The Coronapocalypse Part 6: The Economics of Pandemic

In the years leading up to the corona event there were a number of developments that were happening in my home town of Melbourne, Australia that I had been watching with a combination of interest and consternation. Most social change is very slow and therefore happens quite invisibly. But things were changing so quickly in Melbourne that the effects of that change were very noticeable and they were having a direct impact on my life and the lives of others. The official public position was that everything was going great. The economy was booming and Australia was considered some kind of economic wunderkind.  We hadn’t had a recession in decades. From my position on the ground, that position didn’t add up. Many of these changes had a self-evidently detrimental impact on quality of life for citizens on the ground.

Firstly, public transport had become intolerable. (Overseas readers, especially those in the US, should note that in Australian capital cities it is normal for most people to take public transport and in particular the salary class uses public transport to get to work as most salary class jobs are in the CBD). People would show up to work complaining about how they had to wait three trains before they could even get on and if you managed to get on you were crammed in like a sardine.

Traffic had become so bad that the time it took to drive some place had in some cases doubled or even tripled. My father told of how his drive to work, which would have taken twenty minutes on an uncongested road, would usually take over an hour. That’s an extra hour and half every day of the week sitting in a car. I didn’t drive a lot but whenever I had to drive anywhere during business hours I was stunned how bad the traffic was and wondered how anybody, in particular tradesmen and other people who made their living driving around, put up with it.

The last refuge, the one good way to get around Melbourne, was cycling. As an enthusiastic bike rider, I had always made use of this form of transport whenever possible. But in the Melbourne CBD the footpaths had become so full that people were walking on the road. As the cycling path is right next to the footpath, this meant that the bike lanes were now full of pedestrians. Although I try to be polite when on my bike, many Melbourne bike riders are notoriously rude and I saw many incidents of cyclists screaming at pedestrians to get out of their way.

This was the general background of what happening in Melbourne. The population was growing at a furious rate and the media crowed about how we were going to soon be ‘bigger than Sydney’.

There was a more particular incident which sticks in my mind because it relates very directly to the corona event.

I got a new job in an office. I should say upfront that the quality of offices in Melbourne had long been a bugbear of mine. They are usually dingy and drab but, more importantly from a health point of view, the ventilation in them is awful. Usually the windows don’t even open and there is some antiquated HVAC system from the 1950s pumping god knows what through the vents. Even the newer offices featured HVAC systems designed for low energy usage rather than for effectiveness.

The office at my new job was a particularly poor example of the type of problem I’m talking about. Some split systems had been tacked onto to an old building. The windows in the place did open, but apparently I was the only one who wanted them open. After a few instances of me opening a window only to have it closed again shortly after, I gave up. People didn’t seem to like fresh air. Maybe it reminded them that there was a big beautiful world outside and they were stuck in an office.

Winter rolled around and, inevitably, people started to get sick. Now, bear in mind that in Australian culture prior to the corona event, you only stayed home from work if you were really sick and couldn’t work or if you were pretending to be sick and were really going to the beach. If you had a cough and a sneeze, it was expected that you would come to the office and nobody had the slightest problem with it.

At one point in mid-winter, the office resembled a hospital ward. I counted how many people were coughing and sneezing. It was about 80% of the office. Not just cough here and a sneeze there. All day long. Finally, I too succumbed and had to spend three days in bed with a fever.

A respiratory virus had infected everybody in that office. You didn’t need any advanced laboratory tests to prove it. It was plain to the naked eye. But here’s the thing: nobody cared. There were a couple of comments about the “bad flu year” and people just got on with their lives.

Why did the illness spread so easily in that office? Well, for one it was overcrowded. The company had grown strongly and there had been a lot of rearranging of furniture to fit as many people as possible in. There was no proper ventilation. Partly because people didn’t want to open the windows and partly because the HVAC system (if such a name could be given it) had simply never been designed with health effects in mind. And, of course, everybody in the office travelled to work on overcrowded public transport meaning all manner of potential germs were tracked into an office where they had the perfect incubator-like environment.

Note that nobody in the office at that time paid any of this the slightest bit of attention. The only reason I had a problem with it is partly because I learned about ventilation and its effects on health when I was doing a house renovation once upon a time and also because in this case I spent three days in bed and was 99% sure it was because of my work environment. So, I was a little annoyed.

