As anyone who has frequented my site for awhile knows, I believe we are in the midst of a Fourth Turning. Anyone who would like to get up to speed on Strauss and Howe’s The Fourth Turning can go to their website to get a refresher course:

I have had a regular email dialogue with Neil Howe. He asked if I could help him with potential scenarios for this Fourth Turning. The truth is that no one knows what will happen in the next 15 years. I was hoping to create a probability matrix that could provide a possible map as to what might happen. Fourth Turnings are always wrenching, painful, dangerous, and change the world order. Therefore, I tried to break the possibilities into 4 categories:

  1. Politics
  2. Financial/Economic
  3. Military
  4. Social

I tried to think of scenarios and I applied probability percentages to each scenario. This is where I ran out of ideas. Is there a way to connect these scenarios into a cohesive prediction of the future? The answer may be no. If someone out there has any other scenarios and/or ideas about taking this to the next step, I’d be appreciative of your input.

“The ‘spirit of America’ comes once a saeculum, only through what the ancients called ekpyrosis, nature’s fiery moment of death and discontinuity.  History’s periodic eras of Crisis combust the old social order and give birth to a new. A Fourth Turning is a solstice era of maximum darkness, in which the supply of social order is still falling—but the demand for order is now rising.  It is the saeculum’s hibernal, its time of trial. Nature exacts its fatal payment and pitilessly sorts out the survivors and the doomed.  Pleasures recede, tempests hurt, pretense is exposed, and toughness rewarded—all in a season.”

“Reflect on what happens when a terrible winter blizzard strikes. You hear the weather warning but probably fail to act on it. The sky darkens. Then the storm hits with full fury, and the air is a howling whiteness. One by one, your links to the machine age break down. Electricity flickers out, cutting off the TV. Batteries fade, cutting off the radio. Phones go dead. Roads become impossible, and cars get stuck. Food supplies dwindle. Day to day vestiges of modern civilization – bank machines, mutual funds, mass retailers, computers, satellites, airplanes, governments – all recede into irrelevance. Picture yourself and your loved ones in the midst of a howling blizzard that lasts several years. Think about what you would need, who could help you, and why your fate might matter to anybody other than yourself. That is how to plan for a saecular winter. Don’t think you can escape the Fourth Turning. History warns that a Crisis will reshape the basic social and economic environment that you now take for granted.”  

“Thus might the next Fourth Turning end in apocalypse – or glory. The nation could be ruined, its democracy destroyed, and millions of people scattered or killed. Or America could enter a new golden age, triumphantly applying shared values to improve the human condition. The rhythms of history do not reveal the outcome of the coming Crisis; all they suggest is the timing and dimension. A Fourth Turning harnesses the seasons of life to bring about a renewal in the seasons of time. In so doing, it provides passage through the great discontinuities of history and closes the full circle of the saeculum. The Fourth Turning is when the Spirit of America reappears, rousing courage and fortitude from the people. History is seasonal, but its outcomes are not foreordained. Much will depend on how tall we stand in the trials to come.”      Strauss & Howe – The Fourth Turning


% Probability



Obama losses Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton




Obama wins 2012 Presidential election




Obama losses 2012 Presidential election




Obama is assassinated and Biden becomes President




Tea Party movement becomes a viable 3rd Party 










US economy recovers and resumes growth




US economy enters a double dip recession




Double dip recession morphs into a Great Depression




Stock market rises past previous peak of 14,000 




Stock market declines below previous low of 6,500




Housing prices stabilize near current levels




Housing prices plunge another 30% from current levels




Unemployment peaks at 10% and begins to decline




Unemployment increases above 12%




Economy gets caught in a defaltionary trap 




Federal Reserve actions lead to hyperinflation




US dollar collapses




Peak Oil results in a barrel of oil surging past $200










US military exits Iraq & Afghanistan by the end of 2011




US military remains in Iraq & Afghanistan beyond 2012




Israel and US attack Iran




Iran successfully develops a nuclear bomb




Another huge terrorist attack occurs in US




Military is used in US against citizens 




China attacks Taiwan




North Korea attacks South Korea








Social unrest and protests increase




Urban areas become increasingly dangerous due to unemployment




The welfare state is dismantled




Government attempts gun control



  1. How about States re-asserting their rights and subsequent government confusion and paralysis due to legal uncertainty. Not sure of percentage but it would have to be high since Virginia, Missouri and Arizona are taking stands.

  2. Too much debt in the US and Europe for any return to prosperity. The nation is reduced to cheering a 3000 increase in jobs where there is 140,000,000 people to employ.

