The private sector is key to vanquishing the virus – and winning the peace

As the old saying goes “never let a crisis go to waste”. And there’s certainly good evidence that some on the radical left see this pandemic as a chance to expand the scope and power of the central state. If this is indeed a war, then the hope is the aftermath might resemble a modern day version of the Attlee government.

Comparing the current situation to the Second World War has become something of a cliché, abetted by the Prime Minister’s well-known admiration for Winston Churchill.

In economic terms, the comparison is a pretty loose one. Today, in order to slow the spread of the virus the government is actively trying to depress the economy by imposing a lockdown and telling all but essential workers not to go into to work. In the war years, the aim was the precise opposite: to get the economy roaring in order to have the resources to fight the war.

Still, in other ways the comparison is very apposite. As in the 1940s, the country is (more or less) united in an effort to defeat a common foe. And, just as then, the exigencies of the moment mean a Conservative prime minister is pursuing a series of fundamentally unconservative policies, including a huge increase in borrowing and severe restrictions on our civil and economic liberties

In a time of profound crisis, it’s understandable that people turn to the government for a solution. And even those who are sceptical about the reach of the state can see the need for collective action in these circumstances. However, as my colleague Callum Price pointed out on Monday, government is not the only player here – the private sector also has a huge role to play.

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