Normal times: This is between 0 and 20% chance of civil war. Civil unrest, violence and civil war are very unlikely.
20-40% The nation is divided on one or two key issues. Religion is often the issue in this range, but it can also be economic issues. Political rhetoric is high but little or no violence.
40 to 60%: The nation is divided, perhaps on several issues. There is not an obvious path to compromise. Political rhetoric reflects violence and there is actual violence on a regular basis. Politicians, media and other cultural leaders should be aware of the situation and working towards compromise. A single even could throw the nation into widespread violence. Citizens should be mentally preparing for things to get worse.
60-80% Lines have been drawn and there is little hope for compromise. Elections are not trusted, or if they are they are right down the middle. Politicians are not talking about the danger and instead are stoking the violence. Civilians should be preparing at this stage as one would for a long power outage or natural disaster.
80% or higher. We are already in civil unrest and violence is widespread. Politicians are engaged in the battle either physically or supporting fighting parties financially. Civilians should be making plans to move quickly. Crowded areas are dangerous and commerce is stalling as a result.
Below are the factors we use to create the algorithm. This is of course imperfect as no pure algorithm could ever exist. The nature and cause of civil wars varies widely But these specific factors are quite common in history.
Division in the nation? 5
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Is there a path to fix this divide? 10
Do the divided citizens believe that compromise is possible? Do they see a path?
What is the level of Righteous indignation? 15
This is the best indicator of Civil War. Righteous indignation gives the sides a more excuse to commit violence.
Does at least one side see a path to victory? 5
Seems obvious but it isn't. If neither side believes that victory would be possible the likelihood of war goes way down.
Do the people of the nation believe it is likely? 5
If a large portion of the population believes war is likely, then it is more likely.
How is the economy and standard of living? 10
Historically a bad economy, low standard of living or large division in economic classes can lead to civil war. While this is not a big problem in The United States today, many see the rich as having too much and the poor not enough.
Is there a clear geographic divide? 5
While not as clear as the North/South divide during the first Civil War there is a rather distinct line between cities and suburban/exurban and rural areas.
Is there already violence? 5
Violence leads to more violence and as it becomes more common the growth is almost always exponential. Fort Sumters are rare events. It is much more common (as seen in former Yugoslavia and Middle East) that violence starts small and then spreads.
Have the violent parties lost respect for law and enforcement? 10
Another one of the tipping points. When the fighting parties respect the law violent acts are greatly tempered by the threat of arrest, prosecution and prison. When respect for the law goes, the violence grows in frequency and intensity.
Is there main street support for either or both of the violent parties? 5
Do the citizens who are not engaged in the violence materially or rhetorically support those are who are engaged?
Are the politicians using threat of war for political purposes? 10
Are politicians or political leaders encouraging violence as a means to an end.
Is there a religious divide? 10
Religious divides quickly lead to righteous indignation and moral certitude in the cause.
Is there fighting over natural resources? 5
Fighting over natural resources is often seen by both sides as a fight for survival. Whether a pastoral/agriculture divide (as seen in present day Sudan) or a fight over who owns and profits from exploitation of oil, coal, gold, or other natural resources.
This list is subject to change.
One thing that is missing is the cumulative affect of several smaller factors. Very difficult to quantify, but real nonetheless. Our next project in this undertaking is to contact regularly at least 1,000 people among all political and economic classes. We will then poll them regularly. When this is completed, over the next couple of months, we will feel much better about adding the cumulative factor.