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The Coming Civil War

Updated on March 14, 2013
Occupy Wall Street protesters, 2011
Occupy Wall Street protesters, 2011 | Source
Protesters at Taxpayers March on Washington,2009
Protesters at Taxpayers March on Washington,2009 | Source

On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter, a Union fort in Charleston Harbor, on the South Carolina coast. It was the first battle of a bloody Civil War which would last 4 long years. The war pitted the industrial Union against the agrarian Confederacy. The Civil War was ostensibly about slavery but it was also about the rights of individual states to make their own laws versus a central government forcing them to abide by laws that were not in their best interest. (As immoral as it was, slavery was a important part of the South’s economy at the time.). When the war was over the Union was preserved at the cost of 750,000 Americans lives.

One hundred and fifty years later, another civil war looms on the horizon. This war won't be fought on battlefields, it will be fought in the hearts and minds of Americans. This one will hopefully end up being a lot less bloody but could conclude with the end of the USA as we know it.

This country is divided. On one side are millions of Americans who receive transfer payments in one or more forms (Welfare, unemployment, Social Security Disability, Medicare and Medicaid, student loans etc….) and on the other are people who create the wealth that is transferred. If an answer is not found soon we may find ourselves broke.

Before you assume that this is another Right Wing rant and click to another page, let me assure you that this is not an argument for elimination of aid to people who may really need it. Nor is the answer to raise the taxes on the idle rich. Despite the calls for these actions, they would only provide short term relief.


The divide in this country is as historian Arthur Herman put it a “battle between those who see wealth and prosperity as something created by hard work, ingenuity and innovation in a free market system-or something to be doled out by the government”(or the “makers and takers”). In the past two generations millions of Americans have grown up believing the Government should provide aid wherever it is needed instead of teaching people to be more self sufficient. Government should protect them and enrich their lives. There will always be those who can’t make it through no fault of their own. For them the Government should help them until they can get back on their feet. Government should be the last resort. But for too many over the past few decades it has been the first choice.

At it’s simplest there may seem to be a divide between the rich and poor in this country. But transfer payments are not only for the poor. In 2008, nearly 52 million Americans were recipients of Social Security (nearly 90% of all people over the age of 65). Unemployment, Medicare, federal college grants and guaranteed student loans are used by many Americans, not just the poor. I myself have taken advantage of Unemployment on a few occasions in my life and Social Security is a key element in my retirement planning. My son could not have graduated from college last year without college grants and student loans.

Greek police use tear gas to try and stop a riot (June 2011)
Greek police use tear gas to try and stop a riot (June 2011) | Source

So it looks like we are all in this together. But unless a solution to our fiscal crises is found, there will come a day when the transfer checks are light (or just don’t come out at all) because there is not enough money to go around. That day may come next year or thirty years from now. What will happen then?

Events elsewhere in the world seem to suggest it won’t be pretty. As a reaction to Argentine President Chistina Kirchner’s austerity actions, rioters in her country ransacked supermarkets, and department stores in that country last month. Rioters demanded free food and other items. Looting and vandalism were rampant. In Greece earlier this year similar actions took place.

Could those things happen here? I can’t read the future and granted Argentina and Greece are closer to default than we are. Hungry and angry people will act similarly everywhere. What worries me is what happens when unemployment or Social Security checks stop coming? To many Americans, these transfers are the only thing keeping them from poverty. Most of these people are not the ones who will take to the streets. It may cause an unhealthy resentment towards the people that they consider to be the cause of their misery. This would lead to a weakening of the nation. Would we be able to come together as a nation despite our conflicts to respond effectively to a challenge from outside the nation; say the rise of China as an economic power, or a jihad against us? With a great percentage of our tax revenue going to transfer payments and interest on debt, our ability to finance an effective and powerful military would be compromised. Other government activities would be effected and the ability for our children to go to college would be in danger

But how could we avoid this situation. It will take hard work, compromise, willingness to work to solve the problem and time. Between 1837 and 1860, the US had eight Presidents all of which could see the coming storm clouds and none were successful in stemming the conflict.. They were willing to “kick the can” to the next President and Congress to solve. The result was a long and bloody Civil War. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were willing to rely on their successor solve the problem and the current President seems to be willing to do the same thing. It will take cuts in spending and higher taxes for all for us to be able to solve this problem. The President and Congress must be willing to govern by what is best for the country in the long run and not by that days opinion polls.


James Fearon a scholar at Stanford defines a civil war as “a violent conflict within a country by organized groups that aim to take power at the center or a region, or to change government policies” Other scholars contend that each side must have at least 1000 casualties per side annually. Hopefully, the coming conflict will not have these numbers. It will be in the minds and hearts of people, rather than on the battlefield. If we don’t solve it we are in deep trouble.


