Category Archives: Corona virus
Mark Shapiro draws attention to an article by Alan Macleod reporting that – though the US economy is suffering – American arms manufacturers are thriving.
“The American economy has crashed – only the military industrial complex is booming. A nationwide pandemic that has (officially) claimed some 84,000 Americans has also led to an estimated 36 million filing for unemployment insurance and millions frequenting food banks for the first time”. But weapons manufacturers are busier than ever, advertising for tens of thousands more workers:
- Northrop Grumman announced that it was planning to hire up to 10,000 employees this year.
- Last month, the Air Force commissioned Raytheon to develop and build a new nuclear cruise missile.
- Raytheon is still advertising 2,000 new jobs in the military wing of its business.
- Boeing is looking to add hundreds of new workers in its defense, intelligence, and cybersecurity departments and
- Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest arms dealer, announcedon Friday that it is “actively recruiting for over 4,600 roles,” in addition to the 2,365 new employees it has taken on since the lockdown started.
Washington has designated weapons manufacturers as “essential” services during a pandemic (CNN report)
In February, the Pentagon released a $705 billion budget request for 2021, revealing that there would be a “shifting focus from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a greater emphasis on the types of weapons that could be used to confront nuclear giants like Russia and China.”
Confronting nuclear giants like Russia and China
MacLeod points out that, just as Donald Trump was increasing the military budget, he slashed funding for the Center for Disease Control and for the World Health Organization, perhaps the only international body capable of limiting the spread of the virus.
In America and the rest of the world, poverty and disease have inflicted a far higher death toll than warfare
Yesterday US COVID-19’s death toll was 99,886. The United States has suffered the highest death toll from COVID-19 and the pandemic has led Americans to ask whether the enormous military budget is making them safer or whether well-funded healthcare, education and social care would have saved or enhanced more lives.
(War figures include American military deaths in battle, and in-theatre deaths as available. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS; JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY)
Alan Macleod ends: “However, that question appears not to have been debated within the walls of the White House, where it is full steam ahead with weapons production”.
Journalist Simon Jenkins reported last year that the British government boasted of record sales with 80% going to the Middle East.
He asserted that Britain should not be weaponising the suppression of dissent in Egypt, Bangladesh, Colombia, Uzbekistan or Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states – their national defence better termed, regime defence.
Calling the last London arms fair (above) “a stain on the nation . . . the most awesome glamorisation of death on the planet”, he added “The reality is that Britain and the US are in an arms race with the Russians in this theatre – with no remotely peaceful objective”.
And Symon Hill, in an article on security, points out that for years, “security” and “defence” have been euphemisms for war and preparations for war, adding that the coronavirus crisis is a fatal reminder that security, safety and defence cannot be found in armed force.
He ends: “In the long term, we must put our resources into addressing real threats, not into the waste and destruction of war”.
This fear, expressed today by the FT’s editorial, will not be shared by some, who see globalisation as ”another version of colonialism or imperialism – with Amazons, Facebooks and Googles, Nikes and the garment industry in many aspects of their conduct as more acceptable looking British or Dutch East India companies” (reader’s comment).
Manila port ‘bursting at the seams’ in the Philippines on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Read more here.
Following an FT report of drops in rail freight and containerised exports from the UK of as much as 50 to 60% while imports are also declining, its editorial points out that supply chain disruptions and struggles to obtain medical supplies, have accelerated calls for countries and trading blocs to ensure they have sufficient capacity at home — prioritising resilience over producing goods where it is cheapest.
The US trade representative, last week hailed the end of “reflexive offshoring” (NY Times, log in) and in the EU Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, wants government grants, loans and direct intervention to build up European supply capacity.
The FT editorial points out that, in shifting manufacturing jobs out of rich countries and into poorer ones, globalisation reduced poverty in the developing world and prices in the rich ones.
But those working in these sweatshops (a small section of a sweatshop in Karnataka is shown above) still live in poverty and cramped conditions, working far from home in unhealthier conditions than the subsistence agriculture (Karnataka below) which was formerly their lot.
The low prices for their products in rich countries have encouraged a wasteful throwaway culture there, which has added to the waste mountains
The editorial also admits that millions in the ‘rich countries’ lost their jobs in the process, and lost the sense of pride and ownership people felt in their once thriving communities.
