What Could “Collapse” Look Like? Let’s Look at a Country Currently in Free Fall – Forward Observer Shop

What Could “Collapse” Look Like? Let’s Look at a Country Currently in Free Fall

There’s no shortage of “collapsitarian” thought and literature out there. Make no mistake, I do believe that the United States will undergo a period of collapse, but as I’ve written previously, I don’t actually like that word: it’s so vague. (What is “collapse”? 25%? 50%? 100%? Read this for my thoughts on that.)

I certainly do expect a more difficult future for the next 10-20 or more years, but I would much rather identify specific challenges and components of “collapse” other than to just call it a collapse. America has different geographies, demographics, and cultures, and so not every area will look exactly the same. I just finished reading another blog post from a guy who peddles in collapsitarian fantasy, where he argues that America is in a “supercollapse” unlike anything in the history of the world. He doesn’t really describe what the “supercollapse” looks like and he doesn’t explain what we can expect as a result.

That, by the way, is the job of intelligence. Intelligence reduces uncertainty about the future. That’s the absolute value of having good information to produce good intelligence. Through clear thinking, structured analysis, and gaining an expertise on societies in collapse (historical and contemporary), we can absolutely gain some insight into our future challenges. There’s nothing wrong with collapsitarian literature, by the way; one very positive benefit is that each book is like a very entertaining brainstorming session that informs us of the full range of possibilities. That’s extremely beneficial, yet it’s not intelligence. The next step is to examine your local area, complete an Area Study, and begin thinking through the consequences and form some logical conclusions about how specific events or conditions would affect your area. You’re reducing uncertainty about the future by identifying what’s more likely and what’s less likely to happen. But I digress…

So what could our collapse look like at a local level? Let’s look no further than Mexico, our southern neighbor in absolute free fall, for some ideas. Here are a few things we’ve observed over the past year:

  • Mexico just elected a Leftist populist leader who railed against the incumbent president over 1) widespread corruption, 2) rising crime, 3) the inability to deal with the cartels, and 4) a lack of economic growth.
  • Drug cartels run Mexico. Underneath the positions of de jure power (the president, the congress, state governors, mayors, etc.) are echelons of de facto power. When we talk about collapse, this is the collapse of the Mexican government which lost political control over large swathes of their country. Do you remember the scene in Captain Philips, where the Somali pirate is holding the AK-47 and says, “Look at me. I am de captain now”? That’s the relationship between irregular forces in de facto authority/control over an area, and the government with de jure authority. And for much of Mexico, that’s the relationship between cartels, militias, and their federal government. That’s a great example of collapse.
  • The Associated Press last week reported about a rise in “mass crime” in Mexico: “'[S]ocialized’ or ‘mass’ crimes are spreading in Mexico as entire communities empty freight trains of merchandise or steal hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel from pipelines.” That’s reminiscent of U.S. flash mobs where, oftentimes, dozens of black teenagers will loot convenience stories (Wal-Marts have also been targets) and authorities are basically powerless to a) prevent it and b) catch all the thieves. Back to the situation in Mexico, the AP cites a research fellow at Columbia University: “The logic of the people [engaged in mass theft] is that they see politicians and officials stealing big time … and they see themselves as having the same right to steal as the big-time politicians.” He continues: “You begin to create an ethical code in which, ‘If the upper-class people can steal and get away with it, we can steal, too, with complete justification.’” That’s a society in collapse.
  • In May, two supermarkets refused to pay an extortion fee for a local cartel and paid a price, anyway. Gunmen broke locks on the two supermarkets and allowed the locals to loot the stores. “Police didn’t show up for hours” and the supermarket owners were virtually powerless in preventing the mass looting. This is happening across the country. That’s a society in outright collapse. That’s an outright “failure of civility”.
  • Earlier this year, train robbers were blocking tracks an average of six times per day, where “thieves open up grain hoppers or freight cars and people swoop in en masse as police or soldiers stand by outnumbered and overwhelmed.”
  • There’s a CBC article from March 2017 that claims “Mexican cartel earns more from mining and logging than drugs”. Instead of producing and trafficking methamphetamine for their primary source of income, the cartel is mining, transporting and selling iron ore and clear cutting forests for lumber. Where are the authorities to stop the illegal mining and logging? Virtually no where to be found. “I’ve never looked at them as drug-trafficking organizations,” Logan said of Mexico’s cartels. Says one expert: “[The cartels are] multinational corporations that will react to market pressures and do what they have to do to stay in business.”
  • In 2017, Mexico experienced a record number of homicides, numbering nearly 30,000, and the country is on track to make a new homicide record in 2018. There have been over 200,000 murders since 2007. There’s no control over the lawlessness. [source]

We often think of places like Somalia and Afghanistan as failed states yet we overlook our southern neighbor and fail to realize just how bad the situation is there. And I think we should consider it as a model for U.S. collapse. (The word “ungovernable” comes to mind, which incidentally is a rallying cry of the anti-Trump resistance.)

