Peter Turchin wrote an essay for Nature magazine, in which he predicted growing instability for the United States and Europe.
Why? Turchin thinks western society has produced too many graduates with advanced degrees. This "overproduction of elites" has created a large class of unhappy people--many of whom are drifting into radical politics.
According to Turchin's thesis (summarized in The Economist), the various would-be elites struggle against each other for wealth and prestige. The conflict becomes particularly intense during a time of growing inequality.
"The rewards for being at the top are then especially lucrative, both in terms of earning power and political influence, and those who miss out feel the loss more keenly."
Without question, American universities have produced too many people with advanced degrees--degrees that often do not bring enhanced status or wealth. The schools have turned out too many lawyers, too many MBA graduates, too many people with advanced soft-skill degrees in ethnic studies, gender studies, and diversity.
Most people who get these advanced degrees take out student loans to finance their studies--often loans in six figures. As the Wall Street Journal reported a few days ago, a high percentage of people with master's degrees from such elite institutions as Harvard and Columbia don't find jobs that pay enough for them to service their student loan debt.
As our universities create more and more would-be elites, their graduates become angrier and angrier. "Articulate, educated people rebel, producing a scramble for political and economic power."
I think Professor Turchin has analyzed our present malaise quite perceptively. Millions of Americans are living in a condition of barely contained rage.
But, in my view, these would-be elites have not yet focused their anger in the right direction. All those millions of people who took out massive student loans in the hope of improving their social and economic status should be angry at the universities that fleeced them and the politicians that refuse to reform the federal student loan program.
Unfortunately, our colleges have not given their graduates the problem-solving and analytical skills they need to figure out who screwed them over. Nevertheless, I think the rubes will eventually figure it out; when they do, there will be hell to pay.