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The economic legacy of a coronavirus lockdown

Niall Ferguson
 

By Niall Ferguson (original source The Boston Globe)

“Last week, I learned a term I did not know, from a man you’ve never heard of. The term is SOL. The man is Robert Kadlec. Since August 2017, Kadlec — a career medic with the US Air Force — has been assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the US Department of Health and Human Services. On Oct. 10, 2018, Kadlec gave a lecture on biodefense policy at The Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law, in which he made a lucid argument for the equivalent of an insurance policy against the risk of a pandemic.

‘If we don’t build this,’ Kadlec concluded, ‘we’re gonna be SOL should we ever be confronted with it.’

SOL is an American military term, like snafu or fubar. Snafu, for those who haven’t watched enough war movies, stands for situation normal, all f***** up. Fubar means f***** up beyond all recognition. And SOL? That means shit out of luck. At a time when the world economy seems more fubar than merely snafu, it’s worth considering that it’s probably also SOL.

What makes Kadlec’s remark so striking is that, only the previous month, the government he works for — the administration of President Donald J. Trump — had published a 36-page National Biodefense Strategy. In June 2019, Congress passed a Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advanced Innovations Act. On paper, the United States was ready for a pandemic — better prepared and better resourced than any country in the world. On paper.”

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