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Edric O

The Last Decade and the Next Decade (2.0)

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So, according to my profile, I registered here on the Fed2k forums on 17 April 2000. This means that today marks my 20th forum birthday. And what better way to celebrate 20 years than to post a new thread on my favourite board? PRP needs some new life breathed into it.

Back in November-December 2009, @Wolf posted a thread called The Next Decade and @Dunenewt posted one called The Last Decade, which were about looking back on the political events of the 2000s and speculating about what the 2010s might be like. In that spirit, let's look back on the 2010s now, and speculate about the twenties (finally, we will have clear, uncontroversial decade names again!).

I actually wanted to come back to Fed2k to post a thread like this back in December 2019. In retrospect, maybe it's a good thing I didn't, because almost everything I was going to say about the 20s just became obsolete in a matter of months, due to the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, even some of what I was going to say about the 10s is a little obsolete, because what happens in the present changes how we look at the past.

What I was going to say, in December 2019, was something like this:

The 2010s have been a decade of economic stagnation and increasing political tensions. The decade started in the shadow of the Great Recession, which seemed to be the harbinger of great change, with movements such as Occupy Wall Street in the West, the Arab Spring in the Arab world, and the election of Syriza in Greece. But nothing came of them. The Occupy movement fizzled out (largely due to its lack of any clear goals), Syriza capitulated to the neoliberal order of the EU, and the Arab Spring turned into a harsh winter of civil wars and Islamist insurgencies, with Libya descending into Somalia-like chaos and Syria having a decade-long civil war. None of the underlying problems of global economics or politics were resolved. The second half of the decade saw the rise of the far-right, especially in Europe and North America, but even this rise has been slow. I predicted the return of fascism to the political mainstream back in 2012, and this has been happening, but very slowly. Fascist and right-wing authoritarian ideas have been growing in popularity and acceptance continuously since 2012 (and especially since 2016), but so slowly that today they are still very much on the fringes of politics. They're important enough that mainstream right-wing politicians try to appeal to them from time to time, but no more than that.

So here we are, at the end of 2019, with the world not being too different from how it was in 2009. Back in 2009, I said that "for the most part, it was a decade of business as usual" and that "there was no shift in the global balance of power". That still holds more or less true for the 2010s, although less so. A few major changes in the global balance of power did happen. Crimea was annexed by Russia. The UK left the EU. China's rise, although as gradual as ever, began to have a noticeable impact. Donald Trump's presidency has brought right-wing populism to the US (as well as staggering incompetence that endangers the American empire). But overall, things in 2019 are not fundamentally different from 2009. The United States is still the global hegemon with no close challenger (although China can be seen on the horizon). Neoliberal capitalism still reigns. Revolutionary movements (of any and all kinds) have made no progress. Climate change proceeds as before.

But tensions are rising. Economic growth rates in the developed world the 2010s have been the lowest since World War II. Economic inequality is the highest it has been since 1929 (and still growing). The legitimacy of liberal democracy has been greatly eroded, and populist movements (mostly of the right-wing variety) are slowly chipping away at the fortress walls of the global liberal order, which don't look nearly as invulnerable as they did a decade ago. Politics is extremely polarized in every Western country, and seems to be only growing more polarized over time. There is growing anger and discontent all around.

I think future historians will look back at the 2010s as a decade of growing tensions, leading up to... something. Something big is coming. I don't know what it will be, but I know a "factors leading up to" chapter in a history book when I'm living through it. This was a decade of storm clouds gathering. I don't know what storm is coming, but it's there, just beyond the horizon.

* * * * *

So that's what I was going to say back in December 2019. Since then, the storm has actually begun. I expected it more like around 2025, but it's already here, now. I expected a political or economic storm - maybe another 2008-style great recession, or a far-right government taking power somewhere and throwing the balance of power into chaos (perhaps Marine Le Pen becoming French president). But instead, the catalyst for the storm came from... nature. It was a pure exogenous shock, the likes of which we almost never see in the modern world. A deadly pandemic swept across the world and shut down the global economy.

We were heading for some kind of big recession anyway, but Covid-19 just upgraded it from "big recession" to "Second Great Depression" status. The 2010s will not be seen as the gathering storm now, because the storm hit abruptly from a completely different direction. Now the 2010s will be seen as the Intercrisis Period. The decade between the Great Recession and the Second Great Depression.

The 20s will be interesting times indeed. The world as we knew it is over, and anything is possible. Global supply chains are fracturing, and developed countries will be forced to bring back domestic industrial production. Globalization is - at least for now - over. Neoliberalism is also dead, permanently so. The only way out of the coming Depression will be with massive government intervention in the economy. The right as well as the left will have no choice but to return to state-driven economic policies. And there will be mass unemployment, poverty, and shortages of basic goods - the kind of conditions that give rise to revolutions.

I thought we were gradually headed towards a breaking point some time in the mid-to-late 20s. But the breaking point is already here. The 20s will be a decade of great change. It's still too early to tell if the change will be good or bad, but it will be great.

* * * * *

And of course, this leads us to the most important question: Are we still going to have Fed2k around in 2029? Well, past evidence suggests that the answer is yes:

On 11/27/2009 at 9:12 PM, Wolf said:

And will we still have Fed2k around to kvetch at each other with in 2019?

It turns out that we did. Here's to another decade!

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In many ways, its so difficult to say how this is all going to turn out. All depends on Covid-19:

  • Will countries emerging from lockdown get second waves? 
  • Is it possible to get re-infected?
  • Will the Global South remain relatively unaffected, or is the worse to come there?

