My predictions for 2018

CroppedImage608342-decline-and-fall-of-the-american-empire1

https://www.paulstreet.org

 

“…the accelerating decline and impending fall of America’s global empire is the single most important fact of contemporary world politics.”

John Michael Greer – “A dangerous year”

 

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I started this blog, with predictions that shocked my early readership; of a world shaken by Brexit and the victory of Donald J Trump in the November presidential elections.

Now, that time of the year has arrived when I will be attempting to divine the future, again, using history as a guide. History rhythms and the election of Donald Trump, a populist demagogue, is a clear sign that the foundations of the American superpower is rotting badly.

John Greer, in his review of 2018, notes that the accelerating decline of American global power will lead to further instability as our liberal international order continues to disintegrate. This could lead to flash points in troubled parts of the world, including North Korea, the Middle East and North Africa, where radical and extremist groups or governments sense opportunities as an over-extended America cuts back financial and military aid to traditional allies.

The decline of the tottering American imperial giant is, as Greer states, the single most important fact in geopolitics, but it is within the broader context of what I refer to as the limits to growth mega-trend. Our industrial civilisation is facing hard limits to economic growth as it bumps upon the physical reality of resource depletion, worsening climatic change and growing water and food scarcity across the world. Already, the South African city Cape Town is on the brink of running out of water.

So, it is within these broader parameters that I will proceed, as in previous years, to outline a number of probabilistic forecasts for the year ahead.

  • A major volcanic eruption will happen (50% probabilistic chance)

Volcanic researchers and scientists have been noting an increase in seismic activity from known volcanoes around the world in recent years. My wild card prediction is that at some point this year a major volcanic eruption will lead to significant economic and societal disruption, including cancellation of flights, the enforced moving of populations and damage to homes and businesses.

Whilst I am not a climate scientist, I do wonder if the changing climate is contributing to the increased instability, particularly within the “Ring of Fire” in the Pacific, and whether Gaia is preparing to strike back against the human species causing so much disruption on Earth.

  • Italy will elect a centre-right coalition government (60% probabilistic chance)

The Italians are returning to the polls in 4 March and whilst the opinion polls currently suggest a hung parliament, the centre-right parties of Berlusconi’s Go Italy, the anti-immigrant Northern League and smaller right-wing Brothers of Italy are rising in the polls.

My forecast is that the centre-right parties will likely reach the 40% mark and be able to for the next government after March 2018 with Berlusconi as the kingmaker. The Italian electorate are increasingly frustrated with the waves of refugees flowing from northern Africa and perceive the current centre-left government as a soft touch on this issue.

Despite a modest economic recovery, youth unemployment is still shockingly high, particularly in the south, and frustration with the euro and the EU is also growing among many ordinary Italians.

Although opinion polls show that a slim majority of Italians wish to keep the euro, the new government will likely be Eurosceptic and hostile to French led efforts to further integrate the eurozone.

  • Bitcoin will end the year higher then it started – $13.400 (65% probabilistic chance)

The crypto-currency Bitcoin has had a rollercoaster ride, soaring to nearly $20,000 in December 2017 and making early investors fortunes in the process. Bitcoin has serious flaws, including high transaction fees and scalability issues, but it is a first mover and a crypto “gateway drug” to the alt-coins like Ripple, Dash, NEO and the hundreds of other little known cryptos in the sector.

Exchanges, where you can buy and sell cryptos, continue to see hundreds of thousands of new users joining every month. Dedicated crypto-currency hedge funds are raising billions from the superrich keen to get exposure to this volatile and exciting sector. This suggests that we are still in the early to middle stages of this asset boom, despite the speculative froth clearly manifest in parts of the market.

A “game-changing” moment will be if and when the US regulators approve a listed American bitcoin exchange traded fund (“etf”), which is likely to lead to an explosion in the bitcoin price, potentially up to $100,000 or beyond.

  • The Republicans will maintain control of the House of Representatives in the November Midterm elections (60% probabilistic chance)

I have been torn on this one for a while now. Until the transformational tax cuts were signed by President Trump I was reasonably convinced that a surge of liberal, anti-Trump voters in the mid-term elections would end the Republican Party’s control over the House of Representatives.

The Trump tax cuts have been widely misunderstood by the media and political elites (the “Pundocracy”). Whilst elements of the bill are giveaways to the corporation and the very rich, (e.g. cuts to the corporation tax for example),  the driving impact of the bill will be to redistribute capital and jobs to the “red states” from the high tax bi-coastal “blue states” who overwhelmingly voted for Hilary Clinton. As Tom Luongo notes on his blog, “All of that capital returning from overseas to invest in infrastructure and production won’t go to the big ‘Blue Wall’ states like New Jersey but to the new production belt in places like Chattanooga.” Trump’s electoral base will see the material benefits in 2018 and will likely turn out in force in the mid-terms to keep the Republicans in power.

