Articles

Epidemics:capitalism still struggling with nineteenth century ‘solutions’

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2020 by kmflett

Source: Dr Gabriel Scally

Epidemics: capitalism still struggling with nineteenth century solutions

Radicals in the nineteenth century pursued something called spearhead or really useful knowledge.

This was about how the market economy really worked- as opposed to how it claimed it did-and crucially what could be done about that.

When it came to the epidemics of disease that swept Europe and elsewhere in the nineteenth century there were two solutions. They were never applied at the same time.

The first, sometimes but not always applied, was what we now call lockdown. This was usually fairly effective in temporarily controlling disease. Unfortunately not just for capital but also for those who relied on it for work in order to live it also seriously damaged the economy.

Invariably lockdowns were lifted because of the economic impact.

One might think that in the twenty-first century capitalism might have moved on a bit and be able to control epidemics while keeping the economy going and supporting workers where this didn’t work.

Fairly obviously it hasn’t and not just in Britain but across much of the globe where market economies are in place.

Looking at the Tory Government’s latest Tiered lockdown approach we can see nineteenth century factors at work.

Scientific advisers suggest a short lock down to control COVID-19. This might well work although it probably wouldn’t be short anymore than it was earlier in the year. In fact parts of the economy still haven’t re-opened after the 23rd March lockdown.

Of course the economic impact of this would be huge. The unemployment rate is already at 4.5% and set to go much higher even without another lockdown.

The Government could of course step-in and actually save every job. The cost however would seriously dent profits, so it hasn’t.

This was the conundrum Labour Mayors in the North-West of England were grappling with. Ideally lockdown with closures of hospitality, Universities and much else is probably needed. The Government wont pick up the cost for that and so the result if implemented would mean huge job losses and impact on the physical and mental well being of many of the poorest in society.

David Nabarro from the World Health Organisation told Rado 4’s World at One on 13th October that Covid-19 was becoming “a disease of poor and disadvantaged people, so we really have to pay attention to those who have the least resources.”

This will not be something the Johnson Government is prepared to do

The answer in a really useful knowledge framework is that the reason why this dilemma occurs is the existence of a market capitalist economy.

It needs to be replaced. Of course that just doesn’t happen but making the point and keeping making it at least raises the idea that there is actually a sensible way forward here.

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