The New Sumptuary Laws: Covid and the Return of Absolutism

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith is an historian and author who has published widely on medieval and Early Modern history. Graduate students have described him as a conservative Marxist. In addition to social, intellectual, and economic history, he likes music, beer, cooking, and building things with stuff saved from the trash. His current writing project is a book on witchcraft and witch trials in Germany. He can be found on Twitter @historybythepint .

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109 Responses

  1. Avatar Brandon Berg
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    says:

    The idea of limiting the consumption of the poor by law struck me as odd. You don’t need a law to make sure that the poor don’t consume as much as the rich—not having enough money to consume much is the definition of poverty.

    Looking further into this, it seems that the real purpose was to protect the nobility and landed gentry from having their status undermined by the nouveau-riche merchant class.Report

  2. Avatar Slade the Leveller
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    I listened this weekend to an episode of This American Life in which one of the stories was about 2 public health officials in California. Technocrats who have (had? not sure if they’re both still serving) who had nothing but the public good in mind, and who had no designs on making restrictions permanent. In both cases death threats were routinely received and they had to alter their daily routines due to the ravings of people who think just like the writer. Putting science in quotes doesn’t make it any less so.

    Another article on this site seeks to explain the science behind what Alex Berenson is bleating on about on Twitter. It looks like OT has found its own Berenson. Publishing this article does a disservice to the readers of Ordinary Times.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Slade the Leveller
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      says:

      Seconded.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Slade the Leveller
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      says:

      It used to be the case where an author recounting death threats or other unfair attacks would make the reader feel sympathy and be more open to the argument. As a matter of logic, it’s an extension of an ad hominem fallacy, but as a matter of human decency, it’s healthy. But we’ve been so inundated with rudeness, and the tactic has become so common, that it doesn’t elicit much response any more, unless you’re already inclined toward the argument.Report

      • Avatar Slade the Leveller in reply to Pinky
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        says:

        It’s hard to underplay getting death threats for doing one’s job as these 2 people did, but that wasn’t really the thrust of my argument.

        In the last year or so it’s been revealed that the number one hobby in America, much to everyone’s surprise, is epidemiology. We’re paying top dollar to some really smart scientists to advise our government officials on how best to contain COVID. But what the hell, screw all that, I’m going to take the word of scholar of history who is comparing it to witchcraft. Plandemic, indeed.Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Slade the Leveller
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          says:

          “My ignorance is as good as your knowledge”.

          Credited to Isaac Asimov.Report

        • Avatar Pinky in reply to Slade the Leveller
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          says:

          OK, where did the actual article discuss epidemiology? Not, what do you suspect the author of supporting. As I pointed out elsewhere, the only modern policy disagreement voiced in this article is the inequality of the restrictions.

          It’s pretty easy to underplay death threats, btw. Here’s a technique I use: don’t mention them. I assume that every liberal gets called a traitor, every conservative gets called a racist, and every single public individual (including those doxxed) has gotten death threats.Report

          • Avatar Slade the Leveller in reply to Pinky
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            says:

            Epidemiology underlies every discussion of what transpired in this mess.

            Are there hypocritical public servants? Surprise, surprise, yes. BSDI. Equating enforcing public health laws with despotism, as the author does, is just ludicrous. All over America restrictions are being loosened as case numbers go down.Report

            • Avatar Pinky in reply to Slade the Leveller
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              says:

              So, epidemiologically speaking, the difference between the rules applied to the haves and have-nots is indefensible. In fact, the implementation of the rules looks more like the Sumptuary Laws than good epidemiology. OK?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                Yes, why should the Have Nots like waitresses and cooks and retail workers be compelled to work in places where the customers are allowed to be maskless, or refuse to present a vaccination card?

                They should be protected from dismissal if they refuse to work under such dangerous conditions.Report

              • Avatar Slade the Leveller in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                Let’s be honest here. The “lockdown” rules in America were honored more in the breach than the observance by everyone. In theory, they were enforceable against anyone. In practice, I honestly cannot recall a prosecution for violating the rules. They were a test of good citizenship, done on the honor system, a test that we as a nation resoundingly failed.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Slade the Leveller
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                says:

                “In practice, I honestly cannot recall a prosecution for violating the rules.”

