St Petersburg - seven lessons of coronavirus

Few enthusiastic guys was spamming our e-mail the whole week through with coronavirus information and suggestions. We have decided to summarize the main points and publish this article for your perusal.

Seven lessons of coronavirus

"What a strange time we live in!" - it's true-it's a strange time. We don't know when the Covid-19 pandemic will end, we don't know how it will end, and so far we can only guess what impact it will have on politics and the economy in the long run. During a crisis, we are infected with the virus of uncertainty. However, this crisis has at least seven major differences from previous crises.

Lesson one is that, unlike the financial crisis of 2008-2009, the coronavirus will serve as an incentive to bring back Big government. After the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, many observers believed that the crisis-induced distrust in the market would lead to increased faith in the government. This idea is not new: in 1929, after the onset of the great depression, people demanded active government intervention to compensate for the shortcomings of the market system. In the 1970s, the opposite was true: disillusioned with government intervention, people began to believe in the market again. The paradox of the 2008-2009 crisis is that distrust of the market did not lead to demands for increased government intervention. Now the coronavirus will bring the Big government back, permanently and permanently. People rely on the state to organize a collective defense against the pandemic, and to save a sinking economy. The effectiveness of national governments is now reflected in their ability to change people's daily behavior. 

The second lesson is that the coronavirus has once again demonstrated the mystical power of state borders, and that it will help to confirm the great role of nation States within the European Union. This can already be seen in the closing of state borders, as well as the fact that every European government is now focused on its own citizens. Under normal circumstances, EU member States would not discriminate between patients of different nationalities in their hospitals, but during a crisis they are more likely to give priority to their citizens over others (we are not talking about immigrants from other regions of the world, but about Europeans with an EU passport). Thus, the coronavirus will strengthen nationalism (even if not ethnic). To help citizens survive, the government will ask them to build walls not only between States, but also between individuals, because the risk of infection comes from those with whom people most often meet. The greatest threat now is not strangers, but loved ones.

Lesson three is related to trust in professional knowledge. The financial crisis and the crisis of 2015, related to the influx of refugees, caused a strong public discontent with the experts. The coronavirus will reverse this turnaround, which has been one of the greatest achievements of populist politicians over the past decade. Many people, when their lives are in danger, immediately begin to trust experts and listen to the opinions of scientists. Already, you can see how this strengthens the reputation of specialists who are leading the battle against the virus. Professionalism is now back in fashion.

Lesson four can be interpreted in different ways, but it is still very important. The coronavirus, unfortunately, can increase the appeal of big-data authoritarianism that the Chinese government has resorted to. Chinese leaders can be blamed for their lack of government transparency, which has made them slow to respond to the spread of the virus, but the effectiveness of their response and the ability of the Chinese state to control the movement and behavior of people is impressive. Now, in this crisis, citizens are constantly comparing their government-its effectiveness and the measures it takes-with other governments. We should not be surprised if, after the crisis ends, China looks like a winner and the US looks like a loser.

The fifth lesson relates to the settlement of crises. Through economic crises, refugee crises, and terrorist attacks, governments have learned that panic is their worst enemy. If, after each terrorist attack, people changed their daily behavior for a few months and did not leave their homes, this would help the terrorists achieve their goals. The same is true for the 2008-2009 crisis: changes in behavior often led to increased losses from the crisis. So both leaders and citizens responded to crises with statements like "keep calm," "move on," "ignore the risk," and "don't exaggerate." Now, governments must order their citizens to stay at home, meaning they must change their behavior. And the result depends heavily on whether governments can intimidate people enough to make them comply. "Don't panic" is an incorrect statement for the Covid-19 crisis. To stop the pandemic, people must panic — and radically change their way of life.

Lesson six is that the Covid-19 crisis will greatly affect the dynamics of intergenerational relations. In the context of the debate about climate change and the risks it entails, the younger generation has been critical of their elders, accusing them of being selfish and not thinking about the future. The coronavirus has changed the situation: older members of society are now much more vulnerable and feel at risk because Millennials are extremely reluctant to change their lifestyle. This generational conflict may increase if the crisis continues for a long time.

Lesson seven is that there will come a time when governments will have to choose whether to stop the pandemic at the cost of economic collapse or save the economy at the cost of more human lives.

It is still too early to speculate about the political implications of Covid-19. The crisis justified the fears of anti-globalists: closed airports and people in self-isolation-this is probably the zero mark of globalization. But, paradoxically, the new trend of anti-globalization may weaken the position of populist politicians, who, although they voice problems, do not offer solutions. In addition, the Covid-19 crisis will radically change the European Union's response to all the other crises it has faced over the past decade. Budget discipline has ceased to be an economic mantra even in Berlin. And no European government at the moment will advocate opening borders to refugees. It is still unclear how the crisis will affect the future of European integration. But it is already clear that the coronavirus will eventually call into question some of the basic principles on which the EU is based.