COVID-19 and The Rejection of Civility

human fist
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Amid all the chaos spurred by the COIV-19 outbreak, the deterioration of civility seems inevitable. People are being reduced to quarreling and fight over toilet paper. Conflicts over cases of bottled waters and other forms of provisions are becoming more prevalent. Such emergencies have the proclivity to bring out the worst in people. Similar occurrences aren’t relegated to this one instance. Look no further than the looting that transpired during Hurricane Katrina. The line between civilization and lawless chaos is razor-thin. All it takes is one natural disaster or national emergency to shift incentives away from cooperation to antisocial behavior.

 

Social Psychology has a litany of various theories to help explain the descent into pillaging and violence. Describing the psychological mechanisms driving mob behavior does explain the behavioral element of such actions. However, it fails to address the deeper moral questions of the “temporary” erosion of civility. It is reasonable to question whether this loosening of societal standards would be temporary if the precipitating circumstances remained. This question can only be indulged with pure conjecture. I would be so bold to suggest that the circumstantial decay of social standards serves as an indictment on the Enlightenment.

 

I am not addressing concepts of the Enlightenment but the intellectual movement of the whole. It was the thinkers of this era that lead us from the barbarism of the dark ages to the relative calm of modernity. To avoid falling into the trap of the Whig interpretation of history, the Enlightenment did not nullify classical philosophy. Rather expanded upon it. The Enlightenment is what orientated the Western world towards poverty rights and the rights of the individual. Neither can be validated in a climate of wanton destruction and disregard for your neighbor. In times of panic, we revert to our fight-or-flight reflect negating reason, principles, and decorum. Reducing our behavior to that of Neanderthals. Fear is antithetical to reason. Making it caustic to the clear thinking required to respond in a civilized manner. Causing us to plummet to the mentality of primitive man.

 

Many may see this phenomenon of “disaster panic” as a temporary rejection of Enlightenment ideals. I would argue otherwise. I would contend that many people never acquainted with the moral considerations or etiquette required for civility. There are a lot of people that behave rudely even under regular circumstances. Compound their incentives for boorish deportment with fear, society unravels rapidly. Which makes it reasonable to question whether the Hobbesian conception of human nature is true. It appears as if the rule of law is what typically constrains transgressions such as assault and looting. It should be noted that in the instance of the present crisis that this isn’t necessarily true. In most municipalities throughout the United States, law enforcement agencies are still operating. The fear of punishment can be ruled out as a constraint on antisocial behavior. But such behavior demonstrates a deep-seated lack of respect for property and fellow person.  Vandalism and theft demonstrate a lack of respect for property rights. Violence and confrontation displaying a lack of respect for our fellow person. Behavior falling short of the movement inspiring liberal values. The precepts that helped levitate Europe out of the squalor and pestilence of intellectual and physical serfdom.

 

What enforces mutual respect of person and property are informal social norms. Once panic sets in the strength of these norms are greatly reduced. It isn’t true respect, but rather an overt avoidance of opprobrium from our peers. Which does not demonstrate a true comprehension of person-hood or natural rights. Rather punishment avoidance. Merely an informal form of punishment evasion. An individual possessing a true understanding of natural rights would be able to reason why it is wrong to punch someone over a pallet of toilet paper. Not abstaining from such an action due to the consequences of legal or social punishment. Classical thinkers tended to believe that action in of itself wasn’t righteous unless the intention of the action was also righteous.  While we are veering slightly from the thought of the Enlightenment there is still quite a bit of truth here. If respect for person and property is not instilled in us on an intellectual and moral level it will not remain resolute. When the comfort and security of modernity frays so will our courtesy and civility. Then comes the downfall into a primitive mindset.  Hence, why I question if humans ever really adopted or even understood the ideals of the Enlightenment. Because if we did we would be able to better manage our savage urge to pursue self-preservation. If so, we would be reduced bludgeoning one another over toilet paper.  Then again, such conduct has been evident over so much less. Such as a $5.00 toaster on Black Friday. This leads me to postulate that we do not even a time of crisis to witness such regressions.

