The COVID-19 Series: Harsh Economy
Forgive me for quoting a meme here, but this one I spotted on a friend’s timeline a few days ago sums things up fairly well. It’s from across the pond where things are (economically) a lot worse than here, without anything approaching the European furlough schemes, but the point remains valid.
I’ve often advocated – long before the current COVID-19 brouhaha – that as we mature as a society one of the important lessons we’re going to need to learn is not to judge people primarily on the basis of their economic output. We’re all guilty of it to some extent – myself included – at a party, one of the first questions one tends to ask is ‘what do you do for a living?’. Whether deliberately or subconsciously, the answer to that question clouds our judgement of that person.
We need to stop it. As automation increases and especially as AI develops,we need to value people for their other contributions to society – looking after children, voluntary work, arts and music, etc. are all equally important contributions to the fabric of society as making £loads_of_cash.
The COVID-19 crisis has brought that inequality sharply into focus: the people we’re relying on now – our medical staff, warehouse pick/packers, delivery drivers, etc. are amongst the lowest paid in society, and yet when it comes to the crunch it turns out we need them far more than the highly paid advertising executive.
Put simply – people should never be put in a position where they have to decide between their personal safety, or the safety of their loved ones, and economic security. That we’re in a position where people are having to make those decisions is a damning indictment of our economic system; the extremely wealthy sure as hell aren’t having to make those decisions.
As many people here will know, I’ve been an advocate of Universal Basic Income for many years, and COVID-19 has only served to reinforce that view.