In a study, ironically for the most part paid for by different departments of the U.S. Government, including as disparate departments as NASA and the NSA, the biggest indicator historically of human civilizations failing has been extremes of wealth inequality. There are usually other factors, damage to the immediate environments of those civilization, rampant diseases and external attacks, but the single leading indicator of civilizations unravelling, is the rise of income and wealth disparity, a rise that in nearly every case spiralled exponentially as the civilization unravelled.
Since in most of those wealth and power went together, whether it was due to the influence of the wealthy on those in charge or the powerful making themselves also wealthy, the wealth enjoyed by the powerful created an insulation from reality for those in power, who were as a result the last to see the train wreck coming. The conclusion of the authors, whose study simultaneously examined a whole host of factors in western society as a comparison with other civilizations, was that the unravelling of western society had already more than begun.
Simultaneously, a new book by the top economist at the Paris School of Economics, a graduate of the London School of Economics with additional post doctoral work at MIT, looked at the economic history of the past couple of hundred years, given that more data is available and the ability to analyse it massively increased, and found that the temporary partial equalization in the west that lasted from 1920-1950 was an aberration, and even though its effects were felt into the 1970s, by the 1980s the general tendency for wealth to concentrate was back, and was accelerated hugely by government policies. His conclusion is that the extreme financial moves necessary to fund the two world wars, leading to what equated to a ~90% tax on already accumulated wealth, were the real reason income inequality declined until the 1950’s and created the affluence of middle income Americans from then until the 1970s. The increase in share of wealth by the middle classes and working classes into the 1970s has more than been undone since. In the U.S. particularly, the middle class barely exists because the median income isn’t close to what’s considered necessary for a middle class lifestyle.
Finally, an odd study by Barclay’s Bank linked the building of massive skyscrapers to financial crises over the past 150 years. The simple fact that skyscraper construction, particularly those which temporarily set the record for world’s tallest, appears to be an indicator of coming crises, could be coincidence or could be due to many factors. The most interesting point for me was the reason the authors at Barclay’s ascribed for the unusual synchrony, that the tallest buildings never stand alone, they’re always part of a general building of skyscrapers in a given city, and that general increase in skyscraper building is in itself an indication that fundamentally important economic issues were being ignored and the money used for projects, of which building massively tall buildings is only one example, whose use is questionable and certainly not central to the needs of the companies and people who are building them.
Two buildings destined to be the world’s tallest, since the one slightly shorter will be completed first, are under construction at the moment.
There are always those who predict doom, it’s part of the concerned nature of being human, but the sources of doom and gloom predictions today aren’t the usual ones, the opposition to the current governments, those marginalized or disadvantaged for less than valid reasons, etc. Instead the doom and gloom predictions are coming from bankers, economists and government funded think-tanks. That is maybe the most unusual aspect of all.