The World in 2020

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Hamish McRae’s predictions for the world in 2020 are based strongly on current conditions. Many of the factors that will shape the world in twenty-five years already are in place, particularly those concerning demography. Rather than offering scenarios, McRae projects things remaining largely as they are.

McRae notes that land, capital, and natural resources will not matter as much as before in determining the economic prospects of nations. Efficiency, culture, and intellect will be the important resources of the future. The old resources will be available to all countries; what will differentiate nations will be the things that cannot be imported. Information will become more important as a commodity. Populations are aging in most countries and may shrink in some. This trend will have implications for health care, the labor force, and education. McRae dismisses the energy crisis in the short term and notes that water may play an important role as a scarce resource.

McRae outlines reasons why the United States will play a less important role in world economics and politics and explores the implications of this changing role. He sees the United States becoming poorer relative to other advanced nations and consequently reluctant to fund the defense of other countries. He predicts rising costs of bureaucracy, litigation, and crime and its prevention. The country has the advantage of having begun the transition to a service economy earlier than have other countries.

East Asia and Europe receive significant attention. The nations of the former Soviet Union receive surprisingly little, though McRae makes some predictions about their economic status and position in the world. He predicts that the European Union will evolve rather than maintaining a fixed form. Germany probably will be its financial center, but other members may resist a unified currency. McRae predicts political unrest in France and the potential for widespread rioting and formation of a Sixth Republic.