Two perspectives on the prospects for societal breakdown in the USA

I’ve written a number of articles on various aspects of emergency preparedness.  I’m by no means an over-the-top zombie-apocalypse “prepper”, but I believe that a certain amount of common-sense planning and basic preparations for an emergency should be part of everyone’s lifestyle.  Nevertheless, I don’t think most of us seriously expect the society within which we live to collapse, or even to suddenly degrade, to such an extent that it can be described as “the end of the world as we know it”.

Two recent articles propose different, and rather more worrying, ways of looking at that possibility.  They certainly made me think twice – and I’m still thinking about them.  What’s more, they appear to be from different areas of the ideological spectrum, yet come to alarmingly similar conclusions.  As an exercise in “WHAT IF?”, I recommend them to you, too.

The first article is titled “Why We’re Underestimating American Collapse:  The Strange New Pathologies of the World’s First Rich Failed State“.  Here’s an excerpt.  Bold print is my emphasis.

When we take a hard look at US collapse, we see a number of social pathologies on the rise. Not just any kind. Not even troubling, worrying, and dangerous ones. But strange and bizarre ones. Unique ones. Singular and gruesomely weird ones I’ve never really seen before, and outside of a dystopia written by Dickens and Orwell, nor have you, and neither has history. They suggest that whatever “numbers” we use to represent decline — shrinking real incomes, inequality, and so on —we are in fact grossly underestimating what pundits call the “human toll”, but which sensible human beings like you and I should simply think of as the overwhelming despair, rage, and anxiety of living in a collapsing society.

Let me give you just five examples of what I’ll call the social pathologies of collapse — strange, weird, and gruesome new diseases, not just ones we don’t usually see in healthy societies, but ones that we have never really seen before in any modern society.

America has had 11 school shootings in the last 23 days. That’s one every other day, more or less. That statistic is alarming enough — but it is just a number. Perspective asks us for comparison. So let me put that another way. America has had 11 school shootings in the last 23 days, which is more than anywhere else in the world, even Afghanistan or Iraq. In fact, the phenomenon of regular school shootings appears to be a unique feature of American collapse — it just doesn’t happen in any other country — and that is what I mean by “social pathologies of collapse”: a new, bizarre, terrible disease striking society.

Why are American kids killing each other? Why doesn’t their society care enough to intervene? Well, probably because those kids have given up on life — and their elders have given up on them. Or maybe you’re right — and it’s not that simple. Still, what do the kids who aren’t killing each other do? Well, a lot of them are busy killing themselves.

So there is of course also an “opioid epidemic”. We use that phrase too casually, but it much more troubling than it appears on first glance. Here is what is really curious about it. In many countries in the world — most of Asia and Africa — one can buy all the opioids one wants from any local pharmacy, without a prescription. You might suppose then that opioid abuse as a mass epidemic would be a global phenomenon. Yet we don’t see opioid epidemics anywhere but America — especially not ones so vicious and widespread they shrink life expectancy. So the “opioid epidemic” — mass self-medication with the hardest of hard drugs — is again a social pathology of collapse: unique to American life. It is not quite captured in the numbers, but only through comparison — and when we see it in global perspective, we get a sense of just how singularly troubled American life really is.

There’s more at the link.

The second article, courtesy of a link sent to me by Old NFO, is titled “The Surprisingly Solid Mathematical Case of the Tin Foil Hat Gun Prepper“.

While we don’t have any good sources of data on how often zombies take over the world, we definitely have good sources of data on when the group of people on the piece of dirt we currently call the USA attempt to overthrow the ruling government. It’s happened twice since colonization. The first one, the American Revolution, succeeded. The second one, the Civil War, failed. But they are both qualifying events.

. . .

Two instances in 340 years is not a great data pool to work with, I will grant, but if you take a grab sample of other countries around the world you’ll see this could be much worse. Since our 1678 benchmark, Russia has had a two world wars, a civil war, a revolution, and at least half a dozen uprisings, depending on how you want to count them. Depending on when you start the clock, France had a 30-year war, a seven-year war, a particularly nasty revolution, a counter-revolution, that Napoleon thing, and a couple of world wars tacked on the end. China, North Korea, Vietnam, and basically most of the Pacific Rim has had some flavor of violent revolution in the last 100 years, sometimes more than one. With Africa, it’s hard to even conceive where to start and end the data points. Most Central and South American countries have had significant qualifying events in the time span. And honestly, if we were to widen our analysis to not only include nationwide violent civil wars, but also instances of slavery, internment, and taking of native lands, our own numbers go way up.

