Paul Krugman: 'Antisocial' GOP policies are designed to make American lives 'nasty, brutish and short'

Paul Krugman: 'Antisocial' GOP policies are designed to make American lives 'nasty, brutish and short'

“Nasty, brutish and short” is the phrase that British philosopher Thomas Hobbes, in his 1658 book “Leviathan,” famously used to describe the lives of England’s working class. Hobbes, born in 1588, lived a long life and was 91 when he died in 1679, but many working-class Brits of Hobbes’ time didn’t make it to 50.

Centuries later, liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman uses Hobbes’ “nasty, brutish and short” concept in his January 31 column — arguing that in 2022, Republican policies are designed to make American lives exactly that: nasty, brutish and short.

“As Thomas Hobbes could have told you, human beings can only flourish, can only avoid a state of nature in which lives are ‘nasty, brutish and short,’ if they participate in a ‘commonwealth’ — a society in which government takes on much of the responsibility for making life secure,” the 68-year-old Krugman explains. “Thus, we have law enforcement precisely so individuals don’t have to go around armed to protect themselves against other people’s violence.”

Krugman continues, “Public health policy, if you think about it, reflects the same principle. Individuals can and should take responsibility for their own health when they can, but the nature of infectious disease means that there is an essential role for collective action, whether it is public investment in clean water supplies or, yes, mask and vaccine mandates during a pandemic. And you don’t have to be a socialist to recognize the need for regulation to maintain the reliability of essential aspects of the economy like electricity supply and the monetary system.”

The liberal economist/columnist lays out a variety of Republican policies that can make the lives of Americans “nasty, brutish and short” — from COVID-19 policies and anti-vaxxer insanity to a failure to support and maintain infrastructure. Krugman specifically mentions Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Republicans’ failure to properly “winterize” the Lone Star State’s “gas and electricity facilities” and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ efforts to “block just about every measure intended to limit the spread of the coronavirus.”

DeSantis “and his officials,” according to Krugman, “have stopped just short of being explicitly anti-vaccine, but they have catered to the anti-vax fringe.”

“I’m calling the modern American right antisocial — because its members reject any policy that relies on social cooperation, and they want us to return instead to Hobbes’ dystopian state of nature,” Krugman says of the Trumpified GOP of 2022. “We won’t try to keep guns out of the hands of potential mass murderers; instead, we’ll rely on teacher-vigilantes to gun them down once the shooting has already started. We won’t try to limit the spread of infectious diseases; instead, we’ll tell people to take drugs that are expensive, ineffective or both after they’ve already gotten sick.”

Krugman wraps up his column by stressing that the Republicans of 2022 fail to realize that government has its place.

“Government exists for a reason,” the economist/Times columnist writes. “But the right’s constant attacks on essential government functions will take a toll, making all of our lives nastier, more brutish and shorter.”


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