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Time to Practice Covid Capitalism

Chuck Bentley
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By: Chuck Bentley – crown.org – May 2020

Time to Practice Covid Capitalism – Protect Lives and Livelihoods

I propose that we immediately adopt an approach to our present crisis that I call “Covid Capitalism.” It means we save the livelihoods of millions of Americans by giving them the freedom of getting back to work while also saving the lives of other Americans by observing customized safety protocol based upon known risks. It means that when we go back to work, we fully accept the risks and responsibilities we have of protecting not only our own lives but those around us.

National, state and local contexts must be considered. New York City is obviously a different context than Sioux City, Iowa. Each has differing circumstances for consideration. Contextualized guidelines which protect the most vulnerable populations and enforce protocols for specific risks such as large conferences and high-density events should be implemented at all levels.  At the same time, these guidelines should allow the vast majority (non-vulnerable population) to return to a modified normal, with the expectation that we will voluntarily follow what is best for our survival. It means the general population will be expected to implement best practices such as wearing masks where needed, washing hands and social distancing, while more stringent measures are narrowly focused and implemented in high-risk areas or populations.

Politicians, stars and media pundits, including some of our panicked friends, have conditioned us to believe we only have two choices: either save lives by prolonging the shelter-in-place policies, or lift the restrictions and sacrifice lives. Loss of life vs. loss of money? Hmm– that choice seems so easy, but it is not. Having worked with families for more than twenty years, I know the devastation of job loss, financial stress, bankruptcy and money worries. It is a silent killer of relationships, marriages, dreams, self-esteem and even people. In addition, the cumulative effect of a personal economy being destroyed puts everyone in a macro economy at risk.

Make Heroes of the Average American.

We applaud and respect the frontline healthcare workers for doing the right thing by putting themselves at risk while trying to save others. In many ways, this is exactly the heroic risks that most non-healthcare workers are willing to take to save the economy.

Our policy makers should be declaring all business to be essential. Capitalism provides the food we eat, the supplies we need for health care services, and the goods and services that allow our lives to function. Without work, we lose our income which is a lifeline to our essential needs. Not all, but the vast majority of our citizens already abide by rules not to smoke where smoking is prohibited, not to yell fire where yelling fire is prohibited or not to text and drive. I expect that the vast majority of Americans will not violate pandemic protocol. And for those that do, policing tools through employer policy, public pressure and an appeal to shared sacrifice will be more effective in the long run. Give most Americans the opportunity to be a hero and that they will be. Treat them like fools or wards of the state to be managed and social unrest will simmer and ultimately boil over.

Life has always held significant risks. We are acutely aware of risks to our health from Covid-19. The growing risk is permanent damage to the economy. It is one thing to pull the car over for a safety check; it is another to remove the engine, transmission and four tires from the car and expect it to operate normally again. We have done our safety check; now, let’s get the engine running again.

“Covid capitalism” is, to use a worn-out phrase, the new normal. It should be practiced with self-restraint and concern for our family, friends, customers and neighbors. We will implement it for this season, as long as necessary, then this too will pass. We will look back and be grateful for our shared sacrifice, for the achievement of common goals and for creatively working through the greatest challenge we have faced in this new century.

Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, the largest Christian financial ministry in the world.