The American Dystopia Index
In my text Implosion: delusion, denial, and the prospect of collapse, I wrote a concluding chapter called “Slip slidin to dystopia,” examining the factors leading to the collapse of civilizations based on the work of Jared Diamond (Collapse) and authors like Arnold Toynbee [12 volumes on the rise and fall of civilizations]. There are seven factors related to the fall of Rome, the Ottoman Empire, the Mayans, ancient Sumeria, the Olmecs, etc. One causal agent was that the empire imploded as a result of succumbing to natural disasters. The Mayans were thought to have collapsed because of drought.
Another of these variables was “the emergence of a parasitic elite.” The Russian Czarist excesses, or the indulgence of the French aristocracy, led to the overthrow of these regimes. In our own case, the emergence of the super rich one percent, and its incredible grasp of national wealth was plotted as one of our megatrends.
These seven factors were related to the U.S., and they were quantified and combined into a single index with the assistance of statistician, Dr. Bruce Stegner. Each variable (e.g. defense spending, total public debt, level of violent crime, cost of natural disasters, number of children raised in a single parent family, percent of income held by the top one percent, etc.) was scaled into a single measure.
We decided to call this new metric, the American Dystopia Index ©
In the graph which follows this index is plotted from 1960 forward and is compared with the comparable growth in population: From 1960 until 1990, the index tracks population growth snugly and even seems to dip below population increases, clearly a healthy set of circumstances.
However, beginning in 1995, the index diverges and escalates at an incredible rate—speeding forward at three times the rate of population growth. From 2010 to 2015, the accelerated eight times the rate of population growth. Our combined megatrends in this measure represent decidedly pathological variables in collective psychology, and their momentum is absolutely stark and riveting.
If one looked at this as a single person’s health profile, with say seven measures of cholesterol, diet, alcohol consumption, sugar metabolism, and blood pressure combined into one single measure, while the pink line indicated baseline factors, clearly this chart would portray a person in an extreme risk category and dangerously close to a serious medical incident.
This graph, however, measures collective risk factors, not individual ones, and it is evident that since 1995, these megatrends escalated in an absolutely breathtaking manner. The trend line almost appears exponential. We do not, of course, know when the tipping point will be reached, but we can certainly discern that, unless there are dramatic reversals in American collective behavior, this acceleration cannot continue at its present rate. Empirically speaking, the nation is in clear and present danger.
A short youtube video talk on the ominous state of our union follows.
*Y axis represents z scores in this graph