In Depth

Instant Opinion: Harry and Meghan ‘have chosen celebrity over duty’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Monday 30 March

The Week’s daily round-up highlights the five best opinion pieces from across the British and international media, with excerpts from each.

1. Clare Foges in The Times

on fleeing the country in a crisis

Harry and Meghan have chosen celebrity over duty

“There will be those who argue that the couple have no obligation to this country at all, because their royal ‘contract’ is now up. But the deal the Queen reached with the Sussexes left them with royal titles to enjoy, their security bill footed, the use of Frogmore Cottage - and thus a reasonable expectation that even though they might not be cutting ribbons on rainy days in Wigan, they would show some solidarity in a time of national crisis. Simply staying in Canada would at least have been inconspicuous (and would have made more sense given that coronavirus is rampaging through Los Angeles). Instead they have chosen this time to move to Hollywood and lay the foundations for lucrative new careers, not out of the spotlight but firmly in it.”

2. Daniel Falush in The Guardian

on the Chinese experience

As the west is in lockdown, China is slowly getting back to business

“In my own opinion, the costs of suppressing the outbreak are absolutely worth it. What many people on the right in the west, including Donald Trump, have failed to appreciate is that in economic terms, harbouring coronavirus is unfeasible. Until a country has shown that it has brought transmission under control, normal economic life cannot resume. Tourists will not visit and international travel will not be permissible – meaning that, until they get coronavirus under control within their own borders, countries will not be able to again join the world community of freely trading nations. That community today seems to consist of China alone.”

3. Philip Johnston in The Daily Telegraph

on a proportional response

I hope we haven’t overreacted to coronavirus and wrecked my grandson’s future

“The exit strategy from this nightmare cannot be zero new cases because that is not going to happen. We have to get people who will be affected mildly back to work and soon, provided they do not interact with the most vulnerable. Once the NHS has the intensive care capacity to deal with all new serious cases this will become less of an issue. But if this goes on for long, the economic and social damage will have dire consequences for future spending on health, welfare, care and all the other public services that extend life now but won’t be able to in the future. When I was growing up in the 1960s, the great flu pandemic of 1919 barely registered. Even the war seemed like ancient history by the time England won the World Cup in 1966 playing a country reduced to rubble just 20 years before. We recovered from these calamities and we will from this. So, when my grandson turns 18, how will he look back on this time? Will it be remembered as the great coronavirus pandemic that wiped out swathes of humanity or a relatively minor contagion to which we grotesquely overreacted?”

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4. Editorial board at the Financial Times 

on a new social contract

Virus puts responsible capitalism to the test

“The speed and scale of the emergency has taken everyone by surprise. Chief executives must tread a fine line between protecting their employees and keeping their companies solvent. The hard truth is that many companies will not survive - and there is not much point in showing compassion to employees if it kills the company that employs them. There are many significant decisions that lie between the extremes. In the UK, for example, banks are under pressure to scrap dividend payouts that are due. One of the consequences of the pandemic must be a redrawing of the relationship between business and society. The huge sums of money being committed by the UK government and others to support companies will inevitably lead to a larger role for the state. This should not become the norm once the virus abates. But it does, as a new report by the Social Market Foundation think-tank says, demand reciprocity by business — one that, in time, should lead to a ‘new social contract’ between British business, government and society.”

5. Ani Maitra on Al Jazeera

on market priorities

COVID-19 and the neoliberal state of exception

“COVID-19 has ushered in a US state of exception that is internally split, one in which the imperative to save lives through quarantining (in the face of a broken healthcare system and a completely collapsed welfare structure) is jostling against the inclination to do everything possible to revive the financial market. While these cracks and divides may well be coloured by the fact that this is an election year, they point towards deeper socioeconomic emergencies in the months to come that neither presidential hyperboles, nor neoliberal buzzwords (like ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’, or ‘the market’) will be able to fix. It is too early to tell if the ‘disaster socialism’ of the just-passed $2 trillion stimulus bill is anything more than a re-election strategy. On the one hand, it promises much-needed economic relief to state governments, hospitals, and industries. On the other hand, the bill's priorities are telling: $500bn for businesses, $100bn for healthcare, $150bn for state and local governments, and little relief for low-income families.”

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