 

Coronavirus- Its Impact on Nutanix and the Global Economy

 

photo of gas masks
Photo by Александр Македонский on Pexels.com

 

 

Hyperconverged pioneer Nutanix is once again starting to falter. At the start of 2020, the outlook was much rosier after a slump in August 2019. Stocks rebounding by approximately 83%. Speculated improvement stemming from greater confidence in their transition from software to subscription services [1]. Nutanix exhibiting a 97% retention rate on their subscription services is promising [2]. Back in January, the threat of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) was dormant. Its impact on commerce is now a matter of concern for the tech industry.

 

Nutanix shares sank as much as 24% in extended trading on Wednesday after the developer of cloud storage and networking software cited coronavirus concerns as one reason for lowering its 2020 revenue outlook”

CNBC

 

This resulting in the company’s lower revenue projections from $1.3- $1.4 billion to $1.29 -$1.36 billion [3]. 22 % of  Nutanix’s 2019 revenue came from Asia [4]. This is problematic due to Asian countries being profoundly impacted by this emergent illness. Nutanix is far from the only tech company that grappling with the economic complications of the COVID-19 outbreak. Both Apple and Microsoft have indicated that they will not meet their quarterly business goals [5]. Fears of the virus certainly have sullied sales prospects industry-wide. The reverberations are also being felt on the opposite side of the supply-chain.  Considering 73 percent of all of Microsoft’s components are manufactured in China [6]. One of the world’s prominent production hubs being the epicenter for an obscure virus is disastrous.

 

Naturally, the economic stress engendered by COVID-19 is not relegated to the tech sector. Substantial downturns have been estimated for other industries as well. For instance, the hospitality sector is anticipating stalls in sales internationally [7] [8]. The constraints on the economy may stretch beyond restricting the supply in some sectors and reducing demand in others. Countries are stifling commerce through various restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In the United States, it has even been stated that measures such as quarantining entire cities [9]. At first, glance does appear to be slightly excessive. Especially considering how much more pervasive the Flu is when compared to COVID-19 [10]. The perceived threat seems to stem more from the obscurity and ambiguity of COVID-19. Mirroring the reactionary stances taken in the event of an outbreak of communicable diseases. Regardless of whether this outbreak is truly a world health crisis or not, its impact on the economy will be all too real.

 

Placing restrictions on the flow of foreign goods will prove to be detrimental. Whether those restrictions are through tariffs or pragmatic embargoes to prevent the spread of disease. All modern economies are heavily reliant on imports. Not due to callous self-interest, but out of the virtue of efficiency. Comparative Advantage has allowed for intense specialization which enables countries to focus on the production of specific types of goods and services. Thank you, David Ricardo. Concentrated specialization has lead to increases in product quantity and quality. Whatever you cannot produce can be acquired through trade. Hence, why 60% of our global productivity is dependent on international trade [11]. Making it imperative that all restrictions placed on international trade be necessary. Per the AIER article Economic Policy Must Prepare for Pandemic Disease :

 

“What we do not see are the infinitely complex ways that productive structures depend on smoothly functioning markets that could all face deep disruption.

Efforts to examine the possible economic impact are few but a 2006 Congressional Budget Office study suggested that a 1918-style pandemic today could drop GDP by 4.25%, which would put the economy in painful recession territory”  [12].

 

Granted these findings are theoretical and most likely retrieved from economic models, still eye-opening. COVID-19 can present a serious risk to the United States. However, the benefit of being cautious needs to be weighted in relation to economic losses. Is it worth the losses in productivity to attempt to secure the U.S. against this virus? There are already confirmed cases here in the United States. There is little to stop COVID-19 from spreading. Quarantines and trade embargoes with nations that have confirmed cases cannot guarantee the number of cases domestically will not rise. Such measures only create a false sense of security. What isn’t speculative is production shortages, an increase in prices, and even the loss of jobs. Imports are the lifeblood of our advanced economy. Putting up barriers to our trading partners is merely cutting off circulation to the arteries.

As the quote above indicates, what initially seems reasonable doesn’t always work. Superficially, trade restrictions seem like a great way to curb the spread of this disease. Taking this course of action ignores the consequences downstream. It could even be said it lacks foresight. It is ineffective and impractical to produce all the goods that we utilize domestically in production. There is a reason why Target purchases its plastic lawn furniture from vendors in China. If produced domestically the same products would be triple the price and not maintain a level of quality commanding such a price tag. It becomes quite evident how a chain of such events could be harmful to the entire economy.