Zombies walk among us. For nearly a decade, economists have issued increasingly strident alarms about the impact of ultralow interest rates on the business ecosystem, warning that easy money prevents the turnover of companies that promotes productivity. Central bank efforts to fend off the catastrophic economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis have amplified the alerts: “Japanification,” a permanent state of sluggish growth, is a possible, if not likely, future for developed economies.
Zombies may be more of a cosmetic problem than a genuine menace. In the short term, keeping companies on life support makes sense given the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic. But even over the long-term, a readiness to pull the plug betrays assumptions about economic health and social well-being that must be more closely examined.