The Lockdown Generation's "Lost Season" Will Incur Huge Unseen Social Costs

Foregone social capital is debilitating, even if it is not represented in economic statistics.

No one has been left untouched by the coronavirus pandemic, and indiscriminate, government-imposed lockdowns have exacerbated its effects greatly.

The economy will eventually begin to grow again following this largely self-inflicted wound, but calling it a “recovery” would be missing the lifelong costs that will be borne mostly by individuals and communities with the least economic and social capital.

Image credit: Hamish Duncan on Unsplash

Economic costs (such as lost wages) are somewhat easy to explain, but very few are discussing the sometimes invisible social costs that come from not fully participating in the world for such a long stretch of time. By restricting how individuals are able to engage with their communities (and human society as a whole through trade), government policies have, at least, delayed the establishment of valuable connections that people would have made, and, at most, prevented them all together.

These interpersonal connections take many forms and it is impossible for outsiders to judge their relative value. Students are not having chance discussions with teachers or professors on the quad, or with fellow students in the coffee shop or library. Single people are missing the chance to meet others at bars and clubs or just while walking their dogs. Businesspeople are not meeting on the golf course to possibly find just the partners they were looking for. Scientists are missing the conversation outside of the important presentation that could be the key to their most challenging problem. You get the idea.

When every social interaction is planned by Zoom, there is little room for surprises that can influence the entire course of one’s life.

Because of indiscriminate lockdowns, we are all not only poorer materially, but also we are missing the vital creation of social capital, which is the value of each of the relationships we have and maintain. We build social capital through sharing with others our experiences, values, and company. It is through social capital that we are able to trade favors, get references, and generally enjoy life with other people.

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Richard N. Lorenc is FEE's Executive Vice President, serving as chief of staff, managing corporate finances, participating in fundraising, and directing partnerships.

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