It is impossible for the government and its harem of experts to calculate the true cost of the pandemic – mostly because they’ve never had to pay it.
Oh, given enough quality time with a spreadsheet, they might be able to work out how much tax they missed out on, or pout at the percentage decrease in their favourite industries, but these are creatures of reflection, assessment, and review. People ensconced in the back rooms of public office have no idea what lockdowns and travel bans cost an average family. Their figures are muddied with big business franchisees who were allowed to remain open and corner the market.
What the government should do is run the numbers from 2018 against 2020 and exclude their essential mates.
Perhaps they could have a look at the average staff shrinkage across small and medium businesses.
If they can’t be bothered do to that, they could always spray a bit of WD-40 on their joints, wander through the CBD and take in the view of boarded-up shops. Those who are feeling especially clever might even lift their eye-line to the apartments above Pitt St Mall and notice the empty windows of what were once the packed warehouses of the shops below.
With a bit of tricky accounting, you can make any problem go away and the government is certainly trying to keep hush-hush on the massacre of Australia’s finances.
There have been a few ominous admissions during the course of the pandemic.
The 2021 Federal Budget had to say something so it coughed up the alarming estimate of $311 billion for the pandemic to date. This is hardly likely to be anywhere close to the final figure. New South Wales accounts for a third of the nation’s total economy. AMP’s chief economist Shane Oliver reckons the current lockdown costs the state $1 billion a week – but that does not take into account the permanent losses accumulated by businesses who simply won’t be there next time.
Guessing the cost of the Covid pandemic is like trying to measure the leak on a wreck covered in silt at the bottom of the ocean. All anyone knows is that there’s a lot of water everywhere and an intense pressure coming from all sides.
According to others, the cost of Covid to the world is more than the total of all natural disasters combined in the last twenty years. Good job, China. Shall we mail the bill direct to Wuhan?
This is only the beginning, with crippled supply chains and food shortages already knocking on the door of the third world, we’re about to enter the next era of global calamity – one way or another. The suspicious among us may wonder whether it’s a coincidence that China sits with its paws outstretched, ready to snaffle up desperate neighbours while the West is busy licking its wounds.
As far as biological weapons go, Covid is the cleverest in history.
If you are a ruling political party, it’s okay to announce the abstract concept of massive debt. The general public know that government debt is ‘bad’ but beyond that, it is hardly likely to cause a political reckoning or build the scaffolding upon which a leader might hang. Heck, the Labor party routinely print their deficits on campaign flyers, as if epic failure passes as a form of social credit.
Public servants waste so much of our money on a regular basis that covering debt is usually handled by cutting loose a few unnecessary cookie-jar-frequenting mates or with the time-tested trick of raising taxes. That works for a predictable economy, but there is a fine line between a self-replicating, living economic organism that makes more of itself every quarter and a ruthlessly abused creature strewn out on the road in pieces after being hit by a Covid lorry.
As every collectivist government knows, when governments start taking control of the market, oblivion soon follows.
To those who claim, ‘we are seeing the long-predicted failure of capitalism’ I say nonsense.
Capitalism would barely have skipped a beat if it had been left to operate as normal during the pandemic. We know this because it has flourished through civilisation’s true microscopic murderers. Certainly, some businesses would have fared better than others, but with a thriving natural ecosystem of market competition and the flexibility of individuals to adapt, the overall economy would have been just fine. It might have even continued to grow as new opportunities unique to the pandemic arose.
Any notion of survival was put to bed when ‘experts’ decided to rob most businesses of their customers, effectively making their livelihoods illegal.
In this situation, not only were businesses prevented from adapting, they were unable to sell out or save to reopen at a later date. The result was two years of an unpredictable – borderline bi-polar politics erasing the savings of the very people most likely to salvage the economy.
Impoverishing those who were prepared to take the risk of starting their own businesses means that if the government ever comes to its senses and lets Australia return to normal, the only people left on the ground to rebuild will be cashed up Millennials who can’t decide on what gender they are today and a posse of big business billionaires.
For those who haven’t worked it out, big business operates like the HomeBrand in Coles and Woolworths.
They set about making the cheapest, crappiest imitation of a good product – sell it at a fraction of the true cost to destroy their market competition – and then raise the price when they are the sole survivor. The result is a large profit margin on an inferior product and no one left to challenge them. This is what our famous shopping malls will become. Gone are the myriad of intriguing local businesses and historic charm – in are plastic forgeries and foreign interests.
This suits the government, who would much rather host policy meetings with a handful of people who can be bargained with than tens of thousands of unaffiliated individuals who don’t take kindly to meddling politicians.
It will be a long time before public servants and those addicted to emergency government money crawl out of their safe spaces and wonder why there isn’t anywhere left to shop or dine after the pandemic.
Far more likely, is that Australia will end up in a situation of rolling deficits and a skyrocketing public payroll.
In other words, less and less private individuals will be funding a public parasitic mass. Added to this, the economy is millions of wealthy tourists short, has an ageing population, and a generation of people who cannot afford to have kids. Meanwhile, the kids we do have are missing years of their education, creating a certain lapse of efficiency in the years to come. No one dares to speculate on the other problems of the pandemic – such as locking people in their homes for months on end with small children and alcohol shops open 24/7.
The only real generation of wealth in an economy comes from raw resources and private businesses. In order to cover the bill, the government is almost certainly poised to do the dumb thing and raise taxes on the survivors, which will in turn kill off more productive members of society and continue tipping the scales towards a failed economy.
The day will come when the public service shakes the private sector for a pay cheque and finds nothing left. Salvaging an economy with the current generation of politicians is mission impossible.
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Alexandra Marshall (@ellymelly on social media) is The Good Sauce's Editor-At-Large, as well as the host of "Curtain Call", a Good Sauce show exploring the leading personalities in the culture war. She writes on liberty, philosophy and geopolitics. You can find her on Twitter or read her articles over at her blog.
Elly is also an AI database designer for the retail industry, contributor to multiple online journals and a Young Ambassador with Australians for Constitutional Monarchy.
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