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U.S. closer to anarchy than Russia, major forecaster predicts

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An academic who predicted major civil unrest in 2020, 10 years in advance, is more worried about the U.S. self-imploding and descending into anarchy than war-torn Russia, and he’s pointing to spiraling inequality in the States for his reasoning. 

Speaking to the Financial Times, Peter Turchin, a Russian-American complexity scientist whose 2010 model appeared to correctly predict growing civil unrest across the U.S. and Western Europe, thinks Western countries are in much more danger of a major “macro-violence outbreak” than Russia is.

‘Macro-violence outbreak’

Turchin published his structural-demographic forecast in 2010, which looked at the likelihood of societal unrest in the West over the next decade.

It looked at several factors, including demographic makeup, the strength of political structures, and the size of the “elite” class to suggest instability would rise through to the end of the last decade.

Turchin believes that violent outbreaks occur every 50 years, allowing enough time to pass for elites to forget about the consequences of rising greed and instability. The last period occurred in the 1970s, with 2020 kicking off the next period of unrest.

With hindsight, it’s hard to disagree with the academic.

The year 2020 will be remembered as one of the most tumultuous in modern history. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread lockdowns and a complete reworking of global habits. 

In the U.S., the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota set off major “Black Lives Matter” protests and rioting across the West that set off a major reckoning about race relations in several countries.

That year also saw the end of the Donald Trump presidency in highly contentious circumstances, culminating in his supporters storming the U.S. Capitol days before President Joe Biden was inaugurated.

More countries have voted in right-leaning governments, while rhetoric around immigration and cultural issues have become increasingly divisive, particularly in the U.S. but also in Western Europe. 

However, the FT points out that other aspects of Turchin’s model, such as assassinations and lynchings, didn’t come to pass.

Nevertheless, fears about unrest have only grown in the years since 2020, and Turchin believes U.S. residents need only look out their window to spot their biggest threat.

“The question is whether there’s going to be a macro-violence outbreak,” Turchin said, describing things like civil war, foreign invasion, or political collapse. 

U.S. closer to collapse than Russia?

While Westerners might want to convince themselves that Russia is closer to the brink of collapse than the U.S. owing to its drawn-out invasion of Ukraine, Turchin thinks the opposite is true.

Turchin told the FT that the country had become more unified by its war with Ukraine as it faces sanctions and pressure from rival countries, while the invasion has also created plenty of job vacancies that are keeping workers happy. 

He added that the failed coup by Yevgeny Prigozhin last summer demonstrated that Russians continued to back President Vladimir Putin.  

“Everybody was against him,” Turchin said of Prigozhin. 

“Without doubt, the United States is in a much more perilous state right now.”

According to the latest data from the Federal Reserve, the top 10% of U.S. households held 66% of total wealth in the country. Income inequality, meanwhile, grew throughout the pandemic, according to a previous survey by the Fed. 

Spiraling inflation, and accusations of “greedflation” from major companies, are also adding to a growing sense of unfairness among Americans in a crucial year for democracy.

In more grim news, Turchin argued it doesn’t matter whether Biden or Trump take control of the White House for the next four years, because neither will turn off the “wealth pump” that is stoking unrest. 

Failure to increase the minimum wage or control immigration is also causing anger, according to Turchin. 

“People may be wrong to think that immigrants take their jobs from them, but they think that, and in a democracy why do you want to piss off people?” he said. 

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