Op-Ed: The Crazy New Normal of Economic Prosperity Facing Disruption and Dystopia
– A year ago, we said that Donald Trump is not the cause but a manifestation of changes that have been building up over the decades—arising from lack of trust in institutions, declining political party identity, growing polarisation and a shrinking US middle class
– A year later, we live a foggy twilight zone of political mayhem, technological disruptions, with terrorism and natural disasters becoming regular features
– Mistrust and fear: We are confused even as economic growth takes root globally, fearing for our relevance in the age of rapid technological change
– 2017 has been nothing but an incredible challenge on our belief systems; this week alone, Bitcoin and stocks hit new highs, Facebook admit millions of fake accounts and artificial intelligence funds run ahead of their founders
– Mistrust and fear: Political polarization is happening as we have the growth of strongmen leaders vs a group of youngest ever elected leaders in a dictators face off school head prefects scenario as power consolidation continues in Saudi Arabia and China with high profile arrests
– No one is safe from “Big Brother” when China implements facial recognition technology to govern its 1.4 bio population besides banning websites and apps
– Salman Rushdie has attempted to write about “living in a world which is changing very radically and at high speed” as he confesses that the world is so bizarre that it defies imagination
– It is a crazy new normal of economic prosperity in disruption and dystopia
– As we are struggling to keep up with all that is happening, can we even think clearly in our investment decisions?
Remember, remember the 8th of November when President Trump came to be elect.
A year later, our lives have changed forever as more Americans come to regret.
A year ago, we summarised the US elections, then results unknown, that the battle won when the war has been lost. That “Donald Trump is not the cause but a manifestation of changes that have been building up over the decades”, the changes arising from “lack of trust in all institutions—political, business and media, declining political party identity, growing polarization and the shrinking US middle class” according to Citibank.
We said then, in US Elections: To Win the Battle and Lose the War, Americans felt lousy about their future (as did many of us). The war was lost in November 2016 because the next years will be about keeping the country together and winning over the “haters” in a nationalistic crusade.
Fast forward a year.
Oh, how our lives have changed to a new normal—of mistrust and fear.
One year on with Trump in charge of the world’s largest economy as well as the land of hopes and dreams, it has really brought out the worst in many of us and awoken a global paranoia as we find our lives changed forever in a way we cannot put a finger to. Indelible scars in our minds and spirits, shocked out of our thought processes, leaving us groping for the comfort of familiar sanity that we will be denied of, with no time to stop for a breather as we are plunged daily into a foggy twilight zone of political mayhem, technological disruptions, with terrorism and natural disasters becoming regular features.
Economic Growth Amidst Disruptions
One year on, we are confused even as economic growth takes root globally and yet we get no comfort from the rapid technological disruptions that confront us daily, fearing for jobs and our relevance in the new technological age where no computer is secure in this world anymore after all the hacks and attacks we have endured this year.
Source: Business Insider
Donald Trump knew this all the while, since January at least based on top web search results, saying “no computer is safe”.
It is just part of a crazy sort of new normal.
Yet since Brexit 18 months ago, followed by the election of one of the least popular presidents in America a year ago, and the world, on the bottom line, appears to be such a rosy place for nearly all asset classes from high yield bonds to the stupendous rise of Bitcoin, the undoubted winner of the year that makes Singapore en bloc sales profits look like loose change.
Stock markets continue to make new highs even though Donald Trump is seen to have achieved nothing so far, as the 65% of voters polled believe (up from 56%, 9 months back), and his approval ratings continue to challenge new lows.
As we have been saying in the past few months, 2017 has been nothing but an incredible challenge on our belief systems.
We are not just talking about this week where Bitcoin broke $7.5k to the dollar or the fact that Facebook just admitted that 270 mio accounts (out of 2.1 bio) are fake (or duplicate), or that a founder of an Artificial Intelligence fund could not explain how it made money.
So we should not be all that surprised that 300k UK workers are laid off each year due to long-term mental health problems? Not at all because friends tell us they are surrounded by psychos and retards at their workplaces and they cannot get an honest answer from their bankers and they have to lie to save their lives or face certain persecution – surely not in Singapore, we hope.
There is no political polarization here in Singapore because media coverage of the next national leader is better offshore when Jack Ma owned SCMP asked this week, Why Singaporeans Are Anxious To Know Who Will Replace PM Lee.
No wonder readership of local stuff is falling, no blame on SPH, and we shall comment no further on Singapore after reading some UN statistic that 1 journalist dies every 5 days in other parts of the world.
It does not happen here, but we are willing to wager that some reporters could have died in the Philippines under their autocratic president.
Although it cannot possibly be 100% attributable to Donald Trump’s rise, the SCMP (brazenly) reported that Donald Trump has delivered a setback to Asian democracy as he emboldened the strongmen leaders in the region.
Thus, the return of China to a one-man-reign, like all the dynasties before, just becomes part of the acceptable new normal.
There is no short supply of strongmen leaders growing from strength to strength.
On the other side of the spectrum, we see the emergence of the youngest batch of global leaders we have ever seen with Austrian’s new 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz soon to run the country after New Zealand got their youngest and female leader a fortnight ago in Jacinda Ardern although, at 37, she is 3 years older than rocket crazy Kim Jong-un and to round it up, we have Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s first prime minister who is gay and of minority descent.
It makes Emmanuel Macron look old at 39 even if he is the youngest president France has seen when he took office in May this year. It is troublesome to think that Donald Trump’s eldest child is Macron’s age.
71 or 31? Age is just a number should they clash on the global stage because the only thing all these leaders have in common is their fierce political partisanship (e.g. NZ just banned foreign home buyers of existing homes) that will spell divisions in the future as dictators face off the school head prefects.
No One is Safe From Big Brother
We hope the South China Morning Post, for their brazen reporting and Jack Ma backing, will not come to suffer the same threat that Al Jazeera came under, that Qatar is paying the price for as the Qatar embargo continues.
For more shock and awe, Saudi Arabia took a page off China’s (and North Korea’s) playbook on Sunday, arresting a ton of royals, to consolidate power to the crown prince.
Rehashing China’s crackdown on her tycoons and public officials this year?
Every day some new scandal from the abuse of wealth and power has ingrained a fear in us. For all the prosperity we have been rewarded with in 2017, it can just as easily be taken away. 2017 has been a year where those who have not paid attention to the noise of global politics have been rewarded, trusting that their leaders have put their people’s prosperity as the first priority in their minds.
Seeing billionaires like Prince Alwaleed incarcerated, to be stripped of their wealth is the sort of “crazy new normal” we have been subject to since Trump came to power and while it is not entirely due to his doing, the world would appear to have come to a certain form of economic prosperity in disruption and dystopia.
The fear festers as China rolls out their nationwide surveillance programme to identify the faces of her 1.4 bio population with stealth and accuracy, know their movements and whereabouts, while upholding bans on 3,000 websites and apps for complete control over her population. Feeling the familiar dystopia of Orwell’s 1984 yet?
Source: Daily Mail
Yes. This is our world in 2017.
Salman Rushdie broke from his norm to write about the present in his latest book, The Golden House. The book is an effort to portray “living in a world which is changing very radically and at high speed”. That is how most of us would feel this year, for sure.
For the world is so “bizarre” that is eclipses magic realism. Who needs to watch the House of Cards (now embroiled in its own scandal) when they just need to follow Donald Trump’s antics on Twitter?
Interview of Salman Rushdie: SCMP
Disenchantment with central banks and governments has led to folks running to Bitcoin and other exotic investments in a bid to diversify away. The rest of the world, too afraid to rock the boat of economic prosperity, embraces the dystopia and disruptions hoping that their partisan leaders will keep the markets and the economy in mind and fire those central bankers if they have to.
One year of Donald Trump and we are struggling to keep up with all that is happening. Can we even think clearly about our investments? Are others having the same amount of difficulty as us in making decisions?
While there is hope that he may be gone by Spring of 2018, if the Professor below is right, there is no turning back from the crazy new normal lives of ours and we will be taking a break to think about it.