It seemed to me quite obvious that this was an example of another case of inflation. Good quality HVAC systems cost money. Renting office space costs money. I don’t blame the people in charge because our culture prior to the corona event simply paid no attention to these kinds of things. But it was also a very obvious example of cost cutting at the expense of employee welfare.

There’s another more blatant example of cost cutting at the expense of employee welfare which became popular in large corporates in the last decade or so: the hot desk movement. For those who haven’t been exposed to his innovation, it means you don’t have your own desk. Each day you show up for work, collect your things from a locker and try to find somewhere to sit. Supposedly it was all about encouraging employee communication. In reality, it is simply a measure aimed to prop up the bottom line. It’s about cramming more people into the same floor space. The official justifications didn’t try and hide this fact. We were told how, given you have X% of people either sick or on leave on any given day, there was ‘wasted’ floor space that didn’t get used. Why not turn that wasted floor space into money for the company?

Hot desking is inconvenient for employees. In the best case scenario, it means you had to haul your stuff to a locker twice a day. In the more dysfunctional organisations, it often meant you simply couldn’t get a place to sit. I recall one company where there was a constant battle to try and find somewhere for team members to sit. Literally hours a week were wasted on this activity.

In economic jargon, the costs were being externalised and they were being externalised onto us.

This externalisation of costs is exactly what has happened in the last two decades in society as a whole. Those trends that I mentioned above are just extra cost which is another way to say hidden inflation. Once upon a time, you could pay for a train ticket and get a seat. Then you couldn’t get a seat and had to stand. Then you had to stand crowded in with other people. Then you could barely get on. Finally, you couldn’t even get on. Each step along that path is inflation but it’s not the kind of inflation that gets counted in the official statistics. The official statistics also don’t count the amount of time you have to spend in your car to get from A to B or the fact that your bike ride now involves trying not to run over pedestrians or the fact that ventilation system where you work is nothing more than a glorified germ dispersion unit.

In the last two decades, all of this hidden inflation was going on alongside very obvious forms of inflation. The real estate boom saw an absurd increase in prices alongside subdivision of land. You could now buy half as much land for five times the price. Nevertheless, people convinced themselves that this was good and that they were now richer.

With the corona event, all this invisible inflation has come to the fore in the most spectacular fashion. Overcrowding, high density accommodation, tourism, the immigration-higher education-real estate bubble that has propped up the Australian economy for decades, cheap buildings and offices, just in time logistics, high debt levels etc. Arguably, the fact that we spend so much on health care is also indicative of a problem. Why is it that in rich countries we have so many people with chronic illness? Could it be that all that money we pay for ‘health’ doesn’t actually give us value for money?

I have stated in previous posts that I consider the corona event to be a false alarm not predicated on science. But now that it has happened, the general public is viewing their lives and their lifestyles through the prism of pandemic. When viewed in such a way, it turns out that almost everything that has been source of hidden inflation over the past decades has been shut down.

Tourism and immigration have stopped. Higher education (and all education for that matter) continues on but in a debased, online form. Nobody’s buying real estate. There’s no overcrowding on public transport anymore; nobody takes it. There’s no traffic anymore; nobody is driving. Nobody is going to the cheap, overcrowded offices with shoddy ventilation systems; they are staying at home. Nobody is even going to hospital or doctors any more. In many countries, medical workers were furloughed due to lack of work. Emergency departments were empty. Sometimes that led to real problems such as people avoiding treatment for what became terminal conditions. But clearly a lot of those hospital and doctor visits that happened in the past simply didn’t need to happen. People seem to get by without them now.

We’ve even had governments officially declaring which jobs are essential and which aren’t. This has given some people the hope that we are about to see a big re-evaluation of our economy. A sorting out of what is really of value and what is not. I’m not so sure.

The corona event is going to be blamed for whatever happens economically in the years ahead but actually it was the logical outcome of years of deliberate economic policy. The things described above were no accident. They were part of the deliberate of the policy of globalisation. All that hidden inflation in Australia was caused by globalisation because a core tenet of globalisation is the free movement of people and it was the increase in population which caused all that inflation. That’s why you couldn’t get on a train. That’s why you couldn’t walk on the footpath. That’s why there were so many people in the office.

