China, COVID-19, Economics, Europe, Health, How We Live Next, Spotlight, World Affairs

After the Virus: The Way We Live Next

How will we live, or be forced to live, after the pandemic? “I don’t know” is—according to Paul Collier, the famed development economist—the most honest answer to this question and others related to the cause, rise, treatment, and decline of the current pandemic. This is, after all, an unprecedented disease of rare speed and communicability, for which there is no cure and no agreed political and social response. Yet, contradicting himself within weeks, Collier wrote a similarly powerful essay in which he argued that centralisation had failed, and devolution from those who pronounce from on high to those who practice on the ground is necessary. Perhaps he was merely demonstrating that, in this maelstrom of conflicting arguments, no-one, no matter how distinguished, can wholly know his own mind from day to day.

In any case, agnosticism is as unwelcome to journalism as it is to governance. And journalists, who operate under fewer constraints than governments, can at least consider some likely alternatives, while remaining alive to the possibility that unknown unknowns will continue to turn up, just as the coronavirus itself did. These alternatives tend to be split between a future that is better and one that is worse, with a majority predicting the latter.

In the first place, many believe that the future will benefit authoritarians, and that present circumstances have already done so—even the most liberal and democratic states have placed their citizens under a kind of house arrest, a policy enforced by the threat of detention and by neighbourly spying and social censure (not all authoritarians live in the presidential palace). Lisa Hilton, a British historian living in Venice, has written that “one friend was denounced for taking a box of vegetables to a neighbour’s doorstep, another for going outside onto her own terrace to smoke a cigarette. The next time I passed beneath the woman’s balcony, she screamed that I should ‘go back to where I came from.’” Those of us living in democracies assume—or bet—that the restrictions placed on our liberty are temporary, and we are probably right. Neighbours’ grudges may last longer.

Bernard-Henry Lévy, the French philosopher, foresees “a China that will presume to give us lessons on how to manage a health crisis.” This is certainly a dismal prospect. China, which suppressed early warnings of the outbreak, has since repositioned itself with serene chutzpah as the saviour of the world, by sending specialist doctors and (often useless) protective clothing to European countries hit hardest by the virus. China’s aim, most powerfully articulated since Xi Jinping became president in 2013, is to spread its influence and power as widely as possible. The more it is perceived as a global leader in the fight against the pandemic, the warmer its welcome will be in those countries to which it makes soft power overtures. It will also attract less international obloquy when it threatens hard power against Taiwan or Hong Kong, or manoeuvres to control the islands and large oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea—a passage of vast economic and strategic importance, parts of which are claimed by the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, Vietnam, and others.

Kevin Rudd, the former Australian prime minister (2007 – 2010), is a Mandarin speaker well acquainted with China, and he is now a hard-line pessimist regarding the pandemic’s global fallout. “Neither a new Pax Sinica nor a renewed Pax Americana will rise from the ruins,” he predicts in a May 6th article for Foreign Affairs. “Rather, both powers will be weakened, at home and abroad. And the result will be a continued slow but steady drift toward international anarchy across everything from international security to trade to pandemic management. With nobody directing traffic, various forms of rampant nationalism are taking the place of order and cooperation. The chaotic nature of national and global responses to the pandemic thus stands as a warning of what could come on an even broader scale.”

Others despair of the abdication by the US of its world leadership position, and worry that China will indeed benefit from the vacuum. China’s rise predated the election of Donald Trump in 2016 by at least a decade, but former US assistant secretary of state for Asia Kurt Campbell and Brookings China expert Rush Doshi argue that the Trump administration has greatly aided it. “The status of the United States as a global leader over the past seven decades,” they write, “has been built not just on wealth and power but also, and just as important, on the legitimacy that flows from the United States’ domestic governance, provision of global public goods, and ability and willingness to muster and coordinate a global response to crises. The coronavirus pandemic is testing all three elements of US leadership. So far, Washington is failing the test.”

It is failing because, consistent with the rest of his presidency, Trump has relied on vindictiveness and spite towards those who disagree with or challenge him at a time when the country has sought reassurance, or at least a display of competence. He has repeated demonstrably false claims about the early steps he took to protect Americans as the pandemic spread, promoted untested miracle cures from his podium, and has applied considerable pressure to American states to end the lockdown and restart both production and the service economy. Much of the world, especially America’s allies, had grown accustomed to looking to the US for a lead. But global leadership will not be forthcoming from a Trump presidency, because he is simply unable and unwilling to provide it.

The upside of this is that countries will necessarily become more reliant on their own judgement and resources, which arguably should have happened some years ago. The democratic states have long ceded suzerainty to the United States, usually with good reason. Now, those countries which value their freedom must act as a cooperative, not as a platoon following a leader. It’s a posture which should continue after Trump, no matter who succeeds him. As the Obama presidency showed, if more rationally, a retreat from global leadership is now embedding itself into US governance, as well as popular choice.

Meanwhile, authoritarians everywhere have used the crisis to fortify their dictatorial powers. Some of the new measures enacted by these regimes are not dissimilar to those passed by democratic legislatures, but others go further, and citizens fear that they will be difficult to repeal after the ostensible reason for their enactment has passed. On March 30th, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary obtained assent from his parliament for a package of laws that allows him to ignore that same parliament in future, while punishing those—journalists mainly—who “distort facts” or circulate “false information” with jail sentences of between two and five years.

Even more threatening is the recent (though not entirely unexpected) turn to despotic rule by Narendra Modi, prime minister of India, which will soon be the world’s most populous state. There, journalists, opposition activists, and NGOs are routinely harried, threatened, beaten, and in some cases imprisoned. Siddharth Varadarajan, a former editor of the left-wing Hindu daily and founder of the Wire news and opinion website has been charged with offences that could earn him up to 20 years in prison. On April 21st, he wrote in the New York Times that, “Across India, the pandemic and lockdown have provided an occasion for the free play of authoritarian impulses.” Many observers in India and abroad fear that Modi’s anti-Muslim bias will be aggravated by the crisis. It was already strong in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and even stronger in the paramilitary Hindu nationalist organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that is close to the BJP. Modi worked for the RSS for nearly three decades, until his election as chief minister of the state of Gujarat in 2001.

Leaders like Trump, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko have either belittled the pandemic, or flatly denied it (“a little cold,” declared Bolsonaro). They are unlikely to change, though may be replaced by elections. The puzzling exception among the autocrats is Russian President Vladimir Putin—a man who has loved to display his impressive fitness in horse riding, ice hockey, and (his speciality) judo, and who was always careful to underscore his position at the summit of power. In the last two months, however, he has become curiously passive. One of Russia’s most penetrating commentators, Lilia Shevtsova, writes that, “Putin demurred from addressing the nation for several weeks, refusing to play the Leader-Saviour role that fits the normal pattern of personalized rule in Russia… video appearances from his bunker paint a surreal portrait, as if the leader were talking from a different planet, his subordinates afraid to return him to reality. When Putin finally addressed Russians on April 29th, he presented them with a startling statement: ‘Most important are people, their lives’—a principle he has never lived by… An authoritarian system reluctant to use authoritarian instruments? This is highly unusual.”

The authoritarian approach—active or passive—is unlikely to be used for longer than necessary in liberal democratic states, where leadership is reliant on, and increasingly subject to, sharp changes in public mood. This has been most obvious in France, where President Emmanuel Macron appeared to be wildly popular when he was elected in 2017, only to become wildly unpopular in 2019 and into this year. The gilets jaunes, a populist movement of the working and lower middle classes, successfully developed a radical rejection of Macron as arrogant, out of touch, and favourable to the wealthy. His approval rating subsequently dropped to under 20 percent. However, Macron’s handling of the pandemic—a warmer style in presidential addresses, discreet self-criticism for being too remote in the past, combined with the boost a leader usually receives during a national crisis—have helped his ratings climb into the mid-40s. The attraction of a gentler, even paternal style may continue into the future.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and South Korean President Moon Jae-In are having very “good” pandemics, relatively speaking, shepherding their countries through the coronavirus with many fewer deaths than elsewhere. At the time of writing, they are announcing the reopening of their economies. These reputations are likely to last—unless a second wave hits more ferociously than the first—and are already providing models for other leaders. In the UK, meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson provided personal drama by surviving a very grave case of the virus and, on April 29th, he celebrated the birth of a son by his partner, Carrie Symonds.

