Of course, you and I don't really know what will happen. We are both just stating our hunches about it.
I think my hunches are every bit as viable as yours. You are free to feel otherwise. You and I both look to the past to explain what we think might occur in the future. I am not a student of history (kudos to you), but I observe that things tend to move in cycles . . getting better and getting worse, and getting better again, etc. I see that America 40, 50+ years ago was doing better than it is today. If we follow the downward spiral, we might eventually come out the other end doing OK again. But, as we are (I believe) much closer to the good of the past than we are to some hoped-for good of the future, I think it might be a better move to reach back and preserve what we can a little longer of those things that made the USA a great country during 1940's, 50's and 60's. Many of those things we have control over: Work ethic, morality (as taught, not inherited), respect for our government and each other, together as a people. Other things (like the supplies of energy and unrest in other countries) we have little or no control over, but I think the US and its people would be more able to deal with and adjust to those things if we were more like the WWII generation.
You wrote, "Despite it's offensiveness and waning influence, the world does still need the United States - and the States still need the federal government. You can be sure that most of the nation's resources, and some from other countries, would be dedicated to maintaining a federal government, even to the point of replacing those who had allowed it to get to such a point (or the federal system altogether). Maybe the voters, maybe the Governors and Congress, but it would get done."
I don't know why you would think that the world needs the United States. If the USA never existed, the rest of the world would go on, would it not? Or, if the USA suddenly vanished from the face of the Earth, the rest of humanity would do just fine. Any function that is or has been served by the United States would, if necessary, but taken on by another country or group of countries. I don't see any essential function that the US, or any other country for that matter, plays. To use a sports analogy, if the greatest players in a sport all died, others would come along to take their place. And so it is with the role of the US.
You wrote, "The U.S economic problems are actually fairly mild. Especially compared to the Reagan and Carter years during the energy price shock (a situation so bad that four centuries of economic theory was at a loss to explain it). Much of what people complain about is cosmetic . . . . ".
I have a friend who says much the same: The US' national debt is only about 2% of GNP . . . the out-sourcing of jobs is merely an adjustment, with some job categories no longer needed and dying a natural death (at least in US), to be replaced by other jobs that will be needed, etc. Believe me, I would like to think he is correct. Unfortunately, I don't see the new jobs he is talking about. For, the change is not one type of an obsolete job being replaced by a newly-needed job so much as it is that still-needed jobs are disappearing from the US to move elsewhere. And, its not just low-education, factory and manufacturing jobs that are leaving . . it is high-tech jobs (computer software emgineering . . . doctors reading test results and prescribing treatments from thousands of miles away . . . bookkeeping and tax prep work being done overseas. The change is not from one type of job to another . . . the change is that jobs are leaving a higher-wage economy like USA to go to slave-wage economies in Asia. American workers are now competing with such slave labor in Third World countries, which is why I think we are gradually becoming a Third World country.
You wrote, "Futurist Alvin Toffler identified it in the 1980s, naming it the "third wave" - the first wave was agriculture, which took several thousand years, the second was industrialization, which began in the 17th century. Basically, there are immense and rapid changes due to the emergence of a new range of technology which has the effect of freeing more people than ever before from traditional roles and behaviours."
CORRECTION: Not freeing people, but rather, enslaving Americans into a lower standard of living, as jobs continue to leave and $15-20 per hour factory jobs . . . and $80,000/yr high tech jobs . . . are sent overseas, replaced by $6-9 per hour fast food, discount store and convenience store jobs. Loss . . not gain . . . for Americans.
You: "This freedom will not stop, and everyone will have to adjust to the fact that they can no longer make simple assumptions about other people, or expect implicit agreement on various topics. A lot of what you complain about is simply that that adjustment is still in progress. But a lot of your objections seem to stem from these changes going against what you persionally think everyone else should do (which is a fundamentally intolerant position with no future). In that you join a large (but dwindling) number of people fighting to retreat to a "golden age" of the past, much like the people in that age who thought their own past was much superior - regressionism is a trait of many humans who don't like or can't understand the changes around them, back to the discovery of fire."
