How is America going to end? Slate's "Choose Your Own Apocalypse" lets you map out the death of the…

How it will happen.
Aug. 7 2009 7:00 AM

How Is America Going To End?

Slate's "Choose Your Own Apocalypse" lets you map out the death of the United States.

Update, Aug. 7: The results of "Choose Your Own Apocalypse" are in.Check out the most popular scenarios, results by age, gender, and political affiliation, and the end-of-America social network.


If and when America expires, we probably won't agree on the cause of death. For proof that autopsies of empires are inconclusive, consider the case of Alexander Demandt, the German historian who set out in the 1980s to collect every theory ever given for why Rome fell. The final tally: 210, including attacks by nomads on horseback, blood poisoning, decline of Nordic character, homosexuality, outflow of gold, and vaingloriousness.

In tribute to Demandt, I've gone looking for every possible reason why America could fall. I've paged through the work of scholars who have studied the characteristics of declining and failed societies. I also collected theories from futurists, doomsayers, separatists, economists, political scientists, national security experts, climatologists, geologists, astronomers, and a few miscellaneous crazy people. The result: a collection of 144 potential causes of America's future death.

Of course, the fall of America probably won't come to pass for any single, isolated reason. A nation as powerful, cohesive, and enduring as the United States won't go down easy—the death of the United States will be the consequence of a bunch of different stressors converging at once. What are those stressors going to be? Will America go down as part of a worldwide collapse, or will we perish as the rest of the globe flourishes? You can take a stab at answering all those questions with our "Choose Your Own Apocalypse" tool. (Note: While many of the factors here represent a threat to the entirety of human civilization, the title of this feature should not imply that the end of America is equivalent to the end of the world. We're not that self-obsessed—"Choose Your Own Apocalypse" just has a nice ring to it.)

Scroll through the list of theories for America's demise, then select up to five that you find most persuasive. (If you'd prefer, you can also read all 144 end-of-America scenarios on a single page.) As you're making your picks, you'll get real-time updates on the apocalypse you've chosen—our Apocalypse Matrix reveals if your American end times will be bloodless or violent, and whether you blame man or nature for the country's downfall.   You can also compare your choices with those of the average Slate reader. And check back on Friday to see our final "Choose Your Own Apocalypse" report, including the most popular scenarios by age, gender, location, and political affiliation.

Play with more interactive features from the Slate Group and the Washington Post.

Josh Levin is Slate's executive editor.


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