The Insights of Kandiaronk

Posts on The Dawn Of Everything: Link
Posts on Pierre Bourdieu and Symbolic Violence: link
Posts trying to cope with the absurd state of political discourse: link
Posts on Freedom and Equality. link

Chapter 2 of The Dawn Of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow centers on the Wendat statesman and orator Kandiaronk. Here’s a history of his involvement in the re-establishment and survival of the Wendat, now the Wyandot. Graeber and Wengrow write about his thoughts on French culture based on Curious Dialogues with a Savage of Good Sense Who Has Travelled (1703) by the Baron de la Hontan, now known as Lahontan. There’s a question as to how much of the Dialogues should be attributed to Kandiaronk, and how much is the personal views of Lahontan. The Wyandot site says:

Under the pseudonym “Adario”, the noble savage Kandiaronk was used as a straw man for the safe articulation of the Baron’s radical, politically- dangerous views. In Lahontan’s “A Conference or Dialogue between the Author and Adario, A Noted Man among the Savages”, Adario spoke critically of such European institutions as the French legal system and medical profession, war, the Pope, and the Jesuits. Although some turns of phrase sound Native, and may have been lifted from Kandiaronk’s speeches, Adario’s critical voice of pristine purity spoke with Lahontan’s jaded intellectual accent. It reflects a wealth of embittering experiences the Baron had had with European society in areas of life that had not touched the Wyandot of Michilimakinac.

The authors explain why they think Lahontan was expressing Kandiaronk’s actual views. One factor is that Kandiaronk voices common forms of the Indigenous Critique, of which we get a taste here. Of course, I can’t evaluate this argument.

They focus on Kandiaronk’s view that the greed, poverty, and crime found in French society arise from lust for money and property. By refusing to deal with money and property, the Wendat are able to live in freedom and equality. The authors describe Kandiaronk’s views:

Do you seriously imagine, he says, that I would be happy to live like one of the inhabitants of Paris, to take two hours every morning just to put on my shirt and make-up, to bow and scrape before every obnoxious galoot I meet on the street who happened to have been born with an inheritance? Do you really imagine I could carry a purse full of coins and not immediately hand them over to people who are hungry; that I would carry a sword but not immediately draw it on the first band of thugs I see rounding up the destitute to press them into naval service? P. 55.

Then they quote this from the Dialogues:

Kandiaronk: I have spent six years reflecting on the state of European society and I still can’t think of a single way they act that’s not inhuman, and I genuinely think this can only be the case, as long as you stick to your distinctions of ‘mine’ and ‘thine’. I affirm that what you call money is the devil of devils; the tyrant of the French, the source of all evils; the bane of souls and slaughterhouse of the living. To imagine one can live in the country of money and preserve one’s soul is like imagining one could preserve one’s life at the bottom of a lake. Money is the father of luxury, lasciviousness, intrigues, trickery, lies, betrayal, insincerity, – of all the world’s worst behaviour. Fathers sell their children, husbands their wives, wives betray their husbands, brothers kill each other, friends are false, and all because of money. In the light of all this, tell me tell me that we Wendat are not right in refusing to touch, or so much as to look at silver? P. 55.

Kandiaronk explains human qualities valued by the Wendat:

Over and over I have set forth the qualities that we Wendat believe ought to define humanity – wisdom, reason, equity, etc. – and demonstrated that the existence of separate material interests knocks all these on the head. A man motivated by interest cannot be a man of reason. P. 56.

The authors note the views attributed to Kandiaronk about the Wendat are exaggerated. They had laws, they had wealth, there were differences among them, and war was a constant issue. Kandiaronk’s views of the failures of French culture are exaggerated for rhetorical effect and so are the good qualities of the Wendat. But the substance of his criticism is what counts. The Wendat didn’t have punitive laws because there was no realistic way to achieve vast material wealth, or to translate it into the power to boss other people around.

At this point, the authors introduce the concept of schismogenesis. The idea is that people have a tendency to define themselves by contrasting themselves with other people. As an example, I’m a progressive and I’m in favor of taking precautions against Covid-19. A Trumpist might see this and react by saying “if you progressives are in favor of taking precautions, then I’m against it. No vaccines, no masks.” That’s schismogenesis. Perhaps some of the rhetorical exaggeration we get from Kandiaronk is a form of schismatogenesis.

The authors suggest that this might be true of cultures too. If one clan takes slaves, its neighbor might say we don’t take slaves so we’re batter. Over time even small things can add up to major cultural differences. This extension appears frequently through the first few chapters as a possible explanation of cultural differences between neighboring groups.

