COVID-19 Shows Us That Capitalism Is Just Not Working
About 3 weeks ago, I noticed a few bars, restaurants and dive shops starting to open up for the upcoming summer holiday season here in Catalonia, Spain. Everybody knew about the coronavirus back then, but nobody seemed too threatened because most cases were in China and Italy at the time. Everything in Spain seemed to be just fine. I was about to print out a new resume and apply for a job in an Irish pub, when all of the sudden, this pub and every other joint in town closed down.
Next thing we knew, Spain was in a state of emergency and on strict lockdown due to COVID-19. All non-essential businesses closed down and we were told that we were not allowed to leave our apartment except to buy food, medicine, take care of somebody in need or go to “work”. This nation-wide quarantine began on March 15th, when there were 7,988 confirmed cases and 294 deaths from the coronavirus in Spain. From that day on, the situation escalated quickly. The number of COVID-19 cases surged to 90,000 in just two and a half weeks and as hospitals became desperately overloaded, the death toll grew to over 8,000. As I’m writing this, the situation is only getting worse as hundreds of people are dying from this virus every day.
Here’s a great video that explains why the situation went from 0 to 100 so quickly (and why the same thing is likely to happen wherever you are):
As for me, I’m not afraid for my personal safety. The death toll and images of Spain’s hospitals look horrifying, but I do understand that the vast majority of people who catch this coronavirus experience only mild or moderate symptoms. However, I also understand that COVID-19 is a lot more dangerous for those over 60 or those with pre-existing health issues, and I would absolutely hate to infect other people with this virus. So I’m happy to stay in quarantine to help “flatten the curve” and protect those that are more vulnerable.
The situation may get difficult for me if we continue to stay in quarantine and I run out of money for rent and food, but I understand that I’m (by far) not the only one in this predicament, so I wanted to write down a few notes to point out the stupidity of this situation:
– So, there’s a pandemic: a disease that has spread across the globe. This disease is overwhelming healthcare systems and killing tens of thousands of people! Experts tell us that since we don’t have a cure or vaccine for COVID-19 yet, the best thing we can do now is slow down the spread of the virus by staying at home. “Just stay at home!” -They say, “so your healthcare system doesn’t get overwhelmed!” That doesn’t sound too bad, right? Governments are assuring us that “essential businesses” will stay open, so there will not be a shortage of food or other essential products that humans need. All we humans need to do is stay at home and try not to get infected/ infect others with the coronavirus.
“OH but that is bad!” -Say the people, “if we stay at home and we can’t go to our “jobs” then we won’t get any MONEY! If we don’t get money then we won’t be able to buy food or pay for the place we live in! Yes supermarkets will still be stocked with food, but we humans won’t have access to that food because we won’t have enough money to buy it!”
As stupid as it sounds, that’s the scenario that many of us will be in soon (or already are in)- and many people are more afraid of this than they are of the coronavirus itself.
“Non-essential jobs” are clearly not that important, and many (if not most) jobs can already be automated. But in this system, we “need” those non-essential (useless) jobs -not because they do something important- but because we haven’t figured out a smarter way to give people access to stuff like food and shelter.
Globally, there is no shortage of food or housing, so scarcity is not the problem. We have the technological capability to provide all humans with the food and essentials that they need using only a small fraction of our workforce. In fact, globally, we waste 25-30% of the food we produce, 1.7 billion people are overweight, 753 million are obese, yet 841 million people are undernourished and over 25 thousand die of hunger each day. [Source]
WHY? Not because there’s not enough food! But because in this system, the only way you can get access to food and other necessities is by trading for it. You trade your time and energy- and you get some money, then you trade this money for food and necessities. If you can’t trade- you get nothing and you might starve to death while food gets thrown away.
– Shouldn’t this be an obvious sign that this money/(trade) system is failing us? I mean, people don’t actually need money or useless jobs, they need food and a place to live in!
So (obviously) what we need to do is give people trade-free access to their basic needs. Since there is enough food already- we shouldn’t force each other to trade for it.
How can that be done? I don’t care. If we can figure out a way to send people to space, I’m sure we could also figure out a way to give people food. For now, we can consider a basic income, or food stamps, or some kind of delivery service, or something else! If you provide people with their basic needs then they won’t want to kill themselves while in quarantine!
Actually, it’s not just a matter of people wanting to kill themselves due to stress during lockdown, another very real problem is people actually dying of hunger. Well you probably know that this was already an ongoing problem way before the pandemic began, but now it’s escalating rapidly.
Many poor countries recently either went into lockdown or closed their borders, leaving the majority of their populations with no means of getting an income for food.
In India, the nation-wide lockdown caused this insanity:
Not the best way to slow down a pandemic, I’d say.
Here’s how the situation looks in Kenya:
The same story repeats in many places all over the world, and sadly, this is only the beginning.
COVID-19 may kill thousands (or millions) of people, but I am sure that our insufficient trade-based system will kill many more.