Reopening in words only?

The “reopenings” underway in 30 states in the US might be in words only just as the ballyhooed “open” Swedish economy is not open in fact and has been closed by non-participation.  The Swedish Riksbank reports that attendance at cinema, events, and sports is off 90%.  Business at restaurants and cafes is down 70%, and the hotel occupancy rate is a meager 10%.  The overall Swedish economy has declined 11%—more than the current estimate for the US—and consumer confidence surveys have plunged more in Sweden than in Europe as a whole.

In other words, whether an economy is open or not is not up to the government.  In Sweden people self-isolated even though the economy was nominally open. Obviously, people in Sweden perceive the virus as a threat and are responding with caution to the threat.  If Americans, or enough of them, perceive the virus as a threat, reopening the economy will not reopen it.

Many elements contribute to a lack of distrust of public health officials and politicians.  Among them are the lack of preparation, conflicting statements, the use of the crisis for agendas such as mass vaccination and police state controls, the absence of agreed effective treatment, and hospital deaths from mistreatment.  Little is known about the disease, which makes it more scary.

If Swedish behavior is a guide, reopening the economy is not going to result in any quick return to normal.  We should begin thinking about the consequences in a country such as the US where personal, business, and government budgets are in deficit.

Copyright © 2020 Paul Craig Roberts

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts’ latest books are The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West and How America Was Lost and The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.

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