Archive for the 'Wave Guide 3: Politics' Category

Jun 13 2011

Stanford’s John Taylor Likes a JFK-style Boom

Imagine my surprise when Republican presidential candidate Governor Tim Pawlenty proposed a 5% national economic growth target the day after (Tuesday, June 7) my GDP post appeared — “Multi-Century GDP Trends Point to a Near-Term 1960s-Style Boom” — in which I showed that long-term GDP trends point to a JFK-style, 5% economic boom by 2015.

Are we headed for a new Camelot-style golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology, or just a “new normal”?

Of course I was unaware of Govenor Pawlenty’s economic plan, but a 5% goal is historically realistic as we approach the long-awaited, transformative Maslow Window.

This weekend, in his blog “Economics One”, Stanford economics professor John B. Taylor expressed support for Pawlenty’s proposal.

I think the goal makes a great deal of sense. It would focus policymakers like a laser beam on the great benefits that come from higher growth and on the pro-growth policies needed to achieve it. As with any goal, if you take it seriously, you’ll choose policies that work toward that goal and reject those that don’t.

In fact, according to Harvard economics professor Benjamin Friedman, rapid economic growth is a moral imperative.

Periods of economic expansion in America and elsewhere, during which most citizens had reason to be optimistic, have also witnessed greater openness, tolerance, and democracy. To repeat: such advances occur for many reasons. But the effect of economic growth versus stagnation is an important and often central part of the story.

But not everyone gets it.

For example, the Washington Post (6/9/11; R. Marcus) suffers from a short-term perspective.

Yes — very occasionally. Once in the past 30 years, with GDP growth of 7.2 percent in 1984. Pawlenty conveniently cherry-picks years (1983 to 1987, 1996 to 1999) that come close to his 5 percent target — but those periods followed stretches of economic slowdown. It’s certainly never grown at a 5 percent clip for 10 years straight …

Wrong twice. We are recovering from an “economic slowdown” so, as the Post implies, we should expect a burst in growth relatively soon. And we’ve previously had decade-long stretches at or above 5% — they’re called Maslow Windows.

For example, during the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window the U.S. grew at 5% for nearly the entire decade, stimulated by JFK’s famous tax cuts. And for 9 years during the Peary/Panama/T. Roosevelt Maslow Window — following the financial Panic of 1893 — growth was 5%. Plus for 12 years (1844 to 1856) during the mid-19th century Maslow Window — following the financial Panic of 1837 — mean annual growth was 5.8%.

A sustained, 1960s-style ~5% boom is the hallmark of Maslow Windows over the last 200 years. That’s one key reason a near-term, JFK-style boom is expected.

Looking at recent trends in productivity, employment, and demographics, Taylor’s back-of-the-envelope calculation projects about 2% employment growth and 2.7% productivity growth. Their sum suggests 5% annual growth sustained over a near-term decade is very doable.

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Apr 23 2011

State of the Wave — Current Prospects for Prosperity and the New Space Age

Princeton economist Alan Blinder (Wall Street Journal, 3/31/11) recently compared the current U.S. recovery to an injured athlete.

If you’re searching for a metaphor for the U.S. economy right now, think of an athlete who is recovering from serious injury and must navigate a difficult obstacle course. She’s getting into better shape but there are hazards along the way…

In a similar vein, J.P. Morgan recently downgraded their GDP growth forecast for 2011 to only 1.4%, and Macroeconomic Advisors likewise slashed their previous forecast (of 4%) for 2011 to 1.7%.

Stanford economist John B. Taylor believes this simple chart holds the secret to future prosperity.

Former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, Robert Reich (; 8/17/10) recognizes the value of economic growth and its long wave influences, including the “Great Prosperity” which culminated in the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window.

Faster growth greases the way toward more equal oportunity and a wider distribution of gains. The wealthy more easily accept a smaller share … the middle class more willingly pays taxes to support public improvements like a cleaner environment and stronger safety nets. It’s a virtuous cycle. We had one during the Great Prosperity that lasted from 1947 to the early 1970s.

On the other hand,

Slower growth had the reverse effect … It’s a vicious cycle. We’ve been in one most of the last thirty years.

See also: Prosperity: A Technological and a Moral Imperative.”

Our recovery from decades of slower economic growth to another “Great Prosperity” — expected to begin near 2015 — is essential to the new international Space Age. The Great Boom of 2015 is expected to trigger widespread JFK-style ebullience that will drive the new Apollo-style golden age of human expansion into the cosmos.

See also: “State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2011”

Here’s Blinder’s prioriitized (low to high concern) list of “the four biggest obstacles to recovery”:
1) The Japanese disaster, 2) The European debt crisis, 3) The U.S. budget deficit, and 4) The oil market.

Although Japan’s nuclear situation has recently been compared to Chernobyl, Blinder believes that in “well-ordered economies” like Japan, the effects will be “short-term.” And while the EU members have “bickered, dithered, and delayed,” a financial collapse in Europe is “unlikely.”
Although gold closed at a record high above $ 1500 per ounce this week — indicating a general lack of confidence in governments — Blinder amazingly sees only a 5% chance that the deficit will remain a serious problem for the recovery.

Blinder is most concerned about oil price shocks (such as in summer, 2008) to the U.S. economy; e.g., economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal in February said oil would have to exceed $ 125 a barrel “to threaten the U.S. economy.” Today oil is $ 112 and rising.

Blinder estimates a 40% probability that any of these events will become a serious obstacle to the recovery — which he confesses leaves him “uneasy.”

