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What COVID Hath Wrought


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The American Mind

The hard facts—and hopeful opportunities—of a post-pandemic world.

Joel Kotkin

May 24 2022

Glenn Ellmers’s analysis of COVID and Trump represents a classic, and effective, account of the situation from the perspective of declining liberty and adherence to traditional values. But though it is important and necessary to hold onto our highest ideals, I would like to emphasize what is actually taking place on the ground and its likely long-term implication.

Statistics show that COVID accelerated economic, demographic, and geographic trends which were already existent, but rarely acknowledged. These trends include large-scale migration to the south, the west, and the suburbs. COVID also, as Ellmers suggests, sharpened the conflict between many Americans and the ruling “expert” class, who, unlike most Americans, actually flourished under COVID.

I am less sure that Trump was a force for good in all this, given his profound personal failings and mixed messaging during the pandemic. Yet he did stir up dissent against the overweening policies of some governors. In this sense the health crisis intensified an already existing political one. Looking forward, post-COVID reality has seen the emergence of powerful populist politics in both parties, and a marked drop in public esteem for the nation’s once-revered institutions.

Funding the New Elites

 

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The post-COVID world does not have to be a diminished one. There is a basis for change in a society where more *people work remotely and live as they prefer, violating urban orthodoxy that continues to push, against all health considerations , for ever-greater densities and greater use of public transit. Rather than letting the Clerisy force us closer together, we could nurture instead a decentralized economic structure that would be naturally protective of families, communities, health, and ultimately democracy.

Abstract political philosophy can be enlightening, but it needs to be cashed out in terms of real actions and consequences if it is to rally the average voter. The case should be made that the new autocracy’s gambits are making things materially worse, as evidenced by such failures as high energy prices, the export of manufacturing, school closures, and the devastating effects of masking the very young.

“The habit of despair is worse than despair itself,” Camus noted. To move past this, we need to challenge the inconsistencies of the elites not primarily for ideological reasons but in terms of practical impacts on everyday life. Those who favor productive industry, family, and the notion of upward mobility need to come up with policies that address our most profound concerns, like the pandemic or climate, in ways that sustain both democracy and the hope for upward mobility. Ideology unmoored from the reality of people’s daily experience is not enough.

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* Here is The Problem. Someone has to Make All The Stuff these people use. Like a filter o your I Phone? Someone has to Make That, actually that would be several hundred Someones. Like eating food, wearing clothes? Can't do that Remotely.

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