Or we could look at a modern snapshot. Counting places like the Vatican, we have 195 countries on the planet today. Somalia is basically in perpetual war, Syria is a hot mess with no signs of mitigation any time soon, Iraq is sketchy, Afghanistan has been in some flavor of civil war or occupation my entire life outside the salad days of the Taliban, and Libya is in such deep throes of anarchy that they’ve reinvented the African slave trade. Venezuela. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be a qualifying event depending on how you define it. And again, Africa is … hard to even conceive of where to start. Spitballing, perhaps 3% of the nations in the modern world are in some version of violent revolt against the ruling government, some worse than others. There’s at least some case to be made that our 0.5% annual chance estimate may be low, if we’re looking at comps.

Or we could look at a broader historical brush. Since the fall of Constantinople in 1453, there have been 465 sovereign nations which no longer exist, and that doesn’t even count colonies, secessionist states, or annexed countries. Even if we presume that half of these nation-state transitions were peaceful, which is probably a vast over-estimation, that’s still an average of one violent state transition every 2.43 years.

If we look at raw dialectic alone, we reach dismal conclusions. “Do you think the United States will exist forever and until the end of time?” Clearly any reasonable answer must be “no.” So at that point, we’re not talking “if,” but “when.”

. . .

Pretend you’re someone with your eyes on the horizon. What would you be looking for, exactly? Increasing partisanship. Civil disorder. Coup rhetoric. A widening wealth gap. A further entrenching oligarchy. Dysfunctional governance. The rise of violent extremist ideologies such as Nazism and Communism. Violent street protests. People marching with masks and dressing like the Italian Blackshirts. Attempts at large scale political assassination. Any one of those might not necessarily be the canary in the coal mine, but all of them in aggregate might be alarming to someone with their eyes on the horizon.

Again, more at the link.

I’m not a TEOTWAWKI alarmist – far from it, as regular readers will be aware.  Nevertheless, these two articles, particularly taken in combination, provide a different and very thought-provoking perspective on our American way of life.  What does the future hold in store for us?  No-one can be sure . . . but it’s possible that it may be more “interesting”, in the sense of the purported Chinese curse, than most of us would like it to be.

(If you haven’t already read them, “Selco’s” experiences during the Bosnian civil war of 1992-1995 are worth studying.  That’s an extreme, admittedly . . . but even a year before it happened, I’m sure he and his family and friends would have absolutely refused to believe that such things were possible.  I’ve personally seen and lived through some similar circumstances in parts of Africa – and, right now, they’re happening in Venezuela and other parts of Latin America.  Don’t think, “They can’t happen here!”  I agree they’re very unlikely in the USA, on the face of it, but . . . I’ve been unpleasantly surprised before.  In particular, if you’re among the more vulnerable sections of the population – e.g. older, less fit, less healthy, etc. [all of which descriptions apply to me] – then you need to be more prepared than those in better condition, who will have a better physical chance to make it through an emergency.  For people in such circumstances, the above articles are even more thought-provoking.)



  1. I'd want to see the list of these "school shootings" mentioned in the first quote, and what actually happened. HuffPo's list from earlier in the year counted things like a school building being stuck by stray shots in the middle of the night, a random person pulling a Cobain in the parking lot of a school that had been closed for months, a shooting at a craps game behind a school at night and involving no one who currently was or had been a student, and, my favorite, a shooting in an off-campus bar due to a fight between frat boys and townies were all listed as "school shootings". When you think "school shooting", you think Parkland or Columbine, not the sort of things they included on that list.

  2. I question the first author's conclusions about school shootings. Counter arguments exist, which appear to be more soundly based. But I'm still blessed with my day job, where I shortly expected to appear.

  3. 1) The "school shootings" claimed are poppycock, firstly because they haven't been happening anywhere near as frequently as claimed, and seciondly, because they're naught but hothouse flowers, lovingly watered and tended by liberal design and malign indifference to consequences by creating a lucrative victim-rich environment with minimal negative feedback, and Beatles/Madonna-levels of ridiculous 24-hour press coverage and adulation for the act of shooting one up.

    2)The "opioid epidemic" is, in fact, nothing like.
    As I detailed some months ago, (NSFW language alert!)

    it's nothing but unintended consequences for cracking down on both prescription narcotics, and cocaine, whereupon the drug cartels merely switched to bringing in metric tons of far more potent and much cheaper heroin, with absolutely inevitable results. Again, much more to do with governmental ineptitude than the collapse of civilization, especially to anyone who was around during the 1960s and saw what a drug epidemic looked like for real.

  4. (cont.)

    3) And comparing the United States to 500 other current and failed countries is another false comparison. The U.S. is what it isbecase it's never been like other countries. You can't make predictions about , e.g., Laurence Olivier's movie career by comparing him with 500 lesser acting lights and failed extras who ended up bussing tables and pumping gas.