                Hassling protestors for not wearing masks and standing fewer than six feet apart would have been pro-copReport

  3. Avatar Murali
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    says:

    You would have been better served by arguing that political elites have permitted themselves to have large gatherings while preventing others from doing so. (The people’s association gathering that sparked one of our first super-spreader events in Singapore last year is a case in point). But yes, lego is a non-essential. No one will die for the lack of lego. People will die for the lack of groceries. Now, we might say that some of the lines drawn do not make sense or are an over-reaction or have been done incompetently. Nevertheless, a line must be drawn somewhere or you worsen an already fairly terrible crisis. That’s a very different argument from saying that all these are just a bunch of sumptuary laws.

    When you are suspicious of all authority, you will also be, unjustifiedly, suspicious of legitimate authoritiesReport

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Murali
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      says:

      No one was ever able to stop getting groceries during COVID but there seems to be a libertarian fever dream of what lockdown meant with grocery stores shut down. This is very stupid as a fever dream.Report

  4. Avatar Oscar Gordon
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    I won’t try to pretend that the US does not have it’s own flavor of laws which are leveraged mostly against the lower and middle classes (e.g. Drug Laws) while sparing the elite, but Pandemic restrictions…?

    Hell, I won’t even pretend to agree with most of the restrictions my Governor is putting in place. But I don’t believe for a second that the Governor is so divorced from reality to think that the restrictions can or will hold past a certain point. He knows he’s burning up goodwill and political capital with them.

    No, this is not a return to the 1600’s. Now, if you want to talk about some of the gun laws, or Drug Laws, or Abortion Restrictions…Report

  5. Avatar Kristin Devine
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    says:

    Interesting piece! Thanks for sharing it with us.Report

  6. Avatar LeeEsq
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    Public health measures, even if there was some official hypocrisy in implementation but not really that much, are not the same thing as a sumptuary law. Without these public health measures then hundreds of thousands or even millions of more would get sick and possibly die. COVID-19 already killed more Americans than World War II and in a shorter time. India seems on the brick of collapse. We are having too many people refuse to take the vaccine because of the poisoned ideology in their heads. If we didn’t implement these measures than we would have a crisis both in terms of public health and economics that make this look like a walk in the park.

    The conservative and libertarian response to this has truly been bizarre. They have adhered so close to their ideological priors that they remain firm in their beliefs despite the biological reality around this. This is wild, crazy, and totally out of control but they want their freedumbs.Report

    • Avatar InMD in reply to LeeEsq
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      This is what I was going to say. We still may have 1 million dead Americans at the end of all this. Obviously the restrictions need to go away once we turn the corner on vaccinations, but hearing this nonsense from the same people who passed the PATRIOT Act 20 years ago? Please.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to InMD
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        says:

        One million dead and millions more gravely sick. During the early pandemic, like April or May 2020, an economist outlined how this could cause a real big economic collapse in the United States.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      Brink of collapse. A brick of collapse is an interesting image though.Report

  7. Avatar Chip Daniels
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    This is an excellent illustration of David Frum’s adage that when confronted with a challenge to their worldview, conservatives will embrace anything – authoritarianism, magical thinking, conspiracist thinking- whatever it takes to justify their resentment.

    Here the author insistently rejects medical science in favor of woo, determined to imagine conservatives as an oppressed peasantry.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Chip Daniels
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      Meanwhile, the actual peasants who work in their business establishments are going to be the ones risking their lives and health because of an utter determined refusal to be sensible.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Chip Daniels
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      says:

      Conservatives and libertarians are mainly just hell bent on proving Democrats are not as smart as they think they are.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Saul Degraw
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        They don’t need any help from us, sir.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Well, yeah, kind of. I mean, I care about other things, but the ignorant self-righteousness of the left is a major problem, especially when they’re in power, and if I could get them to exercise an appropriate degree of humility in exercising that power, I would count that as a major victory.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg
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          says:

          To put this in terms you might understand, imagine that a bunch of people who learned everything they know about the law by watching procedural dramas and reading pop media articles were going around practicing law. Assume that you don’t have the legal authority to stop them. Wouldn’t you consider it important to prove, both to them and to potential clients, that they aren’t as smart as they think they are?

          This analogy fails somewhat in that licensed attorneys are, for the most part, actually are competent, while Republicans are also not as smart as they think they are, but I hope it gets the point across.Report

          • Avatar Slade the Leveller in reply to Brandon Berg
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            says:

            For the purposes of the OP, read “epidemiology” for “the law”, “YouTube videos” for “procedural dramas”, and “Facebook posts” for “pop media articles”.