Of course, people frequently pick up good ideas generated by people they come into contact with. That could lead to convergence, but could also increase the pressure to define differences.


1. The Indigenous Critique has several distinct elements. First, it argues that European cultures create a large class of impoverished people who are despised and left to suffer. Second, it claims that no one is free in European cultures. Everyone is required to bow and scrape before all their superiors in wealth and rank; they squabble with those of their own station; and they kick those below them. Third, society makes and enforces harsh laws to force people to comply with the economic and social structure. Fourth, the Europeans treat their children badly.

Another part of the Indigenous Critique is its rejection of the religion pushed by French missionaries. There’s an extended quote from Lahontan’s Dialogue where Kandiaronk discusses Christianity, concluding with this: “… there are five or six hundred religions, each distinct from the other, of which according to you, the religion of the French, alone, is any good, sainted, or true.” P. 53. This form of religion reinforces the French social structure.

Kandiaronk says the French social system is based on the concept of property and money which gives rise to the evils he criticizes. According to him the Wendat intentionally reject this concept, because it encourages bad behavior, and it only works if there is an entire system of force to control the rapacity it encourages. That system of force is a restraint on the freedom of everyone. The Wendat refuse to accept restrictions on their personal freedom. They refuse to be dominated by anyone.

2. Freedom from domination is one of the three important forms of freedom according to Elizabeth Anderson. I discuss the issue in two posts, here and here. This line of thinking is similar to Kondiaronk’s ideals.

The two posts also may help analyze this question: why do anti-vaxxers say somebody, the government or the liberals or the cultural elites, are trying to dominate them, to take away their freedom? Would Kondiaronk or Anderson agree?

32 replies
  1. Epicurus says:

    I had a beautiful rhododendron named Wyandanch Pink. It was hybridized on Long Island where the Montauk tribe resided. It is a Montauk name – first or last – meaning “speaks with wisdom”. I think Mr. Walker should change his name to Wyandanch Walker.

    I haven’t read the posts on Ms. Anderson but I think the potential evils of property and money are subsets of the overarching evil – the need to control. As Mr. Walker says above “an entire system of force to control the rapacity…” but I would say control is most often applied to others for personal purposes such as power, wealth, etc.. I see it everyday in ways large and small. It may be the defining element of personal and group relationships. As Mr. Walker notes above for the Wendat war was a constant issue. War is just the military projection of control. Russia needs to control Ukraine so it is on the verge of war, the only way it can impose control.

    Jefferson was a self-described Epicuran. In a letter to one William Short he said “I am an Epicuran”. Jeffersoon fell well short (pun intended) of Epicuran ideals but it led to internalization and institutionalization of the great Epicuran meaning/direction of life in American life, i.e. the anti-control, unalienable right of the pursuit of happiness.

    Anti-vaxxers (I am vaxxed and boosted!) see a process of control that they feel impinges on their view of pursuit of happiness. Hypocritically they turn around and manifest control measures themselves with forms of behavior control they feel should be applied to others. The ingrained, conditioned, unsolvable problem of American social and political behavior/life is the internalized belief in the pursuit of happiness set against the view that one should be able to impose personal views of social behavior and control on others, especially for one’s view of what constitutes the welfare of greater society and to which others must subscribe. There is no common ground for discussion, as Mr. Walker is searching for above. It’s the old StarTrek episode with Frank Gorshin and warring factions with faces painted black and white on different sides of the faces.

    I think Kandiaronk would understand what I am saying. Since Graeber was an anarchist I would imagine the pursuit of happiness would have been at the top of his list and control at the bottom. Perhaps he was a dadaist. I have no idea how Ms. Anderson would respond.

  2. skua says:

    We see tensions between individuals who are meant to be expressing some “self” and those individuals being members of a society with values, norms and laws. The project of basing sucess on degree and manner of expression of “self” currently seems to be very troubled, with for example, DJT’s self expression leading to 45.

    Others seem to have encultured their children such that adults were defined by, and judged on the basis of, their contribution to their family/clan/society/tribe/nation. And frequently the lives of these individuals were miserable, stunted and brutal.
    But not always.
    Where success in adulthood was defined in large part as expression of wisdom and reason in ways that furthered equity and humane treatment of all, those people would have been far from miserable stunted and brutal. This was the choice made by many who had experienced both European colonialist and Indigenous American societies.

  3. Rugger9 says:

    All very wise words here. I would make one small observation about the Second Gilded Age we live in, and it’s this:

    When money becomes an ego item you can never have enough.

