It is not only the elderly and those with pre-existing illnesses who are among the potential victims of the Corona pandemic. The end of globalization itself, too, is seen as a possible long-term effect. Crises are indeed moments of historical recalibration. However, not everything changes after a crisis.
It is indeed questionable that the pandemic will lead to the end of globalization, at least economically. Undoubtedly, there are alternatives to the global production chains, and a partial renationalization of economic cycles is possible. That, though, comes at high costs and welfare losses. Upon the return of normalcy, public and private debt will have skyrocketed. This kind of environment does not make further globalization less likely.
The situation looks a bit different with regards to political globalization. Many view the current crisis as the hour of the executive, while others point to the fact that we are witnessing a renaissance of political regulation rather than the return of the sovereign nation-state.
Until an accurate assessment can be made, many things will happen. The outcome of the crisis will be determined not only by objective facts, but to a large extent also by battles over their interpretation.
I tend to avoid the word liberal as much as possible in conversation. My reticence does not come from any ideological aversion (although that could be forgiven), but from an abundance of caution. What exactly do my peers mean by liberal? ‘Does it include respect for the rule of law, freedom of expression and other unenumerated rights?’ Yes, they nod. ‘What of free markets and a rules-based international order.’ Their enthusiasm is now palpable. Here, I cannot help but goad them. ‘Or does it merely guarantee that my rent increases without end and that I’ll never actually own anything?’ A dose of cynicism and the conversation stalls. ‘That’s not the point,’ they usually reply! ‘It’s dishonest to confuse neo-liberalism with classical liberalism, and besides, it’s certainly better than the alternatives.’ Ah yes, the perfunctory defense: it could be worse. ‘Is that the best we can do?’ I ask. ‘That it could be worse?’ On cue, the coffee machine growls, and the conversation ends. The comment is barbed, but not without making a point. What are the liberal values worth defending? And why does it matter now?