COVID-19: The Death Knell of Globalism?

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From Brexit to Donald Trump and the explosion of isolationist populism around the world, the globalist framework has suffered blow after blow as liberal governments repeatedly fell to their more nationalistic and inwardly focused counterparts. These small cracks in the framework have become fissures as Covid-19 ravages the world. As more begin to fall ill and the survival instinct kicks in, manufacturing has shut down; borders have closed, migrant workers – important contributors to the robustness of food supply all over the world – have begun return home for fear that they may be facing lengthy quarantines once they return home to their loved ones. And now the question has begun to crop up, in the United States, in China, and a multitude of other nations, driven by human nature, driven by the want to take care of those closest to us instead of some nameless and faceless other has led countries to express the desire to focus their industry at meeting survival needs at home rather than sharing production with those abroad.

Rex Murphy, a contributor to the National Post, referenced the axiom of standing on one’s own two feet because others’ limbs won’t support you when it matters the most. He was talking about the recent pressure placed on 3M, the manufacturer of the N95 mask, by the Trump administration to stop exports of the infection control mask to other nations. As found in the links above, the Trump administration is not alone in restricting such exports. This has led many public officials in Canada, and no doubt abroad, to ask the question, why have we done this to ourselves? Was it worth shipping our capacity to be self-sufficient abroad for profit? Why did we expect production outputs to reach us in the midst of a global pandemic? The memory of shortages brought on by exporting manufacturing capability abroad and expecting that capacity to be judiciously distributed despite the factories being outside of a nation’s territorial sovereignty will linger in people’s memories for decades after the crisis passes. My own relatives, some of whom lived through the great depression, still carry behavioural peculiarities born from that era of scarcity. It may become difficult to convince people again that eviscerating national production capability in the pursuit of profit is a good idea.

In a recent press release, Doug Ford, the premier of one of Canada’s most populous provinces, has said that under his administration, Canadians will never again be beholden to the manufacturing goodwill of another country. A system is only as good as its fault tolerance, and we are beginning to see the cables fray, the cracks form, and the first forays back towards national self-interest as the death toll rises, and the crisis deepens. And the worst of it is the knowledge that in some cases the quarantine may be an exercise in futility. Despite severe restrictions to access of care facilities across the province, CTV indicates that there are outbreaks in 37 long-term care facilities across Ontario. All it would take for an outbreak to occur in a care facility is one of the 100+ employees that work at your typical nursing home to unwittingly bring the infection inside. As it is unlikely care workers will ever be willing to be sequestered with patients in a nursing home for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis, the current fix seems only to delay the inevitable. While the facilities are in lockdown, relatives of patients have been restricted from visiting their loved ones. If infection rates in long-term care facilities continue to spike, the lockdown will have only served to rob family members of what precious little time they had left together for an ineffectual fix. The timeline given recently for how long this crisis could last was eight-months to two-years. Slowing the curve makes sense, but can we do really this for two years?

Our food production mechanisms are already starting to fall into crisis. In a recent article in The Economist, the author suggests that as migrant workers return home across Europe, national food supply shortages could occur:

The obvious answer would seem to be to employ out of work locals in the fields producing the crops, but the author of the article in The Economist suggests that the locals lack the tenacity and know-how to be effective farmhands. And yet, it may be necessary for us to collapse inward. To return to the old way of local production, of looking out for ourselves. What’s not clear is the degree to which this remains after the crisis eventually passes. Will our self-imposed exile lift when the crisis dissipates? Or will we have lost the desire to maintain such an interconnected world after staring so intently into the visage of those aspects of human nature we have so recently forgotten?

Header Photo by Fusion Medical Animation

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