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30 review for The Storm Before the Calm: America's Discord, the Coming Crisis of the 2020s, and the Triumph Beyond

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Alkire

    Good book. Of course, the test of these kinds of books is whether they stand the test of time. There’s always the chance that the book will be a 2032 laughingstock or more charitably, forgotten. So, I won’t comment on his specific predictions. Nut, the writing is readable and logical. It could have used a touch more editing, but is still pretty good writing-wise. The analysis, both historical and current seems sound enough. His focus on cycles in American history is pretty standard, about the on Good book. Of course, the test of these kinds of books is whether they stand the test of time. There’s always the chance that the book will be a 2032 laughingstock or more charitably, forgotten. So, I won’t comment on his specific predictions. Nut, the writing is readable and logical. It could have used a touch more editing, but is still pretty good writing-wise. The analysis, both historical and current seems sound enough. His focus on cycles in American history is pretty standard, about the only thing that changes there is number of years and start/finish dates and the like. Therefore, his argument seems reasonable enough. But, it’s possible that the pandemic, which this book missed by publication, could affect the trends outlined herein. We’ll just have to wait and see. Worth reading in the next year or two while it’s still reasonably fresh.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David Wineberg

    There has been a minor trend of books predicting the end of the American Empire by 2030. The Storm Before The Calm at first appears to be yet another, but it is more nuanced and clever. It doesn’t predict the end, but a new beginning, one that happens every 50-80 years since America was founded. The idea is that there are two series of waves or cycles: the institutional one runs 80 years (or so), and the economic/sociological one runs 50 years. For the first time ever, they will almost overlap i There has been a minor trend of books predicting the end of the American Empire by 2030. The Storm Before The Calm at first appears to be yet another, but it is more nuanced and clever. It doesn’t predict the end, but a new beginning, one that happens every 50-80 years since America was founded. The idea is that there are two series of waves or cycles: the institutional one runs 80 years (or so), and the economic/sociological one runs 50 years. For the first time ever, they will almost overlap in the 2020s according to George Friedman, who theory this is. These waves or cycles have no names, just descriptions. They give plenty of warning, a decade or more, and can take another decade to settle down for a calm(er) run over the following 50 years. My problem with them is they are so unscientific, so packed with cherry-picked events, that they could appear any time, or never. Just pick the trends, developments and events you want to populate them with, et voila! They fit the theory. Meanwhile, back in the cycles, Friedman positions them after major wars and economic crises. So cycles figured in independence, the Civil War, World War II and after Jimmy Carter. The last president of every cycle is a dismal failure, largely because he does not have the perspective to know his position in the cycle. Similarly, the first president in the new cycle makes all kinds of big changes, unknowingly setting up the next calm period with them. In that definition, Donald Trump does not even place. The last president in the upcoming cycles will be 2024-28. Many might think differently about the damage Trump is doing to government agencies and institutions, international trade, treaties, relations, morals and values, but in Friedman’s theory, he’s just more, not majorly different. And not The End. Trump does however fit Friedman’s requirement of an ever-failing attempt by a president near the end of a cycle to bring back the good old days of an era that is gone forever. So one way or another, there’s more of that to come. Previous presidents at the end of cycles were John Quincy Adams, US Grant, Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter. Besides the timelines, the evidence for the upcoming changes are that institutions have twisted themselves out of scope. For example, Friedman cites mortgage assistance. That was a postwar effort to help veterans become civilians, but morphed into a feeding frenzy down to subprime civilians and led to a massive debt bubble bursting in 2008. Similarly, the country no longer has the luxury of leaving declarations of war to the deliberations of Congress, he says. Nuclear and terrorist attacks have changed the playing field, requiring instant response. In his theory, these are tension points that will need unwinding. Cycle ends are characterized by deep social and economic dislocation. There would be little disagreement we are undergoing such change, but it can also be said of pretty much any stretch of American history. The USA is a constant struggle to adapt. Westward expansion, Southern Reconstruction, urbanization, suburbanization, ghettoization, public education, computerization, drugs, mass media of various levels over the decades, have all contributed their piece to the strain. To me these cycles, lasting as short as Friedman specifies, might as well not be accounted for at all. He does not make the case they are distinct and recognizable to anyone but him. Friedman spends a chapter explaining how the USA is an empire in denial, a reluctant empire, an immature empire, and not a particularly competent empire, using too little or too much force, largely dependent on Russian involvement for its efforts. Nothing could be further from the truth. Countries worldwide must toe the US line or be invaded, taken over, have their governments replaced or bankrupted. The USA maintains over 840 overseas military bases in far less than the 200 countries of the world, precisely to maintain its empire. And what it doesn’t threaten with its military, it manipulates with its money. He says Americans don’t care much for ideologies, but that is absurd. The whole country has devolved into ideologies, voting by party, marrying by party, moving house by party allegiance. People don’t know the names of the candidates any more, they simply vote by party. For him to base his cyclical conflicts on the lack of ideology sends the whole project off the rails, for me. Instead of ideology, he thinks the next big conflict will be over the federal government vs the citizenry, that the technocrats want to defend their power of complexity over the people’s desire for simplicity. But the federal government has been neutered and no longer matters very much. From the EPA to the weather service, the president has been interfering, reducing, minimizing and emasculating government. The EPA has been reduced to counting toilet flushes, the FBI to investigating the FBI. It’s not that no one trusts government any more, it’s that government isn’t there any more. The Justice Department did not take down a single financier over the 2008 Financial Crisis. Antitrust is a quaint notion. Regulations are being rolled back for no reason. Parklands are shrinking. Even the IRS is incapable of carrying out its mandate. So where exactly is the front line of this future battle? He also forces things to fit his theory. He says the George W. Bush administration was the last time there was co-operation and rationality in government (“calm”), that beginning with Obama and now Trump, rigidity and lack of progress rule. But during Bush II, the W. stood for Worst president in history. His cabinet members were not merely unqualified or incompetent but maliciously so. He accomplished nothing lasting (structurally), even with the loud influence of the Tea Party. He was embarrassing internationally, and ridiculed nationally. To be nostalgic for W. as a pillar of calm stability is ludicrous. Finally, this theory is only valid in the USA, it seems. It is special for Americans alone. Which doesn’t help its standing as a theory. George Friedman was the chairman of Stratfor, the geopolitical prognosticator. It should be noted that another alum, Peter Zeihan, has just published a book called Disunited Nations using the Stratfor brain trust to predict how nations all over the world will fare in the coming decades, but not coming even close to what Friedman says about the USA. It would seem the crystal ball business is not quite as reliable or replicable as its adherents would have it. David Wineberg

