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Coronavirus: The Federalist prefers mass death to massive deficits

Federalist editorial board meeting (artist’s conception)

By David Futrelle

People often ask “who funds The Federalist,” assuming that the answer is some shadowy right-wing billionaire who finds the site’s crackpot conservatism congenial. But I think I’ve found the actual answer: it’s the coronavirus. Yes, that’s right: the coronavirus is funding The Federalist.

I was led to this conclusion by a pair of articles that went up on the site today arguing, quite seriously, that hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of coronavirus deaths might be a fair price to pay for an early end to the not-quite-national shutdown that has millions of Americans now “sheltering in place” to help control the virus’ spread.

If you think I’m exaggerating or engaging in rhetorical overkill, nope. I’m basically just paraphrasing. In an article posted on The Federalist today, Hillsdale College grad student Jonathan Ashbach writes

It seems harsh to ask whether the nation might be better off letting a few hundred thousand people die. … Yet honestly facing reality is not callous, and refusing even to consider whether the present response constitutes an even greater evil than the one it intends to mitigate would be cowardly.

In addition to the economic costs of the shutdown, and what he sees as a fundamental loss of freedom, Ashbach worries that all this social distancing is making our lives a lot less fun.

“[C]onsider the massive sacrifice of life Americans are making in their social distancing campaign,” he writes.

True, nearly all are not literally dying, but they are giving up a good deal of what makes life worth living — work, classes, travel, hugs, time with friends, conferences, quiet nights out, and so forth. Probably almost everyone would be willing to live a somewhat shorter normal life rather than a somewhat longer life under current conditions. The abandonment of normalcy, therefore, is in many ways equivalent to shortening the lives of the entire nation.

He’s rather have hugs and death than a temporary loss of hugs. One wonders if his blithe acceptance of the possibility of mass death may have something to do with the fact that as a grad student (presumably in his twenties or early 30s) he is much less likely to be one of the dead than, for example, those over the age of 70.

When it comes to Federalist executive editor and self-described “happy wife” Joy Pullman, one does not have to wonder: she plainly acknowledges that she’s unlikely to die if the current state lockdowns are brought to an early end. But when it comes to the country as a whole, she’d prefer mass death to massive deficits.

“My point here is not that I like people dying,” she wrote.

It’s that very often our society chooses to allow deaths because the alternative is worse. I’m suggesting the severe social and economic tradeoffs of unlimited quarantine are an important consideration that is not being taken seriously enough. …

The costs Americans are being forced to bear may be more than is rational to impose.

She’s well aware that the cost of abandoning the current lockdowns could be utterly devastating; indeed, she begins her article citing a report predicting that without social distancing the deaths in the US alone from cornonavirus could reach 4 million, two million more than the deaths that could result if we stay locked down. Naturally, she prefers the considerably more optimistic takes on the subject that have come from others on the political right, but she knows that serious researchers think the cost in lives could run into the millions.

Nonetheless, she suggested in one of the article’s subheads that “a depression will ruin 330 million lives, not 4 million.” She worries that cash payments from the government to ordinary Americans will “[addict] millions to welfare … transform[ing them] from workers to takers,” while “many” others will “die due to poverty, lack of medical care, and despair.”

Huh. That last bit sounds like a plug for socialized medicine and a stronger welfare state, but of course to Pullman the very idea is anathema.

In the end, she decides that she’d rather risk coronavirus than a massive economic slump. I mean, why should she and others like her suffer economically when they’re not even part of the group of people most likely to die from the disease?

Why would the entire nation grind to a halt when the entire nation is not at a severe risk? I would rather have a flu I am 99.8 percent likely to survive than the nation plunged into chaos indefinitely because we pulled the plug on our economy during a stampede.

In other words: I’ve got my health, fuck the rest of you.

It would be one thing if this thinking was confined to the fringes of the crackpot right. But it’s not just Federalist writers who see the disease this way. Indeed, Donald Trump himself seems to be suggesting in one recent tweet that he’s getting pretty annoyed with the effect all this social distancing is having on the stock market, and that he might be considering a more laissez faire approach.

