Happy New Year! My new column for Time identifies "5 Earth-Shaking Trends to Follow in 2015—and Beyond!" Pick apart my ideas and add your own in the comments section below.
1. The end of America as a destination country
Americans have always taken for granted that everyone in the world wants to move here–that's one of the reasons some people are worried about opening the borders. We'll be overrun!
Yeah, not so much. Illegal immigration to the United States peaked in 2007 and legal immigration peaked even sooner, in 2006. Part of the reason for the decline is our persistently rotten economy and part of it is our stupid business climate (see below). But a big part of it is that other countries offer better chances for growth and opportunity for migrants and natives alike.
For instance, India and China, the world's two most populous countries, have higher economic growth rates than the United States. Hard-working individuals have more places than ever from which to choose….
3. Cheap and abundant energy changes everything
Massively proliferating energy from fracking, shale oil, improved green technologies, and other sources makes everything cheaper for everyone in the world. The price of a barrel of oil has dropped 40 percent since June and has been on the skids for five years.
Beyond savings that can be directed to other economic activities, the drop if energy costs also means that tyrannical countries ranging from Russia to Venezuela to Saudi Arabia have less clout on the world stage. The oil cartel OPEC controls about 40 percent of world production but it's facing increasing difficulty in keeping its member states in line. The United States had long been OPEC's biggest customer, which meant that we had to deal gingerly with Saudi Arabia and other Middle-Eastern producers, especially when it came to foreign policy.
With the U.S. producing more of its own energy than was even conceivable a few years ago, China and Asia more broadly is rapidly becoming OPEC's top customer. Which means that world politics—the decline in oil prices is hamstringing Vladimir Putin in Russia—are going through a major restructuring.
4. Cultural elites take it on the chin
It hasn't been a good year for cultural elites. In November, the once-beloved comedian Bill Cosby took to Twitter and asked fans to contribute "#cosbymemes." The feed was immediately filled with images mocking him and calling attention to a growing number of rape accusations. The auteur behind HBO's Girls, Lena Dunham, published a memoir in which she wrote about being the victim of sexual assault and offering her little sister "three pieces of candy if I could kiss her on the lips for five seconds." A commentary by Kevin Williamson of National Review led to a negative reaction that forced Dunham (and even her sister) to engage in a Twitter exchange and to cancel planned appearances.
This sort of thing didn't happen as easily in the past, when it was harder for everyday people or even members of the media, to speak directly to top-line stars and personalities. The Sony hack, in which unknown perpetrators released terabytes of emails, documents, and even movies, takes it all to a new level. It's a very different world—filled with very different conversations—when the audience can speak back to whomever it wants.