A SovereignPH.com EXCLUSIVE
A survey of Covid-19 implications from an international perspective
by Adolfo Quizon Paglinawan
Morning after Covid-19
There are two interesting prognoses on what is in-store in the foreseeable future.
“When was the last time you saw a toll booth removed?” Jack Kelly asks noting that the corona virus started out as a health pandemic, but the outbreak will create long-lasting changes to the way we live and work.
He goes on: “If you haven’t noticed, once rights are stripped away, it’s hard to get them back. As government officials and bureaucrats gain more control, they’ll enjoy wielding even greater power, as they’ll always believe they know best and the citizens are just dumb ‘spring break’ partiers.”
Kelly contributes to Forbes magazine. He is founder, CEO, founder and executive recruiter at one of the oldest and largest global search firms who has personally placed thousands of professionals with top-tier companies over the last 20-plus years.
I picked some interesting ideas from his long list:
Changes in the foreseeable future
Now that companies recognize that employees can relatively easily work from home, the chief financial officer will tell her CEO about how much money will be saved by ditching pricey New York City offices and allowing employees to work at home.
Employees don’t have to endure a brutal two-to-three-hour round trip commute to and from work and can now watch over their young children, take care of older or sick family members, attend important events and enjoy a higher quality of life.
Management will calculate the costs of airfare, hotel stays, car rentals and taking clients out to expensive restaurants and deem them unnecessary and extravagant. They’ll tell their employees to just have a video call instead, as it will save thousands of dollars. People will also demure traveling.
With the schools closed, we are conducting the biggest test of online teaching and homeschooling. While it currently exists, the usage will skyrocket.
It wouldn’t be surprising if many high school graduates decide to enter the trades. They’ll look at their parents who’ve lost their jobs and older siblings who are crushed with hundreds of thousands in debt.
Becoming a union electrician, carpenter, plumber or craftsperson offers steady work, decent pay and good benefits. If a person has an entrepreneurial streak, they could then open their own business.
We will see Amazon getting even bigger and stronger as the brick-and-mortar stores just can’t compete. This will be echoed by Netflix beating out movie theaters. Why should you go to a movie with dozens of strangers who may potentially carry a disease and cough on you, when you can watch something in the comfort and safety of your own home?
Watching the morbid death counts on cable news may have been the kick in the pants we needed. We now know the stark reality that life is fragile and people with pre-existing conditions are more susceptible to catching and suffering from a new virus strain.
We will also pay closer attention to our health. Americans have a lot of health issues. We tend to be obese, have high amounts of people with diabetes, heart and lung diseases and an array of other ailments. It is logical for people to eat more healthily, exercise, refrain from bad habits and visit the doctor more regularly.
The insights are flowing like an unstoppable river.
Changes that cut it
Simon Mair, a research fellow in ecological economics at the University of Surrey southeast of UK, however, has more substantial and penetrating insights.
For BBC, he says “there are a number of possible futures, all dependent on how governments and society respond to corona virus and its economic aftermath. Hopefully we will use this crisis to rebuild, produce something better and more humane. But we may slide into something worse.”
To help us visit the future, he used an old technique from the field of futures studies. Take two factors you think will be important in driving the future, and imagine what will happen under different combinations of those factors.
Mair starts his lecture, “The factors I want to take are value and centralization. Value refers to whatever is the guiding principle of our economy. Do we use our resources to maximize exchanges and money, or do we use them to maximize life? Centralization refers to the ways that things are organized, either by lots of small units or by one big commanding force. We can organize these factors into a grid, which can then be populated with scenarios.”
So he came up with four extreme combinations:
- State capitalism: centralized response, prioritizing exchange value
- Barbarism: decentralized response, prioritizing exchange value
- State socialism: centralized response, prioritizing the protection of life
- Mutual aid: decentralized response, prioritizing the protection of life.
State capitalism is the dominant response we are seeing across the world right now. Typical examples are the UK, Spain and Denmark.
The state capitalist society continues to pursue exchange value as the guiding light of the economy. But it recognizes that markets in crisis require support from the state. Given that many workers cannot work because they fear for their lives, the state steps in with extended welfare. It also enacts massive Keynesian stimulus by extending credit and making direct payments to businesses.
