I was talking to my wife earlier and was commenting on how different the economy is now. When my late grandfather, who was a gardener, built our home, he did it from the money he earned selling two beds of cauliflower.
In those days, there could be one breadwinner and one homemaker and still be able to purchase a home, a car, and raise ten children while still living a decent lifestyle. Nowadays, doing that is a struggle unless the sole breadwinner is making some real executive wages. Now, both parents have to be working fulltime with mortgages and car loans.
This is the current reality. There is a significant disparity in the growth of wages over the years – while the world economy grew, wages did not grow at the same rate. All over the world, there has been a decoupling of wages from productivity.
We are producing more than ever, but not earning nearly as much.
This has led to a growth in wage inequality. Further, the gap between the bottom earners and the top earners is growing. It’s no secret that CEO pay is the highest than ever, while the entry-level wages have not changed by much.
Is it any wonder why people are so much angrier now at the corporations and the governments that support them?
As we look at the effects of COVID-19, we see two sets of responses:
- one where there’s the belief that life is worth more than the economy
- another where there’s the belief that the cost to the economy will cost more than the lives lost
A paper reviewing the effects of lockdown measures during the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic found that places that took aggressive steps suffered no adverse effects and an increase in economic activity after the pandemic subsided. Those places that were slower to adopt those measures had a higher mortality rate that resulted in a negative impact on the economy.
But it’s important to note that the economic structure that existed in 1918 is different from what we have now. For one thing, we didn’t have the level of wage inequality that we have now. Our response, and the outcome, is unlikely to be the same.
To me, any reference to the economy at this time shows that we’ve set up a pretty shitty model for life and living – even if it’s the reality.