Research and Opinion

Dominique Strauss-Kahn: Previous health crises say nothing, however, of the resilience of our society with a globally integrated economy, which had almost lost all memory of the risk of infection

Here is an article that has just devoted to the current crisis and its consequences. Article appeared in the spring issue of Politique Internationale 2020.

The health crisis we are experiencing is different from any that previous generations have known. The summons of the Great Black Death of 1348 or the Spanish Flu of 1918-1919 are interesting in that they allow us to rethink the consequences of pandemics. But they say nothing, however, of the resilience of our society with a globally integrated economy, which had almost lost all memory of the risk of infection


April 5, 2020

by Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Former Minister of Economy and Finance,

Former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund

If the current crisis is at first glance different, it would be because of the speed of the spread of this disease. Three months after the start of the health crisis, nearly half of the planet's population is called into confinement. Even if the contagiousness of the virus probably played a role in this shift from epidemic to pandemic stage, globalization marked by the acceleration of the movement of people is at the heart of the propagation process (1). The reaction delay of developed countries, whose health systems were quickly overwhelmed, must arguably also be blamed. It attests to a lack of foresight and an unfounded confidence in the capacity of health systems to massively protect their population while obtaining protective equipment and screening tests over time, from foreign suppliers, mainly Chinese. No doubt this was not fatal. Taiwan, on the strength of its experiences during previous epidemics, had a quantity of protective equipment (2), its production capacities and a department dedicated to the management of infectious diseases capable, in particular, of deploying quickly, applications for managing and sharing data on infected patients. It is, without doubt, normal that a health care system is not made to deal with a sudden and temporary demand. But, in this case, it is important that it be reactive, that is to say capable of reorienting its offer and mobilizing predefined and identified reserves. This agility, it seems we have been lacking.

The other structural difference between this health crisis and previous crises is its magnitude. Many people have initially tried to put the gravity of the situation into perspective by recalling the number of deaths due to seasonal flu, the HIV and Ebola epidemics, or even the health consequences of addictive practices such as alcohol or tobacco. Besides the fact that we will only know the lethal consequences of Covid-19 once its transmission has been curbed, making this type of argument amounts to ignoring the global and absolute nature of this pandemic. Global insofar as no geographical area is spared any more and because the pandemic comes to cross a world demography which is without comparison with that of 1919: the simple number of individuals called to stay at home is today twice as much important than the total world population during the Spanish flu episode. Absolute, because it is obvious that no individual can consider himself immune from the risk of contamination.

And it is this last specificity of the health crisis that distinguishes it from all previous episodes: its highly symbolic character offends and shocks a world population that had almost forgotten the risk of infection. In this, it undermines the cozy comfort in which the economically developed countries have gradually coiled. Death had not only become distant due to increased life expectancy, it had also become intolerable as evidenced by reluctance to commit ground troops in most recent conflicts. The "value" of human life has dramatically increased in the collective unconscious of the richer countries. But today, we are coming back to awareness of the precariousness of being. This crisis of being will certainly have considerable consequences that it is perhaps too early to address here, but it is also indicative of a crisis of having and a crisis of power, the analysis of which is necessary. to guide the decisions to be made.

A crisis of having

We have experienced economic crises. But this one is different. This recession only very partially resembles the ones we have experienced because it combines a shock on supply and another on demand.

A shock on supply and a shock on demand

We can hardly avoid the employment consequences of the supply shock. This results from the confinement instructions which, by default, have proved to be essential from a health point of view. With part of the labor force confined for an indefinite period of time, production will inevitably fall. Some companies will downsize, others will close. These jobs are lost, probably for quite a long time. This is what happens in natural disasters, but they usually only affect part of the economy.

Some of these companies may be saved by the state. And the recourse to "temporary nationalizations", which I conceived only for infrequent reasons of national independence (3), can save some but not all.