    That what drives the Musks. Thiels, Friesses, Kochs, Sacklers, etc. to work as hard as they have to create the business environment where they can make money without any restraint. IRS cut to pieces too small to audit them? Check. Tax breaks and bailouts? Check. Rinse, lather, repeat.

  4. jaango1 says:

    From the standpoint of the ruminations of the Indigenous Perspective, the academic mudslinging by Europe’s academia, the wealth of religious organizations, effectively demonstrates that the European God manifested itself with the “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” By comparison the indigenous perspective was premised on “Health, Happiness and Decency Personified.” Thus, was the stellar European God, non-gendered specified neither Male or Female. In contrast, the Indigenous God was for the most part, Female However, what’s lost in all this academia for mudslinging is the ‘history’ of over 2,000 languages utilized and prior to the arrival of the Europeans. And in this quest for a more formalized history, no one speaks to the history for the arrivals of Pan Pacific for Conquest and the resultant trade avenues. And since I “see” history as both a Yaqui and Apache, today, there are 20 Indigenous languages covering 28 communities.

  5. madwand says:

    Quoting from the book, “The Jesuits were opposed to freedom in principle. The faith requires us to submit not only our wills but our minds our judgments and all the sentiments of man to a power unknown to our senses to a law that is not of this earth and that is entirely opposed to the laws and corrupt nature.” It’s hard to see where an Amerindian would be comfortable with that, especially if you were free to walk from present day Buffalo to the Mississippi River and back to “find yourself” why would you put yourself in the position where other people think for you? Religion as the Jesuits ascribed supported only the French position of property ownership by the few, conversion and savings of souls was incidental to that.

    Caught this today which is a modern take on religious discrimination in the adoption process and also a primer for the Christian view of Separation of Church and State, which is to say there isn’t.

    From the article, “Make no mistake: Christian nationalism is the opposite of religious freedom. What these right-wing actors advocate for is not religious freedom, but rather the ability of some Christians to be exempted from laws that don’t conform to their theology.” while being funded partially by government dollars, neat trick that!

    • Rayne says:

      You could really spend some time reading more texts from the period instead of the diluted editorial written hundreds of years later.

      You don’t even need to be fluent in French of the period because there are texts with translations in English printed alongside the French were published later. Here’s an excerpt of a 1636 letter from a Jesuit in Quebec to the Jesuits’ superior in France; keep in mind the Jesuits’ missions consisted of brethren living among the indigenous people to learn their language and culture.

      They seek Baptism almost entirely as an aid to health. We try to purify this intention, and to lead them to receive from the hand of God alike sickness and health, death and life; and teach them that the life-giving waters of the Holy [6] Baptism principally impart life to the soul, and not to the body. However, they have the opinion so deeply rooted that the baptized, especially the children, are no longer sickly, that soon they will have spread it abroad and published it everywhere. The result is that they are now bringing us children to baptize from two, three, yes, even seven leagues away.

      This was among the Huron, had been seeking alliances against the Iroquois at the time, including alliance with the Jesuits; indigenous politics and economics are often obscured by time and refusal to look at earlier documentation.

      Also wouldn’t hurt to learn more about the ‘doctrine of discovery’ which drove the exploration of the New World; nor would it hurt to learn more about the Jesuits who took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and whose approach to proselytization frequently put them at odds with political figures who wanted more aggressive conversions.

      It’s the Jesuits’ vows of poverty and chastity which makes the Kandiaronk insights seem off, along with our lack of understanding about the politics between First Nations and the illnesses brought by Europeans which further stressed inter-nation tensions.

      • Ed Walker says:

        There’s a description of the politics of the Huron and the Iroquois in my first link above. It shows the skill and Machiavellian strengths of Kandiaronk.

      • madwand says:

        Actually I do read and quite a lot, just not what you read and I come from a different slant and draw different conclusions. But at the moment I’m in the middle of chapter three of “The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity”.

        I’m also reading another 3 or 4 books at same time, so I’m working on it. What I quoted was what jumped out to me from the book on Page 43 and how I interpreted it in light of history and present events.

        The book notes on the same page, “the Jesuits were opposed to freedom in principle:” and then on to my quote in the first post.

        Later from the authors, Graeber and Wengrow they write, “it seems the Jesuits were scandalized “that …unmarried women had sexual liberty and married women could divorce at will….This for the Jesuits was an outrage…being an extension of a more general principle of freedom, rooted in natural dispositions, which they saw as inherently pernicious. The wicked liberty of the savages; one insisted was the single greatest impediment to their submitting to the yoke of the law of God.” Is there a direct link between that and today’s attitude of the Catholic Church on abortion, I would think so. Would we as a society be better off today if women had freedom over their bodies and sexual freedom? I think so.