Of course, there is a reasonable chance that a strong surge in turnout from the anti-Trump coalition of the upper-middle classes, the young and minorities will overwhelm Trump’s base and lead to a Democratic victory. My hunch though, is that the old Clintonian dictum, “the economy, stupid” will win out and Trump will trump, again.

  • The commodity super cycle returns (75% probabilistic chance)

Commodities have enjoyed a roaring trade since December 2017, with copper, oil and other key industrial commodities soaring in global bourses. My thesis is that a the global economy, swimming in trillions of central bank manufactured liquidity, is enjoying a late recovery which is starting to trickle down to the middle to lower stratums of the population.

My specific prediction is that Brent oil will hit $80 this year, on the back of growing global demand, on-going OPEC production cuts and a potential peaking of production by American shale oil producers as noted in this Bloomberg article.

Looking ahead, it is likely that commodities could spike in 2019 in the face of deepening depletion dynamics, leading to a re-run of the nightmarish 2008/09 economic crisis.

Lets not forget that the reason why sub-prime mortgage holders couldn’t afford their home repayments was because a spike in oil prices. This meant that ordinary American workers couldn’t afford their petrol, electricity, food and mortgage repayments and once they stopped paying their mortgages, the consequences led to the implosion of the banking giant Lehman Brothers and the near ending of the global financial system.

Could something similar happen again to the global economy, which is far more indebted, then a decade ago? I wouldn’t bet again it.

  • The Ethereum crypto will hit $2,000 (70% probabilistic chance)

The crypto Ethereum, also known as Ether, has enjoyed a soaring rise in 2017 and I think it is likely to see a further rise in 2018. Unlike the majority of the cryptos, it is a crypto with real world uses and could have a massive transformational impact in the future.

Ethereum is an indirect way of investing into the underlying blockchain technology and it is for this reason I am confident that the crypto Ethereum, the virtual fuel of the decentralised computing platform, will see a further rise in price in 2018.

I will be continuing my series on the impact of technology, which will include a review of John Michael Greer latest book, The Retro Future: Looking to the Past to Reinvent the Future soon.

Please do not hesitate to add yourself as a subscriber to my blog at the bottom of the page.

My predictions for 2018

Review of 2017

2017-Predictions

https://outlookohio.com

 

At the beginning of the year, I half jokingly considered including in my 2017 forecasts the prediction of a British royal engagement. If I had, it would have been a rare success story in 2017!

Reviewing my forecasts for 2017 has been a sobering experience with every one failing to hit the spot. This does not include my special British general election forecast of an increased Conservative majority of which I have already autopsied in my post-election equivalent to eating humble pie.

So what went wrong? To summarise, I over-estimated the electoral appeal and political calibre of the radical, populist and anti-immigrant/euro politicians on the Continent and failed to anticipate the strong anti-Trump/Brexit backlash from the liberal wing of the electorates. However, in my defence, I do think I captured the broader dynamics going on, even if my specific predictions were a bit off-piste.

Marine Le Pen did succeed in getting into the second round of the French presidential elections, as predicted, and had she faced Francois Fillon (“Fillon”), the conservative arch-Thatcherite candidate, may have had a better chance in the final result. As it happened, when I wrote my forecasting post, Fillon was still ahead in the polls with Emmanuel Macron (“Macron”) only starting to emerge into the limelight.

I would also note in my defence that I twice forecast, once the 1st round was over, that Macron would win the French presidential elections, which you can read here and here. Overall, I consider the French elections, considering the volatility of the race, a reasonable success story for me.

The Dutch elections is a classic case of me going along with the frankly near-hysterical liberal response to the Trump victory rather then doing my own further research into the Dutch far-right firebrand Geert Wilders (“Wilders”). After all, Wilders campaigned on a platform of shutting down mosques and banning the Koran, positions which make President Trump an arugula eating liberal by comparison. In the end Wilders came second, not first as I forecast, and increased his overall share of the vote compared to the last election with 13% of the national vote.

A similar tale emerged during the German federal elections which humbled the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The Alternative for Germany (“AfD”) party, which had collapsed in the polls earlier in the year, roared back to win 13% of the vote in a result that shook the German political establishment. My post “make Germany great again” explored the rise of the nationalist Right in a country which had been relatively immune to populist politics.

Whilst the AfD failed to hit my ambitious forecast of getting into second place, the strong performance by the nationalists in the federal elections validated my view that populist politics would transform German politics in 2017.

A Bloomberg article noted that contrary to the post-Macron consensus from the Pundocracy the forces of political populism continued to rise throughout 2017. The article notes “A Bloomberg analysis of decades of election results across 22 European countries reveals that support for populist radical-right parties is higher than it’s been at any time over the past 30 years.” So to conclude, whilst my specific forecasts were mainly wrong, I did successfully capture the broader dynamic of a continued wave of populist politics transforming European politics.

