One thing that has really shocked me during the pandemic is just how heartless, inconsistent, and hypocritical government policy can be, even when it is directed at promoting the greater good. The latest example of that is obviously the Queensland Government’s indefensible inconsistency between shutting Queenslanders out of Queensland for two weeks but letting in NRL officials and WAGs and other family members.
Maybe the harsh measures our governments have imposed have been for the greater good, particularly considering a counterfactual in which more people die from COVID and economic activity is supressed to some extent by people staying home voluntarily. That’s quite possible, but I can’t see how our governments can be so confident that is indeed the case and that such authoritarian measures have been justifiable.
Researchers will be analysing and debating the merits of measures imposed during the pandemic for decades to come. There’s a reasonable chance they will conclude we’ve made a huge policy error. The net benefits of lockdowns and border closures are becoming less clear by the day, particularly if one accounts for the mounting economic and mental health costs of these harsh measures.
Last week I had an engaging and thought provoking conversation with Queensland Senator Malcolm Roberts about the economic and social costs of lockdowns and border closures, as well as about the breakdown of decent public policy processes and planning during the pandemic. You can listen to our conversation here:
Here’s the blurb from the show notes for Malcolm’s podcast:
I’m sure many are wondering just how much longer can we continue to survive, economically and emotionally, in this never ending unpredictable environment of lockdowns.
Human beings need to be able to plan for the future and have predictability about their world to be okay. At the moment many of us are not okay and our border communities are in a dark tunnel of turmoil that seems to have no end in sight.
The health of our economy is also not okay. Each time another lockdown demands we close our businesses our economy gets weaker. Our focus has to be on getting Australia, particularly small business, back to work. Small business is dying at the hands of the prime minister and our premiers, because their narrow focus excludes our economic security and surety for the future.
Federal COVID financial support packages finished up a few months ago so in some quarters we are yet to feel the real economic pain. There have been many business arrangements put in place that have created a mountain of IOUs and that avalanche is yet to hit us, such as property leasing payments put on hold. Our CBDs are still too empty and the For Lease signs are all around town.
Big business may well be declaring profits at the moment but the same can’t be said for small business. Small business is at the heart of the Australian economy and when it dies so does our economy and our communities. There is much economic pain that has not been captured in the data yet.
Small business needs real support that makes a difference. At this point the most useful contribution that any government can make is to stop these lockdowns and allow Australians to go out and earn a living.
Many thanks to Malcolm for inviting me to appear on his podcast.
Please feel free to comment below. Alternatively, you can email comments, questions, suggestions, or hot tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. My podcast Economics Explored is available via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, and other podcasting platforms.