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ron Housley

    The Storm before the Calm ©2020 George Friedman A short Book Report by Ron Housley I ran across George Friedman over a decade ago when he was the driving force behind Stratfor, before Geopolitical Futures had ever got off the ground. There was something there, some hint of deep understanding and insight about how the world operated, something mysterious and intriguing. In this current book, George constructs a theory to account for the ebb and flow of historical events, showing us various cycles fro The Storm before the Calm ©2020 George Friedman A short Book Report by Ron Housley I ran across George Friedman over a decade ago when he was the driving force behind Stratfor, before Geopolitical Futures had ever got off the ground. There was something there, some hint of deep understanding and insight about how the world operated, something mysterious and intriguing. In this current book, George constructs a theory to account for the ebb and flow of historical events, showing us various cycles from America’s founding up through the present; the first chapter set the stage for us to visualize the evolution of several such cycles. I began the book trying to pin down how George regarded individual rights and by trying to figure out what he thought was the legitimate role of government. Up through page 19 he had not quite teased out that the purpose of the new American government was to protect the individual rights of its citizens, but he did say, “Liberty is the precondition to the pursuit of happiness.” He could just as easily have clarified that “liberty is protecting the rights of the citizens, so that they would have the option to pursue their own happiness;” but he didn’t offer up that level of clarity. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Before he gets to his central theme about the intersection of two major cycles in the 2020’s, George spends several chapters laying down his account of the history behind the cycles; but in so doing, he glosses over points that are begging for a broader analysis. For instance, he tells us “women won Word War II” because they entered the blue-collar work-force; that somehow redounds to a generalization about women. Then, he tells us how an inventor creates “a business to turn (his invention) into wealth” (p. 63); but he says this in passing, as if it weren’t a critical and central point lost on hordes of Americans today. Then, he tells us that the subtlety for the inventor “was in understanding…what the customer would buy” (p.64); but that seriously understates the reverence due to inventors, not quite up to the level of Steve Jobs, who said, “They don’t know what they want until I show them what’s possible.” Then, in a whole new level of sweeping claim, George tells us, “America is about making war.” (p.66) But he offers up nary a word of defense against the observation that it is the statist regimes which “make” war; that free nations go to war in self-defense. I was initially offended that George would frame it that a free nation makes war; I wish he had merely acknowledged the degree to which America had reneged on its promise to remain free (and had become more statist itself) when it became involved in “making” war. Then, he tells us about the “enslavement of Africans.” But he doesn’t balance the proper condemnation of the enslavement by pointing out that slavery was dominant in every culture on earth for thousands of years; that America’s founding marked the first time in human history when a philosophical defense of freedom over slavery was given political expression. He rightly criticizes the three-fifths rule in the Constitution; but he doesn’t point out that it was that same Constitution which set the stage for slavery to be abolished for the first time ever. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * George’s book is about the CYCLES — which he presents as crises > order > reinvention — cycles that manifest over and over, on somewhat of a schedule, as if ordained by a power up on high. Identifying cycles is George’s way of explaining the shift which played out as the culture pushed back against America’s initial embrace of reason and liberty — our original founding principles. The “un-reason” birthed by European philosophers infected the American mainstream through the universities, through the newspapers, through the literature, through politicians and judges…..as all this change gradually took place in the country’s march from liberty to statism. George sees it as some unstoppable, metaphysical set of cycles. It does seem unstoppable, like an out-of-control train running downhill without breaks. When George tells us that Presidents don’t make history but that history makes them, what he is really describing is how it is ideas that drive it all. The President embraces ideas; his constituents embrace ideas. It is the ideas which animate the laws, the regulations, the coercive acts of government and ultimately the juggernaut of changes usurping liberty. It is ideas which are behind the change we see happening, perhaps conforming to George’s cycles. But it does not appear to be some determinist force at play. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * George’s account of the “institutional cycle” rests upon some questionable premises, for example: (1)that the Great Depression was solved by war (p. 101), rather than by repealing the New Deal’s most onerous interventions which weren’t repealed until shortly after the war, when their continuance was finally seen as an obstacle to economic growth; (2)that after 1929 the government needed to “intervene in the economy” (p.99), as if it wasn’t the government’s massive interventions (think: Federal Reserve, Smoot-Hawley tariffs) that caused 1929 in the first place. George contends that “institutional cycles” are at play; but it’s hard to see how all the changes he describes are anything substantively more than institutional usurpations of individual liberty going from massive to more massive — and ultimately to the point where nobody bats an eyelash at printing an extra $2-Trillion with the stroke of a pen. George looks at all the changes and sees “institutional cycles.” I look at the same changes and see a decades long shift from individual liberty to collective statism. But here’s where the reader has to really put on his thinking cap: When these “institutional cycles” intersect with what he then identifies as “socio-economic cycles,” will the mere temporal coincidence produce a fundamentally new type of calamity? George’s “institutional” cycles include the hand of government tinkering and tampering with the ECONOMY; so, it’s not easy to grasp how these “institutional” cycle elements are fundamentally separate from the elements he describes in his section on “socio-ECONOMIC” cycles. Nowhere in his explication of the various cycles does he discuss the ups and downs of the natural Business Cycle, nor of how we’ve been subjected to more painful ups and downs as potentially free cycles have been throttled by coercive attempts to regulate, to control, to tax, to centrally plan. The Business Cycles have always been with us, but attempts at central planning have aggravated the cycles since the beginning of our Republic; George makes no mention about this part of our history, as he describes the earlier cycles. I would have expected at least a short discussion about America’s early struggle with the unknowns of how “free banking” could have been an alternative to what actually was put in place by imposing controls (notably the bond-collateral requirement and the prohibition on branch banking — both of which featured prominently in creating various banking crises in the 18th and 19th centuries), and how people just blithely presumed that the implemented system was “free,” even in the presence of crippling and unnecessary rules. I have to allow that sometimes a supposedly clear idea does not come into proper focus on my own personal screen. Such may be the case with George Friedman’s contention that a confluence of two (largely similar) cycles will somehow conspire to hand us a catastrophe . I can certainly follow his outline of the crisis in student loans and in university education; but it’s harder to follow how it represents some inevitable actualization of cycles. What I see is a problem created by government take-over (which means that the ideas were in the culture already to allow this) of education and also their take-over of the entire student loan industry, such that a flood of money then became available to the universities, and to the education bureaucracy which naturally mushroomed. I was never able to get on-board with George’s reasoning that the outcome was cyclically inevitable. George’s prediction of low productivity and high unemployment for the late 2020’s is hard to deny; he correlates it with stagnation of high tech and the pervasive psychological depression likely accompany stagnation in demand for tech workers. We have been seeing that coming for as long as we’ve seen the cultural shift away from individualism. George Friedman’s hypothesis of an inevitable confluence of two major cycles is certainly interesting; but it was never quite clear to me why his predicted outcomes wouldn’t come to pass merely as the result of collectivist ideas set in motion in the 18th century, then carefully nourished for generations by the intellectuals, and gradually given the force of law by the caliber of politician that such a system spawned. I will continue to follow George Friedman; I will continue subscribing to his Geopolitical Futures offerings. There is more here than meets the eye; and I am willing to concede that my disagreements with him may be more my failure to adequately grasp his argument. Thank you for the book, George!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    This is the first book I've read from this author, but based on what I liked about this book, I'm going to check out his other works. He makes several predictions about the future of our country, both politically and social-economically. He makes the argument that our history is full of cycles, and that these cycles recur every 50 to 80 years. The graphs scattered throughout the book really helped me to visualize the points the author was trying to make. I would recommend this book to anyone int This is the first book I've read from this author, but based on what I liked about this book, I'm going to check out his other works. He makes several predictions about the future of our country, both politically and social-economically. He makes the argument that our history is full of cycles, and that these cycles recur every 50 to 80 years. The graphs scattered throughout the book really helped me to visualize the points the author was trying to make. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in current geopolitics, as well as the general reader.

