Despite a few notable exceptions, zombie films often gloss over society’s sudden slide into the apocalypse. And instead of offering any real details about the collapse of an entire nation, audiences are often thrust immediately into a Mad Max-style dystopia. But rather than producing some lawless wasteland, could the zombie apocalypse actually usher in a tyrannical dictatorship, a totalitarian state or perhaps even lead to a global prison planet?
Consider the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act, introduced in the aftermath of the 2001 anthrax attacks on the United States. The proposal sought to control infectious epidemics and respond to bioterrorism by expanding a number of governmental and police powers. Sue Blevins, the President of the Institute for Health Freedom, described just a few of these broad new powers in a piece for The Heritage Foundation.
Under the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act, upon the declaration of a “public health emergency,” governors and public health officials would be empowered to:
1. Force individuals suspected of harboring an “infectious disease” to undergo medical examinations.
2. Track and share an individual’s personal health information, including genetic information.
3. Force persons to be vaccinated, treated, or quarantined for infectious diseases.
4. Mandate that all health care providers report all cases of persons who harbor any illness or health condition that may be caused by an epidemic or an infectious agent and might pose a “substantial risk” to a “significant number of people or cause a long-term disability.” (Note: Neither “substantial risk” nor “significant number” are defined in the draft.)
5. Force pharmacists to report any unusual or any increased prescription rates that may be caused by epidemic diseases.
6. Preempt existing state laws, rules and regulations, including those relating to privacy, medical licensure, and–this is key–property rights.
7. Control public and private property during a public health emergency, including pharmaceutical manufacturing plants, nursing homes, other health care facilities, and communications devices.
8. Mobilize all or any part of the “organized militia into service to the state to help enforce the state’s orders.”
9. Ration firearms, explosives, food, fuel and alcoholic beverages, among other commodities.
10. Impose fines and penalties to enforce their orders.
In defense of the act, the American Medical Association published an article claiming that “individuals should be required to yield some of their autonomy, liberty, or property to protect the health and security of the community.” And when an official news release from the World Health Organization declared a recent West African outbreak of Ebola as “unprecedented”, it immediately renewed interest in draconian legislation like MSEHPA.
Perhaps Benjamin Franklin didn’t have the zombie apocalypse in mind when he reportedly claimed that “those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.” But there are plenty of people who would do just that at the very first report of the walking dead. So the next time you imagine the post-zombie landscape as a lawless wasteland populated by roving bandits and anarchists… think again! It may look more like an internment camp.
Header image adapted from “New world order poster” by Albert Engströmer.