Military Vaccine Mandate: A Teachable Moment

Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944. By Robert F. Sargent. Public Domain.
Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944. By Robert F. Sargent. Public Domain.

On August 25, two days after the US Food and Drug Administration fully approved  the Pfizer-Biontech COVID-19 vaccine, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered “full vaccination of all members of the Armed Forces.”

Cue outrage and objection. Some officers have resigned their commissions; some enlisted personnel seem willing to risk court-martial and dishonorable discharge rather than get vaccinated. Some claim the mandate violates their rights or lacks a legal basis.

In the quarter century since my honorable discharge from the US Marine Corps, I’ve occasionally been asked by friends to have “the talk” with their teenagers who are considering military careers.

In my view, “the talk” shouldn’t be about whether joining the armed forces is a good idea. That’s a personal decision. “The talk” should be an unvarnished description of what to expect.

Here’s a short version of “the talk,” for those considering enlisting and those who have, in the age of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate:

For the entirety of your military career, you will spend most of your waking hours (and you will be roused from sleep many, many times) doing what you’re told to do. Period.

You’ll go where you’re told to go. You’ll wear what you’re told to wear. You’ll eat what you’re given, when it’s given to you, and you’ll have your hair cut as directed.

You’ll be ordered to do unpleasant things, and do them, possibly including killing other people, being killed yourself, or watching your friends die.

Yes, there’s a contract — a contract more for the government’s protection than yours,  which can be unilaterally changed at the government’s convenience.  Here’s section 9b of that contract:

“Laws and regulations that govern military personnel may change without notice to me. Such changes may affect my status, pay, allowances, benefits, and responsibilities as a member of the Armed Forces REGARDLESS of the provisions of this enlistment/reenlistment document.” [Emphasis in original]

If they do things now as they did in 1984, you’ll be taken through that contract line by line, twice, initialing each section to attest that you understand what it means so you can’t claim otherwise later, before you’re allowed to sign it, take the oath of enlistment, and ship out for boot camp.

The government’s end of the contract involves providing you with three hots, a cot, a paycheck, healthcare, college benefits, etc.

Your end of the contract says that when you’re ordered by your platoon commander to assault an enemy position, or by the Secretary of Defense to get vaccinated, you’ll assault that position or get that injection.

If you can’t stomach that, don’t sign the contract. If you do sign the contract, don’t whine about it or renege on it later when it requires you to do something you don’t want to do.

Thus endeth “the talk.”

Do I like vaccine mandates? No.

Do I believe vaccine mandates are constitutional or morally acceptable where private citizens, un-obligated by contract, are concerned? No.

But as for members of the armed forces: Buy the ticket, take the ride.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


“Language” Arguments Against Immigration Freedom are a Tower of Babble

When debating immigration policy with people who have deluded themselves into believing that it’s any of their business where other people choose to live or work, I run into a lot of bad arguments. Of all those arguments, probably the silliest is “but they don’t speak English.”

The simplest, and most appropriate response to that argument comes from comedian Doug Stanhope: “Then don’t talk to ’em.” Problem solved. But I can’t get a whole column out of that response, so let’s take apart the fake “issue” in a little more detail.

Often, the argument starts off with fake tones of sympathy. Those poor immigrants — how will they ever get jobs and “assimilate” if they don’t know “the national language?” Send them back for their own good!

Oddly, the same people almost always immediately turn to the claim that “MY grandparents came here from [insert country], and you know what they did? They learned English!”

Clue: Your grandparents weren’t special exceptions. Most immigrants who don’t already know English will learn it, especially if their career ambitions require them to.

The next turn is generally something along the lines of “English is the ‘national language,’ and no nation can survive without a common language.”

English is a fairly dominant language in the US at this time, although Spanish seems to be gaining. But the US has never had a “national language.” It’s always hosted a mix.

The Declaration of Independence was initially published in the five most common American languages as of 1776: English, French, German, Dutch, and Spanish.

English really started gaining dominance in the 20th century, after the US government drafted millions of men into the armed forces for World War Two and insisted they be able to take orders in English (in the previous largest US military mobilization, for the Civil War, the Union army formed segregated regiments of e.g. German speakers).

But there are still entire urban neighborhoods where one might walk several blocks and hear nothing but Mandarin or Yiddish or Russian or Hindi. And in large swaths of the country, Spanish competes with English for dominance.

A single common language in a country is the exception — and in countries with populations of more than 200 million there are no such exceptions — not the rule.

India, for example, boasts 23 “official” languages, 122 “major” languages, and, according to its 2001 census, 1,599 other languages.

While forceful government policy has made Mandarin the dominant “first language” in China, more than 300 other languages survive.

Typical among western European countries is Belgium, with three “official” and several regional languages, in addition to nearly 40% of the population speaking English.

There are no good arguments for immigration authoritarianism, but the  “they don’t speak English” dodge is easily the least convincing.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Brother, Can You Spare $29 Trillion?

US National Debt public/intergovernmental. Source: US Treasury. Public Domain.
US National Debt public/intergovernmental. Source: US Treasury. Public Domain.

Well,  it’s time for one of those periodic “debt ceiling” fights in Congress. Every so often, American politicians argue over whether to allow themselves to borrow more money, with their promise to beat it out of your hide, plus interest, later, as their collateral.

These fights get dramatic, in the manner of a “professional wrestling match.” Sometimes there’s even a fake “government shutdown” until one side finally cries uncle and agrees that under no circumstances must the US government live within its means and that more money will just have to be borrowed.

Why? Because they can, that’s why. Or, rather, they can for now. But it can’t and won’t last forever.

Writing at the American Institute for Economic Research (“America’s Fiscal History: From Liberty to Paternalism”), Richard M. Ebeling notes that in 1868 (the first year the World Almanac made such figures available), the US government spent a whopping $301 million — adjusting for inflation, $5.8 billion.

Last year, the US government spent about $6.6 trillion.

A billion is one-thousandth of a trillion.

Last year, the US government spent about 1,138 times as much as it did 152 years ago — and borrowed $3.1 trillion of that money.

To put it in different terms, last year the US government spent about $12.5 million per minute, every minute of every hour of every day, and borrowed about $5.9 million per minute, every minute of every hour of every day.

According to, federal spending for 2021 stands (as I write this) at more than $7 trillion, and federal borrowing at more than $3 trillion, with three months remaining in the year.

The “national debt” — actually the debt of the US government, but of course the politicians want to fob off responsibility on you, even though you never co-signed their loans — currently stands at nearly $29 trillion. “Your share,” if indeed paying off their bar tab was your responsibility, would come to about $86,000.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to face a few unpleasant facts.

Fact #1: At some point, the politicians’ creditors are going to decide that loaning money to the US government has become too risky a proposition. It will get harder, eventually nearly impossible, for the US government to borrow more money.

Fact #2: The politicians’ debt is never going to be paid off. The US government is going to default sooner or later, whether openly or through scams like “monetization.”

Fact #3: When those things happen, it’s going to hurt everyone. Including you. The US government is going to raise taxes, and it’s going to cut “services,” and the dollars in your wallet are going to buy less.

Silver lining: The above process will likely end with the US government as we know it ceasing to exist. Hopefully, but not necessarily, to be replaced by something better.

But hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe American politicians will suddenly become fiscally responsible, refuse to raise the “debt ceiling,” and insist on a balanced budget that includes paying down that $29 trillion principal.

If you believe that, I’ve got some oceanfront property I’d like to talk with you about.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.