The coronavirus crisis is profoundly disturbing, in the sense that I am quite sure that nothing will ever be the same again. Events like this always leave an impression, if only as a scar.
My hope is that we can make improvements in society as we come out of this crisis. So, I am working with academic colleagues on ideas to improve the resilience and sustainability of companies so that they will not fail in the future as many are right now. We hope to publish on that within a month.
I am working with the Green New Deal Group on a series of briefings that might start quite soon on how the Green New Deal is the answer to the needs of recreating real wealth after this crisis is over.
I am working with the Global Initiative for Financial Transparency on a programme on how tax transparency can be improved, which is a big project.
And I am also hoping to start work very soon indeed on a project I am calling Tax After Coronavirus (TACs). Quite literally, this is about the reforms in the UK (and maybe other) tax systems that will be needed to rebuild our society. There will be more on this project very soon.
I am going to be busy. Three of these ideas are heading to be short book-length, and all are running simultaneously. Thankfully, at least one should appear in instalments here first: blogging and book writing might overlap.
And, of course, some of the projects overlap to some degree too, but that's just fine: messages need to be delivered in different ways right now. Saying broadly similar things more than once will not be a problem at this moment.
But the key point of this post is how important it is that we react quickly now. As the FT said at the weekend:
The leaders who won the war did not wait for victory to plan for what would follow. Franklin D Roosevelt and Winston Churchill issued the Atlantic Charter, setting the course for the United Nations, in 1941. The UK published the Beveridge Report, its commitment to a universal welfare state, in 1942. In 1944, the Bretton Woods conference forged the postwar financial architecture. That same kind of foresight is needed today. Beyond the public health war, true leaders will mobilise now to win the peace.
Before anyone jumps up and down, I am not claiming to be a leader. Nor am I claiming to be writing the equivalent of the Beveridge Report. I'm just trying to ensure ideas are created that might influence outcomes. And I think that's important.
And before anyone asks why that is, I think it fair to say that the evidence is very apparent. For example, the Guardian reported this morning that:
The world may be racked by the coronavirus, but Donald Trump has less earthly concerns on his mind, too, after signing an executive order encouraging the US to mine the moon for minerals.
The executive order makes clear that the US doesn’t view space as a “global commons”, opening the way for the mining of the moon without any sort of international treaty.
“Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space,” the order states, noting that the US had never signed a 1979 agreement known as the moon treaty. This agreement stipulates that any activities in space should conform to international law. In 2015, the US Congress passed a law explicitly allowing American companies to use resources from the moon and asteroids.
The old order has not given up its claims on the world, or even what is beyond it, as yet. The idea that all is available to be exploited is still prevalent. But in the AC (after-coronavirus) world this cannot be the case.
We will still have to fight climate change, and there are many that will resist that, and even more so now, claiming that we cannot afford to do so.
We will have to fight for the wellbeing of those who will have suffered. A social safety net will be needed, more than ever.
The essential workers who have not been valued will need to be a priority: never again must they be undervalued.
Wealth and income will need to be redistributed: there is a massive role for tax in doing that.
A more just world is required.
Resielnce is neessary.
And so too is an accountable and transparently fair tax system that fits properly into a well-planned programme of economic management for the benefit of all.
There are those, like Trump, who will want none of those things. The fight for a new world order will be a fight. And it's one we have to win, starting with the ideas.