In the midst of these economic and political fireworks, Stanford economist John B. Taylor proposes a “fact-based” debate on the economy (WSJ, 4/22/11). His chart (see above) shows annual government spending as a percent of GDP over the last decade (since 2000) and projected through the next (to 2021). The top two curves are the White House budget plans of February 14 and April 13, and the House (Ryan) plan of April 5.

According to Taylor,

When I show people this chart they ask why Washington is even having the debate. They say: If government agencies and programs functioned with 19% to 20% of GDP in 2007, why is it so hard for them to function with that percentage in 2021, when GDP will be substantially higher and with many opportunities for reforms and increased efficiencies? And if GDP and employment grow more quickly, as they would if private investment increased as a result of lower government spending and debt, then that 19% to 20% share of GDP could provide much more in the way of public goods.

Taylor’s chart highlights the political choice the American people are faced with: The Obama plan with higher government spending (~22% of GDP) requiring “substantial tax increases.” or the House vision with faster economic growth, spending near 2007 levels, and no increase in taxes.

This political situation is eerily reminiscent of the Great 1890s Recession that followed the financial Panic of 1893, and the challenges of President Grover Cleveland. As they always have over the last 200+ years, during an approach to a Maslow Window and recovery from a great recession, the people a century ago voted for prosperity.

Even ~5 years out from the next anticipated Kennedy-style Boom, prosperity is an easy political call to make. What’s hard is identifying which party — Republicans or Democrats — will be most effective in packaging it.

That’s because over the last 200+ years, no Maslow Window has ever been delayed or diminished in any observable way by any economic downturn or military conflict.

Human nature and the laws of economics — which drive economic and political cycles and the Maslow hierarchy — have proven to be very formidible in limiting modern human society to only 2 transformative decades per century. This is because they’ve been ignored by policy-makers and the electorate for so long.

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Apr 11 2011

JFK, “The Kennedys” and the Next Space President

Just finished watching the last episode of The Kennedys on REELZ Channel. It’s an 8-part miniseries that focuses mainly on political and military events related to John F. Kennedy’s presidency, and JFK’s and Robert’s relationships with their father and families.

President John F. Kennedy (right, in 1963 at Cape Canaveral, FL) is the ebullient model for a 21st century “space president” — in 2012 or 2016 — who will lead the U.S. and the world into the large-scale utilization and colonization of space.
Click .

I liked the miniseries.

Although it had little directly to do with space — e.g., there is a fleeting image of an Atlas missile lifting off during the credits (!) — the historical insights provided into related events (e.g., Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis) and the Kennedy’s personal challenges are compelling, although not particularly revealing if you know their family history.

The authors of “Camelot” — the fondly remembered zeitgeist of the 1960s — the Kennedy’s have been called America’s “Royal Family” as well as the “Beatles of the political arena”. And although JFK’s presidency lasted only 1000 days, his legacy has influenced generations.

Here at we’re huge admirers of JFK for his visionary leadership of the Apollo program during the 1960s Space Age. In the context of human exploration, JFK is truly the mid-20th century equivalent of Thomas Jefferson (for Lewis and Clark), and in terms of technology, he’s nothing less than the Theodore Roosevelt (for the Panama Canal) of his generation.

But the question is: Who will be the new JFK — the 21st century “Space President” who will lead global expansion into the cosmos? Long wave timing suggests this individual will be elected either in 2012 or 2016 so he or she should be visible now.

In late 2008, because of her close family association with JFK and his legacy, contributing editor Carol Lane and I suggested Caroline Kennedy might be perfect. Her political timing would have worked too, but she decided not to run for Hillary’s Senate seat.

Earlier in 2008, managing editor Rachel Nishimura and I speculated that — due to his charisma and youth — Barack Obama might be the next JFK-style Space President. But because of the economy and Obama’s space policy, that seems increasingly unlikely — although it still is possible.

Over the last 200+ years, one thing becomes clear,

As we approach a Maslow Window (such as the one expected in 2015), the leader who can best manifest prosperity and model ebullience wins. In the early 1800s it was Jefferson, in the mid-1840s it was James Polk (of all people), in the early 20th century it was Theodore Roosevelt, and in the 1960s John F. Kennedy. It appears that long-term economic circumstances do more to determine our leaders than the reverse.

History shows that someone who strongly “models ebullience” and “manifests prosperity” will soon emerge on the political scene. For example, take Donald Trump; his business success and financial resources are reminiscent of JFK’s father (e.g., both are billionaires in 2011 dollars), and Trump’s charisma and media presence are obvious.

However unlike JFK in 1960, Trump has no political or military experience. Whether or not Trump can achieve political support for 2012, it’s likely that someone with his ebullient characteristics will lead the U.S. and the world into the next Space Age.

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Mar 28 2011

Facebook-Aided Arab Uprisings & Their Historical Parallels Signal a Transformative Future

The New York Times (3/27/11) features an opinion piece by British historian and writer Simon Sebag Montefiore on current Arab uprisings and their historical precedents. Although all revolutions have differences because they are “local”, he emphasizes that historical parallels can offer us “clues to the future.”

British historian Simon Sebag Montefiore sees current Arab uprisings as reminiscent of the watershed European revolutions of 1848.
See has previously identified the decade just prior to (or early during) Maslow Windows, over the last 200+ years, to be dangerous times of international conflicts, wars, and upheavals. The classic example is the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis early in the Apollo Maslow Window that could have led to a major nuclear exchange. Indeed, recent conflicts with North Korea and Iran suggest that the world system is approaching a “critical state.”
See: Near-Term Wars Threaten the New Space Age.

The question is: Do the Arab uprisings of today — and their historical parallels — support that pattern?

