Sudden US Collapse Syndrome: When Complexity Fails
To understand complexity, it is helpful to examine how natural scientists use the concept. Think of the spontaneous organization of termites, which allows them to construct complex hills and nests, or the fractal geometry of water molecules as they form intricate snowflakes. Human intelligence itself is a complex system, a product of the interaction of billions of neurons in the central nervous system. _NiallFerguson_LATimes_via_ImpactLabThe government of the United States has lasted a relatively long time, compared to other governments. It was based upon a resilient foundation -- the US Constitution. But power-hungry politicians and judges have clawed away at the limitations imposed upon them by the constitution to the point that the great document is a shadow of its former self.
The clumsy and cracking megalith calling itself the US government is just a well-placed hammer blow or two away from outright fracture and dismemberment. The massive bureaucracy is too top-heavy, too complex, too labyrinthine, too lazy, incompetent and self-serving.
Most great empires have a nominal central authority -- either a hereditary emperor or an elected president -- but in practice the power of any individual ruler is a function of the network of economic, social and political relations over which he or she presides. As such, empires exhibit many of the characteristics of other complex adaptive systems -- including the tendency to move from stability to instability quite suddenly.Obama's unprecedented deficits will only grow larger in the near to mid-term future. Built-in entitlements alone assure a massive snowballing of debt. With the addition of the huge new entitlements Obama and Pelosi are pushing through Congress, the death knells could begin to toll much sooner than anyone expects.
The most recent and familiar example of precipitous decline is the collapse of the Soviet Union. With the benefit of hindsight, historians have traced all kinds of rot within the Soviet system back to the Brezhnev era and beyond. Perhaps, as the historian and political scientist Stephen Kotkin has argued, it was only the high oil prices of the 1970s that "averted Armageddon." But this did not seem to be the case at the time. The Soviet nuclear arsenal was larger than the U.S. stockpile. And governments in what was then called the Third World, from Vietnam to Nicaragua, had been tilting in the Soviets' favor for most of the previous 20 years.
Yet, less than five years after Mikhail Gorbachev took power, the Soviet imperium in central and Eastern Europe had fallen apart, followed by the Soviet Union itself in 1991. If ever an empire fell off a cliff, rather than gently declining, it was the one founded by Lenin.
If empires are complex systems that sooner or later succumb to sudden and catastrophic malfunctions, what are the implications for the United States today? First, debating the stages of decline may be a waste of time -- it is a precipitous and unexpected fall that should most concern policymakers and citizens. Second, most imperial falls are associated with fiscal crises. Alarm bells should therefore be ringing very loudly indeed as the United States contemplates a deficit for 2010 of more than $1.5 trillion -- about 11% of GDP, the biggest since World War II. _Ferguson
Worse yet, Obama and Pelosi have done everything possible to shut down the development of reliable new energy sources for the US -- guaranteeing the continued stagnation of US industry and commerce. Massive new debt plus the choking off of new economic activity. A recipe for disaster in the making.
One day, a seemingly random piece of bad news -- perhaps a negative report by a rating agency -- will make the headlines during an otherwise quiet news cycle. Suddenly, it will be not just a few policy wonks who worry about the sustainability of U.S. fiscal policy but the public at large, not to mention investors abroad. It is this shift that is crucial: A complex adaptive system is in big trouble when its component parts lose faith in its viability. _FergusonThe American voters elected the current clown troupe that governs the US. Americans love clowns, perhaps a bit too much.
It will be difficult to reverse the dysfunctional trend, because each new generation of American children -- future voters -- is now being taught according to the curriculum of William Ayers, friend of Obama, "former radical", and just one of a host of professors in American academia who hate the US and would like to bring it down. This all happened while most Americans were looking the other way.
Americans were once self-governed. They took responsibility for their own governance. But over time a massive corps of professional politicians and bureaucrats moved to Washington DC to take over the task from average Americans. Then, the army of bureaucrats became massive, unionised, and strong enough to perpetuate the rule of sympathetic elected legislators and executives. These legislators and executives put sympathetic judges in place to complete the self-perpetuating triumvirate of monolithic government. It's all a bit tipsy now, but the monolith has become the default position the moment the American public takes its eye off the ball, and stops participating in its own governance.
That monolith is chipped, cracked, peeling, and subject to catastrophic separation if not re-sculpted to a smaller and more workable size. But that won't happen because too many Americans are dependent upon the monolith being the way it is.
What is true for the US government is also true for other governments around the world, which lack the built-in resilience which the US Constitution has provided up until now. Catastrophic failure. Debt, demographic implosion, dysgenics . . . the dynamite is ready to blow...just light a fuse.