Social Change Will Upend the Status Quo

The core narrative of the Status Quo is that nothing fundamental needs to be changed: all the problems can be solved with more “free money” (borrowed from the future at low rates of interest) and a few policy tweaks such as Universal Basic Income (UBI) (the topic of my new book Money and Work Unchained).

This core narrative is false: everything needs to change, from the bottom up.And that of course terrifies those gorging at the trough of status quo wealth and power.

The power structure can manipulate financial metrics, but it can’t manipulate rising wealth/power inequality or social discord. Whatever you think of President Trump, his election is a symptom of profound social discord–discord which author Peter Turchin explains is cyclical and cannot be squashed with phony reforms like UBI or police-state repression.

The nation is fragmenting because the Status Quo is failing the majority of the citizenry. The protected few are reaping all the benefits of the Status Quo, at the expense of the unprotected many.

As I have outlined many times, this unsustainable asymmetry is the only possible outcome of our socio-economic system, which is dominated by these forces:

1. Globalization–free flow of capital, labor arbitrage (workers must compete with the lowest-cost labor around the world).

2. Nearly free money from central banks for bankers, financiers and corporations.

3. Pay-to-play “democracy”– wealth casts the only votes that count.

4. State protected cartels that privatize gains and socialize losses.

5. A political system stripped of self-correcting feedback and accountability.

Once you understand the inputs and structure, you realize there is no other possible output other than unsustainably expanding debt and wealth/income inequality. Policy tweaks cannot change the output; all they do is provide an illusion of reform that serves the need of those at the top to obscure the systemic injustices and unsustainability of the extractive, exploitive, predatory, parasitic system that’s enriching them.

What do people do when centralized systems fail to deliver what was promised? They fragment into smaller “tribes” and find fewer reasons to cooperate in centralized systems. As historian-economist Turchin explained in his 2016 book Ages of Discord, human history manifests cycles of social disintegration and integration in which the impulse to cooperate in large social structures waxes and wanes.

Turchin identified 25-year cycles that combine into roughly 50-year cycles, comparable (though not identical with) Kondratieff’s proposed economic cycles.

These 50-year cycles are part of longer 150 to 200-year cycles that move from cooperation through an age of discord and disintegration to a new era of cooperation.

This work draws upon his previous books, including War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires, which I referenced in Following in Ancient Rome’s Footsteps: Moral Decay, Rising Wealth Inequality (September 30, 2015) and The Lesson of Empires: Once Privilege Limits Social Mobility, Collapse Is Inevitable (April 18, 2016).

These long cycles parallel the cyclical analysis of David Hackett Fischer, whose masterwork The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History I’ve referenced many times over the years, most recently in We’ve Entered an Era of Rising Instability and Uncertainty (July 18, 2016).

Turchin’s model identifies three primary forces in these cycles:

1. An over-supply of labor that suppresses real (inflation-adjusted) wages

2. An overproduction of essentially parasitic Elites

3. A deterioration in central state finances (over-indebtedness, decline in tax revenues, increase in state dependents, fiscal burdens of war, etc.)

These combine to influence the social order, which is characterized in eras of discord by declining loyalty to self-serving special interests (disintegration) and in eras of cooperation by a willingness to compromise for the good of the entire society (integration).

Gordon Long and I discuss 2018: Year of Accelerating Social Change (Part 1)(15 minutes) in our latest program:


My new book Money and Work Unchained is $9.95 for the Kindle ebook and $20 for the print edition.

Read the first section for free in PDF format. 

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  • Sparticus

    The problem you leave out of your Planned Disaster is that people are Evil. People will always abuse their brothers and sisters so that they can dream. Government is evil because it consists of people. Therefore, it is good of people to call government, a government by the people, evil, because they are acknowledging their own evil in the process whether they know it or not. Man will never exist harmoniously with anything because it is not in his/her DNA. Mankind will only seek to Conquer, Enslave and Destroy.

    Now, as to your economic theory, and someday, one of your pathetic leaders will get this right. However, ALL currency is worthless … ALL CURRENCY. Currency is only an agreement to exchange services for said “faith” in currency. Debt has no meaning ( a Super-Power is not Subject to debt like JOE BLOW) and is arbitrary meaning it can be erased or created by the Will of the State. No power exists that can order or command the US government; and therefore, if the other nations do not OBEY, the Super-Power, they end up Dead and they know it; So, America enjoys the benefit of Owning the World. IF Americans could get these basic items into their brains they would understand their potentials are unlimited. NO MORE POVERTY … NO MORE SLAVERY. You only suffer because YOU, America, Allow it.

    Hitler knew what was up for grabs … And, HE offered his troops Castles and Land. Hitler was a Nice Guy Compared to America. America gave its Troops “nothing” but took Greedily for its Nobility. The last world war was about who will dominate the planet and it all fell into the US lap. People need to stop looking at their own finances thinking that those limitations apply to government. You are a slave, Government is God. Figure it out.

    This is all very simple, Very Basic … If anyone steps out of line they will be Killed, Jailed, or Worse. If any Nation steps out of the Supreme edict of the US Superpower it will cease to exist. IF … the world steps out of line … The World will Be Ended. Simply, everyone OBEYS because they are fearful creatures incapable of fighting back.

    Stop bickering over pennies … WAKE UP and SMELL THE COFFEE! The World is Yours America so Get your Share. Tell Wall Street, PAY UP, or ELSE. LEARN to BE LIKE YOUR Government, because they are Smarter than YOU. They will only allow `”you to prosper,” when they fear YOU, America, and you are no threat to them right now, Matter of Fact, You amuse them. Peace is for Slaves to be Ruled. So, Stop falling for the PEACE psy-op. History never got anywhere with peace. You are dealing with bloodthirsty warmongers not Gandhi. Mankind is Evil, Not Good, So … ” Wake up and Smell the Coffee!” History says, ” I am correct.”

  • Sparticus

    Live in Denial. There is absolutely nothing that will change until mankind learns and accepts truth. Mankind is Evil by Nature. Government is a government by and for the people; therefore, if government is evil the people are evil.

    Currency has NO Value only the Faith put in its promise. Debt is arbitrary based on the WILL of the STATE. All of your economic Theory is SLAVE THEORY; because it omits the POWER of the STATE to Make WAR and end all Life on the Planet in 30 minutes or less: “FACTOR THAT INTO ALL YOUR THEORY!” US Government is God.

    The STATE is not a Person ( or slave); and therefore, cannot be given an allowance or Debt/Credit Limit. Doing so will only Destroy its Power to Do anything good for its people. The Corporations ( slave masters) are much worse than Government: Most are blood sucking vampires living off of State Welfare Contracts only they are too stupid and delusional to know who butters their bread. Corporations cannot even pay workers living wages. Working for them is Self-destructive.

    Until, people wise up and lean to be like Government, because they are smarter than YOU, there will never be Change. Simply, You are all dominated and possessed slaves. You cannot deal with government peacefully because Government is not GANDAHI. The Warmongers who run your Asylum will end you (mankind) before they give up their power. Peace is for government to rule over YOU. You can fight them by taking away what they love the most … “Profit.” Wall Street is wide open people!

    Figure it Out.

    History says, I am Right.

  • ICFubar

    Smith knows what’s going down. While there are several cycle theories with plausibility it is my opinion that the financial class is the big player and its conduct under well understood principles of law and monetary realities, perfected through millennia, that bind and entrain of the population, are the cycles to pay attention to. One of these is based on a seventy cycle at which time bankruptcies can either be foreclosed upon or renewed if sufficient collateral is in place. For America the first cycle started when the Constitution was inaugurated for the bankrupt entity of the new USA. Seventy years later we see the American Civil War which results in the institution of the Civil Rights Act and Lieber Code (later internationalized in Geneva Conventions) for the conduct of military occupying forces which places the population into a body known as the public. Another seventy years and we see a financial collapse and the institution of the Banking Emergency Act under a national emergency declaration and the ending of neutrality for American citizens under The Trading with the Enemies Act and other legislation that places the citizenry in a body known as the ‘public’ under commercial law. These and other ‘events’ (The Fed, ending the gold backed dollar etc) were steps taken through time to get the public in a place under law where the looting thereof becomes lawful. We are currently far advanced into the next monetary collapse which is now overdue.

  • Shiggity

    My biggest problem is that the status quo is basically the 65+ population of the US and Charles Hugh Smith is apart of said population.

    That is the generation that will be known forever for socializing losses and privatizing gains. A true vampire generation, sucking the blood of the young to sustain themselves.

    People keep saying the 99% vs the 1%, but it was the boomers who completely sold the western hemisphere out. But hey, Charles Hugh Smith is apart of the golden generation, I mean whatever, he had a great life, who cares now?

    • Sparticus

      Actually, the Boomers were a Big part of the selling of Americas Soul ( Industry/Manufacturing to slave labor) and the Break-Up of Organized Labor; but it was the so called “Great Generation” ( before boomers) who were more responsible. They took early retirement in trade for signing forfeiture agreements allowing union disbandment. They took everything their greedy little hears desired so could retire early and collect SS. Naturally, their children/grandchildren went without JOBS and Healthcare! Sick People. And, yes, these “GREED CRAZED FOOLS” ( evil people) are grossly represented in Government … JUST LOOK AT THOSE SICK GEEZERS! They better like the Nursing Home, and that`s what they will get, because they earned it.

  • Sparticus

    And, since nobody else can say it … I will say it Again: ” Wall Street can be taken and Controlled by the people.” The Constitution authorizes “citizens arrest” and use of force to deal with corrupt entitles that pose a national security risk to the American people. Wall Street owns Your Government, America. You are authorized, by the Constitution, to take it back. You would also be compensated for your time protesting if you short that PIG.

    There are 6-Million people living in poverty in NYC alone … This should be Cake, People! You want a peaceful revolution, put 6-million people on Wall Street and Demand Change. You will get anything you demand or government and every corporation on the planet will go BK. If Government resists Corporate America and the NWO will want to CUT GOVERNMENTS THROAT! No BS. This is how YOU OWN YOUR ENEMY, AMERICA.