With the pandemic still in effect but countries slowly making their first steps towards returning to previous normality, talks about safety vs economy are back at the forefront again. Articles such as this from pooghkeepsie journal or this from USA today, showcase a few aspects of the debate, while others present more radical approaches. Personal opinions aside however, today we will be discussing the eternal struggle between safety and economy.
Starting of course, with a brief history. Economy has often clashed with safety, as with the evolving times and increase demands of capitalism, industry and progress often came at odds against the safety of their workers. Although articles such as this one from Medium, or Chron's very insightful article on workplace safety prove that modern day corporations and businesses not only understand, but value worker safety, the truth is, that it was always like this.
From kids used as chimney sweeps leading to many actually dying on the job in the early stages of the industrial revolution, to....well actual child laborers used to maximize profits and increase productivity. With the industrial era came a number of unsavory and shameful practices.
From the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire to the dangers of construction posed by the Golden Gate Bridge (yes we are talking THAT recent, in history) going at work did not necessarily mean being safe. However, after legislation, negotiations and a decent amount of rallies we have now finally arrived at the age in which most employers not only understand the importance of workplace safety but are doing research and always expanding on it.
P.S this article is an excellent summary of the three turning points in the struggle for workplace safety, and I strongly suggest reading on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.
Photo by John Salvino on Unsplash
Economy And Safety
Let's get it out of the way. There will always be some idiot who wants to maximize profit on the heads of the working class. There are still some idiots that want to "save the economy" by sacrificing lives to the corona virus. We are not going to talk about those people, because those people are a reckless minority that does not represent the majority of the voices in favor of safeguarding the economy during this crisis.
Now that that is out of the way, lets discuss why its a bad idea to just ignore the economy in favor of safety. Now, do not get me wrong, I do NOT condone placing lives at risk for the economy, however, as this article by the Washington Post very astutely says, you can do both. From Europe to America, already there are regulations and precautions taken to ensure maximum safety without placing unnecessary burden to the economy.
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
In an article by Brookings the author writes: "These questions go far beyond the effects on physical health from the virus itself. How can we make ends meet if we can’t go to work? What happens to our children if the remainder of the school year—or even part of next—is canceled? Will jobs still be there after the virus subsides? What will the state of the economy be when the dust settles? " and that is indeed a valuable question, however one can't help but wonder a very simple counter question.
Since economy is a structure humanity has created to make our lives better and fairer, some already are arguing that we should change the way it works, if it gets in the way of our those things. If the means of production require the sacrifice of the very lives it is in place to sustain, then isn't that something that needs at the very least, some adjustment? Time will tell, and those are debates to be had in the future.
I am one of the lucky people that were still able to be employed during the crisis, and can still "afford" to talk about safety over economy without worrying about losing my job or not making ends meet. That said however, we are walking a thin line between protecting the economy vs protecting unnecessary profits.
Let us leave the voices of the experts on matters of public safety and epidemiology guide us and help us make sure that the balance between sustaining our economy and protecting our lives trumps over the doomsayers.