Not the Monthly Post

Beyond Lenocracy

I think most people have had the experience of watching a jumble of unorganized thoughts sort out all at once into a lattice of meanings, with a single word filling the role of seed crystal. It’s something that happens to me tolerably often.  Much of the direction of my life was set, for example, one day in my early twenties when the word “decline” became such a seed crystal, and helped me see that the future taking shape around me was neither progress nor collapse but the common fate of all civilizations.

I’ve recently had another such verbal seed crystal drop into my mind. This one wasn’t anything like as worldshaking as the concept of decline has turned out to be, and it also had a curious feature; I grasped the concept in an instant but I had to invent a word for it. The word I came up with is “lenocracy.” The first part of that word comes from leno, the Latin term for a pimp. Yes, what the word means is a government of pimps.

Let’s unpack that phrase a little bit. If, as the saying goes, prostitution is the world’s oldest profession, then pimping must be up there in the oldest half dozen or so. What makes a pimp economically interesting is that he adds no value to the exchanges from which he profits.  He doesn’t produce any goods or services himself.  His role is wholly parasitic.  He inserts himself into the transaction between the sex worker who provides the service and the customer who wants it, and takes a cut of the price in exchange for allowing the transaction to happen.

This kind of parasitic interaction is far from unusual in economics, but it’s not always as common as it is now. There are societies and eras in which most economic activity is mediated by pimps of various kinds, and other societies and other eras in which such arrangements are relatively rare (and often harshly penalized). Right now, in the modern industrial world, we live in an economy where nearly all exchanges are subject not just to the exactions of a single pimp but to whole regiments of pimps, each of whom has to be paid in order for the exchange to take place.  Furthermore, this orgy of pimping is sponsored, controlled, and mandated by government at all levels and by the holders of political and economic power more generally.  Thus, lenocracy.

One way to see lenocracy in action is to go walking through the old downtown district of any small city or large town in today’s America. You’ll find a lot of empty storefronts. If you stop into a local bar, have a few beers, and ask some carefully chosen questions, you’ll discover two fascinating things. The first is that there are plenty of people in town who would gladly patronize a wide range of businesses the town no longer offers.  The other is that there are plenty of people who would happily open and run those businesses if they could.

According to conventional economic thought, this is an absurd situation.  You have commercial spaces begging for tenants, you have customers eager to spend money, you have people out of work who would be delighted to find a job, and you have budding entrepreneurs who would be just as delighted to rent spaces, open businesses, provide goods and services, and hire employees. The law of supply and demand would seem to mandate a rush of new businesses.  Yet nothing of the sort happens, or has happened for many years. Why?  The answer is lenocracy.

Consider the hoops you have to jump through in order to open a business. You can’t just talk to the landlord, arrange for a reasonable rent, come up with whatever facilities and products you need, and hang out your shingle. To begin with, of course, the rent won’t be reasonable. If the law of supply and demand were functioning according to theory, all those empty storefronts would drive the cost of a commercial rental down to the point that business startups could afford it—but the rents haven’t come down.  A galaxy of financial gimmicks mediated by federal, state, and local bureaucracies makes it possible for big corporate landlords to profit even when their buildings are mostly empty, so they are immune from market pressures.

Even if you can scrape together the money to afford a storefront, though, that’s merely the beginning of your troubles. As soon as you start putting a business together, the regiment of pimps mentioned earlier comes running with their hands out. Each of them demands a cut. There are the bankers, the insurance agents, the real estate agents, the salespeople, the middlemen, and many more, and of course alongside them are the government officials, local, state, and federal, with a schedule of fees that inevitably gets longer and more onerous with every year that passes. Few if any members of the regiment just described provide anything of value in exchange for their cut, but you can’t simply ignore them.  That’s what makes our current situation a lenocracy:  the power of the state gives their claims the force of law.

Maverick economist E.F. Schumacher pointed out years ago that one of the crucial but neglected factors in economics is the cost of providing a workplace for each employee.  Where that cost is low, employment booms and so does the grassroots level of the economy, since there are plenty of jobs and thus plenty of people who have money to spend on goods and services. Where that cost is high, the grassroots wither, but the rich become richer, because they can force those who do have money to spend it at the businesses they own. It’s partly because this factor has been ignored in conventional economics that corporate capture of government bureaucracies has become such a plague on the market economy.

The resulting situation has obvious problems. All those empty storefronts across America bear witness to one of the largest of these:  lenocracy is not effectively counterbalanced by market forces, and so when unchecked it can quite readily expand until it strangles productive economic activity altogether.  On paper, the United States has had economic growth in nearly every quarter for decades—but that’s only true if you include the earnings of the FIRE (finance, insurance, and real estate) sector, the heart of today’s American lenocracy.  Leave that out and the economic picture is far less rosy.  If you also leave out the economic consequences of the expansion of government bureaucracy at all levels, and of the explosive financialization of health care that followed in the wake of Obamacare, it becomes painfully clear that in terms of productive economic activity, the United States has been sinking into a serious depression for decades.

Lenocracy also leads to an unhealthy centralization of economic power in the hands of big and politically well-connected corporations.  A case currently before the US Supreme Court makes a good example of this.  Congress many years ago allowed federal bureacrats to put inspectors on fishing vessels, but the officials up and decided one day that every fishing vessel in the US has to have a government inspector on board, and the owner of the vessel has to pay the inspector’s salary and benefits.  This detail isn’t something that Congress mandated by passing a bill; it was an edict handed down by a claque of unelected Washington DC bureaucrats who aren’t answerable to the public. (If this reminds you of certain old comments about taxation without representation, dear reader, be aware that you’re not alone in that.)

Think for a moment about the differential impact of this regulation on big corporate-owned fishing boats and small, family-owned boats.  Corporate fishing vessels routinely have dozens of crew on board, so adding one more is not much of a strain; corporations also have the clout and the financial leverage to make sure that the inspector is, shall we say, encouraged to report that all federal regulations are being followed, whether this is true or not. The smaller players, by contrast, don’t have the clout or the bribe money, and they may be going to sea with only five people aboard; add a sixth, at the federal government’s pay scale, and you’ve very likely slipped over the line from profit to loss.  Thus the regulation is one of many pressures forcing small proprietors and family firms out of the industry and restricting it to huge corporate combines. Since small businesses are far more effective engines of job creation and innovation than big corporations, this pushes costs onto the economy as a whole.

Finally, once it metastatizes far enough, lenocracy makes it impossible for a society to respond to crisis in anything like an effective manner. In 1942, plunged suddenly into a world war, the United States launched a massive program of industrial expansion to turn out tanks, planes, guns, and ammunition at levels no nation had ever previously achieved, and succeeded.  Now?  We’re running out of weapons and ammunition to pass on to the Ukrainian army, and the best the US defense industry can manage is a modest increase in production scheduled for 2025. Any more timely response is bogged down by the fact that even the simplest military procurement has to go through an entire lenocracy of senators, representatives, Congressional aides, Pentagon officials, defense industry executives, consultants, contractors, subcontractors, fixers, managers, micromanagers, and more, all of whom have inserted themselves between the factory worker who makes a gun or an artillery shell and the soldier who needs it, and all of whom extract their cut one way or another from the military budget.

Meanwhile the Russian defense industry is churning out tanks, bombs, and ammunition at a pace several times greater than the entire NATO alliance put together. Russia has its own problems with lenocracy—nearly all modern nations do—but it also has a leadership ruthless enough that any lenocrat whose exactions get in the way of military production risks an accidental fall from a tenth-story window.  Russia’s current leaders lived through the collapse of the Soviet Union and thus are well aware that they can lose. Our leaders lack that useful awareness, and so lenocracy spreads unchecked here—at least so far.

The fatal weakness of lenocracy is shown with remarkable clarity, in fact, by the results of the sanctions the United States and its allies aimed at Russia after the Russo-Ukrainian war began a little less than two years ago. Those sanctions, as I trust my readers remember, were expected by Western politicians and pundits to cripple the Russian economy so severely that the Russian people would rise up against Putin, and accept the dismemberment and despoliation of their country that Western elites have been so publicly daydreaming about for decades.

That wasn’t what happened, because the West didn’t provide any essential goods or services to the Russian economy. Nearly all of what it provided was various kinds of pimping.  Most of the Western goods that Russian consumers bought weren’t made in Western countries; some of them were manufactured in the global South, slapped with Western labels and steep markups, and then sold to the Russians, while others were manufactured in Russia itself by franchisees of Western firms. When the sanctions came into force, Russian importers simply arranged to get the same products with Chinese labels slapped on them instead, and the Russian government passed a law allowing franchisees of Western corporations to tear up the franchise agreements, change their brand names, and go merrily on with business. Meanwhile Russia’s exports, which are far more tangible—oil, coal, gas, grain, and the like—found no shortage of buyers outside the West.

What this turn of events revealed to the world is that it was possible to do without the dubious “services” of the Western lenocracies.  The implications of that discovery are only just beginning to shake the global economy.  It’s already being felt in Africa, where the nations of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso have shaken off the lenocratic control of their former colonial overlord France. Until the recent coup d’etat overthrew Niger’s French-backed president, for example, Niger was getting about 87 US cents a kilogram for the uranium from its rich mines. The going price for uranium in the global market is about US$217 a kilogram.  The noticeable difference between those two figures was being sucked up by French lenocrats under various pretexts. (That difference was also making the French nuclear power system look much more profitable and viable than it actually is, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

The bigger picture, though, is the slow unraveling of the worldwide lenocracy that props up the United States both as global hegemon and as a mythical fairyland of absurdly extravagant consumption. The US dollar’s role as global reserve and exchange currency is the mechanism that matters here. Economic globalization, encouraged and tolerably often enforced by the two-headed monster of US corporate and government power, forced nearly every nation on the planet to stockpile US treasury bills and other dollar-denominated investments to backstop the flow of credit for global trade. That permitted the US government to run gargantuan budget deficits and push the T-bills off on the rest of the world, propping up levels of government and corporate expenditure that couldn’t have been paid for in any honest way.

Now, though, the bloom is off the rose. Russia has demonstrated once and for all that it’s possible for a nation to thumb its nose at the Western lenocracies and thrive. Other nations are backing away from the US dollar at various rates of speed, working out arrangements to trade in local currencies with their neighbors or cutting deals with Russia and China. Excess dollars are starting to pile up in various corners of the US economy, driving bursts of inflation. Signs of economic turbulence are showing up everywhere except the official statistics. (As Bernard Gross predicted forty years ago in his prescient book Friendly Fascism, economic indicators in today’s America have become economic vindicators, saying whatever the regime in power wants them to say.) Outside the lenocratic class, life has become harder for most Americans, and even within the lenocracy, the steady metastasis of the system has run into unexpected barriers.

Consider the fate of the DEI movement, until recently the cutting edge of American lenocracy. According to its proponents, the initials DEI stand for diversity, equity, and inclusion; its opponents argue that “Didn’t Earn It” is a more accurate translation, but here again, we can leave that argument for another time.  The movement has its roots in the affirmative action policies of the 1960s and 1970s, by way of the spate of diversity training programs that spread through corporate life in the 1990s and 2000s.

In this latest manifestation of the same trend, corporations, nonprofits, and government bureaucracies were expected to establish and staff DEI departments at their own expense, piling another financial burden on all and sundry, in order to impose an ever-expanding set of mandates meant to force blind conformity with the latest fashions in cultural politics. As a full-employment program for university graduates with critical theory degrees, which was of course its central purpose, DEI worked quite well.  Like most such projects, however, it did very little for the people it was supposedly there to help, and its impact on profitability was far from benign—the phrase “get woke, go broke” reflects the impact of DEI on business generally.

As recently as 2020, despite all this, DEI seemed poised to install itself immovably as yet another layer of well-paid bureaucrats profiting off economic activity of every kind. Now? Some state governments have banned DEI programs in their bureaucracies and universities, and some corporations are backing away from DEI and turning their attention to such old-fashioned concerns as making a profit instead. Such well-publicized fiascos as Bud Light’s woke-inspired self-immolation grab the headlines, but there are deeper trends at work. The proliferation of lenocracy in American society is running up against hard limits. Some of those limits are external—for example, the erosion of the dollar’s status as world reserve currency—and others are internal—for example, the rise of a populist political movement that increasingly takes aim at the entire lenocratic structure—but they all suggest that the status quo in today’s America is failing.

I suspect the hard limits just mentioned are responsible for the tone of desperation that seems to be spreading through lenocratic circles these days. I’m thinking among many other examples of the recent flurry of press releases insisting that a study had just showed that growing your own vegetables in a backyard garden is bad for the climate. The dubious assumptions and interesting reasoning that supports that claim would take a post of its own to unpack, so we can leave it for now. The point that I want to make here is that the real problem with growing your own vegetables—the real problem, in fact, with doing anything for yourself, or for your family and friends and community—is that there’s no way for pimps to cash in on it. It’s as though people were pairing up and heading off to bed without any cash changing hands, leaving pimps to stand helplessly around and wonder where their next month’s rent is coming from.

Of course it’s also relevant that main reaction the study got from the public, once it hit the mainstream media, was raucous laughter. These days most people know that scientific studies by and large say exactly what their funding sources want them to say, and that trusting the earnest utterances of the mainstream media is right up there on a par with believing the guy from Nigeria who wants your help getting ten million dollars out of the country. The collapse of trust in the lenocratic system has been richly earned. History suggests that it’s likely to be followed not too far in the future by a more general collapse of the system itself.

Exactly how that process will unfold from here is anybody’s guess. With the federal government staggering under an unpayable US$34 trillion dollars in national debt, state governments increasingly supporting the idea of a balanced budget amendment that would force mass layoffs of federal bureaucrats, the Republican Party drawing up plans to eliminate whole departments of the federal government, and the US military so visibly weak that hostile countries are circling like sharks trying to decide who gets to take the first bloody bite, there are any number of ways that the final crisis of the current lenocratic system could play out.

It remains a safe bet, however, that if a situation is unsustainable, sooner or later it won’t be sustained. A nation that can’t manufacture an adequate supply of cannon shells to defend its interests, because too many people are too busy extracting unearned wealth from the procurement process, is a nation that’s either going to shake off its parasites or go under. While we’re waiting to see what happens next, planting that backyard garden or doing other things that don’t depend on lenocracy is probably a good idea—and if, dear reader, you make your living providing some service that nobody would pay for if the system didn’t require it, you might want to find some other way to make a living before the bottom drops out of that market.


  1. You write: “What makes a pimp economically interesting is that he adds no value to the exchanges from which he profits. He doesn’t produce any goods or services himself. His role is wholly parasitic. He inserts himself into the transaction between the sex worker who provides the service and the customer who wants it, and takes a cut of the price in exchange for allowing the transaction to happen.”

    My first reaction to this to think of the pimp as a kind of “broker” — a facilitator — who helps connect buyers and sellers. In addition, the pimp may offer significant protection to the seller. Sure, a person can sell their home without a broker, but that is not to say that the broker does not earn his money or is wholly parasitic. Perhaps you would distinguish between a “Madam” and a pimp?

  2. This is a very interesting discussion on global economics and the old fashion idea of Rents and Rent seeking.
    Which seems to me to be very similar to Lenocracy  These guys (at the Duran) are not limits to growth folks, but their analysis suggest that we are in a pre-revolutionary situation in the west. It is very interesting that the whole concept of Rent seeking has been eliminated from modern economic theory.

    It was also interesting to me that have come to the same conclusion from different starting points.

    ( This video link is for others)

  3. “(That difference was also making the French nuclear power system look much more profitable and viable than it actually is, but that’s a discussion for another day.)”

    Love the remark! These days people are raving about nuclear energy on Twitter and they always bring up France, now I know why.

    It seems to me that lenocracy is some sort of disguised UBI. People go to their job, they either do nothing or do something that amounts to nothing and then they get paid. Getting paid for doing nothing sounds like UBI to me. Whenever I think about how the world’s population is 8 billion, I always ask myself “How do you even find jobs for so many people?”. The solution? Just make up fake jobs. Am I wrong to think that overpopulation always leads to lenocracy? Where the only way to keep a nation functioning is to masquerade as a functioning nation until the mask falls off and, if you still have time, you reverse course.

  4. The gray and black economies must be doing a significant amount of business these days. I can only believe that they will be representing an increasing percentage of total economic activity in the years ahead.

  5. P-Diddy and J-Epstein spring into mind with thinking of Lenocrats.

    So, if a person wants to get ahead in a Lenocracy, should they read books by Iceberg Slim and Heidi Fleiss?

  6. Nice neologism, JMG. My search engine drew a blank.
    Lenocracy, company-store town, rent-seeking, monopoly, etc. Nothing new under the sun.
    Stein’s Law: Whatever can’t continue will stop. And none too soon.

  7. My wife is a Medical Laboratory Scientist, meaning that she works in the lab of a hospital. The lab is basically the backbone of the hospital, whenever someone gets blood drawn or has to get any kind of testing for disease, it has to go through the lab. Unfortunately, she and the other lab workers constantly have to deal with the consequences of the bad decision-making of upper management, who make decisions without consulting the lab at all. Their decision-making constantly disrupts the work of the lab. Meanwhile, the machines that the lab uses are constantly malfunctioning cheap devices imported from foreign countries.

    Over her time at the hospital, she has quickly discovered the severe and unmitigated impact of the lenocracy. Besides their general incompetence, the lenocracy is overpaid, and the actual lab workers are underpaid. The hospital runs on a skeleton crew of overworked lab workers.

  8. Always excited when you come out with a new post of this kind JMG and will read it thoroughly after I finish work!

    There’s been quite a few suggestions from various official quarters here in Europe (such as in the UK) that conscription may become necessary to help deal with the situation in Ukraine. In my experience this has generally been met with rejection by most people of conscription age (a range in which at 29 I find myself in the upper end), a vastly different reaction to mass mobilisation in 1914-1918 when men across Europe flocked to recruitment offices to fight for their side and boys lied about their age to serve. We see much of the same kind of publicity/propaganda to drum up public support for various wars at the moment and yet the reaction from those potentially called upon to fight could not be more different.

    I’m sure many of us have some ideas as to why this is and what might happen if a European government actually tried to implement conscription or some other mass mobilisation, but I thought it might be interesting to hear your thoughts on the matter, either here or as a suggestion for a fifth Wednesday post.

  9. After my wife made the tough decision to close her restaurant a year after we started dating, she found out she had one of the highest rents in all of downtown, based on square footage and the like. It was sad to learn that they were squeezing her so hard.

  10. dobbs @2 already stole my thunder. I was going to cite Michael Hudson, who often writes of the rentier class (real property owners, banks and other lenders, intellectual property owners, insurers, …) who dominate the US economic system. Further, this class is parasitic in that it imposes what amounts to a heavy private tax upon people who try to produce to earn their living. I gather the rentier class is not exactly the same class that JMG is highlighting today, which shows that our economic system is even more parasitic than JMG reveals.

    –Lunar Apprentice

  11. John–

    Re gatekeepers and gatekeeping

    As the system enters the end-game, one also runs into the kind of pretzel-logic demonstrated in the National Organization of Women’s recent post declaring that preserving women’s sports for biological women is an act of white-supremist patriarchy.

    You can’t make this stuff up.

  12. I wondered when The Duran was going to get mentioned around here. Mr. Greer, Dimitri Orlov, The Duran , Kunstler (for the most part) and Simplicius the Thinker…speakers of truth are actually a pretty small group. However, I have noticed that the communities of these folks’ writings all overlap. I wonder constantly why there isn’t more of a readership among them. Simplicius has 30k paid subscribers a month. Seems pretty small actually compared to the population as a whole. Kunstler ,i believe, said around 13% of the country didn’t get the cooties vax…that’s roughly 45 million people or 13 million families. So, all this tells me is that there will be no brakes applied, it will be a collapse because 13% of the population( half children) can’t stop anything. But I’ll chuckle when they finally get it after it’s too late. Mr Greer, what’s your monthly views if you don’t mind me asking?

  13. Lenocracy – what a great word. Intermediation and parasitic promotion gone wild.

    I saw this process play out during my career in IT. Like any other field, the top 10% of skilled workers are always in demand. Not sure if I was a 10 percenter, but I had skill (backups, disaster recovery, data management) that was in very high demand from the mid 1990s through the mid 2000s. I could get a new contract within a day or two, and made good coin as an independent consultant in spite of the $800 annual liability insurance agreement required for the S-corporation arrangement. Lenocracy kicked in full swing and within a few years the field (for me anyway) went from head hunters offering ridiculous bucks, to HR recruiters offering so-so bucks, to bottom level hacks offering bottom level pay in broken English as an influx of foreign born workers influenced the field. The parasitic aspect to the economic arrangement was unsustainable, and as a former beneficiary of that arrangement I had to pursue and settle for less lucrative work.

    All the while, it became obvious the changes were not just the result of pure market forces. The sinister hand of .gov was increasing its grip, and we’ve seen how that’s intruded to more and more aspects of our lives.

    Lenocracy. What a great term to describe the economic changes.

  14. JMG,
    When it comes to defense manufacturing there is another layer of pimps that you might not even realize. There are numerous ” certifications” that must be achieved and kept updated to manufacture any part or component that goes in to something for the military ( or might be used, called duel use). One of these is “ITAR”. International traffic in Arms regulation. It requires special certifications, inspections, restrictions on using the internet, and on and on. There are others for inspection certifications, material purchase requirements etc. These all add layers of costs both directly and indirectly and employee and army of pimps. It is one of the big reasons that US weapons are so overpriced and underperforming.

  15. Hi John,

    Great post!

    A few points:

    1) lots of people operate in the black market these days, cash in hand jobs etc
    2) more and more people are DIYing, for example, I brew my own beer which is vastly cheaper than going to the pub!

    How things evolve going forward is a fascinating question.

    This analyst thinks the turning point is 2026 when economies shift from growth to contraction….

  16. EE Doc Smith somewhere wrote that ‘pimp’ meant ‘helper’; for example a ‘logger’s pimp’ would be his picaroon,, the stick with a spike on it he uses to move logs. I was never sure if this was one of those mildly salacious tall tales proper to pulp fiction or simple truth.

    Great post on how Americans are being ‘offered’ a lot of ‘help’ in open bad faith.

  17. It’s interesting that the study you cited that growing your own causes more of a carbon footprint is from University of Michigan. I guess they don’t want the urban farmers in Detroit getting too uppity. Better keep them in their place…

  18. Another great essay, thank you!

    Reading this also cemented a relationship between two economic concepts that I hadn’t put together before now: economic rent and guard labor. I’m sure you’re familiar with both terms, JMG, but for anyone following along, economic rent is what you’ve here much more colorfully described as pimping, where someone collects money for allowing access to resources or markets, but doesn’t actually contribute to the value of said resources or markets, and guard labor is work that has to be done (and paid for) that is only necessary to prevent bad actors from messing up the real value-generating work, with the obvious example being that money the bank spends on armed guards is not being invested in property or businesses or the like.

    Your initial example of an actual pimp is what crystallized something for me: the argument for the “value” of a pimp is to protect the prostitute from exploitative Johns. Let me exploit you a little every time so that you don’t get exploited a lot some of the time. Which is guard labor. The “ah-hah!” was that I now think that most (if not all) cases of economic rent originate in what was at least originally guard labor of one kind or another: pay me rent to live here, because I keep the raiders from taking your crops, or pay for inspectors or else you could be eating ground up factory workers, or whatever. There was some threat from bad actors, folks stepped in (whether wanted or not) to stave off such bad actors, and then demanded a cut for it, and said cut has expanded and expanded and expanded for less and less obviously useful reasons.

    Anyhow, this literally just came to me as I was reading, so it may not stand up to scrutiny, but so far it seems like a useful addition to my conceptual toolkit, so thanks again for inspiring it.


  19. JMG – I work in civil engineering, and this world is loaded with pimps. Every locality now has a different set of regulations and staff who manage compliance with those regulations ad infinitum. So much so that in some places (like West Virginia) commercial development stagnates overall because of the bloated ledgers of regulators and the reluctance of developers and engineers to touch developments in those areas. Done in the name of public safety, of course. In some areas, the design engineer can “cooperate” with regulators by offering a payment in the form of “educational fees” (indulgences to the Pope, perhaps?) to get a special “certification” that allows them to bypass certain parts of the initial review. This makes zero sense, because either a design is safe or it isn’t, and payments don’t make engineering designs any better or worse. Grease for the wheels of progress, I suppose.

  20. With regards to DEI, a friend just sent me this from musician and singer Nick Cave’s “Red Hand Files” site where he answers questions… these questions were about mercy and cancel culture

    “As far as I can see, cancel culture is mercy’s antithesis. Political correctness has grown to become the unhappiest religion in the world. Its once honourable attempt to reimagine our society in a more equitable way now embodies all the worst aspects that religion has to offer (and none of the beauty) — moral certainty and self-righteousness shorn even of the capacity for redemption. It has become quite literally, bad religion run amuck.

    Cancel culture’s refusal to engage with uncomfortable ideas has an asphyxiating effect on the creative soul of a society. Compassion is the primary experience — the heart event — out of which emerges the genius and generosity of the imagination. Creativity is an act of love that can knock up against our most foundational beliefs, and in doing so brings forth fresh ways of seeing the world. This is both the function and glory of art and ideas. A force that finds its meaning in the cancellation of these difficult ideas hampers the creative spirit of a society and strikes at the complex and diverse nature of its culture.

    But this is where we are. We are a culture in transition, and it may be that we are heading toward a more equal society — I don’t know — but what essential values will we forfeit in the process?”

  21. Jwf, of course there’s a gray area between the provider of a worthwhile service and the thoroughgoing pimp. In the case of real estate brokers, there’s also the fact that brokers have a lot of what they earn extracted from them by the higher echelons of the real estate lenocracy — not an uncommon plight for the bottom level to be in. (Most pimps have to hand over a cut of their take to the local mob as protection money, for example.) The thing to watch is whether the amount the customer pays — not, mind you, the portion of it that you as broker get to keep — is commensurate with the services they receive.

    Dobbs, sure, I could have called it rent-seeking, but that makes it sound more benign than it is. Calling it pimping has more accurate connotations.

    Rafael, it’s UBI with a class bias. To be one of the lenocrats, at least in the US, you have to go to university, and to be anything but a bottom-level lenocrat you have to go to one of the right universities, and come from the right background. As for the role of overpopulation, no, that’s not necessarily the case — however, lenocracy always emerges in empires, because there’s so much unearned wealth flowing in that any gimmick that allows somebody to feed on the flow is profitable.

    Eagle, nah, they’re amateurs. They’d make much more money if they read books by Fortune 500 executives, who pimp out their companies like nobody in the ghetto ever dreamed of.

    Karalan, of course it’s not a new thing. Sometimes, though, the right moniker can help bring clarity to a deliberately muddied situation.

    Enjoyer, I hope she’s looking for a new job, because it’s just going to get worse.

    Sam, I’ve been watching that situation with bleak amusement. The elite classes of western Europe have been raised to think of ordinary citizens as objects who can be manipulated at will, and will always do as they’re told. I’m sure they’re convinced that if they unleash the war propaganda, people will turn on a dime the way they did in 1914, abandon their pacifism, and march off like sheep to the slaughter. (Did you know that the pacifist movement before the First World War was the largest and most influential in history? It collapsed in a matter of days once war came.) Now it’s entirely possible that the same thing will happen again; an astonishing number of people abandoned their ideals and everything they claimed to believe in once these same elites waved Covid-19 in their faces; but it’s by no means certain. If it fails, the EU is toast.

    Justin, that’s standard these days. Please pass on my condolences; that must have been very hard.

    Apprentice, the rentier class is part of the lenocracy, but my term applies much more broadly.

    David BTL, yep. It’s indicative that all they can do at this point is fling irrelevant insults.

    Thomas, I had 113,000 unique page views last month, which is a little below average these days.

    Drhooves, that’s a great example. I’m glad you like the term!

    Clay, you’re right, I hadn’t heard of that. Pimping to the max! 😉

    Forecasting, DIY is the wave of the future; as I noted in an earlier post —

    — once population contraction settles in for the long term, the average business and the average investment will both lose money, and producing for your own use and that of family, friends, and community will become the only form of economic activity that makes any sense at all. Before we get there, yeah, the gray and black economies are also good options, which is why they’re booming.

    Bruce, it probably meant that originally. Mind you, “black” once meant “white” — it’s cognate to French blanc

    Justin, you bet. The big agriculture corporations hand over a lot of grant money.

    Jeff, that’s an excellent point — yes, what starts out as guard labor turns into a protection racket, and then to straightforward pimping.

    Christina, thanks for these examples! More grist for the mill.

    Justin, hmm! Yes, he has a very solid point.

  22. Thought provoking, thank you.
    Somewhere between the current state of lenocratic affairs and a “Deadwood” social economy is a balance that honors the productive and protects the weak. I have no idea if there is a path back to that.

  23. To make how lenocracy hurts business- and job-creation clear to everybody, an example provided by John Stossel on one of his critical opinion segments on ABC is highly illustrative. This example involves a charity that provided hot meals to impoverished people, but the same sort of things happen all the time to people trying to start businesses. This charity was being run by a good-hearted middle-aged African-American woman out of her own kitchen, but the state government where she lived decided to step in and tell her that she was required to pony up the dough for three things 1) a re-doing of the ceiling in her kitchen (I have no doubt there was no real problem with the existing ceiling; 2) a mop sink for the mops she would use to clean her kitchen (she did just fine washing her mop-heads in her washing-machine; 3) and a restaurant-grade ventilation-fan hood above her oven/ stove unit (a requirement certainly as dubious as the first two). Her average-citizen donors were able to help her meet the first two requirements, but the final one made the total cost of these requirements so expensive that the only way she was able to continue her charity-work was by providing food that didn’t need to be cooked (and this likely resulted in less nutritional benefit for the people she was feeding).

    When you think about the fact that these regulations impacted a charity feeding desperately hungry people, it’s not at all a stretch to call the governments mandating these goods and services and the corporations who provide them to them people affected by the mandates “pimps”. And those pimps are possibly even more morally depraved than the pimps of the red-light district who frequently physically abuse their prostitutes!

  24. >Besides their general incompetence, the lenocracy is overpaid, and the actual lab workers are underpaid

    Basically how any company treats its most productive components:

    >a nation that’s either going to shake off its parasites or go under

    That’s the biggest question that faces Murica right now – does it die or does it shake off the parasites? I’m not sure the whole thing can be saved but something smaller and viable could be salvaged from this wreckage if someone half tried.

  25. It has been at least 30 years since i read Small is Beautiful, yet i still remember his discussion on the cost of providing a useable work space.

    He gave a good estimate on how much you should spend to equip your work space.
    You should spend approximately what you can make in a year doing that job.
    So for anyone looking to equip a workspace, that is a handy rule of thumb.
    Too little and you are not productive enough,
    too much means you will not be able to maintain your work space.

  26. >producing for your own use and that of family, friends, and community will become the only form of economic activity

    You can just stop right there. When Wal-Mart shuts down due to hyperinflation, it’s literally all you’ll have left.

  27. The DEI lenocracy is an interesting example because unlike many other lenocracies, we know pretty much exactly how it happened, as a confluence of various well-intentioned laws and social reform movements, elite panic at rising populist movements, corporate warfare and office backstabbing, and “the pleasures of coercion” (to use Kunstler’s pithy term for it) — and that was before the straightforward grifting set in.

    Have you heard of the minor kerfuffle that’s gotten branded “GamerGate 2”? I’m peripherally aware of it mostly through online friends and associates, but it seems like an important sign of the times. What happened is that there was a 4chan-led effort to boycott a particular DEI consultancy company, Sweet Baby, Inc., by identifying which games they’d worked on and boycotting those specific games. (It helps that most of those games are considered flops, given gamers’ manifest inability to abstain from consumption.)

    The response from Sweet Baby and the gaming press to this was something else. They seem to have instinctively realized the gig was up and went into a full-scale meltdown. Long story short, there were public meltdowns and failed attempts at cancellations, and rather than defend their work, SBI no longer wants anybody to know what games they’ve worked on.

    Unlike last time, few people seem interested in defending SBI. Even if you support DEI generally, I suppose it’s pretty hard to defend a company that’s acting so bizarrely and childishly. “Putting the woke away” has been falsely predicted several times before, but it really looks like we’re seeing a turning of the tide now.

  28. >This analyst thinks the turning point is 2026 when economies shift from growth to contraction

    They already are. They’ve just tricked you into thinking they’re still growing. For about 15 years now. Amazing what you can do with credit if you have access to negative interest rates.

  29. “UBI with class bias.”
    Makes perfect sense.

    Sorry for being off-topic with this one. I was reading on the Energy Skeptic blog about container ships and I’m wondering about what will happen to island nations like Japan, Australia and New Zealand after planes and ships stop moving due to oil shortages. No one has the knowledge to build big, wooden, sail ships anymore and modern seamanship won’t help. Are they facing some sort of serious isolation in the future decades? Maybe even for a century or two? At best they have small sail boats, but those can’t transport much food and material. At least Japan doesn’t import it’s rice for what it’s worth.

  30. Thanks for your deep-thinking article JMG.

    if one is willing to try a completely different path, i believe there is plenty of potential to work in a system outside of that which is problematic and brought up in this article by developing and living in the private realm, such as with PMA (Private Membership Associations/ Private Ministerial Associations), in which those exchanging and participating are there because they want to and in which things do not operate as they do in the public. There is also power in using some of the international agreements and covenants, such as International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to seek our birthright to freedom and sovereignty. As an example, the pharma industry uses some of these international agreements and tools to cover their nefarious and destructive ways. So, these same international tools can be used to protect our freedoms though in a truth-seeking and benevolent way.

    Don’t ask me about details or particularities as i am continuing to explore and learn. Part of how to be successful in this field/endeavour is about getting extremely, extremely clear about what one’s goal or purpose is and to be extremely careful in how to set one (e.g.: a PMA) up. The ministerial or church (there are older definitions of church than the current one) flavour of PMAs gives even more strength to the structure because there are the keystone elements of helping, teaching, spiritual and community building. Their is a surprising long and solid history of different organisations and communities having used and operated within the private. Kind of paralleling what JMG has stated in his article, modern culture has swung too far over to the public, in which the ‘expert’ is the one to call and where personal responsability falls. The PMAs can also cross-link or nest with(in) each other–sister PMAs. It is also vital to NOT remain in your mindset of always, or your way of being as you move in to the private realm–such as not thinking about doing/running (a) business in the same way and not dealing with licenses and such. For anyone to take part in the PMA for the “products”, services, community, support or other reason, they have to agree (sign) and comply to what is written in the members agreement.

    If this is your interest, you can check out the 4 Cornered Table. Though this PMA focuses on the Canadian context, there are commonalities. A large part of its focus is on:
    * learning about PMAs;
    * getting help in setting up a PMA; and
    * regenerative food & ag (including looking at food quality, human health and ecological intefgrity through the lens of deuterium).


  31. It’s a good thing the cat was sleeping in the window. He dislikes maniacal laughter and will try to sneak in and bite me, that is if he feels he can avoid the counterstrike.

  32. Somewhere in the distant past, I heard a saying that stuck with me:

    “Mercy without justice undermines the world, but there is no greater evil anywhere than justice without mercy.”

    That pretty well encapsulates what I think of cancel culture.

    BTW, can anyone give me a source for that old saying? I haven’t had much luck tracking it down.

  33. As a builder/remodeler by trade, I know well all the forces “profiting” off my labor, making my costs and thus my clients costs rise. Lately i have been floating an idea around my small regional-hub town, a combination music venue, cafe, plant nursery, cannabis shop. Meeting with the local health official, a high school friend of mine, a few things became clear. I would have to spend probably $25,000 before I could even ask for a permit to run a restaurant, from State health officials. Even if I get a cannabis permit from the State, I have to get a permit from county and city officials. The cost of the kitchen alone because of health codes would probably exceed $500,000. Plumbers, Elec and Hvac, because they are essential and protected contractors, get to charge upwards of $400/hr. The cost of the build goes from 1mil to 2mil+, because lenocracy. I’ve only really included cannabis in the plan for cash flow, because lenocracy has made it so the rest of the project might not otherwise be profitable.

  34. Hope this great great word sticks, what a vampire stake of an article. It’s better even than presstitutes, which is lovely. I think it’s so great it could become the rally point of agreement. In a kind of creative apophatic sort of a way. Like pumps they have a nice pitch and good talk, but it’s the deeds and consequences that are irrefutable and undeniable. Ty btw for the astrology read. I have to admit it got me thinking about the long term vac possibilities as filling the role of the mystery pandemic looming in the charts, although it might not be that or even a pandemic at all. It could be psychological or a mass terror bioweapon novel event or whatever else comes out of dream logic into manifesting.

  35. Thank you, JMG, for another insightful analysis of our situation, and the coining of a useful new word.
    Unfortunately, lenocracy has also hijacked our “public health” institutions.
    The latest addition to the flurry of press releases that attempt to keep the pimps in control is the report that intermittent fasting increases the likelihood of a heart-related death by 91%. A “finding” that is laughable on its face. Some have suggested that it is part of an attempt to deflect blame for excess deaths away from the Covid jabs. I wouldn’t be surprised. This so-called study released by the American Health Association was done completely by email without a control group and the “researchers” relied solely on what was self-reported by the respondents and took no other factors into account (what they ate, exercise, comorbidities, etc.) — the equivalent of standing in a mall with a clipboard asking random strangers about their sex life. Fortunately, some medical experts in real medical organizations have refuted it, citing the amply demonstrated benefits of intermittent fasting. In any case, I’m waiting for the public-health-pimps to conjure up more such “studies” to find straw men to blame for the damage done by their own malpractice.

  36. Jwf and JMG,

    It seems to me the best test of whether or not a job is lenocratic in nature is simply to ask what would happen if no one was doing it. Would the result be a sustained and dramatic breakdown in the business and related businesses, or a short-term readjustment period followed by substantially increased profit for the actual laborers, costing at most some increased inconvenience?

    (This is of course glossing over the cases where the pimping literally involves human trafficking, in which case out with it, dramatic breakdown or no.)

  37. I recently traveled from Oregons “wealthiest” town to one of its poorest in one day. Lake Oswego is built around an artificial lake and the downtown is mostly filled the real estate offices, financial services and a few boutiques but there are several vacant storefronts and most parking lots and stores are only partially full. But it is chock-a-block with regulations to keep its upper crust appearance.
    About 25 miles away is Cornelius , which was once half dead when its Firetruck Factory closed. But cheap real estate , few regulations and proximity to farmland made it a magnet for the Hispanic population. Now every storefront is full, parking lots are full, sidewalks are clean. The farm worker clinic has morphed in to a small but efficient hospital.

  38. What an excellent insight!
    There is a class of jobs that I am considering putting lipstick on a pig: helping all sorts of ugly set-ups appear virtuous and beautiful. So, you’re pimping successfully and there is a need to improve the appearance of your business – aand we have a product for that, DEI. If DEI loses its reputation of virtue, the next new method for porcine beauty improvement is already waiting to be introduced. With apologies for all the honest pigs who are happy to look the way they look. But pimping immaterial stuff like the endless certificates and cat-registers, and then making them be moral imperatives (It is a safery certificate for your own good! It is for animal welfare!) – how good use of human capacity is that? This craziness reminded me of a book I read as a teenager, Futurological Conference by Stanislaw Lem. A psychedelic trip of a book, that the library still had in storage so I re-read it, and yeah, that strange feeling of losing solid ground, being taken for rounds in a circus, everything is horrible and nothing is quite real.

  39. Georges Bataille’s economic ideas in his book Accursed Share look like a generalization of this idea. As I understand it, he sees the function of an economy being a reduction in efficiency, to dissipate excess energy.

