Photo by Ishant Mishra on Unsplash

Economic rules primed for a change

By 
  • April 25, 2020

As cases of COVID-19 peak in Canada and talk ramps up about reopening the economy, the economy we return to may not be the same.

Stephen Scharper, a University of Toronto religious studies and anthropology professor, believes we could be heading towards “a new deal.”

“It could lead to a new understanding of the role of government — not as enemy, as it has sometimes been demonized, but as protector of the common good,” he said.

Scharper says the crisis may change how people regard their place in the world, “inviting people to other forms of community — the need for community,” he said.

A different economy aligns with Pope Francis’ thinking about the post-COVID world. On April 19, he urged the faithful to view the lockdown period as a “time of  trial” to get ready for a future without vast inequalities in which the poorest are no longer left behind.

“This is not some ideology,” Francis said. “It is Christianity.”

Earlier in the COVID crisis, the Pope endorsed the idea of a universal basic income, which he said would “ensure and concretely achieve the ideal, at once so human and so Christian, of no worker without rights.”

Workers have become a major focus of the pandemic, first as millions lost their jobs and then as governments scrambled to create multi-billion-dollar aid packages to replace some of the lost wages. The extraordinary levels of government debt necessary to subsidize wages, rescue renters, prop up small businesses and keep 1.2 million newly unemployed Canadians afloat may rewrite the rules of the economy, said St. Jerome’s University professor David Seljak.

“The government may end up owning everything,” he said. “The government is going to be so implicated in the economy.”

Rather than the abstract numbers of volatile stock markets, people are beginning to think about what really goes into economics, said Scharper.

“What we’re realizing from COVID-19 is that people are the economy. The society is the economy,” he said.

“If you don’t have people you don’t have an economy. If people aren’t well, the economy won’t be well.”

The COVID crisis has revealed the fragility of an economic system that excluded vast swathes of the population while catering to a class of billionaires, according to Scharper.

“Ideally, we want an economy where no one is disposable, where the dignity and well-being of the individual is central, not ancillary,” he said.

As it stands, our economy “treats wide swathes of the population as expendable and disposable — migrant farm workers, non-unionized plant workers, service workers, the homeless,” said Scharper.

Throughout his papacy, Pope Francis has advocated for a more just world that values workers and respects worker rights.

“We are all frail, all equal, all precious,” Pope Francis said April 19. “May we be profoundly shaken by what is happening all around us.

“The time has come to eliminate inequalities, to heal the injustice that is undermining the health of the entire human family.”

His message about inequality and his hope for a post-COVID world with different priorities aligns with his writing about economics and society, especially in the encyclical Laudato Si’. 

Economics and the environment can’t really be separated, said Scharper, who teaches in the University of Toronto School of Environment. 

“If you don’t treat our rivers, air, ocean and soil with respect and ecological dignity — if those are disposable — we’re in trouble because those are th

Comments (1)

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Dear Editor;
A timely and important reality unfolds in your editorial for our serious consideration, that we will hopefully pray to our rededicated North American Patron, the Blessed Virgin, for ongoing inspiration and especially in how we choose...

Dear Editor;
A timely and important reality unfolds in your editorial for our serious consideration, that we will hopefully pray to our rededicated North American Patron, the Blessed Virgin, for ongoing inspiration and especially in how we choose to live from now on.
As an aside, from two separate platforms your editorial fades unexpectedly at the "punch line" in the final sentence as follows:
“If you don’t treat our rivers, air, ocean and soil with respect and ecological dignity — if those are disposable — we’re in trouble because those are th
I would humbly suggest that nature, as so described, is the essential part of creation from which we earn our daily bread, as implored in The Our Father"s "...Give us this day our daily bread..."
Respectfully,
Peter Tetro, KIngston

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Peter Tetro
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