Human sacrifice is not good for the economy, and neither is class warfare
Wednesday in The Guardian online there was a piece by Jonathan Portes titled "Don't believe the myth that we must sacrifice lives to save the economy." This is an attempt to rationally rebut the notion that "the economy" is some kind of god or gods which demands continual human sacrifice if the universe is not to collapse. We saw this notion before in the the history books -- it was promoted in the pre-Columbian Aztec Empire. "The economy" is, then, the Huitzilopochtli of today. Portes, a professor of economics (a religion in its own right) in the UK, is here taking the "let's all be reasonable" approach.
At any rate, Portes says they think this kind of "economy as god" stuff in the UK too. Portes starts:
Is the cure worse than the disease? The Times claimed today: “If the coronavirus lockdown leads to a fall in GDP of more than 6.4% more years of life will be lost due to recession than will be gained through beating the virus.” It’s hard to know where to start with this nonsense.
Portes then goes through the various arguments against the "lose lives to strengthen the economy" notion. The strongest one comes first:
More broadly, restoring the economy to normal requires, above all, confidence. Amid continuing uncertainty both about their own finances and the wider economy, households won’t spend and businesses won’t invest. And that simply isn’t going to happen until the spread of the diseases has been contained.
This is the argument that is most likely to sway our Congress here in the US. The economy depends upon optimism, and letting the virus kill a lot of people isn't going to produce optimism. But as you read over Portes' further arguments you can see Portes pointing to the actual intent of the "sacrifice lives to save the economy" argument. Here's the most revealing one.
It wasn’t the sharp fall in GDP in 2008-9 that reduced, over the course of the next decade, life expectancy for the poorest in our society. It was how the government chose to address the economic fallout of the global financial crisis – by underfunding and understaffing the NHS and social care, and by eroding the basic welfare safety net that people depend on when times are hard. As we are now discovering, these were false economies that left us less, not more, prepared for this crisis.
So that's the strategy, then. Underfund healthcare, and then get out there proclaiming "we gotta end some lives if we're to save the economy." The point is, of course, that a healthy economy isn't really the goal of those who say "we gotta end some lives if we're to save the economy." The real goal is class warfare -- the ruling class wants to cull the working class so that the remaining workers will think to keep their noses down if they want to live. Of course such a strategy is not "good for the economy." It's good for class warfare, though, and it keeps the idea of human sacrifice alive in our culture.
And as long as we're in the business of myth in the service of class warfare, there's this opinion piece, published today in the New York Times:
In it, Katherine Stewart argues:
Donald Trump rose to power with the determined assistance of a movement that denies science, bashes government and prioritized loyalty over professional expertise. In the current crisis, we are all reaping what that movement has sown.
So yeah -- if you were reading all of this and scratching your head, thinking "why is Cassiodorus going on about human sacrifice when this is supposed to be a discussion of the economy?" -- well, there it is. If you want to know why human sacrifice persists in our society, look no further than organized, fundamentalist religion..