Johnson’s previous career as a journalist put him—somewhat erratically—on the small government, economically and socially liberal, and Eurosceptic side of the Conservative Party. The last of these positions will remain, but since assuming the office of premier—and since his release from hospital and two-week convalescence, in particular—it seems that a different man has emerged. The manifesto on which Johnson ran last December resulted in a large majority and the humiliation of the Labour Party (and the Liberal Democrats). The Conservatives promised investment in neglected areas in the North of England and the Midlands, and deprived areas in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. It was, at least in economic terms but also in rhetoric, a centre-left programme. The lifesaving care Johnson received from the NHS is likely to reinforce his emergence as a social democrat of some sort, notwithstanding his elite education at Eton and Oxford and his membership of the very select, all-male dining and drinking Bullingdon Club.

The cost of fighting the pandemic will be huge, and there are few upsides available here (though not none, more about which in a moment). Forecasts vary widely, and tend to increase sharply over quite short time periods. For example, an early May outlook from the Bank of England saw a 14 percent slump in the UK’s GDP this year, with an unemployment rate of eight percent. The Fitch rating agency had forecast a much lower figure of 6.3 percent GDP decline on April 22nd. The US economy is expected to substantially collapse in the present (second) quarter, with a decline of over 30 percent widely forecast; the Credit Suisse estimate that it will be 33.5 percent is only a little more pessimistic than most. Yet a “V-shaped” recovery in the second half of this year is also widely predicted (or hoped for)—Credit Suisse also forecasts a huge surge of animal spirits in the third quarter of 19 percent, and 11 percent in the final quarter of the year.

The European Union’s official prognosis for the EU area is a more cautious 7.5 percent fall in GDP over 2020, with  an “uneven” recovery in the second half of 2020 and a growth of six percent in 2021. The same forecast sees EU unemployment rise from its pre-pandemic 6.7 percent to nine percent this year, falling back slightly to eight percent in 2021. These figures may conform to Collier’s view that the most honest prediction is “Don’t Know”—but they converge on a general agreement that the slump will be huge and unprecedented in modern times.

In all of these states, and across the world, debt will rise to levels previously thought inadmissible except in war. Worse yet: “As grim as the economic outlook appears,” the New York Times reported on May 7th, “the greater danger to the world economy may be the risk that the Euro common currency could be undermined by the deepening rifts between its members and their leaders.” The EU has certainly not had a “good” pandemic; it has been much slower than nation states to react, and the “rifts” to which the New York Times refers are largely those between the northern economies, including Germany, and the south, including France. These are presently obscured somewhat by a common effort to show solidarity, but they remain and will reappear in time, perhaps deeper than ever.

The severest effects of the current crisis will certainly befall those on lower incomes, since they tend to have fewer savings, fewer skills, and more precarious circumstances of employment. Joel Kotkin, executive director of the Urban Reform Institute in Houston in Texas and a regular contributor to Quillette, has written an excoriating prognosis of the US economy for Tablet entitled, “Who Will Prosper After the Plague?” Kotkin sees the highly educated and technologically expert gaining, while the poor suffer badly—“In our increasingly feudal society, the small property owning yeomanry who operate the local businesses… are already under threat and will be squeezed further by both the pandemic and its aftermath. But even more hard-pressed will be the growing, propertyless serf class that includes laid-off workers and the roughly 50 to 60 million workers in essential jobs… roughly 70 percent of these workers are in low-wage professions, such as food preparation, and often, despite their increased risk, often lack health insurance from their employers.”

Some 27 million Americans have no health insurance, and therefore no right to hospital care except in the most pressing emergencies. The world’s greatest economy, and one of its richest states, has large archipelagos of poverty and desperation, which increasingly sclerotic and dysfunctional political and bureaucratic machines do little to relieve. Columbia history professor Adam Tooze’s 2018 book Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World offered an extraordinarily detailed and illuminating narrative of the post-2008 universe. In a recent essay for the London Review of Books about the pandemic’s likely effect on the global economy, he writes, “What we are witnessing in the American response to the crisis, more than the flame-out of Trump, is the gulf between the competence of the American government machine in managing global finance and the Punch and Judy show of its politics. That tension has been more and more glaring since at least the 1990s, but the virus has exposed it as never before. It has forced an apparent choice between economic performance and mass death which, not just in America, is profoundly shocking to the prevailing common sense.”

That’s in America, where social protection is lower than in Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. The Anglo-American economist Jonathan Portes argues in Prospect that austerity—cutting public services and spending—must be avoided in Europe, if the weight of the crisis is not to fall disproportionately on the poor. He recommends active labour market policies such as job creation and increased training, and more generous welfare and spending on health services. He adds, however, that “None of this will be easy; and all of it will cost money. Some of us—especially the better off… whose incomes have held up well during this crisis—will need in due course to pay more tax. But this time we should focus not on short-term fiscal targets but rather on building a genuinely resilient economy—and society.”

The degree to which post-pandemic societies can avoid austerity remains to be seen, however. It may be that Mediterranean states and those with even more fragile economies, in particular, are doomed to a season in economic hell similar to that experienced by Greece over the past decade—rising unemployment, deepening poverty (nearly one-third of Greeks remain on or below the poverty line) and vast debt. The worst, for most of Europe and the US, is just beginning. For much of the rest of the world—in Africa, the Middle East, in much of Latin America—it has yet to begin.

There is, however, at least some good news amid the gloom: a sharp drop in manufacturing and air travel has produced a corresponding decline in air pollution, which is itself a major global killer. Levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2)—a noxious gas which the World Health Organisation says causes “significant inflammation of the (human) airways”—are sharply down from February. NO2 exacerbates existing health problems, and is likely to expedite the spread of viruses—possibly including this coronavirus. Its reduction is unlikely to compensate substantially for the present level of fatalities (though it’s likely to contribute somewhat)—but it may provide an unsought sketch of a future, healthier environment. Paul Monks, professor of air pollution at the University of Leicester, asks, “Are we looking at what we might see in the future if we can move to a low-carbon economy? Not to denigrate the loss of life, but this might give us some hope from something terrible. To see what can be achieved.”

How then will we live? Some shifts seem all but inevitable. Working from home has its disadvantages, but these will diminish as and when we are finally able to move about freely once more. We’ve discovered that many office tasks can be performed just as efficiently at home, where frequent hand washing and self-isolation is easier. Medical visits for non-threatening issues can be done by teleconferencing, or even over the phone. Volunteering, a warm surge of humanity in many states, may continue at a higher and better organised level. This may help the elderly, especially those who live alone, to avoid care homes, which have often turned out to be death traps during this pandemic, and could become them again if a second wave breaks. Much of this is on the good side, or should be. On the other hand, domestic violence has spiked in most countries during lockdown, and home working for two partners may keep it at a higher level.

Much of the prognostication about the future’s outlines, especially the more dire forecasts, assume that we will change, or be changed, greatly. But will we? Richard Haass, a former  director of policy planning in George W. Bush’s first administration, now president of the Council of Foreign Relations wrote in Foreign Affairs in April that:

The world following the pandemic is unlikely to be radically different from the one that preceded it. COVID-19 will not so much change the basic direction of world history as accelerate it. The pandemic and the response to it have revealed and reinforced the fundamental characteristics of geopolitics today. As a result, this crisis promises to be less of a turning point than a way station along the road that the world has been traveling for the past few decades…

[T]he world that will emerge from the crisis will be recognizable. Waning American leadership, faltering global cooperation, great-power discord: all of these characterized the international environment before the appearance of COVID-19, and the pandemic has brought them into sharper-than-ever relief. They are likely to be even more prominent features of the world that follows.