The shock to demand obviously has several cumulative causes. The incomes of a part of the population which vanish, the consumptions considered not essential which are postponed, those which are made impossible by the confinement, and, as "my expenses are your income" the demand weakens further. This is the well-known cycle of the recession.

Added to this is the melting of financial assets. In a typical recession, the wisest management of financial assets is to wait until normalcy returns if you don't have to sell for one reason or another. Here, the return to normal will not be as before. Some financial assets will drop to zero because the companies they represent will close in greater proportions than in previous crises. This meltdown in financial assets reflects precautionary behavior that further depresses aggregate demand. This “risk of ruin” of certain savers had largely disappeared since the Great Depression, and here it is back.

It is this simultaneity of supply and demand shocks that makes the present situation so exceptional and so dangerous.

In the short term, losses are inevitable.

In the United States, it took just two weeks for nearly 10 million Americans to be unemployed. In Europe, 900,000 Spaniards have already lost their jobs. In France, INSEE estimates that a month of confinement should cost us 3 points of GDP. No one is spared. And according to the IMF, “We have never seen the world economy come to a halt. It is much worse than the crisis of 2008 ". These terrible figures lead some to adopt a martial reading grid of our crisis. Governments, the United Nations, the IMF, all speak of a "war" on Covid-19. However, armed conflict does not necessarily seem to reflect the nature of the economic paralysis that strikes us. More than a destruction of capital, it is an evaporation of knowledge, especially that nestled in companies that will necessarily go bankrupt, which is to be feared. More than a redirection of production towards a war economy, we are witnessing an organized coma and a sustained but undoubtedly lasting disintegration of supply chains.

For the most fragile countries, the pandemic promises to be catastrophic. A number of commodity exporters, and most importantly oil producers, are entering the crisis with insufficient foreign exchange reserves. The price of a barrel has fallen below $ 20, and copper, cocoa and palm oil prices have plummeted since the start of the year. For countries largely benefiting from remittances since (4), 2020 could see consumption and investment contract sharply. As for tourist destinations, these will have to survive an almost total shutdown of economic activity in the first part of the year (5).

This economic setback threatens to push millions of people from the "emerging middle class" back into extreme poverty. However, more poverty also means more deaths. African countries are younger, but also more fragile, with the highest rates of malnutrition, HIV infection or tuberculosis in the world, which could make the coronavirus even more lethal. In addition, where developed countries can adopt drastic containment measures, this is often impossible in contexts of overcrowded urban slums, where running water is difficult to access and where to stop working or go to the market for buying food is not an option. The Ebola experience has shown that school closures - adopted by 180 countries around the world - often result in dropping out of school altogether.


In the medium and long term, the cards are reshuffled.

a / The globalization of trade has obviously been accompanied by a new international division of production. The relatively low cost of labor in emerging economies combined with the development of communication media has been the source of unprecedented growth in international trade. This affects just about every industry starting with the automotive and electronics industries.

It is this international division of labor that is at issue today. The criticism is not new and the health crisis acts above all as an indicator. The detractors were numerous.

For some, considered idealists, it was the ecological absurdity of moving goods twenty times from one end of the planet to the other that was at issue, in particular for food value chains. For the others, considered doctrinaire, it was the denunciation of a system allowing the inhabitants of rich countries to continue to benefit from the colonial rent. Globalization is a sort of "supreme stage of capitalism". For others, considered pessimistic, it was the security of supply that was the target. We are obviously thinking here of health security; 90% of the penicillin consumed in the world is produced in China. This is also the case with rare earths, of which China has a de facto production monopoly, even though they are essential components for the entire electronics and communications industry.

All were partially right and it is very likely that the crisis will lead to forms of relocation of production, regional if not national.

