Regrettably, the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. However, there are a number of lessons that can be ascertained from the experience that the United States has had so far. These lessons can be split into three areas: government, economic, and international.
Government. The sluggish response from the federal government showed cracks in the large federal bureaucracy in Washington. Coordination among agencies was slow, our government lacked the proper funding and resources to address this crisis, and important leadership positions, like the Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Preparedness and Response, were nowhere to be found. Conservatives rightly have a skeptical disposition towards the federal government, and, most of the time, this skepticism is correct. However, in a time of national emergency like a pandemic, the federal government has to have the capacity to respond to the crisis. The last three decades has seen conservatives moving from a healthy doubt towards an all-out hatred of our government. This hatred slowed our response to the crisis, and the ways in which public experts provided guidelines to “slow the spread” and stay healthy (i.e. masks) was hounded as examples of government intrusions on individual rights and the evils of “the deep state.”
To rebuild, the federal government should conduct full-scale reforms of itself, with no stone being left unturned. Repetitive agencies should be eliminated, needless positions should be removed, and offices should be combined to remove overlapping jurisdictions. A leaner, but more efficient government will be more adept and better prepared to face the next global crisis. This new type of government will also be able to develop greater bonds of trust with the American people.
Economic. The end of the Cold War presented new opportunities for liberal democracy worldwide. The “Washington Consensus” of free trade, free markets, and democracy opened up global markets and brought the world together economically in ways never seen before. However, with that new economic opportunity for other countries led to offshoring and insecurity back home in the United States. This insecurity gave rise to the populist forces that brought Donald Trump into office. COVID-19 has not only exasperated these insecurities, but also exposed inequalities in the United States. The protests that arose following the killing of George Floyd highlighted not only America’s continuing project to end racism in this country, but also certain economic inequalities under the surface that were either ignored or never truly understood. Minorities, and African-Americans in particular, have been hit hardest by the economic crisis that followed the pandemic. Not only that, but African-Americans have also so far received the short-end of the stick in the economic recovery.
As the American economy looks to rebuild, not only should policymakers seek to redirect critical supply-chains back into the United States, but they should also refocus investment strategies into areas that have been hit the hardest by offshoring and the pandemic. An expansion of Senator Tim Scott’s Opportunity Zones to expand investment and economic opportunity into minority areas wiped out by the coronavirus can help build back these communities, while also addressing some of the economic inequality that has been exposed over these last few months.
International. The center of the world has changed. No longer is the world going to revolve around the United States and Western Europe, but rather Asia. Those countries who handled the coronavirus outbreak the best were Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. All democratic and all Asian.
The rise of China, and the role they played in covering up COVID-19, has turned the world’s attention to the East, and the focus of international relations towards the growing rivalry between China and the United States. This will be a primarily economic competition, but the ideological underpinnings of each country (liberal democratic capitalism versus socialism) will play a prominent role as well.
The United States can and should turn its attention to the Asia-Pacific and make the region the center of its foreign policy. An expansion of free trade and the building of military alliances should be our primary focus. The 21st century will be the Pacific Century. It was already likely headed that way, but the coronavirus pandemic only made that realization come quicker.
It is the hope that the United States is able to come together, defeat the coronavirus, and return to normal, but that will be the easy part. What will be more difficult is the restoration of trust between the American people and its government, the economic rebuilding, and the formulation of shifts in our geopolitical strategy.
The United States has had to go through challenges like these before, and we have always come back stronger. Uniting together, pressing forward, and rebuilding is what we do as Americans. May we continue to do so now.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.