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How to Reset the US Pandemic Response

Whether the problem is COVID-19 or climate change, the market on its own will not produce a sufficient quantity of goods – like masks, vaccines, or environmentally sustainable growth – that benefit society. Capitalizing on America’s private-sector dynamism will require the state to create incentives to produce such “social goods.”

NEW YORK – It’s easy to find fault with the United States’ COVID-19 response or, to be more accurate, the woeful lack thereof. Denial, delays, political infighting, and systemic failures have resulted in more than 100,000 US deaths and deepened the social and economic crisis. Over 40 million workers – one in four – have filed for unemployment benefits since March. Now, Americans are being told that the country, though unprepared, should rush back to “normalcy.”

What has gone awry in the US response transcends today’s hyper-partisan politics. The roots of this American disaster run deep.

To be clear, much of the blame is deservedly partisan, with only the Democrats attempting – over Republican opposition – to patch up the threadbare US safety net via direct support for the unemployed, the poor, the already sick, and the otherwise vulnerable. But Democrats, too, have stopped short of calling for the US government to direct – and pay – the private sector to produce the goods and services that are socially required but that the market on its own cannot and will not deliver.

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