Standing at the edge of the old world and the beginning of the new one, at the tip of Portugal, Stratfor's George Friedman is moved by the exploits of 15th-century European explorers and dismayed by the present fear pervading the Continent that "any decisive action will tear the place apart."
Europeans wreaked much havoc as they spread throughout the world, but they also "left as [their] legacy something extraordinary: a world that knew itself and all of its parts." But now, George asks, with "the death of hubris and of risk-taking … what follows, what is left?" The Europeans are "now reduced to finding a way to resume the comforts of the unexceptional…. Europe has chosen comfort, and now has lost it. It sought transcendence and tore itself apart."
This is an unusual Outside the Box, not focused on markets per se but on the human endeavor, which inspires and creates markets. Sure, Henry the Navigator may have been enamored of Prester John legends, but he did something that changed the world. That vision exists today but not in those who opt for comfort as a goal rather than as an outcome. I think this may be George’s best writing yet.
I am back in Dallas, working my way through a pile of material and writing madly on various projects, but I'm about to take a break to go look at plumbing fixtures. Who knew there were so many choices and prices? I was vaguely aware of all this on a theoretical basis, but when confronted with the thousands of varieties of simple faucets and shower controls, I find myself smiling and reflecting on businesses focused on giving consumers what they want and not just what they need. Do you know you can get someone to create a work of art on steel that covers an entire bathroom wall and is waterproof and does not cost much more than tile? Or that there were warehouses crammed with massive slabs of granite and marble and tiles from all over the world? You've got to love the fabulous interplay of hundreds of thousands of people working in their own niches of the market, just to make sure I can design a home that fits my style and budget. Which is maybe not as important as creating a school of navigation and sending people off to discover the New World, but it definitely calls forth the same human drive. Off I go to plumb the depths … of plumbing fixtures.
Have a great week. I see Tulsa and a wedding coming my way…
Your always seeing an opportunity somewhere analyst,
John Mauldin, Editor
Outside the Box
Geopolitical Journey: Europe, the Glorious and the Banal
By George Friedman
We flew into Lisbon and immediately rented a car to drive to the edge of the Earth and the beginning of the world. This edge has a name: Cabo de Sao Vicente. A small cape jutting into the Atlantic Ocean, it is the bitter end of Europe. Beyond this point, the world was once unknown to Europeans, becoming a realm inhabited…