- The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China starts next week
- It will be the single biggest event this year, of unprecedented significance
- Xi will cement his position and secure his legacy at the Congress
- China is changing and has changed more than the market gives it credit for
- Under Trump, the United States has abdicated its global role
- What we are witnessing is a geopolitical reality show
- The rise of China and the decline of the US will spawn a new FX king!
- Lower than expected growth for the next 18 months (while China converts its economy from export engine to one of productivity gains – President Xi wants 2010 GDP per capita doubled (Rule of 72= 72/7% GDP per year = 10 years) which means an objective of 7% growth per year, but most of this will be productivity driven which means investment first (hence lower growth), then higher.
- Reduction of pollution = electrification of cars – by 2030 100% of cars will be electric vehicles – this will catapult China to leadership in battery technology, E-engines, and pollution reduction. (Don’t forget that from 1900 to 1910/13 the US went from 100% horse carriages to 100% cars!)
- High ratio of R&D and innovation to gain leadership. China is already dominant, but will be even more so in E-commerce, payments and fintech. (See McKinsey report below).
- Slow gradual openness in capital account, more access to the market for foreigners and a big focus on converting global trade from USD to CNY.
- Weaker CNY post-congress.
- Major negative credit and growth impact on the rest of the world.
Change comes much faster than we human beings like – our brains are simply not designed to accept quick changes, and one of the few shortcomings of the brain is that it likes (and uses) the recent past to extrapolate the future. We think in a linear fashion but world the evolves in a super log-normal way. An excellent example is seen in the pictures below from New York in 1900 and 1913. Notice the difference in street traffic in the space of just 13 years.
I think the next 13 years will surpass those years in way back then in New York in terms of change, dynamics and how we act, analyse and live.
(*) Charles Parton worked as a diplomat in both the British and EU services, spending much of his career in China. Since retirement, he has set up his own consultancy, China Ink, as well as being London Director of China Policy and Special Adviser on China to the House of Commons Select Committee. He is shortly to return to Beijing as Internal Political Adviser to the British Embassy.
- …a constant theme of Xi Jinping’s speeches is the need for innovation.
- …he (President Xi) was in charge of the drafting of the report delivered to the 18th Party Congress by his predecessor Hu Jintao.
- The deeper purposes of the Congress and the report are to reaffirm the Party’s importance to itself and to the nation.
- “Ecological Construction‟, added “Making Great Efforts to Promote Ecological Progress”. Neither addition is surprising, given that Party legitimacy would be threatened by popular dissatisfaction if areas such as education, health, social security, as well as pollution and food safety, were not put higher up the political priority list.
There are likely to be 13 major sections….(See table below for 16th,17th and 18th Congress comparison…)
The Past Five Years. To judge from the past, this section will aim to set a positive tone in order to remind the Party and people that only the Party could have achieved China’s rise.
Xi Jinping Thought, Theory or Concept? This congress may well see the apotheosis of Xi’s “important series of speeches” into “Xi Jinping Thought”, “Xi Jinping Theory” or the plain “Four Comprehensives”, Xi’s contribution to the CCP’s canon of Marxist-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Three Represents (of Jiang Zemin) and the Scientific Outlook on development (of Hu Jintao). The academic prophet, gazing at the Party’s liver to predict the future, will pronounce on the importance of the difference between an “ism”, “Thought”, “Theory” or just a simple description (as Jiang and Hu gained). In practice, what actually matters is that Xi is more powerful than his two predecessors at the start of a second term and may become more so than Deng: at the level of policymaking and personnel, he is getting his way, even if at the level of implementation and down among those who hold real power in China, the 2,862 Party county secretaries, his writ runs less effectively). But for what it is worth, I think that we shall be hearing of “Xi Jinping Thought”. Interestingly, an article in Research on Party Building magazine, a monthly publication on communist theory, published an article in its July edition on “Xi Jinping Thought”.
Building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Traditionally, this short section looks forward to the big tasks of the next five years, mainly in the area of the “Five Constructions”(economic, political, cultural, social and environmental). It is likely also to remind cadres of the importance of themes dear to Xi Jinping’s heart, such as poverty alleviation, innovation, Belt and Road Initiative, corruption and Party discipline. And judging by the meetings of late July, the main theme, not surprisingly, will be稳中求进 “progress amid stability”, a phrase we shall see often.
The environment and ecology. This was a new section in the 18th Congress Report reflecting ecology’s rise to become one of the five “constructions” and its addition to the Party constitution. Quite apart from the lamentable state of the environment itself, a major driver for inclusion was the threat to social stability: according to some Chinese academics, around half of protests involving over 10,000 people had an environmental cause. (This is a new key in our opinion!)
Party building. This is always a lengthy and important section, hardly surprising, given that this is, after all, the Party’s congress and given that “comprehensively [and] strictly govern the Party‟ is one of the “Four Comprehensives”. The 18th Congress report was much harder and more urgent than its predecessors on ideals, faith in Party ideology, working for the people, corruption and discipline. This report is likely to be harder still. Over his first five years Xi has not just launched an unending and deep war on corruption, but also carried out a series of campaigns to instill discipline and cut abuse of public funds by cadres. It is traditional to have a section on intra-Party democracy and Party unity; we can expect the former to be more by way of lip-service, the latter to feature prominently. Xi will undoubtedly recommit to the war on corruption and is likely to doff his cap in the direction of the new National Supervision Commission, which is due to start work in earnest next March. Nor should it be forgotten that the Party Congress elects a new Central Commission for Discipline and Inspection.
“…but it will give an idea of how he views progress towards those reforms, the priority of tasks needed to ensure their full delivery over the next five years, his political thinking, and perhaps his perception of problems. Foremost among those are implementation (by officials) and trust (of the people). Xi and Premier Li Keqiang have spent much time in the last few years railing against vested interests and failure to implement set down policies. Trust from the people in the Party is in short supply. One of the purposes of the Report is to show the people that it is right to entrust governance to a single party. Most people buy the line that under the CCP China has taken back its rightful place in the world; they are less persuaded by the claim that the Party rules in their, rather than its own, interests. That could be a worry if economic or environmental factors set back further progress towards prosperity’”.
It’s important to understand that the “economic plan” for China in the next 5 years is already in place as the 13th five-year plan was initiated in July 2016 – there are a mere 219 pages to read up for you…. (Link – China Five-year plan).
- Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Theory of Three Represents, and the Scientific Outlook on Development; and put into practice the guiding principles from General Secretary Xi Jinping’s major addresses.
- The Chinese Dream of the rejuvenation of the nation and the core socialist values have gained a firm place in people’s hearts. China’s soft power has continued to become stronger. Notable achievements have been made in military reform with Chinese characteristics, and new steps have been taken to strengthen and revitalise the armed forces. A new phase has begun in the all-around strengthening of Party self-governance, and significant headway has been made in improving Party conduct and building a clean government. New heights have been reached in China’s economic strength, scientific and technological capabilities, defense capabilities, and international influence.
- However, the need has become more pressing to improve the quality and efficiency of growth and transform and upgrade the economy. As the economy is experiencing a new normal of growth, there is a clearer trend toward a more advanced form of growth, improved divisions of labour, and a more rational structure. With the structure of consumption being more rapidly upgraded, broad market space, a strong material foundation, a complete industrial structure, an ample supply of funds, and abundant human capital, along with the cumulative effects of innovation that are beginning to show, our overall strengths are still notable. A new style of industrialisation, information technology adoption, urbanisation, and agricultural modernisation are experiencing deeper development, new drivers of growth are in the making, and new areas, poles, and belts of growth are becoming stronger. All-around efforts to deepen reform and make progress in the law-based governance of the country are unleashing new dynamism and bringing new vitality.
