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Comment: Catalysts

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I think the shape of the collapse will depend on the catalyst for the event. If a bomb goes off, panic may ensue and the government may have to step in to restore order, causing protests and internments until one side has all the control. Either we win or we end up in the camps.

The more likely scenario I believe is inflation and unemployment. The fiscal cliff will likely result in more defaults. The government's response will be to buy more debt. Our government is also seriously dependent on income taxes and excises from things like gasoline, tobacco, etc. As people become unemployed, both sources of revenue for the government will decline. Count on the government to try and make up for this shortfall in some way or another. To me, this means a second fiscal cliff (FC2). FC2 will likely target upper middle classes and higher, as those will be the ones with money to be taken.

I think that during this phase, people will be moving around to any area of the country that they think is better. This could take the form of people moving to areas where they can live in meager accommodations on a farm, trading labor in exchange for some food and shelter.

As inflation goes up, basic government programs like foodstamps, TANF, etc., won't keep up with inflation. Government will either have to limit their level of support for these programs or continue to raise taxes on those left to be taxed. I think the excess taxation will make trading labor more appealing. If you make $100 an hour and pay 90% of that in taxes, would you not be better off to get $11 an hour in equivalent food and shelter?

It is at this point that things can get pretty hairy. You have more people opting out of getting paid in Dollars since that all goes to the government. This is where faith in the dollar comes near to an end. It doesn't buy much and the government takes most of it. What happens at this point is pretty confusing. The government will not tolerate "under the table" type work and will crackdown to restore what they are losing in taxable revenue. I think we'll hear stories of communal farms being raided by government thugs and asset seizures. After a few of these, it might start getting violent. The government will start having curfews and controlling people's movements. Expect to see regular roadblocks that are mostly "asset audits" to see if you are suspected of unreported income. Looking poor might not be a bad idea if you have anything.

The other side of the confusion is the what-if scenario of the government being unable to support their troops. If the government can't keep you fed, would you stay or go AWOL? Some troops would desert, some would probably steal from people at the above "asset audits" to keep for themselves. Paying troops in dollars also wouldn't let them buy much. Over an extended period of time, distrust in the dollar might even lead to it's outright rejection. Anyone with dollars might be suspected of being part of the government.

Over the long term, I think the large governments would be unsustainable and would diminish to very small functions and may even cease at some point. During that transition, quality of life would be low. The following restoration is another topic altogether.

What I don't expect to happen is some eery world where people with guns are running around stealing from others in some post-apocalyptic world. I think poaching from farms and ranches will increase and those citizens smart enough to be armed can find employment as guards on such farms and ranches. The better protected of these will be the ones that resist government crackdowns on labor bartering. Since we have a small population of gun owners with real weapons, I think there ought to be some good job opportunities for farm mercenaries. If you would rather guard the farm than pull the tomatoes, I suggest getting some firepower and learning how to use it. If you live in a state that permits Title 3 weapons like Nevada, you might want to pay the $200 tax if you can get your hands on some quality merchandise.