The sheer magnitude of these figures shows they cannot go on indefinitely. People thus far accept that the hardship is needed to crush the virus and save lives. But if Anthony S. Fauci of the National Institutes of Health is right when he says the virus might reappear in the fall, the United States and other governments will have to take less drastic measures than total lockdowns. Testing and individual tracing regimes akin to South Korea’s will have to be in place, as he suggests they will, to avoid massive social unrest.
There should be hope, however, despite the terrible numbers. Though the United States has not had a depression since the 1930s, other developed nations have. Their experience show that nations can recover and resume their prior growth trajectories with prudence and patience.
Finland experienced such a downturn in the early 1990s. A combination of a banking crisis and the collapse of the Soviet Union, which was a major export partner, pushed the tiny Nordic nation into a deep depression. The unemployment rate skyrocketed from about 3 percent in 1990 to 18 percent in 1993. GDP dropped for three consecutive years, much as in the United States during the Great Depression. The stock market dropped by as much as 70 percent, and housing prices plummeted.
Today, Finland is a prosperous country.