This is the time of year when lazy writers post about the comings and goings of the previous year, usually in the form of a listicle. “The top-10 events of the past year” is a column that used to turn up in every newspaper at least once. Then you have the predictions for the coming year, which no one ever mentions as part of their year in review posts. With technology being what it is, you would think a new genre of year-end post would be the review of futures past type of post, but that has not happened.
There is some utility in looking at these things. It’s a lot like reading old articles about the glorious future of the 1990’s. It is a good reminder that most of the things we think are important turn out to be not so important. You look at some of the predictions from last year and wonder why anyone cared to mention it. Of course, you also wonder why no one mentioned what happens to be important right now. How many forecasters predicted a budget fight between Trump and his own party over wall funding?
Looking at your own past predictions is a bit humbling, which is probably why no one does it as a part of their year-end posting. Here is my post from last year with my crystal ball forecast for the upcoming year. I’m not a fan of the listicle, so it is written in the normal format. Looking back on it, maybe a list is not such a terrible thing to do for these sorts of posts. It does make it easier to read. That said, the very worst people write listicles, so I just can’t bring myself to do it. One has to keep up appearances.
So, how’d I do?
Well, I got the DACA stuff mostly right. The part I got wrong is that Trump would just drop the whole thing, rather than let the program expire unnoticed. Instead, he and his new boy-toy, Lindsey Graham are talking about trading 700,000 green cards to invaders in exchange for a down payment on his wall. In fact, Trump has gotten nothing from Congress with regards to immigration, so on that score I can only give myself a solid “C+” for getting close, but over estimating Trump’s political skill.
A similar thing is true with the Mueller probe. I got the easy part right. The farcical nature of the thing is now plain to everyone. Even the Democrats have stopped yapping about Russian collusion. The mask has dropped and they are clear about it being a way to hobble Trump. That’s not entirely true, as it is mostly a way to cover-up the Obama effort to subvert the last presidential election. I got the midterms right too, but that was so easy, so I’m not sure it’s worth grading.
I did nail the gene editing stuff. The Chinese may have used the new technology to “fix” the DNA of an embryo. That’s the claim, at least, but none of it has been independently verified. The Chinese will lie about anything, as it is a bandit culture. What has been released to the public that can be verified looks legitimate. Even if it proves to be false, it does reveal a willingness to do it by China, which has the West thinking about how to get past the ethics of it so it can be done here as well. Welcome to the future.
One thing I got very right is the continued growth of nationalist and populist parties in Europe. It is easy to forget that the smart people were all talking about the populist wave having crested last year, so going the other way was a bold prediction. Not only have the populists displayed staying power, new movements from the Left are turning up. The Yellow Vest thing in France is much more of a leftists cause, especially in Paris, than a right-wing phenomenon. That’s something to watch for next year.
Another thing I got very right is the IPO for Saudi Aramco. It’s funny to think that was a big news item last year. It’s a great example of how something we think is important in the moment turns out to be easily forgotten. Alternatively, it is a good example of something the mass media is instructed to forget, once the news turns ugly. Notice how no one talks about our second greatest ally in the world these days. A shrewd analyst might be thinking of a way to bet against the Saudis surviving next year.
What really mattered?
The dogs that were not barking last year, like the aggressive censorship of dissidents and the absolute failure of the Trump administration, have turned out to be the most important stories of 2018. This time last year most people thought the Left was starting to run out of steam with their Nazi hunting, but that turned out to be wrong. The move to a Chinese style censorship regime actually took a big leap forward. Similarly, people thought Trump was settling into the job, but it turned out he was getting worse at it.
If one were to honestly characterize 2018, it would be as the year that even cynical dissidents were shocked at the number of masks dropping. This year we learned that Congress is so frightened of Silicon Valley, that it is fair to say the real power base in the empire is in San Francisco. Similarly, Congress is so frightened of the intelligence agencies, they have become the Praetorian Guard of the empire. A shrewd analyst may be thinking that 2019 is the year we dispense with democracy altogether.