  40. Another example:
    My brother is a carpenter here in the UK, and a master of his craft. He is not allowed to create and fit wooden windows into a house without having the right licence / certificate, for a hefty annual fee.

    If a homeowner had wooden windows fitted on the quiet without the right certificate, this would (in theory) be uncovered by the lawyer dealing with any future sale of the property, on behalf of the potential buyer, and the buyer would be advised not to proceed with the purchase.

    The supposed reason for the licencing is to stop bad windows being fitted which allow too much heat loss. So as a result, there is a virtual oligopoly by a few manufacturers of plastic windows.

    My brother is however allowed by law to mend wooden windows that are already in place, so does very extensive ‘repairs’.

  41. Just a small correction: The $34T you described as the deficit is actually the debt, as deficits are the yearly shortfall of revenue compared to expenditures. Debt is the running total of accumulated deficits.

  42. Hi JMG,

    I haven’t had time to comment for a while, but I wanted to let you know I have been impressed with your attitude towards losing your wife recently. I’m very sorry for your loss. I’m facing a heavy duty medical crisis within my own family at the moment, and your writing about your own experiences have helped me face it squarely.

    One detail in this essay I’m going to challenge: I’m not convinced that landlords–large or small–can turn vacancies into profits. There are potential tax write offs for depreciation that can allow accounting losses to lower taxable income, but only to the extent that a building owner has actual income to tax. The office sector is in serious trouble right now due to vacancy and properties are selling for just a fraction of previous values. There have been some big time losses. Here’s one of many recent examples in which all the owner equity, and much of the loan value, was wiped out:

    There is no gimmick to generate cash from vacant retail space. I was confused for a while about why landlords would rather endure retail vacancy when presumably they could just lower the rent to fill the spaces. The reason has to do with how commercial buildings are financed. Most commercial mortgages come up for renewal every 5-7 years or so. If they lowered the rent, the appraised value of the property would be reduced, and the building owners might have to get a new (smaller) loan, pay down the existing loan in a dramatic way, or even have the entire loan called. Instead, they keep the high rents in place, pretending that the vacancy is just a temporary blip and maintaining the higher appraisal value for the loan. It’s a way for owners and lenders to kick the can and play for time. Here’s a more detailed explanation if you are interested:

    Your overall point about increasing, and parasitic complexity and bureaucracy is right on though. What interests me is that many of the participants don’t benefit from the parasitism yet are active enablers of it. I am in a small town in which virtually all the rule-making committees are volunteer based. They consistently add more rules and regulations every year so that opening a retail business, building housing, or even opening a stall at the farmer’s market has become an arcane maze of permits, approvals, applications, and licenses. The members of these committees generally have no experience in their domain: the the economic development committee has no members who have started a business or made payroll, the planning and zoning committee members have never built a building, etc. If it was straightforward toll-extraction it would be easier to understand. Apparently there is an ideological or psychological payoff for being a bureaucratic gate-keeper, even on a volunteer basis, but I really can’t relate!

  43. To explain further re the window licencing scheme, the Lenocrats are of course the people paid to administer and manage the licencing scheme, the auditors who audit the accounts of the licencing scheme, the Recruitment and HR people who recruit staff for the licencing scheme, the IT people who look after the computers for the licencing scheme, the landlord who lets an office for the licencing scheme, and of course the people who audit the auditors, the HR people who recruit for the auditors, the IT people who look after the computers for the auditors and the HR people, the auditors and HR people who service the IT company, and on and on and on it goes.

    Jobs for the middle classes.

    All paid for by window fitters, and of course other trades, actually providing real good and services to real customers.

  44. Randal, no economy, in the strict sense of the word, protects the weak; it’s institutions that are not strictly economic in nature (families, communities, religious bodies, and so on) that do that. One problem with lenocracy is that it makes it far more difficult for those institutions to function.

    Mister N, that’s a great example of the point I just made to Randal.

    Other Owen, yep — that’s the big question.

    Dobbs, it’s a fine rule, but not always applicable — it cost me a lot less than a year’s income to set up my work space as a writer!

    Other Owen, not quite. You might check out the economic history of hyperinflations in the past; stores stayed open in Weimar Germany straight through the early-1920s hyperinflation, for example. Those workers who pushed wheelbarrows through the streets to get a loaf of bread could still find bread for sale, you know!

    Slithy, I had people bring up GamerGate 2 in a recent post, but that’s all I know about it. We’ll see, but it seems to me that the gig really is up at this point.

    Rafael, perhaps you can ask that question at the next open post. I really do expect commenters to stay on topic, you know!

    Louis, hmm. I’ll consider looking into it when time permits.

    Clarence, ha! That got some very nearly maniacal laughter from me, but I don’t have a cat.

    Robert, hmm! No, I don’t recall hearing that one, but it’s apropos.

    William, another great example. Thank you.

    Celadon, thank you. It seems to me that if more people start drawing a distinction between paying for services and being victimized by lenocracy, it might be possible to get some serious pushback going.

    Fedora, oh, the “health” industries have been overwhelmingly lenocratic for more than a century, ever since they started using state legislatures to force alternative practitioners out of business. It doesn’t surprise me at all that they’re freaking out about intermittent fasting — I wonder which of their gravy trains it disrupts. (My guess is that it messes with the A1C test, which is routinely used to get false positive tests for diabetes and push people onto expensive pharmaceuticals they don’t need, but that’s only a guess.)

    Clay, you’ll be amused to learn that my father’s older sister, her husband and children used to live in Lake Oswego. She and my father grew up working class — Grandpa Greer was a firefighter in Aberdeen, Washington — and Dad used to grumble about the nose-in-the-air attitude of Lake Oswego and its very upwardly mobile denizens. Fifty years from now it’ll be a tumbledown ruin, while Cornelius is thriving.

    Kristiina, now there’s a blast from the past — I haven’t read anything by Lem in years. I’ll have to correct that, as his wry sense of absurdity feels very apropos for the present day.

    Jim, interesting. I haven’t read that; I’ll check it out.

    ChristineS, thanks for this — another fine example.

    Steve, thanks for this. I’ve made the correction.

    Samurai_47, it’s precisely the ability to write off losses from vacant space that does the most damage. The way it works is that a real estate holding company in a big city buys rental properties in a small city or large town in a depressed area, where real estate prices are much lower, and notionally puts them out for rent at big city prices. They remain empty — try renting them even if you have the money! — and the holding company can write off the imaginary rent as an expense, thus sheltering the income from the big city properties; the empty properties have low mortgage costs and get no maintenance, so they cost less than the tax savings. Thus it’s a cash cow that keeps vast amounts of property empty. Yes, there are also other factors involved, but that’s a very profitable gimmick and people in small cities and large towns in flyover country know all about it.

    ChristineS, and that’s always the way it works: full employment for otherwise useless university graduates, paid for by running the productive economy into the ground.

  45. …”Shaking off the parasites.” No wonder they don’t want people to think about de-worming paste….

  46. Small nitpick, the price Niger received for uranium in the source you cite ( is 0.88$/kg and not 0.08$/kg as mentioned in your essay. The market price is 200 EUR/kg (therefore 218$/kg). The market price is roughly 200x larger so that does not invalidate your argument.

    I could not verify the original source cited by because it is behind a paywall:

  47. Esteemed and ever-perceptive archdruid JMG, a brilliant essay! Your new term is a keeper!

    I found myself leaping to my bookshelf and pulling two treasured tomes out: “Dechooling Society” by Ivan Illich and “Small is Beautiful” by E.F. Schmacher. A quick scan through both did NOT yield the word I was searching for, but I think it’s in there somewhere: Disintermediation (i.e. cutting out the middleman.) An appropriate prescription for a society/system bedeviled by Lenocracy, I think. Your analysis of the multi-leveled pimping our societies worldwide have descended into is spot-on.

    I look forward to your further discussions on how we “de-pimp” ourselves (delenoizing?) towards a less-encumbered state of being. I suspect collapse is an inevitable and needed part of that entire process. Hmmm, time to prune that tree…

    All the best to you and this amazing community you’ve built!

  48. Don’t forget lawyers. 1.66% of the US economy is litigation, which dwarfs oil and gas extraction and is 2.6x Europe. For more detail on what JMG is saying check out Hudson’s Killing the Host

  49. One of the great Lenocratic rackets of the insurance industry is the requirement for overlapping liability insurance. Recently I was asked to consult for a company that makes grid scale battery systems. I was just advising them on the design and manufacturing of a cover to keep water out of the batteries due to my years of experience in the sheet metal industry. But before beginning I they sent me several documents to complete and one of them was to provide a certificate of liability insurance with the company in question as some kind of beneficiary.
    This has happened several times in the last 6 years but never before that in my 35 years of business. It means the company’s insurance company is requiring the covered company to get liability insurance overlaps from nearly every other company they do business with. Wow, what a racket to sell more insurance.
    In addition it shows the unwillingness of that business and its insurance company to take responsibility for its own affairs and the preplanned willingness to thrown any business partner under the bus if they are sued to ” spread the pain around.”
    I politely told the company requesting my consulting services that I had unexpectedly become to busy and perhaps they should find someone else.

  50. Lenocracy. I like it! I’ve been using the term “intermediation” lately in discussions about all the people who put their paw out for their take, but I think I’ll start switching around. I look forward to being able to watch reactions when I deadpan explain the term to people!

    I’ve noticed something interesting in the past year or so, at least out in the rural hinterlands I prefer: A return to separate “cash” and “card” prices, with card prices being a few percent higher to cover the fees. I’ve seen the split at sit down local restaurants, at some “street booths” (one was offering horse drawn carriage rides last winter), and, surprisingly to me, at some gas stations – just straight up posted “cash” and “card” prices that weren’t the sort of “trucker co-op discount” prices, but “You use Visa, you pay more for gas.”

    I absolutely understand why merchants are doing this, because 3% is 3%, no matter how you slice and dice it, but I’d been of the impression that this sort of thing (separate cash and card prices overtly stated) was against the CC company merchant agreements. Does anyone know if that’s changed, been found unenforceable, or if people are just saying “I need to make a living, and will deal with the consequences if they cut me off”?

    I’ve been “back” to using cash for local purchases for a few years now, after getting a better grip on just how much of my “purchasing behavioral surplus” the CC companies were selling off (or just donating to the government in some cases). Fortunately, nobody thinks this weird out where I live, and I’m far more likely to run into a cash only business than a card only place. When I lived for a while in a particular coastal northwest region that used to build good airplanes, that I carried cash just baffled people. Of course, I also carried a pocketknife and worked on my own vehicles…

    It’s also interesting seeing just how much smoother cash works. One of the credit card companies had some advertising a while ago about how smooth cards were, with this smoothly running coffee shop, until some jerk showed up with cash and gummed up the works, but lately I’ve observed exactly the opposite in practice. Cash works. Card… oh, wait, no, you need to put it in the reader… ugh, that chip reader’s been acting up, can you swipe it… try again… hm… hold on, let me power cycle that terminal… and so it goes. At least with cashiers old enough to remember how to make change, cash is swift and smooth.

  51. Hi JMG,

    That’s not how the accounting works. If an investor has a vacant building they can’t write off lost rent at fictitious prices, or even at fair market prices, as an expense. They can book losses from actual expenses, such as real estate taxes and insurance premiums, and can write off depreciation of the purchase price. Depreciation is the only non-cash expense allowed. But depreciation has to follow a schedule, 27.5 years for residential and 40 years for commercial. So there is no business model for buying loss-making properties and coming out ahead by generating tax savings.

  52. I can’t believe that every boat in the US has to have a government lackey on board! It’s worse than even what the bureaucrats in the EU think up. Also doesn’t every US plane now have to have a gunned up Marshall on board too? Still? What a gravy train 9/11 was.

    In the UK Labour is likely to get elected this year. They are famous for squandering money on useless bureaucrats which is popular as it ‘creates jobs’. Labour is literally the last thing the UK needs going into a time of crisis but people don’t care as long as they think they will get enriched even if it’s through borrowed money, ie, debt. Do you see the UK defaulting on it’s huge debt in the next 10 years say? Will it happen automatically when the US defaults?

  53. I’d also add sales taxes, and the whole regulatory mess with those to this mess. I know when I looked into setting up a business, I realized I was either going to need to give up most of my free time, or I was going to need someone working for me full time just to keep track of the tax implications of my business; and since my plan was a shoestring budget for a while, this alone killed it.

    JMG, Fedora,

    On the topic of intermittent fasting, I see two issues with it: the first is that it has a plausible mechanism for dramatically reducing the risk and severity for type II diabetes through regular fasting. Type II diabetes develops when insulin resistance does; there are number of ways for this to happen (in theory; actually figuring out what drives it is not profitable enough for the research to be done), but all of the plausible mechanisms require insulin levels to be elevated for extended periods of time. Since insulin levels drop dramatically during even a relatively short fast, this could easily short circuit any of the mechanisms; especially if done regularly. I’ve actually wondered for a while if the reason diabetes is so much more common in the modern world is that we don’t fast from time to time like most people in most cultures do.

    The second difficulty it creates is that in my experience at least, heavily processed foods taste horrible after a fast; even if they didn’t before. It seems a fast resets the palate in some fashion, and since the medical industry makes a ton of money off of cleaning up the damage that processed foods do to our health, this would be a major threat as well.

  54. Having watched your ideas flow to the center more times than I can count-I’m really looking forward to lmao that day 6 months to a year from now when I hear Rachel Maddow or Paul Krugman, etc. explaining how Lenocracy is a dangerous far right conspiracy theory.

  55. Robert Mathiesen @32,
    “Mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution; justice without mercy is cruelty.”
    Thomas Aquinas
    Is that the one?

  56. I LOVE the new word “lenocracy”…. I also love that you have chosen a Supreme Court case involving fishing, since I live in a fishing port whose industry has also been decimated by lenocracy.

    And here is a wee confession. I myself worked as a minor lenocrat for a few years. It was like this. My old boss in the fish processing industry (I had worked as his bookkeeper in previous years) was creating a new job – a quality control officer. I took this on after he tried someone else in the role for a few months, who did not suit him. We agreed that I would be keen and learn on the job, and that the job was to protect him from various officials and/or corporate auditing departments who had the power to either shut him down or stop doing business with him, by keeping his auditable documentation straight and in confornance with various standards and systems. Which I did for around 8 years. During that time I was extremely aware that I myself was contributing exactly nothing towards the production of his wares. However, these inspectors and their powers were becoming more formidable as the years went by, and when I tendered my resignation, eight years on, I actually had to train in three people to replace me.

    We had given me the title of “Compliance Officer” and I had helped him create several different “systems” of documentation and compliance. Food Safety, Health and Safety, and Food Quality Control, and Fish Boat to Fork Traceability. When I was leaving him, his corporate customers were pressuring him to create systems which would vet his supply chain for slavery and for environmental and climate change mitigation, and several others. (No one had raised anything resembling DEI, though. Lol!)

    By the time I left I was convinced that the salary I had drawn for eight years from this small fish processing factory was not good value for my employer, and that the multiplication of this type of job was getting increasingly top heavy on the actual producer of food.

    Now, I do have a small question.

    When you say: “lenocracy is not effectively counterbalanced by market forces, and so when unchecked it can quite readily expand until it strangles productive economic activity altogether. ” I wonder what exactly counts as “market forces”, and whether lenocracy is not itself a market force, and whether there is anything that determines that “market forces” shall always and only be productive?

    Because this lovely scenario you offer at the end of your essay: “the real problem with growing your own vegetables—the real problem, in fact, with doing anything for yourself, or for your family and friends and community—is that there’s no way for pimps to cash in on it. It’s as though people were pairing up and heading off to bed without any cash changing hands, leaving pimps to stand helplessly around and wonder where their next month’s rent is coming from” appears to depict the situation in which market forces have left the building, and what is left is just people doing people stuff with each other.

    Anyway, thanks for this. And in any case, three cheers for “disintermediation”… (or whatever the shaking off of lenocracy might call itself). 🙂

  57. Fun fact: An impimpi is African prison slang for a stool pigeon or informer. It dates back to the 1920s when an actual pimp, a Polish immigrant, ingratiated himself with the African gangsters of Johannesburg, but ultimately turned out to be in the pay of the local constabulary.

    Our version of DEI is B-BBEE certification, whereby you demonstrate that you have met the government’s goals of black economic empowerment in order to qualify for the opportunity to tender for government contracts.

    Then there’s straightforward organized crime, like the guys who go from house to house in the townships assessing how much you have to pay for protection: motor car in the driveway, so much; big screen TV, so much; got nothing? Let’s see your payslip. Or the construction mafia, which has become a real obstacle to development. They tell you who you may employ and from whom you have to purchase supplies, all in the name of supporting local people and businesses, you understand, so no complaining about incompetence or price gouging otherwise you will regret it.

    I have never come across the term “guard labor” before, but that is quite literally our biggest monthly expense for the apartment block I am a trustee of. We have 24 hour security, an electric fence, and access control, and we are an old block in a lower middle class but gentrifying suburb. You have to have these things, otherwise people won’t buy or rent apartments.

  58. Croatoan –

    It’ll be even funnier when they explain how the term “Lenocracy” relates to Jay Leno. And then, of course, double down when questioned. And eventually, without admitting any prior error, explain how any terms created by those obsessed with “dead languages” indicate an unhealthy obsession with the past, therefore, still, dangerously right-wing.

  59. @JMG It’s an interesting observation on your part about the possibility of young Europeans throwing off their pacifism easily.

    I think however that there are two factors which are decisively different betwrrn 1914 and 2024.

    The first is that young men in 1914 were raised in an environment that was relatively patriotic and nationalistic. I have a book given as a school prize to a boy in Manchester in 1887 which covers the life of General Gordon of Khartoum, at the time a national hero that British boys were brought up to revere. British children’s books were often about heroes of the Empire who went away and fought the Queen/King’s enemies for, heroes that children were supposed to seek to emulate. Nowadays at the behest of elites who saw national identities and pride as obstacles to globalisation patriotism and nationalism are treated as something bad and evil, old national heroes’ records are picked over for any spicy views about race, gender, slavery or colonialism and those who express too much national pride are treated as “far right”. Young men and women in the West these days have generally been taught that that their countries are oppressive and evil. This works very well for the globalists until they need to give their citizens something to fight for; many of their citizens will turn round and refuse to fight for a country or civilisation they have been taught to hate and those who see past that maleducation won’t fight for elites who have taken over and ruined their countries.

    The other consideration is that in 1914 many of the European countries were (by today’s standards) religiously and racially homogenous. People were on roughly the same page culturally. Now look at Eurooe today and we see very diverse societies with entire areas inhabited by outsiders. I doubt very much that many of the crowds of Black Lives Matter agitators, or Islamists demonstrating over the war in Gaza, will be in much hurry to enlist to fight a white man’s war (not that it is necessarily a good idea to give the latter group guns and military training) and many would resist conscription by leaving or by fighting. The result will be that the fighting is mostly left to native whites and some people of a migration background patriotic enough to take up arms to fight for their new country and they will ask themselves why they should go and die in Eastern Europe while many of the minorities get to stay at home in relative safety.

    Result: unrest within the army, unrest within the civilian population and a general refusal to fight outside of a group of hardcore palaeoconservatives and people tempted by a desperate need of work.

  60. Rafael, thank you.

    Gerry, ha! I wonder if the pony paste will chase away government officials and other lenocrats. It occurs to me that it might be worth including in an amulet for that purpose…

    Viking, ever since the figures I saw hit the media I’ve seen various attempts to insist that it just ain’t so. I’ve wondered more than once if those are being generated by French government-funded PR firms in a frantic attempt to cover up what is, after all, a thumping indictment of French policy toward one of the poorest nations on the planet. Since I don’t have access to unfiltered knowledge on the subject, I’m going to keep on quoting the figures I originally saw until I can find solid, unbiased sources that say otherwise.

    Bryan, excellent! Yes, and I’ll be talking about disintermediation as we proceed.

    Bradley, oh, granted. Our entire government these days functions as a full-employment scheme for lawyers.

    Clay, you and Bradley are talking about two ends of the same ungainly monster, since it’s the threat of litigation that keeps all those overlapping insurance schemes in business. I’m reminded of Dick the Butcher in Henry III, Part 2: “The first thing we do is, let’s kill all the lawyers!” (I bet that got cheers every time the actor said it on the stage of the Globe Theater.) If they’d had insurance executives in Shakespeare’s time, they might have gotten a similar tribute…

    Russell, I’ve seen the same thing, and not in the rural hinterlands; that’s starting to pop up here in urban Rhode Island as well.

    Samurai_47, then maybe you can explain why, for example, much more than half of the rental spaces in downtown Cumberland, MD, where I lived for nine years, are owned by out of state real estate holding companies, are notionally available for the kind of rents you’d expect to see in New York City, and have been sitting empty for years on end, when the other conditions I described in my example are present and accounted for. The gimmick I described was what I was told was the case by people in the area who were familiar with the market. If you insist that doesn’t work, fair enough, but something very odd along these lines is going on in thousands of towns and small cities all over flyover country.

    Bridge, it’s possible that Labour will win, and fairly certain that the Tories will get their well-earned defeat, but I’m beginning to wonder; George Galloway’s upset victory in the recent by-election suggests that the British political system has become a powderkeg waiting for a spark, and the next election may see a great many independents standing for office — and winning. That would certainly explain Sunak’s meltdown over Galloway’s election. As for Britain defaulting on its debts, no — London is the money laundering capital of the world these days, and the British government will probably find some way to stay afloat on that basis.

    Taylor, since I was married for forty years to a bookkeeper and office manager, I can confirm that the cost of complying with ever-multiplying government fees and requirements is a huge part of small business expenses these days. So you’re square on target. As for intermittent fasting, both those seem very plausible to me. It’s been a while since I’ve had the option — at least for me, fasting is not something to do when I’m under stress for other reasons — but I look forward to resuming it down the road a bit. Yes, it resets the palate — and of course anything that interferes with diabetes’ role as a massive cash cow for the pharmaceutical industry is a major danger to corporate profits these days.

    Croatoan, if that happens, I’m going to go down to the local booze emporium and buy a bottle of really good Scotch. Any Ecosophia reader in the area will be welcome to bring a bottle and join the party.

    Dashui, thanks for this. Here again, this is the wave of the future; they’re motivated by something other than the desire to make a profit, and in a contracting economy, theirs will still be a viable motive.

    Scotlyn, glad to hear it. The fishing-inspector case stood out as being slightly more egregious than the other two or three dozen examples that came instantly to mind. During her time as a small business bookkeeper, my late wife used to bring home stories about the increasingly absurd exactions of local, state, and federal bureaucrats, so your experience rings true to me! As for “market forces,” that was a deliberate red flag waved in the face of free-market conservatives; I meant by it, of course, those market forces that conventional economic theory is willing to talk about, and my point is to remind them that Adam Smith’s invisible hand won’t save the day in this case. As for the scenario — why, you’re catching onto the theme of an upcoming post, of course (and not for the first time). There is one proven and reliable way for individuals to push back against lenocracy, and under whatever name, we’ll be talking about it…

    Gnat, funny! I’ve been one-upped by a scanner. 😉

    Martin, thanks for this. Interesting to see that despite the otherwise extensive differences between your country and mine, some things never change.

    Russell, I’ve been waiting to see if anyone would mention Jay Leno. I suspect we know what at least one of his paternal ancestors did for a living.

    Sam, duly noted. Now we’ll see what happens!

    Piglet (offlist), please post that in this month’s open post. You’ve still got plenty of time.

  61. I love this neoglism so much I made a meme:

    Lenocracy doesn’t have to come from government regulation, of course– the tech industry’s attempt to “disrupt” everything just means inserting their app as an extra pimp between you and what you used to do. Take dating apps as an example. If people would just go out and meet each other, why, a whole industry of pimps would go bust!

    Unrelated but pertinent to your interests:
    I was driven past what appeared to be a US Army recruiting center this past weekend. Driving past a recruiting center would not be odd or worth mentioning, save for the fact that I was in Northern Ontario– Canada, that is. I was not aware the US Army recruited in outside the core States of the empire. I suppose it’s possible someone is using the US Army name and logo to sell military merch or something, but trademarks usually apply on both sides of the border so I can’t see that being allowed. On the other hand, google does not admit to the existence of non-US recruiting centers. Nor does the Great and Mighty Goog know what is at that address– the bots haven’t realized the tanning salon that used to occupy the location died when their pandemic loans were recalled. (Of course– and this brings it back to lenocracy– the point of those loans was to keep the landlord paid and government flunkies busy, not to keep the business afloat.) If I am able I will try and make it back there during working hours, to see what, if anything, I am offered to die for Israel and Uncle Sam. Might be entertaining.

  62. @Kirsten (#57):

    No, alas! Aquinas is much milder in his condemnation of “justice wihout mercy” than the saying I quoted. “No greater evil than” it goes far, far beyond mere “cruelty.” But it’s quite possible that whoever said or wrote it knew of Aquinas’ dictum.

    And “no greater evil than” does not seem like a huge overkill to me. IMHO, everyone is constantly in need of mercy for the myriad of small and great injustices one inflicts on one’s fellows, willy nilly, all through one’s life. That seems to be “baked in the cake” of being human.

  63. JMG–I have a lovely example for you. As you may know, San Francisco, CA has rent control for multi-family residential buildings constructed before 1979. The rent board sets the permitted rent increases each year. Obviously older buildings are likely to have more maintenance issues, some minor such as a new toilet or carpet, others major, such as retrofitting masonry buildings for earthquake safety, replacing windows for energy savings, new roof, etc. . Capital improvements which add to the value of the building, extend its life or add features may be subject to “pass through” by which the cost of the improvement can be added on to the normal yearly rent increase. Correctly applying for this permission and calculating the amounts of the permissible increases is a complex affair with the possibility of having the increase denied if done improperly. Probably fines as well, not certain of that. But there are companies who specialize in handling the paperwork for this for a handsome fee.

    As for actual pimps–we should remember that the main thing they “protect” their workers from is the enforcement of the law. If sex workers were free to rent a building and hire security like any other business the pimp would be left with little purpose. That was the situation in the old west or boom towns before the respectable citizens got around to hiring a sheriff. I remember reading the memoirs of a famous Madame who provided services such as regular medical checkups, security, etc. and refused to accept any women who had a pimp. I knew a woman once who put herself through law school by working at one of the legal brothels in Nevada.


  64. Hi JMG,

    I hope all is going well at your house.

    Thank you for this post. After reading it, I said, “Whew. Now I am even more clued in.” I hope not to be caught unawares, although how can one truly prepare for a collapse of a civilization?

    (1) Dobbs #2: Thank you for the video. I am part way through it. It is sad that there is absolutely nothing in the mainstream media about any of this.

    (2) “Leno”cracy or “lenoc”racy—not to be confused with “leno weave.” (Racy lenoxes? Evidently there is a fabric called, “lenox.” Also, a Scottish clan Lennox.)

    Leno weave is a thin, airy cloth, otherwise known as “gauze.” Gauze, by the way, is thought to have been invented in Gaza, Palestine, then got taken up elsewhere, like India. Gaza–>gauze makes sense to me.

    As an aside, little known fact, only one interested in cloth and clothes, such as myself, would have uncovered the fact that Israel is putting (until it gets out) a ban preventing medical gauze from reaching Palestine which, essentially, means Palestinians are “bleeding out” for lack of “the healing cloth” of medical gauze. This has been the case for years. Palestinians desperately need medical gauze, the lack of which is causing a high death rate of Palestinians. Another humanitarian immoral act by Israelis—when will Israelis stop this sh!t❓

    Shemaghs and keffiyas/kufiyas are made of leno weave.

    Cloth made of leno weave “gauze” is not to be underestimated. It is a cloth that moves the world. It existed before civilization, and will last after civilization.✨Gauze is a wonder-cloth.✨

    In my opinion, fiberglass within leno weave should not be touched by any animal because the glass causes micro-cuts and /or gets embedded in flesh on a micro- or nano-level. Glass within fiber is death-giving. Never agree to buy a cloth which is even partly made of fiberglass if it is to be used anywhere near humans or animals, even if it is an under-layer. Fiberglass-in-cloth is evil.

    I wonder if metaphors can be made between lenocracy and leno weave.

    It is all your fault, JMG. Over the years, you mentioned weaving, and it went into my sub-conscious. I have always been “into cloth,” but only recently have I took a look at making-cloth. The awful state of affairs of cloth available for sale in the USA prompted me into thinking that I care more about the weave as opposed to the-woven-cloth-as-it-comes-off-industrial-looms. Another little known fact: industrial looms are often as big as a warehouse, hundreds of feet long. No wonder the planet has a glut of crap%y cloth.

    (3) Oh, from last week, my husband just turned 65, and remains a relatively well-paid software engineer, working from his home-office, an independent contractor. He has worked as a software engineer since the early 1980s. Both our opinions is that people his age are not being made anymore, and once that generation is gone (retired; dies), the software industry will go downhill faster than it would have. He has seen the trends. He knows of only a handful of people in 40 years who were worth their pay. The rest are wannabees. He mainly fixes others’ mistakes,—it is that bad. Mucky-mucks don’t know how to hire software engineers, so they accidentally hire the dregs, then try to cover their arses after major hunks of code fail.

    (4) Also, from last week, what state in the USA to move to? I recommend Wisconsin, although compared to Massachusetts, it is full of ugly buildings. Zillions of reasons why Wisconsin is good. Stay away from New York State because it has been sacked by New York City since Colonial days. Also going back to Colonial days, Massachusetts has VERY pretty buildings everywhere, although the attractiveness may be shared by other New England states. Stay away from California and Arizona.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🧵🌲🏚️
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  65. >not quite. You might check out the economic history of hyperinflations in the past

    In Zimbabwe, the equivalent of Wal-Mart was open but there were no goods on the shelves and no reason to go there, so it was effectively shut down. If you wanted anything you had to go to South Africa, if you could afford to pay for it.

    I don’t know what it is with milk becoming contraband, but that happened both in Zimbabwe and Venezuela. You’ll know things are getting bad when people start dealing milk, like they deal drugs.

  66. No, not intermedia(te)!

    Intermedia was coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and resusscitated by poet, musician, translator, wearer of many hats, and intermedia artist Dick Higgins. (He edited and annotated a volume of Giordano Bruno when he wasnt busy running his press or putting on Fluxus happenings.)

    Good thing Lenocracy is here instead. Rule by late night has beens with useless car collections.

  67. >He is not allowed to create and fit wooden windows into a house without having the right licence / certificate, for a hefty annual fee

    That sort of reminds me of the shenanigans that Louis Rossman chronicled when having construction done on a new office he was moving to in NYC. Everybody doing remodeling construction papered over the windows so the city bureaucrats couldn’t see in. They did that because if they could then they’d hit everyone involved with more red tape and fees than would ever be practical to deal with.

    Oddly enough he got tired of dealing with doing business there and moved to – Texas. Although you can’t hardly hear him say anything good about TX, just how bad he was wronged by NY.

  68. re: GamerGate 2

    I don’t really have a horse in that race anymore, but the video games industry is crashing about as badly as it did back in ’83. I think a lot of the kerfuffle going on is the parasites are realizing the host is dying and there’s not much they can do about it but lash out. They’re not exactly the most reality grounded people you’ll ever meet, that’s for sure.

    The world is kinda falling apart, you know. If vidya went away (and it looks like it will), the world would keep chugging along. It’s not like water. Or gasoline. Or electricity.

  69. My wife has experience as a mechanic, I have experience as an arborist. We can fall back on that if things get bad enough. The thing that makes me sad about the situation is how it’s likely that along with a lot of the parasitic middlemen that will hopefully die off during a decline, I think there’s some good bureaucracies that will also be shed.

    I’m not sure if these count as ‘pimps,’ but I really appreciate the National Parks Service, the Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. The purpose of these organizations is to ensure that natural resources are sustainably used. It’s debatable how good they are at their job, but I think things would be a bit worse without them around. Maybe my view is a bit too optimistic, but I think that the loss of these organizations could be harmful to ecosystems in the Western United States. In the West where I live we’re already seeing ranchers trying to overgraze on arid desert land. I’m interested to hear your opinion on this, John, whatever that opinion may be. I’m hoping that as these bureaucracies fall out of style we can figure out a better way to manage natural resources rather than having a free-for-all.

  70. Something I heard a Psychiatrist ask a handler of a new (and disastrous) scheduling/charting software rollout was, “Will this interrupt work flow?” This was followed by an awkward silence in the meeting.
    Everyone in the clinic already knew it had, and any further tweaking of the software at this point was likely to cause more. Painfully obvious where the fat could be trimmed. If the whole system went back to pen and paper and whiteboards, more frontline work would get done and garangantuan amounts of money would be saved.

  71. Greetings all!

    Just a heads up, as of April 1st I am now following the guidelines I announced at beginning of the year, and no older prayers are grandfathered in any longer. Which is to say, I’ve removed any unupdated prayers older than three months from the list. If anyone should notice themselves removed from the list, and wish to be included again, it is a simple matter to leave a comment or private message me, and I will be happy to re-include your prayer for another three month cycle.


    At this link is the full list of all of the requests for prayer that have recently appeared at and, as well as in the comments of the prayer list posts. Please feel free to add any or all of the requests to your own prayers.

    If I missed anybody, or if you would like to add a prayer request for yourself or anyone who has given you consent (or for whom a relevant person holds power of consent) to the list, please feel free to leave a comment below.

    * * *
    This week I would like to bring special attention to the following prayer requests.

    Jay (SDI) and his family are being seriously impacted by an increase in chemical use in their area; may circumstances come together for Jay, Liz, and their children to relocate swiftly, and that they are well enough to manage until then.

    Erika’s partner James has recently had new tumors appear, and he is currently in hospice care, but hoping to improve and go home soon.
    May James’s hospital stay bring him healing.
    May Erika’s service of love and care for James be strengthened and supported by all.
    May their hindrances be swept aside and may none harm them.

    Tyler A’s wife Monika’s pregnancy is high risk; may Mother and child be blessed with good health and a smooth delivery, and be soothed and healed from their recent pains and discomfort in a manner that supports a positive outcome to the pregnancy.

    May Deathcap’s friend Mike, who has begun a 5 week course of radiation treatment after a nearly fatal surgery for a malignant tumor on his leg, be healed of his cancer and return to full health quickly and as completely as possible.

    May new mother Molly M recover quickly and completely from her recent stroke and the lingering loss of vision and slurred speech that ensued, and may newborn Lela and husband Austin be comforted and strengthened through this difficult time.

    May John Michael Greer’s wife Sara Greer, who passed away on February 20th, be blessed and soothed as she moves into the next stage of her spirit’s journey. And may John Michael Greer be blessed and lent strength in this most difficult time.

    May Frank Rudolf Hartman of Altadena California (picture), who is receiving chemotherapy, be completely cured of the lymphoma that is afflicting him, and may he return to full health.

    May Just Another Green Rage Monster‘s father, who is dealing with Stage 4 Lymphoma, and mother, who is primary caregiver, be blessed, protected and healed.

    May Kyle’s friend Amanda, who though in her early thirties is undergoing various difficult treatments for brain cancer, make a full recovery; and may her body and spirit heal with grace.

    Lp9’s hometown, East Palestine, Ohio, for the safety and welfare of their people, animals and all living beings in and around East Palestine, and to improve the natural environment there to the benefit of all.

    * * *
    Guidelines for how long prayer requests stay on the list, how to word requests, how to be added to the weekly email list, how to improve the chances of your prayer being answered, and several other common questions and issues, are to be found at the Ecosophia Prayer List FAQ.

    If there are any among you who might wish to join me in a bit of astrological timing, I pray each week for the health of all those with health problems on the list on the astrological hour of the Sun on Sundays, bearing in mind the Sun’s rulerships of heart, brain, and vital energies. If this appeals to you, I invite you to join me.

  72. I’ll quote Ezra Pound, noted poet, from “The ABC of Economics”:
    The minute I cook my own dinner or nail four boards together in a chair, I escape from the whole cycle of Marxian economics. I know, not from theory, but from practice, that you can live infinitely better with a very little money and a lot of spare time, than with more money and less time. Time is not money but it is almost everything else.”

    Not sure where the Marxian economics comes in when you do it yourself but Ezra Pound is otherwise spot-on.

  73. JMG,

    I haven’t been to Cumberland but a quick internet search shows many commercial vacancies with asking prices in the $7 to $15 per square foot range. That’s cheap space and nowhere near NYC prices. It looks quite a bit like the hollowed out factory town near where I live in Western Massachusetts. We have many out-of-state commercial property owners and tons of vacancies here too. I have no doubt many of them cheat on their taxes illegally.

    I suspect your friend’s comments have more to do with a temptation to blame the town’s predicament on a cabal of distant, greedy capitalists rather than accepting a very unpleasant reality. Facing a hard future of continuing decline is just not something most people are willing to do.

  74. Regarding commercial real estate and insane rent-seeking, funny enough BusinessInsider of all places did an actual pretty good piece several months ago. I usually hate mainstream “business” media which is just laundering corporate exploitation and image-washing, but this was really good insight into the retail apocalypse of small businesses:

    Really goes into a lot of nitty gritty details that makes you sad. I know China isn’t that well like around here, but to me this shows a difference in central planning government bureaucracy versus ‘private-public partnership’ (aka neoliberalism) government bureaucracy. They have a lot of bureaucratic systems, but it’s not one for grifting and parasitic extraction and instead one meant to build out the country to largely the benefit of the people. Take a look at how fast they construct new highspeed railroad stations in a span of 24 hours, or that 15 mile long bridge in a year. It’s taken California something like $50 billion dollars and 15 years, with another 10+ years and another $100 billion years to go to even finish a moderate stretch of high-speed rail along a bunch of farmland that no one is going to use because it’s between…. a bunch of farmland! Or look at the F-35 boondoggle, each plane is like a billion dollars, extremely behind schedule, and doesn’t even fly in the rain. Or the Littoral ships, or pretty much anything.

  75. Tyler, thank you for this!

    The next time you go by that recruiting center, could you please take a photo, preferably with some background that will enable it to be identified? I’ve never heard of anything like this, and I suspect many people in the US don’t realize that this is happening.

    Rita, yeah, that’s a very good example. As for legal prostitution, yep. Pimps of the literal sort depend just as much on government regulation as those I talked about in the post.

    Northwind, I plead guilty of interesting you in cloth. How’s the weaving going?

    Other Owen, in both cases you have another factor — a socialist government trying to engage in price fixing instead of dealing with the cause of the hyperinflation. It’s quite common for necessities to end up being mostly purchased on the black market in nations that try the price-fixing dodge.

    Justin, funny.

    Enjoyer, my experience of those bureaucracies was very different; in western Washington they were wholly owned subsidiaries of big lumber corporations, especially Weyerhaeuser, and did precisely diddly-squat to stop the clearcutting of every available stand of old growth timber outside the national parks.

    Ian, that’s a classic story.

    Quin, thanks for this as always.

    Teresa, Pound had no shortage of bees in his bonnets, and Marxism was one of them. Leave out the word “Marxian,” though, and it’s a useful point.

    Samurai_47, I haven’t been there in seven years, and for all I know conditions have changed. That said, when I next have the chance I’ll talk to the friends (plural, btw) I mentioned and see what they say about your claims.

    Liquefaction, thanks for this. The Chinese have five thousand years of experience with graft and corruption, and are good at keeping it from stopping things from happening. We’re much less experienced, and so we’re still making stupid mistakes they got over in the Tang dynasty.

  76. Does anyone have a good explanation for the mechanics of how real estate holding firms can do things like buy 80% of the high street in a small town, keep 80% of the buildings empty through blisteringly high rents, and somehow still make money?

