UPHEAVAL by Jared Diamond deals with several different nations and crises they confront.  Chapter 9 deals with the USA and asks “What lies ahead for the US?  Strengths, and the biggest problem.”

*Wealth-Geography-Advantages of democracy-Other advantages-Political polarization-Why?  Other polarization.


Below are notes I took for myself as reminders from the text:


  1.  Wealth- size and resources.  2.  Military -10 Nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.  France has the only other.  3. “Wedge shaped” geography and temperate zones for agriculture.  4.  Waterways —shipping by water 10-30 times cheaper.  Rivers plus great lakes.  Plus  Atlantic on one side, Pacific on other is unique, and with barrier islands also to protect us.  4.  Advantages of democracy (Churchill’s quote–worst form of government except for everything else tried.  Citizens can propose, and debate. (Vietnam, Germany/Hitler), Less civil violence.  5. Compromise.  6.  Federal govt. 50 states differ (turning right on red – Calif, assisted suicide, pot, tax rates, ) 7. Citizens control the military.  8.  Limited overt corruption, but covert is bad i.e. the influence of wall street, lobbyists, illegal contributions. 8. Public investment in education, technology, research (half of major top 10 scientific univ in U.S.), Infrastructure. inventions. 11. Immigration.  surprise!  1 of 3 nobel prize winners from U.S. are foreign  born.


“The first, and I feel the most ominous, of fundamental problems now threatening American democracy is our accelerating deteriorating of political COMPROMISE.”

2.  ELECTIONS:  Diamond quote:  “If a country has a constitution or laws specifying democratic government but the country’s citizens don’t or can’t vote, such a country doesn’t deserve to be called a democracy.”

3.  INEQUALITY:  Again, a quote from the book: “Sadly the problem is making itself worse; economic inequality has been increasing, and socio-economic mobility has been decreasing, in the U.S. over the course of recent decades.”

4.  INVESTMENT:  Education/more on prisons.  Declining performance of students.   Working two jobs.

“The result  is that the U.S. is losing its former competitive advantage that rested on an educated workforce, and on science and technology.”

Page 379

QUESTION:  When will the U.S. take its problems seriously?

ANSWER:  When powerful rich Americans begin to feel physically unsafe.




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