Economist Paul Krugman: anti-vax truckers view ‘freedom’ as the right to harm others

Economist Paul Krugman: anti-vax truckers view ‘freedom’ as the right to harm others

The “Freedom Convoy,” an alliance of anti-vax truckers who have been loudly protesting against Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s COVID-19 vaccine requirements for crossing the border into Canada, have been praised and celebrated on Fox News and other right-wing media outlets. But liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has a very different view of the "Freedom Convoy" and other far-right anti-vaxxers, who he argues are equating “freedom” with a right to inflict harm on others.

In his Valentine’s Day column, Krugman slams the “Freedom Convoy” for clogging up U.S./Canada border crossings and creating painful traffic jams in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city.

“On Sunday, the Canadian police finally cleared away anti-vaccine demonstrators who had been blocking the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, a key commercial route that normally carries more than $300 million a day in international trade,” Krugman explains. “Other bridges are still closed, and part of Ottawa, the Canadian capital, is still occupied. The diffidence of Canadian authorities in the face of these disruptions has been startling to American eyes.”

Krugman continues, “Also startling, although not actually surprising, has been the embrace of economic vandalism and intimidation by much of the U.S. right — especially by people who ranted against demonstrations in favor of racial justice. What we’re getting here is an object lesson in what some people really mean when they talk about ‘law and order.’”

The economist/columnist goes on to point out that the Teamsters, who represent truckers in both the U.S. and Canada, have “denounced the blockade” — noting that many people who helped the “Freedom Convoy” clog up the Ambassador Bridge weren’t actually truckers.

“This isn’t a grass-roots trucker uprising,” Krugman emphasizes. “It’s more like a slow-motion January 6, a disruption caused by a relatively small number of activists, many of them right-wing extremists. At their peak, the demonstrations in Ottawa reportedly involved only around 8000 people, while numbers at other locations have been much smaller.”

Krugman adds, “Despite their lack of numbers, however, the protesters have been inflicting a remarkable amount of economic damage. The U.S. and Canadian economies are very closely integrated. In particular, North American manufacturing, especially but not only in the auto industry, relies on a constant flow of parts between factories on both sides of the border. As a result, the disruption of that flow has hobbled industry, forcing production cuts and even factory shutdowns.”

Thanks to the “Freedom Convoy,” Krugman complains, professional truck drivers who couldn’t cross the Ambassador Bridge had to look for other border crossings and “wait in long lines.”

“Any attempt to put a number on the economic costs of the blockade is tricky and speculative,” Krugman writes. “However, it’s not hard to come up with numbers like $300 million or more per day; combine that with the disruption of Ottawa, and the ‘trucker’ protests may already have inflicted a couple of billion dollars in economic damage. That’s an interesting number, because it’s roughly comparable to insurance industry estimates of total losses associated with the Black Lives Matter protests that followed the killing of George Floyd — protests that seem to have involved more than 15 million people.”

Krugman emphasizes that the vast majority of BLM protests were peaceful in 2020, whereas the “Freedom Convoy” seems to take pleasure in causing harm.

“The BLM demonstrations were a reaction to police killings of innocent people; what’s going on in Canada is, on its face, about rejecting public health measures intended to save lives,” Krugman writes. “Of course, even that is mainly an excuse: What it’s really about is an attempt to exploit pandemic weariness to boost the usual culture-war agenda.”

Krugman adds, “As you might expect, the U.S. right is loving it…. Recent events have confirmed what many suspected: The right is perfectly fine, indeed enthusiastic, about illegal actions and disorder as long as they serve right-wing ends.”

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