The lead of The Economist «Goodbye globalization» (16.5) suggested that a more self-governing nationalism is neither financially better nor safer. And as Agamben recalls: With the national shutdowns, life’s content and relationships are as important as mere survival – what the Italian philosopher calls pure biological life.
First, it must be said that the most important thing has been to save lives – with the measures taken meant to prevent the spread of infection. But the consequences of the closure are, at the same time, enormous. Isolationism is also not new, as the United States has shown in recent years. And with the tariff-trapped trade war with China, globalisation is on its way down. A «slowbalisation» appears, where international commodity exchange falls by around 30 percent. When figures are to finally be tallied, this year a decline in the gross domestic product of 10–15 percent is expected in several western countries due to the corona crisis. This is about twice as much as the previous financial crisis of 2007–09.
Increased nationalism follows the pandemic, with declarations of self-help. For example, India’s Narendra Modi who, in May, declared the country was facing a new era of economic self-reliance. And China is already down to 60 percent of US investment from two years back – while the US is now asking its companies to «move home».
A number of, more or less, authoritarian leaders – such as in Hungary or Poland – also see their chance to obtain wide powers and new «corona laws» via the pandemic. Today, no less than 84 countries have declared a state of emergency, giving governments extended powers of attorney and immediate opportunity for action through decree. The question is for when these exceptions become lasting, or lengthy, limiting individual freedom and liberal democracy.
For example, the desire to exert power is great: mass surveillance, bans on opposition demonstrations, incarcerations due to critical statements on social media, random arrests. Another example is where 2000 people in El Salvador were arrested for failing to comply with distancing rules. They ended up in confined prison cells, at risk of infection. And in Turkey, they recently evicted 90 000 prisoners to prevent infection – but the «enemies of the nation,« thousands of political prisoners, had to stay. Autocracies thrive in the pandemic.
Now, the EU is also talking about «strategic autonomy». The Alliance of European States wants to be more «self-reliant». Interestingly, the ban on national «subsidisation» was temporarily lifted with the pandemic. Ergo, could rich countries such as Germany gain competitive advantages with huge cash support, loans and subsidies for their own industries and workers – while the likes of Italy and others with bottom-scraped crates can do nothing but let companies disappear? This will further increase the differences between the rich north and the poor south.
The EU has long emphasised the free flow of people, goods, capital, and services in its own market. But nationalism has taken control, where people move minimally, goods are withheld, and capital should preferably go to their own country. The EU has also, according to The Economist, issued loans of around 20 billion, a couple of oil funds, due to the pandemic. But why did half of this go to Cosa Nostra in Sicily has now resumed drug trafficking. And right across the mainland, Southern Italy’s Ndrangheta controls 80 percent of the cocaine market in Europe. These are self-employed families with good counsel. During the last financial crisis, for example, according to SOS Impresa, the mafia had around 66 billion euro at its disposal – more than Italy’s rescue package from the EU today.
One cannot vaccinate against nationalism or the mafia.
But many cooperate. Money is made available internationally to find a Covid-19 vaccine.
#Bill Gates# recently called, in a comment in The Economist, to develop a gene-modifying vaccine, a so-called mRNA, a «messenger RNA», that goes in and modifies DNA. Here, protein cells are created that create their own defenses against viruses such as corona. He recommends predictive trials with «germ games» – like «war games». A globalised gathering against such new common enemies as bacteria and microbes – who do not know what nations are. They make no discriminate.
Vaccines have usually been reserved for the richest. For example, tuberculosis still kills one and a half million annually in the south.
Therefore, let me conclude with a reminder that I take a consequentialist or utilitarian position: If, for the sake of saving tens of thousands, long shutdowns of infrastructure, transport, trade, and some relief, could affect millions in the poor south. Will we then be partially responsible for causing unparalleled mass death?
CEO David Beasley of the UN’s global food programme, recently doubled the current 135 million people threatened by extreme hunger conditions (out of 831 million hungry). This could happen this year – about half in Africa. This is a consequence of closed food distribution, lower economic activity, and trade restrictions. So how much of these new 130 million do you think will die because of the «cure» against the corona?
With the corona age’s new me-and-the-nation-first, you have to compare.
This article originally appeared in Norwegian via Ny Tid
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