1. The joke is, this is what high speed rail looks like in the rest of the world:

    In North America … politics prevents it.

    • This might change with time.

      The younger generation of Americans are moving to more urban areas, especially big cities. Because of this, they are driving less (owning cars less and delaying their getting drivers licenses). Instead, they are increasingly relying on such things as public transportation.

      That is the whole reason Europe embraced public transportation, because more of their populations became highly urbanized earlier than happened in the US. Because of the US economy having been built on agriculture, it took longer for Americans to leave rural areas. It’s only been in the past generation that the vast number of small towns have begun disappearing.

      Public transportation to be cost effective requires highly concentrated populations. The politics will change as the social and economic demands of lifestyles change.

  2. Off topic, but this design was actually retired into an 8 car configuration on the main line in Japan. There’s a newer model out.

    Anyways, here’s a closer look if you want:

    But the point is, even with population density, it’s no assurance of better infrastructure. The politics has to support it. I think though my generation does support it, but it’s not very politically active.

    • In the end, even the forces behind big gov and big biz will support the building of infrastructure. Big infrastructure will in the future mean big money and big power.

      It doesn’t require a functioning democracy to get infrastructure development. The demands of maintaining power was all that it took to build the interstate highway system. The military-industrial complex will for similar reasons seek to build the infrastructure necessary for maintaining the status quo and growing the systems necessary for defending the status quo.

      Eisenhower, a former military guy, didn’t build the interstate highway system for the sake of being a nice guy, but to ensure the military could move quickly across the entire continent. He was impressed by how the Nazis were able to so effectively move troops and equipment using their highly advanced highways.

      The US lagged behind Germany back then and still lags behind. But the US will copy the success of others when those in power realize how they can benefit from it.

  3. I’m not so sure about that. The elite are not so long term thinking as in other nations.

    At least not today. Eisenhower was more long-term oriented than the leaders are today or the ones that are likely to take power.

    • You might be right… or might be wrong.

      Yes, things are different from the past. But that just makes it all that more unpredictable, whether one interprets that uncertainty according to optimism or pessimism. Either way, I still think that history tends to follow cycles, even as it shifts in new directions.

      Eisenhower was a certain kind of typical American leader, the kind that has shown up from time to time throughout American history. Before Eisenhower, there was Lincoln. And before Lincoln, there was Washington.

      So, every few generations, we get that kind of leader as president. If we go by the time between Washington and Lincoln, between Lincoln and Eisenhower, the same time frame would extend from Eisenhower to the next couple of decades when we might next expect another similar leader.

      There has always been periods of turmoil and crisis between the leadership of relatively more wise and mature presidents. During those periods, Americans have lamented at the lack of good leadership and a general sense of malaise.

      It is a cycle that has repeated so far. We can’t be certain it will continue. Then again, we have no reason to think it won’t continue.

      Is it different this time? What about all the times before when it was claimed that it was different? It is always different and yet it always goes on. If the Civil War couldn’t destroy this country, what will?

      I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out.

  4. Many were hoping for exactly that when they voted for Obama. He proved a disappointment because he was corrupt and paid for by the banks.

    Others on the left firmly feel that had Gore won in 2000, although far from perfect (he was neoliberal), he probably would have done a much, much better job than Bush every would have.

    At the very least, it’s likely that the US would have made considerable strides in infrastructure, education, and green technology.

    • According to Strauss and Howe, the periods I speak of are all during the crisis phase of the cycle. All three leaders I spoke of (Washington, Lincoln, and Eisenhower) became president at the tail end of the crisis phase or shortly following it.

      The present crisis phase supposedly began around 2005. Each phase lasts about 20 years, the typical length of a generation. That would put the end of the present crisis at around 2025. So, Obama is too early, if we are to base a prediction on the past, according to this theory.

      This coming decade or so will represent the shifting of the generations. Boomers will retire and die in ever larger numbers. GenXers will increasingly move into positions of power, influence, and leadership. And Millennials will more fully enter into both careers and politics.

      We are on the cusp of whatever new order will form. It is hard to predict the next era while still fully within a period of crisis and hence of instability.

  5. I’d put this present crisis as having started in the 1970s and worsening drastically with the Reagan Revolution rather than in 2005.

    Perhaps 2000 with the election of the Bush administration (which is about when the housing bubble began its worst inflation following the tech boom).

    Around this time, outsourcing also went up, the US invaded Iraq in 2003, and a bunch of very bad things happened.

    • In Strauss and Howe’s theory, a crisis refers to a specific part of the cycle.

      The problems build up over the entire cycle. But some event or set of events will trigger a crisis point when those problems have developed to such a point that they challenge the status quo. Consider the Civil War, which slowly built up from the unresolved issues in the Constitution. The resolution of each cycle sets the stage for the next crisis.

      What finally sets off a crisis can be somewhat arbitrary. It just needs to be at the right time when conditions are at a tipping point.

      I think the crisis, in our time, most clearly was triggered by 2008 (or, to the extent it already had begun, it could no longer be denied by then). The anti-democratic unconstitutional election of Bush, the 9/11 terrorist attack, and the Iraq War definitely pushed the country toward the crisis. But the crisis itself was fully pushed over the edge with the economic problems that were felt personally across the entire American population.

      It was at that point, that it became clear that we were genuinely entering a new era that was never going back to how it was before. With the bank bailouts, it felt like the final nail in the coffin. Fighting against the changes felt futile at that point, as everyone understood that those who held power were getting away with everything they sought to achieve. It was obvious that an entirely new direction was needed, not just a defensive rearguard action trying to beat back the oncoming shift.

