In part because we wake gripped by existential terror every morning, we at the Combat! blog offices like to paint the present American moment as one of unusual discord. In this way, we resemble our predatory stepbrothers in the more, ahem, widely-consumed media, who often act as if American politics were more fractious now that it was in, say, the 19th century. Such claims seem convincing—I totally see more modern people accusing one another of not being citizens than I see knickerbockers settling disagreements with sword canes—but how can I know? If only there were some means of quantifying intranational dissent, so I could know with mathematical certainty how the partisan turmoil of my age compares to that of my forebears. I suppose I’ll just have to give up and read the Bi—boom! Logarithmic plotting of correlation between stock market crashes and secessionist movements, pussies! Props to James Erwin, not only for the link but for much of the original research used in the link. He’s also raising a child.
Before you get too excited about this study, you should know there are some fairly obvious holes. Alan Hall plots wave patterns in the Dow Jones Industrial and other averages over the last 300 years alongside what he calls “social-mood induced anger,” as measured in wars and secession movements. His argument that “social-mood induced anger has to emerge somewhere, and it can come out in external war, internal secessionism, civil war or both,” is problematic, since one questions exactly what social-mood anger would be if it didn’t come out somewhere. A national bad mood not expressed as divisive politics, war, discouraged investment or some other indicator would be hard to call a national bad mood, so the claim that these moods result in these negative expressions seems a substitution of a name for a cause.
Fortunately, Hall’s graphs are more circumspect than his arguments. He starts by drilling his amorphous concepts of “social mood” and “outlets for anger” down to two very quantifiable data types: DJIA and war casualties. It turns out that the three most precipitous declines in US market history shortly predated the three deadliest wars in US killing everybody history: World War II, the Civil War and the American Revolution. Interestingly, though, it’s not a market collapse that augurs a big war; it’s a second market collapse. “In compatibility with the explanation in Chapter 16 of The Wave Principle of Human Social Behavior, the five wars with the largest death tolls occurred within or just after the second decline of each associated bear market,” Hall writes.
The immediate conclusion to be drawn from this observation, of course, is that our ongoing recession does not mean we are headed for a massive explosion of violent rage and/or civil war. That would only be likely if the economy did something Bad again, and by Hall’s reasoning it would only turn inward if we couldn’t find a common enemy. Fortunately for those of us who will soon pass out of draft age, we’ve got that covered. In the meantime, while we wait for a second economic collapse and race-inflected war against a nuclear superpower, our resentment will just simmer and bubble up as soft secession movements.
Don’t buy it? Maybe you didn’t hear that the South Carolina General Assembly recently voted to stop using US currency and adopt the silver standard. I quote a goddamn law that a goddamn state legislature tried to pass:
The South Carolina General Assembly finds and declares that the State is experiencing an economic crisis of severe magnitude caused in large part by the unconstitutional substitution of Federal Reserve Notes for silver and gold coin as legal tender in this State. The General Assembly also finds and declares that immediate exercise of the power of the State of South Carolina reserved under Article I, Section 10, Paragraph 1 of the United States Constitution and by the Tenth Amendment, is necessary to protect the safety, health and welfare of the people of this State, by guaranteeing to them a constitutional and economically sound monetary system.
Let us not forget that South Carolina is the state that brought you nullification back in 1833, to say nothing of Jim DeMint in 1951. If you’re like me, though, you view such gestural lawmaking as no more real than a Civil War re-enactment and therefore not a valuable indicator. In that case, I invite you to consider a simpler, more crowd-sourced glimpse of the national consciousness: the comparative frequency of the search terms “we” and “they” on Google. It turns out that the “we” index reaches a stunning peak in January of 2007—just before the financial/real estate/everything collapse—and then suffers a 50% decline to arrive at the present day. It’s a nation of thems this morning, and they are all poor. Let’s hold still and hope they don’t get any more pissed off.