Re: Disease Control

Hal Finney (
Mon, 29 Dec 1997 08:29:40 -0800

The issue of government control over health issues is difficult because
it threatens people with the use of force. In order to discuss them in
a less threatening way a slightly different scenario may be helpful.

Imagine that you are going to live on or visit a space station.
In different stations there are different policies involving quarantine
of people who carry infectious diseases. In some stations there is no
quarantine and everyone can wander freely. In other stations anyone
who carries any infectious disease, even a common cold, is required to
be isolated until the disease is no longer infectious. Other stations
take a more moderate stance, where only the most serious diseases lead
to quarantine.

There might also be stations where people are not quarantined, but where
they are required to inform others (perhaps by a low-power data transmission)
of which diseases they are carrying.

You are going to make your decision about which station to visit on the
basis of its policies in this regard. Those stations with more restrictive
policies give you the advantage of not being exposed to as many diseases,
but if you should become infected your own mobility will be limited. It's
a tradeoff, and you can make your own judgements about which you would

It seems to me that I would prefer the more restrictive policies, because
by living there I would be exposed to many fewer diseases, so in practice
the chances of my becoming infected and subject to quarantine would be
small. It's true that the consequences to me would be significant if I
should be so unlucky as to become infected, but the chances of that are
so reduced that I think this would be my preferred option.

Others can make their own decisions. This is the extropian way.