COVID-19: How Corona Broke the System

The corona crisis sends shockwaves through political, economic and social systems. The status quo simply cannot continue, writes Marc Saxer. 

By Marc Saxer
International Politics and Society

No one knows how long the pandemic will last, how many people will fall ill, how many lives the coronavirus will claim. But the economic and political consequences of the outbreak are already emerging. Measures to contain the pandemic are disrupting public life around the world.

Starting with China, production has come to a standstill in one country after another. Global supply chains are broken. You don’t need a lot of imagination to see a wave of bankruptcies approaching in many industries where every last cent counts.

In the past few days, panic buying has dominated media coverage. However, anxious consumers tend to postpone larger purchases. When shortages appear, consumption also drops. These upheavals are likely to cause the already sluggish European economies to slide into recession.

The sudden slump in Chinese demand has shaken the commodity markets. After the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) could not agree with Russia to cut production in order to stabilise prices, Saudi Arabia changed its strategy and flooded the markets with cheap oil. As a result, the oil price plummeted to historic lows. In the short term, this might provide a measure of relief to industry and consumers. However, oil price wars, fears of recession and calamities on the bond markets are causing the stock markets to crash. Only a far-reaching intervention by all major central banks has so far staved off a financial crunch.

The Economic Response

Some countries, Germany in particular, have quickly launched extensive packages of measures to cushion the impending economic crisis. After some initial wavering, the United States is also planning a comprehensive economic stimulus, including the unprecedented dispersal of helicopter money. Whether these and other potential immediate measures are sufficient to stop the economic downturn depends on how deeply the crisis eats through the system. After past epidemics, a brief, sharp slump, the economy was usually followed by a quick return to growth. Whether this will also be the case with the corona crisis depends on many factors, not least how long the pandemic lasts.

However, of greater concern are the shock waves that are now running through the ailing financial systems, where they are accelerating worrying longer-term trends. Many American industries and households are over-indebted. In China, shadow banks, real-estate enterprises and state-owned companies, along with the provinces, are all straining under the debt burden. The European banks have not yet recovered from the previous financial crisis. The economic collapse in Italy could cause the euro crisis to flare up all over again. The way in which investors are fleeing for the safety of government bonds indicates the deep fear that these houses of cards will collapse. The corona crisis could set in motion a chain reaction that would end in a global financial crisis.

A Republic of Korea Army Soldier assists a U.S. Army soldier in donning personal protective equipment before sanitizing a COVID-19 infected area during a joint disinfecting operation in Daegu, South Korea, March 13, 2020. (U.S. Army, Hayden Hallman)

Unlike the 2008 crisis, however, this time the central banks are not in a position to save the day. To date, interest rates have been at historic lows in all major economies. The US Federal Reserve has therefore started to provide liquidity directly to the markets through repo transactions. The new head of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, initially stumbled on the European crisis response, thereby provoking speculation against the cohesion of the the euro group. By means of a coordinated intervention, however, all major central banks have now shown their determination to take a stand against the panic in the markets. The crucial question, however, is whether the Corona crisis can be overcome with monetary policy instruments at all. That very much depends on the nature of the crisis.

Democracies Now Have to Deliver

This is because the crisis is by no means limited to the economic sphere. The ability of states to protect the life and limb of their own citizens, is also being put to the test – and the stakes are nothing less than the fundamental legitimacy of the Leviathan.

In the authoritarian regimes of Eurasia, the main issue is the legitimacy of the strongmen, whose claim to power is based on the central promise “I protect you.”. Chinese President Xi Jinping has understood this and, accordingly, is taking drastic measures against the spread of the virus regardless of the costs. However, his counterparts in Thailand, the Philippines and Brazil have treated control of the disease lightly and are now being lashed out at by their own supporters. The question of whether, in the eyes of his voters, President Donald Trump lives up to his central promise to protect America from external threats is likely to have a decisive impact on the outcome of the American elections.

An international pandemic cries out for a coordinated global response. So far, however, each nation has pursued a solo effort.

While the corona crisis may be disenchanting populists in government, it could be just what their counterparts in opposition have been waiting for. In the eyes of many citizens, the democratic states already lost control in the crises of 2008 and 2015. Decades of austerity policies and of health care systems cut back to the absolute minimum have hollowed out state structures; many people worry whether their nations will still be able to cope with major crises. In many countries, the public mood is turning against the free movement of money, goods and people.

Many Italians have long feared to be among the losers of globalisation and the euro. Now come the emergency measures, the economic shock and yet another refugee crisis. The Lombard right-wing populist Matteo Salvini is not the only one who knows how to use the ingredients of “open borders, dangerous foreigners, corrupt elites, and defenseless states” to mix a toxic brew. Make no mistake, the liberal democracies of Western Europe are under scrutiny. In the midst of a right-wing populist revolt, democrats must now prove that they can and will protect the lives of all citizens.

But how far can individual liberties be restricted? How long should the state of emergency last? Would Western societies tolerate drastic measures like those in China? Should they, like the East Asians, give priority to the collective over the individual? How can the rate at which the disease is spreading be slowed down if citizens do not adhere to the recommendations on “social distancing?” And what does solidarity with others mean when the only thing we can do is to isolate ourselves?

Each Nation on Its Own

An international pandemic cries out for a coordinated global response. So far, however, each nation has pursued a solo effort. Even within Europe there is a lack of solidarity. As in the euro crisis and the refugee crisis, Italy in particular feels that its partners have let it down. China cleverly took advantage of the lack of European solidarity and sent a plane to Italy, its Belt and Road partner country, loaded with medical supplies. In the meantime, Berlin has recognized the geopolitical dimension of the dual crises – coronavirus and refugees – and is concerned about the attempts by external powers to divide Europe. The export ban on medical protective equipment was eased again and Italy was assured of emergency aid in the form of one million face masks. More importantly, the European Stability Pact was suspended to give Italy enough fscal breathing room to save its economy.

The crisis is another stress test for the already heavily burdened transatlantic partnership. Trump’s decision to isolate the United States from its European allies without consulting them has sent a clear signal. The American attempt to take over CureVac, a company based in Tübingen, to secure the vaccine exclusively for the United States, even escalated into a heated dispute with Berlin. Any joint, coordinated crisis response is hardly conceivable under these conditions. In the West, the byword so far has been ‘Every man for himself.’

Curevac in Tübingen. (Dktue, CC0, Wikimedia Commons)

At the global level, the new conflicts between major powers are fuelling the crisis even more. The oil price war in particular is driven by geo-economic motives. The conflict between Saudi Arabia and Russia raises questions about the survival of the OPEC cartel. The big loser in the historic drop in prices could ultimately be the heavily indebted American shale oil industry. So if cheaper prices at the petrol pumps are really a blessing, as the US President promised, depends on who can endure this war of attrition the longest. In any case, Russia and Saudi Arabia have a key interest in knocking out their debt-financed American competitor.

Whatever the outcome of the oil price war, the balance of power in the oil markets will be readjusted. The debate about “peak oil,” which has been raging for decades, should also experience an interesting turn. In the end, it might not be a dwindling supply of fossil fuels that will seal the decline of the oil industry. With permanently low prices, it might simply be no longer economically viable to exploit the remanining reserves. Could a geo-economic conflict unintentionally herald the end of the fossil age?

The crisis is also fueling the U.S.-China hegemony conflict. For some time now, there is a bipartisan consensus in Washington to decouple the American from the Chinese economy so as not to strengthen the competitor for global supremacy by supplying Beijing with its money and technology. Globally positioned companies now need to re-assemble their supply chains overnight. Will all of these corporations return to China when the immediate crisis is over? Corporate executives would then have to think twice whether to willingly ignore the geopolitical marching orders from Washington.

And how will Europe’s companies reposition themselves after the crisis, after the costs of being overly dependent on Chinese supply chains have become all too clear? In the debate over whether the Chinese company Huawei should be excluded from the expansion of the European 5G infrastructure, Europeans already had a taste of how great American pressure can be. The corona crisis could then accelerate a development that has been going on for some time: deglobalisation. As a result, the global division of labor could disintegrate into competing economic blocs.

