Fifth Wednesday Post

The Arc Of Our Future

In last week’s open post, I noted that I didn’t have anything in particular planned for this fifth Wednesday of the month, and asked my readers what they wanted to hear about. Quite a few subjects got brought up for discussion—among others, the novels of Hermann Hesse, Carl Jung’s concept of synchronicity, and the metaphysics of sex—but the largest number of readers asked for something less abstract.

During more than half of the fourteen years plus that I’ve been blogging weekly, the main focus of my essays was the future of industrial society, and in particular the slow-motion train wreck set in motion by our society’s frankly brainless attempt to pursue infinite economic growth on a finite planet. More recently, and especially from 2015 on, my focus has been elsewhere, but the issues I raised in those days haven’t gone away—the political convulsions of the last few years have simply distracted attention from them. Many of my readers are aware of this, and what they asked for was an update on the ongoing historical process I’ve called the Long Descent.

Since some of my current readers weren’t yet reading me when I last discussed these issues, I’ll start with some general points and go from there. One of the great mental blind spots of our society is the notion that there are only two possible futures: on the one hand, business as usual stretching endlessly into the future, with a side order of technological progress dished up at intervals; on the other, sudden apocalyptic mass death, with or without a small band of plucky survivors sitting around a campfire as the final credits roll. An astonishing number of people these days literally won’t let themselves think about any other possible future, and will either change the subject or get furiously angry at you if you should be so bold as to suggest one.

The evasion and the anger come from the same source, which is that those imaginary futures are the ways most of us distract ourselves from the future we’re actually getting:  a future of decline. We all know this. If you’re old enough to be out of elementary school, you’ve already seen ongoing declines in standards of living, public health, public order, the quality of education, the condition of our infrastructure, and much more. Those trends define our future.  They also defined the future of every past civilization, because that’s how civilizations end, and it’s how ours will end, one to three hundred years from now. Again, at some level, all of us know this, but it’s taboo to discuss the matter or even think about it, which is why so many people bury their heads in shopworn fantasies of perpetual progess or overnight cataclysm.

One other thing. Technology will not save us from the Long Descent, because technology is the main factor driving the Long Descent. The more technology you have, the more energy and resources of every kind you need to build, maintain, repair, replace, and dispose of it, and the mismatch between endlessly rising resource costs and the hard limits of a finite planet is one of the main factors bringing about the declines I’ve just described. Nor does technology allow one energy resource to be replaced with another, except in small and irrelevant ways.

The world now burns more coal than it did at the peak of the Coal Age, for example, and more wood than it did when firewood was the main source of heating fuel worldwide.  As renewable power sources got added to the mix, furthermore, the amount of fossil fuels being burnt didn’t go down—it went up. (That’s caused by a widely recognized law of energy economics, by the way; look up Jevons’ Paradox sometime.)  If progress is the problem, more progress is not the solution—but here again, that’s utterly unthinkable these days. Faith in progress is the most popular idolatry of our time, and a vast number of people who claim to belong to other religions or to no religion at all are devout worshipers at the shrine of the golden calf named Progress.

So where are we headed?  That hasn’t changed one iota since the last time I discussed these issues. The Limits to Growth, the most thoughtful (and thus inevitably the most savagely denounced) of the Seventies-era books that explored the landscape ahead of us, traced the arc of our future in a convenient graph. Between 1972 and the present, its predictions have proven much more accurate than those of the books’s critics—another reason why it’s been assailed in such shrill language for all these years. Here’s the graph:

I’d encourage my readers to pay attention to two things about the graph.  The first, which should be obvious at a glance but has been ignored astonishingly often, is that it doesn’t show any kind of sudden apocalyptic event. What it shows is a long and relatively smooth transition from a world of abundant resources and sustained economic growth to a world of scarce resources and sustained economic contraction.  Population doesn’t fall off a cliff, it rises, crests, and declines. Pollution doesn’t up and kill everybody; it rises, helps drive declines in food and population, and then declines in turn as industrial output falls off.

The second thing about the graph I’d like readers to notice is subtler, and you may need to read the book to grasp it:  the limits to growth are economic limits, not technical ones. What happens, in brief, is that the costs of growth rise faster than the benefits, until finally they overwhelm growth itself and force the global economy to its knees. What this means, in turn, is that proposed solutions have to be economically viable, not just technically feasible.

The idolaters of Progress love to ignore this, and drag out this or that notional technology—it’s usually one of about a dozen options, most of which have been part of this rhetoric since the 1970s—and insist that since it hasn’t yet been shown to be technically impossible, it must surely save us all. Not so; if the medical treatment that could save your life costs ten million dollars and the most you can raise is a few thousand, no matter how well the treatment works, you’re going to die.  By exactly the same logic, even if fusion power turns out to be technically feasible, the sheer cost of the last few fusion reactor projects has demonstrated conclusively that no nation on Earth will ever be able to afford to power its grid that way.

None of this has changed. All these factors are just as much in play as they were in 2006 when I wrote my first blog post on peak oil. So the big picture remains the same: we are in the early stages of the Long Descent, tracing out an arc that began in earnest around 1970 and has been accelerating slowly. What has changed since then?

Let’s start with peak oil. That was shorthand for the world peak of conventional petroleum production, which happened around 2005. Starting in the late 1990s, people who had been watching the oil industry started to warn that peak oil was imminent. Unfortunately too many of them suffered from the mental blind spot I mentioned above, and leapt to the conclusion that peak oil would be followed by a grand apocalyptic collapse. Of course that was never going to happen, as some of us tried to point out at the time.  What happened instead was that the production of relatively cheap conventional oil peaked and started to decline, and the production of much more expensive unconventional oil deposits had to take its place.

All other things being equal, that would have caused a steep  and ongoing increase in the price of oil, and of everything made from, with, or by petroleum products or petroleum-derived energy—that is to say, just about everything in the modern economy. All things weren’t equal, though, because steep and ongoing increases in the cost of everything would have been political suicide for any national government you care to name, ours very much included. A cascading series of financial gimmicks therefore came into play so that consumers didn’t have to pay up front the full cost of the energy and products of energy they were using. The arrangements that were made to keep shale oil producers afloat financially, even when the oil they produced didn’t cover the costs of extraction, are examples of the sort of thing I have in mind.

Of course consumers ended up paying the costs anyway in indirect ways, mostly through infrastructure being handed over to malign neglect and a decline in standards of living that in some parts of the US approached Third World levels. The pain wasn’t shared equally, though.  Here as in most of the industrial world, the privileged classes (basically, the middle class on up) were sheltered from the decline through various gimmicks that pushed as many costs as possible on the poorer 80% or so of the population and restricted as many benefits as possible to the wealthier 20%. That was where we were in 2015, when politics began to claim a much larger share of my attention than before.

And now?  The unmentionable issue of the last five years, the thing that has driven so many people into so many weird forms of paralogic, is that in the US, Britain, and several other countries, the 80% who were being made to carry all the costs of contraction figured out how to make their voices heard at the ballot box.  In Britain, the turning point was the Brexit vote; here, the election of Donald Trump. In both cases, a sufficiently large share of voters in the deplorable classes said to their self-proclaimed betters, “No, you get to take some of the costs.”  Of course the result was shrieking meltdowns from the privileged—but there’s more to this than theatrics.

It so happens that the most significant result of every reform movement of modern times has been to increase the number of well-paid administrative positions in government, business, and the nonprofit sector. Poverty’s a problem? Why, then, we’ll build an immense bureaucracy to administer a gargantuan system of overlapping benefit schemes, which provide a miserable life to the people who have to survive on them, but a very comfortable life indeed to the tens or hundreds of thousands of middle-class office drones who administer them. The environment’s in trouble? The same answer gets trotted out. Choose any cause du jour in the last three quarters of a century and you’ll see exactly the same logic at work:  whatever the problem, the solution somehow always works out to hiring more bureaucrats.

