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A libertarian argument FOR vaccine laws

The current outbreak of measles due to shrinking vaccination compliance is a unique opportunity to educate the nation not only about health-care safety, but the true definition of libertarianism.

Vials of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine are displayed on a counter at a Walgreens Pharmacy on January 26, 2015 in Mill Valley, California.
Getty Images
Vials of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine are displayed on a counter at a Walgreens Pharmacy on January 26, 2015 in Mill Valley, California.

Libertarianism calls for much less government, not the abolition of government. And more importantly, it calls for the government to cast off all the unnecessary things it does in favor of focusing on the most vital and solemn interests of a nation.

Statist liberals get this wrong all the time — and mostly on purpose. When libertarians argue for less regulation on business, for example, you can bet a Democrat in Congress or an elitist chatterbox on TV will respond to that call by mischaracterizing it as a call for NO regulation at all.

It's an old and tiring trick that adds nothing to the national debate.

But to be fair, power-hungry Republicans are also often guilty of hurting the libertarian cause when they act like statists in the hopes of getting votes and donations.

And with his recent call against vaccination laws of any kind, Ron Paul, a former Republican congressman and Libertarian presidential candidate, undermines the cause just as much by acting like an anarchist.

Read MoreRon Paul: Vaccine mandates are dangerous

Congressman Paul also borrows another aggravating rhetorical weapon overused by statists against libertarians, when he wrote: "Giving the government the power to override parental decisions regarding vaccines will inevitably lead to further restrictions on liberties."

Sorry, but the government is always looking to further restrict liberties. Painting all proposed laws with the "restricting liberty" brush would preclude all lawmaking. And again, libertarianism doesn't call for no laws at all.

Let's be even more clear: Libertarians believe in freedom, but we don't believe you have the freedom to kill someone else's children or give them a serious illness.

And the shame of it all is that this vaccination-law debate is such a great opportunity to clarify what libertarianism is and bring in lots of new support.

A national law mandating vaccinating all medically eligible children for measles, etc. could and should serve as the new high-bar standard for all federal mandates.

Congressman Paul characterizes this as "making exceptions." But it's actually making a key definition that explains the important difference between libertarianism and anarchy.

Just think of it: Every time some senator or congressman knucklehead introduces a bill to stamp out prickly heat or sugary snacks in school vending machines, voters, members of the media and even his colleagues in Washington could ask, "Does this meet the vaccine standard? Does this save us from a disease that could kill thousands of infants and toddlers every year? Is this really worth scaring people over?"

And 99 percent of the time the answer will be a resounding "no!"

As it is, every law that everyone introduces gets labeled as "vital" or "crucial."

Read MoreWhy vaccines can't be a choice: Disease specialist

The logical place libertarians should have by shining a light on these absurdities is nullified because we're usually too far off the mainstream radar. And opposing vaccination rules just pushes us all further away.

If all we do is oppose all wars and all government laws all the time, then we end up involuntarily recusing ourselves from the crucial debate on everything from fighting ISIS to reducing job-killing regulations.

Just think how much credibility libertarians would have as viable candidates if they had made the argument for vaccine laws and explained that such a mandate is one of the few things we do expect and want from government!

They could go on and more specifically define what constitutes a true threat to our national security, what workplace safety rules are really needed, and whether something as natural as carbon dioxide is really going to kill us all in 50 years.

Read MorePolitics comes down with measles, GOP on defensive NYT

Instead, an anti-vaccine law stance makes it harder for libertarian voices to be heard. This is similar to some of the enduring calls for abolishing the entire Federal Reserve as opposed to a much more realistic push to reform it and hold it to higher standards.

This anti-vaccine law stance is just another all-or-nothing mispackaging of libertarianism.

And that's as lethal to the movement as not getting properly vaccinated is to your kids.

Commentary by Jake Novak, supervising producer of "Street Signs." Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.