Covid & Disaster Capitalism

The Covid pandemic is now about one year old. It is just over a year since the first person in the UK died from it. The response to the pandemic has been very different in different countries, and this has led to very different outcomes. As of today the UK has had 4.21 million cases, resulting in 124,261 deaths. New Zealand by contrast has had 2,398 cases and only 26 deaths.

The extraordinary differences in these outcomes is attributable to the very different actions of the governments of these two countries, especially during the first days and weeks, in February, March and April last year. New Zealand, under Jacinda Ardern, listened to the science, closed borders and locked down early. It quickly and cheaply developed an effective track and trace system, and kept transmission rates low.

UK, under Boris Johnson, talked of ‘taking it on the chin’ and boasted of shaking hands with everyone in a hospital where people had the disease. Like Gove, Johnson has contempt for experts. Instead they were over influenced by some crazy ideas about herd immunity. Thousands of British people paid with their lives for this ideological nonsense.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed and Rebecca Davis, writing in Business Maverick have plotted the links in a bizarre disinformation network featuring Cambridge Analytica and a strange organization called Panda (standing for Pandemics: Data & Analytics) which have been promoting an ideological anti lockdown agenda, claiming it is bad for business. Much of the Tory right wing shares this dysfunctional libertarianism, not least Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson.

Paradoxically, but not surprisingly, this so-called pro-business ideology has been disastrous for business. The UK has suffered badly economically, as well as in health terms, due to Covid becoming widespread. New Zealand on the other hand, by shutting down early nipped the infection in the bud and have since had less economic restrictions and costs.

But maybe from the point of view of the ideologues of the far right and for the Tory government things are going more or less to plan. According to the principles of Disaster Capitalism crises are opportunities to create change and bring forward ever more extreme free market policies, to roll back the state, and an opportunity to simply make money. Many ridiculously lucrative contracts have been awarded for dubious quality PPE, a track and trace system that cost billions and yet didn’t even work, but all opportunities to make money for the governments friends and supporters. One of the largest American health insurance companies is buying up GP practices across London, and the derisory pay rise offered to nurses are all symptomatic of this governments desire to undermine the NHS and to profit from its privatization. From this ghastly perspective Covid has been a splendid opportunity, and they have grasped it, and increased their wealth, power and influence. They have done so at the expense of many peoples’ lives and livelihoods. Of the UK population many of us are incandescent with rage at this government, but apparently nowhere near enough of us. According to the latest opinion poll the Tories are 13% ahead, so this government are very pleased with themselves. They have created a disaster and profited handsomely from it. Welcome to the weird world of Disaster Capitalism.

2 thoughts on “Covid & Disaster Capitalism

  1. David Lovelace

    The only country in the world whose population is protected from free-market capitalist is North Korean which is why it is the top destination country for all migrants world wide. North Korea has not reported a single Covid case. North Korea’s means of Governance is clearly the ideal model for all Humanity.
    New Zealand is a free-market capitalist economy with GDP of $193billion (2020) with direct foreign investment standing at $108 billion (2014 figure). 5% of the population owns 38% of the national wealth (2011 figure), NZ has a population of 5.1 million so that’s an awful lot of evil capitalist bastards.
    Clearly most Kiwis would be better off in North Korea.

    1. Richard Post author

      Hi David
      I am not recommending a total rejection of capitalism, and certainly not some kind of North Korean model. What I am pointing out is the contrast between countries like New Zealand, Taiwan and South Korea and countries like the UK. Competence and compassion drove policy in New Zealand, incompetence and the chance to award lucrative contracts to mates and party donors drove UK policy.
      Please read Mark E Thomas’s book 99%, especially Chapter 4, to understand what makes Disaster Capitalism, or Market Fundamentalism, so very different from the kind of capitalist economy we took for granted over most of the Post War Period, say 1945 to 1979, and how it has reached new depths of craziness under Boris Johnson.


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