      In the fourth turning (the crisis phase), a couple decade period is entered when fear, uncertainty, and instability reigns. It really doesn’t matter the exact year it began, but it we can be fairly certain that we’ve already entered into new territory or rather the final fruition of the developments over the latter half of the 20th century.

      This is an era of despair and doubt about what is happening, regret and mourning over what was done. It’s the sense of an ending, the realization that our society will never be the same again.

      The last crisis was the period of time involving the Prohibition years building up to the Great Depression and continuing through WWII. That puts our own era in perspective. We know how our time of crisis is beginning, but how it finally ends could be truly catastrophic in ways we might not imagine. All that we can feel confident about is our world will be transformed and a new order will take its place.

      No one could have predicted the post-Civil War modernization, urbanization, and industrialization back during the initial emerging of a new third party called the Republicans. No one could have predicted the post-WWII global dominance and progress of America back during the dark and violent years of the 1920s.

      That is the position we are in now. With each cycle, there has so far been both great progress and immense growth of a centralized state. But with each cycle, there is always the threat of decline, instead of progress. No one ever knows where it is heading.

  6. Going to have to disagree with Strauss and Howe in that cycles were pre-determined.

    Had the US got a real progressive candidate and a Congress that could have worked to address the challenges that caused the 2008 crisis .

    On that note, I am not sure that all of the problems were “solved”. The Reconstruction for example did not “solve” the problems that caused the US Civil War for the South. That is not to say that society did not advance in many ways (it did during the Progressive era), but that it did not solve all of the problems.

    Arguably, it set things in motion for the problems that resulted after – just like how the tech boom and the housing boom set things in motion for a crisis in 2008.

    Off topic, but I have been meaning to put together an email for you. Sorry about the delays there.

    • It’s not that the cycles are pre-determined. The authors explain this. It’s a pattern that has only shown up in relative recent history, and it took a while for it to fully take hold. Also, as they show with the Civil War era, the cycle can be disrupted or altered.

      Actually, the point is that no problems are finally solved. That is what leads to the next cycle. The problems are shifted and reframed, take on new form and significance, etc.

      It’s that very continuity that maybe is what makes the predictability of the cycles possible. This requires a minimum degree of stability in a society or otherwise the unpredictability factor would never allow anything to settle into a pattern like this.

      The reason I take the theory seriously is because the predictions seem compelling. They first published their theory more than a couple of decades ago, during the height of optimism following the end of the Cold War (what Fukuyama wrongly thought was the end of history). T was many years before any of the events that happened since the beginning of this new century. Their theory was highly prescient, to say the least.

      I don’t know if the theory is absolutely correct. But it does have immense explanatory power. I also like that the authors weren’t afraid to make short term predictions about where things were heading. If nothing else, they had a good sense of the trends indicated in the data.

  7. Maybe. In that case it seems “relatively” accurate.

    We can probably predict that there will be future crises involving inequality and distribution. The other is that the destruction of manufacturing seems to be much more damaging than many predict.

    We can also safely expect that global warming will produce a crisis.

    • Ignore the totality of the theory. Just consider the crisis aspect.

      Sometime since the beginning of this new century, American society has entered a crisis. This has become clear to most Americans at this point, and I assume most non-Americans as well, since the crisis has spilled over into the larger global society.

      Many things have contributed to this crisis. Many things have pushed it over the edge into seemingly different territory. It feels like we are entering a new era.

      So, where are we? And where are we heading? If the resolution (even if temporary and partial) of one crisis sets the stage for the next crisis, what is being put into place now that future generations will eventually be forced to confront and deal with?

  8. Perhaps so – just this crisis.

    It’s getting worse and worse. Where are we? We seem to be heading towards a hellish situation brought on by society’s richest and perhaps by it’s own gullibility as well.

    Off topic, but it’s been a really rough week for me.

  9. We are moving away from the resolution that society most desperately needs and towards a 1984 like world. That and a banana Republic which a few live in gated communities and many others struggle to get by.

    If you are right that the cycle is sstarting, it could be about 20-30 years before the end of the problem. Note what these cycles mean. The solution is only partial.

    The biggest issue is that the political system is subservient to the corporations and ultimately the top 0.1.

    • The uncertainty part of the equation is what really intrigues me. Uncertainty, unlike in the past, is now fully global. A significant enough shift could lead to cascade of results.

      During previous eras, changes were mostly local or regional. The larger world didn’t ever change en masse. It was always a change in one place and later a change somewhere else. But just imagine what something like a truly global WWIII would leave in its wake.

      Instead of a rearrangement of the pieces, we might enter an entirely new historical period of civilization. With international tensions and biospheric instability, it would be so easy for all of society as we know it to topple or take on a form never before seen. Then all bets would be off.

      The prospect fascinates me, but I wouldn’t want to live through it. Most people very well might not live through it. The survivors would have quite the task in picking up the pieces.

  10. It is a tough time for the typical person, I would agree.

    The problem is that I think that humanity has never really accepted the idea of egalitarianism as a good. It has never abandoned the idea of material wealth as an end. The problem is that everything that is being done by the far right is all about the transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top.

    There are other things that are of course wrong, but I think that the worst is from the very rich.

    Eventually yes, something will happen. What and when is anyone’s guess though. Predicting when is risky.

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