Claims that “austerity” is to blame for UK’s poor pandemic response are “baseless,” says new IEA research
IEA research featured in the Mail Online
Dr Kristian Niemietz writes for CapX
- The Coronavirus pandemic has given rise to the phenomenon of “Coronfirmation Bias”: the tendency to interpret the pandemic as a “vindication” of one’s own world view.
- Conventional wisdoms about the UK pandemic response – that austerity eroded the state’s capacity to act, that Covid-19 is a crisis of excessive globalisation, and that the NHS has been the star performer of the pandemic – do not stand up to scrutiny.
- Some nations have performed better than others across the board, on indicators such as Covid death rates, excess death rates and GDP growth. The four ‘Asian Tigers’ – Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore – have performed exceptionally well. The UK, Italy, Spain and Belgium have performed exceptionally poorly.
- The best Covid performers have much lower levels of public spending, have open, globalised economies, and they do not have health systems similar to the NHS.
- An effective pandemic response is compatible with a variety of public spending levels, a variety of trade regimes, and a variety of healthcare systems.
In a comparison of global responses to the Coronavirus, the four ‘Asian Tigers’; Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore did relatively better than other nations on performance indicators such as death rates and GDP growth.
Despite this success, these nations do not have large public spending programmes, closed economies or a healthcare system like the NHS. This would suggest that the three commonly held assumptions about the pandemic in the UK are wrong. High public spending, economic nationalism and NHS-style health systems are not required to perform well in a global pandemic.
However, the paper does not intend to replace a set of ideologically driven conclusions about the pandemic with another. Instead, it highlights that the best responses to the pandemic are achievable with a variety of public spending levels, global trade relationships and health systems. No side of the political divide can claim victory, nor should they use the virus as a vindication of their ideas.
Many of the countries fighting Covid were successful because of specific policies – such as large-scale testing, travel restrictions and rigorous self-isolation enforcement. These measures do not require an overthrow of a nation’s socio-economic system or rely on a dogmatic set of beliefs. There is no reason for anyone, on the left or the right, to take political victories from Covid-19.
Dr Kristian Niemietz, Head of Political Economy at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said:
“It is amazing how so many commentators seem to believe that the pandemic has somehow “vindicated” their own particular view of the world, or their own particular pet causes. This is make-believe. The pandemic has done no such thing. It has not vindicated any political cause or worldview.
“The truth is more mundane. Neither the best-performing nor the worst-performing countries are especially similar to one another, in terms of their socioeconomic models. There is no specific socioeconomic model that emerges as more ‘pandemic-proof’ than others. We should focus more narrowly on the specific policy measures that the best performers got right, rather than trying to shoehorn all of our long-standing ideological disputes into this.”
Notes to Editors
Contact: Annabel Denham, [email protected], 07540770774
Dr Kristian Niemietz is available for further comment.
The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems. The IEA is a registered educational charity and independent of all political parties.