Public commentator Amanda Marcotte is “incandescent with rage”—her words—with those who refuse to be vaccinated against covid-19.1 She wants to get back to her spin class, and the unvaccinated are ruining it for her. Lockdowns and other restrictions on gymnasiums have either closed them or required masking during training sessions, and the result is that Marcotte is unable to enjoy her spin class at the gym, so she has had to cancel and exercise at home. In attributing where the blame for this predicament lies, she is unequivocal: “[B]y refusing to do the right thing, the unvaccinated are stripping freedom and choice from every other American who got vaccinated. We stand by helplessly watching restrictions pile back on and our freedoms dissipate, all to protect those who won’t protect themselves.”
This statement is indicative of a relatively new phenomenon in public commentary, which is a general support for the rise of what I call “public policy by ransom.” Public policy by ransom occurs when a government imposes a behavioral requirement on individuals and enforces this by punishing the general public in aggregate until a stipulated level of compliance is attained. The method relies on members of the public and public commentators—like Marcotte—who will attribute blame for these negative consequences to recalcitrant citizens who fail to adopt the preferred behaviors of the governing class. In the weltanschauung that underpins this type of governance, government reactions to public behaviors are “metaphysically given” and are treated as a mere epiphenomenon of the actions of individual members of the public who dare to behave in ways disliked by public authorities.