- Maintain a medium-high rate of growth. While working to achieve more balanced, inclusive, and sustainable development, we need to ensure that China’s 2010 GDP and per capita personal income double by 2020, that major economic indicators are balanced, and that the quality and efficiency of development is significantly improved. Production will move toward the medium-high end, significant progress will be made in modernising agriculture, information technology will be further integrated into industrialisation, advanced manufacturing and strategic emerging industries will develop more rapidly, new industries and new forms of business will keep growing, and the service sector will come to account for a greater proportion of GDP.
- Achieve significant results in innovation-driven development. We will pursue innovation-driven development, ensure that business startups and innovation flourish, and see that total factor productivity is markedly improved. Science and technology will become more deeply embedded in the economy, the ingredients needed for innovation will be allocated to greater effect, major breakthroughs will be made in core technologies in key sectors, and China’s capacity for innovation will see an all-around improvement. Fulfillment of these goals will help China become a talent-rich country of innovation.
The focus on innovation and the progress of it is somewhat surprising, at least to me:
McKinsey & Company’s report “China’s digital economy – a leading global force” is almost shocking!
Note: China has gone from 0.4% in 2005 to 42% in 2016, in mobile payment the Chinese do 11x more than the Americans, and most surprising of all, in Global Unicorns (start ups > $1 bn) China has 34 vs. US 46 but mostly the same valuation!
In terms of investment China is also already a global leader:
The context here is that China is 1/3 of the global growth impulse (source: IMF) and indirectly 50% of credit – our own Christopher Dembik tracks the China Credit Impulse, which is the flow of credit:
This chart leads real economy by 9-12 months in other words. Nine months from now in mid-2018 China will be in severe slowdown, one which I believe China is creating through control of the banking system in order to to set up the release of productivity investments, where China comes from a level which is 20-30% of the US. The next five years will be one big technology R&D and innovation drive under “Chinese Characterstics”.
Note: We see growth in 5.5% in 2018, 6.0% in 2019, and the current account @ 0% of GDP.
Note: The slowdown in China is already dominant – add Credit Impulse and we have a negative contribution to global growth.
Note: CNY is low down as a basket, but higher vs. USD “naked”. Overall China’s basket will have to drive lower in value to the tune of 1-2% per year.
China is changing and has changed more than the market gives it credit for – the typical Anglo-Saxon economist keeps his focus on banking system and debt, but unlikely the western world, China can accelerate growth through the release of productivity. The US, under President Trump, has chosen to “retire” from the global economy on the fundamentally flawed concept of America First while China is growing its importance, probably best illustrated by this chart:
Now China also wants a new world order in commodities. China will allow exporters to avoid USD payments for CNY or…. gold! A new gold standard? (LINK: Crude, Gold, CNY)
China is enjoying US indecision on foreign policy, which seems to be driven by indecision, spur of the moment changes and randomness. Opposite this sits China, with its One Belt, One Road, Asian Development Bank and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation – there are in excess of three billion people in this alliance – and with Pakistan and India joining in 2015 that number will be four billion by 2050.
– Edited by Clare MacCarthy
Steen Jakobsen is chief economist and CIO at Saxo Bank
Over the last 17 years we have witnessed an increasing loss of confidence by voters in liberal democratic governments around the world. The 17 years have truly exposed the fact that politicians have personal agendas beyond serving the needs of their electorates. As political confidence fails, economic confidence fails soon after. Despite confidence failing, the economy seems to totter on fuelled by the vast money expansion of the last 9 years, unprecedented in human history.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Australia where voters prefer having a “hung parliament” than trusting government. Many Australians feel a sense of unease that something has gone terribly wrong with the “lucky country”. The spontaneous ordering of the Australian electoral process has delivered a series of difficult to govern parliaments reflecting the wishes of voters to minimize damage to themselves. Unfortunately, this situation is also leading to the collapse of political confidence in this country. When that happens, economic confidence fails soon after. Many indicators illustrate an underpinning weakness of the Australian economy and this is accelerating.
Emerging Events foresee a time coming (very soon now) when “The Four D’s” will come to bear in most liberal democratic countries around the world including Australia.
These Four D’s, like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are:
- Deleveraging (reduce debt). In Australia it is not so much public debt that is the issue like the US, Japan, UK, Italy, France and others but private debt held in the form of home loans, car loans and consumer loans. Australians today are loaded with debt and at risk of a severe downturn in the economy and property prices. Remember that any debt is a claim on future labour.
2. Deregulation. Over the last 40 years we have seen a massive growth in the amount of red tape choking our ability to get up and achieve. It was Frederick Hayek, the famous Nobel Prize winning economist who said “there is no better way to enslave a people than to enmesh them in a fine set of regulations”. Disempowering career politicians is a powerful solution to ending their crony ways and getting more people into parliament with real world experience. It can be done by setting term limits for politicians. Let them “serve” the electorate for just a few terms before thanking them and sending them on their way.
Unfortunately politicians need to be seen to be doing their job and of course that job involves passing legislation. It’s actually cheaper to send all those Federal politicians on junket trips overseas than to see them pumping out more legislation. Their need to regulate your life is the Progressive agenda and Progressivism is the “strong presumption that government intervention (force) will produce a better result than voluntary society”. In other words, they know better than you how you should lead your life.
3. Deflating the economy. This really means letting prices of everything find their own level rather than being artificially propped up. Since most asset values are overpriced anyway given the quantity of paper money that has been inflated enormously over the last 40 odd years. What we are suggesting is the value of money be allowed to recalibrate at 2016 values to allow money to once again represent a store of value as property, shares, and others assets do today. In other words it should have equal status as an asset.
The best way of achieving this is by making money a store of value again, thereby stopping politicians from endless borrowing and creating endless inflation. While 1 or 2 % inflation may not seem much, it is enough to keep you like a rat on a treadmill, constantly grinding to maintain your standard of living. It doesn’t have to be this way folks. The rising perception that inequality is increasing in many liberal democratic countries stems directly from the expansion of money supply.
- The first three D’s will happen regardless of all the politicians and all their minions’ attempts to control the levers of the economy and society at large. The belief they have any control is delusional at best and the consequence of this belief in the long term is, inevitably, a totalitarian state. The fourth D, possibly the most important is up to us and possibly the most important in securing all the rights and privileges available to you from the liberal-democratic tradition you have inherited. The fourth D is about decentralizing or devolving power now concentrated in the hands of federal government. By that I mean we need to devolve power concentrated in the hands of federal government to state and local governments.
We need to remember the political class makes its living from centralized power and the attendant division it causes. But why should ordinary Australians accept the false choice between one brand of centralized government and another, when the obvious solution is staring us in the face? Breaking up power politically is far more practical, and far more humane.
There are two pressing questions you need to ask yourself. Is centralized governance desirable in a vast country like Australia with a population of 24 million people? More importantly is it even really possible? Are overarching political solutions workable, or does politics simply enrich Canberra politicians while feeding the rapidly deteriorating social and economic wellbeing most Australians are experiencing?
In politics, the principle that a central authority such as a federal government should have a lesser function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed at a more local level is called “subsidiarity“. Subsidiarity as a peaceful approach for devolving centralized power is the first step toward making government smaller and less powerful in our lives. National and even supra-national governments are the biggest threats to human liberty and flourishing because they have a monopoly on violence and coercion: armies, police, missiles, central banks, economic sanctions, centralised taxation, healthcare and welfare. These are the elements of systemic contagion that should terrify us.
Decentralization of power requires more than just devolution of a few powers here or there, but a society-wide commitment to transferring power, authority, and responsibility back to the grass roots. From federal to state, from state to local government. A diverse society can sustain itself peacefully when its members are committed to solving problems as locally as possible, involving higher levels of government only when absolutely necessary.
Your local council may be incompetent, but at the very least it is far more accessible to you. Its damage is likely to be contained, and your ability to change local council may only require moving a few suburbs away.
Subsidiarity is the most realistic and pragmatic approach to creating more freedom in our lifetimes. Winning majority support for supposedly universalist political principles is a daunting challenge. We would do well instead to consider the Swiss federal model, which champions the subsidiarity principle where:
Powers are allocated to the Confederation, the cantons and the communes in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity. Note this was how the Australian constitution was originally set up.
