There are no libertarians in an epidemic

Worried about the slumping travel industry, the White House is now considering tax deferrals for airlines and cruise lines. The administration has been weighing whether to use funds from a disaster program to pay for treatment of uninsured people who have become infected, The Wall Street Journal reported. And Alex Azar, the secretary of health and human services, said the administration might dust off a Korean War–era law called the Defense Production Act to ensure rapid manufacturing of medical supplies in the private sector.

“That’s not free-market capitalism,” says Jean Cohen, a political-theory professor at Columbia University, referring to the measures the White House has contemplated as the virus spreads. “You can choose the term: It’s regulated capitalism, or it’s the interventionist state, or it’s democratic socialism. If you want to serve the public good instead of private profit making, you need government to come in and make sure that’s done.”…

In Trump’s case, he may try to have it both ways: using socialism as a convenient campaign slogan, while battling the coronavirus with extraordinary measures comparable to what other modern presidents have done to beat back a crisis.

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