Famed historian and author Niall Ferguson warned during an interview with CNBC late last week that the world was heading into a period that will potentially be worse than the 1970s, and that many are failing to see what is coming.
Ferguson compared current events to events that happened in the 1960s and 1970s, which led to war, financial turmoil, and mass civil unrest.
“The ingredients of the 1970s are already in place,” Ferguson said while speaking to CNBC at the Ambrosetti Forum in Italy. “The monetary and fiscal policy mistakes of last year, which set this inflation off, are very alike to the 60s.”
Ferguson noted how the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, which lasted only three weeks, sparked an energy crisis, and then he compared that to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has also sparked an energy crisis.
“This war is lasting much longer than the 1973 war, so the energy shock it is causing is actually going to be more sustained,” Ferguson said.
“Why shouldn’t it be as bad as the 1970s?” he continued. “I’m going to go out on a limb: Let’s consider the possibility that the 2020s could actually be worse than the 1970s.”
“At least in the 1970s you had detente between superpowers,” he added. “I don’t see much detente between Washington and Beijing right now. In fact, I see the opposite.”
Ferguson said part of the problem is that people tend to be overly optimistic about the future, often thinking that too many bad things can’t happen at once because they see reality as a game of averages.
“The distributions in history really aren’t normal, particularly when it comes to things like wars and financial crises or, for that matter, pandemics,” Ferguson said. “You start with a plague — or something we don’t see very often, a really large global pandemic — which kills millions of people and disrupts the economy in all kinds of ways. Then you hit it with a big monetary and fiscal policy shock. And then you add the geopolitical shock.”
Ferguson, who is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, warned last summer that “woke” culture is a “fake religion” that must be reined in or else it could have deadly consequences.
“The people on the Left didn’t really want to have a conversation about economics, because they had lost their arguments in the 1980s; they really hadn’t been able to make the case for socialism successfully,” Ferguson said. “And the conclusion was that there was more money to be made, or more power to be gained by exploiting identity politics and emphasizing cultural, racial, gender differences.”
Ferguson warned that Western society does not yet “fully realize, although it’s becoming more and more clear,” that “wokeism, is in fact, a religion.”
“It’s not a secular political ideology … it’s not really about economics,” he continued. “It is about salvation, membership of the elect of the woke. It’s about persecuting heretics. It’s about elaborate rituals of speech that can only be pursued by the believers. It’s rather cult like. Matt Yglesias is not somebody I usually agree with, but he called it the Great Awokening. This was a very astute observation. So we are dealing not just with the decay of traditional religion, but far worse, the rise of new fake religions, political religions, and one thing that’s very clear from the 20th century is that when people take their religious feelings and they apply them to political ideologies, terrible things can happen.”
“Central to what made communism so deadly, was it’s ultimately a religion, Marx is ultimately a prophet and Marxism is a kind of religion,” he continued. “The same was true of Nazism. The most ardent Nazis thought of Hitler and explicitly called him a redeemer of the German nation. So we’ve got to be very careful of political religions. Politics is not something that you should approach with a religious impulse. If you start feeling religiously about politics, take a lie down, you know, have some sleep, take a long walk and try again because politics should not be imbued with religious sentiment.”