Archive for the 'Wave Guide 1: Economic Growth' Category

Jul 03 2012

Happy 4th of July — Independence Day 2012 !

The 4th of July is the day Americans celebrate freedom and all its fruits, including prosperity, innovation, and the pursuit of happiness!

To read about Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Click HERE.

Dr. Harrison Schmitt, the first scientist on the Moon, shows how good the American flag — the symbol of freedom — looks on the Moon during Apollo 17.

Princeton University professor Gerard O’Neill (1927-1992), author of The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space (1977), believed that the colonization of space would open up …

a hopeful future for individual human beings, with increasing personal and political freedoms, a wider range of choices, and greater opportunities to develop individual potentials … The most chilling prospect that I see for a planet-bound human race is that many of those dreams would be forever cut off for us.”

As I pointed out recently in Ad Astra of the National Space Society, the macroeconomic and technology history of the last 200+ years indicates we are approaching a transformative, 1960s-style decade known as a Maslow Window.

It will feature a new international, Apollo-level space age that will be triggered by a major economic boom … by mid-decade.

However in the short term, there is still plenty of bad news — e.g., the Wall Street Journal reported this morning (top, front page headline) that the U.S. manufacturing sector shrank in June for the first time in 3 years — and some see this as evidence for another recession.

While hopefully this will not occur, it’s important to realize that “double-dip” recessions are common in the years immediately preceding Maslow Windows, and signal the approach of much better times.
Click: “Slow Recovery Fits 200-Year Pattern”

And historical analogs indicate that — during times like now — the widespread drive for prosperity results in a political realignment that triggers a new economic boom.

Enjoy the 4th’s fireworks and remember that the new Space Age is just around the corner…!

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May 23 2012

Economic Rhythms, Maslow Windows and the New Space Frontier

This is the preprint version of a new paper recently accepted for publication by the international journal Space Policy:

Economic Rhythms, Maslow Windows and the New Space Frontier (Preprint)
Click HERE.

Kruti Dholakia-Lehenbauer, (Corresponding Author) and
Euel Elliott, University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, TX, U.S.A.;
Bruce Cordell,, Bonsall, CA, U.S.A.

This paper explores the possible relationship between space exploration and long swings in the economy and socio-technical systems. We posit that the early phases of long upswings are characterized by periods of optimism and the spirit of adventures that provided a motivation for large scale explorations and other great infrastructure projects in the past. These Maslow Windows help us understand prior eras of exploration and cultural dynamism, and offer a hopeful scenario for space exploration in the next two decades. We offer some observations as to what the exploratory thrust might look like, including a return to the lunar surface combined with other activities. Of course, we also point out that the next great wave of space exploration will almost certainly have a much more international flavor than has heretofore been the case.

Over the last 200+ years, the rhythmic dance of the Stewart Energy Cycle — discovered in 1989 by the distinguished nuclear physicist Hugh B. Stewart — has been a reliable predictor of great explorations like Lewis & Clark and Apollo Moon, as well as monumental macro-engineering projects like the Panama Canal and the Apollo infrastructure.

1. Introduction

This essay examines the relationship between the exploration of space in the 21st century and the phenomenon of long economic and socio-technological cycles. The basic contention of this study builds upon prior work by Cordell [1, 2] — See Space Policy (1996) and FRQ (2006) — and Lin, Dholakia & Elliott [3]. The latter offers plausible scenarios for future exploration and exploitation of lunar and near-lunar resources. Cordell’s work, in particular, offers a foundation for the current study by providing arguments for future human activities in space based on long economic and socio-technical cycles, and their subsequent impact on human activities.

This research also proposes important linkages between space exploration, long cycles and the phenomenon of Maslow windows which are characterized by bursts of interest in exploration and human adventure, combined or integrated with large-scale macro engineering projects (MEPs). Thus, we suggest a linkage, through long cycles of a connection between earlier human exploration and development of MEPs and the near term future of humanity in space, beginning in the 2015-2020 time frame.

