The current corona crisis
The world is undoubtedly in the grip of a major current crisis in April 2020. The major current crisis is the coronavirus crisis and it has thrust itself dramatically ahead of other ongoing crises such as the climate crisis and the inequality crisis to name but two. After detection of this new threat to global public health and its rapid expansion across the world we are now in a semi-lockdown situation. Things that we have taken for granted in recent years such as freedom of travel, accessibility of services and goods and functional supply chains have ceased to be reliable or are currently not available. Many local small and medium-sized companies have suffered a sudden loss of turnover and are facing existential challenges. Larger companies, such as airlines, and others in travel, hospitality, retail and many other sectors face similar problems with an unprecedented drop in demand with ongoing costs. At the family level, parents are being confronted with all the challenges of home-schooling and many jobs have been moved to home-office. “Key-jobs” in health and supply have finally been given a priority and recognition which has hitherto been sadly lacking.
When can change happen and what does it need?
Change in systems often needs a catalyst to make the step from one state to another. In the period pre-SARS in 2019 there was a significant head of pressure stemming from a stagnant economic system, rising inequality coupled with dramatic increases in house prices, the slow recognition that something needed to change with respect to climate change coupled with the enormity of the challenge and a latent increase in world political instability. Other persistent problems such as national/international tax and corporate responsibility have continually managed to evade solution. On top of these growing problems we now have a dramatic crisis in the economy which will make a return to the previous situation slow and arduous, if at all possible.
What options do we have for change?
A basic requirement for any stable social system is to be able to reliably feed and clothe the general population. In times of crisis and dynamic economic instability this is particularly important. One possible model for stabilising the welfare of the populace is the idea of universal basic income which is currently under earnest consideration in Spain (google search link here). Another interesting model is the doughnut model which may well be adopted in Amsterdam (google search link here). This model focusses on needs but is also restrained by sustainability considerations, to quote the guardian article: “The central premise is simple: the goal of economic activity should be about meeting the core needs of all but within the means of the planet. The “doughnut” is a device to show what this means in practice.”
The corona crisis is not all bad news. There are numerous examples of people finding new value in community and helping others, the challenge has brought out many good aspects of humanity and strength in adversity. It is important to remember that the practicality of rebuilding our economic system will involve mobilising everyone particularly those who profited most from the economic system up until the crisis broke out. This will involve a well-considered and careful examination of the issues of the responsibilities inherent in riches and capital, the most fortunate will be required to shoulder at least their fair share.
The corona crisis is not going to disappear any time soon. We are currently trying to mitigate effects and have lost the ability, at the moment, to contain the crisis. The previous SARS crisis in 2003 was contained and resolved after significant effort and suffering and by 2004 was consigned to history, however, there will be some discussion in the future about whether the right lessons had been learnt by human society.
How could models for change be appended to crisis solutions?
The idea of universal basic income has at lot of appeal at the current time (google search link) for the stabilisation of general society. There are, however, other important considerations such as “how can we provide a safety net for small, medium-sized and large to international companies?” The measures taken will certainly be different in various countries according to fiscal clout and national focus and tailored to the needs of the respective company size. This could also be a unique possibility to regain some of the high ground in the issue of international corporate taxation and the inherent social responsibility of capital. Large companies in need of state assistance could be required to increase transparency with respect to tax, climate protection, executive remuneration and social responsibility. There are existing concepts such as “Economy for the common good” (link here) which attempt to evaluate the overall impact of a company via a process of balance sheet assessment, these too could be appended to aid packages and could play an important part in shaping the future of our society after the current crisis.
“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955)