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All Apologies for Democracy

Recent mistakes by elected governments underscore the unique difficulties that democracies face when dealing with a problem as large and complex as a pandemic. Nonetheless, the COVID-19 crisis has offered clear lessons, validating two classic answers to the question of what role the state should fill.

BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s hasty revocation of a hastily announced Easter lockdown was surprising, even shocking, given her ever-calm demeanor. Even more extraordinary was the apology she issued to parliament: “The mistake is mine and mine alone. Because in the end, I bear responsibility as chancellor. I regret it deeply, and I ask our citizens for forgiveness.”