Thursday 15 October 2020

A good read but a flawed conclusion

 Larry Elliott on Britain's covid crisis, a good read but a flawed conclusion, particularly in his observation that in a crisis people change their behaviour. He's right they do, but in different ways, which is why his comparison with Sweden is wide of the mark.

"Scientific models suggested that Sweden would suffer 96,000 Covid-19 deaths in the first wave, owing to its government’s decision to have only mild restrictions, but they presupposed that Swedes would carry on as before. They didn’t, with the result that the death toll is fewer than 6,000..."

The implication - which Elliott does not follow through on, as his focus is mainly on the economics - is that a similar light touch would have had similar results in the UK. I doubt that very much. Sweden embarked on its light touch policy knowing that it could rely on the large bulk of the Swedish population taking sensible steps to preserve not only their own lives, but other people's too.

We cannot, unfortunately, make that assumption about the British population. For forty years, since Thatcher, mainstream influence in our society has been bent towards encouraging people to live lives of self based consumerism, to consider nothing but their own desires. Many people have not followed this path, but far too many have.

We are at the end of forty years of Thatcherite induced consumption based individualism, of which Johnson and Cummings' government is the apotheosis. Some large proportion of our population have accepted what they have been told, that permanent hedonism is their right, and no killjoy is going to come between them and their day out.

We do need our government to change the way they do things. It's not actually about competence. The government is capable of being competent. But competence requires time and energy, and this government doesn't care enough to put the effort in. We need our government to care. That on its own will do a lot to defeat covid. But it won't solve our basic problems. For that we need to change our society, our economy, our politics, in fact our way of life. We need to move away from unbridled consumption and individualism towards a more human centred way of doing things.