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US Percentage of World’s Coronavirus Cases Is Declining, but the libertarian policies remain catastrophic

Eric Zuesse

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At the start of the day on May 2nd, the U.S. had 4.2% of the world’s population and 33.3%, or one-third, of all coronavirus-19 cases.

At the start of the day on May 10th, the U.S. had 32.9% of cases. The decline from 33.3% to 32.9% is .4% down, or a decline of slightly over 1% of the 33.9%, in 8 days. It’s virtually certain never to go down to the 4.2% of global coronavirus cases which would match America’s 4.2% of the global population.

America will therefore probably, for a long time to come, have a larger number of coronavirus-19 cases than any other country. America has, furthermore, been adding new cases at around 20 to 30 thousand per day since around April 1st and therefore still continues rising, but as the virus spreads and takes hold in more and more countries, America’s percentage of the global total is probably now declining, from the peak of one-third (33.3%), which it had reached on May 2nd.

The libertarian Mises Institute headlined on May 7th, “How Many Lives Will Politicians Sacrifice in the Name of Fighting COVID-19?” and argued for do-nothing governmental policy, and for relaxation of the “lockdowns” that are in place. Mike Whitney at the libertarian Unz Review  headlined on May 4th, “Sweden Is the Model” and wrote that “Herd immunity is the only path that is currently available.” This means there should be no “lockdowns.” He asserted that “After 6 weeks of this nonsense, many people are getting fed-up and demanding that the lockdowns be ended”:

As we said in last week’s column, the lockdowns must be lifted gradually, that is crucial.

“You have to step down the ladder one rung at a time”, says Senior Swedish epidemiologist and former Chief Scientist of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Johan Giesecke. In other words, slowly ease up on the restrictions and gradually allow people to get back to work. That is the best way forward.

Sweden has, indeed, taken a remarkably libertarian approach to dealing with Covid-19. As I wrote on April 22nd under the headline “Why Post-Coronavirus America Will Have Massive Poverty”, comparing Sweden’s policies versus the more socialistic Denmark’s policies on this:

The daily number of Denmark’s new Covid-19 cases peaked on April 7th, and has been declining since that time. Its neighbor Sweden peaked on April 8th. Sweden’s emergency legislation is less strict about lockdowns, but relies more on individual discretion. However, since Sweden, like Denmark, is a democratic socialist country, individuals needn’t worry about paying medical bills, nor about being paid while on sick-leave. So, employees aren’t desperate to return to their places of work, such as in America; and, therefore, these countries don’t spread the infection as readily as in the U.S. and are thus far less likely to have recurring peaks and delayed terminations of the coronavirus crisis. (By contrast: in America, where losing one’s job can mean losing one’s health care, even sick employees may be inclined to stay on the job and perhaps infect customers.) And there are no corporate bailouts in either Denmark’s or Sweden’s legislation. Denmark’s Finance Minister, the Social Democrat (or democratic socialist) Nicolai Wammen was interviewed for 15 minutes on March 27th, by Christiane Amanpour, and he explained Denmark’s emergency law, which was overwhelmingly bottom-up, not top-down (such as America’s is).

Here, therefore, is the actual performance [number of cases per million population], thus far, of both of those two countries:

DENMARK = 1,329 peaked April 7th

SWEDEN = 1,517 peaked April 8th

Both of them are reasonably comparable to Germany, UK, Turkey, and Iran, but not as good as S. Korea, and not nearly as good as the two best, China and Japan.

As of the start of the day on May 10th, those numbers are:

DENMARK = 1,782 (up 34%)

SWEDEN = 2,567 (up 69%)

Consequently, as more time passes, Denmark’s policy is considerably more effective at keeping down the number of cases than is Sweden’s.

Furthermore: whereas Sweden had tested only 14,704 persons per million (which is a very low percentage), Denmark had tested 53,345 per million (which is an extremely high percentage), and this fact likewise indicates that whereas Sweden, which has been reducing its socialism and increasing its libertarianism, is pursuing a remarkably libertarian approach to Covid-19, Denmark, which remains socialistic, is pursuing a remarkably socialist approach. And Denmark’s approach is increasingly better than Sweden’s in terms of keeping down the percentage of Covid-19 cases.

As regards the economies of those two countries: The unemployment rate in Denmark at the end of March 2020 was 4.1% and that was 170,000 unemployed; and as of May 5th there are 180,000 unemployed Danes; so, Denmark’s productivity hasn’t been much affected yet by Covid 19.

By contrast: Reuters headlined on April 14th, “Swedish unemployment rate could reach 10% by summer – Labour Board”, and reported that “Unemployment in Sweden could reach 10% in the coming months if the current wave of lay-offs due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus continues, the Labour Board said. … Unemployment was 7.4% in February, but many companies have since shut down and sent workers home due to supply chain problems and measures to prevent the spread of the virus.” On May 7th, the Wall Street Journal bannered “Sweden Has Avoided a Coronavirus Lockdown. Its Economy Is Hurting Anyway.”

Consequently, the newly libertarian Sweden’s coronavirus policies, as compared to the still-socialistic Denmark’s, are actually a disaster — like America’s are (though America, being more libertarian than Sweden, is doing even worse).