  5. 5 out of 5

    İdil Berfin

    I'd give this a 0 if I could bye I'd give this a 0 if I could bye

  6. 5 out of 5

    Casey Wheeler

    I had high hopes for this book, but was sorely disappointed. Friedman puts forth two theories of change over the course of history for the United States. One is institutional that occurs approximately every 80 years and one is economic/social that occurs every 50 years. He postulates that these two are going to occur at the same time for the first time in the 2020s. I found his arguements to be weak in that the facts he has used to develop his theory ignore several times where they occurred betw I had high hopes for this book, but was sorely disappointed. Friedman puts forth two theories of change over the course of history for the United States. One is institutional that occurs approximately every 80 years and one is economic/social that occurs every 50 years. He postulates that these two are going to occur at the same time for the first time in the 2020s. I found his arguements to be weak in that the facts he has used to develop his theory ignore several times where they occurred between his time cycles with just as much impact. His observation that the George W. Bush presidency was the last where we experienced calm left me somewhat perplexed. Overall, I found this book to be much less than I had anticipated based on the author's background. I received a free Kindle copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon and my nonfiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook  page.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rita

    It is hard for me to believe George Friedman wrote this. He does not use citations or a bibliography, or even an index, but I enjoyed reading his previous books regardless. He stuck to geopolitics mainly in his previous books. This one is much different and much less interesting. The text is dull. Friedman normally has a more concise and witty style of writing. The ideas are also dull. It's as if the Heritage Foundation wrote this one. His theory of 'cycles' were unconvincing to me. There are so It is hard for me to believe George Friedman wrote this. He does not use citations or a bibliography, or even an index, but I enjoyed reading his previous books regardless. He stuck to geopolitics mainly in his previous books. This one is much different and much less interesting. The text is dull. Friedman normally has a more concise and witty style of writing. The ideas are also dull. It's as if the Heritage Foundation wrote this one. His theory of 'cycles' were unconvincing to me. There are some vague predictions towards the end that anyone paying much attention at all likely will have already considered. I consider a great fault in the book that he does not mention any history or current effects of U.S. foreign direct investment, in or out. It's as if his 'invented nation' that rose to empire originated from some hardworking boat people. I suppose you could say that a colony that becomes an empire that colonizes is 'invented' since there probably haven't been many empire with those origins, but he doesn't say that. I hope George hasn't moved from his prediction mode to a propagandist mode, but this book certainly seems like that is what has happened. His claim that U.S. Empire was 'unintentional' and 'reluctant' is just plain ridiculous. Unintentional and reluctant to whom?? Certainly not those that relentlessly pursued it and called it anything else. But fear not, an election will turn the tides he tells us. Perhaps he hasn't tried voting lately?

