The paperback version of “Think Right or Wrong, Not Left or Right: A 21st Century Citizen Guide,” has just been released. If you or someone near and dear—from your high-schooler to grandma—are disenchanted by the moral-political state of affairs, buying and reading it is a perfect New Year’s resolution. Just short of 150 pages, it can easily be finished before such resolutions normally fade away.
Starting with the premise that you have a right to be in control of your life, the book offers a refreshing perspective on the moral-political landscape—and points to a way out of the current quagmire (hint: the political left and right are not as far apart as you may think).
And if you consider it worth your time after finishing, I’d love a review on Amazon.
Below is a timely excerpt amidst the winter COVID-19 surge and vaccine hopes.
Wishing you happy and safe 2021.
Under Capitalism, Long Range Thinking Reduces the Impact of Natural Disasters, Including Pandemics
Most societies around the world were wholly unprepared for the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic despite decades of evidence and warnings from infectious disease experts that it was only a question of when, not if, a severe pandemic would strike. The response in most places has been panicky and draconian, almost Medieval, resulting in massive wealth destruction and mass unemployment. Many governments around the world are instituting new rights-violating regulations, decrees, and government programs moving us even further in the statist, morally Wrong direction.
A main reason for the unpreparedness is short-range thinking. With few exceptions, welfare state politicians mostly think in terms of election cycles, not in terms of long-range societal improvements. What’s beyond their 2-, 4- or 6-year term is of relatively little interest while they’re in or running for office. Hence, preparations for a pandemic that will most likely not strike on their watch has low priority, and they kick the can down the road from congress to congress and administration to administration. This behavior is systemic under statism both on the political right and left.
Under capitalism, the problem is not left in the hands of politicians and their propensity to kick the can down the road. With politics playing a marginal role in society, pandemic preparedness is mostly left to the marketplace. As a result, corporations and individuals are much less vulnerable to natural disasters, be they pandemics or any other kind. We are not falsely lulled into thinking that there will be a major government disaster response, or any kind of bailout.
In a capitalist social system, long-range thinking is critical. Corporations in all industries pay attention to the “what ifs” in life, as do individuals. Individuals and businesses plan for natural disasters of all kinds, be they earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, floods, droughts, or pandemics. Mitigating and, over time, avoiding catastrophic events is essential.
For example, pandemics are real threats to health-insurance companies and hospital organizations. Under capitalism, they face huge losses or bankruptcy and irreparable damage to their reputation if they are not able to adequately serve their customers—the policy holders and patients—in the event of a pandemic. Consequently, they invest in pandemic preparedness. They have plans in place to quickly increase hospital capacity and staffing in an emergency and, if need be, to temporarily delay elective procedures. They stock excess critical medical supplies and devices and make sure their suppliers have plans in place to quickly ramp up production should the need arise.
Even more importantly, they invest in pandemic prevention. In a capitalist social system this becomes the norm. Free of government regulation, health-insurance and healthcare companies work closely with the biotech, diagnostic, pharmaceutical, and medical device industries on long-range strategies. They constantly scan the globe for new infectious disease threats to not be caught off guard. They work with local communities on modifying cultural habits: “How can we help remove bat and pangolin from your diet?” They invest in faster vaccine development and more efficient vaccines. And along the way, they develop rational safety standards without government involvement, because lack thereof is another threat to their reputation and survival.
Even in today’s semi-capitalist world we see important signs of emergency preparedness. We don’t hear about it very often, but most medium-size and large companies have preparedness plans in place that they act on when natural disasters strike. And as they learn from new events—hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards, floods, and pandemics—they update and refine the plans to become even better at mitigating the effects of the next one. One example from the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic was the dramatic shift and increase in internet use when working, educating, and socializing from home. Technology companies didn’t know exactly the form and scale of the next natural disaster. But they were prepared for unexpected surges in internet traffic because that was a scenario they knew could play out. They knew that lack of preparedness would be a potentially mortal threat to their profits, reputation, and long-term survival. They implemented the plans such that you and I could continue to rely on the internet for work, teaching our kids, home deliveries, and connecting with our loved ones. It is not a coincidence that this level of preparedness was in place in the most capitalist sector of the economy, information and digital technology.
When capitalism flourishes, it is entirely probable that in a not too distant future a new virus with pandemic potential would be detected and gene-sequenced, and a vaccine developed, tested, and mass-produced, in a matter of weeks, not months or years. This may sound like science fiction, but it is just another example of capitalism unleashing the unimagined that we discussed earlier. The technologies we now enjoy were the stuff of science fiction only decades ago. We’re seeing glimpses in the current crisis of what progress is possible in areas where capitalism is allowed to function in relative freedom: biotech companies identifying the genome of COVID-19, diagnostic companies ramping up the production of tests, and pharmaceutical companies creating early batches of synthetic vaccine in record time. Hopefully, this will also shorten the time-to-market for a new vaccine.
Under capitalism, there is a small role for government to play. It serves in a coordinating preparatory capacity for testing and tracking; it enforces quarantine (isolation) of verified infectious individuals, as allowing them to move around freely poses a threat to the individual rights of others; it enforces other disease-specific laws such as spraying with insecticides or bans on standing water pools for mosquito borne diseases; and it prosecutes and punishes offenders. And, if needed, as part of its role in maintaining a foreign policy, our government negotiates or demands access for U.S. companies and researchers into areas where pandemics may break out in the future. But with the continuous progress made towards stopping pandemics in their tracks, the government’s role gets even smaller over time.
If the health insurance, healthcare, biotechnology, diagnostic, pharmaceutical, and medical device industries had been allowed to flourish in a less welfare statist and more capitalist social system, pandemics would have received a lot more attention over the past 50 years. Yet-to-be-experienced advances would already be a reality, and it is highly likely that the current pandemic would have been largely avoided. The fact that it wasn’t is but one price we’re paying for living in a welfare statist society.