The Confederation only undertakes tasks that cantons (equivalent of shires) are unable to perform or which require uniform regulation by the Confederation.
Under the principle of subsidiarity, nothing that can be done at a lower political level should be done at a higher level.
One of the problems the EU faces at present is that they have lost sight of the subsidiarity principle. More and more control has been handed to Brussels. This is one of the factors why many Britons decided to vote to leave the EU.
Imagine Bill Shorten or Malcolm Turnbull campaigning on the idea in 2019: “I can’t claim to know what’s best for Maroubra, Sydney or Frankston, Victoria or Bunbury, Western Australia in every situation. I’m not omnipotent, and neither are the 150 members of the Commonwealth House of Representatives. We should leave most things up to the people who actually live in those towns. Vote for me if you agree.”
Subsidiarity is not perfect, just better. Freedom, in the political sense of the word, means the ability to live without government coercion. It does not mean the ability to live under broadly agreed-upon social norms, simply because truly universalist political norms are so elusive.
Free societies don’t attempt to impose themselves politically on electoral minorities any more than they attempt to impose themselves militarily on neighboring countries. Politically unyoking different constituencies in Australia makes far more sense than attempting to contain the hatred and division created by mass majority outcomes.
The world is moving toward decentralization, flattening itself and replacing hierarchies with networks. Subsidiary is real diversity in practice and a key solution to restoring the inequities that have arisen in our societies.
Whether we embrace these Four D’s or not, some or all of them will soon be imposed on us anyway.
Emerging Events examines The Coming Four D’s where Deleveraging, Deregulation, Deflation and Decentralization become the driving forces of change in liberal-democratic nations around the world.
The article focuses on Australia which exemplifies many of the problems liberal-democratic nations face today. We show how “subsidiarity” can bring a peaceful, more content and free society by devolving centralized power.
Countries Are Over
We reported (04/06/2017) prior to the UK General Election 2017:
There is a minor risk of a hung parliament where, like 2010, the new government may have to collaborate to hold office. This would make managing the Brexit process untenable. The loss of political and economic confidence that would ensue would bring chaos to the UK. Should there be an outright victory to Labor, we would see a reversion to the 1950/70’s style politics that would also be a disaster.
Little did we realize how close to the mark we would be. PM May’s electoral disaster has profound repercussions for the UK. Firstly Brexit becomes a challenge at the negotiation table because of the weakened hand PM May presents to the EU. Secondly, Jeremy Corbyn’s success at the polls will force the Conservatives to move to the centre-left of UK politics to capture Corbyn’s new found friends – the 18-34 year demographic that has recently discovered politics and utopian self-interest.
This is a disaster for the UK and will not end well. May’s leadership will be under constant challenge for the next 5 years. One of her few chances of success depends on being able to negotiate a quick exit from the EU. This is unlikely.
As has happened in Australia in 2016, the UK and with a 9% confidence level in US Congress reflecting the rising distrust voters have for politicians. This is a trend that will continue around the world for the foreseeable future. The unintended consequence of voter distrust however is that political confidence begins to fail and economic confidence collapses soon after.
In the United States the Democratic – Republican flash point continues to escalate. President Trump is beginning to claw back a few points against the “Deep State” influence working inside government. Investigations are building cases on leaks and corruption. Trump is slowly gaining momentum with his agenda despite the continual challenge of the left agenda.
Unfortunately the first directly attributable acts of violence have occurred with a Republican Congressman and two police officers wounded at an annual practice baseball session for Congress politicians. The use of violence in political discourse is inherently evil itself and not in keeping with the liberal-democratic tradition that has benefited humanity. Since 2015 we have witnessed an increasing breakdown of civil discourse – a cornerstone of a free society. This marks the first violence of the civil strife we predict emerging in the US. We anticipate this will continue to escalate over the next few years. It will not end well and directly reflects the internal divisions that continue to rent US civil society.
At the same time we move slowly towards The End of the Long Game, the last gasp of the “Industrial Revolution Cycle” that commenced in 1783. We still view the September 2017 – March 2018 time window as the time for that final top, to be followed by the downward phase of the cycle. As always rebirth follows endings and the advance of humanity continues.
This worsening political discord in the US and other liberal democratic countries merely reflect the changing cycle mentioned previously. Given the magnitude of the cycle involved – one that builds and destroys empires, we can glimpse directly at the political and economic forces shaping events and the changes to come.
It’s 2025, and 800,000 tons of used high strength steel is coming up for auction.
The steel made up the Keystone XL pipeline, finally completed in 2019, two years after the project launched with great fanfare after approval by the Trump administration. The pipeline was built at a cost of about $7 billion, bringing oil from the Canadian tar sands to the US, with a pit stop in the town of Baker, Montana, to pick up US crude from the Bakken formation. At its peak, it carried over 500,000 barrels a day for processing at refineries in Texas and Louisiana.
But in 2025, no one wants the oil.
The Keystone XL will go down as the world’s last great fossil fuels infrastructure project. TransCanada, the pipeline’s operator, charged about $10 per barrel for the transportation services, which means the pipeline extension earned about $5 million per day, or $1.8 billion per year. But after shutting down less than four years into its expected 40 year operational life, it never paid back its costs.
The Keystone XL closed thanks to a confluence of technologies that came together faster than anyone in the oil and gas industry had ever seen. It’s hard to blame them — the transformation of the transportation sector over the last several years has been the biggest, fastest change in the history of human civilization, causing the bankruptcy of blue chip companies like Exxon Mobil and General Motors, and directly impacting over $10 trillion in economic output.
And blame for it can be traced to a beguilingly simple, yet fatal problem: the internal combustion engine has too many moving parts.
Let’s bring this back to today: Big Oil is perhaps the most feared and respected industry in history. Oil is warming the planet — cars and trucks contribute about 15% of global fossil fuels emissions — yet this fact barely dents its use. Oil fuels the most politically volatile regions in the world, yet we’ve decided to send military aid to unstable and untrustworthy dictators, because their oil is critical to our own security. For the last century, oil has dominated our economics and our politics. Oil is power.
Yet I argue here that technology is about to undo a century of political and economic dominance by oil. Big Oil will be cut down in the next decade by a combination of smartphone apps, long-life batteries, and simpler gearing. And as is always the case with new technology, the undoing will occur far faster than anyone thought possible.
To understand why Big Oil is in far weaker a position than anyone realizes, let’s take a closer look at the lynchpin of oil’s grip on our lives: the internal combustion engine, and the modern vehicle drivetrain.
Cars are complicated.
Behind the hum of a running engine lies a carefully balanced dance between sheathed steel pistons, intermeshed gears, and spinning rods — a choreography that lasts for millions of revolutions. But millions is not enough, and as we all have experienced, these parts eventually wear, and fail. Oil caps leak. Belts fray. Transmissions seize.
To get a sense of what problems may occur, here is a list of the most common vehicle repairs from 2015:
- Replacing an oxygen sensor — $249
- Replacing a catalytic converter — $1,153
- Replacing ignition coil(s) and spark plug(s) — $390
- Tightening or replacing a fuel cap — $15
- Thermostat replacement — $210
- Replacing ignition coil(s) — $236
- Mass air flow sensor replacement — $382
- Replacing spark plug wire(s) and spark plug(s) — $331
- Replacing evaporative emissions (EVAP) purge control valve — $168
- Replacing evaporative emissions (EVAP) purging solenoid — $184
And this list raises an interesting observation: None of these failures exist in an electric vehicle.
The point has been most often driven home by Tony Seba, a Stanford professor and guru of “disruption”, who revels in pointing out that an internal combustion engine drivetrain contains about 2,000 parts, while an electric vehicle drivetrain contains about 20. All other things being equal, a system with fewer moving parts will be more reliable than a system with more moving parts.
