Not the Monthly Post

That Untraversed Land

It’s been just over a month since I started talking about how the predictions set out in 1972 by The Limits to Growth were coming true in our time. Since then the situation has become steadily worse. As I write this, rolling blackouts are leaving millions of people in China to huddle in the dark and shutting down yet another round of factories on which the West’s consumer economies depend, while China’s real estate market lurches and shudders with bond defaults.  In Europe, natural gas supplies have run short, sending prices to record levels, while in Britain, the fuel they call petrol and we call gasoline is running short as well.  Here in the United States, visit a store—any store, anywhere in the country—and odds are you’ll find plenty of bare shelves.

Insofar as the corporate media is discussing these shortages at all, they’re blaming it on the shutdowns last year and on a lack of truck drivers to haul goods to market. They’re not wholly mistaken. During last year’s virus panic, many firms closed their doors or laid off employees, and production of energy resources, raw materials, and finished goods fell accordingly.  Now that most countries have opened up again, the energy resources, raw materials, and finished goods needed for ordinary economic life aren’t available, because the habit of just-in-time ordering that pervades the modern global economy leaves no margin for error.

The shortage of truck drivers is another product of the same set of policies.  During the shutdown period, many people—truck drivers among them—got thrown out of work. Because of the same  regulations that deprived them of work, they couldn’t look for other jobs, and the assistance programs meant to help people deal with the impact of the shutdowns weren’t noticeably more effective than such programs ever are.  That left millions of people to find other ways of getting by, outside the official economy of employment.  This, accordingly, many of them did.

I think that in retrospect, the decision to lock down entire societies to stop the coronavirus will end up in the history books as one of the most spectacular blunders ever committed by a ruling class. Partly, of course, the lockdowns didn’t work—look at graphs of case numbers over time from places that locked down vs. places that didn’t, and you’ll find that locking down societies and putting millions of people out of work didn’t do a thing to change the size and duration of the outbreak.  Partly, the economic damage inflicted by the lockdowns would have taken years to heal even if the global industrial economy wasn’t already choking on excessive debt and running short of a galaxy of crucial raw materials. But there’s more to it than that.

If you want people to put up patiently with long hours of drudgery at miserably low wages, subject to wretched conditions and humiliating policies, so that their self-proclaimed betters can enjoy lifestyles they will never be able to share, it’s a really bad idea to make them stop work and give them a good long period of solitude, in which they can think about what they want out of life and how little of it they’re getting from the role you want them to play.  It’s an especially bad idea to do it so that they have no way of knowing when, or if, they will ever be allowed to return to their former lives, thus forcing them to look for other options in order to stay fed, clothed, housed, and the like. (We can set aside the question of vaccine mandates for now—that’s another kettle of fish—but of course those feed into this same effect.)

So there’s a labor shortage, and it’s concentrated in exactly those jobs that are most essential to keeping the economy running.  These are also the jobs most likely to have lousy pay and worse conditions.  This isn’t accidental. It unfolds from one of the most pervasive and least discussed features of contemporary economic life: the metastatic growth of intermediation.

Let’s unpack that phrase a bit. The simplest of all economic exchanges takes place between two people, each of whom has something the other wants. They make an exchange, and both go off happy. If what one of the people brings to the exchange is labor, and the other person brings something the first person wants or needs in exchange for labor, we call that “employment,” and the first person is an employee and the second an employer, but it’s still a simple exchange. So long as there’s no overt or covert coercion involved on either side, it’s a fair trade.

What happens as a society becomes more complex, however, is that people insert themselves into that transaction and demand a cut.  Governments—national, local, and everything in between—tax income, sales, and everything else they can think of. Banks charge interest and fees on every scrap of money that passes through their hands. Real estate owners drive up the cost of land so that they can take an ever larger share of the proceeds in rent and mortgage payments. Then you have a long line of other industries lobbying government for their share of the take.

Universities are a great example.  A century and a half ago most people didn’t go to university. Doctors and lawyers entered the field by apprenticeship—you went to work for an established practitioner, learned the ropes, and passed state exams. Engineers and architects did the same thing.  Schoolteachers had an even simpler route:  bright kids who didn’t have other prospects got put to work teaching younger children, and as soon as they graduated from school themselves they’d find a job in a school somewhere. The system worked very well, not least because it was an effective means of social mobility: young people could enter the professions irrespective of the social class of their parents, so long as they were smart and willing to work hard.

The rise of the universities after the Second World War put an end to that system. Universities lobbied state governments to require job candidates in professional fields to have four-year degrees, so that the universities could insert themselves into the relationship between the professions and the pool of young people interested in them. You couldn’t simply find a physician, get taken on as an assistant, and proceed from there to qualify as a physician in your own right. No, you had to go to college and jump through an increasingly elaborate set of hoops in order to get to the point of passing your board exams and hanging out your shingle. If you didn’t have the money and free time to go to college, you were shut out.

It was a very effective scheme for limiting access to the professions to the children of the middle and upper middle classes, which was probably its original purpose.  It was also a very effective scheme for decreasing the number of people in the professions, so they could drive up salaries to absurd levels, another likely goal.  In the long run, finally, it has also turned into a very effective scheme for limiting access to the professions to conformists who never have a single original thought of their own. A century ago this wasn’t the case; physicians, for example, did their own original research and published papers in the medical journals. Now?  Not so much.

Ultimately, of course, employment itself becomes a form of intermediation. By and large you aren’t hired by people who want what you produce, you’re hired by a corporation that inserts itself between you and the purchaser, takes most of the money, and gives you a pittance, while directing a big share to managerial staff. Since the corporation is also subject to intermediation, other shares go to governments, banks, and a whole ecosystem of other intermediaries who insert themselves into the same transaction. In the end, you get a small fraction of the value of your work, and that fraction has been shrinking steadily with each passing year.

There’s some history behind that. The spectacular growth of intermediation in modern times became possible for two reasons. The first was that fossil fuels made it possible for the labor of a single person to produce more wealth than ever before in human history.  The second was that fossil fuels also enabled the world’s industrial nations to take over and exploit more of the planet than any previous empire in recorded history, first through conquest and colonialism, and later on through manipulative economic arrangements that left other countries notionally independent while they were being drained of wealth to support the industrial nations.

The impact of these factors on economic life is almost impossible to overstate.  Before the coming of the industrial era, it took on average the productive labor of ten people to support one person in an economic role that didn’t produce necessary goods or services. This is why ancient Egyptian pharaohs and medieval kings somehow managed to get by without financial planners, administrative assistants, or personal coaches: they didn’t have the resources available to take so many people out of productive work.  Exactly what the figure is nowadays is hard to work out, partly because so much glorified handwaving has been redefined as “productive work” and partly because most of the productive work that keeps modern industrial societies functioning is carried out by sweatshops and slave labor in a variety of Third World hellholes, but the sheer expansion of managerial job categories is a good sign of just how far things have changed.

The difficulty is that the torrents of cheap abundant energy that made that sort of metastatic intermediation possible depended all along on the breakneck exploitation of nonrenewable resources.  Now fossil fuels are not so cheap as they once were, nor so abundant.  There’s very little slack left in the fossil fuel sector—as current shortages and price spikes are making very clear—nor are renewable energy sources able to pick up the slack effectively—as current shortages and price spikes are making equally clear.  For that matter, the extraction of wealth from the Third World to prop up the economies of the industrial nations is running into increasing difficulties, not least the far from minor fact that you can only pillage a nation of all its available wealth for so long before there isn’t anything left to loot.

All this imposes an existential challenge to the economy of intermediation, and to the millions upon millions of well-paid jobs that depend on intermediation. That challenge first began to bite in the 1980s, and it was met by driving the working classes into poverty and misery. It bears repeating and remembering that half a century ago in the United States, one adult with a high school education and a working class job could support a family of four in relative comfort.  The changes in economic policy and corporate behavior that swept that away, replacing it with the current dismal landscape of despair and impoverishment for working people, were the steps by which the system of intermediation was preserved—for a while.

The difficulty, of course, is that you can only take that so far before it’s no longer worth anyone’s while to do those poorly paid jobs on which the whole system depends.  Here in the United States, we’ve reached that point, and not just for employees. Go to any town in flyover country and walk down the streets, past the empty storefronts where businesses used to flourish. There are millions of people who would love to start their own business, but it’s a losing proposition in an economy in which governments, banks, and property owners demand so large a cut that most small startup businesses can’t break even. The same is equally true, of course, for employees, whose wages no longer even pay the basic costs of getting by in today’s America.

It’s becoming true in the field where I make my living. Writers who place their books with big corporate publishers have been watching their share of a book’s earnings shrink with every passing year due to predatory contracts. Just recently it’s come out that corporate publishers have become so rigid that a book that beats expectations won’t get reprinted—publishers will literally let it go out of print rather than cash in on the trend, because they’ve gotten locked into their own version of just-in-time ordering. As a result, more and more authors are self-publishing or turning to smaller presses not hobbled by corporate groupthink, of which there are many.

(There’s a curious astigmatism of the imagination in the essay just cited, by the way, and it’s one that I’ve seen quite often among writers. The author of the essay talks as though the only options for getting published are huge corporate publishers, on the one hand, and self-publishing on the other. Not so—there are many hundreds of small to midsized publishers, which don’t require your manuscript to go through an agent, which are open to innovative and interesting work, and which don’t have the same idiotic rigidities as the big boys.  I make most of my living publishing books with them.  The moral to this story is that if you ignore the conventional wisdom, you may discover that there are more options than you think.)

Thus the economy of intermediation is strangling the economic activity on which it survives.  To change that would require the people whose jobs depend on intermediation to accept a drastic and permanent loss of status, influence, and wealth, and the number of them who will accept that loss willingly can doubtless be counted on the fingers of one foot. Nonetheless, they’re going to suffer that loss, some here and others there, some a little at a time and others all at once when a pink slip turns up in the inbox.  If something is unsustainable, sooner or later it won’t be sustained:  that’s an essential principle of economics in the real world, however busily economists try to pretend that it can’t possibly apply here and now.

The decision of millions of former working class employees to find better ways to support themselves is one of the ways that this principle is unfolding in our time.  There are plenty of others—the primary force driving cancel culture in the universities, for example, is the no-holds-barred competition for an ever-shrinking pool of middle class jobs.  But it’s the quiet dissolution of working class employment, the recognition by the people who keep the economy running that they have better things to do than prop up a system that treats them as disposable components, that strikes me as most important here and now.

Many of them are finding work in the underground economy.  That’s a huge economic sector these days. How many people make a living doing work outside ordinary employment and getting paid “under the table,” as the phrase is, is for obvious reasons a hard question to answer, but it’s quite possibly in the tens of millions.  Working in the underground economy is an effective way to get out from under the burden of intermediation, so that both parties in an economic transaction can keep most or all of the value they exchange.  That’s going to become even more significant a fraction of the economy in the years ahead.

In a declining economy, one person’s productive labor can no longer support the vast teetering structure of intermediation that’s been heaped on top of it. As decline proceeds—and as we have seen, it will proceed for many years to come—so will the contraction in what each person’s labor can support.  If we’re lucky, the decline will bottom out before it gets down to the medieval level—some of our scientific and technological achievements are potentially sustainable, and might keep economic life above the sheer subsistence level if they’re preserved and deployed in time—but in any possible future, the great majority of people will be producing goods and services for their own use and for that of their neighbors, rather than laboring for the benefit of the vast and unsustainable government, corporate, and institutional juggernauts of our day.

Those of my readers who are interested in making an adequate living in the future might keep this in mind. How steep the curve of decline will turn out to be in the different regions of the United States, to say nothing of overseas, is a challenging question to answer.  One way or another, however, depending on regular employment in an ordinary job became a mug’s game quite some time ago and is quickly devolving further into a fool’s errand.

As this takes shape around us, I find myself thinking of John Chapman, the famous “Johnny Appleseed” of American folk legend, who was discussed in an earlier post on this blog. To support the life he wanted to lead, Chapman invented a profession all his own, providing apple seedlings to homesteaders across the Ohio River frontier region.  Most of the people I know who are thriving in these times have done some (usually) less colorful equivalent, figuring out how to provide goods and services that people want and need directly to those who want or need them, without bothering with the clanking, dilapidated machinery of employment.  For many people today, that’s territory as untraversed as the wilderness through which Johnny Appleseed roamed, but at this point that’s the direction in which the future can be found.

*****

On a not wholly unrelated note, David Trammel — the general factotum of the Green Wizards site — writes to say that the forum is down at the moment, but he’s aware of the problem and is fixing it.  (It’s a great forum, btw, focusing on appropriate tech and alternatives to the current rat race.)

377 Comments

  1. I used to be part of the Green Wizards. A long time ago! Could you possibly post the link to all of the low tech files that were from the New Alchemy Institute (I think.)

  2. Throughout history what were the jobs that either took the longest to learn or had the most extreme training methods? I remember you describing Scottish bardic colleges where to help students compose verse, they were left alone in dark rooms for days, sometimes with rocks piled on them. What other spectacularly weird learning practices have there been?

  3. Thanks for that post. A few thoughts in no particular order.

    Now, the rumblings on the right about the government tracking all bank transactions above $600 would make sense (if true). They want to keep getting their cut. There is some talk about making central bank sponsored crypto currency where it could be anonymous, but where the government would charge an extra 10%. The first time I heard it I thought of sales tax on pot and heroin, but now I’m thinking income tax on the off of the unofficial economy.

    This last weekend my wife and I visited some stores that were just opening, and the merchandise on the shelves was spread out very thinly. Also, at Costco the freezer section was missing chicken and beef. To keep the shelves from looking too bare, more than half the freezer section just had shrimp.

    Before 1789, the French had a lot of rent collectors. Back then it was more in your face and therefore easier to figure out who was doing what to whom. At least they knew a little about how the system worked when they took it over. The present day off shore non-taxed financial system is starting to dwarf the rest of the economy and people are not even aware of its existence much less its dominating size. If there is a revolution, it’s going to be very hard for the people on the bottom take the reins of power or even identify where those reins are.

  4. Excellent writeup by the author and I wholeheartedly agree even though I took a lot of it for granted.

    He said: “but it’s a losing proposition in an economy in which governments, banks, and property owners demand so large a cut that most small startup businesses can’t break even.”

    That is so true and as a business owner I made the decision to start a mobile auto repair business right out of my car. So no storefront was needed.

    He also said: “Many of them are finding work in the underground economy. That’s a huge economic sector these days. How many people make a living doing work outside ordinary employment and getting paid “under the table,” as the phrase is, is for obvious reasons a hard question to answer, but it’s quite possibly in the tens of millions.”

    This the reason why Central Banks and Governments want to eliminate cash and implement a digital only currency. Some in the alternative media have speculated that Bitcoin, quite possibly have been created by the government to get people hooked on digital transactions. Credit card companies and retailers alike prefer you use your credit card (cashback rewards bonus) or using your phone to pay at checkout. Let’s see if this eventually goes all digital but there was a clever Bumper Sticker back in the 80’s which read: “Don’t Steal The Government Hates Competition”.

  5. Regarding cracking down on the underground economy, has anyone else here heard about the IRS demanding tabs be kept on anyone with a bank account over $600?

  6. Greetings ADJMG and wife!

    Occasionally you field questions from people who ask how to preserve their wealth.
    If it’s true that 10s of millions of Americans are working off the books, I imagine the government will move to a 100 % electronic currency so they can collect taxes better.
    As barter is too inefficient, I suppose another form of currency will be used.
    So for those who have wealth to preserve, trying to figure out what the future median of exchange is, would be what they want to do.
    FYI, Ihear prisoners use cans of sardines as currency, these days.

  7. Another intermediate is the Professional Licensing Board. College is not enough, you must also work under the direct supervision of someone who already has a license for X years, and then, if it amuses the Board, they, at their sole discretion, might allow you to take the Precious, er, test that will allow you to work for yourself. I had my own run ins with them, basically I was never allowed to take the test due to lack of “breadth of experience”.

    More and more professions require a formal license, usually in the name of public safety, but I know a trade guild when I see one.

  8. John–

    For some the latest in industrial delusion, you can check out the EIA 2021 International Energy Outlook, released this morning:

    https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=49856

    and this recent NRC staff whitepaper outlining conceptual licensing processes for micro-reactors:

    https://adamswebsearch2.nrc.gov/webSearch2/main.jsp?AccessionNumber=ML21235A418

    With regards to the shadow economy, how long do you think it will be before the officialdom begins to react more vehemently to the bleeding? As this group has discussed previously, the avoidance of taxes and fees is significant, but most particularly with regard to the payroll taxes which fund many of the social programs which figure prominently in today’s world (i.e. Social Security). Those funds are already in decline because of population shifts; add leakage to the underground economy on top of that and you’ll get a crisis in fairly short order.

  9. Really excellent post, John Michael. Have you heard of the push from our government to have the IRS watch all bank accounts that total over $600 for deposits and withdrawals? Apparently, In an attempt to capture unreported income? It’s being touted as a scheme to “tax the rich”. I’ve heard some comments along the lines of this push is because so many people work in gig work or “under the table” now. Can you speak to this and how it may go along with your blog post today? Thank you!

  10. Just wanted to let the people who visit the Green Wizards website know, we are currently down. My anti-spam software glitched and is now displaying an error for the entire site. My web host tech support is working on the problem and I hope we will have it back up as soon as possible.

  11. I came here to post about the $600 dollar thing and see now that I’ve missed the rush. Of course, requiring all transactions to involve the use of a vaccine passport would be another way to ensure that people who earn their income in cash can’t actually spend it without the IRS knowing…

    For now here in Canada you only need to show your papers to do non-essential stuff. But if the passport was needed to buy or sell, it could be used to measure and tax cash income. It is a much more elegant solution than banning cash.

    What will be interesting is if the unvaccinated get a (less privileged) passport too, for “contact tracing”.

  12. That “one person could support a family of four” bit is a little awful, isn’t it? I mean, that one person who supported the other three made certain demands of them, and they couldn’t go off on their own. Fine if it’s a loving family of cis-hetero people who don’t want that much outta life, but it really was terrible for families like my parents. Besides, there would be families of ten wearing sacks all winter because somehow they didn’t have that one breadwinner. Or maybe their skin was just the wrong color. I just can’t feel nostalgic about it.

    Didn’t your own parents get divorced, JMG? I’m surprised to see you repeating the whole single support family thing. Wouldn’t it be better to be a nation of shopkeepers where everyone has a little something going? I know that’s Victorian, but it’s what I think of when I hear Andrew Yang say not everyone will learn to code and jobs will be automated away. I don’t think UBI will quite work. I think we have to at least go through the motions, but we need not be a worthless cog just hand-waving like I have been for the past three years. Man, I’d rather sell anything on Ebay.

    The first energy shortage I heard of was natural gas. Bloomberg and others said that it was because the wind had not blown enough to turn the windmills to generate electricity, and also because of Covid. Now there are shortages of food because natural gas is used in food manufacturing and safety practices. Europe is put in the awkward position of wishing that Russia would save them. All of that oil and nice organic wheat in Russia, and the weak Russian ruble, so why aren’t they selling to Germany to get nice strong marks, or nice strong dollars? Is it possible the currencies have weakened or there are some alternatives like maybe cryptocurrencies changing things?

    Have you heard of the Pandora Papers and that whole saga? And yet, it wasn’t bitcoin in those accounts. The guys getting rich on bitcoin are probably the guys with the most interest in exposing those hidden trusts (South Dakota) and offshore accounts. Because things got dangerous in the summer of 2020 and people have been quoting Marx unironically ever since. Cryptocurrency guys can’t have that. It’s not being rich that gives people power, it’s the potential to become richer, fast, and cryptocurrency offers that possibility right now.

    Don’t mistake my thoughts on cryptocurrency for optimism. I’m like, 2008-levels of freaked out about all this. Worse than in 2008 since then I had a dozen jars of sun-dried tomatoes from the garden and pounds of rice and beans, and since then I’ve moved into a more urban area where the kids like throwing stuff at cars. At least I have a job, even if it is the hand-waving type.

  13. After years of being depressed while “working for the man” in utterly unsatisfying if not soul-crushing traditional jobs, 20 years ago I took one of the boldest leaps of my life and started my own small (micro) business. And I am still in that same business today. It has not been exactly a gold mine, but it financially sustains me as well as providing me with infinitely more satisfaction, happiness and contentment than my former traditional jobs ever did or could. I cannot recommend self-employment enough!

    And for those worried about cashless transactions, I still to this day ONLY accept cash and checks. Sure, I lose a few sales now and then due to stubborn people who insist on only using credit cards (virtually always women, curiously), but it is really not a significant problem overall.

  14. The intermediaries reminded me of the mortgage market, which it was like ticks on a dog trying to get as much money from a house sale. The fees included one for copying documents, one for mailing, one for handling…..it went beyond title searches, etc…. So of course, at the end of the day the applicant pays more in junk fees than for the actual mortgage.

  15. Hello,
    I speak hear from Europe and you’re right that natural gas price is going through the roof. One of the reasons why it is happening is that in Europe there are no significant natural gas deposits- most EU countries if i am correct import natural gas from Russia and Morocco. And as you probably know Russians in particular use their oil and gas deposists as political weapon- for instance EU court declared that Nord Stream 2 is not exempted from EU energy regulations (which forbid the same company to be owner of gas pipe and extractor of natural gas- as it is in case of Gasprom, russian state-owned gas company, and working at the full capacity at the same time) and few days after that russians stopped selling natural gas till the end of 2021. So this political action drove price sky-high.

    Other part is that know EU climate law only recently started to go into effect. This law basically force coal energy plants in Eu to shut down and right know natural gas is only suitable replacement. Price of energy also start to soar and as you know, when energy price goes up, everything goes up- food services etc. I really think that EU elites want non- elites to stop using electricity (and elites, since they are wealthy can keep their lifestyle).

    I never thought about this but this enviromental law will destroy EU. Most people support enviromental laws, but will stop supporting them if it force them to start living like in XVII century, while elites would keep their lifestyles.

    And the best part? All of this would be for nothing because right know entire EU is responsible for 10-20 % of earth fossil fuel consumption, and China and India will simply build more coal electric plants.

    Long time age i came to conclusion that stopping climate change is futile. Even if Europe, USA and rest of anglosphere stopped using fossil fuels it still would be to little. We basically would have to tell chinese and indians, asians and africans that they can’t produce fossil fuels and that they will never have modern state, lifestyle and economy. They would never agree to this- never mind that this is future for all of us.

  16. Hi JMG and Fellow Readers,
    I just went shopping yesterday and there were no bare shelves at the supermarket but they had filled most of one aisle with crappy plastic cups and bottles that were also displayed in Homeware in the department-store side of the supermarket. I think this was just a strategy to keep the shelves full. They had also changed the whole store around in an apparent effort to close gaps on shelves.

    We bought 3 bags of groceries for Canadian $265. This is very high and I saw a one-kilo jar of honey for $16 where last year, it was $8.

    So we are all happily poised for the downslope rush that is coming. If people want to get a currency that will work off book, I suggest collecting silver coins from the old times. I believe they will hold their value and utility in the times to come.
    Maxine

  17. Thank you, JMG for another excellent post!

    I especially appreciate posts along this line of thinking – the economic situation, and how to thrive (or at least survive) in it are the most pertinent concerns with all of this.

    About 5 or 6 years ago, when I first keyed into Archdruid Report and found this excellent corner of the internet, I was making very little economic headway (a barely-employed artist with extensive student loans). Seeing the general shape of the future as ‘instability-with-potential-war,’ I accordingly decided to join what you once called the “enforcer class,” reasoning that if there was a crisis, the enforcer class would be the last non-aristocratic group to not get paid (in my case, that’s military/government intel), and that if it came to civil war, as seemed most likely, I’d try to be as valuable an individual as I could be to any resulting factions.

    That strategy seemed to work pretty well – my family (wife and 4 kids 6-and-under) weathered the lockdowns very well, all considered. While we’re hardly prospering by our boomer parent’s standards, I recently attended a college reunion where it quickly became apparent that we’re doing relatively better than nearly all of our college friends. I don’t say that to brag (there’s nothing to brag about), but hopefully to emphasize the value of your earlier advice and foresight.

    What I didn’t count on, however, was the sheer level of ideological conformity that would become mandatory. While I knew there would be some, ideological conformity is a major negative in my field, and I thought it would be more limited than it became. It turns out that the government would much rather have obedient but useless flunkies than useful but independent minions doing its information processing. Meanwhile, the alternative factions have yet to arise.

    I’m doing my best to get un-stuck before the vise closes – however, I find myself over-leveraged now. Between a full-time and a part-time job, those endless student loans (though I have no further debt so far), as well as a young family, I can’t seem to find any extra time to develop alternatives. I just feel like I need an extra 8 hours in the day, every day (and I only average 4 hrs of sleep, so there’s not much for me there).

    Do you have any advice for getting un-leveraged, or getting better productivity out of the day? It just feels like running against a gale.

    A dedicated reader,
    John B

  18. JMG,

    I appreciate your thoughts as always.

    Speaking of school teachers… How viable do you think informal schooling/tutoring is likely to be as a source of income in the long descent ahead of us? I’m a working-class (my father never graduated highschool and was literally born in a barn) autodidact who skipped out on college debt, has worked as a teacher in a primitive skills/natural knowledge school, a glazier, an asphalt sealcoater, a bookseller, homebuilder (for myself), and somehow now find myself as the assistant director of a small rural library (though the town I work in is obscenely wealthy). My work is undemanding and not particularly well paying (in spite of the aforementioned obscene wealth), but it leaves me a lot of time to direct my attention to other pursuits. I’ve been learning German for the last year or so, and would like to start translating before too long—as a pleasure project. I’ve been considering offering private tutoring in the humanities, especially as more and more parents turn to home schooling. Are people like me—over-educated but decidedly outside the circle of wealth and power, and with zero interest in entering it—likely to find an outlet four our knowledge and skills, or will things likely be too tight for that? I’m wary about the future of the library, though its currently over-funded, but haven’t made the jump as, for the moment, it’s still “paying the bills”.

  19. A couple thoughts from Italy on this.

    First of all, I know it’s futile, but I’d like to say that it seems that lockdowns over here did work, meaning that cases went significantly down after lockdowns were enforced (not right after as it takes a few days for the infection to develop). There are statistics on this, mostly in Italian.

    Onto the main subject: I have a very small agricultural business and I’ve been looking for a person to hire to help. It’s been hard enough to find someone (even though I offer honest, rewarding work), but the worst part has been the bureaucracy. I consider myself a tenacious person, but when I saw the list of things I was expected to do, I wanted to cry. For over a year now I’ve been taking courses, paying people to draft documents, engaging in endless paperwork and bureaucratic activities, and spending SO MUCH MONEY. You have to do a ridiculous list of things before you get started, and after a year I’m not even done yet. It’s insane. I have a very small activity and I’m being treated like I want to open a mine in a protected area or something.

    Going under the table isn’t an option. I really need an employee as animals require constant care and I should I fall ill or go away for a couple days someone has to stay here. I also like the idea of sharing what I have with people who love it like I do. Hiring someone illegally is extremely risky in terms of fines and penalties (meaning they lock you out of the place and take you to court), and not fair to the person either, as they would have no protection in case of injury, no pension, no rights. So I am forced to go through a year of wasted time and hundreds of euros of injustice and ridiculousness, just to have someone rake hay. I’ve considered political action, but the organizations that supposedly represent farmers (or producers) benefit from this system, since they charge you for every new form the law demands you to fill or course to take.

    It’s very hard to avoid this, even if one wants to.

  20. Just as a side-note to some of the comments above re breadwinners and family support, I’m in a family of two (each of us with adult children now) and I have no issue being the provider. We live on (far less than) my sole income, which is ample for our needs. In fact, it was providing my wife the opportunity to quit her soul-crushing job which was quite literally killing her that convinced her to shift from living together to getting hitched those many yeas ago. (I still remember the evening she came home from the office at 9 pm after working overtime to clean up other peoples’ messes. I told her, “This is dumb. I make plenty for the both of us. Quite that place and find something you love.”) Now she does art, provides unofficial counseling, and helps out other family members and elsewhere in the community. She also cooks us wonderful meals, something she didn’t have time to do before.

    It is the insistence of this modern industrial society that everything has to be monetized to have value that I find so very bleak and so very wrong. There’s nothing wrong, of course, with having two working spouses; but there’s nothing wrong with having one primarily externally-working spouse and one primarily internally-working spouse (with respect to the household economy) either. Again, using my household as an example, my wife manages the home and the bookkeeping, while I work the job to bring home the funds. She keeps the house, while I help out (mainly laundry and dishes). We are a team and it works well.

  21. When Obama passed FSMA I took a certification class and got the instructor to admit that it was designed to destroy small organic farms with regulations that should only apply to giant operators who are responsible for the vast majority of food contamination recalls. I wish I could get my money back, but then again the lesson I learned was more valuable that anything in the course material.

    Find every loophole and exploit, fly under the radar, and long live the black market.

  22. I’ve been keeping an eye on the upcoming French election, and the (very) dark horse that is emerging is Eric Zemmour. His explicitly stated policy is to expel all the North African migrants on social security in order to pay for tax cuts for the working and middle classes.

    So the managerial class indulgence that is multiculturalism may also not be long for this world.

  23. Ellen, the NAI files can be found quite readily on search engines, if those are what you’re looking for.

    Yorkshire, I have no idea. It’s not something I’ve looked into. Anyone else?

    Bradley, for the last century and more, revolutionaries have had to deal with systems of control and wealth extraction that were based offshore. The usual approach is to default on all government debts, expropriate overseas owners of businesses and real estate, issue a new currency, declare the old one no longer legal tender, and require anyone who wants to exchange the old currency for the new one to explain to an official of the revolutionary government, in detail, how they got their stash. It seems to work fairly well, to judge by the shrieks of outrage that rise when it’s used.

    Rod, thanks for this. I find it quite credible that governments would do that — in an era of decline, it’s that or face total bankruptcy. They’ll get the bankruptcy anyway, not least because people will create their own media of exchange quite readily if they need to.

    Austin, well, clearly quite a few commenters here have!

    Dashui, that’s why I keep on telling people that the best way to preserve value is to use it to teach yourself useful skills. If you can provide people with a good or a service that they want, whatever the local medium of exchange turns out to be, you’ll have it.

    Siliconguy, exactly. In that case it’s all about driving prices up for the benefit of the few.

    David BTL, thanks for this! I needed a good laugh. That first chart is priceless — notice how all the curves which have turned down suddenly turn up again and go soaring off into the absurdosphere. At least they’ve realized that nuclear has flatlines. As for the shadow economy, it’s just going to accelerate from here, in those places and settings where the government maintains control — which by no means equal the whole country. What we’ll see, as in late Roman times, is a situation where the pressure gets ever more extreme in core urban and suburban areas, driving more and more people to flee to the hinterlands where the government basically has no control at all.

    Wendy, if I hadn’t, I’d have heard all about it from my commentariat. 😉 This sort of thing is predictable; having made ordinary employment a losing proposition, the government is now in the situation of having to try to force people to do it anyway, or go broke. In late imperial times, faced with the same challenge, the Roman Empire passed laws requiring everyone to go into the same line of work as their father, irrespective of whether they could survive doing that job. It didn’t work either.

    David, so noted and thank you. I’ve got something up on the post.

    Justin, that’s worth keeping in mind.

    Womensatlasrc, did you notice how fast you slid from “a single breadwinner could support a family of four” to various inaccurate claims about who did and didn’t work back in the day? That’s a nice bit of rhetorical trickery, I suppose, if you want to distract attention from the point I was making. Perhaps, for your benefit, I should restate it: One person with a high school education–irrespective of gender or ethnicity, btw–could earn an income sufficient to support four people. Now, one person with a high school education can’t do that. That’s a difference of immense importance, though I’m not surprised that it’s one that makes some people uncomfortable.

    Just for the record, yes, my parents got divorced when I was ten. More precisely, my mother married my father, had two kids, got him to pay for her college education, and then dumped him like a sack of old clothes and finished up the metaphor by taking him to the cleaners in the divorce, using the child support payments she got to fund an inflated lifestyle. (My sister and I saw very little of the money our father had to fork over.) They both worked, in case you’re wondering.

    Chuaquin, it is indeed.

    Alan, thanks for this! As a self-employed writer I can only agree.

    Neptunesdolphins, that’s a fine example.

  24. Great one Sir! I live in India, any suggestions how the people here in the “third world” can steer through the decline? How to make a livelihood in a country where its people are actively migrating for the “first world”, partly due to rampaging urbanization/industrialization, ever increasing competition for ever decreasing jobs (Of many examples is the recent civil services exam conducted by the Govt of India where 1.1 million graduate candidates appeared for just 760 “prestigious” administrative posts) and partly because they actually see future their in the West? and BTW back in 2016, The abrupt overnight demonetization of 87% of India’s currency notes was in fact an attempt to attack and bludgeon the underground economy of India which was almost double of its GDP in its peak days. How do you see the scenario of decline playing out in such a context, Sir?

  25. When I was in college majoring in music, I applied to become a piano/guitar teacher at a couple of music stores, thinking I could get a start in doing something I was actually specifically trained to do. This was back in the mid-1990s. I had one year left of school and every one of them said “No, we only hire teachers with a four year music degree.”

    A few years later, I became the chairman of my state music teacher association’s local exams for music theory. I was known as one of the state’s foremost experts in music theory at the age of 27. The music stores that wouldn’t hire me both went out of business.

    Quite a few years after that, I hired music teachers to take my student overflow. The worst ones tended to have advanced graduate degrees in music — they weren’t great teachers because they didn’t have the knack for teaching, plus they were unreliable and did not show up for work. The most talented and reliable teacher did not have a college degree at the time I hired her, and when she did finally finish her degree, it was in a field unrelated to music.

  26. Hello JMG,
    I am glad I started preparing mentally, and to some extent practically for this since 2009, in part thanks to your writings.

    There is a scenario that I have seen discussed by independent investors where the Western governments are letting high inflation run for some years, say until 2027, as it helps to reduce the huge debt levels, and to print money for now. I have done research that shows that it is indeed a possible scenario.

    They will then raise interest rates to put the brakes on inflation. It is a very tight rope to walk because inflation wreaks havocs on all kinds of aspects of the economy and people’s careers (as we are seeing now), and raising interest rates will create other kinds of very serious problems (i.e. mortgages become very expensive and the bonds markets risk crashing mechanically).
    It is not impossible that the central banks pull it off given that they managed to keep the financial system from crashing since 2008, though I am certainly not betting much of my savings on it.

    There is an independent economist in France called Charles Gave who says that both inflation and raising interest rates will bring too much instability, and governments are likely to come to the unavoidable conclusion that they need to restart the gold standard system to back fiat currencies. The gold price would rise to much higher, for instance $10,000 (compared to $1,700 now), and this would eventually bring back monetary stability. This may be what China has been preparing for by accumulating

    Do you have any thoughts on this inflation, then rising interest rates, then gold-standard coming back scenario?

  27. WRT small publishers. Very true! They can be wonderful and much easier to cope with than the big traditional publishers in NYC who have huge office buildings and huge staffs to pay for.

    However, always check your contract carefully and keep track of everything your publisher says and does. Conveniently, the New York Times just published a cautionary tale about a small publisher I’d never heard of: Blushing Books. It’s an amazing story.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/03/business/romance-publishing-blushing-erotica.html

    One thing I can say about self-publishing is you aren’t paying for a publisher to cheat you. Self-publishing has plenty of problems as you learn to do everything a publisher does but you probably won’t steal from yourself.

    Thanks for another great post.

  28. Another thing, for those who might be interested – I’m reading David Graeber’s “Bullshit jobs” these days – pertinent to the theme of this post. It’s an eye-opening and entertaining book – even though, unfortunately, he is more concerned about those who find themselves in meaningless jobs and what this does to them than on the impact on those who have to work ten times as much to support others’ nonsense.

  29. Back in 2008, the rallying cry for many was “starve the beast!”, as it had become apparent the government and banks were too big and inefficient, and thus war on paying taxes was the recommendation of the day. I’m surprised “the metastatic growth of intermediation” had so much more room to run since then, but it did – though the limits are becoming apparent. I have not heard the cry of “starve the beast” so much lately, but the outlook of “let it crash, let it burn” seems common.

    I would be so bold as to predict the implementation of cryptos and .gov monitoring of anyone with over $600 in their bank accounts is going to run into the rolling blackouts and intermittent electricity of the near future, thus hopefully avoiding that micromanagement nightmare that will meet a technology limit. Furthermore, I’m of the opinion that anyone with “electronic” assets like stocks could easily find .gov freezing their accounts in a national “financial holiday”, and eventually getting .gov equivalents in bonds at a fraction of their current lofty values.

    The good news is that the financial issues may very well be a side show compared to getting adequate food, shelter, clothing and health care. The current administration’s focus on vaccine mandates is now leading to personnel crises in many critical areas, and they appear to want to double down on this version of “Russian Roulette”, with at least 5 of the 6 chambers holding a live round.

  30. Good read. My grandfather, an auto mechanic who was more or less illiterate, was able to afford a multi-level home and support a wife and six children not that long ago. Things change.

    This post called to mind the economic writer Blair Fix’s posts on scale and the jockeying between free market operators and the emergent managerial hierarchy: https://economicsfromthetopdown.com/2019/05/15/the-growth-of-hierarchy-and-the-death-of-the-free-market/ (Not sure if I found that post via this site, but if so, forgive me).

    Axé

  31. I recently read that there are people advocating that the treasury eliminate the government’s debt by minting trillion dollar platinum tokens. This is thought to be better than borrowing the money into existence and then paying the interest with borrowed money.

    I have long imagined that the purpose of governments (and all other intermediaries) was to destroy excess wealth. This works to limit growth through simple waste. The problem that we seem to be facing is that there is no longer any excess wealth.

  32. Pablo, the EU’s climate laws deserve a post of their own at some point. They’re a great example of how to do the theoretically right thing in the wrong way, guaranteeing disaster; the EU made the mistake of believing its own hype about green energy, and is now finding out that even the most glowing press release won’t fix problems like intermittency. Your broader point is of course spot on.

    Maxine, thanks for the data points!

    John B, since you have a family to support, you’re pretty much stuck until you get your student loans paid off. Once you’re free of debt — and getting there should be your first priority — you can drop one of your jobs and free up some time. As for conformity, that pressure is a sign of how desperate they are, and so it’s probably going to get worse. Do what you can, and aim for clearing your debts and freeing up your time a little further on.

    WeirdLibrarian, given the way the vaccine mandates and the collapse of the public schools have driven so many families into homeschooling, my guess is that you can do very well for yourself that way. See if you can contact local homeschool organizations and let them know that you’d be delighted to teach what you know to kids.

    Aloysius, that’ll do very well as an anthem!

    Gaia, of course. That’s one of the ways the government, at the behest of big corporations, makes life difficult or impossible for small businesses — another form of intermediation.

    Michael, partly that, and partly there are accelerating problems with spare parts for aircraft.

    David BTL, thanks for this!

    Ag-grow, and thanks for this! I’ve been trying to think of a single thing that Barack Obama did that didn’t help big corporations screw the rest of us, and I can’t find one.

    Phil K, Zemmour is riding the wave of the future.

    TJ, well, of course it is. Have you considered drafting an alternative action plan and posting it somewhere? That’s how such things get started…

  33. The coming mandatory vaccine mandates are already producing bitter fruit here in New Hampshire. Grafton County Nursing Home is no long accepting admissions due to the low staffing sure to get worse when nurses and doctors depart rather than submit to the vaccine. A number of nursing homes are likely to wind up on the auction block as many are already economically struggling.

    https://www.mcknights.com/news/state-exec-expects-fire-sale-of-nursing-homes/

    This leaves people like myself in a jam with a spouse or relative (in my case a brother) deteriorating to the point where they will need to be placed in long term care facilities. With nowhere safe to place them, we end up having to keep them at home until they finally have a hip-shattering fall or other health crisis which lands them in the hospital. What then? The hospitals are short staffed as well for much the same reasons. Now hospital beds are going to be involved in a competition between critical and long-term care patients. I can foresee patients dying of neglect because of this. It sickens me that my brother may be subjected to this because TPTB are determined to regulate and frog-walk us all through every step of our lives from birth to death. It won’t last of course but there’s going to be a lot of tears shed along the way while the health care industry as well as others pancake under their own weight.

