VIEWS: Is globalisation an evil that should now be fought? No, it's more nuanced. We who have an international orientation look with fear at how international cooperation is now weakening with the pandemic.
Truls Lie
Editor-in-chief, Modern Times Review
Published date: July 20, 2020

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.

Nationalism

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.

EU

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 #Germany?

With the pandemic, we clearly see the need for supranational bodies that unite.

#Spain recently proposed that the EU should stand together with a common debt rather than inequality-generating debt packages – but met deaf ears. This is more in the direction of what a federation would do, such as in the United States. The EU is, as Margot Wallenström responds, not made that way. Well, with the environmental crisis, one has a strong joint venture on a European Green Deal. And they want a common EU defense.

With the pandemic, we clearly see the need for supranational bodies that unite. Responsibility for the larger community is necessary. And not like some states first panicked for control of equipment and vaccines, just like people who ran to the store and hoarded.

With the desire for «autonomy», the EU can become what some call a «monastery» – with some quarrel between the monks. Or do they have the ambition to stand in solidarity as a role model for our new world – perhaps a new «Brussels effect»?

The Mafia

Business itself does not have the habit of being in solidarity, as competition is the driving force.

Organised criminals, mafias, have another type of «solidarity»: huge funds at its disposal. Now the desperate and unemployed lurk for «loyalty» where they can «help». Interest is not the first thing the mafia asks for, but such things always gradually increase. The mafia is an inventive bunch that finds new ways to collect protection money and engage in illegal gambling – now online. And in inventive and contagious ways, their prostitutes are still at work: Drug traffic also finds new routes – being done via drones.

Italy has, like Turkey, sent imprisoned mafia bosses home due to the pandemic. But when the authorities changed their mind, these new «covid nostra» had gone underground. #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.

A vaccine?

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