Politics and the Pandemic: Why I Think Paul Krugman Is Wrong
Politics and the Pandemic: Why I Think Paul Krugman Is Wrong
Krugman has a piece in the New York Times today that offers an explanation for why Republicans oppose every measure—vaccination, masking, limits on indoor gathering—that could reverse the pandemic. He says it’s because the Democrats support them and that Biden would take credit for reduced caseloads, hospitalizations and deaths. Since owning the libs is the guiding philosophy of Republican politicians and their minions, such actions have to be fought at all costs.
The problem is that pandemic denial is a feature of the far right worldwide. You can find it in England, France, Germany, Poland, Brazil and points between. Explanations based on US political dynamics are insufficient (although they might be correct in a more limited way).
Here is my candidate: The pandemic gives the lie to the rigid individualism that draws hard lines around each person’s body and mind—the “you are the king in your own castle” idea. It’s the bedrock of such notions as personal responsibility being the sole determinant of life events, unrestricted individual autonomy and the belief that collective action is an assault on “freedom”. Actually, we are interconnected in a myriad of ways, culturally, economically and, as the coronavirus demonstrates, physiologically. We are really a “we” whether we like it or not.
Far right politics is based on hard line individualism. So is a strand of alternative health, which promotes the notion that it is within the power of each person to “choose” to be free of disease by following one or another program. If the pandemic refutes these simplistic ideas, their response is denial.
Both can be correct, especially when considered in light of mutually reinforcing consistency which amplifies the certainty of any decision, no matter how wrong it is.
While there is some “own the libs” sentiment, it is harder and harder to come by. My experience is that cognitive dissonance is exactly what is going on. The ideals of invisidualistic freedoms where they don’t wish to associate, or be told to associate.
This is kind of like high school where we all knew that one group of kids who were anti everything, nonconformists. By not conforming, they were conforming, and they were doing it in groups. What we also learn from Maria Montessori is that planes of emotional and educational progression can be retarded or even stopped in a Freudian sense where people essentially get “stuck” in a plane of thinking, adolescence, where rebellion is the guiding factor. I think a lot of the hard core insividualists just haven’t progressed, or as they say, “they peaked in high school”.
Krugman I love dearly as an economist, but he is in the liberal bubble and those high up in the bubble tend to conspire that everything conservative is about being anti liberal.
The funny thing is these ‘individualists’ have adopted the rather communal slogan “Where we go one, we go all”
Just another stupid cult, full of stupid cultists, doing stupid things in unison.
I just started the Q Anon documentary. Must watch.
One is tempted to simply paraphrase Old Will: The fault lies not in our politics, but in our selves. Much of Western economic and political theory is based on the happy socio-economic consequences of the individualism that began in the Renaissance.
Yet that individualism is no longer well-grounded. Over time, the socio-economic context of Renaissance individualism has shifted from a more communitarian ethos to a more absolutist ethos in which the individual is all-important.
While it may sound true that both individualism and collectivism can be ‘correct’, the biological reality is that no individual human is remotely capable of existing outside the web of interconnectedness Peter mentions.
What may be needed is for the West to move toward grounding the idea of “self” in a philosophy where individual identity is seen as extending beyond the physical organism to include the essential elements of our contexts.
‘I’ am not me alone; I am who I am only within a larger context that contains others. Outside of that context, ‘I’ cannot exist.
I guess I do not see the individualism. In fact, there is a lot more lock step to the moronic right than there is to the left elite. Pelosi will not even bring the bipartisan infrastructure deal to a vote unless the Family Act is passed by the Senate—ie with Manchin and Sinema supporting. To the extent this is just politics fine but I guarantee you that a lot on the left would take half a loaf rather than none and that includes the more pragmatic hard left. You simply do not get these fights on the moronic right. They look to Fox News or Quanon or Trump and follow like good little lemmings
Yes, but we do live in a world now where realism has become an abstract concept.
I’ve long suspected that something similar is helping fuel global-warming denialism among the libertarian right as well. It’s impossible to imagine an effective, 100% free-market solution to global warming. Government action is essential so solve the problem. If one is committed to the belief that government action is innately counterproductive and never the best option, it’s hard to see how to resolve the cognitive dissonance other than by denying the problem exists in the first place.
You were in the trash for some reason. Had to pull you out, dust you off, and reinstate you. It happens every once and a while.