The globalization which is in question is not the opening on the world nor the consciousness of a planetary humanity, this one progresses slowly for a long time, it is what Hubert Védrine calls the Americano-globalization of these decades: "That which began in the post-war period, which accelerated with the reorientation of China towards the market by Deng in 1979, then with the Thatcher-Reagan duo in the early 1980s and financial deregulation under the influence of the Chicago School, and which finally became widespread in the years following the disappearance of the USSR at the end of 1991, a disappearance that Westerners have interpreted - wrongly! - like the end of the story. (10) "

This globalization has not meant losers. Employees in emerging countries working in exporting sectors (and by extension others) have obviously benefited from a rise in their standard of living linked to higher wages. As for consumers in developed countries, they did not hesitate for long to turn to these imported products to benefit from the rent they carried with them. And the latter will not easily give up a significant part of his purchasing power.

The relocation of part of the production will have a cost, but the crisis we are experiencing may be enough to make it a pedagogy.

b / Beyond the forms that globalization will take, the crisis can allow developed economies to break the deadlock in which economic growth has been lost.

The debate is well known which was revived by Larry Summers in 2014 (11). Borrowing the term introduced by Hansen in 1939, he describes a return to the secular stagnation that had fueled so much debate after the 1929 crisis: it is a question of a balance of underemployment from which economies are unable to emerge. because of a low interest rate associated with almost non-existent inflation on the goods and services markets when the price of financial assets is on the contrary increasing significantly. Technical progress releases few new products, innovations lead mainly to savings in capital, investment weakens and it is impossible to revive it because interest rates are already at zero. Savings are then overabundant. It slows down economic growth in the absence of significant public investment limited by debt deemed already excessive in view of debt / GDP ratios considered unsustainable. In recent decades, financial engineering has settled the equation while causing recurring financial crises that obscure the reality of the real economy.

Faced with this situation of stagnation that more or less experienced the developed economies, the economic crisis, destroying capital, can provide a way out. The investment opportunities created by the collapse of part of the production apparatus, such as the price effect of support measures, can reignite the process of creative destruction described by Schumpeter. His entrepreneur would then win on the ground the theoretical battle he had waged long ago, both against optimistic stagnationists like Keynes and pessimists like Marx.


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At the international level, the emphasis has been placed in recent years on the fact that while the "subprime" crisis had resulted in a considerable increase in inequalities between individuals, on the other hand inequalities between countries were steadily decreasing. The current crisis risks completely calling into question this observation. In the short term, because of the possible, and even unfortunately probable, consequences of the crisis on the economies of many low-income countries. In the medium term, because the relocation of certain activities, which has a high probability of being carried out, will be done at their expense. This is what makes the support of these economies, which has already been mentioned, even more essential.

d / The economic future, difficult in any case, is largely in our hands.

Governments have already started to act as shown in Figure II (13). But this graph reveals several weaknesses.

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First, the very different magnitude of the stimuli already decided (in red). Then, the preponderant part taken by loan guarantees, which is certainly useful, but only very indirectly concerns the support to the demand of the most deprived. Finally, the lack of coordination in the response when what made the 2009 relaunch so successful was that it was largely coordinated between the main players (14).

The European Union has the possibility, and for me the duty, to provide some answers, but the sluggishness of the European Council of March 26 and the pantomime of the Eurogroup do not lead to optimism. The main point is that of budgetary mutualisation between the Member States in order to be able to carry out significant action (15).

Three instruments are under discussion within the Eurogroup:

- support in the order of 100 billion euros for partial unemployment mechanisms;

- a more vigorous mandate given to the EIB which can lend or guarantee loans;

- an adaptation to the current situation of the European Stability Mechanism (16).

However, each of these options misses the central issue, which is that of a shared budgetary response so as not to jeopardize the debt sustainability of the most fragile countries. Obviously, all this refers to the debate on the creation of coronabonds and, more generally, on the Union's borrowing capacity, the absence of which is now sorely felt. It is also a political issue: the ECB will not be able to pool debts for long through market operations without explicit political support.

Two avenues are possible. The first would be an explicit request from states to monetize excess debt; but it is a questioning of the independence of the central bank. The second is to move forward with those who want to jointly issue new debt in order to finance both the costs of the immediate health response, the international solidarity that will be necessary in particular towards Africa and finally a recovery plan. massive once the health emergency has passed. The choice is thus simply stated, one must break one or the other of these two taboos: the independence of the central bank or the unanimity of the member states.

