Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Socionomic Trendspotting for 2011

What now for 2011? Let’s put on our Socionomic-Vision Goggles and peer over the horizon into the coming year and see what shapes we can make out on the horizon. I expect the general social mood to plunge, or at least slide into a net-negative condition. Now, I thought the same thing for 2010 and while we did see ongoing expressions of general negative mood as an overall theme, we had a lot of positive mood type events that showed the strength of this rally in mood. These included a massive health care bill (expressions of optimism, inclusion, confidence and supportiveness – though one could also have called it one massive exercise in magical thinking as the dominant theme, with a façade of positive mood aspects reflecting the weak nature of the positive aspect of mood) and the ongoing belief in the power of the Fed to control events via Quantitative Easing (constructiveness, optimism, supportiveness – or, the negative theme of magical thinking smeared with a varnish of those positive mood aspects). I’m calling again for net negative mood. In a way, I hope I’m wrong again. Another year to prepare for the final, ugly realization of just how rotten the edifice of our system is, the better for me and mine.

This edition of Trendspotting is based on some of the “Aspects of Social Polarity” found in Chapter 14 of The Wave Principle of Human Social Behavior by Robert Prechter. I’ll be providing my expectation of how these aspects will play out in what I expect to be a negative mood environment.

At best I can give my interpretation of what to expect and use those expectations to help position myself, my assets and my location to avoid the worst if it comes and be able to take advantages of opportunities as they pop up. As Gary North puts it – you always want to “move to, don’t flee from” – we have been given an enormous gift, a long plateau of delusional (in my opinion) positive mood that has held firm for well over a year. Who knows how much more time we have to plan and prepare. Use that time wisely and keep a cheerful attitude.

Adventurousness/Protectionism

The slide towards trade protectionism will continue. Keep an eye on the ongoing disputes with China over the Rare Earths trade as a marker, but it will only be part of an overall trend towards rolling back many of the Free Trade agreements that were locked into place during the late great era of positive mood. Expect to hear much about how the early Republic was founded and grew behind significant trade barriers as an example of why we should put up new walls today.

As for other aspects of protectionism, expect banks to continue to be more conservative in their lending, expect personal debt to drop as people pay off their credit cards (though this could be interrupted if employment craters) and expect the general tenor of mood to be much more defensive.

Action Items: When others retreat, be ready to advance. Look for opportunities that others may be too frightened to take advantage of. Look for products meeting a local or regional need. Trade barriers could very well trash the base assumptions of many fine business plans.

Alignment/Opposition

Opposition will increase in many forms – whether it is labor strife in professional sports and public unions or between the main political parties, expect opposition to rule the day in many interactions.

Action Items: Don’t expect to get huge projects that required many layers of agreement off the ground. If you need lots of permitting, complicated financing or political support – don’t expect it to be easy. I would suggest focusing on small, discrete projects that can be handled quietly and cheaply.

Benevolence/Malevolence

I’m not sure how far down the curve we will slide on this polarity. Expect a rough year for charities. Expect public discourse to get even rougher and don’t be surprised to see a rash of stories about serial killers or spree killers make the news. The recent spate of cop killings (which we discussed briefly here) might be a ugly foreshadowing of things to come

Action Items: Keep your wits about you and make sure you don’t get caught up in a wave of malevolent behavior. Heaven knows the world can be short on kindness in the best of times.

Clarity/Fuzziness

This one is easy to spot. Policies such as issuing more debt to try and “fix” a debt crisis is a screaming alarm bell for this sort of thing, no matter how man Nobel Prize Winners line up to support it. There will be a vast amount of glittering generalities thrown around when it comes to talking about more jobs and debt relief. Expect vast waves of unintended consequences from the programs that do get pushed through.

Action Items: Be careful to make sure any plans you make – be they business plans, bug-out plans, relocation plans, etc. are based on the best facts available. Leave the day-dreaming to others. Keep in mind the old country saying “wish in one hand, shit in the other and see which one fills up first” when considering an investment. There is a lot of dreaming built into financial statements and pro formas. Make sure you can spot it.

Concord/Discord

Discord should rule the day. We are seeing politicos play nice at the moment as we are in a significant rally in mood. When we pass Dow 10,000 once again, expect that to melt away into angry, bitter, partisan wrangling.

Action Items: If you rely on harmonious times for your income or safety – expect a decrease in both.

