In isolation at a care-home in Spain where she’s been living for 20 years, Maria Branyas (113) survived Covid-19. For The Guardian, she reflected on what the world may look like after the pandemic: “…I think nothing will be the same again, and don’t think about redoing, recovering, rebuilding. It will have to be done all over again and differently. … You need a new order, a change in the hierarchy of values and priorities, a New Human Age…”
The old order which Maria rejects is, of course, the economic system that informs and directs society. But the Oxford Dictionary defines “economy” as: 1) “the wealth and resources of a country or region, especially in terms of the production and consumption of goods and services” and 2) “careful management of available resources.” Note no mention here of an “order” or “system,” and “management” is simply an undefined process.
Our old order has been in place for millennia. Ever since humans lived in trees, on savannahs, or in caves, there’s been only one rule for management of resources: Take what you can get and keep it. The sole modus operandi for humanity’s economic activity has been private enterprise.
Since absolutely forever, private enterprise has been the only game in town. Political systems will sometimes tweak the rules—and simply complicate matters and magnify existing inequities and injustices. Maria is totally correct about doing it all over again and differently. We don’t need to change the rules of the old game but to start a whole new ball-game!
As the old order, private enterprise has now outlived its effectiveness for managing resources and providing for the common good. In a new ball-game, the wealth and resources of countries or regions can no longer be private property of individuals but public property. And the people can manage their resources themselves, with benefits accruing to the public at large.
A new order of public enterprise and benefit can focus on the common good, supporting, embodying and perfecting democracy. Vigorously and very likely violently opposed by the entrenched old order, such a systemic switch of values and priorities for a “New Human Age” will not come easily. And I’m certainly not the one to say how to make it happen.
After the pandemic devastates economically all but the (corporate) elite, for at least a decade, they say, the old order will try to redo, recover and rebuild. Fantasizing about a future on a global, monopolistic scale, the obsolete system of private enterprise will surely prove even less productive of common good then with the world’s population essentially infinite in number.
If it doesn’t kill us first, this wretched pandemic ironically offers us a now-or-never opportunity to birth a New Human Age. At this unprecedented crux in human history, maybe we can at last create a truly humane society.
Let’s do it!