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Australia’s post-war recovery program provides clues as to how to get out of this

TJ Ryan Foundation Research Associate, John Quiggin, writes in The Conversation (2.4.20) about the federal government’s economic response to the coronavirus outbreak. The author suggests that the ‘reconstruction’ paths we choose after this crisis will be as important as the commitment Australia made to full employment after World War II, which ushered in decades of prosperity.

‘As the Covid-19 pandemic spreads around the world, wartime metaphors abound. And, with what amounts to a war economy now in place, attention has inevitably turned to post-war reconstruction. It is self-evident that, without any clear idea of when the emergency will be over, we must begin planning now to deal with its aftermath.

‘Experience here and elsewhere after the two world wars provides lessons on what to do, and what not to do.

‘In the aftermath of what was then called the Great War, governments around the world sought a rapid return to the pre-war world of the gold standard and the free market. Little was done to ensure that soldiers returning from the front and those who had been working in war-related industries could find new jobs.

‘The result was depression in most of developed world. Australia’s unemployment rate reached 11% in 1921, and was never below 6% during the 1920s.

‘… The lesson of pandemics, wars and financial crises is that a modern society needs a strong government with a strong commitment to providing security and prosperity.’

Coronavirus highlights the painful political truth about health inequality. Is social democracy the answer?

Carol Johnson writes in The Conversation (10.4.20) about what might come after the economic and social shock of the coronavirus pandemic. The author ponders whether, given the market is not coping and the need for government to intervene is more apparent than ever, the time for social democracy has come again.

‘Health inequality was a major concern of 20th century social democrats in countries ranging from Britain to Sweden.

‘During the current coronavirus crisis, it has once again become one of the most crucial issues that social democrats need to address.

‘Coronavirus itself does not discriminate in terms of class. Indeed, those with the financial means to travel have often been among the first victims. More men than women appear to be dying of it.

‘Nonetheless, what a difference your position in the social hierarchy can make.

‘Access to excellent and affordable health care obviously remains a key issue, even allowing for the fact the wealthy may also fail to have access to ventilators in the current crisis. Years of neoliberal cutbacks have undermined the formerly good public health systems that social democrats established from the 1940s.

‘… However, in a time when even conservative governments in countries such as Germany, Britain and Australia are abandoning neoliberal strictures on fiscal restraint to throw billions at the pandemic and their collapsing economies, the need for social democratic governments may not be as apparent as before.’

The TJRyan Foundation does not guarantee the accuracy, currency or completeness of any information or material available on this website. The TJRyan Foundation reserves the right to change information or material on this website at any time without notice. Links from this site to external, non-TJRyan Foundation websites should not be construed as implying any relationship with and/or endorsement of the external site or its content by the TJR Foundation, nor any commercial relationship with the owners of any external site. Should any TJRyan research project be funded by an individual or organisation the source of funding will be stated beside the research report. In all other cases contributions are provided on a pro bono basis.
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