In other words: the supposed either-or choice (trade-off) that the libertarian U.S. regime and its propagandists assert, between either controlling the epidemic (continuing the “lockdowns” etc.) or else preventing economic collapse (“reopening the businesses” etc.), is fraudulent. The exact opposite is the actual case: in order to minimize the economic damage, controlling the epidemic is basic — whatever is sound policy for the public’s health is also sound economic policy. (America’s libertarian President takes on faith the opposite viewpoint; and, so, on May 10th, the Washington Post reported that, “Trump has expressed confidence that lifting public health restrictions will jump-start the economy.” The only basis for accepting libertarianism is faith, because the empirical evidence disproves it — and not only on this matter.)

What, then, is the situation regarding the three major countries that are doing the most effective job of keeping down the percentage of their population that’s Covid-19 infected: China (58 cases per million), South Korea (211) , and Japan (123)? (Note those stunningly low numbers — and each one of those countries is well past its peak of daily new cases, which the libertarian countries are not.)

America’s propaganda organizations blame China for the coronavirus-19 and criticize anyone who publicly advocates China’s model on this, but as more time passes and the U.S. regime’s accusations against China continue to be ‘documented’ only by half-truths and outright lies, a public need increases that what China’s policies actually have been regarding controlling this epidemic become accurately understood. On May 9th, the South China Morning Post bannered “Coronavirus response: China’s military may have filled the gap left by the US but it’s only temporary, experts say”, and ignored even touching upon what China’s policy is and has been regarding coronavirus. On May 8th, they headlined “Coronavirus: China to revive special ‘off-budget bonds’ as pandemic stokes debt dilemma” and said little more than that the Government’s debts were increasing due to the virus: “‘Off-budget doesn’t mean it can be excluded from the overall debt level,’ said David Wang, head of China economics at Credit Suisse.” How that money is being spent is not discussed, other than “increasing the limit for local governments to issue bonds for infrastructure spending.” To the extent that there is specifically a coronavirus policy-response, rather than merely a continuation or amplification of pre-existing economic policies, that’s not mentioned. There are merely ‘filler’ statements, such as “The central government has not announced how the proceeds from the special treasury bonds will be used, but analysts warn they will be wasted if funneled to projects that do not make economic sense.” Whatever China’s specific coronavirus-19 policy-responses are is non-public information.

Back on 28 March 2017, the America-based SupChina site headlined “How Does Healthcare In The U.S. Compare With China’s?” and reported that “More than 97 percent of people in China use public health insurance systems” and patients who had experienced both America’s and China’s said that “receiving treatment in the U.S. is less efficient” but “that sometimes patients in China simply can’t see a doctor without the help of a scalper.” At least a reasonable assumption would be that China is more socialistic in its coronavirus policies than are the vast majority of other countries, which have dramatically worse coronavirus results.

South Korea has done remarkably little coronavirus-19 testing, but remarkably much coronavirus contact tracing (if that can even be effectively done with such little testing). So, the situation there isn’t much clearer than it is in China.

Japan has, apparently, been socialistic in its policy-response but relying far more on the public’s voluntary compliance than on law-enforcement in order to reduce to a minimum the number of coronavirus cases. Of course, in a country such as the U.S. and throughout Latin America — lands where the government is widely distrusted — any compliance whatsoever relies necessarily upon law-enforcement, and so the Japanese method would almost certainly not work.

All three of those countries are, of course, culturally Asian; so, their vastly superior handling of the coronavirus maybe isn’t due ONLY to their being more socialistic than the U.S. and other failing countries are. They are all non-Western nations. 

As of May 10th, two countries that have approximately half the population-size of the smallest of those three (which is the 52 million population in South Korea) also have stunningly low Covid-19 infection-rates and seem likewise to have passed the peak in the number of their daily new cases: Taiwan has a population of 25 million, and has only 18 cases per million; Venezuela has 30 million and only 14 cases per million. Both nations also have socialized the healthcare function and (like all of the countries mentioned here except U.S.) 100% of the people there have health insurance. (It’s a right, not a privilege, in all of the countries except America.) As regards the percentage of people who have been tested for Covid-19, that percentage is 2,819 per million in Taiwan, and 18,012 per million in Venezuela. (For a few comparisons: it’s 1,676/M in Japan, 54,873/M in Denmark, 14,704/M in Sweden, and 28,452/M in U.S. So: the percentage who have been tested seems not to correlate with a nation’s success or failure in dealing with Covid-19.)  

The indications, thus far, are that the libertarian approach (which is exemplified especially in today’s U.S., UK, and most of Latin America) is catastrophic, and that whatever may have been its alleged benefits in a pre-Covid-19 world, only intensification of its propaganda (such as by the ‘news’-media in those more-libertarian countries) can continue it into the post-Covid-19 world. Libertarianism is, now, more clearly than ever before, a failed model.

Why would that be? Perhaps it’s because, in reality, the only people who have more liberty under libertarianism are the controlling owners of corporations, the wealthiest 1% (who fund the politicians and the media), whereas everybody else has less actual liberty, and more insecurity, under libertarianism — the fact is, libertarianism is liberty ONLY for the richest, and the opposite for everybody else: it is aristocracy, instead of democracy. It’s for only the big-corporate owners, and especially for the international-corporate owners.

