Every crisis has a silver lining. It challenges people to think out of the boxes, it forges solidarity in thought and action in the most precarious of times. This pandemic is no different. A silver lining of the pandemic is that pitfalls of globalization is entering popular discourse. Popular consensus is emerging that allowing free market to wreak havoc for profit motive can never stabilize the economy. This has been debated in niche theoretical circles…however the pandemic is offering profuse empirical evidences which is challenging the mainstream discourse. State institutions should be held accountable. Markets collapse in times of crisis. Health and education cannot be left to rot. Intervention in the economy is dire necessity if we want a dignified employment, standard of living for all. Economics, macroeconomics enters precisely at this moment.
This pandemic again has brought macroeconomics to forefront. The task of comprehending and formulating policies, learning from empirical data and building theoretical frameworks is the need of the hour. Frameworks that can explain the current crisis. Frameworks that can envision a radical new.
Let us understand with the help of an example, in Indian context. A guaranteed monthly income to all households called Universal Basic Income (UBI) has been championed by many economists earlier. This pandemic has thrown people out of their jobs, seeing mass exodus of migrant workers returning to their native places without a penny. So, in these moments of crisis people should be endowed with a basic sum to insure against these hard times. Inflation i.e. state of rising prices is not a concern now. People should have money so that they can afford to buy their necessities. So here again the accountability of the government, its institutions seep in. This has become a major mainstream debate now.
The 90’s were the time when globalization and liberalization were gradually becoming universal palliatives, prescribed by the leading think tanks across the globe. But history has it, we are witnessing a time when access to education, health is becoming a major concern, health or education cannot be for the few…rather they are the pillars on which the economy stands. The economics which is taught today stands on the hallmark of globalization and liberalization, society here is taught to be comprised of rational self- utility maximizing individuals. But if that was the case, we would have never seen so much social solidarity in this pandemic, so much relief work going on during Amphan or the teaching community coming forward to take into account the plight, distress of the under privileged children. All these purviews are entering economics, as it is so closely tied with society and politics. The niche school of thoughts are slowly gaining ground, the lines of Keynes, Kalecki are becoming all the more prominent.
A hopelessly hopeful like me can think of all these positivity in the times of Corona. What I have been trying to communicate through years of teaching to my students, has been rendered very commonsensical by the pandemic.
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