Crystalballing the Future of the World

Crystalballing the Future of the World

Niall Ferguson

The 20 June 2004 Wall Street Journal (WSJ.com) Opinion Journal has a superb article by Glasgow-born Niall Ferguson, professor of history – NYU, senior fellow – Hoover Institution, author – Colossus: The Price of America’s Empire, Penguin, 2004.

American Hegemony or Chaos?

The article is entitled WHEN EMPIRES WANE : The End of Power : Without American hegemony the world would likely return to the dark ages”.

At a time when most of the rest of the world – especially the news media – is focussing on short-sighted short-term political goals and problems, including many issues which are often of minor consequence in the long term, Ferguson looks at the world political situation over the long haul and sees it as a constant struggle for power, writing:

“Power … is not a natural monopoly; the struggle for mastery is both perennial and universal.”

Ferguson refers to historical periods marked by dominant powers and other periods marked by declines of hegemonial power – and winds up preferring the former – but emphasizes that global power struggles are a part of life on our planet and always have been.

It is of course preferable, but also unrealistic, historically seen, to prefer or expect peace, since the state of war is simply a given human constant, judging by the track record of our species.

Population and Technology

Ferguson appropriately discusses the great importance of population demographics on the world of tomorrow, but glosses over the perhaps equally important issue of the state of technology advancement for the future political state of the world.

In our view, technological advance is “political system dependent” – and determinative for any professed vision of the future of the planet, since the state of technology is the principal enablement but also limitation in localizing the weapons available to any given military force.

US World Power and Technology

US hegemony, i.e. its predominant stance as the world’s greatest power, is not only a historical position of strength which has developed over the last more than 200 years, but this position of might has been catalysed by the fact that the American political and economic system is more conducive to the development of sophisticated technology and weaponry than political and economic systems which are more backward – and those are, frankly, every other state and nation on this planet.

Indeed, the often primitive weapons and methods employed by America’s enemies simply serve to prove the massive failure of the political, legal and religious systems of these backward nations. Only when such countries or groups avail themselves of modern technology are they a threat. But by using modern technology, they have already lost the battle that they are trying to win for the sake of a world which once allegedly existed in the past. They have become “modern” combatants professing a world view which is long gone and never to return. The hands on the clock of time can not be turned back.

How the World of Tomorrow will NOT Look

We may not know exactly how the world of the future will look, but we do know some elements of how it will NOT look. As in man’s historical past, the primitives will not be leading the men of knowledge – they never have, and never will.