The great forest fires that consumed swaths of the West in recent years have finally revealed the danger from a century of excessive fire suppression. Humanity’s natural drive to control the environment has left forests overgrown with impenetrable underbrush and littered with brittle deadwood.

Often, it’s only after the conflagration that the true contour of the land is visible again and the forest floor is bathed anew in the light needed for growth. Only then can green shoots poke up through the blackened soil on their way to becoming the mighty, majestic new redwoods and ponderosa pines and Douglas firs that will dominate the rejuvenated forest.

Just so, the Global Financial Crisis a decade ago consumed what was in many ways an overgrown, sclerotic, and brittle economic system within the developed countries of the world, revealing for all – both the elites and the non-elites who bore the brunt of the crisis – the true contours and contradictions of the modern economic landscape. The conflagration destroyed many traditional politicians identified with the previous highly globalized economy, and it encouraged disruptive, populist leaders to put down roots and begin reaching for their place in the sun. These new populist leaders, who took advantage of the destruction, include such luminaries as U.S. President Donald Trump and Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini. On July 24, another disruptor, Boris Johnson, was named prime minister of the United Kingdom. In this report, we dissect who Johnson is and how he rose to power. More importantly, we discuss what he is likely to do and accomplish as the leader of his country, and the likely ramifications for investors.

Childhood and Education

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is the son of Stanley Johnson, a widely traveled public servant and Conservative Party politician, and Charlotte Fawcett, a portrait artist from a family of liberal intellectuals. He was born in New York City in 1964 while his father was studying at Columbia University (although he renounced his U.S. citizenship for tax reasons in 2016). After New York, the family relocated often as they followed Stanley from international post to international post. They ultimately ended up in Brussels, where Johnson excelled in French and other studies at the prestigious European School. Various biographers note that Stanley’s frequent travels and long absences left Johnson and his siblings particularly close to their mother. Johnson was therefore deeply scarred when his mother suffered a mental breakdown in 1974 and spent several months away from the family for psychiatric treatment in London. To varying degrees, the biographers suggest the temporary loss of his mother created in Johnson a sense of vulnerability and a hunger for being liked, ultimately leading him to create his comic and entertaining persona.