            You’ve then hit the nail on the head.Report

        • Avatar Philip H in reply to Brandon Berg
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          says:

          You don’t find Mr. Biden humble?

          As opposed to Mr. McConnell?Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Philip H
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            Biden? Humble? No, no politician at that level has an ounce of ‘humble’ or humility. They may know how to appear that way, but it’s an act.Report

          • Avatar Pinky in reply to Philip H
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            That’s an interesting question about Biden. He’s far more humble than our last two, who couldn’t picture the Sun rotating around anything but themselves. But he’s always had a raw spot, an inferiority complex about his intellect.Report

            • Avatar Philip H in reply to Pinky
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              says:

              Most commenters here have raw spots about their supposed intellectual inferiority. Yet it never stops them and is generally not held against them either.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels
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      says:

      Actually, the article reject science being twisted to create unequal policies based on class.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Chip Daniels
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      says:

      This isn’t wrong, but it’s unnecessarily specific, in that the moralization of empirical questions is very much a bipartisan failure mode. Noah Smith had a good piece yesterday on similar behavior from the left. This is not a one-off. It’s an utterly typical response to any kind of challenge to left-wing ideology. It’s not universal, of course (Smith is himself on the left), but it really is very common.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Brandon Berg
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        Yes, there are nutty people on the left.
        However, the left doesn’t elect these people President or Senator.

        There is no left equivalent to the Fox News empire in its scope, reach, and depth of depraved indifference to the truth.

        There is no left wing version of Qanon, there is no left wing equal to the insurrectionists who attacked Congress on 1/6.

        The danger to our democracy is coming from only one direction, no matter how strenuously people try to huff and puff and inflate a BSDI argument.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels
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          says:

          Criticism is not, in and of itself, a call to support something else. Saying that the left has a unhealthy amount of nuts who enjoy a degree of positive attention from “serious people” is not a call to support the GOP and cast the Democrats into the political wilderness.

          As a matter of fact, had the GOP not previously decided that any and all criticism of it’s nuts and loons was somehow a declaration of support for the Democratic Party, we might not have had any of the items you listed.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon
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            says:

            Except they really do not enjoy attention from serious people or anyone with real power in the Democratic Party. The people DD, Pinky, and Berg try to latch onto the Democratic Party probably hate Democrats as much as they do.

            There is no left equivalent of the Fox News Cinematic Universe, Newsmax, the My Pillow guy, etc. Farther left media reaches fewer people and is not a profit center.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Saul Degraw
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              says:

              “The people DD, Pinky, and Berg try to latch onto the Democratic Party probably hate Democrats as much as they do.”

              I’m entirely willing to accept “those people saying weird rotten things are outliers who do not at all represent The Real Expression Of This Philosophy, they should not in any way be taken as representative of our true values, our rhetoric and attitudes are in no way responsible for their beliefs and actions, and it is in no sense our obligation to address them even to repudiate them” if you extend that courtesy both directions.

              Oh, all Republicans are 100% responsible for everything Trump did and they 100% agree with everything people say Trump said? Welp.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw
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              says:

              I will grant that the GND got no play in Congress, but the GND did get introduced in Congress, so saying you are not as bad as the GOP is not the same as saying you aren’t dealing with similar problems, only that you have so far managed to not fall down the rabbit hole.

              So take the criticism for what it is, a warning to stay the hell out of the rabbit hole.

              And stop being such a snowflake when it comes to criticism, it makes me wonder if you really want to go down the rabbit hole.Report

              • Avatar Philip H in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                says:

                but the GND did get introduced in Congress

                No, It didn’t. Its a Sense of the Congress resolution which carries less weight then renaming a Post Office. It was a feel good plumb that does no actual work and doesn’t even manage to say what should or shouldn’t be done. Further legislation will be required to do anything.

                Its a nothing burger and yet the fact that it got SO MANY HACKLES UP is both amusing and alarming.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Philip H
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                says:

                Yeah, I get that, but more than one sitting member of the House thought it’d be a good idea to float it.

                I’m not trying to push BSDI, I’m saying that criticism of X IS NOT implicit support of Y. Criticism of X can stand on it’s own. And for defenders of X to then point to Y as an excuse or a distraction does not render the criticism invalid, it merely demonstrates that defenders of X are not interested in a meaningful defense.

                “Hey, the pan on your stove is on fire. You should put that out.”

