Predictions for the next twenty years

From New York magazine, here are mine:

American politics will return to the precedent of the 19th century. Then, there was lots of fake news; partisanship was extreme; the media was very biased; Americans reacted politically with extreme emotions and all debates seemed to be full of rancor and bitterness. So in some fundamental ways, this country has not changed. We had a break from that state of affairs in the 20th century because we had the major enemies of the Nazis and then the Soviets. But as those enemies disappeared, we’re fighting among ourselves more, and the nation will go back to an earlier version of its politics, which were highly dysfunctional. You had plenty of people becoming president who probably should not have been.

I don’t see any evidence that we’re headed toward anything like a civil war. Today is a more peaceful era. If you look at polls, you see a generalized loss of trust in many institutions, but the No. 1 clear winner by far is still the military. Police tactics have much improved over the past few decades. The riots of the 1960s are very, very far away. The fighting will stay on social media. The happy people will be those who turn off their smartphones or who don’t put Twitter on them and who just go about living their lives.

But I think the intellectual classes and people in the media will become less and less happy. They’ll be more stressed, and every day they’ll feel like they’re being put through the wringer. Social media has become a kind of opiate of the intellectual class. So, grandparents use social media to track what their grandkids are doing — that’s nice and wonderful. But people who keep on refreshing Twitter for the latest developments in the Mueller investigation — frankly, I think it’s a big waste of time. I think there has been great wrongdoing. I fully support what Mueller is up to. But, at the end of the day, following it moment-to-moment is a kind of trap.

Keep in mind that during a lot of the 19th century, America’s economy grew one and a half percent or 2 percent annually, which was okay. But it was not 4 or 5 percent growth. People felt resources were very scarce. Everything was argued over. A small amount of tariff revenue was a big deal. I think that, too, will be our immediate future. There will be a lot of scarcity. Budgets will be stretched, and, again, everything will be an emotional debate, precisely because there’s so much gridlock. We will look to symbolic politics — who deserves higher status, what kind of rhetoric is permissible. Right now, it’s the coastal elite in major cities versus many other parts of the country. But that will be in flux. Latinos — at what rate will they vote Democratic? Will Asian-Americans defect to the Republican Party?

Democrats still have a big problem: What are they going to run on? They could run on more preschool or no more paid maternity leave. They’re just not that big a deal — not major changes in how America works. I don’t think they’ll end up as the main things we’re debating. If you look at all the attention the “caravan” got — that was just a few thousand people. I think that kind of debate is our future.

The article offers numerous other distinguished and interesting entries.


Actually, post-Civil War presidents tended to be men whose skill and character had been tested in battle in front of their peers, much like Israeli leaders in the 20th Century tended to be those who had distinguished themselves under hard circumstances.

Those presidents weren't also Rushmore material either. Johnson was impeached. Grant had a host of scandals. Hayes had nothing to write home about and the same with Cleveland. Maybe McKinley gets something of a pass but the era between Lincoln and Roosevelt is a largely forgettable affair. More important than the presidents were the numerous banking panics that filled those times.

Of a truly undistinguished class Grover Cleveland was by far the most impressive:

"like Israeli leaders in the 20th Century tended to be those who had distinguished themselves under hard circumstances."

You mean terrorists such Begin, war criminals such as Sharon and adulterers such as Netanyahu.


The Zionist entity must be stopped. Which side are you on, anyway?

I can at least envision a better future.

I can hope for tighter labor markets, that lead to higher wages and a larger labor force, that lead to more investment in capital and equipment, that leads to higher productivity.

Well, at least it's a whole.

That should read, at least it's a hope.

One difference is that the 19th Century preceded the Imperial Presidency and the Big Government ushered in by the New Deal. So, it didn't matter as much if politics was dysfunctional, especially once slavery was outlawed. The biggest (only?) long-term consequence of political dysfunction right now is our inability to reform entitlements to make them sustainable. That problem remains even after the twitter mob moves on from one outrage to the next. The 19th Century did not have a domineering welfare state to wrangle, nor did it matter as much which imbecile was elected non-Emperor.

The domineering welfare state of the 19th century was devoted to extermination of the native Americans. As soon as slavery was outlawed free blacks were organized into military units romantically known as "Buffalo Soldiers" whose purpose was to drive the natives from their homes and kill them so those areas could be opened up to "homesteading".

Somebody had to do it.

The Democrat playbook is so easy to describe. Just run on social democracy, I mean, that is where they are headed anyway. Healthcare, childcare, free education are issues they can use to ride off into the sunset. The Republicans have more of problem. They can't do the Trump thing and play as Team Old White Guy forever. The story there will be more interesting. Libertarianism flavored with some sane populism might make them a more competitive party.

