but America’s libertarian policies on coronavirus remain catastrophic
At the start of the day on May 2nd, the U.S. had 4.2% of the world’s population and 33.3%, or one-third, of all coronavirus-19 cases.
At the start of the day on May 10th, the U.S. had 32.9% of cases. The decline from 33.3% to 32.9% is .4% down, or a decline of slightly over 1% of the 33.9%, in 8 days. It’s virtually certain never to go down to the 4.2% of global coronavirus cases which would match America’s 4.2% of the global population.
America will therefore probably, for a long time to come, have a larger number of coronavirus-19 cases than any other country. America has, furthermore, been adding new cases at around 20 to 30 thousand per day since around April 1st and therefore still continues rising, but as the virus spreads and takes hold in more and more countries, America’s percentage of the global total is probably now declining, from the peak of one-third (33.3%), which it had reached on May 2nd.
The libertarian Mises Institute headlined on May 7th, “How Many Lives Will Politicians Sacrifice in the Name of Fighting COVID-19?” and argued for do-nothing governmental policy, and for relaxation of the “lockdowns” that are in place. Mike Whitney at the libertarian Unz Review headlined on May 4th, “Sweden Is the Model” and wrote that “Herd immunity is the only path that is currently available.” This means there should be no “lockdowns.” He asserted that “After 6 weeks of this nonsense, many people are getting fed-up and demanding that the lockdowns be ended”:
As we said in last week’s column, the lockdowns must be lifted gradually, that is crucial.
“You have to step down the ladder one rung at a time”, says Senior Swedish epidemiologist and former Chief Scientist of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Johan Giesecke. In other words, slowly ease up on the restrictions and gradually allow people to get back to work. That is the best way forward.
Sweden has, indeed, taken a remarkably libertarian approach to dealing with Covid-19. As I wrote on April 22nd under the headline “Why Post-Coronavirus America Will Have Massive Poverty”, comparing Sweden’s policies versus the more socialistic Denmark’s policies on this:
The daily number of Denmark’s new Covid-19 cases peaked on April 7th, and has been declining since that time. Its neighbor Sweden peaked on April 8th. Sweden’s emergency legislation is less strict about lockdowns, but relies more on individual discretion. However, since Sweden, like Denmark, is a democratic socialist country, individuals needn’t worry about paying medical bills, nor about being paid while on sick-leave. So, employees aren’t desperate to return to their places of work, such as in America; and, therefore, these countries don’t spread the infection as readily as in the U.S. and are thus far less likely to have recurring peaks and delayed terminations of the coronavirus crisis. (By contrast: in America, where losing one’s job can mean losing one’s health care, even sick employees may be inclined to stay on the job and perhaps infect customers.) And there are no corporate bailouts in either Denmark’s or Sweden’s legislation. Denmark’s Finance Minister, the Social Democrat (or democratic socialist) Nicolai Wammen was interviewed for 15 minutes on March 27th, by Christiane Amanpour, and he explained Denmark’s emergency law, which was overwhelmingly bottom-up, not top-down (such as America’s is).
Here, therefore, is the actual performance [number of cases per million population], thus far, of both of those two countries:
DENMARK = 1,329 peaked April 7th
SWEDEN = 1,517 peaked April 8th
Both of them are reasonably comparable to Germany, UK, Turkey, and Iran, but not as good as S. Korea, and not nearly as good as the two best, China and Japan.
As of the start of the day on May 10th, those numbers are:
DENMARK = 1,782 (up 34%)
SWEDEN = 2,567 (up 69%)
Consequently, as more time passes, Denmark’s policy is considerably more effective at keeping down the number of cases than is Sweden’s.
Furthermore: whereas Sweden had tested only 14,704 persons per million (which is a very low percentage), Denmark had tested 53,345 per million (which is an extremely high percentage), and this fact likewise indicates that whereas Sweden, which has been reducing its socialism and increasing its libertarianism, is pursuing a remarkably libertarian approach to Covid-19, Denmark, which remains socialistic, is pursuing a remarkably socialist approach. And Denmark’s approach is increasingly better than Sweden’s in terms of keeping down the percentage of Covid-19 cases.
