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The Problem with K-Waves

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K Wave MAA

All those investigating cycles within the economy made a simple mistake. Kondratieff followed agriculture/commodity prices when agriculture accounted for 70% of the GDP pre-19th century. That only began to decline from 1850 forward, dropping to 40% by 1900 as the Industrial Revolution emerged with the invention of the steam engine. Moreover, aside from climate impacting the food supply, there were also wars. So the Kondratieff Wave failed to take into account all of the external forces.

If we extend the K-Wave 54 years from the commodity high in 1919, that brings us to 1973, which was close to the end of Bretton Woods in 1971 and the OPEC Oil crisis. Another 54 years from there will bring us to 2027. Therefore, this may be based entirely on commodities, but they were impacted by weather and war. Note that 2027 is the ideal target on our model for war derived from entirely different sources.


There is a cycle of industrialization as well. Rome began as an agrarian society and moved toward trade, which brought them into conflict with Carthage. Rome itself became more like New York and grain was imported from Egypt. As agriculture became more of an import, Rome blossomed like New York into the arts and culture. The shift toward industrialization also resulted in a decline in birth rates for children. Large families were needed in an agrarian society but not so much in a developed society – hence the family laws of Augustus.

The first known Clean Air Act occurred in 535 AD by Emperor Justinian in Constantinople. He proclaimed the importance of clean air as a birthright. “By the law of nature these things are common to mankind—the air, running water, the sea.” Even Cicero wrote about pollution in the ancient city of Rome. This went hand and hand with developed societies and urbanization.

Consequently, when looking at long-term cycles, a few hundred years is not enough data. If Kondratieff were alive today and based his study on the current system, he would focus on services rather than commodity-based economies. Agriculture has fallen to just 1.2% of the civil workforce, so we cannot follow K-Waves as the innovator intended.