    Here in my city of half a million, the former high street (although we have new high streets with low vacancy rates) is 70% vacant, with most of the vacancies owned by one company.

  77. @samurai_47 says:
    That’s pretty expensive still, especially for small businesses, but listing prices aren’t the whole story. Often they want multiple months upfront, won’t sign more than 12-24 month contract, and may be known for engaging in racketeering with tenants. A lot of commercial is being consolidated to a handful of corporate REITs and private equity funds. Also it’s very common these days for these types of REIT landlords to start jacking up rent costs on commercial tenants after they’ve already invested significantly in CapEx (equipment, fume hoods, signs, kitchenwares, etc) that they know tenants can’t just up and move to another location. And so the tenants either eat a $500k-million dollar loss after investing in the place and file for bankruptcy or pay the increasingly exorbitant rents. There’s no such thing as commercial rent controls. It’s really sad how easy and common it is to engage in basically legal racketeering.

    Think about how like AT&T/Comcast will offer “introductory” internet pricing of merely $29.99/month (for the first six months) that then skyrockets toward $100/month, except on steroids and at even greater scale.

  78. I got semi-banned by Facebook for a couple of weeks when I mentioned that I thought the Covid shutdowns were a bunch of PMC useless-BS-job drones who decided to collapse small business owners and entrepreneurs because they were jealous of our productivity and relative freedom. Over the target, I guess. As someone who owned a small business that I ran out of a commercial space until 2022, I can attest to the sea of petty bureaucrats and their attendant fees. Everyone has their hand out if you own a small business, but the greediest of all is the commercial landlord. I was unable to find a situation where I could live above my commercial space — I threw everything I had at it and realized I would have to be a millionaire in order to have that kind of situation in the Chicago suburbs. Ironically, the “Asian massage” rub-down parlor next door to my old business had several people living there. I believe there was at least two trafficked women and a horrible madam who would yell at them in Chinese. It was nowhere near a unique living situation: I believe pretty much every other massage parlor in my area is a mini-house of the rising sun with sex workers living there.

    Whenever I see a vacant, neglected commercial property with a FOR RENT sign, I breathe a sigh of relief that I’m not the one benefiting from that kind of unearned wealth — that includes the trophy wives and husbands who enjoy the unearned cheddar as entire towns and cities bear the hidden costs. It’s (mostly) not my fault those spaces are pathetic and rotting to the ground. They may not be thinking ahead as they enjoy the cheese, but I am one who thinks the stink will follow them through several lifetimes.

  79. Also sorry for double-posting but to add: once people get burned badly, even just once, that demoralizes them and everyone around them involved. Just getting burned once is also enough to potentially blacklist you from future commercial loans too — at least at any sort of reasonable interest rate. Small businesses are (rightfully) going to be increasingly skeptical and averse to trying to lease a storefront when they know they’re going to get screwed at some point.

    Anyways as an aside what’s going on with rural health care systems right now is tragic. It’s being bought out en-masse by private equity holdings and gutted. I can post some really sad deep dives if anyone is interested. Medicare “Advantage” wasn’t mentioned but it also deserves it’s own article on how big of a grift and scam it is. Elders are being scammed into it because they think ‘Advantage = Good’ but it’s so so so not. I can post more on what a parasitic scam it is but it’d just make me depressed.

  80. I am amazed at how you process all the disparate information at hand and then come up with concepts as succinct as “lenocracy.” I started trying to translate this term into Japanese. Unfortunately, the terms of “pimp” in Japanese, and even Chinese, are unwieldy. I checked out “pathocracy,” which has been around for a while, and Weblio offers an explanation in English, but no translation.
    I think this term will help a lot of people grasp where we have gone wrong and what the next step might be. Once again, I’ll share this post with a lot of people.

  81. Hi John,
    It is an honor. I will spare your readers my fan geek out, but let’s just stipulate for the record I benefit immensely from your writings.

    I, too, am sorry for the loss of your wife.

    Using one point you made as a launching off point: I own vacant commercial real estate in a town that desperately needs more. My experience has never been that I am keeping rents high to extort prospective business owners. Rather (and much like an airline’s seat revenue) I would entertain really any amount of money above my variable costs just to get someone in there. This is but a small point however and maybe it’s unrealistic for me to generalize it too much beyond me, but just the underlying financials dictate that you take what you can when you can instead of holding out for more.
    As Lear said, “nothing comes from nothing.”

    I’ve already preordered The Shoggoth Concerto.

    Thank you, Nathan

  82. An excellent essay JMG though I think you’re shortchanging pimps comparing them to the modern bloodsucker class. A ‘wise’ man once said “Pimpin ain’t easy” and at least pimps of old performed some kind of function (security for the girls, marketing the wares etc.) whereas the current parasitical system takes without providing any benefit at all. In fact not only do they provide no benefit, they actually cause significant harm (anxiety, stress, reduced living standards etc.).
    Another aspect of the ‘graft economy’ is that criminality rises exponentially. As it becomes uneconomical to adhere to the strictures of the state, people start cutting corners and conducting business in the shadows.
    Perhaps this is all that ‘corruption’ in the 3rd world really is, the common man’s only recourse to survive in a hostile, parasitical system.

  83. Actually there is a way the pimps cash in on backyard vegetable growing, they will sell you all sorts of garden “products” (with high embodied energy) that you can easily get for free.

  84. Oh, the magic of laughter! Unlike clarence’s, my cat was awake and became distraught. It’s a really funny word, though I find it somewhat offensive to real pimps 😉 After all, I can see how a girl may perceive a presence of a pimp as insurance in case of a guy suddenly finding himself not to be in possession of a required sum or asking for a service that is too kinky to her liking. I can also see how an average john’s sense of poise and comportment may be improved, even elevated by, first, meeting not a (possibly) frazzled girl, but a stocky guy with tattooed biceps and a heavy gold chain on a hairy chest. I mean, that level of usefulness would be the envy of an American healthcare worker rendered impotent by a huge amount of computer work, endless “training”, and a barrage of meetings, but I digress :)) Thank you for the laughs, JMG!

  85. >government trying to engage in price fixing instead of dealing with the cause of the hyperinflation

    Funny you should mention that. The so-called president of Murica was saying something about how price controls were a good way of dealing with inflation not too long ago. I’m sure it wasn’t his idea, as he can barely remember his own name or string more than two words together in a sentence.

  86. Enjoyer,

    I stopped posting here under my real name when I wanted to talk about the FS and didn’t want it to come back on me, because I work for them.

    There’s certainly some middle people that could go (mostly in the Washington Office, I would argue) and we have our share of “cull” (those are the logs that get cut, hauled up to the landing, but they’re no good so they get left there), but I think my Forest is pretty lean and efficient. Up until recently we were on a starvation budget, so it’s not surprising. Of course, what we spend our efforts on… could be debated.

    But it’s true there is (for example) thousands of miles of road out there that need to be maintained or it could cause serious damage to our salmon spawning streams. I would hate to see that happen.


    Sounds like you’re talking about the ’80’s. Since the Northwest Forest Plan (1994) things are a lot different now, at least on my Forest. We used to do over 100 million board feet a year. Now we do about 6 million bf and all the mills have shut down. What we do cut is all focused on fire/fuels/forest-health meaning we only cut the small trees and the bigger they are, the more likely they are to be kept. Honestly, from what I’ve seen in my 30 years, there is no better way to do it, assuming you need to cut trees in the first place. Which, after 100 years of fire suppression, we do.

  87. Great post!

    “but it also has a leadership ruthless enough…” that can certainly happen here, in the good ole USA. I’ve just read “The Last President,” by Ingersoll Lockwood. It’s the final chapter in the book, “The Baron Trump Collection.” I bought the book a number of years ago, when it was rumored that Donald Trump had been sent through time to take the world through, yada, yada. Of course, DJT’s uncle was John Trump, big man at; I believe it was, MIT, the dude that seized Nikola Tesla’s papers.

    The story ends with the destruction of the Capitol dome. Did I spell capitol right – I always get that confused. So, other authors have suggested the mechanisms for the destruction of the “Twilight” and its gleamings :- )

    But, back to my first paragraph. The rise of a Caesar, one who calculates and moves in thought, and on the ground, swiftly, might take this rambly, whored out ole not-an-empire and run with it. A few old cannon balls, put to good use, might just make it happen – and then, the centuries (at least 20) of Prophecy might go with a whoosh… Fascinating.

  88. Jeez, I knew there was corruption and inefficiency in those agencies but I didn’t know it was that bad. That’s disheartening to hear but also comforting in a weird way. Little of value will be lost. Hopefully in the wake of decline, people can come up with better ways to manage the commons, hopefully more organic and less top-heavy.

  89. “the real problem, in fact, with doing anything for yourself, or for your family and friends and community—is that there’s no way for pimps to cash in on it. ”

    Pimps includes the tax collector. And it also offends Krugman as any work done for a reason other than wages does not count for GDP, the greatest conceivable good.

    That’s probably the real reason for the sudden offense about gardening. A packet of seeds is a much smaller addition to GDP than the produce section of the market. Given the price of store bought raspberries vs what my patch produces I’m sure I’m holding economy down all by myself.

    Having wandered into gardening, I wonder if the recent concern about the drop in nutrition amount crops is due to the over watering to get the weight up. The producers are paid by the pound, and water is cheap. They get big beautiful berries, but the flavor is diluted. Same with peaches. They have also bred things large, the bigger the apple the more weight the picker can bring in per hour and maybe he/she can generate a profit.

  90. Another study I see being discussed online is one that “shows” that intermittent fasting increases risk of heart disease by 96%. Of course it is easy to imagine that the farming and medical industries don’t want people eating less and losing weight. And my understanding is that some vestid interest paid for the study….go figure.

  91. Dear JMG:

    Fantastic post! My only (minor) quibble is that you might call a spade a spade and term it: Pimpocracy!

    But I guess you can’t make the pill too bitter for the mainstream. They are slowly catching up to what you’re telling everyone!

    By the way, I learn so much here!!


  92. “some service that nobody would pay for if the system didn’t require it”

    Here’s a question that I really don’t know the answer to, but is of some importance to me at the moment. I currently work in child care, taking care of under-five-year-olds while their parents are at work. It’s a labour of love for those of us who do it, and a real craft as well, as I am learning each day from the ladies I work with who have been raising other people’s kids for a lot longer than I have.

    As things come unravelled in the next few years, will professional child care centres turn out to be an essential service or something people only pay for because the system forces them to? I’m thinking of an essay by our host a while ago which argued that having one member of a household assigned to earning money and another assigned to DIY makes sound economic sense, especially in a financially contracting economy. Without heavy government subsidies for professional child care (which is currently the case where I live), I speculate that even multiple-income households will fail to break even, and the DIY lifestyle (including homemade babies and children) will become the default option- default in the banker’s sense of the word, that is.

    Then again, I could be wrong, and this could be one sector that holds out as long as there are still parents invested in (or forced into) living the rat race. My future career choices may just depend on this question.

  93. I think you are being unfair to pimps. Many provide a workplace, however dingy and seedy, for their prostitutes to ply their trade – a brothel. Many will protect their prostitutes from violence by customers – not out of humanity, but because a bruised and bloody prostitute will be unwilling or unable to work, and less appealing to other customers. And most will promote their prostitutes’ services, again not out of decency but because they want them to make more money for them.

    Between providing a workplace, protecting their workers and advertising them, the pimp does actually provide a useful service to the prostitute. This makes the pimps far more useful than the intermediaries you’re talking about. “Less useful than a pimp,” should be our insult for them from now on.

  94. Hi JMG,

    I am being practical here. The rights and responsibilities of coining a new word.

    Do you know the name “Jay Leno”? Former Tonight Show late-night host? Assuming the word “lenocracy” becomes commonly used (which I have no doubt it will be), Mr Leno will have something to say about it. The word, “lenno-crize,” man, he can do a lot of wordplay on that. And “lenno-crat”? He has some new material to joke about. Not to mention the word “lion-ize”?🦁No lionizing those who lenocrize. You chose a nifty word.

    By the way, how do you pronounce it? LENNO crassy? LEENO crassy? LENOCK crassy? Details, details.

    How do you want the dictionary definition to read?

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🗣️📖
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  95. JMG
    I was contemplating ways to be poisonous to lenocrats that don’t hurt my business. For now I will sick with my proven strategies for camouflage and keeping a low profile….

  96. The war on cash seems to be a desperate attempt to stem the tide of people turning against the Lenocracy. At the farmers market where I sell my produce I encourage people to use it as much as possible, and since we are in a rural locale people are happy to and understand that by doing so we are both taking the bank out of the transaction.

    In our big city state capital many businesses are phasing out cash, which from an economic perspective is a bad decision but it’s all about ideology isn’t it.

  97. What a wonderfully descriptive term. Previously I’d described my former academic position as sharecropping, but that didn’t capture the full multi-layered seediness of the situation. There were some late nights that the Old Crow song “Take’em Away” (about sharecropping) could bring a tear to my eye.

    It’s clear though that all these layers of pimps taking their cut can’t go on much longer. It is encouraging that in Strauss & Howe’s “The Fourth Turning” they discuss how these untenable situations, which previously seemed necessary evils, get swept away in times of crisis simply because they cannot be maintained. Perhaps over the next few years we’ll get some relief from these layers of lenocrats.

    Anyway, thanks for the new term. If it catches on, I’ll toast to you and Croatoan with a nice bottle of rye.

  98. JMG comments,

    “my experience of those bureaucracies was very different; in western Washington they were wholly owned subsidiaries of big lumber corporations, especially Weyerhaeuser, and did precisely diddly-squat to stop the clearcutting of every available stand of old growth timber outside the national parks.”

    Here in my state of Victoria, Australia, the major logger was a state-owned company called VicForest. The state would go into the state forests and decide which areas could be logged. VicForest had a strong tendency to nod and smile and then just log wherever they felt like. Faced within indignation about the environmental damage, the Victorian government decided to… ban native forest logging entirely.

    So because the government was unable to effectively regulate itself logging, it decided to ban itself and everyone else from logging.

    Of course, we still need and use timber, and we import it from China, Russia and Malaysia – where they log their native forests with even less effective environmental controls than us. But it’s happening out of sight of Victorian voters, and that’s what’s important.

    VicForests blames everyone else, of course, as does the government.

    Asa you dig through all this it’s a classic case of useless intermediaries all through it.

  99. Liquefaction,

    The vast majority of Chinese government-planned construction projects are ineffective or even completely useless. Usually, a large number of buildings are built through inflation and money printing, and then gradually decay without being used, and this is also directly This has led to the Chinese government’s heavy debts and the decline in people’s living standards (reflected in lower fertility rates and living standards than in the United States. This is one of the reasons why the number of Chinese immigrants to the United States has increased instead of decreasing in recent years)

    Rather than saying that China after the Cultural Revolution has “ancient wisdom”, it is better to say that the authoritarian system established by Mao Zedong is still barely functioning, so it can still mobilize the people to carry out white elephant projects that are useless to life, and these cost huge sums of money (China spent Public construction expenditures are actually higher than in the United States) and buildings usually have a lifespan of less than ten years before they must be “updated and replaced”, often without cost recovery.

    By the way, spending hundreds of years building or even designing a project has been the norm in human history. There are many reasons why many projects fail to pass parliamentary review, and the results are not necessarily negative.

  100. > I’ve been waiting to see if anyone would mention Jay Leno. I suspect we know what at least one of his paternal ancestors did for a living.

    Well, of course. Jan Leno’s paternal ancestors were leno weavers. How can that not be so?

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🤪
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  101. > I plead guilty of interesting you in cloth. How’s the weaving going?

    The long answer.

    I am bogged down big-time. We have a friend who is a general contractor (I know, how lucky can one get?) and it has been raining days on end. So he was unable to do “ruffing” (roofing). When it is raining, he does indoor construction. Weeks ago, we had asked him to build half-a-wall (framing, “drywall,” plastering). So, he said he would do that drywall job. When a contractor is in the mood, everything else stops. It is not timing I would have chosen. We dropped everything and he commenced to do ten days of drywalling. We squished the furniture against the opposite wall to clear away the construction area, which meant that room got disheveled. Couldn’t find a thing. Man, drywalling is agonizingly slow. Anyway, the gadgetry of my weaving collection got shoved into a corner, buried, inaccessible. Trying to dislodge the doo-dads, I would be risking death. The job finished yesterday. To say the least, I feel shunted and stunted, grew monumentally cantankerous, and am itching to move along. I want to open my first box of weaving stuff, put some yarn on the two ends. Fill my bobbin, move the shuttle, and do my first weft. Choose what color yarns. Still, I feel I know nothing about weaving. I know, complain, complain.🧐😒😖🫤

    Here in Wisconsin, we are in the middle of a second winter, lasting a week or so. Yesterday, precipitation came in the form of three inches of snow. People are waiting for nice weather to thaw the snow. Birds are desperate for Spring to sprung so that they can commence their summerly duties of making babies. They can’t make nests until after bugs come out, and bugs don’t come out until it reaches, I guess, about 60º F. and gets/stays sunny, and our temperature has been hovering about 45º. There is nothing for birds to eat. I have been putting out plenty of seed and nuts. Birds are arriving in flocks and gobbling up everything in sight super-fast because they are starving. This is a starving time for birds, and other wildlife. Worms are available, so red breast robbins are happy. Even woodpeckers are coming to feed here, because insects are not showing up in trees yet. It is too cold for larvae to get near the back from the inside of the trees. I have to go buy more seed and nuts—running out. I have to do my bit. I call them my “foster birds.”

    But this cold is a god-send in one sense, because the warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico has been blocked from coming this far north and making tomatoes.🍅I mean tornadoes.🌪️As I said to my husband yesterday, I would rather not have tomatoes coming ’round making trouble, like removing ruffs from buildings. We would rather have snow than tomatoes.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🍅🌪️
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  102. JMG (& Samurai)
    I agree with the overall take but want to offer a couple of points:

    Regarding the dollar as the global currency, it’ll be used until there is something to replace it with, and right now there are no obvious candidates. It’s not really in any country’s interest to be the reserve currency. The Venetian ducat, the British pound, and the US dollar (to take three examples) became reserve currencies because their economies were so vast (and monetized) relative to their trading partners that their elites didn’t mind the loss in exports. It’s a drop in the bucket. But China, Russia, and the EU today just aren’t big enough to take the hit. The dollar will continued to be used throughout the coming century of US decline IMO because beyond the schadenfreude of watching the US look bad isn’t worth the inconvenience of coming up with something else.

    Regarding inflated commercial real estate prices, I think the impression you’re getting is spot on, but the NY ownership is more symptom than cause. I moved back to my hometown in 2012 and started a theater company. We were looking for commercial spaces through the years and were shocked to find that spaces would stay empty for YEARS but somehow never go down in price. I was a member of Strong Towns (which I think you’ve praised before) and was corresponding with the founder Chuck Marohn. He said the phenomenon indeed was common all across the US, but not so much due to out of town influences or the loss of manufacturing jobs. Basically, US real estate markets are not markets in buildings or land but in finance, and it’s worth more for a landlord to keep a space empty at a theoretically high rental value than to lower the rental value. This is not because they’re trying to create tax right-offs, but because they use property as collateral for loans which they use to buy more property, renovate existing property and so on. Probably in Cumberland the property was sold at some point to an out of town firm, but it would have been just as empty if it was owned locally. Governments encourage this by basing taxes on property taxes of assessed values, so it’s in the government interest to keep property values inflated too. Property owners, the government, and banks all have a vested interest in making real estate ‘grow’ in value or at least hold its value. The system is set up to do this.

  103. JMG and Samurai_47.
    I have another possible explanation for the behavior of commercial landlords in flyover country. They buy these properties on the cheap, and then use the rent they are asking ( high for the reality of the situation but seems reasonable to a NYC banker) to value the properties as assets. They then use these newly valued assets as collateral for new real estate loans to buy property somewhere they can make a killing or flip for a quick profit. If one followed the Trump Real estate trial ( as ridiculous as it is) you can see that this entire industry is based on very loosey goosey speculative valuation of real estate and not something concrete like recent sales or property tax assessments.
    You might have heard of one of these ” get rich quick investing in real estate” seminars. They hold out the lure to the average Joe of becoming a financial “pimp”. The scheme is to buy one chunk of real estate ” no money down”, then figure out how to use it as collateral for more real estate. But there is a grain of truth in it because that is how the big “pimps” do it.

  104. I’m inclined to agree with David by the Lake. Fifteen or so years ago at supper after a Blue Lodge meeting, I was sitting with a tableful of mostly recently retired Boomers when an idea for a manufacturing business crossed the conversation. There was plenty of talent and experience sitting there, so I suggested starting a company since we could have made quite a bit of money. They all looked at me in tense silence. Finally, one of them said, “That’s probably illegal now.” And everything went back to normal… but for a dead idea on the table. With a little probing, the men more or less admitted that, while the idea was good and not illegal, they were tired of the paperwork and bureaucratic inanities enough to decline the opportunity. The let-it-rot philosophy isn’t new or unfamiliar, but I wonder what the same group would have done in the present as the grey and black markets become increasingly lucrative and accessible.

  105. Thanks for another uplifting essay, JMG. Uplifting as in forewarned is forearmed. As a retiree, I don’t expect to go unscathed by what’s coming for us. I do worry sometimes, though, about those in my cohort (I’m 65) who expect to draw on their 401K’s and Social Security to finance some very grand plans.
    Another data point to add to your list: My cash-strapped fellow late-wave Boomer neighbor, after several years at Amazon damaged her body into the need to quit, recovered for a year and then tapped into her earlier experience as a landscaper, dusted off her mower and edger, and went door to door in our small neighborhood offering her services at $40/week. Cash only. She had enough takers that she managed to earn enough for a comfortable winter. No doubt our state government would be interested, and in fact I used to work for our taxing agency, and there is no way I would ever do anything other than high five her and wish her even MORE clients this summer. (I’ll do my own yard, though. $40/week is more than I can justify.)

  106. @Justin Patrick Moore #20

    That’s beautiful. I loved the article.
    Also, the loss of humor along can be included with that.

  107. @samurai47. They could be as you say, nowhere near NYC prices, and still outrageous for whomever there is a possible startup. The only thing required to set up that dysfunctional dynamic of idle real estate is enough profit as a writeup or loss, to drive up the opportunity profit at the owner end further than the prospective buyer can afford the sunk cost of matching. The point would stand. It’s a moot point in any case since when business returns in these places it will be almost exclusively local. You can almost hear the buildings screaming out when you drive past them. By contrast no one will care when Walmarts roof caves in. Well, no one that would refurbish them. I quibble your quibble.

  108. Justin, that’s exactly the point that Samurai_47 and I were quarrelling about. He insists that there’s no way that such firms can make money out of that gimmick. I suspect he’s entirely wrong, because it’s so widespread, and the companies that do it don’t seem to be going bankrupt.

    Kimberly, also a valid point.

    Patricia O, thank you!

    Nathan, so noted. How much of your variable costs are being inflated by the processes I’ve described as lenocracy?

    Dan, so noted! I’m quite willing to apologize to America’s pimps for comparing them to bureaucrats.

    Roy, there’s that!

    Kirsten, a case could be made. I see that I’d better start writing that apology to the pimps.

    Other Owen, oddly enough, I had that very thing in mind.

    Slink, sure. Once nearly all the old growth timber was cut down and shipped overseas, I’m not at all surprised that the rate of cutting decreased — but then I recall trips around the Olympic peninsula before and after the 1980s orgy of logging.

    Cobo, oh, in due time, certainly. Spengler wrote at some length about the necessity of Caesarism once plutocracy had become too thoroughly entrenched.

    Ecosophy, here’s hoping!

    Siliconguy, yes, that’s doubtless an important factor.

    Clark, interesting that they’re that panicked about fasting!

    Cugel, I considered that, but a slightly more indirect label seemed more useful to me.

    Dylan, I wish I could tell you. Sooner or later paid child care will stop being a viable business, but when? I don’t know that, and I don’t think anyone else does either.

    Warburton, jeez. I didn’t know so many of my readers had such a high opinion of pimps. Or is it a low opinion of corporate and goverment flacks? 😉

    Northwind, lenocracy le•’nok•ra•see n pl -cies (2024) 1: a government of pimps 2: a system of political economy in which productive economic activity is burdened with unnecessary costs intended to allow others to extract unearned profit

    Gerry, that’s probably a good idea.

    PumpkinScone, exactly. Cash is dangerous to lenocrats.

    Dr. Coyote, again, here’s hoping!

    Blue Sun, you’re most welcome.

    Warburton, classic indeed.

    Gerry, thanks for this. I have the Kybalion in Portuguese, too.

    Joel, interesting. So the way the empty properties produce profit is that they prop up an illusion of collateral, which allows the real estate bubble to inflate. I’ll look into that. As for reserve currencies, hmm. My understanding is that the pound sterling lost its reserve currency status after the First World War but the dollar didn’t replace it until after the Second; in the meantime, central banks used a grab-bag of different currencies for their reserves, which is one of the reasons so many of them went bust in the 1930s. If the dollar loses its capacity to store value through excessive inflation or debt default, it won’t matter if nothing else is prepared to replace it — it won’t function as a reserve currency any more, and the world may have to do without a single reserve currency for a while.

    Ilewna, thanks for this.

    Clay, interesting. So noted and I’ll look into it.

    OtterGirl, everyone I know who’s prospering these days is working for themselves, not for an employer, so your neighbor is in good company.

  109. Strangely I was reading an almost forgotten economic theory on this point the other day. Classical economic theory holds that market prices and transactions occur simply as a matter of allocation, willing buyer, willing seller, and it resolves itself. But this theory of price has a major flaw, there is almost always intermediation of some form to enable the sale. The classic intermediation is ‘seignorage’, most commonly understood as a big trusted institution, including the government, making the money through trust that enables all but the most simple transactions.

    This new theory of money creation and price formation was developed by Mohammed Gani, a student of Wassily Leotieff, one of the only economists I respect, because he didn’t believe in a theory unless it was backed by hard data. No one has ever really applied it in econometrics however, probably because it doesn’t tell a happy story.

    At some point intermediation becomes lenocracy, when it ceases to be an immediate value to the trade by becoming parasitic. It can be traced through input output analysis, which was Leontieff’s great contribution to economics, one he got the Nobel Prize for. I often wonder what the Soviet Union would be like had it applied his theories. It probably wouldn’t have collapsed when it did.

    I oddly read it as leninocracy at first, but then figured that Lenin wouldn’t have allowed silliness any more than Putin does.

  110. Sorry, the economic theory is called consistency analysis, and it can reconcile macroeconomics with microeconomics.

  111. A Lenocracy is the Mafia demanding “protection money” or you will be killed. It’s the same applied from the smaller to larger scales with Bureaucracies.

  112. Dear JMG,

    The ecological metaphor of parasitism is helpful here, as are the economic concepts of rentierism and financialisation. But to really understand this phenomenon, we must know how it is that humans fall under the thrall of the new controlling class. We seem caught in collective hallucinations of money, statutory control and aggressive individualism, which sustain this system we are caught within. I suspect that you may have more to say about this type of magical control than either ecologists or economists.

    I wonder about system change, but for the moment have concluded that actually humans are no longer in control. The system itself is both in control and out of control. Lickspittle politicians can resign, jobsworth bureaucrats can be fired (or thrown overboard). But there will always be another automaton willing to take up office and duties, under the duress of their mortgage indenture, class compulsions, desire for power or whatever.

    I greatly admire the work of the late anthropologist David Graeber, but in one of his most famous quotes I cannot find agreement: “the ultimate, hidden truth of the world is that it is something that we make, and could just as easily make differently.” Maybe we can unpick our personal delusions. But collective hallucinations seem to have a fictive and real power that I cannot in this late winter mood see my way to unthinking.

    Best wishes,

  113. According to Geoffrey West the metabolism rate of the average human at rest requires 100 Watts of energy – equivalent to a light bulb. A fully active human’s metabolism rises to 300W. The socio-e onomic network of the average human however, requires 11000W of energy at any given moment – equivalent to a blue whale’s metabolism.

  114. Reminds me of one of my favourite passages from ‘Evolution of Civilisations’ by Carroll Quigley. QUOTE:

    To satisfy (intellectual, religious, social, economic, political & military) needs, there come into existence on each level social organizations seeking to achieve these. These organizations, consisting largely of personal relationships, we shall call “instruments” as long as they achieve the purpose of the level with relative effectiveness. But every such social instrument tends to become an “institution.” This means that it takes on a life and purposes of its own distinct from the purpose of the level; in consequence, the purpose of that level is achieved with decreasing effectiveness. In fact, it can be stated as a rule of history that “all social instruments tend to become institutions.” …

    An instrument is a social organization that is fulfilling effectively the purpose for which it arose. An institution is an instrument that has taken on activities and purposes of its own, separate from and different from the purposes for which it was intended. As a consequence, an institution achieves its original purposes with decreasing effectiveness. Every instrument consists of people organized in relationships to one another. As the instrument becomes an institution, these relationships become ends in themselves to the detriment of the ends of the whole organization. When people want their society to be defended, they create an organization called an army. This army consists of many persons with different duties. Each person takes as his purpose the fulfilling of his duties, but this soon leaves no one in the organization with the purpose of the organization as his primary purpose. The purpose of the organization — in this case, to defend the society — becomes no more than a secondary aim for everyone in the organization. Defense becomes secondary to discipline, keeping authority in channels, feeding and paying the troops, providing supplies or intelligence, and keeping visiting congressmen, or the people as a whole, happy about the army, the personal comforts of the soldiers, and so on.

    Moreover, as a second reason why every instrument becomes an institution, everyone in such an organization is only human and has human weakness and ambitions, or at least has the human proclivity to see things from an egocentric point of view. Thus, in every organization, persons begin to seek their own advancements or to act for their own advantages: seeking promotions, decorations, increases in pay, better or easier assignments; these begin to absorb more and more of the time and energies of the members of an organization. All of this reduces the time and energy devoted to the real goal of the organization and injures the general effectiveness with which an organization achieves its purposes.

    Finally, as a third reason why every instrument becomes an institution, the social conditions surrounding any such organization change in the course of time. When this happens the organization must be changed to adapt itself to the changed conditions or it will function with decreased effectiveness. But the members of any organization generally resist such change; they have become “vested interests.”

    This situation appears in every social organization. Workers join together to get better pay and working conditions. The organizations they form, labor unions, soon take on a life of their own, and the workers begin to wonder if they are not now as much the slaves of the union as formerly they were slaves of the management. The kings of England, long ago, created a representative assembly to consent to taxation. Soon that assembly (Parliament) took on life of its own and ended by decapitating, removing, and ruling kings. A political party was organized in 1854 to protect freedom in the United States and to prevent the extension of slavery. By 1868 it was an organized machine of vested interests, a functioning spoils system, whose chief aim was to perpetuate itself in office and whose chief method for achieving that aim was to end the freedom of the whites in the South. A church is organized to bring men psychological security by linking them with the Deity. A century later it has become a vested institution with wealth and power, and its chief aim is to preserve and expand these valuable prerogatives. A college is organized to train youth in practical and humane achievements; later it has become a whole tissue of vested interests in which standards are lowered and admission qualifications relaxed in order to secure a flow of tuitions that go to meet the institution’s expenses. Within its hallowed walls, professors intrigue for promotions and appointments for themselves and their disciples, while a condition of undeclared war goes on between departments and schools to get larger student enrollments in their courses and thus justify bigger slices from the annual university budget.

    When instruments become institutions, as they all do, the organization achieves its function or purpose in society with decreasing effectiveness, and discontent with its performance begins to rise, especially among outsiders. These discontented suggest changes, which they call reforms, just as we see happening in American elementary and secondary education today. When these suggestions are not accepted or are rejected by the established groups who control the criticized organization, conflicts and controversies begin, the discontented seeking to change the organization, while the vested interests seek to maintain their accustomed methods of operation.

    From this tension and its ensuing controversy, there may emerge any one (or combination) among three possible outcomes: reform, circumvention, or reaction. In the first case, reform, the institution is reorganized and its methods of action changed so that it becomes, relatively speaking, more of an instrument and achieves its purpose with sufficient facility to reduce tension to a socially acceptable level. In the second case, circumvention, the institution is left with most of its privileges and vested interests intact, but its duties are taken away and assigned to a new instrument within the same society. This second method is much used by the English. The king was left covered with honors, but the task of governing England was taken over by Parliament and ultimately by a committee of Parliament.

    When an institution has been reformed or circumvented, there is once again an instrument on the level in question, and the purpose of that level is achieved with relative effectiveness. But, once again, as always happens, the new instrument becomes an institution, effectiveness decreases, tension of development rises, and conflict appears. If the outcome of this conflict is either reform or circumvention, effectiveness increases and tension decreases. If the outcome is reaction, ineffectiveness becomes chronic and tension remains high.

  115. Thank you, JMG, for another interesting post.
    I saw the study you mentioned before it hit the “newspeople”, was intrigued and decided to read it. To actually understand what they did, you have to go into the supplementary info, and dig a bit deeper. From what I understood, the idea is basically that the way urban farming is done currently (lots of fences, using municipal water, etc.) ends up causing a bigger carbon footprint than industrial agriculture which, although entirely dependent on oil and very energy demanding, is nevertheless quite efficient, in a narrow sense. They concluded this to be true especially because most of these urban farms don’t last long, and so the infrastructure is basically trash in the end. Also, the methane generation from small scale composting was quite significant. Obviously the environmental impact of mining and producing synthetic fertilizers is almost certainly larger still, but hey…
    When I read the paper, I didn’t get the impression that they were discouraging people from growing food (although this might be my own naïveté), but rather that the way it was currently done in cities was not ideal. Come to think of it, most things done in cities nowadays are quite crazy, especially considering nutrient cycles. I think it was Bill Mollison who once said that New York’s only real export is urine and feces (although he put it more bluntly).
    It seems that it was the aforementioned newspeople who blew this out of proportion. I’m convinced the original authors of the paper were foaming at the mouth thinking of the media attention they might receive, but nevertheless I also think their paper is sound, although extremely reductionist.
    Just in closing, I would like to mention that a lot of people I know (mostly city dwellers) would love to have a garden, if only they had the time and especially money (ironic as that sounds) . I think this kind of “produce for your family” mentality is resurfacing, especially in urban young people, for some reason. On the other hand, I also know someone who grew up in a poor farm in northern Portugal, and would not put a potato in the ground to save their life. To their mind, growing food is not mere drudgery, but downright hellish. For myself, I can affirm that beyond all practical and ideological concerns, there is something truly satisfying about eating a meal with dirt under your fingernails, a sort of boyish charm, I suppose. You try it out.

  116. Hi John Michael,

    We’ll probably get a pimperectomy before too long. 🙂

    Hey, you reminded me of the hoops we had to jump through with the permits for this house. I had to pay for an energy rating to be provided. Anywhoo, the dude provided the same star rating for this house as an average project house. To be honest, I was a bit incensed, and asked the hard question: So, we have double and in places triple the standard insulation requirements; process our own sewage via a worm farm and return the minerals to the soil; and generate electricity from the solar off grid system. Yet, that’s the average star rating you’re providing. What gives?

    And then he tells me in a serious tone that if I placed another window on the northern side of the house (remember things are upside down here) we’d get a better result. I may have remarked that a northern window would have looked out onto an earthen embankment, and that the rating system appears nuts. All very ungentlemanly, but that’s part of the paperwork you need to get a permit to do something which people have done for tens of millennia.

    The icing on the cake was the fire services (of which I was a volunteer member at the time) just piped up and said ‘No’ to the permit. Too dangerous apparently, despite being surrounded by houses. So I had to get a consultants report written at considerable expense by people who apparently used to work for that fire service which pretty much said that we should do what we’d already said we’d do anyway… By that time, my wallet had been bombed and it was a bit distressing. The fire folks were basically unelected officials making pronouncements which were at odds with the planning scheme for this property, and at the time it was impossible to find out their views before purchasing the property. Fortunately I can read legislation and make sense of it, but it was a challenging moment.

    I presume that getting permission to construct anything in your country is equally difficult? Like the new word you made up. Nice one.



  117. Brexit was supposed to free us Britons from EU regulatory mania and I suppose to some extent it has, but the urge to lenocracy is too strong for the promise (as yet) to be properly fulfilled. Brexit is an enabler but, so far, to a great degree a wasted oppportunity. Oh well, that’s life. At least we no longer suffer the humiliation of membership of that asylum for failed states.

  118. JMG, you’ve really hit the nail on the head. Here in NH, there are many towns with empty stores. Rents are so high that many would be entrepreneurs cannot afford to start a business. Somebody asked the town’s City Manager how much time he spends working on federal and state regulations rather than the city’s needs and he laughed. Every minute of his day is doing the bidding of the state and fed.

    I think there will be a time when a state will look at its numbers and say that it isn’t worth paying the federal taxes for infrastructure, just to follow all the mandates. Once a large state leaves the Lenocracy, more will follow and leave DC impotent. It only takes a few states to do this. This may happen tomorrow or several years from now. Texas seems to be the state that will go first. Its defiance of federal overreach at the border might be the “shot heard round the world.”

    Since Canada and Australia are also federalist systems, it’s possible we’ll see it happen there, if it isn’t happening already.

  119. This post seems like the missing chapter or the needed foreword, or 10-year update, to David Graeter’s “The Utopia of Rules.” When I returned to Canada from a 3-year stint in Asia in my early 40s, I couldn’t land a job because hiring processes had become boggeged down with agents, outside HR contractors, temp agencies, psychological tests administered by contractors, requirements to register oneself as a corporation (through another agent of course), and the like. There was always someone to say “no” and stop the process, even after being offered a job. Sometimes, I later found out, there was no job to begin with — the posting was made to fulfill some budget requirement. And all of these shenanigans were created by HR departments whose very existence is to do the hiring. Multiple parties were taking a huge cut from whatever 2-week gig I could land before the “project” got cancelled. Don’t even get me started on the requirements for getting an apartment. It was an astronomical change from when I got jobs in my 20s and 30s — interview with a manager or even a temp agency, and get hired or placed immediately. After a few years of this nonsense, I returned to Asia. Got hired and housed within a week of landing. Seven years later, I feel exiled from a community I loved, but thankfui.

  120. @Patricia A. Ormsby (#83)
    The best I can up with so far is 寄生仲介主義 (kisei chukaisha shugi) = parasitic intermediary ism, which maybe would over time come to be shortened to 寄介主義
    There has to be something more colloquial, but I don’t think ponbiki resonates in the same way as pimp. (For that matter, pimp is used non-negatively a lot these days. Pimp a car (make it fancy) or pimp a home run (make a big show after hitting one).)
    If it were Chinese, eunuch might be the term to work from rather than pimp because the eunuchs are the evil doers in so much Chinese historiography and the court eunuchs collectively are portrayed as swollen parasitic court hangers on.
    I wish my active Japanese were better (as opposed to my passive Japanese). There are so many metaphors from nature, like “even monkeys fall from trees”, so there must be one that would fit. Maybe, 太った雄鶏, 卵産まず “fat roosters lay no eggs” or something.
    Not sure if this helps at all, but I enjoyed trying.

  121. I have to admit, today I did something naughty. After a few months of my work laptop slowing down and crashing, I decided to open it up, clean the heatsink and reapply the thermal compound. It’s company property, so what I did was “against policy”.

    The right procedure as per policy is:
    * File an incident ticket
    * Bring the laptop to IT for diagnosis
    * Get a replacement laptop to allow me to continue working
    * IT sends the laptop to be estimated by the hardware vendor
    * Hardware vendor sends us a quote for the repair
    * Get approval from management and finance (they are separate teams, natch)
    * Finally, thing gets sent away for repair (last time I had this done, just getting here took more than two months)
    * Wait for the repair to come back
    * Have Finance receive the invoice and sign off on it
    * IT will sign off on the repaired machine and reimage the software on it
    * Finally, you (or someone else in the team who needs a machine) can have a working machine!

