Good ol’ U.S.A.
Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. We love one another, but hate one another at the same time. The country tries to forge an identity, but there’s too much diversity to coherently define an “American.”
So why hasn’t the United States broke apart like so many other failed states? Why is it that the shortest constitution in the world is also the longest lasting? And, could the U.S. dissolve in the future?
All interesting questions, and I’ll address a few of them … NOW:
First of all, the U.S. is pretty stable (despite propaganda otherwise), and there are really only a handful of times in history when the country was in real threat of dissolution.
Times when the United States WAS in threat of dissolution: The first instance, and most-notorious, was the Civil War. At that time, there was a real threat the the American project was going to fail. I mean really, half of the country decided to make a confederation; so that was pretty serious.
Second, some say, was when the Vietnam era fractured class and racial lines so severely that the country’s stability was in question. In my humble opinion, I would say it was more civil disobedience, rather than conflict — but that disobedience could be the first stage of civil conflict. This instance is debatable … but I wasn’t even born then, so you old timers, I’ll give it to you.
Thus there are really only two distinct times in American history when the state-federation system was threatened. Why so few times?
The most-important aspect is the government’s ability to assert authority and institutionalize.
And what is institutionalization, you ask?
It’s the process of making government an institution, rather than simply another organization. And, as an institution, the US government has FAR more credibility than any common company, organization, or group.
— Institutions have history, longevity, physical buildings, steady budgets, mass reach, consistent employment, reputations, and, most importantly, they successfully serve a function.
While most companies serve a purpose, and do so successfully, there is something distinctly different between a company and institution.
Example: the difference between your local grocery store and Coca-Cola; one is a simple company and the other claims legitimacy, and EVERYONE knows Coca-Cola, and accepts it’s impressiveness in scale, history, and production.
… When you think about the American bureaucracy, you probably don’t love it, but you recognize its authority, and thus you abide by its laws. For the most part, people follow motor vehicle laws and get driver’s licenses, insurance, and such stuff. Most people listen to police, because they have authority to put people in jail. The IRS effectively extracts tax money, and people only allow that source to take its money. Social services reliably gives services to low-income families or those of us out of work.
While you may not agree with a specific bureau, you do recognize that it’s a legitimate authority, and has some form of power. Also, some people rely on those organizations for services, or as employers — and those organizations consistently deliver on mass scales for both workers and recipients.
While I know not all people buy into the bureaucracy, a vast majority does, and that equates to stable government, and government is the backbone of any society, because it’s the decision-making structure. Without government, there would be no formal way to make decisions about anything, hence nothing would get done because everyone would yell and hate each other.
I guarantee you that most failed states around the world first and foremost failed to institutionalize their governments, either because they favored some segment of society, or nobody recognized their authority.
For future reference: If one were to successfully organize a state, there NEEDS to be a legitimate authority that commands the acceptance of the majority of people. Without that, there would be no way to make decisions of any kind. Hence you need to institutionalize the process, and the political structure.
Decision making, race, and institutionalization!
As I’ve said like 5 billion times, in the United States, we have a pretty complex government structure, and I would say that’s a good thing — but super frustrating as well.
Here’s some interesting facts: 77.4% of the US is white, 17.4% is Hispanic, and 13.2% is black. The rest is divided among other races and such.
From the beginning, the US has always been a majority-white country. Always. Hence racism is not only a temptation, it may be an embedded fact of everyday life, just purely based on numbers.
Because of this white majority, white people created the rules (Constitution), and effectively ran the country. They made decisions, and over the years people had to gradually fight to abolish slavery, get voting rights and legal protections to be equal.
Even today, the US is a majority white, Christian country. Because of this, there is still essentially a ruling white enterprise — meaning a majority of decisions are made by white people (mostly males), and that’s a fact because they’re the majority of decision makers.
Do we have a black president? Yes.
Do we have black (and other) representatives? Yes. … But very minimally so.