The economic future for the world, and especially for the U.S., is bad, and not only because of this plague. On April 14th, I headlined “Why at Least America Will Be in Another Great Depression”, and explained it there in one way; on May 1st, The Saker headlined “The Saker interviews Michael Hudson about the current economic crisis”, and Hudson explained it there in another way — these are different sides of the same phenomenon, but our analyses are the same (except that he is more optimistic than I: he said “The current depression is the worst since the 1930s,” whereas I expect it to be the worst ever). My article was simply focusing on the way that the coronavirus-crisis is going to expedite what I expect to be the biggest economic crash in world history. Hudson said that “We are at the end of the 75-year upswing that began in 1945 when the war ended.” I agree with that, too, and have elsewhere identified 26 July 1945 as the commencement of this pillaging by the Deep State, via its millions of employees and other agents. This will be the ultimate near-term catastrophe of libertarianism, otherwise called “neoliberalism,” and in international affairs this pillaging is called “neoconservatism” and “imperialism.” America therefore stands now at the precipice, facing a grim new world, and that is how we got here. Coronavirus merely expedites the fall off this cliff. But the ascent to such an extremely bad end started, actually, on 26 July 1945. That’s when the fateful decision was made, from which the post-WW-II world became irrevocably shaped — the foundation was laid at that time, for America’s Deep State (America’s billionaires, not the CIA and not the think tanks, but themselves, who actually pull the strings behind the curtain) to take over the country and almost the entire world, and for an even worse Depression than the one that FDR had inherited from Herbert Hoover. America’s taxpayers now pay around half of global military expenditures, and the bill for its billionaires to use their government so as to grab and hold control over that vast American empire is now coming due. Nothing like this has ever existed before. And Covid-19 simply expedites the coming American free-fall.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Is an Electioneering Trump Overblowing the ‘China Threat’?

M Waqas Jan

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As several analysts grapple over the futility of calling for greater international cooperation against the Coronavirus pandemic, US – China relations seem to be plumbing to ever increasing lows day by day. One has to just glance at the daily news cycle to see how both the virus and the US – China rivalry seem to be going almost hand in hand in representing perhaps the most serious threats to global peace and prosperity. Threats that are in turn more than likely to dramatically impact the world’s economic and security outlook for many years to come. 

Yet, even before the COVID-19 pandemic stormed all forms of political and international relations discourse, the primacy with which the US – China rivalry had been afforded was never in doubt of fading anytime soon anyway. Especially considering President Trump’s incessant obsession with everything China in his previous election campaign, it was already expected that his hardline stance on China would only intensify the closer it came to his re-election bid. This for instance was best encapsulated in his ‘successfully concluded trade deal’, which in supposedly ending the long and protracted US- China trade war,was to stand as one of the most significant achievements of the Trump presidency. In fact, it was to represent in essence a vindication of President Trump’s entire ethos of America First as manifest in his more assertive and obstinate approach to US diplomacy and foreign policy.

Yet based on some of President Trump’s most recent statements, even the achievements of his much-touted trade negotiations now stand jeopardized as both the White House and State Department continue to directly blame China for causing the Coronavirus pandemic. In fact, the way both President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo have gone about in accusing China of deliberately covering up and mishandling the crises during its earliest stages has stood out particularly for its lack of evidence and sole reliance on hawkish rhetoric. What these claims have instead effectively done is to conflate the security and economic implications of the ‘Chinese threat’ on US primacy. An aspect which has in turn continued to resonate unequivocally with President Trump’s highly conservative and mostly far-right electorate.

Its thus not much of a surprise that China’s response has been to mount an even stronger diplomatic offensive. This has been evident in the collective vitriol expressed by a new breed of more assertive diplomats engaging in what has been ascribed (perhaps more disparagingly) as ‘Wolf Warrior Diplomacy’. Yet, it is worth emphasizing that while such a response is likely to have been expected, it still represents a marked departure from the more subtle, patient and restrained manner that had up till now characterized Chinese diplomacy under the now infamous guiding principlesof Deng Xiaoping. While such assertiveness may represent a benign attempt by China at limiting the defense of its international credibility to the diplomatic front, it could also point towards the growing eminence of more hawkish voices taking hold within the Chinese politburo. Hence, ultimately signifying a more overt and perhaps more dangerous challenge to US primacy on China’s part.

Yet as this back and forth between Chinese and US officials rapidly intensifies, many have been left wondering whether the very threat of China’s rise has been deliberately overblown within US policymaking circles to begin with. This argument for instance has been raised by a number of leading analysts such as Fareed Zakaria among others. In a recent article, Zakaria very pointedly explains how designating China as a strategic competitor has allowed the Pentagon to once again justify the kind of grandiose plans and expenditures which more or less defined some of the most tense days of the US – Soviet Cold War. This kind of thinking for instance is replete in some of the latest analyses and commentary calling for a complete overhaul of the US military – industrial complex in response to the ‘Chinese threat’. Chris Brose’s recent book ‘The Kill Chain: Defending America in the Future of High-Tech Warfare’, makes exactly this argument drawing on his years of expertise working closely with the Pentagon and the US Senate’s Armed Services Committee. As pointed out by Zakaria, this kind of discourse feeds directly into the perceived inevitability and simple predictability of a US – China conflict in what has been famously ascribed to now as the much-vaunted Thucydides Trap. A concept whose own author – Graham Allison – has warned against turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy. A similar skeptic can be found in Michael Beckley whose latest research also questions the severity and alarm that has been afforded to China’s rise. Especially when considering the long way China still has go to overtake the US both economically and militarily.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that on the purely political front, this debate on China’s rise while completely stripped off its historical precedents and hard economic numbers has been reduced to just diplomatic vitriol between both powers. Whereas, President Trump has simply continued what he knows best, the more assertive line taken by China now however directly feeds into US insecurities regarding the future of its power projection capabilities even more.

