Flat White

‘We’re all in this together’ and other myths of the corona crisis

8 April 2020

5:00 PM

8 April 2020

5:00 PM

Here are a couple of the myths, the untruths, we are being told about this coronavirus crisis.

Firstly, ‘We are all in this together, public sector versus private sector.’ When the Prime Minister tells us that we are all in this together, that may be true in some sort of metaphorical, rally-the-troops sense. But in more down-to-earth ways it is a myth. Those in the public sector will come out of this with their jobs, their homes, their children able to go to the same schools, just about everything. Many, many, many of those in the private sector – the sector that ultimately determines a country’s standard of living, its productivity, and so even what sort of health service it can afford – will be crushed.

All the government largesse will help delay the reckoning, sure. But for many, that’s all it will do. Their businesses will be gone. The personal guarantee on their family homes will be called in. The monies they saved to put their kids in the good private school having now evaporated, change will come there too. And this in a country, Australia, where our top-level public servants are amongst the highest paid in the world. The PM and some of the Premiers talk of freezing pay rises for the public sector. Give me a break!

These people have been creaming it for years. I say again, person for person, position for position, they get paid more than any of their contemporaries in similar countries around the world. But in this crisis, they will pay virtually none of the costs of this destruction of our economy. And yet, perhaps not surprisingly, most of those calling for ever more heavy-handed limits on what people can do, limits that encroach ever more on the private sector’s ability to function, well those demanding this are overwhelmingly in the public sector.

They won’t be ruined. That mostly explains why those in the private sector are much more sympathetic to the more relaxed Swedish approach to this crisis, one that sees a lot more of the private sector up and running and the economy not destroyed.

And just to be clear, I include those working for the ABC and all our politicians in the privileged class. They, too, are not bearing anything like the costs that those in the private sector are. Our politicians might at least on occasion try to recall this fact when they moot yet another intrusion on our civil liberties, yet another inroad on our freedoms. Meanwhile, it’s patently time to cut public service pay, politicians’ pay, and ABC staff pay (not to mention its overall budget) and do so by at least 25 per cent. Now! Heck, disband the Remuneration Commissions and the Human Rights Commissions.

And for all politicians and senior public servants suspend the business class air travel and end the travel allowances. Frankly, these things are the very least that should be done. Who knows? They might make our heavy-handed politicos a little more open to less draconian remedies for a viral disease that is looking unlikely to kill even twice the number that die in a regular flu season. (PS Can we please start seeing published statistics outlining the deaths per week this year from coronavirus versus deaths for the same week last year from the flu? Andn likewise, total deaths for the week from all causes last year versus total deaths for the week this year? Because I’m reading that outside Italy there is no statistical difference as regards year v. year total deaths; they’re about the same from all causes. Is that true?)

Oh, and for all those big government, statist, pseudo-socialists now revelling in what this Coalition government is doing, let me remind you that countries where most workers are in the public sector do badly, very badly over time. The money won’t long be there to do all the social engineering you all love. Just sayin’.

Secondly, ‘We are all in this together, young and fit versus old and unfit.’ This too is pure myth. The young are bearing grossly more of the costs. So stop telling young people they’re being selfish. As a generalisation, they are looking at lost career prospects, lost opportunities, and a diminished future. And their chances of dying from this disease – those in their teens, twenties and even thirties – is pretty much insignificant. Go and look it up yourself.

Sure, an n=1 youngster here and another over there will die; the press certainly does its best to find them. A handful of them might not even have any underlying conditions. But that’s just sleight of hand cherry-picking disguising the truth that for all intents and purposes coronavirus is a killer of the old and infirm. Almost all the costs we are paying as a society is to save the old, infirm and already ailing and those costs are falling incredibly disproportionately on the young and fit.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t pay some of the costs and take measures, such as isolate the old and the vulnerable. But it goes some way to telling against these Morrison government heavy-handed, crush the economy measures we are seeing. When you weigh up the costs where is the consideration of the ruined and lost lives because of the crippled economy?

And where is the calculation of quality-adjusted life years in play here, all costs considered, for the overall society by going down the route we’ve been forced onto as opposed to the Swedish one that keeps the economy open? I ask because it seems to me that the young are being hammered right now, and they’d be better off under Swedish-type rules. At the very least we might stop with all the virtue-signalling and hand-ringing about how thoughtless the young are being. No. They’re taking it on the chin for us oldies. Big time. And when we’re out of this they’ll be the ones, for decades, who will have to continue to take it on the chin.

If, like me, you believe that the best long-term future for our young is to live in a country with a thriving private sector, comparatively small government, and something less than overwhelming levels of public debt then the future for the young is a good deal less rosy than it was before this virus. Bear that in mind.

Last word. The frontline doctors and nurses are exempted from all the above criticisms. They do bear greater personal risks. They do deserve their public sector pay. They deserve a clap. Not our politicians, whose current notion of ‘we’re all in this together’ is of the porcine Animal Farm variety.

Illustration: Pricel/Tohokushinsha Film Corporation/American Zoetrope/Pathé

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