    Here’s what i believe will happen, foreclosures will cause another banking crisis, banks will try to raise capital, but will be unable to. Another bailout will be discussed but turned down by congress. Americans will finally have had enough and all hell breaks loose mid ’11, market collapses and those holding gold and silver will exchange it for the new world currency.

  3. As a believer in this prophetic book, which I first read a decade ago, I always enjoy Jim Q.’s sharing of his musings on where we are headed. Some of my other, more recent reading colors what comes to mind in pondering this:
    From a bio of Rommel and Ike’s ‘Crusade In Europe,’ a window into what two of the Great Captains did during their Fourth Turnings shows that there are those now obscure who see what is coming, plan for it, work tirelessly for institutional survival, wherever they are, and are ready to rise rapidly when their time comes. Ike hoped to retire a Colonel. Rommel spent most of the ’30s as a Major. Armies are great repositories of stability; I expect that the long view is to be found among the more thoughtful officers below flag rank.
    Another book, ‘Patton’s Best,’ a noncom’s account of the liberation of France and Germany, gives some worms-eye views of what chaos means to average people. The author wrote that many petit-bougeroise women in Europe had survived by selling themselves for bread in ’44 and ’45.
    Our society lacks the strong families and other traits of cohesion that Americans and Europeans had the last time around. We abort our own, let millions of people who do not want to assimilate in, and lack the skills and network to survive societal collapse. If civilized French and German housewives has to resort to prostitution, eating cats (a family friend’s mother’s story confirms the latter), et cetera, what will our neighbors resort to, once the free stuff spigots run dry? Our latter-day Eisenhowers will have to choose Diocletian’s path and institute a command-and-control economy to try and save the core. The periphery will be given up, as Britian was in 410AD.

    Odds of a military takeover: 50%?

    Odds of territorial loss – AZ, NM, SoCal: 25%

    Odds of Las Vegas becoming a virtual ghost town: 25%


  4. I would put the probability of a China collapse at 0%. I would put the probability of $200+ per barrel oil within the next five years at 100%.

  5. I am reading this book right now and it has had a profound impact on my entire worldview. I like all of these comments and think they are excellent food for thought. I have wondered all of my life why things happen the way they do. That cycles exist always seemed to me to be a no-brainer. So when I ran across this book it was like turning on a light in a room that has been dark for years. Plenty of cobwebs to brush away but I no longer bang my shins on things.

    I cannot give a high enough recommend for this book. I usually read through books this size in a week or so. This one has such critical information that it has demanded my full attention, a rarity in literature! Buy a copy, borrow a copy, steal a copy. DO whatever you have to do to get your hands on it and study it, you will not regret it.

    Jim is in a fortunate position to be in contact with Neil Howe and I envy him for it! Post more on this topic, please!

  6. Don

    It changed my worldview too. I would have never heard of the book unless I was reading non-mainstream sites. John Mauldin referenced an article by Doug Casey who referenced the 4th Turning in his article.

  7. If I had to pick just one program which would get this country turned around, I would choose Energy Independence. Achieving that goal would touch, in a positive way, every single aspect of our economy.

    Like ssgconway, I hope there is someone, obscure or not, waiting in the wings to head us in that direction. Billionaire T. Boone Pickens is giving it a shot, but the effort isn’t gaining much traction.

  8. ssgconway said: “Odds of Las Vegas becoming a virtual ghost town: 25%”

    Funny how that relatively little town in the midst of a Godforsaken desert seems to insinuate itself, for good or bad, into conversations about the FUTURE OF MANKIND.

    Vegas seems to be some sort of nexus–perhaps a microcosm of America, and in its extremes, seems to be a bellweather for what happens to the rest of the U.S. When times were good, it boomed faster, and when times were bad, burned out more furiously than the rest of the country.

    Kunstler relegated it to his own kind of hell, having written a scathing article about it some time ago. (I just don’t fucking remember the link to his article.)

    I’ve lived there much of my life. I am amused by the unwarranted attention it gets. It is exciting though–thinking that something big will happen here once the apocalypse happens, WWIII occurs, etc.

    Stephen King thought so in “The Stand”. Vegas even figured prominently in the movie “2012”.

    Hell, even the 911 terrorists have some sort of connection to this place, having met here prior to their heinous act.

    Well, I’ll get some post apocalyptic practice living in our future Vegas by playing the upcoming “Fallout-New Vegas”.

