This paper identifies the factors that will be most important in shaping the worldwide demographic landscape in 2020 and beyond. It examines how societies are coping with the broad range of demographic challenges and assesses what conditions may be key to transforming demographic trends into security issues of interest to the United States. Global demographic trends will have far-reaching consequences for the key elements of national power: economic, military, and political within the larger global community. Allies and rivals alike will cope differently— some better than others. Reforms require advance notice and gradual implementation that, given the immediacy of many of the world’s demographic challenges, leave no room for complacency.
- Our allies in the industrialized world will face an unprecedented crisis of aging.
- The aging challenge could reduce Japan’s economic power.
- An older Europe will be less willing to face up to global hotspots.
- Key potential US rivals—China and Russia—face demographic challenges:
- For China, a large and growing urban population coupled with a looming aging population could mean slower economic growth, increased political instability, and perhaps significant cultural changes.
- For Russia, an unhealthy declining population—especially among working-age males—could impact economic growth and domestic stability, vulnerabilities that internal political groups or other states could seek to exploit.
- As other industrialized countries deal with aging crises, the United States will be expected to assume a larger share of the burden for increased financial and humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping, and military interventions around the world.
- The burden may increase as demographic factors heighten existing tensions and exacerbate other factors that precipitate conflict.
- These pressures will build in regions of the world, like Sub-Saharan Africa, that have traditionally not been at the center of US policy interest.
- The rise and fall of civilizations are linked to demographic trends:
- Great Britain’s population/employment crisis in the 18th and 19th centuries contributed to out-migration and innovation, which eventually led to technological breakthroughs and the Industrial Revolution.
- Population growth has contributed to revolutions and expansionism:
- Population growth in 18th-century France played a key role in the French Revolution.
- Japanese imperialism from the 1870s to 1945 was fueled, in part, by its rise in population.
- Dramatic population declines have created power vacuums that new ethnic groups exploit.
- Differential population growth rates between neighbors have historically altered conventional balances of power.
- Such demographic imbalances could trigger future tensions particularly in countries that have land borders and relatively even conventional capabilities.
- Areas for future tensions include the borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and Malaysia and Singapore, which harbor historical enmity and are projected to have widening demographic disparities.
The Aging Challenge: Straining Institutions and Governments:
- The world is getting older at a rate unprecedented in history.
- By 2050, nearly 1.5 billion people or 16.3 percent of the world’s population will be aged 65 or older compared to about 420 million or 6.9 percent in 2000.
- Even the youngest regions—Latin America, Asia, and Africa—will have substantial elderly populations.
- Europe and Japan will face the most immediate impact of aging.
- Aging combined with large drops in fertility means fewer workers to support retirees.
- Work force issues will be especially problematic for Europeans, who harbor cultural biases against working later in life.
- Labor force contraction could depress economic output, boost inflation, and curb investment.
- This could lead to overcapacity and falling returns on investment in key sectors of some industrialized economies.
- At the same time, the costs of public pensions will increase much faster than economic growth in the developed world.
- Health-care costs are also certain to rise unless technology vastly changes the cost of medical care or countries give more recognition to preventative care and ration medical interventions.
- Aging countries’ debt will rise as social safety net spending skyrockets, putting pressure on interest rates and crowding out productive investment.
- Divergent fiscal policies to deal with aging will strain regional economic unions like the European Monetary Union.
- Global financial markets could be roiled by wide swings in capital flows with slower aging countries exporting less capital than fast-aging ones.
- To alleviate fiscal pressures, the developed world will need to act soon with a combination of policy changes.
- Productivity gains and increasing labor force participation could mitigate the problem somewhat and are less controversial than options to reduce benefits.
- Raising retirement ages or trimming benefits entails political costs.
- Immigration as a viable option requires extraordinarily large numbers of people to maintain support ratios at current levels.
- Pronatalist policies are long-term solutions that have not yet proved effective.