More competitive? They already control the Presidency, the Senate, the Supreme Court, and a majority of the governorships and state legislative seats. Why do people like you persist in this fantasy that the Republicans are uncompetitive? And how could anyone imagine that libertarianism, which everyone but a few geeks and university professors despises, would be a winning political strategy?

"They already control the Presidency, the Senate, the Supreme Court, and a majority of the governorships and state legislative seats. Why do people like you persist in this fantasy that the Republicans are uncompetitive? "

Because people read the news, which by and large leans Left, and fail to look at the big picture. It's the same thing that leads to articles on how Global warming will destroy the Nation state. It's a focused myopia and a refusal to deal with reality.

Of course, it's the same type of myopia that leads to refusing to admit that Global Warming exists at all.

"Because people read the news" Im not so sure thats true any more. At least i think the swaying power of the media is greatly reduced.

If that werent true i dont think trump would have been elected in the first place.

Well assume that there's no major source of News that's not politicized and essentially no one is getting very much of a reasonable centrist point of view. Sure, there are people that realize we should be seeking some kind of moderate pragmatic path, but their voice is drowned out by those with the megaphones.

At the end of the day, you get modern politics. Tyler seems to be closer to that reasonable centrist point than most columnists. But he's a rarity.

I'm not sure that this is really an unusual situation. Tyler wants to compare today with the post Civil War US. However it doesn't look as if modern politics is worse than what the US experienced during the 1960's and 1970's. Or the 20's and 30's either.

My point is that Journalists no longer sway elections like they used to.

Maybe? Certainly if you keep to the narrow definition of a journalist (paid for their work), your point is correct.

TC: But as those enemies disappeared, we’re fighting among ourselves more, and the nation will go back to an earlier version of its politics, which were highly dysfunctional.

Eh? Weren't US institutions one of the more successful in the world at the time in their response to economic and institutional change?

Perhaps your future may be more that you return to the norms of Latin American, African and Asian politics, rather than the 19th century - the country will have changed.

Although, consider this: Would you have made these predictions in 2013? If not, why not?

It seems like if you were, this should give you skepticism about your ability to infer a long term trend, if you're giving such a high degree of weight to the past 6 years, or even just the past 3.

As far as I know, the only person who actually predicted these "Ages of Discord" back then was Peter Tuchin, and he tended to see this in terms of an inevitable political cycle related to wealth, redistribution and class compromise, rather than a unique bijou political situation in the USA.


And speaking as a better predictor, I think you (Tyler) are a little behind the curve. There was always the possibility that this was a wrong turn to be recognized and reversed. A pendlum swing too far.

I may be casting at the edge of prediction now myself, when I call it as "the populism is busted," but of course that is the future I am trying to create. A better future for our children ;-)

And it is busted, with Trump's circus so bad that MR can't even report on it, and Brexit stumbling across the yard (going for a visual here) stepping on one rake (flipping up to smack the face) after another.

We will return to calm confidence because this all sucks.

Exactly. The collapse of Britain in the wake of Brexit was widely predicted by experts, and they nailed it. Should put an end to awful populism for a generation.

Did anyone say "collapse?" I thought they said negative change, or inflection on GDP, which is quite bad enough.

One simply does not choose policy for negative impact on GDP.

Yeah, collapse is too strong. How about "stock market crash and steep fall in house prices" (IMF)?

By the way, you have to give high points to Francis Fukuyama as a predictor. He too is working on a return to normalcy.

To add to 'M' - what was being predicted for the 1970s in 1968 when things were much worse? Certainly not The Carpenters and Gerald Ford.

(And we had the common enemy then, no?)

Yes, The Carpenters.

Not to mention The Captain and Tennille

This is a fool’s errand. See page 243 of Tetlock and Gardner’s “superforecasting” book, reprinting Lin Wells’s “thoughts for the 2001 quadrennial defense review” (look it up!)

Here is a link to the Lin Wells memo:

“But I think the intellectual classes and people in the media will become less and less happy. They’ll be more stressed, and every day they’ll feel like they’re being put through the wringer. “

Poor dears, they just don’t get no respect.

French politics of the 3rd Republic (1871-1914) is also a model. You can expect a president dying of a stroke while getting a blowjob in the oval office like Félix Faure in 1899.

So, a Civil War and a series of large recessions? I'll start building my bunker.

In 20 years US church attendance will be much lower. It may decline very rapidly on account of religious extremists getting the most coverage and causing the not particularly religious to view religion mostly as a destructive force. Perhaps the US will have had an openly agnostic President by 2039.

You can expect both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party to be hijacked by the extremes. A third central party will appear, probably by scission of the Democratic Party, and win the elections. Many Republican politicians will join this party that will become the dominant political force for a very long time. Pretty much like Parti Radical in France during the 3rd Republic.