And that rule of thumb appears to hold for cars. In 2006, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimated that the average vehicle, built solely on internal combustion engines, lasted 150,000 miles.
Current estimates for the lifetime today’s electric vehicles are over 500,000 miles.
The ramifications of this are huge, and bear repeating. Ten years ago, when I bought my Prius, it was common for friends to ask how long the battery would last — a battery replacement at 100,000 miles would easily negate the value of improved fuel efficiency. But today there are anecdotal stories of Prius’s logging over 600,000 miles on a single battery.
The story for Teslas is unfolding similarly. Tesloop, a Tesla-centric ride-hailing company has already driven its first Model S for more 200,000 miles, and seen only an 6% loss in battery life. A battery lifetime of 1,000,000 miles may even be in reach.
This increased lifetime translates directly to a lower cost of ownership: extending an EVs life by 3–4 X means an EVs capital cost, per mile, is 1/3 or 1/4 that of a gasoline-powered vehicle. Better still, the cost of switching from gasoline to electricity delivers another savings of about 1/3 to 1/4 per mile. And electric vehicles do not need oil changes, air filters, or timing belt replacements; the 200,000 mile Tesloop never even had its brakes replaced. The most significant repair cost on an electric vehicle is from worn tires.
For emphasis: The total cost of owning an electric vehicle is, over its entire life, roughly 1/4 to 1/3 the cost of a gasoline-powered vehicle.
Of course, with a 500,000 mile life a car will last 40–50 years. And it seems absurd to expect a single person to own just one car in her life.
But of course a person won’t own just one car. The most likely scenario is that, thanks to software, a person won’t own any.
Here is the problem with electric vehicle economics: A dollar today, invested into the stock market at a 7% average annual rate of return, will be worth $15 in 40 years. Another way of saying this is the value, today, of that 40th year of vehicle use is approximately 1/15th that of the first.
The consumer simply has little incentive to care whether or not a vehicle lasts 40 years. By that point the car will have outmoded technology, inefficient operation, and probably a layer of rust. No one wants their car to outlive their marriage.
But that investment logic looks very different if you are driving a vehicle for a living.
A New York City cab driver puts in, on average, 180 miles per shift (well within the range of a modern EV battery), or perhaps 50,000 miles per work year. At that usage rate, the same vehicle will last roughly 10 years. The economics, and the social acceptance, get better.
And if the vehicle was owned by a cab company, and shared by drivers, the miles per year can perhaps double again. Now the capital is depreciated in 5 years, not 10. This is, from a company’s perspective, a perfectly normal investment horizon.
A fleet can profit from an electric vehicle in a way that an individual owner cannot.
Here is a quick, top-down analysis on what it’s worth to switch to EVs: The IRS allows charges of 53.5¢ per mile in 2017, a number clearly derived for gasoline vehicles. At 1/4 the price, a fleet electric vehicle should cost only 13¢ per mile, a savings of 40¢ per mile.
40¢ per mile is not chump change — if you are a NYC cab driver putting 50,000 miles a year onto a vehicle, that’s $20,000 in savings each year. But a taxi ride in NYC today costs $2/mile; that same ride, priced at $1.60 per mile, will still cost significantly more than the 53.5¢ for driving the vehicle you already own. The most significant cost of driving is still the driver.
And here is what is disruptive for Big Oil: Self-driving vehicles get to combine the capital savings from the improved lifetime of EVs, with the savings from eliminating the driver.
The costs of electric self-driving cars will be so low, it will be cheaper to hail a ride than to drive the car you already own.
Today we view automobiles not merely as transportation, but as potent symbols of money, sex, and power. Yet cars are also fundamentally a technology. And history has told us that technologies can be disrupted in the blink of an eye.
Take as an example my own 1999 job interview with the Eastman Kodak company. It did not go well.
At the end of 1998, my father had gotten me a digital camera as a present to celebrate completion of my PhD. The camera took VGA resolution pictures — about 0.3 megapixels — and saved them to floppy disks. By comparison, a conventional film camera had a nominal resolution of about 6 megapixels. When printed, my photos looked more like impressionist art than reality.
However, that awful, awful camera was really easy to use. I never had to go to the store to buy film. I never had to get pictures printed. I never had to sort through a shoebox full of crappy photos. Looking at pictures became fun.
I asked my interviewer what Kodak thought of the rise of digital; she replied it was not a concern, that film would be around for decades. I looked at her like she was nuts. But she wasn’t nuts, she was just deep in the Kodak culture, a world where film had always been dominant, and always would be.
This graph plots the total units sold of film cameras (grey) versus digital (blue, bars cut off). In 1998, when I got my camera, the market share of digital wasn’t even measured. It was a rounding error.
By 2005, the market share of film cameras were a rounding error.
In seven years, the camera industry had flipped. The film cameras went from residing on our desks, to a sale on Craigslist, to a landfill. Kodak, a company who reached a peak market value of $30 billion in 1997, declared bankruptcy in 2012. An insurmountable giant was gone.
That was fast. But industries can turn even faster: In 2007, Nokia had 50% of the mobile phone market, and its market cap reached $150 billion. But that was also the year Apple introduced the first smartphone. By the summer of 2012, Nokia’s market share had dipped below 5%, and its market cap fell to just $6 billion.
In less than five years, another company went from dominance to afterthought.A quarter-by-quarter summary of Nokia’s market share in cell phones. From Statista.
Big Oil believes it is different. I am less optimistic for them.
An autonomous vehicle will cost about $0.13 per mile to operate, and even less as battery life improves. By comparison, your 20 miles per gallon automobile costs $0.10 per mile to refuel if gasoline is $2/gallon, and that is before paying for insurance, repairs, or parking. Add those, and the price of operating a vehicle you have already paid off shoots to $0.20 per mile, or more.
And this is what will kill oil: It will cost less to hail an autonomous electric vehicle than to drive the car that you already own.
If you think this reasoning is too coarse, consider the recent analysis from the consulting company RethinkX (run by the aforementioned Tony Seba), which built a much more detailed, sophisticated model to explicitly analyze the future costs of autonomous vehicles. Here is a sampling of what they predict:
- Self-driving cars will launch around 2021
- A private ride will be priced at 16¢ per mile, falling to 10¢ over time.
- A shared ride will be priced at 5¢ per mile, falling to 3¢ over time.
- By 2022, oil use will have peaked
- By 2023, used car prices will crash as people give up their vehicles. New car sales for individuals will drop to nearly zero.
- By 2030, gasoline use for cars will have dropped to near zero, and total crude oil use will have dropped by 30% compared to today.
The driver behind all this is simple: Given a choice, people will select the cheaper option.
Your initial reaction may be to believe that cars are somehow different — they are built into the fabric of our culture. But consider how people have proven more than happy to sell seemingly unyielding parts of their culture for far less money. Think about how long a beloved mom and pop store lasts after Walmart moves into town, or how hard we try to “Buy American” when a cheaper option from China emerges.
And autonomous vehicles will not only be cheaper, but more convenient as well — there is no need to focus on driving, there will be fewer accidents, and no need to circle the lot for parking. And your garage suddenly becomes a sunroom.
For the moment, let’s make the assumption that the RethinkX team has their analysis right (and I broadly agree): Self-driving EVs will be approved worldwide starting around 2021, and adoption will occur in less than a decade.
How screwed is Big Oil?
Perhaps the metaphors with film camera or cell phones are stretched. Perhaps the better way to analyze oil is to consider the fate of another fossil fuel: coal.
The coal market is experiencing a shock today similar to what oil will experience in the 2020s. Below is a plot of total coal production and consumption in the US, from 2001 to today. As inexpensive natural gas has pushed coal out of the market, coal consumption has dropped roughly 25%, similar to the 30% drop that RethinkX anticipates for oil. And it happened in just a decade.
