Do we need a strong state?
Restrictions, easing of restrictions, aid packages: in times of crisis, governments take control of every aspect of public and private life. Commentators discuss whether a strong state is an advantage in a crisis or whether citizens and businesses shouldn't be asking far more questions.
A weak state is the greatest risk for freedom
Governments are having to temporarily restrict civil rights because massive cutbacks at hospitals and other public institutions leave them with no other option, explains Jean-Charles Froment, an expert in constitutional law, in Le Monde:
“Limiting freedoms is no longer the sign of an authoritarian state that is seeking to get everyone and everything under its thumb. On the contrary, it is the hallmark of a weakened state which is simply seeking to limit the deadly damage engendered by its fragility. Let's not get caught up in a debate about freedoms. Today the risk is not a dictatorship but a state that has been so eroded by years of neglect that it is hardly able to take any action. It is precisely this vulnerable state which is the main risk to our freedoms.”
Critical citizens needed
The Tages-Anzeiger sees societies as too compliant in their acceptance of restrictions imposed by the authorities:
“We must all contribute to containing the pandemic, and we must all accept encroachments on fundamental rights as long as they are justified and proportionate. ... But it's worrying that these severe restrictions are hardly being discussed even in democratic Switzerland - and to see how willingly a majority will allow even more far-reaching restrictions. But in times of uncertainty, clearly different rules apply. The people are displaying complete confidence in their governments, and in many countries these leaders' popularity ratings are soaring. Even in Switzerland people are obviously glad when a strong leadership takes the sceptre in its hand - and everyone can withdraw to their home office.”
The neoliberal concept has failed
The coronavirus crisis confirms the need for a strong state, writes Pamela Rendi-Wagner, chairwoman of the Austrian Social Democratic Party, in a guest commentary for Die Presse:
“The calls for a supportive, protecting state become louder as we reach the end of the crisis - even from parties that have repeatedly discredited such an idea in the past. ... The corona crisis shows that the neo-liberal concept has failed. A strong state and a good public health system were maintained in Austria thanks to social democratic governments. ... The state compensates for the disadvantages that arise in a society shaped by the free market. Therefore an effective, resilient state is always of central importance, not only in times of crisis.”