                “But my neighbors house is burning down right now!”

                “True, but utterly besides the point.”Report

              • Avatar Philip H in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                says:

                Your “criticism” of the GND being an example of the lefty fringes that the Democratic Party ignores doesn’t stand on its own however. Especially because the GND is not anything other then an aspiration. Its not a policy. Its not an appropriation. Hell its not even Rhetoric. Voter suppression in Red states is policy. The Big Lie is policy – and in Arizona its appropriation. These thigs are NOT the same, and trying to BSDI it just makes you look silly and, frankly lazy. I expect better of you.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Philip H
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                says:

                I wasn’t the one engaging in whataboutism. Brandon made a criticism about a the left and Chip pulled a “What about Trump/GOP?” bit.

                My whole point was not about a given left policy, but rather an admonishment over whataboutism as a dodge.

                That’s it, full stop.Report

              • Avatar JS in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                says:

                Endorse what? The idea that maybe it’d be a good idea to invest in green infrastructure? Maybe a big investment?

                That it’s something worth thinking about?

                because that’s what the GND was. It was entirely “Hey, guys, maybe we could update our aging infrastructure and deal with our emissions issues simultaneously, seems like an idea to pursue”.

                And yet some people, even otherwise sensible people, act like it was some concrete proposal to outlaw burgers at the small price of 10 years of the federal budget.

                Even you’re railing against it as if it were MORE than, bluntly, a proposal to THINK about investing in green energy and infrastructure.

                Funny thing is, because of what the GND was — as proposed to Congress — there’s nothing to object to EXCEPT the mere idea of thinking of investing some big bucks into green energy and greener infrastructure.

                Is that a crazy idea, worthy of the objections you yourself are levying at it? Do you find THINKING about a bill like that to be so outside the pale as to be crazy?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to JS
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                This is what I’ve noted, that even the most extreme fringe ideas that horrify conservatives, are really just modest sensible proposals many of which are already being implemented elsewhere.

                By contrast, the mainstream (not fringe) proposals in the GOP are the stuff of authoritarian nightmares.

                I mean, right now, today, the GOP is conducting Stalinesque purges of anyone caught admitting to the Wrongthink that the election was legitimate.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to JS
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                says:

                Did I offer some specific criticism of the GND?

                No?

                Then what are you going on about?Report

              • Avatar JS in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                says:

                Your words, unless that was a quote I missed?

                “I will grant that the GND got no play in Congress, but the GND did get introduced in Congress, so saying you are not as bad as the GOP is not the same as saying you aren’t dealing with similar problems,”

                How is the GND a problem? What about it — a simple resolution that a plan with such goals should be considered — places it any bucket of reality anywhere close to “nutty”?Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to JS
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                says:

                GND is being used as a generic placeholder for whatever lefty policy is being criticized.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                says:

                It is also being held up as being comparable to the wholesale assault on democracy coming out of the Republican Party.
                In this case, Brandon’s response to my criticism was “Whattabout the nuttiness of the left?”

                And if you notice, my very first sentence was to accept his criticism as valid.

                Valid, just irrelevant and not comparable.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                You make this comment, which is about the OP engaging in Woo.

                Brandon replies with a link doing a bit of BSDI. No other claim is made.

                You escalate by admitting that the BSDI is valid, and then get on your hobby horse with regards to the Right and assaults on Democracy, etc, ad nauseum.

                So what exactly does that have to do with folks engaging in Woo?

                I mean, we all know how you feel about Trump and the GOP and all, as you make every effort to inject those thoughts into every conversation.

                Perhaps you should just write a guest post, get it out of your system for a while.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to JS
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                I haven’t read the most recent GND resolution. Does it sound any saner than the original one passed by the House in 2019? Which left me asking, “The national labs have hundreds of people who have studied how to do this for years; did you talk to any of them before you wrote this?”Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                I don’t fully agree with AOC but she is far from a Boebert,Gaetz, or MTG. The green new deal was a slogan to create jobs for depressed areas and clean up the environment but people seem to think it is about banning hamburgers and it is hard to tell how much this is sincere paranonia or cynical opportunism.Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to Saul Degraw
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                Well, it wasn’t just a slogan, any more than the Contract With America was. It was a list of policy prescriptions that may not have been in the form of fully-articulated legislation but were identifiable. Among these was “working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible”. You’re right that that doesn’t explicitly ban hamburgers, but seeing its potential to do so isn’t paranoia or opportunism.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky
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                <i “…working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible”

                *Shudders*
                Oh, the humanity.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Chip Daniels
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                Emerging research that a small additive to cows’ diet eliminates 80% of their methane emissions. Wonder if anyone has tried feeding it to people?Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw
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                says:

                You don’t have to agree with AOC or the GND. Hell, you can offer a full throated approval of AOC and the GND. I don’t really care on way or the other.

