The United States will suffer a catastrophic collapse. This much is certain now. No … the rest of the world won’t suffer as much misery as the US will, but it will be dragged along in a protracted crisis (which will probably be worse than the 1930s crisis). A collapse of the CONUS will be about as worse for the american people as the last civil war. And when it happens it will become acutely evident primarily the US caused this global mess.
Why will the United States suffer a catastrophic collapse?
The problem is primarily oil consumption far outside bounds of the sustainable. The US consumes more oil than it can financially afford, and very soon the United States will be left unable to afford these oil (and as a result most other) imports. The US currently consumes 18,690,000 barrels of oil per day. That is just over 7 litres per person in the US per day, for everything ranging from industry to refrigeration to producing products, to transport to telecommunications – and in its entire energy infrastructure oil and production pyramid oil remains critical.
I won’t even get in demand for to other petrochemical products, since oil is by far the most important energy carrier for the US at 40%. Clearly the US could not function as it currently does without substantially less oil; most parts of the US would become uninhabitable in respectively summers and winters without heating, air-conditioning, massive irrigation, water consumption and pumping and (in particular) transportation. Sadly, most people in the US are completely deluded on this topic and do not seem to wish to acknowledge the simple reality that the US imports over 60% of its oil.
There are many other problems in the US – grotesque state debts, personal debts and (even worse) largely unacknowledged unconsidered future liabilities in medicare, defense spending, veteran benefits, pensions, environmental cleanup liabilities, contractual liabilities and much much more). The US is woefully overextended in its government bonds. The entire public sector is mismanaged banana republic style. The US enjoys bizarre and unprecedented societal rifts in affluence and properties you’d more expect in the 19th century. The US has a dilapidated infrastructure… major demographic problems with non-integrated immigrant minorities… an endemic imprisonment culture… awful educational standards… an epidemic of firearms everywhere… a major epidemic of obesity that’ll cost society major segments of its labour force as well as high medical expenses … a severely degraded environment….most natural resources critically plundered and depleted… a public transportation grid that would put a third world country to shame… a political caste gridlocked and unable to respond to even the least of challenges… severely incompetent if not outright delusional politicians…. an unaffordable and dysfunctional medical system that costs more and is less effective than any other in the world … more people in severe poverty and debt than ever before in human history, anywhere… more homeless people than ever before in the history of the continent…. less understanding or basic interest in its general population about what is at stake… a bankrupted and mostly predatorial financial sector that relies more on Vegas-style betting than actually providing a service….a sharpl;y decreasing industrial base…. really awful science, and a climate of pure hatred towards actual fact-based science. Outsourcing. Religious fundamentalism and zealot dominionism.
And much much more.
The problem that will trigger the immediate collapse will be a dollar devaluation. A correction of the value of the dollar is just months or a few years away, and that’s precisely where the problems starts and the domino’s start tipping over. The actions of the US leadership makes clear that people at the top understand this collapse causality and know they can’t do much about it. It should be evident the US leadership is gearing up to major civil disturbance, and that’s what you’ll get when the dollar sharply devalues.
Once that happens, the world will no longer recognize the greenback as its global trade denomination, and that will cause the dollar to devalue even more. This process has already started, as many countries have now started trading in other currencies than the dollar. Most holders of US paper realize damn well that the US can no longer service it debts by any other way than to devalue it’s currency, and the moment the dollar sharply deflates, the US can’t import the vast majority of its oil, or pay for the military it uses to get (steal/plunder) oil elsewhere.
A US with a sharply declined oil import will be unable to invest much in anything, despite people in the US that seem to think oil production is increasing, and the US “has enough oil for centuries”. This is not the case, evidently.
Millions of people living in suburbs will not be able to show up at work the very day the dollar starts selling at over (give or take) 12$ a gallon. Tens of millions of people drive tens of miles a day to get to and from work. They couldn’t even get there by public transportation even if they wanted to. The conclusion can only be that within weeks of a sharp increase in oil price in the US unemployment would be well over 25%, the water taps in most states would run dry, there would be widespread and endemic electricity brownouts, Internet will stop service in most regions, supermarket shelves would sit empty on an almost permanent basis. The next step would be widespread looting and the US president would have no resource than call all armed forces home to restore order as soon as possible.