Overnight, the Age of Neoliberalism Coming to an End

Markus Söder in 2012. (Michael Lucan, Lizenz: CC-BY-SA 3.0 de, Wikimedia Commons)

Suddenly everything is happening very quickly. Within hours, such large sums are being pumped into the markets that make the “radical” promises of Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders seem like pocket money in comparison. German politicians, who yesterday had gotten heated up by the intellectual musings of young socialist Kevin Kühnert, are now seriously considering the nationalization of corporations. What was dismissed in the climate debate as the naive dreams of children is now a sad reality: global air traffic is coming to a standstill. Borders that were considered unclosable in the refugee crisis are now indeed closed. And along the way, conservative governor of Bavaria, Markus Söder has abandoned the German fetish of balanced budgets, announcing, “We will not be guided by accounting issues, but by what Germany needs.”

The age of neoliberalism, in terms of  the primacy of market interests over all other social interests, is coming to an end. Of course, all of these measures are due to the state of emergency. However, citizens will remember them when they soon again are told ‘There is no alternative.’ With the crisis, long-dormant sphere of politics has been set into motion. After four decades of neoliberal scepticism about the state, a long forgotten fact is coming to the light: that nation states still have enormous creative power, if only they are willing to use it.

The corona crisis amounts to an enormous field test. Millions of people are experimenting with new ways to organise their everyday lives.

Like a spotlight, the corona crisis is illuminating the geopolitical, economic, ideological and cultural fault lines of our time. Might this crack in the edifice even signal an epochal break? Does the age of turbo-globalisation end with the decoupling of the major economic blocs? Are the oil price wars heralding the end of fossil industrial economies? Is the global financial system changing into a new regime? Is the system guarantor’s baton going from the United States to China, or are we experiencing the breakthrough of the multipolar world?

What is certain is that the Coronavirus could lead to a breakthrough of a number of trends that have long been hidden. All of these developments are mutually influencing each other at breathtaking speed. This complexity suggests that this crisis will go deeper than the 2008 recession. The pandemic could be the burning fuse on the powder keg of a global system crisis.

Window to Future Wide Open

The corona crisis amounts to an enormous field test. Millions of people are experimenting with new ways to organise their everyday lives. Business travellers are switching from flights to video conferences. University teachers are holding webinars. Employees are working from home. Some will return to their old patterns after the crisis. But many now know from personal experience that the new way of operating not only works, but is also more environmentally and family-friendly. We have to use this moment of disruption, the immediate experience of deceleration, to generate long-term behavioural changes in the fight against climate change.

British journalist Jeremy Warner cynically sums up the neoliberal view of the crisis: “From an entirely disinterested economic perspective, the COVID-19 might even prove mildly beneficial in the long term by disproportionately culling elderly dependents [sic!].” In stark contrast to the lack of solidarity shown by its governments, people are experiencing a wave of solidarity in their neighbourhoods, at work, and within their circles of friends. When was the last time the capitalist machine was halted in order to protect the old and the sick? We can build on this experience of solidarity to make society as a whole more cohesive again. If we manage to overcome the crisis together, we are creating a symbol at the dawn of a new era: a community that stays together can meet any challenge.

However, reacting to the crisis also poses dangers. Borders are being closed around the globe, visas are cancelled, and entry bans are imposed on foreigners. The record number of orders for industrial robots indicates that the production chains will be made more resilient to breakdowns through a decisive step towards greater automation. Both trends threaten to accelerate the spiral of job losses, fear of social exclusion, resentment of immigrants, and political revolts against the liberal establishment.

Liberal economist Philippe Legrain rightly warns: ‘The Coronavirus crisis is a political gift for nativist nationalists and protectionists. It has heightened perceptions that foreigners are a threat. It underscores that countries in crisis can’t always count on their neighbours and close allies for help.” We must not leave the right to interpret the crisis to right-wing populists. The answer to global challenges must not be isolation and national selfishness, but rather solidarity and international cooperation. As opposed to 2008, progressives cannot afford again to lose the battle over interpreting what is happening, and what needs to be done. Over the next weeks, the groundwork of the new world order will be laid. We must make sure we will shape the debates over how it will look like.  