At the daily coronovirus briefing today, Trump went further. ”
“America will again and soon be open for business — very soon,” he said. “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”

The Federalist is providing Trump with handy talking points for whatever terrible policy — or non-policy — he decides to enact when the 15 days are over on March 30. Depending on what he does or does not do,4 million deaths may turn out to be too optimistic a projection.

H/T — Dr. Nerdlove, who drew my attention to these articles

UPDATE: Story updated with quote from the coronavirus briefing.

Send tips to dfutrelle at gmail dot com.

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Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
5 months ago

As you point out, this conversation will be playing out in government corridors around the globe. We know it happened here because (a) someone grassed up Dominic Cummings for suggesting it and (b) they were pretty much attempting it at first.

I take hope though that, notwithstanding trite references to ‘the spirit of the Blitz*’, there has been an outbreak of social solidarity and kindness. I hope this is the new paradigm.

(*which as any war historian will tell you, was a myth. Crime soared during the Blitz)

KindaSortaHarmless
KindaSortaHarmless
5 months ago

Say what you will about COVID-19, a virus doesn’t have the agency necessary to truly be evil. I can’t say the same for the humans at the Federalist.

reggie, the neighbour's cat
reggie, the neighbour's cat
5 months ago

COVID-19 really is exposing the bankruptcy and evil of libertarian philosophy, isn’t it.

Naglfar
Naglfar
5 months ago

Add loving the coronavirus to the list TERFs and the Federalist have in common.

they are giving up a good deal of what makes life worth living — work, classes, travel, hugs, time with friends, conferences, quiet nights out, and so forth.

The way I see it is, it’s better to spend a few weeks without these things than to die and never experience them again.

This is a very mask-off moment—we all know conservatives want millions to die, but they rarely say it so plainly.

I think part of why conservatives so fear this is because they know that this is making their Dear Leader look very bad (and them by extension). Thing is, killing millions of people doesn’t make you look good either, but I don’t think their base realizes that. And many older conservatives don’t seem to realize they are likely to die.

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee

If I didn’t already realize that the Christian right is a death cult, I sure would be coming to that conclusion now.

I will be relentless in bringing up the right’s swift pivot to the opinion that mass death is better than the wealthy having to lose a little money in the stock market whenever someone tries to claim that conservatives are ideology of pro-life and morals.

Anyway, it’s a false choice between public health and the economy. An out of control pandemic will devastate the economy as much, if not more than just taking drastic steps to contain this thing now.

It takes a lot for Americans to pay attention to politics enough to even think about taking to the streets en masse, but I’m thinking the wealthy are going to get a nasty surprise if they think that 30% unemployment, little to no economic assistance and little to no concern for the death of millions of Americans isn’t going to cause some shit to kick off. Americans buy into the bootstraps my pretty readily, but the kind of conditions that could be coming may burst that bubble. I’m no accelerationist, so I don’t relish this possibility. Civil unrest will include upticks in fascist violence, it’s not all going to be people rioting for a New Deal type intervention.

Naglfar
Naglfar
5 months ago

@WWTH

I will be relentless in bringing up the right’s swift pivot to the opinion that mass death is better than the wealthy having to lose a little money in the stock market whenever someone tries to claim that conservatives are ideology of pro-life and morals.

Do actual conservatives even think they are of life and morals? The cognitive dissonance must be extreme.

I’m thinking the wealthy are going to get a nasty surprise if they think that 30% unemployment, little to no economic assistance and little to no concern for the death of millions of Americans isn’t going to cause some shit to kick off.

I fully expect people to begin violent protests, then Trump will claim the left and antifa are terrorists. If I’m being extra pessimistic, I could even foresee Trump using the national guard to attack protestors and/or declaring martial law and banning criticism of his administration.

Perry
Perry
5 months ago

Holy shit we’re doomed.

The worst fucking thing about this is that people are suffering under quarantine but — besides those who are dealing with the direct effects of the illness itself — their suffering stems from capitalism. I mean, I wonder how tying healthcare rights to employment then putting so many out of work, or maintaining a system where most people literally work paycheck to paycheck and ordering them to stay home will work out. Anyone who can look at this situation and declare the solution to be the continuation of the status quo is working against the interests of humanity.

Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
5 months ago

Isn’t this the exact same attitude the same far-right pundits have been displaying toward climate change for seemingly eons now? “Carbon taxes? Rapid transition to renewables? Fuck that, it will wreck the economy all to save a few million people most of whom are brown and not Americans!”

The warnings from the IPCC and scientists kept getting more dire, and then an explicit end-date was put out for when our carbon budget has been spent under business-as-usual, and still this has been their attitude. The ones who didn’t outright deny it are all like “we can adapt to a three, four, five degree rise, and screw anyone who can’t, especially if they are poor or not American”. (And to a lot of them “not American” clearly includes nonwhite Americans.)

I am not in the least surprised that their response to the virus is entirely consistent with their response to climate change. And that they then have the gall to claim it’s Democrats who are the elitists.

Battering Lamb
Battering Lamb
5 months ago

Here in the netherlands the period of social distancing just got extended from the 6th of April to the start of June. Annoying, but definitely the right call.

As for the 4 million people affected thing that Pullman person put forward: No, you dingdong. 4 million people dying also affects those around them who have to get their affairs in order (many more than 4 million). I can’t imagine arranging funeral services is made easier by this pandemic. Not to mention possible debts and all of the other menial duties when someone close has passed away.

Ugh. Some people.

Mabret the Virile Maiden
Mabret the Virile Maiden
5 months ago

“I’ve got mine, fuck you” is the motto of conservatism.

Naglfar
Naglfar
5 months ago

@Perry

Anyone who can look at this situation and declare the solution to be the continuation of the status quo is working against the interests of humanity.

I think with conservatives that’s kind of the point.

God money, they’ll do anything for you
God money, just tell them what you want them to do
God money, let’s go dancing on the backs of the bruised
God money’s not one to choose
-by someone who is probably a conservative now that he’s rich

@Battering Lamb
In America the funeral industry is already messed up by consolidation. I know people who can’t afford funerals and couldn’t travel anyway for their loved one’s funerals due to quarantine.

Moggie
Moggie
5 months ago

More and more, I think “who funds the Federalist” needs to be answered.

Specialffrog
Specialffrog
5 months ago

In addition to all their other flaws, all of these arguments seem to focus solely on the mortality rate and ignore other outcomes. If the US just lets the virus run freely how many people will need hospitalization and intensive care? And even looking solely at the economic impact, what will that do?

ginger
ginger
5 months ago

If you’re not following @scalzi on Twitter, you should. He dislikes Drumpf and the Repugnicans, and his tweets are spot-on.

Here’s on of his tweets today:

“To the sociopathic shitmonkeys who are trial-ballooning the idea of letting millions die of the COVID virus just so we can all get back to work a bit sooner:

Thank you for volunteering to die from the virus.

Oh, you mean you want OTHER people to die?

Then go fuck yourselves.”

I’m sure these shitmonkeys want the actual workers to resume their labors, not the useless criminal CEOs and Wall-Street types.

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
5 months ago

@ Perry

declare the solution to be the continuation of the status quo

Apparently this says something along the lines of “We cannot return to normal because normal was what got us here”. People might want to check that. I agree with the sentiment though.

comment image

KindaSortaHarmless
KindaSortaHarmless
5 months ago

@ Alan Robertshaw:

I can’t read Chinese, but based on my knowledge of kanji, it appears to be saying “we cannot return to normal because normal is the problem”.

Diego Duarte
Diego Duarte
5 months ago

@WWTH

If I didn’t already realize that the Christian right is a death cult, I sure would be coming to that conclusion now.

This crisis has many of them salivating with the prospects that Jesus will come down from heaven soon as cast all atheists and heretics down the fiery pit of hell itself. They seem to be celebrating all of these because they think they will be safe from COVID-19.

