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How to build a fair and green economic system according to covid-19

Covid-19 has revealed major weaknesses in our economies. New Scientist asked six leading economists how they could redesign it to reduce inequality and save the planet

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October 28, 2020

By New scientist

The coronavirus has triggered an economic crisis like it has never been seen before. In just one month, from March to April, the US unemployment rate tripled to nearly 15 percent and remains uncomfortably high. Elsewhere, only state intervention on a scale practically unknown outside of the war has averted the worst consequences. In the UK, gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of economic activity, declined 20 percent in the three months to June. To find another case of this order, you would have to go back about 300 years.

The events of the past six months have simmered arguments about the economy that have waned since at least the 2008-09 financial crisis. While the size of the world economy has quadrupled since 1970 and the material well-being of billions has improved, over the past decade many people's incomes have stagnated and inequality has risen (see “Failed System?”). During the Covid-19 pandemic, some of the most important tasks have been shown to be carried out by some of the worst paid people – people who are also among the most likely to die from the virus.

Meanwhile, the conventional economy's focus on growth at all costs has been blamed for the destruction of ecosystems that made both the likelihood of a pandemic and its effects worse. All of this raises two questions: are our economies fit for the post-nineteenth century, and if not, how must they change? New Scientist asked six leading business thinkers how we got to where we are and how we might choose to do things differently.

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Diane Coyle …