During the pandemic in the UK, innovators and opportunists improvised bold new ways to move money from the state into private hands—it was like the seizure of assets in a socialist state—only backwards.
We know that in emergencies governments turn to compulsion to get things done. In wartime manufacturing capacity will be requisitioned, farmers told what to grow, broadcasters switched to propaganda. We expect this—and we’re ready to accept sometimes drastic variations in the rules to speed things up, to save lives, (to crush counter-revolution).
In the pandemic, governments everywhere activated laws—some of which had been passed years before for this purpose—obliging the private sector to support the state’s response to the outbreak. In the USA, the Defense Production Act was invoked, directing businesses to switch capacity to ventilators and PPE equipment—essentially a wartime response to the crisis, not unlike the epic programme that provided thousands of warplanes and tanks to the allies in WW2. This Truman-era law has been used by several Presidents since and it was Donald Trump who did so as the pandemic took hold in 2020, even as he was busy endorsing bleach and necking hydroxychloroquine (Biden has subsequently used the Act to push vaccine production and energy independence).
Being a socialist state obviously gave you no magic advantage in the plague years but in Cuba, despite the blockade, the country’s highly effective natural disaster response system quickly switched to managing the pandemic and, as a result, the country has done better than most—including, obviously, its near neighbour across the Straits of Florida—in limiting deaths and economic damage. The response of the country’s excellent medical system, and in particular its DIY vaccine programme, was so successful that American scientists want access to it. Sensible governments will all be rewriting their resilience plans along Fidelist lines.
In Britain it was different. To be clear, the looting of the British Covid PPE programme probably wasn’t unique. No crisis, war or catastrophe ever goes unexploited anywhere in the world. Profiteering is universal. But in Britain it seems to have been a particularly…