On the other hand Joe Biden is still a no show. At this rate he is going to be clobbered by Trump and the media.

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
5 months ago

@ kindasortaharmless

Thanks; that makes sense.

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee

I fully expect people to begin violent protests, then Trump will claim the left and antifa are terrorists. If I’m being extra pessimistic, I could even foresee Trump using the national guard to attack protestors and/or declaring martial law and banning criticism of his administration.

Yeah, it’s going to make Kent State look like cake.

Anyway, I put on Trump’s “news” conference and had to change it after literally 10 seconds because he praised “countries” like Nebraska and Idaho for handling the pandemic well. By handling well, I’m assuming he means that being red states, they are following his prescription of don’t test and don’t take any containment measures. I mean, I’m sure there’s less of Covid-19 there due to there being lower population density, but when they catch up to large urban centers in infection rates, rural areas are going to be fucked because rural hospitals have been shutting down in large numbers the past several years as a consequence of a profit focused health care system. It is deeply, deeply dangerous to encourage rural states to be complacent about this pandemic.

Naglfar
Naglfar
5 months ago

@Alan Robertshaw
If that is what it says, they aren’t wrong. Calamities come from the status quo, not in spite of it.

@Diego Duarte
Do they think this is the rapture or something? If so, wouldn’t that make Trump the antichrist?

Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
5 months ago

@Naglfar:

The way I see it is, it’s better to spend a few weeks without these things than to die and never experience them again.

That’s what I’ve been telling people who complain about the quarantine. Yes, it sucks, but there are things that would happen without it that would suck a lot more.

Otrame
Otrame
5 months ago

I know a few people have said this out loud.

I didn’t think I could despise them any more than I already do. I was wrong.

And I would feel that way I’d i was a healthy 30 year old.

There are no words for how despicable they are.

Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
5 months ago

Also, I learned today that someone I know (I don’t like this person) is deliberately not following the quarantine or social distancing because “the disease won’t affect her”.

*eyeroll *facepalm the selfishness of some people.

I’m just so angry with this person right now.

Naglfar
Naglfar
5 months ago

@Yutolia

That’s what I’ve been telling people who complain about the quarantine. Yes, it sucks, but there are things that would happen without it that would suck a lot more.

It reminds me a bit of the Stanford marshmallow experiment. The thing is, I was expecting adults to get the concept of delayed gratification a bit better than children.

Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
5 months ago

@WWTH:

Anyway, I put on Trump’s “news” conference and had to change it after literally 10 seconds because he praised “countries” like Nebraska and Idaho for handling the pandemic well.

🤔 Nebraska … 🤔 … does that share a border with Nambia? 🤔

@Naglfar:

Do they think this is the rapture or something? If so, wouldn’t that make Trump the antichrist?

Yep. Heck, you can even get a 666 out of his name without too much effort. And then there’s this:

https://www.benjaminlcorey.com/could-american-evangelicals-spot-the-antichrist-heres-the-biblical-predictions/

It reminds me a bit of the Stanford marshmallow experiment. The thing is, I was expecting adults to get the concept of delayed gratification a bit better than children.

It gets scarier. These aren’t just adults. They’re economists, or at least they like to pretend that they are. Economists definitely should understand how to do proper time discounting of risks and expectations …

Naglfar
Naglfar
5 months ago

@Surplus

🤔 Nebraska … 🤔 … does that share a border with Nambia? 🤔

Nah, I hear it’s closer to Nipple and Button and has a border with the beautiful city of Belgium.

And then there’s this:

That’s just freaky. And I don’t even believe in an antichrist.
Not sure if that’s worse or the curse of the Flayed Lord.

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
5 months ago

Some Republican bloke suggesting oldies should be willingly throwing themselves under a bus for the economy (in fairness, unlike our Federalist friend, he does have skin in the game I guess).

