The vast disruption the coronavirus disease - Covid-19 - is bringing to America and the world's economic systems has never before occurred in modern or historical times. Worse plagues may have happened, such as the bubonic plague that wiped out more than half of Europe's population in the 14th century with profound social and economic upheavals. But Covid-19 is of a global scale, shutting down much of the world's manufacturing and retail activity our economies depend upon and isolating hundreds of millions of people unable to carry on their local and globally interconnected livelihoods, instilling fears for their lives, families and futures.The general marketplace is virtually closed and its associated financial institutions are in a state of chaos.
In the midst of all this hysteria, we read reports of great opportunities for cashing in on the stock market. Stocks of some corporations that stand to benefit from needed products and services to combat the pandemic are reported showing gains of 200 to over 600%. There are reports of the prices of essential protective gear skyrocketing.
Of course, it is typical of human nature to grab at any opportunity, but Covid-19 is an earth-shaking event that demands a totally different response. It will require everyone's sacrifice and cooperation to serve the needs of our distressed societies.
No one should gain while others suffer so greatly. Under a wise and compassionate supervision, all non-essential practices - both ethical and unethical - of customary economic activity would be put on hold. As in total war, everyone would be assigned to a supportive duty. There would be rigorous regulation of this. Accordingly, the stock market would close down during the crisis to prevent speculation on peoples' trauma. Price gougers would be treated as criminals.
Questioning here only the economic effects of the pandemic, one wonders at the astronomical figures proposed to compensate for the costs of lost business and wages during the shutdown - here and throughout the world. Amounts up to $3,000 per month per distressed family in the USA during the crisis have been suggested, plus trillions of dollars for the corporate and financial world. Where does all this money really come from? (And where would it go?) Regardless of how it is arranged for the necessary trillions of dollars, much of it will end up in the fantastical national debt that future tax payers can never pay off. The country could be swimming in debt in perpetuity unless some other mode of government financing is found.
We must question the financial structure of our country, which is inherently connected to our economic system of private ownership of public wealth: Capitalism. We must examine the sources of wealth: what actually constitutes "wealth" and how will it translate into supporting the functioning of our country and the daily life of its people, especially in crises like the present Covid-19.
We speak of the USA as the wealthiest country in the world, but what is really meant by that? Shouldn't the wealthiest country in the world have the least poverty? The basic needs of the people - the elimination of poverty and other plagues of society - should be of first priority at all times in the wealthiest country of the world. The wealthiest country in the world should best be prepared to handle not only the daily needs of its people but exceptional challenges, as we experience now. It becomes a matter of how that wealth is distributed. If wealth of the country is primarily privately owned, then it is not available for social purposes except by taxation or by charitable motivation.
Under the extraordinary conditions that may soon prevail, many of the traditional concepts of wealth ownership would no longer apply. Values of share ownership in corporations would melt away as non-essential businesses cease to function. The fixed values of private property established by contract, such as rental agreements or mortgages, would no longer be valid. The necessity of providing housing for the masses of newly unemployed would supersede the entitlement of the landlord to receive full rent, as would his obligation to pay his debt to the bank. The boundaries of public and private wealth would disappear as the nation depended upon its total reservoir of wealth to sustain itself - to provide food and shelter to all its inhabitants. The nation would finally be forced to become an altruistic cooperative entity, as opposed to its pursuit of individual "success" (and failure) which, in our primitive society, commonly resembles worship of the golden calf.