by Ed West
Friday, 15
May 2020
Idea
10:20

See you in 2040 — bet you the world is a better place

by Ed West
Climate change protesters in Australia

If you haven’t already, I strongly suggest you read Aris Roussinos’s brilliant essay on Guillaume Faye, the French Right-wing intellectual whose book featured on Michael Gove’s bookcase. In one passage Roussinos writes:

By the year 2020, [Faye] claimed, as a result of the inherent fragility created by a globalised financial and political system, civilisation would buckle under a cascading set of interlinked crises. Waves of pandemics, of political disorder and state collapse in the Middle East and Africa, of global financial crashes and ecological degradation would rebound off each other, escalating the pressures upon the international system to the point that the world of the late 20th century would become impossible to sustain.
- Aris Roussinos, UnHerd

I think it’s safe to say that 2020 hasn’t been a cracker, and we won’t see any articles in the week between Christmas and New Year telling us that it was actually the greatest year ever for humanity. Steven Pinker’s rosy Enlightenment Now risks becoming the End of History of our age, with all of Faye’s predictions occurring at once and our lives turning into one big Black Mirror episode.

Yet perhaps because I am needlessly contrarian, the last few weeks has made me think that, maybe, everything is going to be fine. Climate change is the big worry, and on a global scale continued high population growth in sub-Saharan Africa and relations with an increasingly powerful and hostile Communist China are both of concern. But otherwise, and even with Covid-19, I think things will get better.

There will be a recession this decade, but our world is not going to fall apart. The coronavirus will change some of the patterns of globalisation, for example; we will certainly not rely on China for so much of our manufacturing, as we did in 2001-2020.

This period, from China’s entry to the World Trade Organisation to the coronavirus, may be seen as the a golden age of globalisation, but lots of things will go back to normal. Overseas trade will jump straight back up, as will foreign holidays once they become safe and affordable.

There may even be some health positives; the huge, international, cooperative effort to find a vaccine is bound to have side effects, with other medical breakthroughs coming about as a result of the research. It might also inspire a new interest in medicine and science among young people, as the space race did.

Six months ago most people didn’t even know what an epidemiologist did; now they’re the biggest celebrities in the country, saving lives, turning up on TV and having affairs with Dutch blondes.

I’d definitely be prepared to bet that on 1 January, 2040, the world will be better than it was on 1 January, 2020. More people will be healthier, richer and living in peace. I would make that bet with anyone willing to take it and I’m pretty confident I’d collect the money — assuming I haven’t died from some ghastly new disease by then.

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