April 26, 2020


America Isn't Actually Doing So Badly Against Coronavirus (Ramesh Ponnuru, April 26, 2020, Bloomberg View)

We don't have enough tests for Covid-19 in the U.S. President Donald Trump spent weeks minimizing the threat and still makes comments that undermine his own administration's public-health efforts. Congress has not supplied sufficient funding for relief efforts, and left town without making provision to vote remotely if needed. Some politicians have shown culpable ignorance about the epidemic, while others have overreacted in self-defeating ways.

Americans have a lot of legitimate complaints about the response to the coronavirus. The complaints are worth voicing. Criticism of mistakes can lead to fixing them, or at least preventing their recurrence. (Granted, an opinion columnist has a vested interest in saying that.)

But our justified discontents should not obscure everything for which we should be grateful. In some quarters, there is a mood of bitter disappointment in America. The journalist Julia Ioffe took it as an indictment of our country when we took the lead in confirmed coronavirus cases. Anne Applebaum drew an unflattering contrast between our shutdown of international flights and China's sending aid to Italy: "Who is the superpower?" George Packer wrote an essay in the Atlantic claiming that the epidemic reveals that the U.S. is "a failed state."

All of this is overwrought. International comparisons of confirmed cases tell us little, considering that they don't account for population size, lying governments or discrepancies in detection. The Chinese regime charged suffering European countries high rates for faulty test kits and protective masks, and it bears a lot of the responsibility for the epidemic's having started in the first place. Its standing in Europe has fallen, not risen. Packer dwells so long on the deficiencies of Trump and the Republican Party as to make it sound as though all it will take for us to stop being a failed state is for a few people in the Midwest to vote differently this fall than they did in 2016.

The truth is that for all our mistakes, we are not handling the epidemic in markedly worse fashion than other developed countries.

As always, one thing that really stands out in the crisis is how conformist our culture of liberty makes us.  Because of the universal nature of the recommended restrictions we accepted them quite eagerly and are making the best of them with an extraordinary level of social solidarity.

Posted by at April 26, 2020 9:16 AM