Capitalism in the time of Pandemic

On television I  recently heard Scott Galloway, a Professor of Marketing  at New York University Stern School of Business who also wrote a book called Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity. I heard him interviewed on a few different television shows recently flogging his book.

He is very interesting. Scott Galloway is an enthusiast for capitalism, just like Michael Zwaagstra a local counsellor. But that is where the resemblance ends. Zwaagstra recently wrote an article in our local Carillon News and said capitalism was doing just fine and he could hardly wait to get right back to it without any changes. Our member of Parliament, Ted Falk, thinks the same way. Why change what’s pretty  close to perfect? Zwaagstra and Falk both dismissed any suggestion that anything should change, he liked it exactly the way it was. Of course, those most comfortable with things as they are tend to feel that way.

Scott Galloway is different. He is enthusiastic about capitalism, but he believes changes are needed. Badly.

Hari Sreenivasan on Amanpour & Company interviewed Galloway and pointed out that in the US more than 250,000 people have already died from Covid-19. Of course, since then many more have died.  Sreenivasan pointed out that the disease has exposed some serious weaknesses in the American economy, but has also provided an opportunity to fix some of those weaknesses. Someone once said, we should never waste a crisis. Zwaagstra and the other Panglosses want to do exactly that. Why fix something that is not broken?

Galloway pointed out that before the pandemic there were a lot of people who were optimistic to the point of arrogance. The system was working well for many people, but for others it was disastrous. The pandemic made clear to all that many of the governmental institutions had been woefully underfunded. Galloway is a capitalist, but he recognized the importance of government. The crisis has allowed us to spend more time with our families, it has allowed us to look closely at our educational system. Our health care system needs a close examination in the light of what we have learned from the pandemic. It has shown how e-commerce can work. To him, unlike Zwaagstra, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.

In health care Galloway believes the greatest shift in stakeholder value is about to occur in the business history of the US. In the US 17% of the GDP is heath care.

Here is what he said,


“It is arguably the largest business in the world clocking in at 3 or 4 trillion dollars a year, but the outcomes have been decreasing. Life expectancy has been going down and mortality is stuck at a certain level. Customer satisfaction is pretty anemic. The medical profession as retail is probably the second worst retail in America behind gas stations. Imagine going to a store for a sunblock and someone sides a plexi-glass gives you a form and says to you ‘Here fill out this paperwork and we’ll see you in 30 minutes! It’s a fairly uninspiring experience. The exciting thing is that 99% of the people who have contracted, endured, and developed anti-bodies for the coronavirus did it without entering a doctor’s office let alone a hospital.”


Professor Galloway said  he got his Covid-19 test in his kitchen. Things are changing rapidly and sometimes for the better.

“Just as e-commerce took the store to your living room, just as the movie theater moved into your living room, the doctor’s office, hospitals, and diagnostics moved to your house.”

These things are a sea change. I had a doctor’s examination from my cottage at the lake while the doctor was in his office. I had a blemish or spot on my head that worried me. My wife took a photo and emailed it to the doctor who looked at it and said, “I think it’s benign.”  While I wished he could have said that with a little more confidence it was a shockingly good experience with my physician.

As Galloway said,

“This might give us not just an opportunity to reduce costs but to take us off our heels as a nation being reactive and defensive about our health and get on our toes and talk more about primary care. It made people more comfortable with their relationship with their health care provider. Amazon just announced that they would have 24/7 pharmacists available and 2-hour delivery. So, we could see an explosion of innovation in health care. You could arguably say it is the most exciting place to be in our economy post-covid. Regulations have come crashing down. Consumers are now comfortable receiving health care over their hand held in their home.”

I admit that describes me. I want to see my doctor from time to time, but often I don’t need to go his or her office. By phone or ipad often is good enough and saves me a lot of time. My time is valuable too.

Galloway had some less complementary things to say about capitalism. I will explore those next.

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