Infidel + 1
You’d have to qualify that individualism and freedom that the far right seems to favor since it is only freedom for white men. Blacks and women need not apply. They’re not too keen on Jews, homosexuals or actual non-conformists either.
I’ll go with the science. Conservatives tend to be fearful people, and change is horrifying to them at a gut level. You can measure their fear reactions objectively. They are terrified that they might have to get comfortable using a different type of light bulb or keeping a civil tongue when talking with a person they can’t size up easily. Anyone who is so afraid they can’t drop into a Walmart without a handgun has a fear reaction in overdrive.
It’s the inner five year old upset at a new brand of peanut butter, and the reaction is the familiar, I hate you mommy. Why do they hate mommy? They hate mommy for making them grow up, for making them try new things. That’s why they hate school teachers. Teachers made them learn how to read and add numbers. They have no problem being ordered around, but it has to be by daddy or someone who can play the daddy figure, the one mommy uses as a threat, just wait until your father gets home.
I wish it weren’t that simple.
Perhaps more specifically, individualism is for the rich, and the right is the cult of richness.
By cult, I mean it like “cargo cult.”
Actually trickle down economics is pretty much exactly a cargo cult.
I think Krugman hasn’t been very accurate in his premise. I don’t see Republicans attacking or otherwise shutting down vaccination sites. While there are some cases of people screaming at masked people simply because of their masks, it is a pretty minimal phenomenon and there is little data on the political affiliations of such people that I’m aware of. As for indoor activities, yes I suppose Republicans might be more reluctant to limit those, but not aware of them trying to obligate people to participate. Krugman presumes that a reluctance to punish people in some way for their choices is opposition to the choices he prefers. I don’t see that making much sense in light of the very poor evidence of it. If I see identifiable Republicans harassing people at the doors of vaccine clinics, or ripping the masks off of old ladies and shoving them into overcrowded aquarium stores, I’ll get back and say I was wrong.
“there is little data on the political affiliations of such people that I’m aware of.”
They had the entrance to a children’s hospital blocked for a while the other day. They’re building up to it.
1. Paul Krugman Is Right. 2. If You Think Paul Krugman Is Wrong, Refer to #1
Brad DeLong’s Two Simple Rules
Always worth remembering, but your reference is really about economics despite the reference to Republican support. On macroeconomics Krugman shines most brightly, not Keynes, but not bad either. Krugman’s expertise in economics will not be disputed here. Where Krugman is correct with regards to the matter at hand is that he has his bite on it and so do others without anyone needing to have an overbite. Despite the existence of computers we still do not live in a binary world where perceptions are forged in isolation from related factors. OTOH, it would also be ludicrous to attempt to weight the complementing factors according to their overall contribution because even idiots have some degree of independence in their own private idiocy.
” They are terrified that they might have to get comfortable using a different type of light bulb or keeping a civil tongue when talking with a person they can’t size up easily.”
you mean by calling them morons or “scum.” or hoping they hurry up and die? so we won’t have to inconvenience ourselves with masks or distancing?
do you suppose it is possible for human beings to prefer some degree of personal autonomy while accepting the obvious need to conform to group norms in order to …say….bring in the crop? or do you suppose they all just sit down and read either Mein Kampf or Das Kapital and decide they are either for unlimited freedom or unlimited obedience to the state?
Channeling your inner Kalesburg? There was a yuge hoopla over going from incandescent bulbs to the LED bulbs. Or tossing out a percentage stat on the number of deaths to attract a reply.
Easier to ignore the silly, sip my Basil Hayden, continue a pleasant conversation with the others, and shun.
Trolling . . .
I don’t quite see my inner Kaleberg. It seems to me that some of us are insisting upon a kind of logical purity (simplicity) in their enemies while mocking them for it.
Logical purity is hard to find anywhere…even among those who think their own logic is pure. Logic fails because it is inadequate to the facts…the complexity of things.
I only try to point out some “inconsistencies” where i think i see them..and get called scum for my trouble.
