Dramatic Collapse or Gradual Decline?

Which is the future of the United States?

Bill Lind has argued that the U.S. more closely resembles the Spanish empire as much as any previous “superpower” and will suffer a similar fate. The Spanish essentially bankrupted themselves through aggressive warfare and experienced gradual decline over the next three centuries.

Bob Higgs has likewise argued for the gradualist perspective. America’s growing debts to international banks and ever-expanding liabilities for the funding of domestic entitlement programs will force the empire to retreat over time.

On the other hand,  plenty of people have argued for a dramatic collapse. The reasons for the impending collapse have been attributed to everything from monetary policy to peak oil to racial/ethnic conflict to nuclear terrorism. Igor Panarin is a proponent of the dramatic collapse thesis who’s gotten some attention recently.

In recent years, I’ve tended to move away from the “dramatic collapse” scenario towards a more gradualist outlook. The reason for this is that as I review the decline of previous states or societies more thoroughly, I’ve found quite a few examples of societies that were in far worse condition than the U.S. at present and yet continued to survive for centuries longer. Even many regimes around the world today that are in much worse shape than the U.S. (Zimbabwe, for instance, to use but one example) have not experienced the collapse of their actual state.

It seems most likely that the U.S. will continue to experience rapid demographic change combined with widening class divisions under the reign of an ever more repressive state. The American empire may well start to recede due to continued military failure, demoralization, loss of public support, and cost prohibitions. In other words, the System may start becoming less aggressive externally and more aggressive internally, particularly as demographic conflict, political dissatisfaction, and economic unrest escalate.

Of course, another terrorist attack of the 9-11 model would significantly reformulate the equation.

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5 replies »

  1. Slow and gradual. There is too much money and power up for grabs for the powers that be to let it all just collapse. I think John Robb’s prediction of a hollowed out nation state is accurate and already happening.

  2. Barring some sort of extreme catastrophe – WW3, natural disaster, etc – gradual decline does seem the most likely scenario.

    I suspect some sort of nationalist backlash towards PC will occur in sections of Europe in the 2020s or 30s, at least in places where that sentiment is relatively strong (mostly eastern and central Europe). While I doubt this will be powerful enough to topple any existing political structures, it may destabilize their security enough to warrant an EU-wide authoritarian crackdown. Present-day anti-fascist ‘radicals’ will probably get involved in this, as Keith has predicted.

  3. It could go either way, it is dependent on factors outside our control and by events that no one predicts (Black Swan). Since I live in a region with earthquakes I expect it could possibly happen at any time.

  4. Please do not compare US economy to the Zinbave one.
    The truth is tha the US was trying to be the sherif of the world with military expenditures they can not afford to.
    The US empire will have to share their empire with other developing countries, and their decline is inevitable. Their debt is astronomic and they can not pay it.
    Their future is grey.

  5. It would be better to have a dramatic crash so that infrastructure stays relatively sound, if it’s gradual companies will cut corners by neglecting maintenance.

    After a decade I don’t think we are going to recognize our old way of living.

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