That's never been the American experience.

The current Gilded Age will likely end like the first Gilded Age. Tim Wu's new book won't please Cowen, but it promotes the most effective and likely path. Now Jack Kelly has written a book (The Edge of Anarchy) that describes in detail the events that ended the first Gilded Age. The title to Kelly's book is appropriate, because anarchy has threatened the nation since its beginning. Whether one calls them anarchists or libertarians, the end result is the same: unbridled power of the owners of property, government and courts that respond to the demands of the wealthy, recurring financial, economic, and social instability, and rising resentment among the working class. Will anarchy be the result, with great loss to everyone, wealthy and working class alike, or will reason prevail and a new progressive era emerge? What distinguishes today's Gilded Age from the first Gilded Age is today's pervasive social media and propaganda, a combination so effective that the distinction between reality and fiction is difficult for many to discern. The recent article in The New Yorker about reality television creating the fiction of Donald Trump, a fiction that continues in the minds of millions despite all of the evidence piling up daily, is proof of the greater challenge presented today. God help us. We will need it.

Extreme partisanship and a biased (partisan) press is less a prediction than a description of the status quo. I suppose the prediction is that it will continue -- a fairly safe bet. For a while, anyway. The big difference with the 19th century is that the press was a large, growing, profitable industry, whereas in the 21st century, news organizations have found that becoming partisan is a way to staunch (at least temporarily) the loss of subscribers, advertisers and profits. Straight, unslanted reporting doesn't sell very well anymore.

But will this continue to work post-Trump? Or once we get a less polarizing figure, will the industry decline resume? Or even once we get the next Democrat (Obama was about as triggering to Republicans as Trump is to Democrats, but apart from Fox, news organizations didn't do well during the Obama years). Once there is no bete noire in the White House for reporters to bravely resist with their newsatorials, will the Times and WaPo's subscriber bumps vanish?

A riskier prediction might be that, post-Trump, biased, partisan reporting won't be enough to save the news industry and the novel thing about the 21st century will be a lack of national news organizations of any scale (to be replaced, perhaps, by a few thinly-funded non-profit organizations).

" But as those enemies disappeared, we’re fighting among ourselves more, and the nation will go back to an earlier version of its politics, which were highly dysfunctional."
Ah yes, like when Andrew Johnson sent thousands of U.S. soldiers to die in a Southeast Asian nation with no strategic value. Wait, that was another Johnson.
And what does Tyler mean by people who shouldn't have been president? Hayes was a governor who defended runaway slaves in court before the Civil War. Garfield was the House minority leader. Cleveland was the governor of New York. Harrison was a U.S. Senator.
I'm not sure who Tyler thinks would have been more qualified. Maybe John Sherman.

I don’t see any evidence that we’re headed toward anything like a civil war.

Because you refuse to acknowledge anything which doesn't penetrate the boundary between the GMU campus and the rest of the world.

As long as the U.S. has nuclear weapons, there will never be another civil war. Whichever side controls the nuclear codes at the onset of hostilities wins by default.

Under such conditions, the upper end of the possible is ongoing, intermittent cases of insurgency. Which will sooner or later result in some degree of martial law. Any reactionary peasant uprising or, alternatively, Antifa-style progressive rebellion will be crushed beneath the tire treads of a militarized police force and, if necessary, those of the U.S. military itself.

The plurality, and perhaps the majority, of the U.S. population is anti-political, exhausted and alienated by the relentless, tedious rhetorical onslaught of the radicalized zealots on both sides. As such, the political will simply isn't there to sacrifice material comfort and en masse risk life and limb for abstract ideological fantasies. If and when the zealots turn to large-scale violence, the demand instead will be for a crackdown and return to order which the powers that be will happily oblige.

+1, the issues the two sides are arguing over aren't existential. Thus, the common man isn't going to tolerate a large disruption of his life over secondary concerns.

"Democrats still have a big problem: What are they going to run on?"

Are you kidding? Any Democrat could win at a walk with this slogan:

"I don't even have a Twitter account."

I joke, but a big factor is insanity fatigue.

I fully support what Mueller is up to.

Mueller is a 21st century version of Praetorian Sejanus.

When TC makes comments like this, I am inclined to question his intelligence, but I know that he is a super smart guy. I think he needs to leave the bubble from time to time, and consider the counter arguments.

I recall that he thought Obama was a good President.

Oh the irony.

I hate Mueller, don't care much about Trump, and I liked Obama.
Hey TC, any words of wisdom on Democrat and donors using DOUBLE false flag bot accounts disguised as rednecks with fake Russian followers to attempt to discredit the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama?

"LinkedIn Co-Founder Apologizes for Deception in Alabama Senate Race"

>I think there has been great wrongdoing.

