But the reality is that if we had a bigger public sector today, we would be better prepared to weather the health and economic crises triggered by the coronavirus. Hopefully, by the time we come through this, we will have learnt that lesson once and for all. Because nobody thinks “the market” is best placed to tackle the coronavirus. Nobody thinks governments should step back and let the private sector step in. One of the first casualties of Covid-19 in Australia is the neoliberal rhetoric about government spending being a “cost” to the economy.

As China has shown, if you are interventionist enough, and crush economic activity hard enough, you can stop the spread of Covid-19. As Italy has shown, if you are laissez-faire, you will overwhelm your hospitals. There is no avoiding this choice. Delay and dissembling will deliver the worst health and worst economic outcomes.

But neoliberalism is all about delay and dissembling. For decades, we have been told that if we cut spending on health and welfare today, we can grow the pie and all be better off in the future. Of course, in reality, if we had spent a lot more on the health system, we would be better off today and in the future.

Richard Denniss on government.