15 Massive Changes Happening Before Our Eyes.

Recently, I’ve been working on a thought and research project aimed first at satisfying my own curiosity and, second, to strategically guide my company through the next few years.

We are living through a period that is likely to produce rapid and long lasting changes in American society. The list below is an attempt to catalogue the most profound of these changes.

Over the last week, I’ve shared a draft of this list with several friends and advisors and what you see below reflects their feedback along with my thoughts. Each projection is grouped into categories by “low,” “medium” and “high” confidence.

High confidence items are trends we already see happening whereas low confidence items are trends that have not yet begun to take hold.

High Confidence:

- An intense debate about whether we need a stronger federal government or stronger local and state governments. Be prepared for routine constitutional crisis as governors and mayors ignore federal or state laws in favor of locally preferable solutions. The current period will see the most independent policy and legal actions by states since the Civil War.

-Numerous religious liberty cases of which several go to the Supreme Court for a final decision. Specifically, these cases will revolve around the right to assemble when such assemblies are considered key components of worship.

-An immediate political, social and economic rift between the states and cities that re-open with mask and physical distancing requirements and those who remain in indefinite quarantine. Should a fall outbreak occur, an effort to delay elections by several states is likely.

-Overall declines in small business ownership as the hospitality and retail industry consolidate due to decreased demand. Many local governments have effectively ordered small retailers to close while allowing large retailers to remain open placing further pressure on small businesses.

- Increased economic and social leverage by the working and trade classes due to their role in maintaining the supply chain and the expectation that they take on the majority of health risks during the outbreak. A growing class divide is being created between the “non-essential” higher paid white collar workers and the now “essential” but lower paid blue collar workers.

Medium Confidence:

- The potential of a permanent fall in demand for any out of home experience like air travel, trade conferences, theatrical shows, cruises, nightlife and restaurants. As a result the relative cost of travel and dining will increase significantly.

- A de-urbanization as people with means leave cities which offer higher health risk, small living spaces and fewer entertainment options. Acceptance of remote work helps accelerate this trend.

-A decline in the perceived value of prestige higher education as the relationship between on campus experience (socializing) and education are broken. The value of an economics course taught on Zoom is the same for students paying Harvard tuition as for those paying junior college tuition.

-The return of essential manufacturing to the United States helping drive economic recovery in small towns. The return of manufacturing is likely to be limited however, as India and other countries pick up most of the consumer good production that leaves China.

-Increasing efforts by the Chinese government to generate leverage in American society through investments and partnerships in American entertainment, tech and news media.

-Overall decreases in productivity as businesses contend with how to shift management models for remote work and meetings.

Low Confidence:

- A decline of the overall standard of living approximate to the late 1980s in regards to purchasing power. Significant price increases for most goods and services coupled with stagnant wages will decrease demand for many luxuries such as travel, restaurant dining, electronics and designer fashion.

- The growing acceptance of physical risk in everyday life as individuals factor COVID-19 into their lifestyle and among institutions as they pursue rapid means of testing medical therapies. Just as we lost test pilots in the development of aviation we will lose test volunteers in the development of new treatments.

- The potential for violent conflicts between citizens and government is greatly increased as some state and local leaders choose aggressive enforcement tactics that, at times, curtail nearly every Constitutional right.

- A stagnation in the progress of information technology coupled with a rapid advancement of biotechnology as regulations, bureaucracy and resources constraints are removed on biotech. Your phone won’t get much better but you’ll have cures for previously incurable illnesses.

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Joe Clements

Joe Clements

Entrepreneur, political analyst, reader and writer. Co-Host Of Record Podcast (podcastofrecord.com)