🌎 PALACED #11: The Post-Corona Economy

What will our situation be in a year? How about two?

Hey y’all!

PALACED #11 is here!

I wish I had more stories to share in this little intro, but staying at home makes it difficult to have new stories.

I do have a request, though:

If you’d like to guest curate an edition of PALACED, let me know! One requirement: It would need a theme. Y’all know how broad this newsletter has been, so I’m sure we can make it fit :)

Other than that, let’s get rollin…

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The Palace

Last week we talked about how coronavirus is exposing American individualism.

This week, I want to dig into what life will look like after coronavirus.

There are three major trends I want to explore. Some of them may actually be realistic. Others may not. But they’re all interesting ought experiments nonetheless.

The Post-Pandemic Labor Force

About two-thirds of the job losses last month occurred in leisure and hospitality. That makes sense — they’re businesses that rely on large gatherings of people to stay afloat. But their counterparts who can work remotely aren’t facing the same issues. In fact, remote work might actually be better for the professional class in the long-run.

  1. The shift to remote work will be accelerated, increasing labor inequality. The professional class’s shift to remote work was inevitable. It’s impossible to foresee a future where certain professions did not abolish formal offices and in-house work requirements — it was just taking a while. People needed to get used to the idea and the technology had to get up to par.

    With COVID-19, that time has come: “People will change their habits, and some of these habits will stick,” said Susan Athey, an economics of technology professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business. “There’s a lot of things where people are just slowly shifting, and this will accelerate that.”

    What does that mean for everyone else? A whole class of Americans already gets to spend more time with their families, manage their own calendars, flexible vacation… but most don’t. And now that gap will get worse.

    Am I against remote work? No, I think it’s the right way forward. But it must be paired with major support for the working class.

  2. Automation will get accelerated as well. Just before the pandemic went global, Amazon announced that it was licensing out it’s cashier-less checkout technology. Any chain would be able to install this system in stores and effectively eliminate the need for any cashiers — period. But the transition to this — and other automated tech — was going to be slow. Then, coronavirus hit.

    “Pre-pandemic, people might have thought we were automating too much,” said Richard Pak, a professor at Clemson University who researches the psychological factors around automation. “This event is going to push people to think what more should be automated.”

    Add in the increased anxieties of shopping in stores that will linger post-quarantine, and you have a recipe for disaster for much of the working class.

Overall, there are bound to be huge boosts in workforce inequality once this is all over.

Prepare For Gaslighting…

There was this really thought-provoking piece about post-corona advertising and marketing published this week.

I don’t have much more to say than the author did, so here’s a snippet:

Pretty soon, as the country begins to figure out how we “open back up” and move forward, very powerful forces will try to convince us all to get back to normal. (That never happened. What are you talking about?) Billions of dollars will be spent on advertising, messaging, and television and media content to make you feel comfortable again. It will come in the traditional forms — a billboard here, a hundred commercials there — and in new-media forms: a 2020–2021 generation of memes to remind you that what you want again is normalcy. In truth, you want the feeling of normalcy, and we all want it. We want desperately to feel good again, to get back to the routines of life, to not lie in bed at night wondering how we’re going to afford our rent and bills, to not wake to an endless scroll of human tragedy on our phones, to have a cup of perfectly brewed coffee, and simply leave the house for work. The need for comfort will be real, and it will be strong. And every brand in America will come to your rescue, dear consumer, to help take away that darkness and get life back to the way it was before the crisis. I urge you to be well aware of what is coming.

Capitalism breeds unnecessary consumption. Post-corona capitalism will be a whole new ballgame.

The Progressive Movement Must Capitalize

This is arguably the most scary element.

The American progressive movement was gaining momentum. Bernie Sanders may have been expected to lose even before mid-March, but we cannot discredit the organizing juggernaut that American progressives were able to develop throughout this election cycle. Down-ballot candidates are absolutely in positions to win nationwide.

But with Biden or Trump at the helm as coronavirus settles down, it is difficult to foresee a future where anything “fundamentally changes” at the federal level.

That sucks.

That doesn’t mean nothing will change… on the contrary, I think a lot will change. But we’ll have to work 10 times harder to take advantage of this political moment and help the people who need it most.

Big Ideas

🏦 The New Economy: Go Tech or Go Solo. Another take on the future of the labor force, but without the coronavirus component. Basic thesis: tech jobs are only becoming more important. In 10 years, if you don’t get a job in Big Tech (or medicine, law, etc.), it probably won’t be a good job. So your options are to go, start your own company, or… nobody is sure. I’m not sure I buy the extremity of his conclusions, but there’s something there.

💸 How To Be Anticapitalist Today. Oldie but a goodie. It’s all in the title. Definitely read this one.

As always, shoot me an email if you wanna chat, have questions, or just to say hi :)

— Jihad