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Secularist prophets

Analysts with track record predict collapse of welfare state

James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg write disturbing books. They are disturbing not only because they so flagrantly defy our conventional wisdom, so blatantly flaunt our political assumptions, and so brazenly thump our sacred cows, but also because they have been so startlingly accurate in their projections and forecasts.

In 1987 the two renowned financial and political analysts--one American, the other English--collaborated on Blood in the Streets. In it they sagely predicted the fall of communism, the break-up of the Soviet Union, the bankruptcy of the savings and loan industry, the corporate downsizing trend, and the collapse of real estate values in California, Texas, New York, London, and Tokyo.

In 1990 they collaborated again on The Great Reckoning. In it they accurately forecast the conflict in the Persian Gulf, the civil war in Bosnia, renewed racial tension in urban America, a dramatic increase in domestic terrorism, the proliferation of renegade nuclear capabilities around the globe, and the emerging significance of the internet.

Now they have collaborated anew on The Sovereign Individual. And their fresh crop of predictions are no less remarkable than in the past. Indeed, if their amazing track record for sheer prescience holds true, this may be their most revolutionary book yet.

Of course, forecasting the future is an inherently risky business--as the authors are only too quick to point out. And if history teaches us anything at all, it is to expect the unexpected. But Mr. Davidson and Lord Rees-Mogg have an uncanny knack for avoiding the pitfalls of the typical pop trend-meisters.

For one thing, their projections are rooted in a profound grasp of economic, philosophical, and political realities. In addition, their forecasts are informed by a rich familiarity with Western history--albeit within a rather inflexible secularist framework. Thus, their assertions in this book about the demise of social welfare programs, the diminution of the modern nation-state, and the burgeoning impact of the cyber-economy upon international trade, currency exchange, and individual sovereignty are derived from far more than mere estimated analyses of opinion polls, market surveys, and trend projections.

Besides providing a big-picture glimpse of where the global economy may well be headed, the book offers a host of practical suggestions--as the subtitle suggests, the purpose of the book is to help readers know &quothow to survive and thrive during the collapse of the welfare state." Though many of the suggestions seem to be just a bit beyond the means of the average working American, there are plenty of basic lessons to which all of us might do well to pay heed. Some are rather obvious--though it is the obvious that many times bears repeating: Get out of debt; start a home business; make certain your children learn a practical trade; and begin a savings plan. But some of the other lessons are a bit more esoteric: Start a tax-free off-shore bank account; incorporate your home business in an enterprise zone or a non-tariff jurisdiction via the internet; invest in cyberspace educational technologies; and diversify your savings with junk silver and coin collections.

You won't like everything you read in The Sovereign Individual. I don't. You won't agree with everything you read in The Sovereign Individual. Again, I don't. But you will find that this disturbing book will stimulate your thinking, broaden your horizons, and illumine your conversations for quite some time to come. And just maybe it will provide the impetus necessary for you to get out of debt, set your financial house in order, and prepare for the uncertain days ahead. Every so often, that is just the kind of disturbance we all need.