The free movement of people is a core part of the doctrine of globalisation but, as it turns out, the free movement of people is also the free movement of communicable disease. I’m going to go into what I call “the morality of the germ theory of disease” in a separate post. But the germ theory of disease makes us think that the germs are out there and if we can eliminate them we can solve our problem. In actual fact, the germs are in us. We are made up of germs. We are ecosystems of germs many of which we rely on in order to survive. No surprise then that almost every measure to ‘combat the germs’ is a measure that requires a change in our behaviour: wash your hands, cover your mouth, stay at home.

Everybody now knows how personal behaviour apparently prevents viral disease but how many have reflected on their behaviour in the last two decades and how it may or may not have contributed to said illness? In the last two decades, we travelled all around the world, exposing our body to new germs everywhere we went and bringing our own germs to new people and locations. We crammed onto public transport. We went to work while sick. People actually went on cruise ships. Tell that to your grandchildren because the cruise ship industry may be one that doesn’t survive for posterity. As my story above demonstrates, nobody gave any of this a second thought. All this behaviour which would now be considered risky at best and murderous at worst (yes, I have seen videos of people accusing others of murder) was apparently no problem prior to corona.

And that makes sense. For all this movement of people, I haven’t seen my general health deteriorate or the health of others I know. I haven’t gotten sick any more than usual. I too have travelled to the other side of the world and never had a problem (except for that one time in India, but I don’t talk about that).

Whatever the actual health effects, the more interesting thing right now is that the policy of globalisation seems to have run face first into what would seem to be a brick wall of insurmountable proportions. In the mind’s of the public, the free movement of people is now the same thing as a public health catastrophe. And yet the debate hasn’t borne that out. In fact, we have already seen the first scramblings to try and put humpty dumpty back together. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men seemed to have been waiting for just this exact thing to happen.

The same people that brought us globalisation also believe that there is an increased health risk from all this movement of people (it’s not clear to me that this is true but a simplistic interpretation of the germ theory of disease does predict it). That’s why those people set up the early warning signal that has triggered the corona event. That’s why they also did us all the favour of constructing the solution in advance. It’s called suppress and vaccinate. Right now we are in the suppress phase. The movement has been restricted and masks put on citizen’s faces. We are currently waiting for a vaccine at which point our lives can go ‘back to normal’.

I am not going to talk about this strategy from a medical or scientific point of view. I will simply point out that from an economic point of view it represents exactly the same kind of inflation I have been talking about in this post. The people that bought us the inflation of that last twenty or thirty years now want to give us more.

Even assuming it were true that masks ‘work’, the wearing of a mask is the most obvious kind of inflation. Despite desperate attempts by some people to convince themselves otherwise, wearing a mask sucks. It is uncomfortable and unpleasant in the most basic physiological sense let alone the psychological, political and symbolic elements to it. To have to wear a mask is the exact same kind of inflation as cramming onto public transport or having to sit in your car an extra five hours a week.  But we put up with the cramming onto public transport for the last ten years. We put up with not being able to walk on the footpath. We put with the endless traffic jams. We have been conditioned over the last two decades to accept just this kind of inflation. Only it wasn’t called inflation. Just like the marketers tried to convince office workers that hot desking was all about ‘enhancing communication’, the globalists have tried to pretend that this inflation was ‘growth’ and ‘progress’. This is the same trick that is being pulled now. That’s what’s behind the phrase ‘the new normal’.

Logically, this new normal shouldn’t even get to the starting gate. What is being promised is all the problems that were there before only now you get masks and vaccines on top of it. You’ll still have your miserable commute and now you get to wear a mask too. We won’t do anything to solve the underlying spread of communicable disease, we’ll just create vaccines faster. Of course, the new normal also promises to solve some of those old problems. We’ll get around the overcrowded trains and the crappy offices by letting office workers work from home. That will also save us a lot of petrol cos people won’t need to drive. That will help the environment. And so on and so forth. But really, it’s all just inflation dressed up as progress.

When it became clear that western governments were going to lockdown, I admit I was stunned. I didn’t think it could happen. It went against everything I thought our societies stood for. Since it has happened, it has further baffled me how many people seem to think it’s perfectly natural. As if a thing that had never been discussed before and certainly never presented to the electorate during normal politics, a thing that nobody even knew was possible at the start of the year, was logical and rational.

