By Paul Collits
Welcome to the Covid economy. Depleted incomes, smashed small businesses, bullshit jobs, a whole new platform for crony capitalism, deserted main streets. What’s not to love?
Not many businesses and industries are growing in 2020.
Main Street is dying, in small towns and large city downtowns, all over the world. Small businesses especially are suffering. Particular sectors, like tourism, have tanked. No one disputes this, though few in power seem to care. Or, if they do, it is clearly not a policy priority.
When even non-Covid public healthcare has been all but abandoned,.
The world is dipping into recession, or worse.
Economies are literally shrinking. We are experiencing the worst economic crisis in a century. Governments are playing “money tree” across the globe, as if there were no tomorrow. Fiscal prudence is a thing of the past. We were already at almost zero interest rates before Covid. Monetary policy is spent.
The new urbanists must be as alarmed as economists at the turn of events in our towns and cities.
These are the people who believe in the god of “vibrancy”, that has driven just about every planning and economic development document and strategy since about 1990.
Following the urban planning guru of the 1960s, Jane Jacobs, they recognise, correctly, that economic development and business prosperity at the local level need foot traffic, face-to-face (F2F) buzz (as the eminent economic geographer Michael Storper calls it), lively street life, connectivity and multiple interactions.
This has also been termed “the experience economy”. It is often linked to tourism spending, and we know what has happened to the travel industry this year. The experience economy, in contrast to malls and bulky goods precincts, is mostly what downtowns do these days. Or at least they did until March 2020.
Innovation is being killed too, since innovation thrives on chance, informal interactions.
But our main streets are dying. Many are empty, people are masked up and socially distanced, save for the ubiquitous “peace keeping” police who are kitted out like they are from some Orwellian dystopia. They must be great for business, in those lucky places where businesses are even allowed to open.
Would-be customers now fear for their jobs and their futures. Hence discretionary spending is in the toilet, even with government money tree largesse.
But there is one industry that is growing now. And I don’t mean the trillion dollar increase in wealth in 2020 experienced by billionaires, tech or otherwise, like Jeff Bezos (the owner of Amazon) and Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla and SpaceX). Jeff’s wealth has increased by $74b this year alone. Nice work.
Billionaires’ wealth rises to $10.2 trillion amid Covid crisis
Nor do I mean those businesses large and small that have genuinely benefited from changed consumer behaviour and the new priorities of the semi-permanently locked up.
Good luck to them.
And I don’t just mean Amazon and other online platform businesses (big and small) that sell and deliver products to households via Australia Post vans and DHL. These companies were already killing brick and mortar operations before Covid descended upon us. Of course, Bunnings is booming. Just visit the place to see this. And so is Dan Murphy’s, by the bye. Drinking at home now is big business. There is too much paperwork and QR code nonsense at the pub. Big box retail is getting by.
But the street front stores in our towns and cities are boarding up the windows and exiting the scene. Just note some of the data – Amazon’s profit up 100 per cent (not unrelated, of course, to Jeff Bezos’ rather good year); Walmart profit up 80 per cent; Target profit up 80 per cent; Target profit up 80 per cent; Lowe’s profit up 74 per cent. As Yossi Gestetner notes, referring to the US economy, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and Google stock are at all-time highs, while 21 per cent of small businesses have closed and revenue for the rest is down 30 per cent. “Extinction through lockdown”. He also notes that big stores were permitted to stay open, selling non-essential goods, while small businesses “choked”. Nice regulations for some. Governments the world over have indiscriminately carpet-bombed small business. The destruction of the economy has not been evenly distributed.
So, what is this new growth sector of which I speak?
Let us call our new growth sector “crony Covid capitalism”. The old left used to worry about crony capitalism. Not any more, it seems. The left profits from, and supports, crony capitalism now. Often, leftists ARE crony capitalists, and vice versa. The left is AWOL on the impacts of Covid lockdowns. They are too busy, perhaps, rigging elections and rioting against racism.
No, the businesses and sectors that are prospering in Covid are new to the economic game. They are the ones profiting from fear, from safetyism, from conformism, from the hyper-regulation of 2020, from the new, deeper-than-ever state.
The (sadly) late David Graeber wrote a book some years back called Bullshit Jobs. It was a minor classic that belled the cat on the exponential growth in both government and corporate jobs that are unproductive, and, indeed, utterly meaningless. Unneeded.
So what are these new jobs, precisely? A recent report comparing employment in the US between 1910 and 2000 gives us a clear picture (and I note, one pretty much exactly echoed in the UK). Over the course of the last century, the number of workers employed as domestic servants, in industry, and in the farm sector has collapsed dramatically. At the same time, ‘professional, managerial, clerical, sales, and service workers’ tripled, growing ‘from one-quarter to three-quarters of total employment.’ In other words, productive jobs have, just as predicted, been largely automated away (even if you count industrial workers globally, including the toiling masses in India and China, such workers are still not nearly so large a percentage of the world population as they used to be.)
