Monthly Post

Reimagining Political Economy

Over the last couple of months I’ve discussed the way that contemporary industrial societies struggle under the weight of a disastrous failure of imagination. That’s among the most potent and disturbing political facts of our time.  Even though the existing order of society has proven to be a miserable failure in terms of every human value, and is cracking apart around us as we watch, an astonishing number of people have lost the ability to imagine any alternative to it that doesn’t duplicate all its worst features.

Now of course there are reasons for this. I’m thinking here, to begin with, of a thoughtful recent essay by Eve Ettinger challenging the current popular notion of “burnout.” Ettinger spent twenty years in an abusive religious environment and, like many survivors of experiences of that kind, came out of it with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). Her essay notes that many of the people she knows who complain of “burnout” as a result of their work experiences are describing symptoms that she’s lived with for years.

Would you like PTSD with that?

All things considered, it’s not surprising that working in a modern corporate environment would have roughly the same impact on the body and mind as belonging to a dysfunctional religious cult. There’s the same entrenched culture of abuse and exploitation, not to mention the same pervasive gaslighting—the constant insistence on the part of the people who have power over you that the abuse and exploitation you experience aren’t real, that everyone belongs to one happy team, and if you don’t like what’s being done to you, it’s your fault and you need to improve your attitude. It makes all the sense in the world that the inmates of any such system would end up with serious mental and physical health consequences as a result.

All that deserves attention in its own right, but I want to focus here on one of the many aspects of chronic PTSD.  Ettinger sums up that aspect memorably:  “[M]y friends and colleagues started expressing a relationship to time and the future that alarmed me. They began talking about the future as if it didn’t exist, as if their imaginative powers were gone. There was no future; there was only this moment, this week, this day, and getting through it. We could be stuck here forever was the vibe at large. This shift was alarming, because up until that point, I was the only person I knew who consistently related to time that way —thanks to complex PTSD.”

We need to consider the possibility, in other words, that a great many people in today’s industrial world have taken so much psychological damage from the constant maltreatment meted out to them by modern corporate culture that all they can do is keep stumbling blindly ahead from day to day. That would certainly go a long way to explain the way that our societies have been doing the same thing on a collective level, lurching forward mindlessly toward one preventable disaster after another:  it’s because too few people have the mental resources left to do anything else.

These are lemmings. In theory, we’re smarter than they are.

Fortunately the situation isn’t as hopeless as that last comment might make it sound. One of the things that makes me think so is the extraordinary rate at which people here in the United States are bailing out of their jobs, sometimes to get a better job elsewhere, sometimes to find some way to make a living outside the prison walls of nine-to-five employment. People whose imaginations have been wholly crushed don’t do that.  Thus I think it’s worth suggesting that there’s room for a rebirth of imagination in contemporary industrial societies—and one of the themes that it might focus on first and foremost is the sphere of political economy.

I insist on those latter two words, by the way. One of the reasons that economics has become such a reliable source of bad advice over the last century or so is that it neglects half its original subject matter. The science that Adam Smith founded, and that so many other thinkers pursued in his wake, was properly called political economy, because it dealt with the relationship between wealth and power. That turned out to be too explosive a mix for the comfort of the privileged, and so in the early twentieth century political economy was chopped in half. The bleeding fragments got turned into the half-sciences of economics and political science, which have spouted twin plumes of comforting nonsense ever since.

The system of political economy in most of the industrial world these days is neoliberal corporate capitalism.  Each of those words has a specific meaning.  It’s capitalism because the means of production and distribution are owned by people who have large amounts of financial capital; it’s corporate because the corporation—an imaginary legal person with more rights and fewer responsibilities than the rest of us—is the structural mechanism by which capitalists exert their ownership; and it’s neoliberal because it demands, and usually gets, legal arrangements that place the rights and profits of corporations ahead of the rights and interests of nations and the people who live in them.

It’s not a very good system, unless you happen to belong to the 5% or so of the population of industrial nations who profit mightily from it, or the 15% or so who receive more benefits than costs from their participation in it. Since the late 1970s, however, the corporate media across the industrial world has loved to insist that neoliberal corporate capitalism is the only possible system nowadays—that, in the words Margaret Thatcher made infamous, “there is no alternative.” Francis Fukuyama’s 1989 essay “An End To History?” gave that claim a veneer of philosophical respectability, borrowing Hegel’s logic to claim that history consists of the struggle between competing systems of political economy, neoliberal corporate capitalism won, and therefore history is over and we have no choice but to put up with the current status quo forever.

Hegel’s name is worth noting here, though not for the reasons Fukuyama had in mind. It’s a curious fact of the history of ideas that all the most dysfunctional ideologies of modern times have Hegel’s stamp on them. Fascism is a good example:  Giovanni Gentile, who was Benito Mussolini’s pet philosopher and lent his considerable talents to the sorry task of giving Italian Fascism the same sort of pretensions Fukuyama gave to the regime of George Bush the elder, was a Hegelian philosopher. Then there’s the biggest name of all, the man who turned Hegel’s airy abstractions into an ideology that racked up well over 100 million political killings during the twentieth century. Yes, that would be Karl Marx, the inventor of modern socialism.

Socialism in theory…

For more than a century now it’s been a standard rhetorical device for socialists to insist that their belief system is the only alternative to capitalism. It’s understandable that they should insist on this, since at this point—with Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot to look back on—it’s hard to think of any reason why anyone would embrace socialism if they thought they had any other choice at all. There’s a fine irony in the way that the promoters of capitalism and socialism both insist that the only alternative to one of these is the other. Yet there’s a deeper parallel between the two systems that explains this comfortable partnership readily enough. Socialism, according to its own definition, is a system of political economy in which the means of production are owned by the working class. (The means of distribution, which are at least as important, don’t get as much discussion in socialist literature.)

The ownership, however, is a very abstract thing. Individual members of the working class don’t get to exercise their ownership in any way that matters. Rather, the means of production always end up controlled by a government  bureaucracy over which the workers, individually or collectively, have no control or even influence. (Remember that socialists inevitably reject democracy, with its inconvenient checks and balances, as hopelessly bourgeois.)  That’s why socialism soon comes to resemble nothing so much as corporate capitalism, not least in its treatment of workers. “We pretend to work,” ran the joke in the Soviet Union, “and they pretend to pay us”—a wry comment that could be made just as accurately of the corporate sweatshops of modern capitalist America.  Thus socialism is not an alternative to capitalism in any way that matters. It might be best described, in fact, as capitalism without shareholders.

…and in practice. Somehow it always works out this way.

(Yes, I’m well aware that there are many different sub-sub-subspecies of socialism; there have been since Charles Fourier invented socialism in 1810 or so, but when they get into power, they all turn promptly into bureaucratic state socialism. I’m also well aware that socialists love to insist that the Soviet Union, Communist China, and Kampuchea weren’t real socialism, and that if we hand over absolute power to them again, they promise, cross their hearts, that it really, truly won’t turn out the same way. Somehow the old routine in the Peanuts comic strip with Lucy and the football comes to mind….)

The point that’s missed here is that there are in fact viable alternatives to the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of capitalism vs. socialism. All through the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth, people who recognized the failings of the existing order of things explored other options and put those options into practice in various ways, and socialism—in any of its forms—was only one of the systems of political economy that came out of the resulting intellectual ferment. I’m going to talk about three of the other options here.

*    *   *   *   *

There are plenty of successful cooperatives already.

Cooperativism.  This is the 800-pound gorilla of alternative economic schemes, that one that has been put to work successfully over much of the world already with very good results. As the name suggests, this is a system in which cooperatives—voluntary associations of individuals—own and control the means of production and distribution. There are two broad categories of cooperatives in a fully developed cooperativist system, worker cooperatives and consumer cooperatives, and they deserve separate discussion.

Worker cooperatives are already found all through the world’s industrial nations. In a worker cooperative, the employees own the business, and elect a board of directors that hires and fires the people who fill corner-office roles. There are various ways to run a worker cooperative, each with its own strong and weak points.  If you look into the very extensive print and online literature on cooperative organization you can find ample information on the options, and many countries have associations of cooperatives that are eager to help new co-ops get started.

Consumer cooperatives are not quite so common as they used to be, but you can still find them, and you can also start them. The simplest form of consumer cooperative is a buyers club, in which a group of people get together to buy groceries and other products wholesale and split the cost, cutting out as many middlemen as possible. Once a consumer co-op gets going, if its members want it to expand, they can add members and raise the money to open a cheap storefront somewhere, though of course this involves additional costs. Alternatively, it can stay a buyers club and thrive indefinitely.

At its upper end, cooperativism turns into syndicalism—a roadmap for a new society in which workers and consumers organize until they become the dominant political force, and take over. There are various flavors of syndicalism, ranging from democratic syndicalism to anarcho-syndicalism, and various theories about how best to manage the various stages of the syndicalist project; again, you can find plenty of reading material on the subject if you want to. Start with Ursula K. Le Guin’s brilliant novel The Dispossessed, which is set in a syndicalist society and offers a remarkably clear discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the movement.

Other resources? Here’s a good introductory article, here’s the website for the International Cooperative Alliance, and here’s an old but still useful book on the subject. If you can find a copy of The Food Conspiracy Cookbook—it’s out of print but still in copyright—it’s a fine guide to organizing a buyers club.

Distributism. This is more an attitude than a specific program, though some very thoughtful work has been done on it over the years, especially in Roman Catholic circles. The basic theme of distributism is that Marx was right in recognizing the serious problems caused by putting ownership of the means of production in the hands of a tiny minority of rich people, but wrong in thinking that transferring notional ownership of the means of production to “the working class” as an abstract whole would improve matters at all. The distributist idea is that the best way to get the means of production into the hands of the working class is to distribute the means of production so that each worker owns the means he or she uses to produce goods and services.

G.K. Chesterton, one of the leading Distributist thinkers.

In its late nineteenth and early twentieth century forms, as worked out by writers such as Hillaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton, distributism had a distinctly retro focus: the goal was to return the agricultural sector to family farms and to replace the factories with individual producers, perhaps organized in local or regional guilds as they were in the Middle Ages. These days, by contrast, you can also find what could be called technodistributism, which argues that modern technology makes factories an anachronism and proposes a radical decentralization of work empowered by the latest technological gimmickry. No, it’s not my cup of tea, but it may be yours.

E.F. Schumacher. If you read nothing else on political economy, read Small is Beautiful.

The most thoroughly worked out system of distributist thought so far is the work of E.F. Schumacher, the dissident economist whose book Small is Beautiful has been discussed at length in some of my past series of blog posts and was a central inspiration to my book The Wealth of Nature. Schumacher argued that modern economics is such a steaming mess because it ignores every bit of evidence that fails to support the “greed is good” school of mindless excess. He warned of the impending energy crisis long before it arrived.  (It probably helped that for many years he was the chief economist of the British Coal Board.) He also wrote extensively on one of the most important and least discussed sources of inequality between classes and nations, the cost of establishing and equipping a workplace, which is kept artificially high to prevent more people from entering business and driving down profits for the big boys.

Other resources:  This encyclical, this essay, this essay, and this book will get you started. You’ll have to buy Small Is Beautiful, since it’s still in copyright, but it’s well worth your while.

Social Credit. Imagine for a moment that a century ago there was an alternative system of political economy supported by public figures ranging from Dorothy Day on the left to J.R.R. Tolkien on the right, not to mention Robert Heinlein (and Robert Anton Wilson later on) off on their non-Euclidean vector.  It offered a straightforward response to some of the most obvious economic problems of our time, but it was erased from our collective memory so completely that next to nobody even remembers its name. Sounds improbable?  Welcome to the world of social credit.

Major Douglas in a cheerful mood.

Social credit was founded by a British economist and engineer, Major C.H. Douglas, who focused on the role of debt and credit in generating the wildly unbalanced distribution of wealth in capitalist societies. He noted, and proved by extensive studies, that the vast majority of businesses pay out less in wages, salaries, and dividends than the value of the goods and services they produce; as a result, it’s mathematically impossible for consumers to buy everything the economy produces without running up unpayable debt—and that’s where you get economic crises. There’s a great deal of theory, but a very rough sketch of the practical consequences is that under social credit, banking is a public utility rather than a for-profit industry.  Money is recognized as a system of tokens rather than a commodity, and is issued directly by the government rather than by issuing bonds. (Do we really want to have the government paying rich people for the privilege of issuing its own currency?  That’s what today’s system of money creation via debt amounts to.)

Finally, a national dividend is paid out annually to each citizen to balance out the imbalances in purchasing power, so that consumers can afford to consume everything that producers produce. These and other factors in a social credit system prevent the absurd accumulations of wealth in the hands of the wealthy few that make capitalism so destructive, without allowing the absurd accumulations of power in the hands of the politically connected few that do exactly the same favor for socialism. Thus a social credit society permits free enterprise in every field except finance, and is wholly compatible with democratic systems of governance.

Resources? This website and this website will get you started; Douglas’s books Social Credit and Credit-Power and Democracy will take you deeper. If you’re a Heinlein fan, you might also try his novel For Us, The Living, which is set in a future United States run according to social credit principles.  The second volume of Robert Anton Wilson’s Schroedinger’s Cat trilogy also has a modified form of social credit as a central theme.

*   *   *   *   *

There are many paths to the future. Distrust those who claim there is no alternative.

Are there other options? You bet. My point in describing these is not to claim that the three systems of political economy I’ve outlined are the only games in town. It’s to point out that neoliberal corporate capitalism and bureaucratic state socialism aren’t the only games in town, and that it’s possible to rethink political economy in other ways. I also chose these to show that retrovation—the deliberate use of the past as a resource for the future—is a live option right now. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel from scratch; we can draw on the experiences of wheelwrights of the past to get past those initial mistakes and let our imaginations stretch further than they otherwise would.

Imagination is the crucial factor here.  One of the reasons neoliberal corporate capitalism and bureaucratic state socialism are both so toxic is that they can tolerate no alternatives. In a healthy system of political economy, by contrast, there’s always room for people to experiment with radically different approaches to the ownership of the means of production and distribution, and for nations to explore different policies in the hope of finding the mix that works best under local conditions. When the radicals of past decades insisted “another world is possible,” they were right, but they didn’t go anything like far enough. Many other worlds are possible, and it’s also possible—to borrow a line from certain more recent radical thinkers—to envision a world in which many other worlds will fit.  To my mind, that’s a useful goal to work toward—more useful, certainly, than a mental monoculture fixated on any one system of political economy.


  1. “distributism had a distinctly retro focus: the goal was to return the agricultural sector to family farms and to replace the factories with individual producers,”

    That version isn’t happening, at least not with factories. The Chinese tried that with the Great Leap Forward. You can’t make decent steel in a village forge. The plant that made poly silicon for solar cells cost $1.6 billion and takes 200 people to keep it running.

    Come to think of it, family farms really are not just family any more. The family orchards around here rely on hired labor, some full time, but mostly in batches at key times of the year. Even Way back in the 1960s Dad gave up the farm because he couldn’t do it with just two kids. Back breaking work all day everyday (dairy cows don’t give you time off) and not much to show for it at the end of the year.

    So back to factories, what the economic system needs is a way to gather the money together to build the factories, ships, railroads, etc (the original purpose of a corporation) but without giving them the excessive political power that they currently have. We need to take away their personhood, but leave them the rights to make and enforce contracts. And throw in CEO liability for criminal actions his company commits. There is a former CEO of Boeing that needs to be in prison for a few hundred cases of negligent homicide.

    It’s a tricky balance since no one has gotten it right yet.

  2. Great post. I would highly recommend Graeber and Wenlow’s book The Dawn of Everything for more ways of living. The world has space for a lot more than the **** we put up with nowadays.

  3. PTSD sounds like an apt diagnosis for many people that I know. My best friend, for example, is a gung-ho believer in the Progress faith. Yet, he’s depressed and now spends most of his free time watching TV, porn, etc. We used to go to concerts, plays, museums, etc., but he now sits at home and occupies himself with the aforementioned activities. I worry about him, as I love the man like a brother. But he refuses any suggestions that deviate from his Progress faith and where it’s led him now.

    As globalism breaks down and the global economy powered by cheap fossil fuels goes the way of the dodo bird, do you think that these three alternatives, as well as other systems, might emerge in different locales AND do more or less well in replacing the failed socialist and capitalist systems in place? That is, should we expect the far future to be a thorough mix of political-economic systems that never quite merge with each other or that has one dominate the globe (as globalism has done with its two variations of socialism and capitalism)?

    Your discussion of dissensus in “The Ecotechnic Future” leads me to think that this might be the outcome. If so, I find it kind of exciting. One aspect of the ST future, that of diverse cultures and races, might occur on Earth, with diverse human cultures and civilizations that function side by side and interact peacefully and martially. If so, it is a far more interesting future than the rest of the Progess/ST future that will never happen.

  4. Dear John Michael, Thanks for this wealth of information on the in-between possibilities and the impetus to look at imagination as the fuel, glue, and pathway to what comes next. Creating community and political economical structures that are strong enough to last is a daunting task. Especially difficult for me is to how to imaginatively coalesce diversity [people who are of different ethnicities] so that everyone within contact range is accepted and heard and has a meaningful stake in the outcomes. I will follow all the links and somehow get the literature you suggest in this post. Thanks for the leadership!

  5. I’ve been digging into the debate over the nature of slavery in the US. What does everyone think – was the South pre-capitalist, anti-capitalist, sort-of capitalist, or very, very capitalist?

  6. Of the three systems discussed, I’d probably favor cooperativism. It seems like the one that has had the most real world experience, so to speak. I also think it would work well in small towns, as globalism fails and big business along with it. Local workers organizing into cooperatives and taking over empty shop spaces, small factories, etc., would seem like a relatively easier task than constructing a social credit system from scratch at a local level. Perhaps distributivism would also work well at the local, grassroots level, though.

  7. @JMG

    I have two questions:

    1) In your ADR essay on ‘The Next 10 Billion Years’, you wrote that the next intelligent species after humans go extinct are descended from modern-day raccoons, and you called them cyons. You also wrote that their political systems made our most sophisticated equivalents look extremely crude in comparison. My question, then, related to this essay’s topic is – does that also apply to their economic systems? I mean, you noted that political economy unfortunately got split into political science and economics, thus causing a whole bunch of problems. Did the cyons then avoid this mistake?

    2) Could it be possible for a given country to have all 3 of these systems in it? Could it not be said that the insistence on having one, and only one, model of economy governing the whole country, is also possibly something like the ‘there is no alternative’? Or am I missing something here?

  8. I was thinking just recently about Douglas’s argument, though I couldn’t remember his name. It’s a solid argument. Economists keep arguing that utility is not a zero-sum game, we can grow the pie and all have more, et cetera ad nauseum. What they neglect is that the more an economy is monetized and reliant on a common currency, the closer it will approximates an entropically-closed system in which my profit is impossible without your loss.

    In the real world, the necessary inflow of new money into the economy to allow sustainable profit is effectively controlled by whatever entity prints the money — whether this is the national government, a different nation’s government, a supranational governing body, or the banks themselves. The current system, as you’ve pointed out, is set up to give the lion’s share of that new currency to those who need it least.

    Some libertarians argue for a system in which there are competing currencies, so that no one can dominate, and look to the various cryptocoins to make that a reality. I think this would cause more problems than it solved, but it’s not totally wrongheaded. What’s really needed, though, is simply a demonetization of much of the economy, so that utility can be gained more directly through barter of actual goods and services.

    Of course, the ultimate common currency is the Watt, but that’s controlled by a much more even-handed central authority than any human ones (aka the Sun).

  9. There is a huge topic, and so timely. There are many people ready for a new direction after this pandemic and any challenge to neo-liberal capitalism that offered a viable path toward a better life would build a strong following quickly. The problem of course is that it is very hard to chart a path to some of these goals at a national level without a major revolution and step backward in many standards of living first. Your approach is effective…start small now and avoid the rush. But some things simply require large scale organized efforts before they become viable. Agricultural production is a good concrete example. In the current era with 7 billion people on the planet and the developed world used to plentiful and varied food, it is hard to see how agriculture can produce the necessary products without capital intensive machines and large unified land holdings. When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s in the midwest, each family farmer was deciding whether to become an industrial scale operation along with formally incorporating or drop down to hobby level farming. So farms are now either privately held corporations or large scale publicly traded corporations. You basically have to incorporate in order to allow individuals to shield some wealth from the nasty fluctuations in the ecosystem that sometimes make it impossible to repay the massive loans for land and industrial scale equipment. And despite the idealism of organic small scale agriculture, it doesn’t work unless people are willing to pay Whole Foods level prices. What is needed is an industrial scale implementation of farming practices optimized for people and their diets and the ecosystem and not corporate balance sheets, but it is hard to see how to do better than letting the market with good environmental regulation guide these changes.

    The core problem is how to organize humans for the massively distributed tasks of working together at something as complicated as transforming massive mechanized agricultural operations while staying viable. You have to have good new ideas, obtain enough land, design and building and repair the equipment, sell and distributing the produce, as well as the huge number of secondary dependencies. I like your proposals and will try to follow up on learning about how syndicalism might address the large scale organizing of specialized labor problem. Right now, the language of many of these challenges to capitalism is heavily influenced by a certain utopian idealism that makes them sound better than the shiny version of capitalism described in the media and by our politicians. But each of them have difficult problems that will have to be resolved. The fact that neo-liberal capitalism has more difficult problems (and socialism even uglier still)) is hard to convince people of without taking them through an entire conversion experience. Somehow we need a more evolutionary and pragmatic rather than revolutionary and utopian path forward.

  10. ‘We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us’ only really applies in capitalism once you get above a certain level. If you’re a pieceworker and you don’t do the work you don’t get paid. If you’re an Amazon warehouse worker and you don’t keep up, you’re very likely to get fired.

    Management or a lot of computer stuff is harder to measure, and therefore easier to fake.

  11. I really like your pictures and the captions for them. They’re appropriate to the text and often quite funny.

  12. Hi JMG, excellent post. Your concept of the perceived “binary” world applies to politics and economics, as well as other topics you’ve written about. As the Long Descent picks up speed, and the current flavors of capitalism and socialism fail to deliver solutions at the state, national and global levels, I would expect to see some of the alternatives you’ve outlined today begin to emerge, altered perhaps for the local circumstances. That will open up the door for less pleasant possibilities too.

    Burn out is definitely a problem, with many companies having to merge roles and responsibilities to “save” on costs, though not addressing the negative effects on “the most important resource, our people”. 35 years ago, corporate and consumer processes included the helping hands of travel agents, insurance agents, finance department resources to assist with health insurance and expense reports, and honest-to-God human beings to answer phone calls. Full service gas stations were about gone, and who knew that was going to lead the trend of off-loading services to save a few pennies? In the last 25 years and about a dozen jobs, I’ve never lasted more than 3.5 years before needing a break.

    Now the stress of keeping up with all the details of modern life piled on top of careers has hit the upper limit for many of us. There’s a definite urge to “get off the crazy train” and decompress and span time in alternatives, not all of which will meet with .gov’s approval. The paths ahead include tyranny, anarchy and everything in between. When in my 20s, I would have never imagined my Golden Years would be so interesting.

  13. The term “Social Credit” has been given a poor reputation as applied to a system in use in China. I assume your example is only similar in name and I have much reading to do.

    I can relate to burnout. My wife manages a dental office and regardless of how productive they are compared to other offices in the group she is constantly micromanaged and berated for every slip in their schedule.

    We have talked about cashing out and moving to a farm in Iowa…

  14. Hi JMG and commentators,

    I very much enjoyed this article, seeing cooperativism, distributivism and social credit discussed is always a treat. I like bringing them up (and other non Euclidean modes of political economy) around my partisan friends and seeing how they try to force them into the “left-right/capitalism-socialism” spectrum.

    Regarding the failure of imagination amongst the elite classes I recently came across this podcast from the NYT. “Timothey Snyder on the Myths that blinded the West to Putin’s plans”; It’s the link on the 15th of March here:

    I found this notable because it openly discusses how ‘Progress’ as interpreted by the PMC might not have been the correct assumption to make about the world, at least in the context of geopolitics. But then they start bargaining, arguing that despite everything they’re not total failures. It’s a shift in tone I’ve noticed very recently in establishment outlets. They’re admitting they were wrong to a degree but that we should still listen to them, rather than the usual strategy of yelling at everyone to stop being racist/sexist/”anti-science” and shut up.

    This WaPo article about encouraging open opinions on college campuses (what an idea!), is another example of this type.

    This shift is subtle but interesting. The PMC seem at least half aware that their world is collapsing and they have to at least acknowledge they’ve failed in some capacity while hoping this will encourage people to continue to accept their dictates.

    Interesting times!

  15. I went through a dogmatic radical socialist phase when I was a young man in college. I really think that a lot of us who opted for that did so because we decided to believe it when Republican neoconservatives would disingenuously call any attempt to reform the excesses of corporate capitalism “socialism”. Being young and very needy for something to believe in, we either didn’t notice or didn’t care that this only made us as ideologically monochromatic and disingenuous as the neocons.

  16. Very interesting post, as usual, thanks much for posting.

    Two questions, one more specific, and one broader (and possibly more appropriate to the open post later this month):

    1) Would you consider Georgism a distinct form of political economy, or a sub-species of socialism or social credit (or perhaps capitalism)? I’ve found it intriguing for precisely the reasons you highlight in this post (pointing out that there’s more things in heaven and earth than in your philosophy, Hegel) since I read this series of posts on the topic:

    2) Other than older works of political economy and histories of technology, do you (or the commentariat) have any recommendations for resources for retrovation (great coinage!)? I’m especially interested in ways people organize themselves and information (a monastery would be an example of the former and the Dewey Decimal system of the latter). As I said, if this is too broad for this post, I’ll happily save it for the open post.

  17. JMG, I wonder what you think of Singapore. Singapore, in my understanding (I am not Singaporean) is a capitalist economy.

    However, unlike the US or the European countries, my impression is that Singapore is not going through troubled times. Its people seem happy with the governance. Their government is regularly rated as one of the least corrupt in the world by international organizations. And if you want intelligent leaders, it’s hard to find a better one than their prime minister, who was Senior Wrangler at Cambridge (i.e., the top mathematics student there). The mathematicians at Oxford thought he could be a world-class mathematician — but he decided to serve Singapore instead.

    They are healthy: their rates of obesity are low, their medical system is affordable, straightforward, and on par with the best in the world, and their life expectancy is fourth in the world. For comparison, the US is 40th, the UK 25th, and Canada 15th. Their mental health, too, is good, at least compared to the USA: rates of depression are 2/3 that of the US.

    They are wealthy: Their per capita GDP, adjusted for purchasing power parity, is over $100,000. Even the nominal per capita GDP is $62,000, just $1,000 less than the USA. And their tax rates are capped at 22%, far lower than the USA.

    And as far as their culture goes, it seems like they do well there too. They seem to not have the deep rifts in American culture, where family members are sometimes torn apart by politics or morality — and then are given editorials to brag about it in newspapers. Nor do they have the kind of culture where controversial changes are forced through in the name of social progress. And crime there is nearly nonexistent. In a land of 5.5 million people, they have roughly 10 murders a year. Chicago, with half the population, saw 774 murders in 2020. Even petty theft — electronics and such — seems to me rare to nonexistent, and people can just leave their bag on a table to reserve their seat.

    Its education system is globally number 1, its IQ number 3 (behind Japan and Taiwan). All in all, it seems to me that Singapore is a well-run society with a high quality of life.

    It might seem strange that I bring up this detailed comparison with a country that most people don’t pay much attention to in the US. It’s been on my mind because I was talking with someone who grew up in Singapore. She mentioned in a matter-of-fact, unthinking way that it’s a more developed country than the US. Having grown up in the US I thought this was bizarre (I think the US position is to believe we are the best in the ways that matter, and I’d just assumed that was true), so I looked into it, and I realized it was true.

    It seems that technocratic capitalism has done well for Singapore. I wonder what your thoughts are on that remarkable country?

  18. Vala, thank you.

    Siliconguy, the retro end of Distributism isn’t greatly interested in factories; they’re more retro than that. (I haven’t yet seen how the technodistributists will deal with that.) The other two systems I cited can work perfectly well with factories — there are factories right now that are owned by their workers, and Social Credit provides an effective mechanism for financing factories without handing all the proceeds to those who already have too much wealth or power.

    Benn, that book really does seem to be making a splash these days.

    Quin, ha! Funny.

    Brenainn, a lot of people are in your friend’s shape right now — I hope they can get over it. As for the future of dissensus, one of the consequences of declining energy and resource availability is precisely that no one system will be able to dominate the globe in the foreseeable future. I expect to see much more diversity emerging, though those gimmicks that work well will doubtless be picked up and used by a variety of societies.

    Lawrence, keep in mind that social systems evolve — they aren’t made. I see my work here as getting some diverse intellectual DNA into the collective gene pool so that something less dreary than the two-headed monster of capitalism/socialism can evolve.

    Yorkshire, it depends entirely on how you define capitalism, of course.

    Brenainn, as I said, it’s the 900-lb. gorilla of alternative systems, because it’s been so thoroughly field tested already. I buy from worker co-ops routinely, and have belonged to consumer co-ops; they work.

    Viduraawakened, (1) I have no idea. I invented the cyons for the sake of one passage in a short story, and didn’t work out the background any further than I had to. (2) Yes, you could probably combine all three in a single hybrid system, and you might be able to bring in other alternatives as well.

    Slithy, depending on where this conversation goes, I’ll want to talk at some length about demonetizing the economy, because that really is the crucial factor.

    Ganv, industrial agriculture is a temporary success at best; check into the fantastic rates of topsoil depletion and soaring requirements for agricultural chemicals that go with the temporary dominance of the corporate farming system. Something else will be needed in the not too distant future, to avoid a complete collapse. Fortunately world population is peaking and will likely begin to decline in the next decade or so, but no matter what happens there will be shortages, and the expectations of people in the industrial world will not be met.

    Pygmycory, oh, granted. I’m glad you like the illustrations!

    Drhooves, oddly enough, I’ll be discussing all of this in some detail two weeks from now in my fifth Wednesday post on slack…

    Piper, make sure you can handle the rigors of farming before you do that! It’s not an easy life. You and your wife might want to look into other ways to stop working for an employer and parlay your skills into direct exchanges with people who need goods and services. That’s the wave of the future.

    John, fascinating. It does look as though the comfortable classes are starting to realize that their plastic utopia isn’t working to spec…

    Mister N, I’m quite convinced that socialism would be dead as the proverbial doornail right now if the neoconservatives hadn’t made such a push to resurrect it, by insisting that anything other than straightforward corporate ownership of everything was flat-out socialism. I sometimes think the neocons were so lonely for socialists to yell at that they set our deliberately to produce some…

    Jeff, (1) Georgism is a distinct system of political economy. I considered including it, in fact, but I ran out of room for that and half a dozen others. (2) Resources for retrovation? Any large collection of books more than fifty years old will give you more than you can work with. I find especially helpful along those lines.

    Amethyst, I’d have to look into it, and I frankly don’t have the spare time. It would take weeks or months of very close study to figure out exactly how it functions, where its strengths and weaknesses are, and whether and to what extent it exports costs to its neighbors (one of the pervasive vices of capitalism) to maintain its own level of prosperity.

  19. I’ve observed that the average human seems to have a sliding 3 week time window – last week, this week and next week with some have a sliding 3 day time window. But I never really had an explanation as to why they did – until now. Thanks for providing a very plausible theory behind it. It’s chronic low-level PTSD. Basically the whole world is sick, innit?

    I’d say the world may favor distributism just due to collapse. “If you want something done at all, you’ll do it yourself or do without”. Or, here’s the thought experiment – if your favorite big box store shuts down and you have a shopping list, what do you do? Or, what will survive will be what people can replicate in their backyard.

    As far as jiggering and pokering the credit part of the system, it really depends on what kind of system you want. Credit is geared for rapid expansion, rejiggering it would mean also accounting for low growth or no growth elsewhere too. Make a change here, about 4 or 5 other changes need to be made and not all are in obvious places. But like it or not, the changes may be coming anyway.

    Mark Blyth I’ve noticed is tiptoeing around the edges of what you call “Social Credit” although I’d find a different name for it because these days it means something decidedly sinister, another stick for the state to beat you over the head with.

  20. A friend and I have had many conversations about visions of the future. Both of us are deeply concerned about Climate Change, Sustainability, et al. He has great hope that there will be a (sudden?) awakening and people will under go a global wave of enlightenment and desire for change, mostly because he can’t accept the alternative of a planet and a civilization slowly disintegrating. I see what you diagnose as a lack of imagination and feel much more pessimistic.

    It’s a not a perfect metaphor but my impression of modern Americans can be summed up in a conversation I overheard last week. Two women were discussing some TV show or other and one said she had had heard of it and ask if it was good. The other replied, “It’s ok. It’s something to watch.” That is the kind of dystopian moment that gives me a fleeting sense of vertigo, and even nausea. I fear that is not just one woman’s low expectation but one that applies to much of America. It’s not just that people in the West (particularly Americans) are not imagining, rather they have lost the ability to “imagine” at all.

    To an extent, Matrix got it right. However, most people would not wake up filled with revolutionary passion, they would wake up screaming in terror and descend into a fit of suicidal madness. Of course our reality is nowhere near as dystopian as the movie but grim enough. People are trapped in the double addiction to mindless media and mindless consumerism both of which offer pale emotional experiences of an authentic life but the reality of their life is a barren wasteland of physical and emotional exhaustion. However, the alternative is not just something that they can’t imagine; they barely have the intellectual capacity to understand the alternatives, the philosophical/spiritual framework to place themselves in it, or the energy to face the herculean task of struggling toward that reality. In a Facebook conversation that started out discussing the very small difference between Russian Oligarchs and America billionaires (many magnitudes richer) devolved into my critique of capitalism and a woman’s defense of it, which she tried shut down with, “Name one person that doesn’t order from Amazon!” I replied, “I don’t.” but I know very few other people I could say the same about. The task is not merely to show people alternatives. Before they can even contemplate them, they have to learn to think at all.

  21. JMG, thanks for the response. I understand if you’re unfamiliar with Singapore’s system you won’t be able to have much to say about it.

    In regard to your point that capitalism exports costs to neighbors, however, I would guess that Singapore would have a hard time doing that. Its neighbors are Malaysia and Indonesia. Malaysia has 6x the population of Singapore, and Indonesia has 50x. Singapore is a small island with 5.5 million people, and its national security would be undermined by angering its neighbors by exporting costs. Of course, it might still do so — but I’d be surprised; certainly I’d want some evidence before assuming that that is what it was doing.

    I’m not asking you for evidence, just wanted to point out that I think that particular explanation strikes me as surprising.

  22. >What does everyone think – was the South pre-capitalist, anti-capitalist, sort-of capitalist, or very, very capitalist?

    Feudalist. Last dying gasp of it.

  23. Great post JMG, thanks.

    Having lived most of my life on the Canadian Prairies, I can relate some of our experiences with cooperatives and Social Credit.

    Various cooperative movements arose during the 1930’s and we still have some around. The most common are the consumer Co-ops. There is a healthy network of Co-ops in this part of the world and they have pretty much stayed true to their cooperative roots, although they have some corporate capitalist features. We used to have a network of producer cooperatives, the wheat pools. Their executives transformed them into classic capitalist enterprises and they have all been bought up by a single grain trading company. A political party, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation was founded in the 1930’s and was elected to run the Province of Saskatchewan. Originally a party of farmers and workers, they were taken over by doctrinaire socialists socialists and became the New Democratic Party. Farmers and workers in Saskatchewan now tend to vote for the local conservative party.

    Social Credit formed a strong social movement and political party in Alberta during the 1930’s. Among their most prominent spokesmen was one “Bible Bill” Aberhardt. They were elected to run Alberta for many years. Eventually, they drifted from their Social Credit roots and became enamored with neo liberal economics before disappearing from the political scene. One artifact of their rule is that in Alberta your can do your savings and loans banking through the Provincial Treasury Branch.

  24. JMG, I hope we head in the direction of that discussion!

    Of the three options you’ve outlined here, I’m actually most partial to the co-op option, since it’s essentially bottom-up instead of top-down. (Actually, it seems like the three options outlined form a nice progression from bottom-up to top-down, with distributism sitting somewhere in the middle, requiring government facilitation, but at a more local level than social credit. Anyway.)

