What can we expect from a post-COVID-19 future? The Financial Times asked leading commentators how they would respond to the question, and SFI External Professor Wendy Carlin of University College London and SFI Professor Sam Bowles weighed in.

COVID-19 is changing fundamentally the way we talk about the economy, Carlin and Bowles argue in their op-ed, and this shift presents opportunities to develop language that fosters more humane economic policy. At other times in history, the authors point out, political leaders have redirected economic policy by reframing how we speak about economic life. Franklin D. Roosevelt, for example, shifted attention from “heedless self-interest” to “freedom from want.” Margaret Thatcher, in contrast, claimed that “there is no such thing as society,” and advanced the idea that “government is just another special interest group.”

At the moment, Carlin and Bowles write, “the battle to control the narrative is already underway.” Thought leaders have choices to make about what facets of human experience they will emphasize in the economic vernacular of the near future. For Carlin and Bowles, the new narrative would do well to embrace three truths: first, that to be effective, governments depend upon citizenries that “trust public health and [are] committed to rule of law.”  Second, that political communities can and do act in strikingly civic-minded ways. And third, in contrast, segments of political communities can act in strikingly xenophobic ways. If we express these three truths in our economic narratives, Carlin and Bowles contend, we will be better equipped to respond to the kinds of crises that we can anticipate in our post-pandemic and climate futures.

Read the op-ed in the Financial Times (April 23, 2020)