Economics, government, and society: Who’s the boss?


There seems to be something in the human condition that there are immense global events at the turn of the century that determines the future.

The first 20 years or so of the 18th century saw the creation of the Kingdom of Great Britain and the South Sea Bubble. Peter the Great founded Saint Petersburg and transformed the Tsardom of Russia into a European power. The US went from “Sea to Shining Sea” with the Louisiana Purchase.

The 19th century opened with the first steam locomotive beginning operation. Latin American colonies freed themselves from Spain and Portugal as the Mexican War of Independence started. On the other side of the world, the British East India Company established Singapore.

The first two decades of the 20th century gave us 11 million military and seven million civilian deaths in World War One of which WW2 was a result. But that same period brought us air conditioning, radio, an affordable automobile, kiss-proof lipstick, and submachine guns.

I do not have to mention what the past 20 years has been like. We lived it. However, the greatest “event” that has occurred in the past 20 years and changes the future may be society itself.

There are three primary dynamics of human endeavor: economics and “the markets” (commodities, assets, etc.), government (leaders and policies) and society and “social issues”. We focus predominantly on the first two. We often think that money and politics are stronger and therefore move society.

Therefore, society reacts and is secondary to, rather than leading, economics and government. But what if that is not true? What if it is changes in our society, even subtle and slow, that is actually pushing the other two?

We are told that poor and less educated people have more children. Yet for the US in 2019, women with graduate college degrees had the highest birthrate, whereas women with high school diploma had the lowest birthrate. In Spain, the childlessness rate for women aged 40–44 in 2011 was 22 percent, but historically throughout the 20th century it was 10 percent.

The US and the West saw three social movements—civil rights, the environment, and women’s rights—that changed economies and governance in the 1970s, unleashing forces that continue to shape our world today. But you could not see it by looking at economies and governance back then. The market and government did not lead those changes; social forces changed the market and government.

Economies in the West have unraveled in the 21st century with the “Global” Debt Crisis, and now a “Global” Banking Crisis, but not so much in our region. Along with bad economies and government, the West has seen an unraveling of their social fabric.

You cannot find a region with the high level of political and economic stability except ours. You cannot find a region with the high level of social stability except ours.Note carefully: the following information does not reflect my opinion or approval or disapproval of these social changes. It only shows the profound changes that have occurred.

In the US, 78 percent of adults in 2007 identified as “Christian” with 16 percent as having “No religion.” In 2021, “Christian identity” fell to 63 percent and those without religion increased to 29 percent. “Other religions” remained unchanged. In England, 70 percent say they have “No Religion” today from 25 percent in 2011. These exhibit definite social change.

More examples. In 2000, 70 percent of Americans said Patriotism was “very important” to them. In 2022, that dropped to 38 percent. A global survey in 2014 and 2021 on the “Acceptance of Homosexuality” saw Argentina increase by 23 percent and South Korea by 34 percent. Conversely, acceptance decreased 16 percent in South Africa and by 21 percent in Turkey. Again, vast social change in a brief time.

Are societal changes driving – and signal – the insecurity and instability that characterize the economics and government? 

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