According to Montefiore, there is something to be said for spontaneity.

Leaderless revolutions without organization have a magically spontaneous momentum that is harder to crush … This time, headless spontaneity has been aided by Facebook, which certainly accelerates the mobilization of crowds — and the transmission of Western culture…

Montefiore believes that for today’s Arab uprisings, “technology’s effect is exaggerated…” For example, in the stunning European revolutions of 1848,

uprisings spread from Sicily to Paris, Berlin, Vienna and Budapest in mere weeks without telephones, let alone Twitter. They spread through the exuberance of momentum and the rigid isolation of repressive rulers.

As Montefiore surveys uprisings over the last 200 years, the revolution of 1848 is

the revolution that most resembles today’s.

Like the Cuban Missile Crisis, the watershed European revolutions of 1848, began early in their Maslow Window, suggesting both were influenced by the ebullience of the approaching critical state. Although the United States was not directly involved, it was certainly affected by this mid-19th century zeitgeist. Indeed, against all odds, a smaller-than-life man — President James A. Polk — achieved the impossible by “engineering the triumph of Manifest Destiny” (NY Times) in only 4 short years.
See: “How the West Was Won — The Expansionist Effects of Ebullience”.

Interestingly, Dr. Lawrence Beale — a 77-year old African American, retired pastor, college counselor, and college administrator — sees parallels between current Arab uprisings and the U.S. civil rights movement during the last Maslow Window.

The Middle East and North Africa seems to be taking a page from the history of the civil rights movement in America during the 1950s and 1960s when black Americans demonstrated in the streets to gain the freedoms guaranteed by the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

At least some of the freedom-fighters are directly inspired by U.S. history. According to Dr. Beale,

Middle Easterners, North Africans, and now Chinese have taken to the streets in largely peaceful demonstrations crying out for human rights—the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. On CBN Tuesday, a woman was asked by a reporter, “What do you want.” She responded, “We want freedom.” When she was pressed by the reporter about what she meant, she cited one part of the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but could not remember the rest. So she concluded, “We have been taught that freedom is not a right.” But she continued to insist that she wanted freedom.

Dr. Beale concludes that, “Like the civil rights movement, the demonstrators are unsettling their nations.”

Maslow Windows are identified by economic, technological, and political patterns over the last 200+ years. Parallels between the European revolutions of 1848 and the current Arab uprisings — as identified by historian Montefiore — and parallels between the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s and current Arab uprisings — as identified by Dr. Beale — support’s expectation that similar civilization-altering events are likely to occur just prior to or early in Maslow Windows of the future.

Therefore, the current Arab uprisings offer further empirical support for the arrival of another 1960s-style transformative decade — including an Apollo-style, international Space Age — by 2015.

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Jan 02 2011

Will Obama Attack Iran?

Brookings senior fellow Michael O’Hanlon suggested recently (12/31/10) on Fox News that the “biggest foreign policy decision of Obama’s presidency … (could be) whether or not to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.”

Iran plans some serious, potentially weapon-related uranium enrichment activities at its plant in Natanz.

The Threat
Reports suggest Iran has its own uranium mines and is within one (U.S. sources) to 3 years (Israeli intelligence) of developing its own nuclear devices. And Iran has apparently obtained (from North Korea) “powerful missiles able to reach European capitals,” (Wall Street Journal, 11/29/10). It’s a situation Obama will have to deal with.

Brookings’ Suzanne Maloney concurs that continued failures — exacerbated by Wikileaks revelations — of international talks with Iran to limit its nuclear development would mean that “military action could be on the table.”

Serious Conflicts Are Expected
Current tensions with Iran, North Korea, and even potentially Venezuela are similar to the dangerous conflicts that have routinely occurred either just prior to, or early in Maslow Windows over the last 200 years. The classic example is 1962’s Cuban Missile Crisis that could have triggered a nuclear war but was rapidly brought under control. And in fact, it intensified the U.S.- Soviet race to the Moon.
(See: “Korea, Iran, and the Venezuela Missile Crisis: Self-Organizing Toward a Critical State?”)

Indeed, no Maslow Window of the last 200 years has ever been delayed or diminished in any observable way by an early or pre-Maslow Window military conflict.
(See: “Near-Term Wars Threaten the New Space Age”)

And, although the Iran nuclear situation is potentially very threatening, there is every historical reason to believe that it too will eventually be resolved without a major war.

However, it’s possible in the next year or two that this empirically-based scenario could be wrong. For example, if the U.S. decided to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities and the attack failed, it might trigger a larger conflict and be a political catastrophe.

The Political Context
Several commentators have explored the political dimensions of a U.S. attack on Iran. For example, last February Middle East expert Daniel Pipes asserted that the only way for Obama to reverse negative public perceptions of himself is to “give orders for the U.S. military to destroy the Iranian nuclear weapon capacity.” This “dramatic gesture” is militarily doable and has enjoyed strong public support at the ~60% level since 2009.

Pipes has received significant support for his idea, including Elliott Abrams (Council of Foreign Relations) who predicts that Obama will bomb Iranian nukes and reap political benefits (8/17/10).

The Obama who had struck Iran and destroyed its nuclear program would be a far stronger candidate, and perhaps an unbeatable one.

Likeswise, George Friedman of Stratfor sees potential political benefits for Obama from an Iranian military option (10/26/10),

…given the domestic gridlock that appears to be in the offing, a shift to a foreign policy emphasis makes sense, Obama needs to be seen as an effective commander in chief and Iran is the logical target.

And David Broder (Washington Post) also links military success in Iran with political success for Obama (10/31/10).

