Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Foundations of Crisis"

John Mauldin's website features an essay his friend Doug Casey originally wrote in 1997, "Foundations of Crisis", updated with some current parenthetical commentary by Casey. Those who are open to the possibility that there may be recurring patterns in history may find this an interesting read. Below are a few excerpts.

Casey writes that generations cycle through four archetypes, "Hero", "Artist", "Prophet", and "Nomad". The two excerpts below relate to the "Hero" archetype.

Hero Archetype

The "GI" generation, born between 1901 and 1924, includes basically all living people in their mid-70s and older. They grew up and came of age in the midst of the most traumatic years in human history: the 1930s and '40s. This was a time of catastrophic financial and economic collapse, world war, political dictatorship, genocide, and virulent ideology, among other unpleasant things; a period of intense turmoil. The times required them to be civic minded, optimistic, regular guys who could be counted on to do the right thing, fit in, and see that everybody got a square deal. As a consequence of what they've been through, they tend to be indulgent parents. As kids they're "good"; as adults they're selfless, constructive, and communitarian. Hero archetypes encounter a Crisis environment in Young Adulthood; assuming they survive it, the odds are the rest of their lives will be lived in growing economic prosperity, leading to a leisurely retirement.


The kids born between 1982 and perhaps 2002 should be another Hero archetype. My own experience with them is that they're shaping up that way. Represented by clean-cut, straight-arrow Power Rangers. Quite a reaction to the sewer-dwelling Mutant Ninja Turtles that were analogs for the previous generation. They're "'can do" kids, programmed to do the right thing in a smoke-free, drug-free, eco-sensitive, politically correct world. Like all Hero types, they respect their elders, do what they're told without much questioning authority. That's just the type of person you want to have fighting a war for you, and that's probably just what they'll wind up doing. Just like the last Hero types, the GIs.

Casey on the Boomers, who he characterizes as part of the "Prophet" archetype:

They came of age during a period that might be called an Awakening, and it's recurred on schedule five times so far in American history. Awakenings are times of religious and moral ferment, when the youth tend to challenge prevailing cultural values pretty much across the board. Young adults were into New Age things this time around, in the 1960s and '70s. At the time it seemed utterly shocking and completely new, but that was only because nobody then alive had seen the previous Utopian Awakening in the 1830s and '40s, the Pietist Awakening of the 1740s and '50s, the Puritan Awakening of the 1630s and '40s, or the Protestant Reformation of the 1530s and '40s.


The Boomers are an archetypal Prophet generation, a type born after a secular crisis, just in time to create another one. Get the image of a grim elder, with a well-defined vision of what's right and wrong, calling down wrath, and laying down the law for a troubled nation in chaotic times. That's the type of person who tends to lead countries into wars, as well as through them. Interestingly, the Boomers in America have their counterparts abroad today, especially in China, where they grew up during the Cultural Revolution. Two ideologically driven, righteous groups running two such powerful and alien cultures is almost a guaranteed formula for a millennial-sized crisis. Which should appear, coincidentally, sometime shortly after the millennium.

Casey anticipating a secular crisis:

[T]he way the current generations line up relative to historical analogs, an excellent case can be made the U.S. is approaching another time of secular crisis, a Fourth Turning, with an expected due date of 2005 -- seven years from now -- plus or minus a few years in either direction. The Stamp Acts catalyzed the American Revolution, the election of Lincoln catalyzed the Civil War, the Crash of '29 catalyzed the Depression/WW II era. What might precipitate the elements now floating in solution? The answer is, practically any random event that's sufficiently traumatic. Any of the theses of current disaster/action novels and movies will do nicely. Perhaps the accidental or intentional release of a super plague vector. The crashing of an airliner into the Capitol during a joint session. (Close, but not quite.) An all-out assault on the IRS computers by an armed group -- or perhaps the computers just melting down due to the Year 2000 Problem. Perhaps a financial disaster that cascades into the Greater Depression. In any of these, or a hundred other scenarios, the federal government would almost certainly act precipitously and with a heavy hand, which would bring on a whole other set of consequences.


There's no way of telling where the Crisis will lead, or how it will end. That's going to depend not only on exactly who's in control, but what they do, whom they're up against, and a hundred other variables we can't even anticipate. One thing that seems certain is that real crisis brings out strong (although not necessarily wise) leadership. Because of its age and size, it will come from the Boomer generation, and it will be in the mold of Roosevelt or Lincoln -- both very dangerous precedents. The Boomers in Elderhood will be dogmatic, harsh, puritanical, and quite willing to burn down the barn in order to destroy whatever rats they see. Admix that attitude to a time resembling the Revolution, the Civil War, or WW II, overlain with today's ethnic strife, urbanization, financial overextension, and powerful, compact new weaponry in the hands of foreign fanatics out to teach the Great Satan a lesson, and it's a real witch's brew.


Bill Clinton said...

Academically interesting.

What is there here that would be actionable?

I'm only in it for the money.
I'm from the decade of greed.

DaveinHackensack said...

Casey's investment advice for today:

"the single best way to build wealth now, while there is still time to do so, is in carefully selected gold and other resource stocks. In order for it to be free from the threat of confiscation, at least some part of your wealth needs to reside in a country where you don't. To state the obvious, I would be very cautious about traditional stocks and bonds until we see how things shake out. Rather, get positioned in gold and silver stocks now, ahead of the curve, then sell out for a big profit to the panicking masses and move an increasing percentage of your wealth into tangibles such as gold, silver, and maybe, as part of a diversified portfolio, real estate in especially attractive areas -- but only after the bubble has decisively burst.)"

Bill C. said...

Is Marijuana considered a "resource"?

I'm holding onto that one.
It makes living with Hilary tolerable.

DaveinHackensack said...

How many days per week do you think they are even under the same roof?