Could the U.S. Collapse? Part 1.

After more than half a decade of tracking the dreary record of the ruling elite’s (often intentional and self-serving) mismanagement of America, this post launches a new series focused on the possibility of U.S. national collapse: could it happen? is it happening? how would we know?

The case for U.S. national collapse is easy to make: official pandering to financial criminals continuing with no end in sight despite the 2008 Recession, the dysfunctional Congress, the continuing lust for empire despite the Iraq disaster, the propagandistic content of the mainstream media.

Yet the case for U.S. national revival can also be made: the winter endurance of popular protest in Madison, Wisconsin; the self-organization of the Occupy Movement; occasional state-level reform; the rejection of traditional racism by much of American youth; rising popular awareness of the level of corruption among the elite.

Half a decade after the twin disasters of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the bailout of the billionaires, the beginning of the 21st century still appears to have featured a turning point for U.S. prospects. To the degree that this may be true, do Americans still have the time and the will to reverse course?

In the absence of intelligent thought, make a list. How to think about the future with a useful degree of accuracy remains, for humans, very much an unsolved problem. Reductionist thinking will never resolve this complex problem, but reductionism does offer a simple way to organize one’s thinking, so here’s a draft list of the processes of the complex system U.S. citizens like to call “America:”

  1. Finance: Is the financial system designed for egalitarianism or piracy?

  2. Foreign Policy: Is foreign policy designed for global dictatorship, to make the U.S. an example for the world, or for security through isolation?

  3. Social Cohesion: How unified is society?

  4. Social Mood: Is the psychological condition of society one of confidence or fear?

  5. Fairness: Are society and government seeking justice or scapegoats?

These “processes,” for they are significant as interlocked sets of dynamics rather than as static components (analogous to the slippage on race car tires hitting a curve, rather than the tire itself, or the impact on a boat of wind interacting with waves rather than the actual wind or waves individually), of course all interact with each other. For simplicity, starting by considering each process as an isolated set of dynamics will help to define the problem. This approach invites the definition of a separate set of indicators for each process and provokes questions about how the processes are linked. Although there may be little that is original in the above list, were it to be concluded that the overwhelming preponderance of core national processes were characterized by a clear trend toward dysfunctionality (e.g., class war, global dictatorship, civil war, fear, exploitation of scapegoats to avoid reform), the conclusion that the nation was headed toward the disintegration of “the American dream” would be hard to avoid.

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