But rather than allowing a massive reduction of working hours to free the world’s population to pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions, and ideas, we have seen the ballooning of not even so much of the ‘service’ sector as of the administrative sector, up to and including the creation of whole new industries like financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors like corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources, and public relations. And these numbers do not even reflect on all those people whose job is to provide administrative, technical, or security support for these industries, or for that matter the whole host of ancillary industries (dog-washers, all-night pizza delivery) that only exist because everyone else is spending so much of their time working in all the other ones.
These are what I propose to call ‘bullshit jobs’.
It’s as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working.
Well, now in 2020 we have Covid Bullshit Jobs. If Graeber were still alive, exposing this new sector might well have been his next great project.
Currently, there is a disturbing new scandal emerging in the hyper-Covidian British State, with approximately twenty billion pounds going to companies without transparency of process for awarding the contracts. 1.5 billion pounds’ worth went to companies with links to members of the utterly corrupt and contemptible British Government of Boris Johnson.
This is the so-called “chumocracy”. What Mike Yeadon has called “convergent opportunism”. Crony capitalism has been given a new, super-sized opportunity to create false wealth.
According to Reuters:
The National Audit Office on Wednesday said there had been a lack of transparency and a failure to explain why certain suppliers were chosen, or how any conflict of interest was dealt with, in procurement deals between March and the end of July worth 18 billion pounds ($24 billion).
Sounds a bit like the way politics are done in New South Wales.
Our very own tin-pot Victorian dictator Daniel Andrews has his mates in the quarantine business, and we know how effective they were.
The British Government has awarded 8,600 contracts in response to Covid. As I say, some firms are doing quite ok out of all this. The number of contracts alone, without reference to the compromised processes used to award them, suggests the sheer enormity of this suddenly emerged new Covid economy. Of course the media have focused on the (admittedly awful) shonky contracts and not on the far bigger issue – the size of the largesse.
This is merely the tip of the Covid jobs creation iceberg. The job creation scheme from Covid central.
Consider all the bullshit jobs that have emerged from the fake pandemic, the pandemic that leaves about 99 per cent of “victims” feeling fine. Good money if you can get it.
Consider the following new jobs and economic activities not ever previously contemplated before 2020:
- Utterly useless mass testing equipment and workers doing the testing;
- Test and trace technology development and deployment;
- Big vaccine research and development;
- Vaccine storage and distribution;
- Mask manufacture;
- Covid enforcement software development;
- Stickers on floors and everywhere else;
- Covid regulatory jobs;
- Covid marshals;
- Public relations and advertising supporting Government lockdowns;
- Lobbyists who sell access to the politicians;
- Investment advisers;
- Corporate Covid enforcement-related jobs;
- The Covid bureaucracy;
- Big Tech’s fact checking, Covid censorship machine;
- Border patrol and enforcement;
- Security and policing, gatekeepers, and the like, making sure people behave;
- Big PPE (personal protective equipment);
- Sanitiser production;
- Suppliers of video conferencing equipment;
- Respirator manufacturers and suppliers;
- Costs of recruitment for Covid jobs;
- Airport Covid enforcement;
- Wasted police time;
- Wasted army time;
- Wasted corporate time.
It would be an interesting exercise to add up all the non-productive man-hours devoted to administering the impossible suppression of a middling virus. All the Covid jobs are bullshit jobs, not needed and adding nothing to the productive economy, while enforcing a “new normal” that is simply being created on the back of a myth.
Yes, all this is built on a lie. That Covid is a mass killer and something to be feared. By everyone. All to “protect” the 99 per cent of the population for whom protection is not needed. Just keep that number in mind when assessing any government policy or private sector (or, indeed, community sector) act in response to Covid. 99 per cent of that act will be a waste of time and money.
This is hardly scratching the surface. Oh yes, there is an emerging Pandemic industry. An opportunity for Covid chancers to cash in. The costs to the taxpayer are astronomical, already. And they will grow, and keep growing. One hundred billion (with a “b”) pounds for the UK Government’s “Moonshot” program. No one is counting the cost. No one. (Not the UK Treasury, which has confirmed there has been no cost-benefit analysis done by them on lockdowns). Because now government is run by public health officials who don’t even understand their own field, let alone anything else, like economics. Pay for it all with magic money that we do not possess.
Big Covid. As make-work (for your mates) scams go, it is bloody brilliant. And all the Covid contracts are awarded without the remotest parliamentary scrutiny. Emergency, you know. Billions hosed out the door.
Welcome to the Covid economy.
The economy of the “new normal”, the permanent purgatorial lockdown referred to by the excellent UK columnist Allison Pearson, among others. None of the new, useless jobs being created as the result of government fiat are subject to public scrutiny. The legacy media have gone on strike. Anyone asking hard questions is de-platformed, insulted or ridiculed. Use the phrases “new normal”, “build back better”, “great reset” and so on as an explanation for CovidMania and yes, you will be called a conspiracy theorist. The crony capitalist Covid state has locked down on dissent. Lockdown followed by lockup.
The state has erected a whole new Covid regulatory architecture to run and ruin our lives, largely without anyone noticing. The extent and reach of this octopus never, ever, makes the papers. And governments have outsourced the delivery of it to their private sector mates in the Covid bullshit jobs sector. The uninformed in the electorate don’t even know about this. Don’t know that they have been conned, nor how much it is all costing. And the ways in which it will cost.
All largely driven by Big Tech, by the way. Big Tech drives the fear, and then profits from it. A delicious scam, a virtuous circle of Covid-generated fear. And they say that lawyers are always the winners.
It makes the climate change economy, itself an unspeakably useless exercise in hosing good money up against the wall, look like a garden party. Running a Covid economy is the real scam. And that is saying plenty, as climate alarmism costs us trillions each year, to absolutely no effect.
What about the opportunity costs of the Covid economy?
The opportunity costs of wasting resources on chasing Covid ghosts must be added to the costs of lost production, jobs and wealth in the real economy that have resulted from government lockdowns and such. The misdirection of resources has been astounding. So what are opportunity costs?
In microeconomic theory, opportunity cost, or alternative cost, is the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one particular alternative is chosen over the others. In simple terms, opportunity cost is the loss of the benefit that could have been enjoyed had a given choice not been made.
Opportunity costs affect businesses, private lives, and government policy. As one obvious example, just think of the costs to the health of the many non-Covid sick and dying of not attending to their health needs while implementing an exclusive Covid health service. Investments that might actually have made a life and death difference to people.
As Tom Woods explains:
But the opportunity costs of businesses and regulatory agencies sinking resources into Covid enforcement are everywhere.
Opportunity costs have to be added to the (bullshit jobs) costs of enforcing the Covid economy, the wasted money on furlough, JobKeeper and so on, and to all the direct losses of jobs, businesses and wealth. CovidMania is, therefore, a quadruple economic whammy.
It is a sad fact that no government in the Anglosphere has, to my knowledge, undertaken even the most rudimentary cost-benefit analysis of lockdowns and all of the related Covid fascism measures. If they have, they haven’t published it. And that says a lot.
Can one quantify the costs of lockdown? The American Institute for Economic Research has just released a preliminary report that does just this, for the USA and selected other countries. As the AEIR notes:
In the debate over coronavirus policy, there has been far too little focus on the costs of lockdowns.
The report covers mental health, the economy, education, unemployment, healthcare, crime and food and hospitality. The numbers are chilling. For example:
- The restaurant industry is set to lose $240 billion in revenue and 8 million employees in 2020.
- 1 in 3 restaurants are expected to close.
- Between June and August 2020 homicides increased 53% and aggravated assaults increased 14% compared to the same period in 2019.
- Hospital financial losses will be as high as $323.1 billion for the entire year.
- UK (suspected) cancer referrals have decreased 75% since Covid-19 restrictions were implemented.
- 30,806 internships were lost (a decrease of 52%) between March 9 and April 13.
- Mothers of children aged 12 and younger lost 2.2 million jobs between February and August (12% drop), while fathers of small children lost 870,000 jobs (4% drop).
- More than 40 states have reported increases in opioid-related mortality.
And so it goes.
To say all this is alarming is to grossly understate the extent of the crisis, all caused by the rampant stupidity of CovidMania. The acts of commission and omission committed by the state and its acolytes this year have amounted to economic vandalism bordering on multiple national suicides.
The costs of Covid folly cannot just be “written off”, either in the Cosmo Kramer sense or any other. The printing of money we don’t have, quantitative easing multiplied, will bankrupt generations into the future as far as the eye can see. It will also disproportionately harm the poor, as Professor Sunetra Gupta regularly points out. We are paying dearly for having at this time of crisis the worst bunch of gormless, cowed, global political leaders in living memory.
Now, where again are the investigative journalists? The Australian Broadcasting Corporation? Leftist activists supposedly worried about the less well-off? The Opposition? Independently minded backbenchers in either of the major political parties who, unlike many of their British Tory counterparts who have pushed back, keep permanently schtum? The minor parties?
No, I still hear nothing.