A Bit of Happy News for the Weekend

Willem Buiter is Citgroup’s chief economist, and here’s CNBC today reporting his forecast for the global economy over the next 40 years:

“We expect strong growth in the world economy until 2050, with average real GDP growth rates of 4.6 percent per annum until 2030 and 3.8 percent per annum between 2030 and 2050,” Buiter wrote in a market research. “As a result, world GDP should rise in real PPP-adjusted terms from $72 trillion in 2010 to $380 trillion dollars in 2050,” he wrote.

Isn’t that great news? For all the doom and gloomers in the world, this is a nice corrective: here’s somebody who actually knows something about economics and economic forecasting saying that the world, in just 40 years, is likely to be five times richer than it is now.

So—instead of hoarding gold and silver—eat cookies, have children, and be happy. Barring a global pandemic or some other civilization destroying calamity, the human future actually looks pretty promising.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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4 Responses to A Bit of Happy News for the Weekend

  1. Paradigm says:

    He may know about economics but he seems to disregard the environment, political and social instability that comes with it. There is a lot that could go wrong here.

    Let’s say the oil runs out. Then we have 1.5 billion muslims without any means to support themselves. Look at Yemen which has no oil or tourism. They are every bit as dirt poor as the countries in central Africa. And how will they cope with that frustrating situation? They seem to react violently to cartoons…

    And with economic growth the Chinese eat more meat and Indians drive more cars. So we’ll be rich but under water. Also, more of them can afford to choose the gender of their children, the imbalance is a ticking bomb already.

    Lastly, with more people living packed in cities we get more epidemics and pandemics. A large portion of the African population was wiped out by HIV not long ago. Next time it may be something that is more contagious.

    But I guess Buiter covered this already. And warned us about the subprime loans…

    • santitafarella says:

      Paradigm:

      What’s the forest, what’s the trees?

      From your vantage, the forest is pessimism; from mine, it’s optimism. You’re Voltaire and I’m Candide.

      One of us is mistaking the trees for the forest, but which one?

      It’s kind of like the debate between atheists and theists. Who is missing the forest for the trees there? The atheist says: “There’s no evidence for God!” The theist says: “Look at nature from a mountaintop—or the stars at night! You’re missing the forest for the trees.” The atheist retorts: “Look at the Holocaust! You’re literally looking at trees while missing the vast forest of suffering that makes God’s existence absurd.”

      Who is seeing the forest and who the trees? And how do we ever decide? Is it an attitude toward life that we start with, or an intellectual construct? It seems to me that a good deal of existence starts with a temperamental attitude toward optimism v. pessimism; toward hope or hopelessness. It’s the tension between a positive humanist like AC Grayling and a bleak anti-Enlightenment intellectual like John Gray. Which one is missing the bigger picture?

      Like you, I’m a pessimist at heart—an Eeyore. But I try (sometimes) to look on the bright side and see if I’m missing something important by not hanging out there enough.

      You may be right. The world may be Blade Runner forty years out. But we have to lay our bets, don’t we? You can buy gold and stock food in the garage. Or you can eat grilled cheese sandwiches and plan to watch the Academy Awards on Sunday night. I’m doing the latter, and rooting for The Social Network.

      —Santi

  2. Paradigm says:

    Well, it’s a question of perspective or temperament. But also of facts. I’m not sure if you are familiar with psychologist Lewis Terman and his study of intelligent children. They were followed from the cradle to the grave. Turns out the extraverts die young – and extraversion strongly correlates to optimism. Extraverts/optimists smoked and drank more and crashed in cars etc.

    This is not to say optimism is useless, it is essential in many situations. But overall, the world is a dangerous place and pessimism (realism) is what has kept us alive as a species. Just look at how our nervous system works – it reacts much stronger to negative stimuli than to positive. But today we live in a culture of optimism that says everything will be okay. That’s a culture with short lifespan.

    My favorite is Black Swan, maybe also a reflection of our different personalities. The Social Network has some good dialogue, but it feel more like a TV series than a film. But The Kings Speech will probably win. The jury loves characters with disabilities. But who needs an Oscar? Taxi Driver, Blade Runner, Donnie Darko, A Clockwork Orange? Fellini, Bergman, Tarkovsky, Hitchcock? I rest my case : )

  3. santitafarella says:

    Paradigm,

    I don’t think we live in an optimistic culture at all. I think most people are deeply pessimistic, and in their pessimism they turn to nostalgia, religion, inane conspiracy theories, end time novels, etc to explain the “chaos.”

    The reality is that the world is getting better, not worse. The reality is that the next 500 years of human history are far more likely to be more efficient, peaceful, and prosperous for humanity (as a whole) than the last 500 years. (Just look at the advances in human existence and understanding since the Enlightenment started just 250 years ago. It’s astonishing. And it’s a good trend guage for where things are likely to continue moving.)

    As for Black Swan, that’s definitely my third film (After The Social Network and True Grit, which are toss-ups for me. I was deeply moved by both.) I liked Black Swan a lot. But what is the Black Swan? It’s an affirmation of the human spirit striving for perfection against inner demons.

    The Black Swan, in other words, is an Apollonian quest narrative. It’s the very human overgoing that you attempt when you’re confident in overcoming (or at least attempting) large obstactles (that is, when you are optimistic). The Black Swan was Nietzschean in the character’s attempt to channel the Dionysian to an Apollonian end.

    As for the King’s Speech, it was so-so. I don’t like the ridiculous emphasis on royalism as somehow important to winning WWII. Who really gave a shit what the king said? What Churchill said mattered. Simply looking at the anti-Enlightenment monstrosity of Hitler’s blood-and-soil Herderian Germany would have steeled any sane modern person for war.

    But I’ve never forgiven the 1990s Academy Award judges for dissing Pulp Fiction for Forest Gump.

    —Santi

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