The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

From 2010: The Unvarnished Truth About the US

Twelve years ago, I wrote this post. I don’t see anything since then has changed to make it wrong, and I think it’s worth reading still — especially for those who weren’t with me 12 years ago.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for some time, and in light of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited corporate money into the political system, I think it’s time.

Yesterday’s decision makes the US a soft fascist state. Roosevelt’s definition of fascism was control of government by corporate interests. Unlimited money means that private interests can dump billions into elections if they choose. Given that the government can, will, and has rewarded them with trillions, as in the bailouts, or is thinking about doing so in HCR, by forcing millions of Americans to buy their products, the return on investment is so good that I would argue that corporations have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to buy out government – after all, if you pay a million to get a billion, or a billion to get a trillion, that’s far far better returns than are available anywhere else.

And no politician, no political party, can reasonably expect to win when billions of dollars are arrayed against it.

The one faint hope is that politicians in the Senate will panic, know they have ten months to do something, and ram something through. Of course, that will only be a stopgap measure, until the Supremes overthrow it, but in the meantime, maybe Dems will get serious about the Supreme Court and stop rubber-stamping radical right-wingers like Alito and Roberts.

That is, however, a faint hope.

Given the US’s complete inability to manage its economic affairs, and its refusal to fix its profound structural problems, whether in the financial system, the education system, the military, concrete infrastructure, technology, or anything else, I cannot see a likely scenario where the US turns things around. The US’s problems in almost every area amount to “monied interests are making a killing on business as usual, and ologopolistic markets and will do anything they can to make sure the problem isn’t fixed.”

Even before they had the ability to dump unlimited money into the political system, they virtually controlled Washington. This will put their influence on steroids. Any congressperson who goes against their interests can be threatened by what amounts to unlimited money. And any one who does their bidding can be rewarded with so much money their reelection is virtually secure.

This decision makes the US’s recovery from its decline even more unlikely than before — and before it was still very unlikely. Absolute catastrophe will have to occur before people are angry enough and corporations weak enough for there to even be a chance.

So, my advice to my readers is this.

If you can leave the US, do. Most of the world is going to suffer over the next decades, but there are places which will suffer less than the US: places that have not settled for soft fascism and are refusing to fix their economic problems. Fighting to the very end is romantic, and all, but when you’re outnumbered, outgunned, and your odds of winning are miniscule, sometimes the smartest thing to do is book out. Those who immigrated to the US understood this; they left countries which were less free or had less economic hope than the US, and they came to a place where freedom and opportunity reigned.

That place, that time, is coming to an end. For your own sake, and especially for the sake of your children, I tell you now — it is time to get out.

I am not the only person thinking this. Even before the decisions, two of my savviest American friends, people with impeccable records at predicting the US meltdown, told me that within the next few years they would be leaving.

There’s always hope, and those who choose to stay might stop this terminal decline.

But you need to ask yourself, seriously, if you are willing to pay the price of failure, if you are willing to have your children pay the price of failure. Because it will be very, very steep.



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  1. different clue

    Well . . . I don’t sense any special hatred here, just a “clinical diagnosis”.

    Maybe a few thousand Americans will be able to go somewhere. That means that
    350 millions Americans aren’t going anywhere. We are just going to tough it out here, one way or another.

    Maybe miniloads and microloads of Americans in particular minilocal and microlocal regions will be able to create mini and micro refuges of cultural and civilizational knowledge to carry through the coming Dark Age to whatever comes after.

    “Relatively many” Americans may try to flee into Canada and/or Mexico . . . if Mexico is still inhabitable in the super heat of tomorrow. In general, Canada may be able to subject Americans in flight to extreme vetting at the border, in order to harvest the sort of Americans that Canada would want to have.

    I see a potential breech in Canada’s border security concept. That Western Province y’all have . . . Texalberta or Albertexas or whatever you call it . . . . will be a seething hotbed of Canada’s equivalent of Petroligarchic Christianazi Satanofascism.
    The Alberta Government of that near-future crisis-breakdown period will work its very hardest to find and import millions of Christianazi Satanofascist Trumpanon scum from America and bring them into Alberta and then try spreading them all over Canada from there. How does the rest of Canada plan to meet that challenge?

  2. Ché Pasa

    Barring the unforeseen, most Americans do not have and will not have the opportunity or desire to leave the United States, though for now internal mobility is relatively easy. That may not be so in a few years — or sooner.

    Unhappiness is certainly growing. Some of us were alert to the future long ago, but even if everyone is suddenly enlightened, what are they to do?