Confidence/Fear

Fear should make a big, big comeback. Whether in terms of personal safety or investments, times should get stressful.

Action Items: If you have ignored me over the last several years when I say “get to know your neighbors, get plugged into your community – the actual real-life one, not the digital one” then please stop ignoring me and make those connections. People usually have less fear of those they know. Do what you can to limit fear’s deleterious effects on your life. When others are fearful, you can be looking for opportunity.

Constructiveness/Destructiveness

Expect to see things crumble or be blown to bits, whether it is infrastructure or political entities. Money for maintenance is going to dry up. Anger will spark the detonation of bombs and the collapse of many current social and political arrangements. Burn Baby Burn will make a comeback.

Action Items: I see this as a theme that will be picked up by macro themes such as Peak Oil or the Climate Change movement. Watch for a push to the return to gravel roads (informed by devastated local budgets and by an eco movement out to limit the use of roads) or for allowing infrastructure to decay to promote restrictions on access to areas and a return of those areas “back to nature.”

Daring/Defensiveness

Retrenchment should be the order of the day. Again, this will be a tough era to see big projects through to completion.

Action Items: You should already have your defensive measures in place. Be ready to get daring while others get defensive.

Desiring Power Over Nature/Desiring Power Over People

I think the Climate Change Religion (as opposed to the legitimate science of climate studies) is going to be the poster child for this. The Climate Catastrophe folks have their villain (carbon emitting activities), they have their Mein Kampf (Climate Change and the Failure of Democracy – read what they have in store for you, friends), they control many levers of power in the establishment and they have a high profile champion in Al Gore. They’ve suffered some setbacks lately, but watch as mood deteriorates. They will be a vocal, angry minority and they will know what they want – always a dangerous combo.

Action Items: Tyranny is going to be hard to impose in this era of open communications systems, but don’t worry, plenty of folks will try and impose it. Be watchful and be ready to run – early or fight - if you must in defense of the Constitution, your life and property.

Ebullience/Depression

If this model is correct, we should expect a lot more acceptance of depression or stoicism rather than the manic insistence that we should all be happy we saw in the 1990’s and most of the 2000’s. Ludes and other downers should make a comeback. Hopefully meth abuse will shrink.

Action Items: Be watchful of your moods. Don’t get caught up in the waves of depression that could very well sweep the country after an ugly financial or political event.

Embrace of Effort/Avoidance of Effort

Expect a lot of ennui if mood truly craters. A lot of “it doesn’t matter” will be floating around, in tandem with a depressed national psyche.

Action Items: While others avoid doing the hard things – you should be embracing them. This is the ultimate contrarian play.

Forbearance/Anger

As the text says “A rising mood leads to social expressions of acquiescence, apology and tolerance. A falling mood leads to social expressions of resistance, recriminations and intolerance.” Don’t expect to see things like the Catholic Church apologizing for the Inquisition or other public self-flagellation by political bodies to apologize for crimes or atrocities committed decades or centuries ago. This will be an age where we’ll be making plenty of our own atrocities that our great-grandchildren can the apologize for down the road.

Action Items: If you are a member of a group that relies on income based upon historical guilt. Get ready to see that income wither away. Also, this is just another ingredient in the stew that will keep politics a seething mass of anger and futility for the near future.

Friskiness/Somberness

Sigh. Watch as hemlines drop and fashion goes black, brown and ugly and people let their bodies go. It has been a fun ride in an era of short skirts, well-tailored suits, fun times and giddy excessiveness in parties and politics.

Action Items: If your business model relies on selling tiny amounts of clothing at a big mark-up or selling lot’s of sparkly rocks, expect to see a dent in your income. Fashion will always sell, but the trend is going to abruptly change, in my opinion.

Happiness/Unhappiness

Pretty self-explanatory. Gonna be some good blues tunes that come out of this era.

Action Items: Don’t ignore the bad things, but don’t let yourself dwell on unhappiness. This too shall pass.

Homogeneity/Heterogeneity

Watch for a shift towards a lot of “tribalism” in marketing and in politics. This should work hand in hand with anger and secession to make quite the ugly mix on the political scene.

Action Items: Take time to read The Breakdown of Nations by Leopold Kohr for an idea of how smaller, heterogeneous political and social organizations might be able to flourish. The heterogeneity pole can put enormous strains on big systems that count on people all behaving a set way. Breaking apart some of those sclerotic systems might not be all negative. Think of ways to market and thrive in such an environment.

