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Gli Stati Uniti alla prova di COVID-19

Online Event, 08/04/2020, International Webinar

The pandemic has caught the United States at a delicate pre-electoral moment. The incumbent president is counting heavily on solid and sustained economic growth, while the Democratic Party is offering an alternative at least partly founded on a larger government role in income distribution and in providing essential services – including healthcare.

Against this backdrop, participants at the webinar discussed the emergency measures enacted by the Trump administration, especially in support of families and businesses (in addition to the financial system), assigning an unprecedented role to the Federal Reserve. A series of massive tax incentives go along with the “Wartime President” role the Commander in Chief has assumed, despite the fundamental public security tasks the Constitution assigns individual states, which also reflect the nation’s deep and persistent political divisions.

Overall, it is expected that the tendency – already evident – in the leadership (of both parties) and of American public opinion to look inward, both economically and geopolitically, will only become more entrenched. This is particularly true as supply chains are reduced and manufacturing partially reshored. Nevertheless, the United States is going to have to demonstrate its international clout and may – unlike in the recent past – display leadership in at least some sectors. On the geopolitical plane, China is a primary concern, and is going to have a decisive influence on American choices, considering the many uncertainties regarding the evolution of Beijing’s foreign policy and economic model.

In any case, the awareness that many common challenges call for a multilateral and cooperative approach persists. The liberal order inherited from the twentieth century (with all its limitations) has great value in terms of interests and ideals, and that is where the debate on the future of transatlantic relations must focus.

In a global sense, this pandemic has been as rapid as our times and as rapid as twenty-first century transportation. It reflects many of the same features of the globalization of the last few decades – and it is no accident that it has partly travelled the Silk Road.  The crisis triggered by the Covid-19 probably marks the end of a historic phase and of a political and economic continuity, mainly in relations between governments and markets and in forms of producing wealth. The shock is extreme and unprecedented but could have positive effects in a second phase once the mistakes have been analyzed and sustainable remedies found.

One lesson we may learn from the pandemic regards the essential link between science and policy: science can provide a vast array of technical solutions, but policy must guide decision-making processes and interventions for the good of society. This balance is as crucial as the balance between democratic decisions and market forces.