Staggeringly Off-the-Mark Forecasts of European Economic Preeminence

Joel Kotkin used to annoy me with his anti-urbanist punditry, but now it seems he’s moved on to other things:

In a book due out next month, the international futurist says China isn’t likely to overtake the United States as the world’s economic superpower in coming decades, countering predictions of some forecasters who believe the Chinese economy will be the global leader by 2020. […]

China is undergoing one of the most dramatic demographic shifts, Kotkin writes. Its one-child policy is pushing the country toward a rapidly aging population by 2050. The United Nations predicts that about 30 percent of China’s population will be older than 60 by mid-century. “Some have predicted that China will become the world’s largest economy as early as 2020,” Kotkin writes, “but this … is far from certain. Earlier predictions of eventual Soviet, European and Japanese preeminence, after all, proved staggeringly off the mark. … [China’s] lack of democratic institutions, its cultural homogeneity, its historic insularity, and the rapid aging that will start by the 2020s do not augur well for its global preeminence.”

I’m not sure if I have the heart to tell Kotkin this, by by the standard of “world’s largest economy” predictions of “eventual . . . European . . . preeminence” far from “staggeringly off the mark” have already come true:


Now I think the fair lesson to learn from this is that aggregate figures don’t tell you very much. Adding Poland to the European Union makes “Europe’s economy” bigger, but doesn’t make any individual people more prosperous. Most likely China will “overtake America” fairly soon but individual Americans will continue to enjoy much higher living standards than those that prevail in China. And good for us.