    When I needed to do this for an actual hardware failure, it took me 5 months to get a laptop back. Don’t even get me started on another instance where a teammate had a laptop that had similar (but worse) symptoms to mine; long story the invoice “came late” from the vendor. Actually, someone in IT misplaced it when they received the repaired machine, the vendor diligently followed up but “as per policy” we won’t pay them because somehow the invoice was received late (despite the ball being dropped on our end). I had to work to get further approvals to ensure that the vendor got paid for a service they satisfactorily performed!

    Anyway, my machine now works like it did when I first got it four years ago. It took me all of 15 minutes to do. Imagine the savings in manpower, paperwork, repair costs, etc. I just kicked off a requisition for 20 new machines and while that process takes time, it’s significantly less tedious and time consuming. You’d think for a multinational so concerned about e-waste, they’d do something about that, but yeah. Imagine the savings if they allowed even just 5% of the people who knew how to do so make basic maintenance and repairs on company machines themselves. Of course, that’s not going to happen because of “data privacy”, “traceability”, “hardware accountability” or whatever.

  122. I love a good neologism. My old ‘zine, The Dyslexicon, used to have a section in the back with neologisms. And for awhile I contributed to an online neologism run by mIEKAL aND and some other folks up at Dreamtime Village in Wisconsin. I feel there needs to be more neologisms used in deindustrial fiction. The neologisms were always part of what makes reading SF exciting. And as we go along into a different kind of future than what SF has become, we’ll need some different words to describe the situation. The creation of words for and by themselves apart from fiction though is a fun hobby and an art.

    @Robert Mathiesen (#32…) I couldn’t agree more. The thing about canceling, is the lack of second chances, the utter condemnation. I find it refreshing that Nick Cave is speaking about this, because he will probably reach a lot of people who otherwise have been censored into silence, afraid to speak their minds on the topic, because of where the overton window has moved to.

    @Dan #85… Your comment ” think you’re shortchanging pimps comparing them to the modern bloodsucker class. A ‘wise’ man once said “Pimpin ain’t easy”” reminded me of the classic song “It’s Hard Out Here for A Pimp”.

    You know it’s hard out here for a pimp
    When he tryin’ to get this money for the rent
    For the Cadillacs and gas money spent…

    Which goes to say someone is pimpin on the pimp.

    & speaking of neologisms, “Graft economy” is a keeper!

  123. Ah, yes, I’ve worked within the lenocracy for years in the field of compliance/quality. My nomination for most useless government agency is DCMA, the inspection arm of the defense industry. They rarely understand their own rules, reject anything they don’t understand for risk avoidance purposes, and even an internal study found they were effective 3-4% of the time, which is how often they actually uncover something “legitimate”.

    It’s only getting worse, as the baseline Quality system governance (ISO 9001) just added a climate change requirement. Someone there really needs to explain to me what climate change has to do with making good parts in a repeatable way.

    Re commercial real estate, indeed the large investors can keep property vacant because they’re using real estate as an inflation hedge – the idea being real estate will hold value better than the dollar. However, the only reason this has worked is due to the low interest rates on CRE loans. Those days are OVER, and the commercial real estate market is anticipating collapse soon. Recent stats show 25 percent of office property loans come due in 2024, as will 27 percent of industrial loans and 38 percent of hotel/motel loans. Either these loans are refinanced at the current higher rates, meaning they’ll have to get income from them, or they walk away from the loan in bankruptcy … and that’s already happening too.

  124. “The Biden administration could use “indigenous knowledge” to jettison a critical mining proposal projected to yield billions of dollars in precious metals used for renewable energy projects.
    Documents and emails obtained by Protect the Public’s Trust and reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon show that senior Interior Department staff consulted with tribal leaders in an environmental review of the Ambler Access Project, a proposed 211-mile road in northwest Alaska that leads to copper and zinc deposits, considered to be some of the largest in the country. Those two metals are used in a variety of consumer products, such as batteries and wind turbines.
    The White House released a draft of its environmental review for the project, which is expected to cost $2 billion, last October. The over 1,000-page draft contains at least 14 references to “indigenous knowledge,” a pseudoscientific belief that posits native peoples possess unique insights about the workings of the universe.”

    We demand renewable energy, we demand the critical minerals be produced domestically, and we forbid mining. And on topic, it will cost $2 billion just to get to the point where the bureaucrats tell you no. It hits a nerve with me, my second mining job had the permits for the project when the Dept of Ecology started demanding all sorts of new water quality tests. We passed them all, but in the end they revoked the permit because the area had been designated as a prime recreational area. Interestingly they also fired the guy who had granted the permit.

  125. JMG,
    Granted the Lenocracy in America is a target rich environment, but I am surprised you skipped over the massive pimping in all levels of education from k-12 thru grad school. Apart from the teachers in K-12 nearly all the rest of the administration and staff ( except perhaps the janitor and the lunch lady) are pimps if you use the standard of adding no value to the process. The lone teacher in an old fashioned one-room school house with a McGuffys reader and a chalk board had arguably better outcomes than todays k-12 school system, so all these added on positions are by definition “Pimps”. Then once you get to higher education the non-pimps become very hard to find. Aside from a few hardworking associate professors toiling in the classroom nearly all the administration and many of the professors in the modern American university are just there to skim off the cream from tuition and federal student loans.

  126. This is my first post ever here, but I can attest that I’m a long-time lurker.
    Mr. Greer you have “nailed it” quite concisely! Seems that another great author had a recommendation in William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2.
    I have trepidation of the upcoming Jupiter-Uranus conjunction and the impact of the planets bunching together in Taurus in the near future. Perhaps a divine message in the making…to be delivered in the very near future.
    Peace to all and Blessed Be.

  127. A wise friend told me a couple of years ago: society is comprised of pimps, whores and slaves. To participate in society wisely is to know which one you are.

  128. In my opinion lenocracy isn’t a new thing, although in the US it has taken a specific form. In Europe, up until the mid-19th century or so, there was strong social pressure on rich people to have servants. The richer you were, the more servants you had, whether you really needed them or not. King Louis XIV had thousands. The real reason was that the rich were expected to give jobs to the poor, and in a pre-industrial society agriculture was everything, manufacture (such as cloth-making, or ship-building) wasn’t very developed, therefore being a servant was often the only option. Having many servants was a sign that you were a wealthy, important person.

    If you were a French nobleman, you could ask your servants to beat up commoners you didn’t like. It happened to Voltaire, whose writings had made a duke or prince (I can’t remember exactly) angry at him.

    The demand (and offer) for servants abated during the Industrial Revolution, which required millions of men and women to work in the newly-built factories, often in worse conditions that 18th century servants. Dickens described this in his novels. Until the mid-20th century I think, any self-respecting French bourgeois family had a maidservant (“une bonne”) in order to be served. If you had someone to serve you in your home, you were one rung above those who didn’t. The “bonne” was usually a young woman from the countryside, who worked for you until she got married. That’s actually what my mother did.

    A friend of mine experienced something similar in the Comoros, a small African country in the Indian Ocean. He was sent there by the French government as a police instructor, for several years. When he arrived there with his wife, he was told by fellow expats that he absolutely had to hire servants, otherwise the native population would resent it. In the Comoros, someone who has money (like, expats) must hire some Comorans as servants, so that they can feed themselves and their families. The other expats also told him that he would have to tolerate some petty theft from his servants, but not too much, otherwise they would despise him.

    In my opinion the millions of lawyers and other members of the US lenocracy (which also exists in other countries) are the equivalent of the European servants of yore, and the Comoran servants of today: most of them are not really needed, but there is a strong social pressure to give jobs to people who, otherwise, would be unemployed and starving (in the Comoros), or at least two or three rungs below on the social ladder (in the USA).

    I read somewhere that in the US the number of DEI jobs is being reduced. A sure sign, I think, that the USA is in an economic contraction.

  129. Money is endlessly weird and fascinating.

    I don’t know much about currencies between the wars, and I don’t understand when currencies were convertible and not, how that worked, and how much trade was within colonial systems, etc. You certainly could be right about the pound (and the dollar!). But my impression was that rival governments saw it as in their strategic interests not to use the pound. And (and I got this analysis entirely from you) that period was peak oil in the way the future will not be so economies and populations were growing and industrializing rather than contracting.

    The dollar today is not convertible to gold or silver, so it’s just a ‘currency’ in the simplest meaning of the word. If Brazil is trading with Nigeria using raw materials from Guyana to sell to Argentina, it’s in everyone’s interest to use a common medium of exchange. Even if the US is insolvent in the long run it’s the easiest currency to use. China, Russia, Japan, and the EU have no interest in hurting their economies by issuing enough currency for them to be the means of exchange. So the only thing threatening the dollar (for better or worse) is the US lenocrats and ideologues mucking about with it to inflict political punishments on other governments.

    Eventually the decline in cheap fossil fuels, demographic decline, and the decline in the US navy will make our present global economic order collapse. (We all agree on that.) But I think the dollar as international currency will be at the tail end of the process rather than the vanguard. Wasn’t Roman coinage used long after the empire fell, even in areas outside the empire?

    Anyhoo, this is all speculation. (I know a lot more about the commercial real estate issue so I should probably stop going on about this.)

  130. The permaculture movement has unfortunately been saddled with a bunch of design certification course pimps.

    I think Martin #138 is thinking along the obvious through line of who does most of the work in a Lenocracy.

  131. This is indeed a core of the problem. Its roots lie in perfectionism. There should less risk in life, so create insurance. There should be ways to buffer financial plenty and want and to allocate investments so create financial services. There should be assistance in managing large transactions so create real-estate agents. But they metastasized to serve themselves at the expense of society. Through government regulation and abstraction of wealth into objects they can more easily play their games with, they have found ways to siphon off a tremendous amount of our productivity to the personal benefit of ‘professionals’ in these industries. I recently watched the movie “Margin Call” and was amazed at the many perverse incentives that cause rational people to destabilize society in pursuit of personal and corporate gain.

    The question is what to do about it. I think government and financial services are the main players. It will take massive reform or decline/collapse and rebuilding of both of these before we can build a society that properly allocates talented youth to productive careers. As you clearly state, if we were to massively reform these parasitic parts of society, more people would realize that exponential growth isn’t continuing forever. In the educational world, I am trying to help students understand what abstraction is and how easily humans are fooled into thinking about abstractions rather than about ideas that help us comprehend reality.

  132. > lenocracy le•’nok•ra•see n pl -cies (2024) 1: a government of pimps 2: a system of political economy in which productive economic activity is burdened with unnecessary costs intended to allow others to extract unearned profit.

    Emphasis on first syllable. Got it. Thank you.

    It sounds like lenocrats are a bunch of babies🍼who have no idea how to make a living MAKING THINGS OF VALUE, like cabinetry, blacksmithing, house-siding and -roofing, flooring, electrician, plumbing, leather-working, dressmaking/sewing, knitting, crochet, cooking outdoors using cast iron Dutch ovens/fry pans/cookware over firewood. I suppose city-slicker lenocrats could become drivers, but not drivers of horses.

    Around 1950, my mother’s father and his brother, both around 65, together built two modest side-by-side “retirement homes.” Their ancestors had been canal-ers (boating on canals) who knew how to do EVERYTHING involved with keeping long, thin canal boats running, including mechanics of gasoline engines, and before that, steam engines. While in their 20s and 30s, the two of them picked up at least journeyman knowledge of many of the building trades. Their ancestors had been any number of different category of farmer, as well. Living on a farm near the banks of Lake Champlain in New York State, near Canada and Vermont, from 1840 to World War I, gave their family plenty of opportunity to grow subsistence crops, keep livestock, and find paid work related to canaling. Skilled mechanics and farmers along a trade route. Mechanicsville, Saratoga County, New York State,—literally—was where canal boats went to get their mechanical apparatuses fixed. As JMG mentioned, canals will be making a comeback.

    Around here, many family farms still exist (which was a *BIG* attraction to us), where farmers and their families have NOT lost the knowledge of “how to fix everything,” and I mean EVERYTHING — it is these people who will train others, down the road, on how to live fairly well even while things are in decline. If they don’t know EXACTLY how to fix something, they figure it out, and use materials not too hard to obtain. Like “The Red Green Show.”
    How to Make Everything: The Suit

    Last week, the topic came up on what are good places to live while decline is happening. I would say that when seeking a locale to which to move (is that correct English?), look for:
    (1) family farms, with living farm-traditions;
    (2) on the outskirts of a medium-sized city (“commutable”); and
    (3) has a history of well-maintained roads specifically so farmers can get their wares to market, like each morning, milk.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🥹👨‍🌾🐖🐔🐄🥛
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  133. @JMG,

    Your experience is definitely consistent with mine. When the coup in Niger was announced at the end of July last year, I looked up the % of uranium in Europe that came from there from the Market Observatory in the European Commission website:, with the most recent data dating from 2021. Then LeMonde published a reassuring “analysis” 1-2 days later saying France did not depend on Niger which had already been anticipated (omitting to say that the rest of Europe to which France is trying to sell nuclear plants still depended >20% from Niger). Then on August 2nd ( the European Commission suddenly published a new report with more recent data from 2022 on the Market Observatory… So these “objectives” reports are released with a timing that is quite correlated with when they are politically necessary…

    But my previous comment is simpler and more specific, and is of a different nature: the price you quote in your essay is inconsistent with the immediate source you link to:
    I double-checked and the earliest archived version (Dec. 2023, within 1 month of the initial publication) is still mentioning the same number of 0.80 EUR / kg (instead of 0.08 EUR/kg):
    Although that does not invalidate your overall argument that might still be used to at least to raise doubts. If you are working from memory (and trust it!) then it might be better to not link to that article, or otherwise actually use the number from the reference you link to so that it is not inconsistent.

  134. Peter, interesting. I’ve added that to my collection of rabbit holes.

    Info, no, that’s a massive oversimplification. The mafia model is only one kind of lenocracy, and not the most common kind. Far more common is the kind where the lenocrat doesn’t have to threaten you — if you don’t pay him, you don’t get to do whatever it is that you’re trying to do, and that’s it.

    Boy, Graeber’s claim is the eternal cry of the disaffected intellectual, convinced that society could be so much better if only everybody followed whatever scheme he believes in. Of course he’s quite wrong, because our notions about the world have only a very modest influence on how things work, and human beings won’t behave like angels no matter what you do to the laws and institutions under which they live.

    Marco, that “average human” covers a lot of divergence. Does West talk about the difference between the person living in a farm town in Indonesia and the person living in a penthouse suite in the DC beltway?

    Dermot, thanks for this — a nice clear summary of an enduring reality. There’s a glitch in the WordPress software, btw, that makes it look as though some posts, on some browsers, have had all their paragraph breaks removed; as you see, they’re still present and accounted for.

    Joao, oh, granted. I did in fact read the original study. What fascinated me is the spin the corporate media put on it.

    Logan, thanks for these.

    Chris, oh, that kind of lenocratic flustered cluck seems to be standard all over the industrial West these days.

    Robert, granted — you transferred control from foreign lenocrats to the homegrown variety. The larger transition from lenocracy to some less dysfunctional form of government still awaits.

    Jon, Texas might indeed be the one, but given the way American history seems to work, I’d expect it to come from left field — Wyoming, say, or Kentucky, just one day up and saying, “Nope.” It’s likely to happen, though, and all it would take would be a legislature and governor agreeing that the mandates are so onerous that the funds aren’t worth having, and passing a bill rejecting all federal mandates and refusing all federal cash.

    Michael, another book I haven’t read and probably need to! Thank you.

    Carlos, nicely done. Simple actions like that are among the most effective ways to begin whittling away at the lenocracy.

    Justin, a valid point. New words, like new concepts — or old words and old concepts that have fallen out of use and can be brought back into circulation with a purpose in mind — are important weapons in this struggle. In effect, we’re fighting against Newspeak; once we can break “doubleplusungood” into fragments, say, so that people can understand the difference between “doctrinally unapproved” and “morally depraved,” we’re halfway to the goal.

    M Carole, thank you for this. If you’re right, then vacant properties in flyover states should be going for pennies on the dollar (or on the hundred-dollar bill) in the not too distant future; that’s a testable prediction, and I appreciate the fact that you’re willing to offer it.

    Siliconguy, that’s lenocracy at peak absurdity — when nobody can accomplish even the most prized goals of the political system because the sheer burden of lenocratic inertia makes any constructive action impossible.

    Clay, don’t even get me started about the public schools. My father, my biological mother, and my stepmother were all public school teachers, and I was also astute enough during my own incarceration in the school system to catch on to some of what was going on.

    Michael, welcome to the commentariat. I’ll be discussing the astrology a bit over on my Dreamwidth journal, if you’re interested.

    Joe, er, you can’t have pimps and whores without johns…

    Horzabky, of course it’s not a new thing! The late Roman empire was one vast orgy of lenocracy, and it’s not at all hard to trace the collapse of the Western empire to the sheer economic burden of all those government-employed pimps. You’re right about the servant class, of course.

    Joel, ah, but a very large number of countries today have good reason to stop using the dollar, after watching the US try to weaponize its currency against Russia. Many of them right now are cutting deals with their neighbors to use their own currencies — here’s an article you might find interesting — so the dollar’s loss of reserve currency status seems to be happening much sooner than you expect.

    Martin, I didn’t say it! 😉

    Justin, that’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed well away from permaculture. One of the others is that it so quickly morphed into Green Amway, with people urging everyone to pay good money to get teacher certifications so they could start charging good money to hand out teacher certifications…

    Ganv, that seems reasonable enough.

    Northwind, they think that making things of value is for chumps. Unearned income is so much easier, not to mention more lucrative!

    Viking, fair enough. I stand corrected — and have corrected the post.

  135. @JMG: “it cost me a lot less than a year’s income to set up my work space as a writer!”

    Well, don’t give them ideas, JMG! Otherwise, they might mandate that every writer needs to house a government inspector who would regulate work hours, the quality of air, and levels of light.

    On the other hand, it’s clear why the government “experts” are salivating at the prospect of a (centrally controlled) Central Bank Digital Currency and banning cash—”Now we’ll be able to take a cut from every transaction! We’ll have our finger in every pie!”

  136. It’s just occurred to me that one possible read of the cultural change of the late 1970s-early 1980s was the settling of a major contradiction in the west by embracing the lenocracy forced on the rest of the world. There was a major tension in western society: at home, there were elaborate mechanisms to protect against lenocracy; while abroad, the same nations actively encouraged it because they got a share of the loot. This tension was forced to public consciousness in the 1960s with the rise of the counter-culture, and especially the 1970s with the watergate scandal; after all, the US was supporting governments around the world which routinely engaged in much worse than anything Nixon did.

    I’m going to have to mull this over for a while, because it might be the root of the massive change; which until now had never made sense to me.

  137. Clay Dennis, Joel Jones, et al: have you any ideas about how municipalities which want thriving local businesses in their communities can go about it? What works to that end? Rent controls on commercial property (which might force out of town owners to sell)? Confiscatory taxation of out of town or area ownership? Requirement for local ownership, or local jobs created requirement–if you are hitting up our taxpayers for police and fire protection, you can $%^&well cough up some jobs? Any good ideas?

  138. Worryingly I see a lot of this getting into the culture. Most of my younger engineering colleagues by default believe that they have to produce “required training materials”, “health and safety documentations”, etc. even before they start working. They think it is normal to do compliance trainings that no one actually uses.

    Another issue is that is still quite profitable to be a member of the lenocracy establishment. I seriously considered “collapsing first and avoid the rush”, but the rewards for being a member of the lenocracy are still quite substantial…

  139. A fundamental rule of society and economics is that, as long as every member of said society participates in performing some valuable activity, it will be healthy. The day when some member ceases to be useful in any way is the day it begins to wither and ultimately die.
    An armed guard in a watchtower is performing a useful function. Grandpa tending the fire is still being as useful as possible, taking a bit of work off someone else’s to-do list. A beggar or idler on the street is not. A Lord of the manor spending a day in an office organizing economic activity and serving as a leader to the community is performing a necessary function. An aristocratic fop getting ready for the next night’s entertainment is not.
    I cannot now recall when or from whom I received this bit of wisdom, but I have watched the legions of useless modern aristocrats grow over the years. It is too bad that your explanation and the sources from which you drew, will not be more widely disseminated because it contains the fundamental blueprint that we could use to keep society functioning, whereas the increasing frustration of the MAGA-crowd supporting President Trump and the anti-Trudeau protesters supporting Polievre do not have anything like a coherent plan to produce an actually successful change… they only know that what we currently have is not working, but they cannot say why, and they have no better alternative.
    Meanwhile, I’m still trying to get something — anything — to grow in a garden besides weeds. Oh, well. I have other useful skills.

  140. Marco Menato #120

    Speaking of metabolism, I wonder if the East’s (the Orient) sitting in meditation, staying still🥕(low metabolism) vs the West’s (the Occident) running around, never-staying-still🍟(high metabolism) are two ways to “get the same thing,” or “get to the same place.” West wastes energy while East conserves it. During civilizational decline, it would be good if West learned East’s ways.

    The West/Occident’s way,—wasting perfectly good energy—will simply not be possible—it will be impractical.

    I REALLY don’t like being around people who can’t sit still, eyes closed, not speaking, for at least a few minutes. Here I will make a personal value judgment where I am at the point that I feel something is wrong with people who just can’t shut the he!l up. The goal is just be with themselves, alone, for a bit, getting used to that.

    By the way, in “playing at” being a Christian for a couple years, I read more than one source where many Christians (particularly Roman Catholics) believe that if one sits alone, eyes closed, while not Christianly-praying, they are leaving the door wide open for Satan to enter, and that Satan will indeed enter, and that is why some Christians panic at the idea of sitting alone, eyes closed, doing nothing: they think that they would be making themselves defenseless and that evil will enter them. I never knew that. Some Christians live with huge amounts of fear, every minute—I pity them—their religion does not offer them long-lasting protection. I would say, find another religion because THAT ONE isn’t working.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🗣️🧘🏼‍♂️✝️
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  141. I suspect oppressive lenocracy is one red flag of decline. We may have the triple-crown winner of grifting in Big-Ag, Big-Food, and Big-Med (plus bonus big Insurance/finance, all powered by Big-Oil).

    Falling nutrient levels were shown in the early 1900’s, when synthetic fertilizers were promoted and used as a substitute for traditional soil fertility management (1943 The Living Soil, Eva Balfour). A 2009 study found an average drop of 40% for vegetables since the forties, using USDA data.
    ( 2009) Lack of freshness provides further declines (15-77% loss VitC in 4 days, depending on the vegetable ). I doubt many home gardeners, at least those who are serious about raising food, to be fooled by a mainstream article about spendthrift-style gardening.

    Subsidies for commodity crops hastened institutionalization of monoculture Big-Ag and subsequently processed food. This appears the perfect recipe for chronic disease ( review UltraProccessedFood and health, 2023), feeding Big-Med and Big-Insurance/Finance. USDA does not bother to mention UPF in their discussion about healthy eating…

    As the vast majority of permaculture certificates are not mandatory in any way, it seems they bleed actual grifters more than feed them. Rather than seeing them as another parasite, I consider most of them leaders who teach constructive self-sufficiency skills.

  142. siliconguy @ 92, biotech is losing money lately from expensive litigation. Not enough to cut into profits, I believe, but causing plenty of bad press. Home gardeners, whose numbers yearly increase, as does that of small scale seed growers and sellers, are at the center of opposition to GMOs, more recent lab technology and agribiz in general. Rise in shipping costs–I wonder who or what is behind that, hm.–has not yet dampened enthusiasm among gardeners, so some sort of new propaganda offensive was needed.

    Kimberly Steele @ 81 there is a reason why envy, enivia, is counted among the deadly sins, which are named ‘deadly’ because of the harm they do, not only to individual souls, but to families and communities as well. I have no doubt you are right as to motive of petty beaurocrats, and we have all seen the same. If you really, truly want to annoy a pack of such idlers, take your knitting. Kipling called them “little tin gods”. Yew, I know, Kipling and his imperialist baggage, but if no less a writer than Borges can praise him, I think I can quote.

  143. About child care, it occurs to me that people offering quality child care, quality meaning nourishing meals, basic instruction in numbers and reading, reading out loud, early experience with simple skills, etc. might be in a position to leverage important benefits. Such as, a good word with the local gangs, no catcalling by neighborhood boys, keep the Garden Nazis off your back, and make sure excess free produce from your yard goes to those who need it, not to resellers, etc. Influence like that can’t be bought.

  144. Thank you JMG.
    A word that you mentioned many years ago that changed my life was “disintermediation”. I’ve put in a lot of effort, since then, to eliminating economic pimps from my life, and other kinds of pimps too. For example, rather than playing recorded music for my yoga classes, I sit down with my guitar and make my own. Rather than buy canned tomato sauce, I preserve my own in bottles. Rather than buying seeds, I save my own.
    I enjoy playing a game that goes… “What am I currently paying for that I could make myself?”

  145. Are you saying the United States has become a casino with nukes? 😂

    I was going to say a whorehouse with nukes, but a whorehouse at least provides a useful service, it not a product.

  146. Jon G & JMG re: #126, #143

    I’d imagine the trigger for that could very likely be a hyperinflationary event, even a brief one – I don’t want to imagine how much of a nightmare budgeting must be when you have no idea within a factor of double, triple, or more how much things are going to be worth at the end of the quarter, much less the year. “Oh, I have to do this or I’ll lose out on $200 million in highway funding next year? So that’s what, maybe $25 million in today’s money? Maybe $10 million? Yeah, I’ll pass.”

  147. > New words, like new concepts — or old words and old concepts that have fallen out of use and can be brought back into circulation with a purpose in mind…

    Like, “one room schoolhouse.”

    I am currently reading “One-Room Country Schools” by Jerry Apps.
    ISBN 978-0-87020-752-5

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🏚️🪵🔥
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  148. After a few days of rain, snow, and mixed, I just now saw a glimmer of sunlight, after a couple hours of thawing. I looked at the weather report, and Wisconsin is at the tail-end of this massive chilly storm that had a lock on us for a week. Birds have not been able to do a thing towards family-making. Maybe I will see some insects🐛soon—wildlife is waiting. When Spring finally arrives, it will explode.

    The storm blew east and is now over Rhode Island—same storm—ranging from Ohio to Maine.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🐣
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  149. 林龜儒, what about Chinese overseas building, Belt and Road railways, ports like the one in Pakistan, and so on? How are they being financed, and are those projects also being ill built?

    As for Chinese immigration, I am afraid that many of us Americans are simply not going to believe that such immigrants can expect to have better lives in the USA than in newly prosperous and powerful China, and we are running out of patience with groups which flout our laws and have no or very little respect for our culture, history and traditions.

  150. Here’s one that just popped into my head: Boreaucracy. The other word is one of those tricky ones to spell. Boreaucracy ought to get picked up, as what could be more tedious than filling out paper work and red tape.
    Meetings within organizations are generally such killjoys of time and spirit. The real meeting happens afterwards when the grumbling starts about the groveling micromanagers.

    Surrealist definition of the word Meeting: place where people gather to suck whatever juice is left out of creative projects. It’s like a vampire movie but they all have neckties. Except on the west coast. There they try to trick you by looking casual!

    @Chris at Fernglade: Maybe kids in the future will pimperectomy sets! I’m not sure the ones who have a problem with that are going to the pimps though… I know I’m getting my words crossed, if not corseted… either way, well done.

  151. Tribute!

    Since reading your piece JMG, a word – a seed word – has been wriggling it’s way from the back of my mind, and that word is “tribute”. There are a few definitions for it, but this is from Miriam Webster:

    (1) an excessive tax, rental, or tariff imposed by a government, sovereign, lord, or landlord
    (2) an exorbitant charge levied by a person or group having the power of coercion

    And this may be why people feel increasingly naffed off: they have a strong sense they are being juiced, but the racket is obscured by all sorts of legitimate sounding institutions.

    But really what it is, is good ol’ fashioned tribute.

    As you said in your previous response to me: people don’t change.

  152. Ecosophia, oh, that’s half the motivation behind CBDCs. The other half is stark panic about what happens if digital currencies get through the initial boom-and-bust cycles, and there’s an alternative to government-issued currencies that operates outside their control.

    Taylor, hmm! I think you may be on to something.

    Ahriman, maybe so, but it’s also possible to be quite comfortable and happy outside the lenocracy, and it has a better shot at longevity.

    Renaissance, that’s a useful principle. I’ll want to think about it for a while.

    Gardener, it may be that I’ve just seen the loudest grifters in the permaculture scene; that and the cynically manipulative pitch for the Transition Towns business left a very bad taste in my mouth, though.

    Joseph, delighted to hear it! I still do a fair amount of recorded music, but that’s what thrift stores are for. 😉

    Celadon, it might be a grift, or it might be the opening round of the collapse of the biggest speculative bubble in modern history. We’ll have to see.

    KMRIA, “whorehouse with nukes” sounds better, and the US does still produce some useful things here and there. Thank you for this!

    Brendhelm, I could see it!

    Northwind, that’s a fine example. As for the storm, we had soaking rain for a couple of days, but nothing that would slow down a Seattle boy like me. Now it’s blown past and the sun is coming out.

    Justin, I’ve just gotten my copy of Leonora Carrington’s tarot deck, so Surrealism is on my mind just now. I wonder what other options a Surrealist approach might offer.

    David BTL, okay, it’s clear that at this point they expect to lose. Watch Trump reverse that with an executive order on the first day of his presidency.

    Boy, excellent! Yes, and that’s a word worth brooding over — and then using.

  153. This started out funny, then turned starkly serious. It really is great to read an article that connects all the dots, and cogently explains something I’ve noticed for quite awhile, but couldn’t explain in detail. The US economy just intuitively feels wrong, like it doesn’t add up. The massive amounts of debt, inflation, and other forms of parasitism you’re describing are unsustainable, yet it gets ignored, covered up, or treated as a matter of course. Which is to be expected when the MSM is the mouthpiece of the parasites or pimps. I wonder if this is related to the glorification of pimps in pop culture?

    Lenocracy sums it up well. However, as others have pointed out, pimps are not purely parasitic. They provide valid services, such as paying bail, defending their wares from law enforcement, unruly johns, and other risks. They also have applied knowledge and connections to get them into the business quickly & effectively. And so, pimps are usually somewhere between “provider of services” and “parasite”, leaning one way or the other. That said, “lenocracy” expresses the idea with conciseness, you did well in coining the term. An alternative term I’ve come across in my reading is the German “raubwirtschaft” which translates to “plunder economy”; but that might be a bit too scholarly.

    Honestly, I’m not optimistic about the future. If the US were to fully embrace MAGA, that could pull us back from the brink, but it’s not happening. Instead, the battle lines were drawn, and our institutions doubled down on woke theology. The parasites are stubborn, and seem to have forgotten that an effective parasite forms a symbiosis with the host (eg pimps & hoes), because too much feeding kills the host, which the parasite cannot live without. It seems that they’re going to crash the plane with no survivors just to keep the party going as long as possible. Already, we’re seeing serious warning signs, such as record numbers of people dropping out of the workforce (or “quiet quitting”), refusing to serve in the military, and so on; they’re checking out because they realize it’s a rigged game. BRICS victory will be a systemic shock to the West and the legitimacy of its lenocracy, and that may be enough to cause a collapse, but we’ll see.

    As for Gamergate part 2: electric boogaloo, I never got closely involved in that stuff, mostly dabbling at the edges while otherwise munching popcorn. If the entire vidya industry crashes, so be it! As someone who’s been playing games since I was 4 years old, I’m fine with it. The old games/systems will still exist, especially with the help of emulation & rom piracy, there’s still an amazing library to go through, and homebrew to tide us over. The AAA industry can be sacked by the Sea Peoples for all I care, my hobby would be better off if anything.

  154. JMG. You are a genius! It’s amazing how you come up with this stuff.
    I was wondering about your comment to explain why commercial rents have not come down: “A galaxy of financial gimmicks mediated by federal, state, and local bureaucracies makes it possible for big corporate landlords to profit even when their buildings are mostly empty, so they are immune from market pressures.” I was wondering about this. I looked at commercial space for my business and the only suitable ones I could find wanted a 3-year lease and the rent was about the same as always. Meanwhile everyone is working from home and businesses don’t need to rent any space. I could not figure out how they had refused to lower their rents. Can you elaborate on exactly what gimmicks are allowing big corporate landlords to profit even when they don’t rent their space?

  155. JMG,
    I must admit that when I was “doing” Transition Towns, I found many of their big ideas rather lame, such as getting the local government to do an Energy Descend plan. My years in corporate America gave me a healthy respect for strategic planning – not. I ended up mostly pitching the work and ideas of other Peak Oils writers, such as Chris Martenson’s Crash Course, and most importantly the ones of this weird guy who said that he was an Archdruid. 😊

  156. Our bureaucracy definitely is hideously overgrown and inward-focused, and the other historical examples prove the role that has in choking its civilization to death like a vine of poison ivy. OTH…

    ….and I’m not any kind of Egyptologist, so chime in, those who are…. there once was a Pharaoh who effectively fired a sizeable chunk of the bureaucracy by getting rid of all priesthoods but his own, new, homegrown one, for religious reasons. Akhnaten was turned into some sort of a saint by Victorian writers because he was a monotheist, but as far as I can tell, he couldn’t govern any better than any other mystic, and Egypt more or less went to the dogs during his reign. Comments, anyone?

  157. The swindle of valuing a property above its actually worth for credit/debt reasons, as noted in the comments above, reminds me of a picture from the 1930s of a brand new set of empty housing blocks and a hooverville at their base. The rent was set higher than the people could pay so yeh.
    It’s always this way with bubble property markets until the govt. starts punitively taxing empty properties, but that’s only going to happen when the govt. has nothing to lose, usually deep into crash territory.
    The other point I’d make with the uranium prices is that it is clearly possible to produce uranium for $0.87 a kilo, so the market selling it for $200 means that some leno is usually taking a cut to the tune of $199 a kilo.
    The French it could be argued were just disintermidiating the uranium market. Now they are having to pay some pimp $199 for every kilo. No wonder Macron is screaming bloody murder at the Russians.

  158. Hi John Michael,

    I know you’ve volunteered your services over the years, and respect.

    My experience with the fire folks was odd in that it appeared to me that as a volunteer member – for a couple of years – my interests were not taken into consideration. I dunno if it was the brigade I was part of, but the social elements (one of the big reasons people in rural areas join such groups) were stomped out, and it began looking to me like an unpaid job. We even got into trouble for organising a dinner at a local pub for the members – like how could that be a problem. The beginning of the end for us, really.

    And um, I guess word gets around: Country Fire Authority volunteer numbers fall in fourth consecutive year, annual report shows

    What interested me about the fire consultant report, was that I believe those people used to work as paid people (as distinct from volunteers) with that service. Hmm. Perhaps not all pigs are equal?

    Now with the house construction permit paperwork, I get the need for the engineering and soil testing. Those make sense, but the other stuff? Could probably do without them, and I’m uncertain what value they added. Trying to construct something which is a one-off design is a real paperwork nightmare, but I guess that may have been the entire point of the exercise. For your info, the process required three thick folders of paperwork. It shouldn’t be that hard.

    I’d read that back in the day, house designs were done from plan books. Years ago by sheer chance, I met an old master bricklayer, and we had a good chat about how houses used to be done. As the master craftsman, he had the responsibility for setting out the footings and dimensions of a building. Things are different nowadays and that responsibility has been taken away, and I doubt I could keep up the pace five days per week required of a bloke who lays bricks for project housing. After a while, the job would be a special form of physical torture. Hmm.

    A lot of downwards is getting applied to work, and I do sense and observe a certain sort of turning-away.



  159. Hi John Michael,

    Why would msn post that article on the demise of the US dollar? I guess we’ll never know, but biting the hand that feeds you is one way to get a sharp smack. Just sayin. Bubbleland is possibly a very strange place.



  160. @Mary Bennett,
    The real estate goal for a thriving downtown is to get all the current out-of-town owners who are charging high rents to sell cheap ( to locals) and leave town. Then when the real estate has a new low cost basis it can be leased out for an affordable price and the new landlords can still make ends meet.
    I can think of lots of schemes to make this happen but I am not sure any of them are legal ( this can vary from state to state). For instance in Oregon , Rent Control of any kind is not legal based on legislation from many years ago.
    Sometimes extra-legal methods work best. I went to college with a guy who became a fancy lawyer and got a job working for a US Finance company in Japan during the 90’s.( he was half Japanese and spoke fluent Japanese). His job was to advise the financial companies clients on how to buy property in Japan ( just after the asian flue when real estate collapsed) and make good on their investment. He quickly learned that things were different in Japan. In one case a US bank purchased a building in Tokyo for a cheap price then set about raising the rents on all the tenants . Soon after their agent in Japan got a visit from the Yakuza. He was informed that all the tenants were under the protection of the Yakuza and no rent increases would be acceptable, nor would any evictions. The bank had no mechanism to enforce their rent increases or evictions without the approval of the Yakuza so they eventually resold to a Japanese company realizing that it was an investment that would never pay out for them.
    Perhaps some time in the near future the following may begin taking place. In a letter from the town council to the investment firm that owns mainstreet real estate.
    ” Dear Sirs, we have placed some business’s in your storefronts for the town approved rent of XX dollars. The town will collect those rents and forward them on to you. Any effort to penalize or evict these tenants will be thwarted by the city police and the county sheriff. You are welcome to sell your buildings at anytime with no interference but the owner will be subject to the same conditions.”

  161. I tend to think that we (The USA, & the Bureaucratic West, aka Europe) are a failed Communist state. This is different when compared to the collapse of the Soviet Union, which I would call a disintegrating Communist state. The difference is within a failing state you no longer have the resources available to maintain control of the country’s people within a centralized economy. In the USSR’s case the disintegration was a reformation of the goods distribution within it’s society (there were still abundant resources in Russia), that created the 1990s era, of which I do not know much about, but have heard the West was involved and it was apparently a bloody affair to end the privatization of Russia’s assets. Russia’s economy has since transformed over time, but still has the skilled labor and energy reserves to make things happen without external reliance.

    Recently I wrote this as a note-to-self:
    – I want to live in a place that has no mafia or corrupted interests. Usually that is because the people in the region have a eternal dislike of the controlling caste of society (the Irish mentality.) And there is no benefit to control the resources of the region, and therefore no profits can be made from land extraction. Then, if the people are self-sufficient, you have a harmonious society. If the people reinvest in themselves without creating controlled capital (rentier assets), you can have a place to raise children and make a family in peace.

    I am wondering if such a utopia could actually exist in this manner. It seems to me that IF Marx’s crazy utopia could come true in any form, it already would have. The fact remains that people themselves are a valuable economic resource to control, so IF there is nothing more important to control (Oil, natural resources, means of industrial production), then the people are controlled, be it slavery, serf-lord systems, communist labor camps, rentier schemes or whatever else.

    In a way, productive economies simply add friction to a outright slavery system. When people once again become the economic commodity, then we have reached the so-called end times, because there is no longer any reason for man to endure mankind, and anarchy becomes a more profitable enterprise.

    I am hoping we can find a better solution other than maximum friction (Consumer drive economy) and minimal friction (Slavery). And perhaps the only way to accomplish that is to create social contracts between men. Maybe we should dust off the Magna Carta and ask our warlord barons to make peace and have some inner meditation of restraint. Revolution can be a tool of political pressure, and if acted on it can remove the current levers of power, even if it just swaps one kingship for another.

