A topic that doesn’t get the attention it deserves, is the demographics of nations.
In a "normal" economy there's a set balance of roughly four children to three young adults to two mature adults to one revered elder.
So long as that proportion held the economic system had stable characteristics: young workers spend and borrow, mature workers invest, retirees shift their financial holdings into something less volatile, like government bonds. But it doesn’t look like this anymore – the population is aging in most developed world except the US.
Which is why you can buy a 30-year US treasury bond with a yield of about 2.5%. Try to get that in Japan or Germany.
Moreover, the replacement level is 2.1 children per family. Look for countries that miss the target big time. Russia is one, China another. Their demographics simply collapsed, which means that if they want to realize their ambitions, they need to do it now.
In Europe, the risk is that there is no true rule of law. On the one hand, there is this policy of no bailouts for that would mean money crossing borders north to south. Then there is the rising wave of nationalism and socialism and hatred of the rich. These two possibly feed each other.
One thing is certain – Europe will do whatever it has to do, shy of doing the right thing.
Take Great Britain as an example of dysfunctionality, the country doesn’t really have a constitution, which makes Brexit negotiations such a protracted mess.
Meanwhile, they’re the biggest market for German cars in Europe and should have the upper hand in any negotiations. The Germans are totally dependent on their customers.
Still, the real action of our times is in the Middle East.
From 2003 until 2018 the region’s powers were non-functional: Iraq and Syria had civil wars, while Turkey was gun-shy. The fact that ISIS Caliphate lasted as long as it did was a testament to how abnormal the region had become. Well, Turkey is now invading and it will burn everything to the ground.
President Trump tweeted recently that he is considering putting economic sanctions on Turkey, a NATO member. This piece of news takes some effort to unpack, Turkey and the US have been pulling apart for three decades now. The Turks have interests in the Balkans, Persia, and the Levant that have nothing to do with American interests. Turkey is reasserting itself as a major regional power, and since the American military position in northern Iraq and Syria are largely dependent upon supply routes through Turkey, there is no long-term American strategy without Turkish assistance. That assistance now has been removed, so the Americans have no choice but to leave, upset anyway, hence the tweet.
To be clear - with the exception of the French, no European power has the capacity of independent power projection to the region and the US just doesn’t care what happens there the way it used to.
Closer to home, on a sunny Tuesday morning I went to the garage, took the cover off my big black motorcycle and rolled it down the driveway.
Took the tiger dust off the fuel tank with my right arm.
It started at the first touch of the button with a deep staccato that scared birds off the trees.
The big engine shook when I kicked it down in the first gear, and I said: “we’re going North.”
I need a dose of normal, otherwise all the words are going to bleed from me and I will think no more.
Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler