It’s becoming gradually more obvious that we’re living in a time when the official society is becoming less dependable and predictable.
Unlike most other modern states, for some brief decades, the United States government was able to make and fulfill a number of financial and social promises to its citizens and to fulfill them to the general satisfaction of its dependents. While there were many unintended consequences that came from programs like the raft of Great Society initiatives and Social Security, the government has been able due to some extraordinary circumstances to pay its checks on time with a little fudging here and there.
This is unusual because what’s typical for modern states is closer to what we see in Argentina: frequent defaults, state failures, revolutions, and civil wars. Few governments survive long enough to have their long-term obligations come due, whether due to internal problems or an attack from outside. In this way, its own longevity has become dangerous to the American state.
The United States is reverting to the international norm, both with its mass importation of foreign people and the various inevitable failures of government retirement and medical programs that have been predicted for decades in establishment publications.
Problems with the government in turn reverberate within all the legal constructs that are dependent on the government to survive: namely, the employer that signs your paycheck, the university administration that signs your diploma, and the beat cops that patrol your streets. When states begin to deteriorate, everything that depends upon state guarantees begins to lose coherence and predictability as well.
One of the main roles that the modern state performs is that it at least theoretically backstops all contracts, which makes it easier to do business with strangers and near-strangers. As that critical role becomes more theory and less practice, direct, unmediated trust becomes more critical for getting anything done. This means that it becomes more important to defect your primary loyalty to some combination of your family, ethnic group, religious affiliation, and quite probably gang or local business affiliation. This process is common within all collapsing states and need not be cause for all that much mourning, although it is cause for alarm.
Trust is a scarce resource, probably the scarcest resource in a society becoming increasingly chaotic, and it’s also crucial for constructing anything of consequence. Rather than having that resource provided to you for ‘free’ as an entitlement that comes with your birth certificate, you have to build it for yourself or pay in to an alternative network to gain access to it.
What we should expect to see is a contraction in the above-ground, official society, and a growth in the underground, unofficial society in which the work of actual survival can take place. Attempting to extract resources from the official network will become harder and less consistent, while extracting resources from the occluded networks will become easier and more profitable.
The choice is a lot easier today than it was in, say, 1980, when the trade-offs were less clear and the risks were higher. Now, participating in the official world, following the official advice, will bankrupt you more often than not, and leave you permanently frustrated with how much effort goes in for so little reward. Hybrid strategies in failing states can also be effective, as you keep one front for the official world, while keeping another operation underground.
This becomes more important over time as the members of the official society become more embittered, less predictable, and more desperate for funds. It is totally pointless to attempt to salvage a failing state, because that only extends the chaotic period, and frankly, a fast failure is better for that state than a drawn-out decline.