A Stronger Democratic State Can Emerge

Many, especially young people, are for the first time experiencing a national emergency. Within days, their freedoms are restricted to an unimaginable extent. Not only in China, but in the middle of Europe, technologies are being used on a large scale to monitor and regulate the behaviour of citizens. As the “fight against terrorism” taught us, many of the emergency regulations now enacted will remain in force after the crisis has ended. One does not need to sense a hidden agenda behind the normalization of the state of emergency, the way Giorgio Agamben and Naomi Klein do, which is to make individuals docile for disaster capitalism. However, we must prevent our fundamental rights from being permanently eroded.

Naomi Klein, a key critic of “disaster capitalism,”  on Oct. 6, 2011, Day 21 of Occupy Wall Street, when she led an open forum. (David Shankbone, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Slavoj Žižek hits the nail on the head when he warns that people rightly consider state power to be responsible: ‘you have the power, now show what you can do! The challenge for Europe is to show that what China has done can be done in a more transparent and democratic way.’ The East Asian democracies of South Korea, Taiwan and Japan have so far impressively demonstrated how to do this without unduly restricting citizens’ freedoms. Their approach seems more compatible with Western democracies than the draconian Chinese way. Still, successful management of the crisis would also strengthen confidence in the democratic state. In a crisis, people tend to rally around competent, hard-working and protective governments.

The global crisis has raised awareness of how vulnerable hyperglobalisation has made us. In a globally networked world, pandemics can and do spread across borders at high speed.

After years of austerity programmes have cut health care systems back to a bare minimum, now every effort must be made to enable the system to cope with the many sick people. The closure of municipal clinics, the chronic undersupply of nursing staff and the pitiful state of technical equipment are now taking their toll. Seldom has the demand to reverse the privatisation of health care received greater public support. In the crisis, Spain has quickly nationalized all of its private clinics and health services. In France, the President openly questions the wisdom of neoliberal privatisation and vows to shift course. In Germany, too, the debate has begun as to whether it was really prudent to subject our social life to the dictates of the market. In future, it must no longer be the individual’s interest in profit, but the common good of all that will be the central focus of public services.

The reconstruction of public services requires investments in the order of billions. Chancellor Angela Merkel has affirmed that the constitutional debt brake does not apply in exceptional situations like these: “What the budget balance will look like in the end of the year is not the issue for us.” In the current situation, the German government is opening a historically unprecedented rescue umbrella for the economy, covering everyone from small self-employed and freelancers to large corporations. “We will do everything possible,” assured Federal Finance Minister Scholz. The framework for providing guarantees, in a total amount of half a trillion euros, is only the beginning, states Federal Minister of Economics Altmaier.

Thus, in the crisis we are all Keynesians again. Unlike after the 2008 recession, we must not return to austerity after the crisis. After decades of austerity policies, many services are exhausted: health and education, local government, transport infrastructure, the German armed forces, and the police. In order to counter widespread fears of losing control, to prepare the economy and society for the digital revolution and, last but not least, to combat climate change, investments of historic proportions are necessary.

Social Democracy Can Save Us from the Crisis

The global crisis has raised awareness of how vulnerable hyperglobalization has made us. In a globally networked world, pandemics can and do spread across borders at high speed. Global supply chains are all too easily cut. The financial markets are vulnerable. Right-wing populists want to close the borders and isolate themselves from the world – but that is the wrong answer to the global challenges of epidemics, wars, migration, trade and climate change. Rather, our goal should be to address the root causes of these crises. To do this, the global economy must be placed on a more resilient foundation.

Image from U.S. history textbook used in Catholic primary schools in 1915. Text appearing with image: “They wanted to have their own assemblies levy the tax.” (Internet Archive Book Images, Flickr)

In the wake of the Corona crisis, global supply chains are already reorganizing. Shorter supply chains, for example, with American production facilities in Mexico and European facilities in Eastern Europe, create more stability. Technologically, Europe must become sovereign again. To do this, we need to cooperate much more closely in research and development. The global financial system, which is held together by not more more than duct tape, urgently needs re-ordering. For over a decade, central banks have not been able to counter deflationary trends through monetary policies. In the crisis, governments with expansionary fiscal policies are jumping aside. Politically, this means a return to the the founding logic of parliamentarianism, the principle of “No taxation without representation.” In other words, the financial systems must be put back under democratic control.

