NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- President Barack Obama recently proclaimed that climate change, more than any issue, will define the contours of the 21st century, but that is only one of several forces that will make civilization different 100 years from now.
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Here are five forces that will shape this century:
1. Challenges to Democracy
In the 19th and 20th centuries, democracies that embraced free markets outperformed more autocratic and collectivist societies. However, over the past 60 years, majority rule in the West has fashioned government policies that redistribute income indiscriminately, displace investments in infrastructure and technology, and slow growth. China, albeit with shortcomings, has created a neocapitalist juggernaut. Its Communist Party isn't a Soviet-era dictatorship but rather an oligarchy open to new members. It imposes guidance on private as well as state-owned enterprises, and it has avoided the worst impulses of prosperity: a sense of entitlement and complacency among citizens. China and oligarchy will triumph if Western democracies don't curb politicians' impulse to reward indolence, much as Roman Emperors did with free bread and circuses.
2. Global Migration
In advanced industrialized economies, declining birth rates compel reliance on foreign workers and immigration. Often, ethnicity defines the national character that made those societies successful, and many new arrivals bring ideas and expectations about government that caused their homelands to fail. Advanced societies lack adequate mechanisms for assimilating newcomers and are clumsy at imparting national values. For instance, consider the backlash against immigrants in Norway or how effectively ISIS recruits in Europe. Ultimately, politicians' impulse to placate whoever has a vote regardless of the long-term consequences poses another threat to preservation of democratic capitalism.