More than seventy-thousand Americans have died of Covid-19 related causes. More than one million have been confirmed as having been infected by Covid-19. Millions are cowering in their homes in fear. Much of the country has shut down – tanking our economy. More than twenty-percent of the U.S. labor force, that’s thirty million people, are unemployed and scrambling to make ends meet. The government is printing money furiously; even sending funds to dead people to get money flowing.
Are we in a crisis?
It sure looks like one; a health crisis which triggered an economic crisis.
We can second guess everything we’ve done so far regarding the contagion. While arm-chair quarterbacking allows the luxury of feeling self-righteous rarely does it do any good.
As distressing as the shutdown has been we can appreciate some silver linings in those covid clouds. People are pulling together around the country implementing social distancing to stem viral spread. Many family members sheltering in homes are rekindling relationships. Neighbors are helping neighbors. We’ve discovered working from home and home schooling can work. And air and noise pollution have declined markedly.
We succeeded keeping our medical systems from being overwhelmed – the reason we shut down in the first place.
We are where we are – here now – so what next?
We all keep hearing: a “new normal.” What does a new normal look like?
Is a new normal the best we can do?
Instead of settling for a new normal could we actually improve things? Why not come out of this crisis with better health, a better supply chain, better work life and a stronger economy?
Instead of a new normal, why not better?
Every crisis has embedded in it the seeds of opportunity. As Shakespeare mused, ‘Tis it nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them?’
You and I can create a list of negative consequences stemming from or exacerbated by Covid-19; I listed some to open this article. While we certainly must grieve our losses, for most the reality is that things are different – things have changed.
A fraction of less than one percent of the U.S. population is confirmed to have been infected by Covid-19. The reality is likely that tens of millions more have been infected. While seventy-thousand dead is a tragic loss we don’t know how much Covid-19 has impacted mortality rates. We routinely lose more than 462,000 Americans from all causes over any two month period.
Optimistic economists are expecting a “V-shaped” recovery once restrictions are lifted and we get back to work. The “V” shape represents a swift and dramatic drop, followed by an invigorated return to normal economic activity over the course of months. Other economists are suggesting a “U-shaped” recovery taking potentially a couple of years for our economy to return to pre-covid levels of productivity. Some economists however, are predicting an “L-shaped” new normal. These economist claim Covid-19 acted as a trigger to topple an already wobbly house of cards: a fundamentally unsound economy.
Sure, life has changed.
But remember: Life is change.
The challenge always before us: Do we embrace change and make the most of it or do we resist?
We’re headed for a new normal. Will we, can we, stop the infighting and finger pointing and muster the wisdom and discipline to take advantage of the opportunity before us? Are we going to resist or are we going to embrace change and choose the best possible option?
Despite hopeful to grave predictions the reality we end up experiencing comes down to how we choose to respond. Whether we see a speedy resurgence back to productivity or we wallow in malaise is a matter of choice. What we decide determines our fate. So why not move forward rather than falling back?
Four things matter in an economy: physical resources; human labor and motivation; ideas, information and knowledge; and ownership or “The Rules of the Game.” An economy is fundamentally the aggregate of people doing things for other people – the merger of physical resources, labor and ideas. Even with the destructive attack of Covid-19 we have all the elements we need to advance. Politics however, is the struggle over ownership: the rules of the game. To actually advance we must settle the power struggle. We must come to terms regarding the rules before we can effectively play the game.
I’m not proposing a political prescription here; rather my purpose is to plant a seed for you to consider that we advance beyond a new normal to something better.
Covid-19 has caused a crisis; no doubt about it. While we’ve undertaken social distancing to limit the spread of the virus, the absolute worst outcome from Covid-19 would be to allow it to divide and isolate us from one another further. The shutdown has offered us a broad range of new perspectives and possibilities if we have the wisdom and will to act. We can, if we choose, make progress:
- Rebalancing and resetting family and work life.
- Redesigning and empowering our education system.
- Redefining and reinvigorating our national and global transportation networks.
- Improving our national and global supply chains.
- Reinventing our medical treatment and healthcare systems.
- Controlling pollution and addressing man-made climate change.
And this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are opportunities in this crisis.
We can hide from crisis – cower and complain – or we can choose to come together, advance and make ourselves and our world better.
We have everything we need at our disposal – the resources, the people and the ideas. All we must muster is the will to advance.
A new normal doesn’t sound that great to me; it has the ring of something less. I think we can do better.
What do you think?