Conflicts arise from excessive interdependence. These conflicts must be cushioned by international norms and multilateral cooperation. The World Health Organization’s competent crisis management demonstrates the effectiveness of multilateral cooperation in combating the pandemic. Unlike the 2008 financial crisis, however, this time there is no coordinated response from the twenty largest economies. The geopolitical rivalry of the great powers on the one hand and the right-wing populist call for isolation on the other hand stand in the way of greater international cooperation. The existing elements of multilateral governance need to be strengthened with concrete contributions. This can begin by providing more solid funding to the World Health Organization and continuing with a G20 meeting to coordinate economic crisis management. Here the Alliance of Multilateralists can prove its value added.

The crisis has made it drastically clear to the populace that the status quo cannot continue. The desire for a fundamental reorganisation of our economic activity and collective life has never been greater. At the same time, existential dangers must be fended off without disproportionately restricting democracy and freedoms. Which political power can negotiate the necessary social compromises to pull this off? The American political scientist Sheri Berman has posed an anxious question: “Can social democrats save the world (again)?” Let’s get it done.

Marc Saxer heads the Asia department of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES). Previously he worked in the FES regional office in India and Thailand and he coordinated the project Economy of Tomorrow in Asia.

This article is from International Politics and Society. You can read the original in German here.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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16 comments for “COVID-19: How Corona Broke the System

  1. Aussi
    March 28, 2020 at 16:15

    “How can it cover such a humongous tab?”

    I read an interesting article yesterday that was written by an ex congressional staffer who was an economist involved in the financing of Congressional Bills. She explained, using the rapid passage of the corona stimulus bill, that the government has all the money available it chooses to spend since the federal government issues the money. The excuses that were asked for example of Bernie Sander’s proposed M4A, forgiveness of federal student loan debt, free university of “How will we pay for it simply involved congress’s willingness to spend the money on those programs. So remember that when Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer or and other neolib dem. say “we can’t afford it”
    Or “ how will it be paid for” etc. Especially since they seem to have unlimited funds (which they do) for wars of choice or bailing out oligarchs. Btw the article mention was in the March 27, 2020 edition of “The Intercept”.

  2. GMCasey
    March 27, 2020 at 14:47

    Maybe it’s time for journalists to read Tom Paine as he had some really good ideas for ALL the people. I would also like to take this opportunity to ask the DNC why they think the debate is over? WHY is Joe Biden doing a show on the Coronavirus and not including Bernie who is actually out there helping people?
    No one knows how or when the coronavirus will end, as apparently America has outdone China and Spain and the good old USA is now Number One and leading in Dead People.
    I honestly don’t know who is leading this nation, but for perhaps a view of the future, the CEOs and corporate ones of the world should lock themselves up inside a secret hideaway——-and then they should all together read Edgar Alan Poe’s “Mask of the Red Death.” Maybe they will have an understanding of real life then. And you military people, I recommend CAT’s Cradle by Vonnegut and its Ice Nine.

  3. Andreas
    March 27, 2020 at 13:35

    Hi Marc, interesting article. But one item I’ve to correct: The sentence “The American attempt to take over CureVac, a company based in Tübingen, to secure the vaccine exclusively for the United States, even escalated into a heated dispute with Berlin” is as far as I know not correct. There had been talks betweeen Pres Trump and several representatives of the vaccine industry – including Curevac. But the complaint of the German Government and especially the German media about an US-attempt to take over Curevac has been strongly contradicted by the Government. They issued a press statement which says that there is no truth at all in these reports. True is that the German Government was fuming – but without cause.
    Kind regards

  4. Guy
    March 25, 2020 at 17:47

    The ones on the front lines right now are the caregivers .Our nurses especially and the doctors .Maybe now the US will realize just how important universal healthcare really is .One size fits all and paid for by the taxpayer just like it is in the majority of other countries .
    And while we are at making major changes in how we live and work we should have a serious look at how we have managed to have such a discrepancy or wide divide between the rich and the poor .What is up with that ? Socialism you say , not really .Socialism for everyone not just the big multinational corporations that are too big to fail .Socialism is not communism ,at least not my kind of socialism .
    There are some things that should be considered the common good , like health care ,education ,the right to a roof over your head ,the right to work ,the right to own a home, the right to private property ,the right to free speech etc etc. We have been scammed to think that democracy equates to the status quo .It does not , lest we all go down the tubes refusing to look with honesty how we got to where we are and how can we make the necessary changes that will benefit us all not just the few .
    Many good comments from this article .Could it be that this corona virus will be an instrument of change ?