  34. Collapse now and avoid the rush. . . I tried such a thing after the last economic crash and it didn’t go well.

    I appreciate today’s post and think it relates to a chapter in my life that I would like to briefly relate here.

    When the 2008-9 crash happened, I was working in Italy as a innovative designer of things interiors (lighting, furniture, etc.) and found myself very quickly without a market. It didn’t take long before my partner and I had to accept the facts of the no-income situation and pare down our costs as quickly as possible. We had to give up our pied-à-terre in Milan and the potential access to the international markets (though personal networking) that it offered, It was hard to give up, we felt defeated but as a years-long dedicated reader of economic theory and musings, including the Archdruid Report and a monitor of prices and other trends, I recognized that we had to quickly pull down every “tent” of ours we could and consolidate in a sustainable economic plain before it all collapsed on our heads.

    The next years were insanely stressful (I don’t use the word insanely frivolously) but it was also the most creative and innovative period of my life. Unfortunately, markets remained very bad for product development when manufacturers, if they hadn’t already been killed off, were just hanging on by their fingernails and were unwilling to invest money they didn’t have on a future the doubted the existence of.

    We somehow managed, but just. The stress was unsustainable, however, and the general quality of living was poor in that respect, so my creative side looked for a solution.

    Up in the Apennine mountains we had a village property we had purchased several years earlier in a moment of exuberance when the future looked sunny and gold-like. Once the crisis hit, it had become a burden but with the crash of the housing market that accompanied the bank panics, there was no way to sell it. So, I began to look at how to find value in the place. I started by examining the ancient and historical economy of the village. I looked at how the village that once held 300 souls managed to produce everything needed by working and collecting in the surrounding lands and processing the materials inside the village to consume or sell down in the valley markets in exchange for needed things that could not be produced by the village.

    Much of the fallow flora-based economy was still in place or recoverable. The woods were full of an overpopulation of tasty beasts. The once productive spaces in the village were still there, largely unused and if anyone had asked to rent one of the many empty but usable houses, rent could have been negotiated at somewhere between 100 and 200 Euros a month.

    So, the resources and infrastructure for a home economy was available, but the place was missing the most important element: people.

    I’m not a socially charismatic person, so understanding how to get people together, get them interested and motivated to do a thing together is not second (or primary) nature to me. I did some research on community building and ended up placing an advertisement with Intentional Communities (ic.org) proposing the recovery of the useful parts of the historical economy together in a Laissez-faire arrangement while taking advantage of our synergies and the available cheap productive spaces to create products that, thanks to the still functioning petroleum age and internet connectivity, could be sent out anywhere in the world (unlike the constrictions of the historical economy).

    From that ad I had various inquiries over the next year – mostly persons looking for some sort of Eastern religious spiritual environment that did not include actual working nor thinking as part of the residential requirements. Others that visited but weren’t into the spiritual mode were even more unsuited and even caused some disasters during their brief stays. From I.C., I encountered no takers in a year and a half, let alone anyone suitable to engage with.

    I also evangelized my vision in the city I resided in – where so many were economic refugees, their specialty careers made irrelevant by the new economic conditions, but could not generate interest. People thought I was some kind of idiot. Who would go live in a village in the mountains!? There is a reason everybody left, right?

    After a year and a half of the experiment, I needed to apply my energies elsewhere and closed down the advert and the evangelizing. What I came away with was some experience and a better understanding of human nature.

    I had found that almost no person, 3 years into the crisis, was willing to accept the actual state of the general and their personal economy. The gevernment officials continued to say that things were okay and getting better. One prime minister (a billionaire) said “crisis? There is no crisis, I don’t know what you are talking about.” The people were all awaiting the return of the past and the ease of living that it offered. Also -and this is a very Italian social trait – nobody was willing to let others see that they were not still economically successful. The social façade had to be maintained at all costs. Maintaining it did cost some all they had.

    8 years after the crash, a shift in attitudes had started to happen in the city where I had lived. Mind you, this is perhaps the most historically progressive (not in the sense as applied to the Democratic Party these days) and sociologically flexible city in Italy. Downsizing commercially had started to happen. Revitalization in the neglected neighborhoods started to happen as people started getting together as neighbors (a devastating flash flood that killed several had catalyzed that process) and young friends began to get together and open new types of cheap restaurants and lower energy commercial initiatives. The city folk began to take advantage of the long neglected historical aspects of the city to make it all more attractive to tourism.

    Now, 12+ years after the crash and after 18+ months of COVID hell, it seems that there is now visibly growing interest in the mountain villages and a larger acceptance to the possibilities of a decent life those places offer.

    But note, in this anecdote, it took more than a decade for a society to just START making a meaningful change to the economic and social discourses that lead a society in a direction.
    And, I am relating to you a society where people mix and actually talk to each other in the public spaces – which is necessary for ideas to morph in a sane way.
    In general, I would regard Italian society as much more sociologically flexible than what we have in the US – and it took more than 10 YEARS for re-configuring and downsizing to begin to be socially acceptable in conversation.

    I guess what I would like to say in relation to today’s column is this: my experience has been that dropping out of the prevailing, even if sick, economy into an “alternative economy” can leave one without much of an economy to engage in. Doing it alone probably increases the changes of serious hardship.

    We need community, we need others to participate with us, together – and not just economically, but socially too.

    Even though my initiative to build a community failed, I still hold that to survive – if not thrive, we must have a “we”.

    How can we take steps (we who are coalesced around the wise JMG) to build a meaningful, synergistic community? I propose that we try.

  35. I’ve been watching the energy crunch in Europe and Asia with worry and a certain amount of horror.

    And wondering how it is going to affect things in North America. Higher gas, coal, and oil prices obviously, presumably higher electricity prices. Even if most of my area is hydropower based, we’re part of the western interconnection, and our electricity prices will rise too.

    I find myself suddenly secong-guessing a decision I made to get mourning geckos. They are replacing the fish I’m no longer keeping, and between that and some changes I made to my current gecko’s heating, even with the new geckos my total pet electricity cost should go down rather than up. But do I want to buy something with a lifespan of 7-10 years that requires electricity to stay warm and alive right now? I could just keep the two geckos I have and no fishtank. That would be even less electricity.

    But I’m already corresponding with a breeder and talking about shipping. I can afford the electricity just fine, and should continue to be be fine even if electricity prices rise substantially. I have plans and supplies to deal with a several day long blackout if I have to. I’d be a great owner for the geckos in a time like this.

    Mourning geckos are lower-temperature, UVB not essential, very tiny geckos that are a lot less energy and stuff requiring than most reptiles. And I’ve already got the tank set up and full of plants, with lights on for the plants. And both my current geckos are older, one of them is close to his likely lifespan, so I may well end up with only two tanks of geckos a year from now even if I get the new geckos.

    Part of me says not to get more geckos. Maybe get the backyard cardboard harp kit and build another harp. No ongoing electricity and just as fun. More expensive initially, but don’t have to keep buying food and replacement lightbulbs. Or I could try and kidnap a jumping spider next time I find one in the backyard. Not going to damage the wild population of a widely-distributed species like the bold jumping spider. No electricity required – or I could even try sticking it in the mourning gecko tank. But I haven’t had luck finding and catching one, and now I probably won’t till next spring.

    First world problems, really. I feel silly bringing it up.

    Is anyone else looking at the energy crunch, and finding themselves getting cold feet on current plans.

  36. Hi JMG,

    I wonder if at the end of all this will we have like a bunch of middle managers and CEOs overseeing empty factories producing million dollar iPads on salaries of billions of euro? They are smiling to themselves saying, things will pick up. All the while the ipads pile up in the shops with people unable to buy them as they can’t physically wheelbarrow that amount of cash into the store.

    Thanks again.

  37. Hi JMG,
    just a couple of data points that hopefully will help us understand the future of US.

    In some countries in Eastern Europe in the 90s the black market constituted 50% of the economy. Given the low levels of trust in US govt and the eagerness to repeat the Soviet collapse, I think we can learn a lot about the future of US by reading/talking to people that lived through the soviet block collapse.

    A couple of notes about that collapse: inflation tends to bring most govt/PMC salaries to the lowest level possible. At least 50% of people in towns (but not the big cities) had chickens, pigs or even cows.
    The govt did provide some support, enough for survival if people did not have to pay rent or own cars.
    BTW, I see a Soviet style collapse as the best case scenario – Eastern Europe got a lot of help (mostly as cheap food) from EU and USA (also got pillaged by those two, I know).
    The main differences I expect are: less food, less public transportation, more violence, more sickness and deaths (think about 50% obesity rates in US).

    Another data point is the clear city/town(or village) split on Covid hysteria. I see this as good news. City people will be more likely to stay put in case of economic troubles. Short term this is great for govts (greater control) but long term is good for small towns and villages – as the power of central government declines, they might get a chance to experiment with alternative local ways to survive with little interference. We already saw some of this in US when local sheriffs refused to implement insane state policies.

    Thanks!

  38. As serious as the situation is, I can’t help but laugh. I honestly wouldn’t be suprised if my employer, a furniture and appliance chain here in the Western states, will let go a lot of people when times get more tough with the rather sudden increase in hourly wages hitting, more supply chains running dry, and sales start dropping. At least they’re trying to prioritize the wage earners trying to keep us with all these sweet benefits , but at what cost?

  39. Hi John,
    We just made a slow meander across “flyover land”, from south central Appalachia to western Montana and back. (Yes, burning petroleum).

    Our favorite stops were the smaller cities and towns…wonderful folks and incredible building stock. At a rest area in Minnesota I marveled at the quality of the masonry and the maintenance fellow charged with overseeing the place said, “Yep, they’ll never build them like THIS again”. All I could think was Nicole Foss’s aphorism:
    “All politics is about moving the resources from the periphery to the center”. This part of the country has been sucked dry, literally (aquifers) and figuratively (the notion of wealth).

    Two other observations: (1) an enormous number HUGE tilt-up-concrete walled distribution centers in certain places, including those that said Amazon on the walls. Having spent time within, I know what kind of a soul-sucking hell-hole they often can be, where the chiefs think monitoring a computer screen is “management”.

    (2) the number of gigantuan mcmansions are spreading WAY out into the middle of ‘nowhere’. Outside Bozeman, of course, but also across many of the northern central plains. It seems few realize how tenuous their grasp on modernity actually is (power lines, passable roads for LP deliveries, etc).

    In talking to a few of these folks their biggest complaint was they couldn’t get anyone to come out and repair anything [for the rate they wanted to pay?]. Roofs, siding, HVAC, solar arrays, plumbing…

    As we drove by pony pumps and other oil and gas facilities we laughed and joked:

    “Flyover land – powering the Teslas and I-phones of BOTH coasts!”

    “Trump” banners were ubiquitous, as was an aversion to “the jab”. A very interesting, though fairly shallow, snapshot of our “united” states.

  40. Pablo said:
    “And as you probably know Russians in particular use their oil and gas deposists as political weapon.”

    Sorry you got it exactly backwards. It’s the corrupt European bureaucracies that would rather kill their economies as long as they get some bribes (from “green” companies or USA LNG companies).

    Same about the environmental regulations.
    In reality EU leadership doesn’t give a jab about the environment – all the regulations are just more intermediation or simply siphoning money to their corrupt businesses.
    That does not make it any less insane – yes EU and Europe in general might end up back in the XVII-th century but just like the tragedy of the commons, the corrupt officials will profit on the way even if everybody will suffer in the end.

    As for Russia, they are either incredibly patient (think of all the attacks from USA and EU) or they don’t feel yet strong enough to stand up to the bullies. Given the depletion and the long term ties to China, I can see the amount of gas sold to EU decrease every year for the foreseable future.

  41. Speaking of worker shortages, a friend of mine whose a teacher (elementary school) said their school has been offering them extra hours doing janitorial work at $30 an hour. They have to change though into blue shirts and jeans to look like janitors, lol. I wonder how many other large organizations are offering their skilled workers extra money to take up the lower skilled positions part time?

    And everyone has heard you can’t find people to be bus drivers now if you were to drive over a crowd.

  42. An article so excellent that I can only say that I wish I had written it, but wouldn’t have done it so well. Agreed on essentially every point.

    One thing I’ll add is that the drive to electronic currency is, to a large extent, about making sure people can’t escape to the informal economy. You see this even in a place like India (which was ridiculous, and vastly harmful.)

  43. Well, by gods Johnny G, grim times seem to bring out the best in you…you’ve knocked another one out of the park! Very pleased to see you returning to the theme of intermediation. While reading, I had the persistent sense that you were channeling Ivan Illich at times, which I mean as high praise. Long live disintermediation, a process we must learn to embrace.

    Much that you’ve outlined here is likely a big part of why the PMC is losing their doodoo these days…at some deep, psychic level they know the party’s over. They’re the loyalist faction to the ‘vast and unsustainable government, corporate, and institutional juggernauts of our day’ and very ill-prepared for the future bearing down on us. I have to resist the temptation to indulge in too much schadenfreude as their decline and fall will often be ugly, traumatic and close to home.

    I wonder about underground workers obligation to declare their earnings to the various government tax authorities. At the Federal level those earnings will usually be subject to the self-employment tax, wherein industrious workers get to pay the full 15.3% Social Security tax bill, even if they owe zero income tax. I think the chance of Social Security being around when my 27 and 32 year old daughter and son will need it (35-40 years from now) is vanishingly small, nano small. It’s a tricky, complex issue not least because it’s the letter of the law but also raises all kinds of additional ethical/moral considerations. I’d guess that a large majority of the new underground economy movement will simply be withdrawing their consent and choosing non-compliance, and that the authorities will become increasingly impotent in their enforcement schemes.

    As always, with great respect and admiration.

    Jim

  44. gaiabaracetti, just a quick note about lockdowns: you make the fallacy of “post hoc ergo propter hoc”.
    Just because after the lockdowns the cases dropped, it does not mean there was a connection.

    That is why scientific studies used to have a control group. Italy could have done the same by locking down only half the country, but they didn’t.

    So the best nest thing is to compare countries/regions that have locked down with the ones that didn’t. In US it’s easy to do that and the correlation is exactly 0 – the curves look exactly the same for locked down places and free places.

    So, please do not spread lies here (even unwillingly) – we have enough of that in the MSM.

  45. Mr. Greer,

    Enjoyable post, as usual. Two quick thoughts.

    First, much like young writers, to other young people in my profession I often want to say that they’d be better off in giving up on scam law and setting up a small independent practice that focuses on the areas that people will actually need going forward barring a total local government crack up (i.e. divorces, adoptions, criminal, small real estate transactions, small business documents, simple wills and trusts, simple torts, as well as our old friend Mr. Bankruptcy). They would also do well to figure out how to live on and accept service-in-kind in lieu of fees like Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. And, if they plan on practicing for more than say 30 years, they probably also want to learn how to adroitly use (horrors) a legal library. But I guess all of those things would require an actual interest in helping people and being a member of a community, not a leach. So, I know they’d just look at me like I have two heads.

    Second, my wife is a high school teacher for now. At the end of this year, she will be quitting to pursue other things because, amongst other things, she reckons that well more than 2/3rds of her students are more or less illiterate by the time they come to her (she teaches juniors and seniors). Lockdowns only made it worse. So, it may well be that simply being able to read and write will be a marketable skill in the intervening years.

    -Anonymous Millennial

  46. Many years ago I read James Mitchner’s book, Hawaii and couldn’t help hearing a warning. If memory serves, it went something like this:

    The white invaders soon discovered how much money they could make off the timber of the islands, leading to a brisk shipping trade. They would hire the locals to load their ships, pay them a pittance, and make out like the bandits they were.

    One fine day the ships pulled into the harbor only to discover that the old way of loading their ships didn’t work anymore. Warehouses had appeared full of lumber. The shipmasters had to deal with the owners, who, rest assured, were not locals. The warehousers added nothing to the value of the product, but they sure sucked up the money.

    Hmmm….

  47. @Bradley

    “If there is a revolution, it’s going to be very hard for the people on the bottom take the reins of power or even identify where those reins are.”

    That’s a common problem in modern revolutions (I don’t know anything about historical ones). People overthrow the government but not the banks or institutions of power and a few short years later, they are in a “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” situation.

    Sincerely,
    Jessi Thompson
    anotheramethyst

  48. This is for JMG and everyone:

    I’m curious to hear any anecdotes yall have about people who have recently dropped out of the mainstream economy and found a way to make it work in some shadow economy. How are they living? Paying expenses? Eating? What kind of work are they doing, or not doing? I’m genuinely curious. Most of the people I know kept their jobs during the lockdowns, so I don’t have many sources of inspiration.

  49. I have this fantasy where Universal Basic Income actually works. Everyone quits their BS jobs in droves. Backyards sprout permaculture gardens, we all have time to bike everywhere and the cupcake bakeries are amazing.

  50. @womensatlasrc

    While I agree with you that there were/are lots of problems with inequality in relationships, etc. I really don’t see how requiring two people to make more than minimum wage, full time solves any of those problems. Doesn’t that make things worse? Still no one can leave an abusive relationship without yet another source of income or support, and now kids get to be raised by strangers instead of parents.

    Sincerely,

    Jessi Thompson
    anotheramethyst

  51. One way of making a living that hasn’t yet been intermediated, at any rate where I live, is private tutoring. I have been a private tutor here in England since 1995. Mind you, I only just managed to scrape by (and now I depend on my state pension). I suspect however that in some countries I would have been forced to register or jump through some hoop or other.

  52. @ womensatlasrc #12. Nothing’s perfect and for sure nothing’s perfect for everyone.

    My husband worked the terrible hours at a job he disliked so I could stay home with the kids, something I needed to do for various reasons. Did I do everything I could so he didn’t have to do anything when he got home? Of course. That was the trade off.

    I could not work enough hours to pay someone to do what I did.
    We ate well, the bills were paid, the house was clean, and there was always someone home when needed.

    Doesn’t that count for something?

  53. My late father-in-law left school in 8th grade because he found reading difficult, though he learned well by watching and asking questions of more experienced people, and later from videos. He became a boilermaker, working out of the union hall, so he periodically had stretches of weeks to months when he wasn’t working for pay. When he did work he was paid enough to buy his family (my late mother-in-law and their two sons) a small two bedroom ranch house with a large garage that became his workshop. He could make just about anything he wanted to, and over his life he enjoyed participating in several hobbies (antique engines, antique cars, jewelry making, and woodworking being the ones I know of) as well as renovating the house they moved to in 1991. My mother-in-law worked part-time as a secretary until after their second son was born, at which point they decided she didn’t make enough money to continue working for pay. She learned how to budget his pay so they not only never ran out of money, but they set aside enough in savings to buy property in the country while both their sons still lived at home, sometime in the 1960s. By the time I met them in the late 1980s, they had sold the property, the engines, and the cars, and my mother-in-law invested the proceeds, doing quite well with them.

    Just another story that reveals the changes that have occurred in the last 60ish years. My husband and I used to wonder why old people are grouchy. Now that we’re old, we understand only too well.

  54. @ John B #18. You’ve got to get out of debt. It will be difficult, no question, but it’s doable.

    You and your wife should look into Amy Dacyczyn and The Complete Tightwad Gazette. Ignore the Clinton era prices and focus on everything else. I’ve read loads of thrift writers and she’s still the best.

    Dave Ramsey and the Debt Snowball is also very good.

    Steve and Annette Economides have some good information.

    Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin with Your Money or Your Life

    There are plenty of other thrift writers out there. They’ve all got books at the library. Once you start thinking along those lines, you’ll have an easier time of digging yourself out from under your debt load.

    It’s not easy. It will take a long time. You have to say “no” even more than you already are. But it is possible. It’s hugely rewarding and freeing.

    Best of luck to you and yours.

  55. What you describe is essentially rent-seeking, ie using a position you have or an asset you own to extract money from others, without providing a service in return. It’s characteristic of economies that are longer growing or are in decline, whether naturally or after conflicts or crises. It encourages middlemen, pirates, and a whole bevy of “consultants” and “facilitators.” I don’t know about the US, but in Europe it was the standard way of becoming wealthy up until the nineteenth century. Either you owned land, lent money, or paid to get a position at court which in turn enabled you to collect money for yourself. It was only the growth of the modern state, in response to the growing complexity of a more productive economy, which eventually put an end to this, and in recent decades we have been moving back again. I suspect that the kind of de-growth economy you write about will be largely characterised by rent-seeking, and that’s where the money will continue to be made. The forced retreat of government from many areas of life, accompanied by an actual increase in life’s complexity, has produced entire new industries of rent-seekers, helping you to do, in a complex and expensive way, what used to be done easily and cheaply.

    This isn’t a theoretical argument: there are many parts of the world I’ve been to which have slipped into this way of life already, and quite a few that never advanced beyond it.At one extreme it’s the policeman who invents a crime and demands that you pay a fine, so he can feed his family. At another it’s the fixer who knows someone whose brother can get you to the top of the list to have your electricity put back on, instead of having to wait days or weeks. At a third extreme it’s the militia group, like bandits of old, demanding money to let you pass their check-point. This, I suspect, is what our children are going to have to get used to.

  56. Jack Goldstone (a heavy influencer of Peter Turchin) in his “Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World” noted that in 17th Century England, as the population rose, the lower class became immiserated as prices of basics rose. The upper classes for a time did well as the price of their labor became cheaper (England had a rural wage economy starting ~1400s), but eventually as their numbers also rose, they began competing for the same number of upper class type positions. To sift out the greater number of applicants, positions that used to not require anything beyond a basic (read/write/add/subtract) educations, started requiring advanced degrees….

    We have Corporations who want receptionists with college degrees.

    He also notes that when the populations started to subside (sort of like our Western very low birth rates?), the need for advanced degrees went away. England was fortunate in that it was one of the relatively rare cases where the downward oscillation did not lead to war/revolution/strife. But then again, they had their new colonies to ship at least some of their people to.

  57. Hello All. This is indeed an excellent post. About 10 years ago I lived alone in Western PA and had a tiny home business doing clothing alterations, mending, and custom sewing. I couldn’t believe that people would pay me to shorten their jeans, but they did! I also worked a few hours a day at the local elementary school cafeteria, which I loved. I enjoyed being a lunch lady and making a few extra bucks.
    I had the run of my neighbor’s large garden because I used to watch her dogs when she went out of town to visit her boyfriend and I also baked extra bread when I baked for myself about once a week and would give her a loaf. I also gave to other people so when I needed help, I could ask them without feeling like I was taking advantage. It’s amazing what people will do for homemade bread. It was a wonderful life, but, unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to leave that little community. But at least now I know what I want to return to when circumstances permit.
    I was raised on a small farm in Western Washington state and my family lived that way. My mother was a nurse, but at that time did not work outside the home ( she sure worked plenty inside the home!!), and would go to neighbors houses to give insulin or Vitamin B 12 shots as people needed. In return she would get buckets of rendered lard, or someone to watch our animals and livestock or whatever when we went camping.
    All this is just to say that we need to go back to that way of living. When I was in PA I acquired a loom and wanted to sell rag rugs, which are so fun to make. I dearly love weaving. Anyway, just another way to earn a few bucks.

    The other thing I wanted to add was when I was a teenager, in the late 1960s, I was talking to my Grandma one day and she told me the most amazing story. It was during WW2 and she was out in the woods picking huckleberries with some friends and they saw an enormous pile of white sugar, tossed out on the ground. Sugar was rationed at that time. She found out later the military had done that. She told me she never really trusted the government after that. I was so shocked, mainly because my Grandma was a church going woman, the soul of kindness, kind enough to adopt my father in the late 1920s when he was 8 years old already and kind of damaged. Thanks to her and my Grandpa loving him so much, he turned out fine. I already didn’t trust the government, mainly because of the Vietnam War, but for Grandma to say that? Shocking. I think we’re at that point again, the government certainly hasn’t done anything to earn our trust, just the opposite, in fact.

    Thank you, Mr. Greer, you are truly a national treasure, and I love your posts.

  58. I would like to add licensing and certification as an intermediation. One can jump through several academic hoops, then find yet another hoop (such as a Ph.D. in clinical psychology or counseling after acquiring a BA and MA), which is highly artificially limited, without which one is not even allowed to call oneself a professional (psychologist). By the way, the next hoop may in practice require that one be young or female or both.
    With an MA, one can work independently (with, say, unmotivated alcoholics) only after two years of further supervision; unfortunately, the supervised positions that would lead to licensing require a license.

  59. Gurjot, I wish I knew! I’ve never lived anywhere but the United States, and one thing you doubtless already know is that nobody is as clueless as a clueless American. 😉 This is why I talk about what I know, and leave conditions elsewhere to those who know what they’re talking about.

    Kimberly, thanks for the data points — no surprises there, but it’s worth knowing that the same rules apply equally well in the music field.

    Tony, I’m quite sure that people are staying up late in central bank offices trying to figure out how to game the mess we’re in, without collapsing the economy. The oversupply of unpayable debt has to be dealt with somehow, and default and inflation are the two ways that can happen; I could see central banks deciding to try inflation, since default is politically unacceptable to the holders of debt. That said, a long stint of high inflation risks political blowback of another kind, which will come to mind readily if you recall the political aftermath of Weimar Germany’s inflation…

    Teresa, you have to do that with any publisher. With a small publisher, especially if you have books with more than one, you have some leverage; a big publisher can shrug and ignore you. That said, if you’ve got a talent for business and marketing, and don’t mind putting in the time on the non-writing chores, self-publishing is certainly a valid option.

    Gaia, thanks for this.

    Drhooves, the cries of “starve the beast” aren’t heard any more because it didn’t work. The people who said that weren’t willing to give up their privileges as members of the comfortable classes, so it was just noise. As for the collision between electricity shortages and an electronic economy, on the other hand, well, yes… 😉

    Fra’ Lupo, you didn’t get that article here, as far as I know. Many thanks for it!

    Piper, ding! We have a winner. Yes, that’s exactly the issue.

  60. before the machines, factories and mass production, the world was made by hand and there were an incredible amount of skilled crafts being practiced to supply the stuff people needed,

    in the UK is the Heritage Crafts Association is trying to keep alive as many of these old crafts as possible and it acts as a register for what used to be done by hand,

    https://heritagecrafts.org.uk/

    look under the ‘makers’ and ‘red list’ tabs for lists and a directory of craft skills, it’s fascinating and also a good starting point if you’re trying to imagine what might be useful to try and ressurect as a cottage industry,

    as an example there’s a woman in the West country who makes traditional clay pipes in her home pottery studio and she supplies people doing historical re-enactment, costumers for period tv shows and film,

    if you’re a smoker, grow your own tobacco in the garden and buy some of her pipes you’re completely outside the commercialisation of smoking,

    http://www.dawnmist.org/pot4.htm

    find out what people used to make themselves in your region from the natural materials that occur in your region and you might have an idea for a cottage industry to restart,

    this is people making traditional hats from poplar shavings in rural Romania, it kinda blew my mind that you could make hats from wood!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KA9cTLcWP1c

    they do every step from felling the tree to retailing the finished hats, I love this sort of stuff!

  61. Perhaps you’re aware of Kris DeDecker’s ‘Low Tech Magazine’ but, if not, it’s a fascinating compendium of lost low-key technologies and instructional pieces about how to scavenge modern tech in order to build useful items. Having been online since 2007 it was interesting a few years ago that he had published a hard copy edition (in a couple of volumes that allowed for the charts and illustrations) for those without access to computers, power supplies, or the internet.

    Another positive aspect for ma has been the fact he only posts a couple of times a year so there’slots of time to peruse older articles and the associated No Tech Magazine. I’m not going to build a cathedral or a public library but I love to know how corbelled ceilings are made.

  62. Jeanne, see if you can find some other people in the same situation, so you and the others have someone who can take care of their disabled loved ones in the event of an emergency or the like. That used to be standard practice. Also, a copy of the old Red Cross Home Nursing textbook can teach you how to avoid most of the problems that might land your brother in the hospital; it’s well worth having.

    Zhao, you know, it’s really remarkable. No matter how many times I tell people that “collapse now and avoid the rush” does not mean “head off into the countryside to start a community,” people keep on projecting the middle class dream of running off to found a community onto whatever I say. That’s not what I’m talking about, it has never been what I’ve been talking about, and my voice is getting hoarse from telling people that running off to found a community is not a workable option for most people because it almost always fails. “Collapse now and avoid the rush” means decreasing your expenditures sharply, opting for a lower standard of living, and learning skills that will allow you to produce goods or services that the people around you want or need. With regard to your final comment, I propose that you not try to build “a meaningful, synergistic community” here or elsewhere, because THAT DOES NOT WORK.. (As you should know.) I propose instead that you consider collapsing now and avoiding the rush — that is, decreasing your expenditures, opting for a lower standard of living, and learning how to do something that your neighbors want or need. That is, after all, what I’ve been talking about all this while!

    Pygmycory, I’ve been assessing my plans with an eye toward the approaching energy crisis. I haven’t had to rethink geckos, fortunately, but you’re not the only person thinking along these lines.

    Adrian, that’s not how it’ll end up, but we may see that as part of the process of getting there.

    NomadicBeer, thanks for this. I’ve been looking at post-Soviet Eastern Europe and post-1929 America as models, and both experiences have similar lessons to teach.

    Copper, it’s very likely. Your employer may also go broke, of course.

    Boiling Frog, many thanks for the data points!

    David, fascinating. No, I hadn’t heard of that yet.

    Ian, true enough!

    Jim W, I consider it high praise too — it’s been a while since I read Illich, and I should correct that. Thank you!

    Illyria, less than the Remoaners want you to think.

    Millennial, I think that’s an excellent idea. Ordinary community law may not bring in the big bucks but it means you’ve got an income when the corporate system grinds to a half. Please pass on my congratulations to your wife for her upcoming escape. My dad was a schoolteacher, a good one, but when he retired it was with immense relief because conditions had gotten so bad.

    Michael, that’s a great example.

    Kyle, I can’t tell you about those who have done so recently, but I know quite a few people now who learned marketable skills and work for people in their communities. They have apartments, eat regular meals, and pay their bills, because they do good work for less than the big corporations charge.

    Sherry, funny. And who picks up the trash?

    Robert, that’s a good point — and given the spread of homeschooling here in the US, it’s likely to become a trend here. How did you get students?

    SLClaire, thanks for the data points!

    1Wanderer, that is to say, freelance people doing what government now does. Got it.

    Russell1200, thanks for this. That’s a book I’ll want to read.

    Heather, whereabouts in western Washington state did you grow up? My dad’s family was from the Grays Harbor area.

    Mark, those definitely belong on the list.

    Matt, many thanks for this.

    Susan, I am indeed. It’s a fine magazine — and yes, a valuable resource.

  63. You can’t just. And it has gotten particularly bad since the 2020s. Whatever it is you’re trying to do, you can’t just, there’s all these extra steps now. And as you pointed out most of the extra steps are completely unnecessary. Or cause whatever it is that was useful to stop being useful.

    Things will simplify one way or another. Most probably due to collapse and then people cobble together whatever they can to get stuff done.

    Or they do without. Like you said, that was a goofy thing they did – teach all those people how to live without a straight job. Wasn’t what they intended to do but that’s what they did. If they shut them down for only 3 months, they might have gotten most of them back but not now.

    I’ve always said the growth opportunity of the 21st c would be the black market. Systeme D.

  64. Hi Justin,

    I always thought St. John the Divine put the wrong mushrooms in the soup, but your thoughts on what could be done with the vaccine password make me think he may have been (mostly) sober when he wrote Revelation.

    —Lady Cutekitten

  65. Here in Minnesota, we hit the 70% vaccinated rate recently, at about the same time as we went from 2000 cases per day to 7000, as high as it has ever been. I have tried as an exercise to post comments the last month and a half on a liberal news website called Minnpost.com, about how the vaccinated are clearly helping to spread the disease, as the CDC has made it clear we can, but every comment has been censored. The intermediaries who read said rag cannot be bothered with such truths. The only people who spread it are deplorables, don’t you know. Such unscientific intransigence and expert driven authoritarianism in the name of moral superiority is quite literally killing more people than would otherwise die.

    At the same time our local park board tonight is set to institute a vaccine mandate. More than half the field employees are unvaccinated, many having worked here for decades. It is a clear attempt mostly unconscious, to rid park employment of said deplorables depending on a future pension. A booster mandate is sure to follow in good time to rid the place of stragglers.

    The same sort of people who support said mandates are also now going to vote in Nov to close the police dept.

    I’m making plans to get out of the city and employment. There isn’t much future here but True Belief and violence.

  66. >I just went shopping yesterday and there were no bare shelves at the supermarket but they had filled most of one aisle with crappy plastic cups and bottles that were also displayed in Homeware in the department-store side of the supermarket. I think this was just a strategy to keep the shelves full. They had also changed the whole store around in an apparent effort to close gaps on shelves.

    Welcome to the late Soviet Union. Retailers got very good at stacking what little they had in stock to cover up dyefitsit in magazin.

  67. “It bears repeating and remembering that half a century ago in the United States, one adult with a high school education and a working class job could support a family of four in relative comfort.”

    My dad was a commercial painter (e.g. housepainter, but focused on office buildings, factories, schools, and the like) He was union and was able to support a stay at home wife and 8 kids. We enjoyed a modestly rising standard of living over the years.. A lot of us in this country remember those days, and yes, we are nostalic for it.

  68. Greetings, the view from Brazil is the following:
    Brazil is being sucked dry by the anglo-american imperial wealth pump, and the pumping is getting harder and harder since the days of the military dictatorship and the oil shock of the seventies. The generals actually tried to create an Independent Brazil – nuclear weapows program, industrialization imitating the old prussians and japanese, weird geopolitic dealing with the likes of Kadaffi, Assad I, Saddam and Tito, supporting the argentineans in the Falklands War. But hyperinflation orchestrated by the anglo-american banks combined with the brazillian people wearyness with the military dictatorship’s crimes (and they were many) ended the miliary dictatorship and opened the path to a new generation of rulers in the new republic. The thing is that these guys were basically traitors, educated in Europe, like in Sorbonne and Oxford and sold the country to it’s enemies, and thats what the americans and euros are to us, when one thinks about the situation of the country – enemies.

    The country was sold, the nuclear program dismantled, the weapons industry bankrupted when Saddam defaulted on the debts, and the imperial wealth pump is draining everything not bolted to the ground, and many things bolted too. After thirty years, there isn’t much to drain, even the soil and water, that Brazil was once famous for, are gone – predatory farming to get dollars to buy foreign products that could have been made here if the enemies hadn’t dismantled our industrial park resulted in a severe dust bown in the heart of Brazil’s farmlands.Since last month, gigantic clouds of dust are being blown away from north São Paulo, the fertile soil going somewhere else, probably the bottom of the Atlantic, the hydroeletric plants don’t have water to last until the next raining season in March and everything is breaking down. We don’t have the shortages the 1st world has yet, but we’ll have soon enough. The final result of the imperial wealth pump here is that the cities became dirty slums and the farmlands will soon become the Gobi Desert. That pillage was done by intermediates, both from outside the country and inside the country.

    To help control the country the americans spread evangelical christianity, a faith alien to a land that is both catholic and pagan. The evangelicals basically hate everything that is brazillian, like the afro-brazillian religion, culture and rituals, portuguese catholicism with it’s saints and churches, and want to turn the country into an uglier version of Miami. They even elected an evangelical president, whose only purpouse is to expand anglo-american tiranny here, using the excuse of “fighting communism”. Methinks that maybe communism isn’t that bad and that Mao and Stalin were onto something.

    Everywhere you look, there are intermediates trying to grab your money, and things like uber and ifood had success in becoming informal jobs intermediaries. Salaries are bad, in many situations doing jobs “under the counter” is really the only way of getting some decent money. Maybe Brazil today is what Europe will be tomorrow. Latin America has been sucked dry, the last place remaining for the americans to drain is Western Europe. Even if there were no peak oil/potash/phosphates/uranium/fertile soils, the American Empire is going down, like the other empires before it.

  69. Mr. Greer, I grew up outside of Redmond, back when it was a lovely town and everyone knew each other. In fact, my grandfather built the first school bus there in 1924! That’s why he and Grandma moved there, they were both from Randle, WA. He also taught math and shop at Redmond High School.
    I was born in 1953 and was supremely lucky to have the extended family I had. I no longer live in WA, but all my cousins moved out of Redmond, it got way too expensive and is now practically a city, full of rich strangers. My cousins tell me don’t even bother to try and visit, I wouldn’t recognize the place. Makes me sad.
    And Grays Harbor is a beautiful place, we used to enjoy going there when we were kids.

  70. JMG, from your remarks above, I gather that you don’t think that declaring your yard Greeritania and that we are your subjects will work.

    Is anyone interested in becoming a citizen of the Republic of Kittenland? Right now the plan is, the U.S. will conquer us as quickly as we can get them to do it, then give us piles of cash and build lots of schools and hospitals, which we can adapt into useful buildings. At the moment Kittenland is my house, driveway, and postage-stanp-size yard; I live in flyover country, so the area already looks (and is) in need of aid. There’s a large U.S. base not too far away; I figure we invite the SMs to a garden party, and surrender to the highest-ranking officer who shows up, and presto! they’re stuck with us. It’s worked before, for many countries.

    —Lady Cutekitten

  71. JMG,

    This is a subject I was thinking about in relation the vax passports. The European one was especially blatant as an intermediation tax. Now, if you want to cross a border in Europe, you now need to pay in the form of a negative test result or a vax. All hooked up to your smartphone, of course. Meanwhile, Europe looks like it will struggle to keep the lights on this winter. It reminded me of the phrase “there’s an app for that”. Wanna live in a crumbling dystopia? There’s now an app for that too. It’s called a vaccine passport.

  72. Hi JMG and Commentariat,

    A datapoint from my middling-end suburban SW Idaho neighborhood: Finally introduced myself to the guy with the homemade handyman van which has become a fixture across the street from our house.

    He must be about my age (early sixties) and it turns out he is temporarily living with his daughter’s family while he tries to get by doing odd jobs. Doesn’t have the license to do in Idaho whatever he did in Oregon.

    The current project is fixing a 1970’s RV for what I assume is a new client. No way is this neighborhood zoned for this sort of thing, but clearly people are cool with it.

    He’s pleasant, he works hard, and isn’t blocking anyone. As my husband commented recently, “We all have to eat.” I have a screen door I’d like fixed. May talk with him about that.

    Best to all,
    OtterGirl

  73. Given what you said about the publishing industry are any of your books self published? I understand that small publishing companies have their advantages but I would think with the success of your blog you could advertise and publish your own books and keep all the profit.

  74. lol JMG How was I supposed to know the $600 thing was so hot a topic this week? There weren’t any comments posted yet when I asked….. Apparently a few people beat me to asking you. So yes I’d say you had heard of it before I asked. Cheers!

  75. >learning how to do something that your neighbors want or need.

    As a first step in that, might I suggest picking one thing you used someone else to do for you and doing that thing yourself? If something’s broken, give yourself a shot at fixing it. You just might surprise yourself.

    But the hour does grow late, I sense winds are blowing and the world is about to change forever. I used to wonder if I’d make it or not. I’m more confident these days but it will hurt no matter what.

  76. If anyone else has asked this, please ignore this, but what sorts of technology do you see that would be both sustainable and useful, but are in danger of getting wiped out unless we make an effort to save them? Landline telephones is one that comes to my mind (I have a couple of rotary-dial telephones carefully stored away). They don’t require power to operate, just infrastructure to link as needed.

    I think one of the most shocking things I’ve witnessed in the US as of about ten years ago was a cousin with a managerial job overseeing several stores in a chain unable to afford a place to live, residing in his car, and then at his girlfriend’s father’s house, where the last I’ve heard he continues to live.

    Japan has not met that level of grinding poverty, though single mothers really struggle.to nourish and educate their children.

  77. Thank you JMG.

    If one were to aspire towards making a living in healthcare in the times to come, what kind of career pathways (allopathic medicine, nursing, homeopathy, acupuncture etc) should one invest one’s time in in anticipation? In other words, what healthcare-related professions are likely to have a high demand in the future?

