It could happen here: is the US showing the same precursors of collapse as the the Soviet Union did?

Not many saw the fall of the Berlin wall coming. Not many foresaw the collapse of the Soviet Union. And so gleeful were the celebrations of the triumph of liberalism and capitalism over communism that few bothered to study what actually happened and why.

Yale School of Management senior faculty fellow Bruce Judson makes the case that revolution is a real possibility in America. The central precursors that were present before the dissolution of the Soviet Union are present today—extreme economic inequality and an increasingly impoverished middle class. He makes the most disturbing case yet for why our economics are leading us inevitably toward a devastating crisis. When Franklin Roosevelt faced a similar situation, he was saved by World War II. This time, the conflict may be at home, not abroad.

In It Could Happen Here, Hudson explores how extreme (and growing) economic inequality in the United States can ultimately lead to political instability. The US is currently at the highest levels of economic inequality in the recorded history of the Republic (with the top 10% of families receiving about 50% of all income). As economic inequality increases, the levels of anger, mistrust, and political polarization within nations grow. At some point extreme economic inequality can lead to political paralysis and even political instability.

From Hudson’s blog: As we hit record, or near record levels of hunger, short and long-term joblessness, foreclosures, and credit card defaults, I am concerned that our nation is accepting the unacceptable. We are becoming tragically complacent.

In October 2008, candidate Obama said:

This country and the dream it represents are being tested in a way that we haven’t seen in nearly a century. And future generations will judge ours by how we respond to this test. Will they say that this was a time when America lost its way and its purpose? …

Or will they say that this was another one of those moments when America overcame? When we battled back from adversity by recognizing that common stake that we have in each other’s success?

I have not forgotten these powerful words or what our nation sought on election day in 2008. After one year in office, I hope that President Obama remembers as well.