- The United States is in a better position to cope with the aging issue than most of its developed country counterparts.
- But Europeans and Japanese are beginning to take the issue seriously.
- Unless US allies completely re-engineer their entitlement programs, they will have a long, painful road ahead.
- The challenge: develop retirement systems that do not undermine private savings and investment through crippling levels of taxation on the young.
- We are already seeing a rise in polarization among age groups; a rise in intergenerational conflict may not be far behind.
Youth Bulges Bode Instability:
- The world’s poorest and often most politically unstable countries—including, among others, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Colombia, Iraq, Gaza, and Yemen—will have the largest youth populations through 2020.
- Most will lack the economic, institutional, or political resources to effectively integrate youth into society.
- The failure to adequately integrate large youth populations in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa is likely to perpetuate the cycle of political instability, ethnic wars, revolutions, and antiregime activities that already affect many of these countries.
- Youth bulges have generated such political instability in the past in Algeria, Iran, Northern Ireland, Gaza, and Sri Lanka.
- Political instability would make it even more difficult for poor countries with large youth populations to generate economic growth and encourage the foreign and domestic investment needed to generate new jobs.
In addition to contributing to political volatility in several already unstable regions and countries, youth bulges may:
- Provide large numbers of Afghan and Pakistani youth willing to engage in terrorist activities.
- Empower youth to slowly weaken authoritarian regimes in places like Iraq, a trend that, while beneficial to some US interests in the longer term, would generate serious conflicts between the government and the governed in the shorter term.
- Significantly change the ethnocultural mix of the West Bank and Gaza to include a much higher ratio of Palestinians to Israelis.
- Boost legal and illegal migration from Mexico to the United States.
- Exacerbate other problems in Sub-Saharan Africa.
- Increase the number of human casualties US adversaries are willing to accept in battle.
Migration offers partial Remedy:
- Migration could be a partial solution to demographic imbalances:
- Migration could provide jobs to workers from developing countries and labor for the developed world.
- Developing countries would gain hard currency and greater political influence in countries that receive immigrants.
- The tax and consumer bases of aging societies could increase, helping to alleviate the budgetary strains of supporting aging populations.
Factors that will increase global migration over the next 20 years include:
- Economic reform, globalization, and democratization.
- A growth in income differences between wealthy and poor countries resulting from the mixed adoption of new economy reforms.
- Illegal migration, increasingly facilitated by crime syndicates and corrupt officials, which is projected to exceed legal migration.
- Forced migration—resulting from military conflict, economic crises, natural disasters, or similar catalysts—will remain a critical issue.
- Large-scale migrations can quickly alter ethnic balances, causing instability
We nevertheless see several downsides to migration:
- A slower growing ethnic group may face a closing “window of opportunity” in which the demographic dominance of a rival group will leave it few options for claiming certain lands or political privileges.
- Migrant flows also affect the ethnic composition of host nations, often with destabilizing results.
- Developed countries will need record levels of immigrants to support their retirees: – Immigration to Germany would have to far exceed the 1 million immigrants in 1990 that resulted from unification.
- Strong public resistance to immigration—especially in Germany and Japan—will fuel political controversy:
- Japan will face the greatest political hurdles because of its traditional emphasis on ethnic and cultural homogeneity.
- Sending countries will resent the flow of high-skilled workers to wealthier countries.
- Immigrants will increasingly seek to effect change and spark debate over host countries’ foreign policies.
- Immigrant communities will take advantage of growing global communication networks to rally their geographically dispersed countrymen.
- The sudden upsurge in strength of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during the summer of 1998 may have been partially due to fundraising efforts by the Albanian diaspora in the West.
The Urban Century Arrives:
- For the first time in human history, in 2015 the majority of people will reside in urban centers.
- Urban growth will be particularly rapid in developing countries, especially in Asia.
- Immigration is a driving force for urbanization.
- Immigrants looking for employment tend to have higher birth rates than host country populations.
- Developing nation megacities have such high population bases that even modest birth rates create alarming increases in population.
- Megacities typically grow faster than local governments can plan.
- More than 1.1 billion people live in urban areas where pollution exceeds healthy levels, 220 million lack access to clean drinking water, and 420 million lack access to the simplest latrines.
- High population density, uneven income distribution, and mismanagement of social services, all prevalent in megacities, are breeding grounds for disease and social upheaval.
- Urban conflict could occur at any time and for any reason.
- Environmental or health disasters, economic crisis, or longstanding ethnic, religious, or communal/cultural tensions are common causes.
- Which urban areas will successfully utilize increases in population?
- And which will degenerate into areas of humanitarian crisis and conflict?
Lagos stands out as a city particularly vulnerable to crisis:
- Its population is rising so rapidly that by 2005 it will be one of the fi ve largest cities in the world.
- The basics of adequate shelter, sanitation, and water are lacking for the majority of the populace.
- Religious and ethnic conflicts are fed by high numbers of young people who lack economic opportunities.
- Twenty different councils are attempting to govern the city
Shanghai, on the other hand, is a good example of a city that has passed through a difficult period in urban development and now seems to be managing well.
- That said, vulnerabilities associated with integrating new labor into the city’s population to support its rising elderly population remain.
Health and Environmental Aftershocks:
- The infectious disease burden will exacerbate demographic problems in the developing world.
- In the developed world, lifestyle-induced diseases are rising, a major factor in health-care costs for the elderly.
- Ninety-five percent of people living with HIV and/or AIDS live in the developing world.
- Seventy percent of those live in Sub-Saharan Africa.
- HIV prevalence in Africa is expected to increase over the next 10 years.
- Prospects for progress, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, are dim:
- Infection levels remain high even in countries that have instituted HIV/AIDS education and prevention efforts.
- Environmental degradation will increase in developing and transitioning countries that have already experienced some of the world’s worst environmental problems.
- Environmental pressures often contribute to conflict.
Environmental issues disrupt population projections in ways that are often not readily apparent:
- For example, in Russia, 70 years of treating air, land, and water as “free goods” has left a severely degraded environment and high levels of pollution that are likely to have a long-lasting impact on the health, including reproductive health, of the population.
Demographic challenges in many key countries will increase environmental degradation in areas that have already experienced some of the world’s worst environmental problems. Russia, Mexico, India, and China are having the most notable problems:
- Russia’s vast but aged defense and industrial physical infrastructure is deteriorating at an alarming rate, and Russians have demonstrated scant willingness to allocate suffi cient resources to address the safety issues. The spectacular Ostankino TV tower fire in 2000 is a visible reminder of this poor state of affairs.
- The infrastructure of the Mexico City Metropolitan Area (MCMA) is already inadequate, and population growth will only worsen the urban environmental problems. The city’s aquifer—seriously damaged by large-scale subsidence—cannot keep pace with the water requirements of its 20 million residents. Land subsidence has made the city prone to more floods and has damaged its infrastructure. In addition, the lack of waste water treatment and hazardous waste controls in the MCMA threaten the aquifer and distribution system with microbiological and chemical contamination.
Population growth, industrialization, poverty, unenforced environmental laws, inconsistent governance, and a focus on economic development have stressed India’s environment with significant economic, political, and societal consequences. It is not uncommon in any given year for thousands of Indians to perish and hundreds of thousands to suffer economic losses from disasters.
- Seven of the world’s 10 most polluted cities are in China, and Chinese scientists estimate that 30 to 40 percent of the country is affected by acid rain. Excessive logging contributes to frequent disastrous floods, and the World Bank estimates that almost every river and lake in China is polluted to some extent.
Population growth in developing countries will continue to increase the use of, and in some cases deplete, natural resources such as water and forests. It will also adversely impact the environment by:
- Increasing pressure on arable land, which in turn can lead to soil erosion and increased siltation and flooding.
- Increasing the use of fertilizers and pesticides, leading to water and soil contamination.
- Encouraging the growth of urban squatter settlements, which can contribute to water and air pollution and provide a breeding ground for disease.
Increasing industrial and transport activities that contribute to air and water pollution. Such pressures, according to academic Thomas Homer-Dixon, often contribute to violent intergroup conflict. For example, demographic pressures on natural resources can combine with skewed resource-distribution policies to promote increasing friction between socioeconomic classes.
- Water availability is likely to become one of the most pressing and contentious resource issues of this century.
- Rising populations will also lead to accelerating destruction of forests
Global water consumption is rising quickly, and water availability is likely to become one of the most pressing and contentious resource issues of this century, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI), a prominent US environmental NGO. This situation will only be exacerbated by population growth. Water scarcities and allocation will pose significant challenges to governments in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and northern China, with regional tensions over water heightened by 2015:
- By 2025, 48 countries containing 3 billion people will face freshwater shortages; 20 countries of the Near East and North Africa face the worst prospects. In those areas, water supplies could run out by 2100 if per capita consumption and excessive use in agriculture are not controlled, according to the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and other experts.
- A contractor report lists 17 water basins with the greatest potential for disputes in the next 10 years because they lack or have inadequate international water management entities.
- High rates of population growth in several strategically important Middle Eastern states, for example, have increased pressure on already meager water supplies, many of which already originate outside their borders, making them more vulnerable to the “water weapon.”
Over the past 50 years nearly half of the world’s original forest cover has been lost, and each year another 16 million hectares of virgin forest are cut, bulldozed, or burned, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization. The pressure of increasing populations will continue to challenge all countries with remaining tropical forests, where about 60 percent of the world’s population growth will occur this decade. Because many in developing countries depend on wood for cooking and heating and need to clear more land for crops, forests will continue to be destroyed at an alarming rate. By 2025, an estimated 4.6 billion people will live in countries with less than 0.1 hectare of forest cover per capita, according to Population Action International, compared to 1.7 billion people today:
- Deforestation rates in some countries increased from 1990 to 1995 despite a surge of public awareness about the loss of forests. Deforestation in the Amazon doubled from 1994 to 1995 before declining in 1996, and forest fi res in Indonesia and the Amazon took a heavy toll in 1997 and 1998. Tropical forests are vanishing at the rate of 250 acres per minute, according to the US Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.
- Although deforestation has been halted and even reversed in parts of Europe and North America, demand for wood and wood products in developed countries will continue to put pressure on forests there and, in particular, on those in developing countries.
World food production will be sufficient to meet the world’s growing population but:
- Production could increase environmental problems.
- Land degradation will negate productivity advances.
- Poor infrastructure and distribution systems will lead to malnourishment in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.
- Developing countries’ energy use will increase, causing higher emissions of greenhouse gases, which are likely to surpass the emissions of developed countries.
Population growth in developing countries will increase stress on soils from erosion and poor fertilization and irrigation practices. Lower classes are farming barren tracts to survive, which increases environmental damage, leading to a vicious downward cycle of productivity and opportunity. Land degradation already has reduced fertility and agricultural potential in many parts of the world, negating advances made through expanding agricultural areas and increasing productivity, according to UNEP:
- Overall food production will be adequate to feed the world’s growing population through at least 2015, but poor infrastructure and distribution, political instability, and chronic poverty will lead to malnourishment in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.
- The WRI predicts that, without a transition to more resource-effi cient and less toxic farming methods, it will be diffi cult to meet world food needs in the future without increasing agriculture’s environmental burden.
- With continued population growth, the amount of biologically available (“fixed”) nitrogen, for example, may double over the next 25 years, increasing the current excess. Over the past 50 years, excessive nitrogen, principally from fertilizers (some 86 percent), human sewage, and the burning of fossil fuels began to overwhelm the global nitrogen cycle, with a range of ill effects from reduced soil fertility to eutrophication in lakes, rivers, and coastal estuaries, according to the WRI.