    As far as I can see, the Ants will have to burn off all the sugar just to realize they are back where they started: begging the Queen ant for a little more water and moldy bread.
    Well thank God were not ants.

  162. Well, it looks like those fine folks the Russ are doing quite well delenocrisizing where things count … certainly where it pertains to things that go !BOOM! – fast like. Or, as another example, selling off virtually ALL of their formerly fractionally reserved American Dollars, thus allowing their central bank/financial system to bend with the sanctions wind, coursing and dodging the slings and arrows cast out by the ‘Rules-Based’ Western Order.

    We in the West could a few pointers, if we were smart.. which apparently we’re not.

  163. Xcalibur/djs, I notice that pimps have a lot of defenders among my commentariat. 😉

    Hugh, if you’ll scroll up the comment thread, you’ll find a lively debate about exactly that point. I mentioned the account I received from people in the Appalachian town where I lived for nine years, got challenged by one reader, and had a bunch of others come in with their own ideas of what’s going on. Certainly, though, rents are not behaving the way the laws of supply and demand would predict — a huge number of commercial properties are staying empty, at least in part because their rents are too high for the local market. Are there other factors invoved? Sure — but one way or another, something very odd is going on.

    …and it’s also odd that this one offhand comment of mine is attracting so many reactions from people who rarely or never post here. Hmm.

    John, I saw some very good things going on under the Transition Towns banner, as well as some very dubious things and some very silly ones. The thing that got my hackles up, though, was the video promoting it, which I first saw at a peak oil event in Michigan in 2008. It was slick, polished, propagandistic, sleazily manipulative, and cost somebody a lot of money to design and create. You might remember my two posts on that:

    Patricia M, it was a little more complex than that. Akhenaten spearheaded the attempt to get rid of the priestly bureaucracies, but he was backed by the other vast bureaucratic institution in ancient Egypt, the army, and he also created a new and heavily funded temple bureaucracy for his own vast temples of the sun disk Aten. Yes, it was a disaster — imagine that somebody got rid of the current US civilian bureaucracies and then set up an entirely new system of bureaucracies, none of the staff of whom knew the first thing about the departments they were supposed to run. Under Horemheb, who finally got Egypt back on its feet, the Aten temples and their bureaucracies were eliminated, the army was reined in, the old temple bureaucracies were reestablished but with sharply reduced incomes and privileges, and Horemheb enacted a new code of laws correcting many of the abuses of the last half dozen reigns, laying the foundations for the triumphs of the following dynasty. I hope we don’t have to go through an Akhenaten to get to our Horemheb!

    JP, you can produce uranium for US$0.87 a kilo, sure, but only by keeping wages for the miners and processing plant workers at rock bottom levels and denying them any benefits at all; there’s a reason why Niger, despite its mineral wealth, is one of the world’s poorest countries.

    Patricia M, they’re not alone. That’s another bit of disintermediation that seems to be catching on.

    Chris, I wonder if they’re trying to abolish the volunteer positions so the fire departments can be turned into another set of government bureaucracies. As for MSN, I think they’re starting to panic.

    Eruption, that’s true only if you twist the word “communist” completely out of its original meaning. The US is a mixed corporate-socialist state, which is not at all the same thing. As for finding a place where there’s no corruption and no illegal use of power, good luck!

    Polecat, it was frankly the stupidest thing the West could possibly have done to back the Russians so far into a corner that they were ready to start a war. There’s a saying that Russia saddles up slowly but rides very fast, and it’s true; it takes an enormous amount to get Russia to do much of anything, but once that threshold is finally passed, brace yourself, because yeah, things are going to go “Boom!” repeatedly and with ever-increasing volume until the situation is the way Russia’s leadership wants it.

  164. Thank you for articulating this, Mr. Greer. Your insights are timely and spot on. Additionally, I’ve observed two other signs of decline.

    Consider any recent interactions with banks, insurance companies, phone companies, or other major organizations. Grievous errors and mistakes have become commonplace, leaving us no choice but to spend hours and make multiple phone calls attempting to resolve issues. Often, this involves dealing with overseas workers who lack proficiency in English and are unable to assist. Conversely, local employees are grappling with their own crises, stemming from poor health, social, and economic issues.

    Moreover, the quality of consumer goods has significantly deteriorated. It’s becoming increasingly common to return products new out of the box due to their failure to function properly.

    These issues undoubtedly pose a drag on productivity and the functionality of the economy.

  165. I’ve just received word that prayer list member James (Erika’s partner) has just passed away after his battle with cancer.

    May James be blessed and soothed in his soul’s onward journey; and may Erika be blessed with the support she needs in this difficult time, emotionally, materially, or otherwise.

  166. Lazy Gardener at #150 talks about the decline in nutrients in fresh (for varying readings of the word “fresh”) produce over the years. I suspect a large part of it is the supermarket-driven preference for larger produce. They breed for this, obviously, but they also have techniques of giving a large dose of water to the plants in the week or two before harvest. So previously we might have had (say) 3 ounce fruit with 100 units of some nutrient, now we have 6 ounce fruit (3 ounces of fruit and 3 extra ounces of water), it still has 100 units of the nutrient, but… by weight, it’s less. But we naturally go for the big and shiny fruit and vegetables.

    Now more directly involved with the topic of the week, we’ve been watching a TV show called Alone, where they take 10 contestants and dump them alone in the wilderness to survive for as long as they can. None of them know on any particular day if there are 9 others remaining, or just 1. Aside from clothing etc, they get to take 10 items of their choice to help them. They have to film themselves talking a bit, and they’re in daily contact and can call for medical help if needed. As you can imagine at first it’s a mental game – most people quit around a month in, but some only last a night. After that it’s physical resilience and actual survival skills.

    What interested me in the latest season was that it included a 60yo “resilience coach”. He gives seminars, I’m not sure what the content is. Well, on his first night he got a lungful of smoke from his fire and started coughing and spluttering and complaining of chest pain, the pain got worse and he called for help and they flew in. It turns out there was nothing physically wrong with him. He’s a guy who spends his life trying to help others, he says, and wanted to do something for himself. But as soon as he was actually on his own he had a huge panic attack.

    It feels harsh to say it because he has such obvious good intentions, but he is obviously a leno. The students in his resilience class would have been better just spending a week out in the bush putting up with some bad sleep and rain and trying to catch some fish or something, it would have taught them more resilience than his seminar could.

    Once you look you see a huge number of leno-people, resilience coaches, human resource managers, diversity seminar presenters, and so on and so forth. They’re trying to fill the gap once filled by the village priest or imam or witch up in the hills, but they’re not doing a very good job of it, and the first time they’re asked to do anything even vaguely uncomfortable they have a panic attack and have to call in a helicopter medical evacuation.

    What’s interesting is that most people quit, rather than getting

  167. @JMG – Thanks! And the transition between the two reigns was also a disaster, though King Tut tried to do the right thing. Horemheb was one of history’s better generals, and a good general is often a good organizer (see also Vespasian, Eisenhower, et. al.)

    Speaking of parasites – our beloved management is “updating” the appliances in the newer buildings as fast as possible, meaning going all-out for digitized, programmable washing machines and dryers, stoves, and ovens, and in one building, the temperature control. At dinner, I had to listen to the lament of a resident of the newest and most prestigious building, who couldn’t get comfortable because she couldn’t set the thermostat permanently, and was at a loss with the laundry facilities. After giving thanks that my building is still somewhat backward. l I could could only suggest she call our IT guy to walk her through the procedures. I did mention this elsewhere, only to be reminded that getting parts for the older and more transparent equipment is very hard, and sometimes impossible, and I ask “Why???” Who benefits?

  168. JMG: “Boy, Graeber’s claim is the eternal cry of the disaffected intellectual, convinced that society could be so much better if only everybody followed whatever scheme he believes in. Of course he’s quite wrong, because our notions about the world have only a very modest influence on how things work, and human beings won’t behave like angels no matter what you do to the laws and institutions under which they live.”

    My read is that Graeber did not lay out any kind of scheme in The Dawn of Everything. Having largely described what is wrong with current arrangements in books such as Debt: The First 5,000 Years and Bullshit Jobs, he went through the latest evidence from archaeology and anthropology to find the aspects of humanity that we could use to change the current arrangements. What comes through most clearly is that peoples in the past whose societies had features that might be desirable for us had flexible social arrangements and often were conscious of what their social arrangements were. That seems to me to be the opposite of any kind of scheme. It is rather an invitation for all of us to try out different schemes and see what works and encouragement in this age of despair that our ancestors did exactly that.
    I can understand how one might impute one scheme or another to Graeber. He says many things that are also said by people who do have a scheme they’d like to sell you. (At least one such recently took Graeber to task for deviating from the reviewer’s scheme.) But he himself seems to have been working hard to escape from that cul-de-sac and I think he succeeded..
    The folks on the left who I find interesting these days are those are see and are willing to say out loud that almost nothing the left has done in recent decades has worked and that there remains no “left” that is faithful to its original goals.
    The evil genius of the current system is its ability to convert all those working to better things, be they on the “left” or the “right”, into parasitic pimps. There must be some deeper force at work for this pattern to be so widespread and consistent. I think you would identify peak oil and peak other resources as the deeper force.
    I would also add the inability of societies, capitalist or socialist, to successfully harness the kind of knowledge economy that industrialization made possible. (The “knowledge economy” we have now is a diseased, bonsai version of what was possible.) This failure has made societies into something like a 14-year old still wearing the clothes of an 8-year old and being treated like one. This cuts off the 14-year old’s circulation and drives them mad. Alternatively, current societies are like a butterfly trapped in its chrysalis or a baby bird stuck in a too thick egg. The current multiplication of pimps and the inability of society to protect itself from lenocratization, even the inability of the elites to prevent lenocratization from harming and endangering elite interests are symptoms of that condition.

  169. Well Mr. Greer, Uncle Sam IS after all, the king of still sovereign pimps , donning dirty, ragged red, white, n blues … slapping other global denizens silly, stealing everyone blind … whilst livin in a tawdry marble getto.

  170. I just came across (via John Carter) a cyclical view of modern history that is new to me. Although the notion that “the rise of finance as the predominant capitalist activity of a given society was a sign of its impending decline” should not be new to any regular reader of this blog. Financialization certainly seems a worthy undertaking in any healthy lenocracy!

  171. Undoubtedly the new dispensation in Niger is better than the previous one, but if the uranium workers get much of an improvement in conditions I’ll be surprised.
    Sahel societies are inherently unstable so I’d expect the new pimp to offshore alot of whats left after the Russian heavies have been paid off (a recurring expense or the French will be back).
    Good news if your selling assets that are not western (Russian sanctions strike again).
    It’ll be interesting to see what happens economically to the sahel with the French removed.

  172. You have the obvious nonsense of the audited company paying the auditor.

    Conflict of interest you say? Yes, but one, like a great many other absurdities, venerated by time and sanctified by usage.

    I’ve been retired for a long time but back in the day audits were the biggest joke going, public accountants giving the impression of purse-lipped probity, accurate to the penny, intolerant of pea-sized deviations, their staff undergoing multi-year ordeals of spine-cracking workloads and examinations to get their letters.

    Some of the biggest accounting frauds were complex but doomed schemes killed by their complexity, but some involved the most comically simple plans that a reasonably astute community college book-keeping student could spot.

    But not the mega-buck, global accounting firm. Nope, no way, multi-billion dollar mis-statements completely escaping their notice. And so, fraud riddled businesses sank into the muck of bankruptcy and criminal indictment, big-buck auditor following them into ignominy and down the drain and into the moon-and-bank list of companies gone bust.

    Thusly the accounting profession managed the not inconsiderable feat of making lawyers look good. In fact, as the farce unfolded, about 20 years ago, give or take, you had lawyers telling accountants how to do their jobs. Can you imagine? Not much to imagine really. Remember Sarbanes Oxley?

    Then there was the gigantic mortgage mess of 2008-2009. Internal controls? What internal controls? But didn’t Sarbanes address those? Feh, those are for wimps. Who needs em? And now we have unfolding a CRE bust maybe to be followed by yet another residential real estate calamity.

    Why even do this stuff if it’s done so badly? Are there alternatives? IMO yes. But tradition is a stubborn thing and persists and accountants are rule followers and inside the box thinkers. Someone else has to push them out of the rutted donkey path.

  173. @Jessica #181: “I would also add the inability of societies, capitalist or socialist, to successfully harness the kind of knowledge economy that industrialization made possible”

    I like to go back to Bernard Stiegler (and a better synthesis of such) with the idea of ‘cerebral desertification’ for this, where even the elite aren’t immune.

    Proletarianisation is a concept that captures a noetic process, denoting a generalised loss of knowledge of the subject, our gradual becoming stupid. Stiegler…starts to develop the concept more rigorously, resulting in a tripartite division of proletarianisation into the loss of savoir-faire, savoir-vivre and savoir-théoriser… In a Heideggerian vein, savoir-faire denotes more practical knowledge; savoir-vivre corresponds to a certain know-how of living together, which he primarily explores in psychoanalytic terms; savoir-théoriser is quite literally a capacity for theoretical thinking. The loss of these three forms of savoir rests upon a historical distinction between three different economic eras, namely, that of nineteenth-century industrial capitalism, twentieth-century Fordist consumerism and our current economic paradigm. This does not mean that each loss of savoir is mutually exclusive, corresponding to a specific and unique economic epoch. They are in fact cumulative, and Stiegler argues that we are witnessing the loss of all three forms of knowledge today.

    In this periodisation of capitalism, whereas labour in the nineteenth century is primarily considered to be characterised by the loss of artisanal skills, labour in the twenty-first century is seen to cause a loss of cognitive capacities. Stiegler holds that this damage does not only affect workers but everyone, as big data and the crowd sourcing economy replace the producer by the consumer. In 1993, with the introduction to the public of the World Wide Web, our milieu was transformed into a digital one, a milieu of absolute automation, the automation not simply of practical knowledge but also of decision-making. We are now all becoming part of the machine, as artificial organs causing ‘a complete cerebral desertification’.

    No one escapes proletarianisation in the digital age, not even the likes of Alan Greenspan, the former Chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, who would have been made redundant by finance algorithms. Stiegler therefore speaks of an age of generalised proletarianisation characterised by the automation of everyone’s knowledge, resulting from the material automation of both physical and cognitive tasks.

    So the idea of “cerebral desertification” is that it is a function of specialization of labor, of behavior, which flows from capitalism narrowing behavioral niches to maximize profit and strangling niches which threaten stability, i.e., which don’t reproduce money to the pimps (e.g. consider the person that repairs their own refrigerator, or community co-op gardens). Humans are not omni-tools, but through education and practice are able to shape ourselves into specialized shapes to fit a particular niche and as these niches narrow, regardless of the nature of that niche or the trophic level occupied, so does what we can call our ‘cognition’. But we (humans) aren’t becoming stupider. Our behavior is being ‘channeled’ (so to speak) by presenting only the perceptual ecological variables which facilitate flow of money to the pimps.

    Anyways I agree with you on Graeber, I think he specifically avoided being prescriptive about schemes or “The Right Way To Live” but rather worked to point out the contradictions and flaws in common mainstream media style of popscience and anthropological views of the past (i.e. things were worse in the past and clearly things are better today in the neoliberal society than ever before: scientism is purely progress!). Which I think is very valuable to remind people that actually no, people in the past did enjoy vastly different and sometimes better lives with more free-time, community, and sense of self-worth than many do today, but doing so without overtly romanticizing a past.

  174. As I may have mentioned, I rented commercial space in one of Chicago’s nicest suburbs — not exactly flyover country. Vacant commercial space accounts for at least 50 percent of what is out there. It’s a sea of empty offices and retail out there, all maintained and policed largely by the citizens’ tax dollars no matter what the specific grift scheme happens to be. As for the “cheap” LMAO $7-15 per square foot prices quoted by Samurai_47, there’s also things known as taxes, Common Area Management (CAM) fees, and utilities, plus the spaces at those “cheap” prices are often for 4000-10,000 square feet warehouses. A small business is usually 2000 or fewer square feet. In the case of my own small business, the CAM fee and various insurances were more than 50% of the cost of the space. Since the building was built like Swiss cheese in the mid-80s, every winter I was socked with $400 and $500 gas bills and in summers it was around $300-$400 for air conditioning. As for landlords and management companies, my experience is that there is something very off about those people. With very few exceptions, commercial landlords and management company personnel are not right in the head. Maybe it has something to do with chasing unearned wealth.

  175. It’s occurred to me that a lesson from biology might explain why things are getting so ugly: there are plenty of parasites which keep the damage they cause to their host to a minimum, as long as the host is healthy; but go into overdrive and will rapidly kill their host if it is getting sick. This is for a very straightforward reason: the benefits of keeping the host alive go down the shorter the expected lifespan of the host; while the benefits of sucking it dry don’t. So, all the parasites our society has are rapidly losing the incentive to keep their exploitation to levels that won’t wreck society, with the result that things are rapidly getting very, very ugly….

  176. I’d like to add my own thoughts to the question of building vacancies: one of the things I noticed when I looked into starting my small business was that the sales tax laws are widely different between different provinces (I live right on the border between Ontario and Quebec; and would have had customers and suppliers on both sides); this is probably part of how lawyers justify their keep.

    What this means though, if this is a general rule, is that it is entirely possible, maybe even likely, that the gimmicks used to keep real estate prices up are different from state to state in the US. This would mean that the people saying that the gimmick your friends from Cumberland talked about is illegal might very well be right; it might be illegal in their state.

    I also wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out it is blatantly illegal, but still happens all the time….

  177. It’s interesting that economic interactions seem to follow the same trajectory as our energy supplies do. The ratio between the amount of resources extracted in relation to the amount of resources needed for extraction grows smaller and smaller… One may wonder if there’s some fractal law at work. Looking through a slowly turning kaleidoscope every small piece inside turns “pimp-up” every now and then… the number of the pimp ups that you manage to produce at one time tells you, how large the crisis may become.

    That being said, the school where I’m working has also reached a fairly high level of lenocracy. We’re offering a certain international degree that you can obtain in addition to your ordinary a-level degree you do anyway. Every now and then, some friendly progressive representatives from the organization that “offers” the degree will show up to “re-certify” our school. In the mean time we may put a lot of mad cash (a six-digit number for 3 years) over the counter. Oh and then the students have to pay for each certificate they may obtain, too. That’s a lot of money for a small school like ours, very little benefit you get for this and especially nothing we couldn’t do ourselves (or are doing anyway) with a lot less money. A student of mine once correctly observed: “Why should I bother getting that degree? If I wanted to study at a university in the US, they would just take me with my German a-level, but if I’d had those certificates only, I would have to pass additional tests.”


  178. A favorite trick of the pimpocracy in country towns is slapping a lower speed limit on a perfectly safe stretch of highway. For some towns, it’s their biggest source of revenue.

    There are situations where regulations are understandable, like speed limits in urban areas, or health and safety regulations that protect workers from exploitative bosses. But sometimes they get ridiculous. For an example that affects me personally:

    To save money on garden service, our apartment block bought our own lawnmower and edger. Our janitor agreed to add lawn mowing to his list of duties for a small increase. Then we were advised that a lawnmower counts as a powered tool and the janitor would have to attend a course to get certificated as a power tool operator, plus his Workman’s Compensation contributions needed to be increased.

    We decided we couldn’t be bothered with all the red tape, so another trustee and myself mowed the lawn ourselves. Then the trustee left and for 15 years I’ve been mowing the lawn myself. With no certification and no Workman’s Compensation, like millions of suburban lawn mower owners who can’t afford garden service.

  179. Hi JMG,
    You opined that voters in the UK are in a febrile mood. My own feeling is that the sort of outright anger that put George Galloway into Parliament recently, is still mainly to be found in the most deprived and decayed post-industrial areas, mainly in northern English large towns and cities. This used to be the Red Wall of Labour-held seats but as economic decline continued they mainly turned to the Tories under Boris Johnson but as decline continues still, many people are giving up on both parties. Elsewhere, frustration and disgust mainly manifests as a stated intention to vote for ReformUK who are currently at around 15% in the polls, which under our electoral system might give them no seats in Parliament at all. The return of Nigel Farage to front-line politics with them might make a huge difference, but that is still uncertain and he might wait until the right-of-centre rubble stops bouncing after the election which is due toward the end of this year. It will be interesting to see how that pans out with surviving Tory MPs, ReformUK and independent voices like Galloway.
    On the other hand, the optimism and enthusiasm – largely misplaced – which preceded the election of Blair’s New Labour in 1997 is entirely absent and it’s not just because Starmer is one of the blandest politicians you could ever encounter. The mood of most voters seems to be: we have to get rid of this useless lot and maybe Labour will be a bit better, they are the only ones who can win so I suppose I’ll vote for them. Of course they have no ideas worth mentioning that will actually improve things – most people acknowledge that at some level – and I expect the voter’s fury to really come to the surface either in three or so year’s time when Labour’s failure is manifest, or during the next economic crisis resulting from some global event.

  180. There have been some mentions of Transition Towns and as I have lived about 7 miles from the original TT of Totnes for the last 7 years, I can give some impressions of it.
    If you go there now you would be unlikely to see any mention of a Transition Town unless you look quite hard. The odd poster can sometimes be spotted listing a few events but there is virtually nothing concrete in terms of on-the-ground actions. Most listed events are meetings on esoteric aspects of sustainability which presumably consist of talking around in circles. The town council and MP have been Tory for several years, as befits a middle-class, well-to-do area in the south-west of England, though the Liberal-Democrats are also strong here. At one time there was an alternative currency called the Totnes Pound, set up with the intention of keeping money circulating within locally-owned retail businesses of which there are an abundance. In 7 years I have not seen a Totnes Pound and I presume it’s entirely extinct.
    The town itself depends to a large extent on tourist visitors attracted by the independent shops and its quirky reputation. Some shops sell quality goods, there is a smattering of New-Age type stuff, upmarket home decor and a lot of material which seems to me entirely useless. There is a fairly rapid turnover of businesses and the area of retail premises is starting to contract slightly at the edges. The one purely vegetarian restaurant closed about a year ago and is now Asian-themed, serving a mix of meat and veggie/vegan food. There is one vegan cafe and there are close to 20 cafes in total which is surely going to be an unsustainable number fairly soon. The best aspect is the market which runs and Fridays and Saturdays featuring foods from independent producers and many stalls of useful secondhand and retro goods.
    It seems that the comfortably-off folks of the town, when offered the choice between a sharply reduced material standard of living and middle-class pseudo-sustainability, chose the latter!

  181. An addendum, addressing various points I didn’t get to before:

    JMG #176: I was just trying to provide a balanced view of pimps. Some are closer to managers, others are closer to exploiters, it varies. I think the glorification of pimps in pop culture ties into all this, but it’s not something I’ve fully figured out, except that its our dominant economic mode, and outlaws/pirates/gangsters of all stripes get romanticized. Maybe it’s an American thing?

    What you refer to as “gimmicks” would be better expressed as rackets, or racketeering.

    Also, you described the US as a “mixed corporate-socialist state”, which is actually closer to fascism! Not that we’re equivalent to the Axis back then, but the merger of corporate & gov’t power is straight from their playbook.

    Finally, to False Eruption #174, but also a general tangent: utopia is off-limits to humans, as is immortality. Any attempt to achieve them inevitably ends in disaster — utopia ends up as dystopia, indefinite life becomes a more unpleasant death. Such is the way of things. That’s not to say we can’t create a better society, but we must do that in accordance with the laws of Nature, while being wary (beware) of utopian thought.

  182. @ Justin Patrick #160
    “Meeting: place where people gather to suck whatever juice is left out of creative projects. It’s like a vampire movie but they all have neckties.”

    Perhaps the word you were looking for there is “Meating”… 😉

  183. Thanks for the link! I’ll check it out.
    It’ll be interesting to see what happens with BRICS.

  184. Quin #178:
    I’m so sorry with that sad news about Erika’s partner James. I have to pay condolences to her and her family.

  185. Akhenaten:
    There’s a lot of controversy. Modern Egyptians generally have some respect for him, because he was a montheist like Muhammad, but some modern western writers (oops, I can’t remember their names now) makes him as a “prototype” for tyrants like Mussolini, Stalin or of course Hitler.
    I don’t like the “reductio ad hitlerum” fallacy, but it seems Akhenaten didn’t have a big career in the long term, I agree in that with Mr. Greer point of view… what do you think about him, dear kommentariat?

  186. >a huge number of commercial properties are staying empty, at least in part because their rents are too high for the local market

    I think it’s one of those cases where certain people’s vital interests are so important, that it can’t be left to the free market to determine the prices of things. You find that disturbingly a lot these days. There’s a word for an economy that’s mostly state-run, where prices are set by edict and fiat…

  187. >Polecat, it was frankly the stupidest thing the West could possibly have done to back the Russians so far into a corner that they were ready to start a war

    You don’t understand the deep state. It’s ALWAYS friday night. And they need a fight. Need, not want.

    The idea that there might be a saturday morning is beyond that crowd. They literally can’t think about it. Unable. It’s always friday night.

    I dunno. Maybe they have a point. Maybe there isn’t going to be a saturday morning. Maybe.

  188. >The US economy just intuitively feels wrong, like it doesn’t add up

    You don’t need intuition. All you need is math. And you are right. It doesn’t add up. However, this has been the case for decades now. I’m truly impressed with the shenanigans they’ve pulled to keep it all going just a little bit longer.

    Shrug. We’re at the end of all of that though. There may be a few more rabbits they can pull out of the hat but they are low on rabbits.

  189. @Lazy Gardener #150: I think what the permaculture teachers teach is actually worthwhile. It’s subject I enjoy reading about, and trying to apply to my life, in some ways. But the base price of the local permacuture group in my city for their year long course is $1,095. Compared to tuition at a school, I guess it is not that much, but it has always kept me out. I am not wealthy, but my wife and I are comfortable, and try to live within our means. Considering the people who are less comfortable, and struggling to live within their means, such a course might seem extravagant, unless they really had the time to put it into action. That price point seems to cater to the whims of the trustafarian children of the PMC. That said, I’m still glad those trustafarians are learning those skills. I just don’t see it as being accessible as some of the scrappy community gardens I see around the city, but I have bought plants at their plant sales in the past. It could be that I’m being a bit harsh. I always enjoyed reading Holmgren, and some of the other writers on its techniques, such as Sepper. I’ve thought about subscribing to Permaculture magazine before. Of course, for people who are looking for a way out and a way forward, if they are young maybe that 1,000 investment would pay dividends if they didn’t have many other expenses and were going to be going to be doing more gardening. I guess, like many other things, I guess it in part, depends on where people are at and what they want to do.

    @JMG: pataphysics, surrealisics, and other side real sciences seem ripe to me for requisitioning of the resources currently being slobbed on by the sucking lenocrats. I’ve been dashing off a few other articles after going over my proofs and finishing another fiction draft, but need to put some time in to my response to Breton and his L’Art Magique.

  190. John, the crapification of services and goods respectively — which is my way of talking about what you’re describing — is a huge factor, yes.

    Patricia M, I think it was Calvin Trillin who said that the most frightening word in the English language right now is “upgrade.”

    Jessica, the fact that he didn’t lay out his preferred options in the form of a manifesto with bullet points doesn’t mean that it was too hard to figure out what his preferred option is. Your claim that “current societies are like a butterfly trapped in its chrysalis or a baby bird stuck in a too thick egg” is a fine example of the standard canned rhetoric of progress, by the way — oh, there’s always some wonderful thing that’s waiting for us in the immediate future, if only we can shake off the burdens (and thus avoid learning the lessons) of the recent past! It’s the same old song, endlessly rehashed despite the long, dreary, bloodsoaked litany of failures it has produced.

    Polecat, I ain’t arguing.

    Blue Sun, so noted.

    JP, we’ll see. The instability of the Sahel is almost entirely a function of post- (that is to say, neo-)colonial times, and France invested very heavily in maintaining that instability. It’ll be interesting to see what happens now.

    Smith, that’s a fine example! Thank you.

    Kimberly, thank you for the data points.

    Taylor, that makes an uncommon amount of sense.

    Nachtgurke, and thank you also for this data point.

    Martin, two more fine examples. Thank you.

    Robert, fair enough. If enough of the former red wall decides to go some other way, British politics could get very interesting indeed — but of course we’ll see. As for the whole Transition Town business, that’s exactly what I expected — and in fact, exactly what I predicted.

    Xcalibur, good. I once pointed out that national socialism, in the strict sense of the phrase (which of course Hitler et al. didn’t invent), has become the standard form of political economy all over the Western world. I got quite the saliva-flecked frenzy of denunciation for that. “Mixed corporate-socialist state” is the same thing in a slightly less button-pushing form.

    J.L.Mc12, that’s a classic. Thank you.

    Other Owen, there are several such words beside the one you’re thinking of, but yes, that’s a valid point.

    Justin, glad to hear it.

  191. @JMG,

    >and if, dear reader, you make your living providing some service that nobody would pay for if the system didn’t require it, you might want to find some other way to make a living before the bottom drops out of that market.

    I work in technical communication, where most of the manuals are only produced because they are required by the system (documentation is often crucial, but organizations tend to leave it as an afterthought). I have often thought of re-schooling into some more practical profession, usually after reading one of your posts.

    However, the same mechanisms that keep storefronts empty, also apply to the labour market. There is, where I live, a desperate need for blue-collar roles of all kinds, next to many other professions like nurses, doctors, teachers, gardeners, cooks, waiters, plumbers, carpenters, etc… One would think that demand and supply would lead to higher wages for such occupations, but nothing is further from the truth.

    All the occupations I considered on the list above pay about half as my current job. And that is after you complete the required training, which you have to pay for and during which you earn no money, and after you spend a few years as underpaid novice.

    On the other hand, office workers have it good: I know an Agile Project Manager who makes, as diversity hire, enough money to send his son to an expensive private school. Even I cannot complain about how the system has been treating me: I will not get rich, but I have all sorts of perks, European-style.

    So, sensible as your advice might sound, it is not compatible with the lifestyle my spouse expects (we are not rich, or even comfortable, but we never had problems paying for necessities).

    I think I will be trying the “one hand for the ship, one hand for you” approach, instead, and find a hobby that could maybe earn a small income if successful, one day. Not really “some other way to make a living”, but more like a small insurance against unemployment.

  192. Josephine McCarthy has stated, when working on exorcisms or getting rid of spiritual parasites, that when the investigator does some research, there is often physical parasites inside or on the person who needs the spiritual parasites removed. Flipping that equation around, it would seem that when a society is beset with many leeches and social parasites (as @Taylor Burgess #188 mentions) there are also probably spiritual parasites at work on the populace. The exorcist is going to be a growing profession as we move into the ruins… Yet, parasites have an ecological role in the breakdown of things where the rot has already well set in.

    @Scotlyn: I think you are right!

    Great conversation, thanks to all, hope everyone has a good weekend ahead…
    Now I’ve got to put my head down, keep my hands busy, get back to work, and never mind the hungry ghosts.

  193. JMG: “Your claim that “current societies are like a butterfly trapped in its chrysalis or a baby bird stuck in a too thick egg” is a fine example of the standard canned rhetoric of progress, by the way — oh, there’s always some wonderful thing that’s waiting for us in the immediate future, if only we can shake off the burdens (and thus avoid learning the lessons) of the recent past!”

    I wasn’t implying that glorious progress awaits us if we can just shake off the burden. I wasn’t implying that there is some inherent tendency toward progress and that if we just got back up on the horse, we would ride off into the glorious sunset forever and ever.
    I was saying that a few decades back we had other options and that things could have been better. Not perfect. not utopian, not moving forward forever and ever. Just better the past decades than they have been. That’s all. You yourself have said the same thing about the missed chance to deal with peak oil decades ago.
    I also mean that the failure to take the chance that was available makes things worse now than they were when we were just reaching the fork in the road. Educated folks were given constructive tasks during the New Deal and they benefitted society. The expanded population of educated folks was not given much constructive to do from the 70s onward and for lack of something constructive to do, they were given mischief to do. We would less lenocracy if we had never created such a large university educated population.

  194. OK, my personal story: I’ve notice that the number of produce vendors at our local “farmer’s market” here has been steadily declining over the last few years, to the extent that it’s now made up mostly of vendors selling crafts and curiosities.

    We have a small farm here, producing mostly for our own consumption. My favorite is a small flock of ducks who, being reliable layers, produce many more eggs than we can possibly consume. As a result, I’ve become something of an expert preparing concoctions that are egg-based — quiches, baked goods, souffles, etc. Many of these recipes have the advantage of using other ingredients grown here on the homestead — spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc.

    So my idea was to make up small batches and open a stall at the weekly market. We could use up the excess eggs along with a (slightly increased) menu of veggies, and earn a little walking-around money to supplement our income. Thus began a tortuous ordeal to obtain the necessary “permits” to undertake such a venture.
    To cut to the chase in this story, it turns out that the “easiest” way to satisfy all the requirements is to erect a separate building complete with electricity, running water, septic system, and three-sink kitchen. And cough up the costs of the building permits, inspections, certifications, and so on. And on and on and on.

    Needless to say, it would take a much larger operation than ours to justify the cost of such a facility. We have no desire to maintain a flock of a size needed to ever pay back the cost, not to mention building a larger facility to house them, and would reduce these animals to a commercial venture rather than a fun, friendly part of our operation. The result: we consume what we want, give away to our neighbors all they want, and relegate the rest to the compost. Oh, yes, and we have arrived at a new understanding of why all those food and veggie vendors have disappeared from the local “farmer’s market.”

    And the bureaucrats can GFT.

  195. The local paper printed a lovely example of lenocracy at work right here in Rhode Island!
    About 4 months ago, the State abruptly closed the westbound half of a major highway bridge and rerouted the traffic to the eastbound half, with consequent delays. A young engineer, doing his job, had noticed that several vital connections were broken, despite regular “inspections” by an engineering consultant. This bridge is a vital connection within the state, and many businesses noted a sharp drop in sales.
    Government to the rescue! Our governor has proposed a bill of $1,100,000 to help those businesses. $300,000 in direct grants, and $800,000 in “technical assistance” for consultation with “experts”.
    You can’t make this (family blog) up.

  196. Martin Back @ 191 If ever you are involved in a car accident in a rural area, the FIRST thing you should do, right after making sure no one is dead or critically injured is call AAA or whomever you use for towing services. Then dial 911, unless an ambulance is needed. In that case, AAA or the equivalent is your next call. When sheriff’s deputies arrive, say loud and clear that you ALREADY have a tow truck on the way. Make it clear you will NOT use the local guy with which the sheriff’s department has an arrangement. If you fail to do so, you will be making a trip in someone’s else’s car and paying upwards of $100 to get your car out of the yard maintained by the sheriff’s brother-in-law, not to mention transport to the mechanic of your choice.

    I know about the slow zones near rural towns. Drivers MUST watch the speed limit signs. I have had cops follow me through the slow zones, clearly hoping for a speed increase. I can’t really blame the towns for that as local folks all across the nation do want police protection and don’t want to pay taxes.

  197. Managerial incompetence in the news this morning;

    The Danish government fired Chief of Defense Flemming Lentfer on Wednesday after it was revealed that the top military official failed to report flaws in the HDMS Iver Huitfeldt frigate’s air defense and weapons systems that emerged during an attack last month by the Yemeni armed forces in the Red Sea.

    On March 9, the Iver Huitfeldt’s air defense systems failed for 30 minutes while engaging Yemeni attacks launched by Houthis in support of Gaza, according to a leaked document written by the ship’s commanding officer and reviewed by Olfi. The document also reported issues with the ship’s ammunition system, which caused half of its rounds to detonate before they hit their target.

    “Our clear understanding is that the issue has been known for years without the necessary sense of urgency to resolve the problem,” the frigate’s commanding officer reported.

    I know that one, “why fix it when we’ll never need it.”

    30 minutes? June 4 1942 at 10:20 AM Japan has 4 mighty aircraft carriers in formation off Midway. By 10:30 they have one mighty aircraft carrier and three flaming wrecks.

    The main action at Savo Island went from 1:38 to 2:16 AM, and four Allied heavy cruisers were sinking by the end of it. You don’t have thirty minutes to diddle with the hardware.

  198. Yes, I know the following is probably over simplified but has truth I think.
    The difference between Chinese governance and American governance is that in China the government runs the corporations and does what it thinks is best for China and in America the corporations run the government and what happens is what is best for the western international globalist elite. China with its Communist party/corporation combination with fervid Chinese nationalism complete with racist oppression of non-Han people groups within its borders is structured like Nazi Germany and is a fascist state and not communist. The difference is unlike fascist Germany, Japan, and Italy China is pursuing world domination much more wisely seeking economic and technological dominance as the main means not using the military conquest approach of the earlier fascist powers. That would be too messy and dangerous. Though China is busy obtaining military dominance in its neighborhood region to shut out the military power of the USA in that area. No Pearl Harbor attacks on their agenda.

  199. Good morning JMG. foregive me everyone for sounding a bit life road weary, It will pass. The April rain here in the CB desert is welcomed. It will nurish the land, and the trees & garden I’ve planted around the house. The roof is another matter. A product of GFC neglect. Left for dead 2012 – 2020 by a lost Note, clouded title, 5 banks because it was deemed to have “no value” but would have come back to ruin my credit in a county tax foreclosure. So I stepped in, paid 8 years of back taxes, paid a lawyer to uncloud the title and finally recorded a free and clear title – in my name only – March of 2023. Supply chains have contracted, the cost of money (debt) has increased and material costs have increased. Saturn in Pisces directs my next moves in the 3D world to remedy the ‘past its pull date’ roof. This is where catabolic collapse becomes interesting. Gathering facts and information reveals what is going on in Lenocracy Town. A look into USDA Rural home improvement grant reviews flashing red warning signals, confirmation of small print exposes bait and switch 10k grant, control of title indefinitely, mired web of phone tree purgatory. Next up, my bank a well known NW credit union. HELOC minimum 25k account at a cost of 10% and gee my credit score through FICO reflects a 720 midscore. Of course they will be in first position on my title (not me) if I acccept.
    It will require proof of home owners insurance. I speak to a wonderful young woman who works for one of the largest Insurance brokerages in the US. She sounds beleagured and spills her guts; the Insurance industry is a mess, they no longer broker Florida, households are struggling with massive increases or being dropped all together, choices in some cases are food or Insurance, delinquencies are up.
    Ok, wow. Government regulations stipulate; if the SFH has gone uncovered by Insurance for over 60 days, most if not all national Insurance companies cannot issue a policy – too risky and statistically not profitable. Persons with credit scores lower than mine are charged double – because it must be profitable – entire states are under this spell, West Virginia for example.
    The rain has changed to snow and I have to say, it’s beautiful! The woodstove I installed is doing its job, the house is warm and the freighter roars by headed to the coast loaded with coal, oil and products.
    My Irish grandfather grew up with 6 siblings who laughed and told stories about using their outhouse on their farm in Connecticut. Later in life he purchased all of his Mercedes in cash, that year’s model. He was a good man and understood the Lenocracy pitfalls of debt. Golly gee we’ve come full circle…in times of economic contraction debt can be lethal…
    Obviously I’m not in the top 20% income bracket and with each inquiry I witness attrition taking its toll on others who did not see this stage of Lenocracy coming. All four SFH around me have changed hands since 2021, ‘values’ asssessed upwards, taxes & insurance costs followed. The family across the street gone, having taken an FHA (think subprime) loan and the property is up for sale at $245k to avoid short sale/foreclosure.
    I have in my possession two large cheap bottles of booze. Next week I’ll be stopping at the wheat depot to exchange them for two very large 18mm thick tarps. They will be put in place on the roof during the dry season before the snow flies again in late fall.
    I’ll tear off the front porch roof myself and get a sense of what I’ve got. The replacement materials will be paid for in cash. The permit will go through the city and I will make darn sure this action doesn’t trigger the county Lenocracy which seems to be tracking the growing faceless blob of government intrusion even in a town of 1200. I used to joke about ‘achievement through attrition’. Now it’s more of a strategic battle plan than some trite joke.

