How has Covid-19 re-shaped our ideas about what we owe society? The lockdown has had a terrible impact on the economic prospects of young people - and the elderly have suffered from high mortality in care homes. Choices have to be made between the generations. Should people save and pay for their own pensions, care in ill-health and old age as an individual responsibility? Or is it a societal duty that should be funded by compulsory payment of taxes?
The role of collective versus individual responsibility has shifted across time and between societies around the world according to different cultural understanding, political calculation, and pragmatic necessity. Might Covid-19 mark a further shift in the balance?
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Martin is a British academic and historian. He was Master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, between 2004 and 2014. He is Emeritus Professor of Economic History at the University of Cambridge.
He has written two books on the history of taxation in Britain –Trusting Leviathan and Just Taxes, and recently co-edited with colleagues in Berlin a volume of essays on the political economy of public finance in leading OECD countries since the 1970s.