You need to brush up on the definition of “logic”
Kaleberg got extra credit for recognizing the inner five year old- which is in each of us. Intellect and its trappings are over-rated. They are our disguise, not us. Intellect does not choose our personality, but personality goes a long way to finding the direction of our intellectual development. Personality is forged in the furnace of family and friends, mostly our parents who are our alpha authority figures, as the eternally dependent whining baby that we were becomes a walking, talking, creature with self-determination. It is a miracle that four year olds do not kill their parents in their sleep or burn down their homes given their limited understanding of consequences and their tendency for angry tantrums. That miracle is composed of empathy, social bonding, and the development of personality. The books and intellectual musings that will follow later in life are but the veneer of civilization glossing over the psyche of the naked ape. Most of the negative neuroses and psychoses found among mankind also have rudimentary equivalents in the higher hairy apes. Chimpanzees and the great apes also develop brutal or antisocial individuals and then it is up to the clan to decide just how much to tolerate before killing or exiling the bad seed. Chimps, thus far, do not generally read any books.
It is not like our associations formed later in life do not affect our choices. They do. However, those later associations are formed according to our more basic tendencies such as whether we are more conforming or rebellious, whether we are compelled to help the helpless or admire the strong. Any five year old knows that, but then we forget.
Just guessing, but I would imagine that most of the AB peanut gallery is more rebellious than conforming and more likely to defend the helpless than to bully others. Yet we can bicker amongst ourselves endlessly about trivial things.
as to light bulbs. the energy efficient ones don’t give enough light to read by. they are prone to fail long before their high cost is amortized by savings on the electric bill, and people tend to leave them on all day because they use so little electricity. and they are hard to recycle and dangerous when broken.
how’s that for complexity? the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our light bulbs, but in our cars.
the sins the left here is complaining about in the Right can easily be found in the Left if anyone can stand to look at it.
it’s like that guy in the mirror, every time i wave my right hand, he waves his left. most annoying.
You must have been referring to the curly florescent bulbs which were more expensive than incandescent while containing poisonous mercury. They failed more frequently than claimed and would not work with dimmers. LED bulbs were even more expensive and were designed to last even longer, but were not poisonous to dispose of and have been improved to where most last as long as claimed. Also, after a while LEDs were modified to work with dimmers. Of course, light bulbs do not have motors or heating elements, which is where most household power is consumed, so one might still wonder why bother? The answer may be that it just took longer to work out the power consumption problems for the compressor motors that suck up most of our household juice. Although big improvements have been made in freezers, fridges, A/C’s and heat pumps, the factor of improvement is much less impressive than the leap from incandescent to LED lamps and it requires a much bigger investment to take advantage. People wanted to do something to offset the regret that they have for their SUVs and pickup trucks, no matter how small that something was. They certainly did not want to have all that weighing on their conscience when they flew to Aruba for their next vacation.
As for being called “scum,” I always say call me anything, but don’t call me late for dinner.
a better example of the logical consistency of the Freedom lovers is that they will die to defend your freedom not to wear a mask, but they don’t give a damn about your freedom to not send your kids to a school where they don’t wear masks.
I don’t mind being called scum. I was just pointing out (to Kaleberg?) that the “morons” on the Right are not the only ones who can’t keep a civil tongue in their heads when they meet someone they can’t size up. And particularly to certain well educated people who resort to gutter language when they can’t win…or even follow…an argument.
As for the curly light bulbs… i am not against progress… but like a lot of people i don’t always recognize progress when i see it. or beieve it’s exacly progress after i get to know it rather well. and i did want to point out to someone that resisting the compact fluorescents might not have been just a personality defect.
Understood. In transactional analysis the acting out of frustration in counter-productive manners was originally called the “frustrated child,” but appears to have been changed to the “child ego state.”
i think I do’t have much to learn about logic from someone who thinks it’s the “definition” that determines what it is.
You mistyped. There should be no ‘t in the fourth word.
Logic may have been worth discussing with Zardoz. Semantics do actually matter to the efficacy of communications skills, which is why most of us really suck at it. Reasoning may be mystified, but actual logic is something else. That essentially marks the difference between philosophy, which can never be conclusively proven or disproved, and math, which can always be proved or disproved, albeit with more effort than it is worth at times.
Motivated reasoning is never logical, but even sound reasoning may exceed the capacity of true logic. In matters beyond the scope of pure science, then reasoning, preferably sound reasoning, is necessary in order effectively guide good judgement in decision making.
Sound reasoning informs me that I am done here today. Storm front moving in early this morning, so there are more urgent matters at hand. Climate crises, how I love thee; let me count the ways.
P.S. Given the counterintuitive caveat that falsification can be as logical as proof, then motivated reasoning leading from false facts will produce a false conclusion, which can be entirely logical.
