I have made an historical review of world incidents, disasters of the calibre of Covid 19, to better see what we could be in for in the medium term. This is a list of events that seemed dire and interminable at the time, as Covid 19 does now. I have tried to identify those most similar to the current virus pandemic. As we wait for the Covid 19 pandemic to end, we can reflect on the endings to previous world incidents and look for any pattern that could indicate how long we may have to wait.
WWI ended in 1918 when Kaiser Wilhem abdicated and Germany signed an armistice. After depression lasting 10 years, the Great Depression ended in the US with the New Deal and start of the war. World war 2 lasted for 6 years until atomic bombs brought Japan to surrender. A polio epidemic peaked in 1940-1950 and continues in Afghanistan today. Smog deaths were reduced after the UKs clean air act in1956. The Cuban Missile crisis ended in 1962 when Russia backed down and withdrew its missiles. In 1972, OPEC hiked oil prices causing a global economic shock. In 1973, the US quit its war in Vietnam. In China, Mao’s Cultural Revolution created turmoil until 1976 when he died. In 1986, a Russian nuclear power station exploded causing concerns about radioactivity that continue even now. In 1987 an international treaty in Montreal agreed to limit ozone destroying gases. Concern about global warming began and continues today. In 1992, the Soviet government collapsed, ending the Cold War which had continued since the 1950s. An outbreak of BSE brought UK livestock farming to a halt in 1993 and continued at low incidence in 2015. In 1997 AIDS, which had commenced a decade earlier, began decline but continues at epidemic levels in some countries. In 2000, the Millenium Bug, which had generated computer investment, was a furphy. In 2001, an attack on the World Trade Centre in New York led to invasion of Afghanistan that lasted 20 years, until the US quit in 2021. In 2016, after 40 years, Ebolla was declared to no longer be an emergency. In 2019, an outbreak of Covid-19 in China spread worldwide and continued to be active in 2021, with some prospect of restrictions being lifted when vaccination had brought protection.
Of the above, the AIDS and Ebolla epidemics seem most likely to presage our Covid 19 future. Covid is likely to be a significant presence for another 30-40 years, diminishing and with sporadic outbreaks. Travel restrictions could be lifted as populations are vaccinated and infections become accepted, like bad strains of influenza have been. Covid restrictions have mitigated the flu but as restrictions are lifted, we can expect the ‘flu to return. Economic conditions could return to normal and could even boom. Some businesses and jobs perceived to harbour or promote infection could be lost but others facilitating remote dealing could be gained. If I had known Covid was coming, I would have toured overseas along the humanized routes that will in future have dehumanizing restrictions and be closely monitored for disease. There can be expected to be jobs and ambitions that will try to keep restrictions going, magnify outbreaks and exaggerate risks from self-interest. My interest in travel and social gatherings may never recover.
I have omitted natural disasters because they can recur, with no end.
My blog: martinknox.com
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Could policy leaders decide the priority order of treatment for parts of the economy injured or disabled by pandemic restrictions? My proposal draws informally on Keynesian, Classical Monetary and Modern Monetary theories. I reject Laissez Faire theory because governments have already begun large expenditure commitments. I have attempted to derive priorities by screening out activities that could be helped by governments to bring happiness of various kinds: hedonistic, eudaimonic, psychological and spiritual to the various stakeholders employees, customers, suppliers and investors.
I will not identify my analysis with particular local, state or federal government jurisdictions in any country. I live in Australia, but I describe below phenomena that have been prepared from thought rather than by social research and they could be enumerated in many locations.
Because of their multiplier effect, outputs that are inputs to employment-intensive follow-up activities should have priority e.g. trucks not cars.
Infrastructure projects that cause most sustainable employment should be preferred e.g. construction of public park amenities, not National Broadband Network fibre optics installation.
Public funding should support the greatest good of the greatest number, like public transport, not narrow interests, such as subsidisation of airlines. Haemorrhaging of public funds to support unsustainable industries should cease.
Developments requiring sustainable skilled employment are more desirable than casual unskilled labouring.
Funding of arts, entertainment and education should recognise their potential for multiplier effects in stimulating development in other sectors.
Diversity of outputs is desirable to reduce currency inflation effects on industries struggling with falling prices for their exports and increasing costs of imports e.g. farms, due to buoyant foreign exchange rates from high growth sectors e.g. minerals (Gregory Effect).
Priority should go to primary industry supplying secondary and tertiary industry, when it conserves and sustains scarce natural resources.
Value-adding by secondary processing of products e.g. minerals, could have priority where efficient use is made of natural resources e.g. water, land.
Development of the tertiary sector should prefer industries with a high multiplier effect e.g. tourism, education, health. Activities that generate little sustainable employment, for example coal quarrying for export and retirement apartment construction, could be less attractive.
The priorities above are controversial. The task of calling help for some parts of the economy and denigrating others will be contested from personal experience and interest. I have made these calls to draw attention to the parlous state of government treatment of the economic pandemic. I want to register my disapproval for profligate government spending by highlighting some likely consequences.
For further ideas see my writing on growth, development, government, Covid-19 at https://martinknox.com