04 November 2020

The United States is a failed state

 It's not that it looks like one; it's that it is one.

People have been working since the sixties to make it one.

Once you've got a plurality of the population (and a majority of the white settler population) who think it's illegitimate, it just is.  That's the definition of a failed state, even before you get into the "institutional armed groups who are not subject to civil control" and "widespread terrorism" and "institutional authority not accepted" (for example, Congress not enforcing subpoenas because collectively they can't imagine that they're allowed to do that.)

So, yes, people voted for Trump; they're voting to legitimise the state they believe in, which is a white ethnostate where there are no facts.  ("Educational divide" is excessively abstract; the complaint is that facts are those things that reduce their social status.  You cannot imagine how intensely they're against facts.)  This is why conspiracy theories are popular; it's a way to explain why what they want is necessary.

Lots of people did NOT vote for Trump.  They're voting for what they believe in, which includes notions of legitimate collective action, limits to profit, and a cosmopolitan inclusiveness that accords rights to everyone.  Thing this groups has not figured out is that the other group is incapable of admitting error, so traditional political processes involving compromise don't produce improvements to the circumstances.

I keep hoping they're going to learn.


Harold Henderson said...

Clear, cogent, and convincing. A lot more of us (US side) should have seen this coming at least as far back as 1981.

But what is the alternative? Secession?! Are there reasonably recent examples of failed states managing to come out of it somehow on their own? Do we wait for some East Asian conglomerate to play Marshall Plan to North America (for no plausible reason)? Or do we shelter in place, cultivate our gardens, reread Lincoln's second inaugural, and reflect on what might have been done before the mammonites and their dupes got the upper hand?

Graydon said...

+Harold Henderson

Y'all have (like the rest of the Anglosphere has) the awful legacy of white supremacy; "I am easily sunburned so I am so morally superior I can steal your stuff or murder you and thereby do right". This is not a defensible position if you have to defend it, and it's core to most of the settler Anglosphere in an axiomatic identity way. It's also obviously failed; here we are in a mass extinction from which we are in no way immune.

So you need, well, six things:

1. a general popular movement run by black women (give them money; give them power; start with those who have none; do not attempt to attain or retain control) to create the new axiomatic American identity
2. remonitization (never mind fighting about tax rates; replace the currency. The rich don't get the same amount back in the exchange process.)
3. income and asset caps set by multipliers of the lower of mean or median income
4. education; it's all public, it's job is to create a common universe of discourse
5. Uniform Justice
6. constitutional amendments that money is not speech, that it's a duty of citizenship to pay your taxes (allowing the income and asset caps), that the term of a federal justice is some fixed span of years which does not extend past their 75th birthday), that the limited liability corporation ceases to exist, and that all liability devolves on specific natural persons in proportion to their responsibility.

There's a whole lot of "so many problems come down to wages are too low" amorphously scattered about, but that is systemic side effect. Trying to fix it in the short term is worth doing but there's no structural fix short of something like that list.

Slybrarian said...

Two bright spots I see coming out of this current election are, first, that this country loves a 'winner' even more than people hate facts. With Trump now being a 'loser' and a respectable white guy still in charge, there may not be the same immediate backlash that we saw with Obama.Depending on what the exact numbers in the Senate are, it may be possible to peel off enough votes to get damage control underway, even if not on the scale fully needed.

Second, if we have to have a respectable white guy in charge, Biden seems to be one of the best possibilities. Someone willing to play second fiddle to a black man and then choose a black woman who did her best to eat his face off in the primaries as his VP suggests that he's firmly in the fact-accepting faction and he's willing to push toward the sort of realignment you suggest in #1 above.

Graydon said...


It's possible Joe has the gravitas to pull off "time for something new"; I doubt it, I think he's committed to the empire, but one never knows. Damage limitation is better than increasing the damage, but it's not sufficient unto the needs of the day.

Core issue is "how to stop doing extractive capitalism?"; this is complicated, because it hauls in "how do people stop being white?", "you're poorer than you think; spending from capital isn't income", and real structural issues around food security (we're losing it) and individual uselessness (widespread; lack of education, but also a structural lack of utility.) It also hauls in the problem of having society designed around guaranteeing wealth; you keep the loot forever however you got it. There's a lot of wealth, and thus agency, dedicated to keeping things working that way.

This is, by necessity, a time of full-on

The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils Himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.

It's implausibly difficult to get any acceptance of that from the people who feel they are, or should be, at the top of the heap; it's harder to get that from folks who feel they have everything to lose.

Since everyone right now has thoroughly internalised that what we're going to get from climate change is total social collapse, it's very much a staged political problem. Which imposes time constraints.

If Biden backs the young women of colour in his party to the wall, disdaining money and moving the whole party as far left as it will go, maybe. I don't see that happening. I see a Biden presidency as a "next time, be ready" sort of problem.