Tyler Cowen’s post today, The Shape of Things to Come and Not to Come, seems pretty accurate to me. The only changes I would make:
7. On issues such as drug legalization and gay rights, I see a more cyclic than melioristic pattern. We will see marginal improvements but we won’t enter a new age of reason, in either the public sector or the private sector. The Netherlands is backing away from its very liberal social policies, including on drugs, and the cause of gay rights could as easily fall back as progress. I believe that many people are broadly programmed to be prejudiced in this area.
I am more optimistic about gay rights, remembering how people seemed (and are) broadly programmed to be prejudiced in matters of race and gender as well, and yet we have mixed races and women even serving in the military, when and where it was no doubt feared just as “disruptive” and “distracting” as the specter of gays serving (overtly) is feared by some now – even though it’s not where it’s been tried.
9. More and more laws will be frozen in place. This already seems to be the case with immigration policy. More and more expenditures will be frozen into place. Politics will become more symbolic, and in some ways more disgusting, in response to the absence of real issues to argue over.
From my perspective, this is already the case. Politics is already mainly symbolic, the shouting of cliched, shallow sound-bites, and though I wouldn’t use the word disgusting, I find politics already disheartening, repulsive and repugnant. It’s not that there aren’t real issues to debate; it’s that we don’t. I do take Cowen’s point that we will have fewer issues to decide, with less money to allocate, as we continue to leave military spending, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid spending alone (I agree with Cowen’s #3 point on this). For FY 2009, those four items made up 62% of all federal spending; net interest owed on the public debt is another 5%. I can imagine that Medicare and Social Security expenditures will only grow as the population continues to age.
Not sure I agree with his #11 (some new technology will change everything) and #12 (US will enter a “cultural blossoming” stage), but I do think what he says in #5 is absolutely true:
5. The most important changes will come from aging, how other nations in the world fare especially China and India, the rate of technological progress, and foreign policy events which are exogenous from the point of view of economic policy.