The Saudi princes being allegedly tortured in the five star Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh might wish they had removed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (“MBS”) when they had the chance. I did predict, with a 55% probabilistic chance, that MBS would be sidelined or removed but in the end, MBS moved first to seize power in the Kingdom. MBS is certainly a man to watch in the coming years and it is conceivable that the reforms unleashed under his Ceasaresque reign will eventually bring down the House of Saud.

My final forecast was that President Trump would partially or totally remove Russian sanctions. This turned out to be totally wrong, with the alleged collusion before the election between the Trump team and the Russian government, aka “Russiagate”, destroying any changes of an easing of the sanctions regime in 2017. Ironically, the rise of right-wing populist politicians to power across central and Eastern Europe, including the Austrian Freedom Party, increases the chances that this may happen in 2018 when EU sanctions on Russia come up for renewal.

My 2016 forecasts on a narrow victory of the Leave campaign and the rise of Donald Trump to the American presidency were spot on and it was probably unlikely that I could achieve a similar success rate for 2017.

Cryptocurrency-Price-Forecast-for-Bitcoin-Ethereum-Ripple-PRtech_body_ripplexrpusddailylogpricechart.png.full

https://a.c-dn.net

 

One of the ironies of 2017 is that whilst readers who had placed political bets on a Le Pen victory or an increased Conservative majority would have lost money, if they had brought the crypto Ripple, following my crypto-currency post on 1 December, they would have made over 1,000% return in the weeks that followed. The Ripple price soared from 24 cents to over 3 dollars from the beginning of December to after New Year.

Other cryptos whom I tipped, including Ethereum and Dash have seen big increases in value since the publication of my crypto post on FI, and I remain bullish that 2018 will be a strong year for the crypto-currency space.

I will soon be publishing my forecasts for 2018 and we will see if I have a better success rate this year then 2017.

Review of 2017

Book review of Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed’s Failing States, Collapsing Systems BioPhysical Triggers of Political Violence

Screen Shot 2017-01-05 at 11.51.54

https://3.bp.blogspot.com

 

“… after 2030, both the Euro-Atlantic core, as well as the fast-rising Indo-Chinese periphery, will begin to experience their own symptoms of systematic state-failure”.

Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

 

This book is a tour de force and a must read for anybody who is interested in the future fate of our industrial civilization.

Stylistically, Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed (“Ahmed”) is very different to that other great chronicler of our declining civilization, John Michael Greer (“Greer”), who is an easier read for the layman reader. I have reviewed two books by John Michael Greer, one a near future thriller which posits a rising China defeating America in the 2020’s and a non-fictional book on the impending collapse of the American empire. Both are superb and at times deeply troubling reading experiences.

Ahmed’s book is drier, academic and references a huge array of empirical and scientific studies to back his conclusion that our industrial civilization is heading towards severe trouble within the next 20 years. What it lacks in Greerian narrative and rhetorical flourish is made up by the use of data and scientific research to force the reader to acknowledge that the resource and ecological limits are pressing ever harder on our globalised economic order.

What is striking about Ahmed’s book is that his forecasts for key regions, including Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North America and when their systematic crisis will likely arrive are remarkably close to the 1972 Limits to Growth business as usual modelling shown below.

futurism-got-corn-graph

https://www.commondreams.org

 

I have discussed this prescient report before in my post “winter is coming” which you can read here.

So what did Ahmed forecast in his book? Here are the key points;

The world is seeing a “new normal” of extreme weather events, summer heat waves, wildfires, droughts, floods and extreme rainfall which is increasingly common throughout the world. The climate system is being fundamentally transformed, a “climate departure”, which means that within the next decade in the tropics (e.g. encompassing parts of the Middle East, Asia, Central Asia, South Asia and Africa) this will become the new normal, rendering the vast region uninhabitable by 2030-2040, due to prolonged heat waves and dust-storms.

The rapidly changing climate in this vast tropical zone will imperil the lives of up to 500 million people and will lead to mega-migrations into Europe. The political and demographic implications of this enormous wave of humanity attempting to enter Europe I have explored in a post earlier this year which you can read here.

Saudi Arabia, a pivotal global oil supplier, has seen its oil exports decline by 1.4% every year between 2005 and 2015. According to the net export model, Saudi Arabia net oil exports have been forecast to decline to zero by 2030. The Gulf States will face a systematic crisis within the next decade as the money runs out to keep their populace happy.

Total net oil exports to Europe by the former Soviet Union countries including Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan will decline to virtually zero by 2030 as production declines and China captures a growing share of oil production for its own requirements.

