In a column for the New York Times, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote that Donald Trump’s shut down of the government until he is given billions for his border wall has the potential to lead to a public health disaster — but libertarians likely are loving it.
Under a heading, “Trump’s Big Libertarian Experiment,” Krugman stated that shutting down the government agencies, as is happening under the budget impasse, has long been a dream of less-government libertarians — and many of them have found a home in the Republican Party.
“Donald Trump is, in effect, implementing at least part of the drastic reduction in government’s role his party has long claimed to favor,” Krugman wrote. “If the shutdown drags on for months — which seems quite possible — we’ll get a chance to see what America looks like without a number of public programs the right has long insisted we don’t need. Never mind the wall; think of what’s going on as a big, beautiful libertarian experiment.”
According to Krugman, the public may be unaware of the risks to their health, as government workers tasked with food and quality of life inspections have been furloughed, leaving companies free to take shortcuts.
“The shutdown has drastically curtailed work at the Food and Drug Administration, which among other things tries to prevent food contamination: Routine inspections of seafood, vegetables, fruits and other foods have stopped,” the economist wrote before wryly adding, “But there’s a long conservative tradition, going back to Milton Friedman, that condemns the F.D.A.’s existence as an unwarranted interference in the free market.”
As Krugman sees it, libertarians — who have never managed to field a viable party of their own — are actually Republicans at heart.
“The truth is that libertarian ideology isn’t a real force within the G.O.P.; it’s more of a cover story for the party’s actual agenda,” he wrote. “In the case of the party establishment, that agenda is about redistributing income up the scale, and in particular helping important donor interests. Republican politicians may invoke the rhetoric of free markets to justify cutting taxes for the rich and benefits for the poor, or removing environmental regulations that hurt polluters’ profits, but they don’t really care about free markets per se.”
He continued, “In any case, while the gap between Republicans’ supposed ideology and their actual reaction to the shutdown is understandable, that doesn’t make it innocent.”
As for dyed-in-the-wool libertarians, Krugman warned that their economic philosophy can’t save them from bad food.
“And if you have libertarian leanings yourself, you should ask whether you’re happy with what’s happening with government partially out of the picture,” he wrote. “Knowing that the food you’re eating is now more likely than before to be contaminated, does that potential contamination smell to you like freedom?”
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