But the FT asserts that global supply chains and co-operation are a source of resilience, allowing countries to focus on their strengths and share expertise.
“Spreading people and factories around the world allows companies to guard against risks by diversifying”:
But it has also broken family circles and communities, increased deforestation and reduced the amount of land available for food production
“There will be higher prices and lost export markets”
But higher prices (due to higher wages) will mean a greater market for local goods and better tax revenues. A reduction in exports will lead to a great reduction in transport-related greenhouse gases.
“The direct cost to the taxpayer of subsidising domestic production . . . will make (economies) more fragile, not less”
But huge subsidies are currently given by government to foreign water, energy and transport utilities (including nuclear projects and fossil fuel producers) working in this country, to arms manufacturers and other exporters. That money could be redirected to domestic production which would reduce welfare payments and transport-related pollution.
It can be argued that a knockout blow is long overdue and that purposeful employment created by import substitution and Green New Deal projects might, in time, bring about an environmentally aware, low-crime, harmonious and employment-rich society.
After reading: ‘It’s positively alpine!’: Disbelief in big cities as air pollution falls, he wrote: “It will be such a shame to go back to how it was! It’s a good thing to think of future generations. I fear they’ll look back at mine and think we were all criminals”.
Guterres says that the COVID-19 ‘Wake-Up Call’ Demands Recovery Built on Green Economy, Marking Earth Day 2020
Ben Chacko, editor of the Morning Star
As millions applaud NHS, care workers and formerly despised “key workers” from supermarket staff to couriers, the task facing us is to ensure there is no going back to “business as usual”. The workers keeping our country going should, in future, be given the pay, dignity and job security they have always deserved and the public services we rely on should never again be starved of resources or exposed to predatory privateers.
Celia Wright Sturminster Newton, Dorset
Local food: I hope the current situation results in more support for small retailers. Our local butchers and food shops offer products superior to those of supermarkets. In our north Dorset town, a dairy farmer has installed a milk station where we can purchase local milk – no plastic involved. It is wonderful.
As a Naturopath I believe it is the condition of the host that is paramount in avoiding illness so it seems to me that in a world in which quality of input either through diet, the mind, the emotions etc has been so lowered through the control of the food industry, the mass media, the pharmaceutical companies etc. it is no wonder Nature takes control. I am just reading the book ‘The Chemistry of Connection’ by Patrick Holford in which he concludes that health depends on being ‘connected’ to a larger universe, a higher power, your physical health, to others, to the environment and to society. I only hope when, and if things get back to normal there is a greater understanding of how to live and what is important.
Diana Schumacher, founder of the Schumacher Society and co-founder of the Environmental Law Foundation.
I hope that the society that emerges after this crisis will be wiser, kinder and more focused on community, local production and distribution systems, and with less reliance on outsourcing on short term economic grounds alone.
FT editorial: 3.4.20
“Radical reforms — reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades — will need to be put on the table. Governments will have to accept a more active role in the economy. They must see public services as investments rather than liabilities, and look for ways to make labour markets less insecure. Redistribution will again be on the agenda; the privileges of the elderly and wealthy in question. Policies until recently considered eccentric, such as basic income and wealth taxes, will have to be in the mix”.
George Morran, former Assistant Chief Executive Dudley MBC
The only good side of the pandemic is that it may open up minds to all sort of needs and result in individual and public change’.
Jan Ritchie Torquay, Devon.
Lockdown lessons – I have just been for my daily constitutional to Torquay seafront and round the harbour. Although this is always an attractive spot, I usually see cast-off takeaway cartons, coffee cups, cigarette butts and other detritus floating around, as well as a film of diesel from the boats. This time, however, the water was crystal clear – the cleanest I have seen it in the 40 years I have lived here, with not a bit of rubbish in either the inner or outer harbour. I’m sure many lessons will be learnt from this time, but let’s hope that one of them will be what we can all do to change our behaviour in order to benefit the environment around us.
