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How’s Your Crystal Ball?

Now that the US has begun the process of reopening, we are seeing a wide variety of predictions about the “New Normal.”

Sports will take place without fans. Waves from a safe distance apart will replace a handshake. Happy hour crowds at restaurants will be replaced by half-empty dining rooms. The folks who check you out at the grocery store or shop will be protected behind plexiglass barriers. Facemasks are now the must-have fashion accessory (and not only for summer).

Are you concerned or sad about this ‘new normal?’

Perhaps a little skepticism is called for – because we have lived through a variety of New Normals.

Well before my time and yours, there was the 1918 Spanish Flu creating a ‘new normal.’ This was followed by the cheerful Roaring ’20s which was followed by the Great Depression, which was in turn followed by a second World War. Each historically major event signaled a ‘New Normal.’

In the 1970s, inflation and energy scarcity heralded a ‘new normal. (Those of us who were driving then remember waiting in long lines and only being able to get gas on alternating days, based on our license plate number.) With changes in government policy, those challenging conditions were replaced in the late 1990s by the new economy which was another ‘new normal’ albeit a prosperous one. The combination of the dot-com bust and the financial crisis of 2008 ended that magical thinking as we were stewarded into another ‘new normal.’

The last few years capital creation and job growth were back – and then COVID 19 brought a very harsh reckoning.

I wonder if we are any better today than previous generations about predicting what the ‘new-normal’ will really look like and how long it will last. Many of us are very cautious about resuming old activities but it’s hard to tell how long this reluctance will last, or if health security measures like temperature checks will become a permanent part of our lives, like the post 9/11 airport security.

COVID19 is also markedly different from those previous disasters because it is not viewed as a private sector offense requiring entirely new bureaucracies to remedy “market failure.” It is the virus that kicked off this crisis. The consequences are a result of the rapid spread of the virus, the lack of a vaccine or a viable treatment, and the consequences of the variety of “social distancing” responses imposed by the federal and state governments.

So what do we know for sure? That lots of people will tell you what the ‘new normal’ will look like – but it’s more accurate to call it the ‘normal for now.’

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 9th, 2020 at 12:15 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.