Thursday, October 15, 2015

Tinfoil Hat: The Edge of Collapse

How is it that the United States, a once-prosperous and still powerful nation, is teetering on the edge of internal collapse?

The economy is, and remains, in trouble, with employment low and salaries dropping. (Read Brad Delong's Macro Situation: Things Are Profoundly Different Today from What 10 Years Ago We Thought Would Be.) The wealth of the broad middle of the US population has been looted, leaving an impoverished majority and an extremely wealthy minority. Equally the country has been looted of industrial capital—the organizations, property, and financial systems that made the USA in its time an industrial powerhouse. Extensive propaganda has persuaded a substantial minority of the USA that all the achievements of the past 50 years are of no value, and increasingly incites terrorism. Given the opportunity, this minority would secede.

It is hard for me to believe that this is accidental. The very rich are tearing the economic system apart, and much of that can be ascribed to simple greed. But that the tearing works to impoverish the whole system? The reactionary politics? The paralysis of all the  systems that might hold things together? That all this occurs at the same time?

So let us posit, for a moment, that this is not coincidence but conspiracy. The goal of the conspiracy would be to establish a new aristocracy; a society in which all the wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few. Who are the conspirators? Multiple, I would expect, and with conflicting goals. Oh, they are united in their goal of aristocracy, to be sure. But they all want to rule. No democracy here! Each family for itself and conflict even within families.

And the outcome? Failure and social dissolution. The industrial capitalism that made the 20th century wealthy depends on involving vast numbers of people as designers, makers, and consumers. With the majority impoverished, that fails and the wealth goes. It may be possible to maintain a wealthy technologically-advanced society with many fewer people than are currently required, but no-one knows how, and I see no indication that the very-wealthy have such a secret; they fantasize only.

Ah, well. It is also possible to believe in coincidence. And even if there is no coincidence, this plot may fail. It will, certainly, lead to unpredictable consequences. It is fiction, after all, that has to make sense; real life is much wilder.

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