The enduring hold of neoliberalism on the political imagination, even with COVID-19

Pandemic

Yes, as John Harris observes, the question isn’t really whether people will die, but how many more people will die as governors lift the lockdowns in their states.[1] And I have been repeatedly—some might say ad nauseam—critical of their decisions to do so, of those who have pushed them to do so, and of their unwillingness to spend the money it takes to keep people safe and enable them to comply with lockdowns.[2] Harris takes it a bit further, though, noting that decision makers don’t know who will die, that the additional deaths resulting from their policies are of abstract rather than of specifically known individuals. He thinks this makes it easier for them to pursue these policies. Of course—and this is one of Harris’ points—this does not excuse those policies. [3]

Harris also thinks, though, that at some point, we’re all willing to make those trade-offs.[4] That’s a universal claim and therefore presumptively wrong. But it does illuminate the power of our capitalist god[5] and of the enduring hold of neoliberalism on the political imagination.[6] Which would be the point that “b-boy bouiebaisse” raises:

John F. Harris, “Admit It: You Are Willing to Let People Die to End the Shutdown,” Politico, April 30, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/04/30/coronavirus-shutdown-altitude-ethics-223569


Recession

When I saw the headline on John Cassidy’s column in the New Yorker,[7] my immediate question was—I think you’ll grant—pretty fucking obvious: Why would anyone outside the Faux News bubble take Jared Kushner anywhere nearly as seriously as Jerome Powell? Cassidy doesn’t answer that question or the one in the headline. I don’t think he really needs to.

John Cassidy, “Who’s Right About the Economy—Jared Kushner or the Chairman of the Federal Reserve?” New Yorker, April 30, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/whos-right-about-the-economy-jared-kushner-or-the-chairman-of-the-federal-reserve


  1. [1]John F. Harris, “Admit It: You Are Willing to Let People Die to End the Shutdown,” Politico, April 30, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/04/30/coronavirus-shutdown-altitude-ethics-223569
  2. [2]David Benfell, “We are not going to be alright,” Not Housebroken, March 21, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/21/we-are-not-going-to-be-alright/; David Benfell, “The capitalist death cult,” Not Housebroken, March 27, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/27/the-capitalist-death-cult/; David Benfell, “When nothing happened next,” Not Housebroken, March 29, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/29/when-nothing-happened-next/; David Benfell, “The worst of times and the worst of humanity,” Not Housebroken, April 2, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/02/the-worst-of-times-and-the-worst-of-humanity/; David Benfell, “As we cower in our apartments,” Not Housebroken, April 6, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/06/as-we-cower-in-our-apartments/; David Benfell, “I fear for our world,” Not Housebroken, April 9, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/09/i-fear-for-our-world/; David Benfell, “An impatient capitalist god demands human sacrifice. Now,” Not Housebroken, April 17, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/15/an-impatient-capitalist-god-demands-human-sacrifice-now/; David Benfell, “Don’t just say #COVIDIOTS,” Not Housebroken, April 19, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/19/dont-just-say-covidiots/; David Benfell, “When confusion starts killing people, it is long past time to recognize it for what it is,” Not Housebroken, April 21, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/21/when-confusion-starts-killing-people-it-is-long-past-time-to-recognize-it-for-what-it-is/; David Benfell, “Elite priorities: Why social, animal, and environmental justice remains essential with COVID-19,” Not Housebroken, April 26, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/26/elite-priorities-why-social-animal-and-environmental-justice-remains-essential-with-covid-19/; David Benfell, “We may die at home or we may die alone but we are surely dying,” Not Housebroken, April 28, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/28/we-may-die-at-home-or-we-may-die-alone-but-we-are-surely-dying/
  3. [3]John F. Harris, “Admit It: You Are Willing to Let People Die to End the Shutdown,” Politico, April 30, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/04/30/coronavirus-shutdown-altitude-ethics-223569
  4. [4]John F. Harris, “Admit It: You Are Willing to Let People Die to End the Shutdown,” Politico, April 30, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/04/30/coronavirus-shutdown-altitude-ethics-223569
  5. [5]David Benfell, “The capitalist death cult,” Not Housebroken, March 27, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/27/the-capitalist-death-cult/; David Benfell, “An impatient capitalist god demands human sacrifice. Now,” Not Housebroken, April 17, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/15/an-impatient-capitalist-god-demands-human-sacrifice-now/
  6. [6]Jonathan Chait, “Trump Wants to Starve the States Into Opening Before It’s Safe,” New York, April 20, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/trump-coronavirus-open-state-governors-protests.html; David Frum, “Why Mitch McConnell Wants States to Go Bankrupt,” Atlantic, April 25, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/04/why-mitch-mcconnell-wants-states-go-bankrupt/610714/; Robert McCartney, “McConnell’s rejection of federal aid for states risks causing a depression, analysts say,” Washington Post, April 27, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/mcconnells-rejection-of-federal-aid-for-states-risks-causing-a-depression-analysts-say/2020/04/26/1fd4731c-8632-11ea-a3eb-e9fc93160703_story.html; Jennifer Rubin, “Mitch McConnell cries ‘Uncle!’” Washington Post, April 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/28/mcconnell-cries-uncle/
  7. [7]John Cassidy, “Who’s Right About the Economy—Jared Kushner or the Chairman of the Federal Reserve?” New Yorker, April 30, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/whos-right-about-the-economy-jared-kushner-or-the-chairman-of-the-federal-reserve