Policy-making in the age of coronavirus anxiety


Since the weekend, I have been feeling almost permanently in a state of high anxiety, not particularly about coronavirus itself but its seemingly endless, economic, social and political waves.

The constant barrage of 24-hour news makes it hard to shelter oneself from events and the pace of change makes it impossible to stay away too long.   And, of course, it is hard to maintain a distance, when one’s job is to monitor and interpret the news for others.

As a successful middle-aged, middle class man I am not supposed to feel stress or anxiety, let alone admit to it.  Yet I am struggling to sleep or concentrate on work, my appetite has abandoned me, and much of the time I have a bitter adrenalin taste in my mouth.  

Why am I telling you this?  This is after all not a confessional self-help site.  

Gradually, over the last few days, I am finding friends and colleagues owning up to the same struggles.  Among the challenges we will need to face is a mental health crisis potentially on a scale we have never known before.

But actually it helps to know others are having the same struggles: maybe my response is not that unusual.  Maybe it is entirely rational.  And maybe it then allows the space for us to support each other more honestly and completely:  I am not simply “doing ok”.

At a recent event I virtually attended, some of the speakers were really angry, picking holes in the government’s response, attacking the prime minister, and explaining what they would have done differently.  However sympathetic I was to their analyses, it didn’t help me understand what to do now and it made it very hard to listen to.

In contrast, another speaker equated the likely aftermath of the coronavirus with 1945, offering an opportunity and need to rebuilt and repurpose the state.  A Basic Income to support individuals who lose their livelihoods as a result of the virus is one solution being offered up by the left.  In the wake of the banking crisis, Radix called for a different approach to quantative easing, which was similarly designed to put money in individuals’ hands. 

Just a few months ago, we held a conference looking at different monetary policy options in the event of further crises.  We will be dusting off those policy discussions, although the collapse in the pound against the dollar is a reminder of the risks of simply printing money.

None of the solutions – like a basic income – that will be offered up over the next few weeks and months can be simple or straightforward.  This is not a simple or straightforward situation.   

The purpose of this blog, however, is to ask that whatever we put forward be framed and presented with kindness and optimism for all our sakes. 

These are impossibly difficult times: we don’t want to kid ourselves, but I hope Radix will be place for solutions and positivity, not anger and blame which will simply raise anxiety levels still higher.   

As an organisation, we are liberal.  We believe in the power of local communities.  We favour radical systemic change not tinkering.  Never has it been clearer that such principles are needed in this country. 

I invite all our readers to share their thoughts on the radical changes which we will need to make a post-coronavirus Britain a kinder, safer and more resilient society for all that live and work here.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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