COVID-19 EXPOSES CAPITALISM AS WHOLLY UNSUSTAINABLE

Photos by Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle

Duane Townsend

From The Scientific American - April 2020

Writing for BBC Future, economist Simon Mair argues that Sars-Cov-2 has exposed the limits of free-market capitalism. This ideology, which has held sway in the U.S. and U.K. since the Reagan and Thatcher regimes, rests on two assumptions. First, Mair explains, the market “delivers a good quality of life, so it must be protected.” Second, the market “will always return to normal after short periods of crisis.” COVID-19 has undermined these beliefs.

Mair hopes that voters and politicians will accept that basic human needs should not be “subject to the whims of the market.” Hence governments should ensure that all citizens have adequate food, housing, healthcare, energy and so on. “There are risks to this approach--we must be careful to avoid authoritarianism,” Mair cautions. “But done well, this may be our best hope against an extreme COVID-19 outbreak. A strong state able to marshal the resources to protect the core functions of economy and society.”

COVID-19 could also promote grass-roots socialism, or what Mair calls “mutual aid,” in which people “organize support and care within their communities” to help people in need. Mair notes that local organizations helped overcome the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. “We can see this as a failure of state responses,” Mair says. “Or we can see it as a pragmatic, compassionate societal response to an unfolding crisis.”

We're enduring a convergence of crises that are exposing the inadequacies of capitalism for sustaining life on earth. Capitalism and its rampant greed and corruption is exascerbating the suffering, creating more poverty and insecurity. 

Resilience.org writes of the economic crisis of 2008-'09:

"After the last financial crisis, the wealthy, who are heavily invested in the stock market, did quite well, while everyone else took a hit. Explains Colin Schultz in Smithsonian magazine: “While families hovering around the average net worth lost 36 percent over the past decade — dropping from $87,992 in 2003 to $56,335 in 2013 — people in the top 95th percentile actually gained 14 percent in the same tumultuous period — going from $740,700 in 2003 to $834,100 in 2013.”

This is playing out again in 2020. After an initial shock, Wall Street is recovering to almost pre-Covid levels while we the people are staring at unemployment and loss of healthcare, eviction and foreclosure. The economic python tightens for the people.

Resilience goes on to say:

"The coronavirus will not kill anywhere near as many people as the Black Death did. But it may well contribute to exposing the failures of “free markets” and the scandal of governments intervening in the economy on behalf of this era’s one percent. The pandemic is already, thanks to huge stimulus packages, undermining the “small government” canard. A state apparatus deliberately hobbled by the Trump administration — after earlier “reforms” by both parties — did a piss-poor job of dealing with this crisis. That doesn’t bode well for dealing with the even larger challenge of climate change."

The black Death of the middle ages spelled doom for the Feudal system of that time and ushered in Capitalism. We may be at a similar pivot point today. Hopefully we can envision a more collectively just economy, and economy that respects all work as worthy and deserving of a livable, life growing income. An economy that fosters a more democratic workplace, where workers voices are recognized as relevant, consequential.

"The global economy remains market-centered, even though the evidence has been mounting that these markets are failing us and the planet. Tweaking this model isn’t good enough. We need a new Copernicus who will provide a new theory that fits our unfolding reality, a new environment-centered economics that can maximize not profit but the well-being of living things." - Resilience

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