  5. Skip Edwards
    March 25, 2020 at 14:44

    In reply to rgl’s comment: You just about covered all the bases. I would like to add that now is the time to rise up and demand that the world needs to do away with billionaires and multi-millionaires with a true and effective wealth tax taking place incremently over the next ten years. Any hidden wealth, off shore money will be confiscated in its entirety immediately. Starting immediately people will be taxed at a true progressive rate. While I do not believe in “free checks” being handed out in perpetuity, as some have suggested; rather, I encourage the government to provide work for those unable to find gainful employment. These people should receive a living wage with health and retirements benefits (unless health coverage for all is legislated). People can choose full or part-time work as their needs require. There are many reasons to require work for pay which space here doesn’t allow. But, the real challenge is life ending climate change for which the COVID-19 crises is only a primer! We must switch as fast as possible to clean, renewable energy sources, as you say. Your quote: “To illustrate, the premise that Covid may take us from fossil fuel use – one of the positions of this essay – is hard for me to believe. While oil does indeed make for an over polluted world, the move to ‘greener’ fuel sources will take a lot of money. Money that is in very short supply at the present. As long as oil is there, we will chase it, regardless of the cost, high or low.” So here is my idea as to how we can afford to find and switch over to renewables:
    Energy Letter:
    Here are some ideas I have re climate change and how we can start a plan to hopefully begin real action to save ‘ourselves’ from what is certainly going to be a bleak future for our children. Thanks, Skip

     I would like to see a platform, win or lose, that includes closing at least half of all overseas military bases and out posts along with a credible reduction of the MIC budget and that money spent on repairing our long neglected infrastructure and, secondly, using any remaining funds on a public healthcare for all plan. Next, a significant tax on all incomes of over (you set the amount) of in the neighborhood of 70+%, money to be used for social programs. And, most importantly, the Nationalization of all fossil fuel and uranium resources, profits from the sale of which would go directly towards renewable energy R & D; and, an  additional tax on the profits from all energy producing industries which would go towards subsidizing the installation of renewable engery distribution and installation on homes and businesses. In addition there would be a progressive tax placed on all end users of fossil fuel produced energy, including personal and commercial transportation. The resources I mention belong to the people of our country and should be used to try and overcome the fast approaching climate disaster which will affect the entire world instead of further enriching already rich people; rich beyond the imaginations of most. A part of “our” platform must also include a wholehearted message that we will do our very best to include all climate scientists in a coordinated effort and scientific program to work on yet to be discovered ways to produce non-polluting energy. Climate is the world’s number one problem and endless wars are stealing our ability to come together as one people in order to save ourselves and all other life on Earth!
      I hope this can somehow make it’s way to those in positions of leadership to assist in using with their own ideas.

    Skip Edwards
    590 Chipeta Dr
    Ridgway, CO 81432
    [email protected]

  6. Realist
    March 25, 2020 at 04:07

    How do countries get back on their feet after a devastating war? At least America’s infrastructure will not lie in rubble, the way our military and hired guns have left Iraq, Libya and Syria… and most of Southeast Asia in an earlier era. The main problem looming would seem to be massive debt and dearth of liquidity. The government, which is supposed to represent the interests of its citizens, rich and poor, will simply have to pony up trillions of its ever depreciating doubloons in the form of outright grants to those left impoverished, including some small business owners, and interest-free loans to the “too big to fail” corporations of every stripe today, not just the banks and insurance companies in this go-round.