With the COVID-19 pandemic now representing the latest battleground for this rivalry to play out, China’s attempts at ‘Mask Diplomacy’ and pandemic aid are adding even more fuel to this fire by appearing to take on a more leading role in international leadership. All while appearing to eclipse the US’s waning influence even further as it undergoes one of the most divisive US elections to date. A development that is to only further complicate this rivalry more along the basis of simple prestige than on any serious hard power discrepancies in the years to come.

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From Plato To Donald Trump: A Once Unimaginable Declension

Prof. Louis René Beres

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An elder Plato walks alongside a younger Aristotle. "The School of Athens" is a fresco by the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael. It was painted between 1509 and 1511 as a part of Raphael's commission to decorate the rooms now known as the Stanze di Raffaello, in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.

“….till the class of philosophers be invested with the supreme authority in a state, such state and its citizens will find no deliverance from evil….”-Plato, The Republic

“I love the poorly educated.”-Donald J. Trump, 2016

It’s hardly a secret. During the once unimaginable Trump years – an ongoing era of conspicuous presidential dereliction and determined anti-reason[1] – Americans have been enduring  a grievous national retreat. Earlier, in  principle at least, and at a moment when “principle” still held certain tangible meanings,  Plato’s Republic had provided a proper benchmark for many generations of college students. Here, acquainted with a learning-based view already well-known to Thomas Jefferson and to other founders of the American Republic (back then, our leaders actually read challenging books), such students could think interestingly and usefully about a “philosopher king.”

 The lesson was “heavy,” of course, yet unambiguous. For earnest freshmen, this inspirational figure of  commendable judgment and public righteousness was cast asthe one who could be trusted, the exemplary political  leader, the witting thinkerwho could fuse real learning (not cheap merchandising, chicanery or electoral contrivance) with law-supporting national governance.[2]

Plato’s proposed leader represented what the interested scholars would call an “ideal-type,” and was not considered as an immediately graspable or pragmatic model for national political implementation. Nonetheless, it still served to remind entire societies that justice, virtue and decency could somehow be immensely practical. This dignifying message is patently absent from literally anywhere in the Trump White House. Correspondingly, with this Platonic example, higher education was regarded as an intrinsically worthwhile American experience, not just a tactical stepping stone to better vocation or higher personal income.

Back then, inter alia, American higher education was not just about learning how to extract narrowly personal benefits without regard for fulfilling certain much wider and necessary societal obligations.[3]

Back then, in essence, dignified learning was about rejecting the primal and persistently damaging ethos of “everyone for himself.”[4] In other words, worthwhile it itself, such learning was the literal opposite of what we now suffer hourly from a tweeting but non-reading American president.

 There is more. Now, at a precarious time when extant US presidential liabilities are being amplified and multiplied by worldwide disease pandemic,[5] by a bewildering and frightful pestilential assault, it is a last good time to inquire as follows: What has happened to this once enviable and hopeful model of political leadership?

Significantly, the day-to-day betrayal of this model by an American president and his unswervingly obsequious henchmen in government and industry also represents a wholesale betrayal of America’s Founding Fathers. Though assuredly not understood by Donald Trump or any of his reflexively servile enforcers, the Founders who crafted the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were animated by distinctly Platonic notions of wisdom and by the corollary high ideals of Natural Law.[6]  Thomas Jefferson, especially, had argued that the core viability of the precarious new American republic would depend most of all upon the meaningful education of its citizens. For Jefferson, the kind of ignorant imposture we must now tolerate in the Trump White House would have been judged irreconcilable with any genuine democracy.

Myriad promises notwithstanding,  Donald J. Trump could never plan to move us even inches toward a more properly virtuous and wise “polity.” Rather, and exactly as Plato had once feared in a generic sense, we Americans have already been deformed by a dissembling president who is unable and/or unwilling to distinguish between true knowledge and self-serving opinion. Much like the contemporary Sophists who Plato had recognized could only impair societal betterment and virtuous government, Donald J. Trump represents an utterly insidious caricature (one might even say here, a grotesque self-parody) of commendable national leadership.[7]

In this connection, the president now wittingly risks millions of American lives by personally taking over very complex medical and scientific judgments regarding Covid19.[8] When he is finally finished supplanting properly analytic assessments with his own propagandistic and conspiratorial views of the raging pestilence,[9] there will likely be more body bags piled up on our streets than were earlier evident during the Vietnam War.

That is a sobering and instructive image, one now well worth visualizing.