        One has to ask do those attitudes of the colonizers and the religions that supported colonizers back then have a direct or indirect relevance to today? An observation might be, Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty might find an established clergy convenient auxiliaries

        With apologies for only taking quotes from the Jesuit Relations from the book, which as I read it is exactly what the authors are doing.

        • Epicurus says:

          It is a deadly dull book “but” there is great revelation (no pun intended) in a book tilted The Rise of Puritanism by William Haller. One reviewer wrote “A book of rare maturity and wealth, yielding much for the interpretation of English and also American religion and life.” It’s a great read in comparison to the Jesuit concepts of life. And for the discussion above re: freedom.

        • Rayne says:

          I want you to look at this bit you quoted carefully: “it seems the Jesuits were scandalized “that …unmarried women had sexual liberty and married women could divorce at will….This for the Jesuits was an outrage...”

          Who chose the word “scandalized” and why? The subject is an all-male religious order which swore an oath of chastity; of course sex outside marriage would be unacceptable to them, let alone women exercising autonomy. But in my previous comment I quoted a Jesuit relating to another senior Jesuit about the offering of baptism to the Huron. Nowhere does it say they denied it to children born out of wedlock, born to marriages they didn’t bless in Catholic rites. They made a concerted effort to explain they were not simply bathing the children for health reasons. There’s no indication they were “scandalized” but rather understood there was a gap in understanding between Jesuits and Huron.

          There has been considerable editorializing along the way between 1600s and now, not helped by colonials increasingly racist treatment of First Nations. Rather forgotten there were two papal bulls (Sublimus Deus 1537, Urban VIII’s in 1637) which forbid the taking of indigenous people as slaves or taking their property, and that the monarchies of European nations trashed them.

  6. Jenny says:

    Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.
    Cree Indian Proverb

    • M. Smith says:

      “We gave them Christianity, now they can go to hell.”
      From an incomplete song of mine regarding the European takeover of what would become Canada.

      • ducktree says:

        “We”? Mind your proper pronouns (as my sainted Irish Catholic Grandma would tell us), or it’s straight to the Devil with ye.

        See, also, ineffective Catholic baptisms, marriages, confessions, last rights, etc. Fools continue getting gelded by and for the HMC.

        • Jenny says:

          They came with a Bible and their religion. They stole our land and crushed our spirit and now tell use we should be thankful to the ‘Lord’ for being saved.
          Chief Pontiac

  7. gmoke says:

    from Gary Snyder’s book Practice of the Wild. Share it with your favorite advocate of “family values.”

    “The native people of northwest Alaska have been intent on clarifying their own value system in recent years. This effort is called the ‘Inupiaq spirit movement’ – the revival of Inupiaq spirit. On the wall of the classroom of the Kobuk school was a poster-sized list of ‘Inupiaq values’:


    “These warm and workable values are full of ‘grandmother wisdom,’ the fundamental all-time values of our species. Given a little stretching here and there, they’d work anywhere. What’s lacking maybe is a clear articulation of what values apply to difficult or different neighbors – the concern is for conditions within the Inupiaq family, not for how to get along with outsiders.”

  8. MB says:

    The two posts also may help analyze this question: why do anti-vaxxers say somebody, the government or the liberals or the cultural elites, are trying to dominate them, to take away their freedom?

    I don’t know really, but recently ran across a really cogent and insightful explanation of why some people wholeheartedly embrace crazy conspiracy theories by an author I’d never heard of before named Timothy Melley in his book Empire of Conspiracy (and I presume I’m within the limits of Fair Use Doctrine by quoting this entire paragraph) on the subject of “agency panic”:

    Agency panic is what happens when the individual’s enjoyment of autonomy gives way to a fearful suspicion that one’s actions and beliefs are being controlled by external forces. In the face of this, conspiracy theory attempts to ‘defend the integrity of the self against the social order’. This defense, which attempts to protect and preserve autonomy, also depends on a corresponding – and arguably perverse – attribution of agency to the social order. To protect the self, the theorist must make society more of a self as well, and an insidious one at that. Aspects of society that sociologists might call ‘structural forces’ are animated and combined with older notions ‘of a malevolent, centralized and intentional program of mass control.

