This really says it all
People spend more, take more risks—and demand more of politicians
This article came up as I was listening to a podcast from the Economist the other day. My undergraduate degree is in History so this kind of thing I find interesting and it got me thinking. I have been trying to plot the course as we emerge from the pandemic. How we as a society will work and how my businesses will work. Will the 2020’s ROAR like the 1920’s? Will it lead to a crash?
Money, machines and mayhem
The cholera pandemic of the early 1830s hit France hard. It wiped out nearly 3% of Parisians in a month, and hospitals were overwhelmed by patients whose ailments doctors could not explain. The end of the plague prompted an economic revival, with France following Britain into an industrial revolution. But as anyone who has read “Les Misérables” knows, the pandemic also contributed to another sort of revolution. The city’s poor, hit hardest by the disease, fulminated against the rich, who had fled to their country homes to avoid contagion. France saw political instability for years afterwards.
Today, even as covid-19 rages across poorer countries, the rich world is on the verge of a post-pandemic boom. Governments are lifting stay-at-home orders as vaccinations reduce hospitalisations and deaths from the virus. Many forecasters reckon that America’s economy will grow by more than 6% this year, at least four percentage points faster than its pre-pandemic trend. Other countries are also in for unusually fast growth (see chart 1). The Economist’s analysis of gdp data for the g7 economies going back to 1820 suggests that such a synchronised acceleration relative to trend is rare. It has not happened since the post-war boom of the 1950s.
The situation is so unfamiliar that economists are turning to history for a sense of what to expect. The record suggests that, after periods of massive non-financial disruption such as wars and pandemics, gdp does bounce back. It offers three further lessons. First, while people are keen to go out and spend, uncertainty lingers. Second, crises encourage people and businesses to try new ways of doing things, upending the structure of the economy. Third, as “Les Misérables” shows, political upheaval often follows, with unpredictable economic consequences.
Take consumer spending first. Evidence from earlier pandemics suggests that during the acute phase people behave as they have during the past year of covid-19, accumulating savings as spending opportunities vanish. In the first half of the 1870s, during an outbreak of smallpox, Britain’s household-saving rate doubled. Japan’s saving rate more than doubled during the first world war. In 1919-20, as the Spanish flu raged, Americans stashed away more cash than in any subsequent year until the second world war. When that war hit, savings rose again, with households accumulating additional balances in 1941-45 worth some 40% of gdp.
History also offers a guide to what people do once life gets back to normal. Spending rises, prompting employment to recover, but there is not much evidence of excess. The notion that people celebrated the end of the Black Death by “wild fornication” and “hysterical gaiety”, as some historians suppose, is (probably) apocryphal. The 1920s were far from roaring, at least at first. On New Year’s Eve 1920, after the threat of Spanish flu had decisively passed, “Broadway and Times Square looked more like the old days”, according to one study, but America nonetheless felt like “a sick and tired nation”. A recent paper by Goldman Sachs, a bank, estimates that in 1946-49 American consumers spent only about 20% of their excess savings. That extra spending certainly aided the post-war boom, though the government’s monthly “business situation” reports in the late 1940s were nonetheless filled with worry of an impending slowdown (and indeed the economy went into recession in 1948-49). Beer consumption actually fell. Consumers’ caution may be one reason why there is little evidence of pandemic-induced surges in inflation (see chart 2).
The second big lesson from post-pandemic booms relates to the “supply side” of the economy—how and where goods and services are produced. Though, in aggregate, people appear to be less keen on frivolity following a pandemic, some may be more willing to try new ways of making money. Historians believe the Black Death made Europeans more adventurous. Piling on to a ship and setting sail for new lands seemed less risky when so many people were dying at home. “Apollo’s Arrow”, a recent book by Nicholas Christakis of Yale University, shows that the Spanish flu pandemic gave way to “increased expressions of risk-taking”. Indeed a study for America’s National Bureau of Economic Research, published in 1948, found that the number of startups boomed from 1919. Today new business formation is once again surging across the rich world, as entrepreneurs seek to fill gaps in the market.
Other economists have drawn a link between pandemics and another change to the supply side of the economy: the use of labour-saving technology. Bosses may want to limit the spread of disease, and robots do not fall ill. A paper by researchers at the imf looks at a number of recent outbreaks of diseases, including Ebola and sars, and finds that “pandemic events accelerate robot adoption, especially when the health impact is severe and is associated with a significant economic downturn.” The 1920s were also an era of rapid automation in America, especially in telephone operation, one of the most common jobs for young American women in the early 1900s. Others have drawn a link between the Black Death and Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press. There is as yet little hard evidence of a surge in automation because of covid-19, though anecdotes abound.