Prof Joseph Stiglitz, economist, public policy analyst
If the pandemic leaves export-oriented economies facing long-term difficulties they will be forced into a total reassessment of the global supply chain. The pandemic has revealed the drawbacks of concentrating production of medical supplies. As a result, just-in-time imports will go down and production of domestically sourced goods will go up.
Martin Canavan, Castlewellan, NI
The Covid-19 emergency may paradoxically function as a catalyst for a final reckoning with capitalism, by ushering in a new collective ethic of social solidarity to end the tyranny of profit over people and the planet . . . The challenge for the broad left and green movements is to coalesce around an egalitarian agenda that can resist this turning-back of the clock and usher in a new world, a new society, a new humanity, a new way of being.
Marco Granelli, deputy mayor of Milan
Milan has been especially hard hit by the Covid-19 outbreak. Under the nationwide lockdown, motor traffic congestion has dropped by 30-75%, and air pollution with it. City officials hope to fend off a resurgence in car use as residents return to work looking to avoid busy public transport: “We worked for years to reduce car use. If everybody drives a car, there is no space for people, there is no space to move, there is no space for commercial activities outside the shops. Of course, we want to reopen the economy, but we think we should do it on a different basis from before. We think we have to reimagine Milan in the new situation”.
These ministers are calling for the European Green Deal to be put at the heart of the economic response to Covid-19: “We should begin to prepare ourselves to rebuild our economy and to introduce the necessary recovery plans to bring renewed, sustainable progress and prosperity back to Europe and its citizens”.
Mark Lewis, global head of sustainability research at BNP Paribas Asset Management
As oil prices crashed through zero, closing out the day at -$37 per barrel, an unprecedented meltdown, Lewis argues in the FT that we may have just witnessed the permanent peak in oil demand. Greater efficiency, more EVs and also permanent changes in behaviour stemming from the pandemic could add up to a peak in consumption.
Trevor Barker, Green Party activist
Hopefully a new mindset will evolve out of this crisis.
SynBioBeta: innovation network for biological engineers, investors, innovators and entrepreneurs
Like the rest of the world, the synthetic biology industry is undergoing a pivot during this unprecedented time. If there’s a silver lining to the pandemic, it’s pushing us all to change how we do things—and that’s for the best, because normal wasn’t good enough.#
In the Financial Times an economist and a financial historian debate the long-term viability of the Covid-19 rescue packages – an issue which is concerning many thoughtful members of the public.
Stephanie Kelton is professor of economics and public policy at the State University of New York and a former chief economist on the US Senate Budget Committee. Last year she was on Bloomberg’s list of the 50 people most influential on global markets. Her forthcoming book is “The Deficit Myth”.
“Yes” says Professor Kelton: “While public debt can create problems in certain circumstances, it poses no inherent danger to currency-issuing governments, such as the US, Japan, or the UK. This is not, as some argue, because these countries can currently borrow at very low cost, or because a strong recovery will allow them to grow their way out of debt”. She gives three reasons:
- First, a currency-issuing government never needs to borrow its own currency.
- Second, it can always determine the interest rate on bonds it chooses to sell.
- Third, government bonds help to shore up the private sector’s finances.
“No” says Edward Chancellor, a financial historian, journalist and investment strategist. In 2008, he joined Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo’s asset allocation team. He is the author of a forthcoming history of interest.
He believes that governments can print money to cover their costs only as long as the public retains confidence in a currency. When the crisis passes, the excess money must be mopped up, but politicians are unlikely to raise taxes in time to nip inflation in the bud. Though bonds can be issued to withdraw money from circulation, once inflation is under way, bondholders demand higher coupons (the amount of annual interest paid by the bond’s issuer to the bondholder).
Others would argue that, as new money is created at the stroke of bankers’ pens – or the click of a computer key, when they approve loans (see Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin) money can be deleted in the same way.
“The usual objection to printing money to pay for government spending is that it will unleash inflation. That would be true if the spending being financed were increasing the overall level of demand in the economy, and if markets expected the government to resort to monetary financing as a matter of course. Neither of these conditions holds true today”.
Martin Wolf (below) was a senior World Bank economist and Director of Studies at the Trade Policy Research Centre, in London. He joined the Financial Times in 1987, where he is associate editor and chief economics commentator. He agrees with Professor Kelton on this subject, writing in the FT:
“Our financial system is so unstable because the state first allowed it to create almost all the money in the economy and was then forced to insure it when performing that function . . .
“A maximum response would be to give the state a monopoly on money creation. A 2012 study by International Monetary Fund staff suggests this plan could work well. Banks could offer investment accounts, which would provide loans. But they could only loan money actually invested by customers. They would be stopped from creating such accounts out of thin air and so would become the intermediaries that many wrongly believe they now are”.
Wolf talks about the issue (from 8.37mins) in a very interesting videoed interview on Indian television which focusses on the global economic impact of the coronavirus.
International Workers’ Day – bank holiday concert in Rome, 2019
Some points from Jeremy Corbyn’s May Day message:
“May Day is international workers’ day, but also a day of peace. Let us heed the words of UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres in calling for a global ceasefire in conflicts. Pouring weapons into Saudi Arabia makes the humanitarian disaster of Yemen even worse.”
The years of austerity have left our NHS working at 94% capacity, our care homes, mostly privately run, virtually full and over one million people waiting for social care of some sort. Our local authorities, whose budgets have been slashed by the austerity doctrine, were expected to cope as the crucial local element in dealing with an emergency.
From testing, to supplies of personal protective equipment to support for companies to survive or workers to survive be they self-employed or employed by others – the government has been found wanting. Failure to procure test equipment and ventilators at the time of the WHO warning has cost time, and lives.
Inequality in Britain, poor air quality in working-class communities, the work of black and minority ethnic communities in our care and health services and the disproportionate death rate are all exposed by this crisis. Being told to work at home if you have reasonable house and garden is one thing. Being told to try and work at home in a tiny flat with a large family is very different. Being told to stay at home when you are rough-sleeping homeless is obviously a nonsense.
NHS and care workers, delivery and postal workers and those that keep our communities clean and safe. Let us never hear another Home Secretary describe migrant care workers and cleaners as unskilled: they are the ones who keep us alive, not hedge-fund managers.
Our demands are for no return to austerity, for proper investment and support for jobs and a green revolution so that the clean air and city birdsong of the lockdown don’t just become a memory, but our normal life in future.
Some points from Len McCluskey’s May Day message:
With millions facing unemployment and an economy on the brink of ruin, Conservative government ministers have ‘engaged seriously’ with trade union representatives for the first time since Margaret Thatcher ‘effectively banned contact’.
They recognised they were in serious trouble and intense daily meetings between unions, ministers and civil servants in BEIS, the Treasury, the Cabinet Office and No 10, have taken place from which the job retention scheme and other pay protection agreements emerged. Our work with government led to securing the furlough scheme and persuading a reluctant Treasury to extend it.
We used our relationships with leading manufacturers and industry bodies:
- helping to establish the Ventilator Challenge
- working with firms the length and breadth of the country to co-ordinate the mass manufacturing drive needed to provide the safety kit our front-line staff must have to stay safe
- demanding the appointment of a minister for PPE to address the chronic shortages of the vital safety materials urgently needed by NHS and social care workers
- working with industry bodies and companies to find safe and secure ways back to work in certain industries, including automotive and construction and
- ‘calling out’ employers putting their workers and the public at risk, or who are using coronavirus as an excuse to lay people off.
May Day is a celebration of workers and also strong trade unions, which have demonstrated during this crisis, perhaps as never before, why they are so needed. A start for paying back our workers with more than admiration and gratitude would be to ensure decent pay and secure, safe work – and make May Day in Britain a public holiday, as it is elsewhere.
Trade unions and working people in Britain have endured over 40 years of relentless attacks. We cannot allow this government to return to business as usual — that’s what got us here. It should not take a pandemic for government to value working people or to recognise the need for investment in our NHS and other public services. “The “new normal” must mean the labour movement keeps our seat at the table with a real plan for changing our economy for the good and for a long-term New Deal for Workers — the campaign we launched with the CWU, GMB and other sister unions”.
The pandemic surely demonstrates, too, the importance of a new normal in international economic co-operation and health planning. A virus anywhere is a virus everywhere. Countries like Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy or Sweden demonstrate that it is possible to negotiate solutions that are acceptable for workers and employers. Comprehensive economic recovery plans will clearly be needed to reboot the economy and allow industrial activities to re-emerge.
Jeremy Corbyn’s recommendation: “Those workers who are now being treated as expendable need union support, the self-employed need to be unionised and our movement must recognise the nature of the economy that austerity and neoliberal economics has brought us”.
“The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of long-distance, intercontinental supply chains, as governments around the world scramble to acquire large quantities of drugs and PPE”.
Some shortening of global supply chains is inevitable, according to the FT’s Philip Stephens, because the pandemic has exposed just how far even the richest nations are from strategic self-sufficiency
The Loadstar article records that Dr Samuel Roscoe (left), whose doctoral research was on developing environmentally and socially responsible capabilities in the supply network, spoke via video link to the House of Common’s select committee on international trade. He said that glaring gaps in the supply of some products should lead to the creation of parallel supply chains with the capacity to make drugs available in the UK in times like these: “It’s just good business sense – the longer the supply chain is, the more unresponsive it is”.
Arjun Kapur New York, NY, US Investment strategist (Comcast, Blackrock), in a letter to the FT’s editor, stated that, “Company leaders and world leaders would be wise to ditch their reliance on vulnerable supply chains in favour of more resilient, self-sufficient means of delivering health, economic, and business outcomes for their constituents and shareholders”.
Dr Roscoe’s outlook ranged further than financial and electoral self-seeking measures; he pointed out that government support to expand environmentally and socially responsible capacity in the UK will be needed; it won’t be cheap, but will further the government’s industrial strategy, create employment and make the country more self-sufficient.
The COVID pandemic has revived the debate on helicopter money. This post presents some of the points made by Professor Joseph Huber (right) in his recent paper, ‘Monetary Financing of Helicopter Money’ which may be read here.
In the aftermath of the 2008/12 crisis Adair Turner, last chairman of the UK Financial Services Authority relaunched the idea of direct monetary financing.
The central-bank money thus issued for government spending was soon dubbed ‘helicopter money’, a derogatory metaphor used by economist Milton Friedman in 1969; he thought that helicopter money would simply raise price levels, not productivity and wealth.
But in a severe recession or crisis, extra government spending to prop up the economy has been a policy tool for decades, even if not openly funded by the central bank.
In contrast to what is generally assumed, monetary financing is not unheard-of. In a way it was common practice at all times, but in the latter half of the 19th century, the central banks underwent a role change. They turned from ‘bank of the state’ to ‘bank of the banks’, primarily or even exclusively supplying the banks with notes and account balances. This role change was advanced under the influence of neoliberalism in banking and finance and monetary financing became taboo.
A core doctrine of neoliberalism, which became ultraliberalism since around 1980, was: ‘Restrict or prohibit money creation by the government as well as money creation by the central bank for the government. Money shall primarily be created by the private banking sector. The role of the central banks is to refinance the banks, not financing government expenditure which must be funded by taxes and sovereign debt’.
However, contrary to what is claimed, ‘money printing’ continued to be practised more extensively than ever. In place of the treasuries it was the banking sector which made reckless use of the ‘printing press’ in the form of creating bankmoney on account.
Sovereign debt became an important profitable investment opportunity for banks, investment trusts, wealth funds and insurers. The treasuries issued bonds, the central banks bought them on the open market from banks and other financial institutions.
This kind of monetary and financial system has now definitely manoeuvred itself into a dead end. A better balanced and functionally more sensible role needs to be developed regarding the sovereign control of the currency and money creation and the division of powers between monetary competences, budgetary-fiscal responsibilities and financial-market functions.
In a crisis such as the subprime and debt crises of 2008/12 and the current covid-19 crisis, temporary and limited helicopter money is an effective measure. Monetary financing of QE for the real economy is certainly preferable to the previous policies of QE just for finance which flooded the banks with unprecedented amounts of central-bank reserves.
The sensible way to get the money out into general economic circulation, is by issuing the money in the form of central bank digital currency (CBDC) to be used by everyone. This is now on the agenda. The special type of money in which CBDC will be issued is not definite yet (deposit money or crypto tokens or mobile-phone tokens; accessed directly or indirectly), but issuance of CBDC is only a matter of time and of the particular design principles of implementing CBDC in coexistence with bankmoney.