Each week, the intelligence analysts at Forward Observer keep our subscribers informed on the full-range of threats, from the strategic level (Russia, China, etc.) to the national level (political/social/economic instability and the potential for systems disruption). If you want to stay informed on what the headlines don’t cover, and understand the risks of world war, civil war, and collapse, then I invite you to try us out. If you’re not happy within the first two weeks, I’ll refund your monthly or annual subscription cost – no questions asked. You can get access to our intelligence reporting here.


Always Out Front,
Samuel Culper

If you’re concerned about where we’re headed as a country, whether on the near-end of the spectrum or the far end of the spectrum (social, political and economic instability; domestic conflict; or collapse of empire), and want to stay informed on what the headlines don’t cover, then I invite you to try us out. If you’re not happy within the first two weeks, I’ll refund your monthly or annual subscription cost – no questions asked. You can get access to our intelligence reporting and training area here.



Mike Shelby is a former military intelligence NCO and contract intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.


  1. Technically, a collapse in Mexico’s civil institutions en masse would produce actual refugees streaming across the border, not the current “economic migrants”.
    We really do need to put up that wall, pronto.

  2. I live in a somewhat failed state. The government is the cartel. The currency has devalued to nothing and been replaced with US$. My house is surrounded by a wall. I get water from a bore hole in my garden. I have a generator and solar. I drive a 4×4 because the roads have deteriorated and it offers some protection against kamakazi road users as do my wife and children. Every level of government is utterly corrupt. Life carries on, the world has not ended.

    I still meet nice people, life is relaxed. Business is not too competitive. Some people still have good manners. Some people are still honest. My neighbours do not bother me and I do not bother them.

    If you are a productive person and able to stand on your own two feet collapse is okay. In many way it is a better lifestyle than living in the consumerist rat race in the west.

  3. California is in trouble. It is not a failed state yet. It us a failing state. The rest of the union should pay attention to what has happened here.

    Here is a short list of what the California government has achieved in the last 25 years:

    One of the worst school systemsHighest taxes
    cap and trade and gas tax resulted in $4.00 gas (today)
    Highest poverty rate in the US
    Highest homeless rate in the US
    Non violent felons let out of prison.
    A rape that does not include a knife or a gun is ‘non violent’.
    Worst traffic in the US — even worse than Beijing when I was there five years ago
    Spending billions of dollars on a high speed train in the central valley. It needs tens of billions more, is economically infeasible, and not wanted. We need water reservoirs, not worthless trains.
    Sanctuary state has caused quite a few deaths at the hands of illegal aliens
    School lunch is good. But school provided breakfast teaches children that parental responsibility is less important because the government will take care of you.
    Worse than awful center city schools
    Regulation of everything: cow farts (yes. Really),
    grocery bag tax,
    a clergyman can’t give a bible to someone suffering from gender dysphoria,
    outlaw fois gras,
    free college education for illegals — not for anyone else.
    Hundreds of thousands non-citizens registered to vote. Maybe millions.
    Proven: 6% of non-citizens actually do vote.
    Level of business regulation is insane. You need 14 separate permits to open a diner.
    50% of K-12 schools AND university employees do not teach. This is an unheard of level of overhead and drives educational cost way up
    .Air Resources Board makes it impossible to open a furniture finishing company.
    New requirements to install solar panels on all new residential homes will raise costs between $10,000 and $30,000 per house, where housing costs are so high that many working poor live in their cars.
    Many, many, thefts, each less than $950 still do not constitute a felony — so all that happens is a ticket.
    Workers comp actually injures workers
    If you buy a car in another state and it has less than 7,500 miles on it, you cannot register it in California– ever.
    An extinct 2″ long fish is more important than drinking water
    Homeless in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego have contagious hepatitisStreets in LA and San Francisco are covered with human feces and used needles.
    Highest rate of STD in the nation.

  4. why does this Administration and media talk of this economy as the greatest since sliced bread when we are still 21,000,000,000,000
    in debt!!

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