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Tags: johnson | bolsonaro | egypt | brazil | hungary

Post-Coronavirus World Will Demand Structured, Disciplined Democracies

global realpolitik of global interdependence politics and markets

Luis Fleischman By Saturday, 09 May 2020 06:48 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

COVID-19 was first of all a global pandemic.

It was such because we are living in a globalized world.

People travel more whether it's for business or for tourism. Millions of people move from one place to another every day. Airports are packed. Material goods and services move from one place to another rapidly, doing so as never before.

Protectionist policies and commercial barriers have collapsed.

Millions of people have migrated mostly from south to North and from East to West in search of new opportunities. Countries in Europe have seen their borders disappear.

This is comprises a part of our now global world.

If the world is more global, people are more dependent on each other.

But COVID-19 (or coronavirus) raises some questions as to how we should relate to the world.

For example, let's look at how authoritarian, semi-authoritarian, illiberal, and democratic regimes reacted to the pandemics.

In China, where the virus purportedly originated, suppression of information led to an unstoppable spread of the disease. Doctors who denounced the presence of the virus were sent to jail or died; previously they were treated like heroes.

In Hungary, president Victor Orban managed to secure special powers for himself.

He could rule by decree indefinitely, suspend laws and enact new ones.

Hungary proceeded to criminalize journalists for spreading "distorted facts," an undefined term enabling arbitrariness. This means that the government can present its version of the truth — dubious or not — but can't be challenged.

Likewise, In Turkey hundreds have been arrested for what is called "provocative posts" about coronavirus on social media.

This action has deterred doctors from speaking out, much less so in public

Others like Russia have resorted to widespread surveillance, facial recognition, and other measures to enforce quarantines.

Brazil and Egypt represent pathetic examples.

El Sisi’s Egypt in complicity with the national media initially denied the existence of the decease, refusing to address it even after it was reported in Europe that tourists who traveled to Egypt contracted the illness.

In Egypt, as with Iran, the government spread all kinds of conspiracy theories blaming external enemies. Later Egypt suspended international flights and adopted additional measures to fight COVID-19 but it continues to deny that tourists are getting infected in the country. It's estimated that the country has reported a considerably lower number of infected individuals, versus the actual number. 

In Brazil, a democratically elected but illiberal president, Jose Bolsonaro, initially ignored the spread of the disease, calling it a "small flu."

Likewise, Bolsonaro ignored the advice of the medical community and his own health minister to impose lockdowns. He also clashed with local authorities who decided to impose "stay at home" polices.

Addtitionally, Bolsonaro advocated to return to business as usual — as if nothing was happening. By ignoring the opinion of advisers and other sources, Bolsonaro has placed politics above everything else — including medicine, science, and public health.

Still, it's clear that authoritarian or semi-authoritarian regimes, for different reasons, have prioritized their power interests above the interests of the citizenry — and civil society.

Lack of transparency and ulterior motives lead to a further global spread of coronavirus.

Simultaneously, medical and scientific knowledge has succumbed to a political logic.

Truth and transparency are the main casualties.

It's true that President Trump’s illiberal instincts have led him to frequent denials and inaccurate messages. Trump was also tempted to dismantle the White House Coronavirus Task Force19 , as well as second-guess experts.

However, public pressure forced Trump to back off.

Initially in Great Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson downplayed the disease but subsequently, in the face of evidence and public pressure, reversed his stance. 

For the structure of today’s global world, there is no global government to impose unified rule. Thus, nations are interdependent.

Furthermore, it's said that globalization has actually diminished the role of states.

Globalists have also rejected the state, claiming that it's a barrier to functioning markets. 

Although, government can often be problematic as well as too bureaucratic, it remains the main organizer of an often-complex society and the only body attending to multiple demands, while coordinating many moving parts.

In times of pandemics, government is very much needed.

Private business has no capability or the will to undertake the tasks traditionally belonging to the state.

A democratic state is more reliable than a non-democratic one.

Thus, this is why world democracy and democracy promotion should continue to be a component of U.S. policy.

China’s behavior also leads to question whether it would be better to do business with nations that are more accountable and therefore more responsible.

China has become the top global manufacturer, inclusive of most needed products — medicines, anti-biotics, as well as others.

Yet, situation regarding China turns increasingly negative. 

If there is a discussion about the need to produce at home, there should also be a discussion at least about the need to trade and work with countries clearly demonstrating reasonable levels of transparency. 

An important political dialogue is needed in the post-COVID-19 era.

President Donald Trump supports a more nationalist policy where manufacturing returns home and international free trade is restricted, or at least maintained under certain conditions (as it has been with the case of the revised NAFTA agreement).

Others support free trade as we know it since the business community wants to produce cheap and consumers themselves wish to buy cheaply.

Some of the "nationalist-independents" believe that what happens in other countries is none of our business and that we need to look inward.

Others, like former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley claim that dependency on a geo-political and military ambitious China is an existential danger.

Thus, the more that we do and make things at home the better.

And of course, there are others who believe that the more democratic countries are, the safer it will be to interact with them. In this case, prioritizing relations with democratic countries is in the best interests of U.S. national security and wellbeing.

A serious dialogue is urgently needed.

The Republican/Democratic and Trump/anti-Trump divides must give way to something significantly more positive.

This is the responsibility of both parties.

Luis Fleischman is a professor of Sociology at Palm Beach State College, the co-founder of the think-tank the Palm Beach Center for Democracy and Policy Research. He is also the author of "Latin America in the Post-Chavez Era: The Threat to U.S. Security," and the author of a forthcoming book, "The Middle East Riddle: The Arab-Israeli Conflict in Light of Political and Social Transformations in the Arab World," to be published by New Academia. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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If there is a discussion about the need to produce at home, there should also be a discussion at least about the need to trade and work with countries clearly demonstrating reasonable levels of transparency. 
johnson, bolsonaro, egypt, brazil, hungary
Saturday, 09 May 2020 06:48 AM
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