    Appreciate you as always.
    m

  78. Funny you should write on this topic today, JMG, as I was just thinking about it early this morning after listening on the radio that the Government of Canada, in its infinite wisdom, has given all its employees – including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police – the ultimatum of getting jabbed by the end of the month, or else lose their job without benefits. That applies to employees who work entirely at home and even outside the country! Two thoughts immediately came to my mind: (1) well, there’s another portion of the population who will need to learn how to make a living in the underground economy; and (2) well, if enough civil servants are willing to get sacked and are willing to ‘sing’ to Rebel News and other alt media sources (a thing which people who have nothing to lose are prone to do), things could get reeeeally interesting in November!

    The image that keeps coming to my mind is the elites hacking away at the base of a tree until it falls on them. I live in a blue collar neighbourhood and know quite a few people who either lost their jobs permanently or for several months in 2020. Quite a few have started their own businesses in their home/garage and make ends meet ‘under the radar’. It’s either that or live on the street.

    Regarding metastatic growth of intermediation, I have certainly noticed this process during the nearly 30 years that I have been working. And in my view, ‘metastatic’ is exactly the right word. It not only gets worse each year, but exponentially worse. I ‘joke’ with my colleagues that this is how civilizations end: death by bureaucracy. Nobody argues with me because the extent of pointless bureaucratic busywork and lording over by the bean-counters has become so ‘in your face’ that it is undeniable… it has become as obvious as the wild grape vines in my part of Ontario which wind up the tree and within a few short years effectively kill it. And it makes us all fume.

  79. Interesting post as always, JMG. You said, “some of our scientific and technological achievements are potentially sustainable, and might keep economic life above the sheer subsistence level if they’re preserved and deployed in time.” Could you give us a better idea of which particular achievements you are talking about? Thanks.

  80. Great post as always. I’ve been thinking along these lines myself, such as with that essay about critical race theory coming to american schools, because it does seem pretty clear – at least to me! – that what’s going on isn’t so much a project of ideological brainwashing for its own sake but rather to add another layer of guild-protected intermediation. If it takes additional moral qualifications to be a teacher, then one simply can’t make just anyone a teacher, not even anyone who jumps through all the hoops that existed in, say, 2010. Teachers are in a sense “woke” because it’s their current lifestyles and position within the greater economy that is at risk; only one needs to see how librarians or museum curators – who face an incredibly challenging job market – have embraced wokeness and critical theory as totally critical, absolutely necessary, completely indispensable requirements for running a library or a museum in the modern day. Making wokeness your cause lets you beg for subsidies more effectively, and it also lets you cannibalize the job opportunities of other people in the field, who may know a lot about library systems but not a lot about the difference between a cis pansexual demisexual otherkin and a asexual two-spirit whatever.

    The term you use here though, disintermediation, is a very elegant way to phrase this conflict, though. I’ll probably be borrowing it, if you don’t mind. 😉

  81. JMG, you mentioned handwaving that’s been redefined as productive work. I’ve been retired for years now after decades in the corporate world, long enough apparently to no longer understand much of the the lingo used in those formerly familiar environs.

    I’ve been going for long walks in the city’s ravine system which a fair number of people have been using in this age of covid I suppose to avoid going nuts from being cooped up in the house all the time with all these lockdowns and also the new work-from-home. And I couldn’t help but hear people ostensibly talking ‘business’ over their cellphones or directly with one another as they walked together just a few steps away.

    The essence of business, no matter the era, is getting things done. Maybe it’s just me but I’ll be damned if much of what I overheard was oriented towards actually getting things done. I know the talk was work related (the language hasn’t completely changed) but instead of getting to a conclusion conversations seemed to go in ever widening ellipses as if time and money were no object.

    The places I worked at were busy and high-pressure so meetings were few, calls were brief, memos to the point. But these conversations that I’ve been hearing are loooong and jargon-laden to the point where they sound like gobbledegook. And if something sounds like gobbledegook, then that’s what it is. Or, as you put it, ‘handwaving’.

    Ok I’m just another old man bitching and going on about the good old days. Yawn. But seriously, there was a time without email and cell phones and voicemail. Yes there was telephone and mail. Nonetheless, voice and written communications were relatively slow and difficult. And so given time constraints, people (me included) made decisions. We got on with things and lived with the results.

    But it seemed to me that with the advent of much easier communication things didn’t go faster, things got bogged down. We’d spend inordinate amounts of time weeding out crap from our email inboxes and responding (or not responding) to what were transparent cya attempts or to otherwise avoid responsibility. Instead of quick decision loops and implementation people got in each other’s way. If I was a betting man I would bet that it’s gotten worse since I quit.

    Maybe it’s just co-incidental, or maybe it’s not, or maybe it’s just title inflation but in my last few years at work there was a proliferation of ‘coordinator’ of this, ‘director’ of that, or ‘advisor’ of some other thing. More handwaving?

  82. Well, you said you were going to write bout the “middlemen” and voila! – you did.

    Thanks for reiterating the definition of collapse now and avoid the rush. One of my sons friends is into retirement planing, and he related a story to me of how many of his clients want to retire at the same living standard. They want their 3000 sq ft home and 60 acres is what they believe should be possible – because of the myth of progress. He actually tries to explain how it does not work that way. He told me he had a guy with a heart condition who had no clue what it takes to simply keep 40-60 acres mowed here in the sunbelt. He was adamant he wanted that acreage and the same 4 bedroom suburban house he had when raising his kids in the burbs – just so many unrealistic expectations…but they will be disabused as we move forward.

    If I were 20-30 years younger, I would opt for waiting it out a little while, until the local governments are under staffed. One of the reasons I bought property where I did was the county was so poor they could not afford inspectors and other middlemen operations. I don’t do substandard work – but if I can wire a multi-million offshore dollar drilling rig, I am not at all concerned about wiring a house. Yet if the middlemen are there, you have to jump through the union hoops and the inspection racket and the local code racket as well – those things should dissipate as money gets tighter and the local government has to eat itself.

    My daughter makes fabric on a huge hand loom. She cannot make a buck due to the government requiring every single weave she puts out be tested for tensile strength in order to sell products made with her cloth. That takes 6 weeks at a minimum, for every bolt she turns out, and costs about $50. She has mothballed this until the local underground gets going or else the middlemen get sacked. For now, she jumped into teaching – where she is a starting teacher making $60k….yes, there are shortages!

    Once the middlemen begin to decline, we can go back to selling direct. Around big cities, you cannot even sell honey on the side of the road – the middlemen ticket you and shut you down.

    Learn a trade, or learn to make or grow things people need or want – even if you do it part-time as a ‘hobby’. Myself, I make wine and am good at it – but I need the middelmen gone.

    Appliance repair, welding, masonry, tree felling, tutoring… lots of things can be done in an underground economy. You cannot utilize the internet – officials are lazy, and that is the #1 way they get their leads to ticket and destroy you.

    But whatever you decide to try, make sure it is something that makes you happy doing it.

    Well said this week JMG. Very well said.

  83. Well-timed article JMG!

    For the past 10 years I’ve made a living (and employed two others) by acquiring books nobody wants and turning them into hollow stash books. I do the work alongside the two others, we sell online direct to consumers, and they are valuable for a thoughtful gift or for security to hide valuables – with nothing but labour and some eco-friendly glue. I figured out years ago that I could no longer work for the corporations and have no soul. I’ve never looked back and I love my job. Figure I’ve recycled over 30,000 books in the last 10 years 🙂
    http://www.secretstoragebooks.com if anyone’s interested. Hope that’s ok to share!

  84. JMG, there’s a lot of people, mostly it seems apologists for ‘globalization’ as they would refer to it, or ‘offshoring’ industry as I would call it, who insist that manufacturing job loss is due to the adoption of technology. Yet I was witness to much of that process in the 20th and 21st century, and in my view the adoption of technology – for example buying fork-lifts to unload truckloads of 100 lb sacks of flour instead of having five guys breaking their backs – results in a supply chain and new jobs to build the forklift. The question is where those new jobs are located, in the US or Canada or some other high-wage locale, or some third world hell-hole as you put it.

    The area of my home town and the town just to the north could describe a multitude of places all over southern Ontario or the American Midwest. We had two steel mills, one metals refinery, two flour mills, one shoe factory, one cement factory, one chemical plant, one tractor assembly plant. All of it gone except for one flour mill.

    Millions of people are working in China and Mexico for a couple bucks an hour doing jobs formerly done by workers in the US and Canada. The argument of technology wiping out thousands of communities and millions of livelihoods in the US and Canada in my view is a smokescreen. If it was a case of technology displacing all those millions of workers, why would we have global supply chains? Why all the container ships waiting off the coast of California?

  85. Lady CuteKitten at #76:

    Have you read “The Mouse that Roared” by Leonard Wibberly. This is the whole plot, a tiny country declares war on the US, with the intention of immediately surrendering, and receiving massive infusions of cash, etc. It all goes wrong, of course, when the small country ends up defeating the US….

    I would prefer a principality or dutchy of Kittenland rather than a republic. Elected officials soon become bought and paid for officials, what with their entirely corrupting campaigns and the associated “campaign contributions.” Simplify the system. By keeping it hereditary it is more resistance to corruption, allows long-term multi-generational thinking, and is quite likely to be the direction governance tends to over the next several centuries.

    Antoinetta III

  86. The rest of the world should really be looking at countries like Taiwan (where I live), which have successfully controlled the virus. The US is objectively the worst country, with more than half (!) of all current Covid cases (9.8 million out of 18 million global as of this morning). By contrast, Taiwan has about 150 current cases, mostly imported, out of a population of almost 24 million. Vaccines were largely unavailable here until a few months ago. Instead there were quarantines, masking requirements in public, limits on gatherings, and robust contact tracing (made possible by a universal health system, which the USA obviously lacks), all helped by an effective government and a population inclined to cooperate with these regulations. (Indeed, most people were wearing masks even before they were required.) The USA has done none of these things, and is now reaping the consequences. Some people call this a “soft” lockdown, but other than quarantining, there haven’t been any restrictions on travel. Restaurants are suffering, of course (as they would have anyway–people would have avoided them regardless), but are getting special subsidies in recognition of this. Other than that, economic stimulus is rather limited, and takes the form of a government-run coupon scheme which is very popular. One interesting difference is that I haven’t heard of any religious groups here defying Covid regulations, as happened in Korea and Japan (and of course the USA).

    I’ve been reading up on the history of the US medical profession. The early 20th century saw increasing regulations on the training of doctors–they had to go to medical school rather than just work their way up through apprenticeships, the medical schools had to meet certain requirements and be accredited, state medical boards were dominated by MDs who were picky about who they let in. Yes, this could be seen as resistance to competition, and/or as a quasi-religious reaction of an entrenched orthodoxy to heresy (and both osteopathy and chiropractic spread like religious movements), but it’s not like this hostility was entirely unprovoked. Think of John R. Brinkley, of “goat testicles” fame:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_R._Brinkley

    Anyway, requiring doctors to go to medical school has not been such a terrible idea, IMHO. But requiring journalists to go to journalism school? Now that’s just overkill. Hell, half of our most important philosophers studied something other than philosophy.

    Austinofoz (no. 5) and Wendy (no, 9) ask about IRS plans to monitor bank accounts with at least $600 in them. While I haven’t seen this specific figure, I’ve seen these discussions. Note that FATCA (*) and FBAR (**) regulations already provide this sort of information for foreign accounts. FBAR requires Americans to report any overseas account with at least 10,000 USD in it. “First they came for the expats, and I said nothing, for I was not an expat…”

    (*) Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (requires reporting by foreign banks with US customers)
    (**) Foreign Bank Account Report (to be filed annually by the account holder, FinCEN report form 114.)

    A couple of people mentioned geckos. They run wild all over the outside of my house, and sometimes the inside. Not sure what kind they are, but I’m always happy to see one.

  87. Nice piece John. Just like the old days. I can’t think of a better place for me to share my personal PMC death than here. I was surprised it lasted this long. The things we are doing to people, and the Cost! It is unsustainable and has become grossly unethical. Didn’t see the end coming like this, but I have been aware and preparing for a long time.

    Never liked the stock market. In the 90s my father would say, “the rich man will never let the poor man be rich”:). It’s a ponzi skimming scheme that will not deliver on it’s promises to most through a number of different ways. Bonds are ‘certificates of confiscation’, never more than now.

    Like academia, the medical bureaucracy is full of vice this, chair that, anything but provide patient care. And beneath them the little ‘flunky’ Napoleons creating longer and longer list of various pronouns and unacceptable butt hurts. Well their decline and death is not far off and they have no idea. We will all be better off for it.

    Current Mood: Not Butt Hurt:) Emaho!

  88. I have contacted the gecko breeder and told her something unexpected came up, and I am no longer looking to buy geckos. Doing so right now would have been more stress than joy, and I hadn’t done anything irreversible yet. Just wasted a bit of their time with an inquiry that didn’t pan out.

    Right now I am obsessed with the harp, so I intend to play the harp, well not too much or I’ll hurt myself, but as much and often as I can. It will make the people at church happy when I play it there. Providing the covid restrictions don’t shut the church down again. As they say, “God willing and the creek don’t rise…”

  89. Funny thing, back during the last financial crisis when we weren’t sure what was going to happen, or, what parts of society might not survive, many people were talking of ‘buggin’ out’ or any other number of alternative life styles and/or locations for self preservation. Carefully considering various options I made a conscious decision to stay and be part of the response to whatever may have arisen. I intended to be part of the solution. Looking back I see MansGreatestHospital changed at that specific time with electronic record keeping being an amazing revenue, they would says ‘capture’, I would say ‘generating’ mechanism, especially by ensuring maximum billable consult generation.

    Conversing with Dr John Day in Austin TX and I told him we will look back at this time and see we did the right thing and that someday something unexpected and amazingly positive will result for us from this. No idea what that may be but I am confident.

    Current Mood: Reflective – Vimarsa:)

  90. Kim, just wondering what instrument(s) you teach? I’m curious. And fell in love with playing the harp all over again recently and am having way too fun with it.

  91. [Eastern Washington] wheat production sees catastrophic drop; lowest yield recorded in 30 years

    https://www.ifiberone.com/columbia_basin/local-wheat-production-sees-catastrophic-drop-lowest-yield-recorded-in-30-years/article_2fae1d86-2566-11ec-8eba-573d9c7a04e3.html

    Summary: Winter wheat harvest down 47%, Spring wheat down 51%. Ouch.

    A different article mentioned that this crop year was the second driest, only 1924 was worse.

    The winter wheat is used for cake flour type purposes. They don’t grow that much of it elsewhere that I know of, the Plains run to the spring wheats.

  92. Matt #66 – Thank you so much for that. Amazing! Enjoyable:) That’s Human Dignity in action.

  93. For anyone looking for specific work ideas, the 2020 book Durable Trades by Rory Groves talks about trades that have persisted over time, even before the Industrial Revolution. He writes from a Christian perspective, but the ideas might be useful for everyone so interested.

  94. Christopher, thanks for this.

    Luciano, I ain’t arguing. That’s the way the empire game is played.

    Heather, I know the area — it was indeed beautiful, though it isn’t any more. I grew up in the south Seattle suburbs, which were already pretty grim, though they’ve gotten worse since then.

    Your Kittenship, ahem. No, I know what I’m not qualified for, and being the leader of even the tiniest nation is high on that list.

    Simon, an app for that indeed!

    Ottergirl, I bet you’d get that screen door fixed promptly and well, for a good price.

    Stephen, I could, sure, but (a) I would have to take time away from writing and my other activities for book design and the business end of things, (b) I’m making a comfortable income and don’t need more than that, and (c) I want to encourage other people to go into business for themselves, and helping to support some small publishers is one way I can walk my talk.

    Austin, now I certainly know all about it!

    Owen, an excellent suggestion.

    Patricia O, several of my books — notably The Ecotechnic Future and Green Wizardry — talk about that in detail.

    Mobi, my crystal ball is malfunctioning, I’m sorry to say, and so that’s not a question I can answer. Nor can anyone else; you pays your money and you takes your choice…

    Ron, it’s certainly how our civilization is ending. Hang on for a wild ride.

    Kei, I’ve discussed that at length in my books on the future of industrial society.

    Malcom, by all means borrow it, and use it to pound the bejesus out of those who richly deserve it!

    Roger, did you ever encounter Parkinson’s Law? If not, it’s relevant: “Work expands so as to fill the time and resources available for its completion.” Since the most important job of any modern bureaucracy is maximizing the hiring of members of the comfortable classes, work expands infinitely; since most of those new hires don’t actually do anything that needs to be done, the lack of things getting done is a mere bagatelle.

    Oilman2, thank you. The notion that individuals should be able to dictate to the universe what conditions they will accept is at the root of a lot of our troubles; the excess supply of middlemen is at the root of a lot of others.

    SecretDi, thanks for this! Another fine example.

    Roger, exactly. Technology had nothing to do with it; it was purely a matter of driving down wages.

    DenG, so you’re out? If so, congratulations on your escape!

    Pygmycory, may your harp playing bring you delight!

    Siliconguy, yep. Brace yourself for food price inflation.

    Cassiodorus, thanks for this.

  95. Hi Antoinetta

    Yes, I read The Mouse That Roared. It was made into a movie too, although I can’t remember who’s in it.

    The Principality Of Kittenland it is!

    —Lady Cutekitten

  96. John – Almost out. This weekend through Monday, Columbus Day, is my last scheduled work day at MansGreatest. Next Friday, the 15th, starts a 3 week leave of absence without pay but with medical coverage. November 5th is the official fire day and loose our medical insurance. About 200 staff are in court now fighting for a religious exemption. I am not one of them. But I am going to make them fire me.

    Funny thing is if you have the hospitals cheaper medical insurance you have high copays, low limits, and huge wholes in the coverage. Walk in from anywhere on the planet and our state welfare pays for everything – everything. Need a heart, lung, kidney and have less than Gold Level insurance, sorry, not covered, not performed. No insurance? We sign them up for MassHealth (welfare) ourselves and put them on the transplant list. No Lie. No exaggeration.

    So our expenses are very low. We are very conservative. Our small house is super insulated and we did it ourselves. Solar panels we sized and installed ourselves. We have unbelievably low energy cost. I made a kale stew from the garden tonight. I will keep our income low and go on MassHealth until I qualify for medicare in a little over a couple of years from now. My wife is only 57 but I’ve seen first hand how crazy the system is and can deal with it pretty comfortably and profitably to make sure it takes care of her. Funny thing is Jackie, my wife, was the one who worked on me for quite a while to not get the shot. She saw the problems before I could and I am convinced this is very bad on many levels as I’ve mentioned before. I was very reluctant to not provide income and insurance for her. I’m very lucky in so many ways. And I will never get that shot.

    Thanks again for this site and your work John. Den

    Current Mood: Grateful, Very Grateful:)

  97. Bei Dawei,
    I live in Canada, and we don’t have wild geckos here. Although we now have european wall lizards, which are invasive and all over everywhere. They are a lot of fun to watch. I got very fond of them, and was sad when one of the ones that lived in the garden got mauled by a cat and died a couple of days later. Buried it next to where I’d buried a pet gecko of mine many years ago, said a few words. It felt like losing a pet.

    There’s multiple species of geckos that like to hang out on houses. A lot of them have the common name of ‘house gecko’.

  98. Mobi @83,

    At this time, I frankly don’t think you can enter a career path that you can count on; maybe study to become a nurse practitioner or physician assistant. Even then you are fully ensconced in the current medical system, and that’s not a place I want to be; and even that may well collapse before you finish, the way things are looking… My own medical career just ended because I refused the co-vax. Maybe Traditional Chinese Medicine?

    Maybe study now by candle light, wait for the end-stage of collapse and for the rubble to stop bouncing, then apprentice yourself to a doctor or other practitioner.

    But first, study the skills outlined in-

    Barefoot Doctors Manual (translated from Chinese)

    and on home nursing- Home Nursing Textbook by the American Red Cross

    It’s essential to know human anatomy and functional anatomy. For the latter, you can’t beat:

    Functional Anatomy of the Limbs and Back by Hollinshead,

    Get a college textbook(s) on physiology (with detailed sections on the heart, lungs, kidneys), and a medical textbook on pathophysiology (e.g. Pathophysiology of Disease, an Introduction to Clinical Medicine, McPhee et al). Learn them.

    Get textbooks on physical examination: DeGowin & DeGowin’s Diagnostic Examination, and the classic Physical Examination of the Spine & Extremities by Hoppenfeld. Get something specific for the neurologic exam, such as Neurological Examination Made Easy. A female practitioner will obviously need sources for basic gynecology and obstetrics. Maybe look for old medical textbooks written before the era of modern diagnostic tests and drugs.

    Get medical textbooks on infectious disease and immunology. Learn them. Also get a reference such as Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine (older editions are cheap, and more than adequate). Learn herbal medicine, and how this interfaces with the pathophysiology of common diagnoses.

    Get a basic text on diagnosis, such as The Common Symptom Guide by Wasson, and maybe some old-school stuff such as Folk Medicine: a New England Almanac of Natural Health Care From a Noted Vermont Country Doctor, by D.C. Jarvis, MD (1958).

    Learn physical/herbal methods of preventing/treating infection; these are nowhere near as good as antibiotics, but a lot better than nothing. Buhner is a key author. Algae and mushrooms also have medicinal applications, sources are more sparse.

    Hmm, wait a minute… a thought just occurred to me: Having a good microscope, and knowing how to read blood smears would yield a powerful diagnostic service, esp. when lab tests are out of reach. So become a cytologist, and study on the side as I outlined here (you’d also need textbooks on histology, pathology, and especially hematology), then you just might become a hot item after TEOTWAWKI, and you’d have a day job until then…

    [Please note: these are the ravings of a still shell-shocked, newly unemployed doc]

    —Lunar Apprentice

    Addendum: One may need to enroll in a Clinical Laboratory Science program, rather than a Cytology program, to get trained in reading blood smears. You’d need to check the program syllabus. There aren’t many school that offer these programs.

    These occupations may be thought of as related to a pathologist the way a physician assistant is related to a physician.

  99. “Methinks that maybe communism isn’t that bad and that Mao and Stalin were onto something.”

    They certainly knew how to reduce the head count,

  100. Lady Cutekitten

    “Right now the plan is, the U.S. will conquer us as quickly as we can get them to do it, then give us piles of cash and build lots of schools and hospitals, which we can adapt into useful buildings.

    Ever see that early 60’s movie “The Mouse That Roared”?

  101. JMG,

    There is also a political angle to intermediation: by and large and by no means without exception, the capitalists and the proletariat are right-wing and the salaried class is liberal. And the salaried class is basically what powers intermediation.

    So maybe the rise in woke ideology is a coping mechanism against the declining prospects of intermediating careers, just like (maybe?) militant evangelism or gun-rights advocacy were a way of coping with the declining prospects of the working-classes after the Oil Shock of the 1970s.

    On a grotesque sidenote, my job used to require a short training of a few weeks after high school as late as the 1990s. Recently I was asked for career advice *by a PhD* (!) who would like to enter my trade.

  102. The word, “economy”. A word of power to modern minds. Some sense of comfort garnered when adding transactions together in a number system comprised of ones, twos, threes, fours, fives, sixes, sevens, eights, nines and zeros. When you arrive at a nine, the collection of digits is pushed to the left and a zero is added to hold the new hole.
    A girl sounds important and intelligent when incorporating “economy” into a sentence, somehow explaining all manner of reasons through this immutable entity that only exists in the minds of men.

  103. @Bei Dawei #92
    FATCAt and FuBAR are way worse than that. Not only do Americans living overseas have to report on any financial accounts they own, regardless of the type or amount, the banks they have accounts at also have to report to the US government on these accounts. In many places the banks have responded by refusing to let Americans open accounts with them. Because in Japan we use different accounts for different purposes, and because it is a hassle closing them, I was having to report on about ten accounts at one time, some with amounts of the order of 30 dollars. I knew some folks here who gave up their American citizenship when things started getting ugly under W. Smart move. Now the government confiscates part of your wealth if you try to give up your citizenship. It’s becoming more of a liability each year.

  104. NomadicBeer, Italy could have done such an experiment, but it would probably have been unethical (one way or the other) and politically impossible.
    Correlation is not causation, true, but the “control group” could be time instead of place, meaning that cases were higher when the country was not in lockdown, and lower otherwise. Of course, there are so many other factors at play (season, other countries, etc). Also, if cases do go down and you don’t think it’s the lockdown, you still have to find an explanation then.
    It’s a very complex issue to investigate, and I am no statistician. Accusing me of spreading lies, however, is a bit harsh – I merely reported what happened here according to the data, confirmed by personal observation and reports from hospitals. Comparisons have been made with other European countries, but those are complicated by the fact that even countries that did not lock down did have other Covid-related distancing measures (and also have more structural “social distancing” compared to Souther European countries, with big families living together, lots of physical proximity, etc).
    In places – like Europe and the US – where there’s a lot of internal mobility, lockdowns might look ineffective because the areas where they are implemented are not sealed from those where they aren’t.

  105. >Here in Minnesota, we hit the 70% vaccinated rate recently, at about the same time as we went from 2000 cases per day to 7000, as high as it has ever been.

    I figured if the vaccine were to start failing here, it would probably fail in MN first (although there was an article about VT recently). Dunno what is in the water up there but people are way too trusting of the state. And they’re about to pay for that with their lives.

  106. >what sorts of technology do you see that would be both sustainable and useful, but are in danger of getting wiped out unless we make an effort to save them?

    I call a tech fragile, if you can’t conceivably replicate it in your backyard. Or, if it breaks, the only option is to go to the store to buy another one. Should fragile tech be saved? These days, I’m deeply ambivalent on the subject. GovCorp loves fragile tech that only they can make but has some utility. Makes you dependent on it.

    But ultimately fragile tech suffers some shock and it goes away for a while (like writing did back in the late Bronze Age) and you are worse off than if you never had it to begin with.

  107. Just an observation for everyone here. When I was in post-collapse Russia in the early 1990s, I noticed that the people who fared best typically had three services they could offer, one of which would be their Soviet-era vocation and the other two were whatever there was demand for that they could somehow provide, such as taxi service if they had a car, providing homestays for foreign tourists coming in, and selling freshly cooked food at the train stations. The mechanically inclined might set up a table at the local market, selling parts, advice and services. Home repair was critically important too. Everyone was involved in food production. In September, people working regular jobs would take time off to help with the harvest. I know of one home brewer who managed to expand his operation with really decent beer–ethically preferable to the rampant vodka.
    The people who fared worst were mostly men whose self-identity was too closely tied to their former work. Their families suffered terribly. By Lake Baikal I was introduced to a facility for essential orphans from such families, who all lived together and engaged in fishing to bring in a communal income. This was overseen by people with former managerial experience. It was hard work, but they had decent clothing, food and a sturdy shelter, and they had each other, and they learned how to endure.

  108. As far as the proliferation of managerial types in organisations who don’t actually seem to doing anything other than sit in endless meetings, I wonder if something like this is the origin of it:

    Top level management make some kind of splash, saying we will be “doing things differently”, and embark on what appears at face value to be some kind of change program, and try to sound relevant and exciting.

    Meanwhile the long-term employees of the organisation are actually quite set in their ways, even institutionalised, and don’t really want to change much, and “doing things differently” is an alien concept.

    Therefore those in middle management who are on board with these visions of change, are directed into meetings with each other where they talk about it, produce long strategy documents etc. but kept away from being able to actually change the way anything is done or make any real decisions.

    All this is just based on a cynical view of local government from the outside.

  109. I found this an interesting quote to pop up at the moment:

    “Mass education was the ingenious machine constructed by industrialism to produce the kind of adults it needed. The problem was inordinately complex. How to pre-adapt children for a new world – a world of repetitive indoor toil, smoke, noise, machines, crowded living conditions, collective discipline, a world in which time was to be regulated not by the cycle of sun and moon, but by the factory whistle and the clock.

    The solution was an educational system that, in its very structure, simulated this new world. This system did not emerge instantly. Even today it retains throw-back elements from pre-industrial society. Yet the whole idea of assembling masses of students (raw material) to be processed by teachers (workers) in a centrally located school (factory) was a stroke of industrial genius. The whole administrative hierarchy of education, as it grew up, followed the model of industrial bureaucracy. The very organization of knowledge into permanent disciplines was grounded on industrial assumptions. Children marched from place to place and sat in assigned stations. Bells rang to announce changes of time.

    The inner life of the school thus became an anticipatory mirror, a perfect introduction to industrial society. The most criticized features of education today – the regimentation, lack of individualization, the rigid systems of seating, grouping, grading and marking, the authoritarian role of the teacher – are precisely those that made mass public education so effective an instrument of adaptation for its place and time.”

    Alvin Toffler “Industrial Era School” in his 1970 book Future Shock:

  110. When I was a child in the 1950s, we lived in a distant suburb, on a street with minimal 3 bedroom houses and many kids…All of the families were supported by exactly 1 income earner, and many were tradesmen with some small business owners and professionals… We were surrounded by open fields, forest preserves, etc…It was a wonderful time, with great community and stability…What has replaced it? Young couples with two jobs can’t afford to buy a house or have kids….cultural and national suicide

  111. Fascinating. The anti-social tendencies of intermediation are clearly a major piece of the problem. Anyone who thinks about our economy with a systems mindset wonders how it can be that a single family farmer or a pre-school teacher are paid such a tiny fraction of what an investment banker or lawyer is paid given their relative contributions to human well being. Jobs like truck driver and manufacturing labor are a bit more complicated because they are in danger of being automated and so some members of the next generation who believe in progress have been avoiding them for some years now…leading to shortages. Expectations of progress are a nasty thing to manage. Specialization through intermediation does improve efficiency in many situations, but we are far out beyond the point of negative returns (for the common good) when more intermediation is added.

    Organizing human effort is hard. I guess I am a classical liberal with low expectations of how much complexity can be effectively managed, so my prescription is wisely regulated but mostly free markets with a priority on revealing and educating the public about ways the system fails to work toward the common good (basically good journalism). As you indicate, a major failure of the groupthink of our moment is utopian or no-trade-offs thinking. It leads to assuming you can control pandemics but shutting down economies, assuming you can eliminate racism by virtue signaling, assuming you can keep exponential growth forever by waving the American flag, and assuming that if your tribe could finally win political power for good it would be utopia for sure. But the slogan “Lower your expectations for the complexity that you and society can manage” isn’t likely to win elections anytime soon.

  112. Here in Canada I don’t see as many of the problems with labour y’all are talking about south of the boarder, and I think our government’s CERB policy is to thank for that. Lost your job because of– or even just during?– the pandemic? You got 2000$/mo to wait for it to come back. 2000CAD is not bad money at all. Plenty of folks I know were getting paid more to wait for their job to come back than they were getting paid at their job!

    I suspect this disincentivised the swerve into the black market pretty heavily. Why bother hustling, when you can just sit around collecting the dole? But sitting around collecting dole is about the only thing more soul crushing than working for The Man*, so when The Man reopened… more people went back to work than seem to have in the USA.

    I don’t know if that was the point– I honestly don’t think the government is capable of that kind of foresight– but it seems to have worked.

    *(Sorry, we didn’t see the explosion of permaculture gardens and cupcake bakeries that the UBI proponents always promise. Just a huge spike in opiate deaths.)

  113. Educational inflation goes back a long way. Charles Allen wrote The Instructor, the Man, and the Job after training workers in the shipyards of World War One. He lamented employers feeling the compulsion to turn skilled manual workers into draughtsmen or clerks. He also noted how trade schools were usually more innovative and treated their students with more respect than supposedly more prestigious academic schools.

  114. @Bradley,

    “Also, at Costco the freezer section was missing chicken and beef. To keep the shelves from looking too bare, more than half the freezer section just had shrimp.”

    To paraphrase a quote (that was apocryphal anyway):

    No chicken? Let them eat shrimp!

  115. About protecting middlemen (people), in the U.S. Gardner has decided to send the FBI out to track parents who disrupt school board meetings. In Loudoun County (VA), parents are flaming mad over critical race theory and gender fluidity. The school board apparently believe that the objecting parents are “white supremists.” And outside agitators. (again, with the outside agitators, always with the outside agitators) are ruining the school board meetings. (I guess they don’t believe in inside agitators.)

    Apparently, parents need to shut up, pay taxes, and let the school boards decide whatever. The nearby counties in Virginia such as Fairfax (very rich place full of profession managers) are also in uproar over their school boards. Apparently, spending tax payer money on critical race theory and the people who peddle it is grating on people’s nerves. So, it would seem that the professional managers are upset with the middlemen.

    —–
    This all reminds me of the old (new) gangster custom of “vig” that is payment for “protection.” Pay or be destroyed.

  116. Most excellent post and comments. Here in Ireland many people practice the parallel economy. I come from generations of teachers, all the way back to the 1900s both men and women in France. Teaching for my family is a vocation not a job. My mother was working class and emigrant but after passing an exam was paid in 1943 to train to be a teacher… she was 11! The state paid for everything and eventually she, without a single degree to her name, became a head mistress. Now the shortage of teachers/ nurses/doctors and dentists is so bad! We have pillaged all poorer nations and bled their workforce dry. I teach informally what I know about life and how to grow stuff. Make a small amount that suffices. I am an old woman with very modest needs. May be the way back will be to start learning in the old ways again.

  117. Luciano #74, a lot of the things that happen early on in revolutions are good. Workers taking over their industries, democratic workers militias becoming the main police and military force, mass involvment in direct democracy. Previously downtrodden people develop new intellectual and political confidence, there’s a new outpouring of art and literature, experiments like democratic schools and new ways of living. However those are all the things Stalin consciously destroyed (with the previous generation of Old Bolsheviks laying a lot of the groundwork for him – contrary to certain shools ot thought they were far from blameless).

    Roger #90, I don’t know why people describe that kind of heavy manual work as ‘back-breaking’. I do it and often carry 25kg bags of sand across the back of my neck. At my strongest I wished they came in 50kg size. If you do it right and carry it so it’s balanced, it feels easy, it feels good, it is good for you. I’ve only been injured by weight training, never by actual heavy work. Also there’s a book called Ours to Master and to Own about the history of workers’ control. I don’t know if the attempt to introduce the forklift into Eastern Bloc logistics is best described as tragedy or farce. 🙂

  118. Two data points: I haven’t seen long-term empty shelves in the stores here (yet). What we have are “flash shortages” – all the whole wheat flour or seltzer water (all brands) disappears for a week, then returns to normal.
    And my very PMC school district is sending out several emails a week stating “School bus route x will not be running tomorrow due to lack of drivers – we apologize for the extreme inconvenience.”

  119. John,
    I’ve been reading your essays for over a decade.
    This is one of your most cogent and best!

    I will share it widely with family and friends.

    Here’s a toast of Johnny Appleseed “Spitter Apple” cider for you. Cheers!

  120. Hello from Greece! I have been working and living in Europe for many years. Last year, I bought a piece of land on a small Greek island and I am building a house. The bureaucracy in Greece is horrible. Talk about useless intermediation. No wonder the word “byzantine“ means excessively complicated. The process of buy land, register it in the local cadaster, and obtain building permission takes an extremely long time. The problem here is that there are a lot of college graduates with nothing to do so the government has to give them jobs. The best and brightest leave Greece and work in Germany, France, the UK, the US. A serious brain drain, another way for rich countries to loot and extract resources (human talent) from poorer countries on the pretext of freedom of movement!

    Things are much better now in Greece after the 2012 financial crisis. But the 24 percent VAT rate on just about everything has encouraged people to pay for services in cash, under the table, evading the tax authorities.

    It’s such an injustice that people in rich countries like Germany and Luxembourg pay less for petrol and many other things than Greeks, The 24 percent VAT rate was forced on Greece by the Germans during the financial crisis to punish them, never mind that it’s precisely the inclusion of Greece (as well as Portugal, Italy, Spain – the PIGS) that has caused an artificially low Euro exchange rate, which allows Germany to maintain an export economy. Germany is the primary beneficiary of the EU and the Euro, If Germany had a Deutsche Mark, their exports would cost more abroad because the Mark would trade at a higher price against other currencies.

    Living on a small Greek island allows you to deal directly with people who supply goods and services. The amount of intermediation is minimal. You buy directly from local farmers. The businesses are local family firms. And many of the families have been here since the 1400s. The result is lower prices for just about everything from wine to cheese to artichokes. There is so much more social control without the strong arm of the law. People just won’t transact with you if you are dishonest and if you commit a crime it’s difficult to escape because the ferry to the mainland doesn’t come everyday.

    Because Greece is on the periphery of Europe and quite poor relative to Germany and France, the multinational conglomerates did not swoop down during the financial crisis and buy up land or businesses here. It wasn’t interesting/profitable enough for them. As a result, most things here are still very local.

    A happy ending: many young people (who could not emigrate) have moved back to the islands after failing to find good jobs in Athens or having been laid off. They started their own small businesses on their ancestral lands and they’re doing well. Again the key here is that their families still own land and houses on the islands, and the cost of getting started is small (at least the bureaucracy doesn’t interfere too much in that).

  121. I am somewhat conflicted about a new business arrangement I have been involved with the last few months, which involves both less and more intermediation at the same time. I am selling fabricated and machined metal parts through a large computerized internet middleman. On one hand, it is much more profitable than my local customers ( who I still service) because the customers are closer to the money spigot ( MIT, Abbot labs, etc.), and the systems involved minimize the paperwork on my end ( no bidding, no invoicing, no salesman, no collection calls). But I am fully aware it requires the full functioning of the internet and other fragile systems. So my plan has been to use the money I make to buy more useful tools, and save as much as possible for a rainy day but not give in to the temptation to grow, hire employees or take on debt.

  122. JMG and Zhao,
    I’m glad you, JMG, gave that response, because for all its good intentions, the “going back to the mountains” movement in Italy is flawed on many levels and sometimes obnoxious. I speak as someone who ended up living in an Alpine village not far from my hometown just to finish writing a novel, noticed that the hay was being harvested but thrown away, and that a sensible and even just thing to do would be to buy some herbivores to feed it to and reduce the wastage. And that’s how it all started… people assume it’s a back-to-the-land cliché, but I think it’s more about looking around and seeing if there’s something that needs to be done, that you would like to do, and that the people you will affect will like you to do. Everyone forgets this part, but you won’t get anywhere without support. You don’t “build” communities that easily – rural life has evolved over millennia, family memories matter, and they still do Celtic rituals up here. That’s how far back they go.
    City dwellers tend to ignore the fact that there are already people living in the mountains, that they probably know how to survive there better than they do, that you have to respect their ways when you move in (which was way harder than I would have imagined), and that if no one is already doing something, it might be for a good reason, and not just because they haven’t thought of it.
    I sometimes get emails from people who are unhappy with their lives and want to do what (they think) I have done, but rarely ever do, because it’s one thing to want to do something, another to actually make all the sacrifices it requires, put up with failures and abuse. And, unfortunately, it’s really hard to start with nothing – but that’s a whole other can of worms.

  123. JMG – You need to be aware of something that is hitting me like a freight train just now.

    My business model is designed for collapse. I function as an engineering and design department for smaller companies. I have no employees, just design software and a few computers which my designers utilize – to keep my business separate from their day jobs. Designers are placed in cubicles, receive no commissions or bonuses and generally do not advance except by attrition. Under Texas Right to Work law, they can do side gigs. However, they can never use their primary employer resources or they can sue you.

    I maintain the software licenses,computers, a separate phone and an email system so we can communicate – always after hours and never at their day jobs. I am going on ten years at this point, and everyone is happy. I am surviving and enjoying my work and clients.

    I am currently receiving multiple phone solicits from various big banks and lending outfits about near-zero interest loans for my business. I do not need these, as my business model is gig-based and transparent to the guys I get to do the work I solicit.

    It is 10AM my time, and I have received THREE calls from various outfits about these “great business loans”. Unfortunately, many people will take these loans in spite of their being collateralized by equipment and factoring.

