Sclerotic, hidebound institutions optimized for linear stability and permanent growth are simply not designed to adapt to non-linear change and disruption of permanent growth.
Since the first news of pandemic in late January, I’ve been discussing potential accelerants to the unraveling of our fragile financial system: second-order effects (initial travel restrictions and layoffs were first-order effects, new waves of layoffs are second-order effects) and the shift from linear dynamics (add 1 to inputs, that changes output by 1) to non-linear: (add 1 to inputs, that changes output by 10).
The system appears stable until a catalyst pushes it off the cliff. Catalysts come in a variety of forms, from the apparently modest “straw that breaks the came’s back” to a broad awakening that the status quo simply isn’t capable of adapting successfully to new realities.
Financial catalysts tend to result in sudden, cataclysmic collapses in liquidity, solvency and sentiment. While the Federal Reserve can “fix” liquidity crises by creating currency out of thin air, that doesn’t make bankrupt firms solvent or make employers hire employees. Once complacent confidence slides into cautious fear, massive liquidity injections to keep the system from crashing are understood as last-ditch desperation.
Social-political catalysts are slower but much more difficult to reverse. While the media’s attention has been focused on the protests stemming from long-standing institutional bias, As Mark, Jesse and I discuss in Salon #14: Jobageddon and the Coming Education Revolts, two other social-political catalysts are gathering momentum:
1. The failure of our education complex to provide workable childcare/learning solutions
2. The hope of a V-shaped recovery in employment collapses.
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