What is to be done, even as mass gatherings might be pandemic risks for the foreseeable future in the current election season.
Mine is to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Formulating and testing theories of capital are still worth pursuing, especially with the complexity of the events ahead like the climate crisis and the continuing threat of pandemics.
The first hint of the worst is panic buying in supermarkets and hoarding in a country that has a nascent disaster-prepper culture
Prepping leaves a Hobson’s choice: looter or survivalist where every survivalist is only a slightly better prepared looter. America has always been on the edge of absolute chaos whether real or imagined. Life may only be filled with anti-dystopian moments (where the dead do envy the living).
The real relations of the social contract are always at risk during a pandemic. Remember that promising and acting on stay-in-place is also a social contract, however not spelled out (unenumerated).
To explicate the idea of the social contract we analyze contractual approaches into five elements: (1) the role of the social contract (2) the parties (3) agreement (4) the object of agreement (5) what the agreement is supposed to show.
The social contract theories of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau all stressed that the justification of the state depends on showing that everyone would, in some way, consent to it. By relying on consent, social contract theory seemed to suppose a voluntarist conception of political justice and obligation: what counts as “justice” of “obligation” depends on what people agree to—whatever that might be. Only in Kant (1797) does it become clear that consent is not fundamental to a social contract view: we have a duty to agree to act according to the idea of the “original contract.” Rawls’s revival of social contract theory in A Theory of Justice did not base obligations on consent, though the apparatus of an “original agreement” persisted as a way to help solve the problem of justification. As the question of public justification takes center stage, it becomes clear that posing the problem of justification in terms of a deliberative or a bargaining problem is a heuristic: the real issue is “the problem of justification”—what principles can be justified to all reasonable citizens or persons.
There will be more social contract failures much like lawfare weaponizes the social contract. Rent strikes and evictions during a pandemic test the limits of inequality and civility.
Similarly, market failure in the history of pandemic planning should not turn ventilators into a luxury good. The current price of such devices has doubled.
Sinophobia abounds reminding us that the Spanish Flu of 1918 started in Kansas.
The reminder is that ventilators are only an instrumental step that for some compromised by other conditions can only defer death temporarily.
For me there’s still merit in building a critique of political-economic problems of unenumerated rights, eminent domain, and property rights as problems in capital. Numerating that material and virtual space is important in smashing inequality.
“one way of gauging a nation’s health, or of discerning what it really considers to be its interests – or to what extent it can be considered as a nation distinguished from a coalition of special interests – is to examine those people it elects to represent or protect it. One glance at the American leaders (or figure-heads) conveys that America is on the edge of absolute chaos…”
The recent press musing of Trump wanting a NY CT NJ tri-state quarantine was a trial balloon for martial law, because Trump is running out of ploys to try to steal the 2020 election. This type of distraction assumes a variety of contingencies not the least of which are constitutional violations. Discussion of quarantines is a trial balloon for state power playing on the demonization of sanctuary cities.
“Some people would like to see New York quarantined because it's a hot spot. New York, New Jersey, maybe one or two other places. Certain parts of Connecticut quarantined,”
Governors and mayors, not the federal government, have the broadest quarantine and isolation authority, as the constitution leaves that kind of police power in the hands of the states.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has the authority to detain people suspected of having an infectious disease without getting approval from state and local officials, that authority is rarely used and experts on public health law say that any attempt to leverage that power to create a federally mandated quarantine would likely be challenged in court.
Even as Trump walked back his hope of containing something much more fluid, Trump still is counting on some degree of domestic or international disorder, perhaps some authored by the US, in time for the November election.
Starting now, ACLED is also launching special coverage of the pandemic’s impact on disorder around the world via our new COVID-19 Disorder Tracker (CDT).
The CDT aims to track and evaluate the following expected trends:
- While demonstration activity may initially spike in response to state management of the pandemic, it will soon decline as a function of concern over the spread of the virus, new medical guidelines, and/or government travel and assembly restrictions
- State repression will rise, especially in authoritarian states, under the guise of strict adherence to health security standards
- Mob violence too will rise, with vigilante mobs targeting marginalized groups, such as those suspected of being infected and Asian communities (due to the origin of the virus in China), amid an increase in general xenophobia
- Overall armed conflict rates may remain stable, yet the composition of conflict will change: militaries may decrease their activity as states divert resources to combatting the pandemic. At the same time, non-state actors may look to make ‘big moves’, especially as some may seize the opportunity presented by the coronavirus crisis to ramp up activity
Venezuela could be the next crisis, perhaps a Venezuelan military incursion modeled on the arrest of Manuel Noriega that may be launched as a diversion against efforts protecting the 2020 election from mischief. Only the most cynical would frame such an invasion-cum-drug-arrest as a humanitarian effort because of COVID-19.