In last month’s blog, I mentioned the prediction of Johan Galtung that the American empire cannot last more than another two years. Is that likely, and if so, what will be the consequences?
Having witnessed the crash of a previous empire, I think is likely.
When I worked as a scientist in the Soviet Union in the 1970’s and 80’s, I could not obtain the materials that were needed for my lab. When I visited the well-equipped lab of another scientist who was my friend, he explained that he got his material from his connections in the military. The Soviet Union had decided to match the military forces of the West in the arms race, gun for gun, soldier for soldier and missile for missile. Since this was based on a gross economy only half as big, they had to devote twice as high a percentage of scientists, engineers and materials to the military. As Karl Marx had explained a century before, investment in the military is like throwing money into the sea. It is not productive. As a result, the Soviet empire crashed, first economically, then politically.
Long before Trump became President, the United States was throwing its money away into its military machine with bases and interventions around the world. And now with Trump it is even more exaggerated. The weakness of the American economy is masked by an elaborate financial system of speculation, greater than the actual economic production of the world, but the system of speculation is fragile. We can foresee that the dollar will crash, and with it the empire.
What will be the consequences?
Let us consider two precedents, the crash of the Soviet empire and the economic crash of the Great Depression.
1) Economically, most people will suffer. There may be runs on the banks and lack of access to savings. There may be devaluation. In the case of the Soviet Union it was a devaluation of something like 10,000 between 1990 and 1996. For pensioners with savings of 100,000 rubles, they now had savings of the equivalent of 10 rubles. They lined the streets trying to sell what goods they had in order to have money to eat. In the US in the Great Depression, people lost their savings, but there was still a sizable number of people living in small farms who could produce something to eat. Now, almost a century later, most people live in cities. What will they eat if they have no money?
2) Key aspects of the global economy will be fragile. Of special significance is the global transport of oil which is carried primarily in tanker ships. Between 1929 and 1932, lacking money to finance their voyages, the number of ships at sea fell by 75%. Imagine a fall of 75% in oil arriving by ship! No oil for trucks. No deliveries to grocery stores . . .
3) For centuries now there has been a constant trend towards urbanization. Imagine the consequences if that is suddenly reversed and in order to eat, people have to flee the cities for the countryside . . .
4) Access to international transport and communication will be vulnerable. Will we still be able to go from one place to another? Will we still have internet and telephone?
5) Ironically, the one institution that will probably be of most emergency help is the military. They have stocks of oil and food, effective communication and transportation systems.
6) Also ironically, the advance of global warming may be slowed down, since the American empire, its military, its industry, its transportation systems, air conditioning, etc., has been the greatest producer of pollution.
7) Politically, there will be severe problems for those countries depending on the American empire. A case in point is Israel. Without American money and American military support, how can they continue to maintain their system of apartheid?
8) Big countries also depend on the American dollar. The reserve holdings of China and Japan are in dollars. Their economies will suffer. Not the mention Western Europe, where the effects of an American crash may be expected to mirror the effects of the Soviet crash on Eastern Europe a generation before.
If the preceding analysis is anything near correct, we need to be preparing now for radical action. As concluded in last month’s blog, the crash of the American empire could open a window of opportunity for a transition from the culture of war to a culture of peace.
At the same time, there is a serious danger of transition to fascist governments, instead. During the Great Depression in Europe, it was HItler, Mussolini, Franco, Pétain. In the United States, the Business Plot. As a result, in the years that followed, European fascists presided over terrible concentration camps and wars. The risk of war will be greater than ever.
The preparation for a transition to the culture of peace is truly urgent ! Tomorrow may be too late !