What about basic human compassion in the White House? As to any evidence of personal empathy or presidential concern for the millions of already suffering, ill and jobless fellow countrymen, Trump can only lament his own alleged punishments by the “fake news.” Grotesquely, even when confronted with the steadily mounting number of American fatalities to Covid19, his only thought is to urge “unfair” interlocutors to “be nice,” to be “more polite.”

There is more. Under Donald Trump’s sorely twisted presidential tutelage, we Americans can never expect any Platonic-style  “deliverance from evil.”  Rather, when we begin to consider the increasing threats of war and terrorism now tied up in various complex interactions with unpredictably virulent pathogens, such evil could prove greater than anything Plato might ever have imagined in the fourth century BCE. Looking toward these potentially existential  perils, they could eventually include enemy nuclear attack and/or biological terrorist assaults against the American homeland.[10]

If anyone in President Trump’s governing inner circle should ever come around to acknowledge such hazards, it would have to be done with a proper obeisance to Der Fuehrer; that is, obliquely, disingenuously, sotto voce.

Nothing more.

Ironically, in this pestilential age of rampant pandemic, a time of global war, terror and plague, the absence of a suitably wise American leadership could render vastly more probablethe weaponized pathogens of some present or future adversary. To wit, as Donald Trump rules openly and entirely by untruth and obfuscation –  “in his own flesh”[11] – he simultaneously undermines utterly vital US relations with Russia, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea.

“I love chaos,” volunteered  Donald Trump with uncharacteristic honesty on March 4, 2018. Portentously, there is ample confirming evidence of just such a dissembling love (a perverse sentiment he also applied several times to his personal relationship with North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un) in the offhanded way Trump has stubbornly mishandled American testing and tracing for the Corona virus. Moreover, in late May 2020, this president announced plans to withdraw from the long-stabilizing Open Skies Treaty with Russia, another worrisome example of favoring gratuitous international belligerence (chaos) over any correctly law-based patterns of international cooperation.[12]

Every four years, We the people – we ina nation which had once been nurtured by American Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Platonic call for high thinking and by Henry David Thoreau’s complementary (and similarly Platonic) plea to “consider the way in which we spend our lives” –  push aside any still-recognizable  serious thought. Obediently, as a deformed society that loathes complexity and looks ever anxiously for simple explanations, we Americans may yet again reduce complex US policy issues  to a crass assortment of numbing clichés and empty witticisms. Whatever else one might say about the rapidly-approaching election, choosing an American president will once again be fraught with abundantly delusionary expectations, and with conspicuously uninformed or incoherent policy platforms.

 Endlessly, in our quadrennial presidential election contests, the celebrity politician draws huge audiences and generous donors in spite ofan ineffable absence of substance. Always, in our infantile and banal national politics, less intellect is more pragmatic. Now, with Donald Trump still able to be taken seriously by so  many Americans, less discernible intellectual substance still spells tangible candidate advantage. With this starkly benighted incumbent, outright buffoonery has often become indisputable electoral advantage.

Credo quia absurdum, said the ancient philosophers. “I believe because it is absurd.”

 There is more. The harshly demeaning and dangerous Trump presidency  bears witness to America’s unprecedented national decline  – a declension of both the electorate and the Republic for which it stands. Now, whenever the sitting president’s words seethe with altogether evident worthlessness, a still-adoring crowd rushes in from the wings to applaud. Mixing desperation with a curiously self-imposed absence of memory and learning, it nods approvingly, en masse, and in more-or-less compliant “social distancing,” cheerlessly celebrates what it presumptuously calls “American Exceptionalism.”  The celebrations are without authentic joy because any tangible evidence that America is “great again” would be preposterous prima facie.

If it were in any way identifiable, it would then represent a glaring contradiction in terms.              

Once, many of our national heroes, including those who could and would actually read, were created by something other than marketing and crude commerce.[13] Today, a “normally” incoherent American president has become an embarrassing pitchman, a circus-announcer fashioned by careful manipulation and persistently meticulous misrepresentations. Far more ominously, of course, America trusts this sitting president with life or death nuclear command decisions,[14] a complex set of expectations that is always subject not only to willful deviations, but also to wholly unpredictable episodes of decisional irrationality.[15]

Let us finally be candid. The American “emperor” is more than just occasionally mistaken. He is hideously and very plainly “naked.” Most worrisome, in this regard, especially for any still-remaining American national future, is an election process that will likely remain shabby and demeaning, that will gratuitously mock all elements of genuine learning, and that proves shamelessly refractory to all residual hints of American intelligence and virtue.

 In principle, somehow, this ill-fated election process can still be civilized and transformed, but only after critical personal meanings in America can finally be detached from a ubiquitously craven and vulgar commerce. The American Republic, it must then be acknowledged, represents significantly more than just another gaming or real estate deal fashioned by Babbitts and politicos who have never heard of Plato or Jefferson or Blackstone, and have no clue as to what is actually discoverable in the US Constitution. Soon, governing this democracy, it must be acknowledged, will require more than another blustering and self-promoting illiterate buffoon.

Much more.

 We must now finally be candid. Plato’s prescriptively high standard of political leadership remains unassailably out of America’s ordinary reach. Still, this guiding standard may serve to remind us just how far we have already managed to descend from the Republic’s original expectations and how far we will need to advance to fully rescue and restore the imperiled United States. No one can reasonably expect Donald Trump or even the other party’s presidential candidate to become another Thomas Jefferson, but we should still hold every presidential aspirant to some at least minimal standards of intellect, seriousness and learning.

Sustaining and expecting some rudimentary intellectual life in the United States is hardly a dispensable option. In the final analysis, a more far-reaching American respect for a genuine life of the mind is required not “merely” for national physical survival, but also for the most fragmentary implementations of virtue. In the seventeenth century, Blaise Pascal, in his eternally elucidating Pensées, effectively summarized Plato: “All our dignity, then, consists in thought. It is upon this that we must depend, not on space and time, which we would not in any case be able to fill. Let us labour then, to think well (emphasis added): this is the foundation of morality.”[16]

There is one last and prospectively overriding point left to make. It is that the manifold derelictions of an anti-intellectual American society must inevitably “spill over” into the wider global arena, sometimes “synergistically,”[17] and thus weaken this country’s overall position in world politics. Accordingly, it was modern French thinker and poet, Guillaume Apollinaire, who understood the corresponding bit of  wisdom better than most: “It must not be forgotten that it is perhaps more dangerous for a nation to allow itself to be conquered intellectually than by arms.”[18]

Now, beleaguered by plague as well as by the more “ordinary” hazards of foreign affairs – war, terrorism and genocide – Americans could do worse than consciously resurrect certain core principles of Plato’s Republic.

Far worse.

So long as we wittingly ensconce Plato’s “supreme authority” in the hands of a manifestly unfit American president, we should rightfully expect no quarter from adversaries of  any kind or magnitude, no reassuringly Platonic “deliverance from evil.”

None at all.


[1] “There is something inside all of us,” writes twentieth century German philosopher Karl Jaspers, “that yearns not for reason, but for mystery – not for penetrating clear thought but for the whisperings of the irrational….” See: Reason and Anti-Reason in Our Time, Archon Books, 1971, p.67.

[2]Generally, the pertinent obligations of international law are also obligations of US law. In the words of Mr. Justice Gray, delivering the judgment of the US Supreme Court in Paquete Habana (1900): “International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction….” (175 U.S. 677(1900)) See also: Opinion in Tel-Oren vs. Libyan Arab Republic (726 F. 2d 774 (1984)).Moreover, the specific incorporation of treaty law into US municipal law is expressly codified at Art. 6 of the US

Constitution, the so-called “Supremacy Clause.”

[3] See, by this author, at The Daily Princetonian : https://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2018/06/a-core-challenge-of-higher-education

[4] Says French Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man: “The egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who have managed to attain egoistically the  extremity of `everyone for himself’ is false and against nature.” Nonetheless, at the international level, Trump has amplified the competitive nature of America’s Covid19 policies, a brand of “vaccine nationalism” that is the reductio ad absurdum of his more generally belligerent stance in world politics.

[5] Says Albert Camus in The Plague (1947): “At the beginning of the pestilence and when it ends, there’s always a propensity for rhetoric….It is only in the thick of a calamity that one gets hardened to the truth, to silence.”

[6] See Edward S. Corwin, THE “HIGHER LAW” BACKGROUND OF AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONAL LAW (1955);  Alexander P. D’Entreves, NATURAL LAW: AN INTRODUCTION TO LEGAL PHILOSOPHY (1951). Additionally, Blackstone’s COMMENTARIES recognize that all law “results from those principles of natural justice, in which all the learned of every nation agree….”  See William Blackstone,  COMMENTARIES ON THE LAWS OF ENGLAND,  adapted by Robert Malcolm Kerr  (Boston; Beacon Press,  1962),  Book IV,  “Of Public Wrongs,”  p. 62  (Chapter V.,  “Of Offenses Against the Law of Nations.”) Still earlier, a century before Demosthenes, Antigone’s appeal against Creon’s order to the “unwritten and steadfast customs of the Gods” had evidenced the inferiority of human rule-making to a Higher Law.  Here, in the drama by Sophocles, Creon represents the Greek tyrant who disturbs the ancient harmony of the city state.  Aristotle, in his RHETORIC, quotes from Sophocles’ ANTIGONE when he argues that “an unjust law is not a law.”  See RHETORIC 1, 15,  1375, a 27 et seq.

[7] In just one example, during his May 21, 2020 tour of a Ford plant in Michigan, Trump refused to wear a mask. Though his explanation for this legal violation was that he didn’t want to give the press “the satisfaction” of seeing him in a mask (what that should actually mean is anyone’s guess), more likely he thought that wearing a mask would project an image of weakness, and – as everyone must already know – Der Fuehrer  is not subject to the normal rules of biology and infection (just as he is allegedly immune to any normal expectations of law). In essence, Trump’s refusal implies that he stands all-powerful, conspicuously “above biology,” just as he allegedly stands uniquely and brazenly “above the law.”

[8] “I tested very positively,” Trump said confusedly on the South Lawn of the White House on May 21, 2020,. “So this morning, yeah, I tested positively toward negative, right? So no, I tested perfectly this morning. Meaning, meaning I tested negative. But that’s a way of saying it, positively toward the negative.” To be charitable about describing such telling presidential confusions, Trump has also had some “trouble” in the past offering proper terminology concerning his medical test results.

