Category Archive 'Predictions'
11 Feb 2018

George Gilder On Technology

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George Gilder

Forbes interviews Gilder on the future of Big Tech.

Q: One of your lifelong theories, which reaches back to your 1980s bestsellers https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1596988096?ie=UTF8 and The Spirit of Enterprise, is the role of the human spirit and human agency, something economists and governments don’t see or don’t want to acknowledge.

Gilder: It’s the greatest of all forces. Think about what’s going on in the U.S. today, particularly in our university system. As Tyler Cowen describes in his book The Complacent Class, we’ve adopted a kind of ideology of cautionary principles and stationary states. He really puts his finger on it. We’re not living in an age of boldness and abundance, but in an age of retrenchment and shrinking horizons and careful rearrangements of existing resources. A lot of it is epitomized by this whole idea that unless human beings stop moving, the climate’s going to collapse on us.

The climate-change paralysis has been very destructive, not only to our national economy but particularly to Silicon Valley. Every time I find a company that’s doing everything right, I discover a peculiar feature of its technology that’s designed chiefly to stop it from emitting carbon dioxide. And that feature twists the technology into a pretzel, making it less useful and less promising. Take Google. It’s making an elaborate effort to render all of its massive data centers around the world “carbon-neutral.” They’re all linked up to various druidical Sunhenges of solar panels or quixotic kites or windmills. I mean, that’s some archaic way to produce energy!

I think we’re really in the middle of a loss of confidence, a loss of courage that is expressed and perpetrated by a massive expansion in regulations. This began in the Bush era, was vastly expanded during the Obama years, but has now been marginally retrenched. My hope is that the Trump retrenchment signals a truly new approach to the world and the human predicament.

28 Nov 2017

Germany, Failing Again?

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James Madison” thinks the same old German flaws are leading once again to the same old disaster.

Germany does one thing exceptionally well. It can harness its natural tendency toward rigor bordering on arrogance, self-preservation, and an abiding need for social conformity to achieve unparalleled economic dominance in the region. But, because it is consumed by fears – fears arising from its exposure lying at the nexus of the east and west along the wide Northern European plain – it cannot control its urge to overcompensate. Whether it is provoking war against France in 1870, baiting Austria into confronting Russia leading to WWI, or allowing a megalomaniac to seize power and neighbors to create buffer states in WWII lest they threaten, Germany keeps repeating the same mistake. It always eventually turns its industrial power into a tool to exploit others in an effort to protect itself.

After WWII, Germany adopted a kind of “never again” mentality driven first by reconstruction and later by contrition. The German Constitution, the Basic Law, was designed to avoid a repeat of Hitler, Weimar, and Hohenzollern rule which led to economic expansion, exploitation, and calamity. It also structured its government to stop communism, avoid religious division, and prevent class warfare.

The Basic Law is designed to be clear and obtuse, central and diffused, and strong but weak. Thus, with no clear Magna Carta, Bill of Rights, or “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” to define itself, everything eventually boiled down to local matters, local politics, and local interests. Economics dominates in Germany – followed by lifestyle. The green movement flourished in Germany when scientists falsely reported the Black Forests were being denuded with acid rain – so there is that too. Green money and green forests or an amorphous concept of social responsibility, therefore, define an undefined social contract, with jobs coming first, vacations second, and social justice and the environment in there somewhere.

By the 1990s, Germany recovered fully from the devastation of WWII and was faced with the enormous cost of integrating the East. Faced with the necessity of converting the low-skill, low-wage East Germans into a productive resource, it developed a political-union-management plan to temper wages in the western side of the country, invest in automation and low-end production in the East, and in the process trim and redesign its production model. The key result was more job flexibility than most Europeans were willing to accept at the time. This led to rapid transformation and a remaking of German production. Germany increased its quality and lowered its relative costs. With the Soviets out of the way, military spending was trimmed and redirected to pay for retraining, social costs, and funding economic efficiencies. This was a win-win politically since reductions in defense spending fed the ever-present anti-war sentiment of a nation that has always struggled to control its fears.

At the same time, the Euro currency entered in 1999 and diluted the relatively high cost of the German Mark and German efficiency. Suddenly, a blending of Germany’s productive workforce with the extremely unproductive, low-skill Mediterranean and growing eastern EU countries in one currency shielded and boosted German competitiveness. The Euro’s arrival meant Germany could hide behind a currency that did not fully value its costs. Its products and companies began to experience better fortune. The timing was perfect. China and the other BRICS needed machine tools, equipment, and technical know-how. Germany would export its way to pay for East-West integration and create itself as a world trade power.

By now the politicians were fully on board – including the left Socialist Democratic Party under Gerhard Schröder. They were delivering a new Reich, one that would dominate in the marketplace with high technology, luxury, and world-class products. German companies dominated segments of China’s, Brazil’s, India’s, and Russia’s auto and fabrication markets. To smooth things out, much talk of green energy, policies, and global accords was tossed about. Germany was in a fugue of green that would eventually lead its politicians to pull the plug on nuclear after the nation hysterically failed to fully understand the Fukushima incident. Nevermind, Germany would pretend to be green while it turned more brown – burning coal to generate power and subsidizing solar and wind everywhere at great cost to the average German. Electricity costs would rise substantially – non-competitively.

Germany’s economic success, however dominant, was not unique. It could be mimicked. In fact, much of its transformation was patterned after Japanese methods. So to address this, German politicians began working to ensure German standards and technology were adopted or imposed by using the growing power they accumulated within the EU. The phony German diesel engine debacle (only German diesel engines could meet the new German-written EU standards) or the German obsession (silly fad) with renewable energy resulted. With over 20 percent of German jobs (over 10 percent due to VW alone), corporate profits, and exports dependent upon creating a global auto footprint, all of Germany rallied around the phony “clean diesel” technology – deceptively and fraudulently represented as cleaner than it actually was. EU skies in Madrid, Milan, and Paris turned gray with diesel pollution that was not possible using the new German clean diesel. In 2015, they got caught. Something was rotten in Berlin, Brussels, Frankfurt, and Strasbourg.

With the promise of a better tomorrow, Germany began to encounter additional bumps. Russia turned revanchist, forcing hard choices about sanctions over Ukraine, choices moralistic Germany belatedly accepted. China did not adopt western democratic ideals with free markets, in fact, it became more repressive. Human rights issues had to be overlooked by Angela Merkel on her trade visits to China. German export markets in Brazil and India were built upon rather primitive economic foundations that eventually caught a downdraft. The rise of Turkish and Hungarian nationalism and authoritarianism presented conflicts between economic interests and a German aversion to authoritarian rule.

Finally, its look-the-other-way tolerance in exchange for the opportunity to “sell, sell, sell” arrived at a beggar-thy-neighbor strategy which eventually sold and banked Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal into near or actual insolvency. There were other cases of German goods being sold to dictators and winding up where they should not be. Germany, rather than being seen as a responsible citizen, a trusted partner, and source of trade and technology, was seen as a ravenous exploiter. Even sales of its military hardware – items it was not purchasing sufficiently to defend itself or Europe – saw an uptick in sales. German might be the leader of Europe – but it was a leader that lacked both the high ground and the high road.

It was clear as far back as 2006 when oil prices were skyrocketing that Russia planned to rearm. Despite this, Germany continued to disarm and unarm. And by 2015, Britain saw the EU for what it was becoming – a Franco-German alliance with deep interests in telling local merchants in Barcelona to do things the way they were done in Bavaria. The EU regulations set how many paper towels could be used in a public bathroom or which diesel cars met EU standards (answer: German). Germany was calling the shots in public and behind the scenes whether you lived in Leyden or Leicester. The EU could not challenge the one nation that generated all the positive export balance for the EU in total. The EU needed Germany and Germany knew it. It alone still manufactured things that could be sold around the world.

Yet, Britain and France paid for the nuclear forces, they alone funded the limited means to project military force, and they alone held some real soft power to influence the United States – the only power that still mattered if the EU was to hold sway. It was evident looking back that even the Clinton and Obama administrations barely deferred to Germany. She was a non-factor.

The great German waltz suffered its last blow when Germany turned away from sincere concerns about social harmony and cohesion and Angela Merkel opened her borders to flocks of young, unskilled males roaming in from the Middle East to enter the country as refugees. This horde was encamped with government cooperation and little national debate or reflection – and they remain in German-funded schools and transition programs to this day. Underlying this somewhat disastrous decision to accept about a million new citizens from Syria, Iraq, etc., is a stark reality that Germany — if it is to continue to be a workshop for VW’s, Airbus’s, and machine tools — needs workers. The population reproduction has lagged behind replacement levels and no one wants to clean sewers, bathrooms, or pick up garbage. Thus, an economic policy driven by a demographic problem led to a rushed rationalization of an immigration policy that quickly became unpopular.