  200. Hi John,

    Agree, at a personal level I’m hearing of more and more white collar middle class people who can’t afford foreign holidays, private education for their kids and various other things that they were used to.

    As I put it in my latest blog post, we are seeing the shrinking of the discretionary economy…

  201. I was going to be done commenting, as I’ve commented quite a lot, but heard this song from Lou Reed and thought it was really apropos this discussion:

    Men of good fortune, often cause empires to fall…

    …Men of good fortune, very often can’t do a thing
    While men of poor beginnings, often can do anything
    At heart, they try to act like a man
    Handle things the best way they can
    They have no rich daddy to fall back on

    Men of good fortune, often cause empires to fall
    While men of poor beginnings, often can’t do anything at all
    “It takes money to make money, ” they say
    Look at the Fords, but didn’t they start that way
    Anyway, it makes no difference to me

    Men of good fortune, often wish that they could die
    While men of poor beginnings want what they have
    And to get it they’ll die
    All those great things that life has to give
    They wanna have money and live…

  202. Part of the problem with struggles against lenocracy is that the loudest voices opposing “overregulation” are generally those of business owners and managers who then turn around and want the government to provide pimp service for their businesses by enacting laws and regulations that protect them from the raw creative-destructive forces of the market. Most of these laws and regulations are barriers to entry that discourage startup competitors, but the pimp service also includes, for instance, the Texas food disparagement law under which Oprah Winfrey was famously sued by a group of cattle ranchers for telling her millions of viewers that learning about mad cow disease had left her unwilling to eat hamburger.

  203. Hi JMG,

    Thank you for your pleasant way of smacking us upside the head telling us about “lenocracy.”

    Returning to #141:

    > cabinetry, blacksmithing, house-siding and -roofing, flooring, electrician, plumbing, leather-working, dressmaking/sewing, knitting, crochet, cooking outdoors using cast iron Dutch ovens/fry pans/cookware over firewood

    I have become trades-obsessed‼️

    I see a dearth of trades here “where I live” which is actually relatively trades’-rich. Other places the situation is much worse. Even here needs more trades-people!

    I think it was on this blog that I first saw recommendations of the following books:

    (1) The Medieval Machine: The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages
    by Jean Gimpel. ISBN 0-7607-3583-2.

    (2) The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant: Common Garments 1100-1480
    by Sarah Thursfield. ISBN 978-089676-295-4.

    Skilled trades (and many other trades) are what keep “standards of living” up. A roof built 25 years ago is going to leak. No roofers around? Tough luck. Over time, roofs leak worse. Entropy. To catch dripping water, one scrounges to purchase pots and pans. But prices of pots and pans have ‘gone through the roof’ (gotten very expensive) because everyone else’s roofs are leaking, and everyone needs pots.

    Add another ten years of the life of a house (30 years old), other things happen to, and within, the house: windows leak, one’s family overheats because outdoor awnings shred, a drug-crazed addict pulls kitchen cabinets off their hinges (this actually happened to my brother), somebody falls through a deck floor, someone gets sick from low-quality drinking water, one’s belt breaks so one substitutes cord, electrical wiring shorts out leaving a room without electricity (fuses no longer exist), industrial looms stop so one is left piecing together potholders for pants, the washing machine breaks so one must wash clothes in the kitchen sink or bathtub which, due to the weight of water, put one’s back out, mattress pads no longer exist whereupon mattresses smell like pee and poop, or one uses straw, food becomes scarce. The repercussions are endless. Homes turn into “flop houses.”

    Trades-people are able to keep themselves from living in shacks. Included in that number would be their friends and family, plus strangers who are able to pay their asking price, and not quibble.

    At this time, who or what, is constructing the above things? Robots and menial workers locally or in third-world countries.

    Robots stop. Robots are destined to stop permanently.

    Lenocracy means the-things-that-make-a-comfortable-life STOP. Trades-people are worth their weight in gold because they actually DO and MAKE tangible things. Without a plethora of such skills, people must “do without” or, at best, learn to “make do.” Making-do means using materials one has on hand or nearby. Currently, youngsters don’t know what making-do is because they have never had to.

    I will go as far as stating, “Ultimately, lenocracy leads to living in a shack.”

    The plumber may live in a shack, but his shack is “higher class” because it has indoor plumbing🚽; he does the plumbing himself. The plumber was wise enough to marry a woman who knows how to mend🧵(and makes it beautiful), and makes shirts, pants, and underthings. He and his wife have surplus with which to barter with a washer-woman to clean their clothes, and barter with a woodworker to build a kitchen table (else they eat on the floor), etc. The plumber and his dressmaking-wife live a good life because they have use of ‘goods’ constructed by others. This is how the new elite all starts. Get a trade now. Don’t tarry. When one has a trade, one can live a notch above the rest.

    It is time for younguns (young ones) to seriously consider getting an apprenticeship for a trade that will be around for a lifetime.

    Meanwhile, men on horses🐎are the bosses,—the new police and overlords. Bosses keep on good terms with the plumber so that THEIR shacks have indoor plumbing! Or become a pot-maker for all those leaky roofs.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🥘🏚️🧶🛀
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  204. Here, a physicist shares her disillusion with science and academia, backing up some points made by our host and suggesting a form of lenocracy exists in those spheres too. For those who cannot stand videos, it’s just a talking head so a cloth or other convenient cover can be draped over the screen.

  205. Just some anecdata from Pittsburgh, where we have a “microwave burrito” real estate market- commercial real estate is frozen while residential is steaming hot. Several large buildings are going into bankruptcy, with more in danger. Meanwhile, the residential market (which was never bubblicious in the past) is now #1 in the top ten markets with housing price increases. New condos are sprouting up in neighborhoods close to downtown at a rate that can’t be sustainable; I suspect that foreign mobsters are tired of parking their money in overpriced places like NYC and Miami. On the other hand, two years after COVID the US Steel Building (Now featuring a UPMC-University of Pittsburgh Medical Center- sign that is visible from seven miles away. More on this later…) had a 24% occupancy, down from 95%. It hasn’t gotten much better. This is the tallest building in Pittsburgh, although at 50 years of age it lacks some of the “amenities” found in newer buildings. And the almost finished FNB building has only two tenants: Final beam placed at FNB Financial Center | I feel sorry for the underwriters on that one… Now, more to the central subject of this post the signage on all these buildings proudly proclaim our new pimp overlords- all banks, financial services, insurance companies, and medical services. These are evident to anyone who watches a Pirates home game on TV…

  206. Headline from The Washington Post – may be under paywall:

    “The U.S. Economy is Booming. So Why Are Tech Companies Laying Off Workers?”

    No comment.

  207. I think there’s another factor which has the establishment parties in the UK freaking out about the Rochdale by-election; not just did a new party (The Worker’s Party) win, but second place went to an independent. Even worse, the establishment parties (Conservatives, Labour, and Liberal Democrats) combined barely broke 25% of the vote. If this holds in the next general election, then things could get very, very interesting in the UK indeed….

  208. I’m reading Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television. I know it I first saw it mentioned on this blog. I’m not sure if it was you/JMG or a commentator. I’m loving it so far; the scope isn’t limited to TV. The book says this in a different form, but televisions are pimps of experience. They mediate human experience in the form of pixelated narratives which prevent us from having the experience ourself. Even if do we go out have the experience we saw on TV we’re just experiencing something sold to us by a pimp. I quit TV for two years, but sucked back in the last two. The book has me gearing up to quit again. I was watching last night and the whole time I was thinking about how stupid it was and ended up going to be an hour and a half earlier than I normally do since I was too tired to read. Social media is a knowledge pimp, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

  209. JMG, The real tragedy of the Lenocracy is that it is self replicating and tends to replace the productive parts of the economy.
    I grew up in the agricultural fringes of a blue collar suburban town near Portland. Everyone I can in contact with mom childhood thru the end of high school had some sort of utilitarian occupation. Farmers, factory workers, teachers or even dentists. There was only one real estate agent in the entire town and nary a wealth manager or Lifecoach or diversity consultant.
    Thus, I was somewhat naive when I went off to engineering school at an ivy league university. Suddenly I was surrounded by folks whose parents were some sort of “trader” or a government functionary, or consultant, and their offspring were studying Political Economy or History. What I didn’t understand was all these folks were being prepared for their place in the Lenocracy. Even those with down to earth backgrounds and utilitarian majors found themselves sucked in to the Lenocracy. Have good grades as an engineer, and the right background. Don’t waste you time getting dirty designing cars, come to Ford in the ” Finance Department”. Don’t toil over messy blueprints designing sewers when you cam come to McKinsey and be a consultant for big money.
    Thus much of the talent ( of a certain kind ) was diverted in to the Lenocracy and our ability to make useful fighter planes, machine tools and repair collapsed bridges gradually dwindled. Plus the burgeoning legions of pimps such the life out of those trying to work in the productive economy.

  210. disc_writes #206

    > I think I will be trying the “one hand for the ship, one hand for you” approach, instead, and find a hobby that could maybe earn a small income if successful, one day. Not really “some other way to make a living”, but more like a small insurance against unemployment.

    Yep, that is a way to go. As a kid, did you ever dream of working with thus-and-so material? For example, do you have an affinity for metal? That would be blacksmithing. An affinity for leather? That would be leather-working. An affinity for bees? That would be beekeeping. Silk? That would be silkworms. Consumable alcohol? That would be beer, mostly. Wool? Sheep or alpaca, mostly.

    By the way, plumbers, if good at what they do, don’t mind grunge, are honest, get a good reputation (word of mouth), and are marginally verbal/marginally grumpy, can make a LOT of money, consistently.

    Rummage the attic of your mind and soul.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🐝🐛🐐🐑🐎🚽💩
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  211. A couple of data points for you entertainment.
    Just today a friend pointed out that in the early 1920s, it took the Toronto Transit Commission about a year, using hand-held picks and shovels and horse-drawn wagons, to build a 20 km extension of the streetcar line out to Longbranch on what was then the very western edge of the city. They did it within budget and ahead of schedule. (That was where the wealthy had their summer homes along the lake, which are still very beautiful architecture.)
    We have spent about three times more than originally budgeted to build a partially-underground Light Rail Transit extension going about half that distance along Eglinton Avenue, it has taken more than 7 years, about twice as long as proposed, and is still delayed because, apparently, the concrete in the earliest stations built is already crumbling. This despite all the regulations and inspectors who ‘enforced’ them. We also have, besides the TTC who will run the line, Metrolynx which is an overseeing agency that organizes and integrates the connections between the various city transit companies, and, of course, the Ministry of Transportation of the Ontario government overseeing the whole thing.
    To be fair, a friend of mine who works for Metrolynx gets very frustrated and bitter when we discuss problems with transit, so I suspect there are a still lot of well-paid, highly-educated people working in these organizations who have fine intentions and would very much like to do something useful and get something done, but cannot.
    For a second item illustrating our Lenocracy, we have put, over the years, into place so very many safeguards against the kind of grossly unfair, but useful corruption that handed out contracts only to ‘connected’ people. These people then went and built useful (if ugly) civic infrastructure. But to do this, they smashed through neighbourhoods, such as the shantytown known as Ward 2, primarily occupied by Chinese and Asian immigrants and, of course, black people, which was summarily bulldozed to create the space for Old City Hall & New City Hall (Well… bad white men! &c.). Toes were stomped on, poor people got forced aside, it was morally wrong, and the city core got cleaned up and built up.
    And yet…
    …despite all these intervening years of rules and regulations to make sure this kind of evil corruption cannot happen…
    …we still are currently regaled with the revelations of astounding corruption and incompetence that produced the deeply-flawed ArriveCan app during the Great Kerfuffle of 2020. It just wasn’t ‘bad white men’ this time, so government officials are each performing a spectacular verbal tap-dance to downplay their various and sundry roles and studiously avoid any scrutiny or mention of the obvious D.I.E. (yes– that is how I prefer to call it) aspect of their decision.


  212. Dear JMG,
    The increase in lenocracy produces a rampant increase in what I call honest fraudsters (in Portuguese the expression would be “aldrabões honestos”). People that cross the line but get no profit from it. Let me give you an example..
    Imagine a public hospital.
    The laboratory needs a new centrifuge, but they aren’t allowed to buy it, because their budget doesn’t have money for a new machine, but has an excess of money for parts and consumables. So the head of the laboratory probes the suppliers and selects one. That supplier provides a offer for consumables (a few thousand test tubes, reagents, filters ). They place the order for the consumables and receive a new centrifuge.
    This happens quite regularly in state owned/funded entities like hospitals and universities, because instead of giving funding to them and let them decide how it should be spent like adults, every little cent is allocated by a bureaucrat that has no idea how things work.

  213. I don’t think government regulations are bad. They are good, and serve to uphold a certain standard of living, a certain standard of society. A kitchen used for commercial purposes should have a commercial hood over the oven. Municipalities having laws about how many people you can cram into one bedroom is a good thing. And so on.
    The problem is not these “standards” but their increasing unaffordability at the end of cheap energy. Standard of living must go down, and with it, the laws and regulations that dictate such standards of living.
    I did some renovations and repairs through a general contractor in 2015 to my house. The city was involved, of course, with permits and inspections. I appreciated the city holding the contractor to standards, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I noticed that a lot of the review being done “by the city” was actually the city farming out the work to commercial firms. The city can’t afford the relevant government employee to handle the tasks imposed by their requirements. So they outsource.
    Cities outsourcing municipal services like animal control and ambulances are the beginnings of a recognition that certain services and standards of living we take for granted are becoming unaffordable. In the near future, and even now, cities are curtailing services by limiting availability. The police in Pittsburgh, for example, are closing in the wee morning hours, and sometimes even during the day:
    I shudder to think about the scope of this once we hit into the next full economic crisis.

  214. Hi, regarding the next ge, whilst it looks highly likely the Tories will get clobbered there is little enthusiasm for Labour.

    Reform will do well but will probably fail to get the Red Wall.

    My sense is the public are prepared to give Labour a chance but if they fail, which they almost certainly will, the 2029 ge could be quasi revolutionary.

  215. Warburton @ 179 Theres a lot of research going on these days, as loss of nutrients in produce, and health problems from UPF (ultra processed foods) is now hard to ignore. As you note, plant breeding is a major aspect (including dilution), plus soil health ( soil health and nutrient density review 2021). Industry funded some breeding research, as has USDA (with industry encouragement) for commodity crops (emphasis shipability, tolerance to mechanical picking/packing/pesticide-use and shelf life). Local seed libraries tend to favor breeding for adaptation to local soil and climate, taste and nutrition. Ecology comes to bite those who ignore it, as JMG has taught us well.

    Permaculture and Transition Towns – one aspect is teaching useful skills, another is trying to encourage those in power to push or certify specific programs. There are plenty of avenues to gain skills – learning from those experienced in your particular location may expedite the process. I find it encouraging that demand has risen for this knowledge, and am pleased the field has not yet consolidated to favor the well-funded and well-connected. The master gardener programs have lots of free seminars, but quality varies dramatically. For those with means, it may be worth paying for local expertise.

    Regarding commercial real estate, another important factor is the rapid shift in interest rates. Those who financed a few years ago, at very low rates, are able to hang on longer, because their carrying cost is low despite inflation. When they have to refinance, at higher rates, the situation changes. This is also affecting the retail residential markets.

  216. Justin, thanks for this.

    Disc_writes, I’ll be addressing this in more detail in an upcoming post. The crucial point, though, is that expecting to be hired by somebody to do a job is handing yourself over to the lenocracy. Everyone I know who’s thriving in today’s economy works for themselves, providing goods or services to people directly or via some means other than traditional employment.

    Justin, two good points. The first is the reason why I advise anybody and everybody who practices a spiritual path to include a daily banishing ritual in their work; the second — well, that’s something I’m going to meditate on. 😉

    Jessica, a good spirited rebuttal! It was your choice of metaphor I was challenging, though.

    Helix, that is to say, the farmers markets have been turned into yet another vehicle for lenocracy. The question now is whether some less vulnerable means to distribute surpluses can be found.

    Great Khan of Potlucks, I’ve been watching the Washington Bridge saga with a great deal of amusement, as it just keeps on getting more colorful. I’m waiting for the inevitable announcement that the eastbound lanes are buckling under the unaccustomed load, and the whole bridge is going to have to be torn down. Somebody who had the brains and the financing to put in some ferries to connect a couple of spots on the East Providence waterfront with downtown Providence could do very well…

    Siliconguy, thirty minutes was about what I gave to the naval battle in my novel Twilight’s Last Gleaming, too.

    BeardTree, that seems like a reasonable analysis to me.

    Sheila, what a flustered cluck. May it go well.

    Forecasting, thanks for this — interesting.

    Justin, thanks for this.

    Joan, of course. The most common opponent of one lenocrat is another lenocrat.

    Northwind, thank you for all this.

    Robert, science and academia are riddled with lenocracy; it’s one vast (or, if you will, half-vast) network of backscratching and rump-covering, surrounding a void where honest inquiry used to be.

    Gerry, it’s when the residential real estate bubble starts to leak air that things are going to get really colorful — and not just in Pittsburgh.

    Patricia M, funny. Seriously funny.

    Taylor, now if the same thing will just happen in other constituencies…

    Luke, “pimping experience” is a great formulation. Please do get rid of your television; you’ll find that you get your life back.

    Clay, I’m not sure if it’s that lenocracy is self-limiting, or if it’s that lenocracy expands when the opportunities for constructive work contract due to other factors.

    Renaissance, thank you for these fine examples of the species.

    Whispers, a good point. Once lenocracy reaches a certain level, that’s the only way to get things done. Thank you for adding to my Portuguese vocabulary, btw — for some reason the textbooks I’ve got don’t include “aldrabões” in their word list! 😉

    DT, notice how you’ve taken things to a meaningless level of abstraction here. I’m not saying “all government regulations are bad.” I’m saying “the regulatory apparatus has been taken over and is being exploited by corrupt individuals and organizations to extract unearned profits from everyone else.” Do you notice the difference between these two statements?

    Forecasting, so noted!

  217. JMG,

    Let’s say you need just 5 individuals to successfully approve/endorse something consecutively and… do so by set deadlines in order to make an overall deadline for a project. Even if each person in that chain of 5 had a 90% chance of getting their job done on time the odds of making the overall project deadline isn’t good. (I think it’s 0. 9^5 but it doesn’t really matter since anyone who has tried making a consecutive series of bets work in their favor knows its a bad idea.)

    Time is the first thing lost and time is money.

  218. Hi John Michael,

    Hmm, I have some doubts about what you suggested with the fire services. From a crass economic perspective there’s not much cheaper labour than free volunteer labour. Nope, my thoughts in the matter were that the smaller number of paid folks in that service kind of forgot (or maybe were disinclined) to ask the hard question: Why would people volunteer their time? After all if those folks are paid, why encourage an environment which provides social dividends to members – that would be more work for those few folks. And a 12 hour shift where your life may be at risk, is no small impost. One day I may have to work that hard defending this property from fire, probably harder actually, especially if house insurance costs keep heading in the direction they are, but until that moment, I work hard, but I don’t work that hard. Risk mitigation is a job best done slowly over a long period of time.

    That’s possibly so about msn, but still it seems weird that they’d report on such matters in a sort of airy ‘oh it doesn’t really matter’ kind of tone. Every transaction which is made in other currencies is like sticking a knife into your economy, and other countries know it. This is why inflation is proving to be so resilient in western countries. And the responses to inflation makes the people with their fingers on the policy levers look greedy and weak to me.

    Oh, there is an interesting way out of this mess, and it’s doing something different. So on a nearby freeway break spot, there are some canny folks with a truck selling fruit and vegetables. All the signage is handwritten and made to be removed at short notice. Need I mention that this business is cracking? There were people everywhere. The return of the tinkers, huh? Hey, that would make a good essay title! 🙂



  219. I know the idea here is that the government is the pimp and the public are the johns and girls looking to transact. But I can’t get the idea out of my mind that the government is the john and the public are the girl. Since I can’t find a way to express this within the family-friendly rules of the blog, I’ll leave it up to people’s imagination what that means 🙂

  220. Meanwhile, here in NZ, the newly elected Coalition Government is starting to whittle away at the local lenocracy:

    Relevant quote:
    “[T]he Government is making three changes to the Building Act that will increase the availability of high-quality affordable building products and help lower the cost of building in New Zealand.

    These changes are:
    (1) Recognising building product standards from trusted overseas jurisdictions removing the need for designers or builders to verify standards, which is time-consuming and costly.
    (2) Requiring Building Consent Authorities to accept the use of products that comply with specific overseas standards that are equivalent to or higher than those in New Zealand.
    (3) Approving the use of building products certified through reputable certification schemes overseas. For example, the approval of one Australian scheme, Watermark, could immediately provide Kiwis with access to 200,000 products.”

    In a nutshell, let overseas lenocracies do the work of the local boys, saving the industry money.

    Well, that’s a start, anyway.

  221. Dear JMG,

    you provided me with the pleasure of staring at the headline and having no idea what that word meant. Apparently, we didn’t learn the right Latin vocabulary in school! By the way, my Ancient Greek dictionary doesn’t contain “pimp” either. Unreliable sources suggest “mastropos”, but mastropocracy doesn’t roll off the tongue as well as lenocracy. I could give other examples, but I think enough have already been given!

    @Liquefaction: thanks for the Business Insider link. It gave a fuller explanation for a phenomenon I asked about several free posts ago: why do small independent shops lose out against franchises every time? I suppose if a street has seen some prosperity at some point and hiked the rents, they are never* going down again and the population is doomed to a diet of franchises for ever*.

    * until a big crash and generalized bankruptcy

  222. The lenocracy in action: “FASFA mess erodes faith in education department,” from the Gainesville Sun v1a USA Today. This is student loan relief, and a tangled mess indeed. Read it and weep – or laugh, if you enjoy that sort of slapstick comedy. Impossible to summarize except to say “everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong.”

  223. Off-topic.

    I keep looking over to the pile I have accumulated regarding weaving—my weaving starter-kit items. The next thing is to open a particular cardboard box, of which I have slit and peeked in and know its contents. I keep looking over at the box. I don’t go over and take out what is in the box. I say, “What are you afraid of? It is only a box.” I have done this for two days. It is an important box, a monumental box, one that if I like weaving will change my life. I want to take photos of “the unboxing,” like idiots do who post UTub videos while opening a box.

    The box contains a toy loom. A tiny but full-fledged rigid-heddle child’s loom. How bad can it get? There is no tiger at the door waiting to eat me.

    I need to plan what to do after I take to loom out of the box. I plan to set the loom on the carpet. Then what? I shall name the parts—that is it. This is a front beam. This is a back beam. I may even get sticky notes to label the parts. This is a beater. That is a reed. This is a brake.

    I am terrified.

    I close my eyes and hark back to colonial days of the 1600s. I am—was—a thoroughly modern woman. I have been transported back 400 years, sitting on a stool in a 1620s Massachusetts house with a dirt/straw floor, next to a wooden spinning wheel, next to a soapmaker, butcher, baker, and candlestick-maker.

    I see the world I used to live in fall away. This is more than me taking up weaving. This is a world where there is radio but no television. Where there is wood but no plastic. Where there is a wringer/mangler on a washing machine but no spin cycle.

    I feel like bursting out crying. It FEELS like I remember colonial days. I *have* been there in a past life. I REALLY DO want to go back. I loved it there. But there is some unknown holding me back from fully embracing the multi-century difference.

    It is a world where the chickadees out my window, chattering their usual welcomes, are more important than my computer screen. Maybe. Oh man, this is hard.🙇🏼‍♀️I am up a warp without a weft.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🚿🪶🙇🏼‍♀️
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  224. BeardTree, could it be that China learned from the mistakes of others? I read in History Today that nobody ever learned from history and nobody ever will. Will China be that exceedingly rare exception?

  225. I remember back in the ADR days when Transition Towns seemed like a good idea to me. I recall reading up on the concept (I can’t recall exactly where, maybe the TT book itself), and noticing that the leaders of a TT should include a Chief Diversity Officer. Huh? At that point I wondered exactly how that could possibly be sustainable.

    So maybe DEI killed the TT……. 😉

  226. If you want to see Lenocracy (great term that) on steroids the new “beneficial ownership act” which targets small businesses with onerous and criminal penalties for registration and reporting supposedly to prevent money laundering. Predictably it does nothing to larger business whatsoever

    Two interesting things about the President Trump vetoed several versions of the bill . It would have done nothing to him but he saw it as extremely onerous and oppressive . Apparently the hunger for control and graft was so great he was overridden by the supposedly freedom orientated members of his own party

    Also the bill kind of slid under the radar but now that it it is filtering out its been shut down in several courts with very strong near “cause a revolution” type language and has creating a rapidly growing collation of of small business owners who are incandescent with rage. This may end up no exaggeration tens of millions strong

    This was a bridge much too far and all the usual you must be OK with drug dealers, traffickers and money launderers bleats are falling on deaf ears.

    How this will play out I do not know, its a new very fast moving thing but it reeks of potential catastrophic outcomes. You can grab millions of people’s rice bowl without consequences and its possible basically everyone will face constant primary challenges till its gone.

  227. GlassHammer, yep. And the more layers you add, the more failure you guarantee.

    Chris, what if it’s not a matter of saving money, but a matter of getting more paid jobs for union members and managerial employees?

    Simon, well, there’s that!

    Michael, that’s a step in the right direction, surely.

    Aldarion, the only term I could find for “pimp” in ancient Greek is πορνοβοσκός, pornoboskos, which translates out literally as “whore-seller” — the grand old English word “whoremonger” is an exact equivalent. Pornoboscocracy was a little too lumbering for my taste, though!

    Patricia M, I bet!

    Northwind, welcome to the world of past lives. Many women in those days did a lot of weaving, of course, and enjoyed it very much. Try to relax and get past the fear; what you’re experiencing is perfectly normal and healthy.

    Blue Sun, I missed that warning sign, but yeah, it’s one to watch out for.

    Simon, fascinating. I’ll look into it.

  228. @Smith #240. I think China is merely reverting to the system that governed it for centuries and centuries – a strong centralized government made of an educated bureaucratic elite with an emperor at the top that regarded China as “the Middle Kingdom” surrounded by subservient tribute paying countries. A variation on the master race theme that Germany and Japan attempted to implement back in the day. And that the English speaking peoples pulled off to a certain extent starting in 1815 and are now losing. The Chinese goal was to wisely and efficiently govern a country with a well managed free enterprise system and if that wasn’t happening then the government had lost the Mandate of Heaven and was due to be overthrown. In the late 1700’s the British ambassador refused to kowtow to the emperor saying he didn’t do that to his own king and not even in the temple of his Christian God. This symbolized the overthrow of China’s centrality. The current leader of China has publicly stated that 2049 is the target date for unmistakable Chines dominance of the world.
    I chuckled once at an experience my son had. He was conversing with a Chinese man in a bar. The man asked my son what his ethnic background was – he replied “British and German” the Chinese man said in reply “Oh, the two master races” I guffawed when I heard about this as through history China has repeatedly been the most powerful, advanced country in the world and they are now consciously aiming to have that happen again. I heard about this plan over 20 years from a Chinese high school student who was spending a year at an American high school. The book “The One Hundred Year Marathon” documents this. The marathon started in 1949

  229. So far, useful advice on how to deal with lenocracy appears to be rather scarce, apart from limiting ones aspirations to relatively unafflicted areas (don’t expect to open a store-front business on Main Street or sell baked goods at a farmers’ market or whatever) and preparing for the eventual collapse that the situation must eventually lead to.

    Here’s one small tidbit I have some experience with. Whenever a person with actual know-how tells you, “I’m not allowed to do [x] (for you), (and) (in fact) I’m not (even) allowed to advise you to do [x],” take careful note. It’s a particular verbal formula, used more and more frequently, whose meaning (“you should by all means do [x]”) is clear if you’re paying attention.

    You’re more likely to get such useful non-advice if you appear likely to be competent at the relevant task, but at the same time are respectful of the experienced person’s superior knowledge. You might even be able to ask questions: “Since I definitely won’t be doing [x], what thickness of flux tubing won’t I be needing any of?”

  230. > instead of giving funding to them and let them decide how it should be spent like adults, every little cent is allocated by a bureaucrat that has no idea how things work.

    While I was working on a contract in a naval dockyard, a Lieutenant-Commander asked me if I had noticed the many small warehouses dotted about the place. I looked around, and sure enough, there were many identical small warehouses. He explained that they really needed one big warehouse. It would be far more efficient. Unfortunately, they needed to get approval for the big warehouse, which would take forever, but were allowed to spend enough for a small warehouse without approval from higher up.

    Mind you, the higher-ups think that they are the ones being exploited. Flanders and Swann wrote a song about it, “The Gas-Man Cometh”

    T’was on the Monday morning, the gas man came to call,
    The gas tap wouldn’t turn, I wasn’t getting gas at all;
    He tore out all the skirting boards to try and find the main,
    And I had to call a carpenter to put them back again!
    Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do… etc etc ad infinitum

  231. > Industry funded some breeding research, as has USDA (with industry encouragement) for commodity crops (emphasis shipability, tolerance to mechanical picking/packing/pesticide-use and shelf life).

    These days they breed food for machines, not for people. It’s perverse.

  232. Thanks everyone for the enlightening discussion on what might be going on with commercial real estate. As someone looking to lease a building as part of a local food “disintermediation” project I’m certainly curious…

    I’m skeptical of the idea that landlords can write off imaginary rent as an expense against big-city holdings, but I certainly don’t know all corners of the tax code. It would seem that a lot of it comes down to speculative and assessed/appraised value – given the massive increases in speculative value in recent years holding property without earning rent is a bit like holding stocks that don’t pay dividends: not necessarily a bad idea especially given alternative investment options. It has to be a bubble, and at some level of vacancy and interest rates and inflation it has to pop – though no one wants to be the one to start it popping.

    One perspective I haven’t seen mentioned is simply the way a monopoly or a cartel (a few companies owning most of the properties) will make different self-interested short-term decisions that defy the expected supply and demand relationship. If I own an office building with a 50% vacancy rate and it’s my only property, I’ll lower rents incrementally to try to attract tenants from other buildings. But if I own most of the office buildings in town I won’t do that. The vacancy rate is not entirely or perhaps even primarily a function of rent costs – the rest of the economic situation being at least somewhat at fault – and rent would probably need to drop by 30-50% or more for a period of years to fill the space with new businesses. If I lower my rent by 10% I’m not going to fill the space – I’m just going to have my existing tenants move into the lower-rent spaces and leave others vacant, so now (at least in the short term) I still have a 50% vacancy rate with 10% less income.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to the collapse of this bubble, whenever it arrives. There is a lot that can be done in terms of disintermediation and rebuilding local economies once land and buildings become affordable again.

    And thanks JMG for the concept of government by pimps. It’s certainly part of a deeper structural phenomenon. Most of the “pimps” I know don’t want to be pimps and don’t see themselves as opportunists in that sense. They’re either just looking for stable jobs that pay well or they really believe in the rhetoric of diversity or public health or green building code or whatever they’re enforcing/inspecting and feel they are contributing to the betterment of society through their work. And across most levels of our society we seem to be OK with paying these folks multiples of what productive workers earn.

  233. Hi John Michael,

    That’s possible, but my involvement with that service was as a volunteer so I had no idea what was going on behind the scenes, oh and also of course dealing with the expensive consultants. Hmm. That union is pretty strong politically from what I’ve heard.

    Anyway, forget about that. I had a long hard think about how your real estate situation could work. Bear in mind, I’ve never seen such a thing happen, and this is pure speculation and most definitely not to be construed as financial advice, but I’m guessing what you might be seeing is this:

    So, say a big investor of whatever style entity buys an office block, or more likely a big distribution warehouse in a large city. When cash was cheap, and rents were high, especially if the rents were paid by big corporates that can afford them, the investor turns a profit. Plus in a ballooning property market, they may also be making an off the books profit on the capital appreciation.

    So, the investor is dealing with two profits, one of which is immediately taxable (rents greater than costs), and the other is taxable later as a capital gain upon the sale (your system may work differently though, dunno). The investor may also be getting a bit nervous about a lack of diversity in their asset portfolio. Fair enough too.

    The obvious risk with inflation is that cash is worth less all the time. That’s why the top end of town fears inflation, they’re not worried about you and I, yet. The excess cash the investor is receiving for the profit on the theoretical big city distribution centre is piling up as are the taxes on the profit. The investor faces a decision, build the asset base, sit on the cash and do nothing, or pay dividends. So, there they are scratching around with a bit of cash to burn and not much to fill their time when they see this el-cheapo (from their perspective) investment in a fly over country town commercial property. What’s not to like about it? From their perspective, it’s cheap. And if there’s a property bubble they can flip it to some other investor down the track for a nifty quick profit. But in the meantime, their asset portfolio is increasing, diversifying, the little investment is soaking up the excess cash and profits – even if the building remains empty. For them, due to the small value, the risk is low, but if there is continued capital growth, the returns are almost guaranteed. And best of all, they may not have to deal with a small town tenant.

    That’s my best guess at what you’re seeing. It only makes sense if the property bubble continues to inflate asset values. What did you once note about Sir Isaac Newton not being able to pick the top of the market for the South Seas Bubble? That dude was probably smarter than you or I.

    Waddyareckon? 🙂



  234. Dear JMG,
    You said : “for some reason the textbooks I’ve got don’t include “aldrabões” in their word list!”. Perhaps because aldrabões is plural. The singular would be aldrabão.
    And you’re right. When lenocracy grows enough that is the only way to do things. The problem is that it allows corruption to grow. The person that used a scam to make things work, even in all honesty, can’t denounce others that profit from corruption, because he/she would also be investigated and probably sent to jail.
    I had an esteemed teacher /master tell me once that I couldn’t be the spanking paddle of the world, but sometimes it is very hard not to succumb to the temptation of slapping some sense into people. (mostly politicians and bureaucrats).

  235. @Northwind Grandma #226,

    > I think I will be trying the “one hand for the ship, one hand for you” approach, instead, and find a hobby that could maybe earn a small income if successful, one day. Not really “some other way to make a living”, but more like a small insurance against unemployment.

    >Yep, that is a way to go. As a kid, did you ever dream of working with thus-and-so material?

    No, not really. The only thing I ever wanted to do, was writing. Non-fiction, mostly. Then the Internet came along, and now my writing would be competing with billions of SEO-optimized web pages. So I kind of let that dream go. Now I write instruction manuals.

    But I would like to try my hand at (classical) guitar building. The blueprint for a Torres-model guitar just came through the mail an hour or two ago. Only few luthiers can actually earn a living from it, but you can earn some extra cash doing repairs.

    >By the way, plumbers, if good at what they do, don’t mind grunge, are honest, get a good reputation (word of mouth), and are marginally verbal/marginally grumpy, can make a LOT of money, consistently.

    Yes, well, maybe. My father was a plumber and now that he is retired, he is more or less destitute. I am going to stay as far away from that job as possible.

  236. Walt, thanks for this. I can only draw on my own experience and that of others with whom I’ve discussed such things, of course, and most of that has to do with refusing to take part in lenocratized systems as much as possible. So your contribution is useful.

    Martin, of course. Once lenocracy becomes the general rule, everyone exploits everyone else until the whole system grinds to a halt.

    Mark, another interesting point. Thank you.

    Chris, interesting. Yes, I could see that too.

    Whispers, oh, I looked up the singular, too. I get the impression that instructional books for foreigners give a very cleaned-up version of Portuguese.

  237. “…the fact that [Graeber] didn’t lay out his preferred options in the form of a manifesto with bullet points doesn’t mean that it was too hard to figure out what his preferred option is.”

    “Preferred option(s)”, I think would be more accurate.

    Some of which would seem to me to be very well encapsulated with terms familiar in this space… such as “dissensus” or “disintermediation.”

    …and some of which would seem to me to be very eloquently depicted in the WOH novels. For example the “credit” with which Brecken and Sho discover they pay for the care of a sick young shoggoth is straight up everything Graeber wrote about in “Debt, the first 5000 years”. Then there are all the WOH “under the sheet” bottom up arrangements made by communities and networks of trust as they engage with one another getting busy about their own business, in their own way, without outside intermediation, and (if possible) without outside attention from authorities. These are exactly the kinds of arrangements that Graeber consistently gets interested in and excited about.

    I know that you have disagreements with him, and reasons that seem good to you for disagreeing with him. But, me, I’m just a reader. And each of you is a writer who I have found myself deeply resonating with. All I can say is that I have no reason to think Graeber would be other than comfortably at home in some of your own best imagined worlds… WOH, certainly, and also Retropia.

  238. JMG,

    The only other aspect of adding layers of decision makers that I think is worth noting (since I have seen it too many times to keep track of) is that data tends to get eliminated as it moves up chain so that at the end point of the chain you have the least complete set of data to work with. This happens for numerous reasons that are more mundane than malicious.

  239. Thanks for writing this one. We really loved it.

    We’re dealing with this very topic right now with our small herbal products company. Every couple of years, FDA insert themselves further into our business, and this time around it’s pretty obviously meant to squash everyone in the health products field who doesn’t toe their line. Considering the bevy of poisons they regularly approve to be sold by the millions of doses, their claim that basically everything we use “hasn’t been proven safe or effective” is transparent table-tilting. Not to mention that some of the things they’re requiring are way outside our financial wheelhouse.

    We won’t let them run us off, though. For now we’re just following the lead of the larger online herbal companies.

  240. I dont live in a small town to know about those shuttered main street businesses. But, I visit North Bend Oregon, which had at one point built an actual mall. It used to be anchored by a Macys and I think JC penneys ( was it one or both ? ) Anyway, it was down to one of them when I first went there, and a Sears appliance store and various small shops, a movie theatre. At this point it has as chain stores a JoAnn’s fabric and a discount store, I think Ross. The Sears appliance store shut down to. There must be different incentives for mall rentals though as various small businesses rent out spaces there, and alot of them oriented to children activities, a daycare, a video game place, some kinds of dance or martial arts. There are also a few selling local made craft goods, etc… I have been heartened by this as if it continues to make itself over into the kind of places a family could get some of its needs met in one spot, sounds good. Homeschool parent goes to one spot, picks up fabric, gets a few lessons out of the weather for a few of the kids. We will see how it continually evolves, I enter it maybe once a year for fabric when I am up there for a holiday.

    In my county, store fronts are rented out, the one town by me, last time I entered downtown had a number of high end used clothing stores added to the mix as that is fashionable shopping here, you know, where you get a shrunken mens cashmere sweater, one of the vintage thick ones, on sale for $35. Don’t laugh, the chain used stores dont have anything worth bothering for anymore, so I dont even go in, no use, they screen for good items to sell on Ebay or resellers scoop up. People literally buy stuff at the independent used senior run store by the bag to resell on their front lawn “garage sale”, or so someone mentioned when I stepped in there this week. Anyway, that downtown has expensive shops and resteraunts in general and one bookstore left, tourist and college town.