In the UK the law does not prevent the Bank of England (BoE) from monetary financing. After long years of hesitation, the covid-19 pandemic has now prompted the BoE to raise the ways-and-means facility for the government from 0.37 to 20 billion pounds and to act as a primary dealer of newly issued British gilts if need be. adding to the money supply according to well-defined monetary-policy criteria, giving to the state what is of the state
Finally, CBDC can and ought to be created free of debt. A plan devised to that end was conceived of by David Ricardo in his 1824 Plan for the Establishment of a National Bank. Ricardo was the most prominent representative of the Currency School, opposing the Banking School of the time. According to his concept, the Bank of England was subdivided into an issue department, responsible for the note issue, and a banking department, concerned with the central bank’s banking operations. The separation of the note issue from the banking operations exists to the present day, although it never gained too much importance because of its inconsistent implementation, notably, leaving the notes of the country banks and, more importantly, bank deposit money untouched outside the arrangement.
The approach can be implemented in an up-to-date way by separating a money-creating currency register from the balance sheet of a central bank’s operational banking activities. The currency register would create the additions to sovereign money (solid cash as long as it exists, reserves or CBDC, the latter possibly of not just one type). The register would issue the money either into the central-bank balance sheet as a non interest-bearing but callable assignment for financial uses, or transferred to the treasury as genuine seigniorage.
* * *
The three issues addressed in this paper – CBDC, genuine seigniorage (omitted in this summary), money tokens beyond debt – are likely to be too much to handle all at once. They do not necessarily include one another, but build well on each other. They would make monetary financing of helicopter money, which today appears to be an extraordinary thing, an ordinary integral part of the money system.
This opens up the perspective of a change in the current crisis-ridden bankmoney regime towards a money system eventually dominated by sovereign money. This too would certainly not be heaven on earth, but, if run competently, it would be free from the kind of monetary non-safety and financial instability we know today.
Peter Foster in Brighton reports that Home Secretary Priti Patel is facing urgent calls to relax rules on the use of controlled drugs to treat seriously ill coronavirus patients, after repeated warnings that some are facing “significant and unnecessary distress and pain” because of the UK’s laws on palliative drug control.
Ms Patel has received a letter from the head of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Martin Marshall, advising that regulations should be changed for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis to facilitate the “more efficient and ethical supply” of drugs such as morphine, that help sufferers to die more peacefully.
Medics are seeing cases where patients — many of whom hyperventilate and face great discomfort in the final stages of dying from coronavirus — are suffering unnecessarily, causing great distress to them and their families.
In his letter, Professor Marshall said a combination of localised supply shortages and strict regulations made it more difficult for carers to obtain drugs to provide pain relief as patients enter the final hours of their lives. The regulations, which require all prescriptions to be made out to a named patient, were introduced after Dr Harold Shipman was convicted of using controlled drugs to kill 15 patients,
Dr Adrian Tookman, clinical director of the Marie Curie Hampstead Hospice, called on the government to “cut the red tape” and make the requested changes “happen urgently”.
Tracey Bleakley, chief executive of Hospice UK, which runs the UK’s hospice network providing end-of-life care for 225,000 families a year, said: “It is critical to have a workable and pragmatic prescribing system. “This has been an issue for a number of weeks now and we are urgently calling the government to relax the law during this challenging time.”
A National Health Service spokesperson told the FT that the NHS is working closely with partner organisations including the Home Office and the Department of Health and Social Care, to publish new guidance which will ensure people in care homes get the medicines they need when they need them.
President Emmanuel Macron’s translated interview with the FT’s new editor and its Paris bureau chief
“In this crisis enter a humanity where everything is fragmenting, where what we thought was worthless, becomes scarce and must be produced in other countries, and where we tell people they can’t even cross the street. It’s a profound change, from which we will all come out different”.
Global trade and the use of container ships increased from the 1960s to the 1990s, followed by the globalisation of finance and the digital economy from 2000 onwards and it’s obvious that it’s starting to overheat, creating three major problems:
Globalisation has created inequalities in developed countries the middle classes and workers are saying “I don’t see myself in this globalisation. I am sacrificed to it.” I can buy cheaper things but I don’t have any work, because there is no more space for me in this society, it’s society for the super-talented, and what I can do is no longer valuable.”
It’s clear that economy is no longer the priority. And when it’s a matter of humanity, women and men but also the ecosystems in which they live, and so CO2, global warming, biodiversity, there is something more important than the economic order.
This problem is being joined by the rise of a power game in which people rediscover the grammar of sovereignty – the idea that the people are not just consumers or producers, they are citizens, and they want to start controlling the choices they make It puts the human back in the middle.
Macron explained: “The basis of sovereignty is that it structures our balance, and you actually see that during shocks, like an epidemic. When you are afraid, you don’t turn towards Amazon, Google, globalisation, you don’t turn towards the secretary-general of the United Nations, the European Commission etc . . . You turn towards your country”.
The third major phenomenon is the matter of climate which goes hand in hand with the health agenda
In 2019, more than 77 leading American medical groups signed a policy agenda calling for climate action
Macron believes the climate agenda must come back to the foreground, because it goes hand in hand with the health agenda: “We will exit this crisis, and people will no longer agree to breathing polluted air. You’ll see something that was already rising in our societies, people will come out and say “I don’t want to breathe this air. I don’t agree to make such choices which will result in me breathing that type of air, where my little baby might catch bronchitis because of it, because choosing that type of society makes it so. And you have accepted the idea of shutting down everything to stop Covid, but now you are ready to let me go on breathing bad air.”
He adds that we will have to rethink production according to a just balance of CO2 emissions and of biodiversity and so of the safekeeping of our ecosystems. By agreeing to re-fragment things in a non-conflictual way, to reduce emissions, we will rethink logistics, in order to avoid importing a component from across the globe, because we will produce it on our territory to reduce its carbon footprint, commenting, “In my opinion that is what we are heading towards”
Last week, Emmanuel Macron said in an interview with the FT that delocalisation (offshoring) had become “unsustainable” and that the EU should regain industrial sovereignty.
He believes this shock we are currently going through will force us to review globalisation, and bring us to rethink society’s terms. The approval of a fluid world where everything is worth the same, produced anywhere, exchanged neutrally, is no longer universal.
In another speech this week he spoke of a new economic model, of the need to rebuild an agricultural, health, industrial and technological independence. “I believe that we are about to exit a world . . . where there was financial hegemony and hegemony of the non-co-operative military powers, and we can enter something which will enable us to reshuffle the cards. When people are scared of death and come back to these deep existential subjects, they co-operate”.
We have seen that we needed to reconsider goods and services we sometimes believed were worthless.
“We thought a mask or a medical overall had no value on a global commercial level. But it has value since it protects caregivers, and we acknowledged it during this crisis. It’s worth only 40 cents, not even a euro, but it becomes immensely valuable when we start running out of them and unable to produce enough”.
Regarding matters of the common good, military, health, technological, industrial, education, ecological, climate and other matters, we must decide what we must relocate, in our own country or region, in order to co-operate with others without being totally dependent on them.
We must become resilient, possessing the ability to say how we can prevent a risk of serious heatwave, another epidemic, a deterioration of our biodiversity which will affect our lives.
Earlier this week, Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, president of the European Council, issued a paper saying there was a “pressing need to produce critical goods in Europe, to invest in strategic value chains and to reduce over-dependency on third countries in these areas”.
Thierry Breton, an EU trade commissioner also suggested earlier this month that “globalisation has gone too far”, not just in medical equipment but all strategic industrial sectors and agriculture. He acknowledged, in Le Figaro, that “the question posed to us by this crisis is that we may have gone too far in globalization and globalisation”. The question, he added, arises not only on health (drugs and medical equipment) but also on “strategic industrial areas” and on agriculture, saying “I am convinced that our relationship to the world after this crisis will be different.”
This crisis will enable us to invent something new for our humanity, as we have been discussing — that’s to say a new balance in interdependence between men and women in order to consider what it means to be in the world and which is built around education, health and environment.
Most of this summary was drawn from these two main sources: