Over the past year, we’ve been discussing how the current depression might end. Two distinct scenarios have emerged as the likely candidates – a slow return to work for everyone as small companies complete a transition to a new economy and a collapse of the world’s economic system. Which will it be?
There is plenty of evidence for both. The decline in people of working age in the developed world (and soon the developing!) points to more opportunity and higher wages once everything evens out – something like a golden age. But the recent World Economic Forum and ongoing trauma in Europe highlight the obvious weakness at the top, starting with leadership.
The best answer for crystal ball readers is an obvious one – both might happen simultaneously. That’s not a punt, it’s a statement of deep belief that, in the long run, the Free Market is probably going to work.
What’s the state of the world’s economy and financial system? The annual gathering of the world’s leaders in the field at the World Economic Forum at the posh ski resort of Davos, Switzerland, painted a very nasty picture. The financial world is crumbling, unfair, and full of unacceptable risk.
One of the great questions through this stage of the depression is how alarmed the great thinkers are about the current situation. Make no mistake – this conference was sobering at best, terrifying at worst. It you’re looking for good news, take comfort in the fact that the world’s leaders have clearly sounded the alarm bells.
Are you ready for the next Ronald Reagan? Not here, in Japan. The new Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has been in office for less than a month and is already making a lot of waves with a bold new vision – spending whatever it takes and a strong dose of saber-rattling nationalism. It’s the latest – or really the first – plan to get Japan out of the two decade long doldrums and back onto the world stage. Will it work?
The parties are over, and we got through the New Year and the Inaugural. Everyone in Washington is back at work and ready to make great things happen.
Not so fast. A lot has happened since the start of 2009, a convenient time to look back over the economy for a lot of reasons. It was the start of Obama’s presidency, but more importantly it was when the financial collapse triggered by the fall of Lehman Brothers really hit the economy in general. It was the start of final phase of this Depression. So how are we doing?
It’s worth looking back if for no other reason than to make a few predictions – or at least know what to look for in 2013. Let’s break it down.
On this special Inauguration Day, also Dr. King Day, the nation can pause to think about where we are and where we are going. The first thought that crossed my mind as Obama quickly and privately took the oath on the official day was, “Wow, Malia really has grown, she’s almost as tall as her Mom!” Most of what we’ll here will be that kind of fluff that helps us all connect on a personal level to a warm, real family of actually very ordinary people in so many ways.
But that’s not what the party is really about. The trappings of power will be all over as we start another term with the guy who got us through the last four years, for better or worse. What can we expect? What should we insist on? How is this going to go down with a Republican House that appears to be uncontrolled? It’s all guesswork, but we know a few things for sure.
This is a story I like to tell, and it seems appropriate on Dr. King Day. It’s hard for those of us too young to remember “how it was” to understand the progress we have made – and how important Dr. King’s legacy is.
The rumor spread down Flagler Street with a sense of urgency. Miami was a city of rumors, each of us trying to stay ahead of the latest in unrest. There was a way these things came through, a procedure. It came to me in broken Spanglish, filling the pause between the order of Café Cubano and the exchange of money. “They found the shadows yesterday. I think they’ll just leave it.” I wasn’t sure exactly what they were talking about, but I knew it was exciting. “It was the old Colored fountain.” What?
What does the future hold? The job is often left to Futurists, which is nice work if you can get it. Then again, we still don’t really have flying cars, do we? It’s always hard to predict just what will happen as technologies advance, and by that I mean a lot more than just information technology. There’s still a lot to be done with advanced materials, machining, finance, and other more mundane things.
We have determined in Barataria that as the world’s population grows richer, more uniformly, working age populations are going to stabilize and even decline in the next two decades. That means that future growth will come not from more workers but from new technologies. That puts pressure on the Futurists, for sure, but it puts even more pressure on the delicate art of managing innovation – the process of rendering a bit of magic into practical use. It’s a topic worth exploring.