The result is not pretty. The major coal companies, who all borrowed to finance capital improvements while times were good, were caught unaware. As coal prices crashed, their loan payments became a larger and larger part of their balance sheets; while the coal companies could continue to pay for operations, they could not pay their creditors.
The four largest coal producers lost 99.9% of their market value over the last 6 years. Today, over half of coal is being mined by companies in some form of bankruptcy.
When self-driving cars are released, consumption of oil will similarly collapse.
Oil drilling will cease, as existing fields become sufficient to meet demand. Refiners, whose huge capital investments are dedicated to producing gasoline for automobiles, will write off their loans, and many will go under entirely. Even some pipeline operators, historically the most profitable portion of the oil business, will be challenged as high cost supply such as the Canadian tar sands stop producing.
A decade from now, many investors in oil may be wiped out. Oil will still be in widespread use, even under this scenario — applications such as road tarring are not as amenable to disruption by software. But much of today’s oil drilling, transport, and refining infrastructure will be redundant, or ill-fit to handle the heavier oils needed for powering ships, heating buildings, or making asphalt. And like today’s coal companies, oil companies like TransCanada may have no money left to clean up the mess they’ve left.
Of course, it would be better for the environment, investors, and society if oil companies curtailed their investing today, in preparation for the long winter ahead. Belief in global warming or the risks of oil spills is no longer needed to oppose oil projects — oil infrastructure like the Keystone XL will become a stranded asset before it can ever return its investment.
Unless we have the wisdom not to build it.
The battle over oil has historically been a personal battle — a skirmish between tribes over politics and morality, over how we define ourselves and our future. But the battle over self-driving cars will be fought on a different front. It will be about reliability, efficiency, and cost. And for the first time, Big Oil will be on the weaker side.
Within just a few years, Big Oil will stagger and start to fall. For anyone who feels uneasy about this, I want to emphasize that this prediction isn’t driven by environmental righteousness or some left-leaning fantasy. It’s nothing personal. It’s just business.
 Thinking about how fast a technology will flip is worth another post on its own. Suffice it to say that the key issues are (1) how big is the improvement?, and (2) is there a channel to market already established? The improvement in this case is a drop in cost of >2X — that’s pretty large. And the channel to market — smartphones — is already deployed. As of a year ago, 15% of Americans had hailed a ride using an app, so there is a small barrier to entry as people learn this new behavior, but certainly no larger than the barrier to smartphone adoption was in 2007. So as I said, I broadly believe that the roll-out will occur in about a decade. But any more detail would require an entirely new post.
The following video illustrates the power of small events to trigger large events. The Great Depression of 1929-33 was triggered, for example, by the default of a small bank in Austria called Creditanstalt. It declared bankruptcy on 11 May 1931 and was one of the first major bank failures that initiated the Great Depression at a global level.
As Henry Hazlitt explains:
“the bad economist sees only what immediately strikes the eye; the good economist also looks beyond. The bad economist sees only the direct consequences of the proposed course; the good economist looks also at the longer and indirect consequences.”
Nowhere is the power of small events more apparent than in politics and economics. The recent UK General Election has unleashed a bevy of unintended consequences some of which will not be realized for decades to come.
In the UK, the conservatives it appears, will win a reduced majority to govern the UK and Brexit process. It is also clear that a loss or hung parliament for the Conservatives will set the UK back a hundred years politically and economically in the confusion and discord it would sew.
There is a minor risk of a hung parliament where, like 2010, the new government may have to collaborate to hold office. This would make managing the Brexit process untenable. The loss of political and economic confidence that would ensue would bring chaos to the UK. Should there be an outright victory to Labor, we would see a reversion to the 1950/70’s style politics that would also be a disaster.
So, the stakes are just as high as they were in June 2016. What was a ‘sure thing’ bet at the start of the election process has become marginal at a time when the consequences are high. The spontaneous ordering of the voting process may check politicians from being able to achieve their agenda at the expense of the national interest. What hubris by PM May who put personal agenda ahead of the national political interest.
This is typical of the problems found in liberal democracies. Liberal democracies around the world are dying. Voters are cynical of the promises and ability of politicians to achieve anything.
Ironically, the EU have hailed Macron’s victory as a sign that right wing populism has peaked and in remission. With no mirror for self reflection the EU elite are back at ‘business as usual’. “Nothing to look at here – move on”! They needed a Le Pen win to shock them into making real change. Macron’s victory has only deferred the inevitable by a year. Meanwhile, the political change that is sweeping the world at present will continue with German elections in October this year. Merkel it appears is set for a heavy defeat.
And in the USA the left wing is continuing its attempt to undermine President Trump and effectively ignore the rule of law. Left wing forces operating at every level of US media, government and politics are moving to impeach Trump. Meanwhile the silent majority that elected Trump are watching and waiting and growing angry.
The last time we saw his level of scale of political unrest was 1740 – 1785 culminating in the French Revolution. The rising tide of political unrest in the USA, UK and EU is polarized by left vs right as well as the elite vs the people. Remember, when political confidence falters, economic confidence falls soon after. This is what is happening now. As pressures continue to mount in the USA and EU there is increasing risk of civil strife breaking out.
The phase June 2017 to December 2018 remains a time of escalating risk. Over this 18 month time frame, what transpires will shape the world and its history for the next 12 years and set up the circumstances that will shape the rest of this century.
Housing affordability is attracting the attention of politicians as concern rises that a housing bubble has made homes too expensive. So far, none of the discussions have really addressed the problems. Several key points can be made here from a futurist perspective.
The housing problem…..
Sitting on the left wing agenda is the view that negative gearing of investment properties is a necessary step to making housing more affordable. Government is short of cash. You can see this happening in most liberal democratic countries around the world and should merely be seen as another tax grab. For this reason alone politicians will close the negative gearing window.
Cancelling negative gearing will have the long term effect of driving up rents causing a severe shortage of rental properties. That wont affect the politicians however who vote for the negative gearing “reform” as they will have disappeared into retirement.
Pre-2016 election talk suggested a grandfather clause to existing investment property holders. The time between initiating the legislation to when it goes into effect creates a window for people to grab up properties for investment purposes. The short and sharp buying frenzy in conjunction with this kind of policy or news would be typical of a major long term top for Australian property markets. This kind of event is common in financial markets when changes of trend occur at the end of a long term market. Policy or news has caught up too late. It always results in a major reversal. We might anticipate the peak of the Australian property market would last decades.
Other proposed measures include first home owners being allowed to access superannuation to form a deposit. When first home owner grants were introduced in 2000, property prices for new homes jumped by multiples of the $7000 grant. This reflected the increased purchasing power an extra $7000 had on loan to valuation ratios. If super is allowed into the equation we’ll see property prices once again jump higher as builders respond to improved loan ratios.
Part of the affordability solution……..
One issue that never gets discussed is the supply related issues created by government themselves. In many capital cities around the world, including Australia, housing affordability is often the unintended consequence of regulatory bottlenecks where zoning, building regulations and permits choke the flow of new supply and drive up the cost of housing. Clearly this needs to be addressed and would go a long way towards addressing the affordability issue.Another issue under the microscope where investors hold a property seeking only capital gains by leaving the property untenanted. If governments must be seen to be doing something, a tax on properties untenanted for longer than say 3 months would take the heat off buyers as they realize the benefits renting over buying bring in an overheated property market.
Suffice to say the long term direction of Australian property values are coming to a head in conjunction with other Australian and global social, political and economic issues. Housing affordability is just another issue along with many others whose origins lie decades in the past and whose solution cannot be answered by politicians or central planners
The pendulum of government overreach has peaked in most liberal democratic countries around the world (for now). The major political events of 2016 have shown increasing resistance to government given the rising number of breaches in civil liberties and failure of government to identify and respond to the disenfranchised members of their societies.
Many segments of society have felt themselves becoming impoverishment. At the same time they have watched the hubris, greed and failure of politicians to deliver solutions to resolve the various politically made crises. One of the recurring questions that will emerge is the role of government in the lives of people.