Nationalist sentiments – the vilest and most detested sentiments in post-WWII Germany – have surged forth. And the nation is now locked in a political impasse over forming a new parliamentary coalition to rule – a little over a month ago the Christian Democrats (Angela Merkel’s center-right party) experienced their worst election since 1949! No coalition is forthcoming.

Meanwhile, Germany’s economy is strong. The nation is weak. It is even perhaps unstable. It is in some respects isolated – from Britain (Brexit), France (reluctantly pro-EU expansion), the Mediterranean EU countries, the more demanding, intolerant, and authoritarian Eastern EU, a resurgent Russia, and its old protector, the United States – which is now a political card played to demonstrate moral superiority. Its old fears of exposure on the Northern European plain nestled between nations who do not trust each other or worse, do not trust Germany, will emerge again. That which unites Germany’s regions and people, their natural proclivity toward a kind paranoia and fear, also destroys it. Will it continue to overplay, overextend, overcompensate? Can it pull itself back a bit, realign, and find a national consensus? Can it arm itself, protect itself, and become a trustworthy ally?

The answer is simply that since its creation as a balance of power between imperial Russia and France, Germany is too small, too large, too aggressive, too passive, and too weak to lead. And when others, or Germany itself, attempts to do so, sooner or later she oversteps and things start to spin out of control. Germany is its own, and quite often the world’s, worst enemy.

RTWT

27 Oct 2016

Tweet of the Day

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tweet215

21 Jul 2016

Dynastic Politics

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TrumpKids

Political commentators have been speaking of the Trump takeover of the GOP, and conservatives have been worrying about the redefinition of the Party by the amateur outsider who ran away with the presidential nomination this year.

I think last night’s convention showed that there isn’t much to worry about with respect to an ideological remodeling of the GOP by Donald Trump. Convention speakers have been conservatives and the speeches they’ve been delivering have all contained basically nothing but standard current conservative talking points.

Trump has not really added or subtracted anything, which should probably not be surprising. Trump’s candidacy isn’t about ideas. It was never about ideas. Trump hasn’t got any ideas. It has always been entirely about Trump. Just as Mexican bandits don’t need no stinkin’ badges, Donald Trump doesn’t need no ideas or theories. Trump will simply Trump his way to victory using his appetites and oversized personality to get where he intends to go.

Though I think now that we haven’t got any future ideological contamination of Republican purity to fear as the result of the ascension of The Donald, the Cleveland Convention does make evident the existence of one future consequence of all this. There were all those Trump offspring giving speeches, praising and endorsing their father.

Donald Trump deliberately arranged to put one Trump child after another on center Convention stage in prime time, their speeches scattered at intervals between speeches by various national figures. This, I’m sure, was not an accident. In one evening, Donald Trump turned his obscure and unaccomplished sons and daughter into nationally-recognized celebrities.

Donald Trump may not understand, or care much about, the Constitution, but he does understand and cares deeply about branding. Trump has been branding his children. You can bet on it. There is going to be a Trump political dynasty with one Trump after another running for public office, and breezing in on the strength of membership in an American royal family.

02 Mar 2016

We Are Screwed

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Fates
Detail, John Melhuish Strudwick, A Golden Thread, 1885, Tate Gallery.

This ought to be a locked-in-concrete, dead-certain Republican year. America has a two party system, and Americans have an instinctive habit of giving both sides a turn at the presidency. Unless the incumbent walks on water like Ronald Reagan, after 8 years, the American public is hankering for a change and typically turns the ball over to the other team.

Beyond that, running against Hillary is a lot like running against the mean old woman of every Blues song, who moreover seems likely any day to be indicted.

But, along comes Trumplestiltskin.

In Scenario 1, Trump wins nearly all the rest of the primaries. The GOP caves and gives him the rest of the votes he needs for the nomination, and then the Party splits. Movement conservatives, the people who nominated Barry Goldwater and elected Ronald Reagan, and the intellectuals (very possibly including the Neocons), conceivably including socially-moderate, but snobbish, Country Club Republicans take a hike. In significant sectors of the Party, voting for The Donald is just infra dig, and some contend that even Hillary would make a more responsible first magistrate. Trump loses, Hillary becomes President.

