The Upside-Down World of Conservative Values

  • They’re for discrimination against some (gays and lesbians) against discrimination against others (religious conscientious objectors)
  • Their ideas of freedom involve the freedom to discriminate against people they don’t like (even if that infringes on *their* freedom)
  • Their belief in capitalism and the free market seems to have morphed into their role as “Soviet economic planners” (according to a piece I just read today)
  • The post finishes with some personal thoughts about character, and its relation to the understanding of the world


In the upside-down world of religious privilege in Florida these days, doctors *can* discriminate against gays and lesbians, but *not* against those who refuse to take vaccines. Whereas generally the latter is of more concern to the medical community than the former. (Cue Hippocratic Oath.)

AlterNet, David Badash, 12 May 2023: DeSantis’ new law: Doctors can’t deny treatment for unvaccinated patients but can refuse LGBTQ ones

LGBTQnation, 12 May 2023: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs bill legalizing anti-LGBTQ+ medical discrimination, subtitled “The law allows any medical provider or insurer to deny care based on ‘ethical, moral, or religious beliefs.'”

My thought is that, whatever your profession, surgeon or baker, if your moral or religious beliefs bring you to deny your profession’s services to certain classes of people, then you’re in the wrong profession.

On the point of medical concerns, there was a case a while ago, perhaps a year, in which a candidate for some kind of organ transplant refused to take the Covid vaccine and therefore his doctors took him off “the list” of those waiting for such a transplant. He complained; it made the news. But this is consistent the criteria for how the medical community determines who’s up next for any kind of transplant. (Remember, I had a heart transplant two years ago; I went through this.) Potential recipients are evaluated on a variety of grounds — relative health; family support; even prospects for a productive future — and the ability and willingness to follow medical directions. Taking your meds. Showing up on time for appointments. Taking your vaccines. If you can’t do those things, why should the doctors think you’d follow their advice about any other matters? Why should they bother with you at all? There are a limited number of transplant opportunities, and not everyone can be served.


Somewhat related:

NY Times, Thomas B. Edsall, 10 May 2023: When Their Idea of Liberty Is Your Idea of Death

Another long Edsall collage of links and quotes and commentary. Key theme:

The 2024 election shows every sign of becoming a partisan battle to claim ownership of the ideal of freedom, with each side determined to persuade voters that the opposition’s assertions are not just false but a threat to individual and group rights.

This dispute is possible because freedom as an abstraction is fraught with multiple and often conflicting meanings. The debate over where to draw the lines between freedom, liberty, rights, democracy, responsibility, autonomy, obligation, justice, fairness and citizenship has been going on for centuries, but has steadily intensified with the success of the liberation movements of the past seven decades — the civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights and sexual rights revolutions.

In sharp contrast to Biden, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, in “The Courage to Be Free” — his campaign book, published in February — warns that “the threat to freedom is not limited to the actions of governments, but also includes a lot of aggressive, powerful institutions hellbent on imposing a woke agenda on our country.”

The enemies of freedom, DeSantis contends, are “entrenched elites that have driven our nation into the ground,” elites that “control the federal bureaucracy, lobby shops on K Street, corporate media, Big Tech companies and universities.”

These privileged few, DeSantis argues, “use undemocratic means to foist everything from environmental, social, and governance (E.S.G.) policies on corporations, forcing as well critical race theory on public schools,” in what the Florida governor calls “an attempt to impose ruling class ideology on society.”


This leads to a final piece for today — the connection is left as an exercise for the reader.

Washington Post, Dana Milbank, 12 May 2023: Opinion | The day free-market Republicans became Soviet economic planners

Republicans increasingly do not trust businesses to make their own decisions if those decisions about their corporate policies conflict with the ‘values’ of conservatives. Mightn’t businesses invoke some policies conservatives call “woke” because doing so might actually bring in more customers? Doesn’t matter, conservatives say, they must be stopped — pass laws to stop them.

Can you remember when Republicans still believed in the free market?

It was sometime before Donald Trump started routine attacks on the “globalists” of Goldman Sachs and the leaders of large U.S. corporations; before Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis used tax policy to attack the Walt Disney Co. because it dared to disagree with his “don’t say gay” legislation; before congressional Republicans harassed social media companies and book publishers over alleged “censorship” of their views; before they threatened Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Major League Baseball over their support for voting rights; before they vowed to use federal resources to retaliate against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for backing a few Democrats; before Republican governors enacted laws overriding private employers’ coronavirus vaccination policies; and before GOP-led states moved to disrupt interstate commerce to block abortion access and morning-after pills.

This week brought the latest evidence that the former party of laissez-faire capitalism has reimagined itself in the image of a Soviet State Planning Committee. Republican lawmakers are now telling investors which businesses they can and can’t invest in — and which investment criteria they will be permitted to consider.

The House Oversight Committee staged a hearing to denounce asset managers for using “environmental, social and governance” criteria, or ESG, when making their investments — and to plot ways to stop investors from doing this terrible thing.

“An unelected cabal of global elites are using ESG, a woke economic strategy, to hijack our capitalist system,” declared an overwrought Steve Marshall, Alabama attorney general and one of two GOP expert witnesses at the anti-investor hearing. For those who didn’t understand him the first time, Marshall used the word “elites” 13 times and “woke” 20 times in his opening testimony.

Imagine that! The shareholders who own a company are trying to influence its operations! Will nobody rid us of this capitalist menace?

The article goes on, though the point has been made.

Basic principle: Progress is about the expansion of options. Conservatives want to pass laws against expanded options.


Finally for today, overnight thoughts, extending ideas in several recent posts about human nature, Trump fans, the ‘slow civil war,’ mental illness, and some of my own provisional conclusions.

It occurred to me that traditional literature, which focuses very heavily on *character*, does so in a way that focuses on character interactions with other characters, how they live their lives, how they make decisions and have experiences that change their lives.

But essentially nothing about knowledge, intellectual integrity, intelligence. If anything, those qualities in a person are treated as threats to social norms, which have always depended on a consensus within a community of basically irrational beliefs, about religion or nationalism.

Yet now, in the last 20 or 30 years, social media has allowed everyone to expose their craziest ideas to the world, and in particular to all their friends. In the before times, you likely never heard about them. You interacted with people at work, in your neighborhood, at school, even at church, and never knew how many of them were flat earthers, or believed that the Jews ran the world.

So my notions that most people don’t know very much about how the world really works, and how that doesn’t matter because such knowledge isn’t necessary to living a healthy, productive life, have always been true. It’s just that these days we’re so much more aware of how so many people really don’t know how the world works, and those who do understand how the world works, and can build on that knowledge to have created our global, technological society, are a tiny minority. (And even then, people can be experts at engineering, say, and still hold irrational beliefs about any number of conspiracy theories.)


And this, ultimately, is because understanding the world is not necessary for promoting the survival of the family or the tribe. And might be detrimental to those evolutionary priorities to the extent that understanding the world undermines the myths that promote tribal identity, and survival.


Quote in this week’s issue of The Week, attributed to Edmund Burke:

Rage and frenzy will pull down more in half an hour, than prudence, deliberation, and foresight can build up in a hundred years.

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