Notice how he won't say "crime" (much less "impeachable crime") and he won't even say "offense" or "violation" -- because there hasn't been any, or else we'd have heard about it after 2+ years -- but it's critical to Tyler to keep up his lefty bona fides, so he has say the meaningless word WRONGDOING, and then kick it up with the word GREAT.

And naturally he FULLY SUPPORTS this $30 million fishing expedition to try to find out what this GREAT WRONGDOING MIGHT BE.

Yeah, it's totally ok to question his intelligence.

You know, Tyler is not literally your daddy. You don't need him to notice you.

Whatever his personal views, Tyler still has to work in academia, and that environment requires certain ritual genuflections. It's a marker of how Mueller's investigation has withered that Tyler only has to say "whatever he's up to" and "great wrongdoing."

“Ritual genuflections”. I like that. Do you mind if use that, after a sufficient time has passed, of course?

He is making a very clear virtue signal to the editors and marketer of that publication. Quillette would be ashamed.

Speaking of tweets, one popped up six minutes ago:

"Economic numbers looking REALLY good. Can you imagine if I had long term ZERO interest rates to play with like the past administration, rather than the rapidly raised normalized rates we have today. That would have been SO EASY! Still, markets up BIG since 2016 Election!"

MR is supposed to be a blog about the political economy, speaking from a right libertarian perspective. Why on earth would it be silent on presidential economics such as these?

Is it right-libertarian to give a president zero interest rates "to play with?"

Or is it important to passively aggressively ignore it, and recycle something about Democrats not having ideas?

Oh, it seems Tyler would rather go on Bloomberg to complain about AOC. Noted.

someone tried to point that actually US growth was in 3-4% range in published estimations last time Tyler wrote similar article. I checked - yes, the numbers in papers are no near 1-2% which Tyler talks about. That's kind of strange. either Tyler has his own unpublished estimations which he keeps as truth, or he invents figures to keep his story flow. Still it's puzzling, because in spite of published facts are not near his figures and he was pointed to that - he still repeats his story unchanged.

Tyler thinks in mysterious ways...

It's a mystery.

The US economy only grew 1.5-2% a year while the west was being settled, things like the steamship and telegram were being invented, etc? What's the story there. Were the bad years just really bad? Agrarian south was holding everyone else down?

The Long Depression:

+1, informative

Cowen: "Keep in mind that during a lot of the 19th century, America’s economy grew one and a half percent or 2 percent annually, which was okay. But it was not 4 or 5 percent growth. People felt resources were very scarce."

Cowen still isn't getting U.S. growth right. U.S. annual growth rates:

1840 - 1870: population grew 3.3%, GDP per capita grew 1.7%, growth = 5.0%

1870-1900: population grew 2.2% a year, GDP per capita grew 1.7% per year, growth = 3.9% per year.

1900 - 1930; population grew 1.6%, GDP per capita grew 1.4%, growth = 3.0% per year.

1930 - 1960: population grew 1.4%, GDP per capita grew 2.1%, growth = 3.4% per year.

1960 - 1990: population grew 1.5%, GDP per capita grew 2.4%, growth = 3.9%.

1990 - 2017: population grew 0.7%, GDP per capita grew 1.4%, growth = 2.1%.

"things like the steamship and telegram were being invented": but they weren't invented in the USA so what's the point of that remark?

Because they were being introduced to the US and presumably expanded productivity. In this context it doesn't matter where they came from, it only matters that they affected US growth.

The point is they were applied in the US economy. Ever heard of Morse Code? Morse was American and invented the telegram.

BTW, Britons did not invent the steamship. They were taken from French designs.

In important respects, this is not a prediction of the future but a description of current conditions. The income inequality and partisan polarization of the late-19th century are at similar levels today. See McCarty, Poole, and Rosenthal, Polarized America (MIT Press, 2006). Political scientists have been talking about these problems, and the relationship between them, for 15 years.

I also find the final forecast--that Democrats have nothing to run on--odd. Health insurance and heath care in this country are an expensive, predatory mess. Medicare For All, or some version of it, will certainly be a central plank in the Democratic Party for years to come. It will not be easy to pass, because the hospital and insurance industries, as well as the many people they employee, will largely oppose reform. But I suspect that an increasing share of voters will find the industry's talking points about "choice" unpersuasive, giving Democrats a major opportunity. Also, as the effects of climate change become increasingly obvious and devastating, Democrats will have political incentives to come up with serious and large-scale policy responses. That will include major efforts to reduce the greenhouse effect, as well as infrastructure construction to address immediate climate threats.

The US is responsible for only about 15% of global CO2 emissions. US emissions are falling, primarily due to natural gas replacing coal.

China is responsible for about 30% of emissions, and rising. India (about 7%) , and other Asian nations are also increasing emissions.

