We are not quite a quarter of the way into the 21st century, but already a few clear structural trends have emerged, even if it is impossible to predict the next "black swans" -- radically unpredictable events with far-reaching consequences – that might occur. Here are four of the trends.
Since 2000, Europe has stagnated on many fronts -- anemic growth, a crashing birth rate, military disinvestment -- from which countries such as Belgium and Germany have still not emerged. Perhaps most worrying of all, according to criteria such as patents, capital investment, and stock market giants such as GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon), Europe has stopped innovating. People innovate in the United States; they still innovate in Asia, but in Europe – hardly at all. If you add to this the European Union's obsession with the environment, which has become little more than a machinery for imposing constraints, vexations, punishments and taxes in the name of "energy transition", it appears that stagnation is a problem from which Europe might have the greatest difficulty in freeing itself.
As history shows, stagnation is an intermediate state. Over time, stagnation is almost always the prelude to regression (here, here and here). When Sparta stopped having children, Sparta wasn't defeated overnight. Sparta remained Sparta, for a time, with its glorious city and its military contingents. Afterwards, Sparta was not defeated: it simply gradually disappeared from the face of the earth.
The sharpshooters of French Thought, who have the distinction of being wrong almost all the time, on every subject have been telling us for 50 years that the 21st century would be 'Chinese'. We are told: Learn Chinese as fast as you can, they are already on their way! In reality, the Chinese Communist Party is also stagnating, caught up in many crises at every level: Economic stagnation, demographic collapse, unemployment among young Chinese at 20%, stock market collapse, destruction of the Hong Kong financial center, monetary isolation. Many have predicted the replacement of the US dollar by China's yuan as the world's international currency -- a transformation China is clearly trying to effect -- but if you were a country, would you rather be protected by China or protected by the Free World?
China talks tough about Taiwan, but seems leery of using its considerable military force if it can count on the US failing to respond. One problem is that that China sees Biden as weak, passive and compliant, so they may well be planning to try to "Hong Kong" Taiwan. Above all, the Chinese regime is a ruthless dictatorship in which people and their property disappear, and there are no mechanisms for peaceful reform. Chinese President Xi Jinping alone decides everything, "like a god among men", and unfortunately for his people, does not seem particularly open to criticism.
Then there is the rest of the world, what in the 20th century was known as the "Third World." Compared to the previous century, the Third World, at least in places, is doing better: some countries have become much richer, thanks to the market economy and openness to international capitalism. Experts tell us that the countries of the BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] organization embody the future, just as they told us yesterday that the 21st century will be Chinese. The problem is that the two major countries of BRICS -- China and India -- are almost at war on their common border, and that there are far more things to divide the BRICS countries than to unite them, and that an organization can only ever decide according to the principle of the greatest common denominator, which, in the case of BRICS, seems close to zero.
The BRICS countries are getting richer, billions of people are being lifted out of poverty, and we rejoice. It is noticeable that countries such as the great Brazilian democracy are thinking of a future less dependent on the West. However, the idea that BRICS will shape the 21st century does not stand up to analysis. Prof. Jyrki Käkönen wrote in 2014:
"[I]t is not easy to assume that BRICS would be an organization capable of changing the international system as long as BRICS members have different kinds of expectations when it comes to the future world order. In this respect the most important BRICS countries are China and India, which also have contradictory interests and expectations about the future order of Asia as well as the entire world order."
Argentina recently announced that it was dropping its application to join BRICS.
Then there is the American system, which constantly seems to test its own limits. There are countless problems in the United States, such as immigration, which has sadly become as lawless in the US as it is in Europe There is defunding the police, which, not surprisingly, has added to the anarchy. The political divisions that race-baiters have whipped up are such that rather than help minorities, such as improving K-12 education, there have just been increasing episodes of violence and an increasing number of cities with massive drug problems.
America, however, is also prosperous; formidably innovative, at the head of the most dazzling military concentration ever assembled, and structurally capable of managing economic and financial crises better than its competitors. Why? For a simple reason: flexibility. In many American states, you can hire and fire without cause, with just a few days' notice. As soon as a company expands, it can hire on a massive scale in order to grow because it knows that if it hits hard times, it can also lay off people just as fast. A company is a rational entity.
If there is a single element of the American system that Europe should replicate, it is this flexibility in the labor market.
Will that never happen? No, of course not. That is why Europe will continue to stagnate, while America, despite all its current difficulties, opens up the way of the future.
If the economic and geopolitical facts examined here are anything to go by, the 21st century will be more American than ever.
Drieu Godefridi is a jurist (University Saint-Louis, University of Louvain), philosopher (University Saint-Louis, University of Louvain) and PhD in legal theory (Paris IV-Sorbonne). He is an entrepreneur, CEO of a European private education group and director of PAN Medias Group. He is the author of The Green Reich (2020).