The south-western region of North America is facing severe water scarcity and climatic disruption, which could lead to Lake Mead running out of water by 2021. Lake Mead is the main water supply for the mega-city of Los Angeles and 90% of southern Nevada. The looming crisis is so great that in the medium term it threatens the viability of Californian agriculture and a substantial chunk of the global foodstuff exports which will lead to global food price rises.

American unconventional oil and gas shale’s will likely peak around 2025 which will ensure that the United States is relatively energy self-sufficient compared to Europe in the short-term. After that America will become increasingly dependent on oil imports by 2030 when these supplies will be drying up around the world.

The impending peaks in oil production and net export decline by key producers will lead to another global oil supply shock by 2020, something that I have warned recently in my review of crypto-currencies.

The core regions of our industrial civilization, Europe and North America (“Euro-Atlantic core”), will sustain the neo-liberal status quo by continued debt-money quantitative easing policies. However, after 2030 both the Euro-Atlantic core and the rising giants, India and China, will experience their own symptoms of systematic state failure.

Greer has recently commented on his blog that he expects to see another economic shock at some point in the foreseeable future which China will emerge, after the hit, as the dominant hegemonic power on the world stage at some point next decade, supplanting the United States. This strikes me as eminently plausible given the above trends outlined in Nafeez’s book.

Whilst Nafeez’s forecasts and dates are hypothetical and may be proven wrong, the overwhelming conclusion from reading this book is that readers would be foolish to ignore the rising alert signs emanating from different corners of the world. When visiting Granada last month, the local people mentioned the drought and the extreme heat wave in the summer of 2017, when temperatures hit 47 degrees in the shade! If this “abnormal” climate continues, parts of southern Spain could become uninhabitable within a decade. Indeed, the tour guides mentioned that the locals fled the city during the summer months to escape the extreme heat as it was so intense.

To conclude, if you are interested in learning more about the systematic challenges facing the world in the coming generation, Nafeez’s book is required reading.

Book review of Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed’s Failing States, Collapsing Systems BioPhysical Triggers of Political Violence

The suited crypto-currency virgins are coming…

Bitcoin-860x450_c

thedailyharrison.com

 

“… some of the cryptocurrency experts I’ve talked to believe that a single share of bitcoin will someday be worth over $1 million”.

Teeka Tiwari – crypto-currency expert

“I see them (crypto-currencies) as yet another speculative vehicle in the middle of a bubble that will end with a very, very messy bust.”

John Michael Greer 

 

In a new series of posts on FI, I will be exploring the potential impact and future of series of new technologies, starting with crypto-currencies. I will be exploring whether technology can mitigate or even resolve the broader challenges of resource scarcity, which I refer to as the Limits to Growth mega-trend.

Readers, can you hear that distant but growing roar across the horizon? That is an army of suited and booted crypto-currency virgins scrambling to purchase their first bitcoin and ether in the coming months… Wall Street is going to be deflowered and fortunes will likely be made in the coming years.

Crypto-currencies have attracted a huge amount of interest in the last year with the most well known crypto, bitcoin, surging to new heights on the global exchanges. For a long time as I was a sceptic, convinced that it was a 21st century version of the tulip craze and not based on any fundamentals. However, in the last few months, I have been engrossed in this exciting new sector and am now cautiously optimistic that it has a promising future.

 

Bitcoin chart

Coindance

 

What are crypto-currencies? According to Wikipedia, “…a crypto currency (or crypto currency) is a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange using cryptography to secure the transactions, to control the creation of additional units, and to verify the transfer of assets”. Different crypto-currencies have different uses and one is not the same as the other.  Bitcoin should be considered the reserve currency of the crypto space, to be used as a store of value and as a gateway to buy lesser known cryptos like dash, ethereum classic and ripple. Think of bitcoin as digital gold.

Ethereum, which has a very efficient payment transaction time and is already being used for hundreds of apps, should be considered the Microsoft of the crypto-space. Big banks are already exploring how to integrate ethereum into their banking systems and it is already the favourite within the tech world which are major movers and shakers within the emerging crypto eco-system.

Dash, a little known crypto, is also emerging as a crypto of choice for making payments and has rocketed in value in the last few months as a result. There are hundreds of cryptos out there and the sector is at the same point in the cycle as the tech industry was in the 1990’s when Amazon, Microsoft and other tech companies were just starting to emerge.

Cryptos should be considered digital equities and as the crypto world grows, these blue-chip digital equities will grow in value. The trick is investing in the right digital equities, in other words, the Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft of the next decade.

With cryptos you can transfer them around the world through wallets beyond the control of national governments. This has already proven immensely useful for citizens of Zimbabwe or Venezuela where the economy is collapsing. The developing world has embraced the mobile phone revolution and it is probably only a matter of time before the masses discover the benefits of app based digital currencies held through their smart phones.

