The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the stark weaknesses of capitalism

The Coronavirus pandemic may not have hit its peak, but I think us Irish have learned an invaluable lesson from it: Capitalism doesn’t serve the needs of this country.

Thankfully, our government briskly introduced measures to stop the economy from totally free-falling. We now have the rent freeze the working and middle class have been crying for, our health service has effectively been nationalised and income support is guaranteed to most people financially affected by the pandemic.

These various state interventions have been beyond essential to keeping the country afloat over the past few weeks, yet despite all this we’re still quickly sinking into another significant recession.

Coronavirus has only been in Ireland for a few weeks, but our apparent strong market couldn’t even survive this long without huge state aid. Why do we continuously stick with a system that is so fragile?

This state intervention was needed long ago. A rent freeze and a single tier, trolley-free health service has been the demands of the Irish people for years yet our government continued to choose lower taxes for corporations and planning white water rafting facilities over the basic needs of its citizens.

During the housing crisis, we didn’t need our leaders’ “thoughts and sympathies” for people living on streets or dying on trolleys. We needed them to abandon their ineffective and classist capitalist policy.

Looking at what will no doubt be long-lasting effects on the global economy due to Covid-19, what are we to expect when faced with over one billion climate refugees by 2050? I don’t think the global economy, which can’t handle a few weeks of slowed down production due to a pandemic, is going to fare very well when one eighth of the world’s population becomes displaced.

State and market need to become more and more united, not just in Ireland, but globally. The business as usual, putting off the inevitable mindset of capitalism isn’t going to keep society thriving on this planet for much longer.

AIB, a bank bailed out by the Irish tax payer in 2009, that each and every single working person in this country is still paying off (and will pay off for as long as we’re alive) still took quarterly fees out of their customers accounts last week.

Yes, in the middle of a global pandemic, where households have suffered substantial and devastating income loss, AIB still took money from their customers where it so easily could have been postponed to a later stage in the year.

As students, we’re going to be graduating into this economy very soon. If the evident lack of preparation for the spread of coronavirus doesn’t make you scared, you definitely will be when the climate crisis reaches its peak.

I’ll leave you with an expression I’m sure many of you have seen on your Twitter feeds during the last few weeks: If capitalism is so great, then why does it need to be bailed out by socialism every 10 years?

Emma Nevin

Image Credit: Ken Lund