Two kinds of reasons to oppose the vaccine and one big reason not to
There are two reasons to oppose a mandate - one is because you oppose the *particular goal* that the mandate is trying to achieve, and the other is because you oppose the kind of *power* that the mandate is trying to wield in achieving that goal.
For example, consider the mandate that all cars come with seatbelts. To oppose this mandate in the first way would be to say “actually seatbelts are a terrible thing for cars to have”, and to oppose this mandate in the second way would be to say “it doesn’t matter if seat belts are a good thing, the government shouldn’t have the power to force cars to have what it thinks are good things”.
Understanding the difference between opposing the *goals* of a mandate and the *powers* of a mandate is important when evaluating contemporary opposition mandates to coronavirus vaccines, at whatever institutional level these mandates may exist.
Opposition to the *goals* of coronavirus vaccine mandates can be broken down into two dimensions - asserting the goodness of COVID and asserting the badness of vaccines. Asserting the goodness of COVID could look like asserting that neoliberal capitalism has bloated human consumption levels beyond what is ecologically sustainable and that killing off a few million of us (especially the older and thus richer) is a step in a happy direction. Or you could assert that COVID itself is not that big a deal, just a bad cold that’s been overblown by scaremongering media, something easily stopped by red meat and outdoor exercise.
Asserting the badness of vaccines could look like saying that we haven’t had nearly enough time to evaluate the vaccines for long-term side effects and that we need to collect way, way more data before we push it onto the entire population. Or you could assert that the vaccines are a nefarious poison concocted by a globalist elite to subdue and sterilize the human race, or something.
As far as these *goal*-related objections go, I have some sympathy for the “we need more vaccine data” concerns and absolutely no sympathy for the rest. I think that COVID is a terrible scourge and that the vaccines are a triumph of contemporary biological research. *Power*-related objections are much more interesting to me.
Opposition to the *powers* of coronavirus vaccine mandates is interesting because it can be held while in full agreement with the *goals* of coronavirus vaccine mandates. You could passionately assert that COVID is bad and vaccines are good and then just as passionately assert that nobody should be forced to get the vaccines to participate in contemporary society.
To understand how this is possible, consider the assertion “participants in society must be COVID-negative and COVID-resistant”. COVID is a biological problem we are trying to solve, so let’s swap in those words: “participants in society must be free from and resistant to the biological problem we are trying to solve”. Because we have empowered the state (or whomever) to stamp out a particular biological problem, we have empowered that entity to stamp out biological problems in general.
Now that this power has been granted it might be used in ways that those who granted it never intended or foresaw. Let’s say that a very socially-conservative leader happens to be in power and declares trans-ness to be a biological problem to be completely stamped out in the same way, and 51% of the voting public agrees with them. People who have had hormone therapy or gender-affirming surgery are completely barred from participating in public life - proof of sex-appropriate hormone levels and genitalia are hereby required before you can even walk into a grocery store. Or let’s say that something like “AIDS 2” happens, and that the state moves to shut down any and all venues and cultural practices that might promote its spread. Or hey, people with mood disorders are more likely to harm themselves and others, why not make it illegal for people with mood disorders to talk to anyone or leave their house?
In short, imagine the most cunning and evil person you can, someone who is frighteningly smart and who hates you and everything you stand for with an all-consuming passion, someone who has a picture of you up on their wall held up with a huge knife stabbed through the forehead. What kind of power would you let them have over your life and the lives of your loved ones and friends? Whatever power you would trust them to have is the power you should trust institutions to have over you in general - if you trust institutions with more power than that, then you’re rolling the dice and hoping that the enforceable standards of the day are aligned with your values, or that whoever is in charge of ensuring your compliance is hopefully merciful.
That’s the argument against mandate power in general - that for every 1 temporarily-beneficial-looking thing we empower institutions to do against the objections of the unwilling, we empower them to do 100 nefarious things at the time.
Under this view, the Floridian fight to prevent institutional vaccine mandates is a noble battle to protect the rights of the unvaccinated, to prevent society from backsliding into a legally segregated system whereby we exclude the biological undesirables, since to re-introduce that pattern would be to re-introduce the possibility that legal segregation in general would make a triumphant return.
The counterargument to all of this hinges on the issue of negative externalities, namely the situation where the costs for a situation aren’t born by the parties who caused the situation. Libertarians oppose socialism and societal-level mandates because there is no escape from these systems - if, say, your private employer sucks you can quit and at least have a shot at getting a better job elsewhere, but if everyone’s employed by the state and the state is a bad employer then you have nowhere you can turn to for a better situation. The same logic applies for negative externalities - if global air quality and carbon levels are poisoning you or causing dangerous heat waves and extreme weather events, you can either leave the planet or have robots deliver oxygen to your weatherproof bunker, but you can’t stay here as-is and have things work out.
What’s more, while in a market economy people have the opportunity to change employers, they don’t have much of an opportunity to suspend their employment in general. Unless we have plenty of savings or are supported by someone else, we all have to work, and some people will not have the luxury of supporting themselves through working at home. In-person workplace contact will be inevitable for huge portions of the population, and with that compulsory contact comes the inability to choose whether or not they are exposed to public health threats.
Negative externalities are also present from a business owner’s perspective. Let’s say that you run a brick-and-mortar store, and instead of a highly-contagious disease let’s say that we were dealing with a situation where some customers come in riding gas-powered unicycles whose emissions are highly likely to sicken or even kill your customers and employees. If you let them keep doing it your business could gain a reputation as the place where people go to get sick and die because of gas-powered unicycles. In the same way that it would not be tyranny to make customers leave their gas-powered unicycles at he door or require all unicycles in your store to be electrical, it would not be tyranny to make your customers present COVID-negative at the door and/or have proof of COVID-resistance.
We have gotten to a point in America where COVID vaccination is widely available at no direct cost to the consumer - being unvaccinated now a matter of conscious choice, one that brings with it the high risk of bearing, mutating, and spreading COVID. The disease is highly transmissible in public spaces, and no amount of individual viral resistance can compare to the security and possibilities for free action granted by eradicating the virus in general.
A free society is a good thing, but we can’t have a free society if we can’t have a society at all.