Even in the relatively stable developed world, putting a fraction of your net wealth into the blue-chip cryptos is worth considering should capital controls return under a Corbyn led British government in the future, as an example.  For those who think such talk is absurd, I would remind you that banking holidays, capital controls and other mechanisms to control your money has already been experienced by the Cypriot people in 2013. It is no coincidence that bitcoin surged in value by 87% in 2013 after the imposition of draconian banking controls in Cyprus.

Cryptos are a natural response to the shift of our economy into the digital space and it was probably only a matter of time before a digital currency would emerge for the internet. As the digitalisation of the economy increases it is likely that cryptos will become increasingly mainstream as a means of payment in the coming years. Surveys indicate that younger consumers are interested and comfortable with the concept of using and holding digital currencies. For the digital native generation, bitcoin and other cryptos are natural extensions of their tech infused lives.

The 2008/2009 Great Recession led to a gigantic money printing exercise by the central bankers as a consequence the real value of fiat currencies like the dollar, pound and yen have continued to shrink. Whilst the doomster warnings of hyperinflation has not been realized, the year by year grind of declining living standards for the bottom 80% of the population in the developed world has led to growing populist revolts at the ballot box. Cryptos offer the possibility of escaping this vicious circle into an appreciating world of digital currencies.

Many commentators have compared cryptos to a bubble which is destined to collapse. Whilst these warnings should not be totally dismissed and at times the market has appeared bubbly and overly speculative, I have attempted to show why the crypto space is here to stay and will likely grow in the coming few years. The first wave of adopters were the tech geeks and highly adventurous individual investors and the second wave is about to break soon. These are the institutional, family office and hedge fund “smart money” which are ready to pour billions into this space.

A key catalyst for this institutional “wall of money” to invest into bitcoin and later on the smaller cryptos is the announcement by the financial firm CME Group that investors will be able to purchase bitcoin future derivatives starting from 18 December 2017. Wall Street, if they wish to invest into cryptos, require the ability to hedge against the risk by using future options as a risk management tool. The decision by CME clears the way for a second wave of investors to take their chances in the crypto sector.

The announcement by the CME Group is a game changing moment and will likely lead to the approval by the American regulator of a bitcoin etf in 2018. Anecdotally I am personally aware that wealthy clients are requesting their relationship managers to purchase hundreds of thousands of bitcoin in family offices and the clamor is growing on a literally daily basis.

It is only a matter of time before an ethereum (also known as ether) future derivative is approved, opening the way for the institutional “wall of money” to invest into the second largest crypto, ethereum. Europe already has tracker funds dedicated to ethereum and bitcoin which provides a safe and regulated way of purchasing the top two crypto currency plays and America will follow within the next 12 to 18 months.

I would finish this post with a warning. Whilst I don’t think that the crypto currency space is a purely speculative bubble, there are dangerous headwinds which could shatter the future growth of this sector next decade. Bitcoin mining alone takes up a considerable amount of electricity usage and according to the UK energy comparison site Power Compare, “…bitcoin mining is currently using more electricity than 159 individual countries.”

In the context of a likely looming oil supply shock by the end of this decade, it strikes me as unlikely that countries will continue to increase their grid usage to the manufacturing of digital currencies as prices rise, the poor struggle to heat and light their homes and power outages arise. The limits to growth megatrend, which I discussed in my article “winter is coming”, would suggest that the explosive growth in cryptos is unsustainable and will decline next decade as these supply challenges become more apparent to the world.

However, to summarise, with oil prices relatively low and a supply shock at least 18 months away, 2018 and probably 2019 will continue to see explosive returns in the crypto currency space. The medium-longer term prognosis for the crypto sector is a darker picture and it remains to be seen if John Greer’s warning of a speculative implosion of the crypto-currency sector comes true.

I will be completing my 2017 review at the end of this month and will be publishing in the New Year my 2018 forecasting predictions.

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The suited crypto-currency virgins are coming…

The Resurrection of the Austro-Hungarian Empire

archduke-franz-ferdinand-of-austria-P

CDN.history.com

 

“A few weeks from now, it will likely be possible to drive all the way from the Baltic Sea to the Aegean without ever leaving what we might call the “populist belt””

Yascha Mounk (The Czech Trump)

 

“Thus it’s not too hard to look at the rising spiral of stresses in the European Union just now and foresee the eventual descent of the continent into a mix of domestic insurgency and authoritarian nationalism, with the oncoming tide of mass migration from Africa and the Middle East adding further pressure to an already explosive mix.” 

John Michael Greer (An Affirming Flame)

 

The Austrian elections held on Sunday have seen a surge in support for the anti-immigrant and Eurosceptic forces within the Austrian political establishment. The “centre-right” People’s Party (“OVP”), led by the youthful Sebastian Kurz, won 31% of the national vote, according to the exit polls. Kurz campaigned on a platform of hard-line policies on borders, immigration and regaining sovereignty from the European Union (“EU”) which appealed to the Austrian electorate.

