Annapolis Institute Overview


Changing society, economy forging U.S. perestroika

by Phil Burgess, Unabridged from the Rocky Mountain News, January 18, 1990

As Americans join the rest of the world in celebrating the historic political and economic changes sweeping the communist world, the United States is experiencing its own perestroika, a process of profound economic and social changes that we call the “new economy”.

America’s new economy has many dimensions. One is demographic. The graying of America and the aging of the baby boomer generation coupled with the baby bust generation are having enormous impacts on every aspect of American life. The United States is experiencing a new wave of immigrants – this time from Asian and Latin cultures – who bring new energy, connections and know-how to America’s multicultural society. And they bring a fresh dedication to American values.

Another is a changing family life. This includes the demise of the Ozzie and Harriett family and the rise of the two-wage earner and single-parent family. It also means that an increasing number of businesses have employees faced with the dilemmas of dependent care (child care and elder care), and rising demands for health care. Similarly, increasing attention to family leave, flextime and other issues form a seam where family life joins the workplace.

The workplace is changing, too. Attention to issues such as flexible benefit packages, portable pensions, and mid-career retooling is on the increase. But we must also look harder at home-based enterprise, telecommuting, job-sharing and the so-called mommy track. These and other practices will dominate labor-management negotiations, professional development and workforce maintenance issues at every level.

America’s changing economy is also part of the picture, including the contribution of small business to creating jobs and the impact of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship on businesses of every shape and size. In addition, there will be continued down-sizing and de-layering of large business enterprises, many of which are poised for a surge of growth and innovation as we move into the 1990s.

The new economy includes a changing global marketplace. This means a rapid expansion the volume and value of world trade, the meltdown of communist command economies by multinational corporations. The prospects for small and medium-sized business are bright in the global boom of the 1990s. The rise of new trading blocs in Europe, North America and the Pacific represent historic changes that will have profound effects deep into the 21st century.

Finally, the New Economy involves changing international relations – new political approaches to the nation’s relations with Mexico and Latin America, the search for solutions to Third World debt, global warming and other environmental issues. We have yet to see the important implications of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (APEC) recently formed by expanded economic activity in the Pacific Rim. There will also be new dangers, such as terrorism, nuclear blackmail by small countries and the possible political disintegration of the Soviet Union.

These are some of the issues and relationships that will affect business opportunities and the economic well-being of Americans as we near the new century.

These are the issues we must track to prosper in the new economy.

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