The Reopening of Disney World Shows That Life In Hong Kong Is More Valuable Than Life in the US squib

Disney World reopens in Florida but closes in Hong Kong, even though Florida's surge is much greater. What gives? by Charles Mudede
A theme park reopens in the middle of a pandemic. Handout / GETTY IMAGES

There is a telling detail in a Yahoo Finance post that attempts to explain today's brief rally on Wall Street.

The headline's explanation—"Stocks jump after Pfizer, BioNTech fuel Covid-19 vaccine hopes"—of course, only tells us how desperate speculators are to keep the music going. The news that the US Food and Drug Administration has pinned the "fast track" designation on two pharmaceutical corporations developing COVID-19 vaccines is as substantial as a puff of smoke in a dream.

To begin with, most pharmaceutical innovations originate from government research directly, not the private sector. This point is at center of a 2012 book, The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths, by the UK-based economist Mariana Mazzucato.

She writes:

The history of US government investment in innovation, from the Internet to nanotech, shows that it has been critical for the government to have a hand in both basic and applied research. National Institute of Health (NIH) labs, responsible for 75 percent of the most radical new drugs, performs applied research. In both the cases of basic and applied research, what the government does is what the private sector is not willing to do. State funding makes things happen.

What pharmaceutical corporations like Pfizer mostly do to make a buck is repurchase their own stock, evade taxes, and produce drugs that are already on the market ("me too" drugs). So the present rally on Wall Street has as its meaning the decision to exchange a whole lot of paper over nothing more than the myth of market-driven pharmaceutical innovation.

But the truth of the matter is that government scientific funding has been cut and cut and cut, and, as whole, the government under Trump is in a state of chaos. Combine all of that with the fact that pharmaceutical corporations are really, at best, "knowledge brokers," rather than producers, and what you have is a vaccine that will most likely arrive too late, if at all.

And now, for the interesting detail in the Yahoo Finance post. It is found in these paragraphs, emphasis mine:

Over the weekend, some states again reported surging numbers of new coronavirus cases, as parts of the country struggled to keep new infections at bay. Florida reported a record 15,300 new Covid-19 cases as of Sunday, the highest one-day total for any US state so far during the pandemic, while new deaths in Florida fell by more than half versus the prior day to 45.

Despite the ongoing surge in the state, Disney’s (DIS) Walt Disney World Resort began reopening in Florida on Saturday to join competitors including Comcast’s (CMCSA) Universal Studios and SeaWorld Entertainment in opening their park gates to customers in the state. However, Disney said Monday that it would re-close Hong Kong Disneyland starting Wednesday, as new cases in Hong Kong rose by 41 on Monday for a record one-day gain in the region.

In a single day, Florida, which has a population of 21 million, had 15,300 new Covid-19 cases, and yet the Walt Disney Company went ahead and, with the governor's blessing, reopened Disney World in Orlando. Yet the same company immediately shut down its Hong Kong theme park after the city, which has about a third of Florida's population (7.5 million), experienced just 41 cases in a single day. 15,300, nothing is done. 41, something is done. The difference is so stunning that it initially leads one to think a difference must exist between the COVID-19 in Hong Kong and the one in Florida. But this is not the case. Hong Kong and Florida are dealing with the exact same deadly virus.

What all of this shows is how cheap American life is to corporations and the party entirely devoted to their interests, the GOP. A Hong Kong life clearly has far, far greater value than a Florida life, or lives in other hot spots around the country. But what made this deep devaluation of American life possible? My first guess is the normalization of gun violence.

In the US, the idea of gun ownership has the power to make quick work of its real consequences. The 40,000 or so annual gun-related deaths cannot at all measure up to the metaphysical right to own high-powered weapons. And Americans have become so used to this absurdity, that the absurdity of opening of a theme park during a pandemic that will kill over 200,000 in a matter of months is easily swallowed.

[ Comment on this story ]

[ Subscribe to the comments on this story ]

Scroll for more
Continue reading on The Stranger...