Anatomy of Coercion
How totalizing power is exerted with no locus of responsibility.
Someone remarked that a bureaucracy is an institution that exercises enormous power over you but with no locus of responsibility. This leads to the familiar frustration, often encountered on a small scale at the local DMV, that you can go round in bureaucratic circles trying to troubleshoot problems or rectify unfair practices. No actual person seems to be able to help you get to the bottom of things—even if a well-meaning person sincerely wants to assist you.
Here’s how this dynamic now plays out with coercive vaccine mandates. The CDC makes vaccine recommendations. But the ethically crucial distinction between a recommendation and mandate immediately collapses when institutions (e.g., a government agency, a business, employer, university, or school) requires you to be vaccinated based on the CDC recommendation.
Try to contest the rationality of these mandates, e.g., in federal court, and the mandating institution just points back to CDC recommendation as the rational basis for the mandate. The court will typically agree, deferring to the CDC’s authority on public health. The school, business, etc., thus disclaims responsibility for the decision to mandate the vaccine: “We’re just following CDC recommendations, after all. What can we do?”
So you try to go up the food chain, but CDC likewise disclaims responsibility: “We don’t make policy; we just make recommendations, after all.”
Meanwhile, the vaccine manufacturer is immune and indemnified from all liability or harm under federal law. It’s no use going to them if their product—a product that you did not freely decide to take—harms you.
You are now dizzy from going round in circles trying to identify the actual decision-maker: it’s impossible to pinpoint the relevant authority. You know that enormous power is being exercised over your body and your health, but with no locus of responsibility for the decision and no liability for the outcomes.
You are thus left to contend with the consequences of a decision that nobody claims to have made. The only certainty is that you did not make the decision and you were not given the choice.