We need a rapid escape from this economic catastrophe

Economists are all too content to attack material prosperity during this lockdown.

Daniel Ben-Ami

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You might expect economists of all people to be single-mindedly focused on how best to kickstart the economy as soon as the Covid-19 lockdown ends. Unfortunately, the opposite seems to be the case. Far too many economists are more intent on preaching the virtues of making do with less than finding ways to produce more once again.

Such an attitude is particularly shocking when it is already clear that the state-imposed shutdown – even if it may be necessary to a certain extent – is an economic disaster. A minority might be content with WFH (working from home) and baking bread in their spare time, but for a large proportion of the population the pain has come quickly. Many have lost their livelihoods overnight. They have few if any savings, but the bills never stop.

Yesterday’s report from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) – an official government watchdog – gave some idea of just how bad the economic downturn could be. The OBR forecast that economic output (GDP) will fall by 35 per cent in the second quarter of this year. A truly huge amount by historical standards. It expects unemployment to rise by two million to 10 per cent over the same period. That is up from 3.9 per cent at the start of this year. Behind the numbers is a tale of vast human misery.

It is important to recognise this forecast is based on a relatively optimistic premise. It assumes a large share of economic activity will cease for three months and that restrictions on people’s movement will be gradually lifted over the subsequent three months. A more prolonged lockdown would have an even more serious effect.

Under such circumstances, the focus should be on returning to economic normality as quickly as reasonably possible. The quicker this happens, the easier it will be to rejuvenate existing businesses rather than restarting from scratch. A quick return to work would still mean people would suffer in the short term. However, they could look forward to a prosperous future once the recovery kicks off.

But look closely and it becomes apparent that even many economists are intent on talking down popular aspirations for a return to economic normality. They may delight in outlining emergency rescue packages, but the main concern of many economists seems to be to instigate a shift against materialist values.

Take, for example, a webinar arranged a few days ago by the Royal Economic Society. Jean Tirole, a Nobel laureate in economics, expressed a common view in his profession when he said it would be desirable if the public moved towards consuming less. His contention was uncontroversial among the assembled virtual audience of economists.

Similarly, Adam Tooze, a professor at Columbia University in New York, recently wrote an article in the Guardian arguing that the drive for prosperity played a key role in causing the pandemic: ‘It is the relentless expansion of the Chinese economy and the resulting mix of modern urban life with traditional food customs that creates the viral incubators. It is globalised transportation systems that speed up transmission.’ Tooze’s article concludes by arguing that the experience of the pandemic should lead the public to conclude that economic progress should be constrained rather than embraced.

Diane Coyle, a professor at Cambridge, gave another typical economist’s take when she argued recently in the Financial Times that economic wellbeing should be measured in a different way. Rather than the traditional focus on productivity – the average amount produced by each individual in a given time – the emphasis, in her view, should shift to other indicators such as social-support networks and fair access to services.

This might sound like a trivial distinction but it is a crucial one. In effect, Coyle is making an unhelpful counter-position between material prosperity – best measured in terms of productivity – and the rest of our lives. She is saying we should limit our material ambitions for the sake of other things in life.

The problem with such an approach is that economic prosperity provides the foundation for humans to have a good life. It means we can pay not only for consumer goods but also for schools, hospitals, universities, power stations, roads, airports, art galleries, museums and all the other paraphernalia of modern life. Economic growth is also closely related to technological development. The striving for material prosperity is bound up with the creation and dissemination of more advanced technology.

It is not, as the common caricature goes, that material prosperity is the only thing that matters. It is rather that affluence provides the basis for us to do those other things. Growth and prosperity give us widened opportunities and more time to pursue them. How we make the most of such opportunities is another matter.

Reservations about economic growth are not limited to economists or to Guardian columnists. They are widespread among the contemporary elite, including among politicians, civil servants, non-governmental organisations and journalists. In this sense, the pope’s argument in response to Covid-19 was fairly typical. He said: ‘We have to slow down our rate of production and consumption and to learn to understand and contemplate the natural world.’ Leaders of other religious denominations have made similar calls for what they characterise as more ‘sustainable’ consumption.