In my understanding this would more or less civil war conditions, as well as widespread riotting. Quickly after any US states with a positive budget surplus would try to get the hell out of the Union as soon as possible, to avoid shouldering their burden of the civil unrest and collective debts. It should be evidently that by this time the dollar would not have a discernible purpose left and would devalue to a small percentage (well under 5%) of its current value. Once local states, banks and other power-holders would have to resort to printing their own currencies, the US as it exists today would have started to unwind in the most undignified manner possible.
Almost certainly worse than what happened in the USSR in the early 1990s.
When will the US collapse?
Hard to say. A matter of years would be the simplest answer. I’d be very surprised if the collapse hadn’t taken place before 2025, and regard it more likely to happen before 2018. Then again I wouldn’t be surprised this would happen later this year. My guess? Between 2013 and 2015. But the collapse might also occur in “Perestrojka/Glasnost” sequence of stages.
How bad will it get?
The authority on “bad” is Dimitry Orlov. Dimitry is a very amusing character, just watch his vids for entertainment value. I concur with his conclusions completely.
My armchair analysis is a major tip of the hat to Dimitry and goes roughly like this:
The US collapse will be sudden and will happen in weeks or days. Things will be fine one day and the next monday the supermarkets are empty and the gas suppliers go literally out of business. Once the pumping station owners realize they have to put a 10$/gallon price on the boards they will just quit their job – Many gas stations will have “closed” igns, to avoid becoming the subject of intense violence – while a few gas stations will have armed security details protecting the gas (and as a result even higher prices).
Within days local governments will stop paying all kinds of welfare and subsidies. Most pensions won’t get paid or paid very late. After the bankrupcies start, all this will cause massive protests, and a very extreme flavour of collective hysteria. Imagine a few million welfare moms with several kids, their husbands nowhere to be found, having no money to buy food for their children, give them firearms and you have a start of a picture.
Within weeks the electricity will start failing regionally and increasingly often – and in many places won’t even go on for days. Internet will die down not long after or be censored severely, which will disrupting many more critical services. This decay of services will trigger increasingly organized protests that will turn violent at a spark, and as the cops start cracking down many angry locals will kill any cops on sight. At this stage the last banks will shut down indefinitely, and remaining banks will turn in to fortresses or “extended pawn shops”. Panic-looting will become inescapable, and those targeted will be people of which it is known they have stocks and reserves – preppers.
This will trigger the formation of cooperative militias, vigilantes (with retaliatory gangs) looting and raids back and forth. A lot of people risk being gunned down in crime, plunder and gang related activity. On a state level (especially the midwest) you’ll see the US balkanize worse than the actual Balkans. To this date there is a quite lot of reserve capacity in the US, in terms of food and necessities, but most american people will be accustomed to a lot of consumption as well and will beaver through reserves rather quickly, unaccustomed to this level of austerity.
After a few weeks of severe shock the US will quiet down, in large part because tens of millions of people will succumb to major depressive mindsets; note that tens of millions of people will be suddenly without their regular dose of narcotics, alcohol, antidepressants and anti-psychotics. There will be major incidents – people who can’t get their meds will panic very badly as they go in withdrawal. During a collapse I wouldn’t want to be a pharmacist in the US.
Over a hundred million Americans will feel acute and incapacitating hunger for the first time and their lives, and the general mentality of the population will be grim, aggressive and extremely hateful towards politicians and authority-figures. I anticipate major anti-government violence, spurred on by severe unemployment, within 2-3 months of the initial collapse stages. But by then the second stage shock will come as the societal food (and other) reserves start irreversibly running out. You’ll see very painful “okie” migrations or refugee trains cross the US. These will happen largely in overloaded and crowded buses and will mostly be directed towards the big cities. The countryside, especially the midwest, will empty out. If the crisis starts just before winter, the unrest will be less, but the human hardship will be all the worse. People will literally freeze to death in their houses in a late autumn collapse.