The nation will rally around Obama because Iran is the greatest threat to the world … If he can confront this threat and contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions, he will have made the world safer and may be regarded as one of the most successful presidents in history.

And Since the Election…
Obviously, the recent historic, wave election has not strengthened Obama politically. For example, the frequently quoted University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato refers to Obama now as “OTB”: One Term Barack (11/11/10).

President Barack Obama is down for the count, will have an early lame duck presidency, and will be out of the White House in two years … If President Obama is smart, he will try to salvage his term in the White House by announcing now that he will not undertake a hopeless campaign for reelection, and instead form a bipartisan national unity government to try to hold the nation together…

Sabato’s article indicates that Obama will not have an easy re-election in 2012. And I suspect that Pipes et al. would see Obama’s political weakness as strengthening their expectations for an attack.

So What Will Obama Do?
There are four basic reasons that I believe Obama will not attack Iran.
1. Military — Any U.S. attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities must succeed. A failure might lead to a larger war and would be politically catastrophic for Obama (similar to Jimmy Carter’s Iran hostage crisis). And the military pros (e.g., Adm. Mike Mullen) publicly regard an attack as an unattractive “last option” potentially afflicted with “unintended consequences” — although that could be said of almost any military action.
2. Politics — In a best case scenario, Obama would lose the support of his liberal base and others in the Democratic Party, although he might gain many Independents and some Republicans. It would be viewed by his base as worse than extending the Bush tax cuts. Unlike Pipes et al., I’m not convinced Obama would gain more support than he’d lose.
3. Ideology — Obama campaigned as an anti-war (in Iraq) candidate. His subsequent experiences in both Iraq and Afghanistan, his rhetorical attempts to draw closer to the Muslim world, and his general approach to the domestic War on Terror, together argue against his being inclined toward an attack on Iran.
4. History — Over the last 200 years major wars do not occur just before or early in a Maslow Window. (Long-term historical patterns show that a major war is unlikely until the 2020s.) Because even a successful attack by the U.S. on Iranian nuclear facilities could trigger a larger war, it appears to be an unlikely scenario.

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Dec 07 2010

President Obama Scores Big Today with “that Sputnik moment.”

Does President Obama read 21stCenturyWaves? Should we appoint him as an Honorary Contributing Editor?

Well, based on his major theme today — encouraging Americans toward a new “Sputnik moment” — at the North Carolina Research Triangle, it’s possible.

He did make one good speech but sadly Obama’s been a negative influence on space… Click HERE.

Today President Obama used the lessons of Sputnik to point to the 2015 Maslow Window.

Referring to the surprise Soviet launch in 1957 of Sputnik — the first artificial Earth satellite — that shocked the world and triggered the 1960s Space Age, Mr. Obama asserted

That was a wakeup call. Once we put our minds to it, once we got focused, once we got unified, not only did we surpass the Soviets — we developed new American technologies, industries, and jobs.

Although the President apparently gets it, (12/6/10) is lost…

President Obama is trying to inspire America’s next technological wave by referring back to a 50-year-old achievement by a defunct nation — Sputnik.

Even some Democrats shun Sputnik. According to Democratic strategist Dan Gerstein,

“Most people under 40 have no idea what Sputnik is,” Gerstein said. “It’s an un-innovative way to talk about innovation.

Maybe to some short-term thinkers, it seems unstylish, old, and defunct, and maybe the internet and Facebook have more contemporary sex appeal … but Sputnik is the key to understanding our future.

Sputnik opened the last truly transformative decade. For the first time in human history a man left the Earth and walked on another world. The stunning virtues of democracy and free markets were demonstrated and became clear to all. The Kennedy Boom — up to that time the greatest economic expansion in history — “lifted all boats” and triggered JFK’s Camelot zeitgeist.

According to the editors of the academic journal, The Sixties,

No recent decade has been so powerfully transformative in much of the world as have the Sixties.” (The 1960s decade) has become plainly iconic … It continues to not only define us but remains urgently with us.

So Obama was right to appeal to Sputnik’s compelling symbolism.

Maybe more right than he realizes, because while Sputnik opened the last truly transformative decade, it wasn’t the first, by any means.

Every 55-60 years — over the last 200+ years — there is a Sputnik/Apollo/JFK-style decade, featuring extraordinary clusters of great explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark), macro engineering projects (e.g., Panama Canal), and sadly, major wars (World War I).

These “Maslow Windows” are driven by major economic booms associated with a long business cycle discovered in 1989 that’s documented back almost 200 years, and is correlated with the Strauss and Howe generational cycles. In response to increasing affluence, many ebulliently ascend Maslow’s hierarchy where their momentarily expanded worldviews make great explorations and MEPs seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible.

Long wave timing points to 2015 for the next 1960s-style Maslow Window, a golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology.

But there is one key difference between Sputnik and today.

Republican strategist Pete Snyder points out that — in contrast to the prosperous post-WW II expansion and the 1960s Kennedy Boom — the financial Panic of 2008 and overwhelming security threats have definitely gotten everyone’s attention in recent years. In response to Obama, he asks

We need something else to wake us up?

While Snyder’s facts are correct, he exposes not a weakness in Obama’s call-to-action, but an amazing strength.

The Panic of 2008 signaled a return to a familiar, multi-century pattern: financial panic/great recession pairs that — within 6 to 8 years — lead to a great economic boom which ignites the next Maslow Window.

Based on macroeconomic patterns of the last 200+ years and current global trends, this is how Obama’s message of today will likely materialize by 2015.

