My time in the 3rd world has totally disillusioned me to the idea of “collapse”, simply because there’s a lot of room between a functional government and collapse — which almost never actually happens.
There are four types of state:
A functional state works great, everything runs smoothly, it has its problems but things get done and it’s hard to encounter a failing system or institution. This was America 30 years ago, for example.
In a semifunctional state, the problems are deeper. Some systems don’t work as well, or are rife with fraud and corruption, or start to break, but largely the impact on the public is limited. There may be a handful of failing institutions/systems, but overall, things aren’t bad.
In a semidysfunctional state, the problems become rot, and more systems fail, but enough of the government works for it to limp along. People accept what works and what doesn’t, and navigate the broken parts. This state of governance is terminal but is the easiest to sustain.
Only then can a state begin to collapse, entering dysfunctional/failed territory, if the decline is not arrested. Little works across the board. What is emblematic of a dysfunctional state is the rise of competing governance within its borders that goes unchallenged.
- In Somalia, you have warlords who govern more effectively than the state, providing electricity, infrastructure, education, and administration at significantly higher levels of competence than Mogadishu, for example.
- In Mexico, the government failed to provide security so totally that there are pockets where avocado growers have more or less expelled local and federal security forces and govern themselves, and things have never been better. …
Where are we now?
Most states hover between Semi-functional and Semi-dysfunctional in a state of limbo.
America, is more semifunctional than functional at this point, but it is not semidysfunctional (the third world) or even close to dysfunctional/failed. …
America can be fixed because we can remember what it used to be like — most semidysfunctional states simply have no memory or conception of a better way, but the worse it gets, the more those memories fade, the more it’s consigned to semidysfunctional territory. …
Many of America’s problems are political — there are certain interested groups preventing fixes from occurring as the brokenness benefits them. This is completely different from a fundamentally broken system that can’t fix itself even if it tried, like many third world countries. …
What is dysfunction like?
If you can change a person and fix the problem, that’s mismanagement, not dysfunction. In a lot of third-world semidysfunctional/dysfunctional countries, you can’t just put in a new person and solve the problem, things are malfunctioning society-wide and it’s not just exclusive to the government. Things you take for granted simply aren’t there.
It’s less about “wow, it’s been forever since this pothole has been fixed” and more about the roads are in such terrible shape that walking on them can cause injury or driving on them can damage your car, and no one is coming around to replace the road. …
Your power shuts off for no reason. Critical utilities are almost impossible to communicate with. The local hospital will almost certainly kill you if you get admitted. You can’t drink the water. You lose water pressure without warning. The police only exist to be bribed. The justice system is a big racketeering operation. The meat from the local market, though brand new, inexplicably spoils immediately. You have to check the salads you get at local restaurants for worms. Your internet service provider lacks a coherent billing mechanism. … There’s armed security at every business. It’s a cash-based society where the ATMs never work.
And 50 years hence in the West? Forget about social security payments.
This could all be turned around if our ruling class could just bring themselves to have less, and to reverse many of the policies of the last 60 years.