Tverberg: "The World Economy Seems To Be Seriously Ill..."
The world economy seems to be seriously ill. The problem is not overly high oil prices, but that does not rule out energy as being a major underlying problem.
Two of the symptoms of the economy’s malaise are slow wage growth and increasing wage disparity. Tariffs are being used as solutions to these issues. Radical leaders are increasingly being elected. The Bank for International Settlements and the International Monetary Fund have raised concerns about the world’s aggregate debt levels. The IMF has even suggested that a second Great Depression might be ahead if major banks should fail in the manner that Lehman Brothers did in 2008.
Figure 1. Ratio of Core Debt Growth (non-financial debt including governmental debt) to GDP, based on data of the Bank of International Settlements.
If the economy were a human being, we would send it to a physician for a diagnosis regarding what is wrong. What really is needed is a physician who has a wide overview, and thus can understand the many symptoms. Hopefully, the physician can also provide a reasonable prognosis of what lies ahead.
Individual specialists studying the world’s economic and energy problems tend to look at these problems from narrow points of view. Some examples include:
Curve fitting and cycle analysis using economic data by country since World War II, as is often performed by economists
Analysis of oil supply based on technically recoverable reserves or resources
Analysis of fresh water supply problems
Analysis of population problems, including rising population relative to arable land, and rising retiree population relative to working population
Analysis of ocean problems, including rising acidity and depleting fish stocks
Analysis of the expected impact of CO2 production from fossil fuels on climate
Analysis of rising debt levels
In fact, we are facing a combined problem, but most analysts/economists are looking at only their own piece of the problem. They assume that the other aspects have little or no influence on their particular result. What we really need is an analysis of the overall economic malady from a broader perspective.
In some ways, the situation is analogous to having no physician with a sufficient overview of where the world economy is headed. Instead, we have a number of specialists (perhaps analogous to a psychiatrist, a urologist, a podiatrist, and a dermatologist), none of whom really understands the underlying problem the patient is facing.