When I started to write a novel Lies That Bind based loosely on my experiences as a social psychologist, I needed a fictitious country with a large number of orphan children. In order to get my orphan children, I had a choice of a previous civil war, or economic collapse. I chose economic collapse.
I had consulted with some emerging nations earlier in my career. I knew the formula—control of the economy by a few rich parties and massive corruption. I wrote from academic knowledge and reports from government officials I was in an e-mail relationship with.
When I started the book, I still believed that the US was too diverse, too ethical, and too rich to fall into the economic conditions that cause a collapse of the economy. We have anti-trust laws. We have laws prohibiting insider trading. We have laws prohibiting fiduciary fraud. We have laws prohibiting trust violations. The US would never fall into the formula for economic collapse. We have upward mobility. We have free elections. We have three branches of government with a system of checks and balances, or so I was taught in school.
I use the word formula in the scientific form, A + B + C = Economic collapse. It happens. It has happened to other countries. The question is whether it can happen in the US.
Perhaps economic collapse can happen here. Some people seem to think we are in trouble. I’ve seen a number of proposals for preventing a collapse of our economic system. We are starting to see books written about preventing the collapse. We have a book about smart government (Clinton), and one about getting money out of government (Lessig). We have a candidate running for president without corporate donations (Roemer). People are aware of the danger. Some people are trying to prevent the train wreck. Other people are fine with the train wreck as long as they have enough money to buy a Caribbean island and leave the country. Some people watch in fascinated horror.
In my novel, I didn’t start out to write about economic collapse. I don’t want to write about my country. I want to write about an emerging nation and how one group of people overcame the problems of their society. Some days I fear that my real country is trying to be my fictional country.
(Please note: When I say my novel is based loosely on my experiences as a social psychologist, I do mean loosely. I’ve melded together some of the experiences of about five, possibly six countries. Also, I’ve never, ever, not ever, had an affair with a foreign head of state, never.)