From phone and Zoom conversations, I gather that those of us who have obeyed our leaders and stayed at home are reluctant to go out into a world that suddenly feels more threatening. But we will. And when we do, the future will be the one that we help to create.


John Lloyd is a contributing editor to the Financial Times and co-founder of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford. His latest book is Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot: The Great Mistake of Scottish Independence (Polity Press).

Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash.


  1. To his great and everlasting credit, President Trump famously signaled to the wider public his firm opposition to the American authoritarians when he called for the economy opening by Easter. People won’t forget this kind and merciful gesture. Since then, Trump has been consistently beating the drum to push back against American authoritarians who are responsible for 30 million unemployed, and untold and unprecedented human misery. It was a very wise move on his part.

    As expected, the national media has already shifted the focus of its reporting towards blaming the depression it caused on Trump. Surprise, surprise.

  2. As the months slide by, and more and more people lose their jobs, their homes and their life savings, the public is going to start looking at who, exactly, was locking them down.

    Governors, county councils and the like.

    And Trump will be saying: “Hey, Andrew Cuomo and Nancy Pelosi are on record on CNN and in the NYT. They said they wanted this. I’ve been saying for months we need to get back to work.”

  3. I read as far as Lloyd’s rant against the US and President Trump supposedly promoting “untested miracle cures from his podium”, a reference to Hydroxychloroquine, no doubt, which just betrays Lloyd’s ignorance of that medication, among other things.

  4. The lockdown is seen as inevitable. It wasn’t. Covid-19 didn’t cause it. We did. We were told that Covid-19 is unprecedented, an Armageddon disease. It isn’t. It primarily kills the elderly. The younger you are, the more substantially lower your chances are of dying from it. Most other serious diseases are rarely so merciful to children. We were told we needed to “flatten the curve”. And so vast sections of hospitals are empty, and the wards that are open deal exclusively with Covid as if every other illness, from cancer to hepatitis, no longer exists. No doubt those deaths from other diseases will be blamed on Covid too. Is it lunacy to point this out? Is it conspiracy? Or is it “phoney” (to quote a recent Quillette headline)? Another question: given how expertly the “experts” got us in this mess, how expertly will they get us out? And how can a populace so fearful, and so obsequious, find the grit to endure?

  5. There is ample evidence to suggest that the speed of our news cycle, the prevalence of social media and the desperation of a traditional media that has seen its revenue diminish, whilst fending off the growth of new media- all of this has combined to derange us. This is not to say that people haven’t died, or that in some places hospitals haven’t come close to being overwhelmed, but it does seem to have impaired our judgement to a frightening degree. COVID-19, in a social media age, has magnified our tendency to operate upon availability heuristics tenfold.

    For those of us who are aware of the extent to which the debate on climate has been polarised between catastrophising alarmists and entrenched sceptics, the warning signs were there. There is almost no room in the middle for people who believe that climate change is a serious long term problem which requires rational market-based solutions and innovation, as well as nuclear power. You can’t watch the news without some extreme weather event being linked to climate change, when the actual scientists at the IPCC have categorically stated they have low confidence that any of these events are caused by climate change.

    Shortly before the UK’s most recent election, the British Government led by the Tories had announced the most ambitious plan for tackling climate change proposed by any country, thus far. Nevermind that it was completely infeasible and unaffordable- they were going to forge ahead and become carbon-neutral by 2050, facts be damned. Channel 4 News, of Cathy Newman fame, quickly arranged a Climate Debate contiguous to the main debate. The Conservatives declined to attend, but all the other political contenders did, and promptly promised to go further in tackling climate change than even the Tories pie in the sky promises.

    There are numerous other examples. The commonly held misconception that police are in the habit of shooting unarmed black men is caused by a complete media blackout on police shooting unarmed white men. The regular habit for the media to mischaracterise, take out of context and conveniently ignore both qualifying and mitigating statements from popular figures like Trump and AOC. The deliberate tendency to shoot images and photos of women and children in migrant caravans and refugee camps, when a significant majority of those trying to enter the West are young men in their twenties, intent upon seeking employment in the West. Media has always been biased and motivated to sell newspapers but this is new, and frightening.

