Predictions for 2020

The beginning of the year is a good time to make some predictions.

Of course, such exercises have a dismal record of actually proving correct, but that’s not the real point. The idea isn’t so much to see the future as it is to learn something about how I make predictions — and especially how to make better ones if possible.

Here we go.

U.S. Politics: I expect the president will be acquitted in the Senate, and I expect he’ll get a second term, too. This is mostly based on how our politics work: as of now, I see no reason to expect Senate Republicans to get off the merry-go-round, and I expect a combination of cultural appeal, business support, structural advantages, and Democratic own-goals will produce a narrow (possibly minority) and highly divisive outcome. Over the medium to long term, I expect this will do enormous damage to the republic.

EU Politics: I expect the UK to complete its exit. At crunch time, the EU27 will cut a generous deal cloaked in forward-looking rhetoric, while the UK will commit another act of self-harm.

Culture: Around the world, people will wrestle as never before with climate change and the political-economic-social contract. The U.S. political cycle will be a bitter proxy battle over the deal people are getting versus the deal they’re wanting.

Political Economy: In the face of a collapsing (and largely captured) public sector, business leaders will continue stepping cautiously, haltingly into the breach. This might have short-term benefits, but of course the real test will come when the economy softens. In the best case, business and society will begin hammering out a new relationship both sides can live with. In the worst case, a shock, downturn, or profiteer will put the lie to ideas about corporate responsibility and citizenship. Success is likeliest at small scale and amidst continued growth. The big players won’t be able to easily walk back from the language of stakeholder responsibilities, but there’s a real risk of that language being cynically debased.

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Those are all macro trends, and with significant home bias. There’s a good chance that the biggest stories of the year will have to do with topics far beyond this list — or the ways in which these predictions might turn out to be wrong. (I certainly hope I’m wrong on at least one of these.)

One thing seems certain: a year from now, we’ll all be shaking our heads in wonder at another wild ride around the sun.

Cheers to another year.