The only reason to single out economists here is that they are often seen as being at the forefront of a drive for unconstrained growth. But nothing could be further from the truth.

It is also important to recognise that the distrust of material prosperity is not a new phenomenon. A decade ago I wrote Ferraris for All: In Defence of Economic Progress. It was intended as a riposte to the critics of material prosperity. Its target is not so much the ‘deep greens’, who we all recognise as overtly hostile to economic growth, as represented today by the likes of Extinction Rebellion, for instance. Instead, the book’s focus is on what I call ‘growth scepticism’ in mainstream elite circles. Growth scepticism is a viewpoint which professes an attachment to modernity and prosperity while casting doubt on them at every turn.

The argument of the growth sceptics can be summed up by the phrase ‘I am in favour of economic progress, but…’. They argue that growth is good, but it has to be limited because it harms the environment, because it undermines happiness or because it causes extreme inequality. However, I argue that economic progress is the key to finding solutions to environmental problems, and is also the key to achieving mass affluence. The promotion of happiness is essentially a plea for us to be happy with what we have already got. It is meant to subdue the desire for more which has always been an important driving force in human history.

Growth scepticism is essentially an indirect attack on material prosperity. It generally represents the viewpoint of the relatively comfortably off who can afford to sneer at the desire for mass affluence. It expresses a loss of perspective on the central role of economic growth to human wellbeing. And it represents a fear of moving society towards a better future.

Today, the world is facing the greatest economic challenge in almost a century. The global economy has effectively been put into hibernation in a desperate bid to quell the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is imperative that economic activity is kickstarted as quickly as reasonably possible. Greater material prosperity is an essential precondition for human flourishing. Those who insist we should be content with less will only make our escape from economic depression more difficult.

Daniel Ben-Ami is a writer. An expanded version of Ferraris for All: In Defence of Economic Progress is available in paperback. (Buy this book from Amazon (UK).)

Picture by: Getty.

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Comments

lj jo

18th April 2020 at 10:00 pm

Why on earth do people keep describing this bunch as ”elite”? They are NOT ”elite” by any stretch of the imagination. Surely someone can come up with a word that better describes them.

KATHLEEN CARR

15th April 2020 at 7:30 pm

One major affect of lockdown has been the move to a cashless society which disadvantages the poor and elderly most. You are only allowed to buy from food stores or chemists with contactless tills or cards. Everything else has to be bought over internet/mobile phone -which disadvantages those without , but also means all our purchases/bill payments( so our lives) are now trackable. The employment available was changing as so many stores were already going down with only those with a strong online presence surviving. We are being nudged into being a less sociable society.

Mark Houghton

15th April 2020 at 5:08 pm

Most people will get this virus and not die or need hospital treatment/NHS resources. So identify those at risk and help them to self isolate. Let everyone else get on with it. I would rather have the more likely chance of a couple of really shitty weeks and survive than completely trash the economy so much that the great depression would seem like a wonderful time to be alive.

Dominic Straiton

15th April 2020 at 1:33 pm

Economists are just astrologists.
“to begin, begin”

fret slider

15th April 2020 at 1:20 pm

A rapid escape? This has been a long time coming; one way or another:

“A massive campaign must be launched to de-develop the United States. De-development means bringing our economic system into line with the realities of ecology and the world resource situation.” —Dr. Paul Ehrlich, Anne Ehrlich, and Dr. John Holdren, Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment, 1970