  9. Tom says:

    Reading the lengthy entries for Kondiaronk and Lahontan in vol. 2 of the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, it seems unlikely that the Frenchman based his observations of native life on direct conversations with the Petun Huron chief. It’s possible, even likely, that the two men met each other periodically in the course of diplomatic exchanges and military campaigns in the Great Lakes region, but the DCB contains no indication that they were ever on familiar terms with each other.

    Lohontan possessed a keen anthropologist’s attitude towards the First Nations peoples, and I think it’s more likely that the words he put into Kondiaronk’s mouth were the result of discussions he’d had with other Indians while studying their culture and compiling his commentary and glossary of the Algonkian language. Kondiaronk was an obvious choice to be Lahontan’s representative native spokesman as he was thought at that time to be “the most civilized and considerable person of the Upper Nations”, i.e., those tribes in the area around Michilimackinac.

    I agree with the idea mentioned above that the criticisms of French and European society and manners attributed to Kondiaronk were infused with Lahontan’s own jaundiced attitude towards a system which he felt had failed to recognize or reward his own talents and accomplishments. Lahontan was not a clubbable man and in the evenings when his fellow officers would be gasconading and passing around the brandy bottle, he was more likely to be in his quarters working on the manuscripts for his later published works. He disagreed with France’s hostile attitude towards the Iroquois and the Huguenots and on one occasion ran afoul of his superiors when he intervened on behalf of an Indian friend who had been captured by the French during a frontier raid.

    The DCB describes Lahontan thusly: “Proud and independent, impulsive and inconstant, he chafed under the restraints of military discipline [these are the same criticisms French and British military men would make of their Indian allies during the period of the colonial wars] and never accepted those of marriage.”

    • Ed Walker says:

      That’s helpful. Graeber and Wengrow base their view that Lahontan was paraphrasing Kandiaronk in part on recent scholarship of indigenous scholars, listed in FN 32. I didn’t follow out the links.

  10. Franktoo says:

    Question: “Why do anti-vaxxers say somebody, the government or the liberals or the cultural elites, are trying to dominate them, to take away their freedom?”

    Answer: Mandatory vaccination does take away their freedom! However, their right to pursue happiness doesn’t extend to the point of causing harm or potential harm to others. And our freedom comes with social responsibilities that are too often ignored. (If you want a jury of your peers to decide if you are guilty, serving on a jury may need to be mandatory.)

    I’m not free to drive a car without a catalytic converter because its pollution can damage the health of my neighbors. The same rational could apply to my breathing indoors during a pandemic without being vaccinated or wearing a mask. In both cases, the danger I personally create as an individual is fairly trivial: Air pollution and pandemics are the consequence of large numbers of people behaving in a way that endangers others.

    Our ancestors knew that pandemics killed more people than wars, and gave their governments extraordinary powers to fight both: You can be drafted to fight for your country. When pandemic illness is suspected, you can be quarantined on a ship for 40 days even if you are perfectly well. You can be forced to get vaccinated. Until the last two years, the current spoiled generation hasn’t experienced much pandemic disease or the possibility of being drafted to fight for our country. (Would we still draft Americans to fight if necessary?)

    We need to take anti-vaxxers back nearly a century and ask them if the government had the right to demand that people get vaccinated against polio and smallpox. These horrible diseases (and many others) never would have been eliminated or controlled without mandatory vaccination. Would they believe their freedom to avoid vaccination was worth the price that others could infect them, their children and their neighbors with these horrible diseases? Probably not. Back then – when we had more faith in our government institutions – they would also trust the FDA to decide whether a vaccine was safe and effective enough to be administered or be made mandatory. (History shows that the rollout of the polio vaccine was plagued by some severe problems that we have learned out to avoid.)

    Logically, the RIGHT question to ask is whether current coronavirus vaccines are effective and safe ENOUGH to be worth mandating; not whether ANY vaccine can be made mandatory. The Supreme Court decided the latter question more than a century ago. On the other hand, we have never thought the partial and transient protection provided by the flu vaccine was valuable enough to make mandatory. Israel was the first country to vaccinate more than 50% of its population against coronavirus and the Pfizer vaccine reduced the incidence of the alpha variant there by 1000-fold before the delta variant arrived, showing the potential to essentially ELIMINATE coronavirus from our country. Before Delta, that was a vaccine worth making mandatory, at least for those who hadn’t acquired immunity through natural infection! However, that vaccine provided only partial and transient protection from the delta variant and would never permanently eliminate the disease. And vaccination has shown only marginal effectiveness at stopping the spread of the less-deadly omicron variant, though it does provide significant protection FOR INDIVIDUALS against hospitalization and death. It is DEBATABLE whether any vaccine should be made mandatory under these circumstances. I personally believe that was a good case for making vaccination mandatory, if it could keep schools open and hospitals from overflowing, but those threats are receding as more Americans gain immunity from being infected.

