The Pandemic Is Accelerating Trends That Are Disrupting The Foundations Of The Economy

The problem is the economy that's left has no means of creating tens of millions of jobs to replace those lost as the 1959 economic model collapses.

Fundamentally, the economy of 2019 was not very different from the economy of 1959: people went shopping at retail stores, were educated at sprawling college campuses, went to work downtown, drove to the doctor's office or hospital, caught a flight at the airport, and so on.

The daily routine of the vast majority of the workforce was no different from 1959. In 2019, the commutes were longer, white-collar workers stared at screens rather than typewriters, factory workers tended robots and so on, but the fundamentals of everyday life and the nature of work were pretty much the same.

Beneath the surface, the fundamental change in the economy was financialization, the commodification of everything into a financial asset or income stream that could then be leveraged, bundled and sold globally at an immense profit by Wall Street financiers.

This layer of speculative asset-income mining had no relation to the actual work being done; it existed in its own derealized realm.

For decades, these two realms--the structure of everyday life (to borrow Braudel's apt term) and the abstract, derealized but oh so profitable realm of financialization--co-existed in an uneasy state of loosely bound systems.

If you squinted hard enough and repeated the mantras often enough, you could persuade yourself there was still some connection between the everyday-life economy and the realm of financialization.

The two realms have now disconnected, and the real-world economy has been ripped from its moorings, as patterns of work and every-day life that stretch back 70 years to the emergence of the postwar era unravel and dissolve.

The trends that are currently fatally disrupting retail, education, office work and healthcare have been in place for years. When I wrote my 2013 book about the digitized future of higher education in a low-cost union of high-touch and low-touch learning, The Nearly Free University, all these trends were already clearly visible to those willing to look beyond the models embedded in the economy for decades or even centuries.

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Disclosures: None.

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