    How can it cover such a humongous tab? Simply take the loot from the dysfunctional military budget. As much as required to fix the massive lesions in this country’s integrity. The military’s only purpose is to defend the existence of this society, a challenge that has NOT been placed before it for the past 75 years, as it has basically skulked around the globe looking for patsies first to frame up and then to beat up. It has DEFENDED no one. It has aggressed endlessly. It has only served as a sink to consume money desperately needed by the rest of society. At least a good fraction of those 1,000 bases around the world and the dozen carrier task forces, to say nothing of the thousands of nukes aimed and ready for launch on a moment’s notice, can certainly be sacrificed to save what we call civilisation in this country.

    What’s the point of keeping Godzilla in the basement if the cost of his upkeep pauperizes the society the warmongers running our government tell me he is supposed to serve and protect? Bidding farewell to Godzilla would seem to be the choice, if the aftermath of this crisis is as extreme as both the liberal and the conservative analysts are telling us, each placing emphasis on different interests. What’s the point of squandering what’s left of our national treasure to parade around as the world hegemon if our people starve without roofs over their heads because they have no job and if no one other than that tiny fraction of one percent still have enough cash to run their businesses–or quite likely buy out other business owners left without resources because of a global catastrophe?

    The normal course of events through most of our history was to dissolve most of the standing army after a war. The founding fathers reportedly did not trust standing armies. And so, they beat their swords into ploughshares, at least until the next conflict, which sadly was never a rarity. Then WWII happened and the insider elites in this country decided that the USA should become the paramount empire in all the land no matter what the cost or sacrifice by the little people of this land. WWI probably put the idea into their heads and then Hitler made their dreams come true, with help from Truman and Stalin. Well, that experiment should be over because it has failed spectacularly for everyone here except what we now fashionably call our oligarchy, aka the aristocracy, old money, the robber barons or simply the filthy rich. Will any of this happen? Nah, the grifters at the top will only get more, and the only ones they will share the wealth with will be the MIC and the spooks, because they relentlessly shake the money tree for their masters. America will keep its empire. Americans will slip further toward a third world life style.

  7. Joe Tedesky
    March 25, 2020 at 00:33

    If I were king of the world I’d tell ya what I do now… I’d make it mandatory that every nation inside my realm would manufacture products and organically grow food at the minimum a third of what they use in their each individual nations. This would include every item from potatoes, grain, pots & pans, and all that plus industrial widgets too. If an importer has a tragedy in their homeland then we just put on another shift. If it’s true that one manufacturing job creates ten spin offs like the pop machine vendor or the outside places who sell into the plant then the other two thirds of our nation’s population would find it easy to get work.

    I’d like too especially add in my kingdom I would do away with all nuclear and convention weapons. If there were such a thing as invasion then I would limit each nation to only built their arsenals large enough to guard a four hundred mile radius contiguous along its border. As king I would direct all big money spent towards human needs such as organic food and I having the crown would put in place a humanitarian right to life healthcare system for all. Get this I’d work out an arrangement with all nations where even visiting foreigners would be covered with no hassle in any country no matter where they were at. We can do this!

    We can do better. Also this was a fantastic geopolitical article if ever there was one.

    • Skip Edwards
      March 25, 2020 at 15:01

      Joe Tedesky, Beautifully done. I especially liked your inclusion of Mollie Ivins, ala, “pots & pans”. Mollie lives on in my heart and memories, too.

  8. Babyl-on
    March 24, 2020 at 21:10

    “A Stronger Democratic State Can Emerge

    Look, I have been a “progressive” all my life and watched the left for many years.
    Democracy is an utter and contemptible failure, that is to say Western Liberal Democracy is thus described. “Democracy” is not “exceptional” it is not the final word on governance.
    The solution does not carry with it the poison of the past.
    No ashes no Phoenix.
    There are other civilizations on this earth, filled with people who have ideas from them will emerge a solution, Western Civilization not just the US is collapsing.
    Everything on which Western Civilization is based, all its ideas, are now under serious scrutiny.
    Everyone can now see the pathological lack of consideration for human live over the “market” that is the state of our civilization.

    How many readers realize that the US is ruled by an empire, a syndicate of wealthy families who have control of power, the US is not the empire, they are. That this empire has killed innocent people across the earth EVERY SINGLE DAY for the past 75 years?

    And it ain’t gonna’ be no election that stops it.

