Last year, I wrote a multi-part series detailing the odds of America descending into chaos, with Americans pitted against each other, and using more than words as weapons. I dunno… it is only been a year, but for some reason… can’t seem to put my finger on why… these posts seem relevant.
I do not apologize for the length of the posts. If you wanted a shallow tweet, you know where you can find it. Below are links to every part in the series. Some very brief excerpts give you the flavor of each post.
He who has ears, let them hear.
Part 1, posted April 2, 2019:
‘Black Swan’ events are the kind of thing that I’m constantly alert to, a Civil War being just one possibility. It is ironic, then (and exactly the sort of thing a person alert to ‘black swans’ should not say), that my basic assessment is that the prospects for an American Civil War manifesting within the next 5 years is quite low. Perhaps 15%. At 10 years, it might be 25%.
So long as the military remains ‘neutral’ and committed to the US Constitution, there will not be a ‘shooting war.’
Never underestimate how terrible wars really are. I sense a certain glee out there at the prospects of a civil war. It will be anything but civil.
But, this does not mean we should not take note of why things are going badly. We should also not be counting on the S not Hitting TF. America is definitely heading towards a breaking point. And we should not underestimate the devastation that could unfold if America’s power grid went down, or other ‘black swan’ events. Do not assume that the United States will exist in its present form in 20 years. A lot can happen, even in just 2 years.
Many people don’t realize that members of our military have to take an oath–to the Constitution. So, you have a volunteer army that has been willingly swearing this oath for decades. Does the reader think that people such as this will now turn their weapons against their fellow American just because a President says so? If so, then whatever else our problems might consist of, things are much, much worse.
Part 2, posted April 4, 2019:
This is a continuation on my analysis of the probabilities of an American ‘civil war‘ developing within the next 5-10 years. In the last post, I pegged it at a pretty low number. People who know me might have thought I believed it would be higher. A lot has to do with what we mean by ‘civil war.’ If we’re thinking of something like the first American civil war or something like the present Syrian conflict, the odds are very low. If you ask me what my estimate of probabilities of a ‘black swan‘ event occurring in the next 5-10 years, I would put that at well above 50%. As for an actual ‘civil war,’ I argued that the neutrality of the US military and its loyalty to the US Constitution was a very strong counterweight against that eventuality.
When your two biggest states are each openly talking about secession, you know you’ve got a problem. But California wants to secede because they are mad that the rest of the country won’t do everything they want them to do. Texas wants to secede because California is trying to make Texas do what California wants.
Since the divide in this country is not ‘north vs south’ but rather along rough ideological grounds which are diffused throughout the country, and are most clearly visible when comparing rural values against city values, it would follow that if things came to a boiling point, it would do so where city boundaries fade away and rural life begins.
If push comes to shove, the people in the country are going to be able to survive just fine. After a couple of weeks, the city folks, who have been relying on ‘just in time’ delivery systems, are going to start feeling it. And if this is all going down because of animosity between ‘city’ vs. ‘rural,’ you can sure as heck bet that the ‘rural’ folks aren’t going to be letting any of their food head into the cities.
The ‘rural vs city’ divide is both indicative of the problem as well as a check on the problem blowing up in the near future (barring significant, ‘black swan’ style events.)
Part 3, posted April 9th, 2019.
So, its a wonder that more people haven’t figured out that much conflict between humans occurs because one group of people wishes to impose their views on other people. How could this not be noticed? The obvious solution to reducing conflict, then, is to radically limit how much people impose their views on other people.
It is a further wonder that more people haven’t figured out that in America over the last 100 years or so, much of that imposition has been in the name of ‘compassion’ and ‘the common good.’
One of the big reasons why the temperature is rising is because this system of checks and balances is being steadily eroded.
Imagine a building held up by 100 sturdy poles. You can remove one of those poles, and the building will stand. You can probably remove 10 of them, and the building won’t move. Heck, theoretically, you might be able to remove a full half of them (50, for those in Rio Linda) and the building will stand. And if the weather remains fine and fair forever, one can pretend that those poles were superfluous.
Ah, but in the real world, the weather does not remain fine and fair forever. No, it is frequently the case that large storms will buffet the building, with winds and waves crashing in from unexpected sides.
This analogy also speaks to the problem of prediction. While I believe there are robust defenses against a shooting civil war (today, anyway), that assumes the ‘weather’ remains within observed variations. An unexpected turn of events might serve as a catalyst for rapid collapse. Which way the building actually falls depends on which direction it is hit from and so on. But I do know this: if you remove all of the poles, you will NOT get a floating building. This is reality. It isn’t a utopian dream. Eventually, a building will fall if it does not have a sturdy foundation.
With ‘flight’ off the table as an option, the momentum builds for the only option left for free people: Fight.
Part 4a, posted on April 25th, 2019.
Essentially, what we have is a ‘bargain’ between citizens.
They will forego the old way of settling matters, which often meant localized, but barbarous acts of violence. As I said, some of this was needed. If a father was murdered, it fell to the sons to deal justice. But this would spiral out of control, because of course after the sons dealt justice, the family of those punished would feel like they now had to avenge. A truly vicious circle, if ever there was one. By delegating the right to use violence to punish law breakers to a ‘government,’ it ensured that in the first place, what was actually done, was justice. If that succeeded, secondly, then, there would be no cycle of revenge.