Because what we need right now are:

- plans to support demand on the order of magnitude of the loss of production (several percentage points of GDP for 2020 only). These must be based, for households as well as for companies, on genuine support for their liquidity through fiscal and budgetary measures;

- coordination of these policies with actions carried out by central banks in monetary matters;

- an instrument for mobilizing budgetary resources and common debt in Europe. Without pooling, the budgetary response will be insufficient;

- concerted action at the international level including the extension of this liquidity beyond developed countries.

A crisis of power

This is perhaps the one that is the most disturbing. A crisis of sovereignty, it is due to the autonomy of states in a world where multilateral institutions are struggling to organize the necessary decision-making on a global scale. A crisis of representation, it also affects the exercise of power, the guarantee of public freedoms and the legitimacy of the authorities, in particular in democracies. But it is not the health crisis and the Covid-19 epidemic that are creating these crises. They only reveal weaknesses that already exist largely.

The crisis throws a harsh light on the relativity of our sovereignty.

It highlights a technological dependence that, out of ignorance or national pride, we tend to underestimate.

This obviously applies in the health sector. We are amazed that much of our drug supply depends on China. By letting this country become "the factory of the world" have we not given up in areas essential to guaranteeing our security?

The alarming signs exist even within a very integrated whole like the European Union. The shortage of curare needed to intubate those in serious condition seems in part to be due to the ingredients in Italy and Spain. It is clear in the Union that this situation may find solutions in the future. It is less straightforward when it comes to materials including advanced technologies where dependence on the United States is evident.

But this health dependence refers to a broader technological dependence. Public opinion is aware, but perhaps negligent, of the poor security of communications, and in particular of smartphones. What does she know about the contracts between our intelligence services and Palantir, the company founded by Peter Thiel? Artificial intelligence fear, rightly or wrongly, but undoubtedly citizens would prefer that the guarantees given by the officials they elected not be so dependent on foreign powers and, at the very least, it is likely that 'they would like to be informed. What about the use of Windows at the Ministry of Defense? Failure to regain lost digital sovereignty, we could direct our investments towards free software which offers a guarantee of independence. Europe, and even France alone if it is not followed, could quickly make a significant contribution to this digital common good. This point goes well beyond just security issues. Daniel Cohen (17) precisely emphasizes an evolution towards digital capitalism that this crisis can accelerate. National, or European, independence cannot be measured only by the existence of a nuclear capability.

The health crisis feeds the old nationalist impulses. To escape it, we cannot be content with the traditional lyrical outbursts of the horrors of fascism, in one sense, and the universality of the human condition, in the other. If we are, at the level of our nations, too weak to compete, then the European Union regains its full meaning. Far from registering its death, as some are striving to claim, the new interest shown by the peoples of Europe in the concept of sovereignty can give Europe a second chance.

The fragmentation of globalization that the crisis is very likely to provoke constitutes an unexpected opportunity to take back the reins. Popular will is needed, and this had become so weak that nothing seemed possible in this Union weighed down by enlargement, hampered by bureaucracy and delegitimized by its supposedly undemocratic character. The gradual return of national egoisms was slowly killing the dream of the founders. Sovereignists of all stripes have taken it all in, failing to tell the people that there is only a return to sovereignty by sharing it with other Europeans, as the creation of the euro has shown. But the impossibility of accounting for the advantages drawn from European construction failed to convince citizens who were increasingly skeptical about its interest. So much so that in this crisis, the ineffectiveness of European action comforts all its detractors. In the health sector as in the economic field, the absence of political vision has prevented any preventive action and the power of national egoisms is delaying the necessary measures.

