American Fall

This is a sequel. Read American Spring first.

“We conclude that the concentration of wealth is natural and inevitable, and is periodically alleviated by violent or peaceable partial redistribution. In this view all economic history is the slow heartbeat of the social organism, a vast systole and diastole of concentrating wealth and compulsive recirculation.”

– Will and Ariel Durant

In 2016, the American Republic birthed a second political party.

This came as a shock to the prosperous, college-educated Elites. The four horsemen of technology, trade, immigration, and bailouts had let them manufacture products, labor, voters, and money at will.

The people ruled the things, the politicians ruled the people, and the bankers ruled them all.

Elite America clustered on the temperate coasts, connected by airplanes and fiber optics. Its vision of open markets and open borders was supposed to eventually integrate the commoners in the interior.

But the Internet had turned media into a choose-your-own-reality adventure. Crowd funding and crowd media let the masses self assemble. Masses who had lost their livelihoods to trade, immigrants, and mechanization, and lost their culture to the march of progress.

The idealists, led by Bernie, were the first to storm the gates. It took the full might of the Media, the Party, and the Financiers to throw them from the walls. On the other front, Populists led by Trump broke through and seized the Republican banner.

The new Populists shared little with the old Republicans. They didn’t want to roll back entitlements and saw the culture wars as a distraction. They no longer wanted to send their children to fight wars declared by the Elites. They were tired of subsidizing naked gambling on Wall Street. They were out of sympathy for the wretched masses huddled at the border.

The great fake war is over, and the Republicans lost.

Now, the Populists are rallied behind Trump – a reality TV star who built a brand out of building brands. With slowing growth, they want to put America and Americans first. Never mind that high walls and high tariffs won’t stop the robots from taking all of the jobs in the end.

With the Bush dynasty failed, the Elites have consolidated behind a second Clinton. “L’État, c’est moi,” they say.

If the New Democrats remind you of the old Republicans, consider that they both always had war, immigration, bailouts, and trade in common. The poorest now unexpectedly find themselves sheltering with the neocons, the Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street, lobbyists, and every nervous foreign regime dependent on American financial and military largesse. Mirroring an unstable Middle Eastern state, an uneasy alliance of elites and minorities rules over the angry masses, even as the blue-collar workers and trade unions slip out the back door.

The Libertarians, the Greens, and the Socialists find themselves homeless once again, now joined by a moral minority.

This is the first battle, the beginning of a long war. Just as the rifle and the printing press once did, the technologies of crowd media and crowd funding have redistributed power between the Populists and the Elites.

Minorities, Elites, and white males have already picked sides. The remaining battles will be fought over white women and their issues. Just as the British Empire, and not Britain, fought most of its wars, the shock troops for the Elites are the most threatened and vulnerable minorities in the populace. The Elites set the strategy, the press issues the orders, and the poor take to the streets.

The Elites have money, media, colleges, institutions, and numbers. Through histrionics they will defeat Trump, through demographics, the mob. As for the displaced, let them eat quinoa!

Any victory in November will be short lived – the Populists, on left and right, are here to stay. A future leader somewhere between Trump and Bernie could unite them to victory at the ballot box. If not, and if the Populists are convinced that the system cannot be redeemed, a true American Spring may be upon us.

History’s classic solution is either politics distributing prosperity or revolution distributing poverty. Thankfully, the last real insurrection was settled 150 years ago. All that remains of that dispute is the re-enactment called Sunday night football.

Disturbingly, the gun owners, the police, and the military are in the wrong demographic. Who, the Elites wonder, is sitting on the hundreds of millions of guns and over a trillion bullets out there? How, exactly, are the unarmed Americans going to disarm the armed Americans? Even for the blissful turkey, Thanksgiving eventually arrives.

Technology-created prosperity may be a third way out, but technology displaces one generation as it prepares the next. The abundance that it creates is hardly a substitute for the self-determination and meaning that people crave.

Ultimately, it may be the Elites that sue for secession. Just like Syria and Iraq, perhaps America is two countries now – the coasts and the center, the city and the country, the Elites and the Populists. Social media and identity politics reinforce tribalism, and expose the absurdity of ruling sea to shining sea from a single iron throne.

If a new Berlin wall were to go up, we’d have to put it somewhere in Austin.

Perhaps a stable solution exists. In the meantime, it’s war in November, the most polarized election in memory. Trump’s demand is simple – “America first!” So is Clinton’s warning – “Après moi, le déluge.”

14 thoughts on “American Fall

  1. Naval… great stuff, but dude you don’t have to sue for succession, you just have to understand DC is not the friend of elites, they have a different agenda… We were always meant, from our BIOS boot, to the kernel itself to run 50 flavors of Democracy. Like P2P which forcibly keeps any node from becoming central, the American system ENSURES the big fish in small ponds CAN ALWAYS stymie everything.

  2. This is a terrific analysis of contemporary US politics. I enjoyed the allusion to the antecedents of the French Revolution.

    The idea that the US is politically divided between Elites and Populists reminds me of Europe’s (seeming) disintegration. I realise the political structures of Europe are weaker, but the idea that “perhaps America is two countries now” is an interesting notion over a long timespan.

    That contrasts to what was the most interesting takeaway for me from the Third Presidential debate: the moderator quoting a Clinton email “My dream is a hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders.”

    It will be interesting if/when this agenda is ultimately presented publicly: it hasn’t been an open question since the 1950s, but the framework is under discussion: TPP like IP conditions, militarism to support market creation, USD defacto standard etc. There’s little mention in my media sphere on the new Eurasian Economic Union:

  3. Pingback: American Spring
  4. Naval, this is written quite beautifully. I could speak about the topic of which you write, but your writing style, clarity of expression and directness warrants the first applause.

    Just like the prequel, i’ll no doubt re-read this multiple times in the coming years.

  5. @naval Superb writing.

    Ray Dalio posted interesting statistics that are complementary to the fall of America and to your post.

    Who will win first?

    Robots/AI or the direct revolution powered by incredibly well-armed, but excluded citizens that might self-actualize by literally killing the elite? It goes hand in hand with Power Law outcomes for personal wealth that the web and now Crypto have and will continue to provide.

    The same conflict, happening faster in 1000x order of magnitude.

    Decentralization = Salvation.

  6. Access to information used to be scarce – via Lexis/Nexis or elite libraries and librarians. Then it got so cheap everyone can effectively have access to everything. Clean water and electricity, paved roads are a given for everyone. And everyone’s lives are made better. Agriculture has become so productive that more food can be grown than can ever be consumed. There is no production shortage for many goods everyone needs to survive – no scarcity at all. And what goods remain scarce (healthcare, energy, transportation, etc) are rapidly becoming made more plentiful by relentless technology progress.

    What is entirely messed up is that the basics are not uniformly available to all. Most problems in life can be solved by lots of money – and the world is rapidly becoming awash in money. But equitable distribution and commonly agreed basic standard supports for all, and how to provide them freely, that is still not agreed upon. This is a social morality problem that needs solving. The good news is that it is not an available wealth problem.

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