Thursday, September 30, 2010

Higher Education and Political Instability In Coming Decades

The next decade is likely to be a period of growing instability in the United States and western Europe, which could undermine the sort of scientific progress you describe in the Opinion collection of ‘2020 visions’.
Quantitative historical analysis reveals that complex human societies are affected by recurrent — and predictable — waves of political instability,
 In the United States, we have stagnating or declining real wages, a growing gap between rich and poor, overproduction of young graduates with advanced degrees, and exploding public debt. 
 This could mean that future recessions will be severe. In addition, the next decade will see a rapid growth in the number of people in their twenties, like the youth bulge that accompanied the turbulence of the 1960s and 1970s. All these cycles look set to peak in the years around 2020.
Records show that societies can avert disaster. We need to find ways to ameliorate the negative effects of globalization on people’s well-being. Economic inequality, accompanied by burgeoning public debt, can be addressed by making tax rates more progressive. And we should not expand our system of higher education beyond the ability of the economy to absorb university graduates. An excess of young  people with advanced degrees has been one of the chief causes of instability in the past.
(P. Turchin and S. A. Nefedov Secular Cycles
Princeton Univ. Press; 2009).

Demand for higher education. The number of medical (solid line) and dental (dotted line)