** Special Thanks to Contributing Editor Olivia Wolfe who suggested this topic. **

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Nov 28 2010

Harvard’s Joseph Nye sees U.S. “unlikely…(to) be surpassed…” Well Positioned for the 21st Century

With a global recession, the continuing threat of global terror, and a polarized political season, it’s easy for Americans to assume problems are many and solutions are few. And for some, this brings into focus the question of American decline.

However, in a special edition of Foreign Affairs (November, December, 2010) on “The World Ahead”, Joseph S. Nye, Jr. of Harvard takes a longer-term and broader perspective than most “declinists” and concludes that America is well-positioned to succeed in the 21st century.

Will the spectacular foreign policy and technological success of the International Space Station inspire the United States, and other global leaders, to pursue a united, global approach to human settlement of the solar system?

Nye’s approach is broadly consistent with’s view that current trends favor America as a key leader in the new (post-2015) global Space Age over the next 20+ years, and beyond.

America’s Future Decline Has Been Greatly Exaggerated
Nye disposes of alleged parallels between the United Kingdom’s decline and the U.S., and notes that, despite its global empire and naval supremacy, by World War I the UK was not the global leader in GDP or military spending.

He suggests that belief in U.S. decline is psychological and not unusual in history. For example, Charles Dickens once observed that

If its individual citizens are to be believed, (the U.S.) always is depressed, and always is stagnated, and always is at an alarming crisis, and never was otherwise.

Nye mentions that belief in America’s decline rose after Russia launched Sputnik in 1957. This was the seminal, Cold War event that launched the first Space Age and triggered the extraordinary, Camelot-style Apollo Maslow Window .

China’s Future Ascent Has Been Greatly Exaggerated
Although Goldman Sachs projects that China’s GDP will surpass America’s in 2027, Nye points out that, even if true, China will lag in GDP per capita long after 2030.

A complicating factor is that macroeconomic trends over the last 200+ years indicate that the 2015 Maslow Window should close by 2025 (if not before) and that by 2027, economies may experience severe long wave-related downturns similar to 1973.

In the coming decades, not only will China feel a competition from Japan and India — both with good U.S. relations — but, according to Nye,

Whether China can develop a formula that manages an expanding urban middle class, regional inequality, rural poverty, and resentment among ethnic minorities remains to be seen.

Indeed, Stratfor continues to forecast that by 2015 China will experience a major Japan-style economic collapse.

In any case, a weakened China would not be a positive development either on Earth or in space, as I indicated in a 2008 post: “10 Reasons Why China is Good for Space”.”

American Demographic Decline and Economic Stagnation?
Unlike China and most of the developed countries of the world who’s populations are seriously aging, America’s history of immigration is the key. According to Nye …

With its current levels of immigration, the United States is one of the few developed countries that may avoid demographic decline and keep its share of world population…

Indeed, Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew believes it’s “Sinocentric culture” will make China less competitive and unable to surpass the U.S. in the 21st century, because the U.S. can

attract the best and brightest from the rest of the world and meld them into a diverse culture of creativity.

This is underlined by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor who’s 2009 survey ranked the U.S. #1 in opportunities for entrepreneurship because of its

favorable business culture, the most mature venture capital industry, close relations between universities and industry, and an open immigration policy.

However, a stagnating U.S. economy would be a “showstopper” according to Nye.

Identified recently by both the current U.S. Secretary of State and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a threat to U.S. national security, the growing U.S. national debt will reach 100% of GDP by 2023 — a particularly vulnerable time near the expected end of the 2015 Maslow Window. Plus, as debt-to-GDP ratios grow, so do interest rates which limit private investment and slow economic growth.

To cure the debt, Nye recommends “spending cuts and consumption taxes that would pay for entitlements” post-recession. In fact, both long- and short-term trends in a variety of sectors point to a major economic boom by 2015.

National Power is “Like Calories in a Diet…”
More is not always better.”

The United States’ power is not what it used to be, but it also never really was as great as assumed.

Nye cites post-WW II when the U.S. was the dominant economic and military superpower in the world but could not stop the “loss” of China, or “roll back” Communism in Eastern Europe, etc. etc…

This is important because mistaken beliefs about national decline and/or power, “can lead to dangerous mistakes in policy”.

Historically, American power is based on “alliances rather than colonies.” Therefore, in the 21st century…

The United States is well placed to benefit from such networks and alliances, if it follows smart strategies.

A good example is the international, technological marvel known as the International Space Station. With a little luck, ISS could inspire a truly global 21st century approach to human settlement of the solar system.

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Nov 06 2010

Historic, Wave Election Supports Forecasts

Last Tuesday American voters presented Republicans with control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Democrats with the loss of 60 seats, with 9 other races still too close to call (Wall Street Journal, 11/6/2010). This dwarfed the Republican wave elections of 1946 and 1994 and conjured up images of the political realignment of 1894 as suggested here pre-election based on long wave economic and political trends.

This is significant beyond just the fortunes of U.S. party politics because it indicates the increased likelihood that we are reliving major elements of the financial Panic of 1893/Great 1890s Recession scenario that promptly triggered one of the most ebullient decades in American history — the Peary/Panama/T. Roosevelt Maslow Window (~1901-13).

And thus a similar transformative, golden age of prosperity, exploration,and technology (i.e., a Maslow Window) by 2015 is increasingly indicated.

A good summary of our pre-election scenarios is in: “Michael Barone Comments on the 1894 Political Scenario of”

Checking Our Pre-Election Expectations versus the Results —

1) The current economic/political framework resembles 1893 – 1913 (the Cleveland/Roosevelt era) more than 1949 – 1969 (the Eisenhower/JFK era).
Although no financial panic/great recession pair occurred between 1949 and 1969, the historic Panic of 2008 signaled that we are returning to the dominant pattern of the last 200+ years where financial panics — e.g., the Panic of 1893 — lead stunning Maslow Windows by 6 to 10 years.