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Lane

    It is quite tempting, I think, for those living through a crisis - whether related to global or national health, politics, business, education, or all the above - to feel as if they are living through novel and unprecedented times. Often, many of the details are truly new, but if we take a step back we find that the overall dynamic is a bit of a rerun. I found George Friedman's "The Storm Before the Calm" to be timely in that regard. Friedman writes in long strides; I found myself reading passag It is quite tempting, I think, for those living through a crisis - whether related to global or national health, politics, business, education, or all the above - to feel as if they are living through novel and unprecedented times. Often, many of the details are truly new, but if we take a step back we find that the overall dynamic is a bit of a rerun. I found George Friedman's "The Storm Before the Calm" to be timely in that regard. Friedman writes in long strides; I found myself reading passages twice because I knew he was about to run off and leave me. But for those who worry that the "American Project" may be failing, or that the leadership of our nation is leading us off a cliff, or generally that 'the end' is upon us, this book provides unbiased, level-headed, reasonable, and fact-driven reassurance. He ends the book with: "The permanent things in America’s founding—our rights and the Constitution—serve to drive both the prudence and the recklessness of the country. And it is the combination of these two things that has allowed the United States to evolve over nearly 250 years of stability and chaos. There is no evidence of it ending. The current storm is nothing more than what is normal for this time in America’s history and our lives." We probably aren't quite as special or unfortunate as it feels like we are, and that's a really promising idea. Highly recommended read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    John

    decline of industrialism-mass production required continual presence in the factory & was physical draining, making maintaining one's health very difficult. With the decline of industrialism & the rise of the service & tech industries, concentration on health maintenance became commonplace. Negative habits like smoking have declined, & more attention to exercise & diet has become common. This focus on health will expand. What are the obligations among people when life stretches to nearly a centur decline of industrialism-mass production required continual presence in the factory & was physical draining, making maintaining one's health very difficult. With the decline of industrialism & the rise of the service & tech industries, concentration on health maintenance became commonplace. Negative habits like smoking have declined, & more attention to exercise & diet has become common. This focus on health will expand. What are the obligations among people when life stretches to nearly a century & children are one option among many others? The core problem of the next sociopolitical cycle will be demographic. Central problems the decline in birth rates & the extension of life expectancy. In 2018, the birth rate in the US was the lowest ever. It has declined in all native-born ethnic groups. Life expectancy measured from birth has doubled in a century from about 40 years to about 80. But even more significant is life expectancy of people over age 65. 50% of males will live longer than 85, which is 9.2% higher than it was in 2000. 50% of all women will live past 86 years. By comparison, in 1900. half of all men & women would not live past age 47 (these numbers are for whites; African Americans are consistently 2 years less). The number of people living to over 100 expanded by 44% between 2000 & 2014. Only about 17% of the public claimed to have any degree of confidence in the government. During the Eisenhower years, that number was about 75%. It fell to 35% during the Carter administration, which was the last presidency of the socioeconomic Roosevelt cycle. From the public point of view, the federal system is hermetically sealed. Identifying the laws & regulations that might effect you, identifying what the effects might be, managing the system, & controlling your relationship to the federal government are no longer options. Even having a significant impact on the electoral process is difficult. One of the political crises we will see coming to a peak in the 2020s will be a revolt against the primary system, which empowers minority ideologies & demands large amounts of effort to permit participation. At least 75% of the voters are not interested in the primary process, which is what you would expect given the governing ideology that favors private life. https://www.people-press.org/2019/04/... An old joke was that the biggest lie was saying, "I'm from the government & I'm here to help." But the situation as changed significantly in 2019 as opposed to the 20th century. During WW2, the president, as commander in chief, took control of much of the US economy & society. The class of Americans who supported the rise of the federal gov. after WW2 found themselves incapable of understanding the complexity of the system, nor able to afford counsel. They found themselves the object that was administered rather than a citizen served. Racism has always been a part of US history, but the issue now is not so much racism in the mind of the white working class as a matter of selective injustice. They resent that there are special programs for "oppressed minorities" but no one seems to care that white-working class incomes are in decline & birth rates of unwed mothers of this class now approach 50%. Drug use has become a vast epidemic. In other words, the condition of the white working class now is not dissimilar to the condition of African Americans in the 1970s. America is headed toward an institutional crisis in which the competence of the technocracy & the institutions of the federal government will be questioned. Pressure from 1 direction will come from the broader geopolitical crisis, & the growing inability of the technocracy to define an institutional solution for the US as an empire. The ability of the technocracy to create coherent solutions to social problems is severely limited, party as a result of it ideology, partly because of failure to simplify complex problems. Hillary Clinton was the candidate of the technocracy. She won the heartland of the technocracy & lost the heartland of the country-the declining industrial base. The election showed that we had reached gridlock between the 2 major competing classes. https://www.facebook.com/AntiAlcoholL... https://www.facebook.com/AntiAlcoholL...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tony Prenger

    This book proves that the country will continue to go through cycles of change. A very real historical account of the cycles of change inherent in the way our country continues morph into one that fits its current citizens.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chase Metcalf