Now I realise it’s in many ways the continuation of trends that have been building for a long time. One of those trends is this hidden inflation. Not really hidden, of course: deliberately removed. Airbrushed from the record books and given the names ‘growth’ and ‘progress’.  ‘The new normal’ is the slogan of progress. Everything is fine. Everything is just as planned. Carry on and wear your mask.

As to what happens now, that’s anybody’s guess. I admit things don’t look good from where I sit. However, it is best to bear in mind that the people pushing the ‘new normal’, the people running the suppress and vaccinate strategy, had a head start. They were prepared for exactly what has happened.

In theory, there should now be a big pushback. The economic consequences are going to be so obvious that no amount of spin will be able to cover up for them. All of that inflation now has to be counted. It’s not hidden anymore. Those who want to protect the status quo are going to blame the virus and offer us masks and vaccines in exchange for our old lives back (‘the new normal’). Will there be a new political movement that offers an alternative? There certainly should be. There are plenty of alternatives to the one being offered and if I’m reading things right there are going to be a lot of people willing to listen once the smoke clears.

All posts in this series:-

The Coronapocalypse Part 0: Why you shouldn’t listen to a word I say (maybe)

The Coronapocalypse Part 1: The Madness of Crowds in the Age of the Internet

The Coronapocalypse Part 2: An Epidemic of Testing

The Coronapocalypse Part 3: The Panic Principle

The Coronapocalypse Part 4: The Denial of Death

The Coronapocalypse Part 5: Cargo Cult Science

The Coronapocalypse Part 6: The Economics of Pandemic

The Coronapocalypse Part 7: There’s Nothing Novel under the Sun

The Coronapocalypse Part 8: Germ Theory and Its Discontents

The Coronapocalypse Part 9: Heroism in the Time of Corona

The Coronapocalypse Part 10: The Story of Pandemic

The Coronapocalypse Part 11: Beyond Heroic Materialism

The Coronapocalypse Part 12: The End of the Story (or is it?)

The Coronapocalypse Part 13: The Book

The Coronapocalypse Part 14: Automation Ideology

The Coronapocalypse Part 15: The True Believers

The Coronapocalypse Part 16: Dude, where’s my economy?

The Coronapocalypse Part 17: Dropping the c-word (conspiracy)

The Coronapocalypse Part 18: Effects and Side Effects

The Coronapocalypse Part 19: Government and Mass Hysteria

The Coronapocalypse Part 20: The Neverending Story

The Coronapocalypse Part 21: Kafkaesque Much?

The Coronapocalypse Part 22: The Trauma of Bullshit Jobs

The Coronapocalypse Part 23: Acts of Nature

The Coronapocalypse Part 24: The Dangers of Prediction

The Coronapocalypse Part 25: It’s just semantics, mate

The Coronapocalypse Part 26: The Devouring Mother

The Coronapocalypse Part 27: Munchausen by Proxy

The Coronapocalypse Part 28: The Archetypal Mask

The Coronapocalypse Part 29: A Philosophical Interlude

The Coronapocalypse Part 30: The Rebellious Children

The Coronapocalypse Part 31: How Dare You!

The Coronapocalypse Part 32: Book Announcement

The Coronapocalypse Part 33: Everything free except freedom

The Coronapocalypse Part 34: Into the Twilight Zone

The Coronapocalypse Part 35: The Land of the Unfree and the Home of the Safe

The Coronapocalypse Part 36: The Devouring Mother Book Now Available

The Coronapocalypse Part 37: Finale

One thought on “The Coronapocalypse Part 6: The Economics of Pandemic”

  1. Inflation in property value and crammed streets is what discouraged me from moving to Dublin, though I have always had a platonic love for Ireland. Same causes, same results? It was also occurring in Rio de Janeiro, though Rio has tons of other problems, too. Québec, where I now live, has much less of these problems, and that is probably in part due to the hard winter, in part to the fact that they strongly select immigrants for knowledge of French… I think it is no coincidence that the anti-Covid19 measures are more reasonable here (schools open since May, masks in public transport and in closed spaces, hardly any restrictions on the size of gatherings).

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