This essay proceeds by first discussing the role of long economic and socio-technical cycles in the global economy. We then move to a discussion of the specific relationships between economic cycles and exploration, including those activities directed toward the frontier of space. We offer a scenario that suggests the form that activities beginning in the 2015-2020 time period and lasting until about 2030 or so might take. We conclude our study with some observations about the deeper connections that may exist between human psychological needs, economic cycles and the properties of self-organizing systems …

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Apr 08 2012

Fractal Maslow Windows and the Near-Term Colonization of Mars

Please Note: This is my Abstract for The 15th Annual International Mars Society Convention, August, 2012, in Pasadena, CA.

Fractal Maslow Windows and the Near-Term Colonization of Mars

Self-Organized Criticality (SOC) is an emergent property of complex systems whereby they organize themselves into a critical state such that rapid changes, including catastrophes, can occur.

In 1998, based on power-law plots like this, Roberts and Turcotte concluded that “World order behaves as a self-organized critical system independent of the efforts made to control and stabilize interactions between people and countries.”

SOC is indicated for space exploration by the following: 1) Apollo is the most recent in a string of rhythmic, twice-per-century clusters of great human explorations, large macro-engineering projects (MEP), and major wars, back to Lewis and Clark, suggesting punctuated equilibrium, 2) Based on their power law size-frequency distribution, Roberts & Turcotte (1998) showed that wars are SOC processes; my recent analysis of cost data suggests the same is true of NASA programs, and 3) Space programs obey Bak’s gap equation (1996), which describes the system’s evolution from weak SOC to the fractal, self organized critical state; i.e., a “Maslow Window.”

While in the critical state, large changes (e.g., in space, MEPs, and/or war) can rapidly occur in response to even a minor stimulus. The classic example is the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis which raised the stakes for the Moon Race, and suggests the road to the next critical state may also be bumpy.

Long-term and current global trends – including the financial Panic of 2008, the great recession of 2008-10, and geopolitical tensions in the Persian Gulf and in North Korea – signal that a new, 1960s-style critical state is expected by mid-decade. This should trigger a new, Apollo-level, international Space Age.

Bak’s model shows punctuated equilibrium — long periods of stasis (horizontal portions) interrupted by rapid changes (vertical sections) while in the critical state.

As in Bak’s numerical simulations, the real-world transitions of a critical state are abrupt – including both into it (e.g., in 1901; in 1958) and out of it (e.g., in 1914; in 1970). To avoid another 40 years of being trapped in Earth orbit (since Apollo 17) due to sudden closing of the approaching Maslow Window, human spaceflight should establish near-term bases on or near Mars and/or the Moon by the 2020s that do not require frequent re-supply from Earth. Because of its exploration, science, and colonization potential, Mars is preferred.

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Feb 27 2012

Foreign Affairs Features The Case for Space

The current issue of Foreign Affairs (March/April, 2012) featues “The Case for Space” by astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson of the Hayden Planetarium in New York. In 2004 he was appointed by President Bush to the “Moon, Mars, and Beyond” Commission, so he is familiar with the range of arguments relevant to U.S. space exploration policy.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ph.D. believes we should spend more time and money reaching for the stars.

How Much is a New Planet Worth?
Tyson initially grabs our attention by asserting that a manned mission to Mars would “surely cost hundreds of billions of dollars — maybe even $ 1 trillion.” This is a surprising number since the whole 1960s Apollo Moon program cost ~$ 150 B in today’s dollars. To approach $ 1 T you would have to look at a multi-decade program of manned Mars missions, which is not currently in the cards. Zubrin has recently shown how we can fly to Mars by 2016 for far less than the Apollo program.

On the other hand, in 2009 I estimated — based on cost ratios of pre-Maslow MEPs to the major Maslow MEPs over the last 200 years — that the coming Maslow Window (expected by mid-decade) will feature a total MEP expenditure of between $ 1 and 3 T (current USD). But this could include a variety of projects such as manned Mars, lunar bases, and space-based solar power infrastructures.

Because of their large costs, importance to national prestige, and use of high technology, major space programs become political issues, and Tyson highlights what he sees as the end of “immunity to partisanship” of the space program after 2004 when the Shuttle Columbia was lost. It got worse when President Obama took office in 2009. Partly due to his space policies and other controversial issues, Obama is the most polarizing president on record according to Gallup; his rating of 68 (the difference between the percent of Democrats and Republicans who approve of his job performance) is the highest on record for a president’s 3rd year, as were his partisan gaps for his first and second years (65 and 68).