2) The Political realignment of 2008 should continue through 2010.
Grover Cleveland was elected president in 1893, the year of the financial panic. The Great 1890s Recession was a double dip that continued until 1899. Like 2010, the election of 1894 was a realigning election featuring a Republican landslide (Democrats lost 125 seats). Thus the political realignment of 2008 has continued.

3) Political trends are more associated with the drive for prosperity than any particular party or candidate.
Like the election of 1894, the recent election was driven by economic issues, and was less in favor of Republicans than it was against Democrats. Exit polls revealed voter concerns were focused on job creation, federal spending, the budget deficit, and taxes. This is consistent with both short-term trends resulting from our great recession, and the pattern of the last 200+ years when the drive for prosperity becomes paramount as we approach a Maslow Window.

Three Key Near-Term Issues and Trends

1) Will the Cleveland-Obama electoral parallel continue?
Both Cleveland and Obama were elected near a financial panic. In their midterm elections, both presidents experienced major public rebukes to their economic policies. For Cleveland, the election of 1894 set the stage for his defeat two years later.

Former pollster for Bill Clinton, Douglas Schoen, recently (WSJ, 11/4/10) characterized Obama’s “historic choice” as,

He can become marginalized and largely irrelevant — as was Jimmy Carter in much of his last two years in office. Or he can return to the promise of his campaign when he offered to eschew partisanship and pursue the centrist agenda that the American people elected him to advance.

Schoen recognizes that, from the voters’ perspective, the drive for prosperity trumps any particular candidate or party.

2) Will the current political realignment continue beyond 2010?
The Wall Street Journal (11/1/10; N. King, Jr.) anticipates a “historic era” in U.S. politics and sees parallels with the 1890s.

Financial panic in 1893 set the stage for a series of sharp swings in the 1890s. Republicans won a landslide in 1894, picking up 135 seats, but then lost 48 seats two years later , despite Republican William McKinley’s triumph in the presidential race.

The Journal is suggesting that change will continue, and is hinting that unless he changes course — which is not yet indicated by the president’s recent, post-election statements — Mr. Obama risks defeat in 2012.

3) Will the Great Boom of 2015 Materialize?
Opinion polls and the success of Tea Party candidates in 2010 suggest it’s the front-burner issue. And macroeconomic data and historical trends over the last 200+ years point to the central role of a major economic boom in triggering a new Apollo-style Space Age by 2015.

Three possible economic scenarios for the U.S. and the world over the next few years are being discussed. Based on the “nominal” forecast model of, here are the 3 scenarios from high probability to low:

1. MOST PROBABLE: Recovery from the (possible double dip) great recession followed by the Great Boom of 2015 which triggers a new global Space Age,

2. POSSIBLE: Major inflation triggered by the Fed’s new $ 600 B quantitative easing “Hail Mary pass” (WSJ, 11/4/10) policy,
3) LEAST LIKELY: A Japan-style deflationary decade of economic stagnation.

More discussion of these is coming.

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Oct 24 2010

State of the Wave: Obama on Space — The New Eisenhower or JFK?

In his extremely widely-read blog, Stanford’s Daniel Pipes, head of the Middle East Forum, scoffs at NASA Administrator Bolden’s recent assertion that NASA is pursuing “a new beginning of the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world.”

First, it is inordinately patronizing for Americans to make Muslims “feel good” about their medieval contributions to science. This will lead to more resentment than gratitude.
Second, Muslims at present do lag in the sciences and the way to fix this is not condescension from NASA but some deep Muslim introspection …
Third, polls indicate that Obama’s effort to win Muslim public opinion has been a failure, with his popularity in majority-Muslim countries hardly better than George W. Bush’s …
Finally, it’s a perversion of American scientific investment to distort a space agency into a feel-good tool of soft diplomacy

After the firestorm following Bolden’s interview, the White House backed away from his initial claim that improving relations with Muslim countries is NASA’s “foremost responsibility.”

Which space pioneer president best characterizes Obama’s space vision?

However, you still have to wonder how there can be so much — even momentary — uncertainty in high places about the fundamental purpose or vision of NASA. But it does provide an opportunity, after 2 years of President Obama, to compare how U.S. presidents have viewed NASA’s role in the world, and what it might mean for our future in space.

Sputnik: One Small Ball vs. Technological Imperialism
Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) was Supreme Commander of Allied forces in Europe, including the D-Day invasion during World War II, a 5-star General of the Army, and was in his second term as U.S. president in 1957 when the Soviets changed the world by unexpectedly launching Sputnik.

Despite his extraordinary national security credentials and successful presidency, Eisenhower took considerable heat for Sputnik, “the shock of the century.” In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, …The Heavens and the Earth (1985) Walter McDougall explains that Eisenhower publicly downplayed Sputnik’s “extraordinary symbolism” by calling it merely “one small ball” in orbit. But others saw it as world-altering, including Life magazine which coined the Cold War phrase “technological imperialism,”

The public response to Sputnik was “earsplitting” and unequalled since Pearl Harbor. And because Sputnik apparently confirmed the existence of a Soviet ICBM, Lyndon B. Johnson and his Senate colleagues explored Sputnik’s fearful implications in public hearings. In Sputnik — The Shock of the Century (2001) Paul Dickson describes the American collective mood in 1957 as “deep anxiety, often bordering on hysteria.”

Despite the fact that the press believed Sputnik meant Soviet military superiority, Eisenhower knew otherwise, and,

found it hard to understand the national disarray and fear. He was startled that the Awerican people were so psychologically vulnerable …

(Eisenhower) was also blind to the symbolic power of a new technology.

According to NASA Historian Roger Launius, the public view of Eisenhower at the time was: “A smiling incompetent . . . a ‘do-nothing,’ golf-playing president mismanaging events. . . .”

JFK, Camelot, and the Race to Space
John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) was narrowly elected president of the U.S. in 1960 partly due to anxiety about a “missile gap” with the Soviets that persisted because of lingering public concerns over Sputnik.

As NASA gained momentum, JFK’s primary space-related task was to formulate an American response to the momentous Soviet launch of the first human into space on April 12, 1961.

Kennedy’s science advisors quickly demonstrated their lack of vision:

… a crash program aimed at placing a man into orbit at the earliest possible time cannot be justified solele on scientific or technical grounds.

The Wiesner Report also cautioned JFK that Project Mercury might associate him “with a possible failure or even the death of an astronaut.”

However, the Space Science Board — chaired by Lloyd Berkner — of the National Academy of Sciences saved the day by stimulating JFK’s visionary side.

Man’s exploration of the Moon and planets is potentially the greatest inspirational venture of this century and one in which the whole world can share; inherent here are great and fundamental philosophical and spiritual values which find a response in man’s questing spirit and his intellectual self-realization.

According to McDougall (1985), “Here was language to stoke the visionary, intellectual President!”

After Yuri Gargarin orbited the Earth on April 12, JFK was determined to win the Space Race.

If somebody can just tell me how to catch up … There’s nothing more important … If we can get to the Moon before the Russians, we should

VP Lyndon Johnson explained the national prestige angle, “In the eyes of the world, first in space means first, period; second in space is second in everything.” McDougall speculates that in the end, the tipping point for JFK may have been the “spinal chill attending the thought of leaving the Moon to the Soviets.”

Is Obama the New JFK?
Unlike Eisenhower and JFK, we do not yet have insiders’ accounts describing Obama’s approach to space policy and his concept for NASA. But we do have public reactions of many of his supporters and the details of his policy.

For example, former Democratic senator and 1st American in orbit, John Glenn, has highlighted the key national prestige and functional challenges of not being able to reach the International Space Station.

The originally planned gap of two or three years of our having no U.S. manned launch capability will realistically be closer to eight or ten years — or more … U.S. astronauts will…train for final launch preparation on Russian spacecraft … launches of U.S. astronauts into space will be viewed in classrooms and homes in America only through the courtesy of Russian TV.

Another Obama supporter and prominent space policy expert, John Logsdon (George Washington Univ), criticized Obama for “blowing off the Moon as a valuable destination, and setting an ambiguous target for a heavy lift vehicle,” at a time when China and others seem to be targeting the Moon. Bipartisan support for similar positions in Congress is reflected in the NASA Authorization bill recently signed by Obama.

Although some have criticized JFK for not providing a long-term roadmap to the stars, it’s clear that JFK’s Cold War space vision was successful in its national prestige, technology, and education goals; it truly demonstrated that the U.S. was #1.

However in the view of many, President Obama’s original space policy is not visionary because it omits essential elements — e.g., a heavy lift launch vehicle — at a critical time. Plus Obama’s Mars plans are poorly defined compared to JFK’s Apollo vision.

Therefore, at the present time, especially regarding the vision and specifics of his civilian space policy, Obama is not the new JFK.

Is Obama the New Eisenhower?
Rather surprisingly, Eisenhower and Obama appear to be ideological brothers, or at least cousins, in their attutudes toward the development of civilian space policy.

Eisenhower believed in limited government and ironically warned about the “military-industrial complex.” However, the new, post-Sputnik space program (McDougall, 1985) was

a technocratic accomplishment, involving the integration of new science and engineering under the aegis of the state … (and) it suggested new dependence on a clique of experts, whom the people’s representatives had no choice but to trust. All told, Sputnik threatened to undercut Eisenhower’s efforts to usher in the missile age without succumbing to centralized mobilization and planning.

At least in the arena of NASA — regardless of how ill-advised and/or impractical given current geopolitical and technological realities — President Obama seemed to be on the same page as Eisenhower with his nod to private versus government development of a new man-rated launch vehicle.

The second parallel with Eisenhower is Obama’s uncertainty about the symbolism (and vision) of NASA. Eisenhower did not initially appreciate the American public’s excitement over this new technology; e.g., McDougall (1985) tells of how Eisenhower “dozed off” during an early meeting on the future of NASA (P. 309).

Obama’s public comment — “Been there, done that…” — in the presence of 2nd man on the Moon Buzz Adrin, regarding his decision to cancel America’s Moon program, and his (previously mentioned) fuzzy plans for Mars, suggest an Eisenhower-style lack of focus.

But in Obama’s defense, it’s been 40 years since the last Moon landing and so it’s easy to underestimate their momentous global impact. And Obama took office during a major economic crisis and a continuing war on terror that distract from manned space.

It wasn’t until I read Pipes’ critique (see top of post) of his use of NASA to buttress the self-image of Muslim nations, that I realized Obama’s lack of clarity about the symbolism and potential future vision of NASA.

Therefore, at the current time, especially regarding his ideological and symbolic approach to civilian space policy, Obama is the new Eisenhower.

The Good News for American Space Policy
It is not obvious why Obama has chosen an Eisenhower-style approach to space policy instead of the more visionary JFK style — but the U.S. Congress has begun to nudge him in that bi-partisan direction.

