Most countries have faithfully followed the WHO playbook to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. But has the immense social and economic damage wrought by this response been greater than the true medical impact of the pandemic? And what lessons must we learn to inform our future pandemic response strategy? In this debate, ‘For' will argue that the approach deployed on the direction of the WHO has been disproportionate, when a more targeted, evidence-based response would have paid similar dividends. ‘Against’ will say that while hindsight always delivers apparent wisdom, the WHO-led response has been proportionate given its mandate, and will prove effective, given the circumstances.
Neoliberalism has proven itself to be a durable form of laissez-faire late Capitalism. The ‘free market system’ has been the dominant economic ideology in the Western world since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, informing the tacit knowledge of billions around the definition of a successful life and how to achieve it. The Coronavirus presents faces the greatest challenge to Neoliberalism’s authority since it became the dominant economic ethos. The Neoliberal rule book has been torn up in ways that would have been unthinkable 10 weeks ago. Will it survive? The ‘For’ side argues that the Coronavirus will indeed deal a mortal blow to an ethos and system of economic and social organisation that was already facing serious challenge. ‘Against’ counters that, notwithstanding the short-term global shock the virus has delivered, Neo-liberalism will prevail as the dominant system of economic organisation once the crisis has passed.
The world is scrambling to come to terms with the Coronavirus crisis. No news there. Naturally, most attention has focussed on the drastic Public Health measures designed to bring the spread of the virus under control. But what of the consequences, unintended and perhaps even intended, of these measures? The ‘For’ essay argues that the threat to Liberal Democracy posed by actions taken under cover of crisis is a real one. It urges us to be wary of the ‘black-ops’ of Disaster Capitalists who might use our natural fear of Coronavirus to institute measures that will have long-lasting, negative effects on our liberal democratic way of life. ‘Against’ argues that, when faced with a potentially existential threat, certain aspects of our freedom and privacy must temporarily be suspended. We should not be too precious about these if it means slowing, and eventually halting, the march of Coronavirus.