    Another great book by George Friedman that builds on his previous explorations of America's geopolitical position and trajectory. The author describes an 80-year institutional and 50-year socio-economic cycle of crisis and stability that define America's history. He then notes that the 2020s will be the first time in the history of the Republic that these cycles will reach a crisis at the same time. In the end, he remains optimistic about the ability of America to reinvent itself and thrive foll Another great book by George Friedman that builds on his previous explorations of America's geopolitical position and trajectory. The author describes an 80-year institutional and 50-year socio-economic cycle of crisis and stability that define America's history. He then notes that the 2020s will be the first time in the history of the Republic that these cycles will reach a crisis at the same time. In the end, he remains optimistic about the ability of America to reinvent itself and thrive following a tumultuous decade. Though this book is not as engaging as The Next Hundred Years it clearly complements and builds on it while providing a useful perspective on the political tensions gripping America today. Definitely worth reading for those interested in geopolitics or America's future. Some key highlights (potential spoilers): - America is an invented nation giving it adaptability and flexibility - America is an empire - even if unintended - and part of the looming crisis of the 2020s will be about coming to grips with this and adapting its institutions for managing it going forward - The technocratic institutional system built for the challenges of World War II and post-World War II society is increasingly inaccessible to the average citizen and unable to apply common-sense solutions to the challenges facing voters. Will lead to revolt against technocracy and elites. - Socio-economic crisis of 2020s will be largely shaped by a need to address challenges of inequality driven by a surplus of investment capital in hands of few, the evolving relationship with technology, and the inaccessibility of higher education and student debt - Next cycle will see microchip replaced by bio-medical as the most important technology driving economic cycle as America deals with demographic challenges. Will create a society with greater experience and wisdom but could come at the expense of a certain amount of dynamism and creativity as the population ages.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Cade Patterson

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A very insightful romp through American History into the expected turbulence of the 2020’s decade. Nobody can predict the future, but Friedman’s guess is as good as any. In fact, with all its nuance and consideration it might even be close. I wonder how the coronavirus would change his timeline. Could this be the crisis that jumpstarts another cycle? SPOILER: America isn’t going to go down in a flaming ball of chaos. It’s been a flaming ball of chaos since the beginning, and things heat up every A very insightful romp through American History into the expected turbulence of the 2020’s decade. Nobody can predict the future, but Friedman’s guess is as good as any. In fact, with all its nuance and consideration it might even be close. I wonder how the coronavirus would change his timeline. Could this be the crisis that jumpstarts another cycle? SPOILER: America isn’t going to go down in a flaming ball of chaos. It’s been a flaming ball of chaos since the beginning, and things heat up every now and then. It’s what’s made the American Experiment so powerful. If you’re interested in the future of the US, aren’t a die-hard Trumper or anti-Trumper, and you want an optimist’s take, this one’s for you. Gonna have to revisit this when I’m in my 30’s to see how right he was.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Gibson

    I was hooked on Friedman's work after "The Next 100 Years" so there's some bias here. Coherent, original, and tight- while also imperfect, with moments of nostalgia, and pro-Americanism. The potential for correlation posing as causation (which of course, remains to be seen) didn't bother me. Stretching and compelling unified theory of America's history that provides a view of America's future - for the most part non-partisan. Enjoyed the provocative takes on solving Higher Ed, the mutually benef I was hooked on Friedman's work after "The Next 100 Years" so there's some bias here. Coherent, original, and tight- while also imperfect, with moments of nostalgia, and pro-Americanism. The potential for correlation posing as causation (which of course, remains to be seen) didn't bother me. Stretching and compelling unified theory of America's history that provides a view of America's future - for the most part non-partisan. Enjoyed the provocative takes on solving Higher Ed, the mutually beneficial roles of "Foxes and Hedgehogs," while wished he would have gone deeper on "Commander's Intent" - there's a big idea here for leadership. Fun linkages with recent reads: "Range," "The Book of Why," and all of Yuval Noah Harari's work.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Joel Azose

    DNF. The first third of the book makes you wade through a deeply White European Male-centric "recounting" of early American history, entirely devoid of primary sources, citations, or often any evidence at all for sweeping statements about demographic groups. Maybe Howard Zinn has ruined me for historical / political writing. One question I couldn't shake was "Who is America for?" Over and over in that first section, Friedman makes statements about the ~character of America~. Unfortunately, "Ameri DNF. The first third of the book makes you wade through a deeply White European Male-centric "recounting" of early American history, entirely devoid of primary sources, citations, or often any evidence at all for sweeping statements about demographic groups. Maybe Howard Zinn has ruined me for historical / political writing. One question I couldn't shake was "Who is America for?" Over and over in that first section, Friedman makes statements about the ~character of America~. Unfortunately, "America" is metonymy for White Land-owning Men. America is The Cowboy! America is The Inventor! America is The Warrior! There are fascinating stories to tell about the true America of the 1700s and 1800s. This book has an unintentionally narrow scope, much to its detriment. (There are issues with the quality of the prose, but it's hardly worth dwelling on them. A lot of apropos-of-nothing groaners like "America is a paradox.") Skip it. No great loss.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Paul Haas

    Great read that provides an in depth breakdown of two major Cycles that have shaped the US over 50 and 80 years respectively. He provides historical context before explaining what he believes to be the result of the ending of both cycles in the late 2020s. Very interesting and thought provoking read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Brian Moyer

    Friedman identifies two cycles in our nation's history - one institutional and one social. He then extrapolates several predictions for the United States in the 2020s and beyond. His cycles aren't as well researched and fleshed out as the Strauss/Howe generational theory for example, but he does point out some things about our American style of government and our nature as Americans that I think it's fair to make predictions using.  For example he predicts that 2028 will be a convergence of both Friedman identifies two cycles in our nation's history - one institutional and one social. He then extrapolates several predictions for the United States in the 2020s and beyond. His cycles aren't as well researched and fleshed out as the Strauss/Howe generational theory for example, but he does point out some things about our American style of government and our nature as Americans that I think it's fair to make predictions using.  For example he predicts that 2028 will be a convergence of both cycles. That a Democrat will be president from 2024 to 2028 and will be the last president of the Reagan cycle as well as completely ineffective (Think Hoover or Carter), then in 2028 we will get a new president that reforms a lot of how the government works and starts a new cycle for the next 50 years.  Some of the main changes that he sees coming are a better management of the 150 to 200 federal agencies. Instead of technocrats working and using their expertise on a very narrow subject without talking to other government agencies, there will be more vision to actually get things done and use more common sense.  He probably better than anyone else framed our current social tension in a way that really makes sense to me. He frames the liberal meritocratic, mostly upper middle class white people against more consevative working class whites as a battle between technocrats and common sense. Take Obamacare for example, there are many things included in Obamacare that working class whites love and wouldn't want to give up, but they feel (not wrongly) that it doesn't need to be a convoluted 800 page document. Friedman says that the coming 2020s decade will be like the 1930s or 1970s where government doesn't have the solutions and there are repeated crises and economic problems culminating in the 2028 election. Most of the problems we will face in the 2020s will be due to wealth and income inequality and distaste for technocrats by working class white people. He predicts that a universal basic income will be tried as well as tax reform but the real battleground for closing the inequality gap will be in America's universities.  He predicts that there will be some sort of college tuition assistance nationwide along the lines of the GI Bill, but even further he predicts reforms to college admissions decisions. Currently you have to write a admissions essay that might be written by your parent or admissions tutor, you have to list your unpaid volunteer experience whether or not your family can afford for you to participate. Colleges might be looking for someone who spent a year volunteering to build housing in Haiti while an equally talented and qualified candidate spent the year working at Walmart because they needed to support their family. Friedman predicts reforms to college admissions ending legacies and ending favor for experiences that not every high school student has access to. The bottom line is that the reform will end schools only admitting "their kind" of students. He also predicts a heterozation of ideas on college campuses where working class conservative high school students can go to prestigious colleges and not have their ideas belittled or ostracized.  He also predicts the political parties will eliminate the primary system altogether and the parties will just nominate their candidates and voters either vote for them or not. He also predicts having better local party representation than they do now so that people have someone they can talk to about issues that are important to them that's better than the current call your congressperson system. He even makes little predictions like as the average life expectancy of Americans continues to grow and grow that there could be a maximum age limit on voting so that a legion of voters that are a hundred years old aren't having an outsized role in shaping our federal government. I was interested to know if Friedman had changed some of his predictions in light of covid19 and George Floyd's death happening just a couple months after publication of his book and found a couple articles suggesting that they haven't. He likens it to the race riots in 1968, Nixon's presidency and leaving office and the lingering war in Vietnam all leading up to the election of Reagan in 1980. He suggests that Trump's election, the riots surrounding George Floyd, our continued military presence in the middle East after 19 years, etc. will still lead to a failed old guard Democrat president in 2024 (ala Carter) and a new leader (no party prediction) that changes the government in 2028. Biden and Harris are likely to win in 2020, and things will "go back to normal" meaning the Reagan style deregulation, technocrats, trickle down economics, endless foreign wars of Clinton Bush Obama will continue for a few more years until our government is born anew. 

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cyrus Shahriari

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. George Friedman once again enlightens readers with geopolitical wisdom in his latest work, The Storm Before The Calm. He starts the narrative by providing an early historic account of European settlers and the founding of the nation and moves along to the present day with an outlook of the future. Two main cycles are repeatedly covered in the nearly 250 years since the founding of the nation in 1776. The institutional cycle focuses on governance and the way it has morphed into the current bureau George Friedman once again enlightens readers with geopolitical wisdom in his latest work, The Storm Before The Calm. He starts the narrative by providing an early historic account of European settlers and the founding of the nation and moves along to the present day with an outlook of the future. Two main cycles are repeatedly covered in the nearly 250 years since the founding of the nation in 1776. The institutional cycle focuses on governance and the way it has morphed into the current bureaucracy that few if any common person can navigate through these days. George Friedman often refers to the resulting technocracy which has evolved and its focus on knowledge in various narrow subjects. Clearly, there are signs that this current order is in question with unlikely alliances to form in the 2020s to challenge the status quo. The second socioeconomic cycle is another focus which is reviewed thoroughly in the work. Without giving away too many details in this review, the gist of the storm is that both cycles are coinciding in this decade with tumultuous times predicted in the medium term. The author does offer assurance that the end of such cycles is not the end of the story but rather a revitalizing process. It is also refreshing that the author, as always, refrains from emphasizing on personalities but rather, George Friedman focuses on the bigger picture at hand combining history with current events to provide context for leaders as well as the common person to navigate in this complex world. With current events unfolding, there are several quotes which are providing hints into the future. For example, on March 15, 2020, the Federal Reserve Chairman, in a coordinated central bank action, lowered the federal funds rate to nearly zero, and on page 142 in the Storm Before the Calm, George Friedman warns how “the damage done to prudent savers by low interest” can have on the social fabric. Exactly how such a crisis will unfold is best understood by keeping a close eye on GPF. Another controversial but blunt quote on page 215 is worth analysing with the current COVID-19 situation as “diseases that kill quickly” have a certain economic impact. Following the publication of the book, George Friedman has provided at least two public addendums in form of newsletters to provide more context on this fluid situation. Overall, the Storm Before the Calm is highly commendable for those interested to understand the world as whole. In fact, I would hope that more of my peers, especially in the Silicon Valley would take an interest in such thought provoking geopolitical accounts of the past and the future. In the technology field in particular it is far too simple to get entrenched in narrow subjects which George Friedman alludes to. The holistic view on events is something that very few have mastered, and this is one main reason why I follow every publication by George Friedman very closely.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tom Schulte