Holdren worked as science chief for Parisienne Obama. Sorry, President Obama

steve moxon

15th April 2020 at 12:47 pm

Just how wrong is ‘lockdown’ was exposed yesterday by the ONS data and the claim by care homes that likely mortality is of at least 4,000+ residents.
The ONS say that half of the excess mortality is not down to the virus. IOW, it’s down to the virus taking away NHS resources from preventing other mortality, and patients not accessing the NHS through such a perception, CANCELLING OUT THE EXCESS MORTALITY FROM COVID-19.
Now, obviously, this is not the full picture: there will be SOME excess mortality. Although a lot of the mortality will have been falsely attributed to the virus when instead co-mordidities are the cause, probably considerably more is viral yet not be recorded as such. However, the great bulk of the latter will be care home patients, who were artificially supported beyond their longevity in any case, with little or no quality of life, always vulnerable to any infection, and — here’s the big point — are cared for by staff who cannot be on ‘lockdown’ in any case (not without the consequent neglect leading to mortalities), and cannot maintain ‘social distancing’, self-evidently.
So how is ‘lockdown’ doing much good over what is accomplished by self-isolation of those ‘at risk’ and ‘social distancing’ where it can realistically be employed?
This was excellently put by Peter Hitchens on what for C4 News was an historic C4 interview: one actually worth watching, where someone was allowed to make their point, and was invited on despite having views antithetical to the C4 staff’s ‘identity politics’, watermelon greenwash, and feminism.
I’ve been having an email exchange with my MP, Miriam Cates, re the ‘lockdown’ of workers. MP’s don’t normally reply to any of us plebs unless they sense policy danger. She’s not budging of course, but she knows the Chancellor is for ending it, and as soon as Bowis is properly up and running it’s got to be on the cards.
Personally, despite being just inside the ‘at risk’ group, the impact on the economy is rather more frightening that the new virus.
This is what happens when all that come forward to govern us are ‘identity politics’ totalitarians with little or no idea about science, stats, or even basic reasoning.

steve moxon

15th April 2020 at 12:43 pm

And yet more ‘moderation’ idiocy on this website: yet again perfectly erudite comment with not a single questionable word is blocked.

fret slider

15th April 2020 at 1:21 pm

I emailed ‘the team’ about how their moderation works.

I got a Chinese reply.

Nothing

steve moxon

15th April 2020 at 1:46 pm

There’s never any reply to anything. ‘Moderation’ is done by a bot that doesn’t work.

Jim Lawrie

15th April 2020 at 6:35 pm

2 days ago I had a comment re the Fintan O’Toole article disappeared. I now see a full length Spkd article in riposte to that same piece by Fintan O’Toole.

steve moxon

15th April 2020 at 12:42 pm

The insanity of ‘lockdown’ was exposed yesterday by the ONS data and the claim by care homes that likely at least 4,000+ residents have died.
The ONS say that half of the excess mortality is not down to the virus. IOW, it’s down to the virus taking away NHS resources from preventing other deaths, and patients not accessing the NHS through such a perception, CANCELLING OUT THE EXCESS MORTALITY FROM COVID-19.
Now, obviously, this is not the full picture: there will be SOME excess mortality. Although a lot of the deaths will have been falsely attributed to the virus when instead co-mordidities are the cause, probably considerably more deaths are viral yet not be recorded as such. However, the great bulk of the latter will be care home patients, who were on ‘borrowed time’ in any case, with little or no quality of life, always vulnerable to any infection, and — here’s the big point — are cared for by staff who cannot be on ‘lockdown’ in any case (not without the consequent neglect killing the patients), and cannot maintain ‘social distancing’, self-evidently.
So how is ‘lockdown’ doing much good over what is accomplished by self-isolation of those ‘at risk’ and ‘social distancing’ where it can realistically be employed?
This was excellently put by Peter Hitchens on what for C4 News was an historic C4 interview: one actually worth watching, where someone was allowed to make their point, and was invited on despite having views antithetical to the puerile C4 staff’s ‘identity politics’, watermelon greenwash, and feminism.
I’ve been having an email exchange with my MP, Miriam Cates, re the ‘lockdown’ of workers. MP’s don’t normally reply to any of us plebs unless they sense policy danger. She’s not budging of course, but she knows the Chancellor is for ending it, and as soon as Bowis is properly up and running it’s got to be on the cards.
Personally, despite being just inside the ‘at risk’ group, the impact on the economy is rather more frightening that the new virus.
This is what happens when all that come forward to govern us are ‘identity politics’ zealots with little or no idea about science, stats, or even basic reasoning.

Mark Houghton

15th April 2020 at 5:13 pm

If those morons in charge were actually owners of small businesses that were going down the tubes they would seem a lot less relaxed about the economic meltdown.

Jim Lawrie

15th April 2020 at 6:37 pm

Very good post Steve. Gave me something to think about.

Highland Fleet Lute

15th April 2020 at 12:09 pm

There are now realitively few people in the UK now that have experienced hunger.

