The humbling of the Anglo-American world

The humbling of the Anglo-American world

  • Abandonment of common sense during the pandemic has damaged the US and UK national brands

It takes effort to recapture how Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s hastened the demise of the Soviet Union. Images of that triumphal moment are as fresh as yesterday. The atmospherics smell of another era. Yet it is worth the effort.

America and Britain’s poor responses to Covid-19 can be traced partly to post-cold war self-congratulation — the belief that neither had much to learn from the rest of the world. In a few short months a microbe has exposed the underside to Anglo-American hubris. It could take far longer to undo the pandemic’s damage to their brands.

The tale is best captured graphically. With the exception of Sweden, continental Europe succeeded in May in flattening its infection curve. Its countries have been taking measured steps to keep it flat. Most of east Asia had already achieved that in April.

In America the curve was never beaten, yet half the country has given up trying. Britain eventually flattened its curve in June having reached the second-highest mortality rate in the world (America is seventh and climbing). As is often its wont, Britain deployed Churchillian rhetoric to rally the public against Covid-19. In reality, the UK is now throwing caution to the winds on the beaches, on the streets and on the landing grounds.

Corporate brands take years to build but can be broken in short order. The national brands of America and Britain are the product of centuries. Self-belief gives them a greater appetite for risk than found in non-anglophone democracies such as Germany, Spain, France, Japan or Italy. But it is producing worse outcomes. Each of the latter has living memory of defeat, occupation, revolution and failure.