Whether automation deprives people of jobs, however, is another matter. Some research suggests that workers in fact do better in the aftermath of pandemics. A paper published last year by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco finds that real wages tend to rise. In some cases this is through a macabre mechanism: the disease culls workers, leaving survivors in a stronger bargaining position.
In other cases, however, rising wages are the product of political changes—the third big lesson of historical booms. When people have suffered in large numbers, attitudes may shift towards workers. That seems to be happening this time: policymakers across the world are less interested in reducing public debt or warding off inflation than they are in getting unemployment down. A new paper from three academics at the London School of Economics also finds that covid-19 has made people across Europe more averse to inequality.
Such pressures have, in some instances, exploded into political disorder. Pandemics expose and accentuate pre-existing inequalities, leading those on the wrong side of the bargain to look for redress. Ebola, in 2013-16, increased civil violence in West Africa by 40%, according to one study. Recent research from the imf considers the effect of five pandemics, including Ebola, sars and Zika, in 133 countries since 2001. It finds that they led to a significant increase in social unrest. “It is reasonable to expect that, as the pandemic fades, unrest may re-emerge in locations where it previously existed,” researchers write in another imf paper. Social unrest seems to peak two years after the pandemic ends. Enjoy the coming boom while it lasts. Before long, there may be a twist in the tale. ■
A Supreme Court hero, and all-round wise woman, Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday at the age of 87 surrounded by family at her home in Washington, D.C.
She was the second woman justice to serve on the highest court in the land—a pioneer in her field, when there were few females in the halls of legal offices or law schools. But there were other reasons we will always remember her.
1) She proved that mothers get things done—and then some.
RBG showed that being a mother can prove an advantage and not an impediment to a woman’s professional life.
In a 2016 essay for the New York Times, she wrote that she believed her success at Harvard and…
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Call me sentimental, but I’ve always loved graduations: the way they tie up loose ends and signify new beginnings, the chance to reflect on the past, and celebrate the future. I feel bad for the graduates of 2020. Schools closed 2 months ago. Students finished (what they could) their education on line. When I graduated I can still remember handing in my last paper. I remember getting together that night with a few others who were graduating and having a little barbecue in front of our apartment. We had an opportunity to share what came next. Grad school, Law School, Work, Summer jobs, Internships. Even the fear of “What’s Next” was exciting.
Like the final months of their education, 2020 graduation will be online and virtual.
We will be ok, we will get back to normal. We, as a society have rebounded from much worse. I hope at that time…
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The world is filled with beautiful and amazing things. You need to slow down to see slowdown and notice. It may be a flower growing in a trash filled vacant lot. It may be the white helmet volunteers in Syria. It may be a young girl with autism in Northern Ireland with the voice of an angel.
Girl With Autism Sings A Stunning Rendition Of ‘Hallelujah’
It’s not just good because she’s dealing with autism … It’s good because it’s good — really good.
This 10-year-old’s rendition of “Hallelujah” would have given Leonard Cohen himself chills. Turn the volume up and give it a listen.
Kaylee Rodgers, a student who has autism and ADHD, sang the solo part for the famous tune during her school choir concert at Killard House School in Donaghadee, Northern Ireland, and the performance went viral.
Rodgers’ voice is stunningly beautiful ― and she exudes confidence while she sings with her classmates. Tracy Rodgers, Kaylee’s mother, told the BBC that Kaylee’s music teacher, Lloyd Scates, played a huge part in nurturing her special talent.
“She always loved singing, but it wasn’t until she started at Killard House School that she really came into her own,” she told BBC. “[Mr. Scates is] like her safety blanket ― he’s amazing.”
Killard House principal Colin Millar told ITV that Kaylee was very shy when she started at the school. She “wouldn’t really read out in class,” he said. So “to stand and perform in front of an audience is amazing … It takes a lot of effort on Kaylee’s part.”
Go and find beauty in the world today.
The winter solstice has been celebrated in cultures the world over for thousands of years. As the shortest day/longest night of the year, this start of the solar year is a celebration of light and the rebirth of the Sun. We have all completed one more official journey around the Sun.
As the Winter Solstice has arrived, it is a time to consider yin and yang, darkness and light – and the exquisite balance that exists between all things. After weeks of shortening days, we have been affected in a number of ways by the scarcity of light and the growing darkness. Though we may have experienced sadness or slowness as a result of this winter season, we must also remember that the darkness is necessary in order to experience light.
Many of us gather with our friends, family and loved ones, and no matter what tradition we observe for this holiday season, we begin to create our own light – the light of the love we feel for those we care the most about. It’s also a time for remembering those we love that are not with us- those who are separated from us by miles or death or simply the loss of relationship.
Many of the customs, lore, symbols, and rituals associated with the Solstice have survived into the 21st century so let’s see how we can join in this ancient celebration to bring love, light, joy and meaning to this season.
ENLIVEN YOUR SURROUNDINGS with the color red. The color of the sun is energizing, and symbolic of love, courage, warmth, fire. Wear red sweaters, scarves and hats, light red candles, bring in red flowering plants (the red poinsettia is a great one). The color red has a powerful effect in the darkest days of the year to lighten your mood and create a festive, heartening atmosphere.
ADORN YOUR HOME with sacred herbs and colors. Decorate your home in holiday colors red, green, and white. Place holly, ivy, evergreen boughs, and pine cones around your home, especially in areas where socializing takes place. Hang a sprig of mistletoe above a major threshold, an evergreen wreath on the front door to symbolize the continuity of life and the wheel of the year. Bring in a Christmas tree with colored lights.
CONVEY LOVE to family, friends, and associates. At the heart of the Solstice was the custom of family and friends feasting together and exchanging presents. Continue this custom by visiting, entertaining, giving gifts, and sending greetings by mail and/or phone. Play games, enjoy children, roast chestnuts over an open fire (what fun). Consider those who are and/or have been important in your life and share appreciation.
HONOR THE NEW SOLAR YEAR WITH LIGHT. If you have an indoor fireplace or an outdoor fire circle, burn an oak log as a Yule log. Decorate the inside and/or outside of your home with electric colored lights.
PARTY HEARTY on New Years’s Eve, not just to welcome the calendar year but also to welcome the new solar year. Celebrate and remember how much the sun means to our planet earth, bringing heat, and light.
CONTRIBUTE TO THE MANIFESTATION OF MORE WELLNESS ON OUR PLANET Donate food and clothing to the poor in your area. Volunteer time at a social service agency. Put up bird feeders and keep them filled throughout the winter to supplement the diets of wild birds. Donate funds and items to non-profit groups, such as churches and environmental organizations. Meditate for world peace. Work magic for a healthier planet. Make a pledge to do some form of good works in the new solar year.
CELEBRATE As you think about setting goals for next year, take some time to write down and celebrate everything you have accomplished this year. Keep your focus on your successes. Be careful of negative self-critical thoughts coming in when you remember the goals you did not achieve. Put those on your list for next year.
CELEBRATING keeps our focus on the positive and attracts more for us to celebrate. Take this energy of celebration with you into the new year and keep it with you throughout the whole year.
However big or small the occasion, look for excuses to be in a state of celebration. You can celebrate failures too. They open doorways for something new to come in. Your positive attitude will make sure you attract more positivity and goodness.
This time of year is a weird time of year for me. I miss my friends from when I was growing up. I miss my current friends who I simply do not get enough time to spend with. I miss my family in NY and I miss my own kids who are busy with their own lives.
It can at times seem hopeless. But when I stop and look around- there are many reasons to have HOPE.
On tonyretrosi.com I have been writing that this is a SEASON of HOPE. It started off as a challenge to myself a few years ago. Could I come up with something hopeful to write every day for the month of December?
Since then, I have written and re-written these posting them. Editing them, reposting them.
Every now and then you get an unexpected gift. It could be a coffee, a note, or even just someone forwarding something to you that brings a smile to your face.
The other day I got a FB message from a friend out west. A young women who I met at a clinic I was doing. She had seen some of my “Season of Hope” postings and wanted to pass something on.
It made my day and I truly appreciate it. I look forward rtf seeing her again and I wish her well.
Thank You H.
I hope you have a great holiday.
What she sent me:
Look these guys up. A lot better than Greta and actually making a difference.The ocean cleanup is a super cool program! And has already been in effect for a few years and already making an incredible difference! It’s really cool I wanted to share some good news! Happy holidays!!
“Old City Bar”
In an old city bar
That is never too far
From the places that gather
The dreams that have been
In the safety of night
With its old neon light
It beckons to strangers
And they always come in
And the snow it was falling
The neon was calling
The music was low
And the night
And here was the danger
That even with strangers
Inside of this night
It’s easier to believe
Then the door opened wide
And a child came inside
That no one in the bar
Had seen there before
And he asked did we know
That outside in the snow
That someone was lost
Standing outside our door
Then the bartender gazed
Through the smoke and the haze
Through the window and ice
To a corner streetlight
Where standing alone
By a broken pay phone
Was a girl the child said
Could no longer get home
And the snow it was falling
The neon was calling
The bartender turned
And said, not that I care
But how would you know this?
The child said I’ve noticed
If one could be home
They’d be all ready there
Then the bartender came out from behind the bar
And in all of his life he was never that far
And he did something else that he thought no one saw
When he took all the cash from the register draw
Then he followed the child to the girl cross the street
And we watched from the bar as they started to speak
Then he called for a cab and he said J.F.K.