    Basing on seeing multi-decade cycles of institutional, economic, and political changes in this comparative county, the author makes predictions of turmoil over the next decade or so before a returns to tranquil growth in the 2030s. I am generally leery of such predictions, yet I may return to this over the next several years to see how it pans out, such is the strength of arguments based on history. I was certainly more impressed with this work of his than The Next l00 Years. A forecast for the Basing on seeing multi-decade cycles of institutional, economic, and political changes in this comparative county, the author makes predictions of turmoil over the next decade or so before a returns to tranquil growth in the 2030s. I am generally leery of such predictions, yet I may return to this over the next several years to see how it pans out, such is the strength of arguments based on history. I was certainly more impressed with this work of his than The Next l00 Years. A forecast for the 2lst Century.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Andrei Hognogi

    I usually give this kind of book 3 stars but I my expectations were subverted so hard, that i'm compelled to give this a better rating. Friedman makes the case that there are two cycles , economic and social, in the history of US and they both should "reset" in the 20 20's. I am skeptical about this particular prediction, (what if there are cycles in the cycles? like leap years kind of thing), but the book around this argument is absolutely worth the read. Considering that I knew Friedman to be a I usually give this kind of book 3 stars but I my expectations were subverted so hard, that i'm compelled to give this a better rating. Friedman makes the case that there are two cycles , economic and social, in the history of US and they both should "reset" in the 20 20's. I am skeptical about this particular prediction, (what if there are cycles in the cycles? like leap years kind of thing), but the book around this argument is absolutely worth the read. Considering that I knew Friedman to be a globalist corporate consultant I expected a lot more biased read of current events than I actually got, and the second amazingly unexpected thing I got from the same corporate consultant is a critique of technocracy! wow, the last thing I expected here.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lara

    I wish good reads aloud half stars, because I would give this one 3 1/2. I listened to the audiobook version, and the narrator was just OK. That does color my opinion of the book overall. The take on history is very good, the hypothesis of the recurring cycles is interesting. I’m not sure if I believe his predictions. There were some good explanations as to why The US is the way that it is.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    2.5 stars

  22. 4 out of 5

    Robert Van buhler iii

    Brilliant encapsulation of the State of the Union as we enter the '20s. The man is a solid historian, and puts together a credible scenario of what we have seen in US History cycles and what happens when things must change. This is not about left or right, but structure. Brilliant encapsulation of the State of the Union as we enter the '20s. The man is a solid historian, and puts together a credible scenario of what we have seen in US History cycles and what happens when things must change. This is not about left or right, but structure.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Anderson

    An interesting view of what is potentially coming in the next few decades. I appreciate the fact that he did not bog down the reader with overly complicated/ explained reasons for his predictions. He kept examples of previous American cycles brief, which in turn progressed the book and his point along. While I am not overly educated in previous American cycles, his descriptions were convincing and leave the door open to do my own additional research. He also does not get captured in the typical An interesting view of what is potentially coming in the next few decades. I appreciate the fact that he did not bog down the reader with overly complicated/ explained reasons for his predictions. He kept examples of previous American cycles brief, which in turn progressed the book and his point along. While I am not overly educated in previous American cycles, his descriptions were convincing and leave the door open to do my own additional research. He also does not get captured in the typical rhetoric of many forecasters who predict that we are nearing the end of America as a country and society. It is a good reminder that previous generations have gone through similar, if not worse, strife. Those generations have adapted and helped transform American society and culture into what we witness today. It is not so far fetched to believe that we will do the same over the coming decades. While the ‘American Empire’ may not look as it has in the previous generations, this does not mean we are heading towards total catastrophe. My main qualm with this book was with the first third or so. Friedman gives way too much credit to Americans. One example is how the rise of female industrial workers in WWII is the reason the Russians were able to defeat the Germans in the East. This isn’t true. Our industrial capacity may have aided the Russians, but this is not giving enough credit to the immense sacrifices the Russian people made in their war effort. There are other examples, but I do not want to give too much away to a potential reader. Overall, this gave good perspective on the American past to me, as well as what we could potentially be seeing in the future. I will be picking up one of his other books in the future.

  24. 5 out of 5

    jaga

    The latest from George Friedman, author of "The Next 100 Years". The current pandemic is not the storm the author refers to. And he views the Trump era as a symptom of a much bigger cyclical change that will unfold sometime over the next 10 years. The book covers: 1) How the American identity was forged; 2) How it evolved from pre-revolutionary colonial days to the present; and 3) How the end of the current institutional (every 80 years) and socio-economic (every 50 years) cycles will coincide d The latest from George Friedman, author of "The Next 100 Years". The current pandemic is not the storm the author refers to. And he views the Trump era as a symptom of a much bigger cyclical change that will unfold sometime over the next 10 years. The book covers: 1) How the American identity was forged; 2) How it evolved from pre-revolutionary colonial days to the present; and 3) How the end of the current institutional (every 80 years) and socio-economic (every 50 years) cycles will coincide during the 2020's and what the US will look like afterwards. Ultimately, a lot of guess work, but very helpful to put our current times in context. I'm not going to spoil it for you but the book does hit on major themes you would expect, such as the US as empire, wealth distribution, evolution of the technocracy, the education system and immigration, amongst others. Most importantly, it's the forecasted changes in these areas that make the book worth reading and the subject of debate.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This is an intriguing read, which made me think more about the patterns in our history.