Inclusion/Exclusion

Tribalism will continue to march onwards and upwards. The worst of “exclusion” takes us skin-color-based violence, to the re-ignition of historical animosities and just aggravates an already ugly national political scene.

Action Items: Go to the U.S. Census website and look up your city and your state. Where do you fall in terms of your ethnic group in your region? What do the projections for ten years out say? What would happen if ethnic-based conflicts erupted in your region?

Interest in Love/Interest in Sex

Get ready to get your groove on if that is your thing.

Action Items: If you are in the arts, plan to write that big best-seller or direct that movie focusing on self-serving pleasure and the thrill of the “hunt.”

Liberality/Restriction

Expect different regions to express this in different ways. Down South you may see a return of Blue Laws and an expansion of dry counties. Up in Yankee Land expect extremely restrictive gun laws. Expect more and more efforts to legislate behavior to more rigid forms.

Action Items: Be aware of the culture of where you live. This will be a cross-cutting theme in realms of politics, business, fashion and social behavior.

Optimism/Pessimism

This one is self-explanatory. While others are preparing for the world’s end in 2012, you can be buying their assets for pennies on the dollar, if you so choose.

Action Items: Buy when blood is flowing in the streets.

Practical Thinking/Magical Thinking

Expect so much Magical Thinking as to make you puke. This will be everything from relatively harmless visits to a local Santero to help out with your love life or a business deal to truly pernicious magical incantations such as QE3 or other sorts of wishful fantasizing that just because you want something bad enough it will manifest itself with no consequences. Much of this has already played out on the national scene as budget deficits have continued to skyrocket, guaranteeing devastation in the near future.

Action Items: Think clearly. Feel free to indulge in the more harmless aspects of magical thinking (so you don’t stand out too much from the crowd) but base your actions on practical thinking.

Search for Joy/Search for Pleasure

I define joy as a deep and internal state of connectedness to the Source, to Divine Providence, with active aspects of faith, hope and charity. A search for pleasure is a road where you wind up like Hugh Hefner, a shriveled old shell of a once-vibrant man, subsisting on Viagra and gold-diggers.

Action Items: Indulge lightly as we descend this slope into hedonism, don’t get consumed by it.

Self-Providence/Self-Deprivation

Watch as we recoil away from Hummers and McMansions to more humble digs and mass transit. In religious circles, look for a comeback of monastic environments and possibly more violent efforts such as flagellation. In politics, looks for “austerity” to rule the day in public spending and in general watch as society retrenches to a lower level of conspicuous consumption.

Action Items: Self-Deprivation, especially after an era of extreme excess is not the worst thing in the world. Use this wave of mood to clear out clutter and rationalize your budget.

Sharpness of Focus/Dullness of Focus

This will be a tricky one to nail down. In the best of times, there is not a lot of sharp focused effort out there.

Action Items: If you work in manufacturing or the energy sectors (or in a research reactor!) be extra vigilant to make sure you and your people are doing things by the book. Cutting corners can mean injury, ruined equipment and regulatory nightmares. Make sure your QA and Safety folks stay on the ball.

Supportiveness/Opposition

Another cross-cutting theme that should play havoc with any efforts to make big projects or big efforts succeed. There will be even more arm-chair quarterbacks out there ready to tell you why it can’t be done.

Action Items: Expect this. Build this into any timelines or plans you make. If you have important things you need to get done, keep the projects small and the group of people doing them limited. In politics, expect gridlock.

Tendency to Praise/Tendency to Criticize

Ditto from Supportiveness/Opposition. This will be a very tiresome aspect of this era of negative mood.

Togetherness/Separatism.

If we truly are facing a Super Cycle grade downturn, a lot of political entities are going to be shattered under the strain.

Action Items: Keep your eyes peeled for secessionist sentiment. If you live in Texas, you might want to make sure any assets you have in other states is disposed of within the next few years. Come 2020, you might be a citizen of the Lone Star Republic and need a passport to visit Little Rock or Los Angeles.

Summary

Whew. What a list. I hope the above was helpful. Use it to clarify your thinking. Keep a positive frame of mind. Have Plans A, B, C and D at least scoped out to cover both a continued rally in mood and a collapse. Enjoy this plateau for as long as it can hold.


2 comments:

Greg B said...

It's not sounding like a warm and cuddly year. But I do appreciate your thoughts on the "Action Items". Lots to think about...

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