Fear & The COVID Industrial Complex

As a society, we're transitioning from a military-industrial complex to a Covid industrial complex. Are you positioned to benefit from it?

Fear is a powerful catalyst for change.

It’s a self defense mechanism that compels both action and inaction. And fear is a healthy evolutionary tool that helps keep us alive. But fear is often exploited for profit and control. Like when fear of communism and terrorism were exploited to create and perpetuate the military industrial complex of the past 50 years.

Think of a military industrial complex as a nation organized to align economic incentives with finding and engaging global enemies. The underlying motivations for this military industrial complex are to create industry, commerce, policy and regulation that alleviate fear of an enemy. It’s possible to create this “complex” because people are willing sacrifice their freedoms and personal sovereignty when they believe the end result addresses their fears.

This can cause unintended consequences. Individuals and organizations seeking power, money, and prestige can stoke and leverage fear. All in the name of fighting the external threat. Using fear and targeting scapegoats to consolidate power. In this system, incentives align in a way that promotes fear of the enemy as a means for deploying money throughout the economy.

Today, the global population is transitioning from a military industrial complex to a COVID industrial complex.

This essay is about how fear of the COVID virus inevitably leads to the creation of a COVID industrial complex. An economic model designed to address a societal fear that will lead to long term tradeoffs of freedom for security.

It’s Not About Politics – It’s About Human Psychology, Money, & Influence

The creation of a COVID Industrial Complex shouldn’t be viewed as right or wrong.

Fear and how it forces us into action is an expression of our humanity. And society’s collective fear forces national economies into a habitual pattern of action. We can expect similar reactions to unfold when dealing with COVID. Just like the reactions that have taken place in past conflicts when motivated by fear. Especially in times like today, when the world is run by nationalist governments.

Nationalist governments are willing to implement policy choices that reorganize the means of production and restrict freedoms in the name of fighting the enemy. Because people are afraid, these otherwise radical policies receive less resistance.

Collective fear sets in motion a long chain of events that reformulate national economies around the “insert fear here” industrial complex. It’s formulaic.

Policy choices get built around this new economy. It becomes a foundation for all future policy decisions. And as has been the case throughout history, once a law passes, it’s very hard to repeal. Friction forms making it so that unwinding one policy impacts many others.

And the incentives of this new system align officials to maintain fear as a status quo. The goal becomes maintaining the balance of power created by fear.

What is The COVID Industrial Complex?

So what does this all mean?

It means we can expect a standard playbook from government officials when addressing COVID. We can expect a COVID industrial complex will form to address the fear of COVID. And as the industrial complex arrives, so too will the policy choices that leach on individual freedoms in order to attack this misunderstood force spreading fear.

Whether this is the right thing to do or not I make no claim one way or the other.

Instead, I’ll explain what I expect to happen moving forward and how I believe an individual can position themselves to ride the wave of inevitability. In simple terms, I believe a person can profit from what is likely to come next.

Use Afghanistan’s 20 year industrial complex as a contextual roadmap. ie: Defense contractor stocks outperformed the broader market indexes. Defense stocks, rare earths, and the “oil” in Iraq are three examples of industries that benefited from the economic status quo of the military industrial complex. They provide signals of what to expect.

A Key Underlying Assumption

So what might a COVID industrial complex look like?

For starters, we have to accept several assumptions. And to be clear, they are assumptions and not fact.

The key assumption is that the COVID virus is endemic. It will not go away. It will mutate on a regular basis and society will consistently play catchup trying to adapt to vaccines and treatments to address new variants. Just like the Flu, there will be seasonal variants that swing between moderate and severe outbreaks.

With those assumptions we can start to look at how policy measures have been applied in early COVID outbreaks to look ahead to what might come next.

A COVID Policy Shift

We can expect that governments will gain a mandate to provide top-down oversite over their populations.

This is exactly what has happened in the past when an “event” catalyzes fear of an unknown enemy. 9/11, Pearl Harbor, the Cuban Missile Crisis, etc. The “event” for COVID will be when the population realizes that the virus is endemic. That it’s here to stay. And for life to “go back to normal” will require massive intervention that only a government can control. Expect a televised address from an important government official stating this assumption as a reality. Israel is ahead of the curve.

Laws will change. We are in the leadup to a biological patriot act.

These laws will be designed to address the recurring fears generated by this new reality. We will experience a tradeoff and loss of freedom in exchange for the comfort of predictable responses to outbreaks.

It means vaccine mandates and additional boosters required when “breakthrough” rates increase. ie: if a variant overcomes a vaccine’s efficacy, then mandatory boosters will be required across the entire population.

But it also means authoritarian measures designed to monitor and restrict certain behaviors.

Australia, Canada, and China are early indicators of what to expect. Digital passports, digital contact tracing, and the ability to shut down digital services of people known to be in violation of COVID compliance.

Lockdowns will also continue as a last resort policy to handle more severe variants.

As these policies permeate society, a COVID business industry will emerge as a primary economic beneficiary of the COVID industrial complex.

COVID’s Business Industry

More masks, face shields, and the things that make us “feel safe”. I make no argument as to whether these measures are effective or not. Whether they prevent COVID is irrelevant. They represent low-cost measures that make us feel as though we’re doing something to proactively prevent viral spread. Expect policies to reinforce “feel safe” measures. And expect businesses in this category to benefit.

