The presidential election which we have experienced, unfortunately, confirms this forecast. We seem to be well on track for the 2020s instability peak. And although the election is over, the deep structural forces that brought us the current political crisis have not gone away. If anything, the negative trends seem to be accelerating.
My model tracks a number of factors. Some reflect the developments that have been noticed and extensively discussed: growing income and wealth inequality, stagnating and even declining well-being of most Americans, growing political fragmentation and governmental dysfunction (see Return of the Oppressed). But most social scientists and political commentators tend to focus on a particular slice of the problem. It’s not broadly appreciated that these developments are all interconnected. Our society is a system in which different parts affect each other, often in unexpected ways.
Furthermore, there is another important development that has been missed by most commentators: the key role of “elite overproduction” in driving waves of political violence, both in historical societies and in our own (see Blame Rich, Overeducated Elites as Our Society Frays). As I wrote three years ago, “Increasing inequality leads not only to the growth of top fortunes; it also results in greater numbers of wealth-holders. The ‘1 percent’ becomes ‘2 percent.’ Or even more. … from 1983 to 2010 the number of American households worth at least $10 million grew to 350,000 from 66,000. Rich Americans tend to be more politically active than the rest of the population. … In technical terms, such a situation is known as ‘elite overproduction.’ … Elite overproduction generally leads to more intra-elite competition that gradually undermines the spirit of cooperation, which is followed by ideological polarization and fragmentation of the political class. This happens because the more contenders there are, the more of them end up on the losing side. A large class of disgruntled elite-wannabes, often well-educated and highly capable, has been denied access to elite positions.”
Lies ahead? I’d say it’s well underway!