  26. 5 out of 5

    David

    Everyone seems to have a theory about the 2020s - 2030s and Mr. Friedman is no different. Modeling is a chancy business, most of these models tend to be wrong (consider the models for the impact of covid-19). The Storm Before the Calm is an analytical model that eschews personalities for larger, impersonal forces at work in American history. It may well prove to be wrong, but it may well prove to be correct (though the odds are against the latter in its entirety). Still, it is an interesting ana Everyone seems to have a theory about the 2020s - 2030s and Mr. Friedman is no different. Modeling is a chancy business, most of these models tend to be wrong (consider the models for the impact of covid-19). The Storm Before the Calm is an analytical model that eschews personalities for larger, impersonal forces at work in American history. It may well prove to be wrong, but it may well prove to be correct (though the odds are against the latter in its entirety). Still, it is an interesting analysis and worth reading if you are interested in the next few decades. Mr. Friedman also has some interesting answers as to how America is going to work out the muddle it has got itself into. Pay close attention to the interplay between the socioeconomic and institutional cycles. Worth a read. Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    While this book isn't bad, it isn't great either. It borrows on theories from Neil Howe and William Strauss on Generational Theory. Friedman has no original theories of his own, other than he separates the 3rd turning and the 4th turning and explains them as two distinct events which can overlap one another. The other problem with this book is he only looks at the start of American history, which is only 250 years. This doesn't give much basis to any of his theories, so it is easy to debunk much While this book isn't bad, it isn't great either. It borrows on theories from Neil Howe and William Strauss on Generational Theory. Friedman has no original theories of his own, other than he separates the 3rd turning and the 4th turning and explains them as two distinct events which can overlap one another. The other problem with this book is he only looks at the start of American history, which is only 250 years. This doesn't give much basis to any of his theories, so it is easy to debunk much of what he says. Granted, it aligns to what Howe & Strauss say, but their theory ties all the way back to the 15th century. If you read this, read Generations or The Fourth Turning first. Skip Part One of this book as it adds NOTHING of value.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lone Star Literary Life

    Reviewed by Si Dunn for Lone Star Literary Life. Reviewed by Si Dunn for Lone Star Literary Life.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nelson Rosario

    Read it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Don Fisk

    Where a very lucid "big picture" description of a complex situation is proposed, there is always a suspicion that a lot is being obscured, and a "simple" (in the pejorative sense) picture is being proposed. I do not think that is the case here. George gives the ignorant (me) a brief lesson in the development of the United States and its institutions, from the Jamestown colony, the revolution, the constitutional convention, the civil war. The Homestead act, the Louisiana purchase, the Gold Standar Where a very lucid "big picture" description of a complex situation is proposed, there is always a suspicion that a lot is being obscured, and a "simple" (in the pejorative sense) picture is being proposed. I do not think that is the case here. George gives the ignorant (me) a brief lesson in the development of the United States and its institutions, from the Jamestown colony, the revolution, the constitutional convention, the civil war. The Homestead act, the Louisiana purchase, the Gold Standard, the GI bill. Also the way in which geographical aspects of the land influenced their settlement and type of settler, so that the North East, the South, the "valley" between the Appalachians and the Rockies (ie mid west) and the west coast, self selected particular types of settler (very broad brush, I know!) and economic activities. He proposes that there are two principle cycles of historical progress at work, the institutional federal system (fashioned by conflict and war), and the socio-economic. As a way of viewing the process of history at work in the US, I found cycles to be very helpful, and his descriptions of the cycles so far are very illuminating. I am certainly not qualified to comment on their value as a predictive mechanism. The comment that Invention aside, it should not surprise us that a nation of 300 million people will generate orderly and predictable cycles. Human existence consists of cycles. . . . All of nature is built on cycles and therefore it would be very odd if human society did not also develop cyclically might or might not escape judgement from statistical thermodynamics, though, in a cliche, history does echo. "When Donald Trump emerged as the winner of the American presidency, I was in Australia. The announcement came shortly before noon, and I spent the day - and the visit - being asked in various conferences and by perplexed media hosts how Trump could have won and what it would mean. The election was taken as seriously in Brisbane and Sydney as it was in Cincinnati or New York. Already working on this book, I tried to explain that the focus should be not on the man but on his place in the cycle. It did not go over well, because of the fascination with his personality. That remains the case, but I will argue that that is a mistake." Friedman argues that the US is currently undergoing change in both the socio-economic and the institutional cycles together. This will take maybe 10 years to finish. Currently technocracy rules: The technocracy emerges from the Enlightenment, and as such it believes that reason can perfect the world or, if not perfect it, vastly improve it. Experts are usually expert in their specialty, and tend to see everything in terms of their own area. This seems to lead to armies of civil servants interpreting screeds of regulations that are not comprehensible as a whole or to a single person (or even internally consistent). ... that because expertise is essential, it should govern. Government by experts (the meaning of technocracy) consists mostly of experts approaching problems through their own prisms, hoping that the many prisms created can be brought together in a single whole, and understood by the public. However it rarely happens because the person who understands the public, the person who tries to consolidate the myriad parts, and the experts who craft the solution all find each other incomprehensible. ..... It is a government of vast responsibility and vast knowledge that is bogged down in its own complexity, with serious consequences for the public. Technocracy, with its economic imperatives, has completely sidelined the industrial class: Albeit declining economically and socially, the white industrial class was still vast, disorganized but holding common principles. THey were going to be able to force the issue, particularly in the Republican Party, where the weakness of the power structure was revealed by the Tea Party. If they became organized, they would become an irresistible force in the party. Inevitably, someone would come along to organize them, and it had to be someone outside the party, someone not trapped in the web of relationships that accepted the basic social and economic model. The leader was less important than the sentiment that had formed. He simply had to recognize it was there, and speak to it. Friedman's descriptions in terms of the process of history (as opposed to the "Great Man" theory, ie that history should be viewed as the impact of "Great Men" - very convenient for the multiple choice exam, I guess, and seemingly, by the emphasis on memory testing, predominating in some high school teaching) is a wonderful antidote to the idea that everything was going along fine, along came Mr D. Trump, and all went sour. (The Great Person is not always wrong, consider the lovely couplet by Alexander Pope: “Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night: God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.” ― Alexander Pope A case where the Great Person theory actually works!) As you will see from the quotes, the writing is very precise, with discussion compact and easy to follow ie not given to flannel. A very instructive and enjoyable book!

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