Mind you, none of these programs have actually solved the problems they were supposedly meant to fix.  The welfare state hasn’t eradicated poverty, environmental regulation hasn’t slowed the despoiling of the environment, the fantastic ballooning of administrative staff at schools and universities correlates precisely to the steady plunge in the quality of the education you get from these institutions, and so on  Bureaucracy isn’t an effective tool for solving social problems—but it’s a very effective tool for maximizing the job prospects of university graduates and diverting most of society’s wealth into the hands of an administrative class. I suggest that this was the real point of the whole operation.

That, in turn, makes the administrative class profoundly vulnerable at this point. As I pointed out fifteen years ago in my original paper on catabolic collapse, societies decline when the cost of maintaining capital exceeds the resources available for maintenance. (By “capital” I mean here anything of value to that society:  buildings, bureaucracies, factories, farmland, information, social networks, literacy, religious beliefs, ceremonies, you name it.)  In order to deal with that situation, societies discard some of their capital to reduce maintenance costs to a level that can be supported with the available resources.

Right now, the single largest, most expensive, and most useless body of capital in any modern industrial society is its administrative sector—and that, in turn, is why the Trump administration is repealing eight Federal regulations for each new regulation it enacts, appointing heads of major bureaucracies who have the job of dismantling those bureaucracies, and so on. That’s also why cutting Federal funding for universities has become the latest battle-cry on the populist right in the US. That’s what happens to privileged castes that lose track of the fact that their benefit to society has to be large enough to cover their maintenance costs.  As John Kenneth Galbraith pointed out many years ago in his acerbic book The Culture of Complacency, the administrative class in modern America is remarkably similar to the feckless and parasitic French aristocracy just prior to the Revolution, and I’m sure my readers recall what happened to them.

No, I don’t expect Madame Guillotine to be involved this time around. Among the benefits of living in a constitutional republic are that such matters can be settled at the ballot box, and the level of bloodshed can be kept reasonably low. The new populist right is in the process of completing its takeover of the Republican party, so whether or not Trump wins reelection, the administrative caste is no longer sacrosanct; its privileges will be at risk any time the GOP gets control of Congress or any state legislature. The terms of debate are thus shifting decisively, and over the next few decades I expect to see a very large number of public and private administrative bureaucracies pared down to pre-1960 scales or simply abolished.

That, in turn, will free up a great many resources that can then be used for other things. We’ll need those. The depletion of fossil fuels and nonrenewable resources continues apace; right now, with demand for petroleum down sharply due to the coronavirus outbreak, next to nobody’s drilling new oil wells, a detail that promises a steep spike in oil prices once the outbreak is over.  Meanwhile climate disruptions due to greenhouse gas emissions (that’s part of the line labeled “pollution” in the graph from The Limits to Growth) are ongoing, piling additional costs on already stumbling economies around the globe.

Let’s glance at this last point a little more closely before we go on. Climate change activists were just as addicted to apocalyptic fantasy as the clueless end of the peak oil movement, and fixated on absurdly unrealistic linear models as well.  Their predictions failed, and failed, and failed, and yet they never did figure out why so many people stopped taking them seriously. (They finally shut up and found other things to protest instead, but that’s because people started pointing out how many climate change activists were unwilling to change their own lifestyles to stop dumping carbon into the air.)

It’s possible, however, to have mistaken ideas and behave in hypocritical ways about a real problem.  Climate change is a known phenomenon in Earth’s long history; it can be caused by any phenomenon that dumps trillions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, be that volcanic eruptions or industrial smokestacks; it’s not the end of the world, though it can cause some whopping disruptions—sharp changes in sea level, drastic shifts in what plants grow where, and so on.  Climate change is still in process, and we’re going to see a lot of climate-related disasters in the years ahead, but here again, it’s not the end of the world.

So what does the future look like?  In some ways, it’s a far less dismal prospect over the short term than I expected not so long ago. Watching the consequences of neoliberal economic policies in the US, I was seriously worried about the rise of a domestic insurgency or outright civil war—that’s why my novels Star’s Reach (2014) and Retrotopia (2016) both presupposed a Second Civil War sometime in the first half of the 21st century.  I think we may have dodged that bullet, since Trump’s election showed a great many desperate people that the ballot box was still a viable alternative to war. Even if he loses this November, so long as the election isn’t obviously fraudulent, there’s reason to hope that the lesson has been learned.

