Predictions for 2011

In my predictions post last year I wrote that I found it difficult to muster up much enthusiasm for a predictions post. This year I feel that way and then some.

For one thing I think that this year is pretty likely to be a replay of last year. Re-runs are rarely as entertaining as the first run and when you didn’t much care for the first run… For another there are all sorts of areas in which I don’t find myself with nearly as clear a view as I did in prior years. Take Iran, for example.

In prior years I’ve had substantial confidence that Iran wouldn’t test a nuclear weapon and that neither the U. S. nor Israel would attack Iran, at least not openly. I was also darned confident that the color revolution that optimists saw so brightly on the horizon would never materialize. Iran’s mullahs are serious, they aren’t democrats, they have plenty of resources at their disposal, and they don’t much care what level of force they need to employ to maintain their power and their vision of Iran’s future.

One of the many things that WikiLeaks has rendered beyond debate is that practically everybody other than peace activists in the West believes that Iran’s nuclear development program is a nuclear weapons development program. Our government believes it; the Russians believe it; the European governments believe it; the Gulf governments believe it. I have long thought that the preponderance of the evidence supported the idea that the Iranians were developing nuclear weapons or, at the very least, wanted everybody (including their own people) to believe that they were.

Will Iran demonstrate a nuclear weapon this year? I really don’t know. What will the U. S., Israel do in response? Again, I really don’t know.

  • Kim Jong-Il will die this year and be succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-Un. This is so widely believed it’s barely a prediction at all.
  • At the end of 2011 unemployment in the U. S. will be no less than 9%. I think that the BEA will be able to jigger the numbers sufficiently to keep the official figure below 10%.
  • GDP growth for the year will be at or below 3%. Growth will be sufficiently concentrated that it will feel worse.
  • There will be no anti-austerity riots by public employees in the United States like those in Greece. The real question is whether there will be anti-public employees riots.
  • The Tea Party Movement will prove to be a genuine populist movement rather than just another name for regular Republicans. They’ll be just as unhappy with business as usual on the part of Republicans as they were with overreach by Congressional Democrats.
  • PPACA will not be repealed or declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
  • At least one state will either default, be bailed out by the federal government, or be allowed to declare bankruptcy. It may well be Illinois.
  • Rahm Emanuel will be allowed to run in the primary for Chicago mayor.
  • The Social Network will win the Academy Award as Best Picture.
  • Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Natalie Portman, Colin Firth, and Geoffrey Rush will all be nominated for Academy Awards. It’s likely that three of them will win (all five can’t because they’re in conflict)
  • American forces will leave Iraq on schedule.
  • At least 90,000 American soldiers will be in Afghanistan at the end of 2011.
  • Julian Assange will not be convicted of sex charges in Sweden or of espionage in the United States.
  • President Obama’s approval rating as measured by the RCP average will not go over 50%.
  • The Coen Brothers will not announce that they’re beginning production of a new version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Oklahoma.
  • House prices as measured by the Case-Shiller index of twenty leading markets will decline at least an additional 10%. 20% is the floor.


There were some additional predictions I’d intended to make so I’ll add them here:

  • There will still be prisoners at Guantanamo at the end of 2011. Like the Bush Administration before it the Obama Administration doesn’t know what else to do with them and it’s unwilling to take the heat for making the wrong decision.
  • The EU’s actions will be successful in deferring the sovereign debt crisis among its member nations through 2011. The problems haven’t been solved—the can has just been kicked down the road.
13 comments… add one
  • steve

    I assume you saw Calculated Risk’s end of the year charts? Capacity utilization is still down, and real estate inventory remains very high. With China looking to cool down and Europe heading who knows where, the recovery will remain stalled.

    One real disagreement is on Tea Party. They remain the anti party. Without some sort of positive agenda, they will fade. Governing is more difficult, and not as fun, as criticizing. Not so sure about a state defaulting. Did any default in the Great Depression?


  • john personna

    I don’t do predictions. I think that’s because I buy the Taleb, fooled by randomness, thing. But for fun:

    No nation’s national academy of science will flip on global warming in 2011.

    This despite the fact than many of them “should” if it is all a lie, and contrary to their own self interest.

  • steve:

    No state was remotely as indebted during the Great Depression as many states are now. Yes, I saw CR’s review. Even more interesting was Mish Shedlock’s sector-by-sector analysis of the economy. Economic growth doesn’t simply occur in aggregate. It comes from somewhere and there’s no apparent driver for economic growth right now.


    Everybody does predictions. If you cross a street, you’ve made a prediction. Putting a satellite in orbit, buying a gallon of milk, or paying your rent all involve predictions.

    While the behavior of individuals and societies aren’t simple and random events can influence behavior, the behavior isn’t random, either. It operates within constraints and according to principles. The Chinese leadership will not suddenly embrace representative democracy. Saudi’s King Abdullah will not announce a mass redistribution of oil revenues. The Germans will not decide to speak French instead of German.

  • john personna

    I’m in the other side of this at OTB, talking about gasoline prices. There I am taking the position that we can say something, even if we can’t say anything specific.

    This is actually the classic example. Taleb talks about going to see an energy consultancy. They had been putting out oil price predictions every year for decades, and they’d been wrong most of the time. Taleb laughed and accused them of do-overs. There was this inner conflict in their thinking, that they could do a too-precise prediction, and then effortlessly discard it, and do another.

    So, “Kim Jong-Il will die this year”

    Maybe everybody believes this, but if he pulls a Fidel and comes back from the deathbed, everyone will just give themselves a do-over.

  • john personna

    (It is certain that everybody wants to know the future. This impacts our survival and prosperity completely. It’s a place where we want answers so badly that we accept bad answers. See also this week’s TV time on the 2011 closing DOW.)

  • michael reynolds

    People only want to know the future if they haven’t spent much time considering the consequences. It would be disastrous to the very notion of humanity. It would mean that we are automata, incapable of free will.

    We’ll never know the future because it doesn’t yet exist and you can’t know what doesn’t exist. (Statement contains philosophical over-simplification and casual dismissal of certain alternate cosmologies.)

    Next week the vast magma pool under Yellowstone will erupt and none of Dave’s predictions will matter any more. Given prevailing winds that’s more trouble for Chicago than SoCal. Which is why I’m not predicting an asteroid strike off Huntington Beach.

  • PD Shaw

    I largely agree w/ Dave’s predictions (and Andy’s, particularly that Palin will not run).

    I predict Illinois will raise income tax rates and at least temporarily stave off the default/bankruptcy scenario; the amount and form of the increase will be insufficient to fix the long-term public pension problem.

    Emanuel wins a runoff to become Mayor.

    Gitmo detainees will still not be moved to the mainland.

  • Oops, that should be “game” not “claim.”

  • Drew

    Thank you, Dave, for including the Tea Party dot point. I don’t consider myself a Tea Partyer by any means, but I was disgusted at the spending behavior of the Republican Congress when in control for behaving, well, like Democrats.

    Unlike Democrats, who close ranks and make excuses for their pols behavior, I think the Tea Partyers will show no mercy for wayward Republicans. Its about time someone enforce fiscal sanity.

  • steve

    “I think the Tea Partyers will show no mercy for wayward Republicans. Its about time someone enforce fiscal sanity.”

    Hope and Change? I wish you were right, but they are already caving on earmarks and the GSEs.


  • Icepick

    I was also darned confident that the color revolution that optimists saw so brightly on the horizon would never materialize. Iran’s mullahs are serious, they aren’t democrats, they have plenty of resources at their disposal, and they don’t much care what level of force they need to employ to maintain their power and their vision of Iran’s future.

    More importantly, there’s no reason to believe that the whatever-the-color-was movement wanted any sort of rapproachment with the USA. In fact, it is very much in the interest of whoever is running Iran to secure nuclear weapons for themselves. Given their placement on the world map, it would be stupid of them to fail to do so.

  • michael reynolds

    Okay, I’ll play. In 2011:

    1 – Wikileaks will publish internal TSA documents claiming that Al Qaeda is recruiting “hot chicks,” and calling for additional checks on same.

    2 – The Tea Party will learn that balancing the budget requires major cuts in medicare. In response they will call for cutting wasteful consular spending on brochures in foreign languages.

    3 – At some point some worthless jag-off will threaten to do something idiotic that will have no bearing on anything meaningful. All 3 cable news networks will go wall to wall.

    4 – Christine O’Donnell will be convicted of misusing campaign funds and burned as a witch.

    5 – North Korea’s will blow something up, threaten war, and be bought off with some DVD’s and a six pack of Remy.

    6 – Americans will suddenly realize that no, nothing Seth MacFarlane has ever done has been funny. No: nothing.

    7 – The unemployment rate will be exactly 8.4375%. Exactly!

    8 – It will suddenly become clear that if you’re doing a list of ten things and you don’t want your number 8 to be turned into a stupid emoticon you’d better not use the number 8 followed by a right parenthesis. Everywhere people will use dashes. The world will be a better place.

    9 – The BRZRK project will revolutionize publishing. (What? I can’t do some promo? Is this America or Russia? By which I mean the USSR?)

    10 – Right, Left, Center and even Tea Partiers will come together to pass legislation forbidding Jack Black to make any new movies.

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