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Building the New Economy with clean hands

It might not feel like it, but the post-COVID economy is already in the works. The present choices made by everyone will determine what the future looks like.

The public ask ourselves questions like “How can I re-organize my habits so I only need to grocery shop once a week?”, while elected officials can ask themselves questions like “What experts are we turning to before we make big decisions?”

In Your money or your life? Coronavirus-era economics makes us ask grim questions about how to value each other, writer Ian Brown unpacks everything from the official government value of a human life (US$10-million) to the good-news-bad-news findings of studying the economic impacts of past pandemics (wages doubled, but the economy remained depressed for forty years).

He also points out that prioritizing the voices of public health doctors rather than economists is a new way of doing things that could pull us out of the pandemic more quickly.

In every economic crisis in the past, we listened to economists, usually men and often scolding, as they told us how to protect the flow of holy capital. In the COVID-19 pandemic, the shots are being called by public health doctors, many of them women, trained to value human life and collective physical well-being. Their advice tends to be practical. This new chain of command feels different, more earthbound and compelling, even kind of radical.


Economists, our old masters, work at altitude, making plans based on what they see far ahead and far below. The newcomer epidemiologists live on the ground, where people live and die right in front of them, which in turn makes them seem like more responsive leaders.


A new study of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and MIT concluded – that pandemics lead “to a sharp and persistent fall in real economic activity,” especially in manufacturing. But the sooner and more enthusiastically a city adopts “non-pharmaceutical health interventions” – hand-washing, physical distancing, sheltering in place – the faster the city’s economy bounces back. They can “reduce mortality while at the same time being economically beneficial,” the authors conclude.

This, hopefully, is where the economists and the doctors see eye to eye.

At CSI, we know that this type of cross-sector sharing of information and resources will be one of the the building blocks of the New Economy. If you have any inspiring stories of unexpected connections or collaborations, please share them with us!


Header image by Lukas Schlagenhauf is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

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