Are we at the beginning of a period of political instability and violence?

Peter Turchin seems to believe so – although he also says that it’s not pre-ordained.  I don’t have time for a deeper examination right now, but it’s worth delving these two articles.

A couple key passages:

The US elites, similarly, took the smooth functioning of the political-economic system for granted. The only problem, as they saw it, was that they weren’t being adequately compensated for their efforts. Feelings of dissatisfaction ran high during the Bear Market of 1973—82, when capital returns took a particular beating. The high inflation of that decade ate into inherited wealth. A fortune of $2 billion in 1982 was a third smaller, when expressed in inflation-adjusted dollars, than $1 billion in 1962, and only a sixth of $1 billion in 1912. All these factors contributed to the reversal of the late 1970s.

And this:

Three years ago I published a short article in the science journal Nature. I pointed out that several leading indicators of political instability look set to peak around 2020. In other words, we are rapidly approaching a historical cusp, at which the US will be particularly vulnerable to violent upheaval. This prediction is not a ‘prophecy’. I don’t believe that disaster is pre-ordained, no matter what we do. On the contrary, if we understand the causes, we have a chance to prevent it from happening. But the first thing we will have to do is reverse the trend of ever-growing inequality.

And finally this one:

How does growing economic inequality lead to political instability? Partly this correlation reflects a direct, causal connection. High inequality is corrosive of social cooperation and willingness to compromise, and waning cooperation means more discord and political infighting. Perhaps more important, economic inequality is also a symptom of deeper social changes, which have gone largely unnoticed.


  1. #1 by Richard Warnick on November 21, 2013 - 2:05 pm

    It would be nice of the inevitable upheaval came in the form of a new major political party that could take power away from the two dysfunctional ones we have now.

    Violence would be the worst-case, especially since it looks like the 1 Percent are quite prepared to initiate it. Look what happened to OWS in city after city.

    • #2 by Glenden Brown on November 21, 2013 - 3:28 pm

      Are you familiar with Johan Galtung’s theory/prediction? He believes the US empire will fall around 2020 and if it goes badly could lead to a period of fascism in the US. If it goes well, he believes it would lead to a blossoming of US democracy. Galtung predicted in 1980 that the Soviet Union would collapse by 1990. Not for nothing, Galtung used to preduct our empire would last longer then the folly of Iraq and Afghanistan made him shorten his prediction by about a decade.

      In the source articles, the author argues that we’re on the verge of a period similar to 1910-1920 (or so) or 1850-1860; he argues we have overproduction of elites who battle for dominance.

  2. #3 by Nathan Erkkila on November 21, 2013 - 5:20 pm

    We were heading this way ever sonce the 2008 election. The DHS even stated there was a concern for right-wing terrorism. If you haven’t noticed, politicians and people keep pushing harder and harder. Just look at 2012. There were cases of people calling in mock votes by phone, people throwing away ballots and some companies even threatened to fire people for not voting for Mitt Romney. That was the side that lost. Now they are going at it even harder. The shutdown for example had 144 votes to default the US. And it probably would have if any of the 144 was speaker of the house.

    There was a Prussian general and Statesman named Carl Von Clausewitz. His teachings virtually won Desert Storm. What he says about the cause of war is terrifying. War is merely the continuation of politics. That is what war is. It is a point where negotiations have exceeded the capabilities of verbal methods and have transcribed to physical actions. The idea of the right side of the country going to war with the US is a consideration. Even the ever so decent man known as Andrew Breitbart once said that the right has all the guns. It’s rather dark to think that these people could become violent because they aren’t getting what they want.

    • #4 by Richard Warnick on November 21, 2013 - 6:22 pm

      I’m not worried about right-wing gun nuts so much as the militarization of our police. Every time you read about the police opening fire these days, it’s never a single shot – more like a hail of bullets.

      As we saw with OWS around the nation, peaceful, unarmed protesters exercising free speech are routinely attacked by the police.

  3. #5 by Richard Warnick on November 22, 2013 - 11:07 am

    Sort of on topic for this post: 5 Most Ridiculous Hunger Games Marketing Schemes

    The most obscene idea IMHO is the Hunger Games Theme Park. I’d say the odds are not in their favor.

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