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Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Pandemic Hardening Can Make America Great

After September 11, we began the long process of trying to build a society that would be hardened against massive terror attacks. Airports became grueling fortresses in which shoes, bottled water, and personal dignity had no place. A vast intelligence infrastructure was built to violate privacy. But the big decisions were never made. Instead, America became more vulnerable than ever to Islamic terrorism.

That’s why President Trump ran on, among other things, a travel ban from terrorist nations.

As the nation undergoes another shock, we are going to have to think about how to rebuild our society so that it will be hardened against another pandemic. That is going to require hard choices beyond throwing more money at the same alphabet soup government agencies that failed to protect us.

There are three key areas to think about: biological security, urban living, and domestic manufacturing.

The coronavirus, like September 11, was primarily a national security failure. The massive alphabet soup of government agencies, from the CDC to the FDA to the State Department to the CIA failed to correctly assess the problem, take action, coordinate, and keep the nation safe from an external threat.

The nature of the threat on September 11 flew under the radar because it was too big for security agencies and too small for the military, it didn’t fit the shape of what the FBI or Joint Chiefs did. And so we began the task of transforming both the military and security agencies into fitting that shape.

The Department of Homeland Security, in theory the sort of entity that might tackle multifaceted threats, which would include a pandemic, has failed to live up to expectations of basic competence.

The CDC meanwhile spends so much of its focus on social issues that it’s unfit for the job.

After the coronavirus, we will need a national security agency capable of tackling a pandemic. It will need to have intelligence gathering abilities, veto power over immigration, and the ability to quickly commandeer resources to meet a foreign disease outbreak by testing and quarantining suspects. And it must be able to plan both defensive and offensive biowarfare against hostile entities like the PRC.

Call it the Biological Security Agency.

Coronavirus took off in this country because the State Department was allowed to take the lead and it treated the virus not as a threat, but a transportation issue. Henceforth, pandemics must be the responsibility of a national security agency able to evaluate the threat and shut down travel. It should be tasked with maintaining stockpiles of medicines, protective clothing, and other resources needed to meet a biological warfare attack. Even if that’s not what the coronavirus was, it will come one day.

We need to be ready with a national security response to biological warfare.

Hardening America against a pandemic also requires rethinking the blue model. Dense urban areas can’t be defended against biological warfare. The farce of social distancing in New York City’s crowded subways is a structural problem. The denser an urban area is, the more impossible it is to maintain social distance. Density pushes out cars and sends price signals that force the maximum number of people into the same residential, and commercial areas, which are connected by crowded public transportation.

Before the coronavirus struck, progressive policy goals included upping urban density, eliminating single-family zoning, reducing lot size, annexing suburbs to cities, replacing cars with public transit, and using mass migration to boost the political power of cities at the expense of rural and suburban areas.

The coming of the coronavirus to New York City has made it all too obvious that’s a death sentence.

Hardening America against a pandemic requires sprawl, large lot sizes, spread out centers, multiple family cars, reduced immigration, smaller population sizes, and the ‘re-ruralization’ of America. Instead of massive malls selling a thousand flavors of Made in China, smaller businesses should be selling products manufactured in this country for a more decentralized shopping experience.

Federal and state governments made runaway urbanization possible by directing resources to the infrastructure, physical, economic, and social of massive cityscapes, while defunding rural areas.

This 20th century vision of the future stopped making sense with the arrival of the internet. The coronavirus showed that urban density is hazardous to our health and technologically unnecessary. Urban industries, cultural and technological, are the easiest to virtualize and decentralize. Colleges, dot coms, and financial firms don’t all need a massive physical footprint in one superdense neighborhood.

The growth of the city paralleled the rise of the factory. Post-industrial urbanization is cultural. It’s also physically and socially unhealthy, unsafe, and expensive. And, as we found out on 9/11: vulnerable.

Cultural urbanization has created elite castes and political divisiveness. The modern city is a dysfunctional apartheid zone with sharply divided upper and lower classes, but no middle class, a series of real estate bubbles, havens for foreign oligarchs and international gangs, and a national security hole.

The internet has eliminated the need for the modern city. Pandemics and terror make it too dangerous.

Federal and state governments incentivized the city with taxpayer money. That money should now be used to incentivize its decentralization with subsidies, investments, market signals, and tax policies.

Post-coronavirus America doesn’t need the cities it has too many of, it does need the factories it has too few of. Once the pandemic struck, cities became viral minefields with too many people and not enough goods. Too many of those goods, especially medical protective equipment, were far away in China.

In a pandemic, we don’t need a thousand Thai places within a dozen blocks of each other. We do need a hundred factories that can quickly make the products that we need in order to be able to survive.

Cultural urbanization is a dangerous luxury. Domestic manufacturing is a vital necessity.

The urban hubs with mass migration providing services to the elites are a suicide pact that this country can’t afford anymore. And we can’t afford to outsource manufacturing to corrupt foreign oligarchies that in a crisis will prioritize getting medical equipment and drugs to their people, not to our own.

The Obama administration invested endless billions in the green energy obsessions of urban residents. It’s now time to invest in the domestic manufacturing that, unlike solar panels, they actually need, even if they refuse to admit it until health care professionals are dying because of a lack of N95 masks.

Many European countries don’t have the space or scope to expand instead of contracting. The United States has vast territories and frontiers that are going unused because we have contracted to the coasts. The technology that could enable us to spread out is instead being used to further contract the country.

The United States has the resources and the territories to become the factory of the world once again.

If we are going to survive the next pandemic, that is what we need to do. Stockpiling equipment against the next crisis is an insufficient answer because the next crisis may not be a pandemic. After the Swine Flu outbreak, states rushed to build up supplies of masks and ventilators, and then disposed of them.

That’s human nature.

Domestic manufacturing gives us the flexibility to adapt to meet the demands of each new crisis. Without that ability, we always going to have to stockpile everything on the chance we may need it.

Interdependence and independence are two possible responses to the pandemic.

The official word is that we need to double down on interdependence: on global networks, on multinational organizations, on international supply chains, and mass migration. That’s the same globalism that got us into this mess, and that will leave us weaker, more vulnerable, and no wiser.

The alternative is to pursue independence, personal and national freedom with strong borders, local manufacturing, national defenses, and personal property for a great culture of prosperity.

This is how we get there.

If we learn the lessons of the pandemic, we will be hardened against the next one. If we don’t, we’ll make the same mistakes all over again. And we’ll emerge weaker, poorer, and more globalized.

The coronavirus is an opportunity to build a greater and stronger nation. We should not waste it.





Daniel Greenfield is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This article previously appeared at the Center's Front Page Magazine.

Thank you for reading.

16 comments:

  1. Anonymous7/4/20

    Daniel, what a marvelous vision for the American
    realization of our ideals: liberty, inventiveness,
    initiative! We are a cheerful, optimistic folk
    who love safe and peaceful neighborhoods for our
    families, fun, work. Automation, communication,
    and cheap, clean energy provides more work and
    more productivity per worker. Result: enormous
    domestic production and independence.

    Immigration quality beats quantity. Those without
    skills, English, money, good attitude stay home.
    Corrupt, violent, filthy inner cities deserve to
    be deserted and deprived of tax base.

    President Trump is the one to catalyze this
    metamorphosis. My hope is for many Great Americans
    to seize this amazing future. Discard the anthill
    mentality of collectivism forever.

    Charlie

    ReplyDelete
  2. hey...i'm in. course, I voted for Buchanan...twice

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous8/4/20

    This article is so inspiring, I have to comment
    again! I love your interdependence, independence
    bifurcation. Moralist teachers like to shame
    students into the kumbaya brother’s keeper “inter”
    choice. Like that white college girl who pity
    dates minority third world guys.

    Independence is when you are secure enough not
    to care about perceived virtue. America stops
    spraying aid outward and is our beautiful home.
    As you said, “personal and national freedom with
    strong borders, local manufacturing, national
    defenses, and personal property for a great
    culture of prosperity”.

    You and Trump have been saying this for years!
    Switzerland does much of this and is widely
    respected without pandering condescension.
    America and Americans first! About time!

    Charlie

    ReplyDelete
  4. I heartily agree and respectfully disagree with your assumptions.
    I agree that episode blows a hole in the blue paradise paradigm of high density housing and mass transit, but please don't suggest another security agency. That becomes another money pit where people do nothing but study possibilities, but are not prepared for anything.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Mt own answer to the pandemic can be found here: https://ruleofreason.blogspot.com/2020/04/stealth-fascism.html
    Ed

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  6. Anonymous8/4/20

    I love your articles but have to disagree with your idea that a new biological security agency be created and have "veto power" over immigration. Do you think that a DC bureaucracy would ever do that, esp with a liberal president in power? Or worse, can you imagine if a president ordered a stop on immigration during the next pandemic and this new agency overruled him? No way. Look at the CDC and FDA today where their rules block companies wishing to make hand sanitizer and masks.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Damn you're an outstanding thinker. Just for the record, I'm a retired Mold Maker, the off shoring of 1997 killed the Injection Mold Making Industry, and my growing shop, in this country as well as the Precision Stamping Industry. We talk of manufacturing and all most think of is WWII era Floor Workers working over to the Defense Plant. Few know a Mold Maker from a Die Maker and they are not interchangeable. Please keep up the good work!

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  8. One of the clearest thinkers, and finest (and busiest) writers we have. If you follow anyone, follow this guy. This article is another gem. I just hope someone in power reads it.

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  9. Disagree. The problem is that we are just too big to deal with issues. Our (non)-representative government - isn't; it's captive to the very few big $ donors who can fund their campaigns. With representation of 1:700,000, this simply is not fixable other than by making the country into countries. We have nothing in common, red and blue. We want freedom and liberty for our kids - they don't even have kids. It's that serious & foundational. No way exists to fix the problem when one side wants MORE government.. and the other side knows more government means less efficiency, productivity, wealth, happiness, children, etc. Splitting up the nation into ideological, environmental, urban, rural, etc., groups is the only way forward in liberty. The question is - do we REALLY want liberty, and are we willing to do what it takes to leave it to our posterity...?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Anonymous9/4/20

    You think building another centralized agency, no matter what its stated mission, is going to do *anything* to accomplish said mission?! You'd just be creating another pile of malevolent parasites. How about letting doctors, hospitals, etc make their own decisions for a change? Restore some of the professional independence and dignity of the thoroughly destroyed medical profession, so that people will take it up at a rate that will meet the demand?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Excellent post. With your permission I would like to cross-post it on my own site.

    As a retired DEA agent who worked under the umbrella of the State Department overseas for 10 years, (Thailand, Italy, and international training) I know all too well that the State Department cannot be trusted with much. We do need a new agency that will deal directly with the threat because we are now living in a different world-especially if the virus is man made either deliberately or accidentally. If it happened through animal contact, that is something we can fix (if China is willing). If it is man-made, then we have a problem because the next virus will be just around the corner. (I am not venturing any opinion on the cause.)

    Either way, the world needs to work toward heading off any more virus outbreaks. We can;t just shut down our societies and economies on a regular basis.

    Changing our relationship with China will be part of the solution.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Gary, of course, it would be a pleasure

    ReplyDelete
  13. Anonymous12/4/20

    Great...another “agency” of public grifters will fix the problem. I say we need far fewer government agencies, as they eventually become controlled by partisans. set to destroy the country. No thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Anonymous14/4/20

    More government is the problem not the solution.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Jay Dee20/4/20

    The source of the problem is best described as administrative senescence. After several generations an agency losesa sense of mission. Mere existence and useless growth becomes the mission. Such agencies have to be identified and either reformed or refunded. Roosevelt's interstate commerce commission has no administrative powers but is still in existence in the unlikely event it may be needed in the future. Congress will not fix the situation because they are profiting from it. More government employees means larger contributions from government employee unions. Anyone who has waded through Gibbon's "Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire" will recognize the situation. How we resolve this is anyone's guess.

    ReplyDelete

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