Which is why there are so few people in this society able to ‘get’ the concept of “dying of starvation”.

Sobering thought: In WWII, hunger killed more people all the bullets/bombs/cannons/guns/bayonets/whatever else, put together.

Highland Fleet Lute

15th April 2020 at 12:11 pm

Oh for an ‘edit’ button. LOL.

Vadar’s Hate Child

15th April 2020 at 10:49 am

I can’t see what’s wrong with economists arguing for a different definition of ‘wealth’. Since the beginning of time philosophers and sages have been arguing that it’s the abundance of happiness that matters, not how much stuff we have.

Jim Lawrie

15th April 2020 at 8:14 pm

Happiness cannot be a choice between a hot shower this month or 6 hours with the telly on.

The ancient mused based on what they had. The abundance of today was not for them a factor.

James Barber

15th April 2020 at 10:22 am

Many seek longer hours or higher-paying jobs because that is what they choose to do with their time. Growth is the outcome of many exercising that choice. Those who oppose growth should be honest with themselves and recognise that they are opposing freedom of choice.

Mor Vir

15th April 2020 at 11:54 am

Yes I have observed that in people around me, some people just flourish by, well, flourishing financially. That is what they are good at, and they like to be involved in getting prosperity done. They like to do what they are good at. Early retirement just does not suit them, and they get bored with the ‘superficiality’ and ‘pointlessness’ of constant leisure. Society has different personality types, and thank goodness for those who do get stuck in and make things happen.

Our society may have genuine reasons to doubt whether those personality types should have such a dominant role in the direction of our society. There is also something to be said for people who sit back and take stock, and see the bigger picture in perspective. A ‘successful’ society will find the appropriate and balanced role for different personality types. No doubt that is a perennial problem, and it is the central theme of Plato’s Republic.

In his terms, our society is one in which the hoi polloi are rampant, with their appetites in full throttle. The philosopher caste is reduced to facilitating that rather than with moderating or directing it. I put it down to the development of the economic base and the ethos and lifestyle that demands, at least on a societal level. Plato was simply a product of an ancient aristocratic society of limited prosperity and his philosophy reflects that.

Similarly I suspect that the contractive ethos (green’ism, lifestyle’ism &c.) reflects the morbidity of the economic base in ‘mature’ capitalist economies. We are adopting an ethos of rolling back material progress because material progress is rolling back anyway, due to the historical limits of capitalism to further develop the economic base. Societies will try to ‘rationalise’ their condition and to ideologically ‘justify’ their structural trends.

We are readjusting ideological to a morbid economic base, perhaps largely without realising that is what we doing – just as Plato could not see himself as historically, materially located in his philosophy, his ideology. We on the other hand, are better placed to grasp what is going on. Whether we are better placed to provide ourselves with options is another matter. The economic base seems to have its own logic and we are stuck with it and its trends.

CR Ave

15th April 2020 at 5:54 pm

I don’t find myself nodding in violent agreement with your posts, nor disagreeing with them either, but rather forced to think about them. This is very good, and also unsettling. I enjoy my echo chamber, but it’s good to shake things up on occasion.

Ecgbert King

15th April 2020 at 10:11 am

Danny Coyle argues rather than productivity “the emphasis, in her view, should shift to other indicators such as social-support networks and fair access to services.”

How does she think those services are paid for? It’s typical of such “economists” that they pontificate about “niceness” and consuming less rather than about money and growth, but also then demand an expansion of the state which unfortunately for them, isn’t funded by “well-being” or by constraint.

Ecgbert King

15th April 2020 at 10:12 am

“Diane Coyle” even.. (I blame Covid-19).

Jim Lawrie

15th April 2020 at 8:17 pm

Happiness cannot be a choice between a hot shower this month or 6 hours with the telly on.

The ancient mused based on what they had. The abundance of today was not for them a factor.

Jim Lawrie

15th April 2020 at 8:18 pm

She thinks money is a thing.

Genghis Kant

15th April 2020 at 10:01 am

It is not people’s lives versus the economy.

The economy *is* people’s lives.

Which is why when communism – inevitably – destroy’s a country’s economy, millions of people die.

