Economists rarely get to run field experiments for the whole economy. And thank goodness for that, because field experiments can be very damaging. But the coronavirus that every American has been dealing with for the last month has given us as close to a field experiment as we’re ever likely to get.

In particular, we have seen how government reacts with a heavy hand that often makes things worse, and how private individuals and businesses have moved nimbly to fight the virus and help the needy.

These are the opening two paragraphs of my piece at Hoover’s Defining Ideas, “COVID v. Capitalism,” April 8.

Two paragraphs from my section on the private sector:

Consider, by contrast, the private sector. In an April 5 feature article in the New York Times titled “How New Jersey’s First Coronavirus Patient Survived,” reporter Susan Dominus tells the amazing story of James Cai, the first New Jersey coronavirus patient who was, fortunately, a nurse practitioner. Cai’s boss, Dr. George Hall, got in touch with doctors in China who had dealt with the disease and had produced guidelines on how to treat it. Hall spent 12 hours translating the guidelines to English, and Cai’s doctors were able to follow them. Important in the treatment, incidentally, was Gilead Sciences’ experimental drug Remdesivir. Cai recovered, thanks to his boss, some Chinese doctors, U.S. drugs, and the Internet.

American businesses and many American workers have shown amazing generosity. Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots football team, sent the Patriots’ team airplane to China to pick up 1.2 million of the Chinese masks to donate in the United States. This was no mean feat, as the flight crew had to quickly get visas and the plane was allowed to be on Chinese soil for only 3 hours. (China’s government is pretty messed up also.) Total time on the ground: 2 hours and 57 minutes.

Do read the whole thing, especially if you want to comment.