The events of 9/11 led to lasting changes that Americans were willing to accept long term in exchange for reduced travel risks and the perception of safety.
Seat belt laws, public littering campaigns, and drunk driving initiatives have all dramatically changed American attitudes and behavior. The question now is, which changes resulting from COVID-19 will stick for the long term, and which will be temporary?
And what defines temporary—three months, six months, a year, several years? The travel industry took four years to rebound from 9/11. How elastic our economy is depends on consumer confidence, trust in the validity of the information we receive, and the desire and willingness to accept the trade-offs required to lead a “normal life.”
3 Key Factors Driving the Economy
While there are a multitude of factors that will determine what the next chapter of our economy and American society will look like, there are three factors I see as key drivers: self-interest, experiences, and social trust.
Self-interest because we know our species is driven by DNA that specifies we seek our own survival above all else. Individual self-interest is what advances the human race and has led to our 21st-century civilization. Any future changes to our culture and way of life must be filtered through the lens of “Will I do this in exchange for some assurance that I will be individually safer and better off?”
Our individual experiences inform our beliefs, values, and attitudes. “We are all in the same storm but not in the same boat” has never been truer than during COVID-19. A work-from-home employee is experiencing COVID-19 much differently than a nurse, bus driver, or grocery store worker. The 30% of Americans in the work-from-home class will likely navigate the recovery differently than the frontline workers whose lives haven’t changed very much—except for the profound risk that they have undertaken.
And finally, social norms will ultimately shape how long we all wear masks and gloves and socially distance—or don’t. We now have many American cultures within our vast melting pot that are melted less than they once were. The question is, will we all warm up enough to a new cultural norm to prevail and allow our melting pot to fuse us together again as a nation?
I think we will. I believe that our genetically hard-wired need for survival and our desire for a more perfect Union will prevail and that our national shared experience brought about by the coronavirus will yield a new level of forgiveness, patience, and tolerance. And while this silent killer most severely impacts the most vulnerable among us, we are all afraid and susceptible. It’s from this collective vulnerability that we can reconstruct our social fabric, our need and desire to forgive, and our national imperative to rebuild the American promise.
Founder & CEO
360 Live Media