    Because of a dark period of horrified fascination with 1930’s Germany, I was well aware of the dangers of propaganga in mass media. I am well aware of the history of manufacturing consent, and the concept that politics is downstream from culture. But the fact that legacy and mainstream media are under threat from new media markets and a loss of revenue has led them to bunker down and try to desperately hold onto their dwindling audience, by any means necessary. The stubborn refusal to let go of the woke narrative, when over 80% of people dislike its tendency to lecture, is but one symptom of a broader malaise.

    None of this bodes well for our discourse, or policy-making specifically, when politicians are too timid to contradict the information flow. A rational approach would be to break a country down into cells, and then discourage unnecessary travel between cells, gradually easing restrictions in areas where COVID-19 cases are low. Three week intervals between each successive loosening of restriction would be enough time, in practice, to diagnose any spikes, and take appropriate action.

    Those areas most heavily hit would remain close to current conditions, but those areas where hospitals currently stand half-empty could quickly see a return to normalcy. Important medical procedures like heart bypass surgeries and cancer treatment could be shifted to areas where doctors and nurses are currently furloughed, provided sufficient precautions were taken.

    But we are unlikely to see such rational and sensible action, because media and social media have infected us with a mind virus. They downplayed the threat in the past, and then massively overcompensated rapidly- as though media had become a murmuration of starlings, intent on sticking with the flock. And our politicians? Well, for the most part, they have become altogether too susceptible to the worried sensibilities of the cosmopolitan liberal class entrenched in media.

    A shame- because cocooned in their townhouses and suburban vistas, they have largely been unaffected, and have smoothly transitioned into working from home. For most, the question raised by COVID are far more fundamental and visceral- how will I feed my kids, will my job still be there, and will I really have to risk public transport?

  6. “Wah Trump is bad”, “Wah the Euro will collapse”, “Wah the world isn’t going to be the globalist paradise I wanted it to be”.

    This article betrays the very particular perspective held by the author which conforms to the post War globalist consensus that free trade and free movement are paramount, that democracy should be weakened and diluted with bureaucracy, and that any hint of a country acting in its own interests as separate from the interests of “the global village” must be roundly condemned and belittled until it falls in line.

    In a way I feel sorry for this author, the comfortable world view he had where people like him would always be able to prognosticate and pontificate to the peasants from their moral high ground has really taken a beating. For someone like him a world of distributed national sovereignty, localist leanings, short supply chains, a breakdown in global lending because of internal investment - this is all a disaster, he can’t convince a divided world he’s useful, he requires a united European Union style world to foster the brainless simpering agreement he most often finds in the halls of our respective civil service and media establishment.

    I am not worried about our future, I think it will be a prosperous one, and 2020 will barely be a blip on the chart. I envision a world where businesses cannot outsource labour or manufacturing to China, where these hideous global supply chains are broken and rebuilt as short as possible, where family, and community, and personal development are considered more important than buying the newest gadget or the shiniest car - we already see a small shift in attitude due to home working. People rediscover the joy of spending time with their significant other, or their kids, or just having the time to make slow food and enjoy themselves.

    This sort of depressed lament for the world as it was ignores the fact that for a lot of people that world before was broken, and cheap, and hollow.

  7. Here’s my prediction: more and more boring and pointless articles about how we will live in the future. Most of these articles will be sprinkled, in varying doses, with Orange Man Bad.