I pretty much agree with all that. I suspect the inner child grows up anyway, without books, and becomes a responsible adult. But it seems a lot of people are easily enough led into folly by their “leaders.” I have been forced to recognize lately that the Left seems as susceptible to this as the Right. I endorse, more or less wholly, the stated politics of the Left, but am dismayed to see the not-so-great ape lurking in the shadow mind of my political friends…ready to commit atrocities in the name of humanity.
as for logic… i ….i hate to sound like i am bragging because ultimately there is no basis for it…but i have had a life that was built on the mastery of some formal logic systems like math….all well and good. But even great mathematicians fall spectacularly on their faces when they think they are applying their great intellect in fields they know nothing about…without even knowing they know nothing about. Definitions have an important place in formal logic, but the definition of logic itself will not help you see into your own blind spots when you are prating about logic.
“you” here is not “you, Ron,.” maybe not even “you, Zardoz,” quite probably includes “you, coberly,” but refers to all of us, usually especially when we think we are on quite solid, if not sacred, ground.
and there is this: i know a lady who repairs damaged dogs (dogs who bite people). she is an absolute genius with the dogs. not so much with their owners, who nearly always backslide into the behaviors that damaged the dog in the first place… an instinctive and persistent, and largely unconscious belief in the use of force. this seems to be a problem in human on human relations too.
I cannot disagree with you at all on this, sir. Discussion can be useful to fill in the cracks.
Also interesting that Zardoz was a 1974 sci-fi film about a privileged elite future society that projected a false god image to instill fear into those that they had dominion over. That says a lot about leadership and how they can fool almost all of the people almost all of the time.
The storms still appear an hour or two away despite their appearance on the northern horizon just over the tree tops. We fill the tub since we are on a well and want to be able to flush even when the power goes out.
About that math logic thingy. A authentic mathematician would never attempt to solve a problem in a field about which they were not equipped to reliably navigate all of the facts. I have considerable understanding of how math is applied to solve problems in a diverse set of disciplines, but did never and would never attempt to solve a problem with math outside of my one field established expertise (IBM mainframe large system performance). There are methods of rigor in problem solving that insure one’s results beginning with input data verification, through model validation, and through to result tests and confirmation post implementation and the “sweatshirt test” prescribed by H. Pat Artis.
OTOH, social sciences are not actually mathematical systems for which solutions can always be dependably determined with math. The social sciences, including economics, may be mathy, but they are not inherently mathematical systems. Hydrologic engineering is a mathematical system, but it is undisciplined somewhat with respect to its ability to hide data in the air and the ground. In any case, even at its worst, then water is better at following the rules of predictable physical science than either people or money.
…which includes finance, the “science” where to assume future rates of inflation and interest is SOP. One of my sister-in-laws worked for The Hartford as a reinsurance broker. I told her about twenty years ago what a dicey proposition it was for large insurers like her employer to plan to collect economic rents off the interest rate spreads and “economies of scale” from business written by smaller firms. She was steadfast in believing that reinsurance was an essential line of business in the industry, at least until The Hartford closed that line of business for future sales and laid her off just a couple of years ago.
She had the last laugh though, since my wife cashed out enough of her ESOP shares to give her sister $100K to save her home from foreclosure. My wife could do that because I am an authentic mathematician, who knows how to bracket risk in decision making. I handily pay all our bills from my retirement income while my wife supports her two younger sisters through the consequences of their poor life decisions, the more expensive being the one that formerly had the bad habit of drunken driving rather the one with the bad profession in finance.
Bad decisions are not responsible for all bad outcome, but they rhyme.
Of course the arithmetic calculations used in finance and social sciences are still mathematics, but missing is the transparency and relative certainty that is associated with mathematics in sciences that have fixed relationships between cause and effect along with known precision in the measurements from which results are calculated. And then there is string theory, a hard science with hardly any provable basis at all.
mathematicians generally have a decent respect for logic. but some of them tend to stray into what you might call social science without noticing.
i started reading a financial accounting book once to see if i was missing something. it said, first assume a discount rate for investments of similar risk… okay, i didn’t stop reading right there, because some of the actual math was useful.
and yes, i try to be reasonable at times, but i get annoyed when someone stands up on his hind legs and insists he is being “logical” or even “scientific.”
your wife and i appear to have similar problems with our relatives.
RE: relatives; my condolences.