Chaos And Continuity

Nothing extreme is likely to happen. Read that two ways: 1) in general, extreme things typically have low probabilities, and 2) specifically, civilization, society, and culture have great inertia and tend to continue with only slight shifts. As I write this, there is great political upheaval in the US because of old tapes and old emails. Shifts are happening and yet convention will probably persist. And yet, it’s a good idea to consider possibilities because change does happen. Better prepared lessens the surprise.

Pick your political candidate and someone probably thinks they belong in jail. That’s nothing new. Most of the attention is directed to the Republican and Democratic candidates because they are the predominant political parties. As I’ve said before, I am an extreme independent moderate. I’m convinced that neither party has all the answers, and that the answers that will produce the most progress are probably in the middle. That’s a generalization, but it must suffice because I’m not going to write a political platform paper – yet. (Hey, who knows? I might run for office some day, or be the focus of a viral write-in campaign.)

Because I am unaligned, I’ve also been able to spend more time investigating the other parties. (More parties are good, right?) I don’t consider them third parties because, as I recall, the US Constitution doesn’t restrict the number of parties or require that there are only two prominent ones. Why not have three, four, or seven parties? It might be a mess, but it is legal and allowed. But, we’ve always only had two parties, right? Nope.

One of my favorite comics included the most extensive history of US political parties and how their power has shifted over the centuries. Democrats and Republicans? Sure. And, Federalists, Whigs, Free Soil, American (such an obvious name that I’m surprised no one has revived it), Unionist, Populist, and Progressive have all succeeded at electing members of Congress. That doesn’t include the Tea, Coffee, Libertarian (though maybe I missed it), Communist, Socialist, Green parties and others that might be found in the back pages of the election guide. All of the parties existed in turmoil. All saw their powers grow and fade. Assuming there are only two parties in the US and that they will always be in power means ignoring the history that created them.


Our current economy and political environment affects the way we live, work, and plan. The best assumption is to assume that next year will be like this year; but it is equally important to be aware that assumptions based on human nature can be invalidated with a singular event or revelation. What would happen to the population of US politicians if an American version of the Panama Papers revealed too many elected officials privately using the tax havens some of them publicly oppose?

Recently, a friend and I spent an hour or two playing with my Pinterest board that is a collection of Alternative Americas. The US has had fifty states for more than fifty years. Some see that as stability. I see it as stagnation. Stagnation is rarely healthy. Regional differences can create new boundaries if the differences become extreme. Just like with Congress’ history, it was interesting to compare the history of the states and their boundaries with boundaries from possible scenarios.


While the US expansion may seem like an inexorable and inevitable westward progression, the process was chaotic, sometimes unseemly, and involved redrawing lots of lines as squiggles and some squiggles as lines. Slow, methodical pioneering makes for stately stories; but it was the surprise discovery of gold that added California which stressed the slave state versus non-slave state debate. A pig (yes, a real pig) caused the Pig War (yes, a real war) that had no casualties except for the pig, and that was resolved by having a German official define the national border between the US and the UK (at least British Columbia) by drawing a line around some islands that were initially explored by the Spanish. One fateful turn of a shovel and one escaped farm animal each helped redefine the nation.

Good luck guessing at what else could add or subtract a state to the United States. If you want some inspiration though, check out a few of the maps on my board. Of particular interest to me is the one that draws the 124 States that could be created if all of the secession and reincorporation plans succeeded. (Have fun trying to say successful secession several times.) I live in what would and could be Cascadia or Columbia (depending on the mapmaker), a region defined by temperate rainforests, the Pacific Rim, and left coast politics. I was born in what could be Westylvania, that region that includes the mountainous coal mining country, a region that where Pittsburgh no longer has to pretend that it has anything in common with Philadelphia.


Britain’s exit from the European Union isn’t as dramatic as a possible Texas exit from the rest of the US; and yet Britain’s economy is definitely affected. Imagine what would happen to the US dollar if the US no longer included Texas’ oil fields. Just for fun (because it probably would never happen) imagine how much it would cost to build a wall around Texas, or at least relocate military bases and install border crossings.

Let me pause to check the news.

Okay. Great fervor continues. Write in candidates are being discussed. The British bookies have elevated Mike Pence’s odds of winning the election to 33 to 1, and Paul Ryan’s to 50 to 1. Low, but rising quickly.


I’m fortunate enough that I was able to keep my house thanks to a non-profit agency that helped renegotiate my ~6% thirty year mortgage to a 2% forty year mortgage. (For the long version of the story start with one of my posts.) I’m grateful, and plan to continue paying the mortgage (you can help by hiring me to help you pursue your projects – self-promoting plugs are allowed in America). Assuming that I live in the house for the next few decades, I place a low probability of paying off the loan in US dollars. The economy, technology, society, and the planet are changing quickly enough that it will be a surprise if something dramatic doesn’t change the currency or the country.

A shovel can create a migration. A pig can redraw national borders. A political party can fall from one of the two favorites, creating an opening for change.

Change. That’s the constant. Assuming nothing every changes is the mistake. Assuming nothing will change is the easiest way to plan. It’s easy to make mistakes.

About Tom Trimbath

consultant / entrepreneur / writer / photographer / speaker / aerospace engineer / semi-semi-retired More info at: and at my amazon author page:
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