The coronavirus crisis has made one thing clear: The world needs a pause button. We are shutting down economies because it is the kind thing to do. To trundle on would be to show a lack of compassion, particularly for those who appear most vulnerable. The world of 2020 is more humane than that.
Enter Denmark, which is perhaps going furthest to try to put its economy in the freezer for three months. To do this, the government will spend the equivalent 13% of its annual gross domestic product to limit layoffs and lost revenues. For example, “the state has agreed to take on 75 percent of workers’ salaries, up to $3,288 per month,” notes an article in The Atlantic.
A proportional program in the United States would cost $2.5 trillion. That figure is sobering. Denmark has large surpluses, but its calculus is universal. “The philosophy is, if we don’t do it now, it will be more expensive to save the economy later,” a Danish economist says.
No one knows if this will work. But as we become a kinder and more interconnected world, how will our economies likewise evolve to not punish us for our higher instincts? Bold, fresh thinking – both liberal and conservative – will certainly be required.