By the time politicians’ hubris has completely evaporated, the nature of liberal democratic countries will have changed. We see major risk of political, economic and social upheaval occurring between now and 2028-2033 This phase may extend before social, political and economic stability becomes the norm. As always the pendulum will one day swing again towards increasing government involvement in the lives and affairs of ordinary people.
All the elements are in place for a political meltdown with the coming election. The circumstances of this election are very similar to the Brexit vote that caused an earthquake.
- There is a large disenfranchised portion of the US electorate.
- Establishment seeks to maintain the status quo.
- Widespread disgust at both presidential candidates.
- Media is holding a heavily biased standpoint on the outcome of the election result.
- Financial markets are coiling in preparation for a large move based on the result.
- Fears of vote rigging, mudslinging by both candidates, the focus is on personalities rather than issues leaving a gridlocked political system.
Most of these points were present in the Brexit vote.
The underlying social mood is one pointing to a political meltdown. If Trump wins, Democrats have rumored to be plotting some sort of nullification of the election result. It is also unacceptable to the establishment that Trump would win as he has threatened to tear down the status quo. If Clinton wins, all the corruption scandals will be brought before the courts and her presidency will be mired by political, legal & criminal scandals.
The social environment is volatile and ripe for serious political disruption as people seek to express the powerful social mood that has been building for several years. We consider the election will serve as the catalyst for the start for a political meltdown lasting many years. Following in quick attendance will be the subsequent loss of economic confidence.
We still predict a spike to the upside following the election – being the last gasp of the stock markets. This will be followed in 2017 by a surge in inflation and a devastating shift in US interest rates.
All of this is characteristic of a major top that is forming in economic, social and political terms. It is akin to the rise and peak of an empire. We are witnessing a major turning point in history and a completion of a long term cycle of human endeavor. This is covered in our main article theme the End of the Long Game 2009 -2018.
It took two weeks to resolve the final outcome of the national election. It left a Liberal government in power but without a majority in the Senate. The result has continued the ongoing risk element in Australian politics. Should government fail to deliver or introduces any form of controversial legislation, we may expect blocking in the Senate. Not quite the ‘hung parliament’ suggested but a second best – with a kind of severe arm lock if government steps beyond its mandate.
The voters got what they wanted. Through the mysterious spontaneous ordering process, the electoral process has communicated the deep level of cynicism Australians have towards politicians. It also reflects that no politician really has any clear solution or way forward for society and economy. And so voters have ensured that politicians can’t get away with too much. Little has been said by politicians that offers any resonance with voters.
Economic, social and political restructuring is needed to set Australia on course for its next phase. The electorate is exhausted by the constant personality bicker of politicians and their inability to tackle the big issues. Politicians have delivered a consistent message for over a decade that political self interest is more important than the people. Accordingly, many believe the economic and social decline experienced by Australians is set to continue.
Unfortunately, without a clear vision from government and a high risk of being blocked by the Senate, Australia remains in an entropic state with a continuing risk of stagnation. This trend may start to accelerate as capital outflows intensify over late 2016/2017 into US dollars. We anticipate inflation in the USA will climb rapidly over the next 1-2 years. Capital will be sucked from the EU and periphery including Australia. This will indeed be the last gasp of the ‘end of the long game.’
Charles Hugh Smith writing on his blog Of Two Minds:
The end-state of unsustainable systems is collapse. Though collapse may appear to be sudden and chaotic, we can discern key structures that guide the processes of collapse.
Though the subject is complex enough to justify an entire shelf of books, these six dynamics are sufficient to illuminate the inevitable collapse of the status quo.
1. Doing more of what has failed spectacularly. The leaders of the status quo inevitably keep doing more of what worked in the past, even when it no longer works. Indeed, the failure only increases the leadership’s push to new extremes of what has failed spectacularly. At some point, this single-minded pursuit of failed policies speeds the system’s collapse.
2. Emergency measures become permanent policies. The status quo’s leaders expect the system to right itself once emergency measures stabilize a crisis. But broken systems cannot right themselves, and so the leadership is forced to make temporary emergency measures (such as lowering interest rates to zero) permanent policy. This increases the fragility of the system, as any attempt to end the emergency measures triggers a system-threatening crisis.
3. Diminishing returns on status quo solutions. Back when the economic tree was loaded with low-hanging fruit, solutions such as lowering interest rates had a large multiplier effect. But as the tree is stripped of fruit, the returns on these solutions diminish to zero.
4. Declining social mobility. As the economic pie shrinks, the privileged maintain or increase their share, and the slice left to the disenfranchised shrinks. As the privileged take care of their own class, there are fewer slots open for talented outsiders. The status quo is slowly starved of talent and the ranks of those opposed to the status quo swell with those denied access to the top rungs of the social mobility ladder.
5. The social order loses cohesion and shared purpose as the social-economic classes pull apart. The top of the wealth/power pyramid no longer serves in the armed forces, and withdraws from contact with the lower classes. Lacking a unifying social purpose, each class pursues its self-interests to the detriment of the nation and society as a whole.
6. Strapped for cash as tax revenues decline, the state borrows more money and devalues its currency as a means of maintaining the illusion that it can fulfill all its promises. As the purchasing power of the currency declines, people lose faith in the state’s currency. Once faith is lost, the value of the currency declines rapidly and the state’s insolvency is revealed.
Each of these dynamics is easily visible in the global status quo.
As an example of doing more of what has failed spectacularly, consider how financialization inevitably inflates speculative bubbles, which eventually crash with devastating consequences. But since the status quo is dependent on financialization for its income, the only possible response is to increase debt and speculation—the causes of the bubble and its collapse—to inflate another bubble. In other words, do more of what failed spectacularly.
This process of doing more of what failed spectacularly appears sustainable for a time, but this superficial success masks the underlying dynamic of diminishing returns: each reflation of the failed system requires greater commitments of capital and debt. Financialization is pushed to new unprecedented extremes, as nothing less will generate the desired bubble.
This stimulus works well in the first downturn, but less well in the second and not at all in the third, for the simple reason that interest rates have been dropped to zero and credit has been increased to near-infinite.
The last desperate push to do more of what failed spectacularly is for central banks to lower interest rates to below-zero: it costs depositors money to leave their cash in the bank. This last-ditch policy is now firmly entrenched in Europe, and many expect it to spread around the world as central banks have exhausted less extreme policies.
The status quo’s primary imperative is self-preservation, and this imperative drives the falsification of data to sell the public on the idea that prosperity is still rising and the elites are doing an excellent job of managing the economy.
Since real reform would threaten those at the top of the wealth/power pyramid, fake reforms and fake economic data become the order of the day.
Leaders face a no-win dilemma: any change of course will crash the system, but maintaining the current course will also crash the system.
Welcome to 2016-2019.
Columnist Mohamed A. El-Erian writing for Bloomberg, republished in Marketwatch
Technical innovation is all around us, yet countries including the U.S. don’t know how to adapt to change.
Mohamed El-Erian: ‘Western political and economic structures are, in some ways, specifically designed to resist deep and rapid change, if only to prevent temporary and reversible fluctuations from having an undue influence on underlying systems.’
One of the most difficult challenges facing Western governments today is to enable and channel the transformative — and, for individuals and companies, self-empowering — forces of technological innovation.
They will not succeed unless they become more open to creative destruction, allowing not only tools and procedures, but also mindsets, to be revamped and upgraded. The longer it takes them to meet this challenge, the bigger the lost opportunities for current and future generations.
Self-empowering technological innovation is all around us, affecting a growing number of people, sectors, and activities worldwide. Through an ever-increasing number of platforms, it is now easier than ever for households and corporations to access and engage in an expanding range of activities — from urban transportation to accommodation, entertainment, and media. Even the regulation-reinforced, fortress-like walls that have traditionally surrounded finance and medicine are being eroded.
