cover image Democracy in the Time of Coronavirus

Democracy in the Time of Coronavirus

Danielle Allen. Univ. of Chicago, $18 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-0-226-81562-6

Political theorist Allen (Cuz) shrewdly analyzes how and why the U.S. response to Covid-19 fell short, and suggests what should be done to better prepare for the next pandemic. Noting that before the pandemic hit, only 30% of U.S. millennials considered it “essential to live in a democracy,” Allen alleges that “long-standing patterns of discrimination” have undermined faith in America’s political institutions and weakened the “social contract” democracies rely on to get people to work together for a common purpose. She contrasts the U.S. plan—which assumed a trade-off between protecting public health and protecting the economy, rather than bolstering both through a program of testing, contract tracing, and “supported isolation” for workers without job protections—to more effective strategies implemented by democracies including Denmark, Germany, and South Korea. Allen also examines how key tenets of U.S. federalism, such as the balance of power between federal and local governments, failed to function properly during the pandemic. Her astute suggestions for “rebuild[ing] a shared commitment to the public good” include “smarter, more progressive taxes” to pay for public health infrastructure and recognizing that “a foundation of health” is a fundamental right along with “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This is a trenchant call for reimagining how America functions in a time of crisis. (Dec.)