That's why I find it so amusing whenever I read assertions by various central planner types about how much population Fort Worth will have 30 years in the future or what the city will be like. They don't know. Nobody knows. All one can do is project current trends forward. But there are all sorts of things that are going on in the world around us which can be projected into the future with widely different outcomes. Which current trend is dominant - and what's to say that it will remain so and that some other current trend won't eventually overtake it? And who can anticipate all of the variables that might, at some point, come along and be so disruptive (for good or for bad) that all current trends are completely thrown off?
Such trends usually operate on the premise that Fort Worth will continue to grow. But growth and increased prosperity is not an automatic given. Look no further than Detroit or most other large cities in the upper Midwest and Northeast and, more recently, California. We are not so special that our area is somehow exempt from a similar fate should we go down the same path that those cities have. Indeed, a not so insignificant factor behind our success and growth is the result of businesses and job seekers fleeing the economic wreckage of those other parts of the country. Maybe we will continue to attract such economic refugees. Or maybe those other areas will hit bottom and reverse course out of desperate necessity and end up attracting economic growth that would otherwise have come our way. Nobody knows.
Obviously the performance of our local economy is directly impacted by the performance of the national economy - and who on earth can predict where that is going to go? For example, who in 1980 when the prime interest rate was 21.5 percent and inflation was 13 percent could predict that within a very few years we would be on the cusp of of a significant and sustained economic expansion? And whenever the economy is doing well there is no shortage of voices operating on the assumption that the good times will continue indefinitely.
Who in 1945 could have predicted that within 30 years downtowns and central cities would decline and, in many locations, completely die? And who in 1975 would predict that within 30 years those same areas would undergo a renaissance and become a magnet for people with higher incomes? Who in 1985 would have predicted that 30 years later powerful local icons such as newspapers, television stations and shopping malls would all be considered dying industries and that the only question is not if but when the majority of them will become extinct and whether they will be able to morph into something else that is viable?
I remember having a discussion/debate with one of my teachers circa 1984 about the Soviet Union. I argued that the Soviet Union was little more than a backward third world country with nuclear weapons. I remembering some of my classmates thinking that what I said was completely bizarre and radical. Had someone come along and told me that I was right and, not only that, but that the USSR would completely melt down and would no longer exist in seven years - I would have thought of them has having been completely nuts. But that is exactly what happened.
When White Rock Lake opened in Dallas in 1911, it was touted as having taken care of Dallas' water needs for the next 100 years. It proved insufficient in less than 20 years.
And remember all the talk of "peak oil" just a very few years ago? Look at what has happened since. Look at the economic collapse currently underway in backward petro-states such as Venezuela and Russia whose entire economies are largely controlled by authoritarian regimes that bought votes paid for on the premise that oil prices would remain high forever. And if prices remain low long enough, you will see others making significant bets on the future based on the premise that prices will remain low forever. Maybe they will. Maybe they will go down even further and stay there. Or maybe they will bounce right back up to where they were.
Think of that next time so-called "experts" boldly assert what Fort Worth is going to be like in the year 2040. The future rarely turns out the way we expected it to. One thing will remain a constant, however: at least when it comes to projecting the future, "conventional wisdom" and so-called "experts" will very frequently not just be wrong but utterly and completely wrong.