The “far-right” Freedom Party (“FPO”), which has its roots in the post-war National Socialist movement, appears to be in second place, with 26% of the national vote. The FPO is even more hard-line then the OVP on the question of the refugee crisis and has warned of the “Islamification” of Austria.

The stunning victory for the political Right in Austria comes after the surge in support for the Alternative for Germany party in the German elections, which I discussed recently. These election results will have spooked European leaders who had hoped that the populist wave had peaked earlier in the year, when Marine Le Pen of the National Front failed to break through in the French presidential elections.

Before I explore this issue further, I would like to briefly discuss the terminology used by the mainstream media when discussing Continental politics. Whilst the policies of the OVP and the FPO overlap considerably, to the point of convergence, the media refer to the OVP as conservative or “centre-right” whilst the FPO are usually referred to as “far-right”.

Whilst it is true that the OVP roots are in the far right, in terms of policies, it should be classified as a conservative/nationalist party, not as a neo-Nazi/ extremist party. The OVP do not advocate race laws, the imposition of a dictatorship or the destruction of democracy which would be expected of a genuinely neo-Nazi party. For these reason, I will refer to the FPO as a nationalist right or hard-right party and the OVP as centre-right going forward.

The crushing victory of the Right in Austria has ramifications beyond Vienna in a post-Brexit Europe. A Kurz-led Austrian government will likely align itself with the so-called Visegrad countries of central and eastern Europe, who are sceptical of further EU integration, opposed to settling refugees and hostile to the multi-cultural ideology prevalent among the liberal elites of western Europe.

As the Telegraph notes, “the governments of Viktor Orban in Hungary, Beata Szydlo in Poland and Robert Fico in Slovakia all share a deep opposition to letting in more migrants and to what they see as Brussels “meddling” in their domestic affairs.” The likely victory of a populist, Eurosceptic and anti-refugee real estate billionaire Andrej Babiš in the looming Czech elections is further evidence of the nationalist winds transforming the political map of Europe.

It therefore looks increasingly likely that under the leadership of Austria, a new regional bloc is emerging within the heart of Europe, capable of challenging the dominance of the Franco-German axis. Looking at the modern map, the new bloc looks remarkably similar to the late Austro-Hungarian Empire that spanned Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland in the early 20th century.

main-qimg-1052c147eca103054ed7b77a445c2bdc

https://qph.ec.quoracdn.net

 

With hindsight I over-estimated the electoral appeal of the populist and radical right parties at the beginning of the year. However, the bigger picture is the shift in continental politics towards the populist end of the spectrum on internal borders, shutting down the refugee flows and enforcing the integration of Muslim communities, something I analysed earlier this year.

The writer John Michael Greer, who has been remarkably prescient in his political forecasts over the years, has warned that nationalist parties could sweep to power across Western Europe in the event of another major refugee crisis or economic depression. That nationalist tsunami has reached Vienna and the chancelleries of Europe will be wondering if Italy is next, with elections next year amid a surge in support for populist and Eurosceptic parties like the Five Star Movement.

Beyond the frontiers of the EU, trouble is brewing in the frontier zones of North Africa, the Middle East and the Ukraine. The emerging warlords in the growing arc of failed states, whether they are Libyian militia, jihadi extremists or Ukrainian nationalist gunmen are growing stronger every year.

This growing wave of chaos surrounding a troubled European core is driven by structural factors, including worsening climate change, water, energy and food scarcity and the explosion of population. Should the crisis around the River Nile worsen, to give just one example, a further wave of refugees from predominately Muslim cultures will try and enter Europe. This could trigger unrest, a further surge in support for nationalist politicians and in the worst case scenario a slide into authoritarianism.

On a personal level, when visiting Verona this summer, I saw numerous illegal African immigrants around the train station, a key smuggling hub within Italy. These overwhelmingly young men are physically fit, resourceful and utterly ruthless in their determination to fulfill their dream of prosperity within the crumbling core of our industrial civilization.

They are the advance guard of a far greater mass of external proletarians ready to make the same journey from across the failing North Africa and Middle East arc of crisis.

I will be covering this and other issues in future posts soon so I encourage existing and new readers to sign up and follow my blog at the bottom of the page.

The Resurrection of the Austro-Hungarian Empire

Make Germany Great Again

nazi-themendenhall-650_022416122700

http://media2.intoday.in

 

“If the French are rightly proud of their emperor and the Britons of Nelson and Churchill, we have the right to be proud of the achievements of the German soldiers in two world wars.”

Alexander Gauland – Alternative for Germany leader

“At some point between now and 2030 or so we can expect another round of serious crisis, comparable to the mess that overwhelmed Europe and its empires between 1914 and 1954 — you know, two world wars, the Great Depression, the end of European global domination.”