[9] https://www.yahoo.com/news/answers-va-given-hydroxychloroquine-1-220636232.html

See also: https://www.yahoo.com/news/massive-study-coronavirus-patients-shows-140100072.html

[10] Professor Beres is the author of some of the earliest books on nuclear war and nuclear terrorism, including Terrorism and Global Security: The Nuclear Threat (1979); Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (1980); and Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (2016). His pertinent writings on this topic have been published in The New York Times; The Atlantic; Special Warfare (Pentagon); Modern War Institute (West Point); The War Room (Pentagon); Parameters: Journal of the US Army War College (Pentagon) International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; and The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

[11] “The mass man has no attention to spare for reasoning,” warns 20th century Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’ Gassett in The Revolt of the Masses (1930), “he learns only in his own flesh.”

[12] Trump’s proposed withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty (1992/2002) mirrored the U.S. decision to pull out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia in August 2019.

[13] Sigmund Freud maintained a general antipathy to all things American. He most strenuously objected, according to Bruno Bettelheim, to this country’s “shallow optimism” and its seemingly corollary commitment to a disturbingly crude form of materialism. America, thought Freud, was very evidently “lacking in soul.” See: Bruno Bettelheim, Freud and Man’s Soul (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983), especially Chapter X.

[14] See, by Professor Beres, at The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, https://thebulletin.org/2016/08/what-if-you-dont-trust-the-judgment-of-the-president-whose-finger-is-over-the-nuclear-button/

[15] Expressions of decisional irrationality in world affairs could take assorted and overlapping forms, and need not be a function of “madness.” These forms include a disorderly or inconsistent value system; computational errors in calculation; an incapacity to communicate efficiently; random or haphazard influences in the making or transmittal of particular decisions; and the internal dissonance generated by any structure of collective decision-making (i.e., assemblies of pertinent individuals who lack identical value systems and/or whose organizational arrangements impact their willing capacity to act as a single or unitary national decision maker).

[16] This is taken from Chapter XXIII of Pascal’s Pensées, “Grandeur de l’Homme.”

[17] Synergistic intersections are those that are “force-multiplying;” more precisely, ones wherein the “whole” is effectively greater than the more-or-less calculable arithmetic sum of its “parts.”

[18] See Guillaume Apollinaire’s “The New Spirit and the Poets,” 1917.

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Americas

Coronavirus: The Collapse of Higher Education -Or its Revolution?

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This is the first time higher education has faced the dual-crisis of finance and health.

After World War II, the American higher education foresaw a significant expansion, which helped their economy to grow. During the Great Recession, a similar plot took place: College enrollments surged along with the tuition fees.

In an ever-expanding industry, a tremendous amount of money has been circulating since then: contributing to the economy and funding for infrastructures and research models — but in a rather unsustainable manner with unsustainable debt levels.

The global economy has faced several recessions. However, the current global economic crisis we are facing is different: it is more so focused on saving lives, and then saving the economy.

With travel bans, lockdown, and social distancing enforced to minimize the transmission of coronavirus, enrollments face new uncertainty.

This is the first time higher education has faced the dual-crisis of finance and health. Thus, it’s hard for institutions to strike a sustainable balance.

Higher education was already on the verge of collapse long before the coronavirus forced the world into lockdown.

In the past eight years, colleges and universities alike had been facing the decline in domestic enrollments, only saved by the significant increase in international enrollments. But since the commence of the US-China trade war, international enrolments had also fallen low.

To attract more students, enormous debts were used to invest in infrastructures such as student centers and research labs. Such investments require a continual cash flow. Recessions jeopardize that cash flow. The financial future of most of those institutions were already at risk. Their annual operating budget desperately depended on the students’ tuition fees, which have been increasing.

As previous recessions illustrate, higher education has always been one of the first budget lines to be cut due to declining state appropriation needed to balance budgets. Competing against expenses such as health and pension, higher education is an easy target, as it was throughout previous recessions.

To manage unsustainable debt, colleges and universities would shift the costs to the students by increasing tuition fees — quicker in public institutions than in private. Student debt would rise as the student loan limit is relaxed.

Over the years, financial aid has increased substantially — although not enough. But the institution’s debts and tuition fees will outweigh the financial aid.

For instance, in March 2020, the congress of the U.S. has approved $14 billion (economic rescue measure against the coronavirus)for the educational sector: over $6 billion in student aid; and about $7.5 billion for institutions. However, colleges and universities are already spending around $8 billion just to refund room and board charges for the current academic year, according to the American Council on Education (ACE). Only 1% of that student aid has been distributed.

During previous recessions, enrollments saw bloom. What about now?

Enrollments were highly positive during previous recessions. As earnings decrease and unemployment rises, a theory suggests that individuals will be more likely to attend college. Research from Dellas and Sakellaris (2003) shows that when the unemployment rate rises by 1 percent, college enrollment doubles.

Travel bans and lockdown enforced all around the world has helped in minimizing the transmission of the virus. But the preventive measures themselves cause further consequences. All these pandemic preventions spell trouble to bring in international students.