    That doesn't mean the US must logically endure perpetually, and anyone with any sense has the vague but certain perception that things are in a long, slow slide towards the abyss.

    There is a reason black swan events are called that, and lesser problems are orders of magnitude less intense and more likely.
    But the one inviolable rule of history is that Mt. Vesuvius may erupt whenever it pleases, and will do so with precious little useful warning to the residents of Pompeii.

    The answer, as Remus reminds folks regularly on his blog, is to "Avoid crowds" and as Commander Zero has noted on his "When a disaster happens, be somewhere else".

  5. I saw the effects of a breakdown in Kisangani, Zaire in 1978, 14 years after the Simba Rebellion. It was still like the Wild West, bars on almost every window. Snatch and grab robberies. And the joys of buying diesel on the black market. The official fuel station wouldn't sell, but they knew a relative who had a 55 gallon drum. You not only have to have money,you have to know somebody.

  6. Clearly many of the institutions that we use to define our society will collapse – because of leftist SJW infestation. These include the schools (K-12) as well as most universities, the mainstreme media, and I suspect much of the health care system as well. However, none of this means that industrialization is going away. the lights will stay on. I see no reason to believe the industrial supply chain will collapse.

    If there is any kind of collapse, it will be like the Soviet Union collapse of 1991. Life got hard there, but they certainly did not loose power or indoor plumbing and had to return to. say, 1850's life style. I see a 1991 Soviet style collapse as the worse case scenario for the U.S. If anything, it will be better.

    The U.S., because we are still mostly a free-market system, is inherently more dynamic than the old Soviet Union or even today's Russia (which is FAR more dynamic than the old USSR). People will create new institutions to serve the same functions as the old institutions collapse due to leftist infestation. Schools are bad? Home school your kids. Don't trust doctors and the conventional health care system (this is a big one for me)? Go with DIY bio-medicine. The list goes on and on.

    Yes, we have to become more self-reliant. But I seriously doubt it will be on the level of the non-industrial prepper level. Remember, the lights stayed on during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, the German hyper-inflation of 1923, and the Soveit collapse of 1991. The industrial supply chain remained intact in all of these collapses. Why would ours be any different?

    For people who have a psychological investment in the current leftist infested institutions, "life as they know it today" will indeed go away. For those of us who have little or nothing to do with thse institutions, life myself, "life as I know it today" will likely not change very much.

    The real thing all of you will want to do to ride out any collaspe scenario is to get into good physical shape. You do not want to get seriously sick or injured when the hospitals are completely FUBAR (which they already are in many cases). This means supplements (CoQ-10, PQQ, NAD+ enabler compounds, AMPK, and anything else with possible anti-aging properties) as well as both resistive weight training and aerobic fitness routines. You want ot harden your physiology to hang on long enough so that you can undergo the SENS therapies when they become available, likely within 20 years.

    We are not just into short-term survival. We are all life-extensionists and are in for the LONG HAUL (usually defined as a four digit youthful lifespan). Do you accept the transhumanist wager?

    Its never too late for a dangerious childhood.

  7. The first article seems a polemic in favor of "leftist" wealth redistribution policies. Thus I tend to disregard it. The second article is from a mostly "rightist" survivalist perspective.

    It is worth noting that the U.S. Federal government is now the world's oldest government in existence. This alone suggests from a statistical standpoint that it might not last much longer.

  8. The "Civil War" truly was a war to overthrow the government – the government of the Confederacy. The South only wanted to separate. They didn't care if the North wanted to keep the existent federal government. They simply didn't want to pay the increasingly high tariffs that provided more infrastructure and commerce than they received from the federal government.

    And the Left never mentions that the North was never forced to give up slavery. The proclamation against slavery was only against Southern states that indicated they would secede from the Union.

    Even in the South, though, slavery was ending because it was more expensive to keep slaves than to utilize the newer means of harvesting/production that were becoming available to cotton growers, and other agricultural businesses.

  9. I have to see Reg t's comment about overthrow as accurate. The South made no attempt to overthrow the government of the United States.

    The comments here take the correct view. The article writers are pushing a specific viewpoint, cherry picking their statistics and other information for a preordained conclusion. And of course the United States will not last forever; nothing does.

  10. "Remember, the lights stayed on during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, the German hyper-inflation of 1923, and the Soveit collapse of 1991. The industrial supply chain remained intact in all of these collapses. Why would ours be any different?"

    The electrical infrastructure was not critical then, like it is now. EVERYTHING requires it now, here. Where it is lost, and for what length of time, is the important variables. Western Civ is predicated on electrical power 24/7/365. No power, no civilization, period.

  11. School shootings are mostly some gang related bullshit that happens near a school.

    These copy-cat massacres are way more rare, and mostly go on because of media contagion.

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