What does society look like in 2030?

I’ve just been reading a paper that sketches out four possible scenarios for “vulnerability” in 2030. It was written by something called the Institute for Alternative Futures for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and lays out a most likely scenario, a gloom and doom option, and two possible brighter futures (one of which we get to by having a catastrophe that allows for non-incremental improvements).

I’m somewhat chagrined that I think their baseline scenario is overly optimistic, especially with regard to education.  The gloom and doom scenario requires everything to go wrong — a double-dip recession, peak oil,  global climate disruption.  I think the odds of all of these happening in the next 20 years is very low — but it seems quite possible that one — or something not even on our list — could happen.

If you have the time to take a look at the report, I’d love some other reactions.  (There’s also a formal way to comment to the folks who wrote it.)

4 Responses to “What does society look like in 2030?”

  1. dave.s. Says:

    I looked briefly, may get a chance to look again. First reaction: I think it’s fruitful to think about our national budget for useless crap. Houses in the desert for which the only jobs for the occupants were building more houses in the desert, many kids going to college for degrees ending in “…Studies” and as a result of which they can get the same jobs at Target they could have gotten without the degrees, third tier law schools, road improvements driven by getting single-occupant cars to their destinations at rush hour, five-bedroom houses in a society where the children per woman number is hovering around 2.1.

    If the useless crap line is too well funded, it takes a lot of resources which could have been spent on something productive, and we will be much worse off in 20 years. People spend money on useless crap often because they have been persuaded that it’s a good investment – that’s a problem.

    I expect also that the “China Price” is permanent: barriers to trade have fallen enormously. If you can make something in Viet Nam or Korea or China for X, the price in the US will be X plus $0.14/lb (shipping costs), and if you can’t make it for that, here, then you are out of business. This means that our wages have got to fall relative to China wages to, well, X plus $0.14/lb. Don’t look towards a career making pillow cases in North Carolina.

  2. dave.s. Says:

    One more look at mini-paper #7. Well, vulnerables. If the border continues essentially open, all the general labor jobs go to illegals. I’ve seen this happen in my suburban Virginia location; the day labor hangouts where there were US-born black men looking for jobs ten years ago are all Latino now. And, these guys – they are good, as you would expect. People who have the drive and determination to walk across fifty miles of Arizona desert at night are front and center ready to paint houses and dig ditches. So locals get squeezed out of the market for pick-up labor.

    Back to the budget for useless crap: native born can get hired as security guards, where illegals cannot. But when you have a million guys getting wages for sitting in doorways and checking IDs, you are forgoing a lot of productivity.

  3. dave.s. Says:

    If I ran the zoo – this piece pays little attention to things happening outside USA borders. China will, or won’t, outbid us for Saudi oil and Australian coal. There will, or won’t, be a nuclear war between Israel and Iran, with refugee effects on the US (or not). USA will, or won’t, seek to exclude undocumented, and this will have effects on employment success of native born (‘vulnerables’). Russia will, or won’t, become a normal nation – or collapse in a morass of mob thuggery, with unpredictable effects.

    I think we are in for a period of decline, and how our society does in distributing the losses will have great effect on whether people believe the system is fair. How do we decide between the claims of the Calif. civil service retiree for her pension and the Calif. taxpayer who finds 25% going to the state out of jobs which pay far less well than those from which the retiree is pensioned? The report goes a little bit into fairness issues, but seems to assume that things will be broadly similar to today. I have doubts.

  4. Kristen Says:

    My favorite line:
    “Looking back at the successes in reducing vulnerability in the Progressive Era, the New Deal, the civil rights movement, the War on Poverty and many smaller, focused efforts, we should never forget how much the people involved cared, how much they dared, and how hard they worked”

    It gives me hope as I am spending almost every evening/weekend protesting up at the state capitol here in Madison these days!

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