On a global basis, which is all that matters, US emissions are already small enough that further reductions are unlikely to be material (i.e. even going to zero wouldn't make much difference).

The single most effective thing we could do today would be to expedite worldwide natural gas extraction. And if you really believe climate change is an existential threat, we should also expedite design and construction of nuclear power plants for base load power.

We should try to invent all the things that China and India will use to reduce carbon footprint, and not divide all the things along party lines.

And of course it is important that all those things compete on cost, because that is why they will be accepted, if they are.

Do you honestly think they're going to invent anything? I may be overly cynical, but I seriously doubt India, China, and their ilk are going to do anything to stop their emissions/pollution until it's in their best interest to do so. Right now the world has given them a free pass, and they are going to milk that for all they can get out of it.

Example: We all (the whole world) worked on low power LEDs, but Asia specifically did much to reduce their costs.

(There is some controversy about their impact, and if their cheapness just promoted more use. Still, nice that our TVs are LED and not CRT or Plasma.)

China produces two-thirds of the world's solar panels, half the electric cars, and has twice the wind capacity of the next runner up, the United States.

They are competing on price. While reasonable quality electric cars still aren't cheap, wind and solar out compete new coal capacity. Australia is the world's largest exporter of coal and will never build a new coal power station because solar and wind is cheaper. Most solar panels used here are Chinese made. We're currently not fans of Chinese wind turbines though they are being tested here.

All of this is basically true. Granted, renewables can't become dominant until power storage becomes economical, but the trends are all in the correct direction.

And this is also why the arguments for and against Global Warming are largely pointless. The world will transition to a renewable based power production systems because that will be the cheapest solution. The transition will for the most part occur over the next 30 years. CO2 in the atmosphere will start falling off after that point. By mid century this won't be considered a serious issue. By the end of the century it will be a historical curiosity.

If solar and wind are cheaper, then regions which have moved to more solar and wind production should have the lowest energy costs, correct?

Now as an exercise, go look up the cost of energy in Germany, Ontario, California, Southern Australia, and other areas that have been shifting to solar and wind, and compare them to the cost of energy in places that have not done so but are otherwise economically similar.

I'll save you the time for one of them: Since Germany has embarked on its rapid alternate energy conversion program, its energy costs have skyrocketed to become the most expensive of any major country in Europe. Furthermore, their grid is unstable and they are forced to buy power from their neighbors and are now building a pipeline to Russia to import Russian fossil fuels. And, their CO2 output is increasing.

Boy, that worked well. In comparison, France gets the highest percentage of its power from supposedly extremely expensive nuclear power, and yet has among the lowest power prices in Europe. Funny how that works.

Obviously, it's a global problem that requires global solutions. I don't disagree with you. But for the purposes of this discussion, I'm not really talking about what ought to be done, but rather what Democrats are likely to do given the environmental and political conditions that unfold over the next 20 years.

I agree its likely that the Democrats will use climate change as an emotional scare tactic and pretext to try to implement a host of policies that would otherwise be rejected. Even though the actual impact on the climate of those policies will be near zero.

Every effort is being made to position it as a matter of faith, not subject to rational debate, complete with casting out and shunning the unbelievers and heretics.

"Every effort is being made to position it as a matter of faith, not subject to rational debate, complete with casting out and shunning the unbelievers and heretics."

Funny how people can say these things and not recognize themselves as the partisans.

This in a nutshell

Self awareness not your strong suite, heh? You respond in a partisan way, calling him the partisan, when he gives the emotionally detached view of how to evaluate science.

I said "We should try to invent all the things that China and India will use to reduce carbon footprint, and not divide all the things along party lines."

The proof is in the carbon accounting, not the partisan zingers.

And US CO2 emissions are up again.

Because GDP is up.

Sure that is a factor, but I think some hoped that the invisible hand of the market would move CO2 down even so.

If it does not ..

I did think that Tyler's contribution was by far the least idiotic of those in the article, but that's not saying much

It's not quite as bad as that. I think Missy Cummings will prove to be right about autonomous vehicles, for example. And though Dahlia Lithwick's prediction is silly hyperbole, there is a more realistic prediction in there -- namely that Supreme Court openings will routinely remain unfilled for years until the Presidency and Senate are in the same hands.

But we have to bear in mind how far off the mark warnings and predictions about the 20th century made in 1919 would likely have been when made by 'leading intellectuals' of the day. Many at that time were eugenicists, and the doomsday predictions of the era would likely have been about the swamping of elites by the rapid breeding of the 'lower orders' or some such nonsense. And there's this odd echo:

The Immigration Restriction League was the first American entity associated officially with eugenics. Founded in 1894 by three recent Harvard University graduates, the League sought to bar what it considered inferior races from entering America and diluting what it saw as the superior American racial stock....Membership in the League included: A. Lawrence Lowell, president of Harvard, William DeWitt Hyde, president of Bowdoin College, James T. Young, director of Wharton School and David Starr Jordan, president of Stanford University.

