Unpacking Ray Dalio’s Alarmist Prediction of Civil War

The other day, Ray Dalio, the billionaire investor and founder of Bridgewater Associates, told The Financial Times that he sees the risk of a second American civil war as “growing” and places the odds of such a war at “35-40 percent.” According to FT, Dalio’s “research” has led him to conclude that “we are now on the brink,” although we “don’t yet know if we will cross over into much more turbulent times.”

On the one hand, it’s important to remember that Dalio is nearly universally known as a world-class crank. He’s made a lot of money in the markets and has long been considered an astute investor, but he has also long been considered an odd duck, to put it gently. Additionally, the idea that this proclamation and setting of odds are based on “research” is silly. There are no variables one can examine and analyze and then use to calculate an objective estimate of a civil war’s occurrence. To pretend otherwise is… well… perfectly Dalio-esque.

On the other hand, Dalio is hardly alone in his belief that tough times are imminent. Virtually the entirety of the ruling class seems to believe that the zeitgeist of the moment is characterized by anger, hatred, and the expectation of confrontation between political adversaries. Hollywood is busy making movies about a potential Civil War. Political magazines are warning that totalitarianism looms just over the electoral horizon. And even the President of the United States is releasing videos that sound more like pre-fight smack talk than political posturing. In short, Ray Dalio is hardly the first major public figure to express his fear/hope that the nation is “on the brink.”

Ironically, the part of this story Dalio and his fellow elites are missing is that in which they’re the cause of the turmoil that currently plagues the United States, or, at the very least, are exacerbating that turmoil and aggravating the people’s frustrations.

Consider, for example, the description Dalio gives of one of the primary causes of this possible civil war:

This election would be a test of ‘can democracy work well? Will there be an acceptance of the rules and an ability to work well under those rules?’ he said.

[Republican candidate Donald] Trump will follow more rightist, nationalistic, isolationist, protectionist, non-regulatory policies — and more aggressive policies to fight enemies internally and externally, including political enemies. [President Joe] Biden, and even more so the Democratic party without Biden, will be more the opposite….

Ah, I see. It’s all Donald Trump’s fault. Strangely, Dalio doesn’t address the almost inarguable fact that Donald Trump is a symptom of this nation’s political dysfunction rather than the cause of it. Whatever one thinks of Trump—good, bad, indifferent—he and his political movement did not emerge fully formed, as if Athena springing forth from the forehead of Zeus. They were the result of decades of political malpractice by both parties, decades of betrayal and decades of self-dealing.

Likewise, Donald Trump remains popular today because both parties, as a whole, remain indifferent to the plight of the country class and are concerned almost exclusively with the needs and wants of Washington and its allies. Billionaire Ray Dalio may think that the people are revolting, but that is, in large part, the fault of the Washington uni-party and its disregard for the people’s interests.

Dalio also describes the form that the civil war he so fears might take: “The civil war Dalio imagines was not necessarily one in which people ‘grab guns and start shooting’, although such a scenario was possible, he said.” Rather, the civil war Dalio envisions would involve “people mov[ing] to different states that are more aligned with what they want and they don’t follow the decisions of federal authorities of the opposite political persuasion.”

To be clear, I don’t think that consistently disregarding the actions and decisions of the federal government is something that we, as a nation, should encourage, much less tolerate. At the same time, there’s a term for what Dalio describes. It’s called “federalism,” and it was precisely what the Founding Fathers had in mind almost 250 years ago.

It is worth remembering here that when the Founders debated the Constitution, two primary factions fought over the particulars. The Federalists—James Madsion, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, in particular—sat on one side of the question, while the anti-federalists—Patrick Henry, James Monroe, Samuel Adams, George Mason, and a host of others—sat on the other. The anti-federalists were opposed to the Constitution not because they disapproved of its weak federal government and demanded something stronger, something more like what we have today, but because they disapproved of a federal government at all. In other words, the vision Dalio now derides and implies is the precursor to civil war was, in fact, the most radically centralized of the forms of government considered by the Founders.

Dalio’s problem with such a vision of government is undoubtedly closely akin to the problem that much of the ruling class today has with that vision: he wants the people to think and behave as he wants them to, in alignment with his “values.” He finds their insistence on thinking for themselves and behaving accordingly irritating and inefficient.

Roughly two years ago, Victor Davis Hanson penned an essay accusing factions of “the left” of engaging in what he called “civil war porn.” Some on the left fantasized, he argued, about how the country’s majority white right-wing rabble were intent on harming minorities, destroying democracy, and engaging in violence against their enemies. Such fantasies gave them the opportunity to engage in moral grandstanding. They saw themselves as the heroes of the story, noble warriors who would sacrifice everything to save all that is right and good in the world.

Today, that “civil war porn” is the purview of much of the ruling class, people like Ray Dalio, who cosplay as the self-righteously indignant and “rational” grown-ups in the room. They warn that the evil ones, the naughty children, are plotting against the nation, planning a fascist takeover of the government or even secession from the Union.

Again, the irony is that in doing so, in prattling on about the risks that the great unwashed masses pose to “Our Democracy™,” the Ray Dalios of the world make it all the more likely. Every time they open their mouths on the subject, they make the idea of a political separation that would liberate the masses from those who deride and hate them sound far more agreeable.

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About Stephen Soukup

Stephen R. Soukup is the Director of The Political Forum Institute and the author of The Dictatorship of Woke Capital (Encounter, 2021, 2023)

Notable Replies

  1. A breakup is infinitely more likely than a civil war. Dalios’ fantasy needs a top-notch kick-starter event, like a Fort Sumter. But don’t doubt that leftists aren’t desperate enough to stage one themselves as a false flag. You can infer their psychology and aspirations from how often they attack Donald Trump for causing all the problems they have caused.

  2. Again, the irony is that in doing so, in prattling on about the risks that the great unwashed masses pose to “Our Democracy™,” the Ray Dalios of the world make it all the more likely.

    As a card-carrying member of the “riff raff”, Free Speech is my right. No, it is the personal property of each and every citizen, just as the title deed to one’s home or the car in the garage. Yes, that was also the Framers’ intent in enshrining such rights which the federal government exists to guarantee. Doesn’t Dalio understand any of it? What I see is two camps, ostensible adversaries duking it out in a staged battle for power. It is entertaining as Kabuki theater, but the view from the cheap seats is that the players look identical to us.

    Everything the federal government does and possesses is stolen. It was never delegated by the people, nor the states. Successive executives, legislators and judges/justices stole all of it from us, and I see the anger building over how to regain our property: our rights. Dalio and his compatriots misapprehend the intent having participated in The Great Robbery for the sole purpose of personal enrichment or aggrandizement. Who looks to someone like Dalio, a New Yorker (that’s pejorative in my neck of the backwoods) for perspicacity about the American experiment? No amount of ill-gotten gains indicate wisdom or prudence about anything. What riles the public, the working class is that those we entrusted with power enabled him instead preventing the carnage which those like Dalio wreak.

    Americans are very complacent people, brought low because fallen so far from the ideals envisioned by those who crafted and ratified the Constitution of the United States of America. The decades of abuse, of outright theft are coming to an end alright. One only hopes that it is possible to reconcile, if not agree that every citizen has rights which belong to every other citizen and that those rights are accompanied by duties each of us has so far failed to fulfill. Dalio is upset that the peasants are more enlightened than he is.

  3. The plan is to make the concept of “citizen” , as well a “rights of citizens” completely meaningless by way of facilitating the “invasion “ of illegals from other countries, some of which are hostile to the US. So far, this plan has been alarmingly successful.

  4. For those of us who are high information types and can easily read past the “disinformation, misinformation, and malinformation” of the Main Stream Media (Enemedia) and Big Tech, a Civil War is in fact, the least of our worries.

    We see the quickening spiral of this country into everlasting despotism and we despair. And yet, the left and its mouthpieces gaslight and project upon us as if we are the culprits of our country’s demise.

    Put another way, to quote the imminently quotable Mark Steyn; "I used to worry about a Civil War starting. Now I worry there won’t be."

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