Posts Tagged ‘Political collapse’

Dimitry Orlov’s worst-case scenario

May 23, 2011

I have long seen the parallels between the economic stagnation of the United States and the plight of the Soviet Union in the Brezhnev era – the failure of industries to compete, the crumbling infrastructure, huge trade deficits, huge foreign debt merely to prop up the material standard of living, the decline of the standard of living despite this, and the projection of military power worldwide as a denial of decline.

But I never until recently thought there is a possibility that the United States would completely collapse as the Soviet Union did.  Even at the depths of the Great Depression or the worst of our Civil War, the United States held together as a society.

Dimitry Orlov makes me to think otherwise.  Like James Howard Kunstler, he points out the interlocking and reinforcing nature of our problems.  The peaking of the world oil supply, the change in global climate and other ecological problems are serious, but not beyond the power of human beings to deal with.  But in the United States, such problems are combined with commitment to open-ended quagmire wars, an economy running on debt rather than production, and a gridlocked government less and less able to perform routine functions, much less cope with crisis.

Orlov says that many of the strengths of the United States will become weaknesses and vice versa, as happened with the old Soviet Union.  One of the things the United States offered its citizens is the possibility of home ownership.  In contrast, the typical Russian family consists of three generations crammed together in one apartment.  But when affordable gasoline ceased to be available, this Russian family was in a better position to survive than the scattered American family will be, with its members stranded in suburbs hundreds of miles apart.

There have been times in the past when the U.S. government was as corrupt and ineffective as it is now, and eventually progressive and populist reformers emerged to fix things.  But in those eras, the United States was growing in wealth and strength.  Reform was a matter of making adjustments so that all Americans benefited from the nation’s forward progress.  Today’s situation is different.  We are in a situation in which the country’s future survival is as much at risk as in World War Two or the Civil War, but unlike in those eras, the peril is not obvious.