  241. JMG thanks for making me laugh! I’ve often been accused ” you must be from NYC or an artist” due to my humor over things going badly! I have always loved your words and those in the comments. Helix #210 – same with farmers mkts here. North Wind Grandma would be proud of me (?). Having assessed the damaged wall due to roof failure in that section, the immediate need to install the 1913 woodstove and no point running it through the roof, i got to work. Clean tarp to protect wood floor, build 4 concrete forms, pour concrete forms inside house, cure, pop them out. Arrange on tarp, sized to distribute weight of concrete pads & stove over strongest beams under floor. Design to code the chimney pipes from stove, out the wall, T up vertically to meet code. Hippy friends come over, we set the stove on the pads, connect all pipes & light it up to test. Then the new neighbor guy calls the city. Ok. One of my 5 principles of Wealth kicks in; establishing good solid face to face relationships over time. The city holds him off, two inspectors arrive and I pass mechanical interior A+++. Outside inspection; they’re ok with the two large round steel poles telescoped, bolted and concreted in three ft deep. The flim flam used to secure the Class A chimney to the vertical pole – not so much. I found a fantastic fabricator 40 miles away, drew up my design we collaborated and made it so. My ranching friend and I spent five hours up on ladders and got that sucker clamped. The inspectors were amazed, said the setup would survive a Cat 5 and last longer than the house. And BTW I work with The Stove Hospital in RI for maintaining and caring for the 1913 Glenwood. My heart has wanted to know, can I do this stuff? Can i deprogram my hideous urban suburban noisy consumer upbringing? Can I sit quietly and allow grounded creativity to flow through me, step by step? Can I forgive myself for mistakes and keep learning? The answer so far appears Yes.

  242. JMG,
    It is interesting that one particular comment brings out all the ants out of the woodwork. But then again, everyone lives on some patch of earth – and it is rarely just or fair. Land ownership being so easily leveraged for rent seeking has long been a thorn in the side of ‘harmonious’ society. Maybe this touched one of those old, sensitive, sacred nerves .

  243. Scotlyn, no doubt, but I simply modeled that on arrangements that were once common among American alternative communities — I wasn’t advocating that everyone else ought to do it. (And those were also fantasy novels, you know; in our world, a lot of systems like that turned out to be about as successful as attempting to conjure up Great Cthulhu from the deeps…)

    GlassHammer, good heavens — I hadn’t even thought about the interaction between lenocracy and Hagbard’s Law!

    That’s the principle you described, btw, and it’s a massive reality in any hierarchical system.

    Grover, of course. Their job is to keep you from competing against the big corporate combines.

    Atmospheric, interesting. Thanks for the data point.

    Joseph, maybe so — or maybe there’s something going on with all that empty square footage that wouldn’t bear the light of day. There are a lot of paid shills on the internet these days.

  244. In the classical world, the leno would have been someone who owned a brothel which was staffed by slaves. More like that screaming Chinese madam than like today’s street pimps.

  245. Martin@247
    Chris Van Tulleken “Ultra-Processed People: The Science behind Food that isn’t Food” gives a good and well-referenced review. Also Mark Bittman “Animal, Vegetable, Junk” and Montgomery and Bikle “What Your Food Ate”. These can be found in some libraries, while providing lenocracy demonstrations, plus clues about how to bypass (grow your own, learn to cook).

  246. JMG – One other hypothesis about vacant real-estate. There may be a developer with a plan to redevelop a large tract. But, it’s currently owned by multiple parties, who will demand top dollar if they know that their parcel is crucial to the Grand Plan. So, the developer creates a number of anonymous subsidiary companies to buy up the properties one-by-one, until (Monopoly-style), they get all the squares of a color, and can start building. They might leave the old buildings standing vacant, or demolish them one-by-one, but nothing new can start until the last seller folds. It takes time.

    Now, if the market situation (expected expenses, rents, and interest rates) change significantly during the acquisition phase, the Grand Plan may need to wait… and wait.

  247. ” I simply modeled that on arrangements that were once common among American alternative communities — I wasn’t advocating that everyone else ought to do it”

    You did a lovely job in WOH of describing arrangements once common among American communities, and you were able to do that because your interest in history has given you a deep knowledge of the breadth and depth of “dissensus” in human arrangements over time. Graeber has done (IMHO) a lovely job of describing arrangements once common in many different parts of the world because his interest in anthropology gave him a deep knowledge of the breadth and depth of “dissensus” in human arrangements across cultures. Both of you are (were, in his case) capable of searching far and wide, and finding and conveying detailed examples of the many and variable ways in which humans can, and do, and have, arranged things among themselves.

    You write novels, and Graeber did not. He wrote monographs (or extended meditations on wider collections of similarly themed monographs). Both of you provide rich fodder for imagination, neither of you provide manuals for action.

    Still, you appear to be sincerely convinced that Graeber is someone who “advocated [w]hat everyone else ought to do”. If this were true, then I would certainly understand and agree with your reaction.

    As I personally do not find this view of Graeber’s work to be well founded, I suggest that we agree to disagree on this point, trusting in the greater context…

    Which is the strong encouragement for dissensus so happily to be found on this forum. 🙂 😉

    Thank you!

  248. JMG – A few words of wisdom from “our betters” about the upcoming solar eclipse. A representative of the Smithsonian Institution advised radio listeners that if they don’t have filtered glasses safe for looking UP at the eclipse, they could look down and see images of the eclipse projected on the ground by the gaps between the leaves of trees. Hello? It’s April. The trees do not yet have leaves! How oblivious to the natural world must one be to not know this?

    The Virginia Department of Transportation advises motorists 1. not to try to see the eclipse overhead while driving, and 2) not to drive while wearing eclipse-viewing glasses. If the person giving that advice had ever worn eclipse-viewing glasses, they would know that, unless looking directly at the Sun, the wearer sees nothing at all. Still, this is the only state I’ve driven in that has “no left turn” signs at the bottom of entrance ramps to its interstate highways.

    Somebody earned a salary coming up with these tidbits of wisdom.

  249. Now that I am (finally) caught up, this is a very appropriate topic for one of those “sign o’the times” anecdotes: in late January it was $10 USD less for me to order a pearwood soprano (descant) recorder from Kent, UK than anywhere here in the USA – and ordering from overseas got me free shipping as well … and as the cherry-on-top it arrived here in Florida before the other parts of my order! It made it across the pond and through customs before the warehouse in Georgia (one state away) even sent the music stand out the door. (yes, this was all through that big online company named after a big river.)
    Go figure.

    To Pygmycory, a recorder update: As the above-mentioned purchase may indicate, I discovered the inexpensive plastic soprano recorder that I (unaffectionately) nicknamed Little Squeaky was NOT in tune. After ponying up for a Yamaha plastic recorder as well as the little pearwood Hohner soprano (from the UK, and that STILL seems so weird to me) and practicing daily now for going on the fourth month straight, and hubby says he has no objection to hearing me practice. In fact, he sounded a bit proud of me the other week when he told our friend, “She’s definitely improving.”
    I’ve made my way through a more-modern method book, which was okay, and discovered my other method book – found at the same small town independent music shop I found my lovely wood Hohner tenor – is an absolute CLASSIC. Writing credit is “the Trapp family singers,” with a forward by Maria von Trapp. Yes, THAT Trapp family – the inspiration for the musical/movie The Sound of Music. Almost none of the tunes in the lessons are familiar to me, but that’s part of the appeal. Some searching via Google found the 2nd book in the series for F recorders (sopranino, alto, and eventually bassette), which I decided to get from a specialty sheet music store in Chicago as opposed to the big-river-online-behemoth, especially since half of the reviews on the big place’s page said they received the wrong book.
    On a whim, I ordered two booklets titled “95 Dexterity Exercises and Dances” for both C and F recorders (G. Rooda) … and wow. Hubby says just the first section of exercises all about intervals is already having a good effect. It probably helps that I find the fifths and sixths to be pleasant and melodic.

  250. Further to what Chris noted above, there are two significant issues that explain the empty buildings without needing any nefarious motives:
    1. Landlords themselves have to deal with the lenocracy, and that is a significant, often insurmountable issue. I have worked alongside landlords as a structural engineering consultant trying to help them get their buildings occupied, and it is a herculean task with often a little to no upside comparative to the effort involved. There are overwhelming fire codes, accessibility requirements, parking requirements, building use limitations, insurance requirements (building, liability, loss of income), public damage/nuisance, and then hopefully if you can sort all of that your tenant actually survives and doesn’t go bust themselves (highly likely with smaller leases). And heaven help you if some sort of heritage organisation gets leverage over your property. Then, having dealt with all that your tenant will regularly want to make changes to the building to change with their business, which triggers a re-evaluation off all the above and the circus repeats at huge cost in time, even if not money if you can make the tenant pay, to you as a landlord. Making a profit in commercial real estate is not easy.
    2. Compounding this, is the fact that profit is not a significant driver in most commercial endeavours, real estate especially so. The real motivation is asset _growth_, and that is very much not the same thing as profit. In fact, profit is a problem because that is almost universally taxable, and tax paid is potential growth lost to the government. Beyond the (relatively modest in comparison to the asset values) money needed for day-day living of the owners or investors all profit is sunk back into the businesses or investment to avoid tax. If your business is real estate, that means buying anything and everything you can that will appreciate in value, not matter what it or where it is. And as long as it continues to appreciate, even a few percent a year on a the value of a building will easily eclipse the potential income from a small lease, and without any of the hassle of organise or maintaining tenant.

    As a further note, the landlords I worked with, (admittedly smaller companies or syndicates – but that is very common, corporate landlords are rarer that you might think), every one of them were just as annoyed by the limitations imposed by the lenocracy as anyone else. Maybe more so because they hit it every day. The perverse incentives that drive them to leave the buildings empty is hugely frustrating, both because it is, if even small, a lost opportunity for the investments. But they are also not bad people, and generally do care about doing ‘the right thing’. Sometimes the ‘right thing’ in their minds can be quite misguided, but it rarely involves being satisfied by leaving a building empty.

  251. Although I would not put my talents at word-invention on a par with our illustrious host, a couple of posts early in this thread put me in mind of a word for the typically arrogant PMC minion that has long lingered in my head: Bureausticrat (“bureaucrat” + “aristocrat”).

  252. Lathechuck-I work at university that is essentially hoarding buildings. They faced serious holdouts when expanding about 50 years ago, so lesson learned. Outside the buildings look decent, but they are often future tear-downs that would cost millions to bring up to code.

  253. @JMG #260 re: Hagbard’s Law

    Too true! A student of mine recently brought my attention to something I hadn’t seen for years, a poem from the Jargon File referencing this very law in humorous fashion (found here, though something has gone hinky with the formatting):

    In the beginning was the plan,
    and then the specification;
    And the plan was without form,
    and the specification was void.

    And darkness
    was on the faces of the implementors thereof;
    And they spake unto their leader,
    “It is a crock of s***,
    and smells as of a sewer.”

    And the leader took pity on them,
    and spoke to the project leader:
    “It is a crock of excrement,
    and none may abide the odor thereof.”

    And the project leader
    spake unto his section head, saying:
    “It is a container of excrement,
    and it is very strong, such that none may abide it.”

    The section head then hurried to his department manager,
    and informed him thus:
    “It is a vessel of fertilizer,
    and none may abide its strength.”

    The department manager carried these words
    to his general manager,
    and spoke unto him
    “It containeth that which aideth the growth of plants,
    and it is very strong.”

    And so it was that the general manager rejoiced
    and delivered the good news unto the Vice President.
    “It promoteth growth,
    and it is very powerful.”

    The Vice President rushed to the President’s side,
    and joyously exclaimed:
    “This powerful new software product
    will promote the growth of the company!”

    And the President looked upon the product,
    and saw that it was very good.

  254. “the interaction between lenocracy and Hagbard’s Law!” – JMG

    Yeah that interaction is very real, the best thing the decision makers can do is plagiarize the thoughts of someone way down the chain who is much closer to the task at hand. Honestly it’s the theft of ideas that keeps the lenocracy going.

  255. Hi John Michael,

    Many people make the assumption that people are seeking an immediate return on their cash, but that’s not necessarily so. I’d suggest that people don’t know what to do with excess cash. And for all we know, bonuses get paid to people making those decisions about buying up small shop fronts based on the size of the asset pool, or the net assets, maybe not even the returns. Nobody really knows.

    Dude, what you wrote about this week is a painful subject for me. I run my own small business, and work with small businesses. Every man and their dog wants a slice of the action. For your info I pay subscriptions and fees to: the tax office; the tax practitioners board; the cpa; and there are heaps of software subscriptions. Plus don’t forget the insurances which I have to have. One eleventh of every dollar brought in is taxed as a goods and services tax. 11% of my salary gets sucked into the financial system. Taxes are about maybe a quarter to a third of my salary, I don’t recall.

    Recently the nice telco company decides to switch off 3G, so I’ve gotta get new phones, despite the old ones working. There’s cost there.

    Someone in the comments above referenced a big consulting firm. Well turns out there was some alleged mischief there with that lot. Nothing I did. Now I have to do ten hours of ethics training every three years, probably at my expense. I presume the folks making that decree realise I’m not earning during the training? What do they care?

    You know I refuse to fly anywhere. Except I’m demanded to have a passport if I want to use some of the services, because presumably they want my biometric data.

    We have kpi’s to ensure that 85% of our clients lodge their returns on time, or else there are penalties for our business. So now we’ve gotta chase people, which looks a lot like cost shifting to me.

    All I want to do is work. The professional association has in the past sent me articles saying I should outsource some of the work to low cost overseas places. Mate, all I want to do is an honest days work, but all these nice folks taking a cut are driving down my profitability. I ain’t living large.

    Every single knife wound is presented as: this is just a small impost. But with enough knife wounds, you kill the carcass. And that’s where it is headed. When I hear of people leaving the profession, or having trouble getting staff, I think to myself: Well, what did they all expect?

    So yeah, maybe I’m a bit bitter about this. Good things can be killed off, and this is going on right across our civilisation. It won’t end well. How could it?

    Grump! Grump! Grump!


  256. Patricia, fair enough. I had to make use of the vocabulary available to me.

    Lathechuck, I could see that in specific situations, but as a pervasive reality all over flyover country?

    Scotlyn, oh, I’m entirely comfortable with disagreement. In fact, I’m quite happy being disagreeable. 😉

    Lathechuck, even for the Smithsonian, that’s impressively stupid. (There was a time when the Smithsonian had people writing for it who could think their way out of a wet paper bag, but that was a long time ago…)

    KM Gunn, fascinating. That suggests that the Big Slimy River may be losing control of its systems.

    Daniel, interesting. Thanks for this.

    Alan, hmm! That’s pretty good.

    Jeff, ha! Yes, I’d encountered that quite a few years ago. It’s stood the test of time very well.

    GlassHammer, and then they garble what they’ve stolen because they have no access to the context…

    Chris, I hear this sort of thing from every single person I know who’s involved in a small business, unless it’s entirely under the table.

  257. Sometimes I feel like organized religion has a lot in common with the lenocracy. It’s done a lot of people a lot of good but personally I can’t stand the idea of having to go through a middle man to get in the right side of the gods. It’s like someone trying to help me eat. Maybe if I’m paralyzed or an infant, but otherwise get your hand out of my face!

  258. JMG: “It was your choice of metaphor I was challenging, though.”
    Yes, my unfortunate choice of metaphors invited readers to infer that I was invoking inevitable progress when I wasn’t. Sigh. I’ll be more careful about that.

  259. Hello Mr. Greer,

    If you have not done so already, you might want to check out the most recent round of Oregon farmers/gardeners versus their government. In a nut shell the state is trying to implement the whole “we need to shut down private gardens and small farms to stop climate change” argument. They want to redefine all such private ventures as commercial farms that need expensive permits, so no more hobby farms or home steading. Oh, and well water now counts as a public resource, which is why you can’t use it to water your garden. Oregon has a great climate for that kind of activity so this is really unfortunate. Luckily they are receiving a lot of push back and I think will drop this enforcement, but the constant legal battles to own chickens or keep a garden when living in a rural county with ample rain is a great example of the gardens are bad articles you mentioned.

  260. @Robert Morgan
    Oh how I wish I had seen that video 20 years ago. I, too, went into a phd program naively thinking it was about knowledge and learning and with the biographies of famous scientists filling my head. I’m in the US, she is in Germany, but the system is the same. Except that she says “overhead” is 15-50%. At the institution where I studied it was 55%. That’s right: more than half of the money from any research grant goes to the pimps. I am no longer in academia. I am working a blue-collar job, in a very small company – All of us techs who also have additional admin duties, so no overhead staff to support.

    Btw: my work is related to the sickness maintenance industry and I can tell you all that stuff other commenters have written about rural hospitals being pillaged by finance companies is as bad as they say if not worse. Several of our customers have recently been swallowed up by a particular company that is really bad about paying their vendors. A guy who was facilities manager at one of the hospitals told us NO vendors were being paid. And when he couldn’t get parts/supplies he needed because vendors wouldn’t sell to someone they know isn’t going to pay, management told him “just find new vendors”.

    Looking at leaf pattens to observe the eclipse would work great here in Texas where the trees are in full leaf. (I have some great pictures of leaf projections from last year’s partial eclipse) Perhaps the advice was meant to be general, not just your specific location?

    @anyone. A data point on the housing bubble: where I am, it has not yet burst but is leaking air.

    The bubble: House prices in the neighborhood I live in doubled and in some cases tripled from 2018 to 2023. The place I am renting is typical: pier and beam, built in 1930s 1300ish sqft and mostly non-english-speaking neighborhood. Last year, hoping to buy, I looked at a similar property…it got 6 offers on it the day it came on the market and sold for 10% higher than the listing price. I didn’t even make an offer.
    The leak: The last two months I have seen prices dropping. Instead of multiple offers and bids higher than listing price, I am seeing listings stay on the market for a month or so, then they start saying “price reduced $5k” here and “price reduced $10k” there. Not huge reductions (yet) but vastly different from this time last year.

  261. Thanks JMG, for providing a name for some of my bitter life experiences in Pharmacy–
    When I read, several years ago, that people were taking bus trips from the US to Canada to buy insulin, and that other Americans were dying because they could not afford it. I tried to set up a partnership with a US independent Pharmacist I knew to send Rx drugs from Canada to the US. It would have met all the regulatory requirements of both countries, and still cut costs in the US by 60%, even including shipping.
    All I had to do was to get the US State Board of Pharmacy( where I am also licensed) to agree that my Province was equivalent to a US State for purposes of filling Rxs.
    I wanted a long term deal, or at least a 1 year trial that would generate a report at the end on how it went.
    The US State Board would not even put it on their board meeting agenda, though I tried several times. So much worse than just saying ‘No.’
    There are rolling drug shortages in Canada now for easily manufactured drugs. What will happen to the drug supply if China, Russia and/or the US begins a shooting war that disrupts supply chains to the other side of the world? Canada could make all its own drugs and raw ingredients, and ship the excess to the US if needed. But the structure of interlocking kickbacks– err, I meant regulations of course– makes it impossible to start a new company for this, even in Ontario.

  262. Leaning on NZ Lenocrats (part II):

    Minister Van Velden Seeks Alternatives To Ease Financial Burden On FENZ Levy Payers
    Sunday, 7 April 2024, 4:21 pm
    Press Release: New Zealand Government

    “I am seeking a commitment from Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ) to cost savings where appropriate to keep levies affordable for New Zealand households and businesses,” Internal Affairs Minister Hon Brooke van Velden says.

    Today FENZ released its consultation document and recommended an increase to the fire insurance levy. In response to FENZ’s recommendation, the Minister wrote to FENZ seeking a solution that will ensure continuity of services, that costs are fairly apportioned, and that levy revenue will be managed responsibly.

    “I recognise Fire and Emergency carries out critical frontline services and needs enough funding to do so. However, I also consider it important that FENZ demonstrates a high level of accountability. I also acknowledge that it is levy payers – individuals, households, and businesses – who will pay for any increase.”

    I am not yet convinced that such an increase is justified, and have asked FENZ for the following information:

    * Evidence of FENZ’s need for a 5.2% levy revenue increase for 2026-2029, especially given the already substantial 12.8% increase that will apply from July 2024;
    * A description of the key outcomes that this increase would achieve, and that FENZ would be held accountable for achieving;
    * An analysis of options for lesser levy revenue increases that FENZ could operate under, that minimise the financial burden on levy payers while still allowing the organisation to provide the required services and invest in future needs; and
    * The impacts of those lesser options on FENZ and the services it provides.

    “I encourage the public to provide feedback during consultation as this will be an important consideration when the Government makes its final decision on the levy. I am interested in the impacts the levy will have on those who it applies to, and how it could affect behaviour.”

    “This coalition Government is focused on making fiscal decisions that will drive greater value from spending, so that we can deliver better public services for all New Zealanders.”

    Rhetoric or reality? We will find out as time goes by …..

  263. Northwind Grandma: Those of us who have lived in Wisconsin our entire lives are quite accustomed to the first two to four weeks of spring being “winter-spring”. Based on the upcoming weather forecasts, I am actually pleasantly surprised by how early “winter-spring” is ending this year. Though I can only hope that doesn’t mean that we are in for another subtropical 2018-type summer {shudder}!

  264. “they garble what they’ve stolen because they have no access to the context” – JMG

    Exactly, its why hearing them explain both the problem and the solution always sounds a bit off. It’s also why we often think their proposed solution is a lie, it just sounds too unclear to be the truth.

    And they intuitively know they can’t verbalize the details so they spend a great deal of time making the presentation either a.) entertaining or b.) making the presentation so loaded with jargon and symbols that no reader/listener can question it without looking foolish.

  265. KVD, a case could be made!

    Stephen, some links would be useful. Thanks in advance!

    Piglet, thanks for the real estate data point!

    Emmanuel, yep. I’m quite sure there’s money changing hands under the table to guarantee the sky-high prices we pay for medicine down here.

    Michael, hmm! Here’s hoping.

    GlassHammer, as the saying goes, if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshale. Since the lenocracy is short on brilliance, the latter option gets applied freely.

  266. Orange Exiguous Piglet: I know that there are places where the leaves are out, but this story was presented as a feature by the local NPR station in Washington DC. With as much fanfare as the blooming cherry trees get, you’d think that they’d notice that trees bloom well before they leaf out. In my own yard, I see pear, apple, maple, and oak trees … all without a single leaf.

  267. The mystery if vacant CRE is no mystery at all. Twenty years of ZIRP and Brrrr positioned those closest to the printing press access to free money. When the cost if money at %0-1% makes every stupid idea look smart. CRE has to refinance on a completely different level than SFH or small Multy Family. The loans must be refinanced according to contract by March 2025. Most companies know that process has to start now (March 2024) because the assets are counted as debt liability and no CFO wants that. The cost of money to refi shot up in 2022, Covid demonstrated persons could work from home, QT has contracted the money supply and every CFO knows; time to cut costs and for many fire saling buildings and/or handing the building back are remedies because Powell has made it abundantly clear: Higher for longer and he’s not backing down. The punch bowl has officially been removed. CRE is in the teeth of post covid work from home higher refi rates and QT money contraction (and that 18+ month lag is ongoing). CRE won’t ‘recover’ until 2040.

  268. @Lathechuck #265,

    I do not know if the radio broadcast that the Smithsonian rep spoke on was intended to be a local broadcast or a national one (and not that I want to defend the Smithsonian… I cancelled my subscription to them many years ago), but if it was intended to be for national consumption, the advice of observing the eclipse by observing shadows on the ground (projected through the gaps between leaves) is valid for some parts of the country. In South Carolina, many trees start leafing out before the Spring Equinox. We did not have a late frost this year, so most of our trees are fully leafed out already. I suspect that is true for other states near our latitude or lower.

  269. daniel @ 267. Thank you! Finally, finally someone said it out loud, so to speak.

    “the fact that profit is not a significant driver in most commercial endeavors, real estate especially so. The real motivation is asset _growth_, and that is very much not the same thing as profit. In fact, profit is a problem because that is almost universally taxable,”

    I think, for what it might be worth, my opinion only, tax avoidance is the excuse, not the reason. I do grant that tax avoidance is a fun game at certain levels of affluence, but if seems to me, that what property owners are about is establishing a modern equivalent to feudal appanages.

  270. JMG, it doesn’t need to be money changing hands, so crass and easily traceable. Favors, more likely, job for a cousin, place in a prestigious school for your kid, invites to exclusive clubs, etc. etc.

    Since the works of the late Mr. Graeber are attracting quite a bit of attention, and might possibly become influential, would you consider a post about those ideas? I read about half of the book on prehistory. What I got out of that much was Graeber is not an anthropologist nor a prehistorian, not that one must be “expert” to read and draw conclusions; that he was at pains to point out that enslavement long predated the institution in historical times; and that he was buying into the recent canard about hunter gather life being so much healthier and well just more fun than farming. Echoes of Marx’s comment about the idiocy of rural life abound recently. As for that, H/G might be fun and rewarding just so long as there is game to be hunted, and we all know what happened to prehistoric big game. My educated I hope guess is that horticulture, precursor to farming, was developed by women anxious to keep their children alive.

    As for the peculiar institution, I do believe a moral distinction can be made between maintaining a certain group of people in a state of poverty and dependence–the Helots of Sparta are the classic example–and the actual buying and selling of human beings. I read somewhere it was the Hyksos, Shepheard Kings, who dreamed up that practice, which after their expulsion from Egypt, they introduced into the rest of the Mediterranean world, where it was taken up with enthusiasm by all parties. Be that as it may have been, it seems to be quite a trend lately to obscure the difference between enslaved persons on the one hand and serfs and Helots on the other.

  271. @Stephen #276

    I live in Oregon and am fairly intimately involved in local food systems, and I had to do some searching to figure out what you are talking about. I assume you’re alluding to the sudden enforcement of water law against the smallest farmers in the Eugene area (e.g. and the policy change to redefine homestead-scale animal operations as CAFOs that is currently in litigation (

    My own interpretation of this is less political (i.e. related to a broader agenda to shut down small farms to prevent climate change or some such) and more that it is a symptom of the ever-expanding lenocracy trying to insert itself into aspects of the economy that have so far escaped notice and regulation. (Those of us in the world of “certified organic” agriculture are dealing with a rapid metastasis of rules and fee schedules being handed down by the various levels of bureaucracy that manage certification, which has much the same feel to it.)

    This all stops, I would say, when a critical mass of people stand up to say that they are simply not going to follow the rules, backed up by local law enforcement agreeing that they will not prosecute rule-breakers and will obstruct any would-be higher-up enforcers from doing so. We saw some of that in the rebellion against covid-era mandates and I hope to see much more of it moving forward.

  272. I keep running into some version of this every time I try to go into business for myself; I’ve decided to stop trying. Recently I was going to buy a business that the owner was planning to close down; she had two shops and was too busy to manage them both. So she was going to fire her staff and shutter the storefront. It was totally turnkey; I was willing to just step in and pay for it out of the profits, and then her landlords called me and told me that since I had no collateral, they weren’t going to renew the lease and collect rent, but accept an empty storefront instead. I couldn’t wrap my head around how that made any sense at all at the time.

    As obnoxious as every employee in the country finds DEI trainings, I really don’t think paying a trans influencer to endorse your product is a “woke-inspired self-immolation,” and if the influencer were from any other minority demographic you’d see the right-wing freakout for what it really was.

  273. @Mary Bennett #286 – I think everyone here in Deep Dixie understands both, if you translate the terms into modern English. Especially those whose forebears got the short end of that stick. The process went: Slavery – abolition- reconstruction – the compromise that ended reconstruction – the imposition of serfdom. A medieval villein and a black sharecropper would understand each other instantly. Maya Angelou’s autobiography is a good reference for that. Yup. Some patterns repeat themselves over and over again.

  274. Humor says it all: “Subject: In Controversial Ruling, Supreme Court Deems Enlisted Members ‘People’
    Thomas lone dissent, “Enlisted force lacks sufficient finances to be ‘people'” From The Duffel Blog.

  275. @ Chris at Fernglade #272

    “I presume the folks making that decree realise I’m not earning during the training?”

    I totally hear ya on this one.

    I recently had to travel to Dublin to do two back to back courses, one of them involved learning useful stuff from a real master, which may have immediate applicability in the clinic, the other one involved repeating a First Aid course imposed as a professional membership requirement.

    I was fascinated by the differences in the two courses.
    1) the professional/clinical learning course, attended mostly by self-employed acupuncturists like myself, who are loath to sacrifice clinic days, was held at the weekend, and every minute of every day was jam-packed as full as possible so as to provide good learning value to us who wanted and desired to be there, and moreover were giving up our own weekends, and prepared to pay for it ourselves.
    2) the First Aid course, attended mostly by employed people whose employers were paying for the course was poorly attended, was held on weekdays (for which such employed attenders were paid, while I was prevented from earning), and most lackadaisical in time-keeping and presentation. Almost knowing that no one really wanted to be there, the tutors were letting us go at 3.30pm, after lengthy breaks and lunch hours – and can you spell wasted, wasted time? Because here I was, stuck in a strange city, having to kill even more time, pay to eat and sleep, and not earn, in order to attend a course that no one actually wants to attend, but happens to be a legal or regulatory requirement for every workplace.

    Most importantly, there was no such thing as a “course evaluation” for us to fill out at the first one. We knew we were in the presence of an individual with demonstrated mastery of the subject! At the second course, we were given more time to fill out the “course evaluation” sheet than to do the exam.

    Anyway, that second one is one I won’t have to do again for another whole two years! Lol!

  276. @Mary Bennett #287
    ” I do believe a moral distinction can be made between maintaining a certain group of people in a state of poverty and dependence–the Helots of Sparta are the classic example–and the actual buying and selling of human beings. ”

    It seems that the Helots were considered to be the property of the Spartan state, not of private individuals, the which maintained them in a state of poverty and servitude, and also as human prey (see the quote below, and also the rites of the institution called the “krypteia”).

    Or, so says historian and blogger, Bret Devereaux, who also wrote the following about the matter of Spartan helots here:

    “But the final word on if we should consider the helots fully non-free is in their sanctity of person: they had none, at all, whatsoever. Every year, in autumn by ritual, the five Spartan magistrates known as the ephors (next week) declared war between Sparta and the helots – Sparta essentially declares war on part of itself – so that any spartiate might kill any helot without legal or religious repercussions (Plut. Lyc. 28.4; note also Hdt. 4.146.2). Isocrates – admittedly a decidedly anti-Spartan voice – notes that it was a religious, if not legal, infraction to kill slaves everywhere in Greece except Sparta (Isoc. 12.181). As a matter of Athenian law, killing a slave was still murder (the same is true in Roman law).”

  277. @Mary Bennet @287: Yes, David Graeber was an anthropologist, in fact a professor of anthropology. Or did you mean that he wasn’t an archaeologist? That’s what his co-author David Wengrow is.

    I agree with you that the book is ideologically loaded towards the success of small-scale and temporary arrangements over the large-scale and more permanent arrangements that came to supplant them in most places. They like to describe the exceptions.

  278. Sheila, that’s certainly a factor. I remain curious as to what else might be involved — though if lots of those empty spaces suddenly hit the market now that interest rates are up, I’ll certainly take that into account.

    Mary, doubtless there are favors, too. I’ll consider a post on Graeber’s ideas but I tend to avoid such things — it requires a lot of research, and by and large people aren’t going to change their minds no matter what I say.

    Jiminy, Bud Light shed 25%-30% of its market in a matter of months, and lost its status as the top selling beer brand in the country. The boycott at this point has extended to the whole range of Anheuser-Busch brands, and AB as a whole has lost a chunk of market share, with comparable impacts on income. Now we’ve got plenty of big corporations shedding their DEI departments and adjusting their ad campaigns to a more centrist stance, instead of constantly pandering to the 8% or so of Americans who support the far-left “woke” agenda. Quite a successful “freakout,” wouldn’t you say?

    Patricia M, funny.

  279. @Patricia M. There is a rich vein to be explored in military humor. If this is not too off-topic or too undruidly, my fave by far was the DYI military remedy for getting rid of scabies using a safety razor, lighter fluid and an ice pick. And that’s my contribution for this week.

  280. Re: woke/anti-woke and other political polarities

    What I see here is that both sides are feeding the progression of lenocracy which looks something like:

    reasonable concern -> media hullaballoo -> major outrage -> pass new laws -> write new rules -> hire more bureaucrats -> voila more pimps to pay to get anything done

    DEI, climate change, environmental protection, food safety, lead paint and asbestos, accessibility for disabled folks, customs controls, TSA screenings, you name it…

    Systemically, it would seem, the path away from lenocracy involves letting go of the need to *control* other people in response to our various concerns, and instead building shared values and trust and community accountability while also accepting that we will never be perfectly safe and that’s OK.

  281. @ Stephen #276
    I have been seeing this ” Oregon is shutting down small farms” shtick pop up on you tube now recently. It seems to me like a straw man argument to use a few unrelated events to create a narrative with some kind of agenda.
    The first random event seems to be related to a change in the laws regarding ” confined animal feeding operations.” Up until recently Oregon did not have any laws with respect to this. Then a few years ago a rich meth-addicted dutchman started up a huge dairy in Eastern Oregon ( Lost Creek Dairy I believe). There were so many cows and such poor liquid manure handling that the homes and farms nearby had their wells and water resources ruined but for a long time Oregon did no have any laws on the books to shut it down. Evently these CAFO rules were put in place primarily to regulate the proper handling of the liquid manure created in these huge operations. Last week I actually pulled up and followed the regulatory flow chart that was created to lead a farmer through the process of determining if they were running a CAFO. The questions were about how many animals ( al lot) and how many. month of the year ( most) and if you generated liquid manure ( or old fashioned straw based handling) . It seemed very sensible to me and I think the notion that a dozen goats in a gravel floored shed would be regulated is farfetched.
    The other argument that well water required water rights has been true for over 100 years. You can water a certain amount of acerage, with a well ( the kitchen garden) but beyond that you have always needed water rights, and also if you get the water from a creek or river.
    I have seen quite a bit of confusion with throwing around the idea that “commercial” operations are exempt so the poor small farmer are being picked on. But that is because the normal water rights system applies to agriculture and there are few ” commercial” operations on farm areas in Oregon ( check Oregons land use laws). Those commercial operations that use large amounts of water ( wineries, gravel quarries, sawmills, etc.) have both their water input and ( unlike non CAFO farmers) output regulated by other authorities and fall under umbrella of the enforcement of the ” Clean Water Act.”

  282. Aldarion #295

    “… the book [by Graeber and Wengrow] is ideologically loaded towards the success of small-scale and temporary arrangements over the large-scale and more permanent arrangements that came to supplant them in most places. ”

    Your comparison between “temporary arrangements” versus “permanent” ones was seen differently by Robert E. Howard (of Conan the Barbarian fame) who put it thusly:

    “Barbarism is the natural state of mankind. Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.”

    (I am not sure I agree with the word “triumphs”, per se… It’s not like it is a battle… But his main point that “barbarians are always with us, while civilisations come and go”, is I think, sound).

    The civilised do not write about the uncivilised, and the uncivilised seldom write at all, about anything. So to *see* the barbarian, the peasant, the gypsy, the hunter gatherer . the uncivilised – all of whom are always with us, but seldom written about by selves or others – one has to be willing to go look, and go listen, to go to the places where the untutored and the unsung go about their business without fanfare. I tend to gravitate towards those writers who are willing to go and do that seeing “between the lines” and “through the cracks” of civilisation. They are the ones who are mostly talking about people I recognise… people like me. 🙂

  283. I’ve been thinking about empty storefronts; I see them all the time.
    Retail is vastly overbuilt in this country. It’s obvious because how many stores do you need? Some places are so loaded with shopping options it’s ridiculous whereas other places (I used to live in them), when Wal-Mart arrives, it’s a godsend.
    So — empty storefronts staying that way for years on end.
    Too much retail in larger areas than the larger population needs.
    Yet new strip shopping malls get built on virgin cornfields.
    Maybe it’s not just tax laws and tax avoidance. Maybe it’s money laundering.

  284. Mark L (et al) – At my local farmer’s market, the growers are telling me “I can’t tell you that we’re organic, because we’re not certified, and we can’t afford to be certified.” Me: “Got it. I’ll take some …”

  285. “and the policy change to redefine homestead-scale animal operations as CAFOs that is currently in litigation ”

    Ah, the “policy change” when the bureaucracy changes long standing rules without legislative input. “We interpret the law differently now. Of course we have that authority.” I was on the receiving end of that myself.

  286. >Retail is vastly overbuilt in this country

    And to sound like a broken record – people were pointing this out decades ago. Decades. I’ll stop with this. Like Fleckenstein said before he went paywall, “None of this matters until it does. Then it’s the only thing that matters.”

    We’re getting pretty close to this being the only thing that matters. But not quite yet.

  287. >pass new laws -> write new rules

    Every new law creates a new constituency that benefits from it. Usually at the expense of everyone else. When you get enough “constituencies” you form a regulatory black hole and then it all collapses. Also see: Roman Empire.

    Have no idea whether we’re at the Chandrsekhar Limit yet or not, but we’re close.

  288. Just a quick observation. Much of the current bureaucratic burden is being explained as mere incompetence (people who don’t know or care how their rules will actually affect the system they’re controlling) rather than malice (people who just want to line their pockets at the expense of everyone else).

    In some ways that’s even worse if it really is sheer incompetence that’s driving a lot of this. If it’s just another facet of the so-called “competency crisis”, we could be closer to collapse than even I thought.

    And what would be the word for governance by morons? Idiocracy, perhaps? BRB, getting a Brawndo…

  289. Great article, JMG.
    Talked to a man who does some TV acting today. He is a stand in, usually plays a silent part, like a court officer, etc. He said until recently, if the director or writer asked an actor like him to say a few words, it was no problem. They got what they needed and the actor got a chance to have a speaking part. Not now, he said. Now, if they’d like you to say something, like “stop there”, you have to audition for that, you can’t just do it. (New contract with the guild.)

  290. @Scotlyn – yes. And hoboes and hillbillies. Back in the 1930s there was a WPA writer’s project that tried to fill that sort of gap, I heard. Collecting oral histories.

  291. I read with interest the commentary on commercial real estate. There are some gimmicks that keep dead-dog commercial buildings upright and away from the wrecking ball.

    But I’ve seen the opposite too, where none of it, no amount of optimism, fast talk, borrowing to fund cash-flow deficits, debt for equity swaps, extend-pretend worked, no matter the optimism, delusion, patience and forbearance on the part of institutions owed money and no matter that everyone believed that you can’t lose in real estate, that prices always go up, and that in the end everything would be ok.

    This was the result of 1980s real estate exuberance, where real estate was a one way bet, the ticket to riches, where you were foolish if you didn’t get in. The company in question had both residential construction and sales, plus owned tens of millions of square feet of shopping malls, office buildings and residential apartments.

    The problem was that most of the commercial real estate operation was losing money and was being subsidized by the company’s house building and sales which was making money. The company owed billions in debt, most of it secured by mortgages but hundreds of millions unsecured.

    In the 1980s the company spent (borrowed) more than a billion dollars to buy land on which to build houses. The sky was the limit it was thought, and if you thought otherwise, well, you should find employment for shaking, quaking, cringing, cowardly pessimists. This was a business for REAL men. Are you a real man? Are you?

    In 1989 residential sales slowed drastically. The market price of houses had gotten too far ahead of household income. Bit by bit, for the next seven years, houses prices declined by 30% as did the prospects of said company, no matter the smiling insistence that a turn-around was imminent and next quarter and next year things would be much, much better.

    In those years, the company hid under court protection from its lenders, sold 50% interests in its best shopping malls to generate cash, did debt for equity swaps, insisted that it owned absolutely great buildings in great locations and had the best quality tenants and the best real estate talent bar none.

    And still the company could not pay its bills. It fell behind on its property tax payments at which point lenders had had enough and the company was petitioned into bankruptcy.

    That company wasn’t alone. The 1990s were a real mess as large commercial real estate operations bit the dust, as did financial institutions that got in too deep in funding them. Remember Canary Wharf?