Forbes magazine (D’Souza, 9/27/10) has explicitly suggested Obama’s space policy is influenced by his “anticolonial” roots. However, the New York Times Magazine (P. Baker, 10/12/10) and former Bush Secretary of State Condi Rice (Washington Post, G. Kessler, 10/15/10) assure us that Obama’s presidential experience over the last 2 years has propelled him in a positive direction.

In any case, if the Eisenhower analogy from one long wave ago holds, it’s possible — as we approach the new international Space Age — that Obama will embrace the next quantum leap toward U.S. and global success in space and on Earth …

Conventional wisdom portrays Eisenhower as skeptical and tight-fisted regarding space, in contrast to his enthusiastic successors. This is part of the picture, to be sure … but it obscures the fact that Eisenhower also secured NASA’s place as a growing technocratic enterprise. Ike founded the civilian agency, nurtured it, gave it the major missions and the tools it needed, and linked it to national prestige. Once the critical judgment had been made that the United States should promote its space program as open, peaceful, and scientific … the future of NASA was assured,

(McDougall, 1985).


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Oct 09 2010

Michael Barone Comments on 1894 Political Scenario of

This week released poll results that suggest voter trends in the direction of economic/political scenarios that have been previously identified by as potentially highly relevant to our future.

Does this obscure 19th century U.S. President hold the secret to our future trajectory?

In particular, Gallup’s results suggest that our continuing political realignment may have similar dynamics to the election of 1894 that was heavily influenced by the financial Panic of 1893, and culminated in the transformative Peary/Panama/T. Roosevelt Maslow Window of 1901 – 13.

Gallup’s generic ballot for Congress among registered voters reveals an extraordinary “double-digit advantage under two separate turnout scenarios” for Republicans. Among likely voters in their “higher turnout” model, the Republican candidate is preferred over the Democrat by 53% to 40%. Among likely voters in their “lower turnout” model — more likely in mindterm elections like 2010 — the Republican wins 56% to 38%.

This amazing margin is unprecedented for Republicans in the history of Gallup surveys (since 1942).

Michael Barone (, 10/4/10), principal author of The Almanac of American Politics, indicates Gallup’s stiking poll numbers,

suggest huge gains for Republicans and a Republican House majority the likes of which we have not seen since the election cycles of 1946 or even 1928 … The Gallup high turnout and low turnout numbers suggest it looks like 1894, when Republicans gained more than 100 seats in a House of approximately 350 seats.

Two years ago (10/20/08) I wrote that the financial Panic of 2008 has an analog in 1893. has also characterized a class of panics that predates Maslow Windows by about a decade … Ironically, about a month ago I was in the process of writing a new post on the Panic of 1893 and its similarities to today — and trying to develop the courage to forecast a similar crisis today (!) — when the credit meltdown occurred. The Panic of 1893 caused estimated unemployment over 10% for 5+ years. It lasted 18 months but was followed by another recession that lasted until 1897. The combination of GDP declines of several % coupled with population growth meant that GDP per capita didn’t recover to 1892 levels until 1899.

Last year (8/29/09) I suggested there were two economic/political scenarios of particular interest:

Scenario 1: The 1960s John F. Kennedy (JFK) Replay … In which the economic and geopolitical trends of 1945 – 1960 reappear about one long wave later — between 2000 and 2015 — including the end of a world war, a great economic boom, and the election of a charismatic JFK-style Democratic president, that trigger a Super Apollo Maslow Window (2015 – 2025) featuring a Camelot-like zeitgeist.
Scenario 2: The 1900s Teddy Roosevelt (TR) Encore … In which the economic and geopolitical trends of 1888 – 1903 reappear about two long waves later — between 2000 and 2015 — including a financial panic followed by a major recession, and the election of a charismatic TR-style Republican president, that trigger a Super Apollo Maslow Window (2015 – 2025) featuring a Panama Fever-style zeitgeist.

Until recently, I have seriously considered only the “JFK Replay” as the nominal scenario for the 2015 Maslow Window, but recent economic and political events have convinced me to also consider the “TR Encore.”

I concur with Barone about the potentially monumental implications of recent Gallup polling data, and believe it reinforces my tentative conclusions of December, 2009:

The bottomline is that the appearance of the Panic of 2008 was historically monumental. It signaled that our future trajectory will be more like that of the early 20th century Peary/Panama Maslow Window and less like the 1950s.

(See: The Economics of Ebullience Points to a Sparkling New Global Space Age)

The 1894 Election Model adds weight to current trends supporting a continuing political realignment fundamentally motivated by the drive for prosperity more than any particular candidate.

Because of President Grover Cleveland’s (pictured above) inability to deal with the effects of the Panic of 1893, McKinley won the presidency in 1896 and presided over the return to prosperity. In 1901 McKinley’s successor, President Theodore Roosevelt led the U.S. into perhaps its most ebullient Maslow Decade in history …

Like its 1893 counterpart, the Panic of 2008 triggered a political realignment with the election of President Obama and Democratic supermajorities in Congress. Given current economic trends, it’s likely that Republicans will experience significant Congressional gains in November, and may continue the political realignment — but this time in their favor …

Although current history is not necessarily hostage to an 1890s-style replay, one thing seems likely: the drive for prosperity in the form of a major economic boom commencing by 2015. Over the last 200+ years, this stage in the long business cycle (the “long wave”) consistently features a major economic boom that drives unprecedented, ebullient exploration and technology programs immersed in a Camelot-like zeitgeist.

(See; A Major Economic Boom by 2015? … The Lessons of Cleveland, Roosevelt, and Obama)

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