    This is, to me, a severe grasping by middlemen. And in the current environment, what I would term very predatory. So it appears that the middlemen are in some distress just now, likely looking over the horizon and seeing some rough beat slouching their way. Trying to grab what they think they can hold onto as things collapse around them.

    I could be wrong, as there have always been these types of pushes – but never have I been inundated the way I have recently with these ‘great deals’… My business phone is getting hit daily, in multiples, with these type of things, where before it was the occasional fishing call every few months. Chase and Fargo and many other independents involved.

    Just an FYI and data point….

  124. @Kyle and everyone looking to hook into their local economy – Yesterday I met with a local accountant who runs his own one man shop. Doing the books and filings of many in the community he was a wealth of knowledge of what is going on and what is needed. Many people are forming businesses out of their homes or garages doing what I’m calling micro supply chain products. They’ve focused on a narrow product, sourced it or make it, and offer just that through a website. It’s working for now.

    Also talk with the folks at your local credit union. They run a lot of local business accounts and can help you with who needs help or a hole you can fill in the local economy.

  125. On Downsizing-

    I live on a small boat. The amount of electricity I have access to is the equivalent of one standard wall plug in a house. Yesterday I was pondering what I would do if the electricity rates skyrocketed. In winter, I put insulation up over the windows anyway and I decided I would close off the berth where I sleep and just live in the main cabin. I have also considered putting a clear tarp over the top of the boat to passively gather solar energy. This also helps insulate the boat.
    In a pinch, I can turn on the engine, heat up that big mass of metal and let the passive heat move through the boat by opening up an interior hatch.
    Basically, all of above is emergency preps but should work ok as we slide downward. This all works as long I have access to some diesel fuel and propane, etc. I also recently purchased small solar powered lights. And have been gathering wool clothing. It might behoove me to offer my services locally as a history teacher to homeschooling parents. Maybe there is still some value in my pre-Woke liberals arts degree.
    My love and thanks to you all for inspiration.

    -Elizabeth in Port Angeles, WA

  126. Love this summary of where we were are at and what’s been happening the last few months in particular. So much is coming at us through the media daily that its hard to keep a perspective.

    I wanted to add another intermediary to the discussion – professional organizations. Every profession has a group for certification and networking in their field these days, sometimes competing ones, and it is necessary to join post college graduation. Some award additional postnomials one can add to their email signature to signal to others. Membership is several hundred dollars a year and its expected to volunteer towards the organization too.

    I’ve looked hard this last half of the year at the ones I am in and I just can’t be a part of them anymore. They all seem to go thru the motions of offering something and its just empty drivel. In the guise of not wanting to offend I guess? A poor substitute for the fraternal organizations you’ve written about which existed to enrich people’s lives. I’m just so dissatisfied with the way leadership has acted in these orgs the last 18 month through everything too. So much pretending like nothing is happening, and if they just don’t talk about it, it will go away.

  127. Pygmycory, please do not be offended, but I personally think that pets are an unnecessary (and, but I’m sure that’s not your case, sometimes cruel) luxury. I even see them as a direct competition to wildlife, as they need to be fed, cared for, etc -> resources. Something like 97% of vertebrate land biomass is us and our animals, only 3% wildlife – we shouldn’t keep more.
    Since I like animals myself, I am trying to keep animals that serve a purpose and live as natural a life as possible. I’m in almost the opposite situation as the one you describe, since I have two donkeys and a mare that I use for agricultural work, I’d like them to do more, and I am hoping that the higher prices of energy will make them more economical than they are now compared to machinery (which might come with its own set of problems, but it would probably be an improvement).
    Since I really like horses and really dislike horse people, I am also hoping that horses will revert to being useful beasts for those who need them as opposed to luxury toys for the rich.
    And if energy prices really do go through the roof, the Amish have apparently invented a horse-powered treadmill.

  128. When people say that Russia uses its oil and gas as political weapons, they are really saying that Russia refuses to sell oil and gas to Europe at whatever price Europe wants to buy it. But Russia has no obligation to sell their oil and gas at a low price, or at all.

    In fact, I’m surprised they still sell despite all the economic sanctions. One cold winter without the Russian gas and the European Union is done for, that’s something they should remember. Between the diminishing energy production and the increasing population due to migration…I’m glad I’m not in Europe right now.

  129. #54-Kyle

    Hello Kyle:

    If you’re a kind, respectful person who can push a lawnmower and do basic home maintenance tasks, make friends with an older lady with a house and yard. If her husband has passed away, she’ll put you to work, That, and she’ll tell all her friends about you and, next thing you know, you’ll have a brace of little ladies chasing you done with lists of things they need done around the house. I’ve done this kind of work in past and may do it again. I get paid in cash or check on the same day. You’ll also make wise friends who have a lifetime of knowledge to share.

    -Elizabeth in Port Angeles

  130. Nice job boiling it down (as usual). A favorite counterfactual amongst military history buffs is ‘what if the Axis won the war’? to which my answer has always been “we’d be in the same place just get there faster’. That was a system based on open unashamed and naked exploitation. Ours is a ‘kinder, gentler machinegun hand’.

  131. CHS churns out a lot of truth, but most of it is difficult to verify IRL. Here is an article that I can vouch for: https://charleshughsmith.blogspot.com/2021/10/why-shortages-are-permanent-global.html

    I am running into supply issues in this last year that are NOT about transport or JIT issues. What they ARE about is a very limited number of suppliers, and the reluctance of these same suppliers to deliver materials to MY spec and not their own specs. Things have now evolved to the point that minimum orders are cost prohibitive as well.

    One supplier has jumped the price by 50% and now requires minimum order of $50k, where last year the minimum order was $5K.

    We recently had to order and mix our own raw material to make a brazing alloy for a project. This was caused by the above jump in minimum order qty and the “specialty order” pricing, which was never present before. There are 3 global sources (including one Chinese) and their pricing has all moved in concert.

    We got it done with local help and established a local supply in the bargain, which we then passed on to other smaller companies that are running into the same thing. Hopefully this will boost the new outfit enough to survive making a new product line.

    So CHS is correct in the article, and this (to me) is a solid gong on the death bell of globalism. We are an adaptive species after all…. another data point in our slide.

  132. One historical data point that may to useful-

    A few years ago I was in Iceland. My husband and I visited the maritime museum in Reykjavik. We learned that unmarried often worked out at the cold, remote cod fishing stations around the island. It was hard miserable work but the girls worked there because they always had access to food. Hence, I work at the local Costco. It seems they’re always throwing food at us. Snacks appear every couple days or so. They also have contracted 3 of their own container ships to ensure that they have fewer product shortages.
    Costco is a good employer but I also chose them with very specific strategic purposes in mind. Knowing about those young ladies in Iceland has really changed how I look at work and access to resources…

    -Elizabeth

  133. Speaking of wasted college degrees, writing, and the way people used to be able to get into a variety of lines of work without getting a degree, my latest article in the American Iconoclast series focuses on the life of Jim Tully. His is a real rags to riches tale.

    Jim Tully was a kid from St. Mary’s, Ohio, who was sent away to an orphanage in Cincinnati for six years after his mom died, His dad was a ditch digger and couldn’t afford to feed or care for him. When he came back to town as a lad he embarked on a career as a hobo. As he rode the rods around America one of his favorite things to do was bum around in libraries and read everything he could get his hands on. He also joined a circus for a time where he worked as a laborer, and then he was a boxer for a time as well. He had it set in his heart to become an author and he did, getting published first in the papers, and then writing books, both memoir and fiction, all informed by his colorful experiences. He lighted out to Hollywood where he was friends with Charlie Chaplin and worked on some movies, and he started writing what would be some of the first gossip pieces about the Hollywood set, who loved and hated him because of what he wrote. He did really well for himself as a writer. His education was in the world of experience and it shows in his wonderful books. A more nuanced, though not long, overview of his life and work can be found at the link below.

    http://www.sothismedias.com/home/running-off-to-join-the-circus-with-jim-tully

    All the best to all.

  134. @ Elizabeth Skewis RE: heating boat

    You are either buying potable water and storing it in your tank or else hooked into local water. You might consider using black plastic barrels filled with pot water as a heat sink. I don’t know about your deck space or window situation, but water barrels can retain a lot of solar heat if they are insulated (like with your clear plastic tarp). You can think of it as using the water you are buying anyway…

    Just a thought that hit me when I read your post.

    @ Clay Denis RE: business model

    Read my posts – there are ways to do what you imagine. You definitely need to do local, but your ‘local’ may need to be more regional for adequate volume. You should probably look into other uses for your products – other similar lines as well, and then see if you can get a local (relative term) supplier, even if you have to help them bootstrap into becoming your source.

    I say this because my business is international, but to control things through manufacturing, I have to go local. It took me a while, but I did help bootstrap a tiny company near me and they are now one of my trusted sources. Get your mind outside of normal channels, and understand that helping those near you usually results in your helping yourself and growing a good business partner for the future. They do NOT teach that in Harvard Business School…LOL

    @ pyrrhua RE: cultural suicide

    I agree with what you say, but do not believe that it is inevitable. Families can get through this, if they work together. If you help your kids buy a home with some of your savings, it can help. If you teach your kids things you know, they can often get a leg up regardless of the uselessness of college degrees these days.

    I helped one of my kids buy a home – they paid me back. I taught another how to build a home, which he is currently doing on some land I bought. I also taught him how to use tools, and he parleyed that and experience with tractors and such into a nice job as a park ranger.

    We all need to pass things on into the collective future to reduce the effects of the coming slide into less. Not trying to be preachy, but my mileage has been different than yours.

  135. A slightly unrelated but highly ironic sign of the times: Heatbit, the electric heater that earns you money (by mining Bitcoin):

    https://heatbit.com

    I think this qualifies as (kako)magic! What one would formerly consider the waste product of this $900 Bitcoin mining device is now its #1 function. Or as they used to say, “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!” 1300 watts of fossil fuel burning lifestyle product that *pays you to use it*. Bonus points for the pictures of Millennials enjoying their life-sustaining neo-hearth in the confines of their suspiciously furnished apartments. SMDH, as the kids say…

  136. One more set of ideas that a friend just shared in a private group chat – rural small farmers are in need of help with on-site slaughter of farm animals to sell for meat, also in the transport of animals and products for sale. Veterinarians are apparently hard to come by too. Perhaps someone will create the position equivalent to Nurse Practitioner for vet services so the fully certified can focus on the more complicated issues.

    Oh and a cautionary note about homeschooling. If anyone is doing it or thinking of doing it, keep it quiet and don’t post about it on social media or even coworkers. I suspect the feds will be coming for homeschoolers in due time. It’s always been risky in that one disagreeable neighbor who sees your children playing outside when she doesn’t think they should be would call CPS to investigate, but now its way worse. Since the government can print unlimited money and hire as many thugs as possible, there is no peace for normal people wanting to just live their lives.

    Do not let anyone from any level of government across the threshold of your home under any circumstances. Once they are in they can find cause to many things. This was always the first tip given by the HSLDA for homeschoolers. Parents regularly lose custody of their kids at least temporarily when CPS comes and then judges the house messy or the parents behavior erratic. And now with vaccination status its going to get uglier.

  137. a couple of jobs you can invent if your out of luck. The Shrimp and His fair maid. every morning when the fishermen come in go down to the boats ask them for a bag with todays catch pay them in cash. You have now committed your first customer and supplier. Then you go home peel some of the shrimps and use their crust and shell as stock for a soup, a paella and a tasty white sauce named after a girl you like and know, you will add the peeled shrimps for those dishes…. Now bake the bread, and prepare pine needle tea, pine you picked from the trees behind your house. When the dishes are made, the tea brewed and the bread baked about around noon your last task of the day is you bring those dishes you made to the lonely old people around town, they will be happy to see you and your dishes….

    Cash exchange from your wallet you cash in 5 for every 50 you exchange

    the oldest profession in the world….

  138. Mawkernewek @ #116, your description puts me very much in mind of Venkatesh Rao’s elucidation of The Gervais Principle, or office management theory as demonstrated on the television show “The Office”:

    https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2009/10/07/the-gervais-principle-or-the-office-according-to-the-office/

    An especially striking similarity is middle-management being deliberately disempowered from effecting change, reducing them to glorified babysitters for the long-term employees.

  139. “…a very effective scheme for limiting access to the professions to the children of the middle and upper middle classes, which was probably its original purpose.”
    I got this far and two thoughts popped into my head.
    First is that the licensed Doctor of Medicine has required a university degree since at least the mid-19th Century. But very many jobs in the medical profession did not require a university degree, i.e. nurses, coroners, care-workers, &c. and those were on-the-job-training. Same was true of most other professions: there were but a scant few who needed the extra knowledge that academia could provide.

    The second is that I am not sure it was the result of conscious, deliberate decision to exclude the hoi polloi that created the multiplicity of expensive university certifications in order to perform even the simplest of tasks, but rather ‘qualification creep’ which came along incrementally, each increment seemingly reasonable, but definitely a hymn of the Religion of Progress.

    Then on the subject of how the expansion of managerial categories has exploded, along with the requirement of education certificates for anyone wishing to fill those office jobs, my first thought was that these are all advertised as exciting, interesting, meaningful jobs — whereas something like, say, machine repair, which was, 100 years ago the status, cutting edge job, is now regarded as something someone does because one cannot do anything better. 100 years ago, people who tinkered with machines regarded people who trained horses with the same disdain.

    The pillaging of the Third World was also only possible while they were technologically inferior. In the few places not governed by kleptocrats, Africa and South America and East Asia are no longer backwaters to be exploited, but quite exploitative themselves, now that they have learned and assimilated our technological knowledge. China, not the U.S. or Russia, is the one planning manned missions to the moon. Whether they get there, is another matter.

    Book publishing: presented as an either-or proposition, yet there are third options… hmmm…

    Bruce

  140. The empty shelves haven’t reached the Netherlands yet, but I suspect it’s just a matter of time as there is apparently a serious shortage of truck drivers here. Meanwhile, the media enjoy looking across the North Sea to the UK and the problems the British are having with empty shelves and petrol stations with no petrol. The reason the media like it (apart from misery always making for good news stories) is to be able to point the finger and say that it’s all the fault of Brexit. The reason they do that is to shut up anyone who dares to dream of Nexit.

    The British media I follow, depending on political colour, blame it variously on Brexit, Covid, lockdowns, pingdemics or anything else they can think of provided they can avoid mentioning the woolly mammoth in the room namely the wages paid to truckers and the people who produce the goods to be transported.

    One of the commonest statements made by the employers and those who have bought their argument is that British people just aren’t willing to pick fruit, pluck turkeys or drive trucks. When I ask such people whether they think Brits would do those things for £50-£100 per hour I either get responses like “Oh, come on, who’s going to pay that kind of money!” or “It doesn’t matter what you pay, these people still won’t want to do that kind of work.” Further discussion once that point is reached is no longer possible, their last word has been spoken on the matter.

    Meanwhile, in the eurozone, the pressure continues to move to a cashless society. My bank recently informed me that I if I withdraw more than €12,000 in cash per year, then I will incur charges. Moreover, each time I deposit more than €200, I have to pay a percentage in charges. My reaction? To increase my use of cash. I suspect that I’m not the only one

  141. @ Stephen D # 79

    Bill and I self-publish. We write odd, extremely niche books so we kind of have to.

    That said, while we have control over everything we do, it’s also a ton of work.

    When Bill spends time formatting or running an ad campaign, he’s not writing. Similarly, if I’m editing his manuscript for the fourth time, I’m not writing something new.

    Self-publishing means you have to do everything a publisher does (or might do) AND still write the books. It can be done. Many indie writers earn six figures!

    However, indie writers who earn six figures almost uniformly hire assistants to do some of the work so they can concentrate on doing what they can’t pay someone else to do: write the books.

    Currently, the only thing we contract out is my book covers because we cannot produce anything near as good in-house.

    Does self-publishing work? Yes.
    Does it mean doing everything a publisher does AND write? Yes.

    Our host is correct, by the way. There’s a big market for trustworthy small publishers. I meet would-be writers ALL THE TIME who desperately want someone to do all the work of getting a book into production while they focus on writing. They’re happy to give up most of the profit (if there is any) in exchange.

    Think about it!

    If you want to be a publisher, here are two good, basic books to get you started: Joe Biel (owner of Microcosm Press) wrote A People’s Guide to Publishing: Building a Successful, Sustainable, Meaningful Book Business

    https://microcosmpublishing.com/catalog/books/3663

    and, because they beautifully complement each other, here’s another.

    Anne Trubek who owns Belt Publishing also wrote about running a publishing business:

    https://beltpublishing.com/collections/guides-cookbooks/products/so-you-want-to-publish-a-book

    Lots of wannabe writers want you to help them, Stephen!

  142. Medicine as a viable, always-in-demand career path will have to go back to old-school.

    Bill and I (as part of the Agatha project) just watched the 1978 version of Death on the Nile with Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot. It’s set in the late 1930’s. There’s a doctor in the plot who, at one point, has to attend to a gunshot victim onboard a paddle steamer on the Nile. He performs basic surgery in the stateroom with the contents of his surgical case! A nurse (traveling with another patient) is also onboard and she administers morphia to another patient with the drugs she carries around in her own bag.

    I know it’s fiction, but Agatha Christie wrote contemporaries and she based her medical stuff on what she observed in real life.

    The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, published in 1926, involves a country doctor who keeps a surgery in his home. We had our kids read it as part of the Agatha annotation project and they just couldn’t believe that a doctor set bones and stitched up wounds wherever the patient was.

    Different times, but that kind of doctor skills will always be in demand.

  143. Dear Evie2000 post 128, which Greek island are you on? I have been to, Rhodes and Crete, I was consived in Skiatos, so Greece is dear to me. The journey with the Ferry from ect Aegina to Pireus, is a journey I imagine Zeus and Apollo sing of, For Greek hospitality we can all learn from.. A cheers in sweet Retsina, a toast in Myths from Mythos, A Skål in Raki and Ouzo….thank you for reminding Me…

  144. DenG, then congratulations in advance! You’ve got an adventure ahead of you, but the odds of a successful outcome are high.

    Disc_writes, it’s not grotesque at all. In today’s America we have a huge surplus of people with useless PhDs and a shortage of competent tradespersons, and it’s good to see someone burdened with a PhD who’s nonetheless smart enough to recognize that.

    Amanda, oh, it exists in the minds of women, too…

    Patricia O, thanks for this!

    MawKernewek, that’s quite plausible. C. Northcote Parkinson would be intrigued. 😉

    David T, now there’s a book I haven’t read in a very long time. Still, Toffler was of course quite correct.

    Pyrrhus, I was in the same situation growing up in the 1960s and early 1970s, though some families were already moving to a second income by then.

    Ganv, good! Fortunately that slogan doesn’t need to win elections. It will happen anyway, no matter how much squawking goes into insisting that it can’t and won’t and mustn’t.

    Dusk Shine, interesting. Thanks for the data points.

    Yorkshire, I’ll have to read that sometime. Thank you!

    Neptunesdolphins, it’s interesting to watch the Karenocracy losing the support of the middle and upper middle classes. I doubt calling in the FBI will do much to change that.

    Baya, thanks for this. I think you’re very likely right that that’s the way back.

    RPC, interesting. Where are you located?

    HSWB, thank you!

    Evie2000, that’s very good news, that young people are coming back to the islands. That’s where the future will be born.

    T Bookchild, thanks for this.

    Clay, that sounds very sensible to me. Basically, take the new arrangement as a temporary source of extra money, profit from it, but don’t ever let yourself become dependent on it.

    Gaia, many thanks for this. We have the same common delusion over here, though it doesn’t focus on mountain villages quite so narrowly — the same notion that communities can be manufactured to spec, ignoring the reality that communities are organic growths, not artifacts. The same —

    Oh my. The penny finally dropped. Going out into the country and building a community is the precise equivalent of making a flying car. It’s one of the obsessive daydreams that’s stuck sideways in the Faustian imagination, because people can’t either succeed at it or let go of it. I’ll be brooding over this, and probably writing a post…

    Oilman2, many thanks for the heads up. That sounds as though the US banking sector is desperate for loans to package and sell — and that in turn suggests a financial crisis is on its way.

    Denis, I ain’t arguing. Fortunately writers don’t have to belong to a professional organization, and the one I might have joined — SFWA, the science fiction writers’ organization — (a) has politics I won’t support, and (b) won’t let you join unless you’ve published your science fiction or fantasy withing a carefully limited range of publishers. No wonder science fiction is in rigor mortis…

    Lazycat, true enough.

    Oilman2, another crucial data point. Thank you!

    Elizabeth, three good meals a day is a powerful incentive. Thanks for this.

    Justin, thanks for this also.

    Eric, I really pity the writers of satire. How can they top this sort of silliness?

    Renaissance, there were quite a few medical practitioners in early 20th century America who didn’t have college degrees at all, but practiced medicine as physicians. George Carey, the biochemic (homeopathic cell salt) practitioner whose work I’ve been studying closely of late, was one of them: the only “college” he ever attended was the one he and a group of friends in Yakima created in the hope that other people would come study the cell salts along with them. He practiced as a physician in Los Angeles until his death in 1924. It might be worth looking up just how that worked.

    Hereward, thanks for the data points.

    Teresa (if I may), I want to second your comment about small publishers. I work with several of them right now, and I always have my eye open for new publishers that might be suitable venues for my work. I think a lot of writers are doing the same thing.

  145. JMG, should I have contributed to inspiring a post of yours, it’d be quite an honor 🙂 I half-expected you to ask which Celtic rituals we practice, but you probably already know!

  146. giabaracetti,
    everyone is entitled to their opinion.

    Sadly, I don’t have the option of keeping farm animals. I keep what my landlady will allow, which does not include: chickens, rabbits, rodents, birds, snakes… I haven’t even asked about cats, tarantulas, and dogs. Donkeys and horses etc. are not an option on a suburban lot, even if I didn’t have to worry about her opinion. Basically, I can have lizards, dart frogs, or inoffensive bugs.

    The geckos, isopods, and mealworms eat very little, all of them together eat maybe the same amount of non-kitchen-waste food in a month as a cat eats in a day. The bugs use no electricity. I have two geckos, of species that don’t require UVB lighting or specially high temperatures. Their main impact is electricity use – partly mitigated by the fact that the heat and light they use filters out and gets used as room lighting and heating for me.

    As vices go, I figure a couple of geckos is fairly minor in the scheme of things, especially when you consider the things most people in my society do that I don’t, like driving a car, flying, or eating lots of meat myself.

    And you’ll notice I decided not to get more geckos right now.

  147. JMG and Commentariate,

    I have the good fortune to be connected to a relative with a small garlic growing operation. I have learned over several years the work and nuances of growing the root vegetable in the old suburbs where I live. I prefer the hardneck varieties and plant them in the fall and harvest them in mid summer. Garlic has a list of therapeutic properties; anti viral, anti bacterial, anti inflammatory..ect. It isn’t difficult to grow and the good stuff can go for $2 Canadian a bulb. Generally everybody wants good garlic due to the flavor it provides to countless meals. If you get into growing thousands of them of course It can bring in some income, though it is also very tradeable and is a good vegetable to share to make good friends with neighbours. I can grow over 100 bulbs on a 8 x 6 patch and expanding is easy as some garlic bulbs grow with 6+ cloves that can be replanted.
    It also has some occult uses as I understand. Anyway, growing garlic is a good and relatively easy place to start cutting out the middleman from your grocer bill if you have a small patch of land or even just some deep containers with soil!

  148. The problem with the economy, both globally, and here in America where I live, is central banking, fractional reserve banking (banks loaning money they do not have), and fiat currency.

    Until the current global banking and monetary systems are dismantled, the standard of living for 99% of humanity will continue to decline at an ever escalating rate.

  149. pygmycory,
    have you considered, instead of / besides keeping pets, attracting wild animals such as local birds, with feeders / nests, or wild bees or insects with flowering species? Feeding wildlife is tricky as you don’t want them to become dependent, but if what you’re after is having animals around without having to worry about the landlady and electricity, that might be a cheap and rewarding option. If you like small creatures, it’s amazing how many you can get to show up spontaneously in a small space. But then of course you wouldn’t get to breed them, which I understand is part of the fun.
    I don’t consider having pets a “vice”, that’s not what I meant, and of course very small animals don’t consume more resources than other things people normally do. I do wonder, and that of course includes myself as well, whether we know enough about animals to make them happy in the conditions we can offer. The more I let animals roam free, the more I realise how much space and variety they need.
    (And no, I wasn’t suggesting you keep horses instead of geckos 🙂 It was just about, should anyone care, how I try to reconcile my ideals with my desires)

  150. My maternal grandmother went to work as a schoolteacher in Philadelphia, after her marriage failed and she was left alone with my mother. This option was available to her because the present-day highly intermediated system requiring advanced degrees and government vetting and union membership for teachers didn’t exist. It was only necessary to know the material one was teaching, and be capable of doing the work. Like most everyone else I wish more opportunities like that were available today, within as well as outside the established social order.

    On the other hand, at the time, that work was not employment that could support a family of four in comfort. It supported my grandmother’s family of two in borderline poverty, in what would later be called the Inner City, able to afford the basic minimum for my mother like food and clothing (some homemade) but no luxuries, few toys, and no vacations. Also, the work rules were very restrictive. Woman schoolteachers who got married or (scandalously) got pregnant out of wedlock were fired. (When that rule was changed after WWII, the habit of calling all woman teachers “Miss ____” regardless of actual marital status persisted a few decades longer, just long enough for me to encounter it and be confused by it in elementary school.) Part of this was driven by pure sex discrimination, but male schoolteachers weren’t exactly raking it in either.

    This less-intermediated setting wasn’t the 1970s or 1950s, of course. It was the 1930s. Some factory workers and various unionized workers had recently made gains, or were on the verge of better days, but large portions of the working class in the U.S. were not living in comfort. The Great Depression didn’t help, but it didn’t cut short any previous working class golden age either, at least not in the cities.

    Evading intermediation or (eventually) the collapse of intermediation systems can help reduce the impact of collapse, but that’s not enough to offset collapse let alone turn it into better-off. In terms of material comfort, we’re heading for the 1930s or earlier, not the 1950s.

    This doesn’t contradict or correct anything you’ve said, but it’s worth keeping in mind. We wouldn’t miss officious electrical code inspectors if they all disappeared tomorrow (well, except for houses burning down here and there because some DIY electrical wiring is terrifyingly bad), but if the reason they go away is there’s no electricity it’s hardly a gain.

  151. OT, but here’s a curious historical note:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0XNqHp6piw

    “Why weathermen were illegal wizards for 75 years.”

    Robert FitzRoy was one of the first to use telegraphic data to make real-time weather maps, which made weather prediction possible. But the law had not caught up to the science, so by a still-standing anti-witchcraft law, FitzRoy was technically an illegal wizard.

    Robert FitzRoy also was the captain of the Beagle, which took Charles Darwin to the Galapagos, where Darwin deduced the theory of evolution by natural selection.

    So a weather wizard was involved in the discovery of evolution by natural selection. How curious!

    I’m sending this email also to David Brin.

  152. Based on the wannabe authors I meet at various events, small-scale publishing is a viable career path. There’s a big demand for it. However, there’s the fact that there are absolutely no guarantees about making money.

    If it’s done as a second, part-time job? It could work.

    For you wannabe authors out there, the publishers to beware are those who demand money from you in order to publish your book. Vanity presses do that. So do book packagers or doulas. Rather than spend thousands of dollars doing what you can do yourself, you’re better off making your manuscript the very best it can be and finding a micro-publisher who’s interested in your kind of book.

    There must be thousands of them out there. It’s work finding them but they won’t charge you thousands of dollars to get a finished book.

    I don’t know how long small-scale publishing will remain viable. Generations, I should think, because people always want stories and as long as you’ve got a printing press, you can print books. Maybe you’ll even be able to sell them.

  153. @JMG Oh for sure. Being part of a too big to fail corporation (Berkshire and Hathaway) and record sales getting rather regular even through covid , they’re getting really cocky.

  154. Ugh. I’ve spent the past three and a half years learning how to paint with watercolors. I pray that our lean future will still need paintings? I suppose I could illustrate books.

  155. @disc_writes #109

    Jobless and underemployed PhDs have been the dirty secret of the academy for over four decades, especially in the humanities, and I was until recently employed to handwave on their behalf in the name of “alt-ac,” aka PhDs working jobs. The professoriate ostensibly refuse to recognize the reality of supply and demand (because it’s “neoliberalism” to admit that markets function at all), all while using that steady stream of grad students to beef up their promotion and salary prospects, with Sallie Mae raking in profits as the public gets stuck backstopping and/or forgiving any loans needed to keep the machine running. What blows my mind is that number who stick with it, even after they’ve been told that, because the chances of getting a tenure-track gig with a PhD from Columbia are around that of a snowball surviving Gehenna, their chances, with a PhD from the U of Nowhere, are even more remote.

    JMG is spot-on when he says that the primary force driving cancel culture in the universities is the no-holds-barred competition for an ever-shrinking pool of middle class jobs. That, and the fact that cancel culture is the confession through projection of class hatred, as JMG has noted elsewhere.

  156. @ Elizabeth Skewis #141

    What struck me about your comment is that one of my best friends, who is working on his second or third attempt at a PhD, works at a Costco too.

    In Iceland.

  157. I just got a call from my son. He designs networks and troubleshoots for a company who supplies network and AV systems to government and industry. Today the company let employees know they are in the process of furloughing their installers because they can’t get any equipment to install. Manufacturers are telling the company (who has ready cash) “We will put you on the list for delivery in 28 months.” Not days…MONTHS… as in more than two years. My son’s job will be okay for another few months supporting existing installations, but clearly collapse is happening all around us.

    My son is good at many useful things and he always has a side hustle going, but times are looking tough.

  158. a small footnote: in the United States circa 1970 The National Home Builders Association advised their members that turning employees into subcontractors was in their best interests. A carpentry subcontractor was responsible for his own employment taxes and workmens compensation insurance. The result of course was the subcontractor received the same wage with the benefit of the transfer of costs. The payroll taxes and workers compensation insurance premiums became profits. As the new system became firmly established the cost of injured and uninsured workers was being transferred to the health care industry. The reduction in the collection of payroll taxes from one of the backbone industries became noticeable. Something needed to be done.

    Today the solution is to have the worker register with the state as an LLC or sub chapter corporation with the attendant registration fee and annual reporting fee. The purchase of liability insurance is mandated to keep the resistration. There are waivers of exemption from worker compensation insurance for a few managing members and corporated officers. These exemptions apply for primary contractor work. The moment the registrant becomes a subcontractor the primary contractor requires proof of worker compensation and liability insurance. As one might guess there is a solution. The managing member or corporate officer can purchase a worker compensation insurance exemption. The managing member has his liability insurer send along a proof of insurance notice and supplies his workers compensation insurance exemption and he is set. However the managing member does not have employees, he has subcontractors, a percentage of these are unregistered subcontractors. Everyone looks the other way until the state shows up to inpect for registration, liability insurance and worker compensation inusurance exemptions. The primary contractor is protected, the subcontractor with unregistered subcontractors takes a major blow and all of the third level subcontractors move on to the next gambler in line. Please note that the fraud and obvious collusion are never considered. The hidden costs are transferred to the public domain and away from the healthcare industry.

    We must thank our host for his willingness to step out into the open and state the reality. We ourselves must take the lens he has provided and look deeper. A system to capture the underground economy is in place, has been tested and will be deployed in each instance workers attempt to escape the gulag. A dangerous terrain is most safely traversed when one has some sense of the lay of the land.

    “To change that would require the people whose jobs depend on intermediation to accept a drastic and permanent loss of status, influence, and wealth, and the number of them who will accept that loss willingly can doubtless be counted on the fingers of one foot.”JMG

    My faith keeps company with Theodore Parker and Dr. King’s view that the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, my faith is sorely tested, it will hold
    love to all

  159. Re PhD’s and the excess thereof

    Mine, while not useless (industrial engineering, or more accurately, applied mathematics), is not strictly necessary for my utility job…though my mathematical background is helpful in developing forecasts and doing statistical analyses. Someone with a master’s (or a solid bachelor’s with some decent experience) could manage just as well. At present, I’m doing some periodic side-work in the water and wastewater fields, helping out a neighboring community with weekend rounds. I’ve found that I enjoy the hands-on work and have spoken with my supervisor about obtaining some of the basic licenses for water and/or wastewater operators.

    That said, I do enjoy the math I do as my primary job, but it never hurts to have more tools in your toolbox.

  160. @Patricia Ormsby: regarding dial telephones, they require matching electo-mechanical switching equipment, 1950s or thereabouts vintage, to function. After about 1970, converters were used to convert dial pulses to DTMF (standing for “dual tone multi-frequency” if I remember correctly) so that the modern stored-program control switching systems such as the #1ESS and its successors could understand the archaic dial pulses. I don’t expect dial telephone systems to return. The only places you’ll find the old electro-mechanical central office switches these days is in a museum. “Back in the day” we were trying to sell our outmoded electro-mechanical switches to China, but the Chinese got smart and only wanted to install up to date digital switches. The electro-mechanical stuff (which was built to last forever) got turned into scrap and recycled a long time ago.

    And then there’s the matter of the copper “outside plant,” aka the distribution network out to the customers. It’s fading fast. It was labor intensive, requiring techs who could actually climb up a telephone pole and splice cables! The telecoms don’t want to maintain the copper network or the workforce anymore. They want to go all wireless, ASAP.

  161. WRT unemployed PhD’s.

    A few years ago, we went to watch nephew Baxter graduate from the U of D with his PhD in a hard science/optics/super-specialized category. I’d never heard of it. He was one of 27 PhD’s in hard sciences and one of two (?) in this super-tough area.

    I was positive he’d have a job waiting for him with that kind of specialized training along with all the other newly-minted hard science PhD’s but no. About half of them admitted — as part of the ceremony! — that they were ‘exploring their options’. My sister told me that was code for ‘unemployed’. The rest all seemed to be heading towards unpaid internships.

    I couldn’t believe it.
    I still can’t believe it.

    It must be even worse now.

    If hard science PhD’s where you have to learn high-level math skills have a problem finding a job, then liberal arts PhD’s must be doomed to running a fast-food drive-through.

    They’d be better off writing and self-publishing “I was the alien’s love slave” genre fiction.

  162. Just to let everyone know, the Green Wizard site is back up. Tech support did their job quickly and I’m so happy! There for a few hours I thought we’d lost the last 5 years of forum posts and blog posts.

  163. Well, okay, JMG, but I feel compelled to warn you of the following. Being the “Assistant Undersecretary of the Deputy Minister of Minor Imports of the Principality of Kittenland “ will not get you into the best parties, the way being “King John Of Greeritania “ will. So consider carefully.

    —Lady Cutekitten

  164. Hi John Michael,

    I see a number of commenters have already picked up on the soaring gas prices. One of the dirty little secrets of the powering everything using electricity and renewable energy sources, is that they often rely upon large scale gas turbine generators to be fired up at a moments notice when the renewable sources aren’t producing, which candidly is a lot of the time (the sun does not shine at night despite serious peoples opinions to the contrary. And many nights the wind does not blow. It astounds me that people believe that it is otherwise). And the prices are soaring for gas up, up and away into the stratosphere.

    After a decade of adaptation to living with renewable energy systems, and constant improvement of those systems, the farm is about 99% covered. The last 1% is of course technically possible to overcome, but mostly its simply economically unrealistic to surmount, and I just now deal with that outcome. People don’t really have a good handle on what living with 99% up time means, but in its most basic terms it means 3 days per year when nature does not and cannot provide, and it is usually in a period of time when nature has only just barely provided – so it is a touch and go proposition anyway around those 3 days. And to achieve the 99% result, I pay about ten times per kWh than what is provided to people attached to the mains electricity grid.

    Mate, I became concerned about Peak Oil back in maybe about 2005, and have changed my life utterly since then. Of course, Peak Oil is one such issue, but we are hitting Peak everything right now, or maybe that point was reached a few years ago, which is more likely. However, if you’d told me that things could move this fast, I would have laughed at the preposterous claim, but then here we are today – and things are moving super fast.

    I realise you have no desire to talk about the mandatory issue thing, and I agree with your instructions, but this issue relates to that topic as well as to the core of the essay (and doesn’t get into the this is right or wrong argument) so I can only hope you indulge me. There was an issue relating to this matter which appears to be hypocrisy on an astounding scale: Barnaby Joyce says mandating vaccines for federal MPs ‘will lead to a fight’. These people are paid out of the public purse to have these discussions, and so they should. As was cheekily quipped and now amusingly corrupted in the Sound of Music: What is it that you can’t face? 😉

    Cheers

    Chris

  165. This was a most interesting article and also discussion in these comments.

    Though I live in Canada, I was discussing with DH the situation in many low income areas in the Dublin, Ireland suburbs. While many people live on the ‘dole’, to those who stick around long enough, one can see there is obviously an underground economy around drugs, trade in stolen goods, and cash-in-hand work.

    I used to wonder how it could work so well and there could be so much trade with relatively such low incomes. The answer is, of course, the lack of intermediation: a whole lot more of the cash stays within the community. I then tried to imagine how that could work around my area. Probably essentially the same way, if it becomes necessary.

    Haven’t quite collapsed yet, but I’m on my way.

  166. Zhao and DenG,
    I am thankful for you sharing your good and not so good experiences and attempts to change.

    DenG,
    I appreciate your and your wife’s courage. I am close to taking the same step and JMG and the his commentariat are incredibly helpful as moral support and examples to follow.

    Zhao,
    I think that even though you failed, the idealistic community builders have a very important role in history and maybe someone else will succeed where you failed.
    While I am still plugged in the matrix, I did keep my eyes opened to the changes toward decentralization and community in my small town in US. We are not there yet, but I think in a decade or so, most people will be opened to try to join the local economy – unfortunately it will be too late for most of the city people.

    Thanks!

  167. re: pets, I have fibromyalgia and eye problems and spend most of my time indoors, often with a cover over the window to block the sunlight from bothering my eyes.

    Even before that, I really liked bringing some of the outdoors in in the form of a vivarium with plants and an animal, or a planted aquarium, and I just don’t seem to be happy without a pet of some kind, even if it is an insect. This was true even when I was doing a biology degree and was doing things with or about animals every day. We weren’t allowed pets, and sticking to that was really hard for me. The only time it didn’t bug me was when I was doing biology fieldwork and was literally working with animals all day.

    I figure that for me, having pets is worth it. I just have to make sure that I do so in a way that is okay for the animal in question, and light on the planet.

    My crested gecko is nearly twice as old as crested geckos usually live in the wild, and still seems to be enjoying herself. She developed an eye issue that messed up her binocular vision at about the age they are considered elderly in the wild, and stopped jumping more than little hops. I figure she’d have gotten eaten by something or misjudged a jump and had a fatal fall a long time ago if she lived in the wild, so I figure living with me hasn’t been a bad deal for her. I take her outside occasionally in the summer and let her climb in the peach tree or on bamboo stakes or other plants so she gets the experience of being outside. She likes to climb up my arm when I hold her and sit on my shoulder, but tends to try and climb my head. Then she gets stuck in my hair and has to be detangled. She recognizes me from other people, too, which is neat. I love her dearly. Best gecko ever.

    And having pet reptiles means it isn’t hard to persuade myself not to harass the wild lizards by trying to touch them. Sounds silly I know, but I get this itch to touch reptiles and all it would do with the wild lizards is terrify or even injure them. So I watch the wild ones, and go home and pick up a pet geckos, who know I’m not to be a predator about to eat them. Everybody happy.

  168. I was first introduced to the concept of disintermediation in an article by Paul Hawken with that word in the title which appeared in The Whole Earth Review (unless that much-missed publication was calling itself Co-Evolution Quarterly at that point) in the late 1970s or early 1980s. He covered much of the same ground you have here, though with less emphasis on the crookedness and conniving factor. In addition, he made a point of saying that, if the middle class wants to hang onto some semblance of its lifestyle, it will have to start buying quality, defined as goods with a long useful life. In furniture, solid wood, not particle board. In pots and pans, stainless steel and cast iron, not coated aluminum. Genuine leather goods, not synthetics that wear out in a year. It costs far more, but it will still be meeting your needs when the money you would have saved by buying the cheap stuff has disappeared in the latest crash.

