Following what happened in New Orleans after Katrina, which, according to reports, fell into chaos and anarchy for a couple of days (roving gangs of armed thugs, rapes, murder, etc) before the National Guard came in to restore law and order, I started thinking that it may be possible, under certain conditions, for the anarchy to never get under control.
For example, I assume the thugs that were going around shooting at people thought that they could get away with it because there weren’t enough National Guardsmen or police around (due to the disaster) to stop them.
Now, assume that some disaster hit several major U.S. cities (hurricane, earthquake, or synchronized terrorist attacks). The thugs in those cities would know that, not only are there not enough National Guardsmen and police at the moment (so they can start doing whatever they like), but, since many cities have been hit, most likely there aren’t enough National Guardsmen and police to bring all the cities under control, for a long time, and maybe never. So they will be running the place at will.
Could this lack of law and order spread to other cities, where the local criminals will see that the law-and-order forces are being spread thin to address issues around the country?
Basically, is there some critical mass of anarchy that could plunge the entire U.S. into anarchy, or is this most likely impossible?
If there is such a critical mass, how big is it, do you think, and could the U.S. ever recover?
If there is a way for help to get into the area, things will come under control. If not, it won’t. And in almost every case, there are unaffected outside areas to come to the affected areas’ aid.
I think we’d have to be talking about disasters over an ENORMOUS area to create total chaos–we’re talking full-scale nuclear exchange or asteroid strike, IMO, or, possibly in a few years, simultaneous natural disasters following a prolonged Depression that drained coffers and granaries and made transportation, power transmission, and communications unreliable.
So you’d either need a preexisting condition (Depression) or a very, very acute disaster (i.e., one of planetary import) to do it.
Katrina was a special case because the city was nearly completely deserted except for those that were too poor to get out. When the poor are left to die and everyone else has left town, of course things are going to get a little crazy.
I don’t know that you would really need a cataclysm for this happen. In fact, I was a little worried in the wake of Katrina that it would happen. Here’s how it would play out:
Begin with a significant natural disaster that disrupts the flow of some commodity (gasoline, say). The price of said commodity doubles overnight (sound familiar?) People begin to panic, and assume that the price will double again tomorrow, so they rush to fill their tank. Lines and shortages ensue, and some deliveries are interrupted because of the shortage of gas. Signs begin to appear in stores saying, “Due to the recent troubles, etc., we are out of such-and-such.” People begin to get antsy, and flock to the grocery store. Shelves start to empty. Lather, rinse, and repeat.
The fact is, this scenario had begun to happen with Katrina. There were localized shortages of gasoline, and some feeble attempts at rationing. Fortunately, the situation began to stabilize before this spread too much.
The problem as I see it is that the system we have is built on faith – faith that there will be gas available tomorrow, faith that store shelves will always be stocked. Merchants share this faith, and in consequence, don’t keep big reserves of stuff – just a little more than they need to meet immediate demand. There’s not a ton of slack in the system, because slack is costly. It’s like that Japanese industrial theory of “just-in-time” deliveries.
Panic is contagious. You start with a little, and end with a lot. Once faith is severely shaken, things could spiral out of control quickly – even starting from a relatively minor disaster.
What about the Great Blackout of Aught-Three? Remarkably orderly, and while it wasn’t an entire country that was blacked out, it was parts of two countries that included a larger area and greater population than most countries in the world. I think it would take more that.
Yellowstone caldera going off might do it, as might the mega-tsunami that will hit the east coast when that mountain in the Canary Islands (?) slides into the Atlantic. Nuclear armageddon.
It’s being reported that the new head of FEMA was in involved in the duct tape panic. Within about 3 hours of the announcement duct tape was protection against a terrorist attack, bits on TV showed us how to use it and wihtin about two days, Walmart shelves were cleared of the item.
If that kind of chaos ever happened then we would probally see real marital law (complete with military tribunals, suspension of civil liberties, etc), not just that National Guard filling the roll of a police force. For instance nobody in Louisiana is going to face a military tribunal and civil agencies are still control. If order was totally lost in several cities at a time then the federal governmen could classify the violence as an insurrection which gives then all kinds of powers. If it got bad enough people might wind up executed after very short trials before a JAG officer or even summarily. Whether it’s constitution or not court challenges would take time (& be impossible if courts were closed).
The 95 percent of the public that are not worthless scumbags have gotten into the habit of letting the police take out the trash. Should that system break down, I think that ordinary people would begin to organize in small groups to protect themselves and their immediate area. There are thousands of people with military and law enforcement training among the general population. If the the “war” between the sub-humans and real people began, it wouldn’t last long.
And before scandalized fingers fly and start accusing me of covert racism because of my strong language, I am referring to behavior rather than skin color.
Remember, this has already happened—in 1973.
Gasoline didn’t just double in price; it was unavailable. If you are too young to remember , ask your parents how they survived it. Lines and shortages ensued–but no anarchy and chaos.