These kinds of predictions should not really be taken very seriously -- they're mostly about current hobby-horses and politics of the 20-teens, not the 21st century generally and will probably age just as badly as nearly all such things generally do.

I'll make some predictions.

There will be a series of events that will cause fundamental restructuring of the political order and many deaths that are a direct consequence of policy implementations to decrease greenhouse gases.

A judge somewhere will rule that teacher's pension assets can be seized to pay out settlements and damages awards to those whose lives have been destroyed by prepubescent gender adjustments.

A series of catastrophic mistakes in business strategy and policy implementations where the primary source of information is the media will create a market for expensive well researched journalism. The commonly available journalism will be even worse, and articles will proliferate describing the Golden years when everyone was exposed to fine journalism at the checkout counter at the grocery store.

The higher education scene will see 1/2 to 2/3 of the current institutions disappear. The ivy League schools will be almost entirely filled with the children of alumni. A healthy and vigorous online and short training system will mature. Legislation will be proposed and not pass allowing student debt to be cancelled upon death. It is generally considered a good thing that this debt been be kept alive, pour les autres. (By the way, this travesty is an indictment of the current batch of elites. One of quite a few blitheringly stupid things they have done. They should thank whatever god that is handy that the commonly available automated machining devices aren't being used to build guillotines).

There will enter into the common vernacular the term 'never defeated in the field'.

Western economies will be halfway through a restructuring similar to what happened in the 80's and 90's in the northern economies, where deficit spending became impossible and governments are forced to generate revenues from economic activity. Against their will and vigorously opposed by economists.

Technology will be perfected to keep old people alive almost indefinitely. Mueller will still be leading the investigation into the humiliation of the political class, and Ginsburg will still be hearing cases from her home.

In 2025 the Democrat president will order an addition to Mount Rushmore. A perfectly diverse group of engineers and architects, environmental assessors and other hangers on will take 15 years, be 200 times over budget and the thing will fall off two years after completion. The media will blame white privilege and the unconscious bias of the mountains.

Excellent, while details are hard to predict accurately, I agree with your big picture view.

My pessimistic view is that best case, we become like Brazil, worst case, we become like Venezuela.

Why would teacher pensions be involved in issues over gender reassignment? It's doctors that advise and perform that sort of thing.

"you see a generalized loss of trust in many institutions, but the No. 1 clear winner by far is still the military." Then shouldn't you be predicting a successful military coup? Or at least a series of military men elected to the presidency?

I don't think the assertion is right. Everyone is pro-troops, but many have tired of the worldwide military adventurism. This may be the single largest point of populist horseshoe agreement among Trump/Bernie supporters.

How informed are they? US troops are in Congo right now, to do the kind of work the UN would do, if we still believed in the UN.

"President Donald Trump has told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that 80 military personnel and "appropriate combat equipment" were being deployed to Central Africa amid fears of election violence in Congo."

Three easy predictions for 2039:

* nobody will worry about global warming

* The virtual reality internet will be used as much or more as the internet is used today.

* Health and medicine won't be recognizable from a 2019 perspective.

"We had a break from that state of affairs in the 20th century because..."

Journalism. A profession with a rigorous process of vetting messy facts. Should not be confused with lowbrow outfits that use the word "news."

Granted, TC, you were looking for an historical metaphor for the US for the next twenty years, but the late 19th century is a temptation you could have resisted, in favor of . . .

citing the history of the late Roman Republic.

For one thing the Roman Republic coasted just past its first two centuries when the Contest of the Orders began to break out, which required a few decades of discussion among patricians and cosmetic adjustments for the plebs.

Only following this did the era of the charismatic Gracchi (read: Kennedys), the reformer Saturninus, and both deeper and more widespread populist foment ensue, which led to more intense contests among patricians, Senators, and generals. Civil strife steadily increased, bloody civil strife, political popularity contests.

Finally, one general had more than enough. His zeal rejected by the Senate, one of his relatives continued laboring through the civil tumult until the Republic was overthrown for the formal establishment of the Roman Empire.

Is America today more exactly a descendant of its 19th century self, or has it progressed to the heady attainments of the late Roman Republic? Decisions, decisions . . . .


The Supreme Court will still exist in 2039 and there will be at least 9 people sitting on it.

VR will be much more accessible but it won't replace real life. It will affect the entertainment and travel industries. But it won't replace them. People still value the "real" thing. Just like a buyer will pay millions for an authentic painting, but a knock off that's good enough to fool most experts isn't worth nearly as much.