    • Skip Edwards
      March 25, 2020 at 15:03


    • Realist
      March 25, 2020 at 18:02

      “How many readers realize that the US is ruled by an empire, a syndicate of wealthy families who have control of power…?”

      Babyl-on, these are the Ferengi who own and run this empire. Most are not even Americans. You and all of the presidents, senators, congress critters and judges work for them.

      “Herland Report: Who owns the Federal Reserve? …
      They are the Goldman Sachs, Rockefellers, Lehmans and Kuhn Loebs of New York; the Rothschilds of Paris and London; the Warburgs of Hamburg; the Lazards of Paris; and the Israel Moses Seifs of Rome.”

  9. aquadraht
    March 24, 2020 at 17:53

    There is much truth in the article, but also some ashamable cover-up when it comes to the role of social democrats. Social democrats of the kind of Tony Blair were frontrunners for introducing austerity in the UK, and consolidating the evil heritage of Thatcherism. Gerhard Schröder in Germany introduced the toppling of unemployment support, the creation of an impoverishment program of “Agenda 2010”, proudly boasting to have created the “best low wage sector in Europe”.

    Still, they are widely unrepenting, proven in the treatment of Jeremy Corbyn by the Blairites, and the sticking of German SPD to their impoverishment “achievements”. Social democrats were and are part of the austerity and neo-liberalism part of the problem, not the solution.

    • Tim Slater
      March 26, 2020 at 06:52

      Yes, and of course, the author has a managerial position in a foundation affiliated with the Social Democratic Party of Germany, so he can hardly be expected to be very critical of them.

      Also, he seems to have forgotten that just a decade ago, in the ‘financial crisis’, the German government (a coalition including the SPD) already nationalized corporations and banks — only to re-privatize them when they became profitable again.

      And the neoliberal economic policies which the SPD also supports have contributed to the severity of the pandemic (cutting back spending on health services, etc., while increased bloated military spending still more).

  10. garrett wyse
    March 24, 2020 at 15:59

    Perhaps it may be time to consider Global Public Goods as a concept that can be interpreted, initially as is pertinent now, through access to healthcare

    Imagine a healthcare system based on access to health being: Non-rival on consumption and non exclusive in benefit.

    Starting to make sense yet?

  11. rgl
    March 24, 2020 at 14:24

    Thought provoking essay. I do wonder however, that Covid will in reality be a transformative event. To illustrate, the premise that Covid may take us from fossil fuel use – one of the positions of this essay – is hard for me to believe. While oil does indeed make for an over polluted world, the move to ‘greener’ fuel sources will take a lot of money. Money that is in very short supply at the present. As long as oil is there, we will chase it, regardless of the cost, high or low.

    On the fiscal front, money that should be spent to help the masses, instead go to corrupt entities. The too-big-to-jail corporations are all crying for another bailout. They will get it because the so-called free market – which is anything but – has been elevated above that of the people. I will begin to take heart in the authors premises when Citizens United is tossed in the bin. Do you see that happening? I do not.

    Some members of congress made buckets of thousand dollar bills using information that was not available to the private citizen. Let me know when these folks go to jail for this extreme case of insider trading. These are the people that make up government. These are the people that are going to transform the system? I hardly think so.

    Do you really expect a universal health system that benefits all equally, or likewise, an education system open to all?

    There are too many ‘old guard’ folks that still run the railroad. Too many that still chase hegemony and domination. This (corrupt) system enriched them, and there is NO desire on the part of these greedy old goats to derail the gravy train. Younger, more progressive activists simply do not have the power of governing to make meaningful changes. I do not see Covid unseating these folks, not at all.

    The only thing that can change this rotten system is for real progressives to achieve political power. Moreover, the only route for progressives is getting the people behind them. And in the midst of Covid, there are still too many people that do not want to contribute to some other kid’s education, or some other person’s healthcare. Rugged individualism got us where we are. I just don’t see Covid reversing that.

  12. Jon Adams
    March 24, 2020 at 13:30

    The Lombards know about “open borders.” That is how they ended up in northern Italy.

    All across the globe, in these troubled times, the “I got mine” crowd is making noises.

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