Viktor Shvets’ medicine for overcoming our greatest financial challenge in decades – record global debt – is daring and controversial: Forget about repaying the massive bill of as much as $500 trillion since this would lead inevitably to a collapse in asset prices, he says, from homes to 401(k) pension plans. The global economy is wedded to technology and “financialization” of everything from mortgages to esoteric corporate and consumer loans. The idea of old-fashioned lending practices with simpler pieces of notes and clear cut lenders is a dim memory. Loans today have been financialized with every part – from principle to interest – sliced and diced and sold off to multiple investors and traders. Viktor Shvets’ ideas will have many skeptics and critics, including the host of this podcast, since the real price to be paid could be surrendering our personal sovereignty to state governments as the new path to “freedom.”
But Shvets sees a future that can’t be easily dismissed as a wild dream. For that reason, his new book is a fascinating study. Imagine that by the 2040s, Harvard College is shuttered, its hallowed halls impenetrably overgrown with miles of vines — closed for lack of demand in Ivy-League education. It’s just one jarring possibility suggested in Viktor Shvets’ thought-provoking deep-dive into the challenges facing today’s world: The Great Rupture – Three Empires, Four Turning points and the Future of Humanity – Do we need to be free? (Publisher: Boyle & Dalton.) “The lessons of the last five centuries were unequivocal — without freedom, there could be no prosperity or happiness. However, does this still hold true in the Information Age?” Shvets asks.
He expertly and compellingly distills the lessons learned over the last five centuries, and projects these into the future. Could the Information Age be rewriting the recipe for individual and national success? According to Shvets, modern technologies are disrupting the structure of our societies, altering every facet of our lives, from the nature of work and what we intrinsically value to how we are informed, entertained and educated — it promises to be a far deeper disruption than Industrial Revolutions. Humanity is at a major turning point, and how we respond to the merger of technology and financialization will decide our future. Will it be capitalism or communism, feudalism or despotism?
The Great Rupture explores the weakening nexus between freedom and prosperity and what that means for the future of humanity. From the birth of our modern world, pivotal events have led to the collapse of non-Western civilizations — Mongol warriors sweeping across Eurasian steppes; the Black Death and a re-awakening of human spirit; Zheng He’s voyages and the collapse of Novgorod republic; and finally, the ban on printing in Arabic. What can we learn from these historical events to better prepare ourselves for the future? As we hurtle toward that uncertain future, Shvets writes we must decide whether our cherished individual freedoms are still necessary for success and prosperity, or if in adapting to new technologies, non-Western civilizations are now better positioned for this new world, creating highly illiberal and possibly brutal orders that might no longer suffer from stagnation of ideas or wealth. For the first time in at least five centuries, we have an opportunity and tools to build a different society and economy.
The book explores specific policy choices that might help us navigate this treacherous transition. Will we embrace the challenge? Author Viktor Shvets, born in Kiev, then the capital of the Soviet Ukraine, is a global strategist at Macquarie Bank in Hong Kong. In his almost four-decades-long investment banking career, he worked in Sydney, Melbourne, London, New York and Moscow at a number of global investment banks