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    • My Esoteric profile image

      Scott Belford 

      5 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      I wonder what your substantiation is for such an assertion that millions of Americans (over the past 40 - 60 years), which might be about, what, 1 -2% of the population (300 million times .01 = 3 million), grown up with such a belief. What is your sources of information, Wba108, that leads you to this interesting conclusion?

      I know that I don't believe that and not one of my hundreds of left-leaning friends believe this. Does anyone else on the left reading this statement believe it is the purpose of gov't to relieve people from the need to work for a living or not to teach them to be self-sufficient? Seems to me that is what public educations is supposed to be about, although sometimes it falls short when the funding does as well.

      It was my understanding the preamble to the Constitution was emblematic of the idea that gov't is necessary to make sure the playing field is maintained level for all American's at all times, and not just the wealthy.

      This means, in my mind, making sure the privileges, power, and advantages the earned wealth brings "over and above" the value earned by work effort put in to earn the wealth doesn't overwhelm and hold back those who don't have access to those "unearned" privileges, power, and advantages others may have. That is called "active-state" liberalism to protect the individual rights of citizens from encroachment by other individual or groups of citizens.

    • profile image 

      5 years ago from upstate, NY

      "In the past two generations millions of Americans have grown up believing the Government should provide aid wherever it is needed instead of teaching people to be more self sufficient. Government should protect them and enrich their lives."

      I totally agree, we as American's have bought the lie that the government should be the prime mover and benefactor in American society. The lie that poeple need an elite group or person to mold and direct the lives of common poeple has been dominate worldwide for thousands of years and has led to unspeakible misery as history has shown.

      The true vision of America is the revolutionary notion that the poeple could be self-governing and need not be ruled by thier bettors, however noble their intentions sound!

    • billd01603 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Worcester

      Thanks for reading and commenting Economic Freedom and My Esoteric.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Unless a disaster occurs I do not see a civil war. I see a good chance or a workers right movement like the early 1900's. This of course can change if pay increases and jobs show up. The reality is more money will mean more people purchasing things. I find it impossible to condemn anyone receiving assistance. In 6 years I have found seven jobs and they all have one thing in common. Low pay and few hours, but everyone I know is living this way. I feel like I have wasted the last six years going no where but there is no where to really go. I am retired and have no bills and still work and I have no idea how anyone else is living. Still a lot of assistance these people receive they have paid for and its a bad thing to put them all in the same category. Anyone living large should actually shut the hell up and count their blessings. Putting people down who our really down is not a smart thing to do. Not everyone likes welfare, unemployment or food stamps, but it can be better then digging through your trash can.

    • My Esoteric profile image

      Scott Belford 

      6 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Extremely well written hub, BillyD, I enjoyed the read. There many things I don't agree with but that doesn't detract from the quality of your hub.

      But, on the merits, let me make the following observations/comments.

      - You are certainly right about slavery not being the only reason for the Civil War, as you said, States Rights is right up there as well. The telling phrase, though, in your comment is "... laws that were not in their best interest." When the several southern states, that were in existance then, signed on to a U.S. Constitution who's purpose was, in defined ways, to put the nations best interest above that of any state. The nation was no longer a confederation of states who signed a compact with one another, but a federation where the states became inseperable from each other and the central gov't that was created; the nation became one, not 13 seperate states fighting amongst each other.

      - I think Aurther Herman is way off base in that few Americans, in my opinion, believe the federal gov't was created to "dole out money to those who may or may not need it." Almost all Americans believe in the first view, I would think.

      In terms of transfer of wealth, if you consider the change in the Gini index, a measure of wealth distribution in society, you will find the the distribution remained relatively constant in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. It was only in the 80s and beyond that the very wealthy, in terms of how much of the wealth they controled, began out pacing the rest of Americans. That implies a major transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top. Further, when you consider social security and medicare as effectively being transfer payments, you need to net it against the contributions employees make; in addition, for social security, you need to net out any interest earned on the contributions; together, that makes your percentage and dollar amounts much lower.

      - Of the eight Presidents you site, most were pro-slavery, or at least ambivalent and those that weren't were afraid of the consequences if they acted to reduce it.

      - My last point is that you might consider beginning your timeline at 2001, for before that point, the deficit wasn't, it was a surplus, and, in real terms, the debt started coming down. The balloning of the debt began with Bush, as you say, and was accelerated by the necessary response to (1 billion +) and as a direct result of (3 billion +) the 2008 recession.

    • profile image

      Economic Freedom 

      6 years ago

      I know how you feel. Unfortunately you don't really understand. Follow the money. The poor get subsidized housing, lower tier medical service, and eat a little higher quality food. The rich make enormous profits on subsidized housing, food manufacturers make more money selling food of poor nutritional value in scammed packaging. Doctor's scam the welfare system with over charges, drug companies addict our poor. The cost of education skyrockets with every extra increase in government aid . While "educators'' charge more for their puffed up degrees. The checks will keep coming and the system will last until there is no more cheap foreign labor to exploit.


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