As George Friedman discussed in his The Storm Before The Calm, the U.S. operates on two long cycles – the socioeconomic cycle and the institutional cycle. The first works on a 50-year time frame, while the other is about 80-years long. The socioeconomic cycle’s last shift “happened around 1980, when the economic and social dysfunction that began in the late 1960s culminated with a fundamental shift in how the economic and social systems functioned.” This is referred to as the Reagan Revolution, which brought lower tax rates that addressed a crucial issue facing the U.S., which was a lack of capital. Today, we suffer from too much capital and a lack of investment opportunities, which Mr. Friedman attributes to a decline in productivity growth as we experience a falloff in innovation. There have been a number of studies and books written about why the nation’s productivity has declined.
The institutional cycle deals with how the federal government’s operation and relationship to society changes. It’s first 80-year cycle began with the Revolutionary War and the drafting of the Constitution and ended with the Civil War in 1865. The second cycle extended to World War II. The current cycle will end around 2025, about the same time the current socioeconomic cycle will end, leading, in Mr. Friedman’s view, to extreme chaos that will force changes on the nation that will bring social calm and economic prosperity in the 2030s, and thereafter.
Mr. Friedman makes a compelling case in studying how our economy, government, society and geopolitical role in the world have evolved and changed since the arrival of the first colonists in the late 1500s and early 1600s. Without expounding on his discussion, the nature of cycles, something we pay attention to in the business, investment and energy worlds, has driven us to think about how the future may evolve.
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There is a lot of talk in financial blogs about the prospect of a debt jubilee where governments get together and decide that the liabilities have become so large that the totals will be reduced in an abrupt manner and a new money will be created.