With recent events surrounding the Coronavirus, it is becoming more and more clear how true this rings.
Whether it is calling for bailouts for individuals, bailouts for your industry of work, calling for small and medium business support, calling for suspension of rent, bills, mortgages— it seems like there is no limit to the government interference people now want for their countries. Friends and peers who I would not consider to be free-market thinkers on their best day, are calling for government control, regulation and containment.
Fear has driven so many to think of only themselves. In first world countries, I would argue that this fear is not of themselves in pain or death, but of our potential inconveniences sparked by this virus. And it is fear of our loss of money and job security (and toilet paper) that I think are the dominant forces for most.
I must admit, I’m not immune to these fears. While I know that I am unlikely to die from COVID-19, I am fearful of the unknown; of people’s reactions and the drastic actions of the government as a response to this.
Which brings me back to bailouts. There is one more thing I am fearful of, and that is the feeling of helplessness. I so wish that someone would say, “we are just going to have to buckle down, live frugally, work hard and do our best, because there will be no bailouts, no government supplements or injections or stimulus packages”. Instead, governments everywhere are again pumping the economy with artificial hopes, and only considering short term bandaid solutions that might win them some votes next election, but are detrimental for all of society. It’s scary. While I can’t expect everyone who is used to getting handed a government cheque to understand why it isn’t productive for everyone if the government continues to do so, and the tie between wage floors, employment and livelihoods, I am scared that people think these government stimulus packages are free money — they are not. They are costing economic growth, entrepreneurship and economic incentive. They are costing real lives, when they can’t uphold this falsehood of an economy, and the dollar runs away from us in hyperinflation. My feelings of helplessness stems from feeling that most people are only considering the very temporary and first order effects of the bailouts they are ordering for.
So what can we do instead in these times when we’re scared and uncertain?
I think the first thing to do is to think of “we” instead of “me”. I think it’s almost ironic that countries can call on us to fight (not) our wars, and call it patriotism, but we can’t think of our community when we’re hoarding toilet paper.
The next would be to enter what I like to call “survival mode”— a special pocket in everyone’s animal brain that uses its intuition and logic to get out of a situation, no matter how hard it is to get there. Channel your fear into that.
And thirdly, focus your attention to take responsibility for yourself and others around you. Learn how to take care of yourself and others, and learn how hard that is. And then maybe we as a society can start accepting that we’re going to have to buckle down, work hard, live frugally, get creative, lose our pride and ask for help (from your network, not the government), help others, and survive.