Masks are like stop signs

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Carl has done his research and believes stop signs don’t work. That doesn’t give Carl the “right” to ignore stop signs.

Masks are like stop signs.

The theory behind stop signs is that if you stop before entering an intersection, there’s less chance of being hit by another driver traveling through the intersection. If stop signs work, then every time you stop, you avoid a potential accident.

There is no “freedom” to give others a deadly illness just as there is no “freedom” to ignore stop signs.

But suppose Carl doesn’t believe that stop signs work; or perhaps Carl believes that there are too many stop signs. Carl has done his research and made his own decision. Carl points out that he’s not blind. It is entirely possible to tell when another car is coming and stop only then. If the intersection is clear and Carl doesn’t believe that stop signs work, isn’t it his right to refuse to stop?

Isn’t the decision to stop at a stop sign a matter of personal freedom?

And if Carl is wrong and he’s T-boned at an intersection, what’s the problem if he’s willing to accept the responsibility?

It doesn’t take deep thinking to recognize that stop signs work best when everyone stops at them. Indeed, they work in large part because everyone stops at them.

Sure, if there’s great visibility at an intersection you can avoid other cars because you can see them coming. If Carl is barreling through the intersection, you can wait however long it takes for him to get through the intersection before you move into it.

But what if visibility is poor and you can only see cars that are very close to the intersection? In that case, simply stopping at the stop sign before entering the intersection is not enough to protect you. You could be T-boned by Carl because you didn’t see him coming, and he was too far away to see you entering the intersection in time to stop. In other words, you could be injured or killed even though you stopped at the stop sign.

How can that happen if stop signs work? Doesn’t the mere fact that accidents like these can and do happen prove that stop signs don’t work?

No and no.

Stop signs do protect people who heed them even when others do not. But stop signs work best when everyone heeds them. Even if only one person ignores a stop sign, multiple people can be killed. Indeed, it happens nearly every day when people ignore stop signs because they are drunk or they are in a rush.

Masks are like stop signs. They work to protect those who wear them, just as stopping at a stop sign protects those who do. But they work best when everyone wears them, just as stop signs work best when everyone can be counted on to stop.

But what about Carl who has done his research and concludes that the fact that stop signs don’t always protect people means that they don’t work? Does he have the right to refuse to stop because he believes that stop signs are ineffective or harmful? I suspect that most people, even the most ardent libertarians, believe that Carl’s rights don’t cover refusing to stop at stop signs.

Why not? Because stopping at stop signs is a public good and the burden of stopping even if Carl does’t want to do so — and even if Carl believes it doesn’t benefit him to do so — is outweighed by the tremendous harm that is prevented.

Masks are like that, too. The extensive rights enjoyed by people in a free society don’t extend to an ethical right to refuse masking. Some things — like stop signs and masks — work best when everyone does them. Masking to prevent COVID is a public good that prevents tremendous harm to others. Refusing to wear a mask is immoral.

There is no “freedom” to give others a deadly illness just as there is no “freedom” to ignore stop signs.

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  • Heidi

    I’ve seen some duuuuuuumb arguments against the masks. My hometown has a career woman turned stay at home, homeopath mama who gets too much airtime for her conspiracy theories. A few years ago it was about how she quit vaccinating, then she was mad that schools might go virtual and now she’s super mad about her precious having to wear a mask. She evidently sends her daughter with one mask and makes her wear her dirty stained mask all day to prove her dumb point. Here in my current town, we evidently had unmasked vigilantes bring their children’s dirty masks to health department meetings waving them around! We had no virtual option for preschool and my son is autistic. It was a difficult decision for us to send him back but since he only has two other classmates and I trust his school’s staff, we decided the benefits outweighed the risk. I hope I don’t regret my decision. Anyway, we sent two spare masks to school with him! Imagine that. He has only had to change out his mask once. Somehow he actually does manage to keep it clean throughout his almost 6 hour day. As soon as he gets home we throw it on the washer. Do these idiots send their kids in dirty underwear I wonder?

  • rational thinker

    The people that are literally whining about having to wear a mask have the same mentality as women who insist they must eat a full course meal while in labor. Morons.

    • demodocus

      I wonder what’s the percentage of people in labor actually *care* about eating. I wasn’t hungry for 3 hours after the spawn were evicted. That first cup of tea was _marvelous_

      • rational thinker

        I wasn’t too concerned about eating either both times. The first time was rough after cause labor started at ten pm and went on for 24 hrs then at that time of the night in the hospital they said I had to wait until breakfast at 8 am. The second time labor was under 3 hrs so it was better that time. Realistically Why anyone would make eating a priority when you are in that much pain. I know it was the furthest thing from my mind.