Tyson notes that in the end, Obama’s suggestions for manned Mars missions in the 2030s have not been taken seriously because

When a president promises something beyond his years in office, he is fundamentally unaccountable … The only thing guaranteed to happen on his (Obama’s) watch is the interruption of the United States’ access to space.

While Tyson’s focus on politics is understandable, it misses the real point: Economics is the fundamental problem.

Doesn’t anyone watch Animal Planet anymore?
The last time I checked, when the main waterhole is drying up, disputes become common and everyone tends to be edgy about everything.

The same is naturally happening with the economy today. Negative animal spirits call into question positive visions of the future like space.

Tyson naturally believes — and he is right — that a visionary U.S. space program is the solution to motivating youth and revitalizing the American education system, as well as stimulating innovation and the economy. And most importantly:

The United States will once again witness how space ambitions can shape the destiny of nations.

But he does not emphasize that the fundamental reason we have been trapped in Earth orbit for 40 years (since Apollo) is because of the lack of a JFK-style economic boom that created exuberance by increasing prosperity to virtually every group in society and dropping unemployment to nearly zero.

Two hundred years of macroeconomic and political patterns as well as current global trends suggest we’re on trajectory for the next 1960s-style golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology… to begin by mid-decade.

The political realignment that began in 2008 is continuing and will determine its exact timing.

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Feb 13 2012

Are Stratfor’s “Generational Shifts” like “Falling Grains of Sand”?

In their most interesting Annual Forecast for 2012, has identified this year as a very special time that they call a “generational shift”:

There are periods when the international system undergoes radical shifts in a short time … We are in a similar cycle, one that began in 2008 and is still playing out.

In Les Miserables (1862), French novelist Victor Hugo asked, “How do we know that the creations of worlds are not determined by falling grains of sand?”

Another way to think of Stratfor’s description is as a “critical state” in the international economic system that has been self-organizing for decades. As we approach the critical state small triggers can have rapid, often unexpected — even system-wide — effects.

Over the last 200+ years, critical states are intimately associated with the emergence of Maslow Windows — transformative, 1960s-style decades always featuring huge engineering projects like the Panama Canal, a great exploration like the Apollo Moon program, and a Camelot-style zeitgeist.

In his remarkable book — How Nature Works (1996) — former Brookhaven professor of physics Per Bak (1948-2002) imagined that the real world was analogous to a sand pile, created by dropping one grain of sand at a time. Initially and for some time, as grains began to pile up nothing much happens. But eventually the sand pile slopes become large and unstable — i.e., it reaches a self-organized “critical state.” Then one more tiny grain of sand could rapidly trigger an “avalanche” that might be small or medium in size, or large enough to change the whole sand pile.

Based on Stratfor’s observations and my analysis, it appears that the world is approaching a critical state today, which will feature Bak-style “avalanches”. The question is: How big will they be?

According to Stratfor, the current generational shift since 2008 features the following:

The European Union has stopped functioning as it did five years ago and has yet to see its new form defined. China has moved into a difficult social and economic phase, with the global recession severely affecting its export-oriented economy and its products increasingly uncompetitive due to inflation. The U.S. withdrawal from Iraq has created opportunities for an Iranian assertion of power that could change the balance of power in the region. The simultaneous shifts in Europe, China and the Middle East open the door to a new international framework …

During the world’s most recent critical state (in the 1960s), the Cuban Missile Crisis prsented an existential crisis for the U.S and U.S.S.R. that, fortunately, was rapidly resolved. In the language of self-organized criticality, a major nuclear exchange between the US and USSR in 1962 would have brutally terminated the 1960s critical state (i.e., leveled Bak’s sand pile) seven years before the first manned landing on the Moon actually occurred.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was not the first existential threat to the US during the approach to a critical state. Prior to 1803 when Jefferson finally secured the Louisiana Purchase, it was widely believed that Napoleon had his eye on a North American empire.

Stratfor observes that this generational shift is still associated with much uncertainty.

The 2012 forecast is unique in that it is not a forecast for one year in a succession of years, all basically framed by the same realities. Rather, it is a year in which the individual forecasts point to a new generational reality and a redefinition of how the world works.

Although potential conflicts involving countries like North Korea and Iran present very dangerous threats during the approaching critical state, the good news is that — over the last 200+ years — each critical state has triggered major economic booms and an ebullient population that have enabled monumental macro-engineering projects and great explorations like Apollo.

There’s every reason to expect this multi-century pattern will persist.

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Feb 04 2012

Is High Debt Triggering Another Pre-Maslow Recession?

The recent good news of a “January jobs thaw” (Wall Street Journal, 2/4/12) is dampened somewhat by U.S. national debt reaching ~100% of GDP — a definite signal of trouble ahead according the recent studies.

The U.S. gross federal debt to GDP ratio has surged into the dangerous region above 90%.

In the recent Hoisington Quarterly Review and Outlook, Van Hoisington and Lacy Hunt indicate that the high U.S. debt will lead to recession in 2012. They quote an authoritative NBER study (“Growth in the Time of Debt”; January, 2010) that demonstrates

that when a country’s gross government debt rises above 90% of GDP, the median growth rates fall by one percent, and average growth falls considerably more.

Hoisington and Hunt conclude:

This study sheds considerable light on recent developments in the United States. After suffering the most serious recession since the 1930s, the U.S. has recorded an economic growth rate of only 2.4%. Subtracting 1% from this meager expansion suggests that the economy should expand no faster than 1.4% in real terms on a trend basis going forward, which is virtually identical with the economy’s expansion in the past twelve months.

They expect that this slow, debt-ridden recovery will lead to a recession in 2012.

Concerns about US debt have risen in recent years, including from Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who observed in 2011:

Debt is the most significant threat to national security.

Likewise, in 2010 the National Academy of Sciences linked concerns about US competitiveness, education, and basic research to the debt:

The latitude to fix the problems being confronted has been severely diminished by the economic recession and the growth of the national debt over this period from $8 trillion to $13 trillion.

The debt is now over $ 15 T.

Unfortunately, current trends are consistent with a 200-year pattern of sluggish recoveries from financial panics and great recessions in the decade prior to Maslow Windows, leading to double-dip recessions like Hoisington and others are forecasting for 2012. However, the outlook brightens considerably toward mid-decade.

Hoisington’s and others’ warnings of a recession in 2012 were underlined by the head of the International Monetary Fund last week who warned that Europe could tumble into a “1930s moment” or depression, which would likely trigger a recession in the U.S..

Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office recently forecasted another trillion+ dollar US budget deficit for 2012. And unless something is done, trillion dollar deficits could continue for years to come.

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Nov 21 2011

Is Obama a Victim of History? Democratic Pros Suggest He May Not Run

Will Obama pull an LBJ in January?

With America’s sons in the fields far away, with America’s future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world’s hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office–the Presidency of your country.

Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.

…President Lyndon Johnson on March 31, 1968 with reference to Vietnam.

In 1968 President Johnson took the moral high ground and, to reduce “partisan divisions”, declined to run for a 2nd term.

Today in the Wall Street Journal (11/21/11) two veteran Democratic pollsters suggest Obama might do likewise because of his inability to develop a “bipartisan” economic and foreign policy and his low job approval numbers.

Patrick Caddell and Douglas Schoen assert that:

When Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson accepted the reality that they could not effectively govern the nation if they sought re-election to the White House, both men took the moral high ground and decided against running for a new term as president. President Obama is facing a similar reality—and he must reach the same conclusion.

They conclude that Obama would have to run the “most negative campaign in history” to overcome his record while President, and, even if he won, it would be “almost impossible for him to govern”. As “patriots” and “Democrats” Caddell and Schoen call on Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to bring this message to President Obama and to convince Hillary Clinton to run in 2012.

Last September, Dick Morris — President Clinton’s former pollster — came to a similar conclusion and felt there was a “good chance” Obama will not run in 2012.

