Dmitry Orlov - the U.S. and the five stages of collapse

06/03/11 Kelly Benjamin
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The United States national debt hit $14.2 trillion this month. With economic recovery continuing to lag and high oil prices, rising food costs, and unemployment frustrating Washington's efforts to kick start the economy, some historians and economic analysts are drawing analogies between the collapse of the Soviet Union and what the United States is currently experiencing. One such analyst is Dmitry Orlov, author of book Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects. Orlov was raised in the Soviet Union. WMNF's Kelly Benjamin spoke with Orlov about what he describes in the book as "the 5 stages of collapse" and which stage the United States is in right now.

"First you have financial collapse, which is basically the volume of debt that has to be taken on in order for the economy to continue functioning, cannot continue. We're seeing that right now in Greece, we're probably going to see that in Japan, we're definitely at a point now in the United States where even if you raised the income tax to 100 percent, there's absolutely no way of covering the liabilities of the U.S. federal government. So, we're at that point now but the workout of the financial collapse is not all quite there. We don't quite have a worthless currency but that's in the works."

"That, of course, is followed by commercial collapse especially in a country like the United States that imports two thirds of it's oil. A lot of that is on credit and if a little bit of that oil goes missing then the economy starts to fall apart because nothing moves unless you burn oil in the United States and, of course, a lot of goods that are sold everywhere are imported again, on credit. And then commercial collapse is generally followed by political collapse because the Congress no longer has the ability to spend money in the fashion to which they have become accustomed. Governments at every level start failing. We're seeing the beginnings of that where fire and police departments around the country are being cut. Right now there's a big fight over the retirement of retired municipal workers. Retirements are, basically, being looted in order to paper over these giant gaping holes in the finance scheme."

"Then the last two stages are I think generally avoidable in most places which is social and cultural collapse. Unfortunately to my thinking these two stages have largely run their course in many places in the United States where people really don't know their neighbors and also they don't really do very much for themselves. They expect to be fed at fast food establishments, they don't know how to cook from scratch, and things like that. So, those are the five stages and a lot of people have found this sort of way of thinking useful in terms of understanding what's happening."

Dmitri Orlov, what do you see the United States looking like for Americans in the next 5 to 10 to 20 years?

"I think the country will be unrecognizable in 10 years, I don't know about 5, but I don't think it will look like a country in 10 years. I think it will be largely dismembered by it's creditors."

Do you think that we're going to be going quickly or slowly into these different stages of collapse?

"I think certain stages like the onset of fuel, transportation, fuel shortages will be very sudden. American society tends to be very fragile. People tend to bring shotguns and baseball bats to gas stations and then every thing goes down hill from there. I expect certain parts of the country to go through this cataclysm where suddenly everything that they depend on, which is basically their car, no longer works and everybody's stranded and very angry. It would be a lot of mayhem. We've already seen that, for instance, during Hurricane Katrina and afterward because of all the refinery problems the '..' pipeline that goes up from the Gulf, I think it ends up in New Jersey somewhere, it couldn't be filled so gas stations in places like North Carolina ran dry and I've heard from people in that area that basically civilization ceased to exist. And then, when gasoline supplies were restored civilizaton sort of came back. That should be the pattern in a lot of places in this country."

There's been some limited coverage of peak oil in the press recently, do you think it's enough to raise the level of awareness for people in this country about the things that you predict are going to happen?

"Unfortunately a lot of people simply cannot be reached because they refuse to hear what we have to say. It's not that they can't understand it, it's that they refuse to listen. The media, in general, in the United States makes it very easy because there is this fictional reality that they perpetuate and foist on people that contradicts what we're saying. We're saying that 'this will not continue for very much longer, people'. And then the media says that 'everything is fine, everything is normal', and even the President is now in the game where he says completely nonsensical things like drilling in Alaska for oil will actually make a difference. He recently said that. It contradicts what his own government says about the amount of oil left there. Some of these just fictional feel good messages just saturating the media and so the reality based people really don't stand a chance."

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It’s a figment of our imagination…

I am truly impressed with this article… someone actually talking about the possible demise of this great nation and placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of the “LEFT”… where it belongs!!! Fortunately… we can do something about it. STAGE ONE: Financial collapse as a result of “Guvment Spending”. This is a no-brainer and several states like Florida & Wisconsin are moving forward with their own cost cutting plans… to counteract the inactivity of the federal Senate Democrats. (Almost 2 and a half years and not a single cost cutting bill)… WHY??? The Democrats have initiated stage one!!! STAGE TWO: Commercial collapse as a result of imports and especially the import of “Oil”. And why do we import so much oil??? Because the Democrats refuse to let US tap into our own oil resources. Here Mr. Orlov uses Katrina to show how the slightest mishap can shut down gas supplies. Our gas refineries are at full production capacity and the Democrats refuse to let any more be built (which would also add new jobs)… WHY??? The Democrats are clearly pushing US into stage two. But… not to worry. Did you know that (according to the EIA) the US currently EXPORTS more than 450,000 barrels of refined GASOLINE every day??? Again… a no-brainer and easily fixed!!! STAGE THREE: Political collapse as a result of the “Guvment not being able to spend”. Now this could actually happen… but only to one party in our political system… the Democrats… everyone else is trying to cut spending!!! As for STAGES FOUR & FIVE: Social and Cultural collapse… Mr. Orlov… it’s not that they are “avoidable”… they simply do not pertain to US!!! The American social structure is based on “Individual Freedoms”… we are first and foremost… INDIVIDUALS… who “choose” to come together socially. And the 2nd Amendment insures that our social interactions are kept to a relatively “civil” exchange. And… the United States of America has no “culture”… we are the “smelting pot of ALL cultures”… all we have is an “American Dream”!!! And as you’ve point out in the last paragraph… that “Dream”… will convert even the highest ranking Socialist’s…