Worst case scenario for a US collapse will be a millions of deaths per year – though probably not very visibly. Most these people will die of not having access top essential medications, especially the very old and very poor. Pension homes will turn to abbatoirs as the very old will suffer severe neglect. There will be situations where people will be found dead (quite often of suicide) in their houses months after they died. We already see the same trend in Greece, and the US will suffer far worse conditions than Greece currently experiences.
Note that very quickly after this collapse many banks/landlords will stop evicting renters that do not pay mortgages or rent – people will kill to keep their houses, even if there isn’t a job for them within tens of kilometres – living on the street will be regarded as terrifying in such an economic climate (as well as the general US climate). But what’s even worse – many people will be terrified of their next door neighbour being evicted – suburban neighbourhoods are extremely sensitive to deterioration if just a few people leave. Suburbia’s will become very tightly knit, almost cult-like enclosed (fenced off) environments that will self-organize in to forced labour details, their own punishment regimes and militia’s. The end result – where you know that very quickly the US union disintegrates in to several “smaller unions” be when you’ll have the development of fiefdoms and literally warlords (criminal or not). This will be more prevalent in Mid-west states with very variable climatic conditions, such as Dakota and Nevada. People who stay there will be very stubborn and (after a year of collapse) very hateful towards the rest of the world. They will be blaming everyone but themselves for years.
The odds for state repression and an “aggravated state of emergence”
A lot of rich investors should realize by now what they have to lose if all of this happens, or even a part of this happens. States will nationalize in all sorts of rushed and ramshackle emergency laws. Hundreds of millions will default on any debt payments, and will shoot with live ammo if anyone comes to collect. Or the debts become worthless, as the dollar itself becomes worthless. (you come for my the mortgage? Sure! … take some from those bags of dollars in the garage…). Right now anyone really rich in the US should be just about terrified of not just massive debt write-offs, but also considerable anger. The best way to get rid of a debtor is to kill one, right?
The only sensible conclusion is that current trends in US domestic and law enforcement policies (which increasingly range towards “Byzantine”, “Draconian”, “Fascist” and “Rather over the top”) is a preparation for an authoritarian government. I wish them good luck with this, because once the collapse starts the best bet for anyone really rich would be to flee (=emigrate) or run a sharply increased risk of being poisoned by their waiter, or their houses fire-bombed – right after being looted. Many Americans have been in love with flagrant and disproportional affluence, and this love affair will quickly turn around in to militant and purgative hatred very quickly.
There are many opportunities for Europeans and other non-american entities to rebuild a collapsed US, and reinvest in it – after we cleaned our own mess, and after the worst unrest blows over. I suggest the EU (if it still exists) supports those elements of the US it wants to see survive and ignore the other bits. For instance I strongly suggest not supporting parts in the US that voted republican or dominionist, and making a selection will be inescapable. The world should not reward those elements in the US that acted towards a fascist world government.
This may seem overly ruthless. I guarantee you this is nothing but fair, given the bigger picture.
What can the collapse of the USSR teach us about the imminent US collapse?
It took the former East Bloc fifteen years to claw back to some measure of civil order. Even now the birth rate in Russia is very low compared to what was before, and one can typify much of the former soviet population still as in a high degree shell-shocked and cynical. I happen to know a few people there and who emigrated early, and they positively (and in some cases irrationally) hate the state system of before 1990. I expect to see the same hatred of capitalism in the US after a collapse. There will be a lot of blame to go around (and I full expect to see the charred, tortured corpses of corporate executives, bankers, soldiers and politicians to end up hanging from lamp post on TV). The US ideology is currently “out of its natural equilibrium” and will correct itself convulsively. Many Americans will become sharply more fundamentalist christians (at least until they discover it doesn’t help much in the long run), and the majority of Americans will have distinctly “AlexJonesian” delusions for decades to come after the collapse.