    When I visited friends and personally important places in California last fall, my overall impression was very disheartening. Fires were burning in the Sierras making some stretches of Highway 99 in the San Joaquin Valley so smoky the roadsigns were barely visible. Homeless wanderers were visible everywhere, many more than previously. People were abandoning LA and the Bay Area, moving inland, to the mountains or the desert, causing what appeared to be unsustainable population growth in those areas. Orchards were being ripped out for houses; new orchards and vineyards were being planted for short-term gain, much like the fields of broccoli and strawberries replaced with marijuana.

    Water was becoming scarcer and scarcer.

    Yet when we got to the Coast, driving Highway 1 from Monterey to Santa Barbara, very little had changed since the first time I drove that road in 1969. Oh, there had been fires and landslides aplenty over the years, but each time, things had been put back pretty much the way they had been. Still the same kinds of people live along the Coast, and not very many of them. Of course, it costs much more. But if you have the money — and many do — it can seem idyllic.

    The contrasts and discontinuities were stark, and that seems to be the way the way that things will continue to go. People can be extraordinarily adaptable.

    Ian was right about the deteriorating course of events in 2010 — and before that, too.

  3. NR

    Good post and I think it’s pretty much right on the money. The only thing that I think is outdated is the advice to leave the U.S. I think it’s a bad idea for most people to leave the U.S. at this point, not because things are great here, but because as COVID has shown us, the vast majority of Western nations are also in decline. Things are only going to get worse with climate change, and I think people are going to be better off with their friends and families around them than they would be going to a foreign country, even if that country is somewhat better off than the U.S. at the moment.

    Maybe if you could get into New Zealand (and could afford to live there), but that’s not going to be an option for most, and if they end up being one of the last livable places in the world, well, there are a lot of people with guns and bigger weapons that will want to move in.

  4. Astrid

    The numbers who can still leave are in the tens of millions, assuming they have a couple months window. There are a lot of first and second generation immigrants who may decide to face their future amongst their family and people who look like them, rather than risk a future in a country full of angry, entitled people with lots of guns. For those with all-American roots, leaving will be harder, especially if they have spouses and family who likely feel very differently. Unless you’re cushioned by a local spouse or family network or a really well paying corporate job, moving countries after 30 is hella hard. You’ll always be an outsider, everything will always be a little off, your kids will be very different from you, and keeping up with your family will be a struggle.

    I’m addition, there are no safe haven or even safer haven. I thought the Europeans and Canadians had saner governments. I thought global warming wouldn’t happen quite so quickly. The weather in Europe is wackier than the US. Seeing European governments embrace the sanctions madness against Russia, who supplies their bread, fuel, and metals, to support actual Nazis, makes escape there seem like a sick joke.

    Russia and China seem like the best bets right now, but very hard to get to right now. Both are likely to embrace a war footing that won’t be very pleasant to live under.

    Best decision I ever made was to not have children. The second best decision was to take some very nice vacations. The third was that in lieu of an impressive career, I watched a lot of TV and indulged my hobbies. If I get strung up on the side of the road, at least I can reflect that I had some nice stretches in my life.

  5. Mark Pontin

    2008 and its aftermath constituted the writing on the wall for me: in particular, the ‘robosigning’ where the Obama administration systematically collaborated with the banks to forge fraudulent chain-of-title on–What? Something like a million homes? — in order to maintain the existing wealth structure.

    The US was the crassest, stupidest kind of kleptocracy, was what that made clear.

  6. Astrid

    I’ve been reading the Collapse subreddit (which is undergoing it’s own sort of collapse) and reports from New Zealand are not particularly heartening. Weird weather, high prices (especially real estate but also food), and pollution are serious problems there. It’s on the Pacific Ring of Fire with the Alpine Fault likely to majorly rupture in the next 50 years and active volcanoes near major population centers. Once one of those go off, rebuilding help will likely not be coming and I suspect a good portion of the population will end up in Australia, Canada, or Europe. It’s also a catchment for climate refugees from Oceania and I could see that getting pretty messy.

    I spent 3 blissful weeks there for my honeymoon. Liked the people (refreshingly open and pragmatic), loved the landscape and wildlife. Really wanted to move there. But am saddled with a spouse who didn’t want to be so far away from family and friends. Plus restarting careers in our thirties when we’re doing well in there US is a hard trigger to pull. Then the skyrocketing real estate prices and the prospect of getting lumped in with the worst Bay Area people kinda killed it off for us.

    I also felt that way about Atlantic Canada. Really liked everything about it. Was agitating for getting a little house somewhere in Nova Scotia or rural Quebec, but Covid related real estate spike killed that off. Locals who rented are seeing their rents double. We’re living in a hell world structured for the benefit of the worst people.

  7. bruce wilder

    It is interesting to me that the idea that the U.S. might break up regionally in the near future recurs. It seems to me that the U.S. is in such deep trouble precisely because of the breakdown of genuine community and accompanying social affiliation has left U.S. politics bereft of any possible source of pushback from “below” (or even from the educated middle), no populist or universalist progressive impulse has institutional support.

    If the center does indeed fail while the country remains so integrated across regions by the lingering consequences of past social and physical mobility, but with so little community, things will be especially dire precisely because the absence of local community limits the possibility of adaptive political response. There are no local newspapers or digital equivalents — what there is is often so minimal as to be evidence of absence. Local churches have dwindled and those with numbers are often of a questionable character. Civic organization has declined, the core of small business sapped by centralized private goliaths unrestrained by popular government.

    I think we here mostly understand that much of the elite political class and their patrons are parasitic and hostile to a national or public interest. But, when Ian talks about the unwillingness to solve manifest problems, it seems to me he is implicitly referring to the absence of any capacity to push back effectively from below against that dominant parasitic class. Which I trace to the decline of community and the institutional foundations of what Chris Hedges called the Liberal Classes that historically channelled and nurtured critique and reform.

    I do not see what can be done. My perception is that the chattering class of formerly “progressive” or left-liberal politics is deeply corrupt and essentially delusional, and I am simply waiting for its collapse. The long expected pushback on the global stage has come with Russia in Ukraine. The Pope, of all people, refuses to join the righteous stupidity sweeping the collective West and WWIII may have begun. I do not know how the “thinking” of those who put Ukraine flags on their Instagram pages ever returns to reality, but runaway inflation is reality biting pretty darn hard.

  8. Willy

    Go north young man. With all the browns moving up to try and escape the heat, it’ll be a special episode of “The White Replacement Theory”. Unless, and there’s a chance based on Texas hispanic voting habits of late, that they’ll all be demanding a nukular wall to keep from being replaced. Maybe we can get a few of them to point their guns in the proper direction, towards the ones who actually caused it all.

    I knew a DINK couple who both had very cool jobs and lived in a Japanese-design inspired acre paradise, inside and out. Sadly, on one of her very cool travel consultant trips hubby cheated. Not very cool she said. Now he’s stuck in a little ghetto condo and she moved to northern Norway. She always seemed like the smarter one.

    And finally, (and maybe it’s just me) I’ve noticed that only evangelicals seem to be having kids these days. I’ve seen a few of them showing signs of breaking their cultlike trance. But it’s like slowly peeling away the layers of an onion. The outermost, saner ones know that doing a Liz Cheney (still a corporatist goon but at least trying to defend democracy) is risky business. They all won’t be able to get a gig on MSNBC after they’re voted out of office by their own.

  9. different clue


    Those who go north ( meaning Canada I suppose) will find themselves joined over the next few decades by a few couple-hundred million climate refugees from China, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, etc. who will decide to go northeast to find somewhere survivable to live.

    As well as by a hundred million or so Mexicans, Central Americans, Caribbeans, etc. who will not just peacefully die at home in the Autoclave Climate of tomorrow’s near-the-equator lands and zones.

  10. Ché Pasa

    Yes, well the US has been in the most recent process of breaking up — perhaps for the last time — since the ’80s. Reaganism, after all, presumed “states rights” as a priority, and the states are by their nature separatist political entities. The Union, in other words, is subsidiary to fragmentation via the states. The concept of a federal union that supercedes the quasi-independence of the states is a post-WWII novelty which rightist political forces have been eager to cancel one piece at a time or in bulk.

    So how do we reconcile that with the authoritarian/fascist/corporatist trend of both national and state governmental practice? How does the Imperial Presidency fit in with a deconstructed United States of America (LLC)? But it’s not just the presidency. We’re seeing autocratic governors arise in many states, bulling their anti-democratic and often anti-human policies into being regardless of public interest or popular will.

    And it’s not just individual states asserting their supremacy over federal control. States are combining to form regional blocs. It’s long been my view that the likeliest deconstruction will be along regional lines, dividing what amounts to a US domestic empire into 9 or 10 regional fiefdoms, often ignoring the federal government which itself will become weaker and weaker until it is little more than a ceremonial pageant in DC.

    Factionalism in the corporatist realm will have its outlet in the breakup and reconsolidation in regional autonomous districts. Some will be full-on fascist, others somewhat less so. But all will be strict authoritarian over a restive and suffering population. Forms and practices of Our Democracy may or may not be preserved, but to the extent they are preserved, they will be essentially meaningless and non-functional.

    We are very far down this path already, and because we are, the transition will hardly be noticed.

