Nassim Taleb, writing in Foreign Affairs, describes why a Black Swan came to Cairo without anybody noticing and in general why opinion leaders keep getting caught on the wrong foot by the arrival of “large-scale events that lie far from the statistical norm and were largely unpredictable to a given set of observers.” The fall of the Berlin Wall was a surprise. The 2008 meltdown was a surprise. The Arab Spring was a surprise. “Why is surprise the permanent condition of the U.S. political and economic elite?”
The answer, he argues, is that the elites won’t see them coming rather than that they can’t. Part of the problem is the consequence of their own damping. By attempting to centrally manage systems according to some predetermined scheme they actually store up volatility rather than dispersing it. By kicking the can down the road they eventually condemn themselves to bumping into a giant pile of cans when they run out of road.
It's like increasing the pressure in a boiler more and more. When it lets go, that energy is released all at once and the results are catastrophic.
Many of the politicians now in Washington are old - Barney Frank is 71 - and think that they will be safely retired when the US runs into that big pile of cans at the end of the road.