Jan 01 2009

Russia, Comic Relief, and the Future of the United States

After a financial year like 2008 we need some comic relief to start the new year, and Monday’s Wall Street Journal (12/29/08; Andrew Osborn) serves up just what the doctor ordered in the form of a Russian professor who predicts the collapse and breakup of the United States in 2010.

Igor Panarin — a former KGB agent currently with the Russian Foreign Ministry’s academy for future diplomats — believes that “an economic and moral collapse will trigger a civil war and the eventual breakup of the U.S.” Mr. Panarin’s Khruschev-style vision forecasts America doing the splits into 4 major regions: California Republic, Texas Republic, Atlantic America, and Central North American Replublic. Although “there’s a 45-55% chance right now that disintegration will occur” in June, 2010, Mr Panarin claims not to rejoice at the prospect because “it’s not the best scenario — for Russia.”

Igor Panarin’s vision of the future United States. Click panarin.gif.

However, Panarin’s model is not supported by long-term trends. Indeed, based on macroeconomic data from the last 200 years, it appears that long waves in the economy — a concept invented by the Russian economist Kondratieff in the 1920s — provide the fundamental force enabling Great Explorations, Macro-Economic Projects (MEPs), and even major wars. Indeed, all three types of events cluster near ebullient peaks in major twice-per-century economic booms called Maslow Windows; the next spectacular Maslow Window is expected to open near 2015. The current Panic of 2008 is a member of a class of Pre-Window Panics that occur about a decade before their Windows; panic onset years (Maslow Window opening years) are: 1837 (1847), 1893 (1903), none in 1949 (1959), and 2007 (2015, expected). Historical records also suggest a possible financial panic near the American Revolution that would fit this pattern; i.e., the Lewis & Clark Maslow Window opened near 1801.

Thus the surprising lesson of the last 200 years is that financial panics are a common feature of the economic landscape just prior to each Maslow Window. And yet no Maslow Window has ever been delayed by a panic or in any observable way diminished by one.

While the long-term trends are favorable, “the last months of 2008 will go down as one of the most severe economic reversals to date,” according to Zachary Karabell in the Wall Street Journal (12/26/08). He counsels that while we “may be in for a long slide,” it’s best to be “creative and unideological about solutions, and open to the possibility that as quickly as things turned sour they can reverse.”

Economic uncertainty in the U.S. is fueling increasing Russian fascination with Mr. Panarin, as is the fact that his catastrophic vision fits nicely with Putin’s plans for a globally resurgent Russia. Fun fantasies of a fragmented U.S. may also serve as a domestic distraction from the economic “perfect storm” and “political crisis” that may be brewing in Russia, according to Leon Aron (Wall Street Journal, 12/31/08).

And incidentally, Panarin also predicts that Alaska will escape from the U.S. and be “subsumed” into Russia. Do you suppose he’s ever met Governor Sarah Palin?

One response so far

One Response to “Russia, Comic Relief, and the Future of the United States”

  1. Burston 01 Jan 2009 at 5:16 am

    I have to see the math behind the “45%-55%”. He pulled the number out of a hat, I know it.

    I’m sure that’s classified!

    Happy New Year!

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply