But “optimal” is not the same thing as “natural.” The Americans deliberately forced the Order into existence to fight the Cold War. The Americans have a deep continuity and large economies of scale without the Order, but the global system is wholly artificial. Making matters worse, the Order does not and cannot maintain itself. Someone must pay the bill to keep it going, and the American right, the American left, and the American center have lost interest and are all arguing for a more constrained American role in the wider world. No one else has the spare economic heft or the large market or the globe-spanning naval capacity to force an Order. Break the global continuity and everything that makes our world work quickly cracks apart.
There are a number of ways down, but they all share something in common: reduced interaction means reduced access means reduced income means fewer economies of scale means less labor specialization means reduced interaction. Shortages force people to look after their own needs directly. The value-added advantages of continuity and labor specialization whither. Everyone becomes less efficient. Less productive. And that means less of everything: not just electronics but electricity, not just automobiles but gasoline, not just fertilizer but food. And it compounds. Electricity shortages gut manufacturing. Food shortages gut the population. Fewer people means less chance of keeping anything that requires specialized labor working. Say, things like the electrical grid or food production.
Whether the country in question is high-tech export-led manufacturer (Germany, South Korea, China), a mid-tech supply chain link (Thailand, Poland, Turkey), a resource exporter (Kuwait, Russia, Morocco), or a major agricultural supplier (Brazil, South Africa, Kazakhstan) the differences are one of scale rather than kind. Lack of continuity means disruption of what we think of as civilization to exist.
Just how vulnerable is everyone? Think of it this way:
While “only” about one-fifth of global foodstuffs are traded internationally, the vast majority of global foodstuffs are produced with industrialized inputs like fertilizers and pesticides. Those inputs on average more than triple yields. Those inputs are largely petroleum-derived and four-fifths of the world’s oil is traded internationally. Unless you live in a country lucky enough to produce enough oil for its own needs and have the ability to process it into agricultural inputs and have the climate and land necessary to grow your own food, all it takes is one small tweak to the physical security of trade routes in the general vicinity of places like the Former Soviet Union or the Persian Gulf to shift you from living in a world of plenty to a world of want.
What would you do—what wouldn’t you do—to get a full belly? To feed your children?
That is what decivilizational means: a cascade of reinforcing breakdowns that do not simply damage, but destroy, the bedrock of what makes the modern world work. And that’s just one example in one sector.
What is going on in Venezuela is horrible by any measure, and in a world of Order Venezuela is the very definition of outlier. But a world of Order is not the natural state of things. Pay attention: Some shade of what the Venezuelans are going through is what many of us will need to deal with. Soon, the only thing that will truly make Venezuela stand apart is that its pain is self-inflicted.