Geopolitics

Coronavirus And The Limits Of Free-Market Economics

If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it's that no one is safe until everyone is safe.

Coronavirus has exposed economic equalities in Argentina and around the world.
Rubén Torres*

-OpEd-

BUENOS AIRES — Faced with perhaps the greatest global crisis of our generation, the question on all of ours minds is: How long will this last, and how much will it affect us in terms of deaths and the economy? For now, most people prefer caution to claims that "poverty kills more people than the virus."

It may be true. It's also worth pointing out that poverty has structural causes unrelated to the quarantine. We are perpetually angered by poverty, and yet, culturally, we accept the idea that wealth really doesn't come from work. It seems to come, rather, from illicit activities, corruption in office or through some magic "niche" in the market, and when that wealth is obscenely flaunted, we don't really condemn it.

If we believe living frugally is a better life, then let us renounce abundance and embrace limitations. We cannot permit an élite of officials — not to mention some of the two-bit revolutionaries we see here — to entrench themselves in the shadow of power.

In choosing alternatives, we must ask how to overcome the immediate challenge and think about what kind of world we shall be living in once the storm is past. For most survivors, it will be a different world.

The pandemic is a social leveler and proof of citizenship.

To extinguish this epidemic the reproduction rate (R0) must be low, and the only way to attain that is through physical distancing of the general population and isolation of the infected. Relaxing these measures could benefit the economy, but at the cost of many premature deaths.

The economic impact is bound to be harsh. Many emergency measures will become permanent elements and change life after the pandemic. But we also need to pay attention to what the virus has revealed: The half-collapsed public health services, paralyzed economies, and the deaths of the most vulnerable among us all speak of the world we have built.

The pandemic is a social leveler and proof of citizenship in the divided and unequal country that is Argentina. It is demanding of us unprecedented unity, if we are to face down its challenge. We are not suffering a haphazard event or tremendous bit of bad luck. It's the result, rather, of our way of life. The crisis came to tell us what a spoiled society refused until now to hear. We have discredited the institutions and resources that sustained our societies: trust in authority, credibility for public life, being able to count on a decent job, etc.

In Argentina, the armed forces feed the people abandoned by coronavirus. — Photo: Paula Acunzo/Zuma

The criticism of conservatives or sectors of the middle class is that universal medical attention necessarily means worse quality and government rationing, and in a free economy, people should be able to choose. But these arguments fall apart when thousands are rushing to hospitals that must then ration their ventilators and free beds, and when doctors have to decide who can access those and who must make do with palliative care.

With such heart-rending calculations, even countries with universal healthcare have had to make assignations of their limited resources. The state of public health care has become a matter of life and death, even for the privileged. When people lacking access to medical services, regular wages or proper accommodation fall ill and cannot confine themselves, the virus spreads faster to everyone. Those stuck in overcrowded housing cannot practice social distancing, and contagion happens through the people society has neglected.

The pandemic has updated the complex debate on the relations between economic cycles and public health care.

We have long tolerated a discriminating health care system, with fairly poor results for the many and good attention to those at the top.

For the fortunate few, the ugly, unfair part of the system was always someone else's problem. But now, Argentines of all classes are competing for the same, limited health care resources. Your premium health insurance is now unlikely to give you quicker access to the heaving emergency ward. Hospitals are being forced to postpone cancer and heart treatments. The richest can always find alternative solutions and celebrities access tests most easily, but nobody is safe from this virus until everyone is.

The pandemic has updated the complex debate on the relations between economic cycles and public health care. Economic elements may well influence health, but beyond a certain level, wealth will not better your health or life chances.

For some years now, the trend has been to prefer personal choice over the public interest. It is a consensual idea that must now be annihilated, amid a pandemic that has shown how some people's precarious conditions will threaten everyone.

The pandemic has also shown, fortunately, that social solidarity will stop a virus that thrives on socio-biological weaknesses, like selfishness. Britain's late prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, liked to say there is no such thing as society, just individuals. Is that true? Or could she become another Cassandra, the soothsayer whom Apollo punished by making her utterances incredible.​


*Torres is a physician and dean of the ISALUD technical university in Buenos Aires.



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La Sagrada Familia Delayed Again — Blame COVID-19 This Time

Hopes were dashed by local officials to see the completion of the iconic Barcelona church in 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of the death of its renowned architect Antoni Guadí.

Work on La Sagrada Familia has been delayed because of the pandemic

By most accounts, it's currently the longest-running construction project in the world. And now, the completion of work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882, is going to take even longer.

Barcelona-based daily El Periodico daily reports that work on the church, which began as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. But a press conference Tuesday, Sep. 21 confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin).

El Periódico - 09/22/2021

El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world.

One tower after the other… Slowly but surely, La Sagrada Familia has been growing bigger and higher before Barcelonians and visitors' eager eyes for nearly 140 years. However, all will have to be a bit more patient before they see the famous architectural project finally completed. During Tuesday's press conference, general director of the Construction Board of the Sagrada Familia, Xavier Martínez, and the architect director, Jordi Faulí, had some good and bad news to share.

As feared, La Sagrada Familia's completion date has been delayed. Because of the pandemic, the halt put on the works in early March when Spain went into a national lockdown. So the hopes are dashed of the 2026 inauguration in what would have been the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

Although he excluded new predictions of completion until post-COVID normalcy is restored - no earlier than 2024 -, Martínez says: "Finishing in 2030, rather than being a realistic forecast, would be an illusion, starting the construction process will not be easy," reports La Vanguardia.

But what's a few more years when you already have waited 139, after all? However delayed, the construction will reach another milestone very soon with the completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years and the second tallest spire of the complex. It will be crowned by a 12-pointed star which will be illuminated on December 8, Immaculate Conception Day.

Next would be the completion of the Evangelist Lucas tower and eventually, the tower of Jesus Christ, the most prominent of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated 13.5 meters wide "great cross." It will be made of glass and porcelain stoneware to reflect daylight and will be illuminated at night and project rays of light.

La Sagrada Familia through the years

La Sagrada Familia, 1889 - wikipedia

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