This historic transformation will continue to gain momentum as it expands in both scale and scope. But its benefits will not be fully realized unless governments take steps to empower the forces of change, ensure that the massive positive externalities are internalized, and minimize the negative impacts. Unfortunately, this is proving extremely difficult for many advanced-country governments, partly because the failure to recover fully from the recent crisis and recession has undermined their credibility and functioning.
The emergence of anti-establishment and non-traditional political parties and candidates on both sides of the Atlantic is complicating even the most basic elements of economic governance, such as enactment of an active budget in the United States. In this context, taking the steps needed to upgrade economic systems, including infrastructure in the U.S. and the incomplete union in Europe, or to meet historical challenges like the refugee crisis, seems all but impossible.
In fact, Western political and economic structures are, in some ways, specifically designed to resist deep and rapid change, if only to prevent temporary and reversible fluctuations from having an undue influence on underlying systems. This works well when politics and economies are operating in cyclical mode, as they usually have been in the West. But when major structural and secular challenges arise, as is the case today, the advanced countries’ institutional architecture acts as a major obstacle to effective action.
The political influence of financial donors and lobby groups add to the challenge. Rather than promoting actions aimed at improving the long-term well-being of the system as a whole, these actors tend to push micro objectives, some of which help the traditional, often wealthy elements of the establishment maintain their grip on the system. In doing so, they block the small and emerging players that are so vital to upgrading and transformation.
All of this serves to complicate an imperative that is relevant not just to governments, but also to companies and individuals that must adapt to changing circumstances by upgrading their structures, procedures, skills, and mindsets. Few are eager to self-disrupt, a process that takes us out of our comfort zone, forcing us to confront our long-standing blind spots and unconscious biases and adopt a new mindset. But those who wait until the disruptions are unavoidable — easy to do when governments do not mount a timely response — will miss out on the huge advantages that technology offers.
Even when governments decide to implement policies that enable economic upgrading and adaptation, they cannot do so in isolation. With technology enabling unprecedented mobility and connectivity, the jurisdictional power of nation-states is being eroded, meaning that a truly effective response — one that unleashes the full benefits of disruptive technologies — is impossible without multilateral cooperation and coordination.
But multilateralism is undergoing a transformation of its own, driven by doubts about the legitimacy of existing structures. With reforms of the traditionally Western-dominated institutions having stalled, there have been moves to create alternatives; China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, for example, competes directly with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank in some areas. All of this makes global-level responses more difficult.
Against this background, a rapid and comprehensive transformation is clearly not feasible. (In fact, it may not even be desirable, given the possibility of collateral damage and unintended consequences.) The best option for Western governments is thus to pursue gradual change, propelled by a variety of adaptive instruments, which would reach a critical mass over time.
Such tools include well-designed public-private partnerships, especially when it comes to modernizing infrastructure; disruptive outside advisers — selected not for what they think, but for how they think — in the government decision-making process; mechanisms to strengthen inter-agency coordination so that it enhances, rather than retards, policy responsiveness; and broader cross-border private-sector linkages to enhance multilateral coordination.
How economies function is changing, as relative power shifts from established, centralized forces toward those that respond to the unprecedented empowerment of individuals. If governments are to overcome the challenges they face and maximize the benefits of this shift for their societies, they need to be a lot more open to self-disruption. Otherwise, the transformative forces will leave them and their citizens behind.
Mohamed A. El-Erian, chief economic adviser at Allianz and a member of its International Executive Committee, is chairman of U.S. President Barack Obama’s Global Development Council and the author, most recently, of “When Markets Collide.”
Too hot for habitation, Singapore in 2065 houses its people in cooled caverns underground, who connect via virtual media, not face to face.
Imagine the year 2065, when you mention “Singapore,” you no longer refer to an island but a Corporation. Singapore Incorporated runs several suburbs in northern India and China, populated by a diaspora that had abandoned the island founded by Raffles.
With the rising sea level and temperatures bearing down at almost 40 deg C due to climate change, the island is now 202 sq km, whose reclaimed land has long been swallowed by the sea and is often buffeted by tsunami-like waves.
What was once a bustling city with towering skyscrapers now stands empty, as a testimony of a bygone era, while the majority of the mobile labour force have since abandoned the city and moved to satellite towns operated by Singapore Inc in the more temperate countries. Those who could not leave the island to better climes had retreated underground.
Only 30 per cent of the population of Singaporeans still live on the island, albeit underground. These are the ones without the resources to relocate to better suburbs of Singapore Inc in the more temperate countries.
Subsidised air-conditioned Housing Board flats dominate the landscape of quarried pits under central Singapore island, illuminated by industrial strength LED lights, leaving residents to view a perpetual night silhouette of the city.
Manufacturing and service industries in Singapore are kept to a bare minimum since the now-defunct Copenhagen Agreement, and then the new Melbourne Initiative, has cut global emissions by almost five times the levels that they were in 2010.
Not many residents of the island actually live topside, exposed to the natural elements. In fact, hardly anyone actually ventures above ground. The heat is unbearable and only a small pocket of residents, collectively known as Faith Spacers, are willing to live in areas around Seletar Reservoir, occupying what was once the Teachers’ Quarters in Seletar Airbase.
Besides the poor, of those who have chosen to remain on the island are the intelligentsia who reside in the research institutions, primarily at the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University.
The other private institutions have moved away to other more landlocked locales. These institutions are no longer comprehensive universities but are instead part of a larger network of schools that have pooled resources across the world in order to conduct online courses. Since no one attends lectures any more, everything is experienced virtually in one’s own home.
Seventy per cent of the population live in satellite towns in India and China, where the climate is relatively comfortable. The Singapore Government wisely leased several large pockets of lands in relatively colder areas, away from the main cities in India and China in the 2030s.
These areas were relatively undeveloped at the time and the Chinese and Indian governments were more than happy to lease the areas to be developed by Singapore Inc.
By the time temperatures started to soar in the 2020s, many of these satellite towns had already developed the infrastructure that allowed Singaporeans and, later, foreign talent to live in a temperate and efficiently run suburb of Singapore Inc. Jurong Town Corporation developed the land while the Immigration Authority managed the inflows and outflows of migrants in order to maintain the growth rates of the cities.
The global repercussions of climate change have also been felt all over the world. The driver of the world economy is no longer the US, whose unbearable temperatures have seen many migrate over to Canada, leaving the balance of power to reside more and more in the hands of northern territories.
The northern part of China and Russia, as well as Nordic countries, now supply most of the world’s needed agricultural products while countries in the tropics, such as in South-east Asia as well as India and Africa, are the world’s suppliers of solar energy. These countries are tapped into a worldwide grid which sells its energy supply to a central depository, which in turn resells it to the rest of the world. Imagine that the United Nations is now headquartered in Iceland.
The knowledge economy has fizzled away like discarded old oyster sauce, fermented by its own infertile imagination clinging to the past: a focus on mobile devices or the push towards more computing power. In its wake came the virtual economy. In the early 2000s, Singapore had opened its doors to animation companies, especially companies working on 3D technologies with the goal of supplying the movie industry. However in the 2020s, with the rising temperatures also came the emergence of new strains of viruses in the vein of Ebola and Sars, which created widespread pandemics. Policymakers around the world closed their borders to travellers, concerned with the spread of these deadly diseases.
In fact, even within local populations, new laws were enacted to enable one to minimise contact with fellow human beings. Social laws were passed which made gatherings of more than 10 people in one room illegal. Soon the closed-door policy resulted in the movie industry collapsing. In today’s world one has to go through a complicated set of protocols in order to organise a gathering.
The authorities have the right to forcibly incarcerate anyone suspected of harbouring a deadly disease. Those suspected of being bioterrorists are cryogenically incarcerated before they are shipped to holding tanks on prison ships which are fully automatised and run remotely by human operators in Singapore Inc’s headquarters in Gansu, China. Singapore Inc runs some of the world’s largest ship prisons.
