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Editorial

Why Did America Fail to Deal with the Virus?

The question of why America has performed (and continues to perform) so poorly in dealing with the coronavirus that its citizens are not even accepted into Europe will occupy analysts and historians for many years.

I also believe that it will certainly affect the political life of the country for a long time in ways that it is not yet possible to predict.

Logically, America – i.e., the empire of science, the country that for decades has been the world’s technological leader, the country in which almost all of the great recent discoveries have been made – should be leading the COVID-19 response internationally – effectively, and with different results.

And yet, this is not the case.

It is showing an inability to deal with the virus, which has surprised everyone and has contributed to the horrific deaths of tens of thousands of its residents so far.

How this came to be the case will be a point of intense debate for years to come. There are many theories and explanations for why this is happening: that the country did not follow the advice of the scientists; that it was in a hurry to reopen, especially in the southern states; that it shifted the production of basic medical care items such as masks, gloves, and respirators to China, etc. etc.

However, one of the best analyses I've read so far on this controversial issue is that of the New York Times columnist and Nobel Laureate in Economics Paul Krugman.

Krugman is known for his harsh criticism of Trump. However, I consider yesterday's commentary to be more restrained, and to have more general significance.

“There has been a fair bit of commentary,” he said, “to the effect that our failed pandemic response was deeply rooted in American culture. We are, the argument goes, too libertarian, too distrustful of government, too unwilling to accept even slight inconveniences to protect others.”

“And there’s surely something to this,” he says, adding, “I don’t think any other advanced country (but are we still an advanced country?) has a comparable number of people who respond with rage when asked to wear a mask in a supermarket … But what strikes me, when looking at America’s extraordinary pandemic failure, is how top-down it all was.”

Krugman then declared that, “the main driving force behind reopening, as far as I can tell, was the administration’s desire to have big job gains leading into November,” and the elections.

There is, unfortunately, a great deal of truth in this.

And that will probably cost the President dearly.

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