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.
We Hunted the Mammoth relies entirely on readers like you for its survival. If you appreciate our work, please send a few bucks our way! Thanks!