There has been a spectrum of actions taken by governments to address near-term prevention of the spread of COVID-19. The extremes have ranged from total lockdowns (e.g., Italy, Belgium and Spain); to legal enforcement of quarantines and contact tracing (e.g., Canada and Germany); to much lighter forms of restriction (e.g., Denmark and Norway); to even more minimal restrictions, but with extensive testing and tracing (e.g., Taiwan and South Korea). There have also been some clearly incompetent policies, notably in the United States, where the country’s public health infrastructure has been eviscerated not just by Trump, but also through decades of adherence to a for-profit health care system in which the bottom line has been prioritized over optimal health outcomes.
The emergence in recent weeks of a coalition of neocon Republicans and former national security officials who have thrown their support behind the candidacy of Joe Biden is an ominous development to those who believe U.S. foreign policy should be guided by the principles of realism and military restraint, rather than perpetual wars of choice.
The tech industry buzzword “gig” has distracted society from important questions about the gig economy that are surprisingly traditional: whether a business has employees or contractors, and how it can avoid payroll taxes and legal liability. Countless Silicon Valley business models have been built under the guise of gigs, Uber and Lyft two of the best known cases, which is ironic considering that for all of their high-tech pretensions, at the core both are taxi and food delivery services. But with state governments like California facing increasing revenue shortfalls and an estimated 57 million gig workers in the United States noting a lack of employer protections and fair wages, the matter has shifted to the courts.
It is understandably tempting to drop all the blame for America’s catastrophic response to COVID-19 on the big desk in the Oval Office. But there’s more to the story than epic incompetence, grift and delusion at the highest levels of government. The stark divide in the level of health care from testing to treatment is divided by wealth and the legacy of systemic racism.
The media likes to dabble in war game fantasies between the 21st-century great powers China and the U.S., but it’s a distraction from the hybrid economic warfare that is underway—from Trump’s tariff hikes to the shores of the advanced economy.
Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” is a play featuring two characters waiting for a character, Godot, who never arrives. As such, it is a useful metaphor for the goings-on of the European Union (EU). Observers of the EU’s evolution in the capital of Brussels have witnessed a Godot-like experience of the promised arrival of the long-awaited resolution of the group’s dysfunction and economic malaise that never happens. The pattern is virtually always the same: the countries meet, they squabble, and then they emerge with a “landmark” or “historic” compromise that deals the lowest common denominator in terms of economic impact.
COVID-19 has not only presented the global economy with its greatest public health challenge in over a century, but also likely killed off the notion of America’s “unipolar moment” for good. That doesn’t mean full-on autarky or isolationism but, rather, enlightened selfishness, which allows for some limited cooperation. Donald Trump’s ongoing threats to impose additional tariffs on a range of EU exports are exacerbating this trend as the old post-World War II ties between the two regions continue to fray. Even the possibility of a Biden administration is unlikely to presage a reversion to the status quo ante. Regionalization and multipolarity will be the order of the day going forward.
Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers has recently conceded: “In general, economic thinking has privileged efficiency over resilience, and it has been insufficiently concerned with the big downsides of efficiency.” Policy across the globe is therefore moving in a more overtly nationalistic direction to rectify this shortcoming.
Major talks between the United States and the European Union to establish a shared tax framework for multinational companies broke down on the issue of seeking to secure an agreement on digital taxation. Big tech, which is heavily a U.S. creation, has long been in the sights of European economies, as their profits and revenues have soared and they have increasingly become major components of the 21st-century economy.
Advocates of the Green New Deal (GND) are looking to change the way we handle a range of problems facing society, especially in the wake of environmental challenges occasioned by climate change. In response, policymakers have suggested a variety of programs designed to deal with these challenges. Should any of these be reconsidered in the wake of COVID-19? And are there lessons to be learned from the original New Deal?