Sunday, December 02, 2007

No crystal ball

Making predictions is dangerous--you can look dumb when you get it wrong. So these aren't predictions, but I'm willing to call them bets, and will back them up with real money if there are any takers. I reserve the right to cancel any bets in the event of another major war.

1. The market shares of NASDAQ, NYSE etc. are going to continue to slide in real and relative terms for at least a decade. Foreign stock markets have recently grabbed a big share of listings and IPOs from the American markets. This is not a temporary thing.

2. The U.S. dollar will continue to plummet, reflecting a real and relative slide in the value of the U.S. economy. If China unpegs the RMB, it will settle at about 4 per dollar, vs. 7.5 today. The dollar's slide is due in part to the extraction of billions of dollars from the economy by financial engineers such as buyout funds, which have harvested much of the value built up over two centuries by real entrepreneurs and their workers. With no reform in sight, we can expect this wealth transfer to continue indefinitely.

3. The brain drain from other countries will continue to slow, and will even reverse (this has already happened with China). With no political base in the U.S. in favor of more immigration, and with anti-immigrant hysteria dominating presidential primary politics, there is no sign that the U.S. is going to snap out of its suicidal impulse to close the borders.

4. The U.S. will lose its lead in new patents by 2020.

5. The U.S. will fall out of first place in worker productivity by 2015. We are already subjected to a steady stream of whiny articles about how overworked and stressed Americans are. Truth: in most emerging countries, people work longer, study harder, and take less vacations. Between our sense of entitlement and the loss of immigrants to pick up the slack, we are headed for the bottom in terms of productivity.

6. If the Bush Administration does not start a war in Iran (give that 50% probability), the political time bomb they have created will blow up on the next president, regardless of party, and the U.S. will find itself confronting lethal violence, alone and friendless. There will be major terrorist attacks on the U.S., within the next 2 years, which will lead to further suspension of civil rights and liberties here at home, and a choice between isolationism or further militarization of our foreign policy. It won't matter if a Democrat is president by then.

7. The U.S., already ranked at the bottom of industrialised countries in quality of health-care, life expectancy and literacy, will continue to slide in the rankings, regardless of which party is on power. It will happen faster with the Republicans in charge, but it will happen.

If you want to take me up on any of these, you know where to find me. If any of these are not specific enough for you, feel free to propose sharper definitions.

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