  169. @siliconguy #97

    It is the other way around, winter wheat is the high protein wheat for bread baking, and spring wheat for cakes and such.

  170. @Denis #145. @ JMG. animals slaughter/vets

    Absolutely agree, and, then shearing too. Even I will process and can an animal, but I cant killl it…

    ( Denis – I think you and I knew each other in Riot for Austerity ? I left it to not be on Facebook… )

    Anyways, my youngest is in the middle of her 3rd year of Vet school, and yes, there are not near enough of them. The population has grown, more pets, more backyard farm animals and regular production animals and the amount of Vet schools has increased, but not enough, not proportional to our needs.

    I, personally, can never find a Vet to come out and see to my goats when I need one, never.

    I encouraged her on this path once she said she wanted to, and to not have debt. She will graduate with no student loans at least, no small feat ! Last summer, when COVID shut down her externships, she and another college student worked for their coach in his day job as a tile setter. They got up before dawn, drove an hour and a half to work each way and were very successful. He tried to convince my daughter to go into the business, both college students earned their keep and learned new skills. I only half joked that the next summer, this one of 2021, she should find work with another trade to get another house fixing skill, but she was stole away by a vet office. At least the other trades people were able to see that at least some college students knew how to work. Even last summer the tile setter was having trouble hiring help when he hired them on for that job, and that is still the case. We realy need the young people to see that working like this is rewarding, and you get in shape. Some money and respect. All of that. She would make more money at this moment in time as a tile setter in the Bay area than a large animal vet somewhere. But, the reality is that either job will be needed in whatever future we have in store. At least the so far lack of debt means when the world does go south, she can afford to take barter or such.

    One of the vets she helped out for free when she was younger, a local small animal vet whose office was behind their house, so no overhead, in a very small town, would sometimes take payment plans or barter if someone realy needed it. My daughter saw someone bring in Salmon he caught to the vet as part of a continuing payment for the vets services. Not having debt or much overhead means you can be versital like this and was a good example for my daughter to see.

    My SIL is a park manager and is hands on in waste water management, fresh water systems, repairs and many other skills that are transferable if he ever has to.

    My third offspring has just joined the PMC area and is relaxed for the moment for the first time actually making enough money to pay bills ! This younger generation in this expensive area has it very rough. I know this wont last forever, but it is good to be able to get on your feet as long as the couple dont get drug into an unsustainable lifestyle. And, here I am seeing the absolute “title Inflation” of the PMC as both of them have the title of “director” . But, given the earlier career disruption experiences, I do think they can both roll with things and move to something else in the future.

  171. Intermediation — public school teachers and teachers unions

    I should have mentioned, I did homeschool my youngest ( the vet student) K-12th. I do recommend it.

    BUt, I also can see the teacher unions getting threatened by this. They are already shutting down or severly controlling the charter schools here in California, there will soon be very few if any. ANd, many homeschoolers out here do it via a charter school. That will not be enough. They WILL go after the independent homeschoolers. The public schoold teachers union here see the students, and hte money they bring in as “theirs”. The charter schools and homeschoolers are “taking” the money that should be going to the public schools is their viewpoint.

  172. Greerさん、こんにちは。

    Great piece of writing. Please keep up the good work.

    All the best from Japan,

    Mark.

  173. Besides reducing the head count, Stalin also kept the bureaucracy in line. Would be nice to find a less sanguinary way to do that though.
    I have to think that if even in the US, some people are thinking “Stalin would have done something about this”, even if in jest, the thought must be even more common in Russia.

    Darkest Yorkshire “(with the previous generation of Old Bolsheviks laying a lot of the groundwork for him – contrary to certain schools of thought they were far from blameless).”
    One of the reasons that the Old Bolsheviks went down without a fight is that they had a lot of blood on their hands and knew it. Moral trauma. In Yuri Slezkine’s excellent “The House of Government”, it is fascinating how many of the Old Bolsheviks were mental wrecks long before the purges.

    Ganv “Anyone who thinks about our economy with a systems mindset wonders how it can be that a single family farmer or a pre-school teacher are paid such a tiny fraction of what an investment banker or lawyer is paid given their relative contributions to human well being.”
    One of the reasons for this is that the high-paid jobs are highly unnatural and provide little innate satisfaction. If you think about it, people do agriculture (gardening) and nomadic hunter-gathering (camping) for the sheer fun of it, but no one would do banking or lawyering unless they were paid. And the folks in those mostly hate them and spend their time trying to figure out how to retire in their 30s to Fiji or some such.

    Evie2000,
    It sounds like you are running into many bureaucratic obstacles, but the locals not so much. Perhaps that differential treatment is deliberate?
    Though perhaps I misunderstood and you are a returning local too.

  174. “Oh my. The penny finally dropped. Going out into the country and building a community is the precise equivalent of making a flying car. It’s one of the obsessive daydreams that’s stuck sideways in the Faustian imagination, because people can’t either succeed at it or let go of it. I’ll be brooding over this, and probably writing a post…”

    It is not so much a “going out into the country and [building] a community” daydream as “going out into the country and [discovering a ready made, tightly knit community built by other people, which nevertheless will seamlessly and effortlessly take you in]” daydream.

    I had this very discussion with someone in my sitting room just yesterday who was bemoaning the current situation, opining that “that wicked cabal” has us by the short and curlies, and concluded with, “if people would just *do* sustainable community gardens, we could get somewhere…” which led to me dampening the conversation slightly by asking – “what have you yourself done this week at tending either a garden or a community.” 😉

    Still, I realised that what *I* object to about this (and also a range of other similar fantasies) is the extent to which the sub-text is: “I will give myself permission to do what needs to be done, once everyone else has decided to do what I think needs to be done [and until they do, I can do nothing].” Which (to my way of thinking) is a very authoritarian-flavoured sub-text.

  175. Hello all! Lovely to be here as always.
    I wanted to share my 2 cents to John B in the early part of the comments.

    Please consider dropping that extra job and investing time wise in your family. It is maybe 10-12 years before your kids want a lot less of you, and that independence is an example of your early work with them. Having time as a traditional style family yields a lot. Your wife may be glad as well. Year on year of being alone with your kids is maddening. And whatever kind of man you are will heavily influence what kind of person your kids will be attracted to.

    Also, consider that working more may be costing your family benefits which may be more valuable than the income. I don’t love being a certified poor person but there are some perks that allow me to do the things I want with my kids. Free museums passes, affordable 4k, discount parks and recs programs, discount food at farmers markets(yes, really!), and more depending on where you live.

    My state gives Medicaid to all children in families making less than 85k which has been very helpful even tho we also keep private insurance.

    If your student loans are a burden reducing income can help that too. I am also in debt with a house and student loans, so I understand the desire to pay it all off, but at the end of the day giving my kids a good life is what it’s about to me and being together is a big part of that in my opinion.

    Anyway, good luck to you and I hope you find a way that works for you.

  176. “would require the people whose jobs depend on intermediation to accept a drastic and permanent loss of status”

    @JMG do you think rent seeking behavior is just tragedy of the commons driven mostly by opportunity?

    From my perspective rent seeking jobs are somewhat of a revolving door “the people” are exiting every day and are promptly replaced with somebody too hungry to see the big picture. “the people” are just butts in seats for a giant game of musical chairs. You enter the game because like everyone else you don’t have many options, you tolerate your own set of terrible working conditions (60+ hour work weeks of utterly meaningless “productivity” working below a manager convinced of their own self worth with wool over their eyes ect ect). Once you have enough to secure basic life essentials you realize there is no true happiness from being a consumer drone, then you start to dream of self actualization which necessitates an exit plan from the rat race.

    The exit plan rarely involves virtue signaling; you quietly cut spending, horde f*ck you resources by converting the blood money into some honest assets that will sustain you. Then when the mosquito has had her fill, she flies away to lay her eggs in a nearby water source. Mosquito’s who make noise tend to get crushed by an irritated hand, and once the proboscis is inserted: evolutionary sunk costs tend to prevent switching survival strategies.

    At its core I think a lot of things will resolve themselves (perhaps in an ugly way) when humans can no longer rely on external energy sources to sustain their caloric intake. Our modern understanding of simple machines and mechanical leverage would enable humans to honestly burn calories to sustain their needs with a smallish surplus to give back to their tribe: once again imbuing the value to all worker drones. Perhaps its wishful thinking when I’m not pushing around useless bits and bytes I find a ton of satisfaction toiling in fertile soil or creating useful things from the carcasses of the plant kingdom’s fallen.

    In keeping with the mosquito comparison:
    “Once temperatures start staying consistently below 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit), mosquitoes start to go dormant in preparation for winter. They will often find holes to hide away in until warmer weather returns. Mosquitoes can also lay eggs in frozen water. That way, the eggs are perfectly preserved and can hatch when the water thaws and warms to the right temperature. New mosquitoes will be growing and getting ready to feed as soon as winter ends.” – https://www.mosquitoauthority.ca/blog/2018/08/02/how-do-mosquitoes-survive-the-winter/

  177. “running off to found a community is not a workable option for most people because it almost always fails.”

    I thought about this in the context that most small businesses also fail within two years of starting up, and probably for the same reason: the people who start them are most often motivated by fantasy. It’s an aspirational dream and therefore they think they don’t have to do the hard work of getting it right. The articles archive at ic.org (the website of the Foundation for Intentional Community) contains quite a few real life cautionary tales.

  178. I just came across a new intermediation scheme that shows things must really be getting desperate. I was dropping off some machined brass parts to local artisan lighting maker. He told me about a chandelier he had shipped to a customer in Texas that had been returned unopened. Turns out the customer lived in an apartment( condo?) building that had turned package delivery over to a middleman company called “Fetch”. Other than us mail, all packages bound for any tenant in the complex has to be shipped to the “Fetch Warehouse” to be redelivered by Fetch, for an additional fee. Plus this service makes your deliveries a day later than normal. And if you send a package straight to the customers address it gets turned away. Boy the old time mafia had nothing on these guys.

  179. The medical profession has become a class of lesser elites. To protect the profession, many training spots have been purposely kept rare. This has caused the explosion of “midlevels” like nurse practitioners and physician assistants are taking over many of the roles previously provided by physicians and undercutting their business. I see this trend continuing in the near term future as money starts to dry up from the economy, many doctors entering the profession now will not make anything close to what their parents had made.

  180. Yes the long descent has become apparent the last months. Stay strong people and focus on keeping it local, close to nature and building community and resiliency.

    One of my small achievements lately has been realising how going barefoot has the benefit of not having to buy or mend socks. Having stopped buying socks, it made me realise that it takes a lot of time to mend socks. Most of the year here in Norway it is warm enough to go without socks, and you can just go barefoot in your shoes/boots if they are comfortable.

    Seriously, constantly buying new socks, clothes etc. is one of the many small ways that we stay trapped in industrial civ. It all ads up. Go barefoot and save a bit of money having to buy socks. Better yet make your own socks or pay someone local to make them. Having to pay money for socks is mostly a construct from the insidious clothes industry.

    Going barefoot has also many health benefits.

    There was a discussion on men and empowerment a way back. I wanna add that i butchered a ram lamb some days ago. We eat nose to tail and enjoy some parts raw for the health benefits. I had some blood from the lamb and I could literally feel the hairs growing on my back. Later I had one of the testicles raw. I can really feel the testosterone and power boost it gave me on top of many other minerals.

    I think a pice of the puzzle of men struggling is that the diet of todays men is not conducive to confidence and power. It’s hard to stay strong on a diet that doesn’t give you the nutrition as a foundation. Funny that people are encouraged to go plant based these days, witch is the opposite of what you should do. I have stayed with pastoral nomads in kenya, and the young men there were of another world. One of the reasons I think is their focus on animal foods. The romans noted that the people that were hard to conquer were those that ate a lot of milk and meat.

  181. I think you touched on an important issue with intermediaries. I def. feel that running a small farm. I feel reassured knowing that the ridiculosity is gonna have a harder and harder time as the long descent progresses. People can find something more wholesome to do than to be an intermediaries basically making life for people lower down harder. Trust and local cooperation will replace the need for burocracy .

  182. Jon Goddard, the world will always need beauty. Think of all the art through the ages created by people in their daily lives. In the Middle Ages, embroiderers were considered skilled crafts people, and not allowed to sew at night by candle light. It was to keep their eyes from going bad.

  183. Problems with potatoes.

    PASCO – A report published by the Northwest News Network indicated that the exceptional summer heat and dry conditions changed the growing dynamic for potatoes this year. The media outlet spoke to Alford Farms in north Franklin County about the record-breaking drought in 2021 and its impact on this year’s potato crop.

    Tyrel Gillies of Alford Farms says the extreme heat reduced potato density and affected shapes; many of the potatoes were referred to as “weirdly-shaped.”

    In addition, Gillies says his yields were down significantly. The Northwest News Network referred to industry experts estimating that potato crop output is down 10 percent. The news outlet reports that potatoes are usually down or up only about 1 percent.

    It’s also assumed that potatoes will not store as well this year with many of them having internal issues.

  184. John–

    More signs of the times:

    https://news.yahoo.com/opinion-surprising-share-americans-want-182145761.html

    To some extent, of course, people talking are just people talking. Everyone complains when the other side’s in power and yakking about secession is easy. However, I am beginning to wonder if there hasn’t been a shift in tone in these last years. Moreover, the fact that more prominent pieces are being written *against* the notion of a “national divorce” (as this author puts it) suggests to me that the concept has more traction than the ruling classes care for it to have and that they fear it gaining momentum even as they ridicule it.

    This is how empires come apart. I expect that Britain’s path (a now-independent Ireland, a quasi-independent-now-and-possibly-independent-in-the-future Scotland, and what about Wales and Cornwall?) is something of a precursor of what we can expect as the economic and political interests of our various regions continue to diverge sharply. My hope continues to be that when the time comes (whether we’re talking actual dissolution, creating a legal pathway for secession, or simply curtailing the power of the federal government and revising the union as a looser confederation of states–all of which would be viable options), we’ll sort things out more peaceably than not.

    I still argue that a constitutional convention remains our best vehicle to achieve this, but I don’t know how likely it is at this point.

  185. @Zhao, Another point to JMG’s solution to survival in the coming times (if I remember correctly) is to move to a city of 150k to 250k population, preferably with access to a port/waterway of some kind. If you “collapse now and avoid the rush” as JMG recommends above, I do agree that a smallish city will allow for the most resilience. Developing a skill that others need/want going forward is a key component to collapsing now.

    Given this, JMG, would you be willing to share a list of cities that you have researched that fit your requirements for a survivable (or however you want to phrase it) city? I know your list probably won’t help Zhao in Italy, but it would help us Americans, most likely. Also, as I understand it, you tried one city and have relatively recently moved to a new one. How do you like your current location? Is it meeting your needs more than the previous?

  186. @teresa from hershey #58 In my mind, stay at home moms that do it well with all their heart are worth more than a million dollars per year. There is almost never anyone that will love and care for your family more than you will, even if we could afford to pay them $1M/yr.

  187. To Jim (#48) I am 55 presently and have assumed since I was in my 20s that I would never see a dime from Social Security, so yes, I agree with your perception – I just think its demise will be sooner than later.

  188. Speaking of flying cars, someone sent me a link to this website a couple of days ago, which is a bookstore. It has the caption ‘ideas for progress’, so it’s a religious bookstore.

    The first book is a forthcoming book entitled ‘Where is my flying car?’

    The blurb:

    ‘In Where Is My Flying Car?, engineer and futurist J. Storrs Hall sets out to answer the deceptively simple question posed in the book’s title. What starts as an exploration of the technical limitations of building flying cars evolves into an examination of the global economic stagnation that started in the 1970s. From the failure to adopt nuclear energy and the suppression of cold fusion and nanotechnology to the rise of a counterculture hostile to progress, Hall recounts how our collective ambitions for the future were derailed, with devastating consequences for global wealth creation and distribution. Hall then outlines a framework for a future powered by exponential progress—one in which we build as much in the world of atoms as we do in the world of bits, one rich in abundance and wonder.’

    Link: https://press.stripe.com/where-is-my-flying-car

  189. @Green Rage Monster (#168):

    It’s not exactly that the professorate is unaware of supply-and-demand problems with the products their departments turn out, but that their universities strongly incentivize them to ignore those problems. A department can be shut down, and all its professors (tenured or not) fired at any time, if it isn’t fiscally competitive with other departments. And at times even individual tenured professors will be fired for what are essentially fiscal reasons.

    To survive at all, a department has to offer courses that attract higher enrollments than courses in other departments with which it competes, whether or not said courses have any academic merit at all. Also, your work as a professor is valued mostly in terms of the outside money it brings into the university. In some university departments you are even competing with other professors in your own department: you get useful office space and laboratory space in proportion not to your actual academic needs, but to the revenue you bring in from outside grants. But teaching is labor-intensive, and doesn’t usually attract much outside money. So you also need a steady supply of underpaid graduate students to do most of the actual work of teaching for you. If there are no jobs for them afterwards, well, “not my problem” is a common academic mantra. (Of course, it will all come crashing down someday, and I suspect fairly soon.)

    Universities are very very good with the PR about now noble they are and how essential they are to society. Inside the system, it’s a really grubby, rotten business.

  190. A correction or addition to #173 where I said, ” The only places you’ll find the old electro-mechanical central office switches these days is in a museum.” I think you might also find them in hardened military sites, but I doubt that that will do much good for us in the civilian sector.

  191. @ JMG – If I’m reading this correctly, do you consider economic intermediation to be MORE responsible for the impoverishment of working class Americans than the demise of labor unions, normal trade relations with China, and the use of the tax code to funnel wealth up the economic ladder?

  192. “RPC, interesting. Where are you located?” I live in the town that was George Washington’s headquarters when he made his raid on Trenton. When I moved here in the early 90s it was still a farm town – we even had an Agway. All the fields are now McMansions or horse farms and the high school student parking lot is loaded with BMWs and Porsches.

  193. Back around Christmas 2019, I made some comment to a peak oil aware family member that it was really hard to keep trying to collapse now when everyone around me wasn’t taking any of that seriously and the world looked like it wasn’t going to collapse at all for quite a while.

    Be careful what you wish for. I was not expecting a global pandemic with associated economic mayhem by March!

    And now things are moving faster on the collapse front than I’ve become accustomed to expect, in ways and permutations I didn’t anticipate the details of, and didn’t expect to happen for a while. Adapting to things being right here, right now in real life feels really weird, even when I knew intellectually that they were going to happen at some point.

  194. I could list many articles about gas and oil prices, but instead refer people to oilprice.com and they can read whatever fancies their tickle.

    The things unspoken in the current narrative:

    1) investment in exploration and drilling has never been lower in history (global, not just USA)
    2) JIT inventory mgmt does not work when economies are shut down, even temporarily
    3) the supporting industries are harder hit than the oil companies due to their lack of market when the oil companies cease or severely curtail drilling – so they must shed employees, who move on to other ways to make a living
    4) globalism in the oil patch has made it extremely vulnerable to supply issues

    The above issues are sufficient for my purposes.

    1) without discovering new supplies of oil, an oil company must still sell it’s product, oil. When nothing new is brought into the company, the result is depletion of current supply. We have been in a highly depletive scenario for nearly 4 years, with most (not many, but most) exploration projects mothballed, pushed back or even eliminated.
    2) JIT inventory depends on TWO things – recurring, normal base demand and recurring base supply. When either end of this pushme-pullya hits a problem, it falls apart. It doesn’t matter which, because the leanness of both the consumer and the supplier sides are wafer thin and use minimal employees. Hiring more people to up production is as problematic as ceasing to order materials or parts. Carrying inventory is anathema to JIT businesses, and frankly they don’t have the warehouse space to store inventory because modern global business practice just assumes demand rising will spur supply.
    3) When the service companies are creamed with excess inventory due to their market being halved or worse, they cease manufacturing or else curtail it severely. Then they lay their technical staff off, reduce sales staff, IT and HR and finally they reduce the manufacturing head count. All of these people go find other work, and are less likely to return each time this occurs. When the excess inventory is worked off, the plant is now at 1/3 capacity or less. The ‘hangers on’ that do not actually do much have been cut out. This is where we are wrt oilfield service companies.
    4) Globalism put the manufacture of what we call “dumb iron” (uncomplicated things like pipe and forgings) squarely into the lap of India and China. While unglamorous, oil and gas wells require thousands of miles of pipe every year. ANY attempted response to better oil prices is controlled by the availability of pipe. At this point, money is available to drill, service companies could begin rehiring and we could be drilling more – except there is almost no pipe available due to the energy shutdowns in China and due to India using their pipe domestically.

    Lots of things to read about on oilprice.com, but the pipe issue is currently holding up 3 separate projects for me in 3 separate places on the globe. Having spoken to other engineers, this is something that will take a year or more to work around. Bids are being quoted with 2023 delivery times…

    If you currently do not own a high MPG vehicle, it might behoove you to get yourself a “beater”, as gas is looking like it will be heading to the moon next year without fail…

  195. Gaia, glad to hear it. I’m quite interested in the Celtic rituals, as it happens — I know there was quite a bit of cultural survival from what used to be Cisalpine Gaul back in the day, though I don’t happen to know the fine details. Anything you’d like to pass on would be welcome.

    Thomas, talk about desperation moves!

    Ian, an excellent point. Yes, garlic has significant occult virtues — it corresponds to Mars among the planets, Aries among the signs, and Fire among the elements, and it is traditionally much used for protection against malign spirits.

    Light, that’s an interesting hypothesis. Have you looked at the economic history of the developed world in the 19th century, when the gold standard was firmly in place and fractional reserve banking didn’t exist yet? During those years many working people in industrial countries lived on the edge of starvation, and economic crises, crashes, and depressions happened every decade or so…

    Walt, I ain’t arguing. My point is that intermediation at this point has become an insupportable burden on most working people and, as the basis for wealth production contracts, the sooner people walk away from it, the better. That won’t make the Long Descent go away, of course.

    Scotlyn, exactly. Nicely summarized!

    Paradoctor, hmm! Fascinating.

    Jon, of course the future will need paintings. As mass-produced visual media becomes less available, you may find yourself teaching others in turn.

    Jean, thanks for the data point!

    Wm, a good example. I don’t believe that we live in a moral universe or that the arc of history bends any direction at all, other than around in circles, but elite incompetence is a useful counterweight to elite pretensions…

    David T, glad to hear it.

    Your Kittenship, I find “archdruid” does the job quite nicely. 😉

    Chris, I wish all the people who wax enthusiastic about how we can keep our current lifestyles on renewable energy would actually listen to people like you who’ve actually tried it. Renewable electricity by definition means either much more intermittent energy, or much more expensive energy, or some combination of the two. But you can’t tell them that, because they don’t want to listen.

    Poseidon, exactly. Moving quietly in the direction of collapse is a very good start.

    Joan, I remember that article! I think that appeared while it was still CoEvolution Quarterly — it was when it got renamed The Whole Earth Review that it cashed in its ideals and turned into yet another rah-rah outlet for the mythology of perpetual progress.

    Pygmycory, it was indeed bound to happen. I hope you’re prepared for it.

    Mountainmoma, many thanks for the data points!

    Mark, many thanks!

    Patricia M, thanks for both of these.

    Scotlyn, those are two slightly different fantasies — though you’re right that both are important, and both should have a place in an upcoming post.

    Void, interesting. That’s certainly one way to look at it — though most of the people I know who make their livings from intermediation love to talk about getting out of the rat race, but back frantically away from actually making that change.

    Joan, thanks for this. Yes, that’s doubtless part of it.

    Clay, that’s classic.

    Trustycanteen, true enough. The rate at which people are abandoning the mainstream medical system due to soaring costs and the very high rate of iatrogenic illness, and opting for alternative health care instead, is also helping to drive that — and it’s another example of disintermediation at work.

    Tidlösa, yep. Entertaining, in a certain bleak way.

    Seideman, thanks for this! Johnny Appleseed would have approved — I don’t think he wore shoes at any point in his adult life.

    Siliconguy, thanks for the heads up.

    David BTL, there has indeed been a shift in tone. This could get very complex in a hurry…

    Clark, nope. I encourage everyone to make their own assessments and decisions in such matters.

    Jbucks, a classic example of religious literature. Thanks for this.

    Ben, you’re confusing means with ends. The things you’ve cited are ways in which intermediation has been pursued.

    RPC, thanks for this. Now I can place that in my growing series of data points.

    Pygmycory, I know the feeling. I didn’t expect things to unfold in exactly this way, either, though I knew something of the sort was on its way.

    Oilman2, a useful summary. I’ve rarely been happier that my lifestyle doesn’t require a car!

  196. An example of intermediation, somewhat more forceful than usual: I recently read an article about a company called EnQ who swamps the IRS with phone calls and then sells the ones with “mature wait times” – calls that are about to be answered – to tax firms and accountants that pay enough. It strikes me as a precise equivalent to bandits who block the road and make you pay to pass their checkpoint.

  197. Teresa from Hershey (#60) you have just listed off my reading list in my 20s!! Nowadays I find I am frustrated because it’s so hard to find more ideas on how to cut back spending. I suppose if there’s no fat left, by definition there’s no fat to be trimmed. Still, I’m always hopeful. At the moment, however, I’m focusing on making jelly to sell – folks around here are willing to pay 5 bucks for an 8 ounce jar, and I have made a point to grow less-common fruit like currants, and to make less-common recipes (peach-maple-vanilla, and caramel apple, this week).

  198. Neptunesdolphins

    Thank you for the encouragement. Perhaps I don’t take the necessity of Beauty as importantly as I should, and that is wrong. I’ve always loved the idea of God being Truth, Beauty and Goodness.

    And, you’re right, art has always been needed.

    Thanks.

  199. @JMG (cf. Light)

    It seems to me you’re not really being fair to Light here. He didn’t say anything about the gold standard being ideal – you read that into his comment – rather, he seems to think (if I’m understanding right) that fiat money and central banking are enriching the plutocrat class at the expense of the majority of the global population.

    Which is something you can make a good case for, both on experiential and theoretical grounds. First, the experiential case: the United States has been on a fully fiat-money based system since 1971, which is about the same time that the standard of living for America’s working class peaked and began to decline.

    Then the theoretical case: In a commodity-money system, running a trade deficit isn’t really possible, since exports have to match imports or else a country runs out of money. But with fiat money, it’s easy for the country that controls the global currency to run a trade deficit, by printing money and sending it abroad. The country can then import more real goods than it exports, which enriches the wealthiest classes of society – i.e. the financier class and the PMC – while immiserating the working poor (because the labor market is flooded with cheap foreign goods). There is good reason to believe that this is what’s going on in America today.

    Now, you can argue that the gold standard also had its problems, back in the day – i.e. the 19th century had a lot of deflationary crashes. But at the same time, just saying: “The gold standard is bad because look at the 19th century” isn’t good logic. To begin with, per capita energy use back then was way lower, so one would expect a lower standard of living no matter what the monetary system looked like. Second, while the gold standard was shown to be ill-suited for a rapidly growing economy, that doesn’t prove that it’s bad for a steady-state or contracting economy, i.e. the kind we are going to get in the deindustrial future. And also, the post-1971 evidence indicates that the fiat system has produced continual decline for the working classes, whereas at least in the 19th century the crashes and depressions were interspersed with periods of dramatic growth, and the net effect of both, taken together, was a great deal of material improvement.

  200. Question for you JMG:

    I recall a column of your’s from near the end of The Archdruid Report days, where you had a posting titled ‘Bracing for Impact’ (or some such), but later it seemed you backed away from that stance, instead anticipating an unevenly bumpy ride on the downslope of collapse.

    Have I recalled correctly?

    Current events (economic, social, political) feel to me like being a passenger in a car just before a head-on collision; bracing for impact indeed. What’s your take now?

    –Lunar Apprentice

  201. JMG,

    Thanks for the encouragement regarding painting. I foolishly think sometimes that the only work that will be valued is farming or some kind of craft, but I should know from history that there have always been artists.

    Regarding faith in progress:

    An acquaintance who has a PhD in Chemistry recently told me that he was certain that hydrogen would be the next source of energy. I mentioned that we keep getting promises about these energy sources and are always disappointed. I told him the old line about fusion being just ten years away… since the 1950s.

    I asked him if he was certain about hydrogen and he just said, “Yep. It’s just gotta happen.”

    A complete act of faith.

  202. JMG, I heard Obama was forced to hold HIS party at Martha’s Vineyard (nobody goes there anymore!) after he couldn’t wangle an invitation to the prestigious Archdruid’s Quiet Chit-Chat—which, as everyone knows, is several steps up the scale from the Archdruid’s Ball.

    —Lady Cutekitten

  203. Breanna, that’s a classic example. Thank you!

    Athelstan, my point is simply that conditions for working people were by and large just as bad when the gold standard was in place as they have become under fiat money. Ironically, working people did best between 1933 and 1972, when the US had an odd hybrid currency that wasn’t quite on the gold standard but not quite off it either! I tend to think that the nature of the money supply hasn’t actually mattered that much, but I could see a case being made, on exactly the grounds you’re citing, that the hybrid was better than either a fully exchangeable gold currency or a fiat currency…

    Apprentice, I just spent fifteen minutes trying to find such a post, without luck. My prediction all along has been a long bumpy ride down — that’s why my first book on this subject was titled The Long Descent, after all. I’ve occasionally warned of the likelihood of sudden shocks as part of that long ragged decline, and I think there’s a very good chance that we’re about to get one of those — or more precisely, we’re in the middle of one.

    Jon, you’re welcome. The arts, especially those arts that can be done inexpensively without complex facilities, are perennial. As for your chemist friend, when he says “it’s gotta happen” remember that he’s leaving out the rest of the sentence: “…or everything I believe about the world is gonna come crashing down in ruins.”

    Your Kittenship, well, I certainly wouldn’t invite him to a party. Vapid celebrities never interested me much!

  204. Hi John Michael,

    Exactly, more expensive, intermittent and/or a mix of the two. But more importantly, it is not lost on me that these systems do not produce enough surplus energy even to replicate themselves. The technology can only ever be a transitional technology (or longer term sustainable at very low output levels), whereas people believe that they are a replacement technology. And I guess that is why few people seek my experience with using this stuff. I have noted a distinct propensity for proponents to take a deep dive into unicorn land of make believe (a delightful place to be sure). Maybe deep down they know?

    Cheers

    Chris

  205. I have been visiting granddaughters this last week. Two are in Jr. High. No textbooks. Both insist that they can only consult whatever resources teacher wants to provide. Only some Spanish verbs. One math teacher, who seems to be universally hated by past and present students, will only permit consulting of her homemade videos, explaining today’s lesson. This when I was trying to point out that you can look up math online, not for the answers, but for how to do certain kinds of problems. I was appalled. There followed from Grandma a discussion of how anyone has a human right to learn whatever they need wherever they can. I finally got the oldest to look up how to multiply exponents online. The explanation was clear and she understood immediately. Is not the ability to research an essential intellectual skill?

  206. Your Kittenship & JMG: Obama would be welcome at the next Midsummer Ecosophia Potluck, provided he brings something to share, and leaves the Secret Service behind.

  207. @Michelle

    Those sound delicious! Some years back, we had access to a prolific goumi berry bush: we picked it clean and made about a dozen pint jars of jelly from it. They tasted great and nobody’d ever heard of goumi. Not enough to go into business, but they made great hostess presents that year. May your jam hustle prosper!

    @Pygmycory

    If you’re terribly attached to the idea of geckos, you could always move south! Here on the Gulf Coast, Mediterranean geckos came over on ships decades ago, and have made themselves very much at home. There were five on my window last night! If there’s a light on in the house, it attracts moths and the geckos go a-feasting. They also like running about in the laundry room. We regard them as free entertainment, and never have to feed or heat them at all 🙂

  208. Data point: The Great resignation, from the Associated Press via the Gainesville Sun: Food production workers going on strike. Unionized or not, and widespread. Two reasons given. (1) – working 12 hour days 7 days a week during the pandemic, mandatory, and sometimes on only a few minutes notice. (2) “decades of watching companies chip away at pay and benefits.”

    What I see happening is a worldwide labor revolt, not with blood in the streets, but with a simple “I quit. Or else.” Of course, then the bosses will turn to robots.

  209. @JMG said, “Ironically, working people did best between 1933 and 1972, when the US had an odd hybrid currency that wasn’t quite on the gold standard but not quite off it either!”

    That sounds like something I can agree with. I’m not a goldbug myself – though I was in my younger years – because I’ve since became aware of the vulnerability of a gold standard to severe bouts of deflation. Yet at the same time, I still believe that a pure fiat system has proven to be even worse. And I have a lot of admiration for some of America’s past statesmen who tried to deal with the deflation problem through means other than fiat currency, like Alexander Hamilton with his First National Bank, or William Jennings Bryan with his unsuccessful campaign for free silver.

  210. I’m not a celebrity and try not to be vapid. Let me know if I ever make it to the A-list. 😄

  211. Chris, it fascinates me that so many of the people who love to talk about renewable energy go out of their way not to learn about how it works in practice. That speaks to a profound level of cognitive dissonance — have they simply given up on the future, and wave around green-energy rhetoric to keep from having to acknowledge that they’re basically marking time before their world dies around them?

    Mary, it’s essential to the mentality of modern “education” that kids have to be prevented from thinking or learning for themselves. That’s why it’s all teach-to-the-test these days — the only thing that’s valued is that they parrot the right answers. Anything else might enable them to figure out that they’re being lied to…

    Peter, oog. Well, it’s your party, but he strikes me as a glad-handing jerk.

    Patricia M, or they’ll try to turn to robots, and then discover the downsides…

    Athelstan, oh, I’m no fan of fiat currencies. I simply recognize that the opposite of one bad idea is usually another bad idea!

    Your Kittenship, well, you’re certainly welcome to come to next summer’s potluck!

  212. JMG,
    I’m not perfectly prepared for collapse, but I was in 2020 and am now, in a vastly better place than I was when 2008 hit, both intrinsically and as compared to the population in general. My biggest problems with the whole covid mess have been keeping my mental health decent despite the isolation. I’m very pleased with how I’ve been able to cope, apart from a couple of temporary hiccups in the anxiety and depression department.

    And I certainly don’t have nearly the problem with feeling ‘why do I even bother with this’ anymore! I’m really glad I’ve done as much as I have, and I have been doing a bit more over the past couple of years. I now barely use the bus – admittedly I haven’t been going out much, but my kickscooter has become really useful as well as surprisingly fun. And there’s now a peach tree in the backyard. And I can cook more dishes. And I restarted my jewelry making business and both the past months had positive net income. Granted the tomatoes this year were not up to last, but I think I’ve got fall snap peas figured out.

  213. methylethyl,
    for a variety of reasons moving south isn’t practical for me. I am fascinated by all animals, however, not just geckos. Geckos are what work for me and that my landlady is willing to tolerate. Both my geckos are late middle age to old for their species. I doubt I’ll still have both of them a couple of years from now.

    I’m sure I will figure something out for a reasonable pet in whatever situation I am in by that time. If things get really tough, I might be able to convince my landlady that she should let me get chickens in exchange for free eggs. And then just keep local invertebrates and a few houseplants indoors.

    And I can survive without pets if I need to. I just hate it, and won’t do it if I have a better option. Even if that option is a big jar with some woodlice.

  214. With respect to Zhao, who is walking his talk, there was a very thorough analysis of the intentional community situation published in 1991: Gilman, R., & Gilman, D. (1991). Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities. A Report for Gaia Trust by Context Institute.

    The report analyses the values held by traditional villages that had lasted hundreds of years: hierarchy, gender-based roles, emphasis on childbearing and raising, superstition, suspicion of outsiders, value of manual labour, and so on. It then analysed a range of efforts by people to create intentional communities with values that were more suitable to the modern mind.

    The standout successes were Findhorn, Scotland and Crystal Waters, Queensland. Crystal Waters has about 200 people and has lasted 30 years so far. Almost all the others were less than 10 years old and less than 50 people. It seems like the values of the modern mind are not particularly helpful for building long-lasting villages.

  215. Hall then outlines a framework for a future powered by exponential progress—one in which we build as much in the world of atoms as we do in the world of bits, one rich in abundance and wonder.

    You know, I’ve been seeing this basic pattern lately, in different venues. Tyler Cowen has an article on Bloomberg in which he says the USA ought to export Wokeism to other countries, to spread liberalism and capitalism across the planet:

    https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2021-09-19/woke-movement-is-global-and-america-should-be-mostly-proud?sref=khYIH7zn

    And meanwhile, the Silicon Valley Dorklords are reportedly musing very loudly about the Metaverse, a sort of immersive virtual reality that we will all be forced into somehow:

    https://theconvivialsociety.substack.com/p/notes-from-the-metaverse

    In the more cheery promotional narratives, the metaverse will unite various disparate elements of our digital lives into a seamless shared reality accessed through VR goggles or AR apps. According to NVIDIA’s vice president of simulation technology Rev Lebaredian, “Ultimately we’re talking about creating another reality, another world, that’s as rich as the real world.”

    The connecting thread is this: Here are people serenely declaring that they will go ahead and remake the world howsoever they please, and there is no conceivable opposition to their plans. This, in the aftermath of our humiliation in Afghanistan. I would be shocked to learn that any of these people even remember that we just suffered a major defeat.

    I don’t know what the Obamas and the Clintons of the world are thinking, but our professional intelligentsia sincerely do not seem to see the baseball bat headed straight for their teeth.

  216. I could just cry thinking about a world in which I could have become a physician by apprenticeship.

    (Pardon the rant, but I think it really illustrates what JMG is describing.)

    The problems with modern medical education were apparent from the start. There is a cardiologist in my extended family, who was far enough into professional practice when the MCAT was being developed that he was asked for input. Upon seeing the proposed test, his assessment was, “how should I know? I’m a doctor, not a chemist.” (Paging Dr. McCoy!)

    This was one of several factors which severely restricted the supply of new doctors, especially those in primary care. Thus was created the physician assistant: an initial class of senior Navy corpsmen (who had a wealth of practical knowledge but little to no university education) were taught an updated version of the fast-track MD program from WWII. By all accounts, this worked very well.

    Fast forward 40 years to me, a paramedic with a decade of experience on the road and in an extended-care setting. I knocked out my outstanding prerequisite courses, getting adequate grades in chemistry and straight A’s in everything else. I was told repeatedly that my applications would be evaluated holistically, and that because clinical experience was required to apply and counted for a great deal, I was a strong candidate for PA.

    My seventeen rejection letters told a different story. The typical PA program has over 1000 applicants, with one popular program getting over 3000. No committee can evaluate 1000+ applications holistically. My merely adequate chemistry grades were sufficient to weed me out from those with flawless grades and only the tiniest fig leaf of clinical experience.

    The number of applicants to each program are driven through the roof because most PA programs use a centralized online application portal. It’s promoted as a convenience for the student: just send your transcripts to one place! It also makes it trivial to apply to many different programs across the county. It deemphasizes human factors over raw numbers, discourages the making of local practitioners to serve the populations they already know, and it must be a great racket for the people running the portal.

    It was all so very frustrating, that I left my career as a medic entirely. By a combination of hard work, pride swallowing, and more than a little privilege, my wife and I paid off our student debts and bought a house. My current job pushing papers around an office pays better (and just enough to be worth my time), and the greatly reduced stress level lets me focus on immediately useful things, like gardening.

  217. Walt F–it wasn’t just city workers who were poor pre-Great Depression. My maternal grandmother was born and raised in Arkansas. She told me that her family was so poor they didn’t know there was a Depression. She never said so directly, but I surmise from some clues that they may have spent some time as sharecroppers or tenant farmers. Later, when they had moved to Colorado, her father worked for an oil refinery. After his death they picked crops up and down the West Coast. Then they settled in Arizona and the two older brother got good jobs; the youngest two kids were able to attend and graduate high school.

    Green Rage–yeah, the universities are a complete rip off. No current professor can honestly say they are unaware of the poor market for their graduates. Yet they continue to accept graduate students, employ them at a pittance to teach the lower division classes and throw them into the job market. Activities that once were only for employed professors, such as attending and presenting at conferences and publishing in academic journals are now needed for one’s CV (academic for resume). Conferences are ridiculously expensive, held in expensive cities at peak times such as Christmas and Easter (because that is when academics have holidays) and most colleges have cut back subsidies even for faculty. OTH, if I could just get the “little black suit” concession for the Modern Language Association conference I would have it made. I haven’t been for years, but it was the ‘hiring fair’ for English and foreign language departments.

    Rita

  218. Appreciate the timely reminder of Johnny Appleseed, and that good ol’ American pioneer spirit. That sort of risk taking is going to be needed to find a different sort of livelihood than we have going on, and to have the wherewithal to keep it up. The opportunity for single incomes to provide for family were a great privilege in the American, one which was undoubtedly hard fought for with having to tamp down attempts at intermediation whether by government, unions, or corporations.

    There’ll be lots of opportunities, in places often least expected. A friend who stopped by recently told me that black powder is no longer made in the USA. While the closure conjures a lot of conspiracies to my mind, the fact that there is a hole in locally made black powder is also obvious.

    The break down of supply chains, the slowdown of deliveries is already causing some concern in the Christmas goods department. I received an e-mail today alerting me that I needed to get my gifts now. Perhaps Christmas in the coming years will have a lot more handmade, heartfelt items.

  219. Lady Cutekitten

    “Yes, I read The Mouse That Roared. It was made into a movie too, although I can’t remember who’s in it.”

    Peter Sellers. He played multiple parts, as he was known for doing.

  220. @Hereward, re: #149

    Here in the US the shortage of trcuk drivers predates the pandemic by several years. The pandemic made things worse. Salary class people read the want ads and wonder why there’s a shortage. I simply tell them it doesn’t pan out the way it reads in the ad. Self driving trucks are being expiremented with, and allowing more Mexican drivers on the road. It remains to be seen if hiring cheaper labor from poorer countries will solve the problem – I have my doubts.

  221. Hello JMG,

    Regarding my question from @219, first, I apologize for not giving the date and title of the posting I was referring to. I took it for granted you’d recall it. But you spent 15 minutes searching???!!!. I’m mortified! I’m so sorry.

    The ADR post I was referring to was titled ‘The Era of Impact’, from Wed, May 20, 2015. I reread it, and my recollection was off the mark it turns out, but it certainly reads prescient.

    Again, many apologies.

    —Lunar Apprentice

  222. Jessica #189, especially tragic was what happened to Bolsheviks who were actually competent. The first Bolshevik minister of justice said something along the lines of “It’s better to defeat our enemies on the battlefield than in the torture chamber. We’ll take higher casualties that way, but we’ll get to keep our souls.” There was also a minister of fuel supply who was good enough to just about keep industry going and prevent Petrograd from freezing. Predictably neither of them lasted very long.

    Seiderman #197, during World War Two when Britain’s food supply was becoming tenuous, one solution considered was switching to a plant-based diet. That was rejected and it was decided the way to beat fascism was to fortify and beef up the population with meat, milk, and beer – regardless of how much shipping capacity and other resources it required. Clearly it worked. 🙂

  223. @ JMG & Chris at Fernglade RE: solar

    One other issue is moving climate…

    We put in solar almost a decade ago. We assumed 10 year battery life with desulfonating , and it was actually 6-8 years. We replaced them as they failed due to expense. We have now replaced 20% of the original panels due to voltage fall off. So simply from a reliability standpoint, the batteries and panels have failed the ‘best estimates’ rendering economic assumptions invalid.

    The other issue has been a drop in sunny days over the last 5 years. We based panel count and sizing on “X” days of full sun. However, rainfall has almost doubled these last 5 years, making those calculations also bad. We had to choose to add more panels and storage, or else change utilization.

    We let the system alone, and threw the switch back to the local electric coop. We currently use the system for the barn lights, moving water/O2 for fish tanks and for transferring water from tanks and our creek. Since we did this last year, more panel volts have disappeared…

    I wasted almost $30k trying to make this work. I could have dammed my creek and gotten better return on that money. At least now we have 24/7 aircon with line power, and can run the table saw and washing machine at the same time.

    When the grid goes ‘skippy’, we will have a small diesel engine (just got one from a wrecked VW TDI for $400) driving a generator. With that, we can do the biodiesel thing and have power at least when it is needed. We are also reworking some things to run on 12VDC direct from panels/batteries – more efficient than converting to AC.

    Definitely nothing turned out as we imagined or were assured of by the guys selling the gear. But the change in sunny days was the final straw – out of our control completely. So my opinion is to use it for lighting and light duty work – take strain off the batteries for longer life (as they are not cheap any longer) and drop the kwh from the coop.

    I agree that solar/wind can help, but nothing matches the grid in economic sense. And if the “climate change” brigade is trying to steer people towards where I have retreated, then the most likely result will be abysmal failure – possibly due to local climate changing as I have had to deal with in Texas.

  224. This may or may not be at all relevant, but this am’s meditation on Saturn directed my attention to the very Saturnian Henry VII of England and his reign, expending backwards to Henry VI and forward to Elizabeth I, in which there were two periods of mass impoverishment of the English working classes – and seeming recoveries.

    The wars in France – miscalled the Hundred Years War – brought tons of loot from France pouring into England, and a lot of people benefited from that. But a lot of it went to line the pockets of the very corrupt elite around Henry VI’s court, most of whom seemed to be as incompetent as they were corrupt – Cardinal Beaufort being the one exception to the incompetence. The English masses were desperate enough that rebellions were breaking out all over England, including Jack Cade’s short-lived occupation of London.

    Result – civil war and a seeming recovery under the House of York. During which, the lot of the masses seemed to have improved enough that a writer in during the reign of Richard III noted with envy the prosperity of the English workingman vs the desperate lot of those in France. But then, Richard III’s reign pretty well showed that the medieval Plantagenet regime was on its last legs – everything went wrong from Day One.

    Henry VII’s was basically a regime of austerity, from all I could make out, with a miser’s tax policy and a gangster’s approach to any hint of opposition. (“No person, no problem.”)

    Enter the glorious reign of Henry VIII, which left the masses so impoverished there were draconian laws targeting the homeless and dispossessed. Rinse and repeat – the long Recovery under Elizabeth I brought peace and stability and the wealth of the New World.

    The point being that this was the Decline & Fall of the Medieval Civilization in England, a long, long process in which nobody could say “That was the Middle Ages, this is the Renaissance,” until Henry VIII’s day. And why this was brought to my attention now has to be pretty obvious parallel of the decline & fall of – they call it Western Civilization, which sounds like a dire calamity, but I’ll say, “The Modern Era and it’s precursor,” to put it in perspective.

    Comments welcome.

  225. Also, from Jean Lamb, https://wolfstreet.com/2021/10/06/ugly-math-around-the-corner-as-gm-ford-other-legacy-automakers-throw-hundreds-of-billions-at-evs-only-auto-segment-thats-growing-tesla-made-them-do-it/

    And her comment “The article points out high prices for electric vehicles, but fails to address the savings since engines for EVs are waaay simpler and have less to break down, and then there’s the fuel cost of owning a car over about ten years. Over a ten year period, less money spent on repairs and fuel make the EVs look rather competitive, but no, that part is apparently not important to them. The article also fails to point out that prices for gas vehicles, both new and used, are sky high at this moment as well. “

  226. jimofolym, thanks.

    JMG, I could send you an email with details about the rituals, but I cannot find an address. Or, if you want to research them yourself, I’m talking about the fire rituals on the 5th or 6th of January, and they are called, depending on the area and the details, Pignarûl, Panevin, or Femenate (the last one is practiced here where I live, a truly striking sight). They are practiced, as far as I know, in North-Eastern Italy, both in the mountains and in the plains (where they are near rivers, the fire is lit on the water).
    There’s a very strong female fertility theme in all of them, besides the fire-purification theme. Analysing the symbolism and the words, to me they look like burn-the-old-woman-away-to-make-room-for-the-new things.
    There’s also some Christianity stuff added later.
    Another Celtic ritual that is still practiced and was quite common until recently is the Tîr des cidulis (or las cidulas, etc). Also strong fire and female themes.
    There’s also a legend, here in this valley where I live, about a Bec d’aur, a golden buck supposedly worshipped by pre-Christian peoples. That has been lost, but the iconography, together with the diamond (as in rhombus) shape, has inspired some more pop tributes, like Carnival masks. The rhombus is the shape of the burning Femenate, probably a female fertility symbol.
    Unfortunately, these traditions are now being marketed as tourist attractions, but I can guarantee you they are very heartfelt and done by the whole community.
    The main local newspaper in Friuli Venezia Giulia actually has an article every year after the Pignarûl stating how the year’s gonna go, based on which way the smoke from the fire went.
    Like I wrote in an older post of yours, in the area around Tarvisio (so a few kilometres away from those other things I mentioned, in places influenced by German traditions) we have big Krampus spectacles, during which you actually get wipped hard, but I don’t think those are Celtic.

  227. “…the primary force driving cancel culture in the universities is the no-holds-barred competition for an ever-shrinking pool of middle class jobs. That, and the fact that cancel culture is the confession through projection of class hatred…”

    Wow, I can’t believe it took this long for it to click.

    The covid hysteria and the vaccine mandates so popular among the PMC have the benefit of driving people out of middle-class jobs. Some older workers retired (probably mostly out of fear of covid), some people didn’t come back from their enforced vacations (for any number of reasons), and a few have/will quit over medical mandates. Maybe not a ton of people, but every little bit or reduced competition for middle-class jobs helps! (The impact on the service economy and working class jobs, and the consequences thereof, are not something the PMC think about, so it’s irrelevant to the narrative).) And the fact that covid skepticism and experimental gene-therapy rejection is more heavily concentrated among the lower classes means that there’s a new, politically correct justification for class hatred (and racial exclusion).

    No wonder the PMC love the official covid/vax narrative so much. I had spotted the class hatred thing much earlier, but the reduced job competition bit just clicked when I read GRM’s comment.

  228. Here goes another one – Entirety Of Lebanon Goes Dark, Mass Power Outage To Last Several Days

    On Saturday the entirety of Lebanon was plunged into darkness, with the electricity grid shut down completely after the small Mediterranean country’s two main power stations reportedly ran out of fuel. “The al Zahrani and the Deir Ammar power stations stopped working after supplies of diesel were apparently exhausted, and energy production dropped to below 200 megawatts,” Sky News reports.

    https://www.zerohedge.com/energy/entirety-lebanon-goes-dark-mass-power-outage-last-several-days

    Seems like its happening everywhere around the globe.

  229. More on the revolt against the “Karens” and schools. The Virginia’s governor’s race is heating up since McAuliffe stated that he did not want parents in schools nor does he want them to participate in their children’s schooling. Gee, up until now, I thought that teachers and principals cried for more parental involvement. What happened?

    Intermediaries who decided that only professionals knew best for children? Well, in Fairfax County which is full of professional managers and very rich people are going full bore to remove various members of the school board. Why? They do not want critical race theory taught in their schools. Nor do they want gender identify studies which go beyond sex education in their schools. And they want to be heard, not shunted aside.

    So even the professional classes are revolting against the professional Karens.

    Pop corn anyone?

  230. Jon and his watercolors brought up something important. In this brave new world of decline, what about beauty? Surely, there is joy to be found. Perhaps the problem is that the professional people forgot what joy and beauty was.

  231. @ Michelle #216 You’re correct!

    The thriftier you are, the harder it becomes to find new waste to cut. The easy fat is gone, you reach the muscle and after that, it’s bone. What muscle and bone do you want to lose?

    The first 10% is the easiest by far.

    What I’ve seen is that thrift books run in cycles. They become fashionable at publishers (thrift starts selling during economic downturns). When the economy recovers, many thrifty people go back to their old spendthrift ways, but not all of them. Thus, when the next economic downturn arrives, a new market arrives with it for thrift.

    Where thrift books change is with changing culture. Older thrift books — published before the 1980’s — all have sections devoted to maintaining a cheap home bar! Similarly, older cookbooks like Joy of Cooking have home bar sections! Today, a thrift book would discuss how to maintain a technological suite on the cheap, including cellphones and online streaming services.

    Similarly I’d guess that modern thrift books spend a lot more time discussing taking full advantage of yard sales and Goodwill for clothing and household linens rather than discussing mending, darning, patching, and turning sheets. Why spend the time turning a sheet when the Goodwill bargain bin is loaded with them?

    I still read thrift books but now it’s to keep me focused and inspired. I like books better than online thrift sources which is where everyone seems to have migrated to.

  232. JMG & Scotlyn Re “Oh my. The penny finally dropped. Going out into the country and building a community is the precise equivalent of making a flying car.”

    The problem with “going out into the country and building a community” is that most people not raised in the country do not have the skills needed to make a living there. What can you do that your neighbors are willing and able to pay for? Are you qualified to teach school or practice medicine (and are willing to “get the jab”)? Can you repair machinery? Do you know how to care for cows, milk them, make cheese, and market the produce? Can you run a sawmill? Will you have customers who will buy lumber from you rather than Home Depot? Can you run a B&B? Is this you want to do?

    Forget about making a living out of your garden or by keeping chickens unless you’re near a metropolitan area. Everyone out here has a garden and half of them have chickens. And if you do decide to go this route, do you have ample funds to buy suitable property and support yourself while you put up greenhouses, traverse the very considerable learning curve, and build up your client base? Depending on your situation, these things may take years.

    Most people also don’t realize that making a living in a rural area usually means a lower standard of living than can be had by gainful employment in an urban area, at least when getting started. And most also don’t realize that making a living in a rural area can mean a *lot* of hard work — a lot harder than sitting behind a computer screen in an office. People accustomed to being able to easily pay a phone bill, a cable bill, an electric bill, a grocery bill, etc. and have money left over for shiny new cars, nice clothes, nights on the town, and investing in an IRA or a 401K may find the belt-tightening a lot tougher than the idyllic image might suggest.

    Yes, I know you might be thinking of working “remotely”, but this is really just staying plugged in to the urban economy while living in the country. By all means, do so if you can (and while you can). It’s a great option! You can have the benefits of a rural lifestyle while bringing in a decent urban-level income. But I don’t think this is what is meant by “Going out into the country and building a community”.

    And while we’re on the subject of working remotely, you might find that most of your neighbors do not have college educations and, in the US at least, they all have guns and most voted for The Donald. Will you fit in to such a community?

    Rural living requires a different mind-set. It has its rewards and it can be done, but it is very easy to underestimate the challenges while making the transition.

  233. Pygmycory, thanks for this! It’s always encouraging for me to hear that someone’s paid attention and made preparations for the long road down.

    Kfish, thanks for this. A nice clear summary, and useful as a counterweight to the serene conviction on the part of dissident members of the privileged classes that communities can be manufactured to spec.

    Cliff, no surprises there. The religion of progress cannot survive a loss of faith in the supposed omnipotence of its surrogate god, so as the failure of progress becomes harder to ignore, ever more extreme claims of the onward-and-upward variety are the order of the day.

    Anthony, many thanks for this. That’s why I put apprenticeship programs for physicians into my novel Retrotopia; unless your sole goal is to jack up the price of medical care to enrich the few at the expense of the many, apprenticeship is a better system across the board.

    Prizm, I wonder if anyone in the corner offices has realized yet that the collapse of global supply chains is opening up a galaxy of new job possibilities for enterprising individuals who can provide goods and services to their neighbors…

    Apprentice, no need to apologize. It was a useful trip down memory lane, and that series of five posts in particular deserves a second look at this point — not least because we’re on the line right now between the era of pretense and the approaching era of impact.

    Oilman2, an excellent point. It’s become increasingly clear to me that the fixation on electricity may be one of the chief vulnerabilities of the whole green-tech movement, and that growing crops — and maybe some low-grade solar thermal applications, such as heating water — will turn out to be the most sustainable approach after all.

    Patricia M, thanks for both of these — highly relevant.

    Gaia, and thanks for this also! I keep my email address relatively hard to find, since the alternative is fielding a lot of truly crazed messages. Knowing the names is ample, and I’ll look forward to chasing down the details.

    El, exactly! It’s all about the increasingly desperate struggle of the privileged classes to cling to their privilege in an age of accelerating decline.

    Ecosophian, it is indeed. Do you recall when I said “collapse now and avoid the rush”? It’s too late for that now; the rush is upon us.

  234. Thanks for the post John

    I couldn’t imagine the kind of nested crisis we are going to see soon, suddenly all at the same time.

    The Covid issue is one, and not small, aggravating factor, with the elites stepping the gas directly in front of the wall with the vax mandates, children vaccination, booster doses, early treatment ridiculolously deplorable suppression, etc…

    Take for example the new wave of scary tactics, in some cases promoted by the physicians (not only from politicians), as the idea of taking out of the transplant list the unvaccinated (as in an hospital in Colorado), or the floating idea of change the triage rules for ANY aggravating disease considering the unvaccination status as a big detrimental factor for the patient, or some physicians asking to be “exempt” to treat unvaccinated people for ethical reasons, etc…

    For example: physicians NEVER have denied medical treatment to rapist or murderers, or serial rapist & murderers, they apply to them the same treatment than to other patients, because “their hypocratic oath compels them”, they say….But now, for any reason, it is not the case, it seems that to be unvaccinated is the worst of all possible crimes one person could commit in his life in the eyes of many doctors.

    For example as far as I know nobody, any doctors, never, have threatened any heavy smoker to not treat him if he developes a lung cancer, or shame him to “repent” for not “following science” and stop smoking when asked by the physicians; the same with the alcoholics with the liver destroyed, the obese with serious cardiovascular problems, or drug addicts, or many other self-inflicting damages, but now, it seems they consider this is not applicable to the damned unvaccinated, regardless if they have passed the infection or not.

    My father said to me many times: “The Doubt is the Mother of Fanaticism”, and I think the unvaccinated make then doubt; for them it is an affront, it is a huge personal affront, it make them having the tremendous doubt that may be what they have done and are promoting is fully wrong.
    They NEED to get rid of the Control Group (the unvaccinated) as soon as possible with all the possible means, with as many threats and coertions as required.

    Be ready for a rough ride the next months and years

    Cheers
    David

  235. Oilman2
    #244
    Thanks, have all that stuff, have yet to install it, went to FeNi batteries, still in crates with various electrolytes I hope.
    Even doing the work one’s self, it always seemed to me a losing bet. I do have a 1200 gal tank in the basement, not yet used, plumbed to outside, considering solar collectors with fluid pumped to tank; looks like a better idea.
    The countryside around here is starting to sprout more and more solar farms, get offers to rent land by various firms at fairly high rents, declined, always concerned what happens if they go broke and leave all the junk on my land.
    No easy solutions it seems.

    Dennis L.

  236. pygmycory,
    there are some chicken breeds that are extremely small, and will still lay a decent number of eggs. I find that smaller breeds often have more personality (by human standards), and I don’t keep them only cause they’re easy prey for wildlife. You can probably even keep them in the house, provided they have time outside everyday for dust baths, scratching, etc (you might have to make sure they don’t get too cold in the winter though, but from what I’ve seen even small birds are quite hardy). Sorry if you knew this already.

    Kfish, that sounds like the village where I live! I’d add to the list the fact that you are constantly being watched and have to answer questions about where you’re going and why and with whom that would be considered rude in a city.
    Even though I was born and grew up just 70 km from the village where I’m living now, it was the biggest culture shock I’ve ever had, bigger than moving to Asia from Italy! Still, even though I do not like certain habits and rules, I can see why they work for them in a context such as this. And if you respect the rules, everyone’s gonna take care of you.

  237. Ha! How do you like THAT, Obama, you parvenu? 😄

    —Lady Cutekitten

  238. @ JMG RE: green tech fixation

    Heating water is a no-brainer, but stretching that out a bit – a large amount of hot water can be used during winter to mediate greenhouse temps very effectively.

    Using ground heat, with or without a heat pump – also works very well year round. Earth berms around the outside of buildings work amazingly well to moderate internal temps, and evaporative cooling is also really low tech and inexpensive.

    What has to happen is people planning for fewest electric pumps – because water flows downhill. We use ONE 12VDC pump for moving water uphill for the fish tanks, and another 12VDC for aeration. Combined, these use less current than our previous 110VAC pumps. Using AC is not always the best way to accomplish work – but it is the best way to move electrons long distance.

    I remember painting a plantation home in Louisiana back in college for cash. The house was surrounded by 500′ spread of big oaks and magnolias. The celings were 12′ high with transoms over every door and tall windows that could be opened top or bottom. The entire idea was drawing cool air into the house from below the trees and letting hot air out as rapidly as possible. Guess what – it worked, because I painted the whole thing in midsummer without any AC – just one small fan and the windows opened. The house had a catchment system with roofline rainwater cistern too – still working after 150 years so water pressure was gravity…

    We will be fine in future, once the suburbs get opened up and the houses reworked to maximize passive effects.

  239. John–

    In the vein of things coming undone

    So I had just completed doing a tarot reading for myself on my present (spiritual) path and decided to do a quick one-card draw for the nation (US). As I was shuffling, a single card fell out, face up.

    10 of swords, upright.

    ’nuff said, I suppose.

  240. @ Christophe Hope (#241) and Hereward (#149):

    Part of why they have a shortage of truckers is because they go out of their way to hire as few truckers as they can. I remember five-ten years ago being sent to pick up quite a few prospective truck drivers who were flushed out of the training systems of local truck terminals (Went to seven different terminals repeatedly over the years, these folks either had passed trucking school training or were hiring on from other trucking jobs). I heard quite a few stories about some creative ways that were used to flunk out drivers – from calls timed so that the driver would miss them to drivers being fired DESPITE the trainer seeing the driver picking up on the shifting patterns of the tractor to class sizes dropping from 45 to 18 over the course of a day and a half. When you go out of your way to make it impossible to find a job at your company while bringing in thousands with the promise of jobs, don’t be surprised to find that the company’s always “running short” of workers.

  241. >But more importantly, it is not lost on me that these systems do not produce enough surplus energy even to replicate themselves.

    And solar panels are also a fragile tech. You can’t conceivably fabricate a PV silicon in your backyard, or if someone has done it, I’d love to see the video or the article where they demonstrated it. So if the factories go away or shut down, well, what PV panels you got, is all you get.

    Yeah, I think biodiesel or alcohol powered combustion engine+generator is probably what will make it to 2070. The PV panels will go away and won’t be replaced.

  242. Mary and JMG,
    thanks for the short discussion on “modern” education.

    I grew up with an old style education system in a communist country.
    One of the things that I hope people here will try to remember is that even the worst political systems can get some things right and it’s worth trying to preserve them.

    Having free education for all children (including university) is one of those ideas. Because schooling was free but the state resources limited, there was a very strong meritocratic push (marred by some corruption). There were plenty of magnet schools where the best of the best could go and study with great teachers (well paid and respected). Even for regular people like me, it was possible to go to the best university in the country only by passing the entrance exam (no ridiculous extracurriculars like in US).

    I remember philosophical discussion I had in high school and college – some of them with people that were failing school. Taking the money out of the equation makes some people at least focus on more spiritual subjects.

    Anyway, the end result is that we are homeschooling our kids. We found a homeschooling co-op and we keep looking for socializing and learning opportunities but I am confident that I can teach my kids (and anybody else) better than the CNN propaganda they were getting in school (that was every Friday, hard to believe but true).

    Thank you

  243. Oilman2, about the decrease in the number of sunny days –

    If you read about the global dimming (start with wikipedia, there are also some documentaries and plenty of scientific articles), the effect is actually quite large. Using the evaporation test, many sites in Russia and Australia have found a decrease in solar radiation as high as 10-20%.

    There are two possibilities – global dimming keep increasing (by geoengineering or simply human pollution) and then PV gets worse OR
    – Global dimming starts decreasing as the consumption or fossil fuels decrease and then global warming will hit us with a vengeance (estimates are as high as 3C in a decade).

    Just something to keep in mind for people that are planning a PV system…

  244. DFC, I ain’t arguing. The virus panic reaching critical mass, fossil fuel shortages starting to bite hard, and the biggest Ponzi scheme in the history of our species — yes, that’s spelled “China’s real estate market” in plain English — coming unglued as we watch. Hang on tight, here we go…

    Oilman2, I well recall passive solar heating systems using black-painted oil drums full of water, and earth-sheltered housing as well. Even this late in the game, it might be worth reviving all those good ideas of the old appropriate tech movement.

    David BTL, ouch. Yeah, that sounds about right:

  245. Hi Oilman2,

    I once worked in a building so old the windows could be opened. We were on the third floor and comfortable with window fans running on the shady side.

    Contrariwise, I worked in a building where the windows had been glued shut when a/c was installed. The a/c broke. It was WW II vintage and only one company in Japan still manufactured the repair parts. They must have been located in Hiroshima or Nagasaki and still rebuilding the factory, as it took 3 years and an intervention by our union to get the a/c repaired. It routinely hit 115 degrees in there in the summer. We begged them to open the windows and install portable a/c or at least screens. “We can’t open the windows, it’ll get hot.” They finally fixed it after a pregnant woman was carried out in convulsions and our local president started making talk-to-the-press noises.

    I am baffled as to why so many Americans see no point in organizing.

  246. I suppose it’s never enough to ruin people’s lives by sending their jobs overseas. It also seems to be necessary to insult them, you know, calling them ‘deplorable’, or as others would have it, ‘expendable’. Or maybe not outright insults but referring to them in a patronizing manner, calling them ‘older’, ‘fearful’, ‘uneducated’, and ‘clinging’ to guns and religion.

    But also, because this inferior and spoiled and selfish class of people aren’t willing to work for peanuts and resent being called names, and really hate the condescension, they also ought to be replaced by immigrants who ARE willing to work for a pittance, in lousy conditions, and who presumably don’t mind verbal abuse. I think this loose talk about replacement of millions of people borders on stuff last seen in the 1940s, inflicted by a truly detestable regime. And yet such commentary seems to pass without any objection from the so-called ‘educated’ classes. And if talking replacement doesn’t amount to fightin’ words then I don’t know English. No matter.

    I think there were a plethora of calamitous policies besides all these covid shutdowns, off-shoring being one, thinking that the US has the means and knowledge to remake age-old civilizations another, to mention just a couple. There were a string of disasters inflicted by our betters which makes me wonder who ought to be replaced, the working class or the catastrophic ruling class and their enabling clerisy ie those involved in the extractive intermediation?

    I was witness to something which 40 years ago wouldn’t have been thought possible, the offshoring of highly paid professional class occupations to places like India where people proved to be more than capable of performing the work, but do it for a small fraction of what it costs on this side of the world.

    So if you think that the Sarbanes-Oxley compliance function is a highly skilled and therefore highly paid by necessity and therefore immoveable US head office function you’d be wrong. It was moved to a team located in India. Same with new business analysis which was the preserve of North American educated MBA types. To India went the soon-to-be-replaced team leader, sent to get his replacement and the Indian squad up and running. Twenty years ago they said that Indian accountants would be doing partner-level tax work within ten years. Presumably they’re now doing it. Not to mention accounts payable which was also sent to India. If you think that’s an inconsequential activity, where I worked they dealt with ten thousand invoices a month, and that was just the Canadian subsidiary.

    The CEO of the company came to visit us from the US about fifteen years ago. Over lunch he explained that he’d just been to Chungking in China, a place with thirty million people and seventy universities which graduated 40,000 engineers a year. That, he said, is the magnitude of the competition.

    Hair raising no? Not for me so much, but if I was one of those still working in a professional function, and I still had most of my life ahead of me, especially one of those intermediation types, I’d be looking over my shoulder. If work can be done from home, it can be done from overseas. And I wonder if the highly paid comfortable classes might soon be hearing about it. Because one of the first lessons in business that I myself learned is that if you earn a lot of money, especially if you have some grey hairs, you might as well be walking around the office with your shorts hanging out.

  247. “That challenge first began to bite in the 1980s, and it was met by driving the working classes into poverty and misery. It bears repeating and remembering that half a century ago in the United States, one adult with a high school education and a working class job could support a family of four in relative comfort. The changes in economic policy and corporate behavior that swept that away, replacing it with the current dismal landscape of despair and impoverishment for working people, were the steps by which the system of intermediation was preserved—for a while.”

    Hence the Great Reset by the Technocrats. Including the Astroturf campaigns against meat. And the pushing of the eating of bugs by the lower classes.

    The Agenda 21 also features the planned movement of peoples into densely populated cities like we are insects.

    Blackrock is also buying up all the property to facilitate that plan:
    https://thefederalist.com/2021/06/11/what-happens-when-hedge-funds-buy-up-neighborhoods/

    Whilst they themselves remain on top enjoying their fine steak and animal products themselves. Planning to live in luxury and pushing the costs onto the rest of us as much as they can.

  248. Dear JMG, I was just reviewing an 1801 Cambridge Mathematics exam, and I started to wonder….. (Yes that is the kind of thing I do on Saturday nights before looking at the new comments here.)

    If our college systems are pumping out many diplomas that should not given, could this have the effect of producing too much gobilly gook in the hard sciences…. so much so that the truly intelligent people… or people with good ideas can’t possibly filter out the junk from not junk?

    Like the 1801 mathematics exam I was looking at would royally screw over most 2nd and 3rd year math majors today….. and in 1801 they didn’t have Einstein’s Relativity… etc. However I got to thinking, only in such a literature could Einstein have developed the skills necessary to produce relativity.

    Anyway yes, China’s Housing market is definitely coming unglued….

  249. A good friend has been a truck driver forever. This year he and his wife left their jobs, sold their house, and are now building a cabin in the mountains. He told very few people ahead of time. After he started on his new venture I gave them a copy of Green Wizardry. A month later I get a message form them: “You knew what we were trying to do before we did!” So.

  250. @Phutatorius,
    Thank you for the information on rotary dial phones. Here in Japan, I know of one place that as of two years ago still had an operational rotary phone and I had a copper connection until last year when we moved. I am connected by optical fiber here, and that infrastructure is being brought in to accommodate 5G as I understand.
    I have recently heard from some in the EMF research/activists community that people are reporting that they react to fiber optics, and we don’t yet know why, but are speculating that it has something to do with the interface with modem. There are also reports of people reacting to digitally-produced fake backgrounds for Zoom meetings. I don’t know if it is related but I feel pretty awful most of the time I use the computer these days.
    As things collapse, we cannot expect the infrastructure to step backwards for us, but I wonder if ultimately, decades down the line when the far more energy- and resource-intensive digital technology and wireless communications (aside from ham radio) are a thing of the past if older telephone technology could be restored for limited applications.
    I never was more than a very reluctant phone user, even when they were rotary, but I know lots of gals who always had their fingers twisted in the cord for hours on end.

  251. Hi John and friends,

    So let me give you an update in my part of the world (Russia). Compared to my own native UK that is suffering food shortages, medicine shortages, no fuel, rising gas prices that people cannot afford to warm their homes, rising electricity prices, rising water prices (the list goes on and on) none of this is happening in Putin’s Russia.

    There is plenty of food on the shelves, gas, water and electricity remain cheap and affordable (want a hot 30 minute shower? Go for it!), no fuel crisis and in general no delivery driver crisis. Overall Russia is working better then the West when it comes to basic essentials. I think a large reason for this is the large abudance of natural resources, less panic buying and the fact that the government did not have a very long lockdown.

    The only problem in Russia is rising food prices. Most Russians do not have savings and most of it is spent on food. A large reason for this is the sanctions. As my wife said to me, “in 2013, 1000rbl would buy you a lot of food. Now the shopping basket is a lot smaller in comparison.”

    Relying on China as Putin hoped hasnt really worked out either. Honestly, I think at this stage, when America finally gets out of Europe, the EU will quietly scrap the sanctions in favour of Russian gas and oil. A win-win for both the EU and the Kremlin.

    Now onto the Long Descent and where we are headed.

    Maybe the statistics are wrong on this but apparently, 60% of Millennials earn about 100k and 47% own their own property in America. Not as big as the boomers but there still is prosperity (albeit it is dwindling). On videos I see, I observe plenty of millennials living a middle class lifestyle in America.

    My only best guess is that they are part of the new IT white collar brigade. So far, its the blue collars that are hurting (hence Trump support) but not the IT brigade. I suspect however, as more young people enter the IT workforce, the less jobs become available, the wages will lower and they will end up poorer and more unhappy like the blue collars (especially when they have to compete with China and India).

    My best observations is that the U.S and the West is in a prolonged “Brezhnev Stagnation” period. They keep kicking the can down the road, the people get on with their lives and mini-crises worsen the situation but not lead to that “big bang” that unravels the entire situation. Plus the Chinese, Russians and other players dont want to destroy the US dollar due to the interconnectedness of world economies.

    I have no idea when that “bang” is going to happen and the West actually collapses but I think we have a few more decades to go, if Im honest.

  252. @Antionetta III

    “By keeping it hereditary it is more resistance to corruption, allows long-term multi-generational thinking, and is quite likely to be the direction governance tends to over the next several centuries.”

    That’s the upside. The downside is being defeated by Meritocratic States. Like how Qin Dynasty and the Mongols overcame the respective Aristocratic States.

  253. With regard to bio-diesel, there is an awful lot of land currently being used for food production which in the future could be far more profitably used to produce bio-fuel, should the price of oil continue to increase. While food production is likely to be protected in most Western countries, in those countries with more authoritarian (or corrupt) regimes, it seems to me to be more than likely that the price of food will rise beyond the means of the poorer sections of society. I.e., land will either be used to produce fuel, or to produce food for export, or for the elites. I just wondered if anybody has done the sums, or considered the possible political implications (or the human implications, of course). My prediction is that the economics will win out. There aren’t many countries with a sufficiently strong political culture to withstand the pressure, I think. Western Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, maybe. The USA, China, not so sure. India, Russia, South Africa…

  254. Oilman2, could you plese explain what you mean by: once the suburbs get opened up

    I ask because I have long thought that older suburbs have plenty of land, those yuge lawns, for fruit trees, gardens, henhouses, rabbit hutches, etc.

  255. @JMG

    Regarding: the discussion about the religion of Progress

    I have downloaded many books, many of them of the vintage variety, published in the 50s-early/mid 80s, which Dover publications offers as reprints (Dover books on mathematics are of great quality, IMO), and when I compare them to ‘modern’ textbooks published by Wiley, or other giant publishing houses, I often see that the vintage books are almost always completely devoid of any errors, be it typographical or otherwise, as opposed to the modern ones, which, despite often having edition numbers upward of 6, are riddled with all sorts of errors, and error-free modern books are decidedly uncommon. The only modern books that are error-free are the ‘open textbooks’ as well as the lecture notes uploaded by professors, mostly with a Creative Commons license, but then both of these are also revised on at least an intermittent, if not regular, basis. The interesting question here, particularly for believers in Progress, could then be: why are vintage textbooks, which were written by typewriter, almost always error-free, while modern free textbooks, typed using LaTex, require multiple revisions to get rid of errors?

  256. I vividly remember Dennis Meadows, one of The Limits to Growth authors, saying that we think most suffering happens on the downslope of the curves of industrial and food production, but it actually happens right before the peak, when people try their hardest to sustain the unsustainable.

  257. Lady Cutekitten RE: glued shut

    I think I would have accidentally discharged my nailgun and shattered a windowpane, and then not reported it. I would use the reasoning that since the AC was not repaired by the landlord, I had zero expectations of the windowpane being replaced.

    I have zero tolerance for greedy landlords and BS excuses. If the parts could not be had, then a new unit should have been installed. Organizing is of little use unless you have money for legal proceedings, which tenants rarely do. I have found direct, face-to-face discussions with several tenants and the landlord much more productive.

    But you are probably a very nice woman, while I am a very crotchety old man with a low tolerance for BS….

  258. @ksim

    The oddity of it all is that although many have reported food shortages in the UK, I’ve seen little evidence of it. I have to take my elderly parents shopping once a week and I go round with them. In the last 6 months:

    Bottled water was unavailable, it’s certainly available today.
    Of the 12 feet of shelf space allocated to pasta in our usual supermarket, only 6 feet were stocked.
    The particular kind of cake with the nasty pink icing my Dad insists on buying is missing. He has grudgingly settled on an alternative brand.

    Of course the panic buying of petrol has taken time to clear up and prices have spiked but petrol can be bought at 4 of 5 local stations and the price is still lower than I recall it reaching a decade ago.

    The food issues I’ve seen have been very 1st world minor problems and frankly I think the world is a better place without cakes that induce diabetes from 6 feet away. Or bottled water.

    I’m in the south, but it is not an especially privileged area. A significant number of retired people making the most of fixed incomes.

    I’m still expecting much more significant issues but at the moment – nada.

  259. @ Denis L. RE: glycerol

    We feed it into the diesel engine that runs the generator at a much reduced concentration. There are uses for it, like in pharmacy and food industries, but the regs require food grade distillation eqpt – and spending $30k for that to get rid of the glycerol is not feasible, nor do we make thousands of gallons of it making our hundreds of gallons of fuel. Making nitro is also not a great idea for it….

    @ Mary Bennet RE: ‘opened up’

    In most suburban developments, homes are placed cheek by jowl as developers maximize ROI by cramming houses tightly.

    AS the burbs thin out over the next generation or two, many of these homes will get condemned or burn down or simply disintegrate. The deeds will be lost in the debacle we call MBS (mortgage backed securities) as these absentee property holders want no part in paying for anything – better to just disappear and let somebody else pay for it.

    This is already happening in the Gulf Coast with severely damaged hurricane properties. Suddenly, the borrower walks away as the home is not salvageable. When the locals try to find the deed to get the real owner to clean up the mess, they cannot find the deed….

    Opening up suburban spacing will allow a lot of good things for those in the area,,,

  260. @ David BTL Re Ten of Swords

    The Tarot Guide site (https://www.thetarotguide.com/ten-of-swords) defines the meaning as “a minor Arcana card of failure ruin, collapse, severing ties, goodbyes and the final nail in the coffin of a relationship or situation. .It can signify nervous breakdowns, chronic fatigue, exhaustion….can also indicate someone playing the victim or martyr, being overly dramatic, attention seeking and exaggerating. It can also signify violence, attacks and curses.”

    I’ve often thought the Ten of Swords carries a strong air of victimhood as opposed to the Tower which signifies sudden overwhelming chaos and destruction with no opportunity for self-pity. I expect we’ll be hearing more weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth, whimpering, carping, sniveling, strumming of tiny violins etc as time goes on. If I was a cheese maker, I’d be cranking out wheels of gouda to go with all the whine I’m sure we’ll be treated to as things head south.

  261. @Oliman2, #213 (JIT inventories)

    Are you familiar with the Beer Game, perhaps? It is a simulation of supply chain that is usually taught to students who have just learned to do basic inventory management. My thoughts are that JIT is precisely the kind of overly mathematical but not streetwise approach that the Beer Game warns about.

    For those not following the link, TL;DR… You basically set a bunch of greenhorns to, without talking with each other, apply inventory management tools to different nodes in a fictitious distribution network of a beer company. Then you throw at them the following (Market’s) demand: Normal, normal, normal, SUPERBOWL, normal, normal, normal, normal, normal, … then you see how mayheim breaks loose as each student tries to forecast and compensate for all the noise the other students’ forecasts and reactions produce.

  262. @ DenG

    Thanks for that blog on the Hydrogen Skeptic. I have never seen it and he’s really good. He makes so much sense about the desire to live in a 1960s world with centralized energy. Much, much to peruse.

    @ NeputunesDolphins

    Nobody’s got time for Beauty, it seems. Our urban architecture is proof of that. One hundred years ago companies had pride in making their headquarters look beautiful. I recently walked past Amazon’s headquarters and, except for some domed greenhouses, it looked like any other glass and steel shard sticking out of the ground.

    I guess when humans are just widgets to move around and manipulate, beauty isn’t practical.