  8. Yes, Americans have become sheep following the nonsensical policies of the authoritarian democrat governors The premise from the start was essential vs nonessential Politician’s jobs and their 6 figure guaranteed salaries were of course essential They were never in jeopardy of losing a dime Those citizens that need to feed their families and pay their bills were deemed nonessential How unfair, unconstitutional and stupid is that policy?
    The goal was to flatten the curve so our hospitals were not overwhelmed. We know that anyone that needed a ventilator got one! We are now exporting those to help other countries. The Liberals are waiting for a vaccine. Let me clue them in. 99% of us have one already, it is called our immune system. But the sheep will follow the draconian orders of these autocrats forever New darling of the left, Governor Cuomo of New York, said a couple of weeks ago “if our lockdown saves just one life, the pain will be worth it“. That is so wrong words cannot express it… Punish the 99.8% to save the 0.02%

  9. I mus t have missed the expose on hospitals misfiling cause of death as COVID-19. Or when they the WHO for defending China, or failing to advise the science on the use of face masks, for all infectious respiratory conditions. Maybe I missed the news segment where they criticised both Trump and Andrew Cuomo for coming out with exactly the same statements on COVID, within a couple of days of each other.

    It seems to me that they both want Trump to use the Defence Production Act, and then criticise him when he does. Most institutions have gained in public confidence since the COVID-19, the media is one that has not, and with good reason, because whilst some might sneer at the concept of rally round the chief, it exists for good reason. Because in times past, the press were able to put their own petty partisan aspirations aside in the interests of the country. Nowadays, the present is sacrificed in the name of an imagined future, or a present that never happened. Do you really think that the world would have been the least bit better if Hilary Clinton had been elected?

    She would have continued Obama’s legacy as Deporter in Chief, the only difference would have been that only a few activists would have cared about it. Remember, all of the thinking on bringing China into the fold on global trade, was predicated on the belief that it would inevitably liberalise them- does that seem the way things are heading?

    At least Trump has questioned some of the basic assumptions of the neoliberal consensus, many of which were out of date or no longer applicable. Did you know that the basic tenet of much of the thinking was based on the blank slate belief that we could somehow magically educate 50% of the Western workforce into highly cognitive fields- which the Chinese couldn’t imitate, because they weren’t sufficiently creative. All of this based on the idiotic notion that Hong Kong students couldn’t discuss the ethics of tipping- when it’s a Western cultural preoccupation.

  10. Talking about Miss filing causes of death in hospitals… A classmate of mine lost his father. They said he had the virus. He was 105 years old. These are the statistics all melted together that make the statistics misleading at best.

  11. That depends how you define globalisation. China and India, after all, have had trade with the rest of the world for many millennia - the Romans wore Chinese silk. Let’s just look at China for the moment, as it’s been by far more successful than India in lifting people out of poverty. In the past three decades, China has benefited from three main things:

    • handouts - PRC has been given many billions over the decades
    • unfair trade - because of its WTO “developing nation” status, PRC could export to countries with minimal or no tariff and regulation, while keeping its own tariffs and regulatory barriers
    • copying foreign technology; one of the conditions of setting up factories there for foreign companies is their giving the technology to the locals

    Which is to say, if you get handouts and have a protectionist trade policy while enjoying free trade yourself, and being able to copy others’ innovations, you do pretty well. In other news, a worker who gets government handouts and has a strong union pumping up his wages, and who is able to credit other worker’s ideas as his own, that guy will also do well.

    Is this what is meant by “globalisation”?

    Note: the Chinese are not morally wrong for doing this. It’s much what we in the West did to get where we are. History is full of stolen wealth and innovations, and infant economies must be protected to grow. They’re just the latest ones to do it.

    Over in the West, as factories closed, the wealth has essentially flowed from the working classes of the West to the middle and upper classes of the West, and to Third World countries. Bob in Adelaide lost his auto factory job when it went to China, and there it created 5 or more jobs, so that the world overall is better off - but Bob’s worse off, and so don’t be surprised if he’s not keen on more of the same.

    Having got things going, I think that China has enough domestic demand to keep things going for a while yet.

    Africa will never follow suit. The West has used about one-half of the world’s resources, overall, especially counting fossil fuels, and China and India are busily using the other half. There won’t be enough left over for Africans to all be tooling around in electric vehicles eating 3,000 mile Caesar salads.

    The Western world started greedily feasting on resources some time back, the Chinese and Indians showed up halfway through the feast and are getting a good feed though they’ll never be as bloated as us, but by the time the Africans show up we’ll be clearing up the plates and sweeping the floor.