This is especially intriguing in the context of the eerie parallels between the economic and political chronology of the late 1890s — events that eventually triggered the early 20th century Peary/Panama/T. Roosevelt Maslow Window — and our trajectory today.

For example:
1. Both Presidents Grover Cleveland and Obama were elected near major financial panics (1893 for Cleveland and 2008 for Obama) that were followed by great recessions. Click: Wave Election.

2. The 1890s panic and great recession are becoming more widely recognized for their similarities to the economic crisis that began in 2008. Click: Eerily Similar.

According to Samuel Rezneck (Business Depressions and Financial Panics; 1968) the “unprecedented fiasco” began on May 5, 1893 and …

Spread to a nation-wide epidemic of some five hundred banks and nearly sixteen thousand business failures during the year … Recovery was slow, despite the recurring tendency, as during 1895, to grasp at “harbingers of widening prosperity,” only to be warned that, “the alleged era of prosperity is not in sight.”

Indeed, the second recession (double-dip) followed soon.

3. Cleveland’s and Obama’s presidential elections were each followed 2 years later by mid-term elections that featured significant political realignments favoring the other party. Click: Michael Barone.

4. Because of his inability to deal successfully with the great 1890s recession as well as union issues, Grover Cleveland was not renominated by his party for a second term. The fact that something similar may be happening to Obama today is extraordinary.

However, Obama’s political destiny (including possibly even his re-election) is obviously not as important as the game-changing signifcance of the societal drive for prosperity that we see around us today. Based on 200+ years of macroeconomic data and historical trends, it suggests the “Great Prosperity” can be expected to return by mid-decade.

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Nov 07 2011

State of the Wave: The Economy is Down but Space is Up

As we approach the next transformative Maslow Window featuring a new international Space Age — expected mid-decade — it’s revealing to compare public perceptions of the economy, on which the space program depends, and the space program itself. In the midst of a painfully slow recovery that’s only a few years downstream from the Panic of 2008, and the great recession of 2008-10+, we might expect these circumstances to dampen people’s spirits regarding human expansion into the cosmos.

Are Americans still interested in human expansion into the cosmos…JFK-style?

The Economy is Down
For example, official unemployment continues at 9% or above, and the outlook is not good because only 80,000 jobs were added in October which is far short of the number needed to substantially reduce unemployment (>150,000 per month). And Fed Chair Ben Bernanke recently lowered its jobs forecast to 8.6% in late 2012 (Wall Street Journal, 11/3/11), assuming the European debt crisis stabilizes and there is no double-dip (nearly 40% of participants think one will occur).

On Halloween the Wall Street Journal noted that the “Slow recovery feels like a recession,” partly because median household income in the U.S. fell 6.7% from June, 2009 to June, 2011, and also that:

No recession since the Great Depression was deeper or longer than the most recent.

And in June, CNBC reported that the U.S. housing crisis, which already entered a double-dip, “is now worse than the Great Depression.”

In his most recent poll of likely voters in the U.S., Rasmussen reports that only 17% of the country feels things are going in the right direction, while a 76% think we’re on the wrong track. According to Peggy Noonan (Wall Street Journal, 10/8/11),

We are in a remarkable moment and I’m not sure we’re noticing it in the day-to-day of politics and media … I wrote of the new patriotism that I see taking hold of the American establishment …

What’s behind it is fear. The economy is tanking and can take a whole world with it … They all agree—no one really argues about this anymore—the government is going bankrupt.

But Space is Up
The U.S. manned space program — which in 1969 delivered the first humans to the Moon — continues to be directionless. For example, it has no specific goal (Moon, Mars, asteroids), although an expensive Shuttle-derived heavy launch vehicle (the Space Launch System, SLS) is planned by NASA for first human flights in 2019. Others have suggested a propellant depot would be more viable economically and politically. To add to this disarray, the Mars Society reports today that OMB has zeroed out future Mars exploration programs after the MAVEN orbiter in 2013; e.g., the joint Mars missions with Europe in 2016 and 2018 would be canceled.

In this time of economic and program distress, it’s interesting to see how the public is thinking about our future in space.