  263. viduraawakened, there are a number of reasons for the execrable editing in recent books. Hiring practices is one. Publishing remains a rather closed world outside the indies, and hiring tends to be nepotistic, or so I suspect. If you have friends who are into SF and fantasy reading, ask them about editing (virtually nonexistent) in even hugely popular series like WOT. Online fan communities of such series are full of complaints about the bad editing, but do the publishers pay any attention? The standard excuse is that the firm has been bought by some conglomerate and cost-cutting is in order. Maybe. There is also the phenomenon, of which one can see traces, of editors deciding they are collaborators with authors, not there to correct spelling errors or point out that author has used the same tired phrase about 100 times so far but to, ahem, assist the creative process. This might not be so bad as Hollywood–can’t you put in a good rape scene?–but not by much. Poor editing has even infected academic publishing. I found a recently well reviewed book by a Chris Wickham about Europe after the Roman Empire so badly written and edited as to be unreadable by me and I read a lot of history.

    Ksim, thank you for the letter from Russia. I do agree with the observation about us in the USA being in a Brezhnev like grimly hanging on period. We even now have our own aged figurehead in place.

    Why do you say that: “Relying on China as Putin hoped hasnt really worked out either.” ? I can remember wondering if Putin and his government were not going to live to regret that alliance, but recent reports which I see from East and Central Asia are full of triumphal swagger about how the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is going to remake the world in the image of justice and goodness.

    IDK about Russia and the US dollar, but Chinese motives, I think, are nothing like so invisible as many believe. My guess is that the Chinese want a. to continue selling junk to dummies, b. to be able to settle Chinese in the USA and buy American real estate c. no tariffs. China also knows that while the US is not going to seriously challenge their building program in the South China Sea, let them take on the duty of suppressing piracy, neither do they want to face the US Navy, alleged super weapons notwithstanding.

  264. JMG – Another tale of exploitative intermediation: https://freakonomics.com/podcast/freakonomics-radio-do-more-expensive-wines-taste-better/

    The intermediation aspect is that, with thousands of options, and a wide range of prices, wine consumers look to experts to help them select a satisfying bottle. Personally, I’ve only drunk wine in tiny quantities, for ceremonial purposes, so it’s simply amusing to me that this podcast describes “experts” who can’t tell high-priced wine from low-priced, and in some cases, couldn’t even tell that the same wine was being taste-tested with two different price labels. It’s one fraud that I haven’t been personally affected by.

    The Freakonomics team almost always puts out an entertainingly skeptical and enlightening program, by the way.

  265. Re: Solar panels. We’re wrapping up our seventh year with a roof-top, grid-tied solar panel system. Overall, it has more than met our net electrical needs (mostly lighting and A/C, I believe, since we heat with natural gas). Our electric meter has rolled backwards.

    However, in August, I noticed that one of the panels was no longer producing any power. In our system, each panel has a “power optimizer” which tracks the optimum current draw and contributes to a DC loop which drives the DC/AC inverter unit. Each of these modules communications with the inverter, and with The Internet, which is how I discovered that one panel was disabled. One panel out of 21 didn’t make much difference, relative to seasonal cloud variations, so it’s good that I checked. I called the company for service, and followed their instructions to “reset” the system. That didn’t help, so they sent a crew out on Sept 22 to investigate. After some climbing and probing, and a fair amount of sitting and thinking, they decided that I probably needed a new optimizer module, which they would send out “right away”. I’ll call them back to install it, when (“if”?) it arrives.

    It doesn’t actually surprise me that the PANEL is good, but the intermediate converter is bad. The panel is one “component”; the optimizer contains hundreds.

  266. @viduraawakened, #278

    > why are vintage textbooks, which were written by typewriter, almost always error-free, while modern free textbooks, typed using LaTex, require multiple revisions to get rid of errors?

    Not a believer of Progress, but since I am pedantic that way…

    Old books did have multiple revisions, but all those happened backstage. Remember the cut and paste function in modern word processors? It was done with scissors and glue back in the day. What changed between then and now…

    1. Both knowledge and attention to detail was required in to do the paper version. Now it is a given that automatic correction will get you 90% of the way, so nobody bothers to learn or pay attention anymore. As a matter of fact, technology + knowledge will get you 99% of the way because the damned machine will break perfectly legit but unusual sentences and you have to keep fighting it to keep the errors away. It does not matter that you pay attention yourself and manually fix the software induced errors. Some lowlife will come, change the color of the subtitle in page 1, and run the automatic correction “just in case” (never mind they didn’t change a single word, it cannot hurt, right?). That’s way only lone wolves get it right these days.

    2. Yesteryear, the public was discerning on the quality of books. It was a belief (true or false as it may have been) that the publishing of shoddy work would cause a drop in sales in both this book and other future books from the same editorial house. There was a line in sand: these many errors per million words. If the line was was not crossed, any errors were reported in an erratum section, otherwise the books were recalled and reprinted. That last was an expensive mistake that put at risk the livelihood of people involved, so it was rare. Nowadays, the public does not really care, so why would the editors? It is Peter Drucker’s (perverse) theory of quality: Good is what the customer is willing to pay for.

    3. In the last 15 years or so, the software practice of “updates” has turned this problem into an opportunity to extract a rent from the customers. You no longer own any book you happen to buy; instead you have acquired a license to read it. One of the selling points of the license is that you get all and any corrections in the future versions for a set amount of time (as in, you pay to belatedly receive what your grandparents expected upfront and for free as a matter of course).

  267. Re: The $600 question? Here’s the actual text, according to “factcheck.org”:

    “Treasury Department, explanation of fiscal year 2022 revenue proposals, May 2021: This proposal would create a comprehensive financial account information reporting regime. Financial institutions would report data on financial accounts in an information return. The annual return will report gross inflows and outflows with a breakdown for physical cash, transactions with a foreign account, and transfers to and from another account with the same owner. This requirement would apply to all business and personal accounts from financial institutions, including bank, loan, and investment accounts, with the exception of accounts below a low de minimis gross flow threshold of $600 or fair market value of $600.”

    So, it is NOT a report of each transaction, but two totals: how much came in, and how much went out, broken down by the type of transaction (cash, foreign, and transfer).

    It’s designed to catch tax avoiders and money launderers, but I suppose that the obvious countermeasure is to NOT USE BANKS, but drive more economic activity completely underground. So, the corrupt and criminal actors will exchange non-cash assets, and/or keep large sums of cash in their own private “non-bank” facilities, or persuade individual bankers to neglect filing. With more money in the underground economy, more otherwise honest citizens will be forced to participate in it. (Just as undocumented laborers drive legal ones out of the market.)

    By Sept 15, the proposal had been abandoned, due to objections from banks and credit unions.

  268. Roger, remember that the people who are making decisions that ship jobs overseas and plunge millions of Americans into poverty and misery are caught up in a belief system that claims that they’re the good people, the compassionate people, the people who care. There’s quite a bit of cognitive dissonance between that belief system and the results of their actions, of course, and one standard way to reduce cognitive dissonance is to project your own nasty qualities on the people you’re hurting. That’s what the privileged classes are doing: blaming the victims, insisting that working class Americans are “bad people” so it doesn’t matter what bad things happen to them. The rise of woke ideology as a way to target some people in the privileged classes as “bad people,” in turn, is a sign that members of those classes are turning on each other in an attempt to cling to privilege while others lose out; that usually happens not long before the system comes crashing down.

    Info, and of course — because they also believe that they’re the smartest people in the room — it never occurs to them that anyone else will notice this, draw the obvious conclusions, and walk away.

    Austinofoz, yep. Behind the illusion of meritocracy lies the reality of nepotism, favoritism, and corruption, resulting in collapsing standards of quality in education and society as a whole. It’s an old story.

    Berserker, good for them! I hope they find the book useful.

    Ksim, Russia’s a net exporter of fossil fuels, so it’s got advantages that many other countries don’t have just now; I’m glad to hear that conditions are still relatively stable there. As for our current Brezhnev moment, I think it would be more accurate to describe it as a Chernenko moment. Nobody expected the Soviet Union to collapse as soon or as suddenly as it did, either, because the economic forces driving collapse weren’t actually the triggers that mattered. I don’t think our current situation is going to drag on for decades.

    Tarian, that’s a real possibility, though there’s a flipside, which is that starving people are desperate, and desperate people do things like overthrow governments. Check out sometime how many revolutions followed periods of food scarcity — it’s quite a large share.

    Viduraawakened, as a writer, I’ve seen this at work over the course of my career. Publishers have cut editorial staff sharply, and the old process — in which a manuscript would be reviewed and corrected by several editors before it went to press — went away years ago. Nowadays your manuscript gets looked over by one editor, or at most two, and both of them have a big stack of manuscripts to get through and more coming in all the time. As a result, lots of mistakes go uncorrected, and it’s not at all uncommon for sloppy editing to add errors that weren’t there in the original, simply because nobody takes the time to doublecheck everything.

    As for LaTex et al, it’s a curious fact — one that was noticed by many writers back in the day — that it’s much easier to find typos and grammatical errors if you’re going through typed pages one sheet of paper at a time, marking with a pencil, then if you’re going through neatly formatted text on a screen. I recall an essay that talked about “digital flattery” — the computer version looks like a printed page, and so your mind tends to skip over errors the way it often does while reading. Grimy typed pages don’t invite that reaction, and so every error stands out.

    Ecosophian, well, here’s hoping!

    Lathechuck, funny! That’s been my take on wine for quite some time, for what it’s worth: the “experts” are engaging in handwaving to sell overpriced grape juice.

  269. Been thinking on this some more…

    “Scotlyn, those are two slightly different fantasies — though you’re right that both are important, and both should have a place in an upcoming post”

    There is a difference between “build it” and “find it” for sure. But then, I wonder if it is not the “it” that can lead astray. In that, both fantasies focus on a “community” as if it were a concrete, bounded thing. Like, say, a state – where you can present yourself at the border and find that a single official has the power to welcome you across the border and into the state. Or, perhaps, a friendly society, that has a membership process, at the end of which, designated individuals can welcome you, on behalf of the society, to become a full membership.

    Whereas if you go to look for “a” community, there may well be no “there” there. Certainly, there will never be a specific person who can, say, turn a key and open the door for you to “a” community. Community is one of those messy outcomes of diverse people developing “thick” relationships on a one-by-one basis, even though when viewed from outside the interlocking relationships can look more like a tapestry. Still, this tapestry does not have borders or edges, it is more like Indra’s net. Each individual in it is a node linking many other people, and not all of these will be the same people.

    I suppose the other thing that this reminds me of is last week’s distinction between “control” and “participation”. Because community is built up through participation, and there is no one, anywhere, who cannot do some “community tending” simply by building up the strength of the relationships they have with specific, individual other people with whom they come in contact.

    Whereas the fantasy (whether “build it” or “find it”) has an element of control in it. You imagine there will be, or that you can build, a community (a single entity) that fulfills your wish list (whatever it is), and is somehow cut off from any influences that contradict, or lie outside your wish list (whatever it is).

    And this is exactly like having a whole lengthy argument with someone in your own head, and when you actually go to have it out in person, the other person confounds you utterly by departing from your script. Certainly all the people you fantasise about in your head, and the entities (including communities) that they form in your head, will always remain under your complete control (if also utterly predictable). Whereas you cannot actually keep other people’s surprising not-youness under any control at all, and really, participation is the better part of valour. Because it allows for other people to surprise and confound you by…. being real and not figments of your imagination.

    tl;dr – there is a fundamental difference between sex and a wank. (Which is that the other person you have sex with is *not* you – 😉 )

    Anyway, thanks for a good little fun thinking session out in the garden today, while I was “tending”.

  270. @ Viduraawakened

    As self-publishers, Bill and I routinely go through a manuscript multiple times. We run spellcheck. We run grammar-check. We run pro-writing aid. We print out the manuscript (double-spaced) and we both read it, pen in hand. I use Ol’ Red and Bill uses Mr. Blue. We edit again. Then, when the manuscript is as error-free as we can make it, Bill formats for eBook and finds MORE errors. He then formats for trade paperback (after fixing the latest set of discoveries) and there are a few more!

    Modern traditional publishing USED to have multiple eyes looking at each manuscript. They don’t any more. It is, based on our experience, time-consuming and labor-intensive but if you want a clean manuscript, it must be looked at by human eyes multiple times.

    Oh and there was one last step in old-style offset printing: the proofreader. That job doesn’t really exist anymore despite what you read online. A proofreader reads the proof copy to ensure no errors crept in while setting up the type! They fixed spelling errors too, particularly of the form and from variety. Not the same word.

    Trad pub doesn’t want to spend the money or the time to get it right. A lot of indies don’t bother either. We do, because we want a quality product.

  271. Jessica, It is interesting to try to figure out why some jobs, usually in highly intermediated markets, are paid so out-of-line with their contributions to society. Simple economics says it must be to get people to do the jobs, otherwise the line of applicants would increase and salaries would go down. And you are right that some highly paid jobs are unreasonably demanding and soul-stunting. But there must be more to the story. I think a hint lies with universities where the highest paid jobs are often the football and basketball coaches. These are good jobs requiring leadership and vision and offering the possibility of teaching valuable things to student athletes. But we all know that is not why these jobs are highly paid. It lies in the nature of competition. In these positions, you need not just highly qualified people. You need the best possible people because they must compete to recruit talent and win games or else the University brings in much less money. It is in these competitive environments where the cost of losing is very high that salaries get out of whack. Ultimately, rational decisions made by groups that need to compete end up creating a system whose outcomes are irrational. Add high degrees of intermediation and you have cases like the investment banking world where traders are competing against each other to skim the maximum possible off of the productive economy. It is one of many break-downs of competitive markets. But we haven’t yet figured out how to regulate this kind of break-down without undermining the organizational effectiveness of markets in general.

  272. My wife and I are moving ahead on the next step of our collapse, hopefully in time. When we moved here a few years ago, she continued to work for her old employer, even though the closest available position was a 25 mile each way (car required) commute. Now we’re both looking for jobs within walking distance, where there are help wanted signs on just about every retail and service business. Any resulting decrease in hourly wages will be offset by decreased expenses. We’ll miss the increased annual vacation time based on length of employment more, but she planned to “retire” to part time soon anyhow.

    I don’t think we’ll be going entirely car-free yet, though it’s a possibility if it becomes necessary. We both lived car-free for decades in the Boston metropolitan area, but there’s far less public transportation here except for ride-share and possibly senior programs (we’ll soon both be eligible for the latter, if they’re still around). Leaning on younger relatives (fair trade, we’ve helped them out in many ways over the years, and they live within walking distance) is also an option. We’ll see.

    In the meantime, for all of the limitations and shortcomings of solar PV, I’m getting started in it, with a small home-assembled starter system (a few hundred Watts, which is two typical panels) that’s both for backup use and to practice the basics of operation and maintenance. This builds on skills I already have, and I don’t need my skills to still be in demand in 2050.

    The impression I’ve gotten from the reading and figuring I’ve done so far is that trying to replicate grid power in a home setup is just wrong in scale. Imagine if we all used to have 200mph cars that ran on alien technology, and we were about to lose that technology, so we’re trying to replace it with internal combustion engines but we still expect every car to go 200mph. Every car would have to be a high-performance high-maintenance race car. That’s what it’s like trying to build and operate a home PV/battery system that can provide 10 kilowatts (about 85 amps of 120VAC power) on demand, or a kilowatt or more 24/7/365, the way the grid can. It can be done, but at high cost. And due to that cost, it’s usually done by pushing the equipment to its limits, inviting breakdowns and rapid wear.

    But it needn’t be an all or nothing choice. What I’m looking at is the potential value of modest amounts of electrical power, in an emergency or disaster or when that’s all that’s available. I think of it as a form of salvage, not of materials but of the capital value of already existing low-power electrical equipment like lights, communications gear, sewing machines, incubators, and computers.

  273. @ CR Patiño RE: JIT

    No friend, never saw that game before. Likely because the whole JIT thing was grown as I have aged. I do recall my daughter having fits trying to plan for the American Superbowl and the World Cup for her inventory – she runs the alcoholic beverage department in a very large Texas grocery chain. She ordered too much her first year, and not enough her second – it seems that alcoholic beverages are the only items that are NOT set by inventory mgmt systems with her company…LOL

    It isn’t simply JIT that is the issue – it also concerns reduction in number of manufacturers due to monopolies, over specialization and national trade policies. I had to change suppliers due to US sanctions several times during past administrations and their fickle ways. Of course, if I were importing rocket engines, I would be able to trade with Russia without any problems…LOLOL

    @ Lathechuck RE: wines…

    As a guy who enjoys making wine, it ought to behoove people to understand that wine can be made from most any plant – oak leaves, melons, celery, cactus – the list is endless. I make several wines that people seem to love from figs, from oranges and from onions/molasses even (that last one is for cooking).

    TBH, at this point anything remotely resembling novel taste has been wrung out of grapes. I much prefer my orange port, fig, melon and other wines simply due to the wow factor compared to the ho-hum of fermented grape. Honeysuckle blossoms, jasmine blossoms and wysteria flowers make some angelic wines. And with the prices beginning to skyrocket, making your own is growing more attractive by the day.

  274. @JMG

    “Behind the illusion of meritocracy lies the reality of nepotism, favoritism, and corruption, resulting in collapsing standards of quality in education and society as a whole. It’s an old story.”

    I think in the short-term Meritocracy does end up working. A highly efficient Qin State and the Mongol Empire really rolled over their adversaries.

    Until human nature ends up subverting that. And then all the problems starting cropping up. So there was a lot of anti-nepotism, favoritism and anti-cheating measures got put in place in the Chinese Civil examinations.

  275. Regarding eco villages and Kfish’s comment about Crystal Waters, I’ve been there looking at houses.

    It’s not a functioning eco village, or a conscious community, rather just a collection of eccentric houses on larger than usual blocks, miles away from anywhere. Being in Queensland and inland it’s also unpleasantly hot.

    We’ve looked at several other eco villages around Australia and they’re all the same. The original founders had a vision, it worked for a while then they moved on and the places revert back to collections of houses. There’s one just across the ridge from where we live now.

    Most people in them have jobs, or are retired. Some grow an amount of their own food, but none are close to self sufficient. All drive around a lot and usually have 2 cars. A few have a vague idea about the long descent, but don’t really want to think about it – too confronting.

    Regarding solar – the grid is a miracle and still the biggest bargain in the modern world. People around here complain about the $1.50 a day grid connection fee without a clue of the fantastic complexity behind it. We’ve got a big, grid-connected solar system on our roof because of the juicy subsidies. Paid for itself in 3 years and our annual electric bill is minus $150 ish.

    Just spent on a battery system that can work with or without the grid, because I expect the grid to fail/be triaged around here in future. No ROI in it and I wanted to wait a few more years before buying, but I’m concerned about supply chains failing. We run just on electricity and have our own water, sewerage etc.

    We’re at the end of a long tail and when you look at the amount of work and diesel needed to keep the grid up it has to go away. At the moment if the power goes out in the middle of the night, 45 minutes later you look out of your window and there’s 2 trucks there and guys climbing your pole to have a look. Freakin’ incredible, but not sustainable.

    Chatted to a guy recently who works for the company that has the contract to keep trees trimmed away from power lines. It’s a $1B a year contract for just the northern half of NSW and their trucks are everywhere. If the landowner where a pole is located is a tree lover, the company has to send a guy in to climb the tree and trim it manually, instead of doing it mechanically. How long can that last?

  276. Hi JMG

    May be the president you have is not Breznev or Chernenko, but a new Nicolae Ceaucescu, this pal that was in the balcony of his palace the last days of his rule, repeating the same canned idiotic message about “the romanian people” when a wave of screams and insults disrupted his words and then he slowly, very slowly started to detect that may be, just may be, “his people” were not in love with him:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcRWiz1PhKU

    WelI I know I am exaggerating but it depends also of how profound the crisis will be in the next months or years and the kind of authoritarian measures he impose.

    Cheers
    David

  277. Somebody above mentioned doctors refusing to treat the unvaccinated, and how at variance that is with the medical profession’s usual code of ethics-I think something bizarre has been going on with doctors and vaccines for some time. I remember about five years ago (ie, a bit before the whole COVID mess), a doctor I know (he’s a friend of the family, and was my doctor when I was a kid) posted this giant rant on Facebook about people thinking they knew more about vaccines than the medical profession did, and about how horrible, awful, evil and bad this was. He ended by saying that from now on, if any parent did not simply accept his prescribed schedule of vaccines, unaltered, for their child, he would ban them and the child from his office (since they were now “plague carriers”) and report them to state CPS for child abuse. I don’t really consider myself an anti-vaxxer, but I remember being blown away by how unhinged the whole thing was-especially coming from a person I normally knew to be a reasonable and well-adjusted human being.

  278. “I really pity the writers of satire. How can they top this sort of silliness?”

    Do you know about the sub Reddit r/Nottheonion? It is nothing but a collection of real news articles that essentially read like articles from The Onion.

    Nowadays they might as well just pump 90% of news stories in there.

  279. You are so right. I miss all kinds of typos on a computer screen; the same ones leap right out at me in print. I think it’s because screens are so tiring to the eyes.

    —Lady Cutekitten

  280. Well if it’s 10 of Swords time, my role as usual is to supply the soundtrack – When Rivers Rise by Spirit of the West seems appropriate.

    Peace in the valley has gone
    As the weather rolls in from the west
    Storm clouds over the Pacific
    Will soon put our shores to the test

    Another Indian Summer is over
    Here comes the rain
    It’s British Columbia’s trademark
    Come back to haunt us again

    Move to high ground
    Seek shelter with friends
    Wait there and pray that when it all ends
    Something’s left of what you struggled for
    Something to keep you strong
    A reason to carry on

    It’s been hard driving rain for days
    With a forecast as bleak as the sky
    And the fear in the people and the raging river
    To both in the cordon rise

    The order came down to evacuate
    All those from the danger zone
    Some walked away from the living
    And some walk away from their home

    Move to high ground
    Seek shelter with friends
    Wait there and pray that when it all ends
    Something’s left of what you struggled for
    Something to keep you strong
    A reason to carry on

    On a path of destruction
    Fueled by the rain
    An act of God or science
    There’s no one to take the blame

    For a flood that swept through the valley
    And stole the land
    With all her power and fury
    You’d swear that she’d been dammed

    Move to high ground
    Seek shelter with friends
    Wait there and pray that when it all ends
    Something’s left of what you struggled for
    Something to keep you strong
    A reason to carry on

  281. Hi Oilman2,

    I worked in the sweatbox. Had I lived in it I’d have broken my lease and moved.

    —Lady Cutekitten

  282. Dear Pablo #16.

    It would be helpful to check facts before posting the claim that Russia is using natural gas supplies as a weapon. Both Angela Merkel (Chancellor of Germany) and Boris Johnson (UK PM) put that story down as nonsense. The gas price increase, in part, was due to the decision to forego long term supply contracts with Russia in favor of spot purchases. High demand for gas from Asia created shortages in the spot market. It was a stupid business decision. Merkel and Johnson confirmed that Russia has scrupulously met all supply contracts. Let’s not blame Russia for screw-ups made by the same elites that are lambasted in this blog. In addition, a reduced average wind velocity and phasing out of nuclear power crashed power production forcing the use of coal-fired power plants. If reduced-carbon power production is desired, Europe is doing a very poor job. Of course, the US is no better.

    BTW, 37% of Russian power production is carbon-free. Per the attached, both Russia and China came in under the world average for reduced carbon power production while the US and Western Europe are higher than the world average. Given all of the hype by our media and politicians, that data was rather surprising.

    https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/low-carbon-energy-vs-global

  283. I am a long-time commenter here, but for professional reasons I will now use a different username – some commenters may be able to identify me nevertheless.

    In 2009 I landed a tenured position, that is to say the top in terms of stability and also autonomy. The president at the time declared the country should churn out 10 000 new PhD’s a year. Who would have thought at the time that the federal government would reduce research funding in 2021 to half of what it was in 2000, and pass a law allowing any federal employee, tenured or not, to be fired if some superior decides the whole department should be scrapped. I bailed out of the job and the country in 2016 – as they say, leave 10 years before you have to.

    I have just started a halfway decent job in software development. Our family’s aim is to not accustom ourselves to the money (until recently our household income put us squarely into the bottom 20% in the (wealthy) country we now live in, and we pretend to continue living not very differently), but to use it to buy a small house with garden as soon as we can so we can leave it to our daughter when we die. That might be more useful for her than a university degree.

    The software paradigm at my company is all about resilience and scalability, i.e. have as many independently working computers as necessary for the task at hand, and switch some of them off as soon as they aren’t necessary anymore; always assume that a message from one program to another can be indefinitely delayed; and contain failure in small parts of the system, never let it take the whole system down. I find several aspects of this paradigm very attractive. To the extent that computers and some kind of network will still work over the next decades, they will have to deal with unpredictable failures of both the network and the computing hardware, and with ever changing requirements. It actually seems to me that this way of thinking is a continuation of the foundational ideas of the internet, which was designed to continue working even after nuclear attacks on the major hubs of the USA.

    On the other hand, the practical side right now seems to always involve huge oligopolistic or quasi-monopolistic organizations who displace local business and face-to-face contacts, and the company spirit seems to go into Star Wars directions.

    I am still mulling over how to learn as much as I can from the wealth of practical knowledge present in the company without being contaminated by the belief in progress.

  284. Jon # 285 – Not true! Many of us are starving for beauty in our public spaces. Those bleak buildings and modern monstrosities are upper class people showing off for each other. Or bean counters having too much say in the planning. I had the privilege of spending some time in Germany as a young woman, and I still have dreams about wandering around its gorgeous, walkable downtowns. Vermont, where I live now, is well known for its charming villages and small towns, which still drives a fair amount of tourism. You aren’t seeing the will of the people in those hideous buildings. Many of us have had to work in places like that and we hated it. We need art for inspiration and comfort. Even if there isn’t a lot of money in some art forms, we still really need it. Please don’t give up hope.

    Jeanne #283 – I work at a grocery store. Today I had to listed to a customer whine about a particular flavor, particular brand iced tea which we apparently never have in stock anymore. She was genuinely upset about having to settle for some other kind of iced tea.

    Thank the gods, most customers aren’t like that at all. They gripe about shortages the same way we all gripe about snow in February, more as a way to make conversation than as a real complaint. Our store still sells plenty of meat, produce, and everything else. One day the toilet paper goes out of stock, the next the bottled water. There are big gaps on the shelves. But mostly we can get what we need.

    New experience as of this year: people coming to the register, over-the-moon happy that a favorite product has come back in stock. The gratitude is a very good thing. But boy, those whiners are a royal pain. I had a hard time not rolling my eyes at the iced tea lady. Of all the crazy things going on in the world right now, what bothers her most is iced tea??

    Chris in VT

  285. Another example of the shrill insistence that we’re headed onward to the stars, visible crumbling decay all around notwithstanding:

    The cover of the latest National Geographic: futuristic images of cars, motorcycles and flying things, with the title “The Revolution is Here: electric cars, hydrogen powered planes and the dream of a cleaner commute.”

    https://www.discountmags.com/shopimages/products/extras/452871-national-geographic-cover-2021-october-1-issue.jpg

  286. Luciano said:
    “Maybe Brazil today is what Europe will be tomorrow.”

    I think we are starting to see that already, and not only in Europe. One possibility of the ridiculous authoritarianism in Canada, Australia and NZ could be simply to make it easier to suck their wealth dry (by US or China, who knows?)

    I have been warning my friends and family in Eastern Europe for a long time. They still believe in the EU ideals but the reality is starting to diverge so much it’s hard to ignore it.

    Here’s hoping for a quick and painless collapse of empire so that both internal and external proletariats don’t suffer too much!

  287. I’ve been listening to Shostakovitch’s Symphony #11 (“The Year 1905”)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wW5USVKVAx4

    (You can just listen to the audio and turn off the screen if you don’t want to see video.)

    The icy, wintry opening chords of the symphony express my own feelings of foreboding very well. Shostakovitch captures the mood of a country just waiting for the shoe to drop, so to speak.

    The symphony is a depiction of the abortive Russian Revolution of 1905, which Lenin called a “dress rehearsal” for 1917.

    Both the French and the Russian Revolutions had predecessor uprisings. In the case of France, it was “The Great Fear” of 1788-89:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Fea

    I just wonder. Was the ill-fated Trump Administration our equivalent of “The Year 1905” or “The Great Fear” or is this likely something just ahead of us?

  288. SLClaire, thanks for this — another example of a good, simple, resilient idea that works.

    Scotlyn, excellent! Much fodder for thought, but I think you’ve caught a crucial point.

    Walt, glad to hear it.

    Info, oh, a meritocracy is always a good idea if you can get it. Getting one usually involves beheading anyone who fails to measure up to standards.

    DFC, nah, Kamala Harris will probably turn into our Ceaucescu — I don’t think she has the makings of a Gorbachev.

    Tolkienguy, threaten somebody’s status and they very often get unhinged. Physicians have had a wildly inflated sense of their own value and importance here in the US. (A common joke among people in health care who aren’t MDs: “What’s the difference between God and a doctor? God doesn’t think he’s a doctor.”) Now that so many people are rejecting mainstream medicine because of its problems, a lot of physicians are staring the loss of their status, and that triggers baboon-level reactions.

    Michael, I do indeed. It’s one of the reasons I pity satirists!

    David BTL, too funny!

    Your Kittenship, I’ve had that happen so many times I print manuscripts out to check them!

    Pixelated, thanks for this.

    Aldarion, that strikes me as a very smart move.

    KW, of course! It’s utterly typical of a belief system on the brink of collapse that it proclaims the absolute truth of its most preposterous prophecies in shrill tones…

    Michael, thanks for this. That’s my kind of sound track! My guess is that yes, the Trump era was our Grand Peur.

  289. @JMG

    “Oh, a meritocracy is always a good idea if you can get it. Getting one usually involves beheading anyone who fails to measure up to standards.”

    Not a coincidence that it only best occurs in highly competitive situations like 500+ years of War in China before unification.(Spring of Autumn, Warring States).

    Incompetence being punished by the environment itself inherently selects for Meritocracy. The Old Chinese Aristocracy got sidelined over time likewise. And talent scouting and poaching gets really intense too.

    I also read that over time in the 100 years of War between France and England(Book named “Late Medieval History”)

    Merit assumes greater and greater importance and Feudalism starts giving way to more centralized Kingdoms under the pressure of prolonged conflict.

  290. @Fred

    Hi. I live close to the QLD border in northern NSW. I’ve been getting quotes over the last couple of weeks for a battery system of exactly the same sort for exactly the same reasons (wanted to wait longer but potential supply chain issues have us spooked). I’d really appreciate talking to someone who has just gone through making the decision on what particular battery system make & sizing. If you were happy to talk about this either by email or phone, would be great to hear from you. I’d like to make a decision myself this week. I can be contacted at oxymyron at gmail dot com.

    Interestingly, I received this message from one of the sales reps this evening:

    “The directors have emailed us saying they are honouring all open quotes until midnight Friday. This is due to the issues in China and the manufacturing plants closing down.”

    This may just be a sales tactic however he visited our house and didn’t seem like that kind of guy (we had a very open and interesting covid and vaccine discussion). I also never mentioned to him the motivations we have for acquiring battery backup and grid failure resilience right now.

    Hope you’re up for a chat.

    Cheers
    Jez

  291. Hi John Michael,

    Just finished reading The Great Crash 1929, and it is an excellent and also vaguely amusing analysis of the events leading up to that crazy time. The concluding paragraph was astounding: “So, inaction will be advocated in the present even though it means deep trouble in the future. … It is what causes men who know that things are going quite wrong to say that things are fundamentally sound.”

    Hey, I forgot to mention that I recently purchased a copy of William Catton Jr’s book Overshoot. The former copy I’d read was on temporary loan to me, and I had to return it. Another truly great book which I’m looking forward to reading again. Although I must add that after each heavy book I intersperse my reading with much lighter tomes. I’m thinking Jack Vance, and I’m thinking Clarges (or ‘To Live Forever’, as the publishers originally forced the change of title to). I’m quite fond of the anti hero character who lives and thrives by their wits.

    Oh mate, I just checked today’s oil prices. Ook! Oh well, I guess things are fundamentally sound, maybe… 🙂 What do you, you gotta laugh. The folks with their hands on the policy levers know the predicament, they know. How could they not know? My only wish was that they were more honest and then better choices could be made. I recently read some of Jimmy Carter’s speeches from his time as President, and they were a real pleasure to read. Unfortunately folks look for assurances in times of troubles, so maybe things are fundamentally sound, maybe!

    I have no insights into the question you asked, because I too wonder about this matter. The only way the current electric grid could work with an all electric society is if a whole bunch of people drop off the grid, and even then it would only work for a short while. The electric car thing with renewable energy for everyone just makes me shake my head in wonder. I couldn’t charge such a beast of a machine off the current power system here. It would kill my little system just for starters through excess heat as the components would be running flat out for hours and hours each day. It’s such a massive impost that its not even worth thinking about. I tend to believe that people see electricity as an energy source, so surely aren’t all energy sources the same, must go their thinking?

    I note that other folks have mentioned heading to the hills to start an intentional community. That very idea is anathema to me, and I genuinely don’t believe that most folks these days are up for the hard work. Before talk, comes hard work, after talk, comes hard work. 😉 But the thing is, the hill areas are some of the poorer soils you’ll find, and they won’t sustain large communities anyway. The amount of minerals I bring in here each year is in the order of several thousands of pounds.It’s an extraordinary effort, but a lot of soils all over the place are in poor condition these days. And community sure doesn’t mean what people think that it means…

    Cheers

    Chris

  292. Hi John Michael

    Since I popped out of a fairly long period of lurk mode to reach out to Fred, I thought I’d take the opportunity to voice my appreciation again for your various contributions to the world. Thank you so much mate. You’ve made such a significant positive impact to the quality of my thinking and actions over the last decade or so since I discovered your writings.

    Thanks also to all in the Ecosophia community. I’ve also learnt a great deal from many of you too and been enriched in other ways by your virtual company. I’d like to engage more however having a two year and a four year old to wrangle these days means it’s back to lurk mode for me. It feels right to momentarily express some gratitude to this outstanding community and its host though.

    I hope everyone rides the various waves forming or cresting at the moment with as much good fortune and grace as possible.

    Jez

  293. Hi Oilman2,

    What did you do with Oilman1? 🙂

    Ook! Your experience with the technology makes my bowels feel cold. Although I had to replace the original batteries late last year after 11 years and never took those below about 70% state of charge (i.e. full). Batteries are an odd technology and you can’t use all of the stored energy – even if you wanted to. The original batteries were sealed lead acid gel batteries, and an electrician had unfortunately slightly cracked four of the cases of the batteries in an minor incident, and the batteries lost some of their zing (hydrogen I guess) over the years. I haven’t seen the reduced voltage with the panels, but I wired the whole lot up and so spent considerable time on every single join. And with 42 panels there are a lot of joins and connections. I also get in every year and spray the fuses with WD40 and insecticide (my one use of the stuff).

    It interests me greatly that down here, second hand panels can be had for very little coin, and the old adage suggests to: Just add more panels.

    Except all of the components and wires have upper limits which can’t be worked around – even the batteries do. I originally wired everything up for 24V and so all of the panels were in parallel. 42 panels at about 5A each totals 210A – no laughing matter at all to deal with. A couple of years back I rewired the lot for 48V and so halved the current to 105A, and then breathed a big sigh of relief.

    But I hear you about the climate, and this year has been extraordinarily cloudy down here as well. Most months have delivered 4 inches of rain to boot, so it is very wet.

    “We based panel count and sizing on “X” days of full sun.” Add more panels. When that’s done, add more panels. Models do not equate with the lived experience with this technology.

    My system has cost me over the past dozen years about US$56k. It is an eye watering expense to make this technology stuff work, and I dunno why people talk the stuff up. Makes no sense to me at all. And yes, people absolutely talk rubbish about this stuff. I wish they wouldn’t, or get in the ring and give it a go for themselves.

    Mind you, I could get away without using the generator on the three days I mentioned. Unfortunately, I’m expected to earn a living, and it really is as simple as that.

    Most days I rarely take the replacement LiFePO4 batteries below about 85%, and how long they’ll last is an academic question.

    Good luck, and may the biodiesel be with you!

    Chris

  294. @ CR Patiño

    Interesting points, thank you for these. Especially the part about how cut-and-paste revisions were done in books in older times was something that I didn’t know.

    @teresa from hershey

    Thank you for your reply. I’m sure self-publishing is demanding and takes a lot of hard work, but then quite rewarding too!

    @JMG

    So we are already in the process of decline, as far as book-editing is concerned. As for LaTex, I guess that with respect to editing, it is probably in the domain of negative returns.

    @Mary Bennett

    I don’t read a lot of sci-fi, TBH. But I’m not surprised that this is the situation in sci-fi, which is the ‘jewel in the crown of Progress’ fiction literature’. As for academic publishing, the books that I read are mostly those on mathematics, and yes, I can agree with you, that they are very poorly edited. While this may not be such a nuisance in history (at least as far as understanding the text is concerned), it is definitely a nuisance in mathematics, especially if you’re trying to learn the material for the first time.

  295. Central Bank Digital Currency increases the Feds ‘intermediation’, a recent forum topic.

    CBDC proponents claim that this will make everyday transactions both safer (by removing counterparty risk), and easier to tax (by rendering it well nigh impossible to hide money from the government).

    CBDC opponents, however, cite that very same purported “safety” and “ease” to argue that an e-dollar, say, is merely an extension to, or financial manifestation of, the ever-encroaching surveillance state. To these critics, the method by which this proposal eradicates bankruptcy fallout and tax dodgers draws a bright red line under its deadly flaw: these only come at the cost of placing the State, newly privy to the use and custodianship of every dollar, at the center of monetary interaction. Look at China, the napkin-clingers cry, where the new ban on Bitcoin, along with the release of the digital-yuan, is clearly intended to increase the ability of the State to “intermediate”—to impose itself in the middle of—every last transaction.

    “Intermediation,” and its opposite “disintermediation,” constitute the heart of the matter, and it’s notable how reliant Waller’s speech is on these terms, whose origins can be found not in capitalist policy but, ironically, in Marxist critique. What they mean is: who or what stands between your money and your intentions for it.

    DenG

  296. Regarding typo’s, as someone who writes detailed books on engineering, and keeps finding new ones even after several proof readings of the printed copy, I’m inclined to believe that they are actually a quantum phenomenon.

    i.e. like Schrodinger’s cat, if you haven’t closely read every single piece of the text, they are liable to self-generate, and may even do so even if you have closely read every single piece of the text. I suspect that if you leave a manuscript or book by itself over time, it will generate typos with a half-life incidence, so that every year half as many typos will self-generate as the year before.

  297. Hi JMG

    It seems that Peter Daszak and his “EcoHealthAllianz” are now researching to “avoid” the new pandemic, in this case by the Nipah, virus:

    https://www.ecohealthalliance.org/2020/11/six-year-study-indicates-nipah-virus-more-widespread-than-previously-thought.

    Nipah virus has a letality of around 70%, so what could go wrong?

    As they say in their web in the pargraph “About EcoHealthAliianz”:

    “…….EcoHealth Alliance research has led to major breakthroughs on the origins and spread of new and emerging diseases like Ebola, SARS, MERS, Nipah virus, and, now, SARS-CoV-2…”

    It is only me or “major breakthoughs on …spread of new emerging diseases” sounds very very bad?

    Now knowing those people are in charge of the research I feel much more safe….

    Cheers
    David

  298. Tarian, that’s an excellent recipe for food riots, revolution or civil war, which most regimes don’t want. I suspect most will try to keep food prices slightly below food riot territory as well as they possibly can. The ones that fail at this will likely not be long for this world.

    Of course, the resulting conflicts are a recipe for worsening the hunger situation, not improving it.

  299. Just a data-point:

    Just picked up over at Market Watch that Oil is $80.93 per barrel. And that’s WTI, so I suppose Brent is somewhere around $85.

    I wonder how high it will go before it crashes again.

    Antoinetta III

  300. Re the classism inherent in the system

    Stumbled across an exchange which I found utterly fascinating, if sad and telling of the attitudes of our political classes. One person was lamenting about how we no longer have genuine democracy, despite the “Democrats’ efforts to improve it” and how “big money” keeps getting in the way. Another person responded with the following:

    “Really? It’s the money? That’s the problem? Not deferring to the wisdom of the ‘people’? Why fetishize the average? Why persist in the idiotic humanist notion that the voice of a waiter and the voice of a molecular chemist should be given equal weight?”