    Sorry for the long comment, but it is a grossly over-simplification to divide us into vaxxers and anti-vaxxers.

    • Rayne says:

      “…it is a grossly over-simplification to divide us into vaxxers and anti-vaxxers.

      No, it’s very simple at this point. If individuals have had more than a year’s worth of evidence vaccines are safe, effective, and there’s ample American history let along world history to support the need for society-wide vaccination against a pandemic, they are simply anti-vaxxers.
      Graph via Washington Post article dd January 11, 2022, 'Four charts that analyze how omicron’s wave compares to previous coronavirus peaks'
      [orange = cases; purple = deaths; pink = hospitalizations]

      It comes down to dead/not dead. Sick and likely facing future disability/not sick or less so, and much lower chance of disability. A rather simple A/B switch — vaxx or not vaxx.

      Only one caveat: None of this applies to the immunocompromised who can’t be vaccinated, or children for whom there is not vaccine yet.

      [image source:

      • Franktoo says:

        There is no doubt in my mind that the approved coronavirus vaccines are safe and effective. However, the authorities are now stressing the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing hospitalization or death, rather than its effectiveness at reducing transmission. To stop a pandemic, you need to reduce transmission/infection. Technically speaking, the FDA originally said they would approve a vaccine that reduce detected infection by 50%. Being “fully vaccinated” by two doses last spring reduces detected infections by only 10% for omicron, but by 75% with a booster last fall.

        However, everyone has the right to believe want they want (freedom of conscious) about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. If people want to believe what they hear from the friends or at anti-tax websites or simply be suspicious of big pharma and the CDC, that is their right as American citizens. The question I was addressing is the more challenging one of whether the government (which hopefully represents the majority opinion) or private employers SHOULD compel those who don’t believe in vaccination to get vaccinated. Or whether the government SHOULD prevent the unvaccinated from accessing some indoor public spaces to protect others. We mandated vaccination in the case of smallpox, polio and other diseases, but not in the case of seasonal influenza. Is coronavirus more like seasonal influenza or these more dangerous diseases? Do we have a vaccine that will end the coronavirus pandemic as we ended smallpox and polio? (Our vaccine was ending the alpha variant pandemic, though few recognize it.) What benefits are we hoping to deliver by trying to vaccinate those who don’t believe the risks are worth the benefits? My personal position is that keeping schools open and hospitals from overflowing is enough benefit to warrant mandatory vaccination and/or restrictions on the unvaccinated, but other might disagree. The cost might be civil disobedience like we are seeing in Canada.

        IMO, our authorities haven’t made it clear what they hope to accomplish by various regulations and mandates they have imposed. If hospitals aren’t overflowing and we had an adequate supply of effective monoclonal antibodies and/or Paxlovid to treat those who get infected, coronavirus would pose less danger to a vaccinated American than seasonal influenza. The Biden administration has failed to deliver these. Given the reduced deadliness of Omicron, we be at that point (equal danger to seasonal influenza) when hospitalization drops after the current surge. Denmark, Britain and other countries, which have administered more vaccine (especially boosters), are handling the Omicron surge without overflowing hospital and have dropped all restrictions. At that point, we can afford to let the ignorant refuse vaccination without their posing a significant danger to the vaccinated (significant = greater danger than seasonal influenza).

        • bmaz says:

          From here, keeping people alive and hospitals from being overwhelmed is enough basis.

          Get everybody vaccinated.

          • Franktoo says:

            Bmaz: IMO, keeping hospitals from being overwhelmed was a good enough basis for mandating that all eligible people get vaccinated. That rational is rapidly disappearing as the Omicron surge dissipates. We don’t know if the current vaccine will have any utility against any future variants (but we have been lucky so far).

            The government doesn’t have the right to insist that the ignorant, who don’t believe in vaccines, must get vaccinated to save their own lives. Anyone of sound mind in the hospital can refuse a life-saving medical treatment their doctor recommends. Therefore they can certainly refuse a vaccination that reduces their 1-2% overall chance of dying if they were unlucky enough to be infected by earlier variants or the smaller chance of dying (0.4%?) from Omicron. Furthermore, the chance of dying drops dramatically with age and is much smaller for those under 50 and negligible for those under 30. Too many people have limited capability of comparing the actually or rumored risk associated with getting vaccinated today with the cumulative risk of getting infected on any day in the future – which is likely greater than 50% for easily transmitted illnesses. The increased cost of health care for those who won’t get vaccinated provides private employers and possibly the government leverage to encourage people to get vaccinated.

