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Tyler Cowen

Don’t Worry. America’s Response to the Coronavirus Will Improve.

The U.S. has a long and dangerous tradition of starting slow but effectively responding to global crises.

Not the most science-minded leader.

Not the most science-minded leader.

Photographer: JIM WATSON/AFP

With testing for Covid-19 slow to get off the ground in the U.S. and the White House in denial, it has become increasingly obvious that the country isn’t ready for the current public health crisis. How can it be that South Korea has done more than 140,000 tests, while a much larger and wealthier America has done only a few thousand?

It may be both comforting and alarming to know that these failings reflect longstanding patterns in American history. It is common for the U.S. to flounder at first, then respond much later with an energetic and effective outburst. As the (possibly apocryphal) saying from Winston Churchill has it: “Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted.”