Why There Isn’t More Civil Unrest in America, and Why I’m Not Worried

Do the Berkeley riots portend to the decline and eventual demise of America? No. Retards gonna tard, liberals gonna lib. I predict further geopolitical stability for the duration of Trump’s term (or terms) and continued dominance of America as an economic, militaristic, political, and intellectual-property superpower. Bryan Caplan has a tradition of taking bets. By being long US stocks and bonds, my conviction is backed by my own personal investments, which has worked well for the past decade, and I foresee the ‘good times’ will continue despite what seems like more civil unrest.

The operative word is ‘seems’. Due to social media and the sensationalist mainstream media, which has an amplifying effect, it only seems like there is more civil unrest than usual. Half a century ago, before the internet and smart phones, most of what would be considered ‘unrest’ today simply went unreported.

From Wikipedia, List of incidents of civil unrest in the United States, there were more incidents in the 60’s than this decade, but America–as measured by a wide variety of metric such as GDP, profits & earnings growth, technological research and development, medical advances, intellectual output, stock market gains, global influence, military might, etc.– is stronger than ever. Had someone interpreted the tumultuous events of the 60’s as a harbinger for the decline and demise of America decades later, they would have been wrong. Maybe America has declined socially and culturally, but the cold, hard economic data tells another story, sorry.

Going back to the Wikipedia article, when adjusting for populations and absence of social media, it’s actually kinda remarkable there isn’t more unrest now. Had social media and smart phones existed in the 60’s and 70’s, and had the US population been as large then as it is now (200 million vs. 330 million today), there would have been possibly hundreds more incidents than listed.

So this leads to the obvious question, why isn’t there more unrest? Such passivity may be attributed to the following factors:

1. Despite BLM and SJWs, millennials, overall, are less inclined to protest than earlier generations.

2. Living standards for most American are pretty good, and there is a lot of cheap and abundant entertainment. People would rather watch Netflix than engage in civil unrest. High purchasing power means even if wages are stagnant living standards are high.

3. The poorest of Americans are actually less likely the engage in unrest than the middle and upper class. Counterintuitively, it’s actually the bourgeoisie that engages in civil unrest, not the proletariat.

4. Social media is possibly replacing civil unrest. It’s easier to voice one’s grievances on social media than take to the streets. Also social media has a signalling component to it. Liking a photo or re-tweeting something is a way to signal support for a cause without having to take further action, while boosting social status among one’s peers. [1]

5. America’s large geographic area and ethnic and cultural diversity acts as a buffer against unrest. It’s hard to have unrest, which requires cohesion, when America is so large, dispersed, and diverse.

Everyone wants to call any perturbation from ‘normal’ a paradigm shift. Every four years, it’s the ‘election of the century’, ‘uncharted territory’, and other cliched phrases. In the 80’s, pundits voiced the same concerns about Reagan, because he didn’t seem experienced enough to take on Gorbachev–obviously the liberal media was wrong then as they are now about Trump. Berkeley burning is bad for Berkeley, but the rest of the country will carry on. The damage left inflicts on itself, like a spectacle, is best observed from a distance.

That doesn’t mean we can rule out crisis and upheaval completely. Inadvertent nuclear war is probably the greatest threat, but Trump’s closeness with Russia lessens these odds.

[1] It may seem contradictory how social media can both amplify and mitigate social unrest. But consider in a pre-social media era, hypothetically speaking, there are 100 events of unrest. 50 of these are reported by TV, radio, and newspaper, and the rest are ignored, so the official, recorded count is 50. In a post-social media era, if social media is mitigating, there may only be 80 events of unrest, but all 80 are reported (amplification), so it seems like more unrest even though there is less.