I happened to bump in to George Osborne on a radio programme and there he was opining that “Coronavirus has made the country poorer”.
It may well be that some people in it are now poorer, simply because they are getting 80% of their wages or maybe they’ve lost their job and are eking out a living on Jobseekers Allowance and Universal Credit.
How exactly did Coronavirus do that?
I rather think it didn’t – but Osborne and his fellow Conservatives did it – all on their own.
Perhaps he was thinking of UK land and property values usually reckoned to be worth about £5trillion. Well if the value of that declines do we somehow loose our land or property? The fact that it is not so expensive might actually mean that it is of more use to more people, who can better compete in, shall we say, as Osborne often used to, in world markets, because our rents are lower.
Of course with woefully large numbers of excess deaths the country may, it could be argued, be poorer in human capital, but tellingly, I don’t think he ever mentioned actual humans once.
Osborne’s point was that GDP and the economy were going to be smaller, so that meant the country was poorer, and we are all going to be saddled with more debt.
The powers of the virus are not nearly so great as Osborne’s powers of delusion and deception.
The economy is not the weather but a human construct. If it’s making us all poorer we should design one that doesn’t.
And I think he’ll find that the current one is making not all of us but just many of us poorer. The rent seekers are, for example, doing just fine. Of course if this all goes on for another six months, with current inadequate government support, even they might find life a bit more difficult – but that too will be the way the government has designed the economy.
And worse still, without a proper strategy for Coronavirus Testing, Tracing and Isolating as well, the British will not be able to get back to anything like normal – a second wave of infection is virtually certain, because currently the government seems happy flying blind.
The much discussed road map looks at the moment, very much like a basic suburban ring road which, all of a sudden, will bring us back to just where we started.