Comment – Looking to a bright future.

This is the time of the year when people look backwards and look forwards. How has their particular bit of the world done in the last twelve months? And what do we expect or fear in the next twelve months? Everybody has their own individual answers.

What we can speculate on is what the world may look like, and what changes there might be in the background against which futurology takes place.

And we can see that 2001 promises a number of events which may change the environment considerably. On the world scene a new American president and how he might seek to change the direction of his predecessor’s policies, with or without the risk of an American and thus worldwide recession.

Will President Putin get to work in earnest on his inheritance and what will this mean for the great potential in Russia and Eastern Europe for both triumph and disaster? Not unconnected, for Europe there will be the upshot of the Nice Treaty and what this might mean for individuals and entrepreneurs.

And then of course there’s a pretty certain general election in this country and the changes it may bring about. The odds seem to be on Blair winning again, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be changes; second terms of government – and see Mrs Thatcher’s in 1983 – can be more radical and risky than first terms.

Radical because all the things that weren’t tackled in the first term – for instance in this country the welfare benefits bill – have to be tackled, and risky because bashing the previous government becomes a fading alibi. Risky too, of course, because of world events, and from the point of view of businesses and accountants, a possible slowing up or stopping of the Brown economic miracle.

Put this way, and one could add hugely to the list of possible or even impossible upcoming events, it looks like a pretty fast moving scene, exciting or frightening as you might think. But is that really so?

Societies, particularly western societies, are pretty stable. There is a big overall consensus out there; anarchists and reformers may worry about this but most of us are happy with it. And there’s peace; people should recall that more than twice as many years have elapsed since the end of the second world war until now than elapsed between the end of the first world war and the beginning of the second. A lot to be thankful for.

Not that all futurology gets it right. This time last year we were assured the Dome was going to be the greatest thing ever, and no-one mentioned the railways or the weather.

– Sir Peter Kemp is a former civil servant and member of the English ICA.

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