    It also seems the most likely of the three to attract fellow-travelers. As important as dissensus is, there needs to be some critical level of agreement not about end-goals but about the general direction to head. As Nelson Mandela once quipped, the freedom movements in Africa got along well with the Communists because the long term goals of the former were the short-term goals of the latter. Co-ops can ring in the syndicalists, the localists, the permaculturists, the mutualists, the few true hippies left, and generally just any anti-establishment type, and that’s on top of those who just want better deals for their dollars or their labor.

    I also suspects it fits better with the spirit of the land here in many parts of North America. If I had to guess, distributism will fit best in Britain, while social credit strikes me as more suited to the broader Faustian landscape.

  25. Very happy to see you circle back to political economy because I think contains the central political issue of all time. We have a privatized monetary system maximizing profits to BlackRock/Vanguard who own controlling interest in every corporation dominating every industry including finance. This was revealed over 100 years ago by the Pujo Committee investigations who diagramed how, at the time, JP Morgan controlled every industry. The corporation bearing his name today owns controlling interest in the New York FED, the main FR bank but BlackRock owns controlling interest in JP Morgan Chase. Socialists typically oppose money reform out of ignorance and ideological blindness. There have been monetary reformers ever since Aristotle but the history is repressed. A compendium of the relevant history can be found in Stephen Zarlenga’s The Lost Science of Money; the mythology of money and the story of power. “Money has more to do with power than it does economics.” SZ This website is worth your checking out, I think. The problems of this world can nearly all be traced back to our private debt-money system which is doing a LOT of damage. War is but one of their rackets but is the most profitable.

    The fatal blind-spot that most (all?) thinkers on the “left” (the center and right as well for that matter) have when it comes to money and banking, is that they all assume that banks lend savers’ deposits to borrowers, when in fact this never happens, and so the banks not only lend the money, they create the money, and thus make the whole economy (and polity) entirely dependent on them – they have “the upper hand” over everyone else; industrialists, unionists, media, and politicians. It’s a hidden hand because of the general ignorance of the basic fact that banks create money when they make loans (and destroy it when loans are repaid) – thus, the entire money supply is rented from the banks; they’re the ultimate rentiers (not landlords, not industrialists). The landlords and industrialists are all in debt to the banks too.

  26. ganv,
    I suspect that increased prices for inputs of fuel and synthetic fertilizer are going to make small-scale organic agriculture a lot more competitive with large-scale conventional over the next few decades. I think the dominance of large-scale industrial agriculture is an artifact of a very specific set of resource conditions that are going away. I’m not very impressed with the technofixes on offer in this area, either.

    Given the amount of arable land currently covered in housing, I’m expecting a lot more food gardening in the developed world, homesteading and microfarming as food prices rise and people stop taking a well-function global system to supply them with everything they could possibly want for cheap.

    Looking at the way things are going in terms of fuel, fertilizer and food prices this year, I have increased my stores of basics, am cooking more from scratch, and am expanding my garden and trying to increase production per area. I’m not planning to make any money… but I already spend a lot less money on food than the average Canadian and am gaining a lot of monetary benefit by doing this.

    There’s room for a lot more people to do this, especially if the economy goes sour and people wind up with more free time and less money. And while one person doing this doesn’t make much difference to world food supplies, lots of people doing this does.

  27. I looked into it: I once had the opportunity to move there, and it would move things in my natal chart in a positive direction, but when I looked into it I realized it would be placing a gamble I didn’t want to place.

    A major issue with Singapore is its fragility: it gets a very large fraction of its wealth from its status as a very popular tax haven, with wealthy people from around the world moving there all the time to avoid paying taxes. Since the costs of running a city is much less than running a country, the government of Singapore needs a smaller amount of resources to run equivalent programs, and so can get by with both dramatically lower tax rates and more generous public services than most countries can. Meanwhile, while most countries have means to manage the accumulation of wealth in the cities to stop it from completely starving the countryside, as a city state Singapore is exempt from that usual stopper on wealth accumulation in a major city, while still being able to draw resources and wealth from South-East Asia’s countryside. Finally, it’s a major trading hub, and as international trade grew, it thrived off of it.

    Singapore set up an ideal system for maximizing their gain as long as the world was stably neoliberal but as that goes away, absent the regular infusion of money from overseas brought in by wealthy who live there for tax purposes and the money brought to the port need to ship everything around the world, Singapore is a small city state with far too many people and infrastructure it cannot afford.

  28. @JMG – The Retropian system of taxation you detailed is extremely Georgist: tax the daylights out of everything you extract from the land; don’t tax work. I had a Georgist friend from one of the science fiction lists, Nicholas Rosen, who could give it to me chapter and verse; he gave me their basic book, though I gave it away long ago. Brief overview from Wikipedia that jubes with what I remember: ” although people should own the value they produce themselves, the economic rent derived from land – including from all natural resources, the commons, and urban locations – should belong equally to all members of society.[3][4][5] Developed from the writings of American economist and social reformer Henry George, the Georgist paradigm seeks solutions to social and ecological problems, based on principles of land rights and public finance which attempt to integrate economic efficiency with social justice.[6][7]

    “Georgism is concerned with the distribution of economic rent caused by land ownership, natural monopolies, pollution and the control of commons, including title of ownership for natural resources and other contrived privileges (e.g. intellectual property). Any natural resource which is inherently limited in supply can generate economic rent, but the classical and most significant example of land monopoly involves the extraction of common ground rent from valuable urban locations. Georgists argue that taxing economic rent is efficient, fair and equitable. The main Georgist policy recommendation is a tax assessed on land value, arguing that revenues from a land value tax (LVT) can be used to reduce or eliminate existing taxes (such as on income, trade, or purchases) that are unfair and inefficient. Some Georgists also advocate for the return of surplus public revenue to the people by means of a basic income or citizen’s dividend.” Basic book “Progress and poverty.”

  29. “Georgism is a distinct system of political economy. I considered including it, in fact, but I ran out of room for that and half a dozen others.” Could you at least list some of that half dozen? Thanks!

  30. Owen, it’s unfortunate that C.H. Douglas’ term for his system got hijacked by the Chinese! It might be worth coming up with another label.

    Btidwell, I’m on your side of the argument — most people won’t wake up, because waking up would be a hideously traumatic experience. Of course I also don’t shop at Amazon…

    Amethyst, you might want to do a little more looking into the profusion of ways to offshore costs! One way to do it is to set yourself up as a tax haven — that way capital flows in, while the costs of producing the capital remain behind. If you make sure the wealthy classes of your neighboring countries get first pick of the tax-haven advantages, you can normally get away with this quite easily — and small countries have been doing this, of course, for a very long time.

    Raymond, thanks for this! That’s good to know. Along the same lines, I’d like to the the US get postal banking — it’s been proposed, but not yet enacted.

    Slithy, well, we’ll see!

    Howard, thanks for this. Did you know that it was C.H. Douglas, the founder of Social Credit, who first demonstrated that banks create money via the lending process? It’s been picked up by others, but he deserves credit for the original insight.

  31. Regarding your initial paragraphs on burnout, I’m reminded of C. S. Lewis’ introduction to “The Screwtape Letters”: “…my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business concern .”Dog eat dog” is the principle of the whole organisation. Everyone wishes everyone else’s discrediting, demotion, and ruin; everyone is an expert in the confidential report, the pretended alliance, the stab in the back. Over all this their good manners, their expressions of grave respect, their “tributes” to one another’s invaluable services form a thin crust. Every now and then it gets punctured, and the scalding lava of their hatred spurts out.” Pretty prescient for 1960…

  32. Insofar as imagining new economies goes, I’d like to think that the economy to rise out of this crash will recognize the importance of self-sufficiency and the dangers of extended supply networks. Seeing as how this story has played out since before Gilgamesh was in diapers, I’m not holding my breath. I would be content with an economy that left as much power as possible in the hands of the community and village, and that took pains to ensure that its basic needs can be met with resources available within a few hundred miles at most.

    Speaking of economics: If my gut instincts are right, we just entered World War III a few days ago, and are seeing the birth of Fifth Generation Warfare. This is starting out as the quintessential Banker’s War, with economic powers scrambling to torpedo enemy economies by financial means rather than combat. There’s fighting on the ground in Ukraine, but the real action lies in the sanctions that Putin correctly recognized as “hot war.”

    You can do as much damage with sanctions as with bombs, and even more of that damage hits civilians. But the big problem with sanctions is that they don’t boost your economy the way wartime production does. Instead, they drag it further down. Putin and Xi are both aware that they are presently at war with America, and are gambling that they can weather a hard economic downturn better than the West. (I’d take that bet, since neither leader has to be concerned with elections and both Russia and China have seen hard economic downturns within living memory).

    We’ve been using 5GW against smaller economies for decades, but this is the first time we’re seeing major powers using it against each other. Russia and China are working together to break the Petrodollar, and this time we may not be able to get out of this by issuing sanctions or sending in the troops. (And as an added bonus: we’ve been using the “Use Only in Case of Pending Economic Collapse” tools to prop up our economy since 2001 and have maxed out their capacity at the worst possible moment).

  33. If you assume a Spenglerian perspective on our civilization, where do we get the energy for imagination? Our civilizational model is all but spent and we are living on fumes of the past.

    How can we find the source of imaginative powers in the current environment? Just wishing it doesn’t seem to be enough…

  34. JMG,

    Regarding the neoconservatives there is a half-joking theory I heard that they just never stopped being Marxists. Apparently, a lot of the founders of the movement were openly Trotskyists and other flavors of Socialist ideologues earlier in their careers. The theory goes that when the Glorious Revolution didn’t materialize in the western nations after the late 60’s and early 70’s convulsions, they decided to form an entryist movement and rebrand as neoconservatives in the mid 70’s. Then they set about making the American Right into the Top Hat waring Capitalist monster Socialist propaganda insisted it was! Knowing what I know about radicals and entryism, it almost makes a strange sort of sense despite the absurdity.


  35. Reading the comparison of current workers’ symptoms to c-PTSD I was immediately reminded of Jack London’s description of East End Londoner’s in 1902. In “People of the Abyss” he tells of observing people so beaten down by either the fruitless search for employment, or for food and shelter that they just stood on the street, staring at nothing like dumb animals for an hour or more. The East Side was the poorest district, filled with immigrants and people arrived from the countryside crammed into crumbling slums. Alcohol was the other escape for those who had a little money.


  36. To expand on my previous pessimistic post in a way that is more fit for a discussion…

    Lets take a mid-priced chain hotel, for example. We can set aside the financial challenges standing in the way of the staff buying their local enterprise, along with the significant question of whether the talent/knowledge base actually exists on site to run a successful business without corporate support because this does happen, at least in isolated examples. We are left with the considerably percentage of employees in the larger corporation who not do “an honest days labor” to earn their salary. They are the vast army of “management,” from the regional supervisor to the board of directors. They have no education and no skills to do any useful work beyond pushing papers. Where the workers who form a collective are improving their lives, if not in hard currency, at least in self respect and freedom from the oppressive expectations of corporate overseers, these managers have built a life and identity on their place in the metropolitan white collar elite.

    They may be as unfulfilled, and maybe even as overworked, as the front line workers, but their entire identity is built on their six figure salary, luxury car, McMansion, and annual vacation. They could, at least theoretically, learn more useful skills and reformers blithely suggest that they must learn to “live with less” and discover the deeper meaning in life beyond materialism, but how does that work in *real* life? Many of these people are multi-generationally middle class. They know nothing else. They have been taught from birth to look on real labor with contempt and view anything less than their marks of professional success and material wealth as a shameful personal failure. Even those front-line workers really want to win the lottery and g”get rich,” even if they have made peace with the fact that it will never happen. What is the actual pathway of moving past that? Most importantly, what is the motivation for them to seek it? Even if they deeply want a less stressful more fulfilling job, moving down the social ladder is likely not an attractive solution. Yet, if any broad scale change is to take place, before society actually collapses leaving them destitute with no choice, we must have the “buy in” from these people who hold virtually all of the economic, social, and political power.

  37. Anonymous #29 and JMG,

    Thanks for the interesting and informative comments. I have wondered how Singapore became so rich and successful. Combining your comments, it seems like it’s a mix of it being a tax haven, and it being a trading port.

    It seems like in Anonymous’s view Singapore’s fortunes are tied to the world remaining neoliberal — so if that changes, Singapore is not guaranteed to remain wealthy.

    I still find it hard to believe that it might soon decline; I’m not sure that neoliberalism is over yet, despite it obviously having some backlash in the US lately. And even if neoliberalism did decline, I would imagine Singaporeans might find some other way to deal with it — they are ruled by an intelligent group of bureaucrats, and as a population they are wealthy, high-IQ, well-educated, and natively English-speaking. I have a hard time really imagining what a Singaporean decline would be like.

    Singapore seems to have coped with the pandemic, with its supply chain disruptions and so on, fairly well. Their inflation was around 2% and their GDP dip and recovery was better than the US’s. So if they’re dependent on the neoliberal system I wonder why they were hit less hard economically by the pandemic.

  38. I’m pretty sure someone in this blog’s commentariat posted this link about Singapore a few months ago. It’s about how Singapore has turned into a prototype tech-driven surveillance state. If the article is true, then Singapore is nowhere I would like to live.

    A choice quote:

    “Singapore has built a global brand out of its schoolmasterly for-your-own-good discipline, with disproportionately severe punishments — including the death penalty for drug smuggling — acting as a deterrent against disruptions to good social order. For those who stay inside the lines, it offers comfort, prosperity, and a textureless sort of freedom; the average citizen is expected to trust the government to deliver safety, in exchange for a certain loss of control over their individual liberties. Technology is becoming an increasingly visible part of that bargain. “

  39. I suppose “social credit” needs rebranded, since most people only know the term in reference to China’s behavioural control system. It’s a pity. Social Credit actually worked out fairly well when it was tried in Western Canada– though that wasn’t “real” socred, since Alberta doesn’t print its own currency. I believe they made due with redistributing oil revenues instead. (Rather like Alaska does now.)

    Personally, I would be most happy with a blend of all three of these! I can imagine a government that issues a national dividend (social credit!) and has rewritten the tax code to favour independent operators (distributism!) and worker cooperatives (!). Just for fun, we can imagine nationalizing a couple industries to keep the socialists happy. (In general, I like free markets. I like garlic, too, but I wouldn’t put it on my pancakes. Some things tend too strongly to monopoly to be left to the market.)

    I think the best thing about these three movements is that they are by no means revolutionary. As satisfying as it might be, there is no need to guillotine Jeff Bezos and seize the assets of Amazon; if we but tilt the playingfield to something human-scaled with a reasonable tax code, the Invisible Hand will take care of the rest.

  40. About 10 years ago a Macroeconomics course was required for my history degree. The textbook was by Paul Krugman. In his introduction (which everyone else skipped-of course-because it wasn’t required reading LOL) he carefully points out that, as soon as you talk about how resources are distributed in an economy, you are in the realm of politics. -Berserker

  41. @Amethyst – Singapore is a well managed city state – think if London or Seattle was an independent country and well managed. It is very dependent on outside inputs, including bringing in new immigrants, but only the immigrants it wants.

    @esteemed host – very much appreciate calling out political economy as being about power and money as one of our current issues is that currently our only functional feedback channel appears to be pricing, but there are many areas in which pricing is not functional (such as healthcare) and of course many externals that are not included in pricing. Perhaps better phrased is that it is the most functional of our feedback channels, but that probably speaks mostly about the weakness of the other channels

  42. BC was run by the socreds for much of years between 1952-1991. It lost power spectactularly under Bill Vanderzalm due to corruption scandals involving large sums of cash in a brown paper bag. The party imploded messily and got booted from power so thoroughly that it died.

    I really don’t know as much about it as I should. It sounds like it abandoned social credit policies as soon as it got into power, and was just fiscal conservatives using the social credit name… which might explain why I remembered the Bennetts as being some variety of conservatives, but not that they were social credit.

  43. Having worked in a grocery store for years, which is certainly not a “professional” class of employment, the petty tyranny of management seems like it takes different forms in different types of work. For instance, in service industry jobs, casual cruelty and an “us vs. them” mentality is common amongst the management. Seeing their underlings as essentially beings to be controlled rather as beings with their own interests, motivations and capabilities to adapt seems like a defining characteristic of even the lowest of the managerial class.
    This attitude almost seems like its a cultural prerequisite for joining that class, even if you barely get paid more than the wage earning employees directly beneath you. Interestingly, the mechanisms of surveillance and control that our society has characterized as “technological advances” – security cameras, computerized logging of employee behavior etc. serve to make the confrontational approach of management seem more manageable or even inevitable.
    I could tell a million stories of employees figuring out ways to side step various cruel dictums or render them counter productive just by sheer sabotage. In fact, simply treating one of your employees as less than your equal on the most basic level virtually guarantees that they will at minimum contribute to entropy by inaction (pretending not to notice problems and ignoring them) and most likely that they will actively seek retribution by whatever covert means are available to them.
    One can go to the local dive bar in any town and hear the class of service industry underlings telling each other stories of the various insanities and inanities visited upon them by their supposed betters and the creative ways they’ve gotten back at them.
    Now that managers are having a harder time finding fodder for their abusive machine, there’s a sense of confusion among them that seems like it’s giving way to dread.

    Thanks for another great post JMG, you’ve been on fire lately!


  44. The right in BC has a bad habit of calling parties names that don’t fit what they do. The BC Liberals are neoconservative – well, maybe neoliberal with a dusting of social conservatism and trying to balance the budget, while the social credit party was fiscal conservatives.

    Then you go look at federal right wing history and get the Progressive-Conservative Party… that’s what happens when the Progressives and the Conservatives amalgamate and can’t agree on a name.

  45. John
    I view neoliberal corporate capitalism as corporate socialism with its goal being to privatize profits and make the filthy rich filthier while imposing as many of the costs on society as possible. For example, our markets largely fail to include the negative external costs (eg, pollution costs) in the price of their “goods and services.” Studies of the fossil fuel industry show that they wouldn’t make any profits if the external costs were paid. The result is that many so-called goods and services are bads and disservices for everyone else.

    The mantra of deregulation and tax cuts for the filthy rich calls for increasing corporate socialism in which more profits go to elites and they in turn pay less in taxes that would have gone to cleaning up after themselves.

    In biology, mutualism occurs when both parties benefit from an interaction. Commensalism occurs when one party benefits and there’s no harm to others in an interaction. But when one party benefits at the cost of others it’s called parasitism. To my view as a biologist, corporate capitalism seems closest to parasitism with the elites and their hired politicians being the biggest parasites.

  46. Patricia M, it is indeed. I used a lot of alternative economics ideas in Retrotopia.

    RPC, besides Georgism, I considered mutualism, communalism, guild socialism, tripartism, and social corporatism, among others. As for The Screwtape Letters, my take has always been that Lewis based his portrayal of the “lowerarchy” of Hell on faculty politics at Oxford, which could have been described in exactly the same terms centuries before Lewis was born. (I forget who it was who said that university faculty politics are so vicious because the stakes are so small…)

    Kenaz, it’s largely because people keep expecting a crash that so little gets done! I expect to see, rather, a slump, or rather a whole series of cascading slumps, stretched out over a decade or so, with intervals of stabilization in there as well. As for sanctions, at this point it’s a strategy of desperation, since the US and its client states in Europe need Russian and Chinese products far more than they need anything we provide; the complete unwillingness of Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and most of Asia to pay any attention to the sanctions means that most of the human race is still busily trading with Russia; and the nature of the sanctions simply forces the move to a post-dollar global economy to happen faster than it otherwise would. The US economy is likely to end up in deep trouble sooner rather than later — and it’s not as though anyone on the planet has an incentive to bail us out.

    Ahriman, I’ve already explained that. We get it from the past, of course. That’s why retrovation is so crucial just now — as the age of reason gives way to an age of memory, using the creative ideas of the past as a resource for the future is the best option we’ve got.

    Dashui, now there’s a blast from the past! The next stage is to give the employee organizations a voting position on the board of directors, and mandate binding arbitration of labor disputes, and you’ve got old-fashioned social corporatism. It could well work.

    John, you know, that does make sense…

    Rita, true. Thanks for the reminder.

    Btidwell, keep in mind that people in that category are already downwardly mobile and being pushed toward burnout. They may be more prepared for change than you expect…

    Amethyst, please note, however, that all this is only very dubiously relevant to the topic of this post, and I do prefer to keep the discussion on topic.

    Dusk Shine, agreed!

    Berserker, well, that’s a refreshing breath of honesty.

    Drew C, it’s precisely because so few people are willing to talk about the interface between power and wealth that we have so few working feedback channels!

    Pygmycory, yep — the BC SoCred party sold out, became an ordinary conservative party, and crashed and burned. It’s an ugly story, and one that’s been seen many times on all ends of the political landscape.

    Reggie, thanks for the update from the grocery floor! I’ve been hearing a lot recently about “malicious compliance” — doing exactly what the boss tells you in a way that costs him big bucks — and other forms of blowback against abusive management. It’s a rising trend, seemingly.

    Moo Foo, I don’t know that I’d agree that neoliberal corporate capitalism is the most parasitic system — there are others that rank right up there with it — but parasitic? You bet.

  47. This post reminded me that here in Nova Scotia there is a history of cooperative movements. I just browsed through a book on my shelf (An Illustrated History of Nova Scotia by Harry Bruce) which touches on the so-called Antigonish Movement from the 1930s.

    There’s not a whole lot of material about it in the book, nor on Wikipedia, but a group of three Catholic priests encouraged and helped Nova Scotians to create study groups for adults in their spare time, helped many start cooperatives to avoid losing profits made from fishing and farming to middlemen, and also founded credit unions to fund entrepreneurial projects in the region.

    I remember the co-ops and credit unions when I was a kid, and a lot still exist. The idea of focused study groups to help build entrepreneurial and business skills would have been quite something at the time.

    From the book: “By organizing public meetings to air problems and then study groups to hash out solutions, and by providing instruction on everything from keeping a set of books to setting up a library, the Antigonish Movement inspired “the little people” to found their own credit unions, buying clubs, co-ops for the marketing of fish and farm produce, and co-op grocery stores and housing projects.”

    “In 1938, no fewer than 19,600 Maritimers belonged to 2,265 study groups. 342 credit unions were doing business, as well as 162 other kinds of co-op organizations.”

    That’s not bad, in the 1930s in Nova Scotia the population would have been around 500,000 or so people.

  48. I think that the reason for the despair you describe at the beginning of your essay is essentially the loss of any hope in the future. A number of writers, including the Italian Franco Berardi and the (late) English critic Mark Fisher, have written about the End of the Future: the end, that is, of the idea that the future could be better than the past, and the consequent helplessness and inability to see what the point of living actually was. When I was a child growing up in the 50s and 60s, there was a powerful consensus for making that better future: nothing high-tech, necessarily, but indoor toilets, free university education, decent healthcare, better working conditions and holidays, and that sort of thing. Above all, our parents were seeing that we were growing up in a better world than they had known, and we assumed that this would be true of our children’s generation as well. These improvements were not an accident, but rather the result of a powerful political consensus, around a type of reformed, house-trained capitalism, with a small sprinkling of Fabian Socialism. Decision-makers at the time were worried about the political consequences of rampant unemployment and poverty for their own safety, and worried about the attractions of the Soviet Union, and the strength of the Communist Party in countries like Italy and France. You had to offer the plebs something, in other words. Likewise, up to the 1980s, most organisations, public and private looked after their staff and were nice place to work.

    With the triumph of the neoliberalism you refer to in the 1980s, and the end of the Cold War, decision-makers in most western countries started to wonder why they should bother any more. The people weren’t going to revolt now. organisations could be turned into mechanisms for sucking out money and consuming people. What were the victims going to do anyway? This is why none of the theories you describe will ever attract a following unless they can start to give ordinary people the promise of a better life. Like many Socialists, I find anarcho-syndicalism very attractive, but then it doesn’t matter what I think. What matters is whether these ideas stand any chance of being implemented, and here, you have to look at the actual history of such initiatives. Here in France, Covid provided the government with the perfect excuse to avoid talking about the brutal suppression of the Paris Commune in 1871. People doing things for themselves threatens the interests of lots of powerful wealthy people, which is why all economic developments for the last generation or more have tried to take power away from ordinary citizens, consumers and workers. I don’t see that changing, and indeed I see it getting worse. The great failing of such discussions, I have always found, is the reluctance to accept that the rich and powerful do not give up their control easily, and that it will have to be prised, perhaps violently, from their hands.

  49. For a story i have been trying to work out how a society of Oneida Colonies might work.
    Each colony has about Dunbar’s number of adults (~150) and has communalistic (family like) relations inside the colony and market relations outside. Each colony specializing in producing different things for trade along with a fair amount of production for internal consumption. Each colony would also have its own housing, gardens and workshops.
    With a common religious outlook between colonies, the interdependence of a marketplace and group marriage within each colony maybe something more capable than a nuclear family and more caring than a business could be created.

    (just fyi: i think that the boys would end up staying at the colony they were born in and the girls are exchanged with other colonies for marriage.)

  50. >Along the same lines, I’d like to the the US get postal banking — it’s been proposed, but not yet enacted.

    Financial services, brought to you by the same people who forced PPACA on you and mandated untested experimental vaccines. Don’t get me wrong, the idea is OK and it seems to be a good thing elsewhere on this planet, it’s the people who would be implementing the idea here that makes me want to nope.

  51. I’ve been slowly working on a book called “Spiritual Economics” . A life work if you will. since economics and spirituality/religion/magic more or less operate on the same principles.
    Economics is the study of scarce resources which have alternate uses
    Magic is a study of changing consciousness according to ones will.
    What’s the scarce resources in question? Energy or the vehicles of which that energy is handled.

    I think open market capitalism (not to be confused for laissez fare capitalism or anarcho capitalism) is one of those systems that most people dont actually understand. The system itself is good at a micro-economic level, it’s piss poor at handling affairs of growing complexity especially when a third and eventually a fourth and fifth party interjects itself between the affairs of the original two entities, however, it’s by far the most flexible in handling and getting rid of those entities granted they haven’t swindled people’s energy.

  52. JMG,
    to be fair, there was around forty years between them first gaining power and sellingout, and them crashing and burning. They were in power for most of that forty years, too. So it isn’t the ‘promising movement gains power, sells out, and crashes and burns out in five years’ story. It’s more a ‘promising movement gains power, sells out, and founds BC’s longest running political dynasty, then gets handed off to a questionable character, then crashes and burns in under 5 years mostly due to corruption scandals’. It’s a success story that those who want to sell out to gain power would be quite happy to emulate.

    Of course, it must have been a bitter pill to swallow for those of their initial supporters who actually thought they were getting a social credit government.

  53. Brillant, John Michael. Brilliant. And totally in synchronicity as I happened to find today a copy of Les Dépossédés by UKLG.

  54. Jbucks, fascinating! That’s definitely a heritage worth reviving.

    Aurelien, of course the rich and powerful aren’t going to hand over power willingly, but they’re also flailing wildly at this point, having been blindsided by a future they did not anticipate and cannot control. Since the system they run is failing so abjectly at meeting even basic human needs, getting a significant number of people on board may be less of a problem than you think. The challenge then is figuring out how to transform the momentum of a critical mass into change, and there are a good many ways to do that, most of which don’t require violence. We’ll talk about those as this sequence of posts continues.

    Skyrider, well, it’s been tried, but if that’s the angle you want to pursue, by all means.

    Owen, er, do you consider the people who run the banks to be any better?

    Copper, fair enough. Have you explored the problems that arise when any form of capitalism interfaces with political power?

    Pygmycory, so noted!

    Sebastien, synchronicities seem to be flying thick and fast just now. Enjoy the novel!

  55. I’d like to know more about how to go from that critical mass of people who want change to actual change, too. Looking forward to those posts. Also maybe figuring out when you’ve reached critical mass, too.

    Not that I really expect to be able to do much with that knowledge, but I might be able to help it along in a small way, if it’s a good change. Or affect the trajectory on a very small scale.

  56. I don’t have C-PTSD, but I do recall working in the catalog center of an upscale department store based in Seattle and often feeling a velvet glove wrapped in an iron hand crushing my soul in its grip.

    Sorry for the TV reference, JMG, but it was very similar to the Twilight Zone episode where the boy Anthony forced everyone to be nice and happy or they would end up in the cornfield. (It’s a Good Life.)

    Fake smiles all around. I’m glad I only lasted in the PMC world for six months. I pity those poor people who do it for their entire lives. On the other hand, when confronted with the idea of giving up their PMC lives to live as a working class stiff, the answer is always, “No.” That makes me feel less sympathetic for their plight.

  57. Amethyst, and JMG, Singapore has its disadvantages. It is an authoritarian political system with a pronounced tendency towards a nanny state (Singapore has been called an education dictatorship) and with stiff penalties for misbehavior. That’s why it is probably only viable in the context of a Chinese culture, and, additionally, with the social geography of a city state where isn’t much of a rural hinterland. I don’t know much about the economy of Singapore, but there are cultural elements in its economical system, and in the economical system of other Asian countries which don’t transplant well into other cultures. It’s a bit similar as with democracy, which is equally difficult to transplant into cultures without democratic traditions.

  58. >do you consider the people who run the banks to be any better?

    Not by much. At this point not enough to matter. Or, you’re replacing one type of dysfunction with another equally annoying type of dysfunction. With the banks, they want to find every way they can to rip you off, making their service annoying and barely usable. With the government there’s all these kooky social engineering projects they’d be pushing on you, making their service annoying and barely usable.

  59. Interesting post, JMG.
    Here in New Zealand the dairy industry has been dominated by producer cooperatives (owned by the farmers in proportion to milk supply) for over a century. It is only in the last 30 years since the big mergers started that they have been ‘captured’ by their management, though still nominally cooperative. An interesting side-phenomenon of the industry (also over a hundred years old) is the prevalence of share-milkers – essentially farm owners contract with share milkers (herd owners) for a 50-50 split of the revenues, with the farm owner committing to fence and shed maintenance and agreed levels of fertiliser (and housing for the share milker), and the share milker committing to maintaining a certain size of herd and doing all the milking. This has historically been a way to accumulate capital (in the form of cows) as a step towards buying their own farm.

    With regards to Social Credit, New Zealand’s Social Credit party was the third largest party in elections during the 70s by a considerable margin. However, in 1981 despite gaining 20% of the overall vote on a turnout of 91%, they only won 2 of the 91 seats because of the first past the post system at the time (some argue that a lot of that support was a protest vote against the two major parties). They then merged with a grouping of minor parties and their message was lost amidst the others during the 80’s economic transformation/revolution and they are now of no relevance politically despite splitting out again and reassuming the Social Credit name.

  60. Another radical approach, in which I can see some merit in as a lawyer, would be to abolish private corporations (Municipal corporations with limited immunity would be OK) and require all businesses to operate as partnerships or sole proprietorships, which is the way it was before the 19th century….,I would add the proviso that a partner’s liability arising from one partnership does not attach to his other partnership interests…The details would have to be worked out, but this would prevent a lot of the chicanery we see today…

  61. I had a follow-up comment about demonetized economies, but it ended up too long and too far off the current topic, so I posted it to my DreamWidth:

    When most people think of non-monetary economies, they think of barter or gift economies, maybe trading favors. But I think the most important form of non-monetary economy is what I’m calling the “arrangement economy,” which is where two or more parties form an ongoing arrangement of some kind between each other. Examples include feudal covenants, familial bonds, and mutual aid lodges.

  62. Thanks for this! It’s literally the first time I’ve heard of Social Credit, considering that its basic premise is so intuitive, obvious, and elegant, that a first-grader should have no trouble understanding it. Probably a sign of how steeped I am in captalist neoliberal thinking!

    Maybe we should consider reinstating the Old-testament Julibee in some manner where all debts are forgiven at the end of a cycle.

    I guess I’m a bit of a techno-distributist myself, which kind of makes sense because I’m Roman Catholic and work in IT. I’ve heard the retort that scaling down things would cause prices to go up – to which I say 1) yes, absolutely, but our cheap stuff is not generally because of scale anyway, but because of exploiting externalities like weak labor laws, environmental regulations, etc., and 2) why not, generosity and living a spirit of poverty are supposed to be Christian virtues!

    On another note, these options presented aren’t just “not the only options” but they aren’t even mutually exclusive, either. Distributism is a worldview, Social Credit is a theory, and cooperativism is a practical arrangement – it seems like they go very well together in fact.

  63. Hi John Michael,

    🙂 Thanks for the delightful essay.

    “Yeah mate. I’m hearing ya. I’m just going to go off and do something else with my time.” Very powerful words there, indeedy yes. Said as much this week.

    Mate, my experience is working as an accountant in business and for business. I make stuff happen and resolve problems at that level. Now interestingly when you and I first began conversing, I dunno maybe back in 2008 or 9, I now forget, I made the decision to offer my services directly to small businesses. And that’s when things got interesting. My professional body, which I have to remain as a member in order to access government authorities on behalf of my clients, ran what looked to me like a protective cordon (to put it politely). The other areas of my profession (audit, insolvency tax etc.), whom had vastly less experience in this area were able to provide these services, but my area was specifically prohibited. Now, the professional members body will allow you to provide these services (for people with my background), but first (back then) they put an upper limit on my revenue earned from those services at $25,000, for three years. And that was before costs. Only the most determined could jump that barrier because costs down under are crazy compared to other parts of the world. Yeah, I jumped that hoop, but it sure teaches you to live tight.



  64. I’m pretty sure what jbucks is talking about is the Antagonish Movement, which was a Catholic response to communism – wisely, Catholic leaders provided an alternative to unfettered capitalism that appealed to Nova Scotians more than communism did. Did it work? Who knows, but communism in Nova Scotia remained confined to the universities in Halifax.

    These days in Halifax, a studio apartment costs 75% of a full-time minimum wage paycheck, after taxes and deductions. God help you if you want to eat food, wear clothes or go anywhere.

  65. Pygmycory, I’ll see what I can do.

    Jon, interesting. I never got into the PMC world, so I rely on those who did for my take on it.

    Owen, my hope is to balance the two dysfunctions against each other. A little competition will do both of them some good.

    Kerry, interesting. Thanks for the data points.

    Pyrrhus, that’s something I put into my novel Retrotopia — corporations only exist in the form they had in the early 19th century, as temporary funding methods for public goods, and businesses had to be sole proprietorships or partnerships. I still think it’s a good idea.

    Slithy, interesting! Thanks for this.

    Carlos, why, yes, they do indeed. 😉

    Chris, hmm! No surprises, though — keeping everything wedged into the existing system is one of the main agendas of the status quo.

    Justin, so noted. It’s not much better elsewhere — and in many places it’s worse.

  66. I recall JMG once argued that capitalism/communism/socialism were all merely different flavors of political economy cobbled together to respond to the unprecedented rise in material wealth brought about by industrialisation.

    The three alternative models outlined here seem to be more at home in a steady state or low growth scenario (similar to the very early industrial revolution before things went vertical). Can they be expected to continue functioning during a prolonged decline in population and material wealth?

    Is it therefore likely that an unprecedented world of steadily decreasing material wealth will force human societies to come up with hitherto unknown forms of political economy? I am struggling to think of a comparable time in history. Pandemics like the black death dropped population while the underlying carrying capacity of the land stayed the same (or even improved due to reforestation). Collapse of preindustrial empires like western Rome sometimes saw peripheral population levels increase as resources and people were no longer drawn into the center.

    How will power structures endure when they have more people than they can support? (especially in cases where the demographic pyramid has become extremely top heavy due to collapsing birth rates). Are age based civil wars a possibility?

  67. Mr. Greer,

    I, admittedly, haven’t read all the comments .. and I can kinda see what you’re implying.. in a positive sense.. But, I have a total allergic reaction re. the idea of “Social Credit” .. being as how both the Schwabians AND the current Chinese government AND the Wigs in D. C. eschew; a form of means – what I can determine – as a complete control of the Individual, with possible/probably awful consequences for same, if big (X) – pick the Big Cahunja of your choice – decides one is not abiding by strict establishment constructs.

    What’s next… a docile drug-induced janky jab in the neck of the tatooed as per THX1138?? Hyperbole – for sure!

