We are heading towards a socialist future
Until the coronavirus is defeated, the state will need to be much more active
It seems strange now to look back on New Year’s Eve, enjoying sociable drinks with friends, all of us unaware that in a Chinese city called Wuhan our future was about to be dramatically changed. That day health authorities had been alerted to a cluster of pneumonia cases in one part of the city.
Everything has changed now, and we find ourselves in an unreal international emergency; an unknown period of isolation for many, death or intensive care for some, and afterwards a probably quite devastating recession in which thousands of businesses will go to the wall and millions thrown out of work.
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I wonder what the long-term effects will be. The only pandemic which really changed society in a big way was the Black Death but even the Spanish Flu — which, touch wood, was worse than coronavirus — left little lasting social effect. People just forgot about it afterwards.
The obvious medium-term likelihood is that we’re going to become more socialist. Only the state really has the capacity to deal with a crisis of this magnitude, although it will probably be more like a war economy with large manufacturers going into partnership with the authorities. On top of this, things like the US healthcare system or Britain’s zero-hours contracts are not well-suited towards periods of mass sickness and some more extensive welfare intervention may be required.
During the Second World War Britain went from being historically a laissez faire country where thirty years earlier an Englishman’s only interaction with the state was posting a letter, to history’s most successful authoritarian socialist regime. It took over 30 years for that to change after Hitler was defeated, but to those of us who grew up in Thatcher’s Britain the idea of such state involvement in the economy now seems bizarre.
But at least until the coronavirus is defeated, the state will need to be much more active, especially as countless businesses will depend on state support and the government may even need to get involved in the supply chain.
This war socialism might also coincide with the return of the nation-state, which will probably prove to be the most effective mechanism for dealing with the virus. Although global supply chains will contract, and we may be more reluctant to rely on China for manufacturing, I don’t think it will mean the end of globalisation. I probably won’t leave the country this year but the one thing I want to do when this horror is over is take the kids to Italy.
And what about Brexit? The transition period ends on December 31 this year, by which time we may still be on an emergency footing. There are no plans to extend it, for now, but do we want to be fighting a battle on two fronts?
I wonder if I am the only person to think that a laissez faire approach might in fact be the best one. Enormous economic and social disruption is being contemplated in order to reduce the number of elderly people with “underlying health issues” from dying a few years earlier than they otherwise might. Admittedly in the UK this could amount to as many as half a million excess deaths, if 80% of the population became infected.
For everyone else who catches COVID19 it would appear to be less unpleasant than a bout of influenza. Some do not even notice they’ve been infected. If we do nothing other than care humanely for the sick, and otherwise attempt to continue life as normal, we will end up with a population that has real and extensive immunity to the virus and, apart from the additional cost of care for the sick and dying, relatively little impact on our domestic economy.
Instead of which, governments across the developed world seem to be preparing to deliberately crash their economies, in order to appear kind and concerned.
Perhaps they are only pretending. I do hope so.
I write as an at risk near 70 year old, much more concerned for the welfare of my children and grandchildren than my own survival. I’m currently self isolating in France with the early symptoms of the infection.
Prayers for your recovery. I agree with you. As a grand mother I am more concerned about the over reaction to this in bringing about acceptance of Socialism. The Climate Hoax was planned around getting a Global Fear in order to control people and get them to agree to giving up their privileges for the great social experiment of One World Government , open borders etc. The proof is there for anyone who cares to investigate now that we don’t have a serious forth estate. All stated back in the early days of planning for Agenda 21 when ‘Sustainability’ was invented. China was planning to use economic blackmail over the trade war and this is the economic blackmail jackpot! With no true Conservative leaders in the world and Christian ethics gone the future is grim to protect the Freedoms of the West over a future Totalitarian regime.
Seems strange for a conservative to accept the boomer remover doctrine. You do realise if you go laissez faire to continue the zombie that is neoliberalism then ur more likely gonna get socialism via the ballot box with all the dead boomers.
Seems funny you a) assume I’m a conservative and b) assume the virus will mainly kill conservative boomers. Although I do agree the sooner the tottering zombie of neoliberalism falls off the cliff, the better
Not on topic, but I would like to say just how much I agree with Graeme Archer’s article about the media class. He articulates all the reasons I threw out the TV 20 years ago, stopped buying newspapers 10 years ago and stopped listening to the radio two years ago.
Hear Hear – that Times reference in Mr. Archer’s article has everything in it that is wrong about the coverage, pundit upon pundit pontificating and none of them with any knowledge than anyone else… 99% complete rubbish!
Can’t agree with “People just forgot about it afterwards.” The reason states plan for this sort of pandemic (and they do) is precisely because people remember it. If the Spanish Flu hadn’t happened when it did, and where it did, I fear governments would think “can’t happen now” and be totally unprepared.
Hegel was wrong: we do learn from history.
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