Another painful lesson will be about sustainability. The US has very different sustainability problems than the USSR ever had, but the problems are comparable. What both empires share in nature is the simple “one nation can not exist in splendid isolation from the rest of the world, from reality and from it’s own resource constraints”. I see great opportunities for new styles of management. In particular the somewhat oddball naive “Zeitgeist movement” will be likely to be regarded as “correct” and consequently quite popular. That is a sharp change towards the left of the spectrum for the US, and also a sharp move towards a diet of enforced realism, a la venus Project. A similar alternative is the even more oddball (and potentially fascist) US Technocracy movement, which will offer very seductive as well as acutely authoritarian solutions to the woes of the US after a collapse. If any of these three groups get any traction anywhere in the US, expect massive (and badly contemplated) nationalizations, re-education camps and “emergency dicates” from hastily assembled “emergency councils”.
What will no doubt go is Washington DC. A decade after the collapse I do not anticipate DC to be a major city. It will have been looted, most buildings will have been burned down, and most people will have moved away. There will not be a senate or a house of congress, and the “democratic” and “republican” parties will be regarded with intense and burning hatred for generations to come.
The range of severities in a US Collapse
It isn’t enough to say “it will either be bad or very bad”. We need signposts that make sense in the parlance and collective gut feelings of 2012. So how do I measure the relative severity of a US collapse in terms of likelyhood and
* Unlikely; no collapse or a minor crisis
Symptoms: A crisis similar to the 1970s oil shock, the Argentinian bank burnout, the PIGS crisis, the dotcom crisis and the 2008 banking collapse combined, times two. I regard this scenario as not likely as all major indicators suggest we are pretty much beyond this point now. So what I am suggesting is that the US will suffer a major crisis within the next months to years, with little or no doubt, and it will be worse than all of the above, and far worse than it already is right now.
* Likely/Median; major USSR style collapse
Symptoms: 10+ million “stealth” deaths, i.e. natural attrition from decreased service, decreased welfare, disruptions in medical care, riotting, famine, epidemics. An excrutiatingly severe crisis, in many measures worse than the collapse of the USSR. Emdenic poverty for 15+ years, and a generation to recover. The US becomes about as “poor” as Mexico is now, but with significantly more state repression, regional secession. A gradual and staggered brakeup in to a new union. Several midwest and northern states become considerably more centralized and urbanized, and there will be radical increase of seasonal labour migrations starting months after the initial collapse. Within a year tens of millions of Americans will be living in a combination of trailers and encampments – about ten times as much indigents (or “okies“) as is happening already. Considerable to incapacitating sisruption of state services, including water supply, medical care, food services, transportation and electricity. Severe environmental worsening and natural desasters. A return of the midwest Dust bowl. Forced labour programs. One or more states may try secede and/or to join with Canada. Coastal and Southern states may opt to negotiate total secession. Major crime. Major incidents of corruption and the regional formation of “overlord” governance.
* Unlikely; massive die-off, famines, total collapse, Civil war.
Symptoms: 25+ million deaths between the onset of the crisis and the gradual end. A crisis lasting 25+ years. Conditions as bad as during the US conquest, looting of Iraq. Major regional conflicts between regional seceded states. Civil war. Several cities completely or mostly laid to waste. Major depopulation of northern states or midwest states. Unemployment rates over 35%, economy takes half a century to get back to “rich nation” status. US acts as a second world country, comparable to current Brazil, for a generation.
* Very Unlikely; Worst case scenario
Supporting democratic forces in the US after the collapse of the US
Let me make a prediction. I predict that if we’ll see a collapse, and if Bradley Manning survives (his sanity intact) after the collapse Bradley Manning may see a similar political trajectory as Nelson Mandela.
All those guns
The United States is saturated with firearms. While stocks of ammunition run short quickly in civil unrest, this would stay a problem for a long time. In periods of comparable peace widespread availability of guns has a slight tempering effect on crime. Sadly, in times of civil unrest the reverse is true, and if everyone and his slightly nutty nephew owns a revolver or shotgun, once people feel hunger these will be used. A major concern in this is that the US is not technically a nation. The US has an extremely low level of cohesion. The US is only cohesive if there’s enough food and entertainment – for the rest the younger generations of Americans born after the 1970s don’t give a damn about societal cohesion or their neighbours. The US is a pervasively antisocial “dog-eat-dog” society, a legacy of a colonial beginning.
As a result a collapse in the US, with all the guns around, will be deadlier than it would be anywhere else. My expectation is that the firearms would ratchet up violence, make societally less easily controlled by law and proper justice. I anticipate racial and gang violence to become especially “southamerican” very quickly.
