The economy, more than politics, will shape 2019

Helmut K. Anheier reveals his predictions for 2019 on Project Syndicate.

Here is one sure bet: 2019 will be a year of great uncertainty and even more insecurity. This makes it different from preceding years. In January 1989, few would have predicted the fall of the Berlin Wall, just as hardly anybody at the start of 2001 could have imagined the attacks of September 11. Even in 2009, almost nobody understood how profoundly the global financial crisis would change the world.

By contrast, we can be confident that this year will be difficult. We will be grappling with the deeply fraught issues of Brexit in late March, the European Parliament election in May, and the opening salvos of the 2020 presidential election in the United States later in the year. To this perilous mix, we can now add the “Yellow Vest” protests against French President Emmanuel Macron and the ongoing conflict between Italy’s government and the European Union.

At the same time, we can expect the brave people of Hungary and Poland to continue challenging their illiberal leaders, as they did in 2018. We can expect to see China and Russia respond to mounting opposition to increasingly autocratic rule. And we can expect more unpredictability from Trump’s America, which, like the United Kingdom, has demonstrated a remarkable capacity for shooting itself in the foot.

In sum, I predict that 2019 will bring more political messiness with respect to Brexit, but also a reinvigoration of the European Union and a democratic revival in parts of Eastern Europe. The US will continue treading water until 2020, and China will continue to get ahead of itself strategically and diplomatically. An overextended Russia will grow weaker, and more violence will befall the Middle East. Most important, look for economics, not politics, to shape the most important outcomes in 2019. A serious economic crisis – probably a global recession – will compound political crises, though it will also offer an opportunity to overcome them.

This article was originally published on Project Syndicate on 4 January 2019.


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