John Michael Greer

 

The Financial Times columnist Gideon Rachman commented at the beginning of the year that it was unlikely that any German party would ever be successful with a slogan “Make Germany Great Again”. The stunning electoral success of the hard right Alternative for Germany party in the federal elections has shattered that assumption among the European chattering classes.

The nationalist right-wing Alternative for Germany (“AfD”) party surged to 12.6% of the vote and will send almost 100 MPs to the German Bundestag on the back of widespread anger about Angela Merkel’s decision to open the borders to over a million predominately Muslim refugees in 2015/2016.

In contrast, the traditional establishment parties gained the smallest share of the vote since the war. Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic led coalition gaining only 33% of the vote and the Social Democrats did even worse, only 20%, one of their worst ever performances in their history.

The same liberal commentariat who were crowing only a few months ago that the populist threat had peaked on the Continent after the crushing victory of Emmanuel Macron in the French elections have gone very quiet now. Populism has arrived in the most powerful country in the EU with a dark history of genocide, totalitarianism and imperialism.

Although the German economy has grown a strong argument can be made that the German economic model is rotting from within. Ambrose Evans Pritchard, writing in the Telegraph, notes that net public investment has been negative for most of the last fifteen years and economic growth and productivity has been dismal since 2000. For ordinary German workers, real incomes have stagnated and the wealth gap is rising between the rich and poor.

One of the drivers for the surge of support for the AfD, apart from the migration crisis, was the growing number of economic “losers” within Germany. Many of these relatively poor workers live in the former East Germany which suffered massive economic and social changes after reunification. It is no coincidence that the AfD performed particularly well in the industrial Rust Belt areas like the Ruhr and eastern Germany.

Of course, the eruption of the nationalist right should be placed in perspective. The majority of the German electorate voted for other parties and polls indicate that many of those voting for the AfD saw it as a means to register their hostility towards the Merkel’s refugee policies. These voters are certainly not neo-Nazi’s nor do they approve of those elements within the AfD which flirt with the far-right.

The election of the dynamic President Macron appeared to herald a promising new dawn in the eurozone. The eurozone is a botched half-job which has muddled through, lurching from one crisis to another. The German elections were supposed to be the moment that the Franco-German motor would rev up and make real progress in the creation of euro-wide fiscal and political union. The German elections has had the opposite effect and gravely weakened those hopes.

The political reality in Berlin is that the new coalition government will be dominated by Eurosceptic conservative voices from within the CSU and the Free Democrats who are bitterly opposed to President Macron’s ambitious reform agenda. A eurozone which continues muddling along raises the growing risk, as Macron has predicted, of imploding within the next 10 years or so.

Historians will likely look back at the Merkel years as a 21st century version of the long Edwardian summer before the horrors of the Great War. Alistair Macleod has predicted that by early 2019 at the latest, the eurozone will be plunged into another major economic crisis, triggered by rising interest rates and a collapse in government bond prices, resulting in the bankruptcy of eurozone banks. There is a growing consensus among economists that the current bull market is in its maturing phrase and is unlikely to last much longer.

Last year, in my post “winter is coming”, I attempted to forecast our likely future within the context of the limits to growth models which have proved eerily accurate since the 1970’s. To summarise, the peaking of global fossil fuels, accelerating climate change and an insolvent global economic system based on the false god of perpetual growth is leading us to another major crisis, potentially within the next few years.

Looking ahead, one can start to sense a foreboding future for Germany as the next decade arrives. Another economic crisis, potentially triggered by a deeper energy and food crisis, at the end of this decade, will plunge the eurozone into another recession. Rising unemployment, increased poverty and a loss of hope among broad layers of the population could lead to even bigger electoral successes for populists of both the Left and Right across the EU. Should Italy or one of the other eurozone countries exit the eurozone, under Target1, Germany could face crippling economic losses.

A toxic cocktail of rising Islamist terrorism and challenges in integrating the refugees, economic crisis in the eurozone and the proletarianization of a contracting German middle class could drive up to half the electorate into the hands of extremist parties on both the Left and Right. A revival of nationalist currents across the political scene could lead, by the end of the 2020’s, of a nationalist-conservative government in power. Should the worst case scenario happen and the eurozone/EU disintegrate, a German-Russian axis could reemerge as the dominant geopolitical force within the European continent.

To summarise, the broader global headwinds are wreaking the stable liberal post-Cold War era of international relations. The election of President Trump in November 2016 heralded, as I predicted months earlier, the beginning of a new era in world history, of Scarcity Industrialism. This era, described in detail by the German military in a report on peak oil, will lead to a breakdown in market based economies, the end of globalisation and the return of power politics in the world arena.

If, dear reader, that doesn’t sound promising terrain for a nationalist party attracting significant support already, then you haven’t read enough history.

For better or for worse, Germany is becoming a “normal” Western country and nobody knows for certain how European politics will be impacted in the years to come by this transformation.

