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Reblogged:ARI Hands Life-Saving Story to Grey Lady

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In his recent column, "When Libertarianism Goes Bad," Paul Krugman probably manages to get many of his readers to think that opposition to mask mandates and "quarantines" of the healthy could only come from a stark degree of ignorance, gullibility, or evil.

Such a conclusion would be understandable, but wrong. To be sure, the blurb is correct: Liberty doesn't mean freedom to infect other people. But the rest of the column comes across as a rehash of tired tropes and stereotypes -- culminating in this:

But why does this keep happening? Why does America keep making the same mistakes?

Donald Trump's disastrous leadership is, of course, an important factor. But I also blame Ayn Rand -- or, more generally, libertarianism gone bad, a misunderstanding of what freedom is all about.
I won't waste my time defending Donald Trump, or any other politician. They have -- left and right -- been almost uniformly horrendous. And I won't deny that lots of people are confused about the issue of masks or what liberty means.

It's Krugman's scapegoating of another figure I take issue with. Consider the below, and what Krugman might mean by saying it:
I blame Ayn Rand.
If he actually believes this, Paul Krugman should welcome and widely broadcast the correction he has recently received from ARI (as noted below). If not, it speaks volumes that he would, during a time lives are at stake for need of knowledge, spread such an easily debunked falsehood.

As I mentioned in passing recently, the Ayn Rand Institute, which is devoted to studying Ayn Rand's ideas and applying them to the problems of our day, crafted a white paper titled "A Pro-Freedom Approach to Infectious Disease" on the proper role of government during an epidemic.

In fact, ARI did this months ago and has been doing its best to get the word out. This document opposes deliberately or negligently infecting someone else with a potentially fatal pathogen.

Not only that, it argues that the government should take steps to stop this from occurring -- in the name of protecting liberty -- and outlines how it should do so, besides. A side effect Krugman should be happy to hear about is that such policies would likely have saved countless lives.

As Onkar Ghate of the Ayn Rand Institute points out in a Letter-to-the-Editor in reply to Krugman:
Image by Lora Ohanessian, via Unsplash, license.
What would Rand's philosophy of reason, selfishness and capitalism actually guide us to do in the pandemic? The answer is detailed in an essay from the Ayn Rand Institute: A proper government would scientifically test, track and isolate carriers of Covid-19 and leave non-carriers free to live and adopt the precautions they think necessary.

Like Taiwan, America could have effectively contained the pandemic, long ago. Ayn Rand's conception of liberty would be saving lives. [link in original]
The Times has as its motto "All the news that's fit to print," and Krugman protests the American pandemic death toll. The paper should do more than simply print a short LTE regarding this gross error, and Krugman should either apologize for his error or offer a substantial argument against the ARI proposal.

American governments at all levels have variously, for example: ruled by edict, grossly violated our personal liberty (most notably by indefinite mass home detentions, aka "lockdowns"), impeded medical progress (such as by the FDA keeping rapid tests for contagiousness out of our hands), and failed to perform the simple, proper steps outlined by the ARI paper.

Worse, the best-known policy challenge amounts to a national chickenpox party. There is a better way, and, in the face of a defamatory statement, ARI has just spelled out such an alternative to the Times.

If there isn't a story more fit to print, I don't know what it is. And if there isn't a better way to save lives -- through a proper understanding of liberty -- I don't know what that is, either.

-- CAV

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