Freedom in the face of pandemics
The New York Times Lede blog documents the rise of swine flu screenings of arriving airplane passengers by Chinese authorities. I visited Hong Kong three years ago during the SARS outbreak and remember similar though less intrusive measures. While nothing more than “passive surveillance” is being employed at U.S. borders, it’s not out of the question that health officials would use more intrusive techniques in the face of a widespread health pandemic here. Assuming that such screening techniques work (and it’s not totally clear that they do), the question becomes should they be employed. The choice is clear: do the costs of limiting individual freedom (through mandatory temperature takings or potential forced hospitalization or isolation) outweigh the costs to society (including to individual freedom) of a widespread outbreak. Does it matter whether the people subject to these intrusive techniques are American citizens or not?