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Capitalism may not survive 2020 global crisis, which will cut deeper and last longer than many predict

The current global crisis triggered by Covid-19 is the third capitalist crash in this century. And governments’ incapacity to consider non-capitalist solutions threatens to keep deepening this crisis into capitalism’s worst.

by Richard D. Wolff

Part 4 - Huge mistake

The way ahead presents a stark social choice. Capitalism has shown itself poorly prepared for the pandemic’s arrival, poorly prepared to contain it, and clearly unable to prevent the massively destructive collision of business cycle downturn and viral pandemic.

It is now proving poorly adapted to managing the global capitalist downturn.

Too much of both the private and governmental responses to date have aimed at “returning to normal.” By that is meant roughly the conditions before February/March of 2020 when pandemic and capitalist crash arrived. Yet, there lies a huge mistake. That normal contained all the seeds and processes that then brought us to the present situation. 

A different roadmap for the post-pandemic world has to face the need to NOT return to the pre-pandemic “normal.” Instead, major structural changes in national economies, world trade, and finance need to be decided and implemented. Chief among these is a much less unequal global distribution of wealth and income. 

Moreover, this must include changes in enterprise organization so that modern capitalism’s tendency to deepening inequalities of wealth and income is not allowed to resume its socially divisive functions. 

Likewise, there must be a much more coordinated global movement to achieve such changes. Otherwise national variants of the five converging crises in the US mentioned at the beginning of this essay will be our global future.

Too many governments that capitalists still control seem frozen in their incapacity to find non-capitalist solutions. They shy away from or cannot imagine policies that provide jobs and incomes and secure public health without prioritizing profits, without deferring to the existing ownership and operational structure of private enterprises.

That incapacity threatens to keep deepening this crisis into capitalism’s worst. It also raises the basic question of this moment: can capitalism survive?

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