America a non-white country by 2050

I remember reading a statistic ages ago saying that by the year 2020, more than half of US children will be non-white (NPR) and another saying that by around 2050, the historical white majority in the US will be a minority (Guardian). If you add to this US history, the decline of the US as a global power and lots of guns things could take a nasty turn.

In this vein, a few images lifted from tweets by my favourite geo-political commentator, Ian Bremmer. As he says, worth watching.

Trumpty Dumpty Had a Great Fall

I know. Where’s Watson been? To be honest with you my heart has not been in it for a while. I’ve been working on the new map but beyond that I’ve not been doing a lot. But I’m back now. Spent the day with lawyers and bankers worrying about Donald Trump. He’s even scarier than Putin and clearly a man without any kind of plan whatsoever. The prospect of the pair of them is enough to make me want to buy a single ticket to Tasmania.

So you want a prediction? I think Hilary is going to win by a long margin and they’ll be an inquest into why the polls were so wrong (sound familiar?). I’m not saying this is a good result, but it’s the lesser of twin evils. But I doubt that’s the end of Trumpty Dumpty and I hate to think of some of the nasty things that will be unleashed if he does indeed lose.

On a more upbeat note, I got home tonight to find that the friendly folks at Investec Bank (not the people I was with today by the way) had sent me a copy of Yuval Harari’s new book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. Can’t wait to get stuck in to that.

Russian expansionism

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Just spotted this at the end of my book Future Files – 2012 update, page 302.

“Russia will become more nationalistic (and go outward militarily).

This wasn’t my idea. It stems from reading The Next 100 Years by George Friedman. His chapter on Russia 2020 is worth a look. His general argument is that major conflicts tend to repeat themselves and therefore history can indeed be a good guide to the future.

” The Russians are extremely well aware that they are facing a massive demographic crisis. Russia’s current population is about 145 million, and projections for 2050 are for between 90 million and 125 million. Time is working against it. Russia’s problem will soon be its ability to field an army sufficient for its strategic needs. Internally, the number of Russians compared to other ethnic groups is declining, placing intense pressure on Russia to male a move sooner rather than later.”

I also liked his thought that you need to look at the psychology driving national politics. In the case of Russia (and France and the UK) it’s all about the loss of empire and a desire to regain influence. Anyone for the Rise of the Fifth Reich?

Armchair geopolitical analysis

What’s going to happen in Ukraine? I think the most probable short-term outcome is that Putin will wait and see how things unfold, both politically and economically. However, if Ukraine shifts politically towards Europe I believe that it’s almost inconceivable that Russia will just sit back and let this happen.From my perspective Russia is driven by two key factors.First, psychologically, Russia is still traumatized by the loss of or, at least the dilution of, its empire and sphere of influence. Russia would like both back and I expect geographical expansion to be a real possibility. The fact that Russia’s Black Sea fleet is still based in Ukraine only adds to these tensions.

Second, Russia has demographic problems that could derail any economic promise. Since 1992 the number of Russians dying has outnumbered those being born by a massive 50%. Indeed official figures suggest the country has shrunk by 5% since 1993 and life expectancy is marginally lower than in 1961. By 2050, Yemen’s population will theoretically be larger than Russia’s. If Russia can add to its population by geographical expansion I’d expect it to do so. One might also add that Russia’s current economic and political power largely stems from its energy reserves. At the moment high oil and gas prices put Putin in a strong position – possibly to do nothing – but if energy prices collapse Putin’s legitimacy could be challenged and his response might be to indulge in diversionary tactics, such as invading Ukraine. Time will tell.

The new middle class

I don’t usually read Newsweek, but I picked up a copy at the airport not so long ago. Their report on the scary new rich is one of the best things I’ve read in ages in the sense that I think they are totally on the money. Here, in brief, is what they said.

The middle class is often laughed at in Britain, but it has largely been the middle class that has driven development. They have been the moderators of extremism in politics and the brainpower behind much of the last century’s economic miracle. However, their day may soon be over. In ‘developed’ nations, especially in UK, the middle classes are about to get squeezed due to high levels of government debt (cue higher direct and indirect taxation), higher energy costs and rising food prices. In short, the rising standard of living that has been expected for more than a generation could be about to evaporate and families will find themselves considerably worse of than their parent’s generation. This is frightening enough but it’s not all that’s happening.

A new prosperous middle class is rapidly emerging in countries such as China, Russia, Brazil, India, Turkey and Indonesia. In 2009, 70 million new middle class people made an appearance on the world stage. According to Goldman Sachs they will be joined by roughly 2 billion others by the year 2050. These people buy stuff. The Chinese purchased more cars than Americans last year and in twenty years time people living in the so-called ‘emerging markets’ will own 90% of mobile phones. But what if the ‘emerging markets’ soon swap places with the ‘developed markets’ economically. What then?

It’s not just raw spending power that makes this trend interesting either. It has always been assumed that when nations like China or India develop they will adopt broadly western attitudes. Shanghai and Rio will end up looking much like London or Sydney. But what if they don’t? What if the new emerging middle class rejects liberalism, free markets and free speech? This is exactly what seems to be happening.

For example, the new Brazilian middle class approves of state intervention in the oil industry so as to keep foreign interest out of their country. Russia’s middle class (now 78% of the entire nation) is broadly supportive of Russia’s autocratic leader (the one pulling the strings, not the elected leader). This new middle class is broadly supportive of authoritarian government, state control and limits on free speech and elections just so long as the local economy keeps growing. This new middle class is individualistic and supportive of free trade and globalisation but is also nationalistic, protectionist and, in some instances, spoiling for a fight with the likes of the US. In short, millions of newly wealthy people around the world are rejecting the notion that you need political freedom for economic growth and are supportive of the idea that it doesn’t matter who runs the country, just so long as they keep in running it smoothly.

Meanwhile, the middle class in countries like the US is becoming suspicious of globalisation and is arguing that jobs that were once outsourced should be brought back home. As a result old antagonisms and special interests between nation states are starting to fray and a new world order is slowly taking shape, largely based around economic prosperity or the lack of it.

Of course there’s one area where the old and new middle classes converge. Both are anxious about the economy, interest rates, unemployment and global chaos. Both are also driven by a combination of pride and insecurity. Scary don’t you think?