    That is as blatant a statement as I’ve ever seen.
    The mask is beginning to come off, it would appear.

  301. >DFC, nah, Kamala Harris will probably turn into our Ceaucescu — I don’t think she has the makings of a Gorbachev.

    May I modestly suggest she be called Empress Dowager Harris?

  302. Hi John,

    Yeah I can see your point that the West is in a “Chernenko Period”. It is interesting to note that my in laws say that as late as Chernenko, getting essential goods wasnt a problem and life was humming along as usual. It was with Gorbachev that all of the food shortages started to happen and the whole thing started to collapse. Yeah, there was stagnation under Chernenko but it never quite reached the tip like it did with Gorby.

    That said, I do have a question for you. The problem I have trying to get my head around is that people and experts have confidently been predicting the death of the West since 2008. I remember back then Gerald Celente, Max Keiser, Alex Jones and those of that ilk confidently predicting a mass economic depression to hit. Any day now. Celente was evenly proudly predicting the rise of “food parties” due to the crisis, where everyone would get together and share food.

    I remember back then thinking, quite literally, that the West was going to collapse well before 2010. It had to, all the talking heads had it all figured out. Yet all that has happened is basically a slow decline of living standards with the “big bang” never quite occurring.

    So what I want to ask you is what makes this time more different? The only thing I can think of is “events dear boy, events” to quote Harold MacMillan. But Id be interested in your take on this subject as I have to confess, you have been the only guy so far I have found who is talking more logical sense then the big heads (who have since disappeared btw – Alex Jones has pretty much vanished on the scene and Celente is as quiet as a door mouse)

  303. Two quick questions and a longer one before this blog goes back to High Magic on Wednesday –
    Yesterday, late in this discussion which began talking about shortages and intermediation as a major burden on the real economy, you said “This is the rush….” and if I understand you correctly, we are at the point where all hell breaking loose isn’t next year or just down the road, it’s now. The hurricane has already made landfall, to use a local analogy. Am I correct?

    And roughly, what form do you expect to see that taking? Or is that still up for grabs? I gather, it’ll be the quiet walking away and saying “peddle your schlock elsewhere, we’re not buying it,” that’s already going on. I know what happened in Russia – we and their own crooks rushed in and looted it down to the bare bones. I still remember the Great Russian Yard Sale catalogs and New Mexicans buying authentic Russian fur hats.

    Finally, my earlier meditations on earlier such periods led to another on the role of the backwoods in each of them. In Jack Cade’s Rebellion, though there were surely scattered village outbreaks of mob actions against hated officials etc, the fighting seemed centered in London. During the French Revolution, though the rural nobility got it in the neck, the Reign of Terror seemed – correct me if I’m wrong, everybody – 90% Paris. And the end of Richard III’s reign and the last of the Plantagenets barely touched the countryside unless a given place rose in rebellion – very much a North-South thing, since Richard was a Yorkshireman to the bone.

    Meanwhile, in the American Revolution/War for Independence, the backwoods were the heart and soul of the insurgency we were waging, such as the Pennsylvania Rifles. In the War Between the States, the backwoods hated the guts of the planters and their slaves, to the point of West Virginia seceding from the confederacy and joining the Union. It was only when the Yankee troops invaded the South that they joined forced with the planters, because now they were fighting for their own homes.
    BTW – an aside here – the only two nations on American soil to have been defeated by the United States Army, counting Indian Country as one nation for that purpose, which they do themselves when they wish, have sent more warriors to join our own forces in later wars per capita than most other parts of the country. Ditto, the Scots ending up fighting for Britain as early as the Napoleonic Wars. The Scots and the Southern Backwoods can be considered as Celtic, if that’s any help. At any rate —

    To finish the history review, as I understand it, during the English Civil War, a lot of the country gentry were Parliament, and of course, Scotland was totally so except for those lairds who had been “bought and sold for English gold,” as Burns lamented. Which helped put Cromwell over the top, at least temporarily. (It helped that the one to unseat him was the only Stuart king with enough brains to tie his own shoelaces. Sorry – I’m no Jacobite. Maybe a rider on Queen Anne, who was so busy being pregnant it’s a marvel she could look up from a haze of exhaustion long enough to tie her own shoelaces, poor lady.)

    I realize that the backwoods today have very deep-seated grievances against their self-styled lord, masters, and experts in the One True Only Values, but am sensing that the violence is centered in the big cities, while the countryside will remain fairly quiet. Does this seem accurate to you?

    Just FYI, I truly don’t expect Gainesville, FL, or Klamath Falls, OR, to go up in a sheet of flames. Portland, OR, or San Francisco … time to boogie, if you haven’t already. A rider on Albuquerque, NM, because of its location on two major interstates through which all sorts of traffic – and drugs – and various kinds of characters – hit town, in which on Central Avenue, we’re already tripping over the homeless on our way up to the local coffee shops and the signs saying what virtuous people we are here east of the University District. Oh, and feral cats, which keeps the mouse population down. Data points from around the U.S.

    Private question to the weaver who said everything coming off the loom had to be tested for tensile strength – where are you located? I’ve never heard of such a thing; a friend of mine who knows weavers hasn’t, and what does tensile strength have to do with something you’re going to crap around yourself or spread out on the bed or the couch? And I rather think it would be a surprise up at Chimayo or on the Navajo Nation.

  304. Hi John Michael,

    Just to add in how fundamentally sound things are right now, maybe: Prices are rising. But does anyone know where inflation’s heading?

    The article quotes a Professor Goodhart, professor emeritus at the London School of Economics as suggesting that: “One of these was the Friedman monetary theory that inflation is always and everywhere a function of too much money chasing too few goods,” he said.

    “Now that theory has become so discredited that central banks now, as a general matter, do not even mention monetary aggregates at all, and seem embarrassed to do so.”

    Who knew that the theory had been discredited?

    Well we might just get to see how that plays out.

    I recall the words assurance from that Professor Irving Fisher bloke…

    Cheers

    Chris

  305. With regard to errors I don’t have experience with books but have noticed with policy documents having many people sign off on it doesn’t help. Everyone is busy with their core work and assume someone else will read it properly so it still contains not just spelling and grammatical errors, but sentences that make no sense after being signed off by five people, some of whom are highly intelligent.

    Another example is when I built a house I found four errors in the contract despite it being a major conglomerate and the contract would have already been used for billions of dollars worth of buildings.

  306. Info and JMG about meritocracy –

    I agree with Info that the best meritocracy are created when there is an external objective “selection pressure” (as in genetic algorithms) that does the “trimming” of the leaders.
    But there are examples when human societies can and do create their own filters.

    Here is a well known example that is completely misinterpreted by most historians. I am talking about the repeated proscriptions in the Roman empire. Since history was written for the senatorial class, this was presented as a horrible disaster. The historians, writing for the imperial governments (UK and US) of course agreed.

    In reality, those proscriptions helped slow/reverse the polarization of society (where the rich owned everything) and kept the oligarchs on their toes – the ones too stupid or too greedy lost everything.

    Just remember that the Roman empire lasted more than 1500 years and even the beleaguered western part lasted more than 500. Compare that with the British empire (less than 400) or the US empire (100-200 depending on how we are counting and how soon the bells will toll).

  307. Chris at Fernglade, if I may, lithium batteries suffer from spending time at high states of charge. Quality laptops used to have an option to only charge to 85% to help the batteries last, and many electric cars do the same thing now. You’d get the most life out of your batteries if you kept the average state of charge at around 50%.

  308. Data point: NY Times, “Where the suburbs end.”. Subtitled “1950s single-family home now a rental complex and a vision of California’s future.” May be paywalled; it is for me.

    Personal note: the old Victorians were cut up for flats later, and so were many 1920s mansions; I’ve spent the night in buildings you could see that was done to. That the Decades of Excess McMansions are headed that way now is a done deal. But to add the 1950s single-family house we’ve been give to think of as “ordinary middle-class”- no surprise in one way, but not anticipated.

  309. @ Chris Fernglade RE: panels! panels!

    We tried the 24VDC thing too – panels still failed undervoltage. The inverters are also finicky – we were on our 4th one when I just decided to scrap it as a viable 24/7 source.

    It’s interesting to me that when the west explored the world, there was nothing electric – yet people got by and many thrived. We will adapt. My adaptation is forget solar as an economical way to power your things. I can raise 10 acres of castor beans in really bad soil and get a couple hundred gallons of fuel. I have lots of places where I can get waste oil as well – so until things collapse a lot more, there are sources.

    I can panel up, but honestly I am just weary of the fight. Line power is available, relatively cheap and it makes sense to run with it until it disappears. My genset has hi-power mode (big wound generator) and lo-power mode (5 inverters running off a small battery bank).

    I’m actually looking into steam, as the boiler doesn’t care what you feed it. This tech is nearly lost, but I have got my hands on a few books. Might be nice for me to putter with over this next decade.

    …and Oilman1 passed away a couple years back, and I felt no need to assume his name…

  310. Michael Martin (no. 312) “I just wonder. Was the ill-fated Trump Administration our equivalent of ‘The Year 1905’ or ‘The Great Fear’ or is this likely something just ahead of us?”

    The Beer-Hall Putsch.

  311. It’s ironic to see that the Southwest Airlines sickout is affecting the PMC the most. All of those cancelled flights because of staff protesting the jab will hopefully have consequences. Who will win? Will the PMC give up their precious air travel or their lust for power? There seems to be a legacy media blackout on the topic, and that would make sense, as they don’t want the peasants to get ideas.

    A good friend is an airline pilot, and, along with him, all of the other pilots I’ve met all have more of a working class attitude. This is even when they make a couple hundred grand a year. Maybe it’s because most of them were in the military. They all despise management.

  312. @Just Another Green Rage Monster #168,

    The girl in question is from Asia and now living in Europe. She has very little exposure to cancel culture, identity politics etc., which are still to a large extent an American disease, although spreading here, too. Nor is she deep in debt, thanks to her country’s capitalist communism, and this country’s socialist capitalism.

    She wants to quit her academic field (sociolinguistics) to enter technical communication. And ok, technical communication is a career for dropouts and misfits, people end up here after failing at all their childhood dreams.

    But it still used to be the case that you could get into techcomm after a short course, if at all, provided you had some feeling for the written word and some very bare technical skills. The bar has been raising for years, with more and more expensive courses at first, then bachelors, then masters (I reluctantly took one and it sucked).

    Note that, in the meanwhile, the quality of the outputs and the of the tech writers themselves has gone down consistently, and this is quite well documented in the academic literature as well (surprising but true, technical communication is also an academic discipline).

    I am now afraid that in ten years or so, it will take a PhD to write user manuals that, as popular wisdom goes, no one reads anyway. By that time, technical documentation will be so bad (and technical products so complex) that it will be a threat to civilization.

  313. @ JMG – So if the examples i gave are means to an end, and that end it the propping-up of the privileges and status of the top 20%, then wouldn’t intermediation be another one of those means as well?

  314. I had some thoughts that might be on -topic:

    I have taken up gardening, and discovered I enjoy it. I have built my own raise beds. I hired a consultant to tell me if I was doing anything obviously wrong with my gardens. I think he gave me some good advice. $90 for him to come out and talk to me for an hour, and that seemed ok. I asked him to quote me for a planting guide. I passed. I think this guys is costly on account of all the intermediation we are discussing. I would be willing to pay for some advice to shortcut the learning process a bit, but $810 for a planting guide seems a bit steep. I am wondering what he charges for a raised bed. He uses premium materials, so I suspect it is a pretty dear charge. I set up my gardens with cedar fence-boards and those cinder blocks made for 2x4s pretty cheap. Maybe I will learn enough to make garden advice and raised beds my side gig in retirement, if I cannot continue to be a grid engineer.

  315. BCV, I suggest you need to consult garden books written by gardeners who live, or lived, in your area, the closer the better. Also, most states have an agricultural extension program, ours in NY is run out of Cornell U., which, when it is not pushing chemicals on unwary farmers, maintains, in most states, a master gardener program. So far as I have ever heard, the master gardeners know what they are talking about and their advice is free.

    Just an example of climate differences: where I live, we have frequent summer rain events, up to 8″ in one afternoon, and walled raised beds turn into so many bathtubs. Most of us have learned to make mounds separated by small ditches. The rain fills the ditches and then filters into the mounds at root level.

  316. From the Empire Fights Back, business division, files:

    ://www.msn.com/en-us/money/smallbusiness/column-renew-your-service-or-we-ll-trash-your-credit-score-spectrum-tells-ex-custo

    Seems we are under attack from both sides, govt. and business.

  317. @Ksim

    Do the math. The “baby boom” generation were born in the post-war era, with the birth rate reaching its peak in the early 1950’s. An individual born in the early 1950’s would have attended grade school in the 1960’s, a period when the schools were overcrowded and teachers in short supply – a condition that ended fairly abruptly in the early 1970’s when the baby-boom kids finished grade school and entered the workforce to initiate an unemployment problem. (No, they weren’t the sole cause of it: other factors like the soldiers returning, newly unemployed, from the terminated Viet Nam fiasco contributed greatly.) Those who went to college finished their degrees and entered the workforce a few years later, turning the unemployment problem into a nightmare. Then in the early 1980’s they turned 30-ish and went to buy their first house – with the ensuing supply-vs-demand problem having its usual effect upon both housing prices and mortgage rates. And on and on it goes.

    Then, in 2008, they got into their mid-50’s; the ‘freedom 55’ contingent among them promptly began extracting the wealth they stored in their retirement investments, with the entirely expectable consequent effect (a la 1929) that had on the stock market.

    People who plan on retiring early invest differently than the majority of the population. They think ahead, they plan, they watch the markets, and they switch strategies as needed to maximize their gains – then they look ahead and try to find the optimum moment to exit the workforce. Everybody else pays little if any attention to the retirement investment issue, with the majority expecting that once they reach the magic number 65 they can quit their jobs and Social Security will look after them thenceforth and forever. (Suggest to any of them that the government program might not be adequate to their needs at that time, and the typical response will be along the lines of “Well it damned well better be! I paid into it all these years! I voted! I get my pension or else!!) The kids born in 1954 turned 65 in 2019, and the Social Security program is just as bankrupt as the rest of the government. Hence the current crisis – it’s financial in nature, not medical: the flu-bug scare is nothing more than a smokescreen to conceal the real problem for the sake of political expediency.

  318. Info, that’s also an option, of course. So long as the political class faces hard consequences when it makes stupid choices, whether that comes by way of an executioner’s axe or some less decorous application of force, Darwinian selection can weed out at least some of the incompetents.

    Chris, I expect to hear quite a bit of blather about the fundamental soundness of the markets soon, by people who are talking through their fundaments. I have to say, though, alternating Galbraith and Catton with Jack Vance strikes me as a very good idea, though I’ll also put in a word for Robert E. Howard’s Sailor Steve Costigan boxing stories as pleasant relaxation as well — especially after a glance at the latest oil prices.

    Jez, you’re welcome and thank you!

    Viduraawakened, publishing has been in decline for at least fifty years now. Across the board, quality has been sliding hard. Welcome to the Long Descent…

    DenG, glad to hear that being discussed. Yes, I also lifted the concept of intermediation out of Marxist sources, though I hosed it off thoroughly to get rid of the crust of Hegelian, er, compost that surrounded it.

    Phil K, funny! I look forward to seeing your theory of Quantum Typography in the pages of the Journal of Irreproducible Results.

    DFC, no argument there.

    Pygmycory, I’ve been watching that as well. Here we go…

    Antoinetta, that’s the big question just now. My guess is that it’s going to spike much higher, but that’s just a guess.

    David BTL, good! They’re abandoning the hypocrisy of claiming they care what most voters think, and I see that as a step in the right direction. Now, instead of pussyfooting around, the Democrats can get out there and campaign openly on the platform of having everyone surrender their liberties to the experts — after all, look what a wonderful job the experts have done so far!

    Owen, that’ll do just as well!

    Ksim, remember that my first book on the future was not titled The Short Descent. Celente, Keiser et al. were wrong because they didn’t pay enough attention to history to realize that they were misjudging the time frame. The West is in rapid decline, but “rapid” in historical terms means that the unraveling will be stretched out over decades rather than centuries. There will be no big bang — just one crisis after another, one failure after another, one economic shift after another, each of them pushing in the same direction. Twenty years from now the effective standard of living in the US may well have declined by half, hammered by sky-high energy and resource costs, ongoing infrastructure breakdown, and the breakup of the country into post-US successor states or at best, a new federalism allowing each state to go its own way on most issues, but it won’t be one big event that lands us there — just the death of a thousand cuts that every empire undergoes in its twilight years.

    David BTL, thanks for this. I’m delighted to see such stories — they suggest that reality is finally beginning to dawn on our soi-disant betters.

    Patricia M, the hurricane hasn’t made landfall yet but the wind is rising, the rain is drumming down hard, the storm surge already has an inch of water on your living room floor and more’s coming in every minute. It’s a big storm, and tropical storm conditions extend far out from the cataclysmic violence of the eyewall and the eerie temporary calm of the eye. As for the locations of active violence, it depends on which way things go, but yes, if things go kinetic I expect that to happen in a handful of very important cities, at least at first. If we get a domestic insurgency, of course, all bets are off.

    Chris, Irving Fisher deserves to be remembered here and now! I suspect our prosperity is on the same permanently high plateau as the stock prices he talked about in 1929…

    KJL, so noted! Thanks for the data points.

    NomadicBeer, fair enough.

    DenG, thanks for this.

    Jon, it’s been wryly amusing to watch the media frantically trying to pretend that nothing is wrong and the vaccine mandates certainly aren’t involved. It’s understandable, though — if those who refuse to be vaccinated realized how many of us there are, and all walk out at once, the US economy would shudder to a full stop and the shape of power in this country would change very fast.

    Ben, did I say anyting different?

    BCV, $810 for a planting guide? Er, get a couple of good books if you need them, and call it good — that’ll be as useful.

    Patricia M, yep. $83.56 as I type this.

    Mary, of course. It’s all about enforced parasitism.

  319. Long time reader, have what could be a data point and a question for you, JMG.

    The data point is that masons here where I live in Southwest Missouri have started going back to mixing their own mortar with portland cement and sand, whereas just a year or so ago it was exclusively premixed 80 pound bags of mortar and had been for years. Reason given is that it is cheaper to go back to buying sand and portland separate rather than buying the pre mix.

    My question is this, as a younger (33 years old) fairly fit man would you have any advice for how not to get ‘drafted’ to fight by any potential sides in a coming conflict ridden USA? I realized this is a some what random question, was just curious if you had a word of advice for those of us who don’t want to fight for causes not our own if we can help it. Have been thinking this would be something good to be planning for before it happens, not when it is a reality for me and my family. Thanks for at least hearing me out and here is to hoping we all make it through this wave of crisis as well as we can!

  320. John–

    Re random comments and the cult of expertise

    That was just a random exchange between two left-leaning folks I happened to stumble across. We’ll see if it turns out to be a leading indicator of a larger shift or not. I’d have a hard time seeing how the Democrats could still claim to be speaking for the downtrodden if they’re simultaneously telling those downtrodden that only the opinions of PMC experts matter. I’d think that the voters in question would see through that rather quickly. (And perhaps they already are.)

  321. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRw3M0tbHpM “Heating With The Sun: An Introduction to Solar Thermal Energy

    by Illinois Solar Energy Association

    JMG, if there is a breakup of the US, do you think the successor countries borders are going to follow present US state lines or will there be border conflicts? On the map, many of the states seem oddly shaped (straight lines on the map, on the Western US) compared to many other regions such as Europe where national borders often follow some natural feature, a river or mountain range, for example.

  322. Hi John Michael,

    Here I feel it necessary to also add in a vote for the complete Conan the Barbarian stories. 🙂 I must add that Conan as a leader of his Kingdom appeared to have been much liked by the populace, and his policies were simple and effective. As a leader he did not appear to have been much liked by his peers in other kingdoms… Made them look bad, was the general consensus.

    Sailor Steve Costigan was a total blast from one end to the other. Robert E Howard never lets up the narrative pace. The character was just so dumb, and yet effective, and also amusing at the same time. Whenever a feme fatale arrived in the narrative, you knew things were going to go badly for Sailor Steve.

    What will be, will be. And yup, last time oil ventured to such dizzy heights…

    At a wild guess the land of stuff will throw the developers to the wolves, for it appears to be the easier path. But we’ll see how it all plays out.

    Oh, I’m reading Clarges too. And I forgot to mention that the cover of my version of the Languages of Pao was far more err, perhaps suitably pulp fiction esque, than the one you showed a few weeks back. Here you go: The Languages of Pao

    Cheers

    Chris

  323. Hi Tony C #31–
    I believe you are trying to remember the technical name for a reprehensible government policy;
    “Financial Repression.”
    At the end of World War II, the US Government used FR to eliminate their post war debt. It works like this: Government holds the interest rates on Govt Bonds and Savings accounts artificially low, below the inflation rate. Bond Holders and Savers lose the purchasing power of their savings, most of it gone in as little as 10 to 15 years. You can read about it in this publication of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), here:

    https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2015/wp1507.pdf

    Economist authors interested in this include Reinhardt, Rogoff, and Sbrancia. Searching their names will give additional articles on this topic.

    You mentioned a Gold Standard: IMHO, not a likely strategy for government. But in the interim, if you can acquire gold before hyperinflation and then trade it quickly for land, tools, or other useful things, it could help. There’s a lot of timing in that argument though, and things may not go the way we think they will…

    Gold is (again IMHO) a false friend ultimately. When collapse is complete and no one has any surplus of anything to trade anymore, gold is a liability–Local crime lords (ie., future politicians) will kill you for it, or simply take it from you if you are lucky.

    (Oh! Before I forget: Write down the name “Financial Repression” in a place you will notice it again. Although it is critically important to understand, I have found that it vanishes from my memory–and then, not remembering the term, I can’t look up information about it.– Almost as if there was a magical working to induce forgetfulness…)

  324. Just a word on raised garden beds polecat style, fwiw ..

    We get about 25-30″ of rain, mostly between Nov. to June. I’ve constructed 4 beds utilizing some combo of native soil, along with a major addition of sandy ‘riversoil’ purchased from a local sand/gravel/soils/compost business .. so, in addition to adding my own amendments, I now have a composition that drains very well, but generally holds enough moisture to keep any bed mates viable, but with enough organic stuff to help along the microbiota do it’s/their Thang.

    The beds are 1ft above grade, constructed from a combo of pressure-treated lumber (GASP/SHUDDER!!), with some dimensional cedar add-ons.. with the soils below composed mainly of various glacial residual horizon zones – generally of adequately .. and porously drainable stuff. No caliche here .. nor much clay either, on this, my mortally temporary teensy-weensie tiny bit of blue speck.

    Seems to work ok – most of the flora thus planted groove with it .. even, and especially, the volunteers ‘;]

  325. Forgot to emphasize : Screen out as much rock as possible BEFORE filling said beds. Your back will thank you for it later .. once it recovers from the initial effort involved. I had to screen close to a couple yards of naive rock/cobbles before all was said and done. Woo!

  326. The profession of economics has been the butt of numerous well-deserved critiques on this site over the years. It’s worth your time looking at this year’s “Nobel” laureates in economy. One of them made his mark by analyzing actual real-world data, e.g. on the effect of a rise in minimum wage on unemployment (he found none), while the other two were a bit more theoretical, but with the aim of extracting the best possible estimates from such real-world data. The funny thing is that the science of measuring real-world economic data is usually called econometrics – I wonder what is then left of economics if you remove econometrics from it…

  327. Note: if there’s a domestic insurgency, my daughter’s mother-in-law, who was born and raised in Canada, is all ready to pick the family up and go. She and her sons have dual citizenship and the grandsons have their passports, and she’s been totally certain that we could be in a shooting war and wants us off the firing line. I have to check my passport to see if it’s up to date if that happens, unless Carol wants to leave me here behind enemy lines (as she’d see it) because this institution I’m in takes really good care of me and I’m off her hands. a.k.a “The Second Civil War as a family-friendly comedy.”

  328. NOT the Babylon Bee….

    California Bans Small Off-Road Gas Engines, Including Lawnmowers and Chainsaws.

    A veritable banquet of consequences for Cali types….dig in!

  329. Random recommendation for the end of the comment thread this week….we just found the BBC shows Victorian Farm (6 episodes) and Edwardian Farm (6 episodes) and they are delightful. If you want a view of what life was like 1880-1915 with bare bones technology, this is it. Premise is three people live for a year on the farm and try to make it work. Its not melodramatic and lots of farming, cottage industry, and homemaking practices demonstrated.

  330. @Bei Dawei #338 re: Beer Hall Putsch:

    I have never thought that was a good analogy. My brother emailed me in 2016 wondering if the U.S. had entered a “March 1933 moment.” Here is what I said to him at the time. I stand by my words even now.
    ===============================================================================
    “I know that the Mainstream Media has ratcheted up hysterical comparisons of Trump to Hitler with thundering Weltschmerz and Wagnerian abandon. I think such rhetoric is wildly overblown. Here is why I say so.

    “First, when Hitler came to power, he had spent the previous 14 years building up his Nazi party from a room full of tin-foil-hatters into a well-oiled (and increasingly well-funded) political machine, with appointed and elected officials in most of the provinces of Germany as well as in the Reichstag. By contrast, Trump engineered a hostile takeover of the Republican Party, and many of his arch-enemies (such as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan) are still in power. All of the Democrats, and half or more of the Republicans, hate his guts, and will obstruct anything he tries to do. Trump has no independent party machinery to help him.

    “Second, by the time Hitler came to power, he had, not one but TWO paramilitary organizations (the Brownshirts and the SS) at his beck and call. Trump has none of this.

    “I will add, that I am actually quite surprised that Trump did not try to mobilize Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans to form a Brownshirt Praetorian Guard around him. Given the shameful way that these veterans have been mistreated (many of whom are homeless), it would have been absurdly easy to do. At some point. some ambitious demagogue will get a brainwave, and radicalize these veterans. When THAT happens – Geronimo! Look out below!”
    ==============================================================================

    If anything, Trump reminds me of no one so much as Marcus Licinius Crassus, one of the First Roman Triumvirs, and the richest man in Rome at the time. If you look at busts of Crassus and photos of Trump, they even look similar. Trump went down in electoral flames and Crassus was slaughtered by the Persians at Carrhae. Both of them were transitional figures.

  331. JD, many thanks for the data point — that’s significant. As for staying out of the fighting, that may be difficult; I’ll have to look into it.

    David BTL, so noted. It’s still a fascinating sign.

    Sim, well, here’s a map of the post-US future from my novel Retrotopia:

    The short form is that east of the Mississippi, the state borders have some basis in geographical reality; west of the Mississippi, they’re just random lines. I expect things to sort out accordingly.

    Chris, oh, granted, any of Howard is worthwhile — I just find the Sailor Steve stories especially pleasant just now, as a light-hearted contrast with an increasingly grim reality.

  332. Re renouncing US citizenship: I did it 3 years ago. Sick and tired of having to file US income tax forms every year though I had no financial connection to the US. The forms are very tricky and you sometimes you get double taxed in the US and the country you are living it.
    The bastards make it hard to get clear of the US: 1/2 hour at the US consulate (you have to swear an oath in person in front of an official) cost me US$2,000. You have to be absolutely up to date with your IRS tax obligations or they won’t let you go. The State Department as to clear you as well.
    IRS pretends you died on the day you swore the oath of renunciation, then they total up ALL your assets worldwide on that day. Then they figure the capital gain on those assets as if they were all sold for maximum profit on that day. Then they immediately apply the current capital gain tax rate (around 20-25%). You get a fairly hefty exemption on the tax total (when I did it, around US$670,000). So for small fry like me with not a lot of assets, there was no tax owing. Assets include real property, all financial investments, retirement funds, etc.
    My other reason for renouncing was that I haven’t lived in the US for 30 years and don’t want to be associated with the “Evil Empire” in any way. No way do I want to be part of an Empire in decline. I have 1 sister there. If she wants to see me, she can come here to NZ. I have zero desire to ever set foot in the US again.

  333. Hello JMG,

    A thought provoking essay as usual, thank you for this!

    I’d like to ease things a little bit regarding intermediation as the “root of all evil”.

    Considering agriculture, manufacture and raw resources extraction as the primary source of economic materials, I think of commerce an “economical” parasite of the former activities. Then, finance behaves as the parasite of commerce. As you surely know, there are two ways a parasite can evolve with its host, either symbiosis or predatory parasitism. Symbiosis occurs when the host and the parasite both take advantage of the other. Commerce can be a symbiosis when producers and merchants act as equals or have equal “skin in the game” to borrow from Nassim Taleb. I’m thinking of cooperatives here when producers assemble and craft an organization to sell their products at scale.

    The same can be derived for finance with short-lived corporations of equals put together to accrue capital for some purpose or with stock exchange as a mean to meet demand and supply in capital on a very short term basis. Or banking for long-term supply of credit.

    Regulations and organizational bodies needed to enforce them are another kind of parasites and are the ones you describe in your essay. They don’t differ from commerce or finance in such a sense that at the symbiotic level they are needed as the “rules of the game” to minimize the risks incurred by both the actors of the economy and the environment. Rules and regulation are also and that’s the key point the tools needed to change parasitic behaviour into symbiosis and maintain this rather unstable state over time.

    As any complex system of interdependant and non-linear interactions, economical parasitism can shift from symbiotis to predatory very quickly especially when the rules and regulation framework changes over. One example, when Clinton repelled the Glass-Steagall Act, hedging activities started to parasitize the traditional banking activities resulting in a credit crunch for all productive activities traditional banking used to symbiotically support.

    To make long things short, intermediation as a symbiotical parasitism is something to seek for when the goal is to optimize the economy of providing humans with goods and services at the lower risk possible i.e. with minimal externalities to borrow from the much despised economists’ jargon. When left unattended, parasites do what they do best: extract all things of value from their host and let it die.

    On a different topic and rather off-topic, I almost choked myself laughing when I read your statement about our new media rattle du jour here in France: Mr Eric Z.

    I don’t know if this guy rides the waves of the future but, if he does, it is with a rather old and rotten board 😉

    The not-so-long-to-come future will tell us but as a starter, Mister Z. appears as a chemically pure product of the french media system, a “spectacle” as Debord defined it. Z. appears as a provocateur without any practical or enactable political vision (much like all the other mooks who contend in that election you’d say rightly). Even if he’s a man of great culture who masters the art of rhetorics like few others, his different discourses from different places and different times appear to be full of inconsistencies (there again, not so much different from the lot of politicians). Given this, I don’t know what makes you think he rides the waves of the future as Z. appears to me like any other soup vendor. Correct me if I’m wrong, I think you wrote this because Z. has a good diagnosis of what France’s become and why. Unfortunately, he doesn’t propose any solutions to correct this.

    (in case you wonder why I call him Z., he bears a resemblance with a cartoon character called Zorglub)

  334. Today’s front page says it all (Gainesville Sun, October 13th, 2021) From top to bottom:

    Americans quit jobs in record numbers
    Transplant patients need vaccines
    Fewer in US turn to food banks
    Shatner heads for the stars as his character did

  335. Dear John,

    I’m of the belief that those who will make it before the “medieval level” are most likely the very nationalistic and economically isolated countries, of course if they were smart enough in execution and making legal regulations to assist that. We might actually need to take few notes from Germany’s economic policies from the NS period, but few would want to admit it. I’m hoping my country is taking such route, as increasing regulations and pressure on foreigners (higher taxes and charging employers who have less national citizens), though we are yet mired in pools of corruption, so it’s untraversed land indeed.

    This also made me think about the yuga cycles of the Hindu, I remember reading that each yuga is lead by a certain varna (social order or caste), and we are most likely in the Dvapara Yuga, at least according to Sadhguru, and it’s too obvious that the vaishya (traders, agriculturalists, etc) are the ones in front. Only if they read Manusmriti and other related texts, we might’ve had less damages. Even though I tend to work with a Western system of astrological ages, I think we could learn a lot theoretically from these ancient texts.

    My country’s economy depended for decades on exporting oil to the world, we are now supposedly moving into a more sustainable system for the near future, with the Saudi Green Initiative for example, aiming to plant 10 billion trees across the land, but I doubt we’d go anywhere if we keep the same lifestyles and foreign economic policies. I guess as a recent graduate I need to look further into the “underground economy” of my country and help empowering it.

    Aziz

  336. @Michael Martin #360 – yes, of course. I’ve been saying that since the Orange Julius threads began. Marcus Licinius Crassus in the all too, too, solid flesh.

    But then, if he was the Orange Julius, the question is who his Augustus is going to be.

    As for precursors, I give you Publius Clodius, a demagogue’s demagogue, who had a cadre of buddies given to street riots and other mischief. There were pitched battles between his gang and those of a right-wing* gangster nicknamed Milo. And Clodius’ sister-and-handler, older sister, note, Clodia, who played the same games in the bedroom and dining room. [Contemporary wisecrack, translated into modern references, “Las Vegas in the dining room, Fort Knox in the bedroom.” Probably courtesy of Catullus.]

    *Okay, maybe too modern a term, but Rome was split precisely that way back then, with Cicero’s moderates trying very hard to keep things on an even keel.

  337. Hello Mr Greer

    A comment on not working for the MAN, well not much. Since childhood I have had ME, though not diagnosed until my early forties. I have always known that I could not trust my health and as such I have looked for an alternative means of subsistence (forget state help with ME!). I had knowledge of permaculture and similiar systems of subsistence from the eighties, and managed to buy a few acres cheap in the mid nineties and set up orchards, allotment and coppice. Thank the gods that I did! My health problems became a lot worse in the early 2000’s and again in the early 2010’s. I am now good for 4-5 hours work a day on a good day. I divide my work week between four days a week working as a science technician in a local college on short hours term time only and the rest on the land. The house is paid for curtesy of past relatives. No family due to not trusting my health (plus later finding I had a genetic disease that was a bad idea to pass on). I find the subsitsence work very satisfying, producing by my own hands that which I consume. It builds confidence in yourself and your future, and you get mostly what you want and of better quality, not just what the market offers, which these days is often trash. My subsistence supplies me a wide variety of foods, baskety, cane, timber, woodfuel, treen, charcoal, furniture, oils, pitch, and more, though it is often the case of learning something new when you want something! My cash income is high enough to just qualify to pay national insurance (NI) which means I will get a state pension one day, but not high enough to pay income tax, which suits me.

    Comming to the point, if you don’t have a family (many people don’t these days), and have access to cheap or no cost accomodation, and access to natural resources, you don’t need a lot of cash to get by in the nominally still abundant industrial economy. I suspect that many people have asked themselves during the last two years why work a crap job full time? Or for the middle classes a high pressure job at all? The modern economy has reached a crossing point where its is cheaper for many people to produce quailty goods for themselves than have to try and earn sufficient money in the market economy to buy quality goods, which comes back to your point on intermediation sucking up so much wealth and leaving little for those who do the necessary jobs in society. PS I find it easier to buy quailty goods these days as I don’t need the money for basics, I got them already!

    I came to this position by conscious decision due to health problems. I think many people are coming to this choice because it is better for them economicaly. I wonder what the mediation class will do when the jobs and markets that support them are deserted?

    Thank Mr Greer for your deep thoughts on the future.

    Best regards Philip

  338. David BTL,
    “I’d have a hard time seeing how the Democrats could still claim to be speaking for the downtrodden if they’re simultaneously telling those downtrodden that only the opinions of PMC experts matter.” I see no problem here; there’s ample precedent. Marxist intelligentsia have claimed for more than a century to be speaking for the proletariat while mowing down said proletariat by the millions as soon as they got in power.

  339. At my last employment (20+years) I required the intermediation of a corporation, which cooperated with other corporations, because I didn’t have the tools and equipment and marketing department in my back room to manufacture thousands of laser rangefinders.

  340. @Denis since you mentioned the BBC Farm series:

    I’ve just finished watching Secrets of the Castle, featuring Ruth Gordon et al. They’re building a 13th century castle in France using tools and techniques from the period. Felling trees, splitting planks, dressing stone (origins of the Masons!), blacksmithing, grinding grains with a hand-built water-powered mill. Fascinating!

    It’s incredibly inspiring that this knowledge has been preserved and that young people are learning to use it.

  341. Hi all,

    From the other side of the Atlantic, it always looked to me like the US is in the middle of its own ‘Dreyfus Affair’, two irreconcilable parties separated by opposing values and identities. The French at least had the Prussians to keep them from tipping into civil war. American could do with sharing a land border with a militarist juggernaut bent on its subjugation. The USSR really did kill America when it collapsed.

    I wish America the best though- or maybe more to the point, I wish the best America well- and I hope ye get lucky with the next generation of leaders. The last generation of Republican Rome produced figures so totemic that we still refer to them today as archetypal leaders (Cicero- consummate Statesman and pragmatic Politician, Crassus-Plutocrat and Puppet master, Pompey- Showman and Strongman, Cato-Traditionalist and Fanatic, Clodius- Populist and Faction Fighter….and that’s without even mentioning J Caesar) It might not be enough to save the country but the example could inspire a new nation.

    Over here in Ireland, we suffer from the polar opposite existential threat to our state-reunification. The fear of a sizeable part of the population is that we are sleepwalking into reunification with the North. Why this might pose a problem to a Dublin government is the fact that at the height of the conflict in Northern Ireland, The IRA drew its strength from a population of roughly 500,000 people out of a whole UK population of 60 million. This was a low-intensity conflict that a highly modern British army could not win, fought within its own territory and against its culturally near-identical foe, not one waged against a stranger in a strange land.

    A united Ireland could contain I million reluctant and potentially insurrectionist citizens out of a total population of 6 million people. The leader of the right of centre Fine Gael-a party which has come to define itself as the guardian of the Irish Republic-has recently jumped on the reunification bandwagon. Its unlikely, since a slight majority in the North would be violently opposed to such an idea, and 100 years of radically different economic and social systems have made us greater strangers than any confessional differences ever could. The danger, is that we have forgotten how quickly communities which have lived together in relative peace can descend into inter-communal conflict. This collective-forgetting could allow a reunification poll to pass on a razor thin majority.

    The warning that Ireland can offer the States is that it’s not civil war that should be feared, but forgetting.

  342. BCV – The Old Farmer’s Almanac has an excellent online garden planner that’s dirt cheap (get it? :))). Also a hug amount of info at its web site.

  343. >The USSR really did kill America when it collapsed.

    An apocryphal story. A Soviet general told one of his US counterparts during the Soviet collapse “We’re going to do one final unspeakable horrible thing to you. We’re going to deprive you of an enemy.”

    Ever since the federal government has been in a search to find a new enemy. Well, they did. Their own citizens.

  344. Hey, just coming to share this link from Scott Alexander’s october list of links, with his own commentary, which reminded me of this blogpost:

    The 1517 Fund is a venture capital firm that “focus[es] on backing founders without degrees”. Their site says: “On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to a church door in Wittenberg to protest the sale of indulgences. These were pieces of paper the establishment church sold at great cost, telling people it would save their souls. The church made a fortune doing it. Likewise, universities today are selling a piece of paper at great cost and telling people that buying it is the only way they can save their souls. Universities call it a diploma, and they’re making a fortune doing it. Call us heretical if you like, but the 1517 Fund is dedicated to dispelling that paper illusion”. Can’t believe you can found a Ninety-Five Theses-based venture capital organization without mentioning the gematria perspective that “95” in Roman numerals is “VC”.

    https://www.1517fund.com

Courteous, concise comments relevant to the topic of the current post are welcome, whether or not they agree with the views expressed here, and I try to respond to each comment as time permits. Long screeds proclaiming the infallibility of some ideology or other, however, will be deleted; so will repeated attempts to hammer on a point already addressed; so will comments containing profanity, abusive language, flamebaiting and the like -- I filled up my supply of Troll Bingo cards years ago and have no interest in adding any more to my collection; and so will sales spam and offers of "guest posts" pitching products. I'm quite aware that the concept of polite discourse is hopelessly dowdy and out of date, but then some people would say the same thing about the traditions this blog is meant to discuss. Thank you for reading Ecosophia! -- JMG

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