They Are Rewriting the History of Coronavirus in Real Time

They Are Rewriting the History of Coronavirus in Real Time, by Peter Earle.

What is the story of the coronavirus, the market crash, and the economic upheaval that will likely follow? The pundit and intellectual classes are hard at work to tell the story in a way that confirms their ideological biases. Their message: in times when everyone turned against the public sector, with budget and staffing cuts, we learned that only the government can save us from a worse calamity.

The storyline is not unlike the one they tell about the Great Depression and the Crash of 2008. The market was unstable, overly exuberant, and animated by “greed,” and the super rich were running wild, so of course the crash came, just as hell is the destination of the sinful. Then our government officials and charges, wise and brave, rode in on a white horse and cleaned up the place, instituted controls, and put history back on the right course.

Big government with a socialist at the helm, in Nuremberg in 1934

The elements of the evolving account aren’t true, but they make for a pleasant fiction for the ideologically minded. Of course, Herbert Hoover was not a “do nothing” president; of course, Bill Clinton didn’t “balance the budget.”

Something in this same revisionist tradition is taking place before our very eyes. The coronavirus is penance for market-oriented sins, but the hallowed halls of government are forgiving and coming to our rescue.

Among millions and perhaps tens of millions of people, a fable has coalesced: that deep budget cuts and a winnowing of experts by an ostensibly free market–leaning administration have led to the more rapid spread of the coronavirus (and its consequent effects on the world economy). It has become the story, stolid and inviolable.

Make no mistake: some people will vote based upon this chronicling of events. These anecdotes, undeniably false, will nevertheless appear in books, editorials, and other historical depictions of the current era. They will be taught to children, and through the process of second-hand dealing in ideas over time will be woven into the fabric of the zeitgeist. In ten or twenty years it will have become part of the received knowledge of pundits amateur and expert alike.

Too much government is never enough for those glorious and virtuous people who work in government or grow rich off government contacts.

Small government success stories like Singapore? We don’t mention them.