Swap in ‘murder’ for any other thing that people have contended over throughout the centuries, and you can really appreciate the value of the ‘bargain.’
So long as the community had a reliable way to shape how it was itself being governed, people preferred this route rather than the constant displays of raw power that punctuated their lives up to that point. In America, it was recognized vividly that the ones doing the governed had to be intensely checked by the governed, otherwise it would not be local thugs (or outraged sons) they would have to worry about, but government officials… who, now possessing the ‘monopoly on violence,’ had a lever for exerting their will that was exclusively theirs. (Enter, the second amendment.)
It is this ‘bargain’ which is being dismantled before our eyes.
The moment when a majority of Americans conclude that the ‘rule of law’ ‘bargain’ is no longer being honored is that brief moment before calamity strikes. Its the calm before the storm. It’s that lull as people begin coming to grips with the stark realization that they were the only ones playing by the rules… and sorting out the implications.
If we are not quite in that moment, we are daily at the verge of it. And THAT is a big part of the reason why there is fear that the ‘cold’ civil war is going to get hot. Why? Because many Americans have already come to the conclusion that the ‘rule of law’ is actually dead.
God help us all when the people who have been playing by the rules conclude en masse that there is no point whatsoever in playing by the rules if they are just going to be used against them.
Part 4b, posted on April 29, 2019.
The ‘rule of law’ built into the ‘bargain’ consisted of all sides turning their backs on getting their way through force, instead submitting themselves to a process where the outcome might not be what they desired, which they would nonetheless comply with. The ‘bargain’ only ‘worked’ if the scope of the things were allowed to enact via the government was narrow, with the most potentially intrusive possibilities also being the most accessible for people to realistically change or reverse. And it only worked if people could vote with their feet.
But every part of that is now being undermined.
If liberals are lucky, conservatives will just decide to play like liberals. They will stop wasting time at the state level and they won’t think in terms of the words on the paper, and will resort to pushing through every thing they want by sheer power plays. If this were to happen, would liberals suddenly re-think their method and approach?
HA! What we have seen so far is that liberals feel that they can violate the ‘bargain’ in every way possible, but you are expected to stick to it. Roe vs. Wade? That’s ‘settled law,’ man! Citizen’s United? There is no way we’re going to let that stand! Governing by executive orders? I’ve got a phone and a pen, man! What, Trump is governing by executive orders? THE HORROR. And on and on it goes. Liberals can do whatever they want. Conservatives have to play by the ‘rules.’
Now, the theory is that since SCOTUS is controlled now by conservatives, the Sixth Court’s decision is going to be overturned. I’m not so sure. We’ve already got Roberts on record being willing to just make stuff up, and Kavanaugh seems like he could go either way. But this is really not the point. It should not be something that is arbitrated by the Supreme Court at all. It should not be possible for one person to exert his opinion, unilaterally, over and against the will or even the input of 300,000,000 other people, just because you can get 5 others to go along with it. The fact that it is possible is toxic to the ‘bargain.’
Part 5, posted on May 1st, 2019.
To sum up the series to date: in my estimation, a ‘shooting’ civil war is not likely in the near term, notwithstanding the deteriorating conditions. Structurally, America has several important ‘checks’ on such a development which are not going to disappear any time soon. However, that does not at all mean that our sense that the conditions have deteriorated is misplaced. Moreover, we must bear in mind how such things tend to unfold in actual reality. Even when things are percolating but seem under control, an event can take place which can change everything. I call such events ‘catalysts.’
A wider view tells us that catalysts happen. A wider view tells us that the things we count on often fail when put under stress. A wider view tells us that we cannot take peace and civility for granted. It must be maintained and sustained, and to do that, we have to understand how it came to be in the first place.
In a sad, disturbing irony, the first Americans fled people who are just like modern Americans. Indeed, over the course of several centuries, American would absorb people fleeing all kinds of tyrannies, usually but not always of the European type. One of the most common traits of Americans prior to 1930 or so is their desire to escape tyrants of various types.
Only now, there is no where else to flee to.
People act as though the status quo in the US is going to go on and on and on, even as they pick at the things that sustain that status quo. What if a meteor struck Washington DC, wiping out the entire Federal apparatus? What if terrorists attempted to decapitate our economy, by destroying the center of our trade, while simultaneously trying to decapitate our military, by destroying the Pentagon, while simultaneously trying to decapitate our leadership, by destroying the Congress and/or White House? I know, right? WHAT ARE THE ODDS?
What if a bureaucratic coup is attempted on the duly elected president of the United States? What if such a coup had succeeded? What if P O T U S is assassinated?
Things can change overnight. If–or shall I say, when–they do, will our communities hold together?
I say “Yes, but barely.”
Sell your cloak and buy one.
Part 6, posted May 16, 2019.
My sense of things is that its only a matter of time before ‘something’ happens. There are just too many things suggesting it, and not nearly enough to counter-balance it. If you are at all concerned about such things, you should not presume that you can rely on having time and resources to survive when the SHTF. Heck, natural disasters alone should show you that. You should be pro-active: if you do not live on land, secure some. Have a plan. Educate yourself on everything. Be ready.
If you and your neighbor are being chased by a bear, you don’t have to be faster than the bear. You only need to be faster than your neighbor.
Sell your cloak and buy one.