In nature, there are cycles. In politics, there are cycles. In economies, there are cycles. In the evolution of the U.S.A., there are cycles.
As systems evolve through cycles of growth and decline they manifest three interdependent types of challenges: tensions, disturbances, and scarcities.
In the U.S. internal tensions include: ‘left vs. right’, ‘public sector vs. private sector’, ‘urban vs. rural’, and let’s face it, ‘white vs. all the people whites have exploited.’
Disturbances include national security threats such as: ‘terrorism’, ‘international conflict’, and ‘climate change’.
Inputs and output scarcities: the greatest scarcities are natural resource and energy scarcity relative to rates of consumption, as well as pollution sinks.
Any system which grows, reaches a steady state, and declines confronts internal tensions, external disturbances, and scarcities. These three dimensions tend to reflect to each other.
The U.S. will not go down easy. We’ve fought a civil war, developed done bombing technology to wipe our terrorists and entire communities which host them, and you can bet we will continue to fight for access to cheap energy.
There is a fourth quality of a system which goes through cycles. Identity. Who is the U.S.A. in the world. What happens now that we are no longer the most free, the most democratic. What happens now that we are no longer the economic super-power. What happens when we are no longer the cultural leaders, the envy of the world? What happens when we no longer want to police the world? Who is the U.S.A. when the U.S.A. is not young, creative, and powerful.
Today’s world moves rapidly. We cannot be sure, under which time tables this evolution will occur. As we transition, we will be overleveraged financially and socially. We will make all of the same mistakes every other country has made. We will overextend ourselves economically and militarily, we will promise more to the people than we can afford, the elite will fight to control their position, we will develop technologies which overleverage our ecosystem. However, the extent of each of these mistakes is unknown.
Meanwhile, we can embrace our place in the world, and delay the inevitable, perhaps for many glorious centuries. We can move through societal syntheses, among left and right, government and private sectors. We can focus on providing green technologies, free of charge to developing nations and empower women along the way. We can decrease our military power and increase our social, economic and ecological interdependence.
We can transition from an economy based on growth, on rampant materialism and consumption, to one based on determining the ideal size of the economy — the size which balances our needs with the extrinsic and intrinsic value of nature.