There will be rising tension between the US and China. Ideally this will take the form of a Cold War and not an actual war. China will be constrained by an alliance led by the US. Chiefly, the alliance will consist of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, India and Australia. The combination of these and Russia will ring China and keep territorial expansion outside of south east Asia checked.

Smart devices will become ubiquitous. Robot and automation assistants will appear but will not replace the human work force. Instead humans will become the foremen of the future. Humans will supervise a squad of simple robots to clean houses quickly and cheaply. Maid services will become common, though, humans will be similar to drone operators and won't necessarily appear on site .

Hatred doesn't really change, that's certainly true enough. If the NY Times could be assured of another pellagra epidemic in "red states," I think they'd take that 19th century bargain.

"It’s 2039 and just about everything’s changed." Or maybe it's 2039 and not much has changed? At least, one can be reasonably sure that the press will continue to hysterically declare that the second coming of Hitler is at hand (or at least declare, yet again, "the Reichstag is burning!") when it's not consumed by climate or other environmental hysteria.

It's easy enough to see much of journalism sinking back into the "yellow journalism" of the 19th century, but, a major difference between politics in 19th century USA and today is the dramatically larger size and influence of today's federal government. It's not just that divergent worldviews fuel conflict, but that the stakes of political battles have become so much larger due to the increased size of government itself.

The analogy for the decline of U.S. influence in the world is not Gibbon's Decline and Fall but the gradual slide of the U.K into irrelevance. As the USA's economy is dragged down by an increasintly unsupportable national debt, the U.S. role in the world will become increasingly irrelevant.

Perhaps by 2039 we'll have seen our first true cyberwar, in which a nation under siege is forced to surrender to an attack made entirely with intangible weapons (but not necessarily without loss of life). And in which the entity/entities behind the attacks may never be fully known.

The future of virtual reality is not goggles but wires in the brain, wherein one might enjoy a subjective life of many years in just a few actual hours. Even if the experience were fatal (or becomes so because there's no one to look after your physical needs). Malthus thus has the last word, as those in "advanced" welfare states increasingly choose this form of suicide, causing populations to fall and decreasing demands on the world's depleted natural resources.

The U.K. was supplanted by other powers, i.e., the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., and, after World War II, Germany, which were larger and (in two of the three cases) richer than it. There are only a few countries larger than the U.S., and none of them seems likely to be richer in the near future.

I don't believe in long predictions, and think 20 years from now is pretty unknowable. But I would like to remind you of my best advice and prediction ever.

In February of 2017 I suggested in these pages that Donald Trump should fake a stroke and retire for health reasons. I said that was his best way out and best chance at a happy life. Otherwise it would be downhill from there.

Now the poor dude is caught between feverish plans to keep government in shutdown, for his political protection, or to declare a national emergency.

His "supporters" are trying as hard as they can to ignore it.

It only gets worse for old Don from here on out as well. And it might be too late for the stroke thing. There is a rumor that indictments are made and sealed.

The link, fwiw. I was "anon" back then.

Border security polls extremely well, and I think Trump will rightly continue to see political value in using the issue to divide the Democratic base from the public at large.
Federal workers have little constituency outside Washington.

I suppose you actually know that "border security" and "a wall" have indeed been polled separately.

"56% of Americans are opposed to expanding the wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, while 40% favor doing so. (June 2018 survey)"

"The poll, conducted by the HarrisX polling company, found that 49 percent of voters backed the idea of funding a border wall in order to avoid a partial government shutdown, while 51 percent disagreed."

Tell you what, bookmark this, and if this ends up being a win for Trump, remind me.

I promise to acknowledge and cop to my error.

Having lived through an era of limited international disasters, the current crop of self-absorbed homo sapiens has reflected little on the distinct possibility of events for which they are not responsible and have little means of preventing. Extreme volcanic eruptions, cataclysmic earthquakes, meteor and even asteroid strikes, heretofore unknown epidemic diseases, dramatic climatic changes and other things that could violently alter life on earth, have not occurred in the recent past. Any or all of them are likely at some point in the future. We simply don't know when.

volcanic eruption - Yellowstone's won't erupt for thousands of years, there would be decades of warning and the result won't be bad.

asteroid hit - none for 100,000 years and an asteroid defense system will be operating in 5 years.

earthquakes - 15,000 died in Japan from a huge one (mostly drowning)

dramatic climate change - no

diseases - 3% of the world could die but very unlikely with 21st century technology.

We have no idea when Yellowstone will erupt, or how bad it'll be when it does. We don't fully understand supervolcanoes in sufficient depth to make such predictions. That said, it has erupted in the past, and the results were not great for North America. Ash went as far as Florida. If that happened now, we can wave good-by to our breadbasket.

