Lessons for the Age of Consequences: COVID-19 and the Macroeconomy

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Comparative empirical evidence for 22 OECD countries shows that country differences in cumulative mortality impacts of SARS-CoV-2 are caused by weaknesses in public health competences, pre-existing variances in structural socio-economic and public health vulnerabilities, and the presence of fiscal constraints. Remarkably, the (fiscally non-constrained) U.S. and the U.K. stand out, as they experience mortality outcomes similar to those of fiscally-constrained countries. High COVID19 mortality in the U.S. and the U.K. is due to pre-existing socio-economic and public health vulnerabilities, created by the following macroeconomic policy errors: (a) a deadly emphasis on fiscal austerity (which diminished public health capacities, damaged public health and deepened inequalities); (b) an obsessive belief in a trade-off between ‘efficiency’ and ‘equity’, which is mostly used to justify extreme inequality; (c) a complicit endorsement by mainstream macro of the unchecked power over monetary and fiscal policy-making of global finance and the rentier class; and (d) an unhealthy aversion to raising taxes, which deceives the public about the necessity to raise taxes to counter the excessive liquidity preference of the rentiers and to realign the interests of finance and of the real economy. The paper concludes by outlining a few lessons for a saner macroeconomics.
Original languageEnglish
JournalReview of Political Economy
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • COVID-19
  • economic inequality
  • excess liquidity
  • fiscal austerity
  • public health emergency
  • recession
  • relief spending
  • social determinants of health
  • ‘disconnect’ between the financial and the real worlds


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