Testing and reporting to actively monitor the population. Rapid testing, temperature taking, and the tools to share results with government and health officials will expand exponentially. The tools that provide data to minimize the “fog of war” and provide a sense of control. The companies that produce, aggregate, and distribute these materials will benefit from mandatory testing and reporting.

Vaccines will continue to be seen as the silver bullet. Money will funnel to vaccine production companies as these treatments will be seen as the primary must-have for all people. Governments will buy them, and provide a constant stream of profit for these companies.

Benefiting From Planned Obsolescence

Treatment companies will also benefit if/when the efficacy of a vaccine falls and requires frequent boosters earlier than expected. Think of it as a twisted version of Apple’s planned obsolescence. Vaccines designed to work for current variants and ultimately fail for the next variant.

Minute clinics, pharmacies, and the places that provide vaccine distribution will benefit from increased business. And in the case of CVS – many businesses will benefit from secondary sales when vaccine recipients visit the stores more than they otherwise would. These also benefit from reduced vaccine efficacy require more boosters.

Minute clinics as a broader group will splinter into two categories – urgent care and COVID care facilities. As COVID becomes a seasonal outbreak 2 to 3 times a year, special facilities will be designed to service everything COVID. Rapid testing, vaccinations, early diagnosis and treatment. Think chipotle and the fast-casual movement except specific to the virus. These new facilities will be optimized to deal with COVID and segregate infected from non-infected populations.

There will also be a specialization in rapid response businesses that are able to travel from one hot zone to another to provide increased capacity support.

Societal Impact

Laws will impact public events, schools, and the workplace.

The number of people allowed in a given closed environment likely becomes constricted. Similar to a fire marshalls’ occupancy code, there will be COVID occupancy codes that change based on localized outbreak data.

This will reinforce remote work (and all companies that benefit from expanded remote work business) while harming in person activities. Gaming and digital first social interactive technologies will benefit from this harsh legislation minimizing in person interaction. It will create a renaissance for VR and “immersive worldbuilding” concept games like Roblox and Minecraft.

Ecommerce will continue to crush retail. Office space will be repurposed. Instacart et al will enter a renaissance of on-demand grocery delivery.

Localized supply chains will become important. Supported by genuine fear and the “otherness” the COVID Industrial complex promotes for rival nations. As a consequence, buy local and eat local campaigns will become popular.

Reinforcing The Sovereign Individual Age

As a reaction to restricted freedom, the wealthy will double down on their tried and true tactics of fleeing persecution. Expect private flight operators and golden passport services to have higher demand. We can also expect expats to relinquish citizenship at a higher rate than previously as they look to shed relationships with countries they no longer which to support financially.

But unlike in the past, the digital age will empower a new and growing middle class of Sovereign Individual. People choosing to relocate to friendly jurisdictions that don’t adopt a COVID industrial complex.

Global policy will shift for countries that place a large investment in the COVID industrial complex. They will become more isolationist and allow other nations to fill the global power vacuum. Their will be less desire to spend on expansive global campaigns at the cost of addressing the localized fear of viral outbreaks.

Localized supply chains may struggle to attract the necassary talent to ride thorugh the waves of surge in outbreaks and lockdowns. It may ultimately require a greater push towards automation of the human functions where possible.

A byproduct of this society in transformation is that many individuals will object. They will chafe at the tradeoff of sacrificing freedoms for the sake of others. And as a consequence some businesses will see demand for their services surge.

Large groups of people will leave when faces with repeated lockdown measures. Private clubs, gyms, and studios that function on a speakeasy style system. Illegal, under the radar, and only those “in the know” will be allowed to participate in a new wave of prohibition style services.

The tech-enabled exit will flourish.

It’s Going To Happen Because It’s What the Majority Want

Here’s the reality, these changes are going to take place. They likely take the next year and a half to slowly work their way into the public domain. Massaged into the public discourse. And ultimately, the majority wont oppose this shift in societal structure. They’ll even cheer for it.

That’s the nature of fear.

And the simple truth is that most people, maybe even a majority of people, are content to have government take on the responsibility of telling them what to do. They want government to build solutions to address their fears. And a COVID industrial complex is the tried and proven framework for marshalling an economy to take on the fear of a misunderstood enemy.

It’s Not Dystopian, It’s An Opportunity

You may be thinking to yourself, geez, this sounds terrible. I wish there was something I could do to avoid this outcome. I’d reframe your perspective though.

This is an opportunity to position yourself and your capital to take advantage of a likely future outcome. Investing in the business areas that we know will benefit from the COVID industrial complex. And by profiting from this societal restructuring, you and others like you will be in a better position to influence future policy.

But even if you don’t have grand aspirations of making money and influencing policy, there is another reason for taking action now. In spite of the policy choices that are coming, there are and always will be great places to live and work. And the digital age makes it easier to find these opportunities.

By pursuing the lifestyle of a Sovereign Individual you can prepare yourself to choose whether or not you want to live in a place that requires you to sacrifice your freedoms.


I’m tracking a new narrative that makes sense of society’s shift to the Digital Age. The goal: documenting how to become a Sovereign Individual. Giving you the facts and tools to successfully navigate digital life. I cover topics you can’t fully appreciate because you’re in the thick of it. Everything you need to know is delivered in a weekly newsletter.

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

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