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Coronavirus lockdown has forced us into an economic trial and error experiment

Coronavirus lockdown has forced us into an economic trial and error experiment: Don Pittis

Working from home during the pandemic may be a boon or a curse, but people caught up in the economic experiment are predicting the world will not be the same when the current crisis is over. (Bernadett Szabo/Reuters)

One such group often declared to be self-employed are delivery workers, currently being run off their feet by stay-at-homes like economist Peter Victor, who for the first time has tried an online grocery service.

“I never used one before now,” says Victor, a professor emeritus and author who is sticking close to home in Toronto. “I think there’s a very good chance I’ll make continued use of them because actually I’ve always found going to the supermarket kind of a pain.”

As an advocate of the idea that we would all be happier if we spent less time chasing the conventional goals of economic growth — doing less work but spreading it around among more people — he sees the COVID-19 shutdown as a living experiment.

As people bake bread, hang out with family, give each other or themselves haircuts, offer generosity toward neighbours and strangers, experience cleaner air, share online entertainments and be generally more creative, he expects our current experience to have a lasting impact, reminding people there is a lot more to life than rushing off to the rat race.

Certainly in my own case, saving 80 minutes a day of commuting time and writing in a sunny room without the cacophony in the open-plan office of reporters bellowing down telephone lines compensates for other losses.

But as Victor was careful to remember, not everyone, and especially those suffering on reduced incomes, will feel the same way.

Only some parts of the experiment will be adopted. But whether people love or hate being shut up in their homes, like Monkhouse, he thinks the COVID-19 is changing our values.

As someone who grew up after the Second World War, Victor wonders if, like then, we will be more open to governments playing a larger role in the economy. Some have suggested that the current crisis could demonstrate the need for a minimum basic income system.

Not everyone will think that is a good idea. But the economist says in such a time of turmoil, and with the possible erosion of civil rights, we must be ready to defend ourselves against less salubrious results.

“Things you couldn’t imagine happening are now happening,” said Victor. “More surveillance, and all sorts of things which would be troubling if they were to continue afterwards.”

With files from cbc.ca. View full article here.