From Broken Systems to Basic Incomes
Pandemic Capitalism: From Broken Systems to Basic Income
Striving is the default in America. It’s a no-holds-barred, winner-take-all, “Screw you, I got mine!” free-for-all scrum.
Chris Oestereich discusses the ideas underpinning Pandemic Capitalism.
Pandemic Capitalism: From Broken Systems to Basic Incomes will reach readers who have a special interest in social, political, and economic issues. The book gathers a series of essays that discuss ongoing challenges that have been highlighted by the pandemic, as well as the possibility offered by Universal Basic Incomes. It addresses how such programs might work, and suggests possibilities for social and economic systems that would take better care of the planet and those living on it.
These essays begin with the author conveying the idea of pandemic capitalism - our inescapable economic system - via a personal story that helps the reader view the circumstances from his perspective. They go on to examine our economic systems and interplays, move to discussions of the many systems that already existed on the brink, and concludes with a review of coronavirus-related developments to help contextualize the challenges.
The heart of the story lies in discussions of positive economic paths that acknowledge obstacles to change while analyzing logical courses of action and the pros and cons of various approaches: "Universal basic incomes appear to have a lot to offer in improving the way that society functions, but it's possible that they might do more harm than good. Our social and economic systems are massively complex, emergent phenomena. We need to try lots of experiments and see what we learn. Plenty of potential pitfalls may lie waiting in the road ahead. Thinking through them is essential to crafting the soundest possible plan. Among such pitfalls are (1) the likelihood of rentseeking, (2) the curtailment of welfare programs, and (3) the financialization of basic incomes."
Chris Oestereich does an excellent job of contrasting different economic and social responses to not just pandemic conditions, but modified social environments and goals for prosperity.
Chapters remind readers that the power to effect such changes lies not just in government institutions and decisions, but individual approaches to wealth, health, and life itself: "Most of us don't see ourselves as having a voice in the construction and maintenance of our economic systems. We probably don't even recognize their creation. But the economy is not some sort of natural phenomenon. We continually invent it. Humans make the rules via the laws and regulations, and we further influence it via a multitude of forces, like advocacy, donations, and extortion. Once we recognize that people create our economic systems, we can begin to think about how we might have a hand in them."
It should be cautioned that Pandemic Capitalism is not to be considered a game plan for easy transition. It is a call to action that challenges traditional thinking not just about politics and economics, but viable social systems and those which are detrimental to the planet. Its basic contention is that "...humanity isn't destined to be a laboratory for wickedness." Its core question, "What would the world look like if we enabled people to choose a collaborative orientation, rather than being forced into a competitive one?"
There is nothing simple or singular about this approach, and Pandemic Capitalism thus is, of necessity, a straightforward but demanding contrast between the ideals and practical applications of economic and social change.
The result is a study that questions who will save the economy and society, how, and what revised goals for social, economic and planetary health might look like.
Anyone interested in the social, political, and economic long-term effects of the current pandemic, and the broader challenges it highlighted, needs to take a serious look at Pandemic Capitalism for a thought-provoking discussion of future possibilities. It concludes with an invitation unusual in the face of worldwide disaster: "While the coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc, it is affording us something precious - a moment to think. This is something the systems we live in have long robbed us of. We should not waste the opportunity."
-Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer
J. Edgar Mihelic
Covid-19 has introduced a perplexing twist, which Chris Oestereich explores in "Pandemic Capitalism." What should we do when society's well-being calls for some people -- in fact, a lot of people -- to step away from their jobs and stay home for an extended period to quell a pandemic with the potential to kill millions of people? Especially when most families live paycheck-to-paycheck and, during a pandemic stay-at-home effort, would quickly run out of money for even basics like food, shelter, utilities and medicine?Oestereich, a scholar, innovator, and founder of the Wicked Problems Collaborative, examines the arguments about a universal basic income and other proposals that could mitigate someone's need, in the current crisis, to choose between food and shelter or risking the spread of a deadly contagion. In that context, "Pandemic Capitalism" is as timely as this morning's headlines.On a broader level, Oestereich excels in applying new perspectives to reconsider practices and policies we may take for granted, raising questions about the value judgments underlying some of society's assumptions and prompting discussion of potential new ways to fight waste, inequality or inefficiency in our economy."Pandemic Capitalism" is concise, thought-provoking and insightful. It's well worth a read.
If you, like me, feel starved of good news or sound, measured, optimistic, and realistic advice in this crisis, read this book. It will show a way forward, and hopefully, prove a boon to you in helping get this country through this.
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