The Shuttle
Last month 52% of American adults surveyed said the Space Shuttle has been worth the expense to taxpayers (, 10/5/11). This is particularly interesting when compared to public support of Apollo. According to Roger Launius, 1960s opinion polls reveal only one year between 1962 and 1972 when more than 50% of people surveyed felt Apollo was worth the cost: 1969 (53%); indeed only two other years were above 40% (1965 and 1970).

Considering that the recent Shuttle poll comes during a time of economic distress while the Apollo polls (especially during the early 1960s) were during the major JFK economic boom, it suggests that Americans remain proud of and committed to manned space.

U.S. Leadership in Space
In july, 2011 a CNN/ORC International Poll asked, “How important do you think it is for the United States to be ahead of Russia and other countries in space exploration?” The replies were: Very important: 38%; Fairly important: 26%; Not too important: 36%; No Opinion: 1 %.

The fact that 64% of Americans currently believe that U.S. leadership in space is either fairly or very important — even during this economic distress — suggests that there will be significant support for space during the upcoming 2015 Maslow Window.

JFK vs. Obama
In July, 2011 a Fox News poll asked, “Who do you think had the right idea on the importance of space exploration–President (John F.) Kennedy or President (Barack) Obama? The replies were: JFK: 63%; Obama: 13%; Undecided: 24%.

This suggests that Americans are still interested in bold human space adventures and will be stimulated by the upcoming intrernational Space Age.

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Nov 03 2011

Long-Term Stock Trends Support Maslow Window Forecasts

The Wall Street Journal (9/12/11; E.S. Browning) recently highlighted more impressive, long-term evidence that we are rapidly approaching the next 1960s-style, transformative Maslow Window, expected to open by mid-decade.

Professor Richard Sylla’s intriguing plot of stock market behavior reveals the secrets of our past, over the last 200 years, and points toward our near-term, ebullient future.

Sylla, an economic historian with NYU’s Stern School of Business, has studied stock data back to 1790 and produced this (above) marvelous graphic showing annual returns as inflation-adjusted, 10-year averages including dividends. He used the S&P 500 back to 1871 and his own calculations from 1790 to 1860, augmented by data from Bryan Taylor (Global Financial Data).

Interpreting Professor Sylla’s data in the context of Maslow Windows leads to two key results:

1) Based on his reading of the last 200+ years of stock market waves, he forecasts a significant upswing of stocks — specifically 6.5% annual average — in the next decade (see red line post-2010).

Even if we had a couple more years of bouncing around, 2013 to 2022 would be much better … I think the country is going to recover and go on to prosperity again …

His forecast is consistent with the expected timeframe and market behavior of the next Maslow Window.

… and …

2) Each of the Maslow Windows of the last 200 years — including their financial panic/great recession precursors — is clearly identifiable in Sylla’s data. This includes the Lewis and Clark Maslow Window (1791- 1804), the Panic of 1837 and great recession until 1843 plus the Manifest Destiny Maslow Window (1847-1860), the Panic of 1893 and great recession until 1899 plus the Peary/Panama Maslow Window (1901-13), and the Apollo Maslow Window (1957-69).

According to Browning, Professor Sylla also sees the Panic of 1893 and the great 1890s recession as having special significance for today:

Prof. Sylla says the current period resembles a downturn period in the late 19th century.

These parallels with long-term market data, over the last 200+ years — in addition to long-term trends in growth super-cycles, GDP, societal energy use, and others — provide increased confidence in the timing and positive character of the next Maslow Window expected to open near 2015.

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Oct 24 2011

Slow Recovery Fits 200-Year Pattern

Slow Recovery Fits 200-Year Pattern

This Op-Ed is by Bruce Cordell and Euel Elliott

The fall of 2011 would hardly seem the time to be discussing a near-term return to prosperity. Yet despite the worst economic and financial morass since the Great Depression, including a possible double-dip recession, history suggests that the U.S. and indeed, the world may be approaching a tipping point: the beginning of another 1960s-style sustained period of economic growth, part of a recurring cycle of economic prosperity and decline that has manifested itself over more than 200 years.