“You know, Tucker, no one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren? And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in,”

Specialffrog
Specialffrog
5 months ago

@naglfar: one interpretation of the marshmallow experiment is that it tells you which kids have learned not to trust adults.

Under that view it is also a useful analogy as right-wing media has spent decades training its audience not to trust any kind of expert.

Naglfar
Naglfar
5 months ago

The Lieutenant Governor of Texas just said that grandparents should be willing to die because that may or may not help their grandchildren (spoiler alert: it won’t). Best of luck to any Texan mammothers.

Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
5 months ago

@Naglfar:

So true!!!

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee

I think a lot of people seem to have heard the news that older and immunocomprised people have a higher risk of death and interpreted that to mean that young healthy people can’t die or become seriously ill. It’s going to be a rude awakening for a lot of people when this thing really spreads exponentially.

Diego Duarte
Diego Duarte
5 months ago

@Naglfar and Surplus

Oh yeah, I remember reading that article. It was very thorough and unsettling, despite my atheism.

@Moggie

Aaaaand Bolsonaro just announced measures and call the governor of Sao Paulo a “lunatic” for suggesting quarantine. Instead, this man is just going to allow companies to suspend labor contracts for up to 4 months. Allegedly the government will step in and provide assistance, but I doubt it.

https://elcomercio.pe/mundo/latinoamerica/coronavirus-en-brasil-jair-bolsonaro-autoriza-a-las-empresas-dejar-de-pagar-a-sus-trabajadores-durante-4-meses-por-el-covid-19-noticia/?fbclid=IwAR0IbWc_sFd0d3HSjs6tLxeERdAVUWFPVlf8FnHt9Or-WkvFkWT8qNlyE98

For those of you who read Spanish (if there are even any).

Rachel B.
Rachel B.
5 months ago

@Naglfar

Thanks, on behalf of all the Texas mammotheers. The governor and Lt. governor are and have always been asshats, not that this is news. Governor Abbot uses a wheelchair, and is against access for disabled persons. Screw the rest of us and all y’all, he’s got his.

@Diego Duarte

Why wouldn’t there be Spanish-speaking mammotheers other than yourself? Thank you for the link.

Diego Duarte
Diego Duarte
5 months ago

@Rachel

Yeah sorry that might’ve been presumptuous. I’m used to people turning down my links and asking me for sources in English. Though other than Luzbelitx and, I’m going to assume, Mexican Hot Chocolate, I don’t think I am aware of anybody else that speaks Spanish.

Kevin
Kevin
5 months ago

Wondering if it’ll dawn on Don Combover that his suggested premature ending of quarantine measures might see other countries closing their borders to Americans from POTUS down…

Ooglyboggles
Ooglyboggles
5 months ago

My hatred of these ghouls grows by the second.

Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
5 months ago
Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
5 months ago

[T]hey are giving up a good deal of what makes life worth living — work, classes, travel, hugs, time with friends, conferences, quiet nights out, and so forth. Probably almost everyone would be willing to live a somewhat shorter normal life rather than a somewhat longer life under current conditions.

So many qualifications to your statements, Jonathan Ashbach. Probably. Almost. Somewhat.

Let me help you make your writing more direct, clearer, and stronger.

Life isn’t worth living if I can’t live in affluence. If you have to die for me to do that, then go ahead and die.

Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
5 months ago

@Ooglyboggles

My hatred of these ghouls grows by the second.

The Trade Union of Ghouls, Fiends, Demons, and Imps called. Something about you defaming them by comparing them to Federalists. A return call is urgently requested.

occasional reader
occasional reader
5 months ago

I suppose the next tweet will be something like : “CAN’T PLAY GOLF! SAD!”

Battering Lamb
Battering Lamb
5 months ago

then there’s this:

Well ok then. Some of these I saw coming, but that stuff got really specific pretty fast.

