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Response to Poll_Blind (Original post)

Sat Jun 9, 2012, 04:19 PM

31. People are just hearing this "creak" now?

James Michael Greer actually made a very good analysis of the situation a few weeks back:

We have reached a state where there are too many competing political interests and have become functionally gridlocked as a country. What this means in practice is simple - the ship of state is going nowhere. This may not seem obvious (those of us on the left keep looking at the continued rightward tilt of the country, for instance) but in reality ever political power base agenda is balanced out by a different power base, and each side is terrified that the other will gain control (note, I actually believe this is more the case on the right than it is on the left).

There are very real problems in the US. The financial system needs to be reformed, but the banks are just powerful enough to block those reforms, but not really powerful enough to shift the power significantly the other direction. The petrochemical industry needs to be reformed, but the PCI is just strong enough to block those reforms. The power of religion in politics is a definite concern, but the religion industry (and don't ever think it's not an industry) can block those reforms, but can't quite manage to push its own agendas. The gridlock in Congress may be taken as left vs. right, but its also competing industries and players within industries attempting to get their own agendas met. The period prior to World War II is actually a pretty good example of this, with one MAJOR exception - at the time, the US was a growing country, was shifting into a second stage petroleum based economy, had a budget surplus and was effectively unconstrained resource wise. It was also geographically separated from the problems engulfing Europe and could shift a massive amount of its infrastructure into the conflict in World War II. In the process, it effectively turned the leading empire of the time, England, into a vassal of the United States (note that England does not have military bases located in American soil).

Today, the US is a late third stage petroleum based empire: petroleum supplies are becoming increasingly constrained, it is a net importer of raw petroleum supplies, and the ability to protect that supply of petroleum, while still strong, is diminishing daily. Over the course of the next twenty years, occupation manpower (soldiers and mercenaries) will decrease 30-50%. The average age of ships of the line is now 42 years. For a little while, automated fighting units - drone aircraft, drone tanks and so forth, will be ramped up as "low-cost" alternatives, but such units can be captured and disrupted, and eventually the edge will shift enough to local forces, leading to a dramatic loss of presence worldwide.

Empires flourish so long as there are colonies that can be exploited. Empires die when they have either extracted the wealth from these colonies, when the colonies are taken from them by a competing empire or a successful rebellion, or when the cost of maintaining the extraction mechanism on these colonies exceeds the wealth extracted. We are entering the fourth stage of a petroleum based empire, and it's rather difficult to see it with clarity because there are no real precedents. However, it will likely proceed as follows:

