Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Diary

I suppose that most people are already tired of hearing about the coronavirus pandemic, but I ought to say something about it, since it is one of the most significant events of the last few years. So far it hasn't had much effect on me, since there are currently only eight known cases in Addison County and ninety-five in the entire state of Vermont. I'm sure that those numbers will increase significantly over the next few weeks, but I'm still unlikely to become infected. Social distancing has always been my habit, and I engage in it even more now that I'm retired. On a typical day I'm less than six feet away from just one person. If she gets it, I probably will, but she's being careful.

Of greater interest to me is how the pandemic relates to some of the thoughts that I've expressed on this blog. In my view, this is an excellent case study on the failure of human cognition, because it is readily apparent that conventional worldviews, particularly in the U.S., have blinded people to the actual fragility of their existence. The American model depends on events playing out according to a familiar script that everyone likes, but which contains significant elements of fantasy and delusion. Several of the problematic aspects of popular ideas are under test now, and I'll discuss a few of them:
1. Democratic processes, even when working properly, are no guarantee of competent leadership.
2. Capitalism alone is insufficient for maintaining social welfare, because the preparation for unlikely scenarios is not cost-effective and makes companies uncompetitive.
3. Countries that emphasize individualism are at a distinct disadvantage when a threat emerges that endangers everyone, because, rather than acting in unison, people follow whatever path they think is in their best interest.

1. As I've been saying for some time now, Donald Trump is an incompetent and corrupt president. First, he demonstrated that he was inept regarding economic policy; he started a trade war that is of no benefit to the country. He has also shown that he doesn't understand international diplomacy by, for example, cozying up with Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un and receiving nothing in return, while alienating American allies. Currently, he is attempting to stage the coronavirus response in a manner that will help him get reelected, and in so doing he has demonstrated his ignorance regarding immunology and pandemics. Strangely, he still has an approval rating of about forty percent, which is why I think that the democratic model borders on the absurd. Trump is completely unfit for the job, and at most he should have a ceremonial position, not an executive position that makes him the most powerful person in the world.

2. The economic model in the U.S. requires most people to work for most of their lives. At the moment, retirees and wealthy people are not under as much stress as ordinary workers, who need immediate income to meet their expenses. Unfortunately, there is no mechanism in place to assist them when an unexpected event causes their simultaneous unemployment. The capitalist model limits the responsibilities of employers for their employees, and the only recourse during a crisis such as this one is government intervention. In this instance, the intervention is being conducted in a haphazard fashion, with states doing one thing, the federal government doing another thing, and poor coordination between states and the federal government.

3. A noticeable difference regarding the coronavirus is the response by Asian countries compared to the response by Western countries, particularly the U.S. Because there is less emphasis on individualism in China, the leaders were easily able to implement draconian procedures in order to slow the spread of the disease. Those procedures seem to be working, and the U.S. may soon become the new epicenter. There is no uniform response here, and one of the results has been a skyrocketing in gun and ammunition sales. In other words, in the U.S. it's every man for himself. As a result, many infections won't be averted, and the death toll will probably be much higher than it would have been under more austere measures. As usual, Trump is only making matters worse by hoping to end social distancing as soon as possible and create a robust economy by November, just in time for his reelection. Some prognosticators are already surmising that China, with its disciplined and coordinated economic and social policies, may soon permanently surpass the U.S. as a world power, and it isn't hard to see how that could happen.

Well, I don't want to bore you with my usual ramblings, so I'll stop here. Unless I can find something else to read, I'll probably return to Charles Darwin soon.

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