In the more than 200 years since the American Revolution, we have faced existential crises three times: the Civil War, the Great Depression, and now.
Extreme economic inequality ultimately leads to political instability and often revolution. One scholar of comparative politics, surveying the literature on the subject, puts it like this: “Among contemporary political scientists it has become axiomatic that material inequality and political instability go together.”*
Yet virtually everyone who has studied the dangerous impact of extreme economic inequality on a wide variety of societies has effectively concluded that America is immune to the potentially disruptive effects of extreme inequality.
Even authors of political thrillers, who have created scenarios for coups and revolutions based on terrorism, assassinations, and enemy conspiracies, have avoided homegrown unrest: it just isn’t possible. The idea is effectively taboo in our society. We take it as an unalterable given that our constitutional system of governance, as supported by the people, is everlasting.
My contention is that unchecked and rising economic inequality is an indicator of a dysfunctional democracy that is spiraling downward. A careful historical analysis suggests such societies inevitably fall prey to internal collapse through conflict or corruption. The threat is real and increasing.
Arthur Schlesinger’s book The Cycles of American History. Schlesinger concludes that the threat of revolution is actually a part of the democratic process, serving as the ultimate reason for dissenting parties to agree upon reforms. Schlesinger writes: [T]he revolutionary challenge undermines the obstacles of imbecility and vested interest. The threat of violence may smooth the way for persuasion. Even the most intractable conservative, his back against the wall, will accept reform as an alternative to revolution.
“Since the times of Rameses,” commented Henry Adams, “revolutions have raised more doubts than they solved, but they sometimes have the merits of changing one’s point of view.”
==It Could Happen Here (Bruce Judson)
Excellent piece from John Whitehead, as usual. However, as with Sheldon Wolin’s concept of ‘inverted totalitarianism” which depicts a softer form of the tyranny of bureaucracy and elites, it is very, very likely that by the end of 2016, America will have moved over the line into a more classic form of police state fascism.
There will be tears from the eyes of those that still have the capacity to break through their ideological blinders and the propaganda of the state and understand what has befallen America and the world and they will not be the crocodile tears of the Narcissist in Chief whose last days in the Oval Office can not arrive soon enough. The tears we will shed are those over the death of America, of freedom, of our civil rights and very likely many citizens of this once great nation.
There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution.”—Aldous Huxley
FRESNO, Calif. — While officers raced to a recent 911 call about a man threatening his ex-girlfriend, a police operator in headquarters consulted software that scored the suspect’s potential for violence the way a bank might run a credit report. The program scoured billions of data points, including arrest reports, property records, commercial databases, deep Web searches and the man’s social- media postings. It calculated his threat level as the highest of three color-coded scores: a bright red warning.
As the U.S. engages in a national debate over the militarization of the police, federal data shows that government agencies charged with largely administrative roles are spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to purchase SWAT and military-style equipment.
Since FY 2006, 44 traditionally administrative agencies have spent over $71 million on items like body armor, riot helmets and shields, cannon launchers and police firearms and ammunition, according to federal spending data from watchdog group OpenTheBooks.com.