If developing countries follow the model of developed countries, their energy use—spurred by population and economic growth—will continue and with it greater emissions of greenhouse gases, according to the OECD. The developed world produces some 60 percent of emissions today, but the developing world will be producing 60 percent of them by 2015, according to the UNDP:
- With more frequent droughts and fl oods resulting from rising global temperatures, there is additional potential for increased adverse health consequences like increased incidences of water-borne diseases and a resurgence and spread of infectious diseases, particularly in the developing world.
- The latest (early 2001) projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicate an average surface temperature increase of between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees Celsius and a sea level rise of between 9 and 88 cm by 2100 unless immediate steps are taken to limit emissions. In 2025, 12 of the 19 megacities in developing countries will be located on coasts and will be particularly vulnerable to sea level rise.
Natural or manmade environmental disasters are likely to cause more loss of life and economic disruption because populations are burgeoning near vulnerable areas:
- For the top 10 most disaster-prone countries of the Asia-Pacific region, there were a total of 1,312 disasters during 1966-90, which killed 1.7 million people and affected more than 2 billion.
- In India, nuclear power reactors are already contaminating surrounding soil areas with dangerous levels of cesium. Similar effects are expected as Russia tries to extend the lives of several of its aging nuclear power reactors.
Natural or Manmade Environmental Disasters:
These events are likely to cause more loss of life and economic disruption because populations are burgeoning near vulnerable areas or facilities— such as nuclear reactors, active faults, volcanoes, coastlines, and rivers subject to flooding—and in countries with few resources for disaster mitigation:
- For the top 10 most disaster-prone countries of the Asia-Pacific region— Australia, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, New Zealand, Philippines, and Vietnam—there were a total of 1,312 disasters during the 25 years during 1966-90, which killed 1.7 million people and affected more than 2 billion, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters.
- In India, nuclear power reactors are already contaminating the surrounding soil with dangerous levels of cesium. Management that tolerates poor operating practices and measures its level of success in terms of building new projects rather than running existing ones safely supports the notion that contamination will most likely continue. Similar effects are expected in Russia, which will be forced to try to extend the life expectancies of several aging nuclear power reactors because it does not have suffi cient alternative electrical generation.
- Turkey, Honduras, and others recently victimized by geophysical hazard or extreme weather events have done little in the aftermath to disperse vulnerable populations, thus remaining at risk of repeat catastrophes. Istanbul’s 8 million inhabitants live along the same fault that caused the earthquakes in 1999.
Strategic Implications of Demographic Trends:
Global demographic trends will pose challenges to US interests:
- The United States will probably be expected to assume a larger share of the burden for increased financial and humanitarian assistance and military interventions needed around the world.
- More immigrants will seek to enter the United States.
- Slower economic growth in the developed world could threaten US exports, US interests in global capital markets, and US investments.
- US equities at home and abroad will be at risk from increased violence and widespread infectious disease.
Implications for the United States
Violence in countries with large disenfranchised youth populations, large infl uxes of refugees, unhealthy populations, environmental powder kegs, and densely populated urban areas will increase and create demand for the United States to support additional multilateral peacekeeping and humanitarian operations:
- Such pressures will challenge the United States to focus more on regions of the world, such as Sub-Saharan Africa, the FSU, and rogue states, that traditionally have not been at the center of US policy interest.
- Unmanageable urban stresses are likely to slow socioeconomic development in the hardest hit developing and former Communist countries and regions. This will challenge democratic development and transitions and possibly contribute to humanitarian emergencies and civil conflicts.
- The infectious disease burden, for example, could weaken the military capabilities of some countries—as well as international peacekeeping efforts—as their armies and recruitment pools experience HIV infection rates ranging from 10 to 60 percent.
