Many in the prepper community talk about the SHTF, the Zombie apocalypse, the end of life as we know it, whatever they call it. In these cases, they almost invariably talk about waking up one morning, and things have fallen apart. That really isn’t how it goes down. Societies don’t fall apart overnight, and looking at how the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and now watching the European union, fall apart gives us a look at how things happen.
The Soviet Union spent years building up their military in the arms race of the cold war. This large amount of government spending was taking its toll on the productive parts of the economy, and the economy stalled. By 1985, the stagnation was obvious. The Soviet Union had been importing grain from the US throughout the 70s, because their own economy was not capable of producing staples. The central government was powerful enough, that change seemed impossible.
Eventually, the government could not maintain the strong hold that they had on the population, and cracks began to appear. In an effort to control costs, Premier Gorbachev became friendly with the US, and relations improved. A series of reforms was put in place that were designed to appease the population, but unrest continued. In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. The military was upset that they were losing so much power and clout, and attempted a coup in 1991. The coup failed, and the Soviet Union collapsed, taking many of its satellite countries with it. The reason that the collapse that was decades in the making seemed to happen so quickly is that the government fought to maintain an appearance of normalcy until there was no fight left.
There are parallels here to the current state of the USA. Years of profligate, irresponsible spending have torn the guts out of our economy. The resulting tax burdens needed to sustain this spending, combined with the populist regulations put in place by bureaucrats, have forced the productive parts of the economy to either leave the country, or out of business. The small businessman has been regulated out of existence, and the large business has fled for distant lands. This has resulted in a country that cannot produce staples or maintain its standard of living, which has been falling for over 5 years. The central government is stable, so change or collapse seems impossible.
Cracks have begun to appear. The end of the US economy approaches, as the economic weight of our government’s excessive spending increases. The government will attempt to maintain normalcy, and maintain order and control, and this is obvious by the ever increasing police presence, government cash giveaways, and other programs. However, the spending required for these programs will only worsen the problem in the long term. The decline will accelerate as the debt climbs.
The collapse is near, and I believe it will be in less than 20 years, perhaps less than a decade. Decades in the making, to those who have not been observant, it will appear to have happened with blinding speed.

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Robert Hewes · May 30, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Excellent post, as usual. I quoted you at length in my own post on the subject.

What are your thoughts on what it'll be like to go through this crash? The thing that sticks in my mind is that it'll be substantially harder for anyone than previous collapses, because though we're weak we're still at the center of the world economy. China's tottering faster than we are, as is europe — once we go down, I fear everyone will crash at the same time and things will be unpleasant.

Divemedic · May 30, 2012 at 9:40 pm

There are a couple of things that keep me awake some nights.

The first is that the world economy depends on the US, even though that becomes less true every day. The next world power looks to be China. That is not surprising, since the Chinese have taken the long view for centuries. Of course, India is a powerhouse as well, but much of their income is derived from the US. Invasion is not a real concern at this point, because neither has the sealift capability to pull that off, unless China wants to slog through Russia and across the Bering straight, but given how that would upset a nuclear armed Russia, that is a low probability.

The second is the realization that the world will be plunged into poverty for decades. Who knows what that will mean.

The last is the realization that every sector of government and every person in government will want to maintain or gain power. The 1991 Soviet coup was nearly successful. We could see a powerful military/police attempted coup, which if successful would mean a military/police state dictatorship, and if not successful, would mean anarchy.

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