One thing is for certain, it will not be boring…

 

Make Germany Great Again

Thoughts on Poland

 

Poland-Cracow-arial-view

http://www.vjv.com

 

Please accept my apologies for the long delay in posting on the blog. I have recently got married in Poland to my lovely new wife and have only just returned from our honeymoon. Normal service will be resuming soon on Forecasting Intelligence!

I thought you may find interesting my on-the-ground thoughts on how Poland has developed since the end of Communism and how the ordinary people feel about the European Union, Russia and the migration crisis.

 

I first visited Poland in 2000 during a tour of central and Eastern Europe when it was still recovering from dark days of being a satellite state of the Soviet Russian Empire. The contrast between the West and East was stark as you crossed the border between the enlarged Germany and Poland with respect to the roads, quality of life and general development. This was prior to Poland joining the European Union (“EU”) in 2004 and it was clear to me that in many ways Poland was still a developing country.

Despite the relative poverty I found the Polish people the friendliest and welcoming of all the countries we toured and Krakov was a stunning city with lots of history and culture. Even then, I had the sense that at some point in my future, I would be returning to Poland.

After I met my Polish wife a few years ago, I returned a second time to Poland to meet her family, who live in the south-eastern part of Poland, near the Ukrainian border. What struck me the most was the massive improvement in the overall infrastructure and development of the country since I had last visited 13 years ago. The region was filled with gleaming new motorways; the regional cities had modern new airports and shopping malls with all the brands common to a West European city. Poland had arrived.

Whilst in the countryside and the cities there are still pockets of deep poverty, the overall standard of living has massively improved since the end of the Cold War for the average Pole. Speaking to ordinary Poles, it was clear that the vast majority appreciated the benefits of membership of the EU, including the freedom to travel and work in Britain and Germany and the development aid which had transformed the country for the better. There also seemed to be a consensus that Poland would join the euro in the future but only once wages and living costs had caught up with the west European standard. Overall Poland seemed comfortable about its role within the EU and optimistic about the future of the country.

The spectre of Russia still haunted the Polish psyche and President Putin was a feared figure across Polish society. The Ukrainian crisis had erupted and the Poles take very seriously the prospect of another Russian invasion which is understandable given their tortured history.

The migration crisis in 2015 transformed Europe’s politics and was the critical factor in the Brexit vote in my opinion. The scenes of huge numbers of young Muslim men marching across the Balkans into Germany horrified many across Europe, in particular central-Eastern Europe. Virtually every single Polish friend and family member was opposed to Angela Merkel’s decision to open the borders to the vast hordes of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa (”MENA”).

The migration crisis and the rising wave of Islamist terror attacks across Western Europe have sharpened the sense that the importation of significant Muslim populations has been an historic mistake. Poland and other countries in the former Warsaw Pact bloc are determined to avoid making the same perceived mistakes. This is the principal reason for the rise of nationalist governments to power in the region.

The political elites of Western Europe, including the Brussels bureaucracy, think that it is only sensible that every country in Europe should share the burden in hosting refugees who have arrived in Europe since 2015. The fact that clear majorities in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary are opposed to such a thing matters little. Since 2015, relations between Poland and the EU have sharply deteriorated.

My visit to Poland this year was naturally dominated by planning for the wedding but there were a number of conversations about the EU, the migration dispute and the Euro. I noted that among ordinary Poles, a hardening of positions on preserving the Zloty currency, keeping the refugees out of the country and in some quarters a sympathetic view on Britain’s Brexit vote last year which I had successfully predicted.

If Europe insists that Poland accepts Muslim refugees, I think that a narrow majority of Polish people would be prepared to leave the EU. This intuitive feeling of mine has been confirmed by a recent poll, as noted in this Bloomberg article, in which “…fifty-one percent said they’d be ready to surrender membership in the 28-member trading bloc”. Whilst any Polexit scenario remains unlikely for the foreseeable future, it should not be dismissed outright.

The Polish people have suffered greatly in the 20th century and those in their eighties can still remember the barbaric Nazi occupation, the brutal post-war years and the poverty and shortages under Communism. They are a proud, dignified and strong people who value their culture, traditions and the independence restored since the end of the Berlin Wall. Poland has now crossed a point that it can survive, and indeed prosper, outside the EU, if needs be, should it decide that this is in its best interests. The economy is booming, real wages are rising and EU aid is no longer quite as vital as it was a decade ago.

My own view is that a generation from now Poland could be one of the main economic great powers of Europe, if it plays its cards right in the coming years. I will be preparing soon a mega-post on the future of Europe in a post-peak world which will incorporate the likely impact of further mass movements of people from an imploding MENA region as well as other key trends, including resource scarcity, technological regression and accelerating man-made climate change.

I hope you enjoyed this post.

Thoughts on Poland