Acknowledging the reality of our accelerating national collapse causes emotional distress. Despite the natural unpleasantness, awareness of these trends is crucial. Individuals, institutions, and communities that recognize the trends of collapse and prepare for collapse to further accelerate are far more likely to survive than those who blindly cling to the myth of perpetual normalcy.
Normalcy bias arises largely from the mistaken belief that the overall situations and conditions we are accustomed to are natural and sustainable. This bias leads people to disregard or minimize signs of serious threats to the established order. Normalcy bias is largely understandable, as we base our analysis of the world around us through past experience. It is difficult for people who have lived their entire lives in a relatively peaceful, prosperous, and stable social environment to imagine that their society will one day no longer be so peaceful, prosperous, or stable. They dismiss indications that point to significant deterioration in general conditions, and the high likelihood of further, and more rapid, disintegration.
Normalcy bias impacts entire societies, especially in areas where life has generally been good for multiple generations. Essentially every single human being alive today has lived in a world in which the United States has been the most influential power on the face of the earth, so normalcy bias preventing clear analytical understanding of these events also applies to many people abroad. Exacerbating individual and communal normalcy biases is the fact that established political and corporate interests who effectively shape, if not outright control, most forms of mass communication dismiss or downplay major threats to the system they depend on for their privileged positions.
Numerous and pronounced indicators of our national collapse have emerged over the past two decades or so. Objective measures, such as declines in life expectancy and inflation-adjusted wages, are a key part of this picture. So are various historical developments. Were similar events to occur to a country that is not the contemporary United States, many Americans would look at these developments as signs of serious systemic troubles. Since they happen to our own country, we are inclined to downplay their severity. Nevertheless, these events and trends are clear indicators of major systemic malfunction and escalating instability.
The purpose of highlighting these particular events is to break through normalcy bias that blinds people to the realities of national collapse. There is no intention to assign “blame” to a particular individual, faction, or institution for these various developments. The reader should carefully consider how they would react to reading these developments in a history book, a fictional story, or an article reporting on occurrences in a foreign country.
The United States enjoys nearly unparalleled global power and relative domestic prosperity. Washington faces no significant peer or even near-peer competitor. America accounts for around 30% of total global economic output in US dollar terms (around 20% when adjusted for price differences in various countries). Unemployment is near historic lows, as are rates of violent crimes. Inflation is at manageable 3.5%, and the Federal government takes in more money than it spends. Even an extremely contentious presidential election in 2000 doesn’t seriously undermine American strength or stability. While several legal challenges, protests, and discontent erupt, a relatively prosperous population, trusting in the inevitability of further progress and development, moves on from the rancor rather quickly. The US is not involved in any major wars.
Nineteen foreign nationals, angered by US military and political intervention in the Middle East, launch a complex attack that killed nearly 3,000 people and shakes the United States to its core. Osama bin Laden’s claims his main goals were to draw the US into a series of unwinnable conflicts, and drain the country’s resources, leading to eventual bankruptcy and collapse akin to the fall of the Soviet Union following its failed war in Afghanistan. While bin Laden and his followers hate the US for its wars and interventions in the Middle East, their main adversaries are US-backed governments, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which they believe would collapse without American support.
American politicians quickly seize upon the attacks to expand government surveillance and otherwise restrict traditional freedoms. The US also launches a war to oust the Taliban from Afghanistan. America is confident and angry; its leaders reject a Taliban offer to turn bin Laden over to a third country. Relying primarily on bombings and support to the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance (who had been fighting the Taliban for years and controlled around 15% of Afghanistan prior to the US intervention), the US achieves quick successes. America and its local allies capture Kabul and scatter the Taliban. Bush Administration officials refuse to consider an offer for a negotiated surrender from former Taliban leaders.
The Bush Administration, not content to focus on nation-building in Afghanistan, accuses Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq of developing weapons of mass destruction and harboring ties with al Qaeda. America and several allies, most notably the UK, prepare for an invasion of Iraq. Several longstanding American allies, most notably the French government, warn the war would unleash a disaster. France, Turkey, Germany, and several other key NATO allies oppose the mission. Nevertheless, the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein's government is quick and apparently successful.
Several insurgent groups – including some made up of Iraqi elements strongly opposed to the former regime – inflict numerous and regular casualties on US and allied forces. Many are angered over revelations that US personnel tortured Iraqi prisoners. The war grinds into a prolonged and bloody occupation in which over 4,000 US service members, hundreds of foreign allies, thousands of mercenaries, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis die. The new Iraqi government establishes friendly ties with Iran, America’s stated regional-arch nemesis. International Islamist terrorists – once suppressed by the Saddam regime – gain a strong foothold in the country.
A severe economic crisis grips America and the world. The official unemployment rate increases more than doubles over its 2000 low, and millions of Americans lose their homes. Federal spending increases dramatically to deal with the crisis; amid general economic contraction, much of this spending relies on borrowed money. The Obama administration makes few fundamental policy changes and doubles down on the war in Afghanistan, where the Taliban now controls around a third of the country amid an insurgency that escalated while the US was focused on Iraq. Post-9/11 surveillance and covert conflicts continue essentially unchanged from the Bush Administration. No high-level bankers are prosecuted following the economic scandals that lead to the Great Recession. US special forces kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
China overtakes the United States as the country with the largest volume of international trade.
Life expectancy in the United States peaks and begins to decline.
Despite strong opposition from the political elite, Donald Trump surprises the world by first winning the Republican nomination, and then beating Hillary Clinton in the general election. Detractors almost immediately blame malign Russian interference for Trump’s victory. The Democratic primarily is marred by accusations of unfair practices meant to favor Clinton against a challenger from the left. China overtakes the United States in terms of price-adjusted economic output. The US had held the top position for over one hundred years.
Facing a deadly and novel virus and related disruptions, the Federal government borrows and spends roughly 20% of the total annual GDP to stimulate the economy. Much of the money is spent wastefully or fraudulently. Over a million Americans end up dying from the virus. Tensions over police violence African Americans escalate into nationwide protests and riots in several locations. China overtakes the US as the European Union’s largest trading partner.
Pro-Trump protests reject the official outcome of an election storm the very seat of national political power on live television, disrupting the orderly transfer of power. One of the main candidates in the election continues to contest its authenticity. The new Biden administration completes a withdrawal from Afghanistan (after initially violating key clauses of the deal made by Trump). The Taliban takes Afghan cities even faster than they lost them in 2001. They effectively control the entirety of Afghanistan for the first time ever, though more extreme Islamist elements resist them through acts of terrorism.
The United States experiences a nationwide shortage of baby formula. In nominal terms, the US accounts for around 24% of global economic output (and around 16% when adjusting for prices). The debt-to-GDP ratio balloons to the highest since World War Two. Inflation accelerates to levels not seen in over a generation. Washington DC pours tens of billions of dollars into Ukraine amid a Russian invasion. The US and its allies also impose harsh economic sanctions on Russia, which contribute to major increases in energy and food prices.
* The Biden Administration delayed full withdrawal past the deadline and ordered some limited bombing of the Taliban, which resulted in the Taliban launching a nationwide offensive against urban areas in retaliation. The 2020 deal stipulated the US would withdraw by May 1, 2021. Furthermore, secret clauses in the US-Taliban peace agreement apparently included Taliban pledges to not attack urban areas and a US pledge to not directly attack the Taliban; after the US broke this part of the agreement following Taliban advances in rural areas, the Taliban launched their assault on Afghan cities.
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