Why what happens in China matters more now than it did during SARS

From the Economist:

China now accounts for 16% of global gdp, up from 4% back then. Its share of all exports in textiles and apparel is now 40% of the global total. It generates 26% of the world’s furniture exports. It is also a voracious consumer of things such as metals, needed in manufacturing. In 2003 China sucked in 7% of global mining imports. Today it claims closer to a fifth.

Brooks on Sanders

Unsurprising but still interesting. The headline on David Brooks’s column is “No, Not Sanders, Not Ever”.

Traditional liberalism traces its intellectual roots to John Stuart Mill, John Locke, the Social Gospel movement and the New Deal. This liberalism believes in gaining power the traditional way: building coalitions, working within the constitutional system and crafting the sort of compromises you need in a complex, pluralistic society.

This is why liberals like Hubert Humphrey, Ted Kennedy and Elizabeth Warren were and are such effective senators. They worked within the system, negotiated and practiced the art of politics.

Populists like Sanders speak as if the whole system is irredeemably corrupt. Sanders was a useless House member and has been a marginal senator because he doesn’t operate within this system or believe in this theory of change.

He believes in revolutionary mass mobilization and, once an election has been won, rule by majoritarian domination. This is how populists of left and right are ruling all over the world, and it is exactly what our founders feared most and tried hard to prevent.

Liberalism celebrates certain values: reasonableness, conversation, compassion, tolerance, intellectual humility and optimism. Liberalism is horrified by cruelty. Sanders’s leadership style embodies the populist values, which are different: rage, bitter and relentless polarization, a demand for ideological purity among your friends and incessant hatred for your supposed foes.

Looks like he feels about Bernie the same way I felt about Jeremy Corbyn.

Who said irony was dead?

Michael Gove has apparently confirmed that up to 50,000 people may be needed to manage the paperwork for the borders of the newly-‘liberated’ UK. This prompted George Packer and Daniel Thomas to observe (in today’s FT) that “By the time Britain exits the transition period, the private sector may have hired four times more people to fill in customs forms than the 12,000 people working as fishermen in the U.K. — the industry that is supposedly one of the big beneficiaries of Brexit.”

Nobody knows anything

That, at least, is the conclusion the NYT‘s Farhad Manjoo has reached:

I’ll lay my cards on the table: To me, Sanders is looking increasingly electable, the virus looks like it could reshape much of daily life at least in the short term, and the Trump administration’s response to it is bound to be bumbling and perhaps extremely scary.

Of course, I could be wrong. We all could be.

It’s largely because the world is a complex system, and one of the implications of complexity is unpredictability.

Self-isolation and employee rights

A lawyer (who shall remain anonymous) from a reputable firm writes:

Q: As an employer, can I refuse to pay the salary of an employee who is ‘self-isolating’?

A:If an employee has contracted the virus, the normal rules around sick pay will apply and they will either receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or contractual sick pay. If you have specifically told the employee not to come into the workplace as they have been to an affected area, they would ordinarily get their normal pay.

What is unclear is if the employee remains off as they have been quarantined or recommended to isolate themselves. In those circumstances, it would not strictly be considered as sick as the reason for the absence isn’t down to the employee being unwell, therefore no entitlement to sick pay.

There may be a contractual clause relating to such circumstances and how this time off should be paid. In the absence of any contractual clause, the position will be that the leave will be unpaid (or the employee can request to use their annual leave entitlement to cover the absence).

Q: For an employer, what are the implications of the coronavirus?

A:Whilst the above applies, if an employee is quarantined and their time off would be considered as unpaid, it may be worthwhile for you to consider the absence as sick leave and comply with any sick pay requirements. If this is not done and the employee attempts to come to work, this imposes the risk of spreading the virus. As an employer, you have a duty of care towards all staff to provide a safe premise of work. If an employee is adamant they wish to return to work, you may decide to suspend the employee on health and safety grounds, in this instance, they would have to be paid as normal.

You should ensure that employees are updated with potential symptoms of the virus and affected areas so they can be vigilant. You should seek guidance on what can be done to minimise the risk of spreading the virus and provide guidance to staff on what they can also do e.g. provide tissues and hand sanitisers and encourage staff to use them. In certain circumstances, you should consider whether staff can work from home if they have the resources and capabilities available to do so. You must need to ensure that you are taking a consistent approach with all your staff and ensure no one is being singled out because of their race or ethnicity.

For the avoidance of doubt: this does not constitute legal advice, just a lawyer’s perspective. I just thought it might be useful because it highlights the realities of that glib phrase ‘self-isolation’. There are, of course, other interesting questions that arise. For example, how would a family living in a rural location get supplies of food and other necessities? Tesco Direct?

The fragility of global supply chains

Tyler Cowen has an interesting Bloomberg column about this. In part, he observes,

Supply chains are not indestructible. If the new costs or risks are high enough, the entire structure will be dismantled. By their nature, supply chains do not fall apart slowly, because each part of the chain relies upon other parts to add its value. It does not help much to have the circuit components of the iPhone lined up, for instance, if you cannot also produce the glass screens. In this way, these supply chains are less robust under extreme conditions.

Global supply chains have yet to come apart mostly because trade and prosperity generally have been rising. But now, for the first time since World War II, the global economy faces the possibility of a true decoupling of many trade connections.

I think he’s right. Complex supply chains will not degrade gracefully. One link will fail and then the whole chain will rapidly disintegrate.

Funny how we’ve built an entire civilisation on just-in-time delivery. (The famous Toyota ‘lean machine’.)