Published Humanitas, Volume XXXV, Nos. 1 & 2, 2022

As we emerge unevenly from the ravages of a global pandemic, the new world upon us is summoning statesmanship for political economy in the national interest. 2020 was apocalyptic in the true sense of the word. The depth of our dependence on Chinese manufactures for everything from face masks, respirators, ventilators, to basic pharmaceuticals was revelatory. This emergency unveiled the gaunt figure of American industry. Yet, our industrial thinning-out was there for all to see during America’s decades-long, neoliberal diet of globalized supply chains, offshored manufacturing, and international trade based on economic comparative advantage and specialization.

An optimist might object to this dire picture and point to Operation Warp Speed, the massive effort of industrial policy in pharmaceuticals and drug development, which produced vaccine formulae in record time by relying on a World War II model of public-private sector mobilization and on powers of the federal government in the 1950 Defense Production Act. But that very success, hinging as it did on government direction and risk-bearing subsidies to domestic firms, demonstrates two truths…

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