Predictions are easy to make, usually fun, and most of the time come with very little risk to whomever is making the predictions. The following is one prediction that I hope and trust you will find interesting, even provocative.
Sometime in the next decade or two, the United States will come under threat of disunion. By disunion, I mean that, some area, some region of the country will come under such duress and suffer such discontent that the idea of initiating separation from the rest of the nation will take root and grow. It seems almost inconceivable and outlandish in prospect, and may in fact turn out to have no merit as a bit of prognostication, but bear in mind that all large empires have ultimately disintegrated. Rome, The Ottoman Empire, Ancient Islam, The British Empire, and more recently, The Soviet Union, have all, as they say, bitten the dust. Why should the United States, which has already had one tumultuous Civil War that very nearly sundered the nation, be an exception?
As I consider the fate of our empire, it strikes me that those empires that lasted the longest are those that came into being early in the history of human civilization. I posit that consolidating and controlling vast expanses of territory and ruling over diverse peoples was, while never an easy matter, more attainable then than now. And while I realize that the matter of how empires rise and rule is undoubtedly complex, my sense is that among other advantages empires have over their weaker adversaries, such as greater organization, leadership in technology is crucial. Certainly the U.S. has had a technological advantage for generations, and may still, but for the purposes of maintaining an empire, I wonder if our tech lead, such as it is, has become, among many other reasons, too thin for the maintenance of empire.
Clearly mismanagement of finances and ill chosen conflicts are writ large in the history of empires that fail, and it would seem that the U.S. is by no means exempt from such pitfalls. In fact, my view, my thesis is that U.S. financial and martial mistakes are of such magnitude that the very core of the American empire, the lower 48 states, will be at risk. The wherewithal of government plays an enormous role in government's ability to maintain authority over the citizenry. When central government becomes increasingly incapable of responding to crisis, man made and natural, the populace has little incentive to feel, let alone act, as if they are part of something greater than themselves.
The response of the federal government to hurricane Katrina, widely seen to have been profoundly inadequate, is instructive. Local governments almost certainly failed in their missions as catastrophically as the federal government did in theirs, but in the minds of most Americans, the greatest and most damning failure was, understandably, that of The Executive Branch of the federal government. Going forward, for a variety of reasons, such as climate change, disasters like Katrina stand to increase in number and intensify in severity. And as communities around the nation suffer from even more trying conditions, an over taxed federal government will have little in the way to offer in response. Equally, as per the legacy of The War on Terror, it is not unreasonable to expect the federal government to respond to growing social chaos with ever more repressive measures that will do nothing but inflame discontent and drive the citizenry towards separation, or if you prefer, independence from the rest of the nation.