Sunday, April 12, 2020

This virus will create winners and losers

Bill Bernstein
by Bill Bernstein - This virus is a crisis and like every crisis tests systems. World War I similarly was a system-testing crisis. In the aftermath the great empires largely failed. The Ottoman Empire, The Russian Empire, the German Empire,and the Austro Hungarian Empire all dissolved under the stress of the war. The British Empire limped out of it, probably due to stronger institutions. As such the virus will create winners and losers, some institutions failing the test. A preliminary list:

Capitalism. Companies responded quickly to the crisis, retooling production for needed items. Jean makers made masks. Auto companies made ventilators. Liquor distillers made hand sanitizer. Hundreds of thousands of companies working independently made an enormous difference.

Home schooling. When schools shut down homeschoolers continued to learn. While a lot of parents quickly decided teachers don't get paid enough, I would bet more than a few parents decided they could handle this.

Government. Government at all levels proved itself incompetent or worse. The Federal Government announced business loans with great fanfare. And then screwed up the roll out, guessing wrong on demand and having inadequate systems to deliver critically-needed money, much less any vetting system. Trump dispatched the hospital ship USNS Comfort to NYC to ease the burden. Red tape has meant the ship has 20 patients and the crew sits around idle. State and county governments made themselves dictators, defaulting to trying to control people and violating Constitutional protections with little regard. This isnt about Trump. Or Democrats. A Federal government the size of ours can never do anything quickly and inefficiently. If we';ve learned one lesson it should be never to count on government solving problems.

Public schools. Public schools operate today basically the same way they have since World War II, maybe before. As such they were totally unprepared for the crisis. They have failed to teach kids anything for weeks and the whole Spring Semester will be a waste. We should question why any institution is still working the same way it did 75 years ago and demand some answers.

Conservatives. It takes a crisis like this to determine who is really a "Constitutional Conservative" and who is merely mouthing the lines. The Constitution makes one provision for suspending a right (Habeas Corpus). The Founders' world included periodic epidemics so they were well familiar with the phenomenon and chose not to include a mechanism to suspend any rights. Seeing so-called Conservatives rewrite the Constitutions' protections to justify excessive state power indicates they really don't understand how this works.

The Democratic Party. The party that has spent three years trying to unseat Trump did not fail to muff this. Instead of putting aside differences and acting like this was a crisis they teed up yet another impeachment-oriented investigation and blocked bills, holding them hostage to their agenda. No one can take them seriously anymore and I see November's election becoming a wipe out for them.

This essay is reposted from a recent Facebook post.  Bill Bernstein, formerly of Nashville where he was owner of Eastside Gun Shop, now lives in Brunswick, Georgia. He is a scholar with a BA degree from Vanderbilt University and degrees in Classics from Corpus Christi College, Oxford, UNC-Chapel Hill, and University of Pennsylvania.

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