Moody's Warns of 'Social Unrest'
By Staff News & Analysis - December 19, 2009

Britain and other countries with fast-rising government debts must steel themselves for a year in which "social and political cohesiveness" is tested, Moody's warned. In a somber report on the outlook for next year, the credit rating agency raised the prospect that future tax rises and spending cuts could trigger social unrest in a range of countries from the developing to the developed world. It said that in the coming years, evidence of social unrest and public tension may become just as important signs of whether a country will be able to adapt as traditional economic metrics. Signaling that a fiscal crisis remains a possibility for a leading economy, it said that 2010 would be a "tumultuous year for sovereign debt issuers". – Telegraph

Dominant Social Theme: Civil society will end, unfortunately.

Free-Market Analysis: We know we will read over the next months and even years, especially if economic problems get worse, of dire predictions about people being herded into prison camps and other containment facilities because society itself is facing a breakdown. The stories will focus on the lack of basic amenities such as food, water and shelter and deal with formerly middle class people who are on the edge of starvation now.

What will be the truth to all this? Probably, if the economy turns very ugly, there will be increased attempts in America to control firearms and threaten people with incarceration and other authoritarian consequences. There would certainly be increased attempts in Britain to control an increasingly restive population similarly, and in whatever manner possible. The same efforts would be made throughout the West.

In third world countries, ubiquitous government chaos will make the most Draconian measures hard to implement over a long period of time. We would imagine if things get very bad that regime change will continue at a rapid rate. But from our point of view, some of the fear-mongering now taking place may be something of a promotion, the potential ongoing cultivation of a dominant social theme. A promotion one could speculate is aimed at citizens of the West, intended to cow people and to polarize the conversation about what is really going on.

And what is that? What is going on – thanks to the education on the Internet – is the eventual unraveling (it seems to us) of most if not all of the dominant social themes of the power elite. These memes that were intended to frighten people and make it easier for them to hand over control and wealth to authoritarian instrumentalities created by that same elite. If you can coerce people to voluntarily submit this is far preferable to forcing them.

Yes … history would seem to present certain conclusions when it comes to how populations are kept under control by whatever ruling elite happens to be in charge. These conclusions have to do with the unsettling perception that there are never as many ruling elite as there are people the ruling elite proposes to control. And because this is so, brute force is not a winning recipe for staying in power long. You may stay in power, of course, but your children and extended family are ever at increasing risk as your rule continues.

No, the best – indeed the only – way to create generational control is to use the rule of "law" and create a buy-in of the populace itself. If the law is seen as applying to everyone, if the state is perceived as just, then those at the top can rule with relative impunity. This is because the amounts of money and power available to those at the top render the law relatively moot. In fact, the policing agencies of the state will in one sense or another work directly for them.

The trick, then, is to create a state where the people "buy into" whatever cultural and judicial system is erected. In fact, there are three main pillars to this sort of control: government itself, media and religion. If people believe in their system of government and its fairness, if the mainstream media confirms the belief system and if the spiritual elements of a society support the furniture as well, then the overall society is apt to be controlled, passive and obedient. Why shouldn't it be?

What is happening today to the world's generational power elite – a handful of families and wealthy individuals from our perspective – is that the stool is toppling. This happened in the past, during the era of the Gutenberg press. Today, in similar fashion, the Internet, like a swarm of carpenter ants, every day weakens the stool.

The West generally does not associate religion with the powers-that-be anymore. Thus it could not be said that those who rule at the behest of the power elite are supported by any spiritual force, as were the Kings of old, chosen by God. The credibility of the mainstream media itself, a critical leg of the stool, has virtually been seriously compromised (for an increasing amount of the Western intelligentsia) by alternative – mostly electronic – sources of information. Thus it is that people are receiving incredibly mixed messages about their basic, core beliefs, which makes them uncomfortable – and even less trusting.

Finally there is government and the accoutrements of power including military and policing power. But this is the fist in the velvet glove. Without the other two legs of the stool, the governmental leg has no underlying justification if it begins to use force, especially massive force.

Again, the power elite of any society survives by clever manipulation of the law, it seems to us. So long as society at large believes in these laws, the power elite is safe to rule, and even to use force. But if people don't believe their underlying mythos anymore, if they don't believe what they are being told and what their educational and religious establishments are telling them, then the ruling class that has created and promoted these themes is in trouble.

This is what is going on now, we believe. That is in fact the purpose of the Bell, to document and report on the ebb and flow of these themes and their success or degeneration in a time of informational challenges. We believe thanks to the Internet, that this is a very special time. So many of the West's dominant social themes are under attack. Everything from central banking, to the war on terror, to peak oil and even the legitimacy of the democratic state as it is currently constituted is under some level of assault. There are many that might put this down to coincidence, bad economic times, etc.

It seems to us that it is obvious the Internet is having an impact on the elite's dominant social themes. And thus we write with some certainty that while increased authoritarianism may be in the future or even near future for Western societies, this is not what the power elite ought to be worried about – and perhaps at a fundamental level it is not. In the near term, societies probably can be controlled by force, for a little while anyway, if it comes to that. But if you have generational wealth and power and control beyond the imaginings of many mortals you are not likely concerned with the near term. In fact, near term authoritarianism probably weakens the long-term potency of your control.

After Thoughts

There is only one solution, in our estimation, to the current dilemma faced by the power elite. They will likely have to take a step back – or at least consider one seriously – just as they did when the Gutenberg press started to bite. If and when they do, in our estimation, much would change. In this event, we would anticipate more, not less freedom throughout the West, more not less prosperity and even the return of a kind of private silver and gold standard that would give the power of money back to citizens. Such a scenario may seem unthinkable now, but no one really knows what the future holds. One can only speculate based on ongoing trends – of the kind we have presented above and will continue to offer.