An article in Foreign Policy, “The great pause was an economic revolution” (summary), touches on an issue I’ve discussed recently: the false dichotomy between the need to restrict the spread of the pandemic and that of keeping the economy going.
We are talking about radically different questions. On the one hand, biology: the clinical effects a virus has on our body, how it spreads, the deaths it causes, or the capacity of technology to generate vaccines. On the other, the economy: an exclusively human construct that can be brought under control, stopped when necessary, or redefined based on new agreements or rules.
Believing we cannot control the economy and that we are at its mercy is a problem that requires a remarkable dose of abstraction: just as we have been able to put it on hold, we can apply other measures that take into account everything from how to protect the most vulnerable to gaining time to develop vaccines or treatments that will eventually halt the spread of the virus.
Until we are able to internalize this, we will remain in a trap that allows the more privileged members of society to isolate and protect themselves, while the rest are forced to expose themselves in order to make ends meet. Seen from any perspective, this makes no sense.
Obviously, altering the economy requires broad consensus at all levels, although many would question whether the trust between nations exists to make this kind of global agreement possible. To date, we have been unable to learn from the experiences of other countries and we continue to try to find solutions individually, somehow believing it’s better to create 210 research teams and create 210 vaccines rather than working together to obtain the best one in the shortest possible time. This depressing reality suggests it probably is too late to save us as a species and that we’re too stupid to deserve to survive.
Believing the deficit myth, that austerity is the only way to alleviate the effects of a necessary economic downturn is like cheating at solitaire. Economics is what it is: a man-made construct that we can modify, alter, redefine or redraw as we see fit. Until we fully understand this, we will continue to lack the tools to face this problem, or the next.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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