COVID-19: Why We Must Reset Our Thinking

By Ian Goldin
Oxford University, May 12 2020 (IPS)

Covid-19 is the most significant event since the Second World
War. It changes everything.

It brings great sadness to many of us as we lose loved ones, as
we see people losing their jobs, and as we see people around the
world suffering immensely.

But it also provides an opportunity for a reset and new start
for humanity. It teaches us how closely we are all interwoven
together, how a problem in one part of the world is a problem for
all of us.

It gives us time to pause and reflect about our individual
lives, allowing us to reset and reprioritise. And it provides an
opportunity for businesses and politicians to reset too. Even
isolationist politicians must now understand that we can only
thrive as humanity if everyone thrives.

We can only prosper if the world is prospering. And we can only
be healthy if people everywhere are healthy.

Covid-19 provides a call for action. Not only to address the
medical and associated economic emergency, but to ensure that we
will never see a pandemic which could be even more dreadful than
this one.

If we can learn to stop pandemics, we would have learnt to
cooperate to stop the other great threats that we face, like
climate change, antibiotic resistance, cascading financial crises,
and cyber and other systemic risks.

We need to learn from history.

The First World War was followed by austerity and nationalist
attacks on those who were blamed for the conflict. What followed
was the Great Depression, rise of fascism and an even worse world
war.

However, at the height of the Second World War visionary leaders
created the framework for a harmonious world. The Bretton Woods
Institutions for reconstruction and economic development, the
Marshall Plan, the rise of the United Nations with its manifesto to
unite ‘we the people’. The 1942 Beveridge Commission in the UK
which called for the creation of the social welfare state.

The aim was to honour the youth that had died in the trenches
and to overcome the suffering to provide a vision of a better
future.

No wall high enough

The pandemic has risen from what I’ve called in my book of
this title, The Butterfly
Defect
of globalization.

The interconnectedness of complex systems means that what
happens elsewhere, increasingly shapes our lives. In the 2014 book
I predicted that a pandemic would lead to the next financial
crisis, even worse than the one of 2008.

The fact that we are now interconnected makes it imperative that
we manage systemic risks, and that we care more about what happens
elsewhere.

There is no wall high enough to keep out the great threats that
face us in our future, and not least pandemics and climate
change.

But what high walls do keep out is the ideas of how to change
things, is the sharing of experiences of common humanity, the
technologies, the people, the investment, the potential for tourism
and exports, and the ability to cooperate.

This is essential because these threats require that we work
together. If we bunker down we will see escalating threats.

Pandemics are unusual in that they are the only threat that
faces us that can come from any country. This one happened to come
from China. But it could equally have come from any country in the
Americas, Africa, Europe or elsewhere in Asia.

As technology is evolving, with new capabilities to sequence
pandemics and spray viruses from drones, the risk is rising rapidly
in richer countries, so both rich and poor countries are a
potential source.

As pandemics can come from anywhere stopping pandemics requires
global cooperation. For most of the other global threats that we
face like climate change, cascading financial crises or antibiotic
resistance, a very smaller set of actors account for a very big
share of the problem.

Radical ideas become reality

Covid-19 has highlighted the urgency of managing global risks.
It also has shown us that these spill over to every aspect of our
lives, and are devastating for economies.

Radical economic remedies are being implemented that were
previously unacceptable. Being guaranteed an income was regarded as
a radical idea six weeks ago and is now adopted many European
governments.

The idea that governments would bail out any company and give
them a lifeline was unacceptable six weeks ago, and now has been
enacted. The levels of debt and deficits that governments are
taking on, were regarded as heresy six weeks ago.

We know from the mortality statistics, that young people are far
less likely to die from COVID-19 than elderly people. And yet young
people are sacrificing their social lives, their jobs, their
education, their prospects to protect the lives of older
people.

We owe the youth a brighter future. We owe them the promise that
this will be the last pandemic of this nature. We owe them the
promise that we will address climate change, that we will create
jobs, employment and better prospects for them. For this, we are
likely to see not only a bigger role for government, but higher
levels of taxes.

The pandemic has revealed the extent of health inequality.

The data shows stark differences based on income levels. These
are being exacerbated as poorer people are less able to work from
home and more likely to be made unemployed. They also have less
savings.

The pandemic is increasing inequality within countries, and it
is widening the gulf between them. Richer countries have more
resources, they have more ventilators, they have more doctors, they
have more capacity to create a safety net that is strong, to
guarantee everyone a basic income and to ensure the survival of
firms. This is not an option for African, Latin American and South
Asian countries.

Physical distancing is an impossibility when you’re sharing a
small home with six other family members, or when you have to go in
crowded transport to work to put food on your table.

The medical emergency in being compounded by an economic
emergency, putting hundreds of millions of lives at risk of
starvation and creating the biggest shock to development in the
post war period.

Covid-19 demonstrates the butterfly defect of globalisation is a
dire threat to us all. It poses a test for leaders everywhere. It
challenges governments, businesses and individuals to behave
differently. How we respond to this test will determine not only
our individual prospects, but that of humanity.

The post COVID-19:
Why We Must Reset Our Thinking
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Thinking the
Unthinkable
first published this article by Ian
Goldin
, Professor of Globalisation and Development at
Oxford University.
His books The Butterfly Defect and Age of Discovery predicted that
pandemics would cause the next economic crisis.

The post COVID-19:
Why We Must Reset Our Thinking
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
COVID-19: Why We Must Reset Our Thinking