As we look ahead this week to the year ahead, we should realize that we are also embarking on a new decade. We have left the “teens” and are now officially in the “twenties.”
Contrary to popular assumption, that did not happen with 2020. Technically, decades begin with a year ending in “one” and end ten years later with the year ending in “zero.” This is because our calendar goes from 1 B.C. to 1 A.D. with no year zero. (The Farmer’s Almanac explains.)
When digging around in this blog for the previous year’s predictions in our annual contest, I stumbled upon a post that I had completely forgotten about. On January 1, 2010, I posted Predictions for the Next Decade? The occasion was a look ahead by the columnist Anne Applebaum, whereupon I asked, as is my wont, “So what do you think will happen in the decade ahead? Make your predictions here.” I concluded, “If this blog and I are still around in 2020–predict the likelihood of that!–we’ll check your performance!”
OK, I missed the point about when decades begin and end, but I still feel obliged to keep that promise the best I can. Strangely, though our contests for guessing about the next years rack up large numbers of entries and related comments, almost no one wanted to take up the ten-year challenge.
There were only 2 comments! And the second, for some reason, was a repetition of the first. This came from tODD. He predicted that this blog would not be around by 2020.
Well, I’m still here. And so is he. For both of which, I’m grateful.
As for Applebaum’s predictions for the decade, entitled Forecast for Repressive Regimes in the “Teens” (she too missed the implications of not having a year zero), here is her summation, which I also quoted in my post back then:
If I had to read the tea leaves and make a grand prediction, I would say that in the closing days of the 2000s, the future does not look good for authoritarian regimes in general. The signs, however, are very positive for one in particular: China. The signs also lead me to wonder whether competition between China and the United States — for resources, influence — will not be the dominant political story of the next decade. We are already heading that way: The Copenhagen climate summit failed, after all, because the United States and China could not agree on a matter that affected their prospects for growth. Meanwhile, Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, the focus of U.S. foreign policy for the past decade, looks more and more like a major nuisance — albeit one that keeps coming at us in different forms from different countries — rather than a coherent threat.
Here is what I said about this:
I think she is being extremely naive. What she says about the Underwear Bomber in the rest of her column concentrates on the fact that the attack was botched, rather than the more important fact that shows that all of our security measures are apparently ineffective when it comes to preventing a terrorist attack like this. She is remarkably sanguine about China, despite the fact that the growth of that country into a superpower would mean the rise of a new and successful form of Communism. She thinks that authoritarian governments are on the way out, looking at protests in Iran. I am more worried that we will have one ourselves.
Both of us dwelt on Islamic terrorism. Notice how many predictions are actually just extrapolations of the present into the future. We were both right about China, she in noting that country’s economic growth and increasing competition with the U.S.A., but I was right in noting the danger of “a new and successful form of Communism.” She was wrong that authoritarian governments are on the way out. And I am still worried that we will have one ourselves.
Again, I invite you to make your own predictions about the next ten years. (tODD, surely you’ll come through once more.) But I will not promise to review them in 2030, since this blog will likely not be around by then, and there is a good chance that neither will I.
Illustration: 2010s collage by ZX95, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons