Having given a lot of thought to both the differences and the similarities between Russia and the U.S. – the one that has collapsed already, and the one that is collapsing as I write this – I feel ready…to define five stages of collapse to serve as mental milestones as we gauge our own collapse-preparedness and see what can be done to improve it. Words: 2500
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Orlov goes on to say, in part:
…The proposed taxonomy ties each of the five collapse stages to the breaching of a specific level of trust, or faith, in the status quo. Although each stage causes physical, observable changes in the environment, these can be gradual…
The 5 Stages of Collapse
Stage 1: Financial collapse
Faith in “business as usual” is lost. The future is no longer assumed [to] resemble the past in any way that allows risk to be assessed and financial assets to be guaranteed. Financial institutions become insolvent; savings are wiped out, and access to capital is lost.
Stage 2: Commercial collapse
Faith that “the market shall provide” is lost. Money is devalued and/or becomes scarce, commodities are hoarded, import and retail chains break down, and widespread shortages of survival necessities become the norm.
Stage 3: Political collapse
Faith that “the government will take care of you” is lost. As official attempts to mitigate widespread loss of access to commercial sources of survival necessities fail to make a difference, the political establishment loses legitimacy and relevance.
Stage 4: Social collapse
Faith that “your people will take care of you” is lost, as local social institutions, be they charities or other groups that rush in to fill the power vacuum run out of resources or fail through internal conflict.
Stage 5: Cultural collapse
Faith in the goodness of humanity is lost. People lose their capacity for “kindness, generosity, consideration, affection, honesty, hospitality, compassion, charity” (Turnbull, The Mountain People). Families disband and compete as individuals for scarce resources. The new motto becomes “May you die today so that I die tomorrow” (Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago). There may even be some cannibalism.
The Five Stages of Collapse
Although many people imagine collapse to be a sort of elevator that goes to the sub-basement (our Stage 5) no matter which button you push, no such automatic mechanism can be discerned. Rather, driving us all to Stage 5 will require that a concerted effort be made at each of the intervening stages. That all the players seem poised to make just such an effort may give this collapse the form a classical tragedy – a conscious but inexorable march to perdition…Let us sketch out this process.
Stage 1 (Financial) Collapse Scenarios
Stage 1 collapse, as we are currently observing it, consists of two parts:
a part of the general population is forced to move, no longer able to afford the house they bought based on inflated assessments, forged income numbers, and foolish expectations of endless asset inflation. Since, technically, they should never have been allowed to buy these houses, and were only able to do so because of financial and political malfeasance, this is actually a healthy development.
men in expensive suits tossing bundles of suddenly worthless paper up in the air, ripping out their remaining hair, and (some of us might uncharitably hope) setting themselves on fire on the steps of the Federal Reserve. They, to express it in their own vernacular, “fucked up,” and so this is also just as it should be.
The government response to this could be to offer some helpful homilies about “the wages of sin” and to open a few soup kitchens and flop houses in a variety of locations including Wall Street. The message would be: “You former debt addicts and gamblers, as you say, ‘fucked up,’ and so this will really hurt for a long time. We will never let you anywhere near big money again. Get yourselves over to the soup kitchen, and bring your own bowl, because we don’t do dishes.” This would result in a stable Stage 1 collapse – the Second Great Depression.
However, this is unlikely, because in the U.S. the government happens to be debt addict and gambler number one. As individuals, we may have been as virtuous as we wished, but the government will have still run up exorbitant debts on our behalf. Every level of government, from local municipalities and authorities, which need the financial markets to finance their public works and public services, to the federal government, which relies on foreign investment to finance its endless wars, is addicted to public debt. They know they cannot stop borrowing, and so they will do anything they can to keep the game going for as long as possible.
About the only thing the government currently seems…fit to do is:
extend further credit to those in trouble,
set interest rates at far below inflation,
accept worthless bits of paper as collateral and
pump money into insolvent financial institutions.
This has the effect of diluting the dollar, further undermining its value, and will, in due course, lead to hyperinflation, which is bad enough in any economy, but is especially serious for one dominated by imports. As imports dry up and the associated parts of the economy shut down, we pass Stage 2: Commercial Collapse.
Stage 2 (Commercial) Collapse Scenarios
As businesses shut down, storefronts are boarded up and the population is left largely penniless and dependent on FEMA and charity for survival, the government may consider what to do next. It could, for example:
repatriate all foreign troops and set them to work on public works projects designed to directly help the population.
promote local economic self-sufficiency, by establishing community-supported agriculture programs, erecting renewable energy systems, and organizing and training local self-defence forces to maintain law and order.
order the Army Corps of Engineers to bulldoze buildings erected on former farmland around city centers, return the land to cultivation, and to construct high-density solar-heated housing in urban centers to resettle those who are displaced.
reduce homelessness by imposing a steep tax on vacant residential properties and funneling the proceeds into rent subsidies for the indigent.