Until we've got an idea of how this will play out, we don't know how the rest of the decade will play out. We could get "V" shaped recoveries in the Western world, where the Gov't stimuli and support schemes are enough to allow economies to bounce back, or we could see a longer more protracted "Nike swoosh" recoveries, where we see a long recession, possibly even a depression.

All eyes on People's Republic of China as well - its handling of Covid-19 has seen it attract criticism across the board and there will undoubtedly be a backlash against them, as per @Edric O's comments about fractured supply lines. 3d printing & (semi) autonomous factories will probably see companies try to move their manufacturing away from PRC where possible. PRC has already used the fact that the world is concentrating on Covid-19 to crack down even further on HK, and we'll probably never know how many people truly died in PRC due to Covid-19 (or how many Uighurs they've killed in concentration camps for that matter). I hope an overly sensitive PRC doesn't feel threatened enough to invade ROC...that's one of my big worries at the moment. If the world is distracted by Covid-19 and the rebuilding for the next few years, will PRC try to step in to the power vacuum, subjugate Turkestan, HK, etc, invade ROC and turn the South China Sea into internal waters?

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Thank you for the contribution. I hope I'll add some oil into the flame, which used to burn bright.

First, I'd put a question mark on anything concerning future. Will the 2010s be seen as an "intercrisis period"? Today we take 2008 as a moment of a spectacular crisis, but it pales in comparison to any major event of the previous century. It was a moment, in which the liberalism lost a bit of face, but didn't it lose more when we invaded Iraq? As you rightly pointed out, the subsequent protest movements couldn't produce any sound answer - actually they had none, excluding the fringe ideas of classic fascism. No alternative solutions were proposed to the projects like EU or UN, if I may exclude the internet-driven caliphate.

I think the period is indeed post-globalist, but more because of the individualism and the related egocentric limitations of one's horizons. The world didn't become smaller as Fukuyamas and Clintons hoped, but rather more complex; people became more specialized, often limiting their very interest in politics, leaving it as a playfield for wannabe technocrats and stunt performers. In the 1910s, the overall mindset of the people around the world was collective, driven by competing ideologies (the word in its original sense), developed both by pen and sword throughout the whole 19th century. Now you (1) have no collectives, only masses subject to statistics and national borders, and (2) no ideologies, only "issues", which are discussed only so far, as long the sociopolitical maxims (or the Zizek-style one "Ideology") are not put into question. And I don't think it is the same as in the pre-1989 eastern states, all of this is well accepted by the postmodern thought. You can check and discuss the issues, but the more abstract you become, the less people are you going to find, who could follow you: they would see it merely as one less-pressing issue. It's easy to become misinterpreted as a troll, as an extremist or simply becoming unsympathetic. Fanaticism isn't trendy.

This makes the present world similar to that of post-Westfalen Europe. The major conflict of two competing ideologies was resolved a generation ago, as Protestants took over the business, and the Evil Catholic Empire crumbled under its own dead weight. There was something like the Battle of Poltava recently, an indication of a decline of one of the key players, but the age of Enlightenment and revolutions is still far away.

 

 

 

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Hi folks, 

I can only speak about my region of the United States (Northern Indiana). I can definitely see a growing division and hardening of partisan lines here. These are exacerbated by gerrymandering and special interest groups.  I've ran for office a couple times in the past, once for county coroner in 2016, and once for township board in 2018. Both times I received around 33-36% of the vote. In my second race, my opponents never even campaigned or went as far as making a facebook page, they were just simply elected on the fact they had an R  next to their name. I'm running for state house now, and it's another don Quixote race. I expect to get around the same vote total this time.  However, no one else stepped up to run against him and I hate the idea of an unopposed race. So thus my race for Indiana's 48 house district began! 

I think the role and influence of mass media and social media has worsened things considerably in this nation. Fox news has created a hyper partisan army of angry voting seniors and science deniers, quick at the hip with the latest facebook meme conspiracy theory drivel. I can't even discuss policy without having to hear about hunter biden and other nonsense.  How covid-19 impacts this is to be seen, how did the spanish flu impact the 1920's? Was it the same economic shock that this has caused? I don't remember reading about a massive depression after the spanish flu. However we weren't such a globalized economy during those times as well.  

I worry about the rise in antisematism here in the states as well. I've had a few voters tell me they would never vote for me because I'm a Jew for this race, I've never heard that in my 2018 or 2016 races, the rise of the right wing here frightens me a bit, but I won't let it dampen my desire to improve healthcare or workers rights here in my state. The fight must go on, it has to go on.  

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That's interesting, because there's definitely been a rise in antisemitism here in the UK but that's come from the far-Left, which until recently had control over the main opposition party here - the Labour Party. They're actually under investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission here in the UK over their antisemitism, and some of the initial findings are quite grim. Incidentally, the only other UK party to be investigated by them was the national socialist BNP - some of their elected local government officials have actually joined the Labour Party.

Definitely agree about the rise in partisanship - it is getting ridiculous, even over the most trivial matters. I do find it weird in a way because I've always been surrounded by friends with diverse political opinions, and always got on with each other, primarily on the basis that we all ultimately want the same things, we just have different views on how to get there. These days however there seem to be so many people who just refuse to even be civil to people with different viewpoints. 

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I can't predict the future, but I hope the Dune community stays healthy and I hope that the dune2k forums become more popular again. And yes, it will be still online in 2029 😉 Because if for some reason the plug has to be pulled, someone has to call me... so I can prevent that from happening! :)

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