Thursday, April 02, 2020


Rich Lowry writes:
We Are All Restrictionists Now

When President Donald Trump announced a restriction on travel from Europe in a mid-March Oval Office address, European Union officials erupted in outrage.

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, issued a joint statement with the president of the European Council thundering, “The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action.”

Just a few days later, von der Leyen was advancing her own proposal to ban nonessential travel into the EU. The initative noted that “globalization and international movements of people create conditions which facilitate the spread of virus across the borders.”

We are all restrictionists now. In the coronavirus crisis, everyone realizes the importance of borders, even the people who not long ago were ideologically hostile toward them and tsk-tsked the allegedly primitive nationalists who obsessed over them....

Borders mark off the sovereign territory of one people from another. They are a means — if they can be enforced and defended — for a sovereign state to protect its people from invaders and unwelcome immigrants and goods.
Invaders, immigrants, goods -- but not viruses.
Of course, travel restrictions haven’t prevented the spread of the disease — there’s no such thing as an air-tight seal against the virus.
Right. Early on, President Trump restricted travel from China, but allowed in U.S. nationals returning from there. A virus doesn't care whether you're a U.S. national. Also, the virus was already here.

Besides, we had international travel -- and pandemics -- even before we were "globalists." In 1918, we weren't "globalists" in the sense we are now, but the so-called Spanish flu (which might have originated in Kansas) traveled the world, partly spread in the trenches of a world war.

And the fact that we're talking about travel restrictions now doesn't mean we support zealously defended borders for all time. Right now, much of the world is closing shops, restaurants, bars, and businesses. White-collar workers are sitting at home in pajamas, working remotely. The fact that we're doing this now doesn't mean that we believe it's wise to close all bars and restaurants permanently and shut down every office building for all time.
Imposing travel restrictions is the least of it. Italy has had trouble importing masks because European counties have been working to keep medical supplies within their own borders, indeed to keep produce within their borders. According to the Wall Street Journal, “German officials said their restrictions were partly designed to safeguard supplies at German supermarkets from French shoppers.”

So much for a new era of European solidarity dissolving the historic, centuries-old political and cultural divisions among continental nations.
I'm trying to grasp Lowry's argument here. It appears to be: We should all be nationalists rather than globalists, because you see how globalism made it much more difficult for Italy to ... import masks from other countries.
The coronavirus has acted as a solvent on a decade or more of cliches about the arrival of a globalized world where borders no longer matter. In a crisis, no one believes that, and everyone turns to borders as a first line of defense.
No. Our first line of defense was -- or should have been -- a public health infrastructure that could have rapidly ramped up in order to test, trace, and isolate sick people, to buy time for scientists to develop treatments and a vaccine. The anti-globalist approach that might have saved us from the virus is the North Korean model, albeit even more extreme. (North Korea trades with China, and its claims of no cases of covid-19 have been met with skepticism.) If people and goods travel at all, a bad virus will get you, whether your country is "globalist" or not.

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