When, to paraphrase the words of the 43rd President, this sucker goes down, my main worry will not be the immediate rise of an overtly Fascist or Socialist guvmint that will impose martial law and set up internment camps. I'm also not immediately concerned about the total breakdown of the division of labor in the U.S., leading to famine next year, imminent death by radiation exposure from the Fukushima meltdown site, or any of the other extreme scenarios (well, aside from the extreme scenario calling for a turning of mood so deep and vicious that financial markets collapse to points that most can't envision today) being trotted out as to how "it" is all going to end and that right soon. That is magical thinking of the highest order. The DJIA could go to 776 tomorrow and we'd still have a continent-spanning country teeming with citizens (many of whom will be in an angry mood) with bills to pay or default upon, kids to feed, communities to dwell in and, in short, lives to be lived. The Great Collapse is not going to (immediately) wipe out your credit card debt or ignite the world-spanning war that will relieve you of the necessity to make hard choices about your life and lifestyle (that war comes later and it should be a doozy).
"Reforms," similar to what Diocletion did to Rome, or the breakdown of industrial farming techniques, are on the horizon and will impact you and yours, of that I am convinced. There will be vast changes to how we as a country do business and interact. The country (or countries?) on the other side of the Great Collapse is going to be barely recognizable to those of us living with the mindset and mental programming used to navigate today's America.
It is that gap that worries me. The years between the collapse of this finance-centric, debt-fueled, internet-businesses-will-save-us, enormous goverment interventions in private life, world-spanning military and financial empire mindset and the rise of what comes next will be a mad mixture of chaos and denial. This will be when the foundation of tragedies and tyrannies to come are laid and when the great struggles to restore human liberty will be fought.
Much of what will frustrate and enrage those who will be building future during this time of negative mood will be the denial of those who refuse to acknowledge the world has changed and, worse, the enormous layers of laws and penalties that will be brought to bear against those who will seek to refashion the world into something better. And so much of it will be so petty.
Case it point, straight out of Chicago:
The State of Illinois is shutting down local, artisan ice cream makers for such terrible offenses as using fresh fruit instead of fruit syrup and fresh cream instead of pre-packaged soft serve mix. What, you say? How can this be? Health officials in this state are known for being overzealous when it comes to making sure that small, independent businesses follow obscure rules - and when I say small and independent, I'm talking about businesses that are often owned and run by 1-2 people renting space in a shared, licensed commercial kitchen. These are not corporations with large amounts of money who have the capital to hire lawyers or contribute significant sums to political campaigns. No, these are real people, individuals who do their best to follow labyrinthine food regulations based on the information that they're given by governmental agencies who don't always agree on what the rules should be...
The most bankrupt (on many levels) state in the Union is actively crushing small entrepreneurs and using a web of insane laws as the hammer.
But this isn't just Illinois. When this network of debt collapses in a heap, many people will be forced to turn to their own resources to get by. If the current logistics chains are broken and Wal-Mart or the local Mega Grocery Store can't restock on a regular basis due to the collapse of their supplier networks, then the "doers" in your local community will rise to the occasion. Bread will get baked. Food will get sold. Goods will get transported - but how much of that activity will be legal under the existing rules at the local, state and federal level? And how lenient are the bureaucrats going to be when they fear for their jobs if they don't enforce silly laws or fear liability or get leaned on by the existing corporate powers that be?
The coming era will probably be marked by a retrenchment in many activities and a return to more localized production of foodstuffs and goods. But just how much of this localization revolution will be legal? How many of the activities of the Maker Movement is technically illegal? When we see community fabrication plants spring up, how long before traditional manufacturers use lawfare to try and crush them?
What happens when much of your population still uses mental "software" shaped by growing up during the great boom in credit, the great expansion of government "help" and a striking decay in localized effort in favor of being a consumer suckled up to large corporate structures tries to deal with the up and coming segment of citizens who want to leverage technology for independence, localized production and even new currencies?
I don't have answers, but do keep this in mind. When you hear others railing and stressing about the macro scale things such as the collapse of Medicare or the destruction of public pensions, be more concerned about what the local helper in your Health Department can do to you and yours in a changed world.