A friend on Twitter asked the following question:
Does the shortage of ventilators/mask[s] show the cruelty and inefficiency of capitalism? If so, would a centrally planned economy have better outcomes?
It’s nothing to do with capitalism being cruel or inefficient, and everything to do with what can happen when the profit motive is the main driver of private sector companies involved in the healthcare supply chain, and in healthcare provision.
That combined with incompetently led governments both at the federal level and in some states are why the United States finds itself leading the way in the number of [novel] coronavirus cases.
Even as the total of coronavirus cases worldwide has exceeded 1 million (as of April 2, 2020), it’s too easy to find people trying to use the pandemic in favor of their preferred ideology and against others. From my vantage point, no ideology is faring particularly well against coronavirus. Most of the countries at the top of the charts for total cases and new cases are democracies, but the top 10 also includes China (communist), the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Turkey (effectively a dictatorship).
What the coronavirus is highlighting (in addition to the problem of allowing the profit motive to take primacy in healthcare) is the importance of competent government–regardless of what ideology they claim or operate under. Many articles (including this one) have pointed out that South Korea and the United States reported their first positive COVID-19 case on the same day. The differing results of their responses couldn’t be more stark. South Korea has a tiny fraction of COVID-19 deaths compared to the United States, and a very low number of new cases.