            IMO, the only justification for mandating that a person get vaccinated is the risk a large number of unvaccinated people pose to their fellow citizens. The concepts of social responsibility and trust in the government institutions is anathema to the right and inappropriate for victims of society on the left.

            • bmaz says:

              Yes, the common good is enough. If societal responsibility is not enough to take an obviously effective and safe vaccine, then screw the assholes who will not. People that cannot do that make me want to puke.

        • Rayne says:

          However, the authorities are now stressing the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing hospitalization or death, rather than its effectiveness at reducing transmission. To stop a pandemic, you need to reduce transmission/infection.

          I stopped reading yet another of your overlong comments after this bit. DO YOU FUCKING REALIZE THIS VIRUS IS MUTATING? The original variant’s transmission rate WAS reduced by vaccination and proven in a peer-reviewed study of health care workers and their families — and I’m pretty sure I even referred to that study in a post at this site about COVID.

          But each successive Variant of Concern — Beta, Delta, and then Omicron — has been more transmissible BECAUSE THEY’RE FUCKING MUTATIONS.

          Had everybody continued to Avoid the 3 C’s and worn masks while getting +90% of population vaccinated, the chances of a new mutated variant spreading would have dropped enormously. Just look at Japan’s success.

          Anti-vaxxers are also anti-maskers as well as anti-science. They refuse to grasp the relatively simple concepts required to end this pandemic. Fuck them.

          And Omicron BA.2 will do just that — fuck them hard. Sadly, their pig-ignorance will continue to steal health care capacity from the rest of us and well into the future because of their increased likelihood of disability from sequelae.

          • franktoo says:

            Of course I realize that the virus is constantly mutating. Even worse, recombination between the delta and omicron variants in a patient co-infected by both could create a strain that is as transmissible as the latter and as deadly as the former.

            While the US has far more cases per capita than it should, it still represents a modest fraction of global opportunities for mutation. A vaccine reduces infections by more than 90% (as was the case with the alpha variant) could dramatically reduce the opportunity for mutations from the US, but the high incidence of breakthrough infections by delta and omicron means the modest fraction of global mutations from the US isn’t reduced much by vaccination.

            According to some, the biggest threat for development of new variants comes from immunosuppressed patients whose infections can linger for months as mutations accumulate and survival of the fittest produces more dangerous variants. I’ve heard speculation that the omicron and beta variants (the Astra-Zeneca vaccine was useless against the latter) emerged in South Africa because of untreated AIDS patients there. Delta came from India other variants of concern from South America. Epsilon was identified in Los Angeles. The first variant of concern, alpha, is believed to have originated in an immuno-compromised patient in England.

        • Eureka says:

          You’re pinning your reasoning on multiple falsehoods.

          This is false:

          Technically speaking, the FDA originally said they would approve a vaccine that reduce detected infection by 50%.

          The 50% part is correct as to EUA-based “approval”, however it refers to minimal “efficacy”. Efficacy was operationally defined and measured (differently) by each vaccine manufacturer. The initial EUAs were granted based on a > 50% efficacy at preventing hospitalization, severe disease, and death. “Detected infection” was not one of the operands, with only a bit of supplemental data (e.g. Pfizer, Moderna) suggesting hope in that direction.

          Your prior contention is also false as it leads in to the above like there’s some big difference between now and then:

          However, the authorities are now stressing the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing hospitalization or death, rather than its effectiveness at reducing transmission.

          Back then (“originally”) they weren’t even sure that the protected-vaccinated wouldn’t cryptically transmit COVID to the unvaccinated, a big issue when the shots were so scarce and prioritized. As the various companies and other scientists collected data post-EUAs, other measures of efficacy became icing on the cake, more in line with what we ideally, if falsely, expect a vaccine to do [reduce/prevent transmission like an MMR].

          It’s too bad the world couldn’t have been vaxxed in that interim before new strains arose which have put us back at EUA-origo vis-a-vis vaxxed-and-boosted can mostly but not exclusively be assured of reduced risk of hospitalization, severe illness, and death [and let’s knock on wood].