    Yes, I get that, moving forward, the tech needed for such total control – long term – may be found wanting. However, still .. in the meanest time, I look at All The Elite CRAYCRAY the Planet wide, proclaiming their current high-cloud pontifications .. and wonder – what affronts will I and mine .. perhaps soon, be subjected too? .. and to what degree??

  68. Darkest Yorkshire, I agree with Owen’s sentiment that slavery in the US was the fading remnant of feudalism. The South, where slavery was primarily prevalent of course, was different culturally from New England, NY, PA from the onset of colonization. The Northeast Region being settled by religious groups (puritans, quakers, etc.) whereas the South (at least the elite class) was settled by the second and third sons of the English aristocracy. The early 17th Century really wasn’t too far in the future from the feudal era. The cultural remnants of feudalism melded well with the agrarian nature of the Southern colonies. African slaves were simply European serfs with a darker skin tone (Europeans not being physically well suited to long hours of labor in the Southern heat and humidity.)

  69. I just quickly realized why Social Credit seems so obvious now yet I never considered it before. The neoliberal corporate capitalism model is heavily reliant on the idea of limitless growth: okay, I guess there’s a lot of inequality and waste, but hey, if our betters are flying into space in cock rockets, at least we rubes have pocket supercomputers.

    Take away that assumption and then it becomes obvious what the flaw of the current system is.

  70. Archdruid,

    I have a degree in political science and half the theories I encountered never actually made sense without talking about the role wealth played in the political process. I was generally able to talk to communists and socialists because they acknowledged and understood the role of wealth in the political process. Their solutions were, generally speaking, really bad ideas, but at least they got the connection between politics and economics.

    The absolute worst people to talk to were conservatives and libertarians, who wouldn’t even acknowledge the idea that wealth played a pivotal role in the political process. Outside of this message board I find this to still be the case, where the right-wing/conservative section sings the praises of the wealthy. I mean they are increasingly seeing the oligarchy as a threat, but only specific members of that particular class.

    Of course, even with the understanding of the political-economy, there was always a third element missing. Turns out ecology is a prefect match with the study of politico-economics. That third element brings every messy theory of political-economy into a near perfect balance.



  71. JMG, about neo-liberal capitalism, there’s so much in it that’s wrong, off-the-wall, bogus, misconceived, that from my perch I couldn’t tell you what’s fundamental to what ails it and what isn’t.

    If you get about three days of work experience in a garden variety Fortune 500 head office you’ll notice that in-your-face aggression is a prized attribute, in fact, aggression is routinely confused with intelligence. I dunno, maybe that’s the key to the whole fiasco.

    The last company I worked for (it was a long stint) was different. Or it was different in Texas. That’s where HQ was. Now, forget what you thought you knew about Texas. Guys that walk funny? Quick on the draw gun-slingers? Nope. In that place it was in-your-face religion, at lunch they talked about what they did on Sunday with their church group, about so-and-so who just adopted a Korean orphan, stuff that never in a million years would you hear in the corporate world in Toronto. Not to say that working at HQ was a holiday. Far from it.

    And racist? Homophobic? It was Texas, after all a confederate state. But no, Heaven forfend. Seriously, I kid you not, a ghastly sin against Jesus. It was a real mix of races there and sexual preference. And chair throwing lunatics were a non-existent breed. It was a culture heavy with ex-military and southern Baptists, genial, by the book, and ladies who could stretch the word ‘yes’ into three syllables and who really liked tequila (I hate tequila).

    But that was Texas. It was different elsewhere in the global operation. In this place we had all the usual miscreants in abundance.

    I tend to think that not only was the split between ‘political’ and ‘economy’ calamitous, but equally so the split between business and areas of knowledge related to business, like economics, and other areas, like, for instance, geography and history. It really does appear that people are educated in business or economics in isolation from other fields and know next to NOTHING outside their professional sphere.

    Now, while the folks in Texas were downright wonderful, and I say that whole-heartedly, some of the stuff they did was mystifying.

    For instance, everyone knows that Europeans are all multi-lingual, right? I mean all those small countries cheek-by-jowl so it stands to reason, right?

    So the iron law of money means that you consolidate back-office functions in a low-cost locale, right? Of course it’s right. So that’s what they did with some administrative and accounting stuff, they shut it down in various European capitols and relocated it to Budapest.

    The problem was that Hungarians speak Hungarian. They are not multi-lingual. They do not speak Italian, German, French, Dutch. And their English was rotten. Most everybody’s English was pretty sketchy, especially that of the English themselves, the Germans the absolute worst, but the Dutch, my oh my, both in written and spoken form, absolutely marvelous. Go figure.

    Anyway, it was a mess, the Budapest employees would get important documents and communications in a multitude of lingos, from multitudes of clients and governments and and fellow employees and not have the foggiest. It didn’t help that Hungary wasn’t long out of communism. In those early days and to such people, mundane services like personal chequing accounts were high finance and, to many of them, deep and abiding mysteries.

    As for this place, a while back, I was sheepishly asked in confidence by a senior exec (and a licensed professional) if Europe is a country. This person had to go to Ireland to carry out some crucial tasks. And they asked is Ireland part of the UK, and by the way, what exactly is the UK anyway. Back in the day, such an individual wouldn’t make it out of seventh grade. But I guess now we live in very different days and have been for a while.

    I could regale you with all manner of tall tales, stuff that would make Sarah Palin look like an exemplar of scholarship and the patron saint of wisdom. But you get the drift.

  72. I’ve come across the theory that Adam Smith, whose day job was teaching “moral philosophy,” created his economic theory with an eye to encouraging Calvinist virtues like industry. So modern neo-liberalism has a religious basis.

    Quinn (no. 4), I’m pretty sure Marx and Engels have reincarnated as the Duck Dynasty guys, or maybe ZZ Top.

    Darkest Yorkshire (no. 7), I’ve seen anti-colonialist interpretations of Reconstruction. The reason that slavery was unpopular in the north was not because ordinary whites loved black people–many abolitionists were racists–but was because they feared competition / downward pressure on wages (we see the same thing today with “China’s stealing our jobs” type rhetoric), and yearned for a white Protestant America that the rich, by following their economic self-interest, were in the process of spoiling (we see the same thing today with discussion of pollution).

    Jeff Russell (no 18), I’ve heard Sun Yat-sen’s “Three Principles of the People” described as Georgist, because of the land-reform aspect. When I finally got around the reading the thing (it tends to be more venerated than read, at least by people of a certain age–the younger generations are almost wholly disinterested), it struck me as the kind of quaint, off-the-cuff opinions that anybody’s uncle might produce, if given any encouragement.

    Amethyst (no 19), Singapore is often given as an example of corporatism. There are the trappings of democracy, but the same party wins every time, and anybody who goes against its interests–either through political activism, or simply by competing with one of the power-holders, or his relatives–is dealt with in various ways. Foreigners may not have their contracts renewed, for example. The (British-derived) system of lawsuits has meant that many ordinary criticisms can be construed as insults to the government, and the perpetrator’s bank accounts may be locked down in anticipation of a lawsuit, to prevent funds from escaping the country.

    In my younger days I had a choice of whether to immigrate to Taiwan or Singapore. (I had contacts in both places.) I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if I had chosen Singapore. Maybe I’d be rich, but my wife thinks I’d more likely be in prison for chewing gum or something!

  73. Carlos M. (no. 65) “Maybe we should consider reinstating the Old-testament Julibee in some manner where all debts are forgiven at the end of a cycle.”

    There is the Sabbatical year (7-year cycle) and the Jubilee (49- or 50-year cycle).The issue is that nobody will lend anybody money towards the end of such a cycle. Rabbis had to invent loopholes (the prozbul) to permit non-dischargable debt.

  74. Great essay as always. I’ve read about numerous economic/monetary reform movements and often wondered what the world would have turned out like if they’d been followed or dust them off and use them in the future. Here’s a couple of economic systems I’ve read about , Silvio Gesell’s Freiwirtschaft, and Binary Economics/Capital Homesteading by Louis Kelso,Robert Ashford and Norman Kurland.

  75. I find it interesting that so many people here point to farming as an example of a sector of the economy that has to be corporate capitalist to succeed today. Certainly that’s part of the prevailing narrative.

    But as a voracious consumer of documentaries, I can tell you there are hundreds of farms all over the world that are succeeding by turning away from the corporate paradigm. Look at the work of Vendana Shiva in India to see how the current corporate farming methods actually harm and impoverish farmers.

    Now for some fun examples. Food forestry produces more profit and more calories on fewer acres, with less human labor, than industrial farming.

    One American farmer had a series of bad years and couldn’t afford GMO seed anymore, and he was forced to start saving his own nonGMO seeds, and radically improved the profitability and resilience of his farm.

    Another documentary showed that subsistence farmers in the global south often find a much lower quality of life when they abandon subsistence farming to pursue urbanization.

    Another group of permaculture farmers ran into labor problems and found that arranging themselves into something like a permaculture village that cooperatively planned their operation worked much better, creating something at the scale where their own labor was enough to sustain a high enough level of biodiversity, this making them more resilient. This approach to permaculture makes a lot of sense to me, because even a huge family will have trouble tending all the plants and animals it takes to replicate a bslanced ecosystem, but if a village wants to create a food ecosystem, that’s much more manageable, and humans have organized as villages and tribes for 100,000 years, so we are genetically optimized to interact at this scale.

    It’s important to remember that farming is a viable living in many cultures throughout history. It’s usually a sign of systemic problems (either from their society or their environment, including natural climate changes) when your farmers can’t support themselves.

    We are currently in a rentier economy thet is fine-tuned to extract wealth from working people, farmers included. Simply allowing farmers to afford to live by extracting less wealth from them would solve many of their problems. Why can’t a farmer afford to support their own farm and household, if they aren’t paying someone else for seeds, fertilizer, chemicals, equipment, and taxes? How much money do they need to pay just to live? Hint: the answer to that question explains everything you need to know about the great resignation, the trump presidency, brexit, the US deaths of despair, the skyrocketing government debt and consumer debt, and the nightmarish conditions of the working classes. How much should anyone pay just to live? And where is all this money ending up?

    Fix that one problem and suddenly a LOT of options appear. And not just for farmers.

    I saw another great documentary about Latin American workers who were locked out of their factories after capitalists closed up shop and left. There was a worker’s movement to just break in and start up the factories as employee owned businesses. And guess what? They were more profitable and competitive under worker control. Naturally, all kinds of legal shenanigans ensued, and not always in the direction you might expect.

    Jessi Thompson

  76. JMG,
    Interesting and excellent essay as always. Here’s hoping that one or all of these other possibilities are immanentized 😉 in the coming years.

    A few random thoughts. If too OT, please feel free to delete. Lately at times, I’ve had a feeling or feelings like I had back in the 1970s. I was a teenager then. Can’t quite explain it, but it feels like simpler times are trying to break back through. The feeling does not seem to have anything to do with the current politics, or the oil situation, etc. I don’t know, maybe it does. But, it’s a sense or an “energy” maybe, not really nostalgia. Anyway, wondering if you (or any of the commentariat) have been experiencing anything like it. It’s a good feeling, but a little surprising, I guess.

    Maybe it has to do with the oncoming disintegration of the short-lived American hegemony and the potential for another cold war. The world was polar in 70s; Cold War 1.0 was front and center.

    Backing away from globalism is a sensible thing for us. Empire does not sit well on American shoulders anyway. We are naturally very ambiguous about such things. We have always been the underdog, right from the beginning, taking on a world power for our independence. And then later, Washington laying the groundwork for isolationism; avoiding attachments and foreign entanglements. Live and let live has always been a strong current in our society.

    Apologies, if this is a bit scattered. Appreciate your efforts. Keep up the great work.

  77. It looks like I’m on my way to becoming a technodistributist, not because I have any philosophical commitment to that way of doing things but because an online store is currently the easiest way to get my products out there. As a creative person I have found that it is distribution, not the means of production, that is the bottleneck one must get through for success. I would like to find ways to become a retro-tech distributist operating on a cottage industry basis, as I suspect that to be the true wave of the future.

    I’d like to see all these alternatives flourish, as I’m sick to death of the current dreary, tedious model, and don’t relish the prospect of technotalitarian pseudo-green Marxism.

    My favorite local art supply store is a worker’s coop; the employees there seem happier and better-tempered than at other stores. And the coop you show in Ashland, Oregon – I’ve been there. I once bought some dandelion root there while attending the Shakespeare festival. It made a nice soothing tea.

  78. The following is off-topic for the week, but not I think for the project of this blog.

    If I am not mistaken, it looks like the Fed raised the interest rate by one half percent, which is a lot by recent standards. At least one financial expert I follow, Jim Rickards, apparently considers this a major event. At the same time, China and Saudi Arabia seem to be preparing to exchange oil for yuan, not dollars. So we may be looking at the end of the petrodollar, and hence the end of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency, as often predicted here before. I kind of have a hunch this may spell big trouble, especially for those of us in the USA.

  79. There was another form of organization here in the US in days gone by. That was the Heavily Regulated Monopoly. The original AT+T “Ma Bell” was an example of this.

    Antoinetta III

  80. “… Dorothy Day on the left to J.R.R. Tolkien on the right, not to mention Robert Heinlein (and Robert Anton Wilson later on) off on their non-Euclidean vector”

    Funniest and most accurate thing this Heinlein fan has read in a while! “Non-Euclidean politics” is a great description for someone accused of simultaneously being a fascist, a communist, a hippie, a libertarian gun nut, and a nudist.

    Here’s another synchronicity: while idly flipping through my old collection of Calvin and Hobbes comics a few days ago, I stumbled upon this half-forgotten gem:

  81. Amethyst:
    There’s a reason that Singapore is known as “Disneyland with the death penalty.” It’s a classic example of a place that looks great on paper, but it sucks to actually live there. It’s the same reason why they have so much difficulty getting professional westerners to move there and those westerners still tend to leave despite the ridiculous sums of money they are offered.

    There’s a saying in Asia that Singapore is a corporation masquerading as a state. As others have noted, the unique position of Singapore in the geopolitical sphere is something that cannot be universally replicated. And as for your last comment about not ever imagining that Singapore can decline: well, plenty of Singaporeans have been concerned about exactly that since the death of Lee Kuon Yew – Singapore’s future remains to be seen. I’d place my bets tho on a place that can at least feed itself.

  82. Another great essay! It seems like we should be able to pursue all three: cooperative structure of businesses, distributism/appropriate scale (i.e. only those businesses which truly benefit from centralization, like car/airplane manufacturing, are centralized, while farms and restaurants are decentralized), and banking as a public utility.

    Somehow I have found myself as the coordinator of what is effectively a rather large annual consumers’ cooperative/buyers’ club, and I find it to be extraordinarily efficient and beneficial to all involved. With an all-volunteer staff we take preorders then receive, organize, and distribute three truckloads of soil amendments and growing supplies in less than three days. Theoretically the same underutilized building could be used for 100 other buyers’ clubs throughout the year to bring in necessary supplies to the community, and I’ve been starting to envision one with a focus on emergency preparedness supplies.

    Compared to a retail store, a buyers’ club requires fewer people, uses space more efficiently (items don’t sit on shelves for days), offers substantially lower prices, and results in less fossil fuel use because people place fewer, larger orders and make fewer trips. The tradeoff, of course, is that it requires forethought and planning, which has become passe in a world where Progress tells us we can get anything at any time. I’m hopeful that buyers’ clubs will be making a comeback as rising energy prices impose a heavy tax on the Amazon/big box model of distribution.

  83. @Raymond R, @JMG

    As the probably the one of the few socialist sympathizers here; I should point out that Raymond is incorrect. The Cooperative Commonwealth Federation was an explicitly socialist party whose end goal was ending the capitalist system in Canada. Its founders included farmers/coop groups but they were only part of it The NDP came about during the red scare of the 50’s as a successor and became a vaguely Fabian, vaguely social democrat party. Any socialists are purged or marginalized pretty quickly now.

    On the subject of Cooperativism; they were as others have stated, more common in Canada decades ago. A large one that remains is Co-Op. It ,like a lot of things in the prairie province, changed into a regressive unpleasant organization that was the subject of an ugly and violent labor dispute not long ago. The Kootenay Coop, a long running grocery store in the hippie town of Nelson was taken over by a Californian expat and friends a few years back. Unfortunately it has been run into the ground with bad investments in condos and an ultramodern new store while going Covid restriction crazy. Its truly sad, going in was like stepping into a different world a decade ago, the man is by many accounts a terror, and the atmosphere in the store among the employees shows it. Whether it can be salvaged is a good question, I hope so, but how is a good question.

    On a more positive side, some local stores have stepped into its niche; they even sell your book, which I bought.

  84. This is a public TV documentary of co-op’s in Minneapolis. Most people think of the West coast as the brith of the sixties co-op, but by far the highest concentration of co-op’s at that time were in Minneapolis. It is a fascinating discussion of the differences between the co-op’s, half run by Anarchists, the other half run by communists, and how violent the battle between the two (well, almost entirely from the Communists.) The organic birth of those co-op’s has turned into mostly serving the liberal urban PMC. The co-op’s remaining in Minneapolis are mostly quite large operations.

    Personally I hold to the “small is beautiful” model. And frankly any of the models described above would be preferable to the inherently destructive, eminently coercive, grotesquely violent capitalism and socialism.

  85. Thomas Piketty’s “Capital and Ideology” covers many of the dominant political economies, of most of the world since the Middle Ages. A book with extraordinary breadth and depth. He does use the word “socialism” in relation to his proposed solutions which, seems to me, neither accurate nor useful. The word “socialism” is a thought-stopper these days, as far as I’m concerned! His thinking tends to work outside the context of a declining civilisation / peak resources situation, which rather limits the usefulness of his more complex solutions, but doesn’t diminish the work on how and why our societies have ended up in different situations (good and bad) at different times in our history.

  86. The Dispossessed is my favorite Le Guin novel for exactly the reasons you state. It’s realistic, engaging, hopeful, and critical all at the same time. I was inspired by that book and Small is Beautiful in my early twenties, so I think it may be time to pull them back out for another read. Thanks for the encouragement.

  87. “That turned out to be too explosive a mix for the comfort of the privileged, and so in the early twentieth century political economy was chopped in half. The bleeding fragments got turned into the half-sciences of economics and political science, which have spouted twin plumes of comforting nonsense ever since.”

    Since then, economist have forgotten the politics in their “science”, turning it into the pseudoscientific explanation for neoliberal…POLITICS.
    “Consumer cooperatives are not quite so common as they used to be, but you can still find them, and you can also start them. The simplest form of consumer cooperative is a buyers club, in which a group of people get together to buy groceries and other products wholesale and split the cost, cutting out as many middlemen as possible. Once a consumer co-op gets going, if its members want it to expand, they can add members and raise the money to open a cheap storefront somewhere, though of course this involves additional costs.”

    I was in one of this consumer cooperatives for some years ago, but finally it doesn’t work and I left it. We never managed to “buy a cheap storefront” for us. However, your reference to consumers cooperatives has animated me for trying it again!

  88. One thing I’ve wondered about for some time is – back in the day, blue was the color of the establishment. “True blue” and all of that. Red was the color of the revolutionary, and was so associated with communism, that during the Cold War, only fanatics dared use it as theirs. Now we have blue meaning liberal – which is now the establishment, but don’t try to tell them that – and red meaning ‘conservative’ – which the blue-state liberals are now using as synonymous with ‘revolutionary populist’, which is also true. But – when did that switch take place? Does anyone remember?

  89. I haven’t read The Wealth of Nature but have read Small is Beautiful and checked what the International Socialism Journal had to say about EF Schumacher, and found something: I’ve been doing this since I was 14 and some of this was still lost on me. But I remember you mentioning an energy theory of value as opposed to the labour theory of value, and that is covered in the article.

  90. Glad you mentioned E.F. Schumacher , JMG — he was truly a giant and has been an inspiration to many!

    Living in a country in which government has shown itself to be spectacularly corrupt and both willing and able to raid peoples’ bank accounts (Canada), my preferred alternative political economy is one which is as bottom-up as possible. I am a big fan of cooperatives and credit unions. In fact, in some parts of Canada, credit unions have been booming for the past several years… and its not just little old ladies who are members; some fair-sized businesses are also members. My hope is that they will continue to grow and prosper as more people become disenchanted with the customer-hostile banking system that Canada is cursed with. Maybe cooperatives may also prosper, as big corporations (which were supported by our governments’ “health emergency policies” while small businesses were allowed to go under) are just as customer-hostile as the big banks in my country and people are desperate for something small and has a human-touch.

    There may be several possible political economy models (some not yet imagined) to counter the current rotten-to-the-core neoliberal corporate capitalism, but I’d say that the key features need to be bottom-up, democratic, anti-bureaucratic, low-tech, simple, flexible, and local. Such features should also help make the system resilient on the downslope of collapse. I think that it is also worth exploring the political economies of societies prior to the industrial revolution – even though most governments were monarchies – as there could be some important lessons to learn from them (not as though I have done any research on the subject as I find it extremely boring).

  91. Edit: UHG! .. definitely NOT eschew, but meant ’embrace’ instead. Apologies for the confusion/contradicting term.

  92. After a brief break from family issues, we’re back with an update on the activity at Green Wizards.

    this week’s main post looks at the progress I am making in turning a near unused and empty basement into my soon-to-be retirement home. “Update On The Basement” takes us on a pictorial walk-thru of the main living space. We’re into the drywall phase of things. It’s actually starting to look like you could live in it, as opposed to the bare studs and debris of a construction site. Come take a look.

    While I was gone, the Green Wizard’s forum has still chugged right along with some fascinating subjects.

    First, “Thoughts on Freezers” asks can you store food without all that energy? Too many seem to focus on how to create power in an emergency with generators or batteries when maybe we should be asking how we can use less or even no energy to store food long term so that the blackouts and power outages coming more and more often in the Long Descent aren’t a problem. Add your own thoughts.

    Next, “Eat Yourself Capitalism and the Long Descent” warns of an ongoing problem of the modern economy which is only going to get worse. Vulture capitalism or the way that a collapsing society is often more profitable for those with no morals than to do what benefits others.

    “No App For Poverty” looks at the way pop culture and the selfie crowd have turned advice to the struggling into a sound bite. It’s easy to save money if you have money. Real and practical advice for those in need is the basics, not what get’s clicks.

    For the writers among us, two posts. “Anyone Using Grammarly?” looks at the popular grammar and punctuation software to see if it is useful for writers to download, or is it just an over-priced straight jacket of conformity?

    Then “First Lines” talks about how to create an instant hook to reel in your readers and make them want to want more. Green Wizard Ken takes a fascinating trip to his library and investigates examples.

    And finally, “Suggestions For Nuclear Power” asks, will energy starving societies soon turn back to nuclear power? It starts the discussion with a cross-post from a FB friend and quickly morphs into a discussion of what I feel are the missing elements of the broader talking points of climate change adaptation. I also take the time to lay out what my views are on how and what are the priorities of Green Wizardry.

    As always, the posts and comments on Green Wizards are open to the public, but to have your say will require a free account. Contact me via email (green wizard dtrammel at gmail) or on Facebook Messenger. I’ll set you one up and you can get started.

  93. John, et alia–

    Discussions like this one–both the post and the ensuing conversations within the comments–really drive home for me how very fortunate I am at this stage in my life. I have a meaningful career, one that is firmly grounded in the “real” economy of physical goods and services (I work at a municipal utility), though it also touches on the more abstract financial economy (e.g., the regional energy markets). My labor goes to providing core services to our ratepayers and I have the opportunity to learn lots of new things. (Though my primary job deals more with those abstract energy markets, I’m delving into metering as well as looking to get my state licenses for basic water and wastewater operator functions.) Even with the regionalization and localization of economies, electric power, clean water, and a functioning sewer system are going to remain vitally important.

    It also doesn’t hurt that we’re a smaller group (~100 employees) with a friendly organizational culture and a general manager who cares about employee engagement.

    I’m hopeful that the cooperative model(s) being discussed this week really take root across the country as the corporate model falters and fades. To my mind, cooperatives stand a good chance to be the primary replacement and would work very well for small to mid-sized organizations.

  94. @jmg thx for the essay! I think I’ll start looking at these systems and try to get an answer to “how do we deal with the commons?”. As you know, I’ve been following the water levels in AZ. Yesterday Lake Powell dropped below a threshold that was set to signify “red alert”. 35 feet more and no power!(

    To the point you were chatting with Amethyst about — exporting costs — it looks like upstream will be forced to make extra releases to shore up lake powell (in the short term anyway). I’d imagine people will not be happy about that and will push back. And the river in my mind is “the commons” and how that gets apportioned is political economy. I read a few books on the “water wars” that were coming — but I honestly thought the great lakes would be the major battleground.

    thx again!


  95. Excellent essay again JMG!
    The political economies of the future will likely have to return to the roots of the Code of Hammurabi – Reciprocity and Accountability to balance against Incentives. Here’s a link to another essay on that topic:

    Thinking back to my employment in a large corporation several years ago, the CEO and high level managers created unsafe working conditions that were more profitable for them, if nothing went wrong. And if things did go wrong, they made sure that the blame for it was carried by us, the peons at the bottom. Hammurabi would have put them to death, instead of awarding bonuses.

    The essay on PTSD-C is a much better framework for understanding the toxicity of my old work environment. One of my old co-workers began to think about ways to kill himself. Fearing that he might be fired for being mentally ill, he began to see a psychiatrist, at his own expense.

    The psychiatrist kept telling him, “Changing your job won’t help because the problems within you are causing your trouble. If you go somewhere else, it will be the same story. You have to find a way to deal with your stresses where you are now.”
    This was exactly the wrong advice–and from a healthcare professional! Would the psychiatrist have been punished if he killed himself? Probably not. My friend ignored the advice, quit, took time off, and found another job where he was in much better shape, last I heard.

    What if the Great Resignation is actually a healthy response of large numbers of people with PTSD-C from their toxic workplaces? I sometimes wonder if we will end up like the descendants of the Mayans and Incas. Enslaved by the Conquistadores (who killed most of them slowly instead of cutting out the hearts of a few while still alive), they worked themselves to death in order to send all their gold across the sea to enrich someone else. Talk about PTSD-C! Their descendants are still alive today, but no longer do high-level mathematics, make laser-straight roadways, or build earthquake-proof stone walls without mortar.

    If our civilization is already broken at the base to that extent, we will likely not have to worry about not being able to make good steel in a village forge, or poly silicon for solar cells.

  96. My neighbor who used to live in Singapore likes to say: “Singapore is a fine country. Fine for this, fine for that, everyone pays the fines.”

    With regard to the broader question of whether a small prosperous nation is exporting costs:

    Any nation that is fully integrated into the global economy AND enjoys a higher standard of wealth than the global average IS exporting costs. The most important mind-game of our neoliberal-capitalist global economy is hiding this fact behind layers of abstraction and intermediation.

    I like to think of it in terms of hours. Someone who is earning $100k a year and working 2,000 hours a year can afford to purchase goods and services representing close to 10,000 hours of human labor. The exporting of costs here is not accomplished by anything so crude as imposing bad deals on neighboring countries by force, but rather by the system which overvalues labor in some fields and some places while undervaluing labor in other fields and other places. Now I don’t think all hours are equal, and we can argue about how many hours of welding should be equivalent to one hour of brain surgery, but when we see discrepancies on the scale of entire regions and nations, it is clear that there is stealth externalization of costs going on.

  97. @JMG #57

    Could you please clarify? If im understanding you correctly by what you mean it’s no different than what happens when an occult practice is taught and adopted by a state entity and made into a major world religion.

  98. IIRC, Benjamin Franklin mentioned that colonial Philadelphia had something akin to a Social Credit system. In the early days of his printing business he printed a flier arguing for city officials to increase the amount of paper money in circulation, a suggestion that naturally aroused the ire of creditors. His arguments were successful, and the increase in paper money did in fact support enhanced economic activity in the city. He later came to the conclusion that this strategy could be overdone.

  99. One of the biggest hurdles to get over in imagining a new socio-economic system is the fact that – contrary to universally accepted economic dogma – money is not wealth. Money is created by lending, so its primary substance is debt. Ergo, it is illth, not wealth. This is why ramping up the supply and availability of money (ie. inflation) also consistently ramps up the spread of poverty and debt-related problems. All socio-economic systems that have been put into practice in recent history have treated money as wealth, and therefore all have failed. What we need is a paradigm shift, but how to achieve it I know not.

  100. Several commenters have raised the question as to whether the south pre-civil war was capitalist. Johnathan Levy in “The Ages of American Capitalism”points out that the just prior to the civil war the value of slaves in the south exceeded the capital value of anything else combined, land buildings and industrial plant. One of the drivers of the war was the desire of southern slave holders to get access to more land in the west that could be used to put their slaves to work. Other settlers to these lands did not want the slaves as competition. The south may have been feudal but it had elements of capitalism.

  101. Oilman 2, last week you raised the idea of the value of TDI Volkswagens. I bought a new Beetle TDI in 2000. I put 200,000 miles on it. It consistently got 47 mpg. With the torque of the diesel it was fun to drive. It was a fantastic little car. I lost it in an accident as the insurance would not repair it. I even ran it on straight bio-diesel for a while and it ran fine but the mpg dropped to about 44.

  102. Well done, John! You hit the nail on the head.
    Any centralized state is going to be subject to abuse. You show very good examples of what a true caring society should do. Thank you.

    Just fyi, since I’ve retired I’ve been working with local city and county groups to develop ways to provide for the bottom 10% of our neighbors. Currently I’ve joined in the work to set up a Public Bank East Bay and also groups focused on SMI (serious mental illness) and homelessness along with the climate activism work I’ve done for years. It’s all very rewarding to do in a social credit kind of way.

  103. Your mention of Adam Smith brought out some of the writing that have been ignored by classical, liberal, and neoliberal ‘economists; over the past century plus.
    One that is always edited out is what he calls, “the vile maxim of the masters of mankind: all for us, and none for anyone else.”
    Another is his mocking of the very consumerism that his market system would breed to feed itself, and was especially skeptical of corporate power, believing that whenever the two got together it would lead to a ‘conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices’. [Thinking of gasoline prices at this moment!]
    Most surprisingly of all for latter day neoliberals are his conveniently forgotten views on the vital roles of the state. ‘It should protect society from violence, protect every member from “the injustice or oppression of every other member”, and then, crucially, “erect and maintain those public institutions and those public works that, although of great value to society, are by nature not profitable and therefore should not be expected to be delivered by private enterprise. [Thinking of water, electricity, home heating, public transit…].
    There is a much forgotten scholar, the great Arab Ibn Khaldun, who lectured tyrants about the workings of history, and noted in his time in the 14th century, that societies succeeded or died based on the “quality of their co-operation and group solidarity”. He called this most essential ingredient “asabiya”. Seems like something is missing along these lines in so many societies, cultures, at this time and in many places.

  104. @Bei #75 – Thanks very much, I’ll have to check that out! Outside of the big philosophical works (Confucius, Laozi, Zhuangzi) and the two best known military works (Sunzi and Mao’s “Guerrilla Warfare”), my knowledge of Chinese sources is very sparse indeed, so thank you for opening up another road to go down.

  105. Just a couple of follow-up comments on others’ ideas.
    #46 reggiemello – in tune with what you have said I have always admired the English talent for being politely insolent.
    #11 ganv – there is little evidence to support the idea that industrial farming produces more available food than more traditional methods. I can remember the call of the early 60s re farming – get big or get out. I am not a farmer but did wonder if that would be good for the land.
    #71 thecroatoan 117 – serfs and slaves are not the same thing at all.
    So many interesting ideas and points of view.

  106. Does anyone know of any good journalism (or really any journalism at all) about the great resignation? Has there been any reporters anywhere that have tried to interview people who have left their jobs? I know several folks who have retired early. I also know several local business owners who can’t find help but I do not really know any working age people that have quit. So one close to me thinks we just don’t have enough people in the US and just letting in Central America will fix everything. I am inclined to disagree. However I would like some articles to show him that this is really not the case.
    Here against we have a real failure of institutions (journalism) and also a lack of imagination (I cant imagine why someone would quit a job ever).

    Will O

  107. One of the most important causes of the PTSD so many have from corporate work is related to the insane double binds. One example I have is what I call the “Frozen Turkey Firings”: at one of my old fast food jobs, the idiot manager bought too much frozen turkey for a holiday special. I did inventory and orders for the store, and found it impossible to keep everything stocked with so much of our freezer space taken up by frozen turkey; despite the fact that I had tried to tell management this would become a problem, they insisted if we told the cashiers to upsell it, the Turkey would be gone by Christmas. It wasn’t, because we could not sell more than a hundred fifty pounds of turkey no matter how hard we tried. We sold more than normal, at almost thirty pounds, which I was impressed by, since it was usually more like ten.

    The result was that months later we still had a ridiculous amount of turkey in the freezer, which made keeping everything else stocked properly impossible, since freezer space was kept to just what we needed. I found it incredibly frustrating, especially since despite having my objections in writing, the manager kept trying to make it into my fault we had so much turkey in reports to head office.

    We often had to throw some out because it was packaged in large containers with something like 25 servings, and not a lot of people would buy a thanksgiving special in April, so the manager sent a memo telling everyone that if there was any turkey in the fridge, we could not defrost more. At close a couple nights later, we saw there was a single serving of turkey in the fridge, and one of my coworkers brought more out to defrost it, because it took 12 hours to defrost in the fridge. I said that given the memo it was a bad idea: I suggested leaving a note for opening to let them know the situation.

    He pressed on, and despite the fact that had he not done so, it would have been a disaster (someone ordered a half dozen of the specials for lunch), he got a write up for it, and was fired because he’d passed the limit for how many write ups he could have. A week later, we sold the last serving of the turkey, I brought the new turkey out of the freezer, and about four hours later someone came in and wanted the thanksgiving special. The cashier told her we were out of turkey, and she escalated all the way to the manager, who then gave the entire kitchen staff a write up for allowing the store to run out of turkey, and later sent us messages demanding to know how it was possible we could have run out of turkey to serve when we were also complaining that we had so much in the freezer we could not stock everything else properly.

    Most of the kitchen staff that had worked that day was fired for insubordination, because most of us wanted to know how we could possibly have kept the turkey in stock in the fridge when it took 12 hours to defrost, and someone had been fired for defrosting more meat overnight when there was a single serving left mere days earlier.

  108. Zeroinput, most civilizations undergo decreases in population as decline sets in, and in many cases those decreases go very far indeed — in much of the western Roman empire, for example, population bottomed out at a small fraction of its imperial peak. That said, you’re right — and it can be shown by those examples — that a prolonged contraction in population and economic activity imposes very unfamiliar challenges on societies, and most of our current economic habits and institutions can’t even manage slow growth, much less actual contraction. More on this in future posts!

    Polecat, the term “social credit,” when Douglas invented it, didn’t mean what the Chinese meant when they borrowed and redefined it. Quite possibly Douglas’s economic scheme needs a new name, though “Douglasism” is very clunky.

    Carlos, yep. And since we’re not actually seeing economic growth in any sense that matters — set aside the expansion of abstract pseudomoney and other unpayable IOUs and the economy has been flatlining or shrinking since not long after 2000 — that flaw is really starting to bite.

    Varun, you’ve just neatly defined the things that make me roll my eyes at the vagaries of the right — they need to deal with the politics of wealth and with the ecological implications of economics, and by and large they won’t do that. The left pretends to do both of these, but ask them to give up their SUVs or share any amount of wealth or power with the working classes and you’ll see just how far their alleged compassion extends. So it’s kind of depressing on both ends.

    Roger, thanks for this. I’ve only been to Texas twice, but what I took away from both visits is that Texas is a nation rather than a state, and like most nations, it’s got a lot of diversity within its borders. The guys that walk funny and play with firearms are only one of the local cultures; the serious Jesus brigade is another. As for the Hungary story, the phrase that comes forcefully to mind is “typical clueless Americans…”

    Bei, makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

    PatriciaT, well, yes, but good luck getting Amazon to stop sucking at the government teat. Most big corporations do that, and many only make a profit because they do that.

    Scott, consider writing an alternative-history novel! Thanks for these — I don’t think I’ve encountered either of them before.

