Middle-high severity territory

Peter Turchin tracks the intra-societal stresses that afflict historical societies, and the odds do not presently favor the current United States:

The fundamental drive (a kind of a “pump” that drives up social pressure) is the oversupply of labor, which developed after the 1970s as a result of multiple interacting factors, and more recently was made acute by technological change driving automation and robotization. Oversupply of labor is the root cause for both popular immiseration and elite over-production/intra-elite competition. Both of those factors, then, contribute to the fiscal crisis of the state, because immiserated population can’t pay taxes, while the elites work to reduce the taxes on themselves.

We saw all those mechanisms operating in our current crisis. Immiseration of large swaths of the American population was what fueled the successful campaign of a counter-elite presidential candidate, Donald Trump. Intra-elite conflict has reached unprecedented heights (since the First American Civil War), as the established elites are using various means at their disposal to get rid of the counter-elite chief of state. At the same time, a weird coalition of Trump and the established elites (remember, laws must be approved by the Congress) legislates deep cuts into the taxes the elites will pay, bringing the fiscal crisis of the state much sooner. Political violence has also reached new heights, although thankfully mostly demonstrators and counter-demonstrators are beaten up, not killed (a major exception was Charlottesville a year ago).

Until last year I thought that we collectively have a decent chance of avoiding the crisis, but I now have abandoned this hope. A major reason for my pessimism is the resolute refusal by our ruling class (including its both Liberal and Conservative wings) to see the real causes of the crisis. They are internal, not external. As a result, the mid-term elections will be completely free of (largely mythical) Russian influence, but no attempt is made to address the deep structural-demographic causes. All these pressures continue to increase….

Over the years I have studied about thirty cases of historical societies going into crisis, and emerging from it, ranging from Rome and China to France, Russia, and the United States. I scored the crisis severity in each by such parameters as the effect on the population (none, mild decline, catastrophic decrease), on the established elites (from mild downward social mobility to dispossession or even extermination), and on the state (territorial fragmentation, external conquest). Adding together these indicators, here’s the result: As you see, the more positive outcomes (lower severity on the left side) are fairly rare (about 10{8359bd26b913e24a7303d212a23546aa4fafa0cfcdec25c849ef881c8a4ae759} of historical cases), while the majority of outcomes cluster in the middle-high severity territory.

I would be very surprised if the results of the coming crisis in the USA does not result in the dispossession and deportation of the established elites, given the fact that so many of them are foreign. As a general rule, foreign elites only survive a crisis when they habitually act in the interests of the masses over which they rule; those which predominantly act in their own interests tend to fare considerably less well.