Put the girl in the cab and the cab drove away
And we saw in his hand
That the cash was all gone
From the light that she had wished upon
If you want to arrange it
This world you can change it
If we could somehow make this
Christmas thing last
By helping a neighbor
Or even a stranger
And to know who needs help
You need only just ask
Then he looked for the child
But the child wasn’t there
Just the wind and the snow
Waltzing dreams through the air
So he walked back inside
Somehow different I think
For the rest of the night
No one paid for a drink
And the cynics will say
That some neighborhood kid
Wandered in on some bums
In the world where they hid
But they weren’t there
So they couldn’t see
By an old neon star
On that night, Christmas Eve
When the snow it was falling
The neon was calling
And in case you should wonder
In case you should care
Why we’re on our own
Never went home
On that night of all nights
We were already there
THEN ALL AT ONCE INSIDE THAT NIGHT
HE SAW IT ALL SO CLEAR
THE ANSWER THAT HE SOUGHT SO LONG
HAD ALWAYS BEEN SO NEAR
IT’S EVERY GIFT THAT SOMEONE GIVES
EXPECTING NOTHING BACK
IT’S EVERY KINDNESS THAT WE DO
EACH SIMPLE LITTLE ACT
The point is – it is never too late to make a difference. Not just on Christmas Eve, any day. WHY NOT TODAY?
Talent, skill, ability—whatever you want to call it—will not get you there. Sure, it helps. But a wealth of psychological research over the past few decades show loud and clear that it’s the psychological vehicles that really get you there. You can have the best engine in the world, but if you can’t be bothered to drive it, you won’t get anywhere.
Many have proposed lots of different vehicles over the years. Grit, Conscientiousness, self-efficacy, optimism, passion, inspiration, etc. They are all important. One vehicle, however, is particularly undervalued and underappreciated in psychology and society.
Hope often gets a bad rap. For some, it conjures up images of a blissfully naïve chump pushing up against a wall with a big smile. or Don Quixote tilting against windmills. That’s a shame. Cutting-edge science shows that hope, at least as defined by psychologists, matters a lot.
Hope is not a brand new concept in psychology. In 1991, the eminent positive psychologist Charles R. Snyder and his colleagues came up with Hope Theory. According to their theory, hope consists of agency and pathways. The person who has hope has the will and determination that goals will be achieved, and a set of different strategies at their disposal to reach their goals. Put simply: hope involves the will to get there, and different ways to get there.
Why is hope important? Well, life is difficult. There are many obstacles. Having goals is not enough. One has to believe that they can accomplish their goals, amidst all the inevitable twists and turns of life. Hope allows people to approach problems with a mindset and strategy-set suitable to success, thereby increasing the chances they will actually accomplish their goals.
Those lacking hope, tend to adopt mastery goals. People with mastery goals choose easy tasks that don’t offer a challenge or opportunity for growth. When they fail, they quit. People with mastery goals act helpless, and feel a lack of control over their environment. They don’t believe in their capacity to obtain the kind of future they want. They have no hope.
It seems that performance can be enhanced in the short term by reminding people that they have the motivation and the means to pursue a goal. This “situational hope” could potentially be useful in the future as a means of short-term intervention to enhance performance. By reminding people before tests or situations in which performance and achievement are required that they have the will and the ways to do well, possible potential can be better utilized.
Athletes had higher levels of hope than non-athletes. I have seen that among my gymnasts, the state of having hope predicted outcomes beyond training, self-esteem, confidence, and mood.
I like to think that current ability is the best predictor of future success. Important psychological studies show that ability is important, but it’s the vehicles that actually get people where they want to go. Oftentimes, the vehicles even help you build up that ability you never thought you had. And hope—with its will and ways—is one of the most important vehicles of them all.
We can call get so engrossed with our own lives and problems that we forget that others may need a helping hand. Not just this year, not just this time of year but every day, every year.
For the most part our biggest issues are overeating during the holiday season. Finding time to workout, making time to cook and buy presents.
We can help others. We can extend a helping hand. Take a minute to help someone. We will always be one world and we must be a world full of hope. That is what I want my legacy to be.
In 1984 I was in my first year of college. Bob Geldof and Midge Ure formed the supergroup Band Aid to raise money for anti-famine efforts in Ethiopia by releasing the song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” On 25 November 1984, the song was recorded at Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill, London, and was released in the UK four days later. The single surpassed the hopes of the producers to become the Christmas number one on that release.
Looking back it seemed like an obvious hit but at the time, it was a risk and a chance taken to help others.
The group reunited with current stars in 2014 to bring help to the Ebola Crisis in West Africa.
You don’t need to be a superstar to help those around you. You can get involved with groups within your community.
GIVING, like politics starts local. You do not need to think big to have a big impact. One of my employees travels with bags of sandwiches that she gives out to people asking for money at the side of the road. She has passed this lesson on to her daughters.
I fully believe that no man stands so tall as when he stoops down to help another.