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Why the Wealthy Fear Pandemics - Walter Scheidel - NYT
The coronavirus, like other plagues before it, could shift the balance between rich and poor.

... The wealthy found some of these changes alarming. In the words of an anonymous English chronicler, "Such a shortage of laborers ensued that the humble turned up their noses at employment, and could scarcely be persuaded to serve the eminent for triple wages."

... But as successive waves of plague shrunk the work force, hired hands and tenants "took no notice of the king's command," ... "If anyone wanted to hire them he had to submit to their demands, for either his fruit and standing corn would be lost or he had to pander to the arrogance and greed of the workers."

... This altered the long-term economic outcomes for the entire region: Free labor and thriving cities drove modernization in western Europe, but in the eastern periphery, development fell behind.

... None of these stories had a happy ending for the masses. When population numbers recovered after the plague ... wages slid downward and elites were firmly back in control. Colonial Latin America went on to produce some of the most extreme inequalities on record. In most European societies, disparities in income and wealth rose for four centuries all the way up to the eve of World War I.

... The current crisis could prompt redistributive reforms akin to those triggered by the Great Depression and World War II, unless entrenched interests prove too powerful to overcome.

Steve Bannon reportedly dreams of white-nationalist, economic populism finally coming to fruition. But then again he dreamed of Republicans investing trillions in infrastructure and cementing their rule for 50 years. Godspeed America this is your last chance before descending into banana republic status.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Thu Apr 9th, 2020 at 09:46:10 PM EST
The plagues had another major impact. It gradually became clear that the petulance was spread by poor housing, sanitation, hygiene, and polluted water. But no one was safe from contagion, and so the health of the wealthy was dependent on the health of the general populace.

So there were massive structural reforms - sewers, clean water supplies, and medical advances based on science rather than superstition. These had to be made available to all to benefit the few. "Herd immunity" is only achieved if the vast majority are immunised. Health care was understood as a communal good.

But in more recent times, and especially in the USA, healthcare has come to be seen as a private good to be bought by those who can afford it - either directly or through insurance. Public healthcare, sanitation and clean water has been systematically defunded. The lack of adequate sick pay or social welfare forces the sick to go to work and spread contagion.

The rich will have to learn, all over again, that healthcare is a communal good. Your health is not safe unless every-ones health is safeguarded, and that requires good public healthcare and social welfare systems. Welcome to the late middle ages...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Apr 9th, 2020 at 10:11:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Too late!
by StillInTheWilderness on Sat Apr 11th, 2020 at 02:27:59 PM EST
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