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Want a Vaccine? Elect a Nationalist
US and UK liberals benefit from conservative leaders playing the game of globalism by nationalist rules.
Like most US citizens right now, I’m seeing lots of friends, largely liberal, posting vaccine selfies on Facebook as the rollout here continues. And like some of the more worldly and well-connected US citizens, I’m also watching my Canadian and EU friends get really, really bent over these selfies, because they won’t be vaccinated until next winter at current rates. And when you dig into why, a tremendous trend emerges, which is perfectly explained by the countries leading the pack taking a nationalist instead of a globalist approach in 2020.
Let’s start by looking at who’s winning the vaccine horse race.
Until recently the USA was solidly fourth, behind Israel, UAE, and the UK, in terms of total vaccine doses administered per capita. Our number four spot was overtaken the first week of March by Chile, who has now jumped ahead of even the UK. The European Union countries are way down in the bottom of the pile, being led by Denmark at 17.3 doses per 100. And when you look at who’s winning, a very clear picture emerges.
Are the most robust economies winning? No. Chile, Serbia, and Hungary disprove this theory. Are the western block countries winning? No. Chile, Serbia, and Singapore disprove this theory. Are the countries who did well containing the spread of Covid winning? No. Chile, the UK, and the US disprove this. Are the countries that did poorly winning? No. Singapore did very well containing the spread, and a huge pile of countries that didn’t earn a spot on the graph did poorly. Are the capitalist countries winning? Sorta. But there’s a laundry list of capitalist countries who aren’t doing well, and most of the EU would consider themselves a market economy. Germany did as well as many countries in the EU at containment, developed the EU Covid test that the WHO later adopted, and is proud of their capitalist infrastructure, yet are conspicuously missing from the graph. There is one and only one trend that’s clear in this horse race, as far as I can tell.
Israel is led by a conservative, nationalist, me-first government.
UAE is led by a conservative, nationalist, me-first government.
Chile is led by a conservative, nationalist, me-first government.
The UK is led by a conservative, nationalist, me-first government. #Brexit was literally a referendum on this very topic.
The USA for all of 2020 was led by a conservative, nationalist, me-first government.
Serbia is led by a populist, somewhat conservative, me-first government, although they do like being in Europe.
Hungary is led by a conservative, nationalist, me-first government.
Singapore is led by a nationalist, me-first government. I’m unclear how truly “conservative” they are, but they’ve been one-party rule for the better part of a century.
Want a vaccine? Elect a nationalist. The proof is in the pudding, and here’s how the pudding was made.
I’m going to credit Dave Keating for catching me up to speed on a lot of the EU politics here, and I’ll summarize a chain of events he recently enumerated on Twitter.
AstraZeneca signed their purchasing agreement with the European Union one day before it’s agreement with the United Kingdom, but AstraZeneca is giving vaccine priority to the UK. The AstraZeneca CEO told the European Parliament in February that the UK priority is baked into their vaccine development agreement with the University of Oxford, signed in January of 2020, which was then inherited by AstraZeneca when it partnered with Oxford in May of 2020. Covid-19 infections were probably already deep in the underbelly of London by January, but nobody knew it. The UK was intelligent to start funding Covid-19 research before the infection was apparent in Europe, but their true intelligence was in prioritizing themselves in their funding agreement. Me-first nationalism was the winning move in the horse race.
Germany funded BioNTech at the same time but failed to put in a “Germany first” clause. They either chose not to, because they have globalist instead of nationalist leadership, or they may literally be prevented from doing so by their position within the European Union. I’m not sure. Globalist cooperation was the losing move in the horse race.
In March of 2020 Donald Trump attempted (and failed) to literally buy BioNTech, move their operations entirely to the USA, and have them develop a USA-only vaccine. Had he succeeded, this obviously me-first nationalist move would have been a winning move in the horse race, but it failed. He took his shot. Germany plodded along disregarding the move as inconsequential.
Oxford was originally going to partner with Merck, but was prohibited from doing so by the UK government, who forced them to partner with AstraZeneca. Matt Hancock, the UK health secretary torpedoed the deal because he didn’t want the USA to out-maneuver the UK in the me-first nationalism game.
This was a smart move, because Donald Trump signed an executive order in December 2020 giving all Americans first priority on vaccines made on US soil. This is classic me-first nationalism, an issue on which he literally campaigned in 2016. Biden has not rescinded this EO, and is currently reaping the rewards from it, but it’s unclear if he ever would have made the EO in the first place. His liberal globalist counterparts in Europe certainly didn’t make any moves like that.
Also in December of 2020, the UK and US used emergency authorization to approve the Pfizer vaccine, while the EU drug their feet and approved it almost a month later. The UK gave emergency use approval to the AstraZeneca vaccine on December 30th. When the EU finally gave AstraZeneca approval on the 29th of January, AstraZeneca said it couldn’t meet the dosage delivery promise because of production problems in the EU plant. Apparently some of the doses there were already earmarked for the United Kingdom. The contracts for delivery to the UK and the EU from AstraZeneca were signed three months apart from each other, so AstraZeneca was able to iron out process problems in their other vaccine plants before the EU plant. Because of the US export ban Trump implemented and Biden maintained, and similar efforts within the UK, the Canadian vaccine doses come from Europe. And the first 3.9 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine here in the USA also came from Europe, as J&J struggled to ramp up production in their Baltimore plant. Lots of liberals love Justin Trudeau, but not when they’re getting their shots.
Some version of this drama played out in all the countries leading the world in vaccinations, even the developing countries. Chile has no appreciable local vaccine production, but it does act as a kind of east-west economic crossroads, and it cut early deals with AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Sinovac, and CanSino for vaccine delivery priority in return for letting all four companies run trials there. Their current leadership is notoriously capitalistic, so much so that they dealt with a terrific populist uprising in 2019, but the folks in the driver’s seat there knew how to wheel and deal “me-first.” I speak with people in Chile, and they’ve had a rough go of it the past few years. I will not claim to support or oppose their current leadership, but it is clear that their leadership’s mindset is getting them vaccines.
Dave Keating, the very talented journalist from whom I ripped a lot of this research has a take that’s probably shared by a lot of people in the EU and Canada on this entire drama:
Thanks for the research Dave, but I don’t think you understand the rules. Yes, nations are artificial social constructs bound by invisible lines in dirt, but they exist for a reason. It is game theoretically advantageous for the nation to out-maneuver other nations, because that out-maneuvering benefits the people inside that dirt line. Period. This is the actual game. If your nation chooses not to out-maneuver, then your nation is the one choosing a suboptimal game play. The liberals here in the USA are happy as a pig in mud, posting their vaccine selfies. They just don’t realize who they have to thank.
The deeper question is this. In the game of nations, do you actually want things to be fair, or do you want your vaccine first? It’s an important question to ask.
If you’re Canadian or European, I do have good news for you. We’re going to run out of people to vaccinate in late May, right around the time Covid-19 is gone here, and we’ll have hundreds of millions of doses in warehouses collecting dust. We’ll probably let you use some of them. Math on that is here.
Thinking more on this, it seems to me as if the winning move, generally speaking is to be me-first right up to the point where other people get pissed off at you and also start going me-first as well, at which point you start to lose your advantage. It seems as if global diplomacy is the game of riding that line. Unless, of course, you need some damn vaccines.