The Washington Post is always engaging in pessimism and last week was certainly no different. Keith Humphreys is offering up one of the most pessimistic opinions that we have had the displeasure of reading recently. He believes that America will never be able to catch up to other countries when it comes to our collective response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Even if we boost our testing levels and set up the necessary contract testing, Humphreys does not think that we can match up with other nations that have been able to tame their virus more quickly. His reasoning is not exactly sound, either. He claims that Americans are not going to enjoy the same success as other countries because we are simply too in love with our own freedoms.
Humphreys is not content to stop there, either. This man went on to claim that medical professionals were backing up his assertions. These professionals believe that we must test more, isolate those who test positive and trace their contacts before we can even begin to consider the “new normal”.
Taiwan, Germany, South Korea and Singapore were cited as examples for the United States to follow. The author believes that we cannot experience the same sort of success that they have enjoyed because we would never be willing to surrender any of our freedoms. He even puts the word “freedom” in scare quotes because that’s exactly the type of writer he is.
There is also a general distrust towards the United States government that is taking place these days, which the author believes will keep us from achieving our chosen objectives. It’s not like we are reading into what the man is saying. All you need to do is check out the piece for yourself and it all becomes glaringly obvious.
He does not have any faith in America and instead of being understanding about the matter, he is simply looking to pass the blame to someone else. Instead of having hope for America, he seems to want to shame people for being unwilling to give up their personal freedoms. Even the author admits that these countries have an “authoritarian residue”.
But even a technically sound program is useless without widespread consent. And obtaining such consent “would require a major reduction in our liberties and a prolonged period of increased surveillance,” as journalist Stephen Bush points out. Will Americans accept those reductions willingly and quickly enough to implement an effective testing regimen? It’s hard to imagine.
In countries with successful testing programs, the relationship of citizens to the government differs from that of the United States in important respects. According to a 2018 Gallup poll, Germans are almost twice as likely as Americans (59 percent vs. 31 percent) to have confidence in government. This may help explain Germans’ greater willingness to comply with testing regimens and mask-wearing guidelines — and why Germany has almost two-thirds fewer coronavirus deaths per capita than the United States.
The analysis begs a few questions. First of all, we find ourselves wondering if Humphreys is actually correct. Secondly, do we need to be emulating the actions of the aforementioned countries if it will allow us to return to normalcy more quickly? While we cannot truly argue with the author about the mentalities of most Americans, there is a little something called nuance.
Since we have been able to become the freest people on the planet, we are not accustomed to sacrificing anything. However, we need to be willing to bend a little bit if we are going to beat the virus more quickly. We understand that people are nervous about potential overreaches but we have no choice but to allow executive authorities to make certain decisions.
These decisions are not designed to take away our freedoms, they are designed to get us back to normal faster. Unfortunately, America has a long way to go from a testing standpoint. The testing kits that are currently available do not provide the necessary results all of the time. False positives are currently running rampant.
When it is all said and done, America is doing everything in its power to get back to normal more quickly. No one has ever been through something like this in the past and we have no real point of comparison. Every nation has to come up with the solutions that work best for them. There is no one size fits all plan that can be enacted in these instances.
Countries have to consider their individual needs and more importantly, their individual values. The plan that America decides upon will have to be framed around our unique scientific capabilities as well. Sure, we may not be able to get back to normal as quickly as other countries have but that is not our fault necessarily. There is still a great deal of uncertainty that still needs to be addressed.
We do not know when we are going to have access to a vaccine and many Americans have to re-calibrate their expectations of what normalcy truly means. Are we going to be able to return to our usual summer activities before the summer is over? That is highly doubtful. All we can do now is follow the advice that the experts have provided and do our absolute best. There’s no reason to measure ourselves against other nations when we still have so far to go, collectively.