Outrageous Fortunes | Daniel Altman

Summary of: Outrageous Fortunes: The Twelve Surprising Trends That Will Reshape the Global Economy
By: Daniel Altman

The Flaws of Extremes

Recent history has shown that pure capitalism and communism have their flaws, and social democracy may serve as a middle ground. Unfettered capitalism assumes that markets never fail and disregards human greed. On the other hand, communism leads to materialism and deprivation, leading to a corrosion of its ideals. Social democracy features strong safety nets, government control of specific strategic industries, and hefty business regulation. Although capitalist countries may transition towards social democracy, they commonly revert to capitalistic approaches. Permanent economic changes with equal access to opportunities are crucial for the success of capitalism. However, extreme approaches, regardless of the direction, only lead to further turmoil.


In ‘Outrageous Fortunes’, Daniel Altman presents twelve surprising trends poised to reshape the global economy. The book explores China’s economic growth, the potential dissolution of the European Union, the exploitation of natural resources in developing countries, global immigration concerns, the balance between communism and capitalism, the evolving role of the United States, the increasing importance of intermediaries, trade relations, the rise of lifestyle hubs, financial regulation, global warming, and the consequences of short-term political thinking. By demystifying complex economic concepts, Altman offers a user-friendly glimpse into the global economic future and the factors that will shape it.

The Future of China’s Economy

China’s remarkable economic growth has been marred by a lack of hospitable business climate, onerous financial and legal requirements, and a preference for traditional values over new ideas. Despite its impressive growth, predictions of China being the world’s largest economy in 2041 may be too optimistic. China’s one-child policy has also led to a decrease in its working-age population, potentially affecting the economy in the future. While China has thrived in the short term by assimilating foreign technology, longer-term factors imply imminent stabilization by 2050 and deceleration thereafter.

China’s Economic Growth Prospects

China’s remarkable economic growth has faced recent setbacks; however, studies suggest it could become the world’s largest economy by 2041. The reality is that this projection is overly optimistic. China struggles with a hostile business environment that ranks low among countries. Its culture values tradition, collective good, and seniority over new ideas, whereas laws and education promote traditionalism rather than innovation. Corruption and a lack of transparency compound these issues, and the one-child policy’s demographic impact could make it challenging for the working-age population to support aging citizens. Technology and techniques appropriation from abroad may be a short-term solution, but long-term factors suggest a slowing growth trend by 2050 and beyond.

The Future of the EU

Despite being an economic powerhouse, the 27-nation EU may unravel and disband with harmful consequences for the rest of the world. The EU’s economies have followed vastly different paths, with some countries struggling after the 2008 financial crisis while others prospered. Corruption levels vary, and certain member economies depend heavily on agriculture, posing challenges for policymakers. Aging populations also raise concerns about pension obligations. The EU’s unity is more likely to be expressed through foreign policy than through common economic ground.

The Pitfalls of Resource Extraction in Developing Countries

Many developing countries lack the infrastructure to extract their natural resources and resort to allowing foreign companies to do the job for them, leading to drawbacks such as politicians accepting up-front payments instead of future revenue and foreigners valuing quick profits over sustainable benefits. This modern-day colonization by state-owned entities can lead to loosely documented land rights and political unrest. Although the colonizers may eventually lose access to the resources, it’s uncertain how far they will go to ensure their access. Ultimately, most of these relationships will fail.

The Pros and Cons of Immigration

Immigration can bring fresh talent, diversity, and lower wages to wealthy countries with aging populations, and countries with emigrants suffering brain drain and income inequality could benefit from help in creating local opportunities. However, immigration can strain public services and exacerbate cultural gaps, especially when unskilled workers take jobs from citizens. Some countries have devised policies to select highly skilled “economic immigrants” based on specific criteria, while others rely on numerical quotas. Without the right policies, labor forces in some nations risk stagnation and shrinkage.

The Changing Face of American Jobs

As the American job market evolves, traditional manufacturing jobs are fading away and making new opportunities in healthcare, education, and sales. With a growing need for sales and marketing personnel, the US will continue to lead the way in global commerce while providing Americans with millions of new jobs. However, the average investor faces a choice- play it safe in the regulated market or take a chance in the financial black market. Nevertheless, with a sales culture that is uniquely American, the changing job market presents opportunities for the nation to grow and compete globally, even as it faces fierce competition.

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