The sudden and unexpected detonation of Covid-19 in our societies has turbo-charged the reverse of the unchained globalization of the last decades. And regardless of vaccines, cures, V-shaped or U-shaped recoveries, or whether we will be able to spend our summer vacation at the sea-side, regardless of trillions that will be uselessly spent on failing businesses, countries that might go bankrupt, regardless of financial bubbles being further bloated by central banks who have long lost control, some developments are here to stay, to expand and to take control of us and the communities we live in – with huge implications for the global political world order and the economic foundation of each country.
It will also lead to an end of political and economic absurdities that have been kept alive on ventilators over the past years and typical for the final stage of an era, e.g. useless mass movements of people and goods at costs that do not reflect the real cost for our environment and health; provision of money for free and the abolition of the cleaning and efficiency effects of recessions and downturns; allowing big capital to evade taxation; letting other countries take possession of our technologies and markets; and many others.
Having talked to many political and economic leaders and having looked at all the business and academic discussions, analysis, and gossip, we see five big game-changers for our personal and business lives. And while many will not be happy about these game-changers or even try to deny them, we believe it is only a question on how intensely they will materialize, not if they will be there at all. And while many go against our own values and political belief, we have to acknowledge them to adapt and to fight back. Even to benefit and to exploit them commercially. Freedom is not for free.
Nationalism is back
The complete and unprecedented failure of both UN and EU institutions to play any, even insignificant role in coordinating efforts to contain, control and steer activities in the Covid-19 fight, on medical, regulatory and economic levels has proven to citizens that in the moment of need and crisis, there are only your own national Government and state bodies who protect you. While supranational agencies are used for partisan and propaganda battles, friendship and solidarity between nations are forgotten when the virus comes to town.
Incredible how fast EU states were closing borders, hoarding medical equipment, and prohibiting export, everybody fighting his own individual battle. The UN is in for a massive overhaul once the virus has passed to stop falling into complete insignificance. The EU will have to prove whether there are a long-term added value and any political purpose, having failed in the two most important events of this decade in a row, the refugee crisis, and the corona pandemic. Clearly the nation-state is on a further rise, and once the economic price to pay for the hysterical lock-down will be transparent for the taxpayer, nationalism will see a rapid comeback.
Big Government to stay
The sweet drug of big government that was quickly introduced by most of the states will be with us for the long run. Never in living memory was it easier for governments to restrict individual freedom, to rule into our daily lives with regulations, to spend money unchallenged, and to put future tax burdens on generations to come.
Our basic rights of movement, convening, working, praying and spending was severely restricted, harmed and our activities closely monitored. Nearly unlimited and unchallenged powers for authoritative and neo-authoritative regimes to control and limit us.
Do not believe that governments will hand back these powers fast or without contest. Fear and panic will be kept alive with the populations to cling to these powers. Government influence in all social areas will stay with us for the long-term, camouflaged in a PPE suit, pretending to protect us.
Value chains repatriated
Many citizens and also governments had an abrupt and rough awakening. Thanks to corona we have realized how dependent core value chains for our national security and for our supply chains with critical goods have become over the past two decades. It is incomprehensible how the supply with life-saving antibiotics or anesthetics, spare parts for nuclear power plants, or key parts in the aviation or machine tool industries can be crippled within two weeks of a pandemic.
And how it was possible to hand out the production of these crucial parts beyond our own borders or beyond the borders of our close allies. The global just in time machinery is based on a seamless and cheap transportation framework keeping production overseas and warehouses on the ocean, the road or in the air; and assumes operations in a non-political, friendly geopolitical set-up. Proven wrong.
It is clear that this pandemic will lead to a major re-think of global value chains and lead to the repatriation of critical products and production capabilities within the borders of major nations. The next wave of industrialization with decentralized, localized, and smaller production units driven by robots and AI will arrive faster. 2019 might have been the year of peak transportation. RIP globalization.
Socialist decade coming
Today, the municipal government of Vienna decided to hand out restaurant vouchers to the citizens of Vienna. And while appealing at first glance, you tend to ask yourself: “Hey, they are giving me the money that they first take in taxing me.” Basically, they are giving you your own money, but with a regulated utilization and brand it in addition as a generous act. Welcome to a decade of socialism.
The politician’s paradise of taxing more, redistributing and self-branded beneficence is coming true after a long period of prevailing lean state and austerity paradigm. We will see massive taxation of income, wealth and inheritance to finance the current spending sprees, massive public shareholding in key assets as a consequence of bailouts and the build-up of national productions of key products, a “justice”-driven setting of wages rather than a market-driven one, general income concepts will be implemented and regulation, regulation, regulation.
The state-controlled share in GDP will rise substantially. A thirty-year era of dominance of capital has ended, which led us to an amazing growth of global wealth but admittedly also to huge wealth imbalances, destructive exploitation of our environment, and a too-high share in GDP of banks/financial services. Welcome to a socialist decade or more. We will see higher wages, a re-valuation of public servants, nationalization of key assets, increased taxation of higher incomes and wealth, the end of cash payments, and a strong determination to end tax loopholes for the corporate and private sector.
It will need time, the clear materialization of limits and drawbacks of socialism, and last but not least the rise of the next generation Reagans and Thatchers to swing back this dynamic pendulum.
Tracking and tracing all your moves is the new accepted standard of society. Piggybacking on fears, national defense and justice and exploiting new technological possibilities and behaviors, governments will eagerly embrace the once in a generation opportunity to get transparency and control on citizen moves, activities, and contributions.
For the greater good authorities will acquire and build full transparency of how, when and where you use your money and other resources, where and with whom you are and what you are doing and be able to rate your fulfillment in line with a set of social standards (your individual social score). The reality in China and other parts of Asia, and heavily knocking on the doors of our societies. Individual freedom as we have known it in the past is history.
The ever-swinging pendulum of history and societal development has changed direction. Therefore, we are indeed entering a new era. New thinking and new business models will be needed to ride this trend successfully and to profit from the new risk/rewards constellations. Every risk is an opportunity. And every single one of the above-mentioned areas will unleash enormous economic and political potential!