In Negative

15th April 2020 at 9:38 am

In what way does ‘Ferraris for all’ reflect Enlightenment values? In what way does it even defend the principle by which Capitalism operates?

The Ferrari’s value is almost entirely symbolic. Sure, there are values of utility inside its engineering, but that’s not what people buy when they buy a Ferrari. They buy the illusion associated with owning a Ferrari. Symbolic exchange and the values of the illusionist are at the heart of capitalism and consumer culture. A hierarchy of prefabricated illusions through which people acquire their social status and identity. Modern Capitalism is not a system of enlightened rationality and I’m starting to think that it might replace itself not through it’s inherent social inequality, but through its love of illusion and phantasmagoria. Through its acceleration of signs and its corruption of any common psychic superstructure.

Secondly, what is the value of the Ferrari if everyone has one? Maybe this is your committment to the enlightenment and Marx? Maybe you retain some notion that rational utility is at the heart of human interaction? That the Ferrari is valuable, not because of its symbolic value and the way it functions socially, but because of its high standard of engineering? I don’t see that evidenced anywhere in our society. The value of everything is a mix of sign and utility. Utility may compliment the sign, but the sign is the prime motivator.

And in fact, even from the perspective of utility, use-value has been exhausted long before you get to the Ferrari. Seriously, just get a Kia. It’s fine. It does everything you’d want it to.

Mor Vir

15th April 2020 at 11:13 am

Yes, I tend to contempt social ‘signs’. It is always eye-opening to see how other people respond ‘positively’ to signs of prosperity like designer labels, but it find it so shallow as to be disinteresting. In fact it makes other people disinteresting to me if they respond to such signs. Which is not to say that I do not like some of the ‘better’ things in life but I have no interest in impressing other people or in people so superficially impressed.

I find the use of impressive ‘signs’ to be entirely unsatisfactory as a way of being-for-others and of being-for-self. Like most people, I tend to ‘dress down’, and to avoid any hint of ostentation. Which is fine but it does not mean that I have to be inwardly ‘rough’. One can maintain one’s sensibilities without overtly displaying them in public and trying to ‘impress’ people. No doubt the use of such ‘signs’ is encouraged by the stratification of capitalist society but its psychological roots are likely historically deeper.

I tend toward a more ‘ascetic’ (OK, and aesthetic) perception, I like to see reality with the superficial signs stripped back, and to also observe the functionality of the signs. I do not like to be taken in by illusions, and I do not consider myself to be an illusion-monger among illusion-mongers. I have stood beyond the illusions throughout my adult life. Likely it is a peculiar personality structure that is reinforced by social condition. I in any case do not need to impress other people.

In Negative

15th April 2020 at 1:46 pm

Aye, but if you want to take symbolic exchange as seriously as I do, one’s being embedded in it runs much deeper than the trainers you buy or having a Ferrari. I would agree with you that there is a certain domain of sign-relations that is contemptible – I like to call it the Peter Jones relation. You like your nice suits and shiney shoes, your fast cars and big bets on the races – all that tedious junk that extravagant wealth and conspicuous consumption can bring you, but you too have your own world of symbolic meanings.

So, for instance, for you, anti-conspicuousness seems to have a place in your values.

“but I have no interest in impressing other people or in people so superficially impressed.”

This, as an utterance, is an expression with a symbolic force. It draws a circle around yourself and the people who are with you (they’ve probably read Plato and have more aesthetic/aestetic natures) and divides you from those deemed superficial or shallow, who own Ferraris or wear the right pair of trainers or whatever. You have a notion of emotional depth (which I’d actually argue requires deeper instincts for interpreting and feeling signs) than those whose feelings are better marshalled by more conventional or hand-me-down sign-worlds.

When I wrote my OP I also started to wonder how much deep aesthetic appreciation there was in owning a Ferrari and whether it could be described as an in-itself value. So I imagine the driver enjoys its interior – its comfort and the style of its decor. I imagine they notice the silence of the engine and the smoothness of the ride. Could these appreciations be of worth without the relative inferiority of other modes of transport? Over-Crowded trams or the inferior suspension of cheaper cars? And in this relation, the cheaper car derives its anti-value (like the one you express) – the vitality that rises in the heart by dressing down as a war against financial or predictable values.

