Thursday, July 28, 2011

Is crisis necessary? Apparently.

If one subscribes to the hypothesis of The Fourth Turning, the answer is yes.  There is a truly Old Testament feel to Strauss and Howe’s uncannily accurate “prophesy” from fifteen years ago.  American society enters a crisis phase every eighty years or so (1780, 1860, 1940… 2020).  There is abundant macro evidence that our situation resembles the 1930s in many ways—high debt-to-GDP load, rampant inequality, labor beaten down—with a couple of significant differences.  In the 1930s the common people had a strong ally in Roosevelt; today the well-heeled direct the President.  In the 1930s, the United States was the world’s greatest creditor nation, today it is the world’s greatest debtor.  In the 1930s, a lot of bad debts were charged off and banks allowed to fail, today bad debts are being shuffled between banks and governments (taxpayers) in countries ‘round the world.

There seems to be a need for a depression to shake the society out of its old ways, or at least to increase the likelihood of radical change.  There is no guarantee America will reform itself.  Devolution into several centuries of neo-feudalism, a la late Roman Empire, is a distinct possibility.

So I watch the debt ceiling charade believing it is rehearsal for a more major screw-up to come.  It seems to be required by the nonlinear dynamics of history.  Phase change begins soon.

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