Happy 4th of July in a Dying Empire!

Happy 4th of July!  Freedom!  Fireworks!  America!

Or, at least, that’s what it used to be.  This year? Fireworks, if you’re lucky.  Parades seem unwise.  People?  Best avoided.  America? Well… we’re having a rough year.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.sevarg.net/2020/07/05/happy-4th-of-july-in-dying-empire/

(Comments from Blogger)

2020-07-06 by dimon

Thank you for a healthy dose of realism.

2020-07-08 by Anonymous

As a Canadian, I see a lot of worrying things in our political discourse. We are by no means as bad as our southern neighbour, but we do have our problems.

I am optimistic for a greener future in Canada. Literally because of irreversible climate change. And figuratively because of the inevitable economics of clean, renewable energy.

2020-07-10 by pitterpanda

There may be a tendency, as one gets older, to see the world more as half empty than half full, though you’re on to something with living beneath your means and going back to basics. The golden rule could also be included - treat others as you would want to be treated; better to give than to receive.

I carry around a few Bible verses to remind me of my own selfishness and how those much less selfish than I might act. It’s difficult to sustain a counter-cultural principle in your consciousness, but it has at least a subtle dampening effect on impulses that lead to the polarization you describe.

2020-07-11 by Russell Graves

I’ve spent a large part of my career as a “professional pessimist” - in various ways, reasoning about what could go wrong, in the worst possible way, and then how to mitigate that. Usually Murphy then pops and laughs, saying "/THAT/ was the worst you could imagine? LMAO. Watch /this/."

I recognize my biases, but I still tend to ponder the worst.

2020-07-15 by Val

I think your timeline is a bit off. America was founded under the articles of Confederation in 1776 or 1777, but the Constitution wasn’t adopted until 1789. The civil war allowed the Northeast, NYC primarily, to consolidate power, but it wasn’t until after Reconstruction that America started to impose itself on the world (1898 for the Spanish-American war is as good a year as any. So we’re only about halfway through that 250 year average.

And America goes through these disturbances (civil rights movement/hippies, antifa vs Blue Lives Matter, robber barons vs unions, the Civil War, the whiskey rebellion. Even the Revolutionary War didn’t have a lot of buy-in; there were lots of Loyalists who fled to Canada after Yorktown made USA’s victory inevitable).

Where else do you go? Sure, New Zealand is appealing, and Argentina, maybe. But I think America has the cleanest dirty laundry. And domestic strife won’t pull America apart; we’ll get another Lincoln who’ll beat down the dissenters and have a sad decade+ like Reconstruction and we’ll be fine.

There’ll be Less, like you and JM Greer say, but America will see smaller reductions than any other place. Europe? Has every issue we have, but 2-10x worse. China? 50x. I think this is the last gasp of globalization, which means the stock market might go down 50-90% before recovering a little bit. In many ways, the years since WW2 have been America writing checks to keep The West rich and powerful enough to hold back communism. Trump decided to close the checkbook, and that probably means global trade and energy flows have peaked forever. This is bad, but the US will survive it. I hope we can get a less corporatist political system, but without the USSR as a bogeyman, New Deal Democracy is unlikely; 1850-1929 (build the transcontinental railroad, claim Hawaii outright and the Spanish New World as a sphere of influence, war profiteer in Europe’s latest conflagration WW1) seems a more likely model.

American corporations are the big winners from globalization, but they’ll probably be more concerned with staying afloat than shaping US global strategy. We’ll go back to splendid isolation while the rest of the world burns and hope no nukes fly.

There is certainly the possibility of America collapsing, but I see it 50-150 years away. And Greer contends catatonic collapse is most likely; steps down the development staircase, over 2 centuries, not a free fall to 1800 or 1500 or 10,000BC.

I think American Empire will be one of the long lasting ones (Like Rome 0-1453 if you count the eastern half, or its successor, the Ottoman Empire, which took almost 500 years from zenith to dissolution). My assertion comes from the fact that America is (somewhat) reluctantly imperial. The world is a nice to have, not a must; most empires need to expand to get rid of excess young men, or find defensible borders, or to destroy the neighboring power to preserve itself (Rome vs Carthage, e.g.). America became a global empire for secure borders, but we got that in either 1850, or 1898, or 1945.

PS: A counterpoint to all my above views is that fossil fuels accelerates everything. That’s true, but I thin America is the probably the best place to try to run civilization without them. It won’t be pretty, but America will maintain fairly good continuity while the rest of the world tends toward Zero and/or Warfare.

We’ll see what the next 10 years holds, but my contrarian guess is we’ll be fine (where fine is defined to be better off than 90-99% of the rest of the world, which is kind of where we are now).

Thanks for your post. I think we agree more than we disagree, but I’m not sure you’ll reach the same conclusion from my ‘dissertation.’

2020-07-16 by Russell Graves

If we’re discussing the timeline and shape of a collapse, we certainly agree more than disagree!