Writing for Vox, Ezra Klein looks at three major plans for re-starting the economy, and how difficult they would actually be to implement:
There’s one from the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, the left-leaning Center for American Progress, Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics, and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Romer.
In different ways, all these plans say the same thing: Even if you can imagine the herculean political, social, and economic changes necessary to manage our way through this crisis effectively, there is no normal for the foreseeable future. Until there’s a vaccine, the US either needs economically ruinous levels of social distancing, a digital surveillance state of shocking size and scope, or a mass testing apparatus of even more shocking size and intrusiveness.
All of them then imagine a phase two, which relaxes — but does not end — social distancing while implementing testing and surveillance on a mass scale. This is where you must begin imagining the almost unimaginable.
The CAP and Harvard plans both foresee a digital pandemic surveillance state in which virtually every American downloads an app to their phone that geotracks their movements, so if they come into contact with anyone who later is found to have Covid-19, they can be alerted and a period of social quarantine can begin.
The AEI proposal is the closest thing to a middle path between these plans. It’s more testing, but nothing approaching Romer’s hopes. It’s more contact tracing, but it doesn’t envision an IT-driven panopticon. But precisely for that reason, what it’s really describing is a yo-yo between extreme lockdown and lighter forms of social distancing, continuing until a vaccine is reached.
This, too, requires some imagination. Will governors who’ve finally, at great effort, reopened parts of their economies really keep throwing them back into lockdown every time ICUs begin to fill? Will Trump have the stomach to push the country back into quarantine after he’s lifted social distancing guidelines? What if unemployment is 17 percent, and his approval rating is at 38 percent?
For the time being, we'll stay in our homes and away from other people as much as we can. But wow, even for me, an introvert with a dedicated home office, it's very trying.
And how long will it go on? A while. National Geographic says a vaccine may take a lot longer than a year.