The magic that moves us, each and all, is in the sign and the relationship between signs. They’re everywhere.

Mor Vir

15th April 2020 at 2:52 pm

Yes, so to eschew (certain) signs is itself a sign. Some structures are inescapable, like how eschewing notions of superiority is itself an act of superiority – egalitarianism as a superiority strategy. “It is is better not to think of oneself as superior, thus I am superior because I do not think that I am.”

One may wish to avoid vanity with one’s signs, or at least a blatant expression of vanity, but the sentence rings, ‘all is vanity’; it is implicit to personhood and its subjectivity, to all judgement.

Likely our use of symbols is located in survival and success strategies, and different people pursue different strategies. There is likely a class element, where lower classes find flashy symbols impressive, they boost their self-image and status. While people more confident in their status do better not to imply such a lack of confidence. They do not wish to assert their status in such a foolish, common manner. They thus boost their self-image and status by avoiding flashy symbols – it is itself a symbol.

It is likely a less common person who is so confident that they are comfortable with ‘cynicism’ in the classical Greek sense, that they dismiss not merely all symbols, but all judgements as convention, illusion and foolishness. The cynical ideal, to live in accordance with nature and to eschew conventional ideas of ‘success’. Arguably, it is unavoidably just another strategy of ‘success’ and ‘status’ – a new convention, a new symbol, a new illusion, a new foolishness – vanity, all is vanity.

Mor Vir

15th April 2020 at 3:23 pm

And so the Cynic proposition that it is better to live in accordance with the maxim ‘that nothing is better or worse’, is itself a judgement as to what is better or worse. Some structures are just unavoidable. The wisest posture may be to say ‘whatever’ but even that posture is foolish in so far as it is not a whatever but a distinct thing. Vanity, all is vanity.

In Negative

16th April 2020 at 12:38 pm

@Mor
‘All is vanity’

To an extent, but what you call vanity here I might call vitality. It is in the cultivation of one’s tastes that one finds their meaning and their own aesthetic resonances. The impulse to oppose oneself to other groups is itself an aspect of one’s moral taste – do I want to exist in permanent states of war or would I prefer to find some more gentle relation between my tastes and those of others? The answer to that is a question of taste and moral cultivation.

I would also say that it were a matter of self-defence too to develop some resistance to the values of the economy and the market place, particularly for those whose tastes are not economic. It’s a matter of survival as much as it is a matter of vanity.

lj jo

18th April 2020 at 10:04 pm

Do you mean ”UNinteresting”?

James Knight

15th April 2020 at 3:04 pm

Generally I prefer mass produced items. But if everyone owned a Ferrari they would be a lot cheaper and more reliable.

In Negative

16th April 2020 at 12:03 pm

And less desirable.

Sue Ward

15th April 2020 at 9:35 am

The people who want less growth and people to be satisfied with less are invariably those with the most. It’s a form of economic glass ceiling. Those who have breached the glass ceiling have kicked the ladder away and now sit comfortably above us lecturing us on how we are all too materialistic and should worry less about paying our bills and just sit in the garden listening to Vivaldi on our Bose sound systems while repurposing last years Laura Ashley frock into facemasks!

Linda Payne

15th April 2020 at 9:58 am

My thoughts exactly; it especially galling when these types start telling us that such crisis ‘reminds us what is important’ (as if we didn’t know that already), you know things like ‘you can hear the birds singing more’ great you can’t go anywhere, your skint but hey as long as the fucking birds are singing that’s OK

Iwan Hughes

15th April 2020 at 11:58 am

Absolutely. We see the same with the chattering classes’ bewilderment that more people can’t work from home. As Elvis Costello said in a lyric, about a certain other songsmith: “was it a millionaire, who said ‘imagine no possessions’?”

Jim Lawrie

15th April 2020 at 8:07 pm

Those people must now be afaint at the sight of all those empty roads, airports and train stations, and the prospect of keeping the plebs off them permanently.

Jonathan Yonge

15th April 2020 at 9:32 am

Furedi writes:
“The problem with such an approach is that economic prosperity provides the foundation for humans to have a good life.”

