This has been on my mind lately.
It is Peter Turchin’s formula of state collapse.
Political Stress Index = Mass Mobilization Potential (MMP) x Elite Mobilization Potential (EMP) x State Fiscal Distress (SFD).
Mass Mobilization Potential has three components: relative wages, urbanization rate and the effect of age structure. Basically, a measure of a surplus of unemployed or underemployed young people in cities.
Elite Mobilization Potential has three components: elite composition, elite incomes and elite overproduction. Basically, a measure of the total number of elites, their relative wealth and competition over a limited number of government positions. It is high when we have too many bored, idle rich and overeducated people who are viciously competing with each other.
State Fiscal Distress has three components: total state debt, GDP and the proportion of the population expressing trust or distrust in state institutions.
According to Turchin, these are the key factors which bring on state collapse, revolutions and civil wars, which are foreshadowed by an uptick in political violence such as terrorism and riots. It is easy to see how COVID-19 and its economic aftershocks has pushed all these factors deep into the red.
Update: Damon Linker is also dreading the same unforeseen and yet imminent calamity. I also think we are stumbling in the dark toward a period of immense violence and destruction like the Blundering Generation. History shows that long stretches of peace never last indefinitely.
Update: Civil War II? … no longer a joke?
It is easy to imagine COVID-19 getting worse in the fall and winter, states going back into lockdowns to fight the virus, the economy crashing, violence breaking out regardless of who wins the 2020 election. No one knows what will trigger the avalanche, but the structural conditions for civil unrest are riper than at any point since the Civil War. It has become much easier to imagine how the world could descent into hell. China might surprise us and make a big move in challenging the United States.