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Photo by 烧不酥在上海 老的 on Unsplash

Yesterday, I listened to WNYC’s Brian Lehreh show. There was a nurse working in emergency care pleading and petitioning for help. These medical professionals are out of supplies and they don’t even have enough masks to protect themselves!

We are effectively in a state of war against the new virus. There is a call for nationalizing the manufacturing of critical supplies. Can we leave the manufacturing of these supplies to the market, which is always based on profit motive? What did America do during the world wars?

The pathetic inadequacy of markets and private incentives is plain to see. I also understand that after the 2003 SARS outbreak, there was some research effort done by private companies. But it stopped quickly. There was no profit incentive. Why would a corporation care to develop a new vaccine, a new medicine, etc. if there is no immediate demand for it? We live in a market-based economy. Typically, the market does not look far enough ahead to anticipate distant but dire needs.

Pandemics and the emergence of life-threatening new diseases have become more and more frequent. This has been predicted by scientists a long time ago. It has much to do with urbanization, deforestation and the resulting loss of habitat of the wild animals. Yet, where is the effort to come up with measures to handle future outbreaks? We have seen precious little attempt to make preparations. Why? Because there is neither profit nor political incentive. Today, our entire society is run on profits and markets. But these incentives do not help us make important public investments in crucial and strategically important areas.

This coronavirus crisis is a wake-up call. Hopefully, it is not too late. But we have seen the extent of the failures and damages wrecked by this profit-based thinking. The time to make a fundamental change is NOW. Who do you think will lead us in the direction we need to move? Make wise choices in the upcoming election. We cannot afford not to.

In the meantime, remember those working in the front line of this war — doctors, nurses, emergency service workers, hospital staff. While many of us stay home, they have to be on their jobs, often risking their lives. If we pay due respect and tribute to our soldiers, we should regard those in the medical profession in the same manner. They are the new soldiers in this silent but deadly war. They deserve our help, support and respect. The way to support them is to exert pressure on the politicians who don’t seem to care.

The coronavirus crisis is teaching us very important lessons. Let these lesson not fall on deaf ears. It is time to act.

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Published author, Zen teacher, professor, scientist, philosopher, social commentator, socially-engaged human

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