By: Neil S. Siskind
“Managed globalization” (or “nationalism”, or “protectionism”, or “partial-autarky”, or whatever term you prefer) as a response to a pandemic (in this case, the COVID-19 pandemic), and for the purposes of preventing and managing future diseases and pandemics, requires two entirely separate elements. Congress’s establishment of a federal mandate requiring the “onshoring” or “reshoring” of all manufacturing, production, and distribution of all “essential products” is a necessary measure towards the country being prepared to efficiently manage future emergencies as they arise and create demand for essential products by hospitals, law enforcement, firefighters, the military, local businesses, and the general public, allowing for manufacturers and government agencies to more effectively prevent raw material and production limitations, and to rapidly solve supply chain constraints. We’ve learned, and are learning, a harsh lesson about the importance of this strategy and structure.
But, in terms of preventing or minimizing widespread infection and disease from pathogen outbreaks, in the first instance, inbound-travel restrictions and protocols are the main control valves.
A person brought this novel coronavirus to the United States; that happened through air travel- and not through trade. If we fail to properly manage inbound travel from foreign nations, then, the next pandemic- notwithstanding manufacturing, production, and supply chain autarky for essential products- may not be far off (not to suggest that this pandemic is, even, nearly over).
Without inbound-travel restrictions and protocols, including health checks and quarantines for inbound travelers from overseas (with such protocols conducted at the travelers’ expenses), we will always be reactive- and not proactive.
Diseases (and pandemics) can certainly start in the United States; zoonoses can, potentially, be transmitted from animals to humans in U.S. forests, in U.S. rural areas, on U.S. farms, and in U.S. zoos. But, our modern and efficient health systems and standards, combined with our national interest and self-interest, would lead to an immediate and complete response, which would include mass and vast notices to the American public. We have laws and standards and protocols designed to protect the nation. Certain other countries may not have those same health-management resources, emergency management systems, and legal obligations, or, they may have different standards of what is “concerning” or “problematic”, or they may have different interests, values, or food and sanitation practices. A nation’s financial resources, and limitations on such, plays a role in its ability to detect and respond to emergencies. A nation’s self-interest in not creating a panic or not being blamed for a pandemic may outweigh its interest in our safety- as we have, now, witnessed.
Manufacturing, production, and supply chain autarky for all essential products through strictly domestic manufacturing and production is a necessary national policy towards effectively responding to future state and national emergencies, of all kinds. But, when it comes to protection from diseases, at the borders and at customs is where versions of protectionism or managed globalization related to human cross-border mobility and movement must be implemented- otherwise our national health standards, health and hygiene practices, and disease emergency measures, will, increasingly, be rendered impotent.
Surely this would change the nature of travel as we know it. But, I’d rather see America change the nature of travel than see another country change the nature of America– again (and not even feel remorseful about it).