Thursday, January 22, 2009

Stratfor's Predictions for the Next Hundred Years, Part II

Again via John Mauldin, George Friedman of Stratfor offers some of his predictions for the rest of this century, "The Next 100 Years". Below are a couple more excerpts.

Poland hasn't been a great power since the sixteenth century. But it once was—and, I think, will be again. Two factors make this possible. First will be the decline of Germany. Its economy is large and still growing, but it has lost the dynamism it has had for two centuries. In addition, its population is going to fall dramatically in the next fifty years, further undermining its economic power. Second, as the Russians press on the Poles from the east, the Germans won't have an appetite for a third war with Russia. The United States, however, will back Poland, providing it with massive economic and technical support. Wars—when your country isn't destroyed—stimulate economic growth, and Poland will become the leading power in a coalition of states facing the Russians.

This next excerpt seems a little less plausible:

Today, developed countries see the problem as keeping immigrants out. Later in the first half of the twenty-first century [after the population bust Friedman predicts, as birthrates drop in the developing world], the problem will be persuading them to come. Countries will go so far as to pay people to move there. This will include the United States, which will be competing for increasingly scarce immigrants and will be doing everything it can to induce Mexicans to come to the United States—an ironic but inevitable shift.

These changes will lead to the final crisis of the twenty-first century. Mexico currently is the fifteenth-largest economy in the world. As the Europeans slip out, the Mexicans, like the Turks, will rise in the rankings until by the late twenty-first century they will be one of the major economic powers in the world.

A population bust is certainly plausible, and so might competition for skilled immigrants at that point, but I am skeptical that the U.S. will be paying to import unskilled immigrants from Mexico by the end of the century. Also, the idea of Mexico developing as an economic power is at odds with the recent report by the U.S. Military's Joint Forces Command that Mexico (along with Pakistan) is in danger of becoming a failed state (see "Among top U.S. fears: A failed Mexican state" in the January 9th edition of the International Herald Tribune). It also doesn't take into account the negative effects of Mexico's declining oil production.

The photo of the U.S.-Mexico border above comes from the IHT article mentioned parenthetically in the preceding paragraph.


JK said...

Just my 2 cents

Brzezinski approves of the authors Poland assessment.

Germany's fate, IMO, depends on the outcome of the EU. If the EU remains the size it is now, failing to pull in Eastern Europe and the Turks, then Germany is probably doomed to spats with France for the forseeable future. But if the EU expands and Russia is successfully pushed back out of Eastern Europe, Germany would become positioned to become a world power again. I wouldn't count them out at all, declining demographics or not.

You never know what will happen with Mexico. (But I agree that the assessment we'd be paying for Mexican immigrants is unlikely) There was a time when the US was also in danger of being a failed state, and outlaws were rampant. But geographically Mexico is positioned well. Whether Mexican immigrants remain predominantly skilled or unskilled depends on the investments the government makes if/when they pull themselves out of the straights they are in. Also, when you think about it, I wouldn't wager that most of the US's populace is what you would call "skilled". We just don't happen to immigrate much.

DaveinHackensack said...

The Poland prediction sounds plausible to me as well. Poland made one of the most successful transitions post Communism, and Friedman's logic about the benefits of being backed by the U.S. in a cold war make sense.

Re Mexico: sure, there are plenty of unskilled Americans (including many of Mexican ancestry, btw), but the relevant comparison is between the immigrants that come here from Mexico (and Central America) and those who come from elsewhere. The difficulty and cost of crossing an ocean seems to select for more enterprising/skilled immigrants from elsewhere (as I've written before, we should select explicitly for higher skilled immigrants, as Australia does). There are skilled Mexicans of course, but they represent a tiny percentage of Mexican immigrants to the U.S.

As for the potential of Mexico to upgrade its population's skills, Mexico has done nothing to demonstrate that potential, particularly with its large Indian population (some of whom don't even speak Spanish yet). Walmart's Mexican subsidiary has had some success developing local indigenous talent, but that's the only successful example I can think of. Conceivably, other businesses in Mexico could play a similarly constructive role, but I haven't heard of any doing so.

Geographically, Mexico is positioned spectacularly. In addition to sharing a border with the world's largest economy, it has plenty of coastline, fertile soil, long growing seasons, natural resources, etc. It has not lived up to this potential by a long shot.

The other part of Friedman's Mexico prediction, which I didn't excerpt here, is a little more plausible: that increased Mexican immigration/percentage of population in the border states will lead to conflict between the U.S. and Mexico later this century.

Jose Jimenez said...

We're already paying the Mexicans that come here through schooling costs and free health care being provided for illegal immigrants and their families.

Comprendo Senor?

J said...

Poland? Have you heard about Lynn's work?

Mexico is not an independent power, its prosperity depends on the USA.

What about Viet Nam? Korea?