4 Scenarios on the Future of Globalization

Hazel Henderson ©2017


  • Four prophetic views of the future of globalization extrapolating from current trends:
  • New York 2140 is Kim Stanley Robinson’s dystopian scenario of collapse
  • J.C. Sharman’s The Despot’s Guide to Wealth Management documents today’s kleptocracies
  • Guy Standing’s The Corruption of Capitalism foresees universal basic incomes worldwide
  • Prof. Ramesh Srinivasan, head of UCLA’s Digital Cultures Lab, asks Whose Global Village? and re-thinks How Technology Shapes Our World

In today’s revolutionary times of disruption, creative destruction, upended politics, popular uprisings and terrorism, these thoughtful perspectives and disciplined scenario-building can calm frayed nerves.  These four books offer critical reasoning based on good science.

New York 2140  is a chilling sci-fi novel  by best-selling author Kim Stanley Robinson, a keen observer  of economics and financial markets while equally well-versed in Earth systems science , which we also  cover on www.ethicalmarkets.com   He braids these fields together in this scenario of life in New York City 123 years hence, with sea levels risen to  create a new Venice.  Most of Manhattan, from Battery Park to midtown is under water with vaporetti taxis on streets now canals.   I was hooked …having lived in Manhattan for a decade …visualizing all the street names!

The author describes the sturdiest old skyscrapers’ upper floors now inhabited by cooperative groups of displaced residents, growing food on the rooftops, bartering goods and services with mutual aid societies.  Solar photovoltaic cladding and wind generators provide energy and metal sky bridges for pedestrians connect buildings.   Uptown, from Harlem north to the Palisades in a new financial district of mega-skyscrapers, market players continue to trade stocks, bonds, futures and derivatives based now on climate risk, sea levels around coastlines, and new types of catastrophe bonds, such as the sea level derivatives proposed in The Harvard Environmental Law Review, April 17, 2017.

High-frequency trading continues, now with algorithms based on all the new global risks inherent in research from Earth systems science.  Data reported by Earth -orbiting satellites is still tracked by government agencies now all on higher ground, based in places like Denver and Salt Lake City.  Finance still controls politicians and accordingly, the lives of   the 1% elites have changed little.  After another hurricane, far more devastating than Sandy, the refugees fleeing lower and midtown Manhattan and seeking shelter, try to storm the largely empty mega-skyscrapers, mostly absentee -owned or residential. The revolution to overthrow the financial system begins!  Author Robinson’s deep knowledge of economics and finance makes the final scenario accurate and based on trends clearly visible today. This all makes for exciting summer reading and, no doubt, another apocalypse movie—this time based on real science.

In the Despot’s Guide to Wealth Management, J. C. Sharmer, Professor of International Relations at Britain’s Cambridge University, documents today’s money-laundering, tax havens, kleptocratic regimes and how their elites manage to syphon off the wealth of citizens and natural resources.  Detailed case studies illustrate how these schemes work and how laws and enforcement can be extended to bring such financial crimes to account.  Globalization of communications and infotech, the fungibility of money, currencies, credit cards, passports all  present new challenges, as well as debt-ridden nations offering citizenship for cash or investments in real estate.  All this will keep INTERPOL fully-engaged!

In the Corruption of Capitalism, Australian Professor Guy Standing at the University of London and former program director at the International Labor Organization of the United Nations, has written many previous books on how global and national markets become corrupted by rent-seeking and power politics.  He concludes in this book that what is needed now is international agreements where nations enact universal basic incomes for their citizens.  This is like Milton Friedman’s Negative Income Tax, not as charity, but to maintain aggregate demand and purchasing power to buy the cornucopia of digitally -produced goods and services.  Author Standing’s recent interview with Kip McDaniel, editor of the Institutional Investor (April 2017) fleshes out this approach.  Today, central bankers and Silicon Valley titans are joining the growing ranks of advocates for some sort of guaranteed basic income, as I described in my recent interview in FORBES.   Many are now calling for stimulating economies with quantitative easing (QE) for various future investments and social development, rather than continuing to bail out past mistakes of bankers.  These range from Milton Friedman’s helicopter money, endorsed by Ben Bernanke;  Peter Barnes’ With Liberty and Dividends for All (2014).   Britain’s Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn and NGO Positive Money call for “Green QE “and in the USA calls are rising for a QE to take all the student loans onto the Fed’s balance sheet in place of all those dud mortgages.  Author Guy Standing is co-founder of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN).

Professor Ramesh Srinivasan reminds us in Whose Global Village? that all economic ideologies, social rules and the financial models they engender are based on human value-systems and cultures.  The author’s research documents how these value-systems not only drive economies and finance, but also human technological choices and development paths.  The US Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) assessed these technological choices from 1974 until 1996, when it was shut down by the incoming Republican Congress. I served on its Advisory Council during its early years, and many other countries set up similar agencies.   All economies are mixed: part rules and part markets derived from their cultural rules—as John Stuart Mill and other early English and European political economists of the Enlightenment described.  Endless wars have been fought over these cultural norms and beliefs, recently in the Cold War between communism and capitalism and today’s clashes between religions and other forms of fundamentalism.   Author Srinivasan updates these clashes by looking at the divergence between Western digital technologies and Silicon Valley business models of Facebook (FB), Twitter (TWTR), Google (GOOGL), Amazon (AMZN) and Microsoft (MSFT) and their global technological configurations versus surviving indigenous cultures: the Zuni and Navajo in the USA, the Zapatistas of Mexico and the cultural traditions of Egypt.

The messages of all these intriguing books are keys to understanding today’s challenges to globalization, and they may help in designing more sustainable, inclusive human development with more positive forms and outcomes.