                Just don’t let the answer to a criticism of something like AOC or the GND be “Boebert”, or “Gaetz”, or “well, the GOP did this!”.

                That’s not an answer so much as it’s a deflection.

                I mean, Brandon’s original point was referring to an article about a bit of Social Science getting lambasted because it reached a conclusion that did not align with a lefty narrative. Chips reply was essentially, “the GOP is a bigger threat, so I dismiss your criticism!”

                That’s not an answer, so much as a play on Adam Savage’s famous T-Shirt, “I reject your political priorities, and substitute my own!”.

                I guess next time folks complain about black people being over-policed, I can make some reference to China’s treatment of marginalized groups and claim that we should focus more on what China is doing, or something.Report

  8. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    And I’m going to emphasize this again. An America that took the conservative/libertarian approach to COVID-19 would look like Italy at the start of the crisis and India now. That isn’t something we want. It is not a good thing. It is in fact a very bad thing.Report

  9. Avatar Rufus F.
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    says:

    I enjoyed the historical discussion. The problem with pushing these parallels too far though is one can run the risk of sounding like a drama queen. Absolutists of old burned and tortured accused witches, while ours forbid us to buy Legos in person! At points, it was hard not to read sections of this in a whining voice.Report

  10. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    says:

    The comparison fails. Did Newsom and orher politicians exhibit some hypocrisy from time to time? Yes. But California was never under extreme lockdown like Spain, Italy, France, Ireland, or Germany. The lines at supermarkets quickly disappeared. I was never told that I could only travel X blocks from my house, etc. There were a few months when I could not get a haircut.

    Hundreds of thousands of Americans died. It would have been much worse without restrictions. There were damn idiots who refused to believe it was worse then the flu, infected themselves, died, and still refused to believe it was real to their last breath.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Saul Degraw
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      says:

      “Did Newsom and orher [sic] politicians exhibit some hypocrisy from time to time?”

      Isn’t it the job of a leader to epitomize the behavior they’re asking everyone else to display? To be the person that they’re telling all the rest of us we ought to be?Report

      • Avatar Philip H in reply to DensityDuck
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        Isn’t it the job of a leader to epitomize the behavior they’re asking everyone else to display? To be the person that they’re telling all the rest of us we ought to be?

        You’d think. But Donald Trump managed to blow that right out of the water didn’t he?Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Philip H
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          Do we really want to hold up Trump as the bar (low or high) for politician behavior? I get that Trump blew up all sorts of norms, but let’s not use him as a reason to excuse other politicians doing the same, shites bad enough as it is, thank you very much.Report

          • Avatar Philip H in reply to Oscar Gordon
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            I’m simply pointing out that a LOT of people – even around here – kept meeting his behavior with a figurative shrug. And they “Freedom or die” folks kept saying he was doing the right thing . . . . He’s a big part of why the US is where we are. He doesn’t get a pass just because he was defeated at the ballot box.

            Frankly whether Biden’s humility is an act or not he is way better at modeling behavior. And yet the RIGHT is busy doing everything it can to run him under, just like it did Mr. Obama, rather then holding him up as an example.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Philip H
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          says:

          “But Donald Trump managed to blow that right out of the water didn’t he?”

          lol

          so what you’re saying here is that both sides do itReport

          • Avatar Philip H in reply to DensityDuck
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            says:

            Nice try. No one on the left comes close to Trump’s level of whatever. And I grow ever more weary of the Right, and many “independents” going after Newsome, who at least had the decency to apologize – as on the same plain as Trump and McConnell. Until that changes I have little patience for this semantic dance.Report

            • Avatar Pinky in reply to Philip H
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              says:

              There it is: “No one on the left comes close to Trump’s level of whatever.” It doesn’t matter what the subject is, there’s no reason to even listen, as long as you can reply “but Trump”.Report

              • Avatar Philip H in reply to Pinky
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                When the Right repudiates Mr. Trump and removes him from being a litmus test for support then I’ll be more inclined to listen. Liz Chaney – a solid, right of right fiscal and social conservative – is about to get stripped of her leadership gig and primaried because she won’t toe the Trump line. Why exactly should I or anyone else listen to people advocating for or supporting that?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Philip H
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                We don’t even need to say “Trump”.

                In order to be taken seriously, the right needs to repudiate that group of Republicans who support the Jan 6 insurrection, to repudiate the Republicans who refuse to accept the legitimacy of the election they lost, to repudiate the Republicans who support the Qanon nuttery.

                But…they can’t because those people comprise the solid majority of the right.

                The post- Trump Republicans are the problem.Report

            • Avatar JS in reply to Philip H
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              says:

              If both sides aren’t the same, you might have to make compromises or think complicated thoughts.

              If both sides ARE the same, you can root for your team or pretend you’re not, in fact, ordering your priorities in the way you are.

              if you feel, for instance, that abortion is such a pivotal issue that you’d vote for the Devil himself if he was pro-life, that’s cool. Be honest with your beliefs.

              But when you decide that if your pro-life guy is the devil, his opponent must ALSO be the devil solely so you can pretend you’re not happy to vote for Satan if he’s pro-life, that’s a problem.

              Works out real well for the GOP, though. They can roger their base good, and their base will beg for another round because, you know, the other side will screw ’em just as good. I mean, if that wasn’t the case, they’d have been voting to screw themselves and that can’t possibly be true.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Philip H
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              says:

              “No one on the left comes close to Trump’s level of whatever.”

              popehat’s maxim: screwing a goat ironically is still screwing a goat

              duck’s corollary: screwing a goat because another guy did it first is still screwing a goatReport

  11. Avatar Pinky
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    says:

    Really solid article.

    Another comparison between the times is the passion of the lower-class collaborators. Not everyone participates, and sometimes you might accuse someone else in order to deflect crowd attention from yourself, but some people just enjoy the feeling of moral superiority.Report

  12. Avatar Philip H
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    says:

    Mississippi is nearly fully reopened – except for masks in Schools, and some restrictions on indoor crowd sizes. Florida ditto. Alabama is about to throw in the towel. And those are only three of the close to me geographic examples of why this isn’t turning out as you hint. Right or wrong, Republican led states have rolled back most or all of their restrictions. Gavin Newsome faces a recall that will cost $400 Million a year before he stands for reelection (which I’m sure is some sort of warped win for fiscal conservatives).

    There was no slippery slope. Yet only 31.6% of Americans are fully vaccinated. Conservatives loud and vocal support for herd immunity is failing. Freedom to die from Covid still reigns supreme.Report

  13. Avatar Sam Wilkinson
    Ignored
    says:

    576,000 people are dead, so far.

    But, nevermind that, we still have people throwing enormous temper tantrums about the idea that they might be even briefly inconvenienced, and really, aren’t those temper tantrums what REALLY ought to be addressed?Report

  14. Avatar Chip Daniels
    Ignored
    says:

    How companies rip off poor employees — and get away with it
    https://apnews.com/article/how-companies-rip-off-poor-employees-6c5364b4f9c69d9bc1b0093519935a5a

    Yuri Callejas, a 40-year-old single mother, cleaned hotel rooms at a Fairfield Inn & Suites franchise in Pelham, Alabama. Callejas complained to her boss that he was paying her only $9 an hour when she was hired at $10 an hour, according to a lawsuit filed in January 2020 in federal court. Though she said she was working more than 40 hours a week, she wasn’t getting paid overtime, either, according to the complaint.

    Her boss refused to change her pay rate, the complaint said, so she quit. Her accounting of how much she was owed: $1,272.

    “We the People ought to remind the purveyors of modern sumptuary laws that they are not our princes or our priests. They are our servants.”

