In under a month, societies everywhere have entered a chaotic state of disruption that could not have been foretold. Why? How has some unconventional cuisine offered by a so-called “seafood” market 5500 miles away wiped trillions off stock markets, put millions out of work and could very well kill more millions by the end of the calendar year? Moreover, now that infection is escalating, why are our hospitals facing shortages of essential medical equipment? The answers to all the above are wedged together by the common faith of our political masters in a worldview which they are now finding rapidly redundant: extreme globalism.
Take for instance, the failure to halt flights from China as the outbreak got underway there. What logic could have possibly encouraged the inertia of policymakers against continuing to import Covid-19 cases by flight other than blind adherence to keeping borders open and not being seen to be xenophobic? The liberal-leftist media commentators who so stringently (and rightly) rebuke the government’s initial “herd immunity” nonsense now, are the same bunch who not long ago concentrated all their efforts into denouncing the very limited potential for racist reprisals against East Asians rather than highlighting the threat of the disease itself. This is one of the problems; an unshakeable obsession with political correctness which obscures priorities and destroys common sense. Even to this day, flights coming from affected hot spots continue with no screening on arrival. And the Metropolitan Police Force, handed unprecedented powers over public life to keep people at home have advised that you ... report unconfirmed hate crimes possibly linked to the pandemic, go figure.
Suddenly in a time of emergency, we require more ventilators, personal protective equipment, masks and more. Yet, our ability to produce this quickly and independently is hindered by the lack of a manufacturing base. Instead, we have to beg cap in hand overseas for supplies which other world powers self-sufficiently make alone. Thus, the economic fundamentalist zealots, posing often as conservatives, now find their theories about the glories of unrestrained free trade in tatters. We can only thank God that we have maintained agricultural protectionism, otherwise can you imagine the starvation which would have ensued once the food imports were too little to meet consumer panic demand?
In the months to come we will hear much claptrap about the need for global cooperation and internationalism. This should be taken with a pinch of salt (just look at countries requisitioning masks headed for elsewhere!) Global institutions are not totally reliable. The WHO remains heavily influenced by the Chinese government—hence it delaying classifying the outbreak a pandemic or denying Taiwan membership (despite its highly effective control of the virus). Axiomatic assumptions about the positives of globalisation have exacerbated, not helped, this pandemic. As much as we should encourage coordination in research to find a vaccine, the heavy lifting of healthcare and enforcing quarantine will have to be done by the nation-state. If policymakers had suspended their liberal predispositions on borders, we might not have imported enough cases to warrant nationwide lockdown. Unfortunately, the damage is done, but in future we must re-evaluate the way we think about Britain’s interactions with the broader world, sometimes Little England is the safest way to go.