As regards the economies of those two countries: The unemployment rate in Denmark at the end of March 2020 was 4.1% and that was 170,000 unemployed; and as of May 5th there are 180,000 unemployed Danes; so, Denmark’s productivity hasn’t been much affected yet by Covid 19.
By contrast: Reuters headlined on April 14th, “Swedish unemployment rate could reach 10% by summer – Labour Board”, and reported that “Unemployment in Sweden could reach 10% in the coming months if the current wave of lay-offs due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus continues, the Labour Board said. … Unemployment was 7.4% in February, but many companies have since shut down and sent workers home due to supply chain problems and measures to prevent the spread of the virus.” On May 7th, the Wall Street Journal bannered “Sweden Has Avoided a Coronavirus Lockdown. Its Economy Is Hurting Anyway.”
Consequently, the newly libertarian Sweden’s coronavirus policies, as compared to the still-socialistic Denmark’s, are actually a disaster — like America’s are (though America, being more libertarian than Sweden, is doing even worse).
In other words: the supposed either-or choice (trade-off) that the libertarian U.S. regime and its propagandists assert, between either controlling the epidemic (continuing the “lockdowns” etc.) or else preventing economic collapse (“reopening the businesses” etc.), is fraudulent. The exact opposite is the actual case: in order to minimize the economic damage, controlling the epidemic is basic — whatever is sound policy for the public’s health is also sound economic policy. (America’s libertarian President takes on faith the opposite viewpoint; and, so, on May 10th, the Washington Post reported that, “Trump has expressed confidence that lifting public health restrictions will jump-start the economy.” The only basis for accepting libertarianism is faith, because the empirical evidence disproves it — and not only on this matter.)
What, then, is the situation regarding the three major countries that are doing the most effective job of keeping down the percentage of their population that’s Covid-19 infected: China (58 cases per million), South Korea (211) , and Japan (123)? (Note those stunningly low numbers — and each one of those countries is well past its peak of daily new cases, which the libertarian countries are not.)
America’s propaganda organizations blame China for the coronavirus-19 and criticize anyone who publicly advocates China’s model on this, but as more time passes and the U.S. regime’s accusations against China continue to be ‘documented’ only by half-truths and outright lies, a public need increases that what China’s policies actually have been regarding controlling this epidemic become accurately understood. On May 9th, the South China Morning Post bannered “Coronavirus response: China’s military may have filled the gap left by the US but it’s only temporary, experts say”, and ignored even touching upon what China’s policy is and has been regarding coronavirus. On May 8th, they headlined “Coronavirus: China to revive special ‘off-budget bonds’ as pandemic stokes debt dilemma” and said little more than that the Government’s debts were increasing due to the virus: “‘Off-budget doesn’t mean it can be excluded from the overall debt level,’ said David Wang, head of China economics at Credit Suisse.” How that money is being spent is not discussed, other than “increasing the limit for local governments to issue bonds for infrastructure spending.” To the extent that there is specifically a coronavirus policy-response, rather than merely a continuation or amplification of pre-existing economic policies, that’s not mentioned. There are merely ‘filler’ statements, such as “The central government has not announced how the proceeds from the special treasury bonds will be used, but analysts warn they will be wasted if funneled to projects that do not make economic sense.” Whatever China’s specific coronavirus-19 policy-responses are is non-public information.
Back on 28 March 2017, the America-based SupChina site headlined “How Does Healthcare In The U.S. Compare With China’s?” and reported that “More than 97 percent of people in China use public health insurance systems” and patients who had experienced both America’s and China’s said that “receiving treatment in the U.S. is less efficient” but “that sometimes patients in China simply can’t see a doctor without the help of a scalper.” At least a reasonable assumption would be that China is more socialistic in its coronavirus policies than are the vast majority of other countries, which have dramatically worse coronavirus results.
South Korea has done remarkably little coronavirus-19 testing, but remarkably much coronavirus contact tracing (if that can even be effectively done with such little testing). So, the situation there isn’t much clearer than it is in China.
