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Freedom has nothing to do with it

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Paul Krugman observes that the ideology of DeSantis and people like him is perfectly consistent, as long as you focus on the right thing:

True, many people doubt the science; the link between vaccine refusal and Covid deaths is every bit as real as the link between D.U.I. and traffic deaths, but is less obvious to the naked eye. But why are people on the right so receptive to misinformation on this subject, and so angry about efforts to set the record straight?

My answer is that when people on the right talk about “freedom” what they actually mean is closer to “defense of privilege” — specifically the right of certain people (generally white male Christians) to do whatever they want.

Not incidentally, if you go back to the roots of modern conservatism, you find people like Barry Goldwater defending the right of businesses to discriminate against Black Americans. In the name of freedom, of course. A lot, though not all, of the recent panic about “cancel culture” is about protecting the right of powerful men to mistreat women. And so on.

Once you understand that the rhetoric of freedom is actually about privilege, things that look on the surface like gross inconsistency and hypocrisy start to make sense.

Why, for example, are conservatives so insistent on the right of businesses to make their own decisions, free from regulation — but quick to stop them from denying service to customers who refuse to wear masks or show proof of vaccination? Why is the autonomy of local school districts a fundamental principle — unless they want to require masks or teach America’s racial history? It’s all about whose privilege is being protected.

The reality of what the right means by freedom also, I think, explains the special rage induced by rules that impose some slight inconvenience in the name of the public interest — like the detergent wars of a few years back. After all, only poor people and minority groups are supposed to be asked to make sacrifices.

Of course, it’s not just conservatives undermining vaccination rates and public confidence in the vaccine:

Just not good. Vaccinations are the only way out of this and far too many people aren’t taking this nearly seriously enough. “Vaccines are good but we shouldn’t take any real measures to compel mass vaccination” has never made any sense and never will.

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