For (and from) such unprecedented times like this pandemic, ‘Survey’ was invented. Asking the right questions to the targeted demographic results in much-needed data to evaluate the next steps. The primary targeted demographic are students, but they are not the only one to participate in such surveys: teaching staff, board members, parents, and all higher education stakeholders need to communicate properly as well.

Few surveys have already been carried out.

830 Chinese students have been unable to return to the US to continue their studies, as per a COVID-19 survey by the Institute of International Education (IIE). About 100,000 Chinese students who were in China for their Lunar New Year holidays were unable to return to Australia due to the pandemic enforced travel bans. In the UK, about 60 percent of Chinese students who have already applied to study in the UK next year are either likely to cancel their plans or have yet to decide, as per a survey by Matt Durnin, regional Head of Research and Consultancy, East Asia at the British Council.

These numbers are highly relevant to evaluate the probable future of higher education as China is the largest source of international students in the world. And international students contribute tremendously to the global economy through their enrolments as well as their accommodation costs overseas. For example, in 2018, international students contributed $39 billion to the U.S..; $37.6 billion to Australia.

India comes second to China. About 70 percent of prospective international students from India want to continue with their applications to study abroad, according to a survey by Yocket, a Mumbai-based EdTech startup.

In such a crisis, international students also suffer more.

Academically, every student suffers equally, but economically, it’s different.

This is a myth.

Every student doesn’t suffer equally academically. Some are well-equipped with technology for online learning; some may lack technology; some proper internet connection. Some may be fortunate enough to have enough savings, taking away the toll of worrying about survival.

This panic hampers mental health. Lack of mental clarity will indefinitely hurt academically.

Accommodation is always cheaper at home country when the income source is out of the question. Data shows that international students contribute more from accommodation expenses and similar living expenses than they do from their tuition fees.

Meaning that, accomodation triumphs tuition fees.A highly relevant aspect. In April, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated that foreign students in financial difficulty should leave. The infamous speech garnished a lot of criticism, citing that Australia should not be ‘biting the hand that feeds it.’

Because, once the coronavirus transmission is subdued, the competition for international students will be of massive importance; one which has been in action long before the pandemic. Australia has lost points in this regard.

Meanwhile, other countries are using strategic plans such as easing immigration rules. For example, Canada has permitted international students planning to begin studies in Canada for spring 2020, to complete up to 50 percent of their courses online — a mitigating measure away from travel bans from their home countries.

More surveys will follow. For the time being, the logical answer each survey points towards is E-learning. But it has its own caveats.

Going offline: a new kind of ‘dropping out’

As the majority of the universities are shut down physically, they are opting for online learning, and students are justified in asking for a price cut on their tuition fees. The expensive fees seemed to be for the ‘college experiences’ of falling in love, partying in dorm rooms, and so forth besides the course itself.

The debate of online learning versus traditional learning carries on now more than ever before. Professors, including some outdated from modern technology, are trying their utmost to learn to operate online software. Most of the students who have access to the required technology will attend classes. However, most universities are lacking a proper system to even carry out the basics such as taking attendance.

Absency, in the pre-coronavirus era, used to occur frequently in high numbers for several causes. So did dropouts. Now, most of the world’s educational institutions are physically closed, and courses have been compelled to move online. Once, majorly used to browse social media, is now forced to share the screen time with their respective professors.

But the caveat is that more students than previously are missing class.Some don’t log in; some don’t complete assignments; and so forth.

Most of the absence come from low-income students, who lack access to home computers and stable internet connection — or lack thereof in its totality.

Generating participation is also more difficult than it is inside a normal classroom. But online, it’s even more so.

Online classrooms might do for now, but it is unlikely to ever replace traditional classrooms.

Collapse or revolution? Conclusion.

The Covid-19 pandemic will ensure many of the small institutions to collapse entirely by disrupting the cash flow. Meanwhile, the future of the bigger ones remains in doubt. Cannibalism: the financially strong one consume the weak.

The three aspects — uncertainty in enrolments, unsustainable debt levels, and growth in online courses — have a massive role to play for the future of higher education. International competition does matter as well.

At the moment, in shaping the new world order, China is regarded as one of the top countries. It has already started to reopen its economy. It has provided strict guidelines to its schools and universities on how to physically reopen in an ‘orderly manner’.

Before the pandemic, Xi Jinping dedicated measures to improve education at all levels in China and envisioned producing at least 40 world-class universities by mid-century (the figure will rise to 16 by 2030). In 2018, two universities from China (Peking University and Tsinghua University)ranked inside the World University Rankings (Times Highers, 2018) top 30; outranking several prestigious institutions in Europe and the US.

If China finds a way to retain its Chinese students against overseas countries — taking advantage of this pandemic and travel bans around the globe — higher education won’t be the only thing that gets revolutionized. The world economy will too.

As previously mentioned: In 2018, international students contributed $39b to the U.S.; Australia, $37.6b. Of those figures, Chinese students alone contribute approximately about $13b to the U.S.;$12.1b to Australia.

China has an immense opportunity here: to promote its universities against online lectures amid lockdown elsewhere. As with the US-China trade war, China has the upper hand during this lockdown. The future of Economies and Higher Education will be affected by how China grasps this opportunity.

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