    If you want to stay alive in business, no matter the business, assume that you have one foot in the grave because you do. Assume that you are the humble hot dog truck, where you have to have more cash in the till at the end of the day than at the beginning. Then, maybe, with some luck, you’ll stay around.

    Are there exceptions? Maybe. Sometimes. But not many. IMO that is.

  292. Re: Graeber and lenocracy

    It is undeniable that Graeber and Wengrow were/are staunch enemies of lenocracy – in fact, of all kinds of hierarchy and stable subordination. I find it a charming attitude, and there is much of interest in their books and articles . What I find lacking is a sense both of futility and of conflicting goods.

    They spend whole chapters on the possibility to keep up “play agriculture” for millennia. That is fine, but they skip over the point where the great majority of “play farmers” gave in to the drudge of regular agriculture. Equally, they spend entire chapters on cities without a state, but skip over the point where most cities did acquire a king or other tyrant.

    @Scotlyn, you said that barbarism was the natural state of mankind. Over the last 10 000 years, the overall tendency has certainly been towards more hierarchy and subordination, not less.

    @dt said above: “The standard of living must go down, and with it, the laws and regulations that dictate such standards of living.” This is another point I find lacking in Graeber. Yes, bureaucracy can and must disappear or be sharply reduced at some point. The entire commentariat is cheering for that day. But most of us are also aware that bureaucracy going away will be accompanied by a sharp reduction in standard of living, quite possibly of life expectancy, too.

    Graeber and Wengrow make it sound as if we can have it all, peace and prosperity and lack of people commanding us. We might find a sweet spot, for a while, but that is far from guaranteed and in fact not even very probable.

  293. I will kick in with a small example of the lonocracy at its finest. When I worked for an apartment management company in San Francisco one of our buildings had some work done in the basement that had to be approved by the inspectors. Now, the main exit from the building was the front door from the first floor. On the basement level one could either exit a rear door into a fenced yard backing on to an alley that connected to the next main street, or through the front door of the basement up short stairs and to the sidewalk. The City building instructor wanted signage that would direct anyone in the rear areas back through the building to the front basement exit. The fire department demanded the opposite, signs directing people out to the rear. The city complained that anyone who ran out the rear would be trapped in the fenced yard. The fire department pointed out that the city’s plan would have people running back into a burning building. The fire department assured the management that if there were a fire the fire fighters would tear down the fence to get people out. My boss decided to go with the fire department’s advice. Whole thing was just nuts.

    In another case we had a tenant who was an elderly alcoholic. His apartment was a complete disaster–spilled liquor, feces from missing the toilet, just awful. My boss tried to convince the county services that the man needed to be in a care situation; that he was unfit to live on his own. The county social worker took the attitude that this was just an attempt to get the man out so the apartment could be rented at a higher rate. Company was forced to clean the place, replace carpet, etc. A few months later my boss noticed a strong and distinctive odor from the apartment. The tenant had died, estimated about 3 days earlier, and the apartment was once again in need of complete cleaning and new carpet. My boss called the social worker and barked out, “Mr. Jones died. Are you happy now?”

    New regulations won’t let me have a simple thermostat–have to have one with electronic settings. I haven’t figured it out so sometimes it arbitrarily resets itself–probably a relic of my earlier attempts to program it.


  294. JMG,
    This is rather well timed. Just today I picked up my lawn mower which needed a spring tune up. I’m proud to say we only have a front yard to keep up appearances. But I digress. The person who did the tune up was an 80+ year old gentleman. His “storefront” was about the size of a living room. You ring the buzzer at the front, he opens the door behind iron bars. You tell him that you have a lawn mower that needs servicing and he tell you to bring it to the back (you do not enter the building). You drop the lawnmower off and he tells you how much and when it will be ready. He only takes your phone number and uses that to identify your machine. He also gives you a claim ticket.
    When you pick it up you show him the cliam ticket and give him your phone number. He takes the lawnmower out the back. He only takes cash. Once you pay him he hands you the paper he wrote your number on and tears up the claim ticket.
    He does not pay stripe or CC fees.
    He does not know your name, address, email, etc. He does not keep your phone number (the only ID)
    His rent (if he pays any) must be exceedingly low.
    You never enter the building, so if he pays insurance that too must be very low.
    As this is a cash business his taxes must be…. interesting.
    As he does not take checks it is possible he may not even have a bank account!

    I think we will see more and more of this type of business.


  295. @Clay Dennis #299

    Oregon water law requires water right permits for all irrigation with the exception of “noncommercial gardens of 1/2 acre or less”. New water rights are rather difficult to obtain, and impossible in some areas if the authorities judge that groundwater or its associated river systems are already overallocated.

    The old interpretation of the law was that as long as you’re watering less than 1/2 acre at one time, you’re OK. The new interpretation – particularly by the current watermaster in the Eugene area – is that if you’re selling anything that you grow then you’re “commercial” and need a water right, and they’ve been sending out letters ordering folks to either stop watering or stop selling. This is going to force most homesteaders and small market gardeners into trade and barter and gray/black markets. It is certainly causing pain to some folks I know, but I don’t think it’s part of a climate change or other overarching political agenda.

  296. Mention of asbestos above reminds me: our apartment block is actually two separate buildings with asbestos cement gutters, which were standard when they were built. One building’s gutters were damaged in a storm and replaced with aluminium about two years ago.

    Now we want to replace the other building’s gutters. We budgeted X amount based on the previous gutters’ cost, only to find that there was an extra item in the quotes: inspection by the Dept. of Labour to ensure worker safety, and believe me, it’s a hefty amount. A contractor told me it’s something new brought in by the Dept. because they are desperate for money. The Treasury is starving the ministries because it needs money for welfare payments and propping up failing state-owned enterprises.

  297. To be fair, in a highly complex society (which, of course, doesn’t negate all that JMG has said about “The Long Descent” – I really must read it again), there is a place for intermediaries (who actually do their job, and aren’t corrupted by government or big business)…

    I won’t be flying a Boeing 737 Max anytime soon!

  298. @ Aldarion #310
    “@Scotlyn, you said that barbarism was the natural state of mankind. Over the last 10 000 years, the overall tendency has certainly been towards more hierarchy and subordination, not less.”

    Well, Robert E Howard was a novellist, but in his quote he is on to *something*. 😉

    When you say “overall tendency” you using an abstraction, that obscures an awful lot of detail, and obscures the ways in which people deliberately engineer ways to evade hierarchy and subordination. It was James C Scott in “The Art of Not Being Governed” who made the point that from the POV of the civilising entity there is always and only a one way trend – barbarians and other “primitives” only ever eventually progress and develop into civilised people. But in fact this is a two way street, and people are continually travelling it in both directions. (As he illustrates in detail via a 2,000 year long timeline focussed on “Zomia” – the name he coined for the “wild” uplands at the periphery of several Asian civilising states, and mostly beyond the reach of their governance).

    A quote he made, which I quite like, is something like this – “tribes and ethnicity start where states and taxation end.” In his analysis tribalism, and assorted barbarisms, are not (as the civilised insist) backwardness or ignorance. Instead, it is a civilisation-evading, state-avoiding technique used by people who are averse to hierarchy and subordination, and are taking steps to keep both a long way away.

  299. Hello JMG,
    Beautiful observation of the leeches, parasites and other apparatchiks that suck try the teets of the Western World.
    A linguistic suggestion would be to use the greek word for pimp – ρουφιάνος. It would give “Roufianocracy”, which means that Rough Times are here.

    In the 1300-1800 period, European nobility played the role of parasite, in the sense that they had monopoly on several positions in society and everyone needed their stamp of approval to do anything. In other times clergy played the role.

    Nowadays, overpaid children of the middle class, a.k.a. Bull**** Job holders (see Graeber) weigh down any business.

    We run a small tree business, and it is amazing to see how much more admin is needed… EU regulations are another layer of the onion that we have here in Europe.

    Best wishes for the spring and early summer. We enjoy the first greens from the garden now and soon asparagus will fill our plates.


  300. @ Mark L
    “Systemically, it would seem, the path away from lenocracy involves letting go of the need to *control* other people in response to our various concerns,”

    100%!! 🙂

    But I would add the nuance that this “path away” is always available to anyone who wants to take it. Just as the “path toward” is always available to anyone who wants to take it. “Towards” and “away” are directions on a two-way street, not a directional trend, and people are continually travelling it in both directions.

  301. Aldarion #310
    Actually, I missed the very fair point you make at the end of your comment.
    “Graeber and Wengrow make it sound as if we can have it all, peace and prosperity and lack of people commanding us. We might find a sweet spot, for a while, but that is far from guaranteed and in fact not even very probable.”

    I suppose the reason I’m not sure that Graeber and Wengrow “make” this point (granted some readers would like to “see” this point made) is that the idea that it is possible to “have it all” is an absurd proposition on the face of it, and if they do make it, it is the least interesting part of the work, and I obviously fail to notice it.

    Because the case they actually document, with examples, is the case that humans CAN have some specific *this*, if they are prepared to give up some other specific *that* (and vice versa). The examples of different peoples, doing things differently in different places, give abundant evidence that people will both prioritise and dispense with different this-es or that-s. Nobody has it all, but there surely are different ways to find your own personal “sweet spot” somewhere in the “blooming, buzzing, confusion” of life, the world and everything. And in the face of TINA (There Is No Alternative) that is worth knowing.

    What James C Scott documents in great detail is what people are often quite willing to give up when putting distance between themselves and civilisation (eg opportunities for prosperity, for learning, for literary pursuits, for holding property, shopping opportunities, etc) is made up for (at least for them) by increased autonomy, less hierarchy, less work, more leisure. Just as, it is equally the case that other people are willing to give up their autonomy, accept subordination, more work, and less leisure, because there are attractions within civilisation that they prioritise.

    This is why the road between civilisation and barbarism/tribalism is a two-way road, and why every position along it is made up both of something dispensed with, and something preserved.

    The point is that the people who are wielding civilisation avoiding technologies (often seen as “backward” “primitive” “tribal” “barbarian” etc from the point of view of civilisation), exist now, will exist in the future, and have always existed, but they mostly exist invisibly, especially in a literary sense, unless we decide to look.

    Civilisations, on the other hand, are highly documented, and rather self-aggrandising, and so they are not hard to see, virtues, warts and all. 🙂

  302. Of course Bud Light was harmed by the freakout. What I’m saying is that it isn’t “woke” just to pay a trans public figure to endorse your product, anymore than it would be woke to hire a trans employee. The only reason to boycott Bud Light for doing so is straightforward bigotry, which is much different from the near-universal and bipartisan annoyance with DEI.

  303. I think what David Graeber supported above all was imagination. There is a well-known quote from Mark Fisher that “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism”. “The Dawn of Everything” is above all trying to remedy this.
    In breaking down the concept of freedom into three components (the freedom to go somewhere else, the freedom to disobey, and the freedom to create our own social arrangements) and breaking down the concept of the state into three components (bureaucracy, charisma, and coercion), the book not only disproves theories of linear progress, it makes them look silly and irrelevant.

  304. Mark L @ 288, I read recently an article claiming that in some states it is illegal to collect rainwater. Is Oregon one of those states?
    How confident are you that, in Oregon, local law enforcement, such as elected sheriffs, will decline to enforce restrictions on farming and gardening. Have you considered that the overreaching officials might themselves be taking orders, filtered through a layer or so of higher up officials, from commercial interests?

    Patricia @ 290. ordinary Joes and Janes understand a lot of things which seem to escape the attention of our public intellectuals. I would gently challenge your comparison of Medieval serfs and the share-croppers of the American South. Serfs did have what were known in England as rights and liberties, such as use of common land, specified use of forests and waterways and so on. Also, I rather suspect that the well known strictness of the Catholic Church regarding sex and marriage grew out attempts to use whatever moral authority it had to protect low born women from abuse.

  305. Owen @ 306, I believe that lenocrats are mostly acting in what they believe is their class interest. In my view, Democrats never saw a social problem they could not turn into a “program”, i.e., jobs opportunity for yet more mid-level college graduates–if you aren’t smart or disciplined enough to get into law or medical school, we won’t even mention engineering, there is always social work–and Republicans think any social problem needs to be turned over to the more “efficient” private sector. Which is that pack of grifters who couldn’t make or even sell a useful product to save their lives, but who are always ready to snag a govt. contract, which is how we got such useful institutions as group homes and the like.
    I don’t doubt that bribery, exchange of favors and ideology also are involved, but I think it is class interest which is the primary motive for public and private lenocratic interference.

  306. Sheila Grace @ 258

    > North Wind Grandma would be proud of me

    Wow. Man, awesome.

    👎🏼new neighbor guy sounds depressing.

    > good solid face to face relationships over time

    Yeah, scorched-earth outcome not good when one will be near someone long-term. Scorched-earth neighbor😡, been there, done that, didn’t work out.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🏚️🌧️
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  307. A lot of waste like this occurs in education. I’m reminded of Harvard’s previous president (forced to resign for plagiarism) who was making 900k/year. Harvard made her president because she was Black, female, and gay, but whatever actual duties she had I’m sure could’ve been done by a high school grad making 35k/year. (Btw, after resigning she was put in another 900k/year position at Harvard)

  308. Stephen D @ 276

    And then there is Wisconsin, where no-one gives a s***. Wisconsin is a “pro-farmer, pro-garden, water is friggin’ everywhere (marshes galore)” state. Did I mention I like it here? (only a hundred times).

    💨Northwind Grandma💨👨🏼‍🌾🥔🐖🐄🥛
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  309. Emmanuel Goldstein @ 278

    For very-expensive drugs, my husband gave up on the USA long ago, of course, but he also gave up on Canada. He now gets our cat’s inhaler (feline asthma) from Singapore, buying several at a time. Roughly, what would be $100 in the USA is $10 in Singapore. This is yet another example of how greedy USA pharma companies are, and how mucky mucks at those corporations care only about their own children but let plain-old Americans’ children die,— children being a representative population. Little do those mucky mucks know that the situation will catch up to THEIR kids in the next decade (or so) as their kids reach their 20s.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🐈💊
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  310. RandomActsofKarma #285

    Here in Wisconsin, it has been stormy, cloudy, dark and cold until two days ago. Still, we have not had two consecutive days of sunny weather. Buds have not come out on trees yet—I have been watching for that magic moment. Only today did I spot some grass pop above the surface of dirt. With plants not budding yet, there is nary an insect around—no crawly nor winged bugs. I think I perceived one fly yesterday but it quickly disappeared. The time of year BEFORE flies, I like, but birds don’t. The last two weeks, I would venture, have been miserable for wildlife—I think they have been scrounging for food harder than usual for early April. What the heck are they eating? Bark?

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🪰🌱
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  311. Hi Scotlyn,

    Oh yeah, I hear you about that. We’re required to do 120 hours of professional development every three years. That’s a week per year. Here’s a goodie though, which speaks to your story. You go on a four hour course where there are four contact hours, and they say that only gives you an accredited 2.5 hours. Is this not a farce? What do such proclamations say about the quality of the course?

    It’s death by a thousand cuts.



  312. Hi John Michael,

    Are you noticing the oil prices? I’m genuinely surprised this is happening during an election year in your country. Says something about the underlying strength of the system.

    For a while now I’ve been cogitating upon the possibility that the rampant use of petrol (what you guys call gas) is merely a side effect of the search for the heavier more useful grades of oil products like diesel. After all, what do you do with the lighter grades other than use them. Dunno, just pondering the why of things.



  313. @Jessica #128,
    Nice suggestion for a Japanese term! I’m throwing that out to my adult class today. I wrote up a brief “Today’s new concept” with a description. The comments have helped me define it more sharply.

    Japan has its own version of a lenocracy, but it differs from America’s and does not seem quite as intent on bankrupting small and medium enterprises. Where I have seen lenocracy at work most in Japan has been in government work–lots of cronies with their hands out and Japan running an gigantic deficit as a result. Also, if your small business is successful, it’s best to keep it a secret; otherwise the mob will show up and demand you to employ various parasitic relatives of theirs until they suck your business dry. Also, retail prices were very high when I first came to Japan, and that was said to be the result of lots of middlemen. I always bought open-ended return tickets in America for my annual trips home, at about a third of the cost in Japan. Other businesses have opened since then that have side-stepped a lot of that, such as HIS for discount air tickets and Don Quijote for consumer goods. So that good-times lenocracy lacked the political power to defend its interests when the economy went south in around 1990.

  314. Interesting, but probably unrelated, “len'” is Russian for “laziness,” “sloth” or “neglect.”

  315. In case you haven’t noticed yet: You article has been mentioned by Simplicius on his substack: “Incidentally, John Michael Greer just penned a new column (thanks to whoever shouted out this blog in the comments!) about the neologism he coined: Lenocracy, which derives from the Latin “leno” for pimp; i.e. a government run by pimps, or pimpocracy. […]”

    An interesting article, which I only managed to briefly skim through, so far.


  316. Mark, that’s valid, of course. In an age of lenocracy everyone wants on the gravy train.

    Teresa, hmm! That’s another factor, of course. I wonder how pervasive that is — and I also wonder whether at least some of those empty buildings in flyover country are listed as fully rented in somebody’s tax return, as a way of laundering money.

    Other Owen, that’s just it. I think a huge amount of what’s going on is in fact incompetence, and much of the rest is ordinary arrogance and greed. That’s what makes it so pervasive and so destructive.

    Barry, that’s a great example.

    Smith, granted. A bubble inflates until it pops, and then everyone in the market takes the hit. I watched that in real time in the residential real estate market twenty years ago, and I expect to see it again across the board in real estate.

    Rita, thanks for this — another great example.

    AV, that old guy is the wave of the future.

    Martin, fascinating. They’re actually admitting that they’re shaking down productive enterprises with pointless fees? That’s refreshingly honest.

    Michael, of course! It’s when the intermediaries take control of the process that they become lenocrats.

    Göran, fascinating. My Greek dictionary didn’t have ρουφιάνος in it. I’m suddenly wondering if it might be ancestral to the English word “ruffian”…

    Jiminy, it must be very comforting for you to see the world in such a moral monochrome, where you get to define the reasons why the people you dislike do things.

    Mangolia, the universities are full of lenocracy. It’s entertaining to compare how many administrative staff they had per professor in 1950, when they were still supporting a lot of genuine scholarship, with how many they have per professor today, when by and large they’re not.

    Chris, I am indeed. At this point the US has very little control over oil prices — our shale beds are being pumped flat out and there’s no cushion to increase production. I’m fairly sure the Ukrainians are carrying out drone strikes on Russian refineries as a way to put pressure on the West — “give us more money or we’ll crash your economies and end the political careers of your heads of state” — and given how tight the oil market is these days, they can probably do it.

    Bird and Nachtgurke, thanks for this. I also got a shout-out in this morning’s Naked Capitalism links page, which is also welcome. I’m not worried about site traffic — what delights me is that the concept of lenocracy is getting plenty of exposure, and thus a chance to influence the collective conversation.

  317. JMG, you are probably riight abot the word “ruffian”. But it may well be Modern Greek, not Ancient Greek.

  318. >I think a huge amount of what’s going on is in fact incompetence

    How did we get to the point where incompetence is tolerated? How did we get to the point where only clowns can get elected? Communism doesn’t scale past 5 people and when it fails, it’s obvious. I would claim that Democracy at some point doesn’t scale either (although that point is definitely somewhere north of millions of people) but when it fails, it fails in more subtle ways. And the failures take longer to play out.

    In any case, this incompetence is the real underlying problem and if it can’t be fixed, down we all go.

  319. @Mary #322

    It’s legal to collect rainwater in Oregon as long as it’s falling on a roof. As soon as it hits the ground it’s “runoff” and can’t be collected. A few years back I helped a small farm set up such a system to keep their greenhouses watered while they worked on getting official water rights for their wells (which were eventually granted). In a climate like ours where all of the rain falls in the winter and all of the growing happens in the summer, getting serious about using rainwater for irrigation requires lots of big expensive tanks.

    In response to your second question, I’m not entirely convinced that local law enforcement would stand up against the lenocracy on this or any other issue. But I *do* see proud noncompliance as one way to push back, and potentially a more effective (if more risky) approach than the usual outrage and protest. Basically the lenocrats say do this or else, and a bunch of beloved local businesses say “no thanks”. Then they start a local PR campaign to patronize those businesses and stand behind them. The lenocrats get all huffy and send their enforcement team, and local folks gather outside and don’t let them in. By the time it escalates to sending guys with guns the lenocrats look like the bad guys in the public eye, and the local sheriff and police issue a statement supporting the aggrieved businesses, and then often enough the lenocrats back down and revise their onerous rule – because if there’s one thing they hate more than not getting their way it’s a wholesale collapse of the social order that keeps them in power.

    We saw this happen with covid restrictions and mandates in various places, and by and large it worked to keep most states from going full NYC or California despite having public health lenocrats with the same ambitions in state government. I’m hopeful we’ll see a lot more of it going forward.

  320. Hello, I’m trying very hard to subscribe to your blog, but the subscription form is faulty and keeps asking me to try again later. I’ve now tried multiple times. Would you be able to manually add me, please?

  321. …and as if by magic, on late Tuesday my attention was drawn to “Government Executive” for US civil servants. It’s a site I have never been to before and hope never to have to go to again:

    > The Office of Personnel Management issued the final version of its regulation meant to safeguard the civil service
    > from the return of a Trump-era policy that sought to convert most federal employees to at-will workers.


    > The regulation has its roots in an October 2020 executive order from the Trump administration that created a
    > new job category for federal employees in policy-related positions, dubbed Schedule F, that would exempt
    > them from civil service protections and make them easier to remove.

    Would I be right in thinking that this makes US civil servants almost impossible to fire?

  322. Excellent writeup, and incredibly amusing in parts.
    The one discordant note is the statement that: “the US military so visibly weak that hostile countries are circling like sharks trying to decide who gets to take the first bloody bite”
    Who are these hostile nations trying to control our precious bodily fluids?
    North Korea a la Red Dawn 2?
    Perhaps you were rendering unto Caesar and all that.

  323. In regards to real estate in Cumberland MD. I have spent some time there myself and thought about buying some property there in the past. I actually met with some of the big real estate owners a while back. I was interested in housing not commercial, but I think it is pertinent to the discussion.

    The main takeaway was that the properties were being rented out for welfare recipients from Baltimore. Basically the state could export poor people from Baltimore at a much lower rent than in Baltimore and save money for the state since real estate in Cumberland and rents were much cheaper. So Cumberland was importing poor people on welfare.

  324. Booklover, if it’s modern Greek, it may just come from the English word rather than the other way around.

    Other Owen, good heavens, that’s simple enough. Societies tolerate incompetence just as soon as their upper classes become hereditary; at that point the rule that no member of the elite can ever be held accountable for the consequences of their actions becomes ironclad, and incompetence, collective senility, and failure follow in their train. In healthy societies, dysfunctional members of the elite are sidelined or removed promptly. That’s why the right of private war was so deeply rooted in in feudal societies — if the lord of a manor was an incompetent ninny, he would be removed from office with the business end of a battleaxe and somebody more capable would take over. Once that stopped, his lordship could become the kind of mincing idiot that populated European aristocracies by 1789, and a more general purge of the nobility was necessary.

    That’s the mess we’re in today in America. Despite all the handwaving about social mobility, the single leading predictor of your economic status in this country today is how much money your parents made, and our Ivy League universities have been turned into sheltered workshops for the idiot children of our managerial aristocracy, with select playmates from the lower orders admitted after being vetted for total loyalty to the system and its ideology. No one in the upper classes is ever allowed to fail. So, due to the shortage of good old-fashioned battleaxes, we get to wait for a more general purge of the nobility. I doubt it will be too long delayed.

    Anna, I don’t have the ability to do that. Let me check with my tech guy and see if he can figure out what’s wrong.

    Andy, sure, but just as it was put into place by an action of the executive branch, it can be removed the same way. If Trump gets back in, he can issue an executive order, or at worst get Congress to pass a bill.

    C1ue, funny. If you think really hard I’m sure you can come up with a better list.

    Eric, no surprises there. The real estate market in Cumberland was dead in the water when I left seven years ago, so it would have been an easy target for that kind of arrangement.

  325. JMG, let me be sure I understand this. The RE “market in Cumberland was dead in the water”, at least as concerns housing, but commercial, storefront, RE was priced out of the market. It occurs to me that some of those resettled poor could be, if approached in a benign and respectful manner, induced to become valuable citizens.

    Nachtgurke and Bird, the simplicius article has a long discussion, with links and references, about how China is doing right was the West is doing wrong. That being the case, why is it that our Border control agents are reporting apprehending more Chinese nationals than Mexican? I am not aware of similar numbers of Americans sneaking into Canada.

  326. Chris (#330): indeed. Petrol/gasoline began as a waste product – had it not been for the internal combustion engine it might have strangled oil refining in its crib.
    Now that I’ve owned a battery electric vehicle for a while, in fact, I see that as one of the two ultimate limits on BEV market share. The other is insurance: as there’s no infrastructure yet for battery repair or even appraisal, most BEVs that get into accidents, however minor, are written off by insurance. This obviously affects rates!

  327. “For a while now I’ve been cogitating upon the possibility that the rampant use of petrol (what you guys call gas) is merely a side effect of the search for the heavier more useful grades of oil products like diesel.”

    In the earliest days of the oil industry gasoline was a waste product. They wanted kerosine to replace whale oil and lubricants. This was interesting.

    “In 1860, German inventor Nicolaus Otto uses ethyl alcohol as a fuel in an early internal combustion engine.[6]
    In 1862 and 1864, a tax on alcohol was passed in the U.S. to pay for the Civil War, increasing the price of ethanol to over $2.00 per gallon. A new product from petroleum, called kerosene, is taxed at 10 cents a gallon.[7]
    In the 19th century, spirit lamps, pigeon lamps and others used a variety of blends of alcohol and oils in Europe. Alcohol powered not only automobiles and farm machinery but also a wide variety of lamps, stoves, heaters, laundry irons, hair curlers, coffee roasters and every conceivable household appliance. By one estimate, some 95,000 alcohol fueled stoves and 37,000 spirit lamps had been manufactured in Germany by 1902.[8]
    By the 1890s, alcohol-fueled engines are starting to be used in farm machinery in Europe, making countries more fuel independent. Research at the Experimental Mechanical Laboratory of Paris and at the Deutsche Landwirtschaftliche Gesellschaft in Berlin in the 1890s helped pave the way for expanded use of alcohol fuel.
    By 1896, horseless carriages (cars) were showing up on roads in Europe and the United States. Because gasoline is so cheap and abundant, and also because ethanol is taxed at a high level, early US automobiles are adapted to gasoline from the beginning. Racing cars, on the other hand, usually used ethanol (and other alcohols) because more power could be developed in a smaller, lighter engine. Charles Edgar Duryea builds the first U.S. gasoline powered car but is aware of Samuel Morey’s ethanol fueled experimental car of 1826. Henry Ford’s first car, the Quadracycle, is also built that year. The car runs on gasoline, but Ford is aware of experiments with ethanol in Germany, and subsequently backs the lifting of the U.S. tax on industrial uses of ethanol.”

    An inadvertent side effect of booze taxes is the ascension of gasoline.

  328. Where there’s a trend…

    “Here’s some food for thought: The number of physicians in the United States grew 150 percent between 1975 and 2010, roughly in keeping with population growth, while the number of healthcare administrators increased 3,200 percent for the same time period.”
    Expert Forum: The rise (and rise) of the healthcare administrator

    …there’s an opportunity:

    “The healthcare administration industry is growing at an explosive rate, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projecting “much faster than average” job growth of 32 percent for medical and health services managers from 2019 through 2029. However, considering that the “average” national growth rate is currently four percent, the phrase “much faster than average” may be a bit of an understatement. In fact, the BLS ranks healthcare administrators in eighth place among their “20 fastest growing occupations” for 2019 to 2029,”
    The Role of Health Administrators and How to Become One

    The above is from just one of the many, many web pages from educational institutions touting their health care administrator courses. The healthcare lenocracy bandwagon has become a juggernaut.

  329. Took a while to think about this and digest what JMG and the commentariat have to say.
    I suppose that one of the things that I find frustrating is that sometimes broad brush strokes hide the details. I would agree wholeheartedly about propogating the neologism of “Lenocracy” very much works for me, so JMG, Congratulations and kudos.
    But what is starting to bug me is that I feel the lenocracy cuts a lot deeper than folks give it credit. I would guess that (SWAG Alert: Scientific Wild Ass Guess) that around 60-70% of the general population here in the US do depend on the lenocracy for their relative affluence. They aren’t part of the lenocracy, but they do depend on the table scraps strewn about by the lenocracy. Hell, my daily bread is paid for by SSA and government retirement, I most certainly can’t throw stones.
    I think that while the lenocracy needs to be trimmed seriously, as they say on the streets, it is gonna leave a mark. A sufficient trim will leave me living in a van, down by the river, on a steady diet of government cheese. Needless to say, while this isn’t very probable, as a possibility, it is not insignificant.
    The lenocracy does allow the dregs of the receding dominant minority to skim more than their fair share. I am proof of that. But in the not-all-that-distant future, when there is a chance that the internal proletariat begins to gain some traction and create the new universal church and the external proletariat start getting feisty (you are starting to see the battle between archaism and futurism now), the lenocrats will take a lot of us down with them
    Can’t say as I am thrilled with the prospect.
    I do recommend this 2 minute watch as a thought experiment

  330. Mary, that’s quite correct. In 2009 my late wife and I bought a nice 3-bedroom Craftsman bungalow in a decent neighborhood in Cumberland for $35,000. We could have gotten a fixer-upper 2 bedroom in a slightly rougher neighborhood for $17,000. At the same time it would have cost me nearly as much as our monthly mortgage payment to rent a one room office downtown. As for your comment about decent citizens, what does that have to do with anything I said? I didn’t make any remark about the new residents at all.

    Martin, yep. Now you know why our health care is so insanely overpriced — all those highly paid lenocrats have to get their income from somewhere.

    Degringolade, of course the lenocracy cuts deep, and of course its dissolution is going to be a world-class economic, social, and political mess. That was one of the things I was hinting at in my earlier post about population contraction, and I’ll be discussing it in more detail in next week’s post.

    Siliconguy, thanks for this.

  331. @ Jiminy

    As a woman, I was heartened to see the pushback on buying Budlight and others like it. After my whole life of women fighting to get title 9 ( womens sports recognized and funded) and the fight to recognize that there are lots of ways to be a woman, than being a woman is not defined by wearing makeup, a dress, a certain hairstyle, certain behaviors or thoughts or feelings — to now have a very small bunch of people demanding that the definition of a woman change to the exact opposite, a woman according the them must be defined by how the person “presents”., so defined by makeup, style of dress, behavior, attitude and feelings ! This is anti-womans rights. Being agaisnt the degradation of women, being against putting the definition of being a woman into such a shallow definition is not bigotry. It is supporting women.

    Women can wear a dress, wear construction worker clothes, love a man, love a woman, love both, wear makeup and styled hair, wear a bob, shave all her hair off, get a buzz cut, get a traditionally mens style cut, work at a job that she is qualified for, like anyone else, not work, be a career woman, be a stay at home “trad” wife. She should also be allowed to have women only safe spaces, privacy, and so should men. Given the very real physiological differences, she should be able to play sport and compete in a safe and fair manner with other women who have the same physiological features.

    We should be supporting our boys and men to be male, to be men and not think that boys are just broken females. There is also a very broad diffinition of being a man, different ways and likes and dislikes and ways of being, and we need to support that without harming women in the process

  332. @Mangolia

    I have relatives who have worked at Harvard for decades. They have seen many university presidents come and go. One of them told me that, given a choice between the new way of selecting the Harvard president (membership in one or more historically oppressed groups) vs the old way (connections to wealth and power) he finds that the new way gives better results. In particular, he thought Claudine Gay was pretty good. Which makes sense in light of what our host said about nobody in the elite being allowed to fail anymore. It means the average diversity hire, who will have had to demonstrate some modicum of competence to even be considered, will still be better than the average descendant of Ivy League graduates past, who will have had the rails greased for them at every step of their career.

  333. One interesting test of our lentocracy in action will come in Baltimore as the process of salvaging the ship/bridge, reopening the port, and rebuilding the bridge plays out. I watched a few streams of the fascinating “What is going on with shipping?” channel on that that really popular video service owned by that really big tech company whose obsolete mantra is “do no harm” and the question was raised of ‘who is in charge?’. There are so many separate claimants at local, state, federal, and other more obscure levels that it was clearly necessary to appoint one single entity to be in a position of absolute dominance in order to get anything done, a position that most logically falls to the portmaster in Baltimore. But the last time I paid any attention to the matter this did not seem to be the way things were going, which of course it wouldn’t be if all the various pimps were going to be ensured a seat at the table.

  334. Oops, meant ‘lenocracy’, don’t know how how I managed to come up with ‘lentocracy’. I much prefer ‘pimpocalypse’, as this seems a forgivable concession to apocalyptic thinking.

  335. @Jiminy #320,
    I think you missing something in the way advertising works. For decades now, ( ever since Edward Bernays came on the scene)many products have not been marketed and advertised on the merits of the product but on playing to the self image of the customer. So for decades Budwiser ( and its associated brands) were sold not be claiming they were the best tasting beer but that by buying them you were supporting the image of yourself as a patriotic manly american who liked big horses, fast cars, american flags and BBQ. This way they could sell a watered down product that is mostly made from rice at a nice profit. Because they were selling the image and not the actual beer.
    But this is a double edged sword as you can’t easily get your customers to change their self image to fit the whims of politics or social media. So when you pop with an advertisement promoting a self image that is 180 degrees from the one you promoted before you can only expect push back. Then on top of that you promote a self image that most of you customers are uncomfortable with, and that is being pushed down their throats by shadowy forces and you can expect not only push-back but a vengeful destruction of all your brands.

  336. lenopus = Latin word for a business which operates on the same principles as a lenocracy

  337. JMG,
    To reinforce your image of the lenocratic elite as pampered children of other lenocratic elite pushed along on greased skids from one cushy fluff job to the next , check out the biography ( even on Wikipedia if you wish) of the new president of NPR. Who says the media is rigged?

  338. other owen #337
    I think one of the failure modes of democracy is simple regulatory capture – when there are no restrictions on moving smoothly from a job as a congressperson/senator/MP etc. to lobbying your former colleagues at three times the salary, people’s minds are going to become focussed on that to the exclusion of quite a few other things, including the greater good.

  339. @Martin Back, JMG and others: This weekend, a local newspaper ran an article comparing the health care systems of Quebec and Taiwan. Both populations have (+- 1 year) the same average age and same life expectancy, but the share of GDP gobbled up by Taiwan’s system is about half the share in Quebec. Mind you, doctors in Quebec are not particularly well paid. Nurses are so fed up they went on strike for several months. That excess cost feeds other people.

  340. Teresa and JMG,

    Here in the “Emerald Triangle” (a place notorious for its productive cannibis industry before it was legal), all the storefronts in all the towns were occupied. Some of them didn’t seem to have any customers, and you really had to wonder how they paid the rent on that prime location. I always figured it was a way to launder all the money from the pot farmers.

  341. ” So when you pop with an advertisement promoting a self image that is 180 degrees from the one you promoted before you can only expect push back.”

    Budweiser wasn’t even the first to mess up. Gillette managed to offend their customers as well.

    1) Identify loyal customers.
    2) Offend and insult loyal customers.
    3) Gain approval from non-customers.
    4) ???
    5) Profit.

    That fourth step must have involved a major bong hit. Or a particular mushroom. Extract of rye ergot? Whatever, something is not apparent to the sober.

  342. Aldarion, JMG, and any interested in the Greek stuff:

    Wiktionary says Greek got “rouphianos” the same place we did, which is Italian. It’s certainly not ancient.

    “Mastropos” does seem to be ancient, based on what I can find (a scanned image of a yellowed Ancient Greek dictionary). “Mastropocracy” is perhaps a bit of a mouthful, but it does have some points going for it — the way it simultaneously evokes “master” and “hypocrisy” (and to some extent “masturbate”).

  343. Maybe too late for posting, but you have been mentioned over on the Simplicius substack:

    Incidentally, John Michael Greer just penned a new column (thanks to whoever shouted out this blog in the comments!) about the neologism he coined: Lenocracy, which derives from the Latin “leno” for pimp; i.e. a government run by pimps, or pimpocracy.

    His definition of pimps in this case is that of middlemen who are the classic rent-seeking leaches—or rentier class—which extract economic rent without adding any value to the economy—all Michael Hudson territory, for those in the know.

    Bear with me, I promise this will all tie together into an overall picture of China.

    JMG characterizes the ‘pimps’ as basically all the unelected, bureaucratic, red-tape-weaving, blood-sucking monetary vultures killing growth and livelihoods by each taking their nibbles in turn from the carcass of the working class, exacting some small transactional charge at every step of routine business in Western nations, particularly the U.S. This has served to suffocate the average small business or entrepreneurship in general, not counting the big ticket venture capitalists who are mostly offshoots of global financial and investment firms. This is part and parcel to the lethal ‘financialization’ of the country that has spelled doom for its future.

  344. @Clay Dennis #357: …thanks for the tip….

    Katherine Maher sounds like a CIA plant… you know they love to get their hands in the media.

    “A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Maher worked for UNICEF, the National Democratic Institute, the World Bank and Access Now before joining the Wikimedia Foundation. She subsequently joined the Atlantic Council and the US Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board. … After high school, Maher graduated from the Arabic Language Institute’s Arabic Language Intensive Program of The American University in Cairo in 2003, which she recalled as a formative experience that developed her interest in the Middle East. Maher subsequently studied at the Institut français d’études arabes de Damas in Syria and spent time in Lebanon and Tunisia.”

    Why all that time in the Mid East? Makes you wonder… not that I’m trying to spread conspiracy theories. But those are some interesting dots.

    Did you happen to see this?

  345. My dream died, and now I’m here

    video is just a person standing, so please listen while on another tab. I know you don’t like video.

    This may be late and not seen, but I just recently stumbled on this. Gives an excellent example of Lenocracy in academia. This is the most clear explanation I have heard that explains JMG’s comments on why the College system is close to collapsing. Realized that the pattern mentioned is true for far too many industries.

    The core problem behind everything is a way of thinking. Still trying to figure out how to show and convince others to think differently than this lenocratic method of business. Because for some reason they think that is the only way we can do “Business”.

    Which always makes me think of an old South Park idea that is now a Meme.

  346. When I studied engineering I also took a basic class in economy. Funnily enough there I learned exactly what you are writing about. The Professor elaborately explained using a price quantity diagram how taxation disables some economic interactions that without taxation would have happened.
    Thus your observations do not run contrary to conventional economic thought, but are exactly in line with it.
    Surely the pimps would never admit that but rather simply claim that economic theory supports their behavior, without providing further evidence.
    I also think that your observations nicely fit into things you wrote many years ago, how the US is an empire that sucks the wealth from its periphery, because now you provide a mechanism how exactly this wealth pump works.

  347. JMG,

    Promise me you’ll write a scathing essay on the “growing vegetables causes climate change” study. God, I could use a good read.

Courteous, concise comments relevant to the topic of the current post are welcome, whether or not they agree with the views expressed here, and I try to respond to each comment as time permits. Long screeds proclaiming the infallibility of some ideology or other, however, will be deleted; so will repeated attempts to hammer on a point already addressed; so will comments containing profanity, abusive language, flamebaiting and the like -- I filled up my supply of Troll Bingo cards years ago and have no interest in adding any more to my collection; and so will sales spam and offers of "guest posts" pitching products. I'm quite aware that the concept of polite discourse is hopelessly dowdy and out of date, but then some people would say the same thing about the traditions this blog is meant to discuss. Thank you for reading Ecosophia! -- JMG

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