um, actually...

Actually Glenn, you are letting your own biases shape what you hear in Orlov's words. He is not a supporter of continued domestic drilling. He states in the interview he thinks drilling in Alaska is nonsensical. Peak Oil is not a left or right issue here.

um, really???

Dude… I thought Orlov said, “…even the President is now in the game where he says completely nonsensical things like drilling in Alaska for oil will actually make a difference…” And again I say that the “American Dream” will convert even the highest ranking Socialist.

Another fruitcake

Glenn, You appear to be one of those poor souls doomed to see the world in a left vs. right dichotomy. The point is it's nonsensical to think drilling in Alaska will prevent collapse-whether it's Obama pushing it or Sarah Palin. What's this American dream you speak of? Does it have something to do with unfettered American exceptionalism, including the ludicrous idea that even geologic reality could be overcome by enough positive (patriotic) thinking?


I still have trouble with whether Orlov's is a left or right point of veiw. Oh wait, this is a followup to last week's Rapture story, isn't it? It's got the same god-like point of view, after all. No more fast food? we'll stAAAAArve. Puhleeze.

Party's over

What the helll is right or left about the depletion of the substance we based our civilization on over the past century?

I like fruitcake...

Hey… MSM… of course I view the world in a left vs. right dichotomy. What other way is there to view it??? (And you talk about me making sense…) Why is it “nonsensical” to think that energy independence will create a much stronger economy with cheaper commercial products??? And drilling in Alaska will be but a small piece of that puzzle. If you honestly believe that some new alternative energy thingie will replace our fossil fuels and petrochemical requirements… dude … then you need to readdress your apparent contempt for “unfettered American exceptionalism”… because THAT, is what it will take to get US there!!! By-the-way… I would much rather have the ludicrous ideas of positive (patriotic) thinking of the right… than the negative (defeatist) panic of the left. Oh look… there’s that dichotomy again!!!

Age of Stupid

Glenn, Nothing is sadder than the ravings of a lunatic. If you can't fathom why you've been force fed a false dichotomy or why using up the last of the oil resources to prop up a doomed empire is phenomenally stupid, don fret, you're in good company-right up there with the guy who chopped down the last tree on Easter Island. Ever see that movie Age of Stupid? It reminds me of people like you.

ouch... you hurt my little feelings

Have you ever seen Zardoz???


Don't waste time on people like Glenn. They're precisely the sort of sleepwalkers who can't be reached, as Dmitry points out (from plenty of rueful experience). That's not because they're too stupid to understand, but because they refuse to hear. They're still clinging to delusional feelgood scripts about the world. Talking to people in that mindstate is about as useful as shovelling smoke. Wait for reality to start kicking some sense into them. Won't be long now.

Leftist elitism…

Or you can listen to people like… Rhisiart Gwilym and get stuff like “…invariably polite, affable conversation, wherein sharp perception and relentless pointing up of dissonant truths are as thickly scattered as unexploded USukisraeli cluster bomblets in the villages of Southern Lebanon.” (WTF???) The droning on and on and on and on… of Mr. Interesting.

Left? Right? Who cares??!!

Glenn, You sound new to the Doomer mindset. I started to see the light one year ago - there is no left or right. Just different wrapping paper. Sold in FL because it's a trainwreck, and when this all goes down they're all gonna kill each other. Too crowded, no cropland in the Mega burbs. Safer up north. Find the websites and read more. Forget the left/right thing. Learn to survive....

I prefer the South... thank you very much!!!

Rick… learn to survive what??? A bunch of light in the loafers lefties??? Please… all I would need to do is hang a life sized poster of Lady Gaga with a disco ball over head and they all go brain dead… just stareing at her… drooling… and twitching at the buttocks!!! Pin up a poster of Michael Jackson… and you can get a “thriller” thing going with a crotch grab. And if you really want to see some brain dead zombies… put a picture of Barbra Streisand up and watch the baby seal skin wallets come out!!! It would be like catching bunnies in a bear trap.

Glenn's right & makes me LOL

Orlov is just the latest Malthusian, predicting an imminent Leftist Rapture. "Reality-based" is about as self-servingly delusional as "progressive".

Make it so...

Malthusians... they have an alliance with the Ferengi... right???