          • Eureka says:

            Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee December 17, 2020 Meeting Briefing Document Addendum- Sponsor [Moderna]

            From page 6 (PDF 7):

            4. Data to Support Efficacy Against Asymptomatic Infection

            Our protocol-specified analysis on the efficacy against asymptomatic infection was not available at the time of the EUA submission. However, we did collect pre-dose 1 and pre-dose 2
            nasopharyngeal swabs for SARS-CoV-2 virus and have performed a descriptive summary
            comparing the number of positive swabs at the pre-dose 2 timepoint in baseline seronegative
            participants to get an early idea on the possibility of prevention of asymptomatic infection.
            Amongst baseline negative participants, 14 in the vaccine group and 38 in the placebo group had
            evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection at the second dose without evidence of COVID-19
            symptoms. There were approximately 2/3 fewer swabs that were positive in the vaccine group as
            compared to the placebo group at the pre-dose 2 timepoint, suggesting that some asymptomatic
            infections start to be prevented after the first dose.

            [followed by table; emphasis added]

        • Eureka says:


          Re: the annual flu shot, most (large) healthcare employers like hospitals mandate flu vaccination for their employees and have done so for decades now.

          Why do you suppose that is?

          Flu season has always put a tremendous strain on the healthcare system but a blessedly delimited one. It has a beginning and end which makes things bearable, including the displacement of care for other conditions when flu surges. Yet it’s still enough of a stressor that it needs to be reduced as much as possible.

          Who do you suppose would be giving the mab treatments?

          If one of your goals is to avoid overflowing hospitals, you should be aware that even outside high-corona season (as local conditions apply) the chronicity still strains the people and the system, layered as it is on all of our other diseases of civilization.

          And even (implausibly, but for the sake of argument) barring other variants, high-seasons would come back around with Omicron anyway. Not that we’re even out of this one, if past-peak: the morgues and refrigerator trucks (that aren’t making the news anymore; you’d likely never know they’re at your local hospital) were *overflowing* with the dead just a couple weeks ago.

          By all means bring on the treatments as you say. But someone still has to administer many of them; predominantly unvaccinated (unboosted) individuals will continue to strain the system; and “mild” variants will have their way in any case. Long-covid sequelae — besides interacting/ dovetailing with a bunch of other common US diseases — will ramify that chronic strain.

          You are aware that many medical professionals have left/are leaving the field because things are so bad already?

          These are all factors to consider when trying to do the freedom math.

          No one with an interest in public health will give up on vaccination; mandates have already been shown most helpful (more than carrots) at moving that rate curve along our continuum. This is not just for the sake of unvaccinated folks but for everyone, with any healthcare need. Hopefully you don’t have reason to become acquainted with ER wait times. Or inpatient bed wait times. Or psych hospital wait times.

          I don’t understand what you’re saying in your last paragraph. If you say countries with higher vax/boosted rates are handling the Omicron surge better, how does that translate to COVID in the US becoming ~equal to seasonal flu for the COVID-vaxxed post-Omicron surge (besides assuming facts not in evidence +/- those contravening)?

          • franktoo says:

            Eureka: To avoid excessive paranoia about COVID, since vaccination I’ve been trying to assess the current danger COVID poses to me after vaccination and later after a booster compared with the danger seasonal influenza has been posing – a danger I rightly or wrongly ignored in the past. Recently I’ve come to believe that reducing the danger from COVID to that posed by seasonal influenza would be a great goal for the Biden administration – a way of demonstrating that we have returned to normal, at least for the vaccinated. Both Paxlovid and antibodies administered by IV infusion reduce the risk of hospitalization for those who are vulnerable by about 90% if given immediately after a positive PCR test, They will play an important role once they are no longer in short supply. The Omicron surge in cases has ended and less deadly Omicron has replaced earlier strains that were more deadly. It might be time soon for the Biden administration to declare victory over known variants and an end to all restrictions once Omicron poses less danger than seasonal influenza.

            About 450,000 get hospitalized for seasonal influenza in an average year, perhaps 100,000 per month in the winter. WIth 1,000,000 hospital beds, coping with seasonal influenza shouldn’t be a major burden for our hospitals – at least on paper. A bad flu year has been twice as many cases. Hospitalization for Covid has reached or exceeded 100,000 per WEEK several times. Less than 1% of those hospitalized with seasonal influenza die, while 1-2% of those testing positive for COVID were dying before Omicron. Yes, I’ve read about the toll this has been taking on hospital personnel. Our leaders should be expressing their gratitude for these heroes every day, just like they acknowledge service in our military. The Biden COVID team isn’t as much as an improvement over Trump’s as I hoped.

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