Lockdown learning: #13 Economy 2.0?

The penultimate in a short series of 2 minute observations…

We are nearing the end of ‘lockdown’ and entering a new ‘normal’ (or what passes for it). This week I was led to wonder if Covid-19 provides us  with a chance to reset our approach to living or at least the economic bit?

Bizarrely, this was provoked by the death of Lily Lian at 103 (see the obit in the Economist). She was the last of the street singers of Paris- a profession that lost its popular relevance post-WW2 as cultural changes, the pace of life and the importance of the economics grew.

We are starting to stare into the economic mess that the virus has created and talk is all about business and rebuilding.

I completely share the desire to provide useful lives for everyone in our society. The virus has wrecked millions of these but I also sense with others that it provides a wake-up call to rethink our approach to the economy.

We have an opportunity. Many of the jobs the virus has destroyed (an estimated 40% in the US) will not return. We have all cut back on consumer spending, travel and been forced to look again at our way of life. Simply going back to how it was does not make sense when that approach was not working well.

Put graphically, it was killing us – breeding mental ill-health, destroying our habitat burning our planet and not increasing our welfare. Simplistic goals aiming for higher personal or country income do not help us. Indeed, as another paper explained this week, the most successful people at this simply destroy our environment much more quickly (If you want a disturbing read on this, try David Wallace-Wells’ book ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’).

We need to set different goals for life and approach the realisation of them in a different way and we need it in the next decade. The challenge is that this needs all actors in the system to revisit their living – from governments and corporations to countries and individuals.

It has to start somewhere and where else but me?

This means that despite the encouragement to go simply go back out and spend I won’t do that – and I sense that I am not alone.

It means working out what really and sustainably makes life buzz. Deciding where to spend time and energy, as well as money and, of course, what not to spend them on.

I don’t have a plan – only places to start.  I know that certain goals, like decarbonising my life, are limited by our current technology and approach. But, having been forced into a habit breaking 100 days of life, now is definitely a good time to act.