    Will1000, I’ve also had a kind of Seventies feeling of late, and it hasn’t missed my notice that we’re coming up on another anniversary of the American Revolution — 2025 will see the 250th anniversary of the battles of Lexington, Concord, et al. The Bicentennial was an inspiration to a lot of people; maybe this anniversary will do the same, with more lasting impact. Emerson comes to mind:

    “By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
    Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
    Here once the embattled farmers stood
    And fired the shot heard round the world.”

    Kevin, when I lived in Ashland my wife and I bought most of our groceries from that co-op, and yes, their dandelion root is good stuff! The focus on distribution strikes me as crucial, and the more people turn their minds to that, the better. As for the interest rates and the rise of the petroyuan, yep — both of those are signs I’ve been watching for.

    Antoinetta, a valid point. It didn’t work very well; the motto people assigned to Ma Bell in those days was pithy: “We don’t care. We don’t have to.”

    Anthony, I read a lot of Heinlein back in the day, and “non-Euclidean” is the only label I can think of that even remotely fits. Thanks for the Calvin & Hobbes, too — very much on topic.

    Tidlösa, yes, and so am I. Thanks for the correction.

    Mark, I’m delighted to hear this. I think it’s very likely that buyers clubs will be coming back into style in a big way as inflation continues to bite, so you’re surfing the wave of the future.

    James, thanks for the data points — and thank you for being willing to defend a divergent viewpoint here.

    Wiliam, thanks for this.

    Michael, and thanks for this! Piketty is on my get-to list.

    Kwo, you’re most welcome.

    Chuaquin, all human organizations have their problems! I’m glad you’re considering another try.

    Patricia M, that’s a fascinating question to which I don’t know the answer. Anyone else?

    Yorkshire, I note, however, that the article insisted that Marx is right and Schumacher was wrong, because Marx is right. It’s the inevitable belief structure of any form of ideocracy:*
    1. The ideology is right.
    2. Whenever the ideology is wrong, see #1.

    *Ideocracy, not idiocracy. Ideocracy is rule by ideology, and it has certain inevitable bad habits, no matter what ideology is involved.

    Ron, thanks for this. History is only boring because too many historians write it that way. See if you can find some books on social history, accounts of how people actually lived in earlier times, and see if those catch your interest.

    Polecat, so noted!

    David T, many thanks for this.

    Patricia M, and thanks for this also.

    David BTL, I hope you’re right. Electrical cooperatives used to be quite common, especially out west; I note with pleasure that they still have an association.

    Jerry, thanks for the update! I wonder how many people realize what a gargantuan crisis we’re looking at as the water level drops…

    Yorkshire, thanks for this.

    Emmanuel, oog. I know a lot of people have stories like that, but still! I’m quite convinced that the Great Resignation is in fact a sane response on the part of abused workers — and you’re right that Hammurabi would have had a very precise response to the behavior of our current managers petty tyrants.

    Copper, um, no, that’s not at all what I mean. I mean that political power interfaces with capitalism in certain predictable ways, having to do with the influence of money on power and vice versa.

  109. John–

    Re electric co-ops

    They exist is most parts of the country, I believe. NRECA is the co-op equivalent of APPA (American Public Power Association), which is the association for municipal power utilities.

    I know in SC, where I did high school and college, electric co-ops served a lot of the rural areas and were the primary customers of Santee Cooper, the state-owned G&T (generation and transmission) utility. Here in WI, the western part of the state is served by co-ops generally. What’s also interesting is that in WI, electric co-ops are not rate-regulated by the state public service commission–they set their own rates–though municipal utilities are. (In most other parts of the country, municipals are similarly not rate regulated.)

    Investor-owned utilities make no sense, even within neoliberal economic doctrine. Private ownership of a natural monopoly with no competition? Public or collective ownership operating at a cost basis is the obvious construct for things like power, water, roads, and the like. Yet, when I make that argument to others in the power industry, I keep getting told how much more efficient private enterprise is than “wasteful government” operations and how it has better access to capital. I’d argue otherwise, as one can bond for capital on the back of your monopoly service franchise.

  110. @JillN re “#71 thecroatoan 117 – serfs and slaves are not the same thing at all.”

    Right. Sharecroppers in the post-slavery Jim Crow South were de facto serfs, but not slaves. They could not be bought or sold, nor their families sold away from them, and they could leave. But they were still tied to the land by debt and lack of alternatives.

  111. Modern Singapore is the creation of Lee Kuan Yew, a right-wing disciplinarian who said “If you can’t force or are unwilling to force your people to follow you, with or without threats, you are not a leader.”

    I knew someone from the oil industry who worked out of Singapore in the ’70s. He told me that Lee realised that Western money was essential for the development of Singapore. Westerners valued cleanliness and safety, so Singapore was kept very clean. Regarding safety, Singapore was infested with gangs like every port city. Lee called the gangster leaders together and told them that if one hair on the head of a Westerner was harmed, there would be terrible consequences. After that, every Westerner was followed by two gangsters, one to keep an eye on the Westerner, the other from a rival gang to keep an eye on the first gangster.

    Lee was also a bit of a eugenicist. “If you don’t include your women graduates in your breeding pool and leave them on the shelf, you would end up a more stupid society…So what happens? There will be less bright people to support dumb people in the next generation. That’s a problem.”

  112. Helix, fascinating. I’ll have to look that up.

    Steve, excellent! That’s one of the points I make in my book The Wealth of Nature.

    Glenn, long time no see! Good to hear that you’re still on your feet and doing things.

    Dbtazzer, hmm! For years now I’ve been insisting that everyone who uses the word “evolution” needs to sit down and actually read Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species. (That’s less punitive than it sounds; unlike most scientists these days, Darwin wrote good lively prose.) I’ll have to consider starting to insist that anyone who uses the word “capitalism” needs to sit down and actually read Smith’s The Wealth of Nations.

    Will O, I wish I could recommend something. Anybody else?

    Anonymoose, that’s a classic example of drool-spattered managerial stupidity. I wish it was much less common than it is.

    David BTL, I’m very glad to hear this! I’ve lived in places with public utilities and places with private utilities, but never yet in a place with co-op electricity. (The public utilities have consistently given better service at lower prices, by the way, which is one of the many reasons I don’t buy the arguments for privatization either.)

    Patricia M, thanks for this.

  113. Freezers vs the environment. Interesting thought. Drying and canning are the only two options that come to mind. (Does brining count as canning?) Both of those cause significant nutrient loss. And canning uses a fair bit of energy too, both in the heat needed as well as embedded in the jar lids, which were in short supply last year.

    The freezer uses little energy in the winter if it outside as mine is, and if inside the energy is recouped as heat in the house. In the summer it works harder, but there is sufficient solar power to keep it running if you want to be a purist. And it will coast through the short nights. So all you would need is enough battery to handle the starting surge. I think mine draws 200 W while running. I can run both freezer and refrigerator at the same time on an 800 W inverter with ease.

    Freezers could be insulated better. I improved the summer performance of mine by glueing 1 1/2 styrofoam to a large piece of cardboard, then used reclaimed hard drive magnets to attach the cardboard to the door.

  114. To our host, and by extention Ron M, others

    I’d recommend a great book by A. Rodger Ekrich: ‘At Day’s Close – Night In Times Past’

    It’s a look at how people lived and dealt with life – mainly between the late middle ages and the industrial revolution – without the benefit of electrical illumination. Quite a fascinating read, and one which might give the reader pause into considering a possible future where basic illumination becomes rather scarce .. with all that entails.

  115. Patricia+Mathews (no. 93), it happened after the Bush vs. Gore election in 2000. TV networks started using these maps in the 1970s, but assigned the colors inconsistently, so started coordinating with each other. There was some concern about the Cold War associations of red, so it was decided to alternate the colors with each election. This lasted until 2000, when the same election maps stayed on TV for months, thereby freezing the colors in the public consciousness. By then Communism was no longer such a concern, and the Greens (who were briefly important then) already came with a convenient color.

  116. Mentation from Uqbar

    For the up and coming generation, perhaps walk away from organizing labor to gain rights within a gross corporate structure. Perhaps organize people to walk away from the products and psychological conditioning of mass consumption. Relocalize, meaning not just make corporate things locally, but make things for local people. Defend, build and maintain local water and food production. Begin a new direct system of trade for things requiring outside sourcing. Quit believing that wealthy individuals and their institutional fronts are owed anything. Create new social structures for local and regional defense and do not believe the constant fear monger over “everything” that is intended to keep you passive – do it.

  117. Actually, all this is waay too much… for me – what is it you once said about “war bands” – we can drive h*** with our land spirit here, or just crumble under nature’s ambiivalence, lacking imagination.

  118. @ JMG & David BTL…

    My farm is powered by a rural electrical co-op. They originally put in a coal fired plant, but as coal nearby was mined out, it was converted to natgas from the surrounding counties. Of note is that they left the entire coal setup and boilers in place, with rail adjacent. They built and piped in new boilers for the natgas to drive the turbines. I am thinking this was the smart play, but more serendipitous than anyone truly imagining the long descent. I am thinking ripping the old boilers out was just too dang expensive as a more likely reason.

    Support your local co-ops of all shades and sizes!

  119. My apologies. I am aware of what happens, yes, we end up with capitalism’s ugly older half-sister, Mercantilism of which the government or a corporation interferes and creates an environment of which wealth can only be extracted from things, it cannot be created, at least not easily. Capitalism tries to do away with most of that issue by making a system open enough for those of us like you and me to move to where we need and want to go, in other words to build our wealth. The two systems basically have the same nomenclature and functions, it’s a matter of differentiating, which most people cant or won’t do out of ignorance.

    All a government is, is a monopoly on law and force that (we the) people agree to pay with food and other resources in exchange for protection, favors, and “leadership”.

    Any leader of another monopoly, corporation, or revolutionary group would more or less jump at that opportunity to get chummy with a force like that, which if you’re well connected or someone is interested in your cause, well that’s where stuff gets ugly IF they’re successful in influencing the right people.

    I will say I’m still working on it, but I have Thomas Sowell to thank for “sending” me over here.

  120. JMG, cluelessness abounds not just south of the border but to the north where in Canada you will find the most witless followers of the most hare-brained trends whether hatched in California or Manhattan. What better indicator can you find of failure of imagination? Why can’t we conjure up our own craziness? Well ,we can.

    We adopt the most bizarre precepts of the latest neo-con or neo-lib or wokist craze with hardly a second thought. Globalism? Yes! Free Trade? Absolutely! Deregulation? Con brio! Offshoring our industrial backbone? Quickly now! NAFTA? More please! Business! Free enterprise! Lead! Follow! Or get out of the way!

    By the 1990s it was commonly accepted that business leaders would call the shots and government would meekly follow along. And, there was good reason to think that way, with the US-Canada Free Trade Agreement taking shape and later NAFTA which enriched the rich and rolled over the middle and working class.

    In this country we have five big banks. In 1998 two decided to merge, the announcement made without so much as a courtesy call ahead of time to the government in Ottawa. There was great celebration in the business press, an enormous hoo-hah, the two CEOs lauded as visionaries that would certainly keep the Canadian banking sector from ending up as rounding error on the balance sheet of some monstrous foreign financial behemoth.

    The trouble was the end run that the banks tried to do around the finance minister and prime minister neither of which took kindly. Banks weren’t exactly popular back then and still aren’t now and letting such a merger happen would have been the political kiss of death. And so Paul Martin (the Fin Min ), with Jean Chretien’s (the PM) backing, stuck a spike in the deal. No merger. With no exaggeration, disaster averted, but to my eyes it looked a close run thing.

    Incredibly, four years later, with Martin and Chretien still in power, two banks tried again, using the same end run tactic. Once again, Martin and Chretien killed the deal. I fully agreed, too much destructive power in too few hands. Again, disaster averted, the mystery being why oh why, with the same two top guys in power did the banks try the same gambit?

    I mean, laws and governments and national boundaries are such an infernal bother.

    Shortly after the second bank merger debacle some senior manager at work decided that he would bring to Toronto a planeload of Indian techies to work on a project. And what’s wrong with that? This is the age of globalism right? And it is well known after all that they’re competent and work for loads less. The problem was that, no matter globalism, the legal niceties of immigration law were given exactly no consideration and neither were such inconveniences like how on God’s green Earth were such people who were paid peanuts going to live in a high cost place like Toronto. Somebody senior enough in HR found the cojones to speak up and put the scheme out of its misery. Again, disaster averted, and again it was close. So do you laugh or cry?

    Like I said, cluelessness isn’t just an American trait. And it can take so many shapes. We have exuberant proliferations of it here, and madnesses too, blooming like flowers in springtime. Combined with brain-dead followership and it’s hard to find hope. Maybe those truck horns blaring like the trumpets of Jericho…

  121. I was strongly in favor of postal banking until i worked at the post office. That place is a shale show, the worst place i ever worked. They can’t retain new hires because the conditions are so bad, which only causes conditions to get even worse. They’re trapped in a downward spiral now, and the organization is so slow to change due to its inertia,bureaucracy, and reliance on Congress for major changes, that it’s likely to crash spectacularly before the underlying problems get addressed. Maybe IRS banking?

    I do think the us should print its own money. The federal reserve is a parasite that is now killing its host.

    Jessi Thompson

  122. I was an early buying club co-op member. We had a once a month food order, at first for a long time, we met at the park to see if we wanted to “split cases” , our distributer was mountain peoples. It turns out that the only reason we could still do this is one of our members was grandfathered in. Mountain Peoples had made an agreement with various large health food stores ( like maybe WHole Foods or precursers to that ilk) to no longer make accounts/sell to food buying co-ops, no new accounts for that. It was a very big money saver, and we each took our job for it, I was the drop off point as I was home doing daycare all day, someone else was our bookkeeper, which was a big deal due to all the case splitting. Others came over and did the physical splitting in my driveway or garage, weather permitting ( this involved weighing out pounds of apples, potatoes, flour, etc… for each persons portion ) Another collated the original order from all the inputs and called it in. I think we were about 6 families.

    Overlapping part of that time, I was in some of the first CSA farm shares out here. The first one I drove to the farm once a week, then drove to the small raw milk dairy. People at the Waldorf school who knew each other would also pick up for others, bring to school. A later CSA from a different farm dropped all the CSA boxes on my covered front porch, and then everyone else would come by at some point, people I did not know usually, and just pick up their box.

    When I moved out to where I am now, like I said, I could not by from the same distributer. I found a smaller distributer who came to this county and served some stores and so I found a few families in this neighborhood that had kids my kids age so we saw each other some, carpools to schools, other cooperative ventures and would convince them to think about this kind of bulk ordering. We had to make a minimum to get the truck this last 6 miles off the road its existing route was on. First 3 then 5 hundred, and this was some years back. So, once in a while I would call people, email for some by then too and scrounge up a minumum order, and we would split to, I would just weigh out others stuff if it was a split with me. So on this one, I did most of the work, but I had lower food prices and there is a community connection. Eventually too many of the families had less offspring at home and it petered out.

    While that second co-op buying club of mine was going on, we found that another distributer, Azure Standard, delivered at a drop in the county. Azure was more expensive, but they carried a much, much larger variety of stuff, some of which was pre-split, smaller packaging. Our usual distributer it was full bags and cases. SO, since Azure had a $50 minum, and did not deliver up here, if a few people wanted something from them, one of the members would pickup, maybe me when doing a school pickup. I do realy like Azure, but Azure for most people in this area, it is more of an online grocery store where you go meet the truck ad pick up once a month. But, it does go all over the country to the west of the Mississipi, and some points east. And, if you buy full bags and full cases, you will save money. So, your buying club can use Azure as the or one of the distributers. You can also effect change in this, I did for many years for my second Azure drop point I joined. They had a facebook group, but nothing went on there except pick up time announcements, so I started asking and coordinating with people to split full cases, since this was in a public parking lot, we only split cases that were easy, although I did sometimes split and weigh out on the car trunk rice and beans with someone. We even for a while ordered, routinely, like every 3 months, and entire PALLET of organic chicken feed, and of course then all took our amount of bags, I helped this by finding another neighbor or two not normally ordering and set up a side arrangement were they just were part of the quarterly chicken feed split.

    That ended for me as I quit Facebook. I do wish I could get the chicken food again, but no one else wants to communicate any other way, no email list or such would interest them, and they now no longer split pallets. I do order with Azure when it makes sense to, and sometimes split with someone I know, like my sons household, split a case of butter or cheese or bulk rice.

    You can buy club anything if there is a way to get ahold of interested others. It is always great to split shipping ! I used to do group orders of bareroot strawberry and onion starts and seeds. But, our homesteading email group folded. I dont want to do facebook. But, just in people I know via email and phone calls, I still do some group order facilitating. It is good as it gets people to plant it ! I was getting pulled back into one facebook group, our very local garden/homestead group, briefly after the fire, and I helped with one season the bareroot order etc…and then COVID hit. Our first split and plant trade in 2020 early 2021 was fine and then someone decided “we” should only let vaccinated people meet up to do these things — so obviously, I quit again. And the group most likely did not do co-op ordering. I dont know why,

    I think one of my points to every one here is to just do it, reach out. Food, bare root starts. Soon with gas prices, I think shipping may go up enough that you may get people back to being interested in orders of other commodities to save shipping. Kids clothes, machetes ( yes, I have split an order of those), long term packed emergency foods ( just one drive to the LDS storehouse, or an order of multiple cases from emergency essentials where you can split the cases and save shipping) , Pendelton wool fabric, they do a flat rate box up to x many pounds, Yarns, ammo. — if you find it expensive, likely your aquaintances or neighbors do too.

  123. @ganv

    “The core problem is how to organize humans for the massively distributed tasks of working together at something as complicated as transforming massive mechanized agricultural operations while staying viable. ”

    Try this one on for size:

    You think this is accurate or utopian? But if it has any grain of truth in that video it goes to show that organization can be distributed based on incentives like an ecosystem with minimal deliberate organization absent ‘Red Tape”

  124. Oh my!!! I have known that I did burn out in the period between 2015-2016, and that suspected I struggled with undiagnosed depression through and immediately after (complete with very dark thoughts which I precommitted never to act out). I still found myself surprised by how much I saw myself reflected in Ettinger’s article. So, please allow me to share two comments.

    1. I have issue with the description of the burnout/C-PTSD as a lack of imagination and inability to figure out the future. As I am now riding a wave of spring energy to work on some long overdue projects, I look back and notice I never had trouble imagining some desirable future or another. In my case, I suffered (and to a lesser degree continue to suffer) from what Ettinger describes as “the insurmountable task”: being unable to come up with individual milestones and actions that will lead to the completion of the task (and then feeling deeply ashamed for it). This is not big projects we are talking about. One of the last ones I just resolved last week was to activate a replacement for my credit card, which I was unable to use for a couple of months because of this blockage. I am pretty sure people who falls through the cracks end up living on the streets: unable to do any work or care for their very person. The way this feels is more a disease of the Will than a disease of Imagination.

    2. This is gossip, but as long as we are sharing stories from the trenches. My boss’es boss was, for all practical purposes, a Dark Wizard. It was a terrifying experience to witness how extremely competent engineers present real and pressing concerns to him, only to be dragged and entangled in a bizarre form of speech that looked superficially like talk but was something else. The engineers would enter a sort of hypnotic state in which they would concede that the boss was right and would commit themselves to carry on whatever crazy demand was put on their shoulders, even if the rock solid and most relevant concern they voiced was utterly ignored. Being on the receiving end of this “Grandboss special” felt (IIRC) like walking through tick fog, but with your brain instead of your feet. You felt a vague anguish through the ordeal, but was not able to figure out exactly why it was that you where anxious about. In this state of mind, you’d short circuit the discussion through whichever path would take you out of Sauron’s gaze the fastest. I tended to not get along with the guy because, being pigheaded by nature, I would panic and barrel through the fog in roughly the original direction, making it harder for him to “nudge” me into the “correct” path.

  125. Amethyst, I am from Singapore.

    Everything that Anon said about Singapore I agree with.

    If you want “high IQ, English speaking elites” you really don’t have to look further than the civil service in most Anglo nations. I am pretty sure that these people actually will do fairly well in IQ tests, the correlation between that and good governance in a chaotic macro environment is minimal.

    I often see a lot of non-Singaporean commentators on the left and the right praise Singapore for good governance.

    I am pretty sure if they lived here they’d change their opinions very quickly.

    Singapore is to some extent a “tax haven” but really more for corporations rather than the super-rich. The local super-rich mostly made their fortune from crony capital industries that rely on the government: real estate, infrastructure, and a few other industries. The Economist just release their crony capital index a few days ago, Singapore ranked 3rd. There are some issues with their methodology but this doesn’t change the fact that the local economy isn’t very sustainable.

    There are plenty of costs that are passed on to consumers rather than the rich too. The tax system is based on a consumption tax, the Goods and Services Tax, which applies to all goods. This is a regressive system.

    Besides that Singapore is just a paternalistic society where you are expected to follow what authorities say. If you refuse to wear a mask outdoors, there will be people who tell on you, post your photos online etc. Your kids will be ostracised if you don’t want to vaccinate them in schools.

    Anyway, a full discussion of the topic would require more than a comment.

    Personally, I am aiming to get out of here as soon as I can.

  126. @cobo

    “Quit believing that wealthy individuals and their institutional fronts are owed anything. Create new social structures for local and regional defense and do not believe the constant fear monger over “everything” that is intended to keep you passive – do it.”

    Well Governments are just a large version of your local Warlord/Mafia boss. And unless you have your own defense force to keep them out or to prevent them from subjugating you. You will have to pay “protection money” or taxes.

    Mexico outside its cities are already right now Cartel Warlord territory in many places. And people who defy them are killed:

  127. @JMG

    “Anonymoose, that’s a classic example of drool-spattered managerial stupidity. I wish it was much less common than it is.”

    Governments are pretty much bloated Warlord States anyways. When they centralize too and have to manage too much they get Bureaucracy and Red Tape.

    Seems like a Law of Nature to prevent anyone who believes they are God’s walking among Men from being too effective at tyranny.

    Such that cracks appear that allow degrees of safety or weaknesses to be exploited.

  128. @Piper at the Gates

    “I can relate to burnout. My wife manages a dental office and regardless of how productive they are compared to other offices in the group she is constantly micromanaged and berated for every slip in their schedule.”

    Micromanagement especially if one is built for greater agency like one is a toddler is definitely a form of abuse. It goes to show.

    Governments that don’t allow a minimal amount of necessary agency aren’t ruling well at all. Inefficient and destructive from the standpoint of Real Politick.

    Asiatic Governments it seems historically tends towards that flaw. Whilst the more Western Societies seem to have more free agency even from the Ancient Days.


    “Outside of this message board I find this to still be the case, where the right-wing/conservative section sings the praises of the wealthy. I mean they are increasingly seeing the oligarchy as a threat, but only specific members of that particular class.”

    It seems like a mix of contrarianism because the opposing tribe is all about it.

    And the fact that they don’t want to equate being rich=evil.

    And henceforth be guilty of the Sin of Envy and advocating stealing what is rightfully theirs by right of hard work+talent. So in that sense they believe in a sort of Meritocracy of the Rich.

    They do need more dimensions to their thinking however as your comment aptly demonstrates.

    But I think they are getting there when they take culture and personal morality into account. If those rich people are being assholes. Then they get moral permission to paint them as the villains in their value system especially if it is gotten by corruption and other ill gotten means like usury.

  129. @ Siliconguy #122

    There are other options for food preservation. This has been a hobby of mine to figure out and implement, the issue of food kept at home, esp preserving for off season use.

    The primary way by pound or calorie to store food for me is to just have a dry dark place and then you store the potatoes, onions and winter squash. Before the fire took out my garden I had harvested more than 100 pounds of potatoes and 100 dry yellow onions. Then I harvest butternut squash which will last until the next may or june with no special help.

    I then dry stuff like peppers of all types, bell peppers. I also dry greens, kale parsley, magenta spreen lambsquarters, green onions, and all these I dry by laying out on a sheet. I dry apple slices that way too. Last time I dried persimmons I did it the japanese way, but hung up in the house whole peeled, about 100 of them. I rarely get apricots, but when I did last year, I dried some, same way, just sliced in half and laid out.

    I also have preserved foods by fermenting. When I ferment grape juice or plum juice, I end up with wine. I preserve cucumbers and cabbage by lactofermentation, so I end up with pickles and sourkraut. I add stuff to the cabbage usually, like kale and grated beets to make a nice ferment.

    one year I preserved cheese by brining. It has occured to me that since I live in a hot climate with no cheese cave or cool cellar, I should look to hot location cheeses. So I tried Halloumi cheese. I tried it at various stages. The principal works, after along time the cheese does get salty, but it can be rinsed off, or since it is a cooking cheese, it will just them naturally salt the food I cook, like rehydrating some dried kale and sauting it up with chunks of the halloumi, add a bit of Indian spices. — yum. The other cheeses I did more often was manchego as it did not need to age and I could store in the refrigerator I am running anyways. I used to keep alot of rounds in there.

    I hear that you can hang up meat to air dry.

    But, then I do can some foods. I like to have canned tomatoes off season, and I can easily grow alot of them. But, I could dry them if energy was an issue. I also like to can some jam, and again that fruit could be fermented or dried.

    I do not run a standalone freezer because of trying to learn how to do more low tech food preservation

  130. Unfortunatelly in today’s “enviroment” is hard to tell anyone something without being labelled as “heretic” and
    Outside enemy “agent”. When I spoke about the shortfalls of modern economy, I recieved an angry sneer and I was called a “communist”, even some people from the working sector say such things ( i know that my job is s**t but the only alternative is communism or “gasp” Putin, who is not a communism BTW)
    It is so strange It fell like I am living in a Dr.Strangelove movie. But i will try to talk to some people see what happens

  131. Now to the fun part. The Swiss National bank pours out billions of surplus each year to the cantons. The basis is the aggregated tax mass of each Canton. One and a half billion, sometimes two. The feds cannot determine the fiscal position. Yay free money!
    Imagine the U.S. federal reserve pouring out 60 Billion each year and D.C. has no say what the states do with it – and the poorer flyover state receive more per capita.

  132. Hi Jerry,

    Mate, a mix of energy sources is not a bad idea if an area wants to rely upon renewable energy sources. Or have a system which is so over scaled that it can accommodate the worst that demand and supply issues throw at it. Or maybe just expect to use less electricity – not a bad option.

    Your mention of Lake Powell reminded me as to what happened with the island state of Tasmania during the drought of 2016. That island state to the south of where I reside on the mainland is pretty huge and relies mostly on hydro-electric. That is, until the drought combined with things going inexplicably and horribly wrong where the High Voltage DC cable under 300km of shallow sea between there and here got damaged. Not what I’d describe as a quick fix…

    Anywhoo, thought you might appreciate a peek into a possible future: 2016 Tasmanian energy crisis



  133. Hi John Michael,

    Crazy stuff huh? It was a good test run at what it meant to live tight (as an amusing side note, instead of typing the word ‘live’ I’d inadvertently typed the word ‘love’ – yes love in a time of poverty, it would make for a good book title, huh? I’m thinking rom-com for sure. Not enough rom-com’s get made these days). We got through the three years just fine, but then I’ve been poor before and know how to cope.

    Just chucking ideas around here. You’ve mentioned before that religious orders who became too cosy with politics were eventually subordinated. Do you reckon that corporates face similar outcomes? They do seem to be rather cosy with politics to me.



  134. Lack of imagination is in fact the issue. For example, we cannot imagine a world without the internet. Ask someone and see how much time they think about it. We cannot imagine that perhaps we have reached a point of endgame expansion of the species, a bloom, like duckweed or lemmings. I can imagine that a truly benevolent, all-powerful and wise dictator would be the best form of government (kind of like God) and a few great leaders have aspiried and come close to that description in the distant past. But none were perfect. And then there is the problem and process of succession. A kind and wise leader easily begets a tyrant.

    They say the Aztec couldn’t see the Spanish galleons because they couldn’t conceptualize them. I don’t know if I believe that or not but people clearly cannot conceptualize the loss of the internet which would spell doom for humanity through collapse of the economic, logistical, social and political systems and ultimately lead to a global devastating famine.

    We imagine that the same technology that makes our lives more comfortable and longer isn’t capable of cashing in on what it is owed, almost overnight. Yet it is staring us in the face in the form of AI, face recognition, dancing robots, bioweapons, killer drones, etc. Each becoming more sophisticated and deadly every day.

    We can’t conceptualize that when our leader and his cohorts make a call to arms, the average person (soldier) can just say “no.” We spend millions of dollars and hours and hours discussing the sniveling petty inconveniences of inter-personal psychology over sexual or relational matters but not a second over understanding and confronting the abuses of mass psychology.

    We build a culture around the patently false idea that we are all “equal” (a mantra created to depose kings) when it couldn’t be more obvious that none of us are equal, not in the eyes of God, or the law, or nature or ourselves. Not in ability, opportunity or priviledge. We ignore our acute need of “cultures” that rise and fall all the time and pit us against each other with irreconcilable differences, as nature would apparently have it. Instead we push for the world of 1984 where we are all equal, sitting in our tunics in rows chanting the cultural creeds and remaining willfully blind to the masters working the projectors and curtains. We create, for our amusement, series after series of dystopian worlds as if our minds were trying to describe where we know we are headed.

    Perhaps if we were honest we would imagine a senario where small bands of truly democratic humans with a simple common interest roam the savanahs of the world living short and brutal lives.

  135. @ Tomxyza+++ RE: TDI

    Thanks for affirming my thinking. I try to eke 500k miles out of my vehicles due to the high sunk cost these days, and prefer them to look their age – disinclines thieves, and washing my car is just something I only do occasionally for similar reasons.

    Now I just have to find a damaged VW TDI near me!

  136. This post is a mix of stuff I agree with powerfully, and stuff I think comes from blind spots. The first part is easy: my own ideal economy is indeed rooted in syndicalism (worker and consumer co-ops), with some democratic right to limit the use of resources; and in distributism, in part to make sure enterprises are modest in size and therefore in power. I find it surprisingly easy to get people thinking seriously of its advantages, simply because most people I encounter get the immediate appeal of “imagine you had as much power over your boss as your boss had over you”.

    Not all projects, in an economy, can be done by small or localized groups, though. Transportation, sewage, data collection, electricity to the degree we continue to have some, internet to the degree we continue to have some, forest management (something our society neglects and now everything keeps catching fire), probably some kinds of heavy industry: these seem to be inherently large, centralized tasks. And that’s where I want to defend “the government should do it” — yes, with aspects built in so workers still have legitimate channels of control and feedback over their tasks — because I think your history of “socialism” misses a giant usually-ignored element.

    Is the socializing of large parts of an economy ever democratic? First of all, much of Canada and Western Europe, or the New Deal, say yes. I’ve had multiple American Republican friends move to Belgium or Sweden and end up feeling far more control over their day-to-day lives under socialism, ending up left-wing in their new country. But also: countries that elected democratic socialists who got off to excellent starts include Nicaragua, Iran, Guatemala, Congo, Brazil, and Chile; in each case, the U.S. government organized their violent overthrow. The current government of Bolivia is democratic, socialist, and partially restored itself last year after its popularly re-elected several-year leader was overthrown by U.S.-backed forces in 2019.

    Beyond that, we’ll never actually know if the Bolsheviks, Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh, or Hugo Chavez *would* have led democratic regimes or not, given peace. In each case, from the very beginning, their governments were at all-out war against Western-backed forces (Russia, Vietnam), and/or their leaders were dodging frequent failed Western-backed assassination and coup attempts (Castro, Chavez). Wartime, especially in a fight for survival, is terrible for openness and democratic rule making, because nobody’s eager to give freedoms to people actively trying to murder them. I don’t think Lenin would ever have been a democrat, but it’s not clear he would’ve emerged at the top in peacetime; the other three leaders I think are legitimate maybes. Mikhail Gorbachev was trying to create socialist democracy in the 1980s, and we know his commitment was real because he chose democracy *over* socialism when, to his sadness, he had to.

    I don’t support socialism as the primary organizing tool of a society, because I legitimately do hate bosses. (I’ve had good bosses in my life; almost without exception, their own bosses sucked.) But socialism exists as part of the economy in the least dysfunctional, freest countries I know, and has tried to exist, openly and democratically, in many others until violently overthrown from outside. I think it can and should be part of a balanced equation.

    Plus, I think a society full of co-ops is exactly the kind of society that can make worker-responsive centrally-planned projects work, where central planning is needed. Because you’d raise workers who *know*, and whose friends know, what it’s like for their voices to count.

  137. @ Polecat…

    Thanks for that reference. When the last batch of hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast, electricity went away for weeks in many places. As a constant “prepper” type, we had oil lamps ready to go. I hung an old hurricane lamp (sometimes termed railroad lamp) above my front door after dusk. I had literally tens of neighbors ask me where to get one (China, of course…) and two years later after another storm, I saw some locals walking with them after dark.

    I now have large glass oil lamps in my kids homes and my farm, along with the Chinese ‘hurricane lamps via Amazon. I figure Amazon is ticking bomb these days, along with other things coming to raise import costs – so the $15 ea price seemed worth it. Batteries are a poor store of energy when compared to lamp oil…

    @ cobo RE: narratives…

    People need to actually cut themselves off from television and internet news to be able to let go of the constant fear narratives displayed for their uptake. Living in fear is what various entities and their adherents want – it is apparent once you disconnect and review how few of those fears ever materialize. I hope people have been reading JMGs open Covid posts on Dreamwidth – the fear injected into our lives has elevated to a constant scream, and the number of lies foist on us all is at an all-time high WRT Covid alone.

    I agree with you, in that you must BE the change you wish to see. That is the only way change ever happens throughout history. Being an early adopter may put you in the crosshairs as a ‘nutter’, but the wheel always turns if you make good choices with a historical perspective.

  138. Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, who founded The Catholic Worker, were also Personalists. That is, they wanted economic transactions to be more personal. Mass production and distribution, in whatever form, are impersonal. The return to pre-industrial production and distribution (hyper-localism) is motivated by Personalism for them. With such a system, there are immediate and personal (as opposed to far-in-the-future, and to unknown strangers) consequences for unsustainable behavior, except for dumping toxins into the air, oceans and rivers (all of which carry away the toxins to someone else, and/or dilute them), which needs a higher level of governance.
    Personalism also addresses the other ills of mass production and distribution: alienation (which Marx already diagnosed) from other people and other natural beings.
    The downsides could be parochialism and xenophobic tribalism, as well as the possibility of warlords and abuses which can’t be easily countered once they are firmly established (such as rape in various forms). Hence again, a higher level of governance is needed to prevent these, and if possible, free information exchange (from traveling bards, maybe not the internet?). Also, hyper-localism could result in a less abundant world materially, so some trade for luxury items would be desirable, but that’s a slippery slope towards impersonal global trade.

  139. @ Roger RE: Texas & Hungary….

    I have no idea where I got this mental nugget from, but once read that most people rarely stray 50 miles from their home. Combine that with language barriers (read mistranslations in abundance and lack of context) and Europe will always feel ‘tribal’ to me, regardless of the EU effort. As our descent progresses past our own lifespans, I expect that my first sentence will become more accurate with time.

    Texas has always been its own microcosm – simple geographical mass (TX is 7% of the entire USA) dictates the state has to be different and have larger concerns. The southern border and immigration also has effects, as in many of us speak Spanish and English. Within the current state, internal immigration is being felt in many large cities, with Asians, Latinos and others choosing to buy their own enclaves in areas.

    This is why, from where I sit, when a leader hits the governors seat that believes Texas future should be unhooked from the rest of the US, it will happen. As the US empire is forced to shrink in our descent, this ‘feels’ likely to play out when the kleptocrats and oligarchs inhabiting DC/NYC corridor seek to bind us all under the “One Ring”…LOL

    I hope I get to see that…

  140. I was also wondering if the PTSD you describe (and maybe other forms of PTSD coming from childhood trauma) is a factor in the appeal of mysticism that is happening (and whether it happens in other civilizations during their decline). If there is no hope for the future, then it makes sense to be here now (Eckhart Tolle), dissolve negativity, (Caroline Myss), and dismiss thought (Mooji and others from the non-dual path). I’m not saying this is the only appeal of mysticism, as I have mystical leanings myself.