Similar things can be said about asteroids. First, we get hit every day by asteroids, they're just so small that they don't matter. A large asteroid hasn't hit in quite a long time, but we don't understand asteroid orbital mechanics well enough to make any reasonable predictions. I also doubt we'll have an effective asteroid defense system any time soon--a chunk of rock the size of Texas takes a fair amount of persuasion.

The above can be said about earthquakes as well. We know THAT they will happen, but predicting WHEN they will happen is mind-bogglingly difficult. We are, however, much better at mitigating the effects of earthquakes, and we generally have a good sense of where big ones will occur, which makes this a less significant threat.

You might consider actually looking up what scientists say about Yellowstone and asteroids. And earthquakes can kill tens of thousands of people not millions or hundreds of millions.

Tsunamis from earthquakes can kill a lot more than that. The Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 killed over 200K.

But to your point, it's still not millions.

The 250,000 deaths was very rare and sadly just before modern warning systems were to be installed.

To quote: "Keep in mind that during a lot of the 19th century, America’s economy grew one and a half percent or 2 percent annually, which was okay. "

This is why "the great stagnation" post 1970 is not really stagnation in my opinion. It is just that expectations were too high following the post-WW2 expansion. TGS is a controversy or discussion about random, lumpy, short-term data that contains the whole problem of GDP measurement. If something is random, lumpy, short-term, and contains a problem, I wonder if we should bother to form expectations, let alone be disappointed.

I am surprised that our blog host wonders if Asian-Americans might switch to the Republican party. Asian-Americans mostly believe in factual facts and science and are semi-atheist. This makes it hard to see how they can turn Republican given its current composition.

Wow, you should see the number of Asians in our church. (Redeemer Presbyterian Church, in NYC.) Which is not to say that they are Republicans, but it's not for the reasons you cite. You really have no idea what you are talking about.

Did my mother believe in god? No.
Did my father believe in god? No.
Did they send me to church? Yes.
Why? So we wouldn't be first up against the wall if things went bad again.

I'm sure there are many people who are sincere in their religious beliefs and I'm sure there are many people who are not.

Interesting that "get used to one percent growth" remains the party line, despite recent events.

"We had a break from that state of affairs in the 20th century because we had the major enemies of the Nazis and then the Soviets. But as those enemies disappeared, we’re fighting among ourselves more"

So if (when is probably more accurate but one can always hope) the war with China occurs or at least is recognized by most we can expect a more civil public discourse and less bias media?

You're all wrong, in the same pessimistic way predictions are always wrong.

Perhaps fitting with the return to fake news mindset in politics....

In 2039, I'll be only 6 years away from Earth. That'll shake things up a bit!

Has there ever been any actual evidence that preschool or kindergarten ever improved future performance? We know Head Start was a total flop in that regard, & it targeted "underprivileged" kids who should have been easy to help (IF early schooling does any good at all). Like Medicaid, we continue to throw money at ineffective programs - & the only response to repeated evidence of their utter failure is "need more money!"

Democrats need mandatory preschool and kindergarten to give their ignorant followers more do-nothing union jobs. More union dues to slide into Democratic coffers. Actually, they are not unions; they are labor cartels.

The liberals are always predicting doom. The 19th century was bad mainly because of slavery and the democrats belief in managed, sudden change. The democrats are the party of slavery. The anti-racists are the most racist. They are basically immoral, godless Orc-like creatures filled with greed and envy. Now all they can do is play the race card. Every day another member of the establishment is being indicted. And they still can't find evidence against Trump. The democrats have wasted trillions of dollars on the welfare state and all they have done is manufacture more poor, ignorant and violent people.. the fruits of socialism. Their values were established by Ted Kennedy, the getaway with murder Ted. Now we see the results: half of the country is ignorant and poor. The democrats are leading the rise of the neo-Bolsheviks. They don't reform, they want revolution. Change is not reform.

Does someone need a cookie and a hug?

Conservatives predict doom too, generally tied to alleged immortality. Comparisons to the decadence of ancient Rome abound on the Right (never mind the Romans were Christians in their later generations). And now therea growth Industry in predictions that leftists will start persecuting Christians.

More scarcity? Obviously, the author never heard of the bet between Julian Simon and that liberal nitwit what's his name.

Let's see:

The US federal gov't deficit has more than doubled since 2008.

Today its $21 Trillion.

And its increasing by $3 Billion PER DAY.

So, next year it will be $22 Trillion.

And Cowen pontificates about social media.

Cowen the Fiddler, while Rome burns.

My prediction:

In 2039 there will be articles written looking back at the predictions made 20 years earlier and mocking them for how wrong they were.

Also in 2039, many articles will be written by academics and intellectuals predicting what 2059 will look like, and some people will still take them seriously.

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