The Government has been accused of putting ‘profit before people’ in the way it has handled the response to the pandemic. Firstly, it was slow to order businesses to close down. Secondly, it hasn’t issued a mandatory call for people to get off the streets but a persuasive argument instead which means that lots of people are still crowding onto trains and tubes. Lastly, there is talk of lockdown being lifted even before the pandemic reaches a peak.
If the preservation of the capitalist working order is a primary concern then a short sighted approach is being adopted whereby it is being forgotten that capitalism needs a healthy functioning work force. If people are sick, they cannot work. Productivity suffers. Yet, the causality argument between health and capitalism isn’t being made. Instead, right wingers are talking about getting life moving again.
Right wing governments forget, at their peril, that a healthy workforce is vital to a country’s economy because weakening the state has become their victorious goal. But this policy trajectory now sees them scrambling for answers and solutions.
Hollowing out vital services and handing them to ‘the market’ has left vital mechanisms of delivery, like the NHS, less able to deal with major emergencies. We clap on Thursdays to thank the NHS workers for their work but the state isn’t providing them with enough proper protective equipment. We are told to stay home so as not to overload the health service while, at the same time, being told that the NHS is able to cope.
Not only are these mixed and confusing messages but begs the question as to, ‘Shouldn’t we have, in the first place, a properly funded healthy system that can cope with a major emergency?’.
If the scientists are to be believed, a pandemic comes around every 100 years. President Obama had a fully operational pandemic unit which Trump dismantled. Yet, the public is being told that ‘no health system’ could have coped with this pandemic. This is the ‘leaves on the tracks’ reasoning put out by the rail services every Autumn which the public mock.
Right-wing Governments have been working on nudge policies that pivot around a sort of ‘something will turn up’ as a solution. They fly by the seat of their pants with rubbish and empty slogans, phrases that contain no more four words, and nudge economics that relies on laissez-faire or behavioural policies. ‘Something will turn up’ seems to be the approach being taken but it hasn’t materialised as a viable response to this pandemic.
Instead, the government has had to become interventionist to prop up the state. But does this mean that it realises how joined up politics is or is this a short-term response? We are seeing right wing governments curbing the market, effectively, through loans and other financial instruments. Will it extend this policy thinking post-Covid 19?
When the black cloud of the pandemic lifts, let’s hope that right wing Governments realise just how fragile societies become when the state is hollowed out. More importantly, people die through this approach. Thousands have died because of austerity and thousands are dying now because of the pandemic.