Other than the obvious consequences, what might we expect from a partial economic collapse? A total collapse of the economy would throw the nation into utter chaos. But what if we endure an economic depression, or a severe and long-lasting downturn? I think that some of the effects are not so obvious.
1. The college and university system will collapse
As I explained in this previous post, the system of higher education is a house of cards. The cost of getting a college degree has risen sharply and steadily, while real income has remained relatively flat. The price rise is due to the easy availability of grants and loans for education. But with so many persons getting a college degree, its value in the marketplace has plummeted. Many college grads are out of work, or they are working in a job that does not require a degree. Eventually, this practice of paying more and more, for something that is worth less and less, will collapse the system. Colleges and universities will not have enough paying students, and professors will not agree to a drastic pay cut. Overhead expenses are far too high.
All that is needed is an economic collapse, or partial collapse, to topple this house of cards. Many universities and colleges will be forced by economics to shut down.
2. Agricultural yields will plummet
The current U.S. agricultural system is based on the expectation of high yields. But high yields are obtained by high inputs — all the things that go into growing the crop, including lots of fertilizer, perhaps irrigation, herbicides, pesticides, labor, machinery. Then those high yields are sold and the money is then used to fund the inputs for the next crop cycle.
An economic collapse will mean that farmers will not be able to afford all the inputs needed for high yields. And when yields fall, the amount of money from that crop will be less. Then the next crop cycle will have even less money for inputs, resulting in even lower yields. And the process will continue — lower yields, less money, lower inputs — until many farmers are out of business and a food crisis results.
3. Violent crime will increase
When people lack money and food, they become desperate. And desperate people do desperate things. Theft and robbery will skyrocket, and people will be afraid in their homes, and afraid to go out in the community. Even a quick trip to the market will become risky. Sales of most goods will plummet, causing the economic crisis to worsen. Protests will turn violent. Home invasion robberies will become much more common. Many people will be killed or injured as a result of this increase in violent crimes.
4. Law enforcement will be overwhelmed
The law enforcement system in the U.S. is commercial. Officers are paid. We don’t keep a large excess of officers on the payroll, just in case crime sharply increases. So it is relatively easy for the system to be overwhelmed. And that means a call to 911 might not bring the police to your door in time, if at all. Those who have firearms for home defense will be much better off than those who rely solely on the police. But many households have no firearms. And that means that robberies will increase, and so will the economic damage and the number of injuries and deaths.
5. The healthcare system will be overwhelmed
The healthcare system is also commercial, and lacks a safety margin in the form of excess doctors and nurses. Hospitals operate at close to capacity. A sudden increase in persons who are sick or injured will overwhelm the system.
The aforementioned increase in violent crime will undoubtedly increase injuries. But it is less obvious that a disruption to the food production and distribution system will increase illnesses. Plenty of good healthy food is the first line of defense against illness. Malnourished persons are much more likely to get sick. So an extended disruption to the food supply will cause an increase in illnesses.
6. Travel anywhere will become dangerous
As a result of all the above described problems, travel will be dangerous. Want to make a quick trip to the supermarket? You risk having your house robbed, if it is left unoccupied. And you risk being attacked on your way back from the market. Robbers might wait outside the market and follow anyone who looks like they purchased a lot of food.
There will be protests in many places, and violence will often break out. People who are hungry and afraid do not make the best decisions. Then there is the cultural aspect of the situation. We live in a culture that tells us to expect the government to take care of us, and to protest whenever anything doesn’t go our way. Ironically, self-sufficiency is abhorrent to our narcissistic culture.
I expect that the roadways will be dangerous, as violent criminals will see travelers as easier targets than homes.
7. The death rate will jump higher
People will be malnourished because of the disruption in the food supply, so they will get sick more easily. Violent crimes and violent protests will result in many more injuries than usual. And yet healthcare will be much more difficult to access. There will be a shortage of hospital beds. It will be difficult to get a doctor’s appointment. There may be a shortage of prescription and OTC medications.
All of these factors will make life a riskier endeavor.
Now if you are a seasoned prepper, who has long considered the dangers inherent in an economic collapse, you may have anticipated some of the above consequences. But I hope I’ve added to your understanding of the possible problems that we may soon face.