With plenty of luck, such measures may be able to reverse the trend, eventually providing for a restoration of pre-Stage 2 conditions.
This may or may not be a good plan, but in any case it is rather unrealistic, because the United States, being so deeply in debt, will be forced to accede to the wishes of its foreign creditors, who own a lot of national assets (land, buildings, and businesses) and who would rather see a dependent American population slaving away working off their debt than a self-sufficient one, conveniently forgetting that they have mortgaged their children’s futures to pay for military fiascos, big houses, big cars, and flat-screen television sets.
A much more likely scenario, however, is that the federal government (knowing who butters their bread) will remain subservient to foreign financial interests and:
- impose austerity conditions,
- maintain law and order through draconian means, and
- aide in the construction of foreign-owned factory towns and plantations.
As people start to think that having a government may not be such a good idea, conditions become ripe for Stage 3.
Stage 3 (Political) Collapse Scenarios
After a significant amount of bloodletting, much of the country becomes a no-go zone for the remaining authorities. Foreign creditors decide that their debts might not be repaid after all, cut their losses and depart in haste. The rest of the world decides to act as if there is no such place as The United States – because “nobody goes there any more”…
Stage 3 collapse can sometimes be avoided by the timely introduction of international peacekeepers and through the efforts of international humanitarian NGOs. In the aftermath of a Stage 2 collapse, domestic authorities are highly unlikely to have either the resources or the legitimacy, or even the will, to arrest the collapse dynamic and reconstitute themselves in a way that the population would accept.
As stage 3 collapse runs its course, the power vacuum left by the now defunct federal, state and local government is filled by a variety of new power structures. Remnants of former law enforcement and military, urban gangs, ethnic mafias, religious cults and wealthy property owners all attempt to build their little empires on the ruins of the big one, fighting each other over territory and access to resources. This is the age of Big Men: charismatic leaders, rabble-rousers, ruthless Macchiavelian princes and war lords. In the luckier places, they find it to their common advantage to pool their resources and amalgamate into some sort of legitimate local government, while in the rest their jostling for power leads to a spiral of conflict and open war.
Stage 4 (Social) Collapse Scenarios
Stage 4 collapse occurs when society becomes so disordered and impoverished that it can no longer support the Big Men, who become smaller and smaller, and eventually fade from view. Society fragments into extended families and small tribes of a dozen or so families, who find it advantageous to band together for mutual support and defense. This is the form of society that has existed over some 98.5% of humanity’s existence as a biological species, and can be said to be the bedrock of human existence. Humans can exist at this level of organization for thousands, perhaps millions of years. Most mammalian species go extinct after just a few million years, but, for all we know, Homo Sapiens still have a million or two left.
Stage 5 (Cultural) Collapse Scenarios
If pre-collapse society is too atomized, alienated and individualistic to form cohesive extended families and tribes, or if its physical environment becomes so disordered and impoverished that hunger and starvation become widespread, then Stage 5 collapse becomes likely. At this stage, a simpler biological imperative takes over, to preserve the life of the breeding couples. Families disband, the old are abandoned to their own devices, and children are only cared for up to age 3. All social unity is destroyed, and even the couples may disband for a time, preferring to forage on their own and refusing to share food. This is the state of society described by the anthropologist Colin Turnbull in his book The Mountain People. If society prior to Stage 5 collapse can be said to be the historical norm for humans, Stage 5 collapse brings humanity to the verge of physical extinction.
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As we can easily imagine, the default is cascaded failure: each stage of collapse can easily lead to the next, perhaps even overlapping it. In Russia, the process was arrested just past Stage 3: there was considerable trouble with ethnic mafias and even some warlordism, but government authority won out in the end. In my other writings, I go into a lot of detail in describing the exact conditions that inadvertently made Russian society relatively collapse-proof. Here, I will simply say that these ingredients are not currently present in the United States.
In light of the unfolding global sovereign debt fiasco…[however, I have now come to the conclusion that, after] years of both government and finance betting on a future that cannot exist, doubling down every time they lose again, the Five Stages of Collapse is nothing but a nice theory.
[Instead,] I think that the stage 1 (financial) and stage 2 (political) collapses will compress into a single chaotic episode. Commercial collapse will not be far behind, because global commerce is dependent on global finance, and once international credit locks up the tankers and the container ships won’t sail. Shortly thereafter it will be lights out.
Editor’s Note: The author’s views and conclusions are unaltered and no personal comments have been included to maintain the integrity of the original article. Furthermore, the views, conclusions and any recommendations offered in this article are not to be construed as an endorsement of such by the editor.
