As long as we’re shut in with time on our hands, here is another installment of a sort of rolling diary to consider consequences of the virus. It’s true that with a virus that spreads exponentially, each day’s events seem like a week’s worth. Things we speculated a week ago now look naïve. Still.
Today is the first day of Monday, 23 March, 2020:
• Everything about the novel coronavirus is novel. Branko Milanovic points out that here we have a problem of both supply and demand. Expanding on a thought in Virus Diary II, he injects time as a variable. “If national governments can control or overcome the current crisis within the next six months or a year, the world would likely return to the path of globalization….” But if not, not.
“The longer the crisis lasts, and the longer obstacles to the free flow of people, goods, and capital are in place, the more that state of affairs will come to seem normal. Special interests will form to sustain it….”
• If nature is exacting revenge for human-induced climate change, as some suggest, it’s doing it in an odd way, chasing people away from public transportation.
• Still, the virus by all rights ought to boost trust in experts, a reasonable and modest enough idea that UK politician Michael Gove, our American president and a cadre of Republicans have methodically batted at for years. Benefit: Climate Change.
• Christine Wilkie writes that “the ‘us vs. them’ approach to Washington and the federal government, on which the president has built his political brand” in fact, his entire public persona is gone. Entirely undermined.
I think if we’re all in this together, down the road a few beneficial changes will be hard to deny, like the prohibition of tax buy backs. Our pro-business president supports the idea, and I’m guessing even the most pro-business congresspeople can be shamed into it. More medium-term goal: worker representation in the boardroom. Over the horizon: replacing some of the more craven aspects of healthcare for profit with real, straight-up needs-based care.
• For now an us vs. them frontier sentiment bubbles to the top. In Scotland, the SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford MP warns people off heading to Scotland to self-isolate:
“I urge everyone to do the right thing; follow the government advice and please do not travel here. If these warnings are not heeded and people need to be stopped from travelling, then I am afraid that is what will have to happen. Those in camper vans please go home!”
• We’re all Social Democrats now. For the moment. Today,
“France’s relatively generous welfare state and the state’s broad authority to enact pressure on employers appear far more like advantages than deficiencies — as signs of modernity, not outdatedness.”
“’For the first time in our history, the government is going to step in and pay people’s wages,’” the British chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak,
said last week.
• When the world emerges from the rubble, two books for guidance: 1946, The Making of the Modern World by Victor Sebestyen and Year Zero by Ian Buruma.
• One more thing: everybody’s hair is going to get a lot longer. And there will be more beards.
Please share your thoughts, and take care.
Here are the first and second Virus Diary installments.