How to take advantage of Coronavirus
And above all: WHY we should ALL do it.
While I am finally writing these things, after a couple of weeks of accumulating evidence of what I argue below, the worlwide death toll of Coronavirus deaths is 3120 (source: Worldometer).
THAT IS ALREADY 3120 TOO MANY, and will be surely higher by the time you read this. I sincerely pray for all the victims, and pray that this disease ends as soon as possible, with the smallest possible numbers of victims. And, as almost everybody else I guess, I also have immediate family members who, in one way or another, will be directly hit by the economic consequences of the outbreak. This said, let’s look at some “non-human” damage that Coronavirus is causing.
European travel (especially in Italy…) and tourism stocks are being crushed by the coronavirus outbreak. Bad. But this is the same world in which:
- “Instagram isn’t just ruining travel, it’s killing the world”
- Massive crowds of tourists cause dangerous conditions, immiseration and pricing out of locals
- “Our desire to see the world is killing it”
Soft drinks and (often junk) food
Coca-Cola could be in tight supply of artificial sweetener because of coronavirus. But (even if “overall sugars are down almost to the level of the late 1970s”) soft drinks have been recently (again) found to be the “crucial link between obesity and tooth wear”. If production of Coca-Cola and soft drinks in general decrease, is that really a bad thing?
The reports of people emptying supermarket shelves also brought to my mind what I read in 2011 about food “shortages” due to a harsh winter in parts of the US: “Don’t panic about having enough food, panic about all the crap we throw out”. I do know that too many people are undernourished or starving in this world. This doesn’t change the fact that, for all the others, unless things get much, much worse than they are now, any “restriction” caused by Coronavirus may be a health improvement, not a problem.
Fragile manufacturing to feed overconsumption?
Apparently, hardware Kickstarters have started to announce big delays due to Coronavirus. Considering how many of those kickstarters produce gadgets that solve First World problems, or create unnecessary needs, is that a problem, or an opportunity for sanity?
Regardless of Kickstarters, the effect of Coronavirus on worldwide supply chains has just started, but already makes some already obvious thing much more obvious:
- worldwide reliance on one single country for manufacturing, components and labor is risky, whatever that country is, and even ignoring pandemics
- This is a great moment for a serious evaluation of something that should be done anyway for macroeconomical and geopolitical reasons: open microprocessors that are also “more interesting to produce regionally”. But the same could be made in other sectors.
Apart from its embarrassing fragility, and even ignoring environmental issues, the main products of the current economy are, in many parts of the world, increasing inequality, precariousness and stress levels. Too many people live as hamsters in a wheel, and what for?
Please take a moment to evaluate the link between our stupidly increasing consumption of raw materials, as shown in the picture above, to this visual proof of what I already knew was happening: a decrease in China’s pollution related to coronavirus shutdown:
Social media and Fake news?
In these weeks, the Coronavirus outbreak has surpassed the US elections, Brexit, illegal migrants and many other issues as the biggest object of fake news and misinformation on social networks. Besides Coronavirus, the World Health Organization is also fighting an “infodemic” that, among other things, is causing an “inevitable drop in market confidence”.
But the COVID-19 “infodemic” is largely fueled by social networks that, in order to look good on the market, must addict their users to endlessly repeated “news”, any news. Coronavirus is just the latest of the many reasons we already had to remove instantness (NOT free speech!) from social networks!
It is convenient to say that it will be the Coronavirus’ fault if “the American consumer loses faith [and this in turn causes] a recession”. But reports that millennials are “killing industries because they’re poor”, period, as well as warnings about the “makings of a 2020 Recession and Financial Crisis” have been around for years now.
I have seen people asking on social media “The worse is yet to come (i.e. the consequences of this pandemic) and we are not prepared for it on any level: social, political, psychological, economic. I mean would you be able to live in a situation such as The Great Depression?”
Great Depression? Let me say out loud what millions of other people are surely thinking: Coronavirus is making us behave much more as almost all scientists and doctors, and increasing numbers of economists, were already begging us to behave.
Sure, “central banks can’t come up with vaccines”, nor they should. But consider the effectiveness and fairness of the measures by financial establishments and most governments to the 2008 meltdown, and couple them with all the pre-COVID-19 warnings that another meltdown is close: they make Coronavirus look as an unwanted, but eventually useful preparation for overdue, permanent, beneficial social changes.
Loss of human lives is unbearable, and decoupling is not enough to make the world a better place. But if Coronavirus is really “speeding up the decoupling of global economies” we should take it like when e.g. Microsoft tells us that it will stop supporting some version of Windows. Grumble, but then open our wallets, buy or reconfigure “hardware”, and then carry on happily with the new configuration. Because it is much more future-proof than the previous one.
In the medium and long term, the worst possible outcome of Coronavirus may be that many of the potential steps towards a better world that are happening now only to stop the pandemic, are canceled as soon as the outbreak ends (which, again, I hope happens as soon as possible). We should seriously discuss this, not Coronavirus fake news. What do you think?