In recent years, leading economists, investors, and journalists have painted a decidedly grim vision of our near future: The U.S. economic system and society itself are coming apart, these dystopian voices have said, beset by one of the darkest chapters in the country’s history, including a pandemic, a jobs apocalypse, and now a deadly attack on Congress.
Yet, in one of the most whiplash-inducing spiritual flip-flops in memory, the new zeitgeist for the next decade is shimmering positivism. The Economist is tantalized by hints of “a new period of economic dynamism,” and the Financial Times of “a once-in-a-century boom.” The Wall Street Journal foresees the best era for manufacturing since the 1990s, and even Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, one of the most convinced curmudgeons in economics, is foreshadowing a fresh period of expansion. Observing so much sunniness, economics blogger Noah Smith has compiled highlights into a “techno-optimism roundup.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, these positivists have declared what they are predicting “the new Roaring Twenties.” A century after the iconic decade of prosperous decadence, the thesis is that the United States and perhaps the rest of the world are on the cusp of one of the biggest outbreaks of economic sizzle in memory. With 1.8 million people dead around the world from Covid-19, including some 350,000 in the U.S., along with all the country’s other problems, it’s become almost too seductive to resist harking back to better times. And what better times to recapture than those of Gatsby, flappers, flippant Chicago gangsters, and jazz-infused speakeasies?
Our Economy Was Just Blasted Years Into the Future
The crisis is compressing and accelerating trends that would have taken decades to play out
But are the positivists right? For the next couple of years, they seem almost certain to be. As increasing numbers of people are vaccinated and the country reopens, Americans are likely to bolt into a bacchanalia of dining, drinking, travel, and other revelry. Travel…