The ideas that will shape the coming year, from the Alzheimer's economy to the end of genderby Prospect Team / December 10, 2015 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
Recovery—but for how long? And where? Britain and the US will begin the new year with growth that is the envy of much of the world. Not least the once-praised Brics—Brazil, Russia, China, whose economies are struggling (although India, the fourth, is doing alright, despite suggestions of structural weakness and unreliable government data).
Wages are even rising faster than inflation in the Anglosphere, breaking the pattern of years, although inflation may catch up, and there are many good questions about whether the phenomenon is temporary. Cities—and city regions—are thriving, although devolution works best for areas that are already doing well.
But there’s a new atmosphere of fear, concern and defiance, provoked by terror and disintegration of countries in the Middle East. In Britain, a new focus on assimilation is replacing the celebration of multiculturalism.
As in recent years, science, technology, and the sheer speed of social change offer more excitement and optimism than do politics. Falling prices for cleaner energy and advances in pharmaceutical engineering are bringing benefits far beyond the developed world.
The mood is different from a year ago. Looking back to our “big ideas of 2015,” we were right about falling costs: particularly oil and other commodities.
We foresaw the spread of asset taxes—such as the rise in UK stamp duty for the purchase of the most expensive homes and now, for second homes—although property taxes overall are still a confusion. We overstepped the mark in musing on the threat of deflation in the eurozone, although very low inflation has persisted, and the future fall in prices of manufactured products from China may keep that going.
We speculated that in the Middle East, countries would have to find “friends in strange places” although we did not foresee Russia’s renewed support for Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad (nor did the US or UK). And we were indisputably right that 2015 was the year when the campaign for transgender rights would really take off. This year, we bring you “the end of gender.”