Coronavirus: Pandemic unleashes internal conflict for liberals

Coronavirus: Pandemic unleashes internal conflict for liberals, by Paul Kelly.

Economic recovery from the COVID-19 attack is generating an ideological conflict in right-wing politics between two schools — pro-market economic liberals and pro-government interventionist conservatives keen to use state power. …

The liberals want an economy even better geared to pro-market, pro-productivity reforms to generate growth …

The best statement of the alternative view .. comes from NSW Liberal senator Jim Molan, an icon of the party’s conservative wing, in a recent article: “The market has never, and will never, deliver Australian security. The market monumentally failed to deliver security in Australia over the last few decades. There are limitations in viewing the world solely through an economic lens. COVID-19 has heralded the end of a particular phase of globalisation and the question becomes how Australia should recalibrate its policy settings to secure its sovereignty in the new circumstances. We are now acutely aware of the vulnerabilities associated with untrussed globalised supply chains and ‘just-in-time’ logistics. In the event of a future crisis bigger than COVID-19 we need to ensure that Australia can take care of its own needs in vital areas including food, medicine, energy, IT, fuels, industry, transportation and defence … self-reliance improves resilience which improves sovereignty.”

Switching from market efficiency to sovereignty:

Rana Foroohar from the Financial Times says: “If the past 40 years were about efficiency, the next 40 will be about resilience.” …

In his New York Times article, Rubio denounced past decades when America “made the conscious choice to facilitate offshoring to China”, the consequence being the 2016 campaign when people “felt helpless as they watched jobs disappear and their communities crumble because businesses and lawmakers prioritised maximised short-term gains over the long-term security of America, its communities and its peoples”.

Rubio’s point is that COVID-19 has humiliated America because China has monopolised the “critical supply chains”, leaving the nation scrambling for essential medical supplies. His message: our society must change because the “short-term hyper-individualistic ethos” based on a services economy that doesn’t produce enough physical goods has led to a crisis where people cannot leave home, cannot shake hands and cannot enter a place of worship. Rubio will move for a “sweeping pro-American industrial policy” off the back of strong public support. …

There is intellectual turmoil and vibrancy throughout the ­centre-right in America and Britain about the precise path forward. Boris Johnson and Donald Trump won elections as friends of the working class, spending big, championing government intervention, kicking Adam Smith into history’s dustbin, at least for a few decades.

Australian Liberals:

Morrison takes a broad view of sovereignty. He thinks it can encompass both a competitive private sector and security self-reliance where needed. He will probably seek a synthesis between these rival conceptions. Consider the irony — liberal economics and the national security state have been the two singular glories and winning issues for the Liberal Party for decades.

hat-tip Stephen Neil