Commentary

More good things that come out of this pandemic

Someone told me I can’t name 10 things that are good about this crisis.

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So after doing home office from a faraway land where homes can be rented via Airbnb and not some snotty landlord and leeching agents, here are some more.

#4 Supply chain disruption and the right to repair

The right to repair is a massively underestimated freedom. Those who are fighting for it are fighting for you. They are also fighting for more resilience in times of disruption. 

With the (alleged) comfort of contemporary electronics comes with the ban to adjust or fix them. Flying in the face of private property, something you buy today is not owned by you in the way it was owned before, when you could pick it apart and tinker with it.

It is not that I want to fix my iPhone, don’t be demagogic. But there is an actual ban on rooting your phone or trying to make it work your way. You must not delete certain apps and the manufacturer keeps sending you software updates that slow down or simply shut down your device. Planned obsolescence is a pretty word for theft and a thoroughly keynesian concept when they destroy someone’s property by devaluing it but in a way that is not obvious. That way your property is destroyed, you need to work again to get it back, but it is no one’s fault. And don’t get me started on the unnecessary environmental footprint of such a mass destruction of goods.

With the supply chains stupidly disrupted by desperate politicians looking to do something, companies are re-evaluating the merits of (the admittedly elegant but fragile) just-in-time supply chains. And consumers get to re-evaluate their need to ever-new, but barely changing gadgets. Regulators might get an appetite to push for more consumer freedom and to stand up against the consumer ripoff called planned obsolescence.

Producers of said consumer goods might have to come up with a more sustainable business model than selling us new gadgets every year for no good reason. They might – I don’t know – get into the business of fixing things instead.

#5 This is not the bubonic plague

…which is important because it makes covid-19 a good learning field for dumbass politicians on how to handle epidemics.

Step 1: Don’t copy China. It’s never a good idea.

First, our politicians needed to learn and accept that epidemics exist. Never mind thousands of experts warning that it will happen. They ignored all of history as well. Trump wasn’t the only walking manhood shutting down institutions that were designed to react to exactly such pandemics. Orbán did the same a few years ago. Indeed, that is what a politician does with everything. If he doesn’t understand it, he will shut it down. Or defund it. That is why we don’t let them plan the economy for us. Trump’s (and Orbán’s) move was not a bug in the otherwise great concept of state planning of the economy. It was the feature.

Now that we have covid-19 unleashed thanks to the self-serving autocrats of China and the mindless little populist of the first world who thought that their actions will never catch up with them just because they hadn’t so far. And we are lucky it is not worse.

It’s mortality may be multiple times of that of the flu, but covid-19 is still not a face-eating zombie virus that spreads quickly and kills fast. Imagine if it were something visually frightening… The first press photo would melt minds and send people into a panicky tailspin, demanding that politicians do something, even if they know nothing. Just like now, but worse.

Luckily, covid-19 is not that photogenic, so some humans managed to keep their cool. It is also relatively mild, so after reminding politicians that reality still bites and epidemics still exist, it can help them gently practice what to do – and what not to do – during a health crisis. Many of the things they are enthusiastically doing now will prove to be useless, or worse. Next time we can be more prepared – but only if we stop screaming and learn the right lessons.

#6 Car-free cities

This is not something that automatically follows from the pandemic, but mayors of major cities have been fed up with car traffic for a long time now and find it opportune to introduce limitations once they reopen.

As much as I hate the heavy-handed regulatory approach to anything (because it cuts in the wrong direction just as it does in the right one) the current prevalence of car traffic is just as the result of state intervention as its end will be. Car manufacturers kept churning out their product by the millions but they would have been useless without the uninterrupted flow of concrete the states so eagerly supplied on taxpayer dime.

I hate cyclists as much as the next guy. They are dangerous and snobbish and their virtue is so thick, to them no traffic rules seem to apply. And by all means, keep driving, but it never really made sense to let a car highway through the densely populated inner cities of Europe where so many people have to inhale it in their homes and cars and pedestrians slow down each other.

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