The Biden administration is intent on forcing large private businesses to have their employees vaccinated against Covid-19 or to produce weekly test results. The governor of Texas issued an executive order forbidding private businesses from mandating the vaccine for their employees. (See Eric Boehm, “Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Bans Private Businesses from Mandating Vaccines for Workers,” Reason Magazine, October 12, 2021.)

This illustrates a trend that has been developing for some time whereby anything affected by a so-called “public interest” is either banned or compulsory. In the process, what was deemed private becomes public.

Note that the process has no built-in stopping mechanism. On the contrary, as more areas of life become matters of dirigiste democratic decision, more and more people want their democracy to intervene. For reasons well-known to students of public choice, politicians and bureaucrats are happy to oblige. The left and the right both become more authoritarian. And the process continues. One depiction of this scenario is given in the last chapter of Anthony de Jasay’s The State on “state capitalism.”

One objection to all that is that the condition of mankind has been worse before. The featured image of this post comes from a reenactment of the Battle of Hattin in 1187, during the Second Crusade. (It does not look as terrible as it was.) With the unsteady advance of individual liberty, it took time for religion and other areas of life to be recognized as private matters. My point is that the direction of the trend seems to have reversed during the 20th century and the new century.

On that reversal, two books by Friedrich Hayek are enlightening: The Road to Serfdom (1944) and The Fatal Conceit (1988).