Who are the most important economic policymakers around the world? The answer in the 2008-09 global financial crisis was simple: the leading central bankers. Ben Bernanke at the US Federal Reserve, Jean-Claude Trichet at the European Central Bank and Mervyn King at the Bank of England were top of the league. Seen as the only game in town, their actions ultimately quelled the financial storm, providing the necessary economic stimulus and co-ordinated response globally.
This time is different. While central bankers did an immensely valuable job in heading off the risk of a financial crisis in the third week of March, their subsequent actions have second division status. Health officials and finance ministers are far more important for the economy.
When it comes to supply — what can be produced in a modern economy — the influence of Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anders Tegnell, the state epidemiologist of Sweden, and Chris Whitty, the UK’s chief medical officer, has a greater bearing on our livelihoods than any central banker. Their success or failure in controlling the virus will ultimately determine the degree of mandatory or voluntary restrictions on daily lives.
To take the UK as an example, fear of the…