  141. @ JMG – I’ve been thinking about it lately, and it seems to me that syndicalism just doesn’t really fit on the left/right economic policy spectrum. I can imagine two wildly different societies, both of which use direct worker ownership of business as their basic mode of organization, but could fall on either the far right or far left of the traditional spectrum.
    For instance, a society could organize it’s economy entirely around private ownership, with little or no government regulation beyond, say, a basic court/legal system, even going so far as to make utilities like water and sewer privately owned, BUT, the businesses are organized entirely as worker co-ops. So, on the left/right spectrum, such a society would be classified as ‘far right’, but would be much more decentralized, with economic and pollical power quite diffuse. It would almost be anarcho-syndicalist. Similarly, one could imagine a society that embraces widespread government regulation, with huge sectors of the economy even being organized as public utilities, BUT, the private businesses all operate on a syndicalist/co-op model, and the public sectors of the economy could be run the way rural water districts or electric co-ops are run now. This society would fall solidly on the ‘far left’ end of the economic spectrum, even though it isn’t a centrally planned, socialist state.
    Where do you see the syndicalist/co-op model or economic organization falling on the traditional spectrum?

    This question leads to my second point: I think if some candidate or pollical party wanted to make a serious push to pass laws and legislation requiring the ‘syndicalization’ of the US economy, they would instantly be tarred and feathered as socialists, even though the goals they’re pushing really aren’t. I wonder how any alternative model of political economy, can break through all the snarl words that currently clutter our collective discourse, such as it is?

  142. Anonymoose,
    I have experienced only PMC workplaces in US but I have heard many stories like yours.

    From an outsider perspective can I say that most working class Americans are fools? (I don’t know what other word to use).

    They have a great work ethic, they respect their customers and do even the most menial or dirty jobs without complaining – all for very little pay and no respect. I know that sounds great in the context of the American culture but to me, coming from a former communist country, that is just foolish.

    I know what PMC work is like – the pay is 10x better than a working class wage, the work is not too bad and the stress entirely depends on how much you get involved (I don’t anymore).

    There is such a thing as being too honest and hardworking. Just like in any relationship, if there is no reciprocity, you are just a fool (I have been there).

    I would be curious if you or JMG or others see this mentality changing any time soon? I have heard of the “great resignation” but AFAIK that only affects the PMCs (which in general are more open to cheating the system).

  143. @Chris,

    thx for the link!! Of course, if the rains come this goes away .. but a few more years of drought…(you link mentions the cable was repaired and the rains came).

    Mother nature is playing the long game 🙂 we’ll see how well she stands up to “progress” 😉

    thx again!


  144. I recommend Hazel Henderson. There is no shortage of money or credit, regardless of what you are told. We bailed out the banks in 2008. We have enough money for military spending. There is no shortage of money.

    Deemed as an “econo-clast” for helping expose economics as bunkum, Henderson stated in 1996 there is no Phillips Curve inflation and unemployment balance/imbalance. In 1996, Henderson stated all inflation is only corporate profiteering. Skip to 2000-2008, the US sent US jobs off shore and imported H1x workers; therefore, we have removed labor costs. What else is there when we manufacture everything on the other side of the world for pennies on the dollar? No inflation. Corporate profiteering is what we have.

    Big Oil enjoyed record revenues and profits last year. There is no good reason for Big Oil to be price gouging.this year.

  145. While we are re-imagining political economy (which does desperately need to be done!), I think a cautionary note is in order.

    I don’t think that the current technocratic system will collapse as swiftly as many here hope. Oh yes, it ultimately will collapse, as all systems which are orthogonal to human, physical and ecological reality must eventually collapse.

    The question is – how long is “ultimately” or “eventually?” I fear that it could be a long time, indeed.

    The problem is, that the young generations have been thoroughly indoctrinated with a Jacobin ideology, and (once they come to power) will constitute an “ideocracy” as JMG puts it. Ideocracies are notoriously disconfirmation-proof, again as JMG points out. No amount of disconfirmation will cause these people to budge an inch.

    This upcoming generation will die off, someday. However, I think we had better gird ourselves for a battle which may not be resolved in our lifetimes. It took Fascism 20 years to run itself into the ground. The undead, zombie corpse of Communism lingered for over 70 years.

    By that reckoning, I think we are looking at a struggle of 20 to 70 years duration. For this, as St. Paul said, we will have to don “the whole armor of God.” It is a spiritual war, and we will have to get very good at wielding the weapons of the Spirit.

    Sorry if I have rained on anyone’s parade, but that is my assessment.

  146. @ Carlos M. (65)
    @ Bei Dawei (77)

    It’s been a few years since I read Michael Hudson’s book “…And Forgive Them Their Debts” (which traces the history of these jubilee practices from Babylon onwards), but as I recall the debt forgiveness covered the “barley loans” to the peasants but generally didn’t include the merchant side, the silver loans. Other loopholes like the prozbul were also carved out at times as they became necessary, but perhaps not surprisingly the process was subverted entirely by Rome.

    I’m actually never sure whether to recommend that book, because even though it’s probably the most important thing he’s written since Super Imperialism (50 years ago!), it’s a very dry, academic read, kind of a painful slog. But there’s a lot there to chew on for anyone interested in the subject.

  147. I don’t know JMG – I’m more inclined these days to think that sledge hammers are the only solution. My wife was in Phnom Penh in ’75, day one for Angkar, after running from the wars and bombings since she was thirteen. Today, former communists are still her bane, here in good ole USA. I think that Man’s better nature will only arise from ashes:

    Mentation from Uqbar

    For the up and coming generation, perhaps walk away from organizing labor to gain rights within a gross corporate structure. Perhaps organize people to walk away from the products and psychological conditioning of mass consumption. Relocalize, meaning not just make corporate things locally, but make things for local people. Defend, build and maintain local water and food production. Begin a new direct system of trade for things requiring outside sourcing. Quit believing that wealthy individuals and their institutional fronts are owed anything. Create new social structures for local and regional defense and do not believe the constant fear monger over “everything” that is intended to keep you passive – do it.


  148. I believe that North Dakota is the only state with its own bank. It was founded in 1919, roughly during the last great wave of populism.

    States having their own banks makes a lot of sense. With the larger banks now beginning to enforce ESG scores, they will prevent certain companies from getting loans. So a state that has companies such as gun manufacturers, or producers of carbon-emitting machines can loan out money that a bank run by Klaus Schwab’s friends refuse to.

    State banks are also more beholden to the people of the state. And who is to say that sometime down the road they print their own currency that could be backed by a precious metal….

  149. @Patricia Matthews

    The red blue thing came from the presidential election maps onTV. It started out randomly assigning red and blue to either side, but then one election (I think the first election of George W Bush, with Florida and the hanging chads, etc.) the reps happened to be red that year, and the maps got so much media coverage that rep became red and dem became blue.

    Jessi Thompson

  150. Patricia+Mathews

    If I remember correctly, the switching of the red and blue colors took place in the 2000 Presidential election. I am pretty sure it was NBC that changed the colors. I remember looking at the screen and seeing Bush’s states colored red and scratching my head.

    I’ve always suspected it was a way for democrats to shed the communist stereotype. Once NBC did it, all the other networks jumped on it.

  151. Polecat, thanks for this.

    Cobo, this strikes me as sensible. It’s also worth noting that as the existing order of things runs itself deeper into trouble, some of this will happen by itself, as people respond to changing conditions.

    Copper, and the holders of wealth always do get chummy with the holders of power, so the question becomes how to keep that chumminess from causing too much damage.

    Roger, thanks for the data points! Okay, so it’s a general North American cluelessness…

    Jessi, so what you’re saying is that post office reform is a crucial first step. Got it.

    River, thanks for this! I hope others find your experience useful.

    CR, many thanks for the data points. Have you ever read Dion Fortune’s Psychic Self-Defence? She describes an experience that sounds very much like yours.

    Info, I ain’t arguing.

    Wer, trust me, I know. I tend to interact mostly with people who are also out on the fringes, which seems to help at least a little.

    Chris, the process of subordination seems to work toward the lowest common denominator. Plato’s taxonomy works well here — the physical appetites are lower than the craving for glory and power, which in turn is lower than the desire for meaning and spiritual connection. So when politics and religion get too close, the religion is subordinated to political concerns, while when politics and business get too close, the politics is subordinated to sheer stupid greed.

    Derrick, who is this “we” who supposedly can’t imagine a world without the internet? I can do so quite easily. If you doubt this, please have a look at my novel Retrotopia, which is set in a country that has cut itself off from the internet, and thrives as a result; it’s one of my bestselling books, too, so clearly there are a lot of other people out there who have zero trouble imagining such a thing. You then go on to make a lot of other “we” statements that certainly don’t refer to me, or to many of the people I know. Please stop and ask yourself whether you’re projecting your own incapacities on the world as a whole!

    Paul, thanks for this.

    Brian, you’ve engaged in two very common rhetorical gimmicks here that I want to point out. First, you’re conflating socialism with social democracy, and these are not the same thing. Belgium and Sweden are not socialist countries, they’re social democracies; the difference is that in a socialist country, private ownership of the means of production and distribution is forbidden, while in a social democracy, certain large and politically important economic concerns are government-owned, but most of the means of production and distribution remain in private hands. Social democracy is a perfectly viable system; it has its problems — it tends toward sprawling sclerotic bureaucracies that do a very mixed job of meeting human needs — but a lot of people in Europe seem to like it, and it doesn’t feature the metastatic tyranny that socialism unchecked so reliably spawns. If you want to say, “Well, what about social democracy as an option?” that would be quite reasonable, but trying to smuggle in socialism by blurring the differences that separate it from social democracy is a dodge, and not a very honest one at that.

    And then, of course, you’ve gone out of your way to ignore one of the three systems I discussed in my post. You’ve said that a society can’t get by just on cooperatives and decentralized distributist systems; that may or may not be true — some decently sized industrial firms have been run by their workers — but it’s rather revealing that you then avoided talking about social credit and jumped straight to socialism as the answer. Au contraire, social credit also offers a way to deal with the need for large industrial firms without the disastrous consequences of unchecked capitalism, and it does so without the central planning that makes socialist economies breed so many disastrous consequences of their own. The fact that you didn’t even mention social credit really does make it sound as though you have no arguments against it.

    Iuval, I have serious questions about Personalism, precisely because history doesn’t show any sharp improvement in human behavior when personal ties replace institutional ones; that’s normally what happens in dark ages, you know, and those aren’t exactly known for their respect for human rights et al. Still, it’s a set of ideas that needs to be taken into account. As for mysticism, hmm! That’s a fascinating possibility, worth considering.

    Ben, excellent! Yes, if we include cooperativist/syndicalist ideas in the economic world, it’s necessary to go to at least two dimensions in the economic landscape. As for how to make room for such ideas, why, the first step is to get them into circulation again out on the fringes of discourse — for example, right here…

    Jenxyz, um, don’t you think it’s a little simplistic to insist that the only thing wrong with the economy is that those bad people over there are doing bad things?

    Michael, you’ll get no argument from me about the timeline; there’s a reason my first book on the future of industrial society was titledThe Long Descent, after all. I’m far from sure the young generations are as Jacobin as you think, however — to a very real extent that’s a mirage that’s been manufactured by the corporate media and the political class to back up their own agenda. But we’ll discuss that as these conversations proceed.

    Cobo, when the other side has bigger sledgehammers than you do, choosing sledgehammers for a duel may not be the best move. There are other options. You’re engaging in one of them with your mentation, of course, as no doubt you know full well.

    Jon, state banks are also a good social credit option! In Retrotopia I had banks set up as as public utilities, owned by cities and counties, but in the US, states would work as well.

  152. @nomadicbeer #154

    As Curly used to say, I resemble that!

    I’m a working class American fool by choice. I think I can speak for many like myself. We work hard for poor wages (compared to some PMC) because we wish to do work of real importance, have pride in work well done, enjoy being physical in a world that can bite back, and gain strength from working with folks who share these values.

    The payoffs in emotional and spiritual well being far exceed the monetary cost. Corona has made this clear, as we’ve all mostly gone about our jobs same as always, while watching the PMC lose it’s shale.


  153. @Darkest Yorkshire: The American South was a standard agrarian society. Virtually every agrarian society had group of people held in forced labor: slaves, peasants, debt bondage. Medieval Europe had peasants who had legal rights but couldn’t move away from their land unless they bought the right to move from their lord. (Just like an American slave could buy their own freedom, as Dred Scott did.)

    After the Civil War, when the South’s slaves were taken away, it came up with another method of forced labor — the debt bondage of sharecropping. It started out with mostly black sharecroppers, but when it ended, two-thirds of sharecroppers were white. The schools and voter registration laws ensured that both black and white sharecroppers couldn’t vote.

    Sharecropping ended only when a mechanical harvester for cotton was invented in 1946. As it was deployed, both black and white sharecroppers flooded into Northern and Southern cities, in what’s called the Great Migration for blacks. (The white migration doesn’t have a name.) We’re still dealing with the consequences of agrarian forced labor.

  154. Another fascinating post, and I hope you don’t mind me linking to it everywhere I can!

    What strikes me most powerfully is that the twin monstrosities of Capitalism and Socialism being so stuck in the collective imagination reminds me of something you said regarding Faustian civilization: The fact that everyone locked into the Faustian worldview thinks of themselves as Man The Conqueror, or The One Who Knows, and so every such attempt at, say, creating an intentional community, dissolves into a squabbling mess of would-be prophets as every single person believes that they are destiny’s darling.

    Socialism and Capitalism both allow people to see themselves as the Man The Conqueror, since everyone can believe they’re simply temporarily embarrassed revolutionaries or millionaires, depending on who you’re talking to. That would explain why A) the two ideologies are stuck in the collective imagination, as they function as a surrogate power fantasy that fulfills a deep need for anyone born in a Faustian society, and B) why they replicate each other’s social structure almost exactly except for the rhetoric, since they’re both expressions of the Faustian worldview.

    I certainly feel as if this explains my personal experience, as every leftist I’ve talked to about alternative economic arrangements seems to feel personally threatened that I’ve taken their power fantasy away, and everyone on the right seems to have the exact same reaction framed in their terms.

    In any case, if you think I’m wrong, please let me know, because I’d love to be wrong! The idea that we’d have to wait for the Faustian pseudomorphosis to finish dying before we can shake off this oppressive binary is not something I enjoy. Hopefully we won’t have to wait that long.


  155. On the Great Resignation: over 20 years ago I was working for a large restaurant franchise corporation, as a “Construction Manager”. I didn’t actually manage construction, I made sure the franchisees and their architects and contractors built the stores to corporate standards. I was well paid, had 10 years seniority, nice benefits, etc. I had the quaint opinion that our customers were the people who paid us: the franchisees. The corporate mentality was that the franchisees were there to obey and serve us.
    The corporation was in the process of switching its model to have all baking done in central kitchens, and the preferred model was a central one owned as a co-op by the various franchisees. I spent two years arguing that one of our franchisees should be able to build his own, instead of being the 85% owner of one which would serve him and a few smaller franchisees. In the end, the field team prevailed, and he built his own kitchen. The whole argument left a sour taste in my mouth, and a year later I resigned, and have since had a decent career as an architect for many of those same franchisees. But the corporation can’t stop, and keeps reaching further and further into controlling everyone associated with the system. I look forward to finally hanging up my t-square in a few years, while tending my garden.

    @ Patricia Mathews #93 The switch between red and blue. As best as I recall, in the 2000 presidential election, the TV networks switched the traditional colors. I seem to remember in the confusion following the theft in Florida, all the networks settled on the same blue for Democrats. It may be part of the Democrats longstanding backing away from their leftist positions of the mid 20th century.

    @ Brian B #148: “Not all projects…can be done by small or localized groups” You mention forest management: before the advent of Europeans, the North American forests were managed by multitudes of different tribes. Where I live, the western half of what is now the State of Rhode Island, some 50 by 20 miles, was the territory of the Narragansetts, divided in about 8 groups under central Sachems. That seems to me to be a localized group.

  156. @JMG re: “I’m far from sure the young generations are as Jacobin as you think, however — to a very real extent that’s a mirage that’s been manufactured by the corporate media and the political class to back up their own agenda.

    You have a good point, there!

    I have an interesting data point for you. Since the lockdowns began two years ago, my church parish (Orthodox) has had a steady stream of enquirers among the “locals” (i.e., Kiwi Anglos with no “old country” roots). We now have a half a dozen young Kiwi men in our parish, most of them Baptized, one of which is still preparing for Baptism later this year.

    It seems that this whole COVID lockdown business has shaken up a number of people, and not necessarily in a bad way either. Apparently, more and more people are getting a “clue by four” to the effect that “Enjoying the Decadence is OVER!“. They are seeking answers, and they want goal posts that don’t keep shifting around.

    Well, they have come to the right place for that! My priest has put me in charge of catechizing the young converts, and has asked me to consider becoming a Deacon. We shall see what God’s Will is, and how things proceed.

    So, all is not lost by any means!

  157. Oilman2

    I remember hearing something like that but it was specifically about people in Europe, that most Europeans never move very far from their birthplace.

    My parents came from Europe. In their original home-land, the present-day boundaries between regions match up pretty close to pre-Roman ethnic territories with overlay from post-Roman Germanic conquest. The place is fractious, very tribal as you might say, and I think that goes for a lot of Europe.

    Mainland USA is a huge land area, an empire in its own right with some ready-made fracture lines, the most obvious that of the Mason-Dixon, not to mention states. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but just to say that such things are visible even to foreigners like me. I think you and our esteemed host are right about Texas.

    Up here it’s French vs English, East vs West, urban vs rural. We’ve entertained referenda on secession, political bombings and kidnappings and murders. That in the world’s most boring country. The survival imperative and ties of language and religion and blood and soil are stubborn things. I’ve heard that Samaritans and Assyrians and Chaldeans are still around.

  158. Given that it’s common for abuse victims to seek out others to abuse themselves, quite often choosing targets their abusers sanction, the Karen phenomena suddenly seems a lot worse than it did before…..

  159. “I’m quite convinced that socialism would be dead as the proverbial doornail right now if the neoconservatives hadn’t made such a push to resurrect it, by insisting that anything other than straightforward corporate ownership of everything was flat-out socialism. I sometimes think the neocons were so lonely for socialists to yell at that they set our deliberately to produce some…”

    I suspect that like the Far-Left who seems insistent on resurrecting the villain of the evil moustache man and Nazism.

    They have some kind of nostalgia for an old enemy that they know. Not the devil that they don’t know. I suspect they are unconsciously attempting to fashion people into the shape of their old foe so that they can be put in a box of familiar categories.

    Its an interesting way of sabotaging people as well. If Nazism is a loser ideology. It would have the effect of making people that oppose them into embracing a loser ideology into self-destruction even if they don’t realize it.

    Therefore if people who would otherwise embrace social-democracy embraces communism. The circular firing squad will kill off a huge portion of them like how the Bolsheviks killed all the social democrats in their day that they found and all the other moderate left-leaning people who are perceived as “Counter-revolutionary” which is the “heretics” of their day that needed to be purged.

    “Heresy” after all is far worse than “Paganism”. “traitors” are worse than open enemies. Therefore those nearer to the position of Communism will get the bullet to the back of their heads. And the left-leaning people who don’t embrace communism are those “traitors”.

    One must never allow people to shape you into their ideal enemy.

  160. “It does look as though the comfortable classes are starting to realize that their plastic utopia isn’t working to spec…”

    It seems that the best ‘Utopian” ideals are achieved in Religious/Spiritual contexts. Like in Monasteries. It seems people’s attempt to achieve paradise on earth is hobbled by inherent incomprehension and imbalances that has cascading impacts down the line.

    The Churches ethic of “Agape” or holy love manages to improve things little by little in the Roman Empire. And this has cascading effects in the medical profession, orphanages and so on.

    Even Antibiotics whilst existing for a long time is an emblem of “Agape”. Are the result of this cascading effects from a religion started 2000 years ago.

    But all this paradoxically achieved through self-restraint, self-control and various forms of Asceticism. Even Hedonism requires Asceticism to retain its effectiveness.

    Because people always adapt until it becomes normalized and routine. Chasing pleasure will cause it to run away from you. But running from pleasure in various forms of self-sacrifice allows pleasure to return.

    In the same way suffering and difficulty in achieving a goal will result in great satisfaction afterwards.

  161. As a follow up to my most recent comment, here is what Ukrainian Metropolitan Theodosy of Cherkassy and Kanev has to say about the effects of the war in Ukraine. What he says also applies to us in the West in the face of the recent “psychic epidemics” and “mass formation psychoses” as well:

    The war has begun to vividly manifest the previously hidden qualities of people now, including clergymen, both good and negative. Priests and laymen loyal to their Church have rallied even stronger during the war. Those who are weaker panicked and staggered. And those who had a false bottom, with rot, generally began to take off their sheep masks. The war revealed the innermost things in people. But the war will definitely end. And what came out, you can’t take back. It can probably be washed away only by deep and sincere repentance. And our Church will definitely stand …

    “And the main task today for us, faithful bishops, priests, and laity, is to support the weak, protect the staggered, and protect the discouraged. God is with us, brothers!

    Amen! Preach it!

  162. Matt, by all means spread it around! I think you’ve hit on a very important point about the shared Faustian character of capitalism and socialism; both embody the craving for power central to the Faustian mind, which is why neither one can tolerate the existence of alternatives — the rule of the One True Economic System must extend to the furthest limits of being, because anything short of infinity is unacceptable to the Faustian spirit. The question is simply how long it will take for the Faustian pseudomorphosis to be cast off here in North America; it may turn out to be a less prolonged process than you fear.

    Peter, fascinating. Thanks for the data points.

    Michael, this doesn’t surprise me at all. I’ve been encountering a steady stream of young men who are utterly unsatisfied with what modern industrial culture has to offer; they want meaning and purpose in their lives and they’re willing to take up disciplines and work hard to achieve these things. You might be interested to find how many young men have taken up cold showers in the last few years! I think we’re seeing the first surge in a major cultural realignment: the Second Religiosity that Spengler talks about, in which people return to traditional spiritual paths as a way out of the total incoherence left behind by the waning Age of Reason. If you feel called to the diaconate and specialize in working with converts, you’ll likely have no shortage of work to do.

    Anonymous, ouch! I hadn’t thought of the Karenocracy that way before, but you know, that makes total sense.

    Info, true enough. The irony, of course, is that the far left has been obsessing about Nazis for so long that it’s turned into barely concealed envy. Watch radical activists dressing up in black like SS personnel and parading down streets in their own little Nuremberg rallies, shrieking about Nazis all the while, and it’s uncomfortably reminiscent of all those gay-bashing ministers who turn out to have boyfriends on the side. As for the failure of nonreligious utopias, no argument there — a utopian scheme never works unless everyone involved is willing to embrace ferocious limits on their own pursuit of pleasure and personal advantage, and religion is one of the few forces that will create that willingness.

    Michael, hard times will do that. I expect some very hard times to hit the industrial world in the not too distant future, so we’ll all have that experience of seeing the hidden revealed — in ourselves, among others.

  163. It seems another name for Personalism could be ’emotional labour’. A lot of people required to do that are not enthusiastic about it. When I’ve read about trade in traditional Arab culture or tribal societies I think why would anyone want to go through this smalltalk or rituals. After being in systems like that, doing buisiness quickly and annonymously would feel like a liberation. If you’re in a field you’re really enthiusiastic about and don’t get tired of talking about, or it involves a lot of discussion and coordination to get right – that’s one thing. But most people aren’t going to want to form a relationship every time just to get something simple done.

  164. @DavidBTL

    ” Public or collective ownership operating at a cost basis is the obvious construct for things like power, water, roads, and the like. Yet, when I make that argument to others in the power industry, I keep getting told how much more efficient private enterprise is than “wasteful government” operations and how it has better access to capital.”

    The most important thing for an organization is good management. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a system, public or private, that can guarantee good management.

    We see that here in South Africa with the state monopoly electricity generator and distributor, Eskom. Under the old apartheid government it was a reliable supplier of cheap electricity, but since majority rule the old experienced management has been given its marching orders and a new generation has taken over which seems to have political connections rather than competence as the main requirement for employment.

    Power stations are not maintained and randomly break down, contracts are awarded based on political influence rather than technical merit, and favored suppliers make colossal profits, often invested in places like Dubai rather than locally. This has been going on for years. The government promises reforms, but it seems too many people are benefiting from the current system and it is not improving. We the people have apps that tell us when to expect the next rolling blackout (“load shedding” as they call it), and are grateful for a week with no power cuts.

    There are strong calls to privatize the industry and vastly increase the renewable power component. I don’t know. They privatized the water supply in England. Management awarded themselves huge salaries and put the costs up substantially. I can’t see anything different happening here with electricity.

    I spent three years as an engineer with the Dept. of Water Affairs which supplies bulk water to municipalities. That was 1978-80. It was a professionally run outfit and I was proud to be a part of it. Now it’s bankrupt and an utter shambles.

    Government ownership can work, provided politicians respect and encourage good management. But when they start acting as if government departments are their own private plaything to do with as they wish, things will go to pieces.

  165. A surprising chunk of the terminally online seem to have become aware of syndicalism via a videogame mod called “Kaiserrich” . It is set in a world where Germany won WW1. Revolutionary syndicalists totally displace communism.

    The game also seems to be in large part responsible for Huey Long’s ascent to memehood. Every man a king!

    I have not played it so I’ve not the slightest idea weather it includes any other political economies, or indeed if the syndies are accurately depicted.

    Still, there is more than one way to spread fringe ideas!

  166. @JMG re: “I’ve been encountering a steady stream of young men who are utterly unsatisfied with what modern industrial culture has to offer; they want meaning and purpose in their lives and they’re willing to take up disciplines and work hard to achieve these things. You might be interested to find how many young men have taken up cold showers in the last few years!

    I, too, have noticed this. Of our new converts, 6 have been men and only one has been a woman. I have my own speculations as to why this is so, but I will hold off on those until the next Open Post.

    Have you observed a sex differential here, as I have? Just curious ….

  167. Roger (no. 170) “I’ve heard that Samaritans and Assyrians and Chaldeans are still around.”

    Modern “Chaldeans” are really just Catholic Assyrians. What happened was that one branch of the Assyrian Church of the East (which outsiders used to call “Nestorian”; they accept only the first two ecumenical councils) joined the Catholics (i.e. became Uniates) as part of an internal rivalry (the “schism of 1552”).

  168. I hadn’t heard of the original social credit idea. That was very interesting. The problem with creating alternatives is that any idea that even slightly challenges the status quo immediately attracts the Eye of Sauron. Are there leaders or groups that can resist its gaze? Whoever does so will need incredible strength of character.

    There is something very odd happening that I cannot make sense of. I suspect it has a spiritual element and would be glad to hear your thoughts. What I see is that gov/corp policies are creating more and more chaos. No pause for self-reflection, no de-escalation, only a mad rush to take actions that undermine the very institutions making them. Perhaps they are locked into some kind of weird positive-feedback loop from which they cannot escape. I don’t know.

    “Retrovation” is such a great term. To all those reading this I would advise you to buy paper copies of books. In the not so distant future Amazon may decide it doesn’t like you and poof! your Kindle library is gone forever.

  169. “The end of history” ha! That aged well…
    Thank you for this post. It is thick and deep. Lots to chew on.
    Some new books to get !
    Already reading “The Dispossessed”
    Including adding to my JMG collection with “The wealth of nature”
    Thanks again!

  170. @info: That video is well done and a nice example of how markets should work. I am in support of letting markets work where they are being successful at benefiting society viewed broadly. But the video only shows the bright side and therefore is part of the movement leading us into chaos ahead. For example, I don’t want the market for pork deciding whether my neighbor should build a hog confinement facility on their land. Toward the end it says: “If we can leave the creative energies of human kind uninhibited, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.” Besides being obviously false (no one’s creativity is going to allow them to start violating the laws of thermodynamics) it is a pretty direct rejection of the main ideas around which JMG organizes his blog, so I suspect this isn’t a helpful place for that kind of extremist pro-market ideology.

    JMG, pygmycory, and JillN gave the response I was expecting…that industrial agriculture is a dead end. There have been many mistakes made and we seem to learn slowly. But until we are well down the long descent so that human labor is worth roughly what it was in 1800, I don’t think it is going to be viable to compete without large scale and often technology intensive farming, hopefully wise-tech farming. Even if fertilizer and other input costs change, large scale industrial operations have major advantages over small scale. The benefits are from specialization of employees and efficiencies from economies of scale. There is also a large labor cost benefit. The reason I bring it up this week is that post-neoliberal capitalism approaches to political economy need to be explicit about how they are going to be achieve the benefits of specialization and efficient use of labor that has made large scale farming the only viable way to farm the American midwest. It is easy to imagine that boutique farms with hand stirred compost and animal manure fertilizer are the path forward, but that is a very bad failure of the imagination. I appreciate JMG because he regularly reminds those types of what a hard life manual farming is. (I worked on a family farm in high school and greatly appreciated the benefits of automation, particularly being given the air-conditioned combine cab rather than the open air /dust seat on 14 hour harvest days). It is viable for small scale operations to produce boutique products for the richer part of the managerial class to buy at chic farmer’s markets. But when you try to improve the diets of the masses globally, you end up with some form of industrialized agriculture I think. I would love to be wrong. And maybe a syndicalist farming system could compete. I need to learn and see the details.

  171. I have been thinking about many different economic systems, and in detail how things change in the trenches.

    My buddies and I all agree that one way or another we cannot count on the buying power of the dollar going forward and expect it to keep wilting. Frankly the pace in been going recently extrapolated out 2 years wouldn’t be nothing to sneeze at; and that’s just slightly on the mild side of our projections. Burn out is getting big with the management we know, a few I am antiquated with have been having “very personal and totally not connected to a larger pattern” life crises. But we scrappy salvagers are licking chops because business looks to boom. I’m doing some nice garden up scaling, acouple buddies are following me into the trade, another guy is starting a salavage op, another is fixing mechanical watches and generalizing to be able to fix clockwork mechanisims generally.

    People in this comment thread thought, I see some chat about the political economy to run factories and big economies. And yeah those are a thing, I guess, but it ain’t such a big deal no more. Consider the following example.

    Dude wants a big thermal mass green house because season extension with out fuel is much profit. There are some manufacturers you can get such green houses from. Last year it cost $$$$, but this year it costs $$$$$$$! So what, petrol is going up and we need that grow space refitted. I happen to know something about solar thermal design principles. We realize that for $$ we can buy scrap metal to do most of the project, especially if we get the expensive bits from tearing down another guys barn, which is ratty and he want gone. Scrap steal was only ¢¢¢ a couple years ago, but even with the spike it is still trivial compared to buying new stuff. So we get a welder buddy, some scrap metal and make the green house on the cheap.

    Morals from that example. The scrap green house in technical dollars was a good deal for years, but there were strong arguments against it, because that deal means trusting a local novel design that ain’t been tested a thousand identical times, and in means interacting with all these crazy characters to get the job done. Not neat and plannable like a farm or any business might profit to favor. But with manufactured standard stuff priced out of the market its done. Here is a BIG implication though. With salvage industrialism biggerism is limited. You cannot make a factory that assembles random scrap yard stuff into goods and services on an assembly line, that is primarily based on raw standard materials. It cost of raw materials goes sufficently higher than labor, then individual McGrubber juryrigger improve crafters out compete the big stuff like a tidal bloom of micro organisms eating up the fish. Some processes will stay economic to do in vast scales, but evolution will push smaller.

    Already, as a Coloradan, I’m living a life were say 80% of my economic activity is with smaller, or lets say, fine things. Heck my stash of dry beans was sold to me by a guying raising them with a hoe and a sprinkler, and selling them for 30% less than the combine farmers. I know I am exceptional right now, but they like it or not, folks gonna be joining me, if they lucky. That 80% ain’t a moral flex, it simply what is ALREADY optimal. So sure we need to factor in BIG so and so in the economic of the future because some industries will remain a big deal, but in sum the fraction of the economy that the Gross businesses dominate will be small enough that it need not wag the dog no more.

    In that condition the small is beautiful stuff has home field advantage. IF, big stinky IF, I say if some political reforms can give coops a better footing and private crafter can get some liberty, then the massive economic titans will become fewer. I say we can ride the wave by intentionally leaning into smallerism, to the best remaining trajectory down.

  172. “Anonymous, ouch! I hadn’t thought of the Karenocracy that way before, but you know, that makes total sense.”

    It would also explain the odd gendered nature of the Karen: the Karen is almost always a woman, usually an upper-middle class one. Now, this makes perfect sense, once you factor in that in the awkward reality that, rhetoric aside, corporations abuse women much, much more than men, especially those in the managerial position.

    The awkward reality of most middle-class women being victims of horrific emotional abuse also explains the weird reaction so many have to stay-at-home moms, especially the ones who are excited about it. This reminds them that their corporate existence is a choice, not a necessity, and faced with the fact that they too could walk away, they meltdown. I never expected to feel pity for the Karens, but here I am…

  173. What about Proutist Theory (progressive utilitarian theory)? This might make our brave new world a lot more inclusive.

  174. @ ganv & ALL RE: farming

    Nitrogen fertilizers are great for growth, but not so much for nutrients. Similarly, bone meal and many other items are inputs these days due to tired topsoil. I don’t know if any of you ever read G.W. Carvers essays on soil remediation, but considering when it was written (turn of the last century), it is likely energy and input appropriate.

    There is no reason we cannot maintain ICE tractors using biodiesel, grown on farms via castor beans, etc. or even biogas from manure – it will take prices continuing to rise or availability declining to make that happen. I don’t see us going back to horse-drawn implements – only marginally better than humans once you factor in feed and care of livestock. Also remember there still exist steam driven tractors, although that would be more problematic to resurrect.

    And for you battery fanatics – electric tractors only work for NASA – not in the real world where we spend days on them under extremely high loads.

    A big issue is people thinking robots and drones belong on farms – where anything that can go wrong often does – and is why we put such store in maintenance of our ‘stuff’. John Deere lost uncounted sales due to their DRM tractors – I returned one myself and instead bought a vintage 1975 model without the “DRM hooks”. Even in greenhouses, robots are no match for humans – but food prices can alleviate that most likely.

    It is the soil itself that has become problematic, with the word “fallow” having long become anathema to modern farms. I see this as the biggest hurdle in maintaining sufficient and nutrient rich yields. We are good at recycling compost and other waste streams, selling manure to other farmers and city growers. On a farm, we recycle everything, from nails and screws to scrapped out implements for their iron.

    There is also a lot of inertia in the way farms are laid out that needs to go away – monocroppers being one. Zero growth allowed for weeds and other plants along margins and fence rows are also waste. There is much that will be changed when people have options rather than contracts to abide by. Supply contracts are why we have deformed chickens considered “optimum product”, with breasts so huge they actually tip over when trying to run…

    OK – my 2 cents worth – Big Ag will not survive with current practices. Far too many vulnerabilities outside of weather.

  175. Info #138

    That’s an interesting point, and you’re probably right. I saw a discussion on red lining and blockbusting on Tim Poole’s show last night. I was a little surprised to hear them openly discuss those issues, of course the conversation quickly degraded into libertarian/conservative talking points and blame the left mentality. However, the very fact that red lining in being discussed in conservative circles is change for the better.

    I’m not sure how we’ll actually get out of the endless cycle of tribalism we seem to be stuck in, but more people on both sides are openly talking about class in our society.



  176. JMG: No, I don’t object to social credit, and if you’re saying you don’t have any arguments against social democracy, we may not be so far apart. But in that case, I think you’re misunderstanding most of left-wing American discourse. Most leftists in my experience don’t want to ban private enterprise, at least the worker-owned sort, any more than Bernie Sanders or Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez do. When they call for “socialism”, they mean “social democracy”, calling on the government to perform large-scale functions like in Western and Northern Europe, or Canada, or — had their elected “socialist” governments not been violently overthrown — in Nicaragua, Iran, Guatemala, Congo, Brazil, and Chile.

    So when you worry that American “socialists” eager to follow the footsteps of Stalin or Mao … well, don’t get me wrong. There’s a tiny subset of Twitter ***holes — dismissively called “tankies” by everyone else — who do, indeed, want that. They have no influence beyond making life more annoying for anyone silly enough to engage with them. But most American “socialists”, including all the ones elected to any office, are arguing that democratic government has proven itself able to handle a lot of large-scale tasks with basic competence. They’re pointing out real-world democratic examples, as well as that obvious fear by the CIA that there could be more examples yet.