Technology companies then scrambled to meet a new demand: the demand for social interactions without needing face-to-face interaction. Temasek Holdings rushed into the forefront, relocating promising tech companies to the island of Singapore where they provided these companies state-of-the-art facilities in underground caverns, which were modelled after the New York skyline. Artificial lighting and green spaces using lichens and mosses were expertly interwoven into the very fabric of underground living. With full artistic licence given to these companies, Singapore then became the leading nation to export liveable realities.
This mass commercialisation of exported experiences resulted in Singapore coming to the forefront of the global demand for entertainment. Singapore levied a high corporate tax rate in particular on this industry, in exchange for maintaining the underground city and providing 24/7 services to the tech companies.
In spite of these social improvements, Faith Spacers choose to disregard the safety protocols. They have chosen to remain on the main island where they meet in groups beyond the stipulated 10.
They refuse all contact with wearable technology but instead actively seek outdoor activities in teams. They restore antiquated bicycles and use them to traverse the island, establishing new outposts called Faith Spaces, where they encourage face-to-face contact. They describe it as a religious experience: the personal connection with people, without the use of technology.
This counterculture is currently an annoyance to the safety of the majority of the populace; however, since they have chosen to bypass the general public, the authorities turned a blind eye, as they continue to remain a small minority.
• The writer is an associate professor at the Centre for Economic Research in Shandong University, China.
Starting in Europe and reaching public consciousness when Japan implodes before engulfing the USA and remaining Liberal-Democratic nations.
The Great Sovereign Debt Crisis of the 21st Century is steadily gaining momentum. The forces of deflation have been steadily building since 2000 and the stage is set over the next 6-12 months where the reality of public plundering of the means of production comes home to roost. The weight of public and private debt, government regulation and leverage, fraudulent economics and fallacious political thinking that assumes that if you keep taking and spending other people’s money you will never ever run out!
Yet this is exactly what is happening. The politicians have borrowed to deliver on promises they were never going to be around to see delivered. They’ve debased the their currency and now we have reached the problem that there is so much debt in the world that the world does not have enough income to service that debt.
Historically its happened many times before of course and yet we never seem to learn. Empires grow and prosper, politicians make promises, governments and people borrow and everyone takes for granted the wealth that has been achieved until finally, it all collapses. History records the rise and fall of civilizations on exactly this premise. It’s always government and the self-seeking of leaders that cause civilizations to self-destruct.
While we observe the rise and fall of empires due to reasons of currency debasement or war, we can also observe that these are merely the mechanisms that cause the problems. Behind them lies the cyclic nature of humanity. Deep in the limbic system of the human brain reside deep impulses that play out at individual and aggregate levels.
We might look back at the Tulip Mania Bubble of the Dutch Golden Age (1634-1637) and wonder how people might have been so crazy as to invest in tulips. The Tulip Mania occurred on the back of a Europe-wide debasement of coins (1619-1622) used to finance war. Yet they did and future historians will look back at early 21st century share, commodity, real estate prices and wonder “how could they have been so blind?”Debasement of the currency has occurred this time by closing the link between gold and paper money and the massive printing of money that subsequently occurred. Each era brings the usual excuse “this time its different”. But the same debasing of money, the same political hubris, the same grasp for political power create the same drivers that cause the boom and the bust.
We watch at the moment the European debt drama playing out in Greece. Other nations sit on the edge of potential debt crises including Spain, Portugal, Italy, Puerto Rica and various cities of the US. This is just the beginning. Soon we shall see the debt crisis spreading to northern Europe, Japan, China and the US. Its about sovereign debt of course, the debt accumulated by generations of politicians spending other people’s money.In Japan they experienced this in the early 1930’s when massive money printing operations inflated their economy. It resulted in the assassination of the Finance Minister and Prime Minister, the establishment of the military as the power brokers of Japanese politics and the beginnings of the build up for for WWII. That didn’t end well for the Japanese people.
Between 1740 and 1783, the French experienced it with the massive indebtedness of the monarchy, high taxes, high levels of regulation and cronyism led to the French Revolution, Napoleon and a final defeat in 1815.
Pax Romana followed a similar path where eventually the debasement of the currency and accumulated debt caused the empire to implode. To look at Pax Americana is to see an identical script unfolding. Massively unsustainable debt levels, vast militarization, endless monetary debasement, constitutional decay and subjugation of citizens by taxation, regulation and blatant spying signal, as it has in many previous civilizations, the demise of this short lived empire.
Using financial markets as a barometer we observe markets in major topping patterns, working out of main trends. The next 3-6 months will prove critical in determining if the Great Sovereign Debt Crisis has truly arrived or if there is still enough gas in the tank for one last sprint before the weight of debt, regulation and political hubris bring down the liberal – democratic nations of the world. Once again the cyclic nature of human egress and regress is playing out at individual and aggregate levels and from where we stand, major and minor cycles of human endeavor are changing direction. Crisis bring danger and opportunity for those so prepared.
By Martin Armstrong of Armstrong Economics:
Further evidence that 2015.75 is really the peak in a Massive Debt Bubble: The Middle East has always been on a cash basis as their revenues from oil exempted them from ever borrowing money – that is not the case today.
As oil prices rose, spending programs also anticipated no end in sight. So as oil peaked and has begun a technology-shift bear market, those spending programs are causing budget deficits to appear in the Middle East for the first time. Not only has Saudi Arabia issued its first bond issue of $4 billion to cover budget deficits, other countries may follow in the region.
The May turning point has indeed been a profound turn on the long-term setting the stage for the reversal in the short-term come 2015.75. If you can comprehend how everything is connected, you can see these events coming. Since May, Saudi Arabia’s foreign assets have entered crash mode. In May, foreign asset holdings fell over $672 billion. Saudi Arabia sold assets drawing down its reserves to cover the budget deficit.
Comparative advantages between countries creates opportunities for sick people needing treatment. In many government run health care systems it can be cheaper to travel to another country and be treated there. You jump the waiting queue and the costs are much more affordable where you are required to pay some or all of the cost.
Traveling from the USA to Mexico for treatments such as dental care and other small procedures is well known. Thailand is well known as a Medical Tourist destination with excellent facilities and extremely cost effective. Singapore is well known as a destination for advanced procedures for wealthy Indonesians and Africans.
As more government run healthcare systems become bogged down by regulation, burgeoning costs, under-resourcing and underfunding, even governments will see Medical Tourism as a partial solution to their problems. A health insurance provider will examine the local cost to perform say, a hip replacement or heart bypass surgery) and offer their insured the choice – stay and wait for the surgery or take you and your partner on an all expenses holiday (airfares, hotel, hospital & surgery and recovery time) to Thailand, Mexico or India.
For government they relieve political pressure as it gets the waiting lists reduced, saves money and frees up the healthcare system. It introduces competition for medical services that helps to put a brake on healthcare costs, especially for doctors fees. For consumers, you get immediate attention to your health issue, a holiday (with or without your partner) and reduce your out of pocket expenses.
All that’s needed now is for doctors, politicians and bureaucrats is to let go of their hubris and ensure the requisite healthcare standards are in place so people can become medical tourists. Easy!
Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has come out to reveal the quite shocking and anti-democratic events that took place during the last Eurogroup meeting. First, they do hate Yanis’ guts, for he understands far more about the economy than anyone in Brussels. At their demand, any further discussions will be without him. What led to the EU breaking off was exactly what we reported previously — they do not want any member state to EVER allow the people to vote on the euro. Brussels has become a DICTATORSHIP and is so arrogant without any just cause, believing that they know better than the people.
We are watching the total collapse of Democracy and the birth of a new era — Economic Totalitarianism from arrogant people who are totally clueless beyond their own greed for power and money.
Editor Note: Greece is the end of the beginning for the EZ and the beginning of a long period of political, social and economic instability that co-incides with the topping phase of the upward phase of the Industrial Revolution cycle that began in 1783-85.