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Zakaria: The Pandemic Has Led to Innovation. It’s a Reason for Optimism.



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The United States is entering a post-pandemic era. This is happening primarily because of the one aspect of this pandemic that differentiates it from all previous ones in history — the triumph of science. Within a year of covid-19’s outbreak, the world saw the emergence of several high-quality vaccines. This is truly breathtaking. A decade ago, the scientific consensus was that it took 10 to 15 years — and a lot of luck — to produce a vaccine for a new disease.

The most striking aspect of post-pandemic America is likely to be a big economic boom. Unlike the 2008 financial crisis, the pandemic paralysis will probably be followed by a sharp rebound. That’s partly because of the differing nature of the crisis, but largely because Washington has flooded the economy with money, so both businesses and individuals have cash to spend. The last great pandemic, the 1918 influenza outbreak, was followed by the Roaring Twenties. It is too soon to tell whether this one will usher in that kind of sustained growth, but there are reasons for optimism.

The most important of these is innovation. Crises always lead people to find new ways to do things, adopt new technologies and cast away old practices. In the United States, the ability of large parts of the economy to function and excel in the digital realm — when the physical economy was broadly shut down — has surprised even techno-optimists.

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