At the same time, the demands of supporting increasing elderly populations will strain government coffers of other industrialized country allies who will expect the United States to assume more of the burden for managing global trouble spots.
Western Europe’s and Japan’s more restrictive immigration and asylum policies and detrimental tax structures will continue to prompt more migrants to enter the United States, especially if their home countries are unstable or fail to offer employment opportunities:
- The rapid growth of the working-age population in a number of developing countries and the reduction in real wages that will result in many of them will contribute to increased migration for economic reasons.
- Immigration and the treatment of illegal immigrants—given their vulnerability to human rights abuses—will be among the most sensitive issues in international diplomacy.
Slower economic growth in the developed world and other spillovers— many as a result of widespread aging—could threaten US exports, interests in global capital markets, and investment:
- For example, as more Japanese live on fixed incomes—currently they are among the largest consumers of a wide range of US goods and services, including semiconductors, software, heavy machinery, movies, apparel, and agricultural goods—they could have less of an appetite for goods in general.
As a major hub of global travel, immigration, and commerce with wideranging interests and a large civilian and military presence overseas, the United States and its equities abroad will remain at risk from violence and infectious disease:
- At highest risk will be US military forces deployed in support of humanitarian and peacekeeping operations in developing countries.
Closer to home, baby boomer retirement threatens to exacerbate labor shortages in the private and public sectors of the United States where retirement plans allow for retirement long before age 65:
- Within five years 30 percent of the 1.6 million full-time employees in the US federal government will be eligible to retire, and another 20 percent would be eligible for early retirement.
For US Allies:
- Some US allies will be weakened by the trends.
- Both Europe and Japan stand to lose global power and influence.
Implications for US Allies Historically, the richest developed nations have been growing, capital exporting, philanthropic giants that have projected their power and mores around the world. A quarter-century from now these countries may instead be demographically challenged, fiscally starving neutrals who maneuver to avoid expensive international entanglements:
- Elder-dominated electorates may be more risk averse, shunning decisive confrontations abroad in favor of ad hoc settlements.
- Reduced conventional capabilities of our allies in the developed world, because of manpower shortages, raise the value of tactical and strategic weapons, which could make it more difficult to restrict arms growth.
Without radical changes the very existence of Japan as a major economic power may indeed be at stake:
- In 2010 the world could see a Japan that will have completed its second decade of chronic underperformance compared to other advanced industrial democracies.
- Aging could decrease household savings, potentially leading to a current account defi cit in the next 10 to 20 years.
- Japan’s demographics work against a major economic renaissance for the country fueled by the new economy because adopting new technologies and pushing technological boundaries forward are critical components that require young people. Japanese corporations will be starved for young, new employees who bring with them the latest ideas.
- Budgetary constraints will almost certainly force the Japanese Government to abandon its “checkbook diplomacy” and rein in its generous spending on foreign assistance.
As a result, Japan will probably pursue a stronger alliance with US security structures. If Europeans are unable to successfully substitute capital for manpower in their force structures, invest wisely in the human capital that remains, and solidify multinational defense linkages, their military capability may even decline in the next 10 to 20 years and their influence in the security realm would suffer:
- European armed forces will experience chronic manpower shortages— both because the number of youth will be declining and because tight civilian labor markets will make military careers less attractive.
- Most Europeans will most likely forego large conscript armies oriented toward territorial defense in favor of smaller, high-tech, professional forces focused more on expeditionary operations on the European periphery.
Key allies in the developing world could be destabilized.
Unemployed youth provide exceptional fodder for radical movements and terrorist organizations, particularly in the Middle East.
The risk is high that some key US allies in the developing world will be destabilized by population flows. The fragile political institutions of these states would be sorely tested by such events:
- Because migration pressures tend to be the greatest in countries that have inadequate education and health care, large numbers of these migrants will be difficult to absorb. Increased immigration will almost certainly make nation-states’ foreign policy making more complicated.
