Capitalism, Socialism and Disease

In a recent op-ed, Victor Wallis, S&D’s Editor-at-Large, contrasts how capitalist and socialist imperatives shape our responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wallis addresses the full range of issues from distributional questions including access to health care and prevention to macroeconomic matters and the immediate demands that we should address both nationally and globally. One of the more striking differences between systems, one that shatters the myth of capitalist abundance, is that leaders in capitalist countries simply lack the infrastructure and productive capacity to address the material needs, let alone organizational ones, required to either care for ill or bring a quick end to the pandemic. Decades of globalizing production and supply chains and shifting to a just-in-time production model makes for “efficiency” while leaving the entire system vulnerable to disruptions at multiple points and ensuring that very few countries and regions actually have the necessary productive capacity to immediately address these shortages. Reflecting on the specific healthcare dimension of this crisis, Wallis notes that a “socialist approach to healthcare… builds an infrastructure that can respond to emergency needs. This was strikingly shown just now in China, where urgently needed temporary hospitals were built (in Wuhan) in just two weeks. Moreover, a fully socialist approach, with its corresponding culture of cooperation, makes it possible, as Cuba has repeatedly shown, to extend health services on a large scale to people in other countries.” Read the full article at Political Animal Press’s magazine.

Toilet paper came to symbolize the shortages and panic buying typical of the earliest days of the pandemic in the United States. Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

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