One in a series of excerpts from THE NEXT DECADE by Stratfor CEO George Friedman.
Oddly enough, it is on the economic level that the pain of 2008 will have the least enduring effects. It is absurd to compare this downturn to the Great Depression. The GDP fell by almost 50 percent during the Depression. Between 2007and 2009, the GDP fell by only 4.1 percent. This is not even the worst recession since World War II. That honor goes to the recessions of the 1970s and early 1980s, when we saw the triple hit: unemployment and inflation over 10 percent and interest rates on mortgages over 20percent.
While the current economic crisis is nothing like that, it is still painful, and Americans have a low tolerance for economic pain. There are even bigger issues on the horizon, beyond this decade, when demographics shift, labor becomes scarce, and the immigration issue will become the dominant matter facing the United States. But that is still a ways off, and it will not be affecting the coming decade. This decade will not be an exuberant one, and it will strain both individual lives and the political system. But it will not change the fundamental world order much, and the United States will remain the dominant power. Ironically, one measure of U.S. dominance is how much a miscalculation by the American ?nancial elite can impact the world, and how much pain American mistakes can in?ict on everyone else.