- Indeed, large influxes of refugees often create highly charged emotions about territorial integrity, ethnic identity, and equitable distribution of resources that can lead to armed conflict between states. Turkey is a prime example.
High structural unemployment at a time when the national age distribution is highly skewed in favor of 18-to-24-year-olds provides exceptional fodder for radical movements in many developing countries. New waves of Islamic activism in the Middle East—capitalizing on alienated youth populations—could threaten to limit the ability of many Muslim governments to cooperate with the United States.
For U.S. Rivals:
But demographic challenges will also bedevil potential US rivals:
- Russia faces demographic vulnerabilities that other countries and internal leaders will seek to exploit.
- China’s productivity and global standing are uncertain because of the large resources required to deal with its demographic challenges.
- China is struggling fiscally to keep up the social infrastructure necessary to support its large, growing, and increasingly urban population.
- The aging challenges will be even more difficult for Chinese planners because demographics surface issues that are without precedence in the Chinese experience.
Three Global Scenarios:
At the conference we developed three scenarios of what the world might look like in 50 years given the demographic trends:
- Fertility Drives the Trends.
- Orderly Progress.
- What Can Go Wrong Will Go Wrong.
In the Fertility Drives the Trends scenario:
- Increased migration in Europe and Japan slows but does not reverse the pattern of aging in those countries.
- The correlation between GDP per capita and total fertility rates is high.
In the Orderly Progress scenario:
- The world is depopulating.
- The population of the region that served as the locus for most 20th-century history—Europe and Russia—shrinks dramatically in relative terms.
- The median age in developing countries, which increased only two years in the last half century, goes up by 20 years in the next half century.
- There is the possibility for a large economic divergence between old rich countries and old poor countries.
In the What Can Go Wrong Will Go Wrong scenario:
- Democratization without institutional reform and the presence of a large middle class lead to instability.
- There is the possibility that breakdowns occur in bigger, developed, urban places where the United States may not be able to intervene.
- The “natives will get restless” and governments will respond by expanding their security services instead of imposing institutional reforms, which would be more difficult.
- Technology will empower both state and nonstate actors, making adversaries more difficult to identify
Wars will continue to be fought by unemployed young men:
- With the absolute numbers of working-age people rising in the developing world, no government programs and institutions can keep up with demands, so there will be upheavals.
- Businesses will not invest without public order, so governments will need bigger security services under the façade of democracy.
- The Middle East will be particularly vulnerable because the region has a lethal mix of unemployed educated youth and its political systems are calcified, but its societies are changing rapidly.
The world has not yet dealt with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, which will continue to cause problems:
- Iraq and other countries in the Middle East are artifi cial, and their ethnic groups are dynamic. This will create a more fractious society where ethnic identities are still very relevant.
US adversaries and attacks against the United States will surprise us more. Just as industrialization made Hitler and Stalin, the post-industrialization world empowers state and nonstate actors:
- Instead of large despots the challenge will be the proliferation of smaller scale problems like terrorists and crime groups.
- A future dictator will be an autocrat who has figured out how to use drugs and terrorists for an undeclared war against the United States and how to lower its population’s expectations for social improvement.
Globalization has been successful, but the spread of capitalist management techniques will contribute to conflict because, while living conditions will get better, expectations will also rise:
- Global standards of living are rising, and world inequality is declining. A study done in Norway by noted academics shows Gini coefficients for world income distribution declining between 1965 and 1997. They argue that this has a lot to do with the increasing prosperity of India and China. As a result, in 30 years the income inequality gap may widen as developing countries—China included—struggle to deal with the implications of aging along with other demographic challenges.
- There will be large pools of angry people who are unable to get what they want through interest groups, which is a fertile petri dish for well-armed terrorists who will have better technology but who will be disenfranchised.
- The number of people with access to information technology is slated to go up from 2 percent to 10 percent of the world’s population. The rest of the world, however, will not have access to technology, perhaps not even to a basic telephone, and this discrepancy will anger people.