For the many not the few

It seems to me that we have the real possibility that thinking about economy, entrepreneurship, health provision and government may soon change.

We have a health provider system that is based on the belief that humans only act out of self interest and the desire to have more (money, possessions , comfort, security, health) than others. It is concocted out of a cocktail of laissez faire, profit seeking, artificial markets, and political self interest.

We have an economy modelled for the benefit of those who can, at the expense of those who cannot.

We have an approach to public health based on spending as little as possible from the centre, and hoping (and nudging) that people will have the good sense and ability to make healthy decisions.

And we have government which for centuries has predominantly been by the rich for the rich.

This may change.

We are seeing growing awareness that our NHS has been so chronically under resourced that it is stretched to breaking point, and some other countries are doing better. And we are the people who are dying from this under resourcing. There are not enough critical care beds and equipment. Not enough staff. Our system is funded almost the lowest per head in Europe. That is not a coincidence.

Our doctors are making increasing decisions about who to treat and who to allow to die. Sometimes because dying is less cruel than attempting to save. Sometimes because there are no ventilators or beds.

No one could have know CVID would appear. But every government has a risk register, and emergency stores, for when pandemics strike. Ours, it seems, like the USA, chose to reduce costs in recent years and reduced our stores of emergency stuff.

In January, when the big V appeared and was belatedly confirmed in China, some countries and scientists started work. We did not. As with other decisions, our government took the view that they would see what happened, and was always just behind the action curve. When they realised that the economy would be shattered by what was coming they acted, though for many with loans rather than grants. Once again, it was the economy that drive the decisions to act, not the science or compassion.

We have a mindset in our society that sees everything as profit or loss, income or cost. An attitude to borrowing by government that works for individuals but is inappropriate (and historically inaccurate) for governments. As Will Hutton often has written, governments borrow. That is what they are for. They borrow to make things happen. To invest. For us. And, now, to bail out those in need.

I pray that this change in attitude and action will last into the post virus future.

We must not revert to Osbornonomics. He said yesterday that the UK could only spend now because ‘they’ fixed the roof after 2008.

Well, er, no. They actually removed the walls, the pillars, so the roof had only one way to go.

They actually enabled rich to get richer, while poor got poorer. They destroyed the NHS and social care. They removed safety nets. In the pursuit of profit and riches.

Let us hope that the old Etonian, if and when he comes off a ventilator, has a Pauline (or possibly near death?) conversion and sees a new future for our country. A new Jerusalem. A fair, just society, in which we pursue happiness for the many not the few.

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