There’s hardly any minority representatives. Hence, minorities still are under represented. … I don’t think that 13% of our representatives are black; nor are 17% Hispanic (if they were, then we would have proportional representation, which we don’t). And how many are women? This means that not everyone is represented accurately.
— While we have mechanisms in the United States to prevent any ruling idea from taking over (constant elections, 3 branches of government), there exists no mechanism to ensure fair representation. The only “fair” representation is in electoral votes and number of House representatives, which is decided by population, not along racial (or religious) makeup.
What I’m getting at is this: The American system is stable enough to exist, because the (white) majority is content enough. Should the majority become overwhelmingly discontent, the system would fall apart. The challenge today is trying to get minorities (gender, religious, or racial) represented and involved in decision making without causing civil disobedience or conflict between the majority and minorities. Let’s face it, a LOT of white people get angry when minorities get to share power, even if they don’t “mean” to sound racist.
This is why racial progress is ridiculously slow in the US. For minorities to get power, they have to win elections. And to win elections, they need support and money. And, currently, the Democratic Party is acting as the primary “bank” for minorities to finance elections — although, in the future, I think we’ll see this change pretty quickly.
I know there are a lot of people in the United States who are angry at the slow pace of minority development.
However, that slow pace is NECESSARY, because 1) moderately paced political development ensures the (white) majority adapts to changes, rather than experiencing culture shock (which would result in perhaps violent backlash — similar to the civil rights era), and 2) because of the system, racial acceptance will gradually be institutionalized, rather than forced — this is the same with gender.
However, once institutionalized, these things become the norm, or normal. So, it’s slow, but once it’s achieved, it’s institutionalized.
Example: Barack Obama became the first black president. Now instead of it being a big thing to have a black president, it will be normal should another black president be elected. Will future black leaders face backlash? Of course, but it will be FAR easier to be taken seriously as a black candidate in general.
I know. Every race and gender should be treated equally at all times, everywhere — in an ideal world. The problem is that the world is not ideal or perfect.
The best that people can hope for is to gradually make changes so that future generations consequently view the world in a more-complex, more-ideal way to better understand the reality of the world.
However, the silver lining of all this is that the American system allows for civil disobedience to a point. Because of unique individual protections, people can protest, lobby, and make demands.
And today, progress overall may be moving faster. Because of internet mass communication, people around the world are able to see the problems within the American system, and that puts pressure on leaders and representatives to come up with solutions.
Now a closing question: Could the US collapse?
While nothing is certain, I would say it is highly unlikely. I can’t think of any scenario where the country collapses (unless there are far more extreme political types than I’m accounting for). There are too many institutionalized elements to our society, and, in broad terms, a vast majority buy into the country’s structure — the political structure, legal system, school system, business world, and financial systems.
In order to completely remove and recreate government in the US, one would need the following: 1) an army, 2) lots of people to side with the cause, and 3) money to fund stuff. I HIGHLY doubt there could ever be a coherent, organized anti-government coalition formed — because most people have jobs, general lives, and nobody wants to completely disrupt their lives to reinvent a government that is OK enough.
A LOT of people would really have to hate the government in order to want to go out and fight, and potentially die to get some new stuff (that may not work anyway) — so the calculus doesn’t even make sense. … It makes you appreciate how bad stuff actually is in the Middle East for people to uproot their entire lives en masse to change the political structure. Thus the only real threat is external, and internally law enforcement really just needs to worry about civil disobedience or conflict — but probably not war.
Also, there still exists some element of community in the US — oddly. When you’re overseas and you meet another American, you seem to find common ground no matter what state you’re from. So, I would say that is an example of an “imagined community” — which is a community that is connected in our minds only by very loose commonalities.
If you can create that kind of phenomena, chances are you’ll be successful at business, politics, community organization, or law.
… But, then again, maybe the TRUMP revolution is underway!!!! HA! Idiot.