The Disunited States: America’s Collapse?

Gideon Rachman of the FT gives a sound thrashing to Mark Steyn and the other participants in a conference on “The Collapse of Europe” somewhere in Florida California. It’s always good to see the racist buffoon Steyn getting fisked, but there’s a deeper point here. What if it was the United States that was threatened by “collapse”?

After all, it is a society that faces some grave problems. Oil-intensity of GDP is surpassed only by China among industrialised economies, meaning that the US has a lot of distance to make up on its competitors on the way towards sustainability. The long-term population shift into Florida and the South-West was famously the result of air conditioning, which doesn’t look such a cracking idea any more. The Western states have always had problems with water, which so far have been coped with. Will they always be, especially with reduced snowpack in the Rockies hitting water supply and hydroelectric generation?

The economy, meanwhile, faces gargantuan twin deficits and a dollar sustained by the conditional support of the People’s Bank of China. In the event of a devaluation, how quickly can resources shift into exporting and import-competing sectors? Gigantic sums – hundreds of billions of dollars – are projected to be necessary to restore the US Army after it finally leaves Iraq.

But perhaps the most worrying feature is the increasingly vicious political polarisation, and its corollary, the increasing efforts each side of the partisan divide makes to withdraw into its own version of reality. We mentioned the re-direction of resources into the tradable sector of the economy, but will those resources be available in a nation of creationist “science” fairs? Solutions like this one aren’t for duffers. More importantly, the same distinction late Pentagon strategists like Thomas Barnett make between the “integrated core” and the “nonintegrating gap” was making itself plain in the US. (What else, after all, does the famous and prescient “United States of Canada/Jesusland” map illustrate?) Can a society include Intel ISEF and the Christian Soda Volcano show without tearing itself apart?

Similarly, exactly the same trends were making themselves felt demographically as in Europe, with a low birth rate among the existing population being masked by immigration, which is bitterly – and violently – resented by some sections of society. Perhaps they realise that, in the long run, immigration only strengthens the remaining outward-looking sections of society. US publicists boasted that Muslim immigrants to the United States were “more integrated” than in Europe, but on closer inspection this simply meant that nothing bad had happened yet.

These problems tested the constitutional fabric to the limit – consider the ugly confrontation between Alberto Gonzales and Thomas Comey by John Ashcroft’s hospital bed. Comey found it necessary to have his FBI security detail ordered to resist Gonzales’s Secret Service guards by force if necessary. By 2007, was it already too late for the United States to avoid its second Civil War? Even though the outbreak of violence on the California-Nevada line was unexpected, the forces that led to it had been around for years, and it is a truism that nobody ever realises it is happening to them until it happens. Hence the scenes of people going about their business as foreign nationals were evacuated on the EU amphibious assault ships.

It is certainly no more ridiculous than “Eurabia.”