The Counterpoint Trilogy – Five Years Later
The Great Game, the first book in The Counterpoint Trilogy, came out in December of 2013. It was set in 2022. I tried to set the story against one possible scenario that was reasonably grounded in our then-present. Five years is probably a good time to compare the how the history had unfolded vs. the trilogy. Here are some of the events and trends described in the books:
- Economic warfare between the US vs. China and Russia, escalating to the edge of a military conflict over South China Sea and Taiwan in 2024,
- A financial and political crisis beginning in late 2019, triggered by a currency attack, growing national debt, income inequality
- Emergence of a populist politician leading to the 2024 election
- Rise of a sharing economy, increased use of cryptocurrencies, continuing loss of privacy, drones, self-driving cars, etc.
While The Counterpoint Trilogy has been intended as more than pure entertainment read, it’s a fictional account rather a book of predictions. Still – and disturbingly - some elements of the plot came true already: rising tensions with China and Russia, China’s aggressive behavior in South China Sea, a populist in the White House, etc. Will others happen as well? Nobody can tell. But each action causes a reaction. When we show imperial arrogance, other countries align against us. When inequality rises, so does discontent. When middle class is eroded, demagogues give rise to aggressive populist movements.
The Great Game was conceived partly in response to the Great Recession of 2008-2009 that cost $70,000 for every American [source: Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco]. That’s over $20 Trillion – as if the whole country stopped working for a year! Ten years later, the Great Recession has been largely forgotten. Before the recession, we forgot about the 2000-2001 dot-com financial bust that cost “only” a couple of trillion dollars. Just like then, the US Federal Reserve responded by creating cheap money and the government ran up the national debt. Since the book’s been published, the US debt ballooned by another $6 Trillion and is projected to continue rising at the rate of over a trillion per year. Some people say it doesn’t matter – I think that at some point the time will come to pay the piper. The inequality remains extreme: the richest 1% of the Americans earned an increasing share of the national income, from 8% in the 1980’s to 20% now, the highest since the late 1920’s, just before the Great Depression and World War II. The real median household income is the same as it was twenty years ago.
Will the next crisis happen in late 2019 as described in The Great Game? Historically, we had recessions every 5-10 years, we are due for one. With the same smart finance people still in charge and the price tag of each subsequent crisis rising exponentially, the question is: what may the next crisis look like and what will be the cost? The Counterpoint Trilogy is, of course, a work of fiction that looked at one possible scenario. Alas, it’s hitting closer to home than I would have hoped.