The New "NEW REPUBLIC" Blames Distrust of Government for Measles Outbreak — And What's Responsible for That?
Print Friendly and PDF

The post purge New Republic has something to kvetch about. There is an outbreak of measles at Disneyland that is largely being blamed on people refusing to vaccinate their children. The magazine notes that it is wealthy, liberal parents concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area who are most likely to refuse their vaccines. However, it is not their liberalism that is at fault but their "privilege" and individualism, both of which are rooted in American culture.

If enclaves of anti-vaccination advocates are limited to the rarefied exurbs of California and Oregon, then the prevalence of this "neoliberal" frame makes all the more sense, as a certain laissez-faire attitude toward matters of mass coordination is associated with wealth and an attendant sense of personal control: Since money affords the wealthy a certain amount of control over their personal affairs, they both experience feelings of control (which may or may not correspond to reality) and feel less concerned with the welfare of others. After all, if one is convinced they can manage their own affairs, why shouldn't everyone else be able to?

[Don't Blame Anti-Vaxxers for the Measles Outbreak. Blame American Culture, by Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig, The New Republic, January 28, 2015]

In contrast, we can look to a healthier country for how things should work.

Conducted by Swedish political science scholar Björn Rönnerstrand, the study sought to understand differences between Swedes who chose to be vaccinated against the H1N1 virus in 2009 and those who did not. Rönnerstrand controlled for a number of factors, including age, sex, gender, education, and even level of concern about an H1N1 pandemic, meaning that the decision to be vaccinated or not couldn’t be confounded by, say, a person’s individual panic level or knowledge of infectious disease.

So what separated Swedes who sought vaccination and those who didn’t? Rönnerstrand found that those who sought vaccinations had high levels of institutional trustthat is, trust in the Swedish healthcare systemand high levels of generalized trust, or trust in the rest of society. Rönnerstrand notes that in “a promotion campaign during the 2009 (H1N1) pandemic, the Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control emphasised that individual immunisationbesides strengthening individual protectionwas a way of protecting fellow citizens,” and suspects that this had a major impact on general willingness to be vaccinated. “It is well known,” he goes on, “that Sweden belongs to a group of northern European countries where citizens have high trust in institutions as well as in fellow citizens.” In other words, along with a healthcare system they can rely upon, Swedes are inclined to care about and protect one another, and feel secure that others feel the same about them.

This ethic is, of course, quite contrary to the American fantasy of rugged individualism...

This is only the latest example of liberals pointing to (until recently) homogenous Northern European countries and wondering why public institutions work better and are more trusted.

Of course, as it is no longer possible to deny, diversity leads to increased social distrust, even within one particular group. Mass immigration drives diversity and thus drives dysfunction and distrust. And American conservatism actually benefits from this dysfunction because it encourages the middle class to withdraw from public institutions and support policies that would allow them to escape from a collapsing culture. Wealthy white progressives, whatever they say in public, don't want to engage with the masses either. Why should they?

As the American government administering this diverse mess because larger and more intrusive, it will also become more distrusted and incompetent. The health care system will not be immune from this process. And the Main Stream Media will have the same solution they have for everything—more immigration.

Print Friendly and PDF