Covid19, the right and the left
By Alberto Mingardi
Alvaro Vargas Llosa has a great piece on Covid19 and partisan politics. The virus is “ideologically ambidextrous and hermaphrodite”. The virus “disfavors migrations” and “home confinement may skyrocket the birth rate, strengthening, or at least slowing the erosion of, family values.” So is it a situation that will resonate more with the worldview of people on the right?
Vargas Llosa doesn’t think so. The virus will hardly have only the consequence of pushing us in a more conservative direction. The most likely political consequence of Coronavirus is going to be a massive increase in government powers and spending:
The outbreak has brought about a new heyday of government power. Governments lock us down; they bully us into complying with their draconian measures; they are now controlling entire industries (they can requisition goods, take over factories, redirect production towards their goals, etc.); and they have announced monetary and spending measures that make the post-financial crisis days of easy money and fiscal profligacy look like small fry. Despite government spending levels that, as a percentage of GDP, are on almost three times as high as that of Singapore and twice that of Hong Kong, Europe is looking to spend the equivalent of between 2 and 3.5 percent of GDP to rescue the economy.
Personally what I fear the most is the way in which people will respond, at the end of the emergency, to the major economic wreckage we will have to deal with. Lots of observers tend to assume that the virus has damaged populism, as now demagogues (including Trump) were forced to pick “experts” who are at the helm of our countries. But interventions validated by experts may backfire too. We may end up with a society which is less dynamic, more fearful, and more dependent on government than ever.