Japan has, apparently, been socialistic in its policy-response but relying far more on the public’s voluntary compliance than on law-enforcement in order to reduce to a minimum the number of coronavirus cases. Of course, in a country such as the U.S. and throughout Latin America — lands where the government is widely distrusted — any compliance whatsoever relies necessarily upon law-enforcement, and so the Japanese method would almost certainly not work.
All three of those countries are, of course, culturally Asian; so, their vastly superior handling of the coronavirus maybe isn’t due ONLY to their being more socialistic than the U.S. and other failing countries are. They are all non-Western nations.
As of May 10th, two countries that have approximately half the population-size of the smallest of those three (which is the 52 million population in South Korea) also have stunningly low Covid-19 infection-rates and seem likewise to have passed the peak in the number of their daily new cases: Taiwan has a population of 25 million, and has only 18 cases per million; Venezuela has 30 million and only 14 cases per million. Both nations also have socialized the healthcare function and (like all of the countries mentioned here except U.S.) 100% of the people there have health insurance. (It’s a right, not a privilege, in all of the countries except America.) As regards the percentage of people who have been tested for Covid-19, that percentage is 2,819 per million in Taiwan, and 18,012 per million in Venezuela. (For a few comparisons: it’s 1,676/M in Japan, 54,873/M in Denmark, 14,704/M in Sweden, and 28,452/M in U.S. So: the percentage who have been tested seems not to correlate with a nation’s success or failure in dealing with Covid-19.)
The indications, thus far, are that the libertarian approach (which is exemplified especially in today’s U.S., UK, and most of Latin America) is catastrophic, and that whatever may have been its alleged benefits in a pre-Covid-19 world, only intensification of its propaganda (such as by the ‘news’-media in those more-libertarian countries) can continue it into the post-Covid-19 world. Libertarianism is, now, more clearly than ever before, a failed model.
Why would that be? Perhaps it’s because, in reality, the only people who have more liberty under libertarianism are the controlling owners of corporations, the wealthiest 1% (who fund the politicians and the media), whereas everybody else has less actual liberty, and more insecurity, under libertarianism — the fact is, libertarianism is liberty ONLY for the richest, and the opposite for everybody else: it is aristocracy, instead of democracy. It’s for only the big-corporate owners, and especially for the international-corporate owners.
The economic future for the world, and especially for the U.S., is bad, and not only because of this plague. On April 14th, I headlined “Why at Least America Will Be in Another Great Depression”, and explained it there in one way; on May 1st, The Saker headlined “The Saker interviews Michael Hudson about the current economic crisis”, and Hudson explained it there in another way — these are different sides of the same phenomenon, but our analyses are the same (except that he is more optimistic than I: he said “The current depression is the worst since the 1930s,” whereas I expect it to be the worst ever). My article was simply focusing on the way that the coronavirus-crisis is going to expedite what I expect to be the biggest economic crash in world history. Hudson said that “We are at the end of the 75-year upswing that began in 1945 when the war ended.” I agree with that, too, and have elsewhere identified 26 July 1945 as the commencement of this pillaging by the Deep State, via its millions of employees and other agents. This will be the ultimate near-term catastrophe of libertarianism, otherwise called “neoliberalism,” and in international affairs this pillaging is called “neoconservatism” and “imperialism.” America therefore stands now at the precipice, facing a grim new world, and that is how we got here. Coronavirus merely expedites the fall off this cliff. But the ascent to such an extremely bad end started, actually, on 26 July 1945. That’s when the fateful decision was made, from which the post-WW-II world became irrevocably shaped — the foundation was laid at that time, for America’s Deep State (America’s billionaires, not the CIA and not the think tanks, but themselves, who actually pull the strings behind the curtain) to take over the country and almost the entire world, and for an even worse Depression than the one that FDR had inherited from Herbert Hoover. America’s taxpayers now pay around half of global military expenditures, and the bill for its billionaires to use their government so as to grab and hold control over that vast American empire is now coming due. Nothing like this has ever existed before. And Covid-19 simply expedites the coming American free-fall.
* Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.