On April 1, 2020, a letter-to-the-editor appeared in my town’s newspaper in which the author declared that the COVID-19 pandemic proves capitalism to be “woefully inadequate to sustain itself through any type of major crisis.” He suggested that we must embrace a massive expansion of government without offering the slightest hint that this prescription might create a problem or two of its own.
It was breathtaking to read and the guy wasn’t kidding. Read it for yourself here. Mere weeks into the pandemic, he pronounced a sweeping judgment on an entire economic system (which in its unadulterated form we don’t even have)—not just for the moment, but for whatever the duration of the crisis could be.
The writer, by the way, is a retired public (government) schoolteacher. I shudder at the disinformation he must have shoved down the throats of his students over the years—and at taxpayer expense, no less.
Try to follow the logic: An unexpected virus appears half a world away. A one-party socialist dictatorship lies about it, jails whistleblowing doctors and silences critics—evil on a grand scale that leads directly to the deaths of millions of people around the world. That would normally prompt a hint of doubt about socialist dictatorships, but not in this instance. The author raced straight to the conclusion that capitalism cannot handle it and we should embrace gargantuan government (like they have where the virus came from). What an idiot!
Of course, you can’t follow the logic because there isn’t any. Not a shred. It’s the old, familiar knee-jerk reaction that defenders of freedom and markets deal with every day. Capitalism, even when adulterated with endless restrictions, taxes, political cronyism and the like, is a hair-trigger away from mindless, sweeping condemnation. The benevolent state, despite its monotonous and often deadly failures, gets a pass. This is lunacy.
Now more than 15 months later, the stupidity of that fool’s statement is even more obvious. Why? Because it now seems far more likely than not that the virus originated in a Chinese government lab, partially funded by another government (America’s). Hannah Cox of the Foundation for Economic Education points out at least eight ways that government, not capitalism, botched the handling of the pandemic in her essay.
Governments have not produced many heroes in this crisis, but the private sector certainly has. Among them are private, profit-seeking vaccine makers who came up with effective vaccines in record time.
My experience with COVID in Paris
Let me share with El American readers a story about a personal COVID experience earlier this month. It illustrates the stark contrast between private and public sectors.
I went to Malaga, Spain to give a speech and for a little site-seeing. I was fully vaccinated back in March and took my verifying documents with me.
On my way home on Saturday, July 17, I flew from Malaga to Paris to catch my flight from there to Atlanta, Georgia. With two hours to spare, I arrived at the departure gate only to be told that I could not board the plane unless I had proof of a negative COVID test within the previous three days.
I didn’t know that, but probably should have. It was in the fine print on some government web site somewhere. I blame myself because I just could not believe that the government of my own country wouldn’t allow me to re-enter even though my vaccination meant that it was almost impossible for me to either get COVID or transmit it to someone else.
So, I asked an official at the departure gate in Paris, “OK, I have just two hours before the flight leaves. How and where do I get a COVID test completed in that limited time frame?”
“You can get it at the pharmacy on the second floor, here in the airport” he answered.
“Great! How do I get there?” I asked. Then the bad news came.
The official said, “You have to go back through security, go outside the airport, then come back inside, go upstairs to the pharmacy, then go through security again.”
I have not run that fast in years. Over the next 90 minutes, I filled out several required forms, endured one line after another (or bypassed them when allowed by friendly people), and secured the official proof that I did not have COVID.
The only part of that whole process that was “capitalistic” was at the airport pharmacy, which is privately owned. When its employees knew I was in a hurry, they quickly cooperated. In a small corner the size of a closet, one employee stuck a Q-tip up my nose. Then in another small room, another employee analyzed it and in no more than five minutes, I had in my hand the piece of paper that said I was COVID-negative.
I arrived back at the departure gate with just minutes to spare, only to find another line. Passengers were required (again, by mandate of government) to complete another form. I filled it out and realized that there was no more purpose to it than to certify that I did indeed have the other document from the pharmacy in my other hand. A form that says you have the other form! Creative, efficient government at your service.
I was not alone among passengers wondering whether this whole thing was a circus or a nightmare. I think it was both.
Since the COVID test took place in five minutes in what was effectively two small closets, why couldn’t the government airport allow a private pharmacy to set up shop in the concourse? Because that would make it too easy. One must endure to appreciate; apparently that’s the government thought process.
The idiot who said capitalism can’t handle COVID got it precisely wrong. It’s government that can’t handle it—clumsy, foot-dragging, bureaucratic, lockdown-crazy government. Thank God we still have enough capitalism to help us deal with the problems that governments create.
If the indications prove correct, that this all started at a government lab in China with subsidies from the government in Washington, then let’s have a revolution in China and some massive tax refunds in America. I’m sick of paying for this nonsense.