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Long Reads

PS Commentators’ Predictions for 2019

Against a backdrop of increasing market turmoil and geopolitical friction, Project Syndicate commentators anticipate the events and trends that will most likely dominate the coming year. If one thing is certain, it is that more uncertainty awaits.

The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once quipped that, “Those who have knowledge, don’t predict. Those who predict, don’t have knowledge.” And yet most people crave some hint of coming events and incipient trends. Henri Poincaré, the great French mathematician, theoretical physicist, engineer, and philosopher of science, probably got it just about right: “It is far better to foresee even without certainty than not to foresee at all.”

Following Poincaré’s advice, in an effort to make some sense of our profoundly uncertain times, Project Syndicate commentators have offered their predictions of what to expect in 2019. Many foresee a global economic slowdown – perhaps even a recession. And few harbor any illusions that the political and diplomatic spasms provoked by US President Donald Trump’s administration will soon disappear. Yet 2019 may not be all bad news. Some commentators foresee a rejuvenation of democracy and the fall of demagogues and dictators. And still others foresee what today look like true surprises. Whether the new year warrants optimism or despair is, of course, impossible to know until it is nearly over. To paraphrase Hegel, the owl of Minerva spreads its wings only in December.

HELMUT K. ANHEIER

Here is one sure bet: 2019 will be a year of great uncertainty and even more insecurity. This makes it different from preceding years. In January 1989, few would have predicted the fall of the Berlin Wall, just as hardly anybody at the start of 2001 could have imagined the attacks of September 11. Even in 2009, almost nobody understood how profoundly the global financial crisis would change the world.

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