You and I used to be pretty stupid: 9 pieces of conventional wisdom from a year ago that now look completely ridiculous

By now, the world is getting used to being wrong, even when we’re sure.

Remember how certain everyone was that Hillary Clinton would be gearing up for a reelection campaign by now?

Or that Britain would remain in the European Union?

Or that Britain would exit the European Union?

Every day, facts of life are overturned, and new realities take hold.

Last week, I asked a bunch of Business Insider and INSIDER editors: “How has conventional wisdom changed over the past 12 months or so?”

With their help, I’ve compiled this list of nine pieces of conventional wisdom from the worlds of business, politics, and culture that many people practically took for natural law just a year ago.

Boy we were stupid back then.

We used to think the economy was in great shape.

“The economy looked relatively resilient until last Fall when trade war talks between the US and China fell apart and investors finally understood the unpredictability of Trump’s presidency,” says Business Insider finance editor Olivia Oran.

“Now banks are preparing more seriously for the potential of a recession and factoring this into how it runs its different businesses (e.g. mortgage, auto, commercial lending).”

We used to think the Fed was going to raise rates in 2019.

“Today, 60% of economists expect a rate cut from the Fed by year-2019, compared to 0% predicting a rate increase,” Business Insider markets editor Joe Ciolli says. “That’s the exact inverse of what they were forecasting at the start of October 2018, before the Fed roiled markets with wishy-washy economic commentary.”

We used to think people wouldn’t pay for news.


Time was, everyone smart on the digital media business would tell you that “information needs to be free,” and that consumers wouldn’t shell for news. Wrong. Today, established news brands including the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post have booming subscription businesses. The business is working for some digital outlets like Business Insider (shameless plug alert) and The Information, too.

“The notion that people won’t pay for online news content has been proven wrong (at least as it pertains to quality, differentiated news products),” Business Insider media editor Lucia Moses says.

We used to think “skinny bundles” would save cable TV from cord cutters.

“Digital TV bundles were looking like the industry saviour a year ago, and now they seem like they will be pared back into sports/news or perhaps nothing at all,” says Business Insider media editor Nathan McAlone. “Niche streaming services seemed well positioned to differentiate themselves from bigger players like Netflix, but many have gone out of business already as they can’t make the economics work. Legacy TV giants who had resisted launching their own Netflix competitors, like Disney, are now betting their futures on it.”

We honestly used to believe there was a “socially liberal, fiscally conservative” silent majority in America.

What people used to say is that Americans were, at their core, intolerant of government intervention in their personal lives and in the economy.

It turns out this was nonsense. Voter data shows there are lots of social and fiscal liberals, social and fiscal conservatives, and tons of socially conservative, fiscally liberal people. But not a lot of those libertarian types out there.

We used to think the national debt matters.

Remember when Bill Clinton would stand in front of Congress and the country and brag about budget surpluses to raucous applause?

So silly, apparently.

Now, thanks to a movement that seemed to start on Twitter, we’re told that the US government doesn’t have to worry about national debt because it can always print more money to pay it down. What really matters are the natural and human resources of the nation, which are nowhere near capacity.

This is called “Modern Monetary Theory.” Sometimes it only seems like a theory designed to sanction how all politicians with actual power from either party were already behaving. (But if it’s right, let’s build some new airports and trains already.)

We knew that Tesla would be an unstoppable bringer of death to incumbent carmakers.

Elon Musk smoking weed The Joe Rogan Experience/YouTube

Then Elon Musk just kept on tweeting.

We laughed at Snapchat, and said it would go the way of MySpace.


After Snap went public in March 2017, its stock dropped from just under $US30 per share to under $US5. But since the year started, the stock has doubled from its lows. Analysts like BTIG’s Richard Greenfield say Snap has successfully transformed itself into a platform for media companies trying to reach a highly engaged teen user base.

More than anything, we held it in our hearts that Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande shared a love that would last.


Just kidding. No one ever thought that.