The response to the coronavirus pandemic with businesses being forced to shut down, whether prescriptively or incidentally, raises some questions in the centuries long debate between socialism and capitalism. As a person on the right who is skeptical about strong preferences for either system this exaggerated crisis provides an interesting case study.
On one hand, it is easy to see the problems of when governments have too much control that they feel comfortable wielding over the economy, which shows the weaknesses of socialism. The most glaring example of this has been our leader’s ability to shutdown businesses via the declaration of a health emergency. This has placed millions of Americans, often lower and middle-class citizens, in the unemployed category. Even as little as a week ago few people could have imagined that they would not still be working at this point in time. While few people are libertarian enough to believe the government should never have such powers, there are legitimate criticisms of using such powers to shutdown businesses that negatively affect such a small portion of the population.
However, as just stated, this criticism assumes the business shutdowns are unwarranted. Assuming the business shutdowns are warranted raises a whole new set of criticisms, but this time towards capitalism. The society that embraces free-market capitalism does not seem ideally suited to deal with crisis. According to free principles, businesses that cannot cope with a loss of income, even if that loss comes on the heals of a world-wide pandemic, should be allowed to fail. Individuals who find themselves unemployed should suffer the consequences of a market that turned against them. “They should have saved for a rainy day” would be the free market reply, never mind the fact that most of these affected did not make enough income to save in any significant manner.
The left flank of American politicians are even giving praise to Trump with his economic response to the corona crisis. After all, he is behaving like a socialist. He is authoring a $1 Trillion handout to both American businesses and individuals. And while these moves make the right very uncomfortable and cause them to mur-mur under their breath, most of them are supporting such moves because they do not see another way to help citizens.
Can’t we all agree that the best economy is neither socialist nor capitalist, but a mixed one? The best economy seems to be one that rewards hard-work and can respond to demand while at the same time does not prey upon the bottom 80%.