    Indeed, indeed.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Chip Daniels
      Ignored
      says:

      But Chip. Yuri Callejas isn’t a real true working class American because she doesn’t have that down home country goodness. The real true working class America has to live in an ex-urb and run a car dealership or contracting firm or something.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to LeeEsq
        Ignored
        says:

        Don’t even pretend. Everyone here knows the difference between companies breaking sound laws and governments passing bad laws. We all know what Chip was trying to do, and it didn’t work, so there’s no need for you to play along.Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky
          Ignored
          says:

          I’m just agreeing with you that the Haves are oppressing the Have-Nots.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels
            Ignored
            says:

            The irony is that best I can tell, it’s the “Have-just-a-bit-more” people who are screwing the “have-nots” with wage theft. I.E. it’s small to medium businesses doing it. The corporate giants don’t bother with wage theft, they find more legal ways to avoid paying more.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon
              Ignored
              says:

              The guy who owns the Warshington Post has workers that have to pee in bottles and who went all the way to the Supreme Court to avoid paying his workers standing in a TSA-like line at the end of the day to get searched in order to reduce “shrink”.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                And that is all somehow all legal, or it was, or it was enough of a grey area that no one was getting arrested.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                Sure.

                But its legality didn’t magically turn the oppression into something else.

                It merely turned it into something legal.Report

              • Avatar Philip H in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                in this you and I Agree.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Sure, but it wasn’t wage theft, as such.

                It was abusive, and oppressive, but wasn’t ‘theft’.

                Although both were riding that line pretty hard.

                My point was that usually, when we hear about what is normatively thought of as wage theft, is some small business, the kind where the owner (or someone very close to the owner) is personally managing the payroll and playing fast and loose with it, or stealing tips, or forcing people to clock out and then work more, etc.

                Places where payroll is managed by an outside service (like ADP) or an internal bureaucracy, the wage theft takes on a different character, because it’s largely automated, and the service/department isn’t interested in putting itself at risk for someone else’s gain.

                So you get the odd manager who alters a time card to make their overtime budget look better. But the manager isn’t pocketing that money directly. It’s still theft, obviously, but different.

                When you get to stupid corporate policy, then it’s less about theft, or more about maximizing productive value of the employee, so we don’t see it as theft as much as we see it as being workplace tyrants and time wasters.

                And this is America, where corporate tyrants and time wasters abound!

                This is one of those areas where Unions serve a public good, since they tend to put a stop to such shenanigans.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                The phrasings that moved me were stuff like “rip off” and “oppression”.

                I will cheerfully grant that “wage theft” has a very specific legal definition and Amazon went to the Supreme Court to hammer out that what it was doing was *NOT*, technically, “wage theft”.

                Hell, it was unanimous (Sotomayor wrote a separate concurrence joined by Kagan).

                But I’m sitting here, on the outside, noticing that the richest man in the world is refusing to pay his employees for the 25 minutes he’s holding them after their shift so they can be wanded and have their bags searched.

                “Going Postal” was a term from the 90’s that was funny unless you thought about it. I’m kinda surprised that we haven’t heard about people going Amazon. Yet.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I’m not arguing with you. I’m just saying wage theft by big corporations takes different, and IMHO more subtle forms (Wal-Mart case Philip mentions aside).Report

              • Avatar Philip H in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                Oh no, Walmart is all about theft. That’s why employees in Pennsylvania won a class action suit in 2018 to the tune of $228 Million.Report

              • Avatar JS in reply to Philip H
                Ignored
                says:

                It’s a little weird to hear wage theft isn’t a big corporate business.

                What is “You don’t have to stay 45 minutes off the clock every day to do X (but we all know you’d ‘be let go’ if you don’t)” but wage theft?

                You know, like Walmart did. “You can’t leave until task X is done, but we’re only paying you for Y hours. Even though strangely task X always takes Y+Z hours to finish. YOU MUST BE LAZY.”

                In fact, that particular trick is so old and so commonplace among corporations that preventing it is a common union concerning going way back to the beginning. (Where do you think “Not my job” comes from? Corporations that keep adding tasks to ‘your job’ but not extending your hours, until you’re working some for free — if you want to keep working).Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to JS
                Ignored
                says:

                Wage theft is larger than all other forms of theft put together.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to JS
                Ignored
                says:

                I would assume there are law firms out there that specialize in this.

                More to the point, given the unanimous SCOTUS decision Jaybird points out, I’m suprised the Democrats aren’t pushing hard for changes to the FLSA.

                I mean, what is more important, wage theft or a new AWB?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                Check out who Jeff Bezos is donating to and you’ll see why they’re going for a new AWB instead of making him pay for the people he’s forcing to stand in line (for free) before they can go home.Report

  15. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    One of the big problems is the issue of hammering out what is and what is not okay.

    Remember last Memorial Day and people went to the beach and that one guy dressed up like Death?

