I’m becoming slightly concerned. I’ve always thought that civilisation was a veneer. Look at Thailand and Greece. It doesn’t take much for rage to erupt. Could such rage be transferred to places like Britain? I think it could.
The problem is the convergence of a number of issues. First, the UK government is in debt. As a result they will have to put up taxes significantly. I’d expect VAT (sales) tax to increase to 20% and I wouldn’t be surprised if some forms of indirect taxation were to rise too. The top rate of 50% personal taxation is probably not going away either. But that’s just the start of it.
Unless growth in some parts of the world slows down significantly, energy costs (especially oil and gas prices) will go up dramatically. This means higher costs at the fuel pump, but it also means higher electricity prices, higher domestic heating costs and higher food prices. These might not sound important but they can and do cause riots.
But if that were not enough, I’d expect government investment in essential services and infrastructure to crumble. So worse roads, worse education and worse hospitals. Opportunistic crime will go up but investment in policing will go down. Add all this up and you have increasing frustration running alongside declining trust in politicians.
Those at the very top of society do not have a problem. They are generally mobile and will simply leave the country at a certain point. This is happening already. Equally, those at the bottom don’t really have anything further to lose.
But those in the middle, the bulk of the country essentially, will be unable to afford the same standard of living as their parents. The idea that the future is always better materially than the past will start to evaporate and these people, traditionally people that do not complain, will become increasingly angry. I’d expect all this to fuel nationalism, protectionism and disengagement with global issues and institutions.
Meanwhile, in Asia, there is the possibility of rising living standards, or at least the continued embrace of concepts such as free trade and globalisation. That’s an interesting combination. A declining ‘developed’ world running right alongside a rising ‘developing’ world.