The new crisis era?

Time to head further down the rabbit hole of whether America has entered a new crisis era — or whether it's yet to begin.

We left off this discussion yesterday by noting that baby boomers may be headed toward a much more modest retirement than they were expecting — a theme Bill Bonner visited this week in the DR, in terms startlingly reminiscent of a book written ten years ago called The Fourth Turning.

The book's premise is that Anglo-American society goes through predictable cycles every 80 years or so, every four generations, brought about by predictable shifts in societal attitudes.  Sure enough, the American Revolution was followed roughly 80 years later by the Civil War, followed roughly 80 years later by the Depression and World War II, followed roughly 80 years later by…

By what?

The authors' considerable fan base (and the authors have written several related studies of the passing of generations and their zeitgeists) has been speculating on discussion boards all over the Internet for years about whether we're now in a new crisis era.  Did it begin with 9/11?  Or have the past few years been a continuation of the "culture wars" that began in the 80s, and the real crisis is yet to hit?

One of the keys to understanding the question is understanding that each event that brings on a new crisis is followed by an event the authors call a "regneracy" — when people come to the realization that "things are really different now."  So while the authors say the Revolutionary period began with the Boston Tea Party, it wasn't until the Declaration two and a half years later that the reality of a break from England hit full force.  Likewise, Lincoln's election precipitated a crisis, but only with Ft. Sumter did the full scale of the crisis become clear.  The crash of 1929 marked the start of yet another crisis, but it was only with FDR's ambitious Hundred Days that people realized things were changing forever.

So… did 9/11 begin the new crisis period?  And if so, what constitutes its regeneracy?  I've noted elsewhere that whatever "unity" the country felt after 9/11 had clearly dissipated by April 2004.  That month brought the killings of the four American contractors and the resulting first battle for Fallujah… and it also brought us the pictures from Abu Ghraib.  Iraq, and American involvement in the Middle East, would be a much mroe lengthy and messy affair than most people had counted on.

But as more time passes, I don't think a crisis came in September 2001, or reached its regeneracy in 2004.  Rather the past few years have been more or less a continuation of the 80s culture wars, 90s impeachment, 2000 disputed election, etc.  Much bitterness, much divisiveness… but life has more or less continued to bump along. 

I suspect the new crisis has yet to arrive.  And I have no idea what form it will take. Geopolitical?  Financial?  A combination?

We shall see.

The Daily Reckoning