A different view
Here we are, most of us forced to sit at home, read stuff, get creative or ponder the world. It is such a weird feeling watching a historic event unfold while being grounded and seeing the wind still blow, the birds still sing and water still run. Yet here we are and one issue that gets a lot of attention keeps bugging me.
‘What about the economy?!’. Stock markets are crashing, people are laid off in nearly every sector and governments are called to bail everyone out and keep all markets running as we are used to. Now let me preface that these are just the thoughts of a guy sitting at home, no economic background, no extremist arguing for communism (or boundless capitalism for that matter). No it seems to me that the current situation is being approached from a perspective that all of our sectors will burn to ashes if they are not kept going with the money streams they are used to.
The pause button
My problem with that perspective is that it treats this crisis a bit similar to a crisis in a specific sector, like the 2008 financial crisis that was mostly based on banks and preventing their collapse. The difference here is that we are not trying to save a sector that is instrumental to society, but society and its people itself.
Apart from ‘critical’ jobs like healthcare, cleaners, supermarket personel, distributors of essential goods and farmers, we are all in the same boat. So why don’t we hit the Pause button? Nobody needs to make a profit right now, we just need to be able to afford food (and toilet paper apparently).
Why don’t governments focus their financial packages on the people behind every sector? As an example, every citizen of the Netherlands could receive 300 euro per month to buy food and necessities. Every other expense is cut while we are on pause. Rent? Not necessary because your landlord has their food allowance as well so they won’t starve. Such a measure would cost (in my example of the Netherlands) approximately 5.15 billion euro per month in spendings. That is less than a tenth of the amount that a current proposed package to bail out companies is estimated at.
It just sounds weird to me that airlines would go bankrupt when none of them would fly. Or restaurants when they are forced to close. Is it not easier to just allow everything to pause, all their regular costs, taxes and contract obligations? As soon as we managed to beat this virus we will want to get back to the good things we knew so there is no need for them to suffer or receive tax money when they can’t offer services.
Everything seems so much easier if we help people directly, whatever their normal job or sector. We have become more connected over the centuries, but added costs in supply or production chains are, in principle, based on added value of every link in the chain. Well, right now we don’t really have the chains and people can’t offer value other than help. It would be great if we accept just for a moment that money is just a means, not an end.