The Ghosts of Politics Yet to Come….

Future. Such an enticing mistress–and an unfaithful one at that. I submit to you recent articles: 

 

The Nation That Fell To Earth,  Niall Ferguson

The article appeared in 5th 9/11 anniversary issue of TIME in 2006, as a look back from a generation removed (2031).

Predictions: “For a time, Bush’s approval ratings sank below Richard Nixon’s and Jimmy Carter’s worst. Yet history has been a kinder judge of Bush’s presidency. … on Nov. 3, 2008, [John] McCain conceded defeat to Mark Warner, the former Governor of Virginia…. To most Americans, the key issue in 2008 was … “the economy, stupid.” …. The Chinese stock-market crash sent a shock wave through the entire Asian economy. … Output collapsed. Unemployment soared. The Chinese banking system, which had never been entirely free of corruption, imploded.”

 

The Countdown to a Meltdown, James Fallow

The article appeared in June issue of The Atlantic magazine as a look back from two election cycles later (2016).

Predictions: An independent will win the White House in 2016. “But by dying when he did, at eighty-two, [Fidel Castro became] the “October surprise” of the 2008 campaign. … The fourth—and worst—world oil shock started [in 2008]. Our [unnamed] forty-fourth president seemed actually to welcome being universally known as “the Preacher.”” There came a market crash in 2009-2010. “Toyota’s acquisition of General Motors and Ford, in 2012, had a similar inevitability. … Political pros had always assumed that America’s first black president would be a Republican and a soldier, and they were right. He just didn’t turn out to be Colin Powell. … The Historic Campus of our best-known university, Harvard, is still prestigious worldwide. But its role is increasingly that of the theme park, like Oxford or Heidelberg, while the most ambitious students compete for fellowships at the Har-Bai and Har-Bei campuses in Mumbai and Beijing.”

 

Apocalypse Later: A Futurologist Looks Back at 2008, John Feffer 

The article appeared on August 21, 2008 at TomDispatch.com, as a nostalgic, apologetic look back from 2016.

Predictions: “[We thought] the new team in Washington … would close down Guantanamo and reverse the U.S. position on torture. They would begin the long process of withdrawing troops from Iraq. They would repeal the tax cuts for the wealthy and renegotiate the free trade agreements, and launch an Apollo-style program to develop alternative energies….  As it turned out, we were all wrong. But they came close enough. We finally signed the Kyoto agreement. The new administration made a big deal about it. The president gave the pen to Al Gore, who said that it meant more to him than the Nobel Prize and the Oscar combined.”

 

The Age of Mammals: Looking Back on the First Quarter of the Twenty-First Century, Rebecca Solnit

Ms. Solnit writes this apocalyptic future of 2026 in the Republic of San Francisco as the year-end summary for Tomdispatch in 2006.

Predictions:  “By the time the Republican Party itself split in 2012 into two adversarial wings dubbed the Fundament party and the Conservatives, the American Empire was dismantling itself. Of course, the United States still nominally exists — we’ll pay a bow to it this year at the Decolonization Day fireworks on July 4 — but it is a largely symbolic entity, like the British Royal Family was for a century before its dissolution in 2020. … Every schoolchild now knows the Old Map/New Map system and can recite the lands that vanished: half the Netherlands, much of Bangladesh, the Amazon Delta, the New Orleans and Shanghai lowlands. …. former President Bush the Younger, extradited from Paraguay [was] found guilty [for war crimes] in 2013.”

 

 

Tomorrow’s world war today, Niall Ferguson

The second of three Ferguson articles on the list. Although not a futurist (and he himself hates futurists), Mr. Ferguson shared his MidEast views for 2007-11 in this January 16, 2006 article in LA Times. 

Predictions: “More than two-fifths of the population of Iran had been aged 14 or younger in 1995. This was the generation that was ready to fight in 2007. Tehran had a nuclear missile pointed at Tel Aviv. … The devastating thermonuclear exchange of August 2007 represented not only the failure of diplomacy; … the true significance of the 2007-11 war was to vindicate the Bush administration’s principle of preemption. For, if that principle had only been adhered to in 2006, Iran’s nuclear aspirations might have been thwarted at minimal cost. And then – hard though it is to imagine now – the Great Gulf War might never have happened.” Mr. Ferguson later defended his fiery article with an article equally controversial: One strike, Iran could be out. 

 

 

 

An imaginary retrospective of 2009, Niall Ferguson 

Niall Ferguson looks back from a year ahead (end of 2009)

Predictions: “Timothy Geithner, US Treasury secretary, requested an additional $300bn to provide further equity injections for Citigroup, Bank of America and the seven other big banks, just a week after imposing an agonising “mega-merger” on the automobile industry. … Japan was plunged back into the deflationary nightmare of the 1990s by yen appreciation and a collapse of consumer confidence.  Obama’s decision to fly to Tehran in June … produced a dramatic improvement in the Middle East region. Al-Qaeda’s bungled attempt to assassinate Obama – on the eve of Thanksgiving – only served to discredit radical Islamism and to reinforce Obama’s public image as “The One”.”  


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