Scenario 2, Trump has a ceiling, getting a plurality of delegates on the first ballot, but no majority. Conservatives and GOP Establishmentarians will die in the last ditch before nominating Donald. The knives come out. Trump delegates are pulled away on subsequent ballots, and a brokered convention nominates Cruz or Rubio. Donald J. Trump is no sportsman. He immediately forms a Third Party, and in the election proceeds to pull all the numbskulls and Reagan democrats away from the GOP candidate. Hillary becomes President.

There is no scenario 3.

The Trumpkins are going to say: This isn’t fair. We’re having a Revolution, and the rest of you are supposed to get on board. Donald Trump is our only hope of Change. Change you can believe in. And the rest of us, the sane people, are going to make little circle next to our temples with our index fingers at the idea of turning all the power of the Presidency over to a totally-unprincipled, egomanaical airhead with the morals and manners of the most spoiled rich kid in the entire country. Some of us actually know what happened when they made Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, nicknamed “Caligula” (“Little Boots”) by the Army, Emperor. It was not pretty.

24 Nov 2014

The Jacksonian Tradition

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Duel1

At Richochet, Sabrdance views the American political future in the light of the Jacksonian Tradition. He even manages to place Abraham Lincoln (perhaps the ultimate anti-Jacksonian) directly in the Jacksonian Tradition (!).

In this week’s G-File, Jonah Goldberg elaborates on his Special Report rant that there is a populist revolt brewing in response to the misbehavior of the government, specifically, the revelations regarding Jonathan Gruber. Jacksonians expect government to be corrupt, but they require that it not be perverse; it may line its pockets, but it may not harm the people to do so. If it does, Meade is sanguine: the Jacksonians will revolt and elect a hero, as they did previously with Jackson himself, both Roosevelts, and Ronald Reagan.

I am less sure. The Jacksonian response to corruption has historically been to withdraw, first to the frontier, then into their churches and towns. Their antagonists follow until their train of insults culminates in harm, at which point the Jacksonians become bloodyminded. Meade skips over it in his discussion of Jacksonian heroes, but Lincoln can also be seen as of that mold, elected to punish the Southern states for insulting their Northern brethren by forcing the Fugitive Slave Act on them, violating both the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850, as well as the implicit the agreement of the Founding to contain slavery and allow it to die (all brought about by the Louisiana Purchase, itself a dubiously legal executive act).

Jacksonians are honorable people. They will put up with much, and will withdraw into their enclaves rather than get sucked into a vendetta. Executive encroachments, legislative flimflam, judicial arrogance… the Jacksonians won’t respond to any of it. Until they do.

Their predecessors in England launched both the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution.

I do not want to repeat that experience.

Read the whole thing.

25 Mar 2014

Nat Silver Who Accurately Predicted All 50 States in 2012 Has Good News for the GOP in 2014

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IJReview:

Nate Silver, the New York Times statistics whiz and FiveThirtyEight founder and chief editor who accurately predicted every state’s election results in the 2012 election, has some good news for the Grand Old Party: The 2014 midterm Senate election he deemed a toss-up last July now projects a slight edge for the Republicans. Why the switch? He explains that Obama’s shrinking approval ratings and the fact that Republicans have recruited quality candidates have given the party the edge they now enjoy.

Hot Air reports that Silver predicts a has a 60% chance for the GOP to take control of the upper chamber, and a 30% chance of winning it big. Of the 36 Senate races this November, he’s predicting that Republicans will pick up 6 seats, and possibly as many as 11. Senators Mary Landrieu, Mark Pryor and Kay Hagan are some of the incumbent Democrats whose seats are considered vulnerable. Montana, West Virginia, Arkansas and South Dakota are Democrat-held seats likely to be picked up by the GOP.

01 Mar 2013

Maxine Waters Predicts

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From the Blaze:

If Congress allows sequestration cuts to take effect, more than 170 million Americans could lose their jobs, according to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).

“If sequestration takes place, that’s going to be a great setback. We don’t need to be having something like sequestration that’s going to cause these job losses — over 170 million jobs that could be lost,” Waters said.

She went on to say cuts must be done “over a long period of time.”

