In our post-WW2 modern world, especially within our comfortable G10 experience of living, most of us remain blissfully unaware that the single greatest characteristic of civilisation has been flux.
The idea of major changes seem as distant as the characters populating history books
Most people would takeva look at this data and just switch off. “So what?” But Something made these switches in fortune happen. That is important.
How about something closer to home? As we all age, the question most of us start to show some interest in is…”How much money can I take out of my pension without running out?” It turns out that this is a great way of showing how uncertain the world can be over a human timescale…
Perhaps the most problematic of issues is to say exactly when the equilibrium of any system is really changing. I’m sure we have all been caught out being ‘early’. In fact it’s a perfectly human response to see patterns and asign significance. Whether it’s the asterism of stars in the night sky or a conviction that there really IS a tiger in the long grass. You know the feeling, that SpideySense that accompanies cumulative cognitive dissonance. Then there is usually a discrete moment of realisation. The post below has whet my appetite .
Here is the hot-off-the-press latest instalment from one of my favourite Econo-blogs: bawerk.net.
…parts 1 and 2 were featured in a previous post “An Austrian Signpost”.
Is it a coincidence that political risk has reared its ugly head at this exact juncture?
No it is not.
To assert the entirely obvious, politics is about people. The fundamental descriptor of people as an aggregate is population. The fundamental descriptor of population is demographics. The causal link is that demographics affect politics. Not vice versa. Although there were notable grotesque exceptions in the 20th century: Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot.
What I am saying is that politics is in play because demographics are in play. Demographics are in play because critical inflection points have been reached GLOBALLY.
Forgive me for introducing this final nested loop in my observations…but… the key variable in demographics is not population growth. That is soooooo pre-21st century. We are now quite close to terminal global total population: call it 9 billion
You want astonishing detail on current population? try this! It will blow your mind…http://www.worldometers.info
The key variable is Dependency Ratio and its very simple. Consider it the ratio of the population likely to be dependent (those under 16 and over 65) upon those likely to be in work and economically “productive”(those between 16 and 65). Given birth rates are mostly stable or going lower and death rates are mostly falling fast, in reality the Dependency Rate is mostly about the way in which societies are aging ..rapidly.
But how rapidly?
Some specifics in Asia…
Oh dear! So its not just Japan, S.Korea and China
GLOBALLY there is a dramatic aging and commensurate increase in the numbers of those likely to be dependents versus those likely to be in work. I think this feature has already become widely appreciated, but NOT the scale of the issue. The magnitude of these changes are eye watering. The rates of change are astonishing.
So far, so grim. But now ask THE question.
When EXACTLY do we start seeing a shortage of tax payers versus claims against those earnings?
But may I remind you of the first lines of the novel “Goldfinger”?
“Mr Bond, they have a saying in Chicago. ‘Once is coincidence. Twice is happenstance. The third time is enemy action.’
Here is some of the simple data used to build the subsequent graphs
Timing of THE ‘crisis’ in Japan? “Coincidence“?
Timing of THE ‘crisis’ in USA? “Happenstance“?
Timing of THE ‘crisis’ in China? “Enemy action“?
You decide of the significance of this data.
But combined with the Bawerk post? Combined with the further triggers within politics. I believe that the conflation of these factors is going to be a significant fuel to the conflagration about to hit the global job market from Tech: AI, expert systems, machine learning…
So why ‘molon labe’? What is that about?
This is the inscription on the Leonidas memorial at Thermopylae. It is the purest expression of laconic defiance. When Xerxes with his Persian Army arrived at Thermopylae he demanded that the Spartans surrender their weapons, King Leonidas sent the Persian messenger back with the response “MOLON LABE”.
It means “COME AND GET THEM”.
Is this a critical point in time for civilisation like Thermopylae? Skipping hyperbole, Probably not but who knows. However dramatic changes do happen with a degree of regularity, there IS a flip in long term equilibrium. For the most part calling for such major changes is uncomfortable. Certainly dangerous to professional credibility. However in the spirit of a Battle for Ideas, not even a rocky patch of land in the middle of nowhere, I suggest that the Barbarians are those not prepared to imagine what might happen next. There are only a few who bother to turn up to resist the endless consensus and their cohort, the hordes of meaningless “excess” data.
The facts are changing, come and get them.