Unlike an article hidden behind a paywall (despite everyone in the world apparently NEEDING to know the information within) that claimed to prove Obama was the anti-christ. Now, I never read the article (more than 10$ was a bit steep), I can’t imagine it being even close to this convincing.

gijoel
gijoel
5 months ago
opposablethumbs
opposablethumbs
5 months ago

A reminder I saw and just felt like reiterating to all you cherished Mammotheers:

Paracetamol: do not exceed the stated dose

Even though it’s cheap as chips (assuming the seller isn’t trying to rack up the price!; a tiny bit more if it’s a fancy name brand rather than just paracetamol BP) and even though we’ve had it as an over-the-counter medicine for so long it feels as if it’s been around forever,

paracetamol is very serious shit if you take too much of it. I am glad to say I have no personal experience of this whatsoever, but

“Even taking one or two more tablets than recommended can cause serious liver damage and possibly death. Paracetamol overdose is one of the leading causes of liver failure. Adults can usually take one or two 500mg tablets every 4-6 hours, but shouldn’t take more than 4g (eight 500mg tablets) in the space of 24 hours”

It’s the most widely-recommended medicine to alleviate the symptoms of coronavirus, so a lot of people may be taking it or thinking of taking it in the not-too-distant future; I just felt like remembering out loud that cheap and familiar does not mean take extra when/if one is scared.

(PD @Diego Duarte, I do too 🙂 )

Naglfar
Naglfar
5 months ago

@Diego Duarte

I don’t think I am aware of anybody else that speaks Spanish.

I’ve forgotten some but I can mostly remember enough to read and speak it. I used to be close to fluent but haven’t really spoken it in a while so I’ve forgotten some of the vocabulary.

@Occasional Reader

I suppose the next tweet will be something like : “CAN’T PLAY GOLF! SAD!”

I doubt he’ll actually stop playing, there’s no one who will enforce the rules for him.

Jackson Ayres
Jackson Ayres
5 months ago

Unpopular opinion – temporary discomfort and isolation is worth it to prevent the mass death of vulnerable groups.

msexceptiontotherule
msexceptiontotherule
5 months ago

I live in Nebraska, and our governor has issued a directed health measure for the 4 counties here (they happen to be the ones with a large-ish population) – which requires all non-essential businesses and the like to close, amongst other things. The University of Nebraska Medical Center was one of the hospitals that passengers from that cruise ship were taken to – the last two were recently released. There were a few doctors from the same hospital who came down with covid19 themselves but as far as I know they will recover – one sent an email to his family/colleagues that was published by Lincoln’s local news channel online, which talks about what he wants people to know about covid19 in terms of why it’s so important to ‘shelter in place’/drastically restrict going places to only the absolutely necessary such as to get necessities like pharmacies/groceries, and employers who aren’t operating an essential business needing to direct their workers to stay home.

Our state government has passed a bill authorizing emergency assistance, though they couldn’t get it together on the medicaid expansion that voters decided to get put on the ballot back in 2016 and passed by an overwhelming majority of voters, in fact they’re still dragging their feet on the particulars…I’d say I have more confidence in the governor of my state than I do the current occupant of the oval office, but that bar is set at subterranean levels 6 stories down so it’s not saying much at all about the governor? He is listening to our excellent community of medical experts and those in healthcare though…

Moggie
Moggie
5 months ago

Now the Olympic games have been postponed for a year.

Friendly Cryptid
Friendly Cryptid
5 months ago

@Surplus:

Recent lurker and former Catholic school kid de-lurking in order to say: thanks for that link, that was horrifying!

Karl
Karl
5 months ago

@weirdwood

An out of control pandemic will devastate the economy as much, if not more than just taking drastic steps to contain this thing now.

This. The economy is going to be devastated anyway, so you need to ask which is better: doing in a controlled manner and keeping people alive so that you can rebuild it faster afterwards, or letting it run rampant and killing off people so that demand is weakened and it takes longer to fix?

Conservatives prove over and over they don’t understand anything about economics.

Naglfar
Naglfar
5 months ago

@Karl

Conservatives prove over and over they don’t understand anything about economics.

The basis of conservatism is refusing to learn anything, then blaming your opponents when your plan doesn’t work.

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