Capitalism's Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic: Let the Elderly Die

The most reactionary of the political economists in the early 19th century was the Reverend Thomas Malthus, who argued that there were too many 'unproductive' poor people in the world, so regular plagues and disease were necessary and inevitable to make economies more productive.

Malthus wrote:

Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits. In our towns we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and court the return of the plague. In the country, we should build our villages near stagnant pools, and particularly encourage settlements in all marshy and unwholesome situations. But above all, we should reprobate specific remedies for ravaging diseases; and those benevolent, but much mistaken men, who have thought they were doing a service to mankind by projecting schemes for the total extirpation of particular disorders. If by these and similar means the annual mortality were increased ... we might probably every one of us marry at the age of puberty, and yet few be absolutely starved

Malthus has his modern day followers

Free market economists, like the Adam Smith Institute, the Cato Institute and the Institute of Economic Affairs, are not very happy at the way Trump and Johnson are "throwing money at the problem". These centres of capitalist propaganda are underpinned by the money of multi-billionaires like the Koch brothers and Ray Dailo.

And on behalf of the interest of their sponsors, these free markets do not like the shutdown of the economy nor the harm it has caused the capitalist class. And they are worried. They think capitalism is broken. Free market economists are briefing journalists to write articles in the media to pressurise the government to end the lock-down. Their arguments draw upon Parson Malthus.

So it comes as no surprise that we read the following headline in the SUN, owned by the billionaire Rupert Murdoch: written by its political editor Trevor Kavanagh: Hysteria forced the UK into lockdown and will kill more than coronavirus (31.3.2020).

These defenders of capitalism want governments to do nothing. A truly laissez-faire approach to the pandemic.

Another journalist, Max Hastings, also said on BBC Radio 4's WORLD AT ONE (5 March 2020) that nothing should be done by the government to disrupt capitalism and the virus should be allowed to run its course killing the elderly and the ill but protecting the young. He looked at the elderly as "dead-weight" on the NHS - an expendable part of the population. His tactic was to split the working class along generation lines rather than for the working class to critically look at capitalism and the economic and social problems capitalism causes, particularly to the poor, the sick and the elderly.

Lord King, former Governor of Bank of England, said that the elderly should be sacrificed for the benefit of the young. He based his argument on the young being harmed by the crisis of 2008-9 and the elderly not doing too badly (LBC 3 April 2020). Nothing was said by King about why capitalism goes into crisis. Nothing was said about the anarchy of commodity production and exchange for profit. And nothing was said about the fact that it is the laws acting on capitalism which cause periodic economic depressions and high levels of unemployment.

And then there is the eugenicist and SPECTATOR writer, Toby Young. He is a vulgar shock-jock and poor man's Peter Hitchins. He used an economic calculus as a justification to cull the elderly ("Has the Government Overreacted to the Coronavirus Crisis?" THE CRITIC, 31 March 2020). He believes that devoting so many medical resources to those in their late 70s does not represent value to the taxpayer. And the burden of taxation falls on the capitalist class. How this economic argument goes down with his fellow Tories, where the average age of the Party is 72 (Tory Bow group, (5 October 2017), we have not yet been told.

Two studies are wheeled out by defender of capitalism to support how badly the young did during the last economic crises and trade depression.

A 2016 study by researchers at Imperial College London found that the last global financial crisis caused 500,000 cancer deaths worldwide between 2008 and 2010. They found a correlation between each percentage increase in unemployment, and an upturn in cancer deaths.

Another study in 2014 by University of Oxford researchers found over 10,000 suicides tied to the Great Recession in the U.S., Canada and Europe:

Even if these studies are correct, they demonstrate the utter uselessness of capitalism to meet the needs of the working class. The studies give weight to the urgent need of the working class to establish socialism - the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society - not using the statistics to write-off a section of the working class. The trade cycle is not natural. Workers do not have to be unemployed, they do not have to face decades of austerity, and there is a socialist alternative. Capitalism kills, not elderly workers.

The Conservative journalist Jeremy Warner also noted that the Covid-19 pandemic 'primarily kills the elderly'. He reasoned the 1918 Spanish flu had a 'lasting impact on supply' because it killed off 'primary bread-winners', which he said is unlikely to happen with coronavirus.

He went on to conclude:

"Not to put too fine a point on it, from an entirely disinterested economic perspective, the COVID-19 might even prove mildly beneficial in the long term by disproportionately culling elderly dependents." (DAILY TELEGRAPH March 3 2020)

One shocked reader of the Daily Telegraph, owned by the sinister billionaire Barclay Brothers now holed up in their £60m mock Gothic castle with private heath care facilities on the Channel Island of, Brecqhou wrote:

"This breaks my heart. My 85 year old mum reads this paper every day and has spent the last 11 and a half months learning how to live well without my dad and her husband of 62 years. Then she reads this - just imagine. We are so uncaring of our elderly".

"We" are not uncaring of the elderly but capitalism is. If you want a caring and co-operative society then establish socialism.

Responding to criticism Warner said:

'Obviously, for those affected it is a human tragedy whatever the age, but this is a piece about economics, not the sum of human misery.'

Capitalist economics: an ideology of misery. We do not need capitalism and we do not need its economists. In this respect, we recall the Mikado and the Lord High Executioner, Ko-Ko and his "Little List"

As some days may happen
That a victim must be found
I've got a little list
I've got a little list
Of society offenders
Who might well be underground
And never would be missed
They never would be missed

And on that list would be the damned capitalist and his economist. They would never be missed.

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Object and Declaration of Principles


The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.

Declaration of Principles


1. That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (ie land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.

2. That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.

3.That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.

4. That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.

5. That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.

6. That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.

7. That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.

8. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.