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1. Another Orlov Article: How the Ongoing U.S. Economic Collapse Compares to the U.S.S.R. Experience (Dmitry Orlov)
Dmitry Orlov’s repeated travels to Russia throughout the early nineties allowed him to observe the aftermath of the Soviet collapse first-hand. Being both a Russian and an American, Dmitry was able to appreciate both the differences and the similarities between the two superpowers. Eventually he came to the conclusion that the United States is going the way of the Soviet Union and has concluded that when the U.S. economy collapses, it is bound to be much worse – and permanent – because the factors that allowed Russia and the other former Soviet republics to recover are not present here. Words: 3730; Slides: 28
Given the economic outlook, there seems little reason for stock prices to be as high as they are…This market could be called a “Madoff Market” in the sense that it is a Ponzi scheme, not the classic Ponzi scheme where exponential growth of new dupes is necessary to keep the scam going…but, rather, on exponential money creation. Fantasy is fun while it lasts but reality eventually intercedes and…[and it is] those way out in fantasy land [who] are especially vulnerable to disappointment [and] so it is for those betting on the stock market and an economic recovery. Let me discuss this further. Words: 1075
Those dependent on the welfare state are unaware that their benefits are not sustainable. Most believe tomorrow will be like today and the checks will keep coming from Mother Government. Political power was gained based on promising these benefits. No politician will risk his position by trying to reduce them. No democratic society has ever rolled them back via peaceful political means. [At worst,] the economy and society could end up in ashes [and, at best,] the world is in for a long period of stagnation, retrogression and conflict. [Let me explain more fully.] Words: 1115
The world is hurdling toward what seems to be certain economic collapse so, if your expectations are similar to mine, then you should be exploring ways to prepare for something that eventually will become an economic dark age. Investment performance is always relevant and it has never been more important than in these difficult economic times – nor has it ever been more difficult. Markets have already changed and are getting worse…As the economy worsens, market movements [like the two 50% declines we have seen since 2000] are likely to become more pronounced [and, as such,] it behooves anyone with exposure to the stock market to understand what is happening and [take action to] protect themselves against further 50%, and possibly larger, downsides. [This article outlines how best to do just that.] Words: 1491; Charts: 2; Tables: 1
We are on the precipice of enormous financial and economic change. It is not change for the good, especially for the United States. Excesses and mis-allocated resources of several generations are about to be exposed as modern industrial nations sink deeper into the economic hole they have dug for themselves. The purging of these economic mistakes will be painful, could create new wars as politicians attempt to deflect blame and may end up changing the political form of government in some countries. (Words: 364; Charts: 1)
The video* below is one of the best overviews of what is going on and one of the best explanations of what lies ahead that I have heard. As such, in my opinion, it is A Must Watch!
The corrosive nature of politics and government has destroyed the economy and the moral fiber of citizens. These issues are not insurmountable, but they are very close to being so. Their ramifications are potentially existential in nature: the average length of life, the very time span or cycle of a nation has been proven in history to be approximately 250 years. Since the USA was born in 1776 this says we have about 14 years of life remaining for America. The way things are going we don’t doubt it. [Let me explain.] Words: 768
Governments everywhere are becoming more distressed and desperate as economic realities dominate the political doublespeak. The world is at a dangerous point. Much of what we thought we knew and assumed regarding governmental behavior and economics is beginning to be reassessed. Governments of the world are out of money and out of ideas. The ponzi scam that has been perpetrated for over fifty years is collapsing under its own weight. There are not enough suckers and capital left to sustain the fraud. [Let me explain further.] Words: 999
The coming economic collapse (Depression) is inevitable but the route taken to this ending is uncertain. The road has parallel routes, either a deflationary collapse or a hyperinflationary collapse. Which route is taken depends upon government so, which will it be? Words: 1350
We are in the latter stages of the debt death spiral where debt and interest payments can only be made by adding more debt. This process has a sure ending. Like the flush of a toilet, the spiral goes faster and faster until it finally ends. [Let me put forth just how serious the problem is.] Words: 431
At the risk of looking/sounding like some crazed religious fanatic usually seen carrying a sign or proclaiming: “Repent, the end is near,” I shall avoid the word “repent”. To me, the rest of that proclamation appears accurate and reasonable, at least with regard to our economic condition. [Let me explain:] Words: 1896
Interest rates have been manipulated to keep them extremely low in an attempt to stimulate the economy but…unless deficits are dramatically reduced…. interest rates will eventually rise and government interest expense will double or triple from the amounts being paid today. That potentially triggers a debt death spiral, where government has to borrow more than otherwise expected. It also raises the credit risk and could ratchet interest rates up again. It has happened to Greece, Portugal, Spain and other European countries already this year and could well happen in the U.S. too. Words: 595
