When the Music Stops

From Matt Bracken in 2012:

It’s estimated that the average American home has less than two weeks of food on hand. In poor minority areas, it may be much less. What if a cascading economic crisis, even a temporary one, leads to millions of EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards flashing nothing but ERROR? This could also be the result of deliberate sabotage by hackers, or other technical system failures. Alternatively, the government might pump endless digits into the cards in a hopeless attempt to outpace future hyperinflation. The government can order the supermarkets to honor the cards, and it can even set price controls, but history’s verdict is clear: If suppliers are paid only with worthless scrip or blinking digits, the food will stop…

The ransacked supermarkets, convenience stores, ATMs and gas stations will not be restocked during this period due to the precarious security situation. A single truck loaded with food or gasoline would be perceived to be a Fort Knox on wheels and subject to immediate attack unless heavily protected by powerfully armed security forces, but such forces will not be available during this chaotic period. Under those conditions, resupply to the urban areas cannot and will not take place. The downward spiral of social and economic dysfunction will therefore both accelerate and spread from city to city. These delays, in turn, will lead to more riots with the constant underlying demand that hungry people be fed, one way or another…

The police, with their major riot squad reaction times measured in hours, will be fighting flash mobs that materialize, cause mayhem, and evaporate in only fractions of hours…

The enraged mobs in urban America will soon recognize that their spontaneous street riots cannot be stopped by the police, and then they will grow truly fearsome. For the police, it will be a losing game of Whack-a-Mole, with riots breaking out and dispersing at a speed they cannot hope to match. The violence will spread to previously unaffected cities as an awareness of law enforcement impotence is spread by television and social media. After a few days, the police forces will be exhausted and demoralized.

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