For example, economists at Standard Chartered Bank frame their analysis in terms of “Super-Cyles” that they document back to 1820. They predict that a period of extended global growth that actually started in 2000, albeit interrupted in the developed world by the current economic and financial crises, will continue into the 2020s.

These twice-per-century periods of rapid growth – also consistent with nuclear physicist Hugh B. Stewart’s well-documented (back to 1840) 56-year societal energy use cycle — are a hallmark of what we refer to as “Maslow Windows.” Based upon the work of the social psychologist Abraham Maslow, who closely studied the needs and motivations of humans, Maslow Windows are periods of unusual optimism (“ebullience”) triggered by sustained, rapid economic growth. During these periods, as many ascend Maslow’s hierarchy and their worldviews momentarily expand, a strong “can-do” spirit is characterized by the desire for unprecedented exploration and the building of great infrastructure projects.

Previous expansive eras associated with Maslow Windows include the exploration of the vast North American continent in the early 1800s by Lewis and Clark, “Manifest Destiny” and transcontinental railroads of the mid-19th century, the Panama Canal “fever” and “pole mania” in the early 20th century, and most recently, the 1960s U.S. – Soviet “Space Race” culminating in the first lunar landing in July 1969.

In fact, our current lingering recession/weak recovery is similar to typical precursors of transformative booms over the last 200+ years. With one exception, each prior boom that opened a Maslow Window was characterized by weak growth and profound pessimism just prior to the upswing. (The 1950s did not experience a financial panic/great recession probably because of the post-WW II expansion and financial reforms dating back to the Great Depression.)

However, the Panic of 2008 suggests we have returned to the 200-year-old pattern of financial panic/great recession pairs followed by a JFK-style economic boom. Indeed, we expect a new, transformative Maslow Window to arrive by mid-decade.

For example, the financial Panic of 1893 – with parallels to the Panic of 2008 — signaled the impending arrival of the next Maslow Window. It caused unemployment over 10% for over 5 years. The crisis initially lasted only 18 months but was followed by another (double-dip) recession that continued into 1897.

According to Hugh Rockoff of Rutgers, “I think the analogy between the 1890s and today is better than the analogy with the Great Depression … One of the many similarities is the real estate crisis. There was a subprime mortgage problem in the 1890s that was very similar to what precipitated the recent crisis,” (; S. Zito, 9/18/11).

The Panic of 1893 began about 6 years before its recovery generated a JFK-style economic boom that triggered the early 20th century Maslow Window. A similar pattern now would suggest that the global economy should recover to its mid-2007 “greatest ever global boom” status by 2015.

The early 20th century Peary/Panama Maslow Window (1901-13) included the internationally contested polar expeditions, the greatest macro-engineering project of the last 200 years (until Apollo) — the Panama Canal, the Wright Brothers’ first flights, the Great White Fleet’s global voyage, and President Theodore Roosevelt. This was perhaps the most ebullient period in U.S. history.

This eerily repetitive pattern – a financial panic/great recession followed by a major boom that ignites the Maslow Window — began with the post-Revolutionary War “depression” of 1784-88 and the 1790s major boom which led to the extraordinary Louisiana Purchase and Lewis and Clark. It repeated during the Panic of 1837 — a major contraction when 40% of the U.S. banks failed and unemployment was at record highs — that lasted 6 years and led to the mid-1840s major boom, which triggered the Age of Manifest Destiny via James Polk.

The multi-century patterns sketched above suggest that our current weak recovery is signaling the impending arrival of a new Maslow Window by mid-decade. We expect that it will be driven by advances in biotechnology, information technology, artificial intelligence, green technologies, and others.

The coming boom will be enhanced by a new international Space Age. In addition to the Apollo Moon program, the 1960s Maslow Window included the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, so the road ahead may be bumpy. But as the complex international system continues to self-organize into a Maslow-style “critical state,” we expect to see unprecedented commercial and scientific development of the Earth-Moon system, including Moon bases, as well as possibly even humans to Mars by 2025.

We expect that during the next year or so the political realignment that began in 2008 will continue to set the stage for a renewed burst of economic and social dynamism by mid-decade.

Dr. Elliott is professor of public policy and political economy at the University of Texas at Dallas, and co-author of Money (2007).

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