    But I don’t think this is very important. It’s the 80/20 rule once again. Most of the improvements in quality of life are relatively low-tech and low-energy things. Let’s consider infant mortality and food.

    Sanitation took infant mortality from 15-25% to under 10%, vaccination down to under 2%, and all our neonatal cribs and the like have driven it further down. But most of the improvements were technology from 1850-1950.

    As for food, in the middle ages most grains in Western Europe gave a yield of about a tonne per hectare. But farms at monasteries managed 2 tonnes. Why? They were literate - so they could read calendars, noted when and how and in what conditions things were planted, and what the results were, and so over the years they improved the yield.

    Various little inventions like the mouldboard plough pumped it up a bit over the centuries, but the biggest jumps came with energy inputs - artificial fertiliser, tractor-pulled ploughs, and so on - up to 6-8 tonnes per hectare depending on local conditions. This often exhausts the land in a generation or so, though, and those resources we chuck into it are finite, so 2-4t/ha seems like something we can keep up indefinitely. And that just requires basic literacy and a few technical inventions.

    A few relatively low-resource use and low-tech things make a large difference to results, and further resources and technologies added will lead - as things always do - to diminishing and eventually negative returns. We can live quite decent lives without vast use of resources.

    Often talk of the need for the lockdown with the virus is presented as just two absurd extremes, obstinate denialist apathy versus being padlocked inside our homes; no possibilities in between are admitted to or examined. Likewise with technology and use of resources, globalisation and protectionism, and so on. History offers us examples other than choosing between the Nazis and the Soviets. The alternative to one absurd destructive extreme is not only another absurd destructive extreme.

    Just because our globalised, wasteful industrial lifestyle cannot continue does not mean that we will all descend into impoverished barbarism.

  12. Right! I’m thoroughly disappointed in a fellow modern western man. What all this talk about colonizing Mars if we afraid to leave our home in our obsession to absolute safety? And the driving force for it is the social-media obsessed super-entitled millennial generation, exhibiting the heights of selfishness, authoritarianism, coupled with utter arrogance and profound luck of common sense, sub-par education and devoid of any semblance of analytical abilities. They don’t care about right or wrong, morals, generosity of spirit, truth, facts, all they care if they can get a hashtag trending.
    I’m afraid we are up for the rough times ahead. Actually, for the first time I don’t feel bad that my older son is in no hurry to bless us with grandbabies. It’s going to be brutal going forward.

  13. Here in Canada I’ve noticed that the greatest victims of covid are… women, who have lost jobs more than men. The fact that this is attributable to the reality that fewer females ( aside from nurses, who are heroes, in my view) do work that is essential, doesn’t matter. Female reporters ask Trudeau every morning about the impact of covid on women’s jobs.

    The fact that more men are dying is never an issue.The greater impact on minorities, of course, is attributed to racism. But the possibility that men are more likely to die because so many spent their working lives in deleterious environments must never be mentioned.

    Simultaneously, women are being held up as wonderful because of their roles as nurses and leaders. I applaud anyone on the front lines of this battle, regardless of race or gender.

    But valorizing women, when men are doing the majority of the dangerous, dirty work that keeps society going, and when men are dying in greater numbers perhaps because of a history of their work in dangerous conditions, is the depths of sexism.

    But wait for it: when all of this settles down, watch for the gender wars to return, with demands for inquiries and Royal Commisions into why women were, once again, the “real” victims of this disease.

    Because, you know, sexism.

  14. The miniseries is just propaganda. A significant number of people live in the immediate area, against Government advice and none have died from radiation- the only observable medical phenomena is an elevated risk of treatable thyroid cancer, later in life. Fukushima is safe to live in now, as is Chernobyl. What you have to remember is that the dark green environmental lobby which creates such trash, is intent upon a return to idyllic pastoral lifestyle that would see us all impoverished. They want Socialism, and they don’t care about the means they have to use to obtain it.

  15. If Biden is elected, he will be the one who nominates a replacement on the Supreme Court for Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

    That must not be allowed to happen.

    Everyone who hates and fears socialism must vote for Trump.

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