    As a syndicalist, I’m in some ways more radical and less left-wing than they are. But I agree with them on many things, and I think you’re letting your pre-existing definition of “socialism” confuse you into imagining they’re saying something they aren’t.

  177. Yorkshire, hmm. You know, you have a point.

    Dusk Shine, I’m delighted to see this kind of historical literacy anywhere, and of course you’re right — there are plenty of ways to get new ideas out there.

    Michael, very much so, and for good reason. Young men these days, unless they belong to the prosperous classes, have nothing to hope for and nothing to gain from society as it currently exists. They’ve been assigned the permanent role of Bad People, and the only place they’re offered in society is that of permanent punching bags — unless, of course, they want to have their genitalia cut off and pretend to be women. So it’s hardly a surprise that they’re open to other options, such as serious involvement in religion or occultism.

    Starfish, your second point is actually the solution to your first point. Yes, the political classes have been very good at stomping alternatives, using a spectrum of options from subtle seductions to brute violence — that’s true of every ruling class, since otherwise it gets overthrown in short order. Over time, however, ruling classes become decadent, lose the ability to understand the situation and act appropriately, and down they go. That’s why I’ve commented here more than once that we are in a prerevolutionary situation here in the United States: the current political class has lost its grip. It’s unable to respond to changing conditions and unable to recognize that it’s failing to do so — and that combination is invariably lethal.

    As for books, I certainly agree about paper books — I have a couple of thousand of them — but remember that if you like e-books, you can also download lots of classic out-of-copyright books from places like and Global Grey, and the Big Slimy River has no control over those…

  178. @Yorkshire #176

    There’s plenty of happy middle here. I agree that a system in which all transactions are contingent on personal relationships would be exhausting. At the same a system in which all transactions are depersonalized is isolating, soul-killing, and prone to endless intermediation, hidden exploitation, and externalization of costs.

    It’s not difficult though to design an economy in which personal relationships are encouraged-but-not-required. I think of it as the farmers’ market model: you can grab veggies and hand over cash without saying a word if you want, or you can strike up conversation and really get to know the farmers. Either way you get fed and the farmer gets paid.

    @ganv #183

    As long as we have the current population distribution between urban and rural areas, our choices are either industrial agriculture or mass starvation. Once more people start to live where the food is grown, that can begin to change. I would imagine that increased fossil-fuel-dependent input costs will result in higher food costs and lower production, which will result in poor hungry people fleeing cities, which will provide farms with a lot of low-cost labor to replace the increasingly-unaffordable machines, which will ultimately facilitate a transition to a system with more human labor inputs and less fossil fuel inputs. There is probably a way to accomplish that same transition with more foresight and less human suffering, but we aren’t exactly good at foresight these days.

  179. @Brian B

    As someone who was a strong proponent of social democracy/democratic socialism as recently as five years ago, for me the problem is not with the system itself (which works quite well in e.g. Sweden) but rather with the impossible task of getting there from here – “here”, in this case, being the revolving-door corporatist pseudo-democracy that has quietly replaced representative democracy since World War II. Should we have universal government-paid healthcare, for example, what is to stop the ex-pharma bureaucrats from setting it up as a permanent and ongoing wealth transfer from taxpayers to Big Medicine and Big Pharma at great cost to citizens and with no overall improvement in quality of care?

    We need to break the stranglehold of corruption and entrenched interests before we can start talking about social democracy – or assuming that won’t happen short of governmental collapse we need to pursue social democracy at smaller, more local scales where accountability is enforced by community ties and personal relationships.

  180. Speaking about ‘end of history”. Have you heard F.Fukuyama is at it again. Much older but now he is speaking about, Russia imminient defeat and China collapsing and then the “Great Reset” or “Build Back Better” will arrive, he just said that at a conference somewhere. I read the transcript online. I almost fell off my hair (let’s be real Russia is likely to win at this point).
    I learned that “true power is self revealing” and the fact that people are screaming loader and loader that Russia will completely collapse any day now with China and other countries doesn’t speak of confidence.
    Mr “End of History” is preaching again about the inevitability of modern corporate control and liberal democracy it is funny at this point, in a morbid crazy kind of way. Like someone brought back Marx or Friedman and presented the zombie to the masses.
    Cheers Wer i can finally concetrate on something different now

  181. Re the change in party colors for presidential elections (#s 93 ,162, 163):

    First, a quote from the Smithsonian Magazine, from the article When Republicans Were Blue and Democrats Were Red:

    “There are two general reasons why blue for Republican and Red for Democrat make the most sense: connotation and practice,” Bensen wrote. “First, there has been a generally understood meaning to the two colors inasmuch as they relate to politics. That is, the cooler color blue more closely represented the rational thinker and cold-hearted and the hotter red more closely represented the passionate and hot-blooded. This would translate into blue for Republicans and red for Democrats. Put another way, red was also the color most associated with socialism and the party of the Democrats was clearly the more socialistic of the two major parties.

    “The second reason why blue for Republicans makes sense is that traditional political mapmakers have used blue for the modern-day Republicans, and the Federalists before that, throughout the 20th century. Perhaps this was a holdover from the days of the Civil War when the predominantly Republican North was ‘Blue’.”

    In short, it was what had been logical, even as the television networks tried different setups throughout the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. And it’s what I remember as a child – wherever there was a printed color American Electoral map, much more often than not Blue always stood for Republican and Red stood for Democrat.

    Second, a person opinion: I think the changeover had a strong geographical reason to it.

    From the end of the Civil War through the mid-sixties, the Democrats were the party of The Solid South. I remember hearing the derisive term “Yellow-Dog Democrat” meaning someone who’d rather vote for a dog running under the Democratic Party name over someone who’d actually do some good for them running under the Republican name (never mind the sizable portion of the electorate effectively barred from voting in the South, of course).

    With President Johnson’s actions in the name of civil rights in the mid-sixties, the Republicans decided to try to win the South from the Democrats. The changeover took forty-plus years (the reason being it took all that time for the old guard to either jump off the Democratic ship or die off), but by 2000 the Republicans had become the party of the South and Rural areas across the nation whereas the Democrats become the party of New England and the Urban areas. And, at some level, I believe the mapmakers (subconsciously) wanted color continuity, so they went with the Red for Republican/ Blue for Democrat division and the circumstances of the 2000 election made the color identities stick.

    (Note: It is interesting to note that, twenty years after the solidification of the color identifications, the color continuity is falling apart as the modern-day mapmakers are taking the modern colorations and applying them to maps depicting the past. I don’t think there’s a kid attending “school” today who’s seen anything other than the Republican=Red/Democrat=Blue coloration.)

  182. @ Copper – when you say “Economics is the study of scarce resources” it makes me envision the phrase emblazoned on half of a merry-go-round, the other half saying, “What causes resources to be scarce? Economics…” 😉

  183. @JMG @here

    I read an analysis that the big winners from de-globalization would be France, US+Mexico, Turkey, and Argentina, these being the only self sufficient (in security, energy, food, internal manufacturing/markets) regions with healthy demographics and good geography. Relative to the competition of course.

    Big losers would be China and Germany (aging countries, import/export driven, dependent on US security umbrella for global trade) and especially Russia, which has severe brain drain, population collapse, terrible geography, and few economic tricks beside commodity exports. Third world countries will just become more so. Those African and Middle Eastern countries that had a population boom because of cheap energy and food imports are in serious trouble. And so on.

    Take it with a grain of NATO-approved salt, but it’s food for thought.

  184. Nomadic Beer (#154),

    I think you are missing something about working class motivation. It is true that we generally work for low pay and low respect. When people say “low respect” I think they mean from the bosses and customers. This is often true. But what might be missed is that respect from our peers is very important to us. Someone who has a reputation for working hard, getting an impossible job done on time against the odds, and keeping a cheerful attitude through it all earns respect from *peers* (sometimes bosses and customers too). And they’re the ones who will have our backs when things go wrong. Someone who has earned a reputation for being lazy, entitled, or whiny is not going to get the same kind of help. In a smaller community everyone will know who can be counted on to do the work, and who cannot.

    We know we are low status. It’s in our faces pretty much all the time. We aren’t stupid. Stubborn, maybe. But like a commenter above said, many of us are proud of our contribution to our communities. We know our work matters even when it isn’t acknowledged. Remember all the fuss about “essential workers” back at the start of the pandemic? On some level, everyone knows how important that low status work is. I’ve done white collar work (secretarial, clerical) and blue collar work (housekeeping, cashier, factory floor). I’d much rather go home at the end of a shift physically exhausted. Working at most offices is like dying the death of a thousand cuts.

    Chris in VT

  185. Dear John Michael, If I may:

    You write: ” very much so, and for good reason. Young men these days, unless they belong to the prosperous classes, have nothing to hope for and nothing to gain from society as it currently exists. They’ve been assigned the permanent role of Bad People, and the only place they’re offered in society is that of permanent punching bags — unless, of course, they want to have their genitalia cut off and pretend to be women. So it’s hardly a surprise that they’re open to other options, such as serious involvement in religion or occultism.”

    First of all, I agree entirely with your general point regarding young men in society. That said, from my experiences on the queer scene, this paradigm of anyone expecting actual castration for trans feminine identity no longer exists at all, and ceased around the year 2014. The entire arrangement has gone from a carefully considered medical situation to a complete emphasis on ipse dixit claims.

    That is, I’ve known a great many males who don’t take hormones, who have no intent on any gender surgery, who call themselves women or nonbinary and are freely accepted by the queer communities. They also, at that point, cease to be punching bags. These males in question also have to mouth the Maoist doctrines on the left, too, in order to avoid being a punching bag. That said, the amount of skin in the game they need, as it were, is a mere self-declaration. Everyone in every queer scene I have ever seen immediately accepts that self-declaration without the least little consideration, thought, or ever curiosity.

    Of course, your point regarding the problems of how society at large treats young men stands and I find myself in complete agreement having lived as a male for my childhood and much of my youth. That said, from my front row seat in the queer world I have seen the bar has lowered for trans identity in the past decade to the point where now quite literally any one who calls themselves trans becomes trans in the eyes of the LGBT community. Since I am trans I have been enormously unhappy with this shift: before regular people could understand trans as an unfortunate medical situation, which is basically how I experience transgenderism in my own life. Now the entire idea of trans identity has turned into an utter farce, and I’ve distanced myself entirely from queer community given the utterly toxic politics.

  186. @JMG

    Thanks a lot for the suggestion. I have been aware of Fortune’s Psychic Self Defense for some time now, but have not come around to do something about it. Something to do with my less than helpful habits. In any case, I have not seen that guy since I committed career-seppuku five years ago, and the basic natural magic protections from your FAQ have proven enough for my purposes.

    I have come to realize that if my karma put me within reach of that particular tyrant, it is only a matter of time before the next donkey-cavity comes along demanding his tribute. I shall put the text above in my TODO list.

  187. Mark L: Well, obviously the large for-profit corporations need to be broken up. (In my prescription, the broken-up shards would also be turned over to their workers to own and run.) My impression is that’s something all of us, from JMG on down, think is necessary. You can’t get syndicalism or distributism or social credit or any new sort of political economy while the corporate lobbyists are still in charge.

    But in terms of health care, it’s worth noting that there’s three dozen countries in the world with measurably better health care the U.S. despite all of them spending far less money per person than the U.S. (I’m judging “better” by the World Health Organization rankings, but also going by the experience of every American I’ve known who has ever received health care in the E.U., or Canada, or Japan. Also by average lifespan.) All three dozen of those countries have heavily socialized medical care, in the sense of either “government-run” or “highly regulated and primarily run by nonprofits”, and everyone is covered.

    Even with American corporatism, though: I’m on ObamaCare, which is what first allowed me to make a solid living while self-employed. Greer’s usual dismissal of it sits badly with me, because the ObamaCare subsidies make pretty-good care affordable to me. More expensive and less good, still, than it would be in most of Europe, or Canada, or Japan; it’s still a corrupted kludge of a system. But useful and affordable, in a way that changed my life by allowing me to do more useful, self-directed work.

  188. @ Steve #106 – ” is not wealth. Money is created by lending, so its primary substance is debt. Ergo, it is illth, not wealth.” I could not agree more!

    But I would add this: money’s “primary substance”, which you name “debt”, might more comprehensively be described as “legally secure, binding, creditor claims on debtor’s goods, effort, energy”.

  189. Travis, you’re most welcome.

    Ray, thanks for this. There’s very good reason why inflation is eating away at the value of the dollar; here’s a chart of changes in the money supply since 1960…

    …you’ll notice that it goes vertical in 2020. That’s a hopelessly unsustainable pattern, of course. You scrappy salvagers are probably the wave of the future…

    Anonymous, I was just brooding over these same points earlier today. Yeah, it does inspire a certain amount of compassion for Karens.

    Jerry, I’ll have to look that one up — it’s not a theory I’m familiar with.

    Brian, I have Aspergers syndrome, and so I tend to assume that when people use a word, they mean what the word means. Yes, that lands me in trouble sometimes! I do have some objections to social democracy, as I noted earlier, but it’s a viable system; if the US voted in a social democracy, I wouldn’t necessarily plan on leaving the country — whereas if a socialist government (properly so called) took power here, I’d be on the next boat to anywhere else. If you happen to spend time on leftist forums, however, you might point out to people that using the label “social democracy” in place of “socialism” would be much less likely to chase off potential allies. I’m far from the only person for whom the word “socialist” means “Pol Pot wannabee,” you know.

    Wer, Fukuyama has been so often wrong about so many things that if he said the sky is blue I’d go check. If he’s insisting that Russia and China are about to collapse, then we can probably assume the imminent arrival of a Russian victory and a Chinese global hegemony with Russia as a close and favored ally.

    Brian, that analysis seems fatally flawed to me. The end of globalization doesn’t mean the end of international trade, it means the end of an era in which international trade was dominated by US- and Europe-based multinational concerns, rather than by governments, and in which unbalanced patterns of exchange made it easy for the multinationals to concentrate the planet’s wealth in their own hands and dump the costs on everyone else. As that ends, the US and Europe will take it in the teeth, and a good many third world countries will benefit substantially. More on this in a future post!

    Violet, fascinating. Okay, that’s worth noting.

    CR, it’s more a matter of comparison than of specific techniques, but you may still find it interesting.

    Brian B. (if I may), Obamacare, even with the subsidies, would cost me considerably more than my monthly rent for the cheapest possible plan — you know, the one that has a $6000 annual deductible and 40% co-pays, and is therefore worth precisely nothing. Maybe you live someplace where it’s much cheaper, but that’s been my experience everywhere I’ve lived since it was passed. If I had to pay it I probably wouldn’t have been able to afford to become a full-time writer.

  190. So, whilst cruising on the intentions – low-and-behold – The Conservative Treehouse’s top post has a full Frontpage pic of the New York Post’s latest ed.. All I can say is “BLAMMO!”–“WHAM!!”– “KAPOW!!”

    Basically about the deep-$tate ratings who did their best estimate too bury ANY collusion re. 10% for the big guy .. and his loving progeny, and by extention (in my mind at least) the idiot sons of CONgressional Club members..

    The best part, as I scrolled down the article, was the um ‘responses’ from said malcontents: “No comment” ( the most favored of retorts, by far ..) “Can’t answer that”, “I stand by my ____ (Pick a weasel word) – ‘decision .. ‘statement ….. ‘facts’ – at the time’..
    Talk about re-imagining, NOT by a long hypershot! The wankers..

    I say suit em all up -the whole rotten lot- and drop-ship them down into Odessa! See what they say then, when THEIR skin be in the game..

  191. Edit: whist cruising on the ‘intertoobs’ .. “sigh”

    THAT was the hated $pellchecka what screwed my delivery! I swear with my own eye!!.. Might as well send whoever drempt up THAT little gem of a technical convenience there too, while we’re at it.

  192. Hi John Michael,

    Had to laugh about the Fukuyama reply. What I’m astounded by is that the media and public seem utterly fixated on events, whilst outcomes appear to be ignored. That makes no sense to me at all. We’ve got this here thing called a brain… 🙂 The outcomes as far as I comprehend current events is that land of stuff is deliberately throttling supply, and the land of blame (I just made that up – it kind of fits a US narrative) is moving away from using the US as a reserve currency. The rest unfortunately are details – despite the horror.

    I’ve been long aware of the issue in the M2 graph above, and historically that trick has never been played successfully. Why would the US and Europe think they’d do better this time around? There is something deeply wrong that they’d try to do so. As far as I understand the situation, economists can scream like deranged prophets all day long at the top of their lungs that it doesn’t matter – I believe that it does matter.



  193. @ Brian B & JMG RE: healthcare….

    Having recently escaped death, the 8 days in the hospital it took to kill my infection cost me $226k. Under Obammycare, I would be on the hook for a chunk of this.

    If Covid accomplished nothing else, it reveled the failure of doctors across the USA system to be able to think on their own, and the complicity of medical boards and hospitals in pushing the experimental vaccines.What else are they complicit in?

    For me, I went into the hospital infected, got my IV antibiotics, cut the infection out and promptly checked myself out. Why? Well, there were several people already in that hospital with AR infections, and pneumonia was flaring up on the floor where they had me. So we took myself home, where no infections were roaming..

    I had over $10k in bills from physician specialists who NEVER saw me while I was in hospital. I had a breathing machine billed to me even though I brought my own out of fear of poor hygiene in the hospital – $800 per 24 hours for a machine I can buy for $600 off the shelf brand new. I was offered morphine for my headache, but was firmly told by every nurse on staff that aspirin was not allowed, but “You can have morphine or fentanyl to reduce your pain. Would you like me to get some?”

    I could write a novella, but let’s just leave it with this – if you have to go in the hospital, get out ASAP. There are far too many spineless, idiot doctors and they are the ones who use the hospital corp as their shield against any blowback.

    Obamacare was NEVER a good deal. You can qualify for BCBS far easier than Obamacare, and for less.

  194. JMG – thank you for the link to Eve Ettinger’s essay on C-PTSD. It certainly explains much of what I have experienced in the past several years. In my case, I’m the ‘mom’ in a mom & pop small business. Unpaid. We’ve been limping along. If I could find a satisfactory way get paying work elsewhere, I would. As of now, I’m facing many obstacles – some personal/internal*, some external. The external obstacles result from what you called ‘neoliberal corporate capitalism’, a system that deliberately creates ever more challenges and greater unnecessary complexities for small businesses and small farmers. Small businesses and small farmers have to bear proportionately more costs and receive fewer rewards (including more limited tax breaks). Definitely a situation calling for imagination. People like Ray Wharton (#184 (thanks!)) who mentioned “scrappy scavengers”, are ahead of the curve. Though I think for best for now for ‘scrappy scavengers’ etal, to stay small and keep a low profile, away from the gaze of voracious ‘dinosaurs’ that are always on the look out for more ways to suck up the wealth of the less fortunate.

    * Slowly working on these personal issues – suggestions given in your other blog have been a good part of helping with that – thank you!

  195. (I am not the Brian who commented on international trade, for clarity’s sake.)
    I also have Asperger’s. Well, I’m “on the autism spectrum”, as the term Asperger’s has fallen out of use, but I think I have what you have; I simply wasn’t diagnosed until 2019. I know that words aren’t created with magical meanings from on high, and usage evolves. Bernie Sanders’s usage of “socialism” to mean what you call “social democracy” is, I believe, pretty much the key reason the Left has embraced it in that meaning — that, and it’s a shorter term. I will not claim it’s a good term, but that’s what it means here now. When you characterize current American debates without knowing that, you characterize them in error.

    I recommend the magazine/ website Current Affairs to your attention. Its proprietor Nathan Robinson is very serious about debating ideas, defining terms, writing well, and taking opposing ideas seriously enough to read leading opponent thinkers, quote them at length, and analyze what they do well that appeals to people. So as a guide to what “socialism” means to most of its American advocates these days, and what reasons they give for their beliefs, he’s an excellent starting point. He becomes unbearable for a few months whenever Bernie Sanders runs for president, but we’ve got some years before that starts up again.

    (He and you would get along marvelously on many topics: architecture, gardening, the need to end the American empire, the stupidity of censoring one’s opponents, the importance of climate change, etc. Less well on others. Here’s a good starter point on what his socialism means and how he argues it against a better-funded opponent: .)

    My ObamaCare plan costs me about $200 per month, and with it, I get to have medical appointments owing nothing but $20 copayments, and medicine refills at only $5, along with near-total subsidy of all medical procedures I might need. Basically, it’s the sort of program that would be fine if it were adequately subsidized for everybody. It isn’t, so it’s good for some of us. I’d rather it was more socialized, and that corporate profit was removed from medicine.

  196. JMG,

    One of the main arguments against the dollar losing its reserved currency status anytime soon is that there is no other currency currently capable of replacing it. I suspect that this argument is basically whistling past the graveyard. Especially since once our empire goes down, our version of globalism will go down as well taking the need for a reserve currency down with it, at least for a while.

    Your thoughts?

  197. The vernal equinox is tomorrow! Balance an egg on end! (You can do this any day in the year, if you’re careful, but it’s more fun on the vernal equinox.)

  198. If Francis Fukuyama (aka “Francis [unDruidly word]head” is saying Russia will lose, it’s probably a good idea to buy some rubles. I read his book about a hundred years ago (it was sometime in the ‘90’s as Sonkitten, class of ‘01, was still in the lower grades of high school) and even then, I thought, “Man, this guy’s dumber than a BIG box of rocks.” (Fukuyama, that is, not Sonkitten.).

    There used to be a Jewish man who appeared on Fox News a lot—I can’t remember his name, but he was ALWAYS wrong. They usually had him on predicting election outcomes—if he said your preferred candidate would lose, you could confidently prepare for a happy election night.

    Now, if Messrs Wrong and Fukuyama could become millionaires off their own stupidity, what’s that say about the rest of us? I for one think I better blow the dust off the classic historical books. 😳

  199. @JMG re: “Young men these days, unless they belong to the prosperous classes, have nothing to hope for and nothing to gain from society as it currently exists. They’ve been assigned the permanent role of Bad People, and the only place they’re offered in society is that of permanent punching bags …

    You took those words right out of my mouth, and that was one reason I was going to cite in my speculations as to why young men are leading the charge vis-a-vis religion.

    However, there is also a deeper reason that I think is worth exploring. As I have said, I will defer that until the next Open Post. This is such an interesting conversation, that it risks hijacking the current discussion thread!

  200. @skyrider: the Oneida Colonies you imagine really exist. They are called the Hutterites and they have a number of colonies in western Canada and the northern Great Plains states. They have a fertility rate of about five children per couple and are steadily growing.

  201. Polecat, funny. Yes, I saw that. (BTW, you can turn off your spellchecker. It’s the first thing I do with each piece of software I use.)

    Chris, the fixation on actions to the exclusion of outcomes is a real thing, and it’s weird — and I’m recalling that the Old English word from which “weird” derives literally means “doom.” I think that’s far more than a linguistic detail just now.

    PatriciaT, glad it was useful! I hear you — I’ve learned to avoid the big corporate publishers precisely to avoid that same sort of treatment.

    Kfish, thanks for this.

    Brian B., I’m not characterizing the sectarian debates within the contemporary American left, which don’t greatly interest me. I’m using words as they have been used more generally in the great big world outside of the always-parochial United States. Keep in mind that my readership is international — I have readers on every continent but Antarctica — and so using words in the sense they’re given in a purely American context would be unnecessarily confusing. I’ll glance at Current Affairs if I have the spare time. As for Obamacare, do you mind mentioning which state you’re in? That’s astonishingly cheap by the standards I’ve seen.

    John, very few people thought the dollar was capable of replacing the British pound when the pound’s status as reserve currency cracked. What takes out a reserve currency isn’t that there’s a fine alternative in waiting — it’s that the country that issues the reserve currency can’t maintain its position of power, and everyone has to scramble around figuring out how to fill the vacuum. Get ready for the scramble!

    Your Kittenship, I think there’s a Law of the Conservation of Idiocy, which requires that there must be a fixed amount of slack-jawed stupidity in existence at any given time. That being the case, Francis Fukuyama is doing all of us a favor by taking on the burden of being so stupid so much of the time, so that the rest of us can have a bright idea now and then. It’s a public service, I tell you! 😉

    Michael, I’ll look foward to next Wednesday, then!

  202. JMG, It is not human behavior that improves in dark ages (and in hunter-gatherer times) but human connection to land, family, village and tribe. And as you yourself have said, the past is a resource, not a destination. We don’t have to copy everything about it, but the Personalism is one thing that worked. What was missing perhaps was a democratic governance that is bigger than the tribe or the village. The Iroquois had it, and we could have it too. The problem is the scale of the economy, not so much of the government. Mass production has its pros, but I think at this point it is clear that the cons outweigh those.

  203. JMG, perhaps we should establish the Kristol* Fukuyama Conservation of Idiocy Award for the most selflessly stupid public figure every year.

    *”Kristol “ is the correct spelling of Mr. Wrong ‘s name—my apologies to Mr. Kristol (although I suspect he may not be one of your regular readers). Although I limit my exposure to cable news so as not to qualify for a Conservation of Idiocy Award, I must admit I kind of miss old Bill. It was nice to know beyond any doubt who would win the election. Now I have to wait for the next a.m. news like everyone else.

  204. @ganv

    “For example, I don’t want the market for pork deciding whether my neighbor should build a hog confinement facility on their land. Toward the end it says: “If we can leave the creative energies of human kind uninhibited, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.” Besides being obviously false (no one’s creativity is going to allow them to start violating the laws of thermodynamics) it is a pretty direct rejection of the main ideas around which JMG organizes his blog, so I suspect this isn’t a helpful place for that kind of extremist pro-market ideology.”

    Complex systems like the market rely on decentralized computing which all the humans along the production line engage in which seems to produce an order quite like an ecosystem.

    And yes an ecosystem does have inbuilt limitations in contrast to what this video says. But I think its quite accurate in how the great chain led to that pencil.

    If you want to reduce pork consumption. Rather than specific rules through bureaucratic fiat. Maybe if more of the population is Jewish and demanding Kosher. Will cause said ecosystem to accommodate them. And reduce pork consumption. And hence build hog confinement facilities.

    People have agency. But morality comes from within. I think the general principle of “Agape” in the Christian sense has done more to reduce harm as a result of the cascading effect of said ethos than all the Red Tape of the world.

    Why should people not build a hog confinement facility. Unless they dislike animal cruelty? Why wouldn’t people purchase cheap pork produced by such methods unless those cruelties are made transparent?

    In this way people are influenced whilst respecting their free will as much as possible without coercion. And Free Will that is aligned with Goodness is the best of all.

    How much better if Goodness is organic rather than bound from the outside whilst the person wants to loophole their way out of said rules?

    Far more creative and unique than “Goodness” produced by coercion and just conformity to rules.

    Of course Law is important. But that is far inferior from Goodness produced from within.

  205. JMG: I live (and receive ObamaCare) in North Carolina. As for the specific Nathan Robinson article I linked, I picked it to your tastes: even if you don’t follow up more generally, I think you’ll really enjoy that one.

    The point of “sectarian debates within the contemporary American left” is that you *are* characterizing them. You are suggesting that the contemporary “socialist” left is calling for something far, far more aggressive than it is. You seem aware that Sanders and Cortez are merely social democrats, concerned with union organizing, higher wages, health care, energy research, the spread of co-ops, and New Deal style programs. I’m telling you, as someone with many friends in the “socialist” movement, that that’s the movement’s core. You find Sweden and Denmark less appealing a model than they do, and that’s legit. (Nathan Robinson has his own syndicalist heart that should appeal to you, along with supporting big government programs.) But there’s no push to ban private enterprise.

  206. With Russia invading Ukraine and Germany rearming in a big way, I dusted off my old copies of General Heinz Guderian’s autobiography Panzer Leader and Infantry Attacks, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s first hand account of his experiences as a junior officer in the Great War. I also have a biography of Marshal Georgy Zhukov and a battered old copy of On War by Carl von Clausewitz, which was one of my father’s textbooks when he was a student at the US Naval War College. Those are next on my reading list.

    I reckon we are seeing the early stages of a fundamental realignment in global geopolitics, with the Russo-Ukrainian War marking the beginning of a new round of wars in Europe and beyond. Hold onto your hats ladies and gents, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride…

  207. JMG,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the matter. I’ve been puzzled by certain other writers, who’s analyses are otherwise good, supporting the reserve currency TINA idea. Everyone has blind spots I guess.

    From what I’m seeing the scramble will surely happen by the end of the decade. If certain recent moves regarding our petrodollar aren’t countered and others move in the same direction, the scramble may be on by next year.

  208. I want to relate a funny story. At least it seems to me to be funny,
    but as far right as the commentariat here has swung over the past few
    years, maybe they won’t find it funny at all.

    I’ve been involved in the local food movement here for about 20 years.
    It mostly consists of small farmers and ranchers and, as I’ve mentioned
    before, this is a deep red part of the US. We would meet in the winter
    to discuss our problems and we always had the same things come up –
    primarily the difficulty of getting help and the problem of accessing
    markets. I decided to talk to the local old-timers to see how they
    dealt with those problems before nationwide shipping became inexpensive
    and while they all had to rely on local markets to sell their production.
    I was told that in the 1920s and 1930s, they all worked together through
    their county Grange organization. The Grange would hold a meeting in
    the winter at a slack time for work and they would all decide who was
    going to grow what during the next season so that they wouldn’t step
    on each other’s markets and they could make sure that everyone didn’t
    grow the same thing and drive the price down to the point where they
    couldn’t make a living. Basically, they had a county-wide cooperative
    moderated by the Grange.

    I kept bringing this up at our current meetings and the response was
    always the same “We’re not fracking socialists, we’re capitalists. We
    compete, we don’t cooperate.” Apparently they paid no attention to the
    upper echelons of business in the US where cooperation to squeeze every
    last penny from the populace is an established practice.

    This went on for years until a few years ago when more of the younger
    generations became interested in local foods. One of the local ranchers
    invested in a milk cow and began selling raw milk at the Farmer’s Markets.
    She found that demand far outstripped supply so she bought more cows and
    began making more products. This went on for a year or two until she
    realized that it was costing a lot to go to multiple Farmer’s Markets and
    only be able to sell for a couple of hours at each one. Obviously, she
    needed a way to reduce her labor and increase her selling time. She met
    with the other local producers and found that we all had the same problem
    so she decided to rent a storefront in the community where most of her sales
    occurred and to make her products available 40 hours a week. To make
    sure that costs of the storefront would be covered, other local
    producers had the opportunity to sell their products at her storefront.
    We all pay a percentage of sales to cover rent, utilities, and a full-time
    store manager. About 20 local producers now sell at her store and everyone
    I’ve talked to has seen their sales go up and their cost of sales go

    The funny part to me is that if you talked to most of the far right
    people who sell at the store, they would have no idea that they have
    basically just reinvented a cooperative. They are still adamantly
    opposed to cooperatives as “socialist” and opposed to true conservative

  209. It is Wer again, well here in Poland things are getting really confusing (deliberate or not i don’t know)
    The news media had became a joke (one talking head contradicts himself in the next paragraph). A hardcore right wing man Korwin Mikke recently said “NATO is useless and in order to guarantee Poland’s safety we have to rebuild our army” he was instantly shouted down and called a “Russian troll” (At this point in time me and my familly members are looking to expand our garden and focus on members of our comunity).
    BTW I spoke with several Ukrainians who have been living in Poland for some time. They say they are staying, one of them called a week ago someone he knows in Kiev and he said that the rich people in Kiev fled the city before the war began and are not comming back (strange if they are winning on all fronts)
    Happy Sunday I going to the church (I always found comfort in our local church and people I’ve meet there thank the Lord for our neighbours, they are good people, life moves on)
    Cheers Wer
    P.S. I know my English is garbage please be merciful

  210. @ Wer, comment #225

    Your English is better than many Americans I know, including a couple of former US presidents I could name.

  211. @ Scotlyn #201

    “legally secure, binding, creditor claims on debtor’s goods, effort, energy”

    Yes, I agree – except this statement displays the fatal error, the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’ inherent in all monied economies: Who is the debtor?

  212. Iuval, of course it depends on your definition of “worked,” but I’d encourage you to read up on politics in dark age societies. All those personal ties usually end up generating bloodshed on a heroic scale.

    Your Kittenship, funny. I’ll take that into consideration.

    Brian B., if you and your friends called yourselves Nazis, and then insisted that you weren’t like those Nazis, no, of course not, there’s just a small minority of people on the forums you prefer who want to exterminate all the untermenschen and invade every country in sight, people would reasonably be suspicious of you. Since socialist regimes in the 20th century racked up a toll in political killings that makes Hitler look like a piker, and there are plenty of people in America today who got here by fleeing from socialist regimes of various kinds, don’t be surprised if you get the same reaction. Since old-fashioned Marxist habits such as entryism are still very much in use today — I’ve written about that here, among other places — a certain wariness on the part of those who mistrust socialism is, I think, quite understandable…

    Sardaukar, that seems like a very sensible move. May I also recommend Napoleon’s Maxims of War? I hadn’t read them until a few weeks ago, and found the annotated edition in the link a very solid review of the basics.

    John, that’s certainly my take. I think a lot of people are trying to pretend that the dollar can’t lose its reserve currency status, because if it does, business as usual is over. The US government collected $3.42 trillion in taxes and revenus last year and spent $6.82 trillion, so imagine half of all federal expenditures having to go away pretty much overnight. Fun times!

    Patricia M, thanks for this.

    Honyocker, it’s quite funny! Dumb ideology is dumb ideology, no matter what part of the political landscape we’re talking about.

    Wer, many thanks for the data points. Your English is fine, by the way — I know quite a few Americans who aren’t as good at it as you are.

  213. Hi John,

    Many thanks for the link! Napoleon is another one of the great commanders whose writings, ideas and campaigns I have been studying recently.

  214. @Oilman2 #187, ganv, & all
    I have had the (dubious) “honor” of having seen agriculture first hand in both its large-scale commercial and small-scale organic incarnations. Here are my tentative observations:

    First, as Oilman2 inferred above, soil health is everything. Well, almost everything. Climate is also of course a massive factor which I’ll come back to below. But back to soil health. The NPK-RoundUp-antibiotic-hormone strategy upon which industrial-scale agriculture is based excels at producing large volumes of low-quality foodstuffs. I’m pretty sure that the chemicals used contribute strongly to the high levels of obesity and metabolic disease we see in today’s world. The preservatives used in processed foods and the chemicals used in the retail packaging are, I suspect, also contributors to these health issues, as is the poor nutritional quality of the foods themselves. (To get an idea of the decline in food quality since the advent of industrial agriculture, look up the number of today’s apples you have to eat to get the same amount of iron you got from a single apple in 1950 — the USDA actually tracks this kind of information.) Underpinning this system are vast amounts of cheap fuel used to produce, process, and transport the food — 11 calories of fuel for a single calorie on the plate by some estimates.

    For better or worse, these practices produce sufficient calories to keep 8 billion people going at prices they can afford, with money left over to buy other things they want. Not bad, all things considered. And so I predict that this system will persist until… it no longer can. I’m sure it’s obvious to everyone here that, barring some unforeseen breakthroughs, industrial agriculture must eventually run up against depleting resources — fuel in particular, but also critical inputs such as phosphates and potassium. The question I ponder is, what will the world look like then?

    Ganv suggested that we can keep the tractors humming using biofuels. I don’t think this is going to happen. In pre-industrial England, 25% of all farm land was used to pasture draft horses. I haven’t done the calculation, but I suspect that the amount of land needed to grow castor beans as a source of fuel will prove to be in that same ball park, and it will have to be arable farmland at that. Thinking in EROEI terms, that means we will be replacing a fuel obtained at double-digit EROEI with a fuel having an EROEI of, say, 4 to be generous. (Corm ethanol may be as little as 1.25.) The impact on food prices will be huge, and potentially devastating for poor people. Can you imagine the impact of a 25% diversion of arable farmland on the availability of food? And where will we get the energy resources needed to manufacture the tractors, drills, harvesters, and trucks? More land diverted to castor beans? So while I’m not saying this can’t happen, it looks like a poor choice to me for the future of agriculture.

    Coming back to climate, check out the latest NOAA drought map at It doesn’t look good for the US west of the Mississippi. Which is where a large fraction of the US food supply comes from. On top of this, it is no secret that the underground aquifers that underpin much of the agriculture in the western US are being pumped at much faster rates that they’re being replenished. Expect much of the high plains and intermountain west to return to desert once those aquifers are pumped dry.

    So my best guess? Agriculture is going to go back to smaller-scale, like it or not. We’re going to see a lot more solar panels and windmills — which, by the way, have EROEIs a lot closer to castor beans than to crude oil — and a lot fewer tractors and 18-wheelers. We’re going to see many more greenhouses. All this will require a profound reorganization of society and infrastructure, and many more people are going to be involved in agriculture than today. And there may be fewer people. Perhaps a lot fewer. And those still here may have dramatically different eating habits. I have practiced organic farming for going on a decade now and I can tell you from personal experience that matching industrial agriculture’s production using organic methods involves an enormous amount of labor and conscientious management of soil nutrients. Without cheap fuel and chemical fertilizers to obtain and apply those nutrients, matching industrial production may prove to be… difficult.

    The reduced population I’m predicting does not necessarily entail a holocaust. Wherever women have been given a choice, they almost universally choose to limit their fertility — in many places below “replacement level”. So we might see a voluntary reduction in world population anyway, especially in industrialized countries

    One thing I am certain of, though: the obesity epidemic has an expiration date.

  215. (Sorry if this was submitted for posting multiple times; I was having some computer difficulties and couldn’t tell whether they’d gone through or not.)

    @Dusk Shine (and JMG if he finds it interesting) re Kaiserreich:
    I’ve played it some; it does indeed include other political economies, and I think they’re not too badly depicted for the particular medium.
    Quoting the entry on syndicalism from the wiki (
    “Syndicalism is the leading left-wing revolutionary ideology whose rise to worldwide prominence began with the French revolution of 1919. Though Syndicalism is divided between various currents, some of them influenced by other ideologies such as Marxism and Anarchism, orthodox Syndicalism is based upon the works of the leaders of Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT), codified in the Charter of Amiens of 1906, and considers Mikhail Bakunin and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon to be its forerunners. Syndicalism is defined by the concepts of revolutionary spontaneity and direct action – the belief that the workers themselves, organized in labour unions, must combat capitalism, instead of relying upon an external agent such as a political party. The transformation of a capitalist society to a Syndicalist one must occur via a General Strike – a nationwide rejection of capitalism and a transfer of all means of production to labour unions. Syndicalist states are decentralized and federal, all industries are organized into syndicates, labour councils elected from these trade unions manage local governance, and central government is vested in a national congress of trade union representatives. The extent to which these tenets are implemented varies from country to country, however.”

    @Violet (and same as above) re gender:
    I think to some extent it’s likely people trying to explore different conceptions of gender — which, after all, varies _quite_ a bit over the spatial and temporal span of known humanity — outside those conventionally accepted in the society currently breaking down around us, coupled with the “soul shortage” from the current inflated human population, quite possibly interlocking with industrial pollution.

    But, unfortunately, I do also think that the political aspects are no accident, and that, for instance, the Democratic Party in the US has just as much interest in actually achieving good trans rights and peace on them as it does in actually achieving racial harmony. That is, none, because why destroy your own captive constituency? Likewise, it’s in the interest of the Republicans, at least the more conventional ones, to make sure they oppress trans people but don’t win too much, since the former makes sure they’ll be more inclined to align with the Democrats and the latter means that they’ll still be around to wave as boogeypeople to bring in more donations.

    I do not, to be clear, at all blame you from distancing yourself; I may tend to think that the discourse on trans people here can be harsher than warranted, but not only do I also think that you very much have the right to not wade into the swamp if you don’t want to, you might even be providing a valuable service _to_ the community by doing so (even if much of the community at the moment might be more inclined to insult than thank you for it). After all, if we _don’t_ manage to disentangle ourselves from the part of our political system (again, speaking from an American perspective here; I’m aware things are different elsewhere in the world, but not as clear on the details) that’s failing even more thoroughly and rapidly than our political system in general, there will likely be… significant problems ahead. The more people who are aware that “trans person” does _not_ automatically equal “thinks Mao’s major problem was not killing _enough_ people”, the better future prospects are likely to be. While I’d prefer a situation with a wider accepted conception of gender than I gather you might, better that at least _some_ trans people, and likely the ones most in need of medical aid, to boot, be accepted than _none at all_.

    (I write this as someone who’s been questioning their gender for years, with the intensity of the situation having happened to pick up recently. I like to think, though, that despite (or perhaps because of) being, to summarize, weird, I’ve been putting a good deal of thought into the matter, including spiritual (and political!) aspects, rather than just mouthing the fashion. I’m at least pretty confident that, even if I’m in other ways making a mistake on my current course, it should be a useful learning experience for my individuality, and perhaps one only available at this specific time and place in history. I also do _not_ think that I should just be able to say I’m X and if everyone else doesn’t nod along, _they’re_ automatically the ones with the problem. I recognize this is a complex situation even _without_ politics involved, which they very much are; I’m basically just trying to apply “An it harm none, do as ye will”, to _both_ sides. So if someone says they’re X, I more likely than not _will_ just nod along, unless it’s very obviously a problem, since I know I don’t know their internal experience, or indeed most of their external life circumstances. And if someone expresses concerns about the current state of things? Well, I have concerns about that too, even if mine might not be as strong or go as far, and I’m well aware that, especially with how politicized things are at the moment, it’s often difficult to find good, accurate information (I have, for instance, heard drastically different accounts of how much transwomen athletes who started HRT after already having a male puberty do or do not have an unfair advantage in sports, and then arguments on how it varies from one sport to another…). Some level of skepticism is quite justified.

    Honestly, I’d just like if we could all _relax_ about this, among other things, and accept ourselves and others for who they are, limitations accurately included.
    But “relaxed” is not often a term applied to the accelerating decline and fall of major civilizations, so… well, for good and ill, interesting times we live in.)

  216. JMG#164

    Mr. Greer, How do you keep the Sun and the Moon from interacting? From the Flood from coming? From Gwyn Ap Nudd from evicerating his rival Gwythyr?
    From the unknowable rider taking the church as his bride? What exactly is wealth and what exactly is power?

    I may not be as well read as you or any of the people here, I’m not quite to the level of “armchair theologian”, but I can pick up on stuff rather quickly and notice patterns and try and make a patchwork of what I do know making changes constantly, like an economist.

    You have what you want and you got the answers already, but it’s easy to rip the current system away because it doesn’t work (often for the sake of quick progress or quick regression) and then use the same vehicles we despise to promote our own inefficient ideas and then wonder where it went wrong, often lying to yourself, taking it out on others, and getting clapped for it.

    In capitalism humans would be considered a form of wealth and capital, perhaps the most important form one can posses as we are EXPENSIVE High risk- high yield investments (think as to why you don’t take on apprentices privately). Effectively making co-operation necessary to survive and thrive. If you simply treat wealth as any other form of capital, throwing bodies, money, and resources at a problem rather than letting things happen, no matter what agency you are (government, religion/spirituality, or buisness), the wheel of fortune is going to come for your kneecaps and if we dont make an aquaintance with death, we get struck down like the tower. The issue we have is that the common people let these organizations speak on behalf of them whether they intended to or not, often blindly. No matter what we do or where we go, we can’t control people or the damage they cause, but we CAN absolutely warn them and teach them in any way we can that is culturally relevant leaving options open for them to move and have the tools to dicern and make better risks. But that in itself is a very high risk and the most we can do after, is clean up after ourselves.

  217. This may be only tangentially related to this week’s topic, so apologies, but is anyone else concerned about how the Ukraine situation is going to affect global food availability, especially in the poorer areas of the world?
    Russia and Ukraine are the largest and fifth largest exporters of wheat

    High Natural Gas prices are raising the cost of nitrogen fertilizer
    Belarus and Russia are a large percent of world potash export (20+%?), which is now off the market
    Phosphorus fertilizer is also a problem, it seems

    This is all expected to decrease yields for the spring crop, in addition to the losses in the export market.

    I cannot evaluate this issue — it is too far out of what I know, but the analysts predicting hunger in the developing world seem pretty credible. Maybe I will go to Costco and buy rice and beans. I am glad I started and expanded my garden. I am still eating on the vegetable stew I cooked up and froze from November (as a supplement). I think North America will be more insulated from the problems than other areas, but I would expect high food prices for a year or two everywhere.

    Maybe this topic an be related to food cooperatives somehow. How would cooperatives (buyer and/or seller) mitigate the coming food shortages? If I have excess food in my garden, can I sell it to a food co-op? Can I boot up some kind of local back yard garden club to trade produce? I had too many cucumbers last year, but my zucchini, for whatever reason, did poorly.

  218. Honyocker #224, I’ve got an even more exreme version of that story. Gentlemen’s clubs started because when the sons of the aristocracy arrived in London they realised they couldn’t each have a grand house. They could neither afford it, nor would there be space for all of them. They next realised if they clubbed together they could hire the same architects who designed their country manors to build extremely luxurious clubs – and share them. The ruling elite were happy with a collective solution for their own situation.

  219. @ Steve – “Who is the debtor?” In my view, everyone who must use money, who is not a creator of that money by lending (ie issuing legally secured creditor claims). The money used by and circulating through the whole economy being M, and the indebtedness of the whole economy that uses debt-created money being M+interest, the economy is always in hock and at a loss. (In my very humble opinion).

    The interesting thing is that money doesn’t do anything. Everything, every single thing that we need, want, and benefit from is done, or made, either by people, or by all the other non-human beings making up nature.

  220. Great essay this week JMG – plenty to follow up too. The Transition Town group I’m involved in is having an open public meet and greet afternoon next weekend to see what we do (not much recently but looking to get going again pretty quickly what with the growing season starting) – suspect interest might pick up again given recent occurrences. Anyone for a repair+mend/seed+plant swap/energy reduction/composting/organic gardening/apple pressing extravaganza with tea and cake? 😉
    (Might not be exactly an extravaganza but we’ll do our best.)

  221. JMG,

    The blessing and curse of capitalism is surplus creation which for a time freed us from systems predicated on “calorie in calorie out”. (maybe I could call it “energy in energy out”)

    Are the systems you described above surplus systems as well?

  222. @Helix
    Thanks. That is getting to the heart of the matter. I agree that industrial agriculture is here to stay “until…it no longer can”. An oversimplified approach toward soil focused on chemistry and control rather than microbiology and sustainability has been a major piece of the problems of industrial agriculture. My suspicion is that the future of agriculture after the current fad of high tech equipment, fertilizers, and pesticides runs its course is going to look more like high tech farming than it will like pre-industrial farming. A lot of things that evolved in the era of easy energy can evolve toward much lower fossil fuel usage without returning to animal and human power. Indeed it will still take a lot of land to collect the energy to farm. That has always been the case. Just for a brief period we used energy stored a long time ago.

    But it is just a suspicion, and a lot depends on how much war and how much climate change happens in the next few decades. JMG’s post on political economy focuses attention on what system of ownership, financing, and organization of effort will be used. My central point is that we need to envision systems of political economy that are capable of handling complex systems on the scale of current industrial agriculture. Hopefully future systems will make better decisions, but I think they are unlikely to be simpler. People who assume we can rely on simplified versions of political economy to support pre-industrial arrangements are likely to create big problems. There will likely be a lot of reliance on markets and trade and innovation even as reliance on fossil fuels diminishes. New arrangements need to build these into their plans and not limit their imagination to earlier visions of agrarian utopian communities.

  223. Hi Reese,

    From my reading of your response, I see you discussing two different things :

    1) First you’re describing the political situation vis-à-vis trans identity itself and;

    2) the ethics and realities of trans identity.

    To my mind these two questions are subjects are very different. As far as the ethics go, I simply do not care what other people may or may not identify as. My ethics are Dionysian: which means I emphasize consent and freedom in terms of my own moral evaluations. What I’ve disliked about queer culture at large is their moralizing and rigidity regarding identity.

    As for the problems of identity politics including trans , I think a recent blog post I wrote on the unfortunate events 1922 in what was then Smyrna may do a decent job of explaining where I’m coming from:

  224. Hi John Michael,

    Happy Equinox to you and Sara!

    I hadn’t been aware of the origins of the word ‘weird’, but yeah, that makes sense. But then trust me on this, there are plenty of people who believe that I’m weird for remaining prudent and conservative when society is heading in an entirely different direction. Social displays carry a lot of weight, sorry to say.

    Hey, I was cogitating further and it occurs to me that the great risk with a consumer society is a lack of stuff to consume. This is probably a well known fact in the countries that supply stuff to consumer societies. If you forget about all the background noise and emotion stimulating events going on right now, the supply of stuff is getting restricted. And yeah, ignoring the outcomes seems weird to me too. A little whisper of insight suggests that possibly these events were known about in advance. Why else would you poke the dragon and the bear, thus giving them common cause for complaint? It makes no sense to me.

    I have strong reservations that the folks in charge can reimagine and different order, but that does not mean they won’t have to face the consequences.

    One conclusion I keep coming back to is that the countries supplying the stuff are seizing upon an opportunity of weakness and hitting hard at the weakest spot. It’s kind of like having Alaric I at the gates of Rome, whilst the imperial Senate busies themselves banging on about strategies. It’s bonkers. Oh well.



  225. @ JMG – yes, charting political economy in a similar manner to the Political Compass ‘map’ makes a lot of sense. You’d keep the X axis as the traditional left/right spectrum measuring government control over the economy. You’d then add a Y axis called the ‘ownership’ axis. Economies in which fewer people set economic policy and/or own the means of production, whether as state or corporate bureaucrats would fall in the positive territory, and economies in which control/ ownership is widely diffuse, would land on the negative side of the Y axis. Thus, my hypothetical anarcho-syndicalist society would land solidly in the lower right quadrant, and my statist/cooperative society would fall way down in the lower left quadrant (and, incidentally, look more like what communists claim to want, than what they actually build in the real world…

    If one wanted to get super complicated, you could toss in a Z axis which measures the authoritarian/libertarian mode of decision making. Trying to conceptualize a 3D political map hurts my head, so I’m going to stop for now. Great post, JMG!

  226. Sardaukar, thanks for this, and you’re most welcome.

    Copper, er, in case you didn’t notice, I suggested three systems in the post that do a fair job of responding to that issue…

    BCV, I expect food prices to keep spiking — along with prices for fuel and everything produced with it, which means most goods and services. We’re facing a major economic mess in short order.

    Jay, good heavens. It’s been years since I’ve heard of any Transition Towns group doing much of anything. If you feel inspired, consider printing out some of the Master Conservers handouts from the 1970s — you can download them for free here — and pass them around; they might do some good.

    Yorkshire, at this point I really have no idea what the Russians are up to in Ukraine. They seem to have something very specific in mind, but what it is — that’s the question.

    GlassHammer, no, and that’s precisely it. Surplus creation was a product of the temporary abundance of fossil fuels, and that’s over now. The systems I’ve described in my post can handle surpluses where those exist but they aren’t dependent on surplus generation.

    Chris, my usual rule of thumb is never to blame conspiracy for what can be explained by incompetence. Poking the dragon and the bear simultaneously makes perfect sense if you’re an idiotic American politician who literally can’t imagine that the world doesn’t have to grovel at America’s feet.

    Ben, I like the three-dimensional version! Talking of “lower central southwest politics” comes close, I think, to getting the actual complexity of viewpoints.

    Brian B. (offlist), yeah, I was wondering when the trollery was going to come out. Insisting loudly that anyone who disagrees with your point of view is lying is common enough these days, I know, but it’s not welcome here. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  227. Does the “work ethic “ concept exist outside the U.S.? The work ethic is the idea that work is good in and of itself. You do not need to be working towards any goal in particular; as long as you are working, you will get some virtue points. (Thus the old U.S. joke, “Jesus is coming, everybody look busy!”). Americans who are good at finding shortcuts, to get the actual job done more efficiently, get very good at looking busy.

    Now, if you have worked with American peasants, or lower-tier PMCs, you may say “Wait a minute! What about all that Work Smarter, Not Harder propaganda I’ve heard?” Well, that’s another American thing—Whatever The Peasants Are Doing, It’s Wrong. So efficient peasants get follow-the-procedure lectures; not-so-efficient peasants get work-smarter. Disrespect for the peasantry is very much a postwar view—through most of American history the ability of the American peasant to get things done was much respected. You may see this dramatized on the old MASH TV show when Radar gets on the phone and starts making trades to get whatever the 4077th needs that the official supply chain can’t or won’t get them. Americans who are old enough probably remember using a coat hanger to wire a broken muffler into place for long enough to get you to the service station. End of explanatory digression.

    So—“work ethic “ anywhere else? People who’ve worked in Japan have told me that you’re expected to be in the office 10+ hours per day, but everyone knows you aren’t doing much, if anything, for at least half of those hours, but I’m not sure if that’s quite the same thing since virtue points don’t seem to be associated with the custom. You just do it because that’s the way things is.

  228. Several people here have remarked on the unfortunate fact that “social credit” has been used not only for Douglas’ economic system, but also for the much more recent social control system in the PRC. Heinlein’s novel calls an important element of his version of social credit “heritage check”, which I find an irritating coinage, but which goes to show that you can choose a name less jarring to conservative ears.

  229. @ Helix RE: pre-industrial…?
    @ ganv RE complexity

    A few things to think about:
    1) draft animals use a LOT of forage that requires good land and soil; castor beans OTOH, grow in really crap soil and require zero inputs other than sun and water – the plants are poisonous effectively, like black walnuts…
    2) the amount of work raising and caring for draft animals is huge relative to making biodiesel or refining castor oil for 2-stroke engines. When I was a kid, we ran model airplanes and cars on castor oil that was simply filtered…
    3) the installed base of diesel tractors is huge and they have good longevity, Draft horses are not just difficult to find, but actually cost more than a used tractor. A draft animal, used daily, has lifespan of maybe 20 years, barring injury. My YOUNGEST tractor was built in 1985 and very much going strong.
    4) the amount of work performed by tractor dwarfs a horse of any flavor, and farmers know this. They will bend rules, make exorbitant widgets and finagle parts to work to keep a tractor going over a horse simply due to bang for the buck.

    So, we disagree on the horse thing, but a do agree about the soil, which is why I have been a practitioner of J.W. Carvers methods.

    Solar panels have useful life of maybe 20 years at the outside, barring hail damage, which your homeowners insurance excludes for rural folks. We use solar panels and 24VDC batteries for moving water when it gets dry, but let the big system go when we saw the battery cost over 7 years.

    Windmills don’t work well in areas with 80 ft high trees, and even a bad thunderstorm will wreck them in a bad downdraft.

    Windmills – yes for moving water, but not much else. Design lifespan for large electricity windmills is 20 years, but as one sees in Texas, this is very optimistic estimate of the gearboxes. The cost of a gearbox replacement is so high that most of the windmill folks just decommission them and replace the entire unit.

    I actually believe biofuels will be the thing farmers go for, because it let’s them operate independently – at least that is where we are heading even now.

    Ganv, overly complex systems are what got us in this fix. I think we need to simplify things more than cater to systems that use global inputs. I really do not need my tractor to sport an ECU to get my work done, not do I need a drone to keep an eye on my 40 acres. Farmers and people in general need to get self sufficient, rather than relying on supply chains that can simply be cut off, as we have seen lately. Just my opinion, while I am waiting for a part for my Kubota that has been on order for 5 months. Good thing I have the Internationals still going strong…

  230. Someone may have posted this link already; if so, please delete, JMG.

    I haven’t kept up with all of the comments this week, but I’ve been following links and parabolas and tangents, and I ran across this fascinating history of the game of Monopoly that includes a very informative side narrative about Henry George and his philosophy, neither of which I had ever heard of before this week’s column and comments. I thought others might be interested in a quick rundown on one of the alternatives that JMG couldn’t include this week:


  231. Princess Cutekitten (no. 245), Gurdjieff seems to affirm this in the “Captain Pogossian” chapter of “Meetings with Remarkable Men”:

    Pogossian was always occupied; he was always working at something.

    He never sat, as is said, with folded arms, and one never saw him lying down, like his comrades reading diverting books which give nothing real. If he had no definite work to do, he would either swing his arms in rhythm, mark time with his feet or make all kinds of manipulations with his fingers.

    I once asked him why he was such a fool as not to rest, since no one would pay him anything for these useless exercises.

    ‘Yes, indeed’, he replied, ‘for the present no one will pay me for these foolish antics of mine—as you and all those pickled in the same barrel of brine think they are—but in the future either you yourself or your children will pay me for them. Joking apart, I do this because I like work, but I like it not with my nature, which is just as lazy as that of other people and never wishes to do anything useful. I like work with my common sense.

    ‘Please bear in mind’, he added, ‘that when I use the word “I”, you must understand it not as the whole of me, but only as my mind. I love work and have set myself the task of being able, through persistence, to accustom my whole nature to love it and not my reason alone.

    ‘Further, I am really convinced that in the world no conscious work is ever wasted. Sooner or later someone must pay for it. Consequently, if I now work in this way, I achieve two of my aims. First, I shall perhaps teach my nature not to be lazy, and secondly, I will provide for my old age. As you know, I cannot expect that when my parents die they will leave me an ample inheritance to suffice for the time when I will no longer have the strength to earn a living. I also work because the only real satisfaction in life is to work not from compulsion but consciously; that is what distinguishes man from a Karabakh ass, which also works day and night.’

  232. Hi Bei,

    And Pogossian’s descendants came up with “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.” How’s that for irony?

  233. @oilman2 #247 – Thank you for a very thoughtful and well-reasoned reply. I agree with pretty much everything you said. I don’t know much about castor oil production in the US. I have seen some tropical operations, and IIRC, production was in the neighborhood of one bbl (55 gallons) per acre — more if intensive fertilization and irrigation was used. Net production is lower, of course, but let’s go with the one bbl per acre figure for the sake of a back-of-the-envelope calculation. I will assume similar production in the US, which I suspect might be possible in spite of a shorter growing season by using improved varieties and more efficient production methods. So to generate the equivalent to today’s US consumption of about 7 billion bbl of oil per year will require 7 billion acres. Total arable land in the US is just under 400 million acres, so… that ain’t gonna happen. Oil consumption for strictly agricultural use is about 5% of the total, so even this will require 350 million acres. So that’s not gonna happen either. So while some operations may use this strategy, it looks like it cannot come into widespread use barring some spectacular breakthroughs.

  234. @Violet:
    Well, pleasantly, from your reply and the linked blog post (and I don’t recall ever hearing of a number of the events in there before; thanks), we seem to be in broad agreement here, even if I don’t think of my own ethics in the same terms.

    Less pleasantly, one of the things we seem to be in agreement on is the way that conflation of politics and trans identity (and queer culture more broadly) is a bad idea and likely to go very badly. Once the trans/queer people of the United States have their equivalent of the soldiers, the wealthy, and the “important” steaming out of the harbor as fast as their ships can go, and whatever the particular equivalent of the Turks are arrives… I think a lot of people are probably going to be in trouble.

    (And how ironic, the rigidity regarding identity, too. Funny how free self-expression seems to involve so many rigid categories and subcategories and the chance to get upset with people who don’t get it all exactly right. I mean, if someone wants to highly define themself that way, sure, that’s their thing. But as a recent post here mentioned, we co-create the universe. It’s one thing to get annoyed with someone persistently calling you John when you asked them to be called Jane now; it’s another to get annoyed with them calling you Mxydplsdlysb once when you _clearly_ told them you wanted to be called Mxydplxdlysb. If you want people to respect you, you need to respect them in turn, and part of that is not asking them to do something they couldn’t reasonably do and then getting upset with them when they fail.
    …Then again, as _this_ post mentioned, quite a few people these days seem to think that getting mad at people around you for failing to do the impossible is just good management practice.
    …I wonder if that’s actually related? If you’ve grown up enmeshed in those aspects of current culture, where those in charge have to be believed and obeyed no matter how ridiculous the things coming out of their mouths are, or else, and then you’re told that _here’s_ something that _you and only you_ are in charge of, what is your reaction likely to be when someone raises an objection to something you say about this Thing You’re In Charge Of (especially if you’ve been left feeling like that’s the _only_ thing in your life you’re in charge of)?)

    Anyway, a nice chat, at least in terms of personal interactions if not so much much of the subject matter; thanks. 🙂
    (Particularly since the current climate indeed has me feeling like I might be safer discussing this sort of thing with an outright (at least alleged) transphobe than a random other trans person (not that you were completely random, of course; you were _here_, in this bastion of polite and productive discourse, and also strange fringe people). The former might declare me crazy and refuse to engage or something, but it seems like it’s generally safer to be seen a distant heathen than a nearby heretic.)

  235. Darkest Yorkshire,
    The more recent scholarship that I have seen sees the US South as more modern, not as a feudal leftover. Perhaps in the early days (1600s) in the Tidewater region, there was more self-sufficient autarky (though even then, there was much production for market and for export (tobacco)), but in the 1800s with the rise of cotton, the South was highly monetized and financialized, more so than the North, which had more yeoman farmers. The South even had sub-prime slaves: Plantation owners borrowed from multiple sources against the same slaves. After the economic collapse at the end of the second Jackson administration (late 1830s), the South was financially subordinated to emergent Northern capital. Much of the rest of the world refused to finance the South because it had defaulted on so much borrowing.
    In a sense, the South may have been a bit less capitalist after the Civil War than before, because so much of its capital had been liberated as people and thereby wiped out as capital.
    I think it is Ian Welsh who claims that the American South was the first truly fascist society. (At no point, before, during, or after the Civil War was the South an overly democratic society even for non-elite whites.) Much of the racist laws of Nazi Germany were borrowed from the US South, Alabama if I remember correctly, though of course long post-bellum.
    Another view is that until the Civil War, the United States were a spun-off fragment of an empire, but not a nation. That two competing systems were attempting to build a nation, they had a war, one system won. This is how the United States became a nation. Forget where I read this, but the person also claims that at the time of the US-Mexican War, neither side was a nation yet and that much of the fight was over claims to land that neither side controlled. Certainly most of Texas at the time was part of the Comancheria and New Mexico had been reduced to a tributary of the Comacheria.

  236. Amethyst,
    I have visited Singapore a few times and met both Singaporeans and ex-pats who lived there. People pretty consistently rated the place as quite dull to live in.
    Lots of excellent food though. The uttapam are as good as in India.
    Interesting for a few days tourism. The boat on top of the hotel is impressive as is the pool up there.
    For observers of societies, definitely fascinating for a bit longer. But to live in, dull.

    In addition to other descriptions, I have also seen Singapore called the world’s only successful Leninist state.

    I don’t think Singapore primarily prospers from being a tax haven, certainly not more than London or New York. What they did do was educate their work force, not just the elite. I think it was in the late 70s that they raised by minimum wage by a factor of four and deliberately drove out all the low-wage industry. As predicted, the unemployment rate soared to something like 25%. For a couple of years. Then new, higher-wage industries grew up.

    The reason why Singapore has been so squeaky clean (not sure that the current generation of leaders is keeping this up though) is that when Singapore was expelled from Malaysia, it found itself with a largely Chinese population with Malaysia, where the British had just successfully suppressed a largely Chinese guerrilla movement and which established anti-Chinese affirmative action as multi-decade government policy, on one side. On the other side was Indonesia, which right about that time conducted a US-backed anti-Chinese pogrom that killed from half a million to two million people. So the leadership believed, probably wisely, that they could not afford normal levels of corruption if they were to survive.
    Singapore is also fascinating because they changed the language of most of the population by government fiat. The Chinese majority was switched from what I heard Singaporeans refer to as “rice languages” (various southern Chinese languages associated with peasants) to Mandarin. Few outside notice the language change because it is all “Chinese”, but the difference is at least as great as if the United States switched to Swedish or even Farsi. I met grandparents who had to go to night school to learn Mandarin in order to talk with their grandchildren.

  237. >The signature doctrine of the Red Army was Deep Battle

    If you look historically at what Russia has done, they basically retreat until winter comes along and then they wait for the extreme cold to weaken their foe until they can drive him back out. See: Napoleon, Hitler

    Not a very heroic strategy but it worked.

  238. >I am waiting for a part for my Kubota that has been on order for 5 months. Good thing I have the Internationals still going strong

    I suspect by 2070, the world will look more “square body” than “Tesla”. Not because it wants to be, but because that’s what survives.

  239. John, is this “dark ages” bloodshed happening mostly within the village or tribe, or between villages or tribes? I suspect the latter, at least that is the prediction of multi-level selection theory, which explains not only the relative internal peacefulness of villages and tribes (of course with the help of punishment mechanisms), but also of hives, multicellular organisms and a few symbiotic aliances between species (e.g. lichens). And the remedy for that kind of bloodshed is a higher level entity that makes the lower level parts (villages and tribes, as opposed to individual humans, who have already been unified into villages and tribes). The question is should that unifying entity be economic, political or both? The problem with it being economic is the aforementioned reduction of intimacy between people and people and nature. It’s a tradeoff of intimacy and peace. However, if the entity is mostly political (somewhat the case for the Iroquois confederacy), there is no such tradeoff. Of course there can still be some trade for luxury items between villages and tribes, and certainly it is good to trade in cultural information, but not to the point of diluting the material and cultural inter-dependence of the village and tribe. What is YOUR solution to the bloodshed?

  240. “Lower central southwest politics…..” now, let me see…. that would be somewhere along I-25, and welcome to the Balloon Fiesta. Catch the sunset reflected off the Sandia Mountains to the west….and for the politics, here’s the latest issue of the Albuquerque Journal.” , cut, run…..

  241. @oilman2 … can castor beans be grown in the dryland west? If so, this is important data for me.

  242. @Bei Dawei – I’ll bet Pogossian’s arms, legs, and fingers were in better shape than those of others his age, though. What he was doing was precisely what I need to do to keep from losing strength in them.

  243. @Oilman2 #247
    OK, I did some research on yields of Castor Oil in the US. The information is surprisingly scarce, but I did dig up one reference that claimed yields could reach 1,000 lb oil/acre, which pencils out to about 2.25 bbl/acre. Net will be less, but let’s go with this figure. So even at this yield, we’re looking at diverting 150 million acres into castor oil production to replace the petroleum used in today’s agriculture. That’s 37% of the arable land in the US (and edging closer to my original “draft horse” guess of 25%). So, things look better than the original back-of-the-envelope calculation suggested, but still an iffy proposition barring some pretty significant breakthroughs.

  244. JMG Glad to hear it. Piketty (Capital and Ideology) has a HUGE amount of research going back to original data records (with various degrees of accuracy, which he is very good at noting) to back up his assertions. He’s very good at looking at: how did we get here (whether in relation to the most appalling slave society, or the social democracy of the 1950s – 1970s (in the west)); what factors were important in allowing change; and how can we learn from that to instigate change for the better, and he is very aware of how context and history will affect choices. There are different ways of doing things… who knew!

    Which of course echoes one of your themes, it’s no good having the perfect solution (as appears so often in comments, when I then smile benevolently, having been there myself, so many times, and now am, hopefully, just a little bit more wise 🙂 ), if it’s simply not got any possibility of ever happening in the actual world that we are living in!

    I suspect it may be very interesting for you, as while your political values (making things better for humanity, and the planet we live on… the important bit) will align, your respective Political inclinations (that get mixed up with the mean, small, partisan, cynical bit of politics, the boxes others inevitably try to put us in) may be very different… which is NOT to say that either of you are mean, small etc :o) !! (for those that missed the link last time)

    Also of interest is Peter Frankopan’s excellent “The Silk Roads”, not least because it’s off most people’s radar, and takes a very different view from the standard Anglo-American view (and has perhaps become more relevant because of the war in Ukraine). The follow up is a popularity “cash-in” book, which is appallingly edited, but nevertheless has some interesting and useful things to say.

    Also, just because it is one of the most important books I have ever read, and he has been mentioned above, EF Schumacher’s “A Guide for the Perplexed”.

    Other booksellers are available!

  245. @jimmyd: Thank you for the story of Monopoly! I have never liked that game and can’t understand for the best of me why e.g. a church would promote a Monopoly contest since it seems to require players to violate both normal interpersonal ethics and the ideals of capitalism…

    @princess cutekitten, I have never worked in the US so don’t know exactly how “work ethic” plays out, but I think it is a very American concept. Every time I hear the expression, my mind starts wandering:

    Is it ethical to work long hours for a company instead of working in the home economy? Instead of playing with one’s children? Helping the neighbors?

    Is the company ethical to its employees? Is pay ethical? Too low? Too high?

    Is the company behaving ethically towards society at large? Towards the environment? Would it be more ethical to sabotage it?

    And so on… Of course I know that in reality “work ethic” means “switch off your brain and do whatever your employer wants you to do”.

    In Germany (as far as I can tell) you don’t get respect by working long hours, but by doing “clean” work, i.e. work that is well-planned, well-executed and leaves no mess behind for other people to clean up, and also by working “zügig”, which I can’t translate. It means working fast, the way you can when you know the workflow well, but without any signs of haste.

  246. JMG,

    Thanks for clarifying the requirement for surplus generation in the systems above.

    My guess is only 1 out of every 1,000 Americans can survive without the surplus our system generates. (And I am probably being too generous here.)

    So my follow up question is what is to be done with a population this dependent on surpluses, this lacking in self-sufficiency?

  247. From a British perspective. and it might be out of date.

    “Bio-diesel can be produced from vegetable oils with some alcohol. This would also provide an alternative tractor fuel and an activity for farmers in place of animal rearing. It would also provide associated industrial processing activity. The limitation is the amount of land needed to grow sufficient rape seed for oil extraction.

    Agriculture requires 1.4 million tons oil equivalent for motive power. Around 500,000 hectares are currently devoted to growing rape as an agricultural product and around 1,500,000 additional hectares would be required for rape and beet cultivation for the processing of sufficient bio-diesel to make agriculture self-sufficient in motive power. This represents around 8.5% of the agricultural land in current use. This needs to be balanced against other demands on the same land, but some of the set-aside could be re-employed.”

    I went looking for data on how much the horse ate as well and didn’t really find much. I suspect you’ll have to dig through old Universities basements to get data from Pre-Internet. What I did find suggested a quarter to a third of the farm’s output went to feed them. That is why my grandfather was so pleased to get rid of his. Horses eat every day, the tractor only when it’s used. The land used to feed the horse could produce salable crops instead. And the tractor didn’t run across the field to get away when there was work to be done :-).

    A complicating feature is that if you have land that is not suitable for grains (rocky, too wet, etc) then the horses might not have such a high opportunity cost, and might be economical.

  248. @Helix

    While I appreciate your calculations, the criteria for whether this will be a worthwhile endeavor in the future need not bear much relation to the amount of petroleum currently used in agriculture.

    A fair bit of tractor work (cultivation, tillage) can be eliminated or minimized with a change in farming strategy. More products can move by rail, or move shorter distances. Human labor can replace some processes that are now done by machine.

    From my perspective the better way to ask this question would be:

    If a farmer has 100 acres, and devoting 5% of that land to castor beans would produce 500 gallons of fuel, would that be a better energetic deal than keeping horses provided that farmer already has a tractor and can keep it running?

    My own assumption here is that Oilman2 is correct provided one has a reliable old tractor of reasonable size, which at some point will be worth its weight in gold.

    The computerized GPS-guided behemoths that farm most of the US these days seem destined to become useless heaps of scrap to be mined for useful parts by a future generation of salvage engineers.

  249. Oilman et al, regarding the castor bean discussion, I’ve been reading the works of Mark Shepard (Restoration Agriculture, Water for any Farm) as well as listening to podcasts and presentations featuring him.

    His whole approach to farming revolves around growing woody, perennial crops that continue to give harvests year after year, and treating the plants with Strategic Total Utter Neglect (STUN). I won’t go into his full approach here but I found his stuff very inspiring and believe that humanity does have to move towards perennial crops, based around trees or woody crops, if we are to survive, and indeed, humans have survived on such ecosystems for most of our pre-history.

    Anyway the reason I want to bring him up is that one of the things he mentions is that he has an “oil cartel” with some other organic, regenerative farmers.