  9. Axel

    I have no problems with Vegas. I do have a problem with Mayor Oscar Goodman. He should stick to being a shill for Vegas. Fucking asshole’s grandstanding against Yucca Mountain pisses me off.

    Yeah, yeah, I’m aware that most Nevadans don’t like the Yucca Mountain project, possibly you included, but you’re dead wrong on the way overblown “dangers” it poses to the state. Total bullshit, but enough people are operating on unwarranted fear, not facts, and Yobama is taking advantage of that fear.

    Lordy, another $15 billion spent right down the drain.

  10. I think Yucca Mountain was a great idea. Better to have tons of nuclear waste in one big repository under a mountain in the Godforsaken (love that word) Nevada desert than scattered in various small repositories of perhaps dubious security.

    Plus, Nevada could have gotten a big FAT Federal paycheck and lots o’ jobs for letting Yucca happen.

    But, no, this awful case of NIMBY ended up wasting taxpayers BILLIONS and amounted to nothing. Oh, well, at least it wasn’t BILLIONS more in the hands of bankers.

    Or, maybe it was…

  11. I’m waiting on my next Amazon order which includes “Fourth Turning” and two others.

    FT fits right in with many years of reading of cycles of all kinds. And even Heinlein’s “The Year of the Jackpot” springs to mind.

    There was one cycle akin to ‘animal spirits’ or maybe ‘confidence’ which had 9 peaks in a century, and that data went back centuries. Well, I’m eager for that parcel to arrive.

  12. Politics –
    Fiscal conservative elected as president – 25%
    Neo-con elected as president – 30%
    Constitution amendments to strengthen states – 15%
    Constitution amendments to weaken states – 65%
    Constitution convention called – 5%
    Term limits for House/Senate – 20%
    True Campaign/lobbying reform – 5%
    EU collapse by 2015 – 50%
    China collapse – 0%
    Energy independence by 2015 – 1%
    Energy crisis by 2015 – 40%

    Financial/Economics –
    Yuan floats – 5%
    US defaults by 2013 – 5%
    Austerity measures – 15%
    Extend/pretend – 85%
    Walmart finds the bottom of the wage barrel and we see an increase in real global wages by 2015 – 5%

    Add me to the guys who recommend ‘The Fourth Turning’. Great generational book for any generation to see the challenges/opportunities faced by the others. But I wouldn’t look at it as a history book (though it is historical), but a sociology book.

  13. Jim – Heroic attempt to figure things out. But of course, you know as well as I that the actual event that will trigger the irreversible plunge into the depth of 4thT will be a Black Swan. It will not be predictable.

    See, even year and half after Hitler invaded Poland, fall of France, full blown war in Europe, nobody in America and Europe predicted Dec 7, 1941. The event that created the crater of 4thT in the US. Even the commanders and planners of Pearl Harbor attack in Japan did not know of it until summer of 1941. It is a true Black Swan.

  14. Well, (in hind sight [ “always 20/20” {Dwight D. Eisenhower}], we now KNOW that QUITE a LOT of “Nation state” changes…{which, of course, bode not well for OTHER susceptible Nation States}, are RADICALLY changing the dynamics and Political atmosphere, as well as, the religious foundations of (at LEAST) the N. African sphere. Therefore, the likelihood of WAR in that sphere increases. [50%?]

    ALSO, thereby establishing “Radicalization incubators” for producing MASSIVE “Social disruption operators” who, [are] will spread [ing] their “fruit”. [50%?]

    So, the % of likelihood for chances of a SERIOUS “terrorism dynamic” within the boundaries of N. Am. raise immensely also. [75%?]

    ALSO, the likelihood of a “FALSE FLAG” OP should be a consideration. (It’s OFTEN been the tool of Social change — from Babylon to Germany, to the U.S.) [50%?]

    Also, we now KNOW that B.O.’s affect on our cultural norms, raises the likelihood of HIGH & SERIOUS Social disruption to about 50%…{if not more}.

    And, one other factor is the Weather…it’s now VERY CLEAR that there’s an increase in SERIOUSLY DANGEROUS weather patterns and events, that impact the stability of a Nation State — i.e. “RITA” / New Orleans / FEMA failure — Indonesian Tsunami destruction — Haiti destruction –volcano proliferation & increased destruction — etc. [50%?]

    As STRAUSS & HOWE very CLEARLY explaned, (and you reprinted), we’re at the “WEATHER WARNING” stage…the storm hasn’t impacted as yet…BUT! IT IS COMING!!!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

You can add images to your comment by clicking here.