    As it turns out, being outside, socially distanced, is pretty much EXACTLY OKAY. You don’t want to be packed together with strangers and you don’t want to be swapping breath with someone you’ve never met before but being outside, in the sand, in the breeze, in the sunshine, 15 feet away from other people IS AWESOME AND WE SHOULD PROMOTE THAT.

    But, of course, the guy dressing up as Death had it pointed out that he was making a good point and the risks these beachgoers were taking were selfish, even if they were miniscule.

    And not two months later, we had people standing shoulder-to-shoulder for hours. The story wasn’t about whether there were risks. It wasn’t about safety or a pandemic. It was about the *IMPORTANCE* of standing in large groups for hours and how these people were making a risk calculus and they were deciding that some things were just more important.

    It doesn’t matter if the CDC guidance today is that unvaccinated people going to a crowded outdoor event (like a parade!) is considered least safe even if masked.

    The emphasis isn’t on the safety. It’s on the selfishness.

    Remember shaking your head sadly at the people in the middle ages for killing cats and huddling in cathedrals in the midst of a pandemic that was spread by, among other things, rats and people huddling together?

    Well, this is that. In the current year.Report

    • Avatar Philip H in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      Ah yes – we shouldn’t have had social justice protests in the middle of a pandemic because . . . reasons and stuff . . . how many of those protests are documented superspreader events? Do you see any differences between those protests (where a LOT of people were masked up outside) and actual superspreader events (Like the former President’s campaign rallies)?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Philip H
        Ignored
        says:

        how many of those protests are documented superspreader events?

        Did you know that NYC Contact Tracers were told *NOT* to ask whether someone who got Covid went to a protest?

        They were.

        So to answer your question, it looks like the people in charge of documenting the disease were specifically told not to ask about the protests.

        Do you see any differences between those protests (where a LOT of people were masked up outside) and actual superspreader events (Like the former President’s campaign rallies)?

        Do the CDC recommendations see any differences between those two things?
        Does the Virus?

        Here, you can look at the CDC recommendations yourself:

        Here.

        It’s the picture with the masks.

        Unvaccinated people.
        Least safe.
        Attend a crowded, outdoor event, like a live performance, parade, or sports event.

        If you want to argue that the CDC is wrong, that’s cool. I’d be interested in hearing the argument.Report

        • Avatar Pinky in reply to Jaybird
          Ignored
          says:

          Chip would consider this line of argument a red herring anyway, because he thinks it’s “worth the risk even if it did become a superspreader event”.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Pinky
            Ignored
            says:

            There’s also a lot of begging the question about what the mostly peaceful protesters were doing.

            I mean, it’s good to protest racism, sure. But read these words from a guy who was THERE at the protests first-hand:

            OPEN LETTER
            TO THOSE WHO ATTACKED OUR NEIGHBORHOOD
            I watched you, young white men who don’t live here
            Who aren’t from our neighborhood
            Driving in here in shiny new cars

            You aren’t in solidarity with the People of DTLA
            You can tell yourself whatever lies you want
            But you attacked our home
            Because you wanted a freaky holiday
            And wanted to play revolutionary for an evening
            Before going back home

            There are a lot of people out there who think they are defending the confrontation of systemic racism who are, instead, defending the jackasses talked about in that letter.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      Maybe the story was about the importance of taking the risks of large groups gathering because…it WAS important and worth the risk even if it did become a superspreader event.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
        Ignored
        says:

        I 100% appreciate saying “I have weighed these risks and I think that this is a risk worth taking!”

        I am less of a fan of saying “My large risks are worth taking because they’re important but your small risks are selfish.”Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      Your point is demonstrated. Philip writes off epidemiology as “reasons and stuff” if it interferes with his agenda. Chip declares a superspreader event “worth the risk” if it supports his agenda.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky
        Ignored
        says:

        Yes, exactly.

        Defending the right of citizens not to be murdered by the government is worth the risk of spreading a virus, even in a pandemic.Report

      • Avatar Philip H in reply to Pinky
        Ignored
        says:

        I didn’t write anything off. At the time, we all looked at the available science, which said outdoors appeared to be safer then indoors, and masks were important either way; then we saw large groups outside mostly masked up not creating superspreader events, while indoor events with large crowds and no masking created superspreader events, and we concluded the best available science was right all along.

        And to be clear – a lot of the folks on the Right objecting to those events under the guise of “freedom” were not doing so because of some foundational principal they were trying to defend – they were doing so because they didn’t want to confront systemic racism.Report

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