18 January 2007

Collapse gap

Dmitry Orlov's talk Closing the Collapse Gap is fascinating, sweeping, witty, and terrifying. It's long and troubling, but strangely entertaining ... and worth your time.
I am not an expert or a scholar or an activist. I am more of an eye-witness. I watched the Soviet Union collapse, and I have tried to put my observations into a concise message. I will leave it up to you to decide just how urgent a message it is.

My talk tonight is about the lack of collapse-preparedness here in the United States. I will compare it with the situation in the Soviet Union, prior to its collapse. The rhetorical device I am going to use is the “Collapse Gap” — to go along with the Nuclear Gap, and the Space Gap, and various other superpower gaps that were fashionable during the Cold War.
My conclusion is that the Soviet Union was much better-prepared for economic collapse than the United States is.

He makes a good case, unfortunately.


Erik said...

I find his premise unconvincing and his comparison faulty. In particular, he asserts that

* "The US will collapse (economically and politically) at some point."
* "But one of the best-known facts about empires is that they do collapse. No exceptions."

There is faulty logic at work here, namely the assumption that the US is an empire. We're a Republic, not an empire; while it's true that small groups can manipulate the political process to great short-term benefit, it's equally true that competition from other such groups can (and will, as demonstrated in the midterm elections) disrupt the seeming unilateral rule of any single group.

* "Balky (sic), unresponsive, corrupt political system, incapable of reform."

While I'm an unabashed critic of the current administration and the system of kickbacks and lobbyist perks, even I draw the line at absolute terms like "incapable of reform." One of the major differences between the former Soviet Union and our own system is that reform-minded individuals do not get 4am wake-up calls from unidentified men in grey suits here in the US. We remain vigilant about violations of our Civil Liberties, and while we have not had overwhelming success in reversing bad policy decisions by bad politicians and their unqualified appointees, we have made some progress in keeping them in check.

* "Elements of organized crime, former military, and former law enforcement meld into new power structures (very messy)."

The former military and law enforcement of the old USSR _were_ organized crime; they just put more flags on it. The collapse of the USSR was more a transfer of power from one oligarchy to another.

Like most of what I hear on KPFA, I see plenty of good points in this, but they're overshadowed by the language of screed.

Jonathan Korman said...

the language of screed

In the places you point to, I read him as being flip rather than shrill—exaggerating a bit for whimsy.

F'rinstnace, the US surely is an empire in the sense of maintaining a network of client states through military and economic power ... and recent events have demonstrated the erosion of both. This is hardly incompatible with being a republic—consider the early days of the Roman empire.