Daniel Altman is Big Think's Chief Economist and an adjunct faculty member at New York University's Stern School of Business. Daniel wrote economic commentary for The Economist, The New York Times, and The International Herald Tribune before founding North Yard Economics, a non-profit consulting firm serving developing countries, in 2008. In between, he served as an economic advisor in the British government and wrote four books, most recently Outrageous Fortunes: The Twelve Surprising Trends That Will Reshape the Global Economy.
Two years ago I published a book called Outrageous Fortunes: The Twelve Surprising Trends That Will Reshape the Global Economy. And I made predictions for what the global economy would look like in the very long term, maybe 10, 20, 40 years down the road. What would the big changes be? Now it’s only been a couple years, though I actually finished writing it back in 2009 but still, we are seeing some of these changes start to take place already and it’s fascinating.
For example, I predicted that the World Trade Organization would no longer be the setting for global trade talks. And in fact that it would be possible to get countries to negotiate in blocks on their own and eventually push each other into global trade negotiations. That’s what’s happening. There was a story in the Washington Post that talked about how President Obama is trying to block up countries in the Americas and Asia to make a big trade deal. And then also negotiate with Europe and it’s trading partners at the same time.
We might be able to bring these countries together in some sort of global deal with a leader follower dynamic that pulls each one along every step of the way. This is really exciting and it could create a lot of gains for economic growth around the world. Another prediction I made was that the European Union would no longer exist as an economic entity in the way it has to date. And we’re starting to see the beginnings of this. First of all we saw Greece potentially leaving the Euro. Now we’re having problems with other countries in the Euro area, perhaps Cyprus now. But the U.K. is actually the one that maybe closest to pulling out of it’s economic bonds with Europe or the European Union altogether.
And I said the reason for this was that in the long-term the risks and opportunities faced by these countries are actually very different. And it would make sense for them to split into two or three or even four different sectors. But what we’re seeing now is some of those tensions are already starting to bite. And the farsighted policy makers are wondering whether they can really be part of a union that only moves at one speed. Now I’ve still said some things in the book that are a little controversial. For example I said that a new generation of lifestyle hubs would either supplant or even add to the economic hubs that we have now, they would just be places where people wanted to live and they could take their jobs with them and form new communities there. Places where the weather was good, the cost of living wasn’t so high and there were great amenities that they all enjoyed. We’re starting to see expats moved to more places in the world. We’re seeing expat communities pop up in places like Buenos Aires, in Hong Kong and there’s been one for a long time but perhaps new ones in places like Bahrain.
It hasn’t completely happened yet because we don’t see a big hub that has its own economic gravity. But I think that if you give me time, another 10 or 20, maybe even 40 years, we’ll get there. And I’ll be updating you on some of my other predictions as we go along.
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd