Insights · November 1st, 2010

Election day in the U.S looms and it is fascinating to live in nation that seems to have collective memory loss. If the most common predictions are right (I do think some counter-trend surprises are likely) the U.S. will have, just two short years after rejecting a political philosophy that had brought the economy to a standstill, created the greatest debt and financial crisis since the Great Depression, and promulgated two controversial wars, partially re-embraced the very same philosophy.

Doing so flies in the face of many facts:
Average monthly private sector job growth 2008, final year under President Bush: Loss of 317,250 jobs per month. So far in 2010: Gain of 95,888 jobs per month.

Federal Deficit final year of Bush presidency: $1.416 Trillion. First Obama budget for 2010: $1.291 Trillion.

Stock Market final Day of Bush presidency:
Dow – 7,949
NASDAQ – 1,441
S&P 500 – 805

Stock Market mid-day November 1, 2010
Dow – 11,108 (+40%)
NASDAQ – 2,512 (+74%)
S&P 500 – 1,183 (+47%)

(Hat tip to Jed Lewison for these comparisons.)

It is true that many people with “memory loss” do not know about such comparisons, particularly since the 24/7 media tends to ignore them as well.

But there must be something deeper going on than memory loss. I suspect that the success of the media and wealthy elite financed attack on the current direction of the U.S. is a combination of two things. First, the history of human civilization is one of a small elite, (let’s call them royalists as FDR used to do), obtaining the vast majority of wealth and doing so in part by subjugating and controlling everyone else. To a royalist by birth or by desire, this seems the proper and natural order of things. The 240 years of the American experiment runs counter trend to that. The creation of the great middle class in the U.S. and in a similar way around the world in the past century has been, so far as we know, a unique moment in human history. But the royalist impulse and the desire by some to recreate the old world seems never to be far off the stage. I think, as radical as the idea may sound, that is part of the current struggle.

Second, my interpretation of the so-called Tea Party movement in the U.S. finds that with money flowing freely from the royalists, a relatively small but influential proportion of the population that generally fears the future has come together with the dream of restoring the nation to a former state, whether that state is real or exists only in myth. The fear is of different people, different life styles, different access to medical care, and on and on, but mostly it is a quite rational fear that the U.S. place of easy dominance in the world is slipping. This final fear is largely unspoken, yet has become the most common question I get in my speaking and consulting appearances – “Do you think the U.S. is on the way down?” Americans ask me this, as do foreign nationals, wherever I go.

My answer, by the way, is, “It depends on what we do in the next few decades.”

So we will see what happens on Nov. 2 in the elections, and consider where to go from there. Personally I am hoping for not too large a step backward (as I define it), and perhaps just another step like that in a sand-hill we used to have to climb on the way to Boy-Scout camp in Oregon. On that hill we took two steps up, slid back one, then took another two steps forward.

Nikolas Badminton – Chief Futurist

Nikolas Badminton

Nikolas is the Chief Futurist of the Futurist Think Tank. He is world-renowned futurist speaker, a Fellow of The RSA, and has worked with over 300 of the world’s most impactful companies to establish strategic foresight capabilities, identify trends shaping our world, help anticipate unforeseen risks, and design equitable futures for all. In his new book – ‘Facing Our Futures’ – he challenges short-term thinking and provides executives and organizations with the foundations for futures design and the tools to ignite curiosity, create a framework for futures exploration, and shift their mindset from what is to WHAT IF…

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