Coronavirus has shattered the myth that the economy must come first

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The corona shutdown of 2020 is perhaps the most remarkable interruption to ordinary life in modern history. It has been spoken about as a war. And one is reminded of the stories told of the interruption of normality in 1914 and 1939. But unlike a war the corona stop involves demobilization not mobilization. Whilst the hospitals are on full alert, the majority of us are confined to quarters. We are deliberately inducing one of the most severe recessions ever seen. In so doing we are driving another nail into the coffin of one of the great platitudes of the late 20th century: It’s the economy stupid.

Once upon a time we thought we knew what was up and what was down. To the bowdlerized version of Marxism that was the lingua Franca of the 1990s it was obvious that the economics were the fundamentals, the rest followed. It was Western economic success that felled communism. And the economy ruled not only over creaky communist dictatorships. It defined the scope of possible politics in democracies too. Arguing against globalization, Tony Blair insisted, was as absurd as arguing against the seasons.

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