  11. StewartM

    I differ with some of the commentators here. The US still by far among the worst places to be of all developed countries. (The UK might be next, though). Sure right-wing populism is on the rise everywhere, and other problems, but these are probably most salient in the US. That’s because right-wingers need a scapegoat for the failures of their policies (and they always fail) and the US, with its diverse population, possibly has the most potential scapegoats per capita. While I agree there are no places that are actually “good” or completely safe, there are a lot of places which are better.

    A while back, someone posted this link on intentional communities:

    And I looked at some, very interesting. But some of them seemed nonsensical if you’re thinking about a future fascist state and/or economic/environmental collapse. I mean, Florida? (not great politically, and soon to be underwater). Arkansas? (Yeah, I’d love living with Klansmen as my next door neighbors, plus you’ll be cooking in the summer). Texas and the rest of the South? Idaho? If one does stay in the US, think of a region that’s better ( my top choice might be Vermont; both for physical and political climate).

    Astrid–I am wondering why you think that emigrating is hard after age 30. I mean, lots of people are retiring overseas. Sure, you might have to learn another language; to me that’s not a challenge (and really, English is really ubiquitous).

  12. Astrid


    I was thinking of people who have to work for a living. If you have the money on hand and don’t mind having a very restricted social circle and minimal understanding of the locals, then I guess it’s fine. Though I think even that is not as easy as it’s often portrayed, especially if you have very little prior contact or knowledge about the country, as I know people who tried it (in one case wealthy Americans who moved to NZ and left because the locals were insufficiently deferential, lol) and hated it. And I would still worry about what happens when your dollars aren’t worth what they used to be or the locals get more desperate and perceive you as walking moneybags.

    I guess I’m more thinking of experience of people I know who grew up in America with emigrant parents. Even the outwardly successful (and I know the success stories) kids grow up oddly alienated from mainstream society and from their parents, and the parents can often feel really out of touch. Financially it’s often going from an established career and network to struggling to build it back up from the ground. Obviously lots of people do it and become successful and networked over time, but I think it’s very hard work. And this is mostly people who did it 20-30-40 years ago, I imagine it’s a lot harder now because of the poorer economy and job prospects and higher living costs. In reverse, I know odds and ends, but the ones who didn’t marry locals seem to end up back in the States (I know a single parent ESL teacher who is still doing it, but her daughter is attending college in the States and her life is not something to aspire to).

    I did say that emigrating is easier if buffered by money, high demand career, lack of kids, or good local network. It’s still worth looking into if all the pieces fit together, but I don’t think you should go into it thinking it’ll be easier than the life you left behind, especially in the first couple years.

    I personally think that we may be so late in this game that we are better off standing our ground where we are. Albeit perhaps being ready to move quickly if there are signs of things getting really bad locally.

  13. Astrid

    I should also say that I did make an intentional move to central PA about 6 years ago. We were living in DC and I was desperate to get out. I don’t have roots in this area but overall I grown to like it here very well.

    The Harrisburg area is pretty good as things go. The weather so far is not too extreme, somewhat wetter than historical average in the last 5 years but not enough to cause serious flooding. Lots of trees and rivers and farmland are a close drive away. If you live in downtown Harrisburg, you might get by with public transportation and a bike.

    The towns around Harrisburg are reasonably well kept up due to state capital, Department of Defense, and various hospital systems in the area. Most of the store fronts in the townships’ main streets are open, even after Covid. There isn’t nearly as much of the rampant developments that I see in DC, Portland, Research Triangle, etc. areas. There are some nice amenities like several nice covered markets, museums, pretty public parks, decent restaurants, and a very good indie movie theater. It’s a 2 hours drive to DC, 90 minutes to Philly and Baltimore, maybe a 3 hours train ride to NYC.

    Housing prices went up probably about 30% in the last 2 years. It used to be pretty affordable with a nice housing stock (we were looking at nice, close-in, 2.5K sqft homes on a couple acres for around$300K) even now, it’s probably looks pretty good for people not from economically depressed parts of the Midwest.

    The public schools, libraries, and civic institutions seem reasonably intact. We like our neighbors pretty well. There is some conservativism and misogyny here, but its pretty much live and let live, I never felt harassed for being a liberal passing woman but I’m pretty careful about my interactions with neighbors and coworkers.

    We were thinking of moving closer to DC for a job, to Frederick MD which is similar to the Harrisburg area (but add $200K to the house prices). Now with Covid and everything else, we are thinking of staying put as much as possible and look at the Portugal golden visa option that apparently everyone else is also looking into (makes me leary). I actually like Taiwan as a possible semi-retirement option, as I have some connections there and am Chinese fluent. I also think it’ll return to Chinese sphere of influence soon, which might be safer than being under the protection of “pax Americana”.

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