There’s just one problem with her estimation — and it’s a big one. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are only 134 million people working in the United States. So by Waters’ estimation, the sequester cuts would be so apocalyptic that nearly 40 million people who don’t have jobs would become even more unemployed.

24 Aug 2012

University of Colorado Model Predicts Romney Win

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A University of Colorado election model with a strong recond of predictive success forecasts a November loss for Obama predicting Obama winning 218 electoral votes versus 320 for Mitt Romney. The model predicts all swing seats to vote Republican including Colorado, Ohio and Florida.

Daily Mail:

A model which has foretold the correct results of the Electoral College selections in U.S. Presidential elections since 1980, has predicted a loss for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.

The forecast was made by two professors at the University of Colorado who used economic data and unemployment figures from each state to predict a Republican win come November.

Political science professors Kenneth Bickers and Michael Berry’s study predicts 218 electoral votes for President Obama and 320 for Romney with the Republican candidate winning every seat currently considered to be on the fence. …

The professors’ analysis concluded that Romney would take home all swing states including Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Colorado. …

12 Jul 2012

In 1998, Paul Krugman Prognosticates…

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Red Herring:

The growth of the Internet will slow drastically, as the flaw in “Metcalfe’s law“–which states that the number of potential connections in a network is proportional to the square of the number of participants–becomes apparent: most people have nothing to say to each other! By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine’s.

Hat tip to Walter Olson.

06 Jan 2012

After Obama

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Now may be the winter of our discontent, but the punditocracy is already beginning to discuss what’s going to happen after Obama loses the election in November. A symposium appearing in Washington Monthly was summarized thusly in a promotional email quoted by Glenn Reynolds. Reading some of these is bound to raise a smile.

The Washington Monthly asked a group of distinguished journalists and scholars to think through the likely ramifications of a GOP victory in November. Here’s what they conclude:

David Weigel reports that the Tea Party will control the agenda regardless of which Republican wins the nomination.

Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann predict that there’s a “better-than-even chance” that the Senate filibuster will be destroyed.

David Roberts shows that the GOP won’t eliminate the EPA, but will permanently cripple it.

Harold Pollack disabuses liberals of the hope that health care reform can survive a Republican presidency.

Dahlia Lithwick writes that one more round of judicial appointments by a Republican president will lead to a generation of anti-government rulings no future Democrat can undo.

Plus: Jonathan Bernstein on why campaign promises matter; Michael Konczal on the end of Dodd-Frank; James Traub on the GOP’s “more enemies, fewer friends” doctrine; and Paul Glastris on why, this time, conservative anti-government aspirations will be fulfilled.

21 May 2011

Are You Leaving Today?

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The Rapture is apparently scheduled to begin at 6:00 PM this evening.

Will you be raptured out of here? This handy flowchart is intended to help you predict your fate.

18 Feb 2011

Can a Machine Potentially Do Your Job?

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Andy Kessler argues that the gods of economics have turned their faces against mere sloppers, sponges, slimers, and thieves, i.e., persons working in support and service and professional capacities. The number of available openings for them will dwindle and their bargaining power is doomed to decline. The future, and the lion’s share of income, will belong to the creators.

With a heavy regulatory burden, payroll taxes and health-care costs, employing people is very expensive. In January, the Golden Gate Bridge announced that it will have zero toll takers next year: They’ve been replaced by wireless FastTrak payments and license-plate snapshots.

Technology is eating jobs—and not just toll takers.

Tellers, phone operators, stock brokers, stock traders: These jobs are nearly extinct. Since 2007, the New York Stock Exchange has eliminated 1,000 jobs. And when was the last time you spoke to a travel agent? Nearly all of them have been displaced by technology and the Web. Librarians can’t find 36,000 results in 0.14 seconds, as Google can. And a snappily dressed postal worker can’t instantly deliver a 140-character tweet from a plane at 36,000 feet.

So which jobs will be destroyed next? Figure that out and you’ll solve the puzzle of where new jobs will appear.

Read the whole thing.

02 Jan 2011

Prediction for 2011

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Frank J. Fleming on Obama’s future.

February

No longer able to ram unpopular, costly legislation through Congress, Barack Obama will begin to lose interest in the presidency. He’ll miss meetings and even disappear for hours at a time. Eventually, his staff will find him at a nearby church pursuing what he now considers his true calling: becoming a crazed, racist preacher.

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