Actually, the reason I wrote this article is specifically weapons of mass destruction – proliferation. The US is soaked with WMD’s, and there is a severe risk some psychopaths in the US upper echelons (and I am thinking specifically of vindictive Neocons with a penchant of “Dolchstoss”-delusions) will throw them on the open international market (“let it all burn!”) for pennies a pound. I urge the European Union, Russia, China, Japan and the Commonwealth to start thinking on scenario’s to halt any US WMB proliferation in case a severe collapse does in fact occur.
The convenience of a global pandemic
In a collapse scenario those in power have certain well-entrenched interests and concerns. Some of these ‘elites’ are also known to be quite powerful and ruthless. There is a way to stave off major economic collapse states – by spreading a cocktail of engineering diseases abroad as well as domestically. Current globalist capitalism depends in large part on variants of creative destruction, as well as competitive sabotage. I’d go as far as speculate that some in power would have a compelling interest in playing this card – and surgically causing world wide deaths in the order of a few tens of millions. This would allow the elites to engineer widespread compliance, fear, quite docile and impressionable civilians, people staying mostly indoors and a more or less controlled transition to a more manageable economic state.
There is a problem with this scenario – if I can think of it, so can countries such as Russia, China, the EU. And if one side (say – the NeoCon-inclined military think tanks, who have done worse by now) executes this scenario in the international theatre, I bet it’ll be days or weeks before another cocktail of pretty awful diseases would hit the more affluent communities around wall street, signed SVR. Retaliation in biological warfare tends to be quick and rather unpleasant, and generally entails variants of diseases such as Ebola, that burn through anyone infected and won’t bounce back unless someone wants it to bounce back again and again and again. My estimate for such a pandemic scenario is “very probable”, causing some few ten million deaths in the third world and a few tens to hundreds of thousands of deaths in most other “developed” nations.
Then again – there might also be non-lethal, “incapacitating” diseases that make crowds more manageable, such as virulent but non-lethal strains of influenza. Many such variants trigger clinical depression, anxiety disorders and chronic fatigue syndrome. That might just be what the butcher ordered.
Many people in the world hate the United States. Many people in the world are inclined to want to avenge themselves on the US, for a range of reasons real or imagined. This is a painful but quite relevant reality for a collapsing United States. There are people in the world that would just love to kick the US deeper in to the gutter once it’s down. I can envision several possible avenues, for which in sequence of impact I see (*) an EMP strike in a very small area destroying critical electronic infrastructure; (*) spreading alien rodents, insects, fungi, pest plants, pest animals in key agricultural areas; (*) a small dirty radiological bomb in a major remaining centre of commerce, transportation or infrastructural hub or other critical spot; (*) spreading not one but several engineered diseases; (*) a sequence of chemical warfare attacks on small critically exposed bits of transportation hubs, or densely populated refugee zones; (*) targeting oil infrastructure or storage tanks with drones or suicide bombers – or a combination of these. In these horrific acts of terror the US will be hard pressed to maintain a credible border defence during a collapse, and it will be acutely easy to foster widespread conspiracy thinking – “the government is behind it”. Just make sure just before the attack some faked G-man with mirror shades stand looking in plain view of some media cameras observing the zone of attack and you have major riots on your hand.
Such attacks would be bad, but I can’t other than conclude they’d become a statistical probability at some stage.
Yes – once this starts Canada as well as Mexico will close their borders. Yes, US Americans will not be welcome in Australia, the UK, Europe or Asia, unless they already have major assets parked there. Frankly, if I were an american with money right now, I’d buy one or two small apartments with basic survival amenities somewhere else. In fact, I can imagine making a lot of money being a broker to aspiring US refugees wanting to secure such housing (including basic furniture and some stocked reserves) outside the US.
A collapse is the last thing anyone would want. I rather prefer living my sedate lower class subsidized life, but wanting a thing and getting it are two different things. The painful reality is the United States is the weak link in the current geopolitical Big Brother game, and may very well be the first to tip over hard. Accepting this reality is something scary but it may be necessary.