I think it would be better to have written “..some of the foundations..” some people would even say “… few of the foundations…”

What did we do with ‘prosperity’ than we have lost ? Are we now poorer in non-financial terms, freedom for example ?

quaybored

15th April 2020 at 12:11 pm

We have lost freedom. We used to be free to do anything that wasn’t specifically prohibited by law; now we are only permitted to carry out a very limited list of approved activities. This serves the interests of the Populist oligarchy. Firstly it prevents any opposition from being organised. Secondly, the curbs on travel and emigration to Europe which apply after the Brexit transition will seem like minor impositions and not attract the same level of opposition that they might have previously.

Mor Vir

15th April 2020 at 12:43 pm

Yes, people generally want out of this country and society, once they have finished working and raising kids, if not before. Hence so many ex-pats among retirees. The other countries may not really be better places to have lived one’s entire life, but at least we do not understand them in the same way as we do this one, through long familiarity. Do not speak the language? lovely. It perhaps suits UK to get rid of its old folk abroad and to free up space for incoming workers. It will really be quite cruel if we get trapped in this country because of Brexit. Some deal with have to be struck for retirees – presuming the global economy has not gone chest up. Sunnier, easier lands beckon – or anywhere, just a change.

Stephen J

15th April 2020 at 8:23 am

Before the corona virus pandemic, we had a massive problem with the majority of the population not making but administering, assessing, call handling which accompanied a tragic loss of the skills required for inventing, making and general doing.

Like the virus itself, we were fulfilling our material needs by importing just about everything from the benighted land that is tyrannically overseen and managed by the CCP.

It is clear that such practise has led not only to the import of this seemingly uncontrollable virus, but the import of everything that fulfills our material desires and needs too. Not only are we destroying our basic humanity towards each other in our own land, creating massive pollution through excessively long supply chains, we have for the last thirty years been hollowing out our industrial capability.

A good place to start, would be to aim fair and square at the institution that has instigated this, and likewise we should aim to deprive their chosen agency of the funds that have enabled it to enslave the people that it has under its vicious control.

In short, we should as individuals, choose to avoid any good or service that originates from communist China. Clearly our government has much to answer for, by making and acting on that choice, we can assert our own strengths as individuals rather than sheeplike automatons, and we can reassert ourselves by manufacturing our own material goods.

Once we have done so, we can begin to remove the tentacle like fingers our our own government from our lives by undermining and destroying the overweening powers that are controlling our every thought and health concern, the most dangerous and least efficient of which is that monolith, that they call “our NHS”, but which is in fact more of an homage to Stalin and communism.

A more appropriate name would be “their National Homage to Stalin” …

… or the NHS.

Mor Vir

15th April 2020 at 9:21 am

If ‘communist’ China can do capitalism better than the capitalist west then what does that say about the latter? Capitalism is about competition, supposedly that is how it functions and improves the economy. USA should thus welcome competition from China. The hostility of USA to competition likely says more about the state of the USA economy than anything else, and a lack of confidence going forward.

Trump let rip about China last night, and the WHO, it was a stunning speech. But his antipathy predates corona. At root he seems uncomfortable with the emergence of China as a major competitor. The entire USA shtick is a mono-polar geopolitical order in which the USA is the undisputed big boy in the playground. And he really does not like Chinese economic growth.

A lesson of the 1930s is supposedly that protectionism is a disaster for the global economy and thus for local economies. If each capitalist state thinks that it can get an advantage through protectionism then it just shuts down international trade and slows everyone down. Capitalism is a global market, it has been since its emergence with the Spanish and British empires &c. So why is Trump balking at it now?

USA faces a double whammy of collapsed productivity growth and collapse demographic growth. Its future GDP growth is under threat, and with it, its ability to compete in the global market. USA faces losing its edge as an international competitor in the global economy and thus as a geopolitical superpower. The emergence of China implies the shift to a multi-polar geopolitics. In short, USA is decrepit ‘mature’ capitalist power and it wants to kneecap the emerging opposition. Trump wants to embrace the morbid condition of USA capitalism and to further that morbidity by slowing global development. Ironically, USA is no longer up for global capitalism.

This is from the Mckinskey Global Institute, 2017, The Productivity Puzzle: A Closer Look at the United States.

The downshift in productivity growth in the United States has been remarkable. For decades, labor productivity had been growing at an average pace of 2.1 percent year over year. Then in 2004, the rate of productivity growth began to decelerate, falling to an average of 1.2 percent, year over year, during the decade to 2014 (including a brief spike in 2009 and 2010 following the financial crisis). Since 2011, that rate has declined further to 0.6 percent…

Disappearing productivity growth raises alarms, coming at a time when the United States, and indeed many leading economies, increasingly depend on productivity to drive economic growth. To put that in context, over the last 50 years the largest economies (G20) averaged about 3.5 percent in GDP growth with roughly 1.8 percent coming from productivity growth and 1.7 percent from the expansion of the labor supply. Over the next 50 years, labor supply growth will slow down to about 0.3 percent across these countries and for some, labor supply has already peaked.4 In recent years, US productivity growth has generated about 80 percent of total GDP growth, compared with around 35 percent in the 1970s, when the rest came from growth in labor supply.5 Therefore not only does sluggish productivity matter for economic growth now, it matters for America’s economic growth and prosperity for the next several decades.

Mor Vir

15th April 2020 at 3:47 pm

Ironically, USA is no longer up for global capitalism – and it wants to spin that as an assertion of capitalism and an hostility to communism.

It is basic trick to pretend to be doing the opposite of what one is doing (here, pretend to be asserting capitalism rather than denying it) and to accuse the other side of doing what you are doing (here, accuse China of communism, and thus denying capitalism, when it is in fact China that wants to compete in the global market and USA wants out of that).

Odd that British state nationalists are virtually USA state nationalists these days. They seem to buy into the whole east/ west dichotomy, especially now that Big Don is president. They seem to see him as their guv’ and they want fealty to him. They are being manipulated according to their long-bred instincts to fealty. Give them someone who can act the part and they will act theirs. It is how armies keep discipline with officers who look and play the part. That it is another country seems to escape them but UK has long been a poodle of the USA.

George Whale

15th April 2020 at 2:28 pm

It’s shocking how the universities suck up to communist China, turning a blind eye to totalitarianism and human rights abuses. It’s all about the money, I guess.

Eing1941 IdaR

15th April 2020 at 7:47 am

Thousand Of the Peoples are Died From Corona Virus…On The Other Hand Thousand Peoples Are Died By Poorness Its Means Poorness is More Dangerous As Compare to Corona Virus…… Read more

David Watford

15th April 2020 at 7:00 am

The only data we have on economic recovery after a pandemic where social distancing and economic shutdowns were needed to contain it comes from the 1919 flu in US where different cities enacted different policies. Those cities that shutdown early and for the longest had the least deaths and highest economic growth post pandemic. It turns out acting early means you can allow more essential economic activity to continue where as killing of large numbers of workers and consumers is bad for economic growth and stability.

Melissa Jackson

15th April 2020 at 8:46 am

But Covid isn’t killing “large numbers of consumers”. We would do well to remember that the 1918 flu killed 20million people. That is a rather larger dent in the buying public than the 150k we are at now. To be on the same scale as the 1918 flu covid will need to kill some 60million people.

The 1918 flu is also in an interesting historic position. There was a huge economic shock in 1914, and another in the Great Depression. Both of those are still discussed and explored, but the “flu shock” is not. This despite being vastly more lethal and vastly harder to stop with the science of the time. So why is that? Why isn’t the Great Flu Recession put on the same pedestal?

quaybored

15th April 2020 at 12:15 pm

Also the 1918 flu targeted the young, working age population so it killed large numbers of workers as well as consumers.

James Knight

15th April 2020 at 4:29 pm

The problem is the lockdown was not part of any plan, it was a panic reaction.

If it was part of a plan we would have all had plenty of time to stock up with 3 months worth of provisions. There would have been no panic buying and no empty shelves and no packed supermarkets. Airlines would have stopped flying except without screening and quarantine procedures. There would be no shortage of PPE for health care workers or the public and we would have a far more effective testing regime in place.

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Deplorables — a spiked film