The positions I advocate are my own, and I don't expect that they would all win popular support. But, how do we know what a majority of Americans would choose if we don't allow them that opportunity? If voting is allowed, and a majority of American voters disagreed with me, so be it. Then, I can decide that there is still a future for me in this country and live with the vote, or decide the country isn't what I thought it was and leave to find a better place. Just let the people decide how their country will be.
YOU: "You might mean that the United States is more partisan now than at any time in history, and that is true. I don't know what they end result will be, but I strongly suspect that the far right will wither away, but continue to become more defensive and vocal as it does so until it is reduced to a few violent but ineffective militia groups which will be supressed, and finally lead to the repeal of the right to bear arms. I don't know what will replace it, but democratic reform of some sort will be demanded at the point where violence breaks out, and eventually enacted."
You show your bias, loud and clear. Why do you think conservatives are so bad for the country? How can they be worse than liberals? The root of conservatives is "conserve" . . . to preserve that which is good and worthy, to resist change for the sake of change, to keep the tried-and-true that created a great country . . and could do so again, if we would turn away from dark hole we seem heel-bent on exploring. Liberals seem to want to discard everything about the past . . the good along with the bad . . our pillars of strength along with the refuse. Why is that a virtue to you?
The right to bear arms is one last vestige of the common man being able to resist, if only feebly, an oppressive government. The nature of government -- all government -- is to seek greater control over the people. If the American people ever lose the right to bear arms, they will have lost (along with the freedoms of speech and assembly) a core right that will signal the end of real freedom. I have never owned -- rarely shot -- a firearm, and I hope this is a right that Americans NEVER LOSE!
YOU: "It (Katrina) wasn't so much a breakdown as a revealing - much of that was already there, as in other U.S cities, but hidden by the more well-to-do layer of population living above them. Many solutions to social problems are practiced elsewhere in the world, but are unpopular in the U.S. I suspect there will eventually be pressure to adopt those solutions (see above)."
Again, why do you (seem to) assume that the rest of the world (developed nations anyway) have the answers, and that the US is somehow backward? If they are so highly-advanced compared to Americans, we wouldn't be the most powerful and prosperous (for now) country in the world. As for New Orleans, I agree that the looting and violence revealed what was already there, but isn't that the point? I was saying that such calamities, occurring on a more widespread way, would result in the same events repeated throughout the country . . because that is the existing, underlying pathology in our inner cities. Certainly, a natural disaster doesn't make savages of people. You seem to agree with my point that the ground is fertile for this sort of thing to happen elsewhere in the US . . . that WAS my point.
YOU "Computer genious and futurist Raymond Kurzweil points out that all exponential trends which have hit limits have been followed by replacements which continue the same trends, and that is likely to also continue. For example, oil will likely be replaced by something more plentiful and efficient when it runs out (there are many candidates)."
Yes, there are energy options, but at this level of world population, what can replace oil? (YOU TELL ME, MR EXPERT). Wind? Geothermal? Nuclear? Coal? Can we GROW enough corn to make a significant amount of fuel for the world market? What can produce the bang-for-the-buck energy output of oil and not carry even greater environmental hazards? What do we do with the nuclear wastes that remain radioactive for, say, 500,000 years (store them like we do now, in containers that have an expected life of maybe 100 years?) . . . rush to make more wastes? Try to shoot the stuff into space . . . what happens if the launch fails or the stuff somehow falls back to Earth? (NICE!) I want to feel optomistic too . . but I need it to be realistic optomism. please.
Re Panama: "Only symbolically. The U.S is still effectively in control of Panama, and always has been since U.S Marines captured it from Colombia. A case in point is the capture of Manuel Noriega. The regime change in Iraq required a complete invasion. In Panama, the military was essentially under U.S command, so stepped aside and put up no resistance when informed that the landlord was visiting to evict an undesirable."
Well, yes, the U.S. can enter Panama in a way that we can't enter Iran or North Korea. What's your point? If the U.S. needed/wanted to enter Panama to squelch a problem, we could/would. That is true regardless if Panama is friendly or hostile to us. That is not the same thing as showing that control of the Canal wasn't really turned over to the Panamanians. Of course it was.