(p. A15) The Wuhan lab appears to have operated, in part, with U.S. government grant funding, although American scientists had no oversight role. Chinese scientists allegedly pursued gain-of-function research, increasing the virulence and transmissibility of certain viruses. It isn’t unheard of for a virus to escape from a government-funded lab, and the evidence increasingly suggests that’s what happened in Wuhan, even as China dubiously points a finger at the U.S. military.
Regardless of which government, if any, contributed to the emergence of Covid-19, the pandemic was quickly controlled by innovation from the private economy. New vaccines and private protocols, not government mandates, mainly slowed the spread in workplaces and schools. The pandemic originated from government failures that had to be corrected by private actors.
Even if the lab-leak theory proves false, and it turns out that SARS-CoV2 passed directly from animals to humans, one could still argue the Chinese government’s actions created the pandemic. Beijing covered up evidence of the virus’s early spread and allowed international flights from Wuhan during January and February 2020 while locking down domestic travel.
. . .
American capitalism supported decades of innovation that created conditions conducive to the rapid development of the Covid vaccines. About 70% of the returns to medical research and development across the world come from the U.S., where price controls are less prevalent than elsewhere and companies compete to bring new treatments and cures to market. Without the U.S. market, investors would have shied away from funding the cumulative advances that eventually led to successful Covid vaccines. In this sense, the U.S. market-based healthcare economy saved the world from Covid-19. None of it would have happened in a government-run health system.
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(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date August 9, 2021, and has the same title as the print version.)