The expectation here is that this is will be only if Covid-19 proves controllable over a short period allowing as many businesses as possible to keep on trading, as full lockdown is avoided to maintain market functioning, transmission of infection is still likely to continue.
But state intervention will become increasingly hard to maintain if death tolls rise. Increased illness and death will provoke unrest and deepen economic impacts, forcing the state to take more and more radical actions to try to maintain market functioning.
This is the bleakest scenario. Barbarism is the future if we continue to rely on exchange value as our guiding principle and yet refuse to extend support to those who get locked out of markets by illness or unemployment. It describes a situation that we have not yet seen.
The mistake is if a government fails to step in a big enough way during the worst of the pandemic.
Support might be offered to businesses and households, but if this isn’t enough to prevent market collapse in the face of widespread illness, chaos would ensue. Hospitals might be sent extra funds and people, but if it’s not enough, those who need treatment will be turned away in large numbers.
People die in unceasing statistics. The subsequent failure of the economy and society would trigger the collapse of both state and community welfare systems. Barbarism is ultimately a failed state that ends in ruin or morphs to one of the other grid sections after a period of political and social devastation.
State socialism describes the first of the futures we could see with a cultural shift that places a different kind of value at the heart of the economy.
It emerges as a consequence of attempts at state capitalism and the effects of a prolonged pandemic.
If deep recessions happen and there is disruption in supply chains such that demand cannot be rescued by the kind of standard Keynesian policies we are seeing now (printing money, making loans easier to get and so on), the state may take over production. This is the future UK, Spain and Denmark might be headed.
The key here is that measures like the nationalization of hospitals and payments to workers are seen not as tools to protect markets, but a way to protect life itself. In such a scenario, the state steps in to protect the parts of the economy that are essential to life: the production of food, energy and housing for instance, so that the basic provisions of life are no longer subject to the whims of the market.
Payments may be made to everyone directly and are not related to the exchange value they create. Instead, payments are the same to all (on the basis that we deserve to be able to live, simply because we are alive), or they are based on the usefulness of the work.
Mutual aid is the second future in which we adopt the protection of life as the guiding principle of our economy. However, in this scenario, the state does not take a defining role. Rather, individuals and small groups begin to organize support and care within their communities.
This kind of scenario could emerge from any of the others in the matrix as a failure of or in combination with state responses. Mutual aid could enable more effective transmission prevention, by building community support networks that protect the vulnerable and police isolation rules. But its weakness lies in that small groups are unable to rapidly mobilize the kind of resources needed to effectively increase healthcare capacity.
The most ambitious form of this future sees new democratic structures arise. We already see the roots of this future today in the pragmatic groups organizing care packages to support communities.
Former Ambassador Rigoberto Tiglao quips, “After all, how can humans exercise their rights, if they’re dead?”
Curbing the pandemic to save lives and preserve the collective that is the nation, it became necessary to deny individuals many of their rights under a liberal democratic system: to congregate, socialize, travel and even work.
“For me though, I unabashedly can say that China is now the country holding the torch that is lighting this very dark place at this moment in history, inspiring the world that this plague can be defeated. If China had not turned around its situation, what hope was there?”
Ado Paglinawan is a broadcast anchor at Radyo Pilipinas1, and president and a regular columnist at the country’s newest daily news website SovereignPH.com and its partner magazine The Sovereign. He is a former Philippine diplomat, serving in the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York as press attaché, spokesman and special assistant to Ambassador Emmanuel N. Pelaez. He has served a strategic consultant to Agriculture Secretary Luisito Lorenzo, Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon and Finance Secretary Roberto de Ocampo. He studied for 15 years at San Beda College from grade 1 to 4th year college majoring in English and Philosophy, minor in political science and history. He is a veteran of the First Quarter Storm, participating as president of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines. Ado has taken continuing studies in world politics and diplomacy, international public relations, information technology and remote sensing, and Eastern Christianity and Islamic studies, from various universities in Washington DC.