When government is wounded, trapped and desperate, it lashes out like a wild animal. Survival in the political class is just as strong a drive as it is in the wilderness. I don’t know how government will lash out, but you are likely to see laws, restrictions and behavior you never imagined….Washington has demonstrated it will “print money” in whatever quantities necessary to stave off a sovereign bankruptcy and a Great Depression but this strategy cannot work forever because existing debt is already too high to be serviced. It is only a matter of time before the U.S. economy succumbs – unless it engineers a ‘soft default’ [which will save it's ass and get you shafted! Let me explain.] Words: 1394
The U.S. government has put us between the proverbial ‘rock and a hard place’. Cutting spending to improve our country’s financial situation would surely trigger rioting in the streets by those Americans most adversely affected yet not cutting spending will trigger much higher inflation – even hyperinflation – which will also result in rioting….Government cannot control how this ends. They may be able to tinker with the timing a bit and they still have the choice of poisons with which to destroy the country, [but] that the country is gone, that is no longer alterable. Words: 930
How this economic disaster ends is something about which many of us speculate. Two extreme endings are likely — a sudden deflationary collapse or a period of very high inflation/hyperinflation which ultimately cripples commerce and resolves itself in a deflationary collapse. In either case, the deflationary collapse is another Great Depression. It is important to know which route will occur because of what will happen to asset values along the way. Words: 1057
Money/credit expansion (inflation) is insidious and like an addictive drug. The first effects appear to be pleasant – a seeming increase, if not boom, in business; lower interest rates; more available credit and a decline in unemployment – BUT, unless the monetary stimulus is continued, and probably at increasingly higher doses, the temporary high disappears. Below is a sampling of what eventually happens when central bankers try to ‘help’ the economy by creating money out of nothing. Words: 799
Whether our current economic crisis will end with massive inflation or in a deflationary spiral (ultimately, either one results in a Depression) is more than an academic one. It is the single most important variable for near and intermediate term investing success. It is also important in regard to taking actions which can prepare and protect you and your family. [Here is my assessment of what the future outcome will likely be and why.] Words: 1441
The developed economies of the world have opened the money spigots…[and this] massive money and credit creation is sitting in the banking system like dry tinder just waiting for a spark to set it ablaze. How quickly it happens is anyone’s guess, but once it does we are likely to be enveloped in a worldwide inflation unlike anything before ever witnessed. [Let me explain further.] Words: 625
George Soros…is more concerned with surviving than staying rich…He doesn’t just mean it’s time to protect your assets. He means it’s time to stave off disaster. As he sees it, the world faces one of the most dangerous periods of modern history—a period of “evil.” Europe is confronting a descent into chaos and conflict. In America he predicts riots on the streets that will lead to a brutal clampdown that will dramatically curtail civil liberties. The global economic system could even collapse altogether. [I our opinion, though,[such comments ar nothing more than] the fear-based promotions of the power elite to frighten the middle classes into giving up power and wealth to globalist institutions. Let us explain.
As economic and political matters become more desperate in the U.S., so will what the government considers acceptable. If a debt default cannot be engineered via continuous inflation as the Fed’s current money-printing is attempting to do, it will occur via a direct repudiation of obligations or a quasi-surreptitious one such the hypothetical one I present in this article. Here is… a look (not a prediction) at a series of not improbable events that could develop [and which] would change our economic world overnight [ - and your financial well-being too]. Words: 1365
This analyst believes that when the perfect storm of converging criteria arrives, the financial earthquake will rapidly demolish the existing highly precarious financial system. Government will stand by helpless, unable to shield itself, much less its vulnerable citizens or private financial institutions from the tsunami of debt and currency destruction. 2013 is shaping up to be the blockbuster main event of the ongoing financial crisis. Massive amounts of new debt, vast quantities of additional digital dollars and the spark of higher interest rates will set off version 2.0 of the credit-driven financial implosion. Let me explain. Words: 1443
Everyone must be wondering where this “unprecedented global financial crisis”, (the World Bank’s words), is heading. What follows, for what they are worth, are my cogitations on this crisis. Words: 1641
Decisive policies must be urgently put in place to stop the euro area sovereign debt crisis from spreading and to put weakening global activity back on track. [If not we can expect to see a] massive escalation in economic disruption, an increase in the risk of a credit crunch [and] the global economy tipping into a recession. Words: 834
The U.S. is headed inexorably toward a systemic failure, a complete and utter collapse of the financial system. TARP and all the other machinations have not improved the underlying insolvency of the banking system. They have, however, deferred a collapse and ensured that it will ultimately be worse. [Let me explain.] Words: 1385
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has painted a stark picture of the global economy slashing the outlook for world growth while forecasting a damaging recession in Europe that will leave no country, including Canada and the U.S., unscathed. They have stated that financial conditions have deteriorated, growth prospects have dimmed, and downside risks have escalated and, as such, policymakers must immediately move forward together to save the world economy from falling into a 1930s-style death spiral because the longer corrective action is put off the worse it will actually get. Words: 640
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