The only constant is change? Not really

An overused phrase is “the only constant is change,” (a second variant is “change is the only constant”) attributed originally to Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher. Yet the evidence suggests things seldom, if ever, change. Yeah, over sufficiently long periods of time (like thousands of years), things change, but things can remain remarkably stable over periods of years or decades.

Look at the trends that have been in place for years now:

Rising healthcare costs (no amount of tweeting will lower drug and hospitalization costs, sorry)

Rising tuition costs (same as above)

Rising wealth inequality

Post-2009 bull market in stocks (now the longest ever)

Post-2009 economic expansion (also the longest ever)

Divisiveness and partisanship in politics (to quote David Brooks, polarization is deeply rooted in the economic conditions and personal values of the country.)

Wars/occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan (15+ years now)

America’s dominance economically and militarily (ever since the end of WW2)

Amazon and Tesla having low profit margins but surging stock prices and strong growth, defying predictions of bubble or collapse

Web 2.0 (same as above, such as Uber defying the left’s predictions of doom. The left in 2015-2016 was optimistic that imagined sexual harassment at Uber would undo the company, and were disappointed when their efforts failed [1])

Bay Area home prices keep going up

Rich Chinese keep buying expensive real estate in Bay Area despite Trump’s anti-China rhetoric

Facebook and Instagram’s enduring popularity

Neocon control of domestic and foreign policy in spite of Trump (since the early 80’s)

low interest rates, low inflation, strong dollar

Weakness in emerging markets

The intersection of money with politics

These trends have been in place for years now and show no signs of slowing, and I predict they will continue for many years to come. A common question is, will Trump effect change. I think Trump will win in 2020, but neocons are in it for the long run. There is a narrative that the ‘establishment’ is in disarray due to Trump, and this is not the case at all when one looks at the evidence. Given that the establishment has been in power for decades, losing the Oval Office for 4-8 years is not much of a setback, especially given how entrenched the establishment is in nearly all facets of government and policy, and also business. It’s not enough to have Trump in power if Congress is running a different playbook. Many House Republicans are indifferent to tech censorship (seeing it as a business choice rather than a free speech issue) and oppose ‘the wall’ and other more drastic forms of immigration reform. None of this is new. We knew this years ago.

The progression of history is discontinuous, characterized by periods of stability/calm interrupted by sudden events that can upend the status quo. For example , the assassination of Julius Caesar changed Rome from a republic to an empire. But historical regimes can last a long time.

[1] In 2015, I correctly predicted Uber would shake off the left’s attacks. Three years late, Uber is still valued at $60-70 billion despite the left’s best efforts to smear this company.