* The ability to capture colonies gets lost. Iraq was captured, but it is still very unstable, and could readily tip towards revolution again within the next few years. Afghanistan has been a failure - its strategic value against the Russians is no longer worth the high cost of maintaining it. Libya has replaced a crafty, it mentally unstable, madman with a set of warlords anyone of whom is itching to be the next strongman, but it is also note an American vassal state. Syria is a political quagmire that could very quickly become a proxy war with Iran, and by extension China (which sees Iran as one of ITS colonies). Iran would be worse. The other potential candidates for colonial status (such as countries in West Africa) are either already captured or have too few resources to make control worthwhile. The very fact that we are stepping up extraction from shale deposits in the US is to me pretty indicative that the good ecological reasons not to are no longer sufficient to make up for the fact that American imperial expansion has been halted and is now retrogressing quickly.
* The net financial differential between the classes begins to shrink. The poor don't have far to fall, and is in fact rapidly growing. The middle class thins out due to more and more people falling into the ranks of the "working class" - the working poor, although that's offset (a little) by a fairly significant chunk of the moderately wealthy also losing their wealth (investments go bad, companies fold, markets collapse). The very wealthy remain, but their ranks are not significantly replenished - you have fewer "new" industry rich (how'd that Facebook IPO go for you, Mark?) while the number of rich in existing industries starts to diminish due to old age (the Koch Brothers problem will resolve itself relatively soon - most of the very wealthy in the petroleum industry are in their 70s or beyond).
* We will have another credit "seizure" in the next twelve months. This one won't be as dramatic as 2008-2009 (watching the stock market drop 1000 points was highly entertaining to someone who had no skin in the game), but it will nonetheless be damaging, perhaps more than the original, because there will be much less of a cushion to pad the fall. This will be simply one of a series of cascading falls, part of a larger catabolic collapse, due to diminishing monetary availability (which is ultimately driven by dependency on a diminishing resource - oil). The net effect of this will be to hasten a number of trends that are already beginning to occur.
* Local economies will lose faith in the ability of the Federal government, and the government - not just the people in power at the time, but the very government - will have lost a very necessary legitimacy. People stop paying Federal income tax altogether. They start to rely more upon their regional economic blocs, not necessarily just states but collections of states. You see individual states beginning to set up local banks that exist outside of the US-Federal Reserve, and in time you see the rise of de-facto currencies, though such currencies will likely be initially denominated in dollars (this stealth currency will likely come via electronic debit cards rather than formal creation of bills and coins).
* Trade tensions between blocs arise, fanned by ideological differences. Eventually, this manifests in secessionist pressures, and ultimately in armed conflict that creates a flash point that one econo-political bloc uses to justify leaving the union. At this stage one of three potential scenarios arise: 1) a controlled breakup - a referendum is held, and states take sides. This is possible, but highly unlikely - there are too many people in the winner takes all camp to allow for an orderly dis-integration, especially as political states are not congruent with historical nationalities (western vs. eastern Washington and Oregon, Pennsylvania and Ohio (which have parts of three distinct nations that run through them), etc. 2) A strong president (or possibly a military junta or coup d'etat) reacts by sending troops into the secessionist regions, which then precipitates a civil war - I believe this to be a very high probability event. 3) An external event occurs, such as a European Theatre War or a war with China, that can be used both to impose martial law in the US and to create a distinct enemy that everyone can focus on. Note that these are not mutually exclusive. If the United States is forced into a direct confrontation with another country that it loses, the pressures of a martial state will ultimately result in internal rebellion.
* In the 1850s, the division between the two "states" of America - the North and the South - were clearcut. Indeed, the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision ultimately established contiguity of both the North and the South that would have been a fairly natural boundary line. Now it's more complex, both because the Mountains/Plains states have a more established political identity than they did 150 years ago, because there is a very real distinction between the lower and upper midwest philosophically (not just Rs vs. Ds but questions about taxation, states rights, urban vs. rural issues, civil rights and so forth) that's only grown stronger in that interval, and because several urban centers have emerged since the civil war that shift the balance of power as well. I'm guessing six distinct "countries" emerging out of the process, simply because of contiguity and regional history, but it could be anywhere from two to up to fourteen (though a consolidation would occur as countries without an adequate protection get reabsorbed).
* Ultimately airspace control also plays a big factor. In the event of a coup d'etat in Washington (either via invasion by a rebelling bloc or political machinations), there is a very real possibility that the heads of the various air force and navy bases in the CONUS would find themselves having to determine whether they support the new regime, the old regime, or whether they declare neutrality. This is also typical of imperial dissolution - the military will likely have the capability to wage war long after supplies of fuel and food are no longer available to civilians, but at the same time, the generals in charge of the more remote commands may very well establish a de facto government, and use the resources under their commands to defend their area, even against other generals.

I think there is a high probability that one of these scenarios will play out. I think it's actually higher than a French Revolution type scenario by quite a bit, primarily because the French civil war was in many respects a struggle between an old and new economic regime - an aging aristocracy that had become heavily indebted to a rising banking class. For all the apparent economic imbalance in this country, this is not a case of a new wealthy upper class pushing aside the existing upper class for political ascension, it is far more a nature consequence of the rise of an imperial wealth pump running dry, where the diminishing financial resources affect those with comparatively little earlier than they do those who have accumulated that wealth. As the tide runs out, the ability of a government to project force and demand tribute diminishes geographically from its center outward, and given that the political power in the US is literally exactly between two of the most contentious regions historically, it's very likely that this will be one of the fault lines.

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Poll_Blind Jun 2012 OP
PDJane Jun 2012 #1
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dkf Jun 2012 #11
PDJane Jun 2012 #13
jtuck004 Jun 2012 #22
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jtuck004 Jun 2012 #45
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ManyShadesOf Jun 2012 #9
airplaneman Jun 2012 #14
Poll_Blind Jun 2012 #12
sudopod Jun 2012 #29
Blue_In_AK Jun 2012 #41
Plucketeer Jun 2012 #53
MannyGoldstein Jun 2012 #55
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Zalatix Jun 2012 #4
Poll_Blind Jun 2012 #21
Zalatix Jun 2012 #30
Dont call me Shirley Jun 2012 #36
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Poll_Blind Jun 2012 #33
rhett o rick Jun 2012 #34
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kurt_cagle Jun 2012 #40
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valerief Jun 2012 #25
Dont call me Shirley Jun 2012 #38
Odin2005 Jun 2012 #62
caseymoz Jun 2012 #28
kurt_cagle Jun 2012 #32
rhett o rick Jun 2012 #39
kurt_cagle Jun 2012 #46
woo me with science Jun 2012 #51
rhett o rick Jun 2012 #52
CanonRay Jun 2012 #54
LineReply People are just hearing this "creak" now?
kurt_cagle Jun 2012 #31
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