New Economy

Collapse Is Already Here — And It’s Spreading

I Don’t Know If You’ve Noticed — But Our Systems are Breaking Down


When I look at the world today, I see something chilling. Collapse is already here — and it’s spreading. And next to it is the curious juxtaposition of pretending that life will go on “normally.” I’ve warned for some time now that we’re entering an age of collapse, where our great systems will fail — and if you look around now, you can see it beginning to happen.

We’re going to talk about this in three forms — political, economic, and social systems — and on two levels, national and global systems. What’s alarming — oh no, am I an alarmist? — is that now our systems are visibly beginning to fail, and fail incredibly swiftly, in all of those ways.

Let’s begin with some obvious examples. In America, at the moment, you can’t get…baby formula. Think about that for a second. The richest country in the world can’t provide baby formula for its people. What on earth? It’s a vivid example of system failure. What kind of system? In this case, economic systems.

Could you have imagined a world without…baby formula…a decade or two ago? You’d better start imagining one now. What economic system failure means, boiled down to its most brutal and simplest level, is that our economies will not be able to provide the basics, as we enter the Event, the climate cataclysm that will cleave history in two.

Right now, a wave of mega-inflation is surging around the globe. It’s driven largely by climate change — and our nonexistent “response” to it. Harvests are failing, goods are getting harder and harder to distribute and ship, and raw materials are harder to source and attain. Inflation is going to keep rising — for the rest of our lives, with maybe a pause here and there. And as inflation goes on rising, the average person will get poorer.

But poorer doesn’t just mean “less money,” though that’s bad enough. Poorer, on a civilizational level, means what happened in America. You can’t get things anymore. Basic things. Baby formula. But there’s a long, long list of things you can’t get in America, too. Decent healthcare, affordable medicine, safety from gun massacres, bodily autonomy if you’re a woman. This is what happens when societies get poorer. Shortages become the norm. You can see them beginning to happen in vivid, shocking detail now. Empty shelves are becoming the new normal. The age of abundance is over.

Our economies have failed. And they’re going to continue to fail. That brings me to failing social systems.

Think of how many generations our economies have failed at this point.

Boomers were the last ones to really live the dream — since then, our economies have been in decline, and that decline has accelerated rapidly. Gen X had it worse than Boomers, but not so bad as to cause total despair — enough to be comical. Millennials had it worse than Gen X — and they can’t afford to move out of their parent's homes, or start families, so birth rates are declining. Zoomers have it far, far worse than Millennials — they’ll never be able to retire, they can’t get decent jobs, and their lives are over before they began.

There’s a word to sum all that up — intergenerational inequality. What does intergenerational inequality do? It destroys the possibility of functioning social systems. Someone has to pay for them, after all — from retirement systems to post offices to hospitals and universities and so forth. Social systems must be funded from the public purse. But when people are struggling harder, generation after generation, getting poorer, there’s less left over to invest.

This is the real reason why young people are apathetic about politics. They know they can’t change anything even if they try. They don’t have the money, so what’s the point? Sure, they can vote in politicians who want to build social systems — and sometimes they do, like AOC or who have you. But those politicians are left powerless in the end, because societies in which generation after generation is getting poorer cannot afford to be functioning societies at all.

This isn’t just an American problem, of course — America never had many social systems thanks to the bitter legacy of apartheid, since social systems are for all. It’s a European problem, a worldwide problem. Even European social democracy is barely hanging by a thread at this point. In gentle Canada, extreme conservatives rise time and again. People who get poorer give up on politics. Downward mobility is the end of democracy. It creates a vicious spiral of poverty, apathy, and resignation because even if you want a functioning society, nobody can afford one, so what’s the point?

What happens without good social systems, though? People’s lives fall apart, even faster. They grow uneducated. Ill. Distrustful and hostile. Their minds narrow and their spirits wither. It is nowhere common to rub shoulders. Life becomes individualistic, a bitter struggle, in which everyone else is regarded with suspicion, an enemy. In the absence of community provided by real social systems, from libraries to parks to great and grand ones like retirement or educational systems, people turn to pre-modern forms of community in their search for belonging and meaning. They turn to fundamentalist religion. Conspiracy theory. They grow radicalized and look to crackpot theories like “The Great Replacement” in despair and confusion. Hate takes over when the community dies.

Hate is spreading like wildfire through our societies. Read this terrible, heartbreaking story about a teacher in Florida who had to resign because she couldn’t tell her kids the truth if they asked her who she was married to — even after those kids, curious about her because they loved her, found her wedding videos online. To another woman. You can’t even say the word gay to kids in her state. That is a form of annihilation. And that kind of hate is cancer now metastasizing in our social bodies. Everyone from women to kids to minorities is under constant, relentless, brutal attack — and sometimes, more often, now, in the form of a massacre. Hate leads to violence. It’s an iron law of history.

In this way, economic collapse leads to social collapse. When people grow poor when systems can’t provide basics, what happens? People turn on each other. They turn backward, to fundamentalist religion, in a search for belonging, in a quest for the safety of the tribe, just for salvation, even just an explanation. They turn to fascism and fanaticism. They look to strongmen to bring order to the chaos surrounding them.

Conflict becomes the new normal. Have you noticed how our societies are now in intense, bitter, prolonged conflict? The far-right against everyone else? This is why. Economic system collapse has led to social collapse. The bonds between people have ruptured, been torn apart, to the point where they don’t exist at all. The far-right regards everyone else — women, gays, minorities, liberals, social democrats — as subhumans. That is how badly social bonds have frayed. And where once it used to be a tiny fringe, now it’s a potent political force, from America to Canada to France and beyond.

That brings me to my next form of collapse.

Conflict is taking over as our societies collapse. And that conflict is worsening. In America, accelerating violence on a shocking scale now barely even makes the headlines. There have been 198 mass shootings this year aloneAnd we’re not even halfway through. And that is just the terrifying surface of a deeper conflict, over who gets to be a person at all. The far-right openly now wants to take away basic freedoms from anyone who doesn’t agree with it, and just as openly proclaims it’s going to end democracy in a year or two’s time.

In Europe, that conflict might still seem civilized, and it is. But it will spread there soon enough, too, as the far-right continues to gain power globally. What happens when the first great European social democracy falls? What happens to NATO, the EU, and the project of peace in Europe? Europe too will not escape this megatrend of conflict spreading — and of course, this is what Russia’s war on Ukraine is about: hate and violence, ignited by economic failure.

Underlying all of that is a dismal truth.

Our democratic systems barely work anymore. At all. They are failing in spectacular ways now. In America, a Supreme Court is taking autonomy from women — in ways Europeans would find absolutely shocking. They won’t be able to cross state lines, their personal information will be monitored, and even buying a pregnancy test will be risky, and “aiding and abetting” them will be a crime. That Supreme Court is doing it against the wishes of 70% of Americans. Think about what a thunderous failure of democracy that is.

Of course, this is the leading edge of a revolution America’s fanatics and theocrats, and supremacists have long wanted. After they make women breeders and turn their lives into Gilead, they’re going to come for minorities. Already, they talk about reinstituting segregation — under the guise, of course of “freedom.” Hey, I should be free not to have to sit next to you! They’ve already come for gay people — imagine, if you’re a European or Canadian, that saying the word gay to a kid is now against the law.

This is where the fanatics want to take us — and they won’t stop at America. They will come for Europe and Canada and everyone else next. That is because they are a global movement, with global aims. They want to create a kind of theocratic Western super-state. They believe the “white race” is “being replaced” or “going extinct.” They don’t understand that failing birth rates are a function of failing economies, not immigrants and liberals colluding to perform genocide on the master race. Their vision is a kind of Caliphate for the West — a religious super-state, governed by Christian Sharia Law, in which only the pure of blood and true of faith are real people at all.

They meet one another and talk to one another and learn from one another, these fanatics. Tucker Carlson is friends with Viktor Orban is friends with Marine Le Pen and they’re all backed by Rupert Murdoch and now Elon Musk. They are a global movement, and increasingly, people back then. People back then because our systems are failing. Failing to the point of not even being to provide baby formula. And so people are choosing to regress, to revert back to older forms of order. Better to be a peasant under Duke Carlson and Sh*tlord Musk — at least that way, I have a place. I have a chance. I have to belong to something again — even if it’s the ridiculous fantasy of a theocratic-fascist Western Caliphate for the master race, which is the victim of a genoical global conspiracy to drink its kids blood.

This is how badly our systems have failed. People believe this stuff, ardently, to the point that they will back lunatics, hate their neighbors, give up on democracy, and revert right back to feudalism, fascism, and theocracy. The average person in life — what do they want? Belonging, meaning, stability, security. That’s about it. But if systems don’t give them that in a positive way — a community of equals, relationships, trust, meaningful work, a stable position in social life, a social contract that guarantees a certain level of stability — then they will seek it in a negative way. They will revert back to just wanting someone to obey, someone to hate, something to kill, and something to worship. The average person will happily, stupidly, blindly, desperately go right back to the Stone Age, in what are microseconds to history, if and when systems fail — and that is what is happening to our world now.

And it’s accelerating. Right now, you can’t get baby formula because of oligopolies and supply chain issues. Tomorrow, it’s going to be much worseThink of everything that’s made with wheat. Think of everything that’s made with water — which includes you. Think of everything that needs to be shipped across an ocean. Everything that’s made with tiny bits of rare earth. The list goes and on and on, and it includes everything. How long does an air conditioner work at 51 degrees Celsius? How long does an energy grid last when an entire continent scorches? How long does an economy last when it can’t afford, find, manufacture, or produce the basics anymore? How long does a society last when it can’t get them?

The primate brain takes over when the project of civilization dies. Peace and understanding are only possible when there is enough to go around. When there’s not, hate takes over. This is of course why poor countries have always struggled to be democracies. But now this is the future for all of us.

Our systems are failing now, just like I warned. You can see it happening in almost every headline — it’s the story behind the story. It will accelerate from here and only get worse. Unless we ever do something about it.