The corona pandemic shines a glaring light on long-standing turmoil within the global economy – uncontrolled expenditure and rising inequality. It’s time for a major transformation (Kate Ferguson).
The Economy Is At Stake
As in most crises, the economy is at stake now. It is about those who have something and the have-nots. For those who should get something and those who shouldn’t get anything. And while those who should get something didn’t get anything, they resort to traditional and non-traditional loans that require interest payments.
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Recently, the petrol market gave us a metaphor for the useless wealth that marks the global economic climate. The US oil producers that produce West Texas Intermediate ran out of storage capacity and had no choice but to pay to get rid of their own goods. As a result, the US oil price plummeted below zero for the first time in history. The oil barrels overflowed, but people got poorer.
But meanwhile, while airplanes remain on the ground, factories are empty, offices are closed, a much more valuable raw material appears: time. Time at home. Time in nature. Family time. Time to cook. Time for art. Time to think.
Dramatic Decrease In Working Hours
It was in 1930 when British economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that technological advances would lead to a dramatic decrease in working hours. According to his forecast, a 15-hour week should be enough, and the time saved could be used for intellectual advancement, recreation, and the arts. He had no idea that the trend would be towards fetish productivity, paired with obsessive consumption. So that time would become a truly rare resource.
A population with little time and practically no job security is a gift for populists and a threat to democracy. Carelessness, exhaustion, and mobilization for all sorts of wrong things are the result. That’s exactly what we’re experiencing right now.
Look towards the United States, where the President, as usual, twists or markets the crisis to take advantage of it. As a result, this costs many lives. Nonetheless, demonstrators gather on the streets to protest the measures that prudent governors have ordered to protect them.
In China, where the virus started, Dr. Li Wenliang, who initially spoke openly about it, was brutally silenced. When the wind turned, he was rehabilitated, but it was too late. By then he was already dead.
In the UK, Brazil, and the Philippines, arrogance and insolence by leading politicians cost lives. In New Zealand, Germany or Taiwan, on the other hand, it has been shown that modesty can become a life-saving resource.
The Global Economy Was Sick Even Before The Virus
In large parts of the world, the job market is now divided: those who are vital, those who are not. A majority of those who perform an important job for us to survive is not adequately paid. Caregivers, cleaners, truck drivers, cashiers in the supermarket, harvest workers continue to work, while advertisers, marketers, marketers and soccer players stay at home.
All of this is an indication that the global economy was sick long before the virus struck. Fortunately, there are antidotes here. Much of it starts with ourselves. We can buy less, and we can shop regionally to finally stop the run for the cheapest manpower under the most miserable conditions.
We can legislate so that someone who does essential work is not paid less than those with a country’s middle income. Or ideally much better.
How the coronavirus is reshaping the global economy
We can refuse to accept politicians who sow hatred and malice and instead reward those who show compassion and prudence. We can take our time back by necessitating pliability from the companies which we serve and through foregoing career ladders that are not worth climbing up. We could end celebrating wealth and enjoy the arts instead.
We must recognize, however, that the only salvation from the moral bankruptcy that this crisis brings to our attention is a functioning democracy. We need to remember that this requires informed, committed citizens who have the time and resources to do what they think is right at the local level at the global level. This is the only way an economy can heal if its ailments began well before the Corona crisis.