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Liberální institut
Liberální institut

Government in the time of coronavirus

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I work at a large international company for an international client. They both keep us informed, provide regular and understandable updates, and support us to work seamlessly from home.
The government decided to print a leaflet and to do what it does best – ban stuff.

First, the government banned manufacturers to sell respirators and masks to anyone but the legal entities established by the state. Public hospitals are NOT legal entities established by the state in the Czech Republic. Ouch. No protection for them and the public. Destroyed distribution channels.

Then they banned the usual – people’s gatherings, non-essential stores being open, border crossings. Getting stricter every day, eventually even walking without a mask. Oh… you remember people cannot actually buy masks anywhere, right?

Luckily, the government has a solution for everything. They allowed the stores selling cloth and sewing supplies to open. So people can make their own masks. Problem solved, another job well done. Bravo.

People did not actually wait for the government blessing to help themselves and each other. They started sewing masks even before. Lot of support initiatives emerging – helping elderly people, grocery delivery stores increasing capacities, internal store rules to minimize chances etc. etc.

It does not stop with individuals of course. Companies changing their product lines (despite price ceilings) or directly purchasing protective equipment abroad. Half of the government then went to the airport to take a picture with the received supplies.

Surely, it is essential to act fast in time of crises like this one. It is also important to clearly communicate the measures themselves and the reasons behind them even if they are changing daily. Private companies manage… but from the government we got this: „You cannot go outside unless you absolutely need to. Well okay… if you want to go to the nature or to your summer cabin then go. But at least stay away from the locals.“ Clear, right?

In the meantime, still no to little protective equipment reached the front lines (doctors, nurses etc.). Surprisingly, they start to get sick now. Possibly infecting other patients as well. So we have a nice Italian scenario unfolding. If only we saw that somewhere before.

So what is happening with all those masks? Every middleman on their way wants their cut. We know this from the communist era, we shouldn’t be surprised. So probably the public officials are now better equipped than the doctors.

Maybe just a local specific – the Czech Prime Minister is not a crisis manager. Oh no. Quite the contrary – he is such a loser and crybaby that he started pointing towards other countries saying: „Oh but look, they don’t have protection in Belgium either!“ Normally, it would be at least funny…

But we are saved! Somehow the government found out that there are some masks stored in a random warehouse. So what to do? Let’s just confiscate it, right? People clapping and cheering.
Oh, but it turns out those belonged to the Red Cross and were meant to help Italy. We have not seen any apologies.

Then there was this laboratory that confirmed some of the early cases. Cheaper, faster, better. The government of course forced them to stop testing. So the same company came up with an alternative and even faster test. Now used by many. Forbidden in the Czech Republic.

Testing seems to be vital in fighting COVID as seen in South Korea or Taiwan. Here, we do not really test. The government practically gave up on actively containing the virus. They hope the quarantine will do it itself for them. Seems unrealistic.

The bans should have ended here in the Czech Republic on Tuesday. But of course they didn’t. Situation only got worse as anyone with half a brain could expect. What are the next steps? Is there even any plan apart from ad hoc banning of stuff?

COVID will not leave in another week, month or probably even three months. But the world cannot stay locked up at home. Otherwise the consequences will be much much worse. So what is the exit strategy? What is the way out?

I do not have the answers, but at least I have questions. Not sure the Czech government is even asking. But I have some predictions: „temporary“ taxes, helicopter money, GDP decline. Big changes in economic and personal freedoms.

Governments showed their feet of clay. Unprepared, unable to face the crisis. And we got front row tickets to the shitshow. Unfortunately, the result of all this will be more government and less freedom.

Time to end it here. Now I go eat my 10th tuna pasta in two weeks.


Based on a tweetstorm by @JJSkala. Slightly edited for clarity.

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Jakub Skala je COO a zástupce ředitele Liberálního institutu. Byl zakládajícím předsedou Ludwig von Mises Institutu CZ & SK. Vystudoval ekonomii na FSV UK a publikuje na webu Finmag.cz.

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