It took a shock for the true nature of the Union to emerge; that of a refusal to give up collective values ​​and a model of society that define an identity. It is this identity that has melted into globalization, it is this identity that can be reborn from its fragmentation. This shock, we have it. A renaissance is possible under two conditions: that European solidarity is asserted in the resolution of the health crisis, that men and women carry and embody a renewal of political Europe. The days, weeks and months ahead will tell us if these conditions have been met. The challenge is great, as Europe has lost its credibility. It will be necessary to convince by proposing a post-health war Monnet method, capable of achievements visible to all that will justify calibrated transfers of sovereignty.

The crisis also poses the democratic question in new terms.

Our democratic model, which emerged from the industrial revolution, has already suffered a great deal of insult. It is fundamentally a model of representative democracy: it is based on the consent to delegate the power that the right to vote gives to the men and women who will exercise it on our behalf. We elect representatives who we believe will be able to implement the policy to which we aspire and we trust them. But this consent, like this confidence, is increasingly undermined, the zeitgeist being less in the general interest than in the accumulation of particular interests (18).

It took a combination of several factors to get there. First and foremost, the disappointment associated with less successful than expected results; but also the development of social networks which give everyone the false feeling that they know better than anyone what to do; the slow shift from a representative mandate to an imperative mandate through the direct and sometimes physical pressure that these same social networks allow; and finally the slow disappearance of intermediary bodies such as unions or political parties. Everything has contributed to the slow decay of representative democracy.

It is this cacochymous parliamentary democracy, born two centuries ago, that the health crisis is hitting head-on.

The management of the health crisis then gives rise to a crisis of representation. If, as Max Weber put it, "a state is a human community which claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force in a given territory" (19), this monopoly finds its legitimacy in that of representation. This was already in question before the crisis. She is being tested by the crisis.

The principle can easily be accepted that in times of crisis democracies may resort to "exceptional" enforcement measures, but the question of limits is not without being asked by a section of opinion. Everywhere, the question which is at the heart of Giorgio Agamben's thought: "Can we suspend life to protect it?" Found a temporary answer: namely, life (and even the economy) before civil liberties. But will it be the same in the future if the authoritarian measures, starting with confinement, were to last or be renewed?

Democracy stems from the method of gaining power more than from its exercise (20). However, these exceptional measures have two consequences. The first is that the line is blurring between democracies and authoritarian regimes. The second is that democratically elected governments may be tempted to use the crisis for a variety of purposes: attempting to transition to a less democratic regime (Hungary) or dealing with other domestic problems (India, Algeria). In many countries, democratic life is put on hold by the postponement of elections as in Poland or Bolivia, with the particular case of France.

Times of crisis have often brought about a form of national unity. To some extent, the sense of urgency and the need to survive sparked a surge of loyalty among citizens. More often than not, populations have lined up behind the strong decisions made by their government with consent / acceptance if not with enthusiasm (21), (22). However, in most democratic regimes, decisions are questioned, instructions violated and, in general, the relevance of the measures recommended by experts who, in other times, would have been valid is widely questioned.

So much so that one can legitimately wonder if the notion of political program still has a meaning. As elected officials prove incapable of doing what they have promised, citizens no longer trust them and intend to intervene in decision-making at any time; we therefore move away from representative democracy to tend towards more or less organized forms of direct democracy. The risk is then that of all populism; truth and reason are less important than action even when the latter is based only on passion. Benda taught us to what tragedies this inexorably leads (23).

Conversely, in most non-democratic regimes, the legitimacy of power is conferred by the ability of rulers to protect their people and maintain social order rather than guarantee their freedoms. In most of these countries, the authorities imposed a strong and rapid response to the crisis and in return we see a certain feeling of support and national unity among the population (China, Vietnam, Jordan, etc). In other words, not only the end of the crisis could mark a weakening of the legitimacy of public authorities in democracies, but at the same time a strengthening of power in autocracies.

By the rapidity of its onset and the impetuosity of the spread of the virus, the health crisis has imposed legislative and regulatory measures of a magnitude quite unprecedented in our democracies. In many countries, the executive has felt authorized to take freedom-killing or mass surveillance measures to do so, deploying technologies hitherto reserved for military or anti-terrorist intelligence! In general, these measures derogating from public freedoms are rather well received, even acclaimed by citizens who see them as an arsenal to protect their security.

That governments prioritize efficiency is not specific to the health crisis. That citizens are less attentive to the safeguard of their fundamental rights undoubtedly reflects an anguish in the face of the new scourge after decades of absence of collective adversities. These exceptional and temporary measures must imperatively remain so. However, in recent years, it has been clear that other measures taken in the name of the fight against terrorism have passed into an almost general indifference from the status of exceptional and temporary measures to that of common law.

We must be careful not to permanently weaken the rule of law in the name of the urgency to fight the virus. Last fall (but it already seems so far away), François Sureau recalled that “the rule of law, in its principles and in its organs, was designed so that neither the wishes of the government nor the fears of the people carry in their path the foundations of public order, and first of all freedom ”(24).

In the aftermath of the crisis, political questions will therefore be numerous. Which regimes will be seen as having handled the crisis well? What transition should be implemented to return exceptional measures to normal life? If they have failed to act in unison during the health crisis, what credibility will democratic regimes have in dealing with other crises such as the climate challenge or the migration issue?

And, if national egoism dominates during the management of the health crisis, how then to prevent the wave of national populism from sweeping away everything in its path? Also, international cooperation is not only an element of effective management of the crisis, it is a condition for democratic survival after it emerges.

No doubt we are entering another world

Another economy: the return of regulations?

The current period is one of disorder and the question obviously arises as to which direction we will go when the health crisis is over. Over the past thirty years, the cause was heard. We were witnessing the unchallenged victory of economic liberalism in line with the end of Francis Fukuyama’s history (25). But those who look at history with a long-term gaze are now finding grounds to reconsider the idea that liberalism has definitely won the day. The lesson given three quarters of a century ago by Karl Polanyi (26) is that economic liberalism is a phase of disorganization between two more regulated periods. This asserts itself periodically, as a parenthesis, until each time the need for new regulations arises because economic phenomena are not independent of the rest of the development of society.

In 150 years, we have known three great cycles of regulation of capitalism. The one which, from the 19th century, ended with the First World War. It gives way to another regulation based on mass production in a world torn by the rebirth of nationalisms and inhabited by the construction of democracy. And then a third phase came because, contrary to what Polanyi envisioned, the market did not collapse with the crisis of 29 or after the Second World War. It was after 1945 that the generalization of the welfare state, the emergence of American domination and the erasure of fascism shaped the new regulations of the following decades. Towards the end of the 1970s, a new rupture began. It affects the world of production, political ideas as well as the international scene. The emergence of information technologies, the liberal wave of tax denial, and the collapse of communism herald the end of the social democratic period.

Thus, we have known for almost two centuries a succession of organic phases during which a mode of organization of the economy and society dominates and critical phases during which these regulations run out of steam and then disappear, to give way. room for others. The last great collective regulation was that of the welfare state. There is no longer any doubt that she has exhausted herself. And despite a slight stammering in the aftermath of the "subprime" crisis, nothing has come to replace it.

Between these phases of regulation, the old patterns are crumbling, collective organization recedes, individualisms regain citizenship. Until a massive shock allows history to take back its rights and men carve the framework of the new society. It is such structures that we must rebuild today.

These regulations do not spare any human activity, but beyond the classical space of economic cooperation, there are several areas where the need for regulation is essential.

First, obviously, in the field of health organization. Paradoxically, it is in this area that international cooperation began to take place in 1851 with the first International Health Regulations. The 2005 reform strengthened the independence of the Director General of WHO, but much more must be done, particularly in coordinating with the WTO.

In particular, WHO's role can be important in the implementation of more active prevention policies. As soon as pandemics no longer appear to be negligible risks, “Black Swans” to use the expression used in the field of financial risks, then the need to take these policies into account in public choices is strongly affirmed. . Donald Trump's dismantling of the White House health security cell shows that we are not there.

The health crisis may also create the opportunity for a new mobilization to fight against climate change. Beyond the links between climate and public health, the measures taken in the fight against the pandemic are transforming the debate on the budgetary constraints that we impose on ourselves as well as on the supervision of individual behavior. But there is also a link with other areas of environmental conservation and in particular the preservation of biodiversity. The destruction of ecosystems by pollution, the progressive restriction of places of habitat or prohibited businesses promote zoonoses, as many recent examples have shown.

But even if we accept the plausible hypothesis of a fragmentation of globalization, these different policies can only be global. Then comes the nagging question that runs through all questions.

b / Will the crisis of being lead to a change in the relationship between men?

In order for the cards to be reshuffled, the pandemic risk must permeate deeply, but above all durably, the collective global sensitivity. The warlike metaphor, which has been widely used, can only be applied during the time of mobilization: the majority of studies (27) suggest that there can be no armistice, much less liberation. It is therefore not only a long-term war effort, but also a reintegration into collective consciousness, the permanence of an infectious pandemic risk. Faced with such a structuring and universal threat, we are likely to witness a profound change in collective preferences.

First probable evolution of our collective preferences: the relationship to temporality. Entering a world marked by infectious hazards presupposes correcting our deficiencies and recognizing our inability, particularly in Europe, to give reality to the precautionary principle and to cultivate the preventive approach. The embolization of health systems in developed countries is only the symptom of a short-term political vision that feels immune to any material unforeseen events simply because of the existence of interconnected and responsive markets for goods and services. Future decisions cannot be exempt from long-term inclusion, particularly budgetary inclusion, and from a systematic strategic approach to the various priority areas of people's lives.

Beyond this first aspect, the infectious risk reminds us with the force of evidence of the interdependence between individuals. This is the whole paradox of current confinement: isolated at home, individuals have never worked so hard for the restoration of the collective. The health of each person is no longer, as in the case of cardiovascular and degenerative diseases, the consequence of individual behaviors: it depends on the responsibility of each one vis-à-vis the collective, and, conversely, on the capacity of the collective to take charge of the health of the least of its members. The specificity of viruses that this pandemic reminds us of is that they do not recognize any border, neither social nor political: no barrier, no wall will permanently protect companies from the risk of contagion, from a ready “cluster”. to swarm.

In addition to the necessary strengthening of the role of WHO in the implementation of active prevention policies, this reappearance of the feeling of interdependence must be accompanied so as not to emerge a society of generalized mistrust. A recent survey (28) on the acceptability of a phone application to trace the contacts of carriers of Covid-19 shows that nearly 75% of respondents would probably install this type of application if it existed. What social appreciation would be made of an individual refusing to install such an application? Should this refusal simply be authorized when it is likely to endanger the collective? It is probable that this health crisis and its penetration into the collective imagination will encourage the emergence of a society of medical transparency: thus, is it possible that the movement of people will in the future be subject to the production of immunity tests, such as the international vaccination card are currently requested at the border of many states. But there is a world between a simple cardboard notebook and the data on your cell phone. So that the regime of individual transparency that we are anticipating does not transform into a society of mistrust, the public authorities must play an active role in order to guarantee not only the anonymity of users but also the erasure of data sets. (29). This firm public positioning must form the basis of a new "providential system" on which to build confidence and a renewed civic pact.


[1] Jin Wu, Weiyi Cai, Derek Watkins and James Glanz, « How the Virus Got Out », The New York Times, 22 mars 2020 

[1] La France a également disposé d’un stock stratégique important. Créé en 2007, l’Établissement de préparation et de réponses aux urgences sanitaires disposait en 2009, dans le contexte de l’épidémie de H1N1, d’un milliard de masques anti-projections, destinés aux malades, et de 900 millions de masques de protection, dits "FFP2". En 2013, la doctrine de gestion des stocks stratégiques est modifiée, avec transfert de la protection des travailleurs aux employeurs. En 2016, les missions de l’EPRUS sont intégrées au sein d’un nouvel établissement Santé publique France. 

