The free market can’t work when we can’t go to the market.
Amazon may be hiring 100,000 extra workers to handle increased demand from online shoppers, but that’s not economic growth or recovery; it’s only a partial shift from local shopping and employment that will be offset by the loss of revenue and jobs from the hotels, bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and Apple stores that must close to keep America healthy. Factories will also close, not just to avoid congregations of workers but also in response to the supply-chain reaction finally working its way worldwide from shuttered Chinese plants.
Supply and demand won’t cure covid-19. Capitalism’s creative destruction can’t operate amidst a pandemic, because there aren’t enough new opportunities for displaced workers and entrepreneurs to seize. Stimulus packages won’t revive the economy when everyone is too sick or scared to shop. The folks who think socialism is a disaster are now, rightly, calling for disaster socialism.
Consider Senator Mitt Romney, who ran for President eight years ago with budget-slashing, government-deriding Paul Ryan at his side, who is calling for an immediate universal basic income to help Americans weather the coronavirus storm:
“Every American adult should immediately receive $1,000 to help ensure families and workers can meet their short-term obligations and increase spending in the economy,” a release from Romney’s office states, adding, “Congress took similar action during the 2001 and 2008 recessions. While expansions of paid leave, unemployment insurance, and SNAP benefits are crucial, the check will help fill the gaps for Americans that may not quickly navigate different government options.”
In addition to that, Romney’s proposals call for providing grants to affected small businesses, measures aimed at easing financial burdens for students during this time and actions to bolster telehealth services amid the outbreak.
…The proposal comes after businessman Andrew Yang drew attention as a candidate in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary by advocating a universal basic income of $1,000 per month for every American adult to address economic inequality.
Yang, who dropped out of the presidential race in February and is now a CNN political commentator, tweeted about the Romney proposal on Monday, saying, “Mitt understands this crisis’ potential impact on the economy and what is at stake” [Clare Foran, “Romney Proposes Giving $1,000 to Every American Adult as Coronavirus Response Measure,” CNN, 2020.03.16].
Of course, government can’t write checks forever any more than Starbucks can if social distancing shuts down the revenue stream. But government is the surest way to maintain our connection and common action in the face of a crisis that cannot be solved by rugged national or personal individualism.
This pandemic started in markets that lacked sufficient regulation. Prevention of the next public health crisis, just like management of the current one, depends on intelligent and intentional community responses, not the chaotic gambling impulses of the marketplace.
Capitalism is great in normal times. But survival depends on socialism.