Today’s pandemic has simultaneously inflicted the isolation of “social distancing” and the social solidarity of shared anxiety. In tandem, these have exacerbated a tendency that was already infecting America’s body politic before the virus insinuated itself into many bodies and every consciousness.
It is the recurring longing for escape from individualism, with its burden of personal responsibility. It includes a concomitant desire for immersive politics, whereby people infuse their lives with synthetic meaning by enlisting in mass movements or collective efforts. These usually derive their unity from a clear and present danger or, when that is lacking, from national, ethnic, racial or class resentments (e.g., Donald Trump’s and Bernie Sanders’s not-so-very-different populisms of those who feel victimized).
Iain Murray explains that regulations by government, not offshoring by businesses, is the real obstacle today to directing more economic activity to meet the demands created by the spread of COVID-19 .
Scott Sumner argues that humanity’s experience with COVID-19 could be a boost for libertarianism . (I’m less optimistic on this front than is Scott, but I do hope that he’s correct.)