The February 20, 2009 edition of the Glenn Beck television show featured a chilling discussion of some worst-case economic and political scenarios facing the US in the next 5 years. Beck was always careful to point out that he and his guests weren’t claiming that these scenarios would happen, but rather that they could happen (i.e., they were within the realm of possibility), and that thinking about them was an important part of working to prevent them from occurring.
Dr. Onkar Ghate of the ARI appeared to discuss possible restrictions of free speech if we started heading towards dictatorship and some of the warning signs we should look for. You can watch his segment here:
One of the other topics discussed in detail was the possibility of a large-scale financial meltdown on the order of the Great Depression (if not worse). Given the US government will dig itself into unprecedented levels of debt due to the various bailout programs, it may start trying to print money (i.e., inflate the currency) as a way to “solve” the problem:
Of course, this won’t work. And Beck’s guests pointed out that this unhappy scenario has already played out in other countries in the past, such as Argentina during the 1990s.
(One of the guests was Stephen Moore, the Wall Street Journal financial writer who also cited Ayn Rand in his widely read recent OpEd, “‘Atlas Shrugged’: From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years”.)
Although I still believe that an Argentina-style financial meltdown probably won’t occur in the US, I also believe that there is a small but nonzero chance that it might.
Hence, I’d like to point readers towards this very interesting essay by an Argentinian who lived through that country’s crisis. The author dispels some of the extreme right-wing survivalist myths about such scenarios. More importantly, he also discusses the very real threats and challenges that ordinary people have to deal with in such circumstances, and he gives some worthwhile advice and recommendations on how best to cope.
Much of his advice would be applicable to any number of natural or man-made crises. Anyone who values his or her life might want to make it a point to cultivate the mental and physical tools necessary to survive such circumstances.
Again, I don’t think this is the most likely future for the US. And I intend to concentrate my main effort in the battle of ideas, precisely to help prevent this from happening. But just as I think it’s prudent to keep a fire extinguisher in one’s kitchen or a first-aid kit in one’s car as protection against bad events, I also think it would be prudent for Americans to plan for significant economic and political turbulence in the near future. Many of these actions are things most intelligent people would want to do anyways, such as minimizing/eliminating debt, keeping at least 6 months of living expenses in the bank, staying physically healthy, etc.
The recent history of Argentina offers Americans some important lessons. Whether we learn from them is up to us.
(Disclaimer: This is the first episode of the Glenn Beck show that I’ve ever watched. He’s pretty good on some concrete points of politics and economics. But he also fell into the typical conservative error of stating that rights come from God, rather than being a consequence of our nature. But I’m hoping that there will be future opportunities for Objectivists to present the correct philosophic justification of individual rights on shows like his.)