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COVID-19 highlights the differences between democracy and authoritarianism

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

Daniel Costa

Assistant Opinions Editor

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The original epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, based in the Chinese city of Wuhan, was a “model” for Western nations on how to deal with the current issue. Most of the virus’s impact was only felt in Wuhan, leaving China seemingly unscratched by the effects of the virus. While skeptics can, with every reason, question the official figures the Chinese government allows to be shown, one cannot deny the efficiency of China’s highly centralized bureaucracies’ response to the initial outbreak of the virus. It’s fair to say that the People’s Republic’s response was leagues more decisive than any Western nations. However, it came at a high cost to personal freedoms for the people of Wuhan and of China.

Compared to the efficient and oftentimes cutthroat approach China took, Western governments seemed lethargic and incapable of coming to a set strategy to combat the virus. In the US, different states had different policies in regards to how to handle the situation, which often meant commuters were faced with difficult decisions if they had to cross state lines. Livelihoods and families were affected by rigid lockdown orders. Congress and the President eventually were able to provide relief in the form of a $2.2 trillion stimulus package. However, many felt that the Federals had done too little, too late. Newly opened businesses were forced to close their doors forever as they never had a chance to develop and attract customers. Workers were laid off and forced to live off weekly government subsidies. Aside from that, the public believed nothing really happened besides orders from state officials for mandatory mask usage in public. This did little to quell the wave of infected patients that subsequently engulfed not only the United States, but also the entire Western world.

Was the system at fault? I sure think so. Europe recently arrived at the grim benchmark set by America.

Whether it be European parliaments or the American Congress, both have agreed on one thing: we will not destroy personal freedoms to stamp out this virus. Not yet, at least. Even though individual freedoms are under attack daily, this has always been the case in any government past or present. Western citizens decided they would rather not have their doors welded in by state officials in exchange for temporary security. Of course, this means that the virus would spread and more people would die. But the democratic nature of our societies, where deliberation and consideration are prized over a centralized hive mind, was both a curse and a blessing for us. Citizens of the free world can at least be comfortable in the fact that they will be more free than their Chinese peers when the virus inevitably recedes.


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