April 2020

Societal crisis can expose weak points and failings. In recovering from crisis, there is a temptation to return to the comfort of “normal.” Understandable. But what a waste it would be, and potentially catastrophic for the future, if we choose not to learn from our mistakes.

For example, who keeps a society running? It is the healers and caregivers, growers, makers, transporters, providers of essential services, and so on. How do we show them what they are worth? What is value? And what about other societal concerns that come to light? Those without access to sufficient healthcare without bankruptcy, the homeless, those living on the edge, those crowded into substandard housing, communications connectivity in poorly served areas, etc. How we respond to these matters is a reflection of our priorities and our shared cultural mythology (in what do we generally believe?). Our priorities and mythology are reflected in our economic and policy choices. For example, compare the astronomical price and national security benefit of a new weapon system to having excellent, sufficient, and well-compensated essential people and health care stockpiles; especially when we compare notional threats to known ones. There will be natural disasters and there will be pandemics, we know this.

We are rational creatures. We can make these choices, and should do so soberly and carefully, potentially setting entrenched interests aside. But we should make them, rather than kicking the can down the road as natural inertia sets in.