I must have been obsessed for a long time with looking for root causes—for some fundamental understanding of the reason things are as they are and why they are headed in the direction they’ve taken. Ten or twenty years ago, long before the 2008 financial debacle, when I considered apocalyptic societal collapse just fodder for end-of-world novelists, before I’d read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged or even had an inkling of what it was about,  I’d scribbled on a scrap of paper a diagram that tried to make sense of the society’s growing ills. It sat in a drawer until recently, discovered with fresh eyes able to view it with the objectivity the distance of time affords, and it still rang true. I’ve given it the greater cloak of respectability provided by the tools of the new digital age and reproduce it below:

I think today we should define “family values” in the broader sense, to encompass self-sufficiency, work ethic, and charity.

So what are the possible eventualities? First, there is the theme most commonly expressed by the media that this downturn is cyclical, and as back in the ‘70s, the economy will pick up, people will be rehired, and the country can return to business as usual. This is reflected in the oft-quoted “double-dip” recession which is either coming or has just been averted. It seems more likely that it hasn’t ended—it’s just been papered over.

The second is a five- to ten-year (or longer) recession or depression—in my opinion, realistically the best-case scenario. I believe the economy is far sicker than it has ever been. We now have debt equal to the GNP (Greece failed with debt 160% of its GNP) and this must be paid off. We have jobs exported overseas and a more global economy than ever before (worthy of a separate rant), and we have flawed, corrupted public and private sectors that are more rotten than years past (we’ve had several decades of neglect and misguided, permissive regulation to buttress it).

The third is total economic apocalypse, precipitated by the collapse of the European economy then the U.S. dollar. The consequences of this are so disturbing, it is only expressed as a real possibility in a few venues, and these tend to be discredited. One prominent example of this can be found in the persona of Glen Beck, recently on Fox channel and now on the Internet. In speaking with friends and acquaintances, it’s becoming apparent to me that what used to be considered the wide-eyed babblings of a lunatic fringe is, indeed, becoming more mainstream.

Next: The future, redux


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