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Is a U.S. Economic Collapse Imminent?

Max Borders, Author of “After Collapse” Weighs In

According to Max Borders, author of the book After Collapse: The End of America and the Rebirth of Her Ideals (2021), …

…. “Those seeds of collapse have been planted. The whole “thing” — i.e., America as we know it — could come down at any time. Our fragile human system, after all, is controlled in great measure by elites.”

Over the course of this 2022, a number of economic indicator lights have indeed been signaling a massive economic reset in America. Soaring inflation and housing costs, worker shortages, and topsy-turvy investment markets are all concerning signs. Added to this are businesses that are laying off scores of workers, particularly in the perennially red-hot tech sector.

Borders the founder and Executive Director of Social Evolution—a non-profit organization dedicated to liberating humanity through innovation in his book After Collapse: The End of America and the Rebirth of Her Ideals (2021) asserts that the seeds for an imminent collapse were planted back in 1913 when then President Woodrow Wilson ushered in the Federal Reserve Act, “conjuring into being what would become the most powerful central bank on earth.”

In terms of the road ahead for the U.S., he offers this sobering set of assessments from the book:

“One of the first things likely to happen is panic by the savvier elites. Investors will begin to withdraw funds from money market accounts, where many businesses keep resources to operate. Too many sudden withdrawals, and business will grind to a stop. This won’t be a shelter in place order, but rather organizations, like living organisms, bleeding to death.”

“Eventually, the U.S. government will get to a point where it can no longer step in to control this process as they have in the past. Put simply: we will reach the point at which they can no longer throw money at the problem. The wizards will only be able to watch it happen, as if in slow motion.”

“When the accounts dry up, the trucks will stop rolling. Communications networks will be spotty. Supermarkets will run out of food. People will get desperate. Crime will go up. Energy grids will experience blackouts as utility companies scramble to keep power flowing as fewer, weaker dollars trickle in. Armies of unemployed workers will roam the cities. A new class of beggars will carry small children to gain pity, but like dried beans or fresh fruit, pity will be harder to come by.”

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Max, how close do you believe we are to a game-changing reset of our global economic systems and world order? And do you believe it will be ignited by prevailing factors we are aware of or by a “Black Swan” (a la Nassim Taleb) event? 

I think we are within a decade of a significant reset of the global economic system. If it were a ‘Black Swan’ event, it would not be so predictable—by definition. But the global economy has too many structural problems we can point to today, such as the dollar functioning as the world’s reserve currency. The Federal Reserve Bank determines the dollar’s properties, and the Fed is running out of options to paper over all the problems and distortions. Too many countries use debt spending in service of short-term political gains. In the end, all of this is unsustainable. And inflation is a warning.

What sort of other indicators are you seeing in terms of a collapse?

We are also seeing the decoupling of sovereign funds and whole economies from the US dollar and broken economic ties flowing from souring international relations among great powers (and small). As ever, power is the problem. Energy markets are getting stranger, too, which will significantly influence the overall patterns of deglobalization. The apparent paradox in my books is this: we probably need more decentralization and globalization. Many people conflate globalization with globalism, but these are not the same. The latter means centralizing power in global bodies. The former means letting the peoples of the world trade with each other without interference from technocrats or authorities, even as they govern themselves from smaller niches/jurisdictions.

According to the narrative of your book After Collapse, what sort of cataclysmic impact do you believe this will lead to relative to the structural systems undergirding civil society? 

My most recent book, The Decentralist: Mission, Morality, and Meaning in the Age of Crypto (2022) is dedicated to doing the inner work of Decentralism. But when I hear words like “cataclysmic,” I can only assume you’re referring to my 2021 book, After Collapse: The End of America and the Rebirth of Her Ideals. Both books have something to say about why and how we must reconstitute civil society.

In After Collapse, I predict that the breakdown of American society along several dimensions will force us to turn to one another for mutual aid (after the titular collapse). But this is, I argue, as it should be. Large welfare-state bureaucracies and warfare-state industries – powered by transfer schemes – are the most significant drivers of debt spending. And the US government ran out of money long ago. Our masters – to mix metaphors – are kicking the can and coasting on fumes.

Therefore, we are floating around in a sea of unsustainable red ink–modern monetary theory (MMT) notwithstanding. MMT “experts” told the political class precisely what it wanted to hear: Spend more to buy constituent votes! But MMT is going to run squarely into that iceberg known as reality.

So how will we respond after the fallout? 

After that, we will have to count on our neighbors and communities to get through the worst. The Church of Politics will be in ruins. Yet this is the essence of civil society. Now, in The Decentralist, I add that systems of compassion (mutual aid/polycentric protection) instead of systems of compulsion (welfare/warfare state) help us practice our commitments. Through conscious, continuous moral practice, we become better people living in stronger communities. Welfare-warfare dependency crowds out mutual aid and polycentric protection, but the welfare-warfare state is in trouble.

To what extent do you believe that a collapse will result in a fundamental shift in global income equality and class structure? 

That is a great question. My short and candid answer is: “I don’t know.” If I had to guess, I’d say that relative inequality will probably be more or less the same, even as absolute poverty increases. Later, if we adopt better institutions, absolute poverty will go down – but we’ll have to get through the worst of it. Now, predictions are not prescriptions, so I ask your readers not to shoot the messenger.

The rich and powerful usually manage to take care of themselves and protect their capital. Protecting capital is generally a good thing, but protecting political power is not. So, instead of focusing on what the rich have, we must focus more on what the poor lack – and indeed why they lack it. To the extent that these major changes dismantle the rigged game, we could see absolute poverty go down once the dust settles. There will still be inequality as the world heals because inequality is a feature of nature. I frankly don’t care how much inequality there is as long as A) the richest can no longer buy power on auction, and B) the poorest see their condition significantly improved.

And how do you see decentralization playing into this? 

Now, decentralization is a big ole term that covers a lot of territory. But I think it’s important to focus initially on ways to decentralize governance and underthrow the “institutions” that got us into this mess. Once we’ve done that, we can create communities and smaller societies based on mutual aid and polycentric defense. Such ideas have the benefit of being both past-looking and future-looking. They are past-looking in that countless historical precedents demonstrate how strong communities and mutual aid contribute to human flourishing. They are future-looking because we benefit from technological innovation, which can elevate and scale mutual aid systems.

Your thoughts on Jack Dorsey’s recent remarks about pursuing a Web 5 model that upends centralized systems that have been championed as being decentralized?

I was admittedly a little thrown by “Web 5” because I missed what Web 4 is. Still, Dorsey is long on cryptocurrencies, especially Bitcoin. But as I argue in The Decentralist, the big reset in the cryptocurrency ecosystem needs to come first at the human level of the stack. In other words, change must come from the participants who create and use the technology. We must get religion. By get religion, I mean we need to put mission, morality, and meaning before money. And fast.

What do you believe is next for blockchain and cryptocurrency in terms of a reset?

In “crypto,” we are witnessing a Cambrian explosion of innovations. And that’s a good thing. There will be die-offs, too, as another crypto winter has set in. But die-offs are a necessary part of any evolved system. Evolution tends to select for value in ecosystems. The change we need right now – before the next phase – I spell out in the subtitle of The Decentralist. Too many token holders have a get-rich-quick mentality, which can amount to everything from innocuous-sounding ‘to the moon’ language to predatory scams and pump and dump schemes. If the masses continue to view crypto as a collection of digital trinkets and tokens in a zero-sum game, the bad actors could set the industry back decades.

Do you have any advice for the average, everyday citizens amidst the seismic changes taking place locally, nationally, and globally? What strategic (business and lifestyle) moves should we consider for staying above the fray?

I’m not a prepper. Nor am I very good at thinking like a prepper, but there is wisdom in taking stock of your basic necessities. Could you survive for a year if the economy collapsed, and nothing made sense anymore?

The first thing is to consider your situation in terms of basic self-sovereignty: food, shelter, and security. Then, do you know your neighbors? Can you collaborate with them? Can you look out for each other? We used to have “barn raisings” all over America. We need metaphorically to raise barns again. But that starts with getting your community organized for these contingencies. And that might not be so easy. Most people are just twiddling and fiddling while Rome America the world burns. Your neighbors might think you’re crazy if you come knocking. So be it.

This is not financial advice* yada yada, but try to gain exposure to cryptocurrency, gold, and real property. These assets are for security, not for “cashing out” or to be treated like tech stocks. They require steadiness, solidarity, and a long-term commitment.

As I reply, I can tell you that I would score woefully on some of the above suggestions, such as storing a year’s worth of food, but answering this question has inspired me to do better–before it’s too late.

What is your greatest hope in terms of what readers walk away from your books with? 

I want readers to walk away from After Collapse with a sense of self-possession. I want readers to find courage in the face of fear, sovereignty in the face of power, and goodness in a darkening world. We must lock arms with one another. But no one will want to lock arms with those who think that partisan preening or tribal signaling on social media is the extent of being good. We must, if you’ll forgive the cliche, be the change. 

Morality is the magisterium of human interaction and peaceful flourishing. I want people to read The Decentralist and After Collapse and get inspired to become happy warriors. Some early reviewers accuse me of being both cultish and antigovernment in my delivery. They’re not wrong. Though I have no desire to lead any cults, I had to take risks with my writing. We must all begin to look within ourselves and engage in rituals that will help us to become a more self-sovereign people. To many, this call to ascend smacks of moralism, not morality. But we will need these practices to get through the darkest times together.

Any final thoughts as we close?  

“If that sounds ‘cultish,’ so be it.

We must build a new society together from the bottom up. Otherwise, authorities might drag us into another Dark Age. Maybe, on the other side, we’ll find peace, freedom, and abundance together, even if we take somewhat different paths.”

Diamond-Michael Scott is a writer and chief curator of “Great Books, Great Minds” a global community that ignites world-class book experiences featuring non-fiction authors and reading evangelists. A long time independent journalist, his work had appeared in Libertarianism.org, Nasdaq.com, and Comstock’s Magazine among many others

 

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