Tim Morgan offers another fresh and intelligent insight into world affairs.
It seems a modest decrease in prosperity of about 6% may explain much of the political chaos in the world.
Imagine what may happen when our global debt bubble bursts and we have a significant drop in prosperity.
Fig. 1: Prosperity per capita, 2016 vs 2006
This gets us to a definition of prosperity, something mentioned here before but so important that it bears repetition. Prosperity is “discretionary” income.
Surplus energy economics provides unique insights into prosperity because the trend cost of energy is the principle driver of non-discretionary costs. The cost of essentials is massively linked to the cost of energy. Fuel, power and light are themselves significant components of the non-discretionary spend. But energy also drives the cost of water, minerals, food and the various manufactured goods which need to be acquired and replaced over time.
That the average Chinese person saw his prosperity increase by “only” 58% over a decade remains pretty impressive. But the same adjustments, when applied to less vibrant economies, have some very adverse implications for prosperity.
In the United States, growth of 14.6% in GDP translates into a decrease of 7.0% in prosperity, which might go a long way to help explain why Donald Trump was able to wrest the White House out of the clutches of the political establishment.
In Britain, GDP growth of 12.2% translates into a slump of 13.8% in prosperity, which might likewise help explain “Brexit”. Italian prosperity fell by 9.7% between 2006 and 2016 – a worse fall than any other country except Britain – which no doubt influenced the resounding voter rejection of Matteo Renzi’s reform proposals.
More positively, personal prosperity over that decade increased by 48% in India, 18% in Russia and 12% in Poland.
It’s impossible to say whether the 6.6% ten-year deterioration in French prosperity will be enough to oust the establishment from power – but a not-dissimilar deterioration (of 7%) was followed by the election of Mr Trump, whilst Italy’s 9.7% decline was more than enough to see off Mr Renzi.
If France does elect Ms Le Pen or Mr Mélenchon, the consequences could be drastic – and not just for France herself.