Econ 101 has lots of good things to say about free markets
(probably too many good things, but that’s a discussion for
another time), but no rational discussion of economics says that
free markets, left to themselves, can solve the problem of
“externalities” — costs that individuals or businesses impose on
others who have no say in the matter. Pollution is the classic
example of an externality that requires government intervention,
but spreading a dangerous virus poses exactly the same issues.
Yet many conservatives seem unable or unwilling to grasp this
simple point. And they seem equally unwilling to grasp a related
point — that there are some things that must be supplied through
public policy rather than individual initiative. And the most
important of these “public goods” is probably scientific
And this again exemplifies how this abject failure of Republican leadership is not about any traditional left-right conservative-liberal partisanship. It’s science vs. willful ignorance. And the simple truth is that the Republicans used to be — or at least fancied themselves — the party of facing hard truths even when inconvenient or downright unpleasant. They insisted Democrats were “bleeding heart liberals”, who chose policies based on compassion rather than facts.