The future will be nothing like the past. That is the contention of “The Great Reversal” by Charles Goodheart. Demographic decline and the drying up of the great surge of labor product of the urbanization in China and the freeing of the millions enslaved behind the iron curtain means the return of inflation, along with low growth rates in our economies and higher taxation to take care of our elderly.
The countries most in trouble are South Korea, Russia, Italy, Japan – and China. China is in deep, serious trouble. The bogeyman, the Chinese takeover of the world of which everybody is so afraid represents a lashing out as their model fails. Very specifically, demographic decline (China will go from 1.3 billion people down to 650 million in my lifetime) exacerbated by their disastrous one child policy which left hundreds of millions of men without wives; and no cushion product of immigration. Because who goes to China? The future of China looks like a scene from Grumpier Old Men. And Xi is not the cause, Xi is the inevitable disastrous result. Because throw into that mix an increasingly intolerant dictator who himself is getting old, and what you are set for is decline.
We just need to hold on.
And that is the contention of “The Accidental Superpower”. This excellent book, written before the great pandemic (which only accelerated all the trends that were going sideways anyways) highlights why America, with its privileged geography, is able to weather most geopolitical storms better than most. We are isolated and self-sustaining – in fact these days we are even an exporter of oil and LNG etc. We are here protected by two vast seas. It is the contention that Robert Kaplan makes in all his books – geography matters. No other region of the world is privileged with what America has without even considering it.
But more than that, ideas matter too. The ‘first peoples’ had the continent for 10,000 years before the Europeans showed up, and didn’t turn it into a superpower. Oh, don’t get bent out of shape, its just the truth. The special package of ideas bequeathed to us by Locke and Jefferson and Adam Smith and Madison; the European spirit of faith and freedom set loose on a quite literally limitless land produced America as we know her. But more than that – and this is important going into the future. We are also an immigrant country. This is unpopular politically when labor unions have collapsed and their protectionist clientele have found safe-haven in populist politics. But it is why we will make it and China will fail. Our own nativists are getting old and grumpy – but because we are a land where hard work is rewarded, rule of law is respected and people can plan and build we will always attract the best and the brightest looking for a chance to succeed. United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. These are the countries of the 21st century – at the expense of everybody else.
That is what “The Accidental Superpower” is about. Part of my series of “what comes next”; I’m now going on to 2030, stay tuned!