Does "Catastrophe Lay Ahead" in 2010?

In retrospect, the early 2000s bear an eerie resemblance to the early 1900s, and Martin Wolf describes in the Financial Times why that may be a problem. Much like then, there are ongoing and expensive colonial wars, and potential new superpowers emerging. When this occurred last century, even in the midst of relative peace, “catastrophe lay ahead: a world war; a communist revolution; a Great Depression; fascism; and then another world war.”

Although it’s only one perspective, and one focused exclusively on parallels even when plenty has changed, it’s worth considering the four major shifts he notes:

* First, the decline of the US superpower and, more generally, Anglo-American supremacy.

* Second, the tough decisions made in times of war and financial crisis have led to the weakening of US and western authority.

* Third, rising current account imbalances have destabilized global trade and there are signs that globalization has faltered.

* Fourth, providing basic public goods now requires more global cooperation and coordination than in the past.

For more of Wolf’s analysis of the similarities between now and then, and how they may impact the coming century, visit the Financial Times for his coverage of how the noughties may be a hinge of history.