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Trump may shrug off the coronavirus, but the US economy may not

Niall Ferguson

By Niall Ferguson (original source The Boston Globe)

“As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport.” Gloucester’s despairing words in “King Lear” have been etched in my memory since I first heard them as a schoolboy. The gods also amuse themselves by sending natural disasters to humble vainglorious leaders.

The world has all four of the horsemen of the apocalypse these days: pestilence, war, famine, and death. There is, of course, the pestilence now known as Covid-19, spread by the new coronavirus. There is war in Syria and a nascent civil war in the streets of India. There may well be famine, too, if the locusts continue to ravage the crops of east Africa and south Asia. And there will surely be more death in 2020 than in a typical 21st-century year.

Fortunate is the American president who is not confronted by at least one devastating hurricane or terrorist attack or mass shooting. Fortunate is the president who does not have to console grieving survivors in at least one devastated city. But 2020 is a whole different divine sport.

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