    He personally has a small section of the farm for sunflowers. He harvests the seeds for oil as part of his organic co-op, Organic Valley, the co-op shared the cost of refitting their equipment to run on biodiesel, they sell the oil to a potato chip company, buy back the used oil, and use it to power their tractors. Some of the other farmers have even refitted their personal vehicles to run on this oil.

    Here’s a podcast where he talks more about this:

    So there are farmers already producing their own fuel, and within a co-op structure no less!

  250. @ Oilman2 , Ganeb , Helix – re: tractors & the future of farming:
    I would love to know what the hive mind here thinks about the long term viability of diesel engines run off caster oil (or some other biodiesel). If we could take a field trip into the future, say, one thousand years from now, in North America, do we think the ‘average’ farmer, would have access to the machines and fuel? Or would they only be available to the wealthy, or maybe not even to farmers at all, but perhaps to small engine boats? Or only to the military?

    @ JMG – Yes, a 3D model captures the complexity of political thought. I would dread having to be a write who has to tack three descriptors onto ever policy being discussed. For instance: “Sure, the proposal from the senator from Missouri sounds like is would be a perfect fit for right-libertarian-distributive-ists, BUT, the effects of the policy would be much more center-right-authoritarian-concentrative-ist!”
    I mean, sure, it captures the subtleties and distinctions of political economy, but, like, so many words…. How can I snarl scream at the evil ‘others’ when I’m having to think about where their views might land in rubix cube of thinking?!?

  251. The state of the world we’re in, in a 8 lines.

    “The more restrictions and prohibitions in the world
    the poorer people get.
    The more experts a country has
    the more of a mess it’s in.
    The more ingenious the skillful are
    the more monstrous their inventions.
    The louder the call for law and order
    the more thieves and con men multiply.

    Brownie points to those name the source off the top of their heads. And thanks to Ursula LeGuin as well.

  252. From the Bujold fandom list, courtesy of Marc Wilson; again, a succinct summary of lots of books.

    “–News: rich people paying rich people to tell middleclass people to blame poor people.
    – graffito.”

  253. Patricia, a quick search suggests an inch of water per week and zone 9-11. Also neutral-acid soil, which my end of the desert is alkaline.

    That’s not happening.

    Yeah, not much likes our deserts. At least cows grow out here.

  254. Hi JMG,
    Good post as always!
    I have a question for you regarding a collapse book you mentioned years ago. I believe it was long enough to have been on the original Archdruid Report. It was about England during and after the collapse of Rome. I got it from the library through interlibrary loan and read it when you recommended and I want to buy it now and can’t remember the title. It’s so old it doesn’t seem to be on Google. It’s not Gibbons, of course; I have a whole set of his books. If you happen to remember the title, would you mind telling me? It’s really frustrating me.

  255. Princess Cutekitten (no. 250), Sarkis Pogossian was Armenian (a former Ejmiadzin seminarian), so his descendants invented the “Radio Yerevan” jokes. (Example: “Q. What is the difference between capitalism and communism? A. Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism it is the other way around.”

    Jessica (no. 254), English has been Singapore’s major language since it became a British colony in 1819. Lee Kwan-yew (notice the non-Mandarin romanization! in Mandarin it would be Li Guan-yao) continued this because English seemed globally and commercially useful, of course, but the rhetoric holds that it is also neutral, i.e. not associated with any particular ethnic group or culture. Ethnicity in Singapore is framed under the “CMIO” system (Chinese, Malays, Indians, and Other; these are called “races”), with complex regulations covering how to classify multi-ethnic people. (Until recently it was just patrilineal.) This is important for purposes of racial quotas. For historical reasons, the constitution names Malay as the national language, but this does not mean very much, beyond it being used in the national anthem; otherwise Malay has equal status with Mandarin and Tamil. Thus each “race” is associated with a language which is its “mother tongue.” The education system requires English to be the first language of instruction, and the second to be a “mother tongue” chosen from among Mandarin Chinese, Malay, and…until recently Tamil was considered the “Indian” mother tongue, but I understand that more choices have been made available. The same has not been done for Chinese speakers, who are being shepherded away from the several Fujian “dialects,” Cantonese, and Hakka, and towards Mandarin, which hardly any of their ancestors actually spoke. I have seen speculation to the effect that the government wants to unite the Chinese while dividing the Indians, but since Chinese make up three-fourths of the population, I don’t see this as an issue. Also, the government has been equally nanny-state-like about English (with campaigns to eliminate “Singlish” despite local pride in it). It is quite impossible for a student to name English as their mother tongue, even if they actually have an anglophone mother (which is often the case), because that would be unfair to everybody else who has to learn Mandarin or whatnot. But one can choose a “mother tongue” not associated with one’s race (e.g. a Chinese person who studies Malay).

    Reese (no. 252) “it’s another to get annoyed with them calling you Mxydplsdlysb once when you _clearly_ told them you wanted to be called Mxydplxdlysb.”

    A Superman fan, eh? Not even DC Comics could manage to spell his name consistently.

  256. @ Patricia Mathwes & Heliz RE: beanz…

    Patricia, I honestly do not know. Without watering, I would guess you need a specific varietal to make them work. Whatever they grow in similar climate in other countries ought to work. I am only familiar with my own farm, where avg rainfall is now above 40 inches/yr. Bear in mind that the climate is shifting constantly these days, and as of now we are at 50 inches in 90 days. When we bought the place back nearly a decade ago, it averaged under 40 inches in 90 days.

    I do know that this plant can grow in soil where little else will, so Helix – I do not think “arable land” needs to be subtracted for this to be feasible. Also, are the current figures you use for TODAYs big ag monocrop farmers? I ask because there is a huge difference in running a V-8 turbo diesel tractor with dual tires in 4WD compared to standard farm tractor (40-60HP). These big rigs are used for one reason – speed. As things slow down more and more, speed is likely to be one of the first expectations to be reversed.

    Helix – also are you aware that castor oil only needs to be filtered and not converted, as with other veg oils? You can burn it in most any 2-stroke engine, after cold pressing and filtering it.

    We planted our beans in dry, sandy alluvial soil where even corn does not do well. They grew 8 ft tall last year, without any amendments or watering outside of rain. My personal experience is what I am basing my posts on. If it were not for the herbicidal nature of these plants, I think they could be used for soil remediation – we intend to try, but as with black walnut, unlikely to work like other plants.

    Remember – this is our ‘long descent’, and we boomers are in die-off mode. So demand will lessen compared to these last few decades, along with expectations and McMansions and giant Rhode Island size corn plots. And ethanol can be mixed with castor oil – ups the octane for other uses once crazy tailpipe regulations begin to be unenforceable. And ethanol can literally be made from leaves – I have made wine from several types of leaves myself, so there are multiple ways to skin this particular beast.

    Another item that you may see go away is mowing. We now only mow our fields 3x a year, letting the wildflowers do their thing, along with maypop vines. This feeds the bees, which are under huge stress already, and drops our fuel expense. All we mow are paths where we need them to be, and then post spring, post summer and a final clip as winter sets in.

    Helix, we cannot solve the entire world, and you ought to factor in the coming drop in lifestyle, standard of living and expectations. That ought to reduce the size of the coming disruptions at least a little.

  257. @ Helix RE bean oil

    I forgot to mention that you ought to use the acreage currently allocated to corn ethanol, and shift that to bean oil. Bean oil stores well, does not require conversion or other inputs (like making ethanol). Let’s return corn to animal and human use, because sans federal subsidies, it is a loser and creates more problems than it solves. It only pencils out if the entire economy is based on it and you live in tropical clime (think Brazil, where they made it work for them).

    I think that might tip the scale you are building in the direction we are experimenting…

  258. JMG, Forty years ago my alma mater divvied up what was for decades the Department of Political Economy just like you said. This was after I graduated. I just looked it up.

    Anyway, with respect to this failure of the imagination and its deleterious consequences, sometimes circumstances ride to the rescue, like a truck t-boning a robber’s getaway car.

    One of these failures of the imagination by our soon to be former ruling class is their inability to imagine anyone else in positions of power but themselves and their own kind, with one exception – Asians – which is why I think that Ivies and their peers take measures to exclude people of that background. With Asians they perceive a threat, otherwise, why exclude them?

    That said, I doubt that you’d find a Roman senator as convinced of their innate superiority and invincibility as the gang currently running things. Such is their collective self-assurance that they spent the last couple of generations talking about such things as structural racism and CRT and white privilege, saying that the only reason we’re on top is because we’re white, that we devised a society to keep other people down, that we therefore don’t deserve our wealth and power and positions, that it was all built on the backs of others.

    It’s as if they thought that they were communicating in some secret code or some untranslatable dialect that only they as a group understood. But, of course, not being as dumb as they thought we were, everyone below them on the societal pyramid who tuned in understood just fine.

    So, what happens? Well, exactly what you’d expect. You give people an angle and they play it.

    So now, at Georgetown Law, to take one example, according to an account appearing in Quillette not long ago, the white faculty there are all scared stiff. Seems that minority faculty took the white progressoriat faculty preachers at their word. So, if their positions of leadership are illegitimate because they come out of racism, then move aside. As the author of that Quillette article said, on one side of the coin, virtue, on the other, dread.

    The high-and-mighty straining to cement their own positions by condemning and canceling others for supposed moral and attitudinal inadequacy inadvertently undercut themselves. Being white the accusers of everyone else are by definition ‘guilty’. No elaboration or evidence gathering required. They’re white, that’s it. They wrote the handbook for their own overthrow. Makes me laugh. Talk about hoist by their own petard.

    We’ll see what strategy the white progressives come up with to climb down from these Everests of moral theorizing and certitude so as to salvage something for themselves. What are they gonna say, that they were kidding, that they didn’t mean it, that they’re exempt, that they’re entitled to a special carve-out? What alternative theories do they come up with as mitigation?

    At the start of evening CityTV News programs you hear ‘land acknowledgments’ to native groups ie that they’re broadcasting from the traditional territories of such-and-such tribes. So, again, they gave the native peoples a card to play, that if the land doesn’t belong to CityTv, then give it up. Or pay for it. The public library does the same thing and many others.

    So given that there’s a lot of money involved and the fortunes of some very wealthy people in these land acknowledgements, we’ll see how the natives play it. I would imagine that native groups will do the same as minority faculty at Georgetown Law. And we’ll see what the response is. It will be really entertaining.

    This over-educated, under common-sensed, ridiculous, blundering ‘elite’, thrown out of power by the people they least fear. Wouldn’t it be something. Maybe this corner of the cosmos really isn’t run by a deity with a malicious sense of humour and rich sense of irony. But sometimes it sure seems like it.

  259. @JMG, et al

    If I may

    Some people on Obama Care are actually on Medicaid with a share of cost. Obama care expanded access to medicaid for some people., and there is other subsidized insurance also.

    As far as I can see where I live, the only people happy with Obama care are happy because they are now on medicaid or other subsidized insurance. In California there was also a fluke, soon to be corrected, where the new medicaid ( called MediCal in California) could have unlimited money in the bank, getting “help” is only determined by income, where as the traditional receivers of medicaid(MediCal) could have no more than $2000 in the bank. In other words, not enough to meet a property tax bill or to make a deposit on a rental or to pay for a car repair. Yes, that means the people with less income are penalized, have a worse time of it.

    So, in California, and likely all the other states, if you are deemed to need help, kind of not quite fully low income, you get reduced cost medical care. Because the reality is that full cost Obama care is as expensive and horrible coverage as JMG indicates. Subsidised Obama care is deemed “great” by those receiving the reduced cost insurance !

  260. Hey hey JMG,

    I’m quite pleased with this series and this post in particular. I have a question concerning too much imagination that might not really be on topic.

    If I remember correctly Spengler said that Faustian civilization would invent increasingly abstract monetary systems until people basically ignored the money tokens and bitcoin looks like it is moving in that direction. But my question is about the current banking system, which moves around electronic tokens that represent bank notes.

    Here is what I’m wondering. Do you think that it is possible that the US will refute and cancel transactions that it lacks authority over? Meaning that some transaction moves money from bank A to bank B. The US has authority over bank A, but not bank B, and it tells bank A to put the money back on the books even though it can not get the money back from bank B. So bank A just changes the numbers on its books to comply with the stipulation.

    On the one the one hand I could see the authorities decreeing that the numbers should abide by their whims, but on the other hand doing so would undermine confidence in the system of abstract tokens.

    I’m curious where you think the balance lies between the elites trying to dictate terms to reality and their need to maintain the integrity of the system of abstractions that support them.

  261. @American Cutekitten

    “Now, if you have worked with American peasants, or lower-tier PMCs, you may say “Wait a minute! What about all that Work Smarter, Not Harder propaganda I’ve heard?” Well, that’s another American thing—Whatever The Peasants Are Doing, It’s Wrong. So efficient peasants get follow-the-procedure lectures; not-so-efficient peasants get work-smarter. Disrespect for the peasantry is very much a postwar view—through most of American history the ability of the American peasant to get things done was much respected.”

    Well. They could be right. But. They should try it out on their own land first before boasting about working smarter and more efficiently.

    Do their own “experiments” for best practices ought to humble them.

  262. Patricia+Mathews (no. 270), I understood that reference! (ch. 57) Le Guin’s version is weird, though.

  263. @Oilman2

    You mentioned cold pressing the seeds. The raw beans contain a rather nasty toxin of course and the tiny amount of research I’ve done (e.g. watching some YouTube’s on the subject) suggest roasting them first to deactivate it. Is that what you do?

  264. @Roger #278

    We are seeing the formerly marginalized Khoi and San people asserting their rights here in Cape Town as they block construction of Amazon’s new Africa headquarters, claiming the site is sacred to them.

    It’s a grassy area next to a river which formerly held a sports club and a golf driving range. It’s a couple of miles from where I live, and to be honest I have never seen any indication of sacredness.

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out. On the one side the organization claiming to represent the Khoisan, plus probably eco-warriors wanting a wetland; on the other the City Council which wants the jobs and rates income.

  265. Jumping in at the last minute to add that one ingredient to crafting the future is for people to believe that they are capable of doing so. My daughter was telling me her peers in college feel very much that they have little agency in their lives. It doesn’t surprise me that college students are like this given especially what they’ve chosen to endure the past two years in terms of mandates and restrictions on their lives. The “educated” will not be leading us, but the audience here already knew that.

    The other add I want to make is for people to learn their own family’s history here in the United States. Our collective knowledge of history is so propagandized by the political extremes we are truly ignorant about what the government did to everyday people. I’d argue that the constant extreme shrieking encouraged by the media is done purposefully to cover up how the government paired with business leaders abused the working classes.

    Here’s one example – my family had a small dairy farm outside of Philadelphia that went out of business in 1950. It struggled from the mid-1930’s all through the 1940’s. It’s been a head scratcher to understand why a farm would go out of business during one of the most profitable times in the American economy. It survived the Depression and WW2 to finally go under post war? Didn’t make sense. I discovered that the states in unison passed milk control laws starting in 1934. The feds encouraged them to do it and each state that did had similar measures with a board of non-farmers setting prices for milk. The measure was said to be temporary to deal with the economic crises of the time and help families. The laws kept getting renewed and expanded each time. The effect was large corporate backed farms would buy up small farms or just put them out of business. Many of the smaller farms near cities (established in the time before refrigeration and got milk to homes quickly) sat on valuable land for development of housing. Of course the government and the business donors wanted these small farms out of the business so they could grab that land for pennies on the dollar and build what they wanted.

    I could follow along in the newspapers around the country as the farmers pled with their state legislatures for relief. Then riots that broke out from small famers who were being driven out of business. Strikes of farmers, dumping of milk in the capitals, national guard called out to force farmers to work and use tear gas on protestors. This went on for 8 years!

    I never learned any of this in any history book I read, but it is all right there in newspapers who were forced to cover it since people couldn’t get milk at various times. Its an absolute crime what they did to regular normal people in the name of whatever cause. And so much of it sounds so familiar with covid ongoing.

    So that might be what I take on – helping people find and write up and share this family history. And course when it came to race and immigrants there were whole other criminal activities led by the government. I think it could make an impact on how people approach thinking about the future. What do you think?

  266. @Alvin #268 – Organic Valley! I buy their milk whenever it is on the shelves of our local Publix. Good to hear more about them.

    @BoysMom #272 – I lived in New Mexico from 1962 through 2019, and I hear you about the soil and water. I used to add coffee grounds to my compost or put them around my rose bushes to offset some of the alkalinity. Not to mention a lot of it that wasn’t sand was caliche. Just try getting a trowel or a spade through that stuff! All right – back to the drawing board. Ok – it’s ranch country there, too. Though for desert farming, the best guides are the Pueblos and the northern NM Hispanic Heritage population, “here since the Conquistadores,” and using a lot of the techniques that originated in Andalusia, which they learned from the Saracens, every last one of those places as dry as a bone. This from one of UNM’s annual Medieval studies lecture series which takes place every April. Talk about mining the past!

  267. Could you share your thoughts on ESG scores and initiatives by the corporate oligarchs? Apparently every company now has teams in place to manage ESG.

    I was honestly taken about when you talked about social credit in this essay and being in support of it. I then paused to remember that you read books by long dead authors and I only know the term in its modern meaning. I can see how the idea of it could work, but I have to invent a new terms for it to even think about it. All I can conceive is it being used as yet another way to control people – because obviously laws, regulations, taxes, vaccine mandates, and media propaganda aren’t enough!

  268. @ Info…

    I am not sure humbling will work on the intentionally ignorant. Never forget their initial reaction is ALWAYS to double down on what isn’t working!

  269. @Mark L #267 – All fair points. That “provided one has a reliable old tractor” part concerns me though. How many years can a tractor remain functional? 50 is a done deal but after that? Perhaps with salvage and steampunk manufacturing we could keep them going a bit longer.

    @Oilman2 #276 – I agree with your comments about lower-energy lifestyles, which is sorta what I was implying in my original post. Fits with the “weatherize before solarize” paradigm. On the subject of cold presses, do you have one? What is involved in manufacturing one? Will you power it with castor oil?

    @Oilman2 #277 – I’m all in favor of repurposing the land devoted to corn for ethanol production. That acreage is substantial – 25% of corn acreage as of a few years back. Plus the EROEI on corn ethanol is pathetic. An internet search for castor oil EROEI turned up a figure of 2.6. I have no doubt this can be improved upon and it’s much better than corn ethanol, but far less than the EROEI of petroleum that we have now.

    Thanks to everyone for a thoughtful and thought-provoking discussion.

  270. @ Helix

    Seed presses can be had out of China or India for around $500 USD. Most have an electric motor, but you need a motive force to drive the screw, and anyone considering this is likely to be handy enough to devise that.

    As for EROEI, you need to toss that out your local window. Numbers for crude oil imply that it is an easy process, when fractionating isn’t, and requires the largest bulk processing on the planet. To be fair, what would it take for YOU to make gasoline? Not buy it, but make it…

    Whereas you CAN make castor oil and biodiesels and ethanol yourself. Try looking at things more personally, and realize that globalism is dying the slow death. You do not need to fractionate castor oil. It is only produced marginally all over the world, where at one point it was available at every hobby shop on the globe. I am hoping that the issues or price and availability will induce formation of LOCAL fuel manufacturing, as I personally see that as part of the future of things.

    NOTHING is as compact as the sun energy in crude oil – which is a drum I have beaten for 40 years. But what does that mean if the cost is prohibitive or the supply intermittent? What are your options? There will be no mustering of a collapsing government to make policies that are helpful for we hoi polloi – witness what government is currently doing for ‘the rest of us’ versus what they are helping themselves to. The USA president has effectively shut down oil production outside of Texas and North Dakota at this point.

    I tossed out castor oil as a past thing that works and can be done independent of big corporations – on a personal level. It is a possible answer to things heading our way already. But do not expect governing bodies to make things better – their track record is all too visible. Perhaps in a country with more authoritarian leadership it could be implemented as policy? But there is no restriction currently for doing what I propose anywhere.

    Enjoy the discussion, but I really believe you need to get away from country-wide solutions due to the issues with parasitic governments. It will be harder to support them in our future…a good thing IMO.

  271. “Yes, I’m well aware that there are many different sub-sub-subspecies of socialism; there have been since Charles Fourier invented socialism in 1810 or so, but when they get into power, they all turn promptly into bureaucratic state socialism. ”
    When I read this I immediately said “Oh yeah, there’s a bunch of kinds of socialism: There’s syndicalism, there’s distributiism, there’s social credit…” It seems like half the failure here is just “Socialism is the word for when your political economy isn’t corporate capitalism.”

  272. re: Tractors
    I can see the salvage economy doing just fine producing them. My grandfather built a tractor in the 1960s using parts salvaged from 1930s/40s automobiles, including a Mercedes Diesel engine which I believe came out of a limo. I’m pretty sure the only ‘tractor’ parts were the wheels and whatever hooked to the PTO. While it was arguably a deathtrap (between the lack of roll protection and the bare driveshaft whirling between your legs), thing ran daily until the Old Man died of a completely unrelated stroke. I believe it was broken up for scrap by the estate, which is a shame.

    I’d guess there’s enough junk for a century or more of tractors. Past that? A simple internal combustion engine is not actually that complicated a machine. The Wright Brothers designed and built an engine by hand for the Wright Flyer, and getting airplane power-to-weight ratios is a lot harder than what you need for a tractor! (Lots of youtube videos of shade-tree machinists with homemade engines, if you want more evidence.)

    That said… I’d bet we’ll see more horses going forward. I’ve read old-order Amish have the most profitable farms in America*, and they do it with horseflesh. We can argue ’til we’re blue in the face about what’s technically possible, but what will thrive is what’s economically profitable. Even today, right now, with an industrial economy awash in oil… that seems to be horses. Go figure.

    *on a per-acre basis

  273. Patricia+Mathews@270: felt/knew that that saying had a particular flavor, was delighted to find its source.

    In searching found another translation which resonates nicely:

    “The more laws and restrictions there are,

    The poorer people become.

    The sharper men’s weapons,

    The more trouble in the land.

    The more ingenious and clever men are,
The more strange things happen.

    The more rules and regulations,

    The more thieves and robbers.”

    The above translation is said to be by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English (Vintage Books, 1972).

  274. Aldarion, that’s a valid point. No doubt fans of Major Douglas can come up with some better label if they want to make a splash.

    Jimmyd, hmm! No, I hadn’t seen that before. Thank you!

    Clejan, it’s both. Look at legal codes from any dark age society and you’ll find that levels of violence within communities were extremely high. (Consider, for example, the crime of mayhem in Anglo-Saxon law — yes, that was a specific crime. It consisted of injuring any of the parts of the human body you can use to hurt someone else — hands, feet, knees, elbows, and the top of the head. It ranked as a much more serious crime than other injuries because it interfered with a man’s capacity to beat up his neighbors.) As for my “solution,” er, you’re the one who’s assuming that human nature is a problem rather than a predicament. There is no solution because human beings are what they are; the notion that you can make them act like angels by forcing them into the right system of political economy is one of the popular delusions of our age.

    Patricia M, funny.

    Michael, other booksellers are indeed available. I recommend, which doesn’t rip off authors and publishers.

    Glasshammer, no, you’re wildly exaggerating the rate of overshoot, and since the surpluses aren’t going away overnight, ordinary demographic decline — which is already underway — will balance things out nicely. As I’ve noted in print, I expect the population of what’s now the US to be less than 10% of its current level when things bottom out, and most of that will happen via a simple surplus of deaths over births.

    Ben, heh heh heh. My evil plan seems to be working. 😉

    Patricia M, is that Le Guin’s paraphrase of the Tao Te Ching? Interesting. Doubtless the Thurrow-Dowists in City of Illusions were quoting it…

    Rbrown, I think the book you have in mind is The Age of Arthur by John Morris.

    Patricia M, boo hoo indeed. Maybe we should take up a collection to send them a hanky. 😉

    Roger, I’ve been watching that for a while now and shaking my head. I’m not sure what the endgame will be, but one possibility — since the higher-education industry is hopelessly dependent on student debt and just as hopelessly overbuilt — is that they’ll let the people of color take over the universities and then, oops, so sorry, we no longer have funding, see ya…

    River, that makes a great deal of sense. I’ve wondered for a while now whether there was some wrinkle I didn’t know about, or whether the people who were coming on here to boast of their cheap Obamacare were simply paid shills from troll farms.

    Team10tim, hmm! I could see that. Since at this point an enormous number of people in the comfortable classes seem ready to believe whatever they’re told, I don’t think the authorities are too worried about a crisis in confidence, either.

    Denis, two very good points. As for ESG, I’ll have to look into it.

    Nicholas, that’s a scam that socialists have been running for a long, long time now, since — as I noted earlier — nobody would buy into what they’re selling if they knew there were alternatives.

  275. One thing I like a lot about The Dispossessed is that in addition to showing the capitalist country on the home planet that the anarcho-syndicalist Odonians came from (damn propertarians!), Le Guin also mentions the bureaucratic state socialist country on that planet too, and how the Odonians don’t like the communists anymore than they like the capitalists.

    “BS socialist” is a good acronym, since that BS can stand for something else too

  276. @Oilman2
    Love your comment about durability of good tractors. We were a Case-IH farm. Yes, complexity is part of the problem. If one can simplify in a way that becomes more effective, that is fabulous. But for many, simplifying is a case of wishful thinking. Sometimes this comes in the form of assuming that anything that can work must be comprehensible to a single person. But evolution works without anyone comprehending it. And the success of markets is largely driven by the fact that no one has to fully comprehend them.

    How do we re-envision political economy so that good complexity is allowed to develop, but bad complexity is limited? That is a very hard problem. I don’t claim to have a solution, but I have seen two main failure modes that produce bad complexity: (1) belief in rapid progress causes people to assume that what they build should only last a few years anyway before it is replaced by something newer and better. It causes people to design ever more complex stuff to keep the appearance of progress, but doesn’t encourage testing to see if it actually will work for more than a brief time. (2) cases where making things complicated allows marketers to claim value without having actual value underneath.

    Often, embracing complexity is the only way forward. For example, soil is incredibly complex and I expect farmers of the future will have elaborate tools for diagnosing the health of the microbes in their soil.

  277. Patricia+Mathews,
    Two states north, we have clay and basalt. The natives were nomadic. Unless weather patterns change amazingly the future natives will probably be nomadic, with maybe some farmers in the river bottoms where ditch plus windmill irrigation can work, is my guess.

    Cows and sheep seem to do pretty well in the mountains, so I’m guessing that the nomads will be herders rather than hunter-gatherers, and have the age old farmers/herders conflicts unless we have some really good systems set up in advance to prevent those.

  278. @Denis (#285):

    I want to echo what you said about the importance of knowing your own family’s history. For no reason I ever consciously understood, I felt a strong need to know everything I could about it even in my early ‘teens, when elderly relatives were still alive who remembered the years they had lived through, and who still had scrapbooks, photographs and other relics of their own ancestors. I pumped them for all they could tell me, got hold of the things they had saved from their own ancestors’ lives, and put it all together in my mind into a fairly detailed story of my own family’s history. Later I started in on historical andf genealogical research to flesh out the background of each ancestor’s life. (That sort of research has become much, much easier in the last decade, as so much documentation, so many old books, and so many runs of historic newspapers have been made available on line for research.) It’s not an exaggeration to say that these stories of my ancestors made me the person I am today, and also gave me reliable ways to cope with the various ups and downs of my own life.

    During the COVID lockdown I finally put all this together in writing, as my younger son had been asking me to do for years, and I ended up with a narrative of about 150 8.5″x11″ pages going back to my earliest immigrant ancestors and beyond. (In a few lines of descent the stories go back as far as the late 1500s.) This does not include the actual hard genealogical data and the evidence for each genealogical fact, which I will eventually upload to

    When I had it all put together, I was surprised to find patterns of behavior that recurred across several lines of descent over many generations–patterns that I hadn’t noticed when I had simply stored up each story in my memory. I found a strong pattern of repeatedly defying the norms of one’s society (several times even to the point of committing genuine acts of treason) and of flying under the radar; a knack for surviving in truly desparate situations that might well have destroyed another person; a strong disinterest in conventional religion and a strong interest in unconventional spirituality; and so forth. So it turned out to be a real learning experience for me, too, to pull all the threads together.

    I urge as strongly as possible that anyone who feels the inclination actually put a lot of effort into working up the history of their own family. I expect that it will be as valuable for you as it was for me.

  279. BCV, I’ve watching the food situation with increasing worry since early 2020. I tend to agree with you and JMG that the next year or two at minimum are going to be hard with regards to the food situation, and that poorer food importing countries are going to have real trouble, as are low income individuals and poorer countries more generally.

    It seems to me that powerful people and groups have decided to deprioritize feeding the global population. Like they’re so convinced that famine is last century they’ve forgotten to take steps to avoid it. Because they’re convinced that whatever they do won’t have famine as a consequence.

    Or like they’ve finally realized limits to growth are real, and have decided that the way to cope with resource shortages is to let a lot of very poor people somewhere else die so they can have more resources for themselves.

    There’s probably a bit of both going on. There’s certainly plenty of clueless elites around, but not all of them are idiots. And the latter can be quite ruthless.

    I do wonder at what point people are going to take the coming hunger crisis seriously, and what that will look like. I’d love to see victory gardens sprouting up everywhere, plus serious efforts made to change conventional agriculture to reduce resource use and environmental damage, and for more food growing where people live whenever possible, and to get sufficient food to people that need it. And to not do things that cause food shortages.

    I’m worried what we might get is more a ‘well, there isn’t enough stuff for all of us, so let them die’. Or tight control over farming and what’s grown and eaten. A lot could be produced in household economies, but not if seeds, tools, input, and land are ‘official farmers only’. I’d really rather not be forced into a vegan diet by government fiat, either.

  280. In “Left Hand of Darkness,” you can map the Handdaratta onto Taoists and the followers of Meshe onto Buddhists if you’re so inclined.

  281. @Oilman2 #291 – I’m not sure what I said that makes you think I’m looking to our “leaders” for solutions, or even for society-wide solutions. I’m certainly all for individual initiative, and I suspect the castor oil solution will work to some extent. That it lends itself to small-scale, local production is an especially attractive feature.

    But my back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that the extent will be limited, both because of available land and because the EROEI is low. And, no, I don’t really want to throw EROEI out the nearest window because it tells us that for every 2.6 barrels we produce, one of those barrels is going to be consumed in the production process, leaving only 1.6 barrels for other uses. This is a vastly different situation than we have now, where double-digit EROEI’s are the norm (well, maybe not for tight oil) even when the energy used for refining is included.

    I’m not saying this because I favor huge refineries and gigantic extraction and distribution systems. Only pointing out that it delivers copious, highly concentrated energy, and that our economy and society have coalesced around the availability of that energy. As that source of energy is nonrenewable and there is no solution on the horizon that can match the economics of that resource, we will reach a point where the current paradigm can no longer be supported.

    Obviously the calculus will change if the EROEI of castor oil can be improved, or even if the yield per acre can be improved. But unless those improvements are dramatic, we’re still in for some serious belt-tightening.

  282. Patricia Matthews:

    Interestingly enough, I’ve been on a sort-of transliterating the Tao Te Ching into my own words (read 8-10 alternative versions, work out my versions from that). We’re talking part 18, which Ursula LeGuin titled “Second Bests” and which I entitled “Making Do.” Here’s my present take (which includes a wild remaking of a line which, for some reason, I can’t seem to get rid of:

    When the Way was lost
    benevolence and duty appeared
    and the laws multiplied.

    As knowledge and wisdom became necessary
    hypocrisy arose alongside
    and became a virtue

    When families began to fall apart
    parental kindness became an ideal
    as did dutiful children

    As a nation loses its interconnections
    and a people questions its fellow neighbors
    Patriotism arises in response.

  283. @ Aldarion: The closest English word for work which is ‘zugig’ is ‘flow’, now in common use thanks to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book of the same name.

  284. @godozo – neat rendition of that section!

    @BoysMom – wasn’t there a famous song about that issue?

  285. This is a very late comment, I know, but IMO anyone who reads Adam Smith’s _Wealth of Nations_ should also read his _Theory of Moral Sentiments_. People think Smith believed in the economic man motivated only by profit. Not so, TMS is all about the other motivations that move human activity: sympathy, desire to be admired and respected, love of gadgets, love of family and so forth.


  286. @Bei Dawei:
    Nah, not a fan (also not an anti-fan — I’m just not that interested), but _that_ one, whose name I won’t even attempt here, was famous enough to come to mind anyway.

  287. @oilman2 #291

    You can make gasoline yourself, if you can source the crude oil. They’ve been doing it illegally for years in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. They tap the crude oil pipelines then distill the crude using old oil drums as boilers. I’ve read they sometimes sell the gasoline to the Army which is supposed to catch them but doesn’t have enough money to fuel its patrol boats. It’s a terribly messy and polluting business, search Google images for “Nigeria delta crude oil refining”.

    Castor oil mixed with mineral oil made a high-performance lubricant. Hence the name “Castrol” for the British lubricating oil company. I used to love the smell of castor oil when I attended motor races in my younger days. Not sure if the smell is still there now that they use modern synthetics.

  288. Naked Capitalism (who at times has linked to your posts) had this interesting link three days ago.

    It is a review of by Jonathan Malesic

    Malesic is a religious scholar, so his take is slightly different. As I interpret it, the common deffinition of “burnout” tends to have a heroic quality to it. We were working so hard! His take is more like, we get really tired of doing useless work. : As William Morris would have it “Useful Work Versus Useless Toil,”

  289. @Robert Mathieson thank goodness you wrote everything down from your family history! Most do not and leave their families piles of papers that end up getting tossed. May I suggest you also upload it to FamilySearch? They give each ancestor a unique identifier in an attempt to build out one world tree and you may find some connections there. My day job is to go through that hard genealogical data and blow apart what they think their family tree is. Ancestry is the biggest culprit here in that they have maybe 1% of available genealogical records. Especially with religions – 90% of people can’t identify their grandparents’ religion never mind generations further back and if someone doesn’t have the religious records, they don’t have squat when it comes to genealogical proof. People just did not marry outside their faith until fairly recently with some exceptions. It sounds like you have that and the interesting stories to go along with them.

    I get what you are saying about family patterns. When the Bible talks of patterns lasting for 3-4 generations, that is definitely visible. I’ve gotten captivated by ancestors who seem to defy the zeitgeist of the time and those that follow it. I have two ancestors who served in the Union Army for 3 years each. I have another two who seemed to avoid enlistment and even being listed on the draft lists in 1863. Also not on the conscientious objectors lists either. This of course leads me into reading more local accounts of what was happening during the Civil War. Little of what I find matches history books. There were eight places in Pennsylvania that resisted the war effort and shot and killed federal marshalls who arrived to round up resisters. There are no state historical signs marking these locations. But the locals speak of them. Some in the last ten years have erected their own local memorials to the resistance against the feds of the 1860’s. And I think its a sign of resistance to the feds of the 2000’s.

  290. @Denis (#313):

    Thank you for mentioning FamilySearch; it’s an excellent site. I will indeed put up my data there, too, over the next few years. (From what you write, it sounds like you work there. Good for you!)

    I mentioned Ancestry simply because another relative on my father’s side has put up a lot of data on his and my ancestors there, and what I have supplements what he has. (He, like me, got started early collecting stuff from his living older relatives.) So I was thinking about adding to his tree first of all.

  291. Good article. Your articles on imagination have been very thought provoking! It’s funny that one of the better recent articles (that I’ve come across) promoting distributism comes from a pagan and not a Catholic… Unfortunately, the lack of imagination runs rampant among the functionaries and prelates of the Church as well. I hope in the next 50 years we start to see serious and traditional Catholics who influence public discussion and who aren’t Thomists.

  292. We are our language and the gift is to be able to transcend its limits to our imagination. Perhaps the first step is to know what we are saying, whence a word came from and why.

    John writes:
    “…it’s worth suggesting that there’s room for a rebirth of imagination in contemporary industrial societies—and one of the themes that it might focus on first and foremost is the sphere of political economy.
    I insist on those latter two words, by the way…”

    Perhaps it might be helpful to start by imagining a world in which “economy’ once meant an act or system of frugality and stewardship by a person or “polis” and not, as in our prevailing dialect of English, a wasteful act or a global system of planned obsolescence.

    PS I posted the above comment on Resilience and recently I posted an introductory essay to my imaginings on Medium at

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