In this article, Sally Pepper proposes that there is an economy with a small 'e' and The Economy with a big 'E'. As well as threatening its survival, COVID-19 has called the big E economy into question. Sally says, "The economy with a small 'e’ is a way of describing what we do. The Economy with a capital “E” is something we serve, whether we like it or not. To please The Economy we have to behave in such a way that it looks its best and is pleased with itself. The Economy seems to be like a teenage boy, with a voracious appetite. It never develops beyond the need to grow bigger, endlessly. It is like a monster that we have given rise to and are doomed to cater to forever."
The corona virus has been really bad for “The Economy.” We can tell that from the falls in global stock markets over the past few weeks. Those whose wealth is in stocks are now poorer or at least not as rich. The stocks have fallen, mainly, I assume, because of smaller earnings, due to decreased activity and, therefore, anticipation of lower or no dividends for shareholders. There are of course winners and losers, but the indices are telling us clearly where the stock market has headed.
Air, land,and sea traffic, have all diminished, globally. Traffic within cities, towns regions, and countries, has also diminished, as people comply with lockdown requirements. This means that less fossil fuel is being burned, and so there are fewer emissions, and clearer skies have been noted in many cities of the world.
The kinetic aspect of humanity has been toned down. Movement has slowed. Less work is being done, at least less of the work that went into earning money. People are now working on projects at home that they have been postponing for years for lack of time. This transfer of effort is very bad for The Economy.
Shops, other than supermarkets, pharmacies, and other outlets for essential goods, are now closed. Restaurants, clubs , sporting facilities, and gyms, are now closed . Workers have been laid off, but the government has chipped in to provide a living income to those expected to return to their previous employment, when life returns to normal. I assume those employees are now catching up with cleaning the bathroom, weeding the garden, planting seasonal vegetables and having time to think………as I am
Immigration and travel have stopped. Foreign nationals and non-residents are not allowed into the country and returning nationals have to spend two weeks supervised in isolation in hotels before going to their place of residence, which is where we are all in various states of isolation. The frenetic pace of growth has slowed to a near standstill If this new state of affairs were to continue, it would mean a rest from construction and road works, and less destruction of trees and gardens in the urban areas of Victoria. We are, in fact, headed for that most dreaded economic state of affairs - a recession. This translates into a very sick Economy! Might The Economy even die?
We, however, will still go on living, as long as we escape the clutches of the virus.
What will life be like? We already have some idea, as we are now living it and have already started changing. We could, in future, turn our focus to more essential activities, like gardening and producing food, doing repairs around our homes to ensure they remain standing and weather-proof, and sewing masks to protect us from the virus. We might start to get creative in the community sense, growing and exchanging produce. We could get to know our neighbours, who we have been too busy to speak to hitherto. We could learn from the alternative fringe of future-focused urban farmers, tucked away in newly gentrified inner northern suburbs, or in the less fashionable outer suburbs of Melbourne, or in the nearby countryside. These re-born farmers are generous with their knowledge, which can also be found on sites such as Face Book and You Tube.
With the loss of jobs, many renters have been left in the position of not being able to pay the rent. This is a problem for the renter and the landlord, especially if the landlord is making payments to a bank. In normal times, with hundreds of thousands of people entering Australia every year, the landlords would have their choice of paying tenants, but with the human avalanche stopped in its tracks, the landlord might just have to negotiate with both his bank and the tenant, for a mutually agreed outcome, and as little stress as possible. As we are being told in the mainstream media, “We’re all in this together.”
It seems to me that even if things do not go back to normal we can work out a new way of operating – something we negotiate amongst ourselves.
But am I being inconsiderate of The Economy?
An economy, at its most fundamental, is the sum total of the commercial activity or exchanges that happen between us. In the absence of overarching forces, we will work it out, especially if we have to. Economic activity will not cease, but it will be fit for purpose. I would call this our "economy with a small ‘e’". This economy is not our monarch or our religion, and it is not something we must serve. Our society, behaving in our own best interests, creates this economy. The economy with a small 'e’ is a way of describing what we do. The Economy with a capital “E” is something we serve, whether we like it or not. To please The Economy we have to behave in such a way that it looks its best and is pleased with itself. The Economy seems to be like a teenage boy, with a voracious appetite. It never develops beyond the need to grow bigger, endlessly. It is like a monster that we have given rise to and are doomed to cater to forever.
Do we really need this demanding perennial teenager, The Economy? Or can we just get on with our lives and let it become a decent citizen and part of our community?