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Darlymple on Coronavirus

Summary:
There is much wisdom in this piece by Theodore Darlymple on the coronavirus epidemic. At the end of the article, he writes: The world has suddenly woken up to the dangers of allowing China to be the workshop of the world and of relying on it as the ultimate source for supply chains for almost everything, from cars to medicines, from computers to telephones. No doubt normal service will soon resume once the epidemic is over, even if at a lower level, but at the very least supply chains should be diversified politically and perhaps geographically; dependence on a single country is to industry what dependence on monoculture is to agriculture. And just as the heart has its reasons that reason knows not of, so countries may have strategic reasons that economic reasons

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There is much wisdom in this piece by Theodore Darlymple on the coronavirus epidemic. At the end of the article, he writes:

The world has suddenly woken up to the dangers of allowing China to be the workshop of the world and of relying on it as the ultimate source for supply chains for almost everything, from cars to medicines, from computers to telephones. No doubt normal service will soon resume once the epidemic is over, even if at a lower level, but at the very least supply chains should be diversified politically and perhaps geographically; dependence on a single country is to industry what dependence on monoculture is to agriculture. And just as the heart has its reasons that reason knows not of, so countries may have strategic reasons that economic reasons know not of.

This reminded me of a comment to my post on Coronavirus and the free trade narrative, in which I expressed my sad conclusion that the Coronavirus epidemic will create even more space for political enemies of free trade. Mark commented:

The course of this disease seems unpredictable, but if current trends continue (where it comes under control in China but flares up elsewhere in the world), then it will be good that so many medical supply chains are in China because those will come back online as infections occur in the rest of the world. And if the worst case scenarios come true where a huge percentage of the global population is infected, then we will want to have the global capacity to produce as many masks as possible, which means taking advantage of the manufacturing economies of scale which China is very good at instead of trying to create less efficient small-scale production in different sites in every country. Hopefully, it will make people appreciate the importance of free trade when the supplies needed to fight this virus are traded across countries.

I’d be interested in rather readers’ views. When this emergency ends, will we [immagino che sia “we”] be more or less reliant on China? It seems that China contained the epidemic, somehow – though at a cost (this article by Amy Quin is enlightening). Will containment help in keeping the regime reputation up? Will Western electorates call for energy, Chinese style governments, as the epidemic progresses?

Alberto Mingardi
Mingardi, one of the rising stars of European libertarianism, is the founder and Director General of the Italian free-market think tank, Instituto Bruno Leoni. His areas of interest include the history of economic thought and antitrust and healthcare systems. He is particularly well known for popularizing the work of past scholars under-appreciated by today’s libertarians. Currently an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, Mingardi has also worked with the Heritage Foundation, the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, the Acton Institute, and the Centre for a New Europe.

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