Sunday, March 22, 2020

Back to the future

Feeling strong after my morning run, I decided to go for a slow lunch run along the Ume River. Passing by “Sliperiet”, I was excited to see that all external work on the dome of the new space and science centre seems to be finished. While the centre will probably not open until the fall due to the epidemic, it feels more important than ever that we do not lose track of the bigger picture and what could be possible in the century ahead.

More and more economists are speaking out against the draconic measures that have been undertaken to stop the epidemic. If Sweden were to see a 10-15% drop in GDP this year (which may be entirely realistic if current trends continue), it may seriously undermine not only our efforts to fight the epidemic but perhaps liberal democracy itself. On the other hand, if these measures are not taken, and the health care system collapses with ten thousands of deaths, it may fray the fabric of social trust in ways that may be very difficult to repair. The worst of all worlds would of course be if strong measures are implemented but people fail to realize the importance of social distancing, creating both economic mayhem and an unstoppable epidemic (for more on this, see this excellent Medium post).

Regardless of what Sweden does, this is truly a global challenge. Just today, the airline Emirates decided to cease all passenger flights. In a globalized world, we have to realize that the chain is never stronger than its weakest link, and that there is no going back to a world of isolated islands. Instead, we need to move towards universal healthcare and, in the long run, a global welfare state.

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