(3) Cf. Fondation Jean Jaurès … 

(4) Comme Haïti, par exemple, dont 32% du PIB en 2018 vient de ces transferts 

(5) Aux Maldives, cas extrême, 75% du PIB dépend directement, et indirectement, du tourisme et les réserves en devises ne dépassent pas 2 mois d’importations. 

(6) Ce dont la Chine, qui n’a pas accès aux swaps, pourrait bénéficier. 

(7) Ceux-ci viennent augmenter les réserves des banques centrales et permettent aux pays en développement de procurer des « hard currencies ». 

(8) La France vient de faire enfin une proposition en ce sens 

(9) Depuis, le chèque de 1500 dollars pour tous les ménages a amélioré la situation. 

(10) Terra Nova, mars 2020 

(11) Larry Summers "U.S. economic prospects: secular stagnation, hysteresis, and the zero lower bound", Business Economics, 49, p.65-73, 2014 

(12) Paolo Surico et Andrea Galeotti, « The economics of a pandemic : the case of Covid-19 », London School of Economics, 2020 

(13) Paolo Surico et Andrea Galeotti, ibid. 

(14) Dès janvier 2008, le FMI avait à Davos annoncé la nécessité à venir d’une relance budgétaire mondiale. Elle prendra forme au G20 de 2009 à Londres et a permis d’éviter les millions de chômeurs prévisibles. 

(15) Sur ces points, cf Shahin Vallée « macro note : Options for the Eurogroup and a possible staged path to coronabonds », 2 avril 2020 

(16) Ce mécanisme, créé en 2012, peut mobiliser jusqu’à 700 milliards d’euros. Il est parfois à tort, qualifié de FMI européen. La principale différence avec le FMI vient de de ce que les ressources du MES sont des ressources d’emprunt et non des ressources monétaires. Ce n’est pas un Fonds Monétaire Européen mais un Fonds Budgétaire Européen. 

(17) Daniel Cohen, « La crise du coronavirus signale l’accélération d’un nouveau capitalisme, le capitalisme numérique », Le Monde, 2 avril 2020 

(18) Max Weber, dans Économie et société, insiste sur le fait que la soumission volontaire propre à toute forme de socialisation dépend des qualités que le dominé prête à celui qui le commande. 

(19) Max Weber, « Politik als Beruf », 1919 

(20) Si ce qui caractérise la démocratie c’est le mode d’acquisition du pouvoir et non son exercice (Adam Przeworski et al., « Democracy and Development : Political Institutions and Well-being in the World, 1950-1990 », vol. 3, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2001) alors le caractère démocratique de nos sociétés n’est pas en cause. 

(21) "In democracies, the relationship between citizens and government relies on the triumvirate of compliance, consent, and legitimacy.” Hardin, "Compliance, Consent and Legitimacy", in Boix & Stokes, Comparatives Politics 

(22) Qui aurait pu imaginer cela quan, il y a 18 mois, la révolte des gilets jaunes en France est née entre autres de l’indignation contre la limitation de vitesse à 80 km/h, jugée liberticide. 

(23) Julien Benda, « La trahison des clercs », 1927, réédition Les cahiers rouges, Grasset, 2003 

(24) François Sureau « Sans la liberté », Tract, Gallimard, 2019 

(25) Francis Fukuyama, « The End of History and the Last Man », The Free Press, 1992 

(26) Karl Polanyi, « La grande transformation. Aux origines politiques et économiques de notre temps », Gallimard, 1944 

(27) Gideon Lichfield, « We’re not going back to normal », MIT, 2020 

(28), Université d’Oxford, 31 mars 2020 

(29) Ce que l’Europe a su mettre en place avec l’adoption précurseur du RGPD 


Selected and translated  by the Geoeconomic Forum Croatia