due to COVD while downplaying the fully vaccinated are also hospitalized.
Where’s the comparison of the number of unvaxxed COVID hospital admissions against other medical treatments? For example, in 2021, what was the number of heart-related issues, most of which are preventable, Canadian hospitals had to treat versus the number of unvaccinated COVID patients hospitalized? Without statistical comparisons claiming the unvaccinated are burdening Canada’s health care system is a divisive assumption.
Are taxes meant to be punitive or to generate government revenue?
Am I being punished when I pay taxes on groceries, electronics, and restaurant meals? Or am I contributing to the government’s coffers to maintain Canada’s infrastructures and social safety nets? What about Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax (aka “pollution tax”)? Is a carbon tax a form of punishment for living a consumer-oriented 1st world lifestyle or an acceptable method to generate revenue for alternative energy development? On a personal responsibility level, is a carbon tax punitive or an incentive to reduce my carbon footprint?
Many Canadians venomously dislike Trudeau’s carbon tax, saying it’s one of the reasons for rising prices in Canada. Is it unreasonable to hold a person accountable, at least financially, for their personal consumerism choices that negatively impact our environment? A carbon tax is a consumption tax—the more you consume, the more you pay—and therefore equally applicable to all Canadians, which is why—wait for it—I’m supportive of Trudeau’s carbon tax.
Yes, many Canadians are taking steps to help with slowing down climate change. However, there are still many Canadians who don’t consider how their actions impact the environment and willfully participate in our throw-away economy (e.g., plastic coffee lids, styrofoam takeaway containers, straws, plastic cutlery) and overconsumption 1st world lifestyle. Even with all the science in 2022, there are still climate change deniers, just as there are people who believe COVID is a hoax.
By reducing discretionary consumption affordability, which isn’t environmentally friendly, carbon taxes make consumers rethink their consumption. (READ: Become more personally responsible for their pollution contribution.) Less consumerism is a necessary step towards tackling climate change, which everyone claims to be concerned about. Let’s be honest, much of our 1st world lifestyle is wasteful and environmentally destructive. The answer to climate change isn’t for you and I to want to consume more, but to want to consume less, which a carbon tax does.
Legault’s proposing the unvaccinated be financially responsible for the consequences of their personal choice has on Quebec’s health care system is comparable to Trudeau’s carbon tax. A carbon tax holds an individual financially accountable for the relationship between their consumption choices and its impact on our environment. Legault’s ‘no-vax’ tax would hold an individual financially accountable for the relationship between their choosing to be unvaccinated and its impact on Quebec’s health care system. Shouldn’t all negative lifestyle choices incur a punitive tax when seeking health care? Is a person’s health their personal responsibility?
Taxes influences behaviour
Behaviour modification is what Legault is hoping to achieve with his ‘no-vax tax,’ which has merit; however, his proposal needs extend beyond unvaccinated Quebecers so it’s equitable.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say most hospitalizations are due to medical issues that could have been prevented. How you choose to treat your body (regular exercise, food consumption, alcohol and tobacco usage, drug use) has consequences. Your life choices either create health issues requiring medical attention or
reward you with a long and healthy life, though this isn’t guaranteed. Should Canadians not take responsibility for their lifestyle choices and not expect taxpayers to be financially responsible?
In 1966 the federal government passed the Medical Care Act; thus, Canada’s universal health care was born. After 55 years, it may be time to rethink that all Canadians having the right to receive health care paid for by taxpayers, regardless of how they treat their bodies, may be a disincentive to make healthy personal life choices. Logic would dictate that if a person were responsible, at least financially, for their personal decisions—not expecting the government (READ: Taxpayers) to simply “look after them”— that they’d make better life choices.
Perhaps this formula is naive on my part:
Being responsible for your choices (personal responsibility) = an incentive to make better choices.
Government mandates, lockdowns, vaccine passports have gotten over 80% of Canadians to comply with “the science.” Legault’s proposed ‘no-vax tax’ would be additional government coercion—I’m calling it for what it really is—to get unvaccinated Quebecers vaccinated. Undoubtedly, Legault is using the anger Quebecers have against the unvaccinated for political posturing. His message, which he knows the vaccinated will applaud: “I don’t like the decision the unvaccinated are making, and therefore, I’m going to make then pay a punitive tax.” What makes much of the “anger”, and “moral self-righteousness” hypocritical is many of these angry Quebecers are smokers, drinkers, obese, and partake in risky behaviour. It can be assumed they are also straining Quebec’s health care system. Where’s their resentment and anger towards anyone who doesn’t live a completely healthy lifestyle?
There’s a lot of finger-pointing at those who don’t vaccinate, labelling them as not having the intelligence to “follow the science.” Where’s the finger-pointing at those who smoke, use drugs, drink alcohol, are obese and lead sedentary lives? They, too, aren’t “following the science”—science that’s common knowledge backed by decades of research.
Heart disease and stroke are primarily due to poor diet, obesity, diabetes, smoking and lack of exercise. Cancer rates have been steadily increasing because of high-fat diets, processed meats, excessive alcohol intake, smoking, and pollution.
What makes the vaccinated feel they have the moral right to disapprove of the unvaccinated, let alone show contempt towards them? Nobody reading this has the right to judge someone just because they sin differently than they do.
As it currently stands, vaccination and boosters have proven, for the most part, to protect against being admitted to an ICU or dying. The COVID vaccine, like all vaccines, increases survival rate; it doesn’t eradicate the coronavirus.
Every Canadian being vaccinated is an unrealistic goal.
As the government pushes the unvaccinated further to society’s margins the number of unvaccinated Canadians is dwindling. However, despite a population hell-bent on “hive mind,” it be naive to think a day will come when 100% of Canadians will be fully vaccinated against COVID, especially if Canadians are free to make their own medical decisions at taxpayer’s expense.
Before implementing a punitive tax for accessing health care, that’ll not be applied equitably to all Quebecers seeking medical care for health issues resulting from their poor lifestyle choices, Legault; actually, all government leaders should consider the question: What evidence do people who are hesitant to get vaccinated need to see directly, and from whom?
Getting those who have vaccine hesitancy to overcome their hesitancy will be easier by answering this question than by creating an inequitable punitive tax. Let’s first try to get the remaining unvaccinated Canadians to make the right personal choice without more government interference.
by Nick Kossovan
Nick Kossovan, a self-described connoisseur of human psychology, writes about what’s on his mind from Toronto. You can follow Nick on Twitter and Instagram @NKossovan.