If we do see any significant clearing away of bureaucratic deadwood in the years ahead, combined with a rejection of the disastrously wrongheaded model of economic globalization and a retreat from the unsustainable global hegemony the US had and squandered in the late 20th century, we could see a period of relative stability and calm in the United States in the 2030s and 2040s. On the far side of that will be a new wave of crises, for that’s the nature of the Long Descent:  each period of crisis is followed by a period of stabilization and partial recovery, and then by another period of crisis.

For the world as a whole?  That’s a complicated matter and probably deserves a post of its own sometime soon.  There’s a lot going on in the world right now, in east and south Asia, in the eastern Mediterranean and western Asia.  As the US stands down from its former status as hegemonic power, massive readjustments are in process, with ambitious and aggressive powers such as China and Turkey bullying their neighbors, who are responding by entering into new alignments against them. Meanwhile, as NATO and the EU become increasingly brittle and irrelevant, European nations are sorting themselves out into rival blocs. Some global flashpoints right now have outsized importance due to energy resources—Libya and the Caucasus, both of which are on the brink of war as I write this, both have important petroleum reserves—while others follow age-old patterns—the growing strains in the EU between its western and eastern halves come as no surprise to anyone who knows the history of Europe since 1648 or so.

That is to say, history as usual. We’re not going to the stars, nor are we headed for some other kind of Utopian world, courtesy of Progress or the Space Brothers or any of the other idols worshiped by believers in that particular brand of intellectual snake oil.  Nor, of course, are any of the canned catastrophes brandished around by believers in the equal and opposite brand of intellectual snake oil going to finally get off their duffs and put in an appearance, either. All of that is handwaving, meant to distract us from the future we’re actually going to get.

In the future we’re actually going to get, there will be many fewer people on Earth, living more restricted lifestyles on a much less lavish resource base and having access to much less in the way of industrial production—look at the graph from The Limits to Growth above if you need a reminder.  We won’t be “going back” to some specific point in the past, by the way—quite the contrary, what happens in the declining days of a civilization is that its entire legacy gets subjected to triage, and technologies, practices, customs, and cultural forms from any point in its past can be put back into place if they meet a need more economically and sustainable than the alternatives, while innovations also play a role if they can pass the same test.

That’s the future we’re headed toward.  As I suggested above, I think we all know this perfectly well at some level, but most of us haven’t yet been willing to break the taboo and admit that fact even to ourselves. The time when the taboo collapses isn’t quite on us yet, I think, but it may not be far away—and when it arrives, it may be possible to take constructive action in ways that are almost unimaginable just now. Still, we’ll see.

450 Comments

  1. Would you say that the progress/apocalypse dichotomy is behind the (over)reaction to COVID-19? It’s obviously not progress, so it must be apocalypse, and so everything, everything, EVERYTHING must be shut down until the enemy is defeated. Does that sound about right?

  2. Thank you for this! It’s very difficult to imagine what decline will look like 10, 20, 50 years from now.

    Here’s an anecdote that is partly related to the discussion.

    I read in a permaculture website that the ability to build a proper haystack had been lost and no one could figure out how to do it. In response, my fiance showed me a video of some farmers in the Carpathian mountains building haystacks the same way they had done for hundreds or thousands of years. (He’s from Romania, so it makes sense English speakers might not stumble across it). Right now we have the unique resources to recover some of these lost skills, because we are still connected by technology.

    Shortly after that, he developed scythe repair as a personal hobby. Watching him scythe the grass made me suddenly realize the old wisdom of depicting the Grim Reaper with a scythe. It’s a perfect symbol for the cycle of life and death, because where the grasses fall, more grass will grow. Wheat grass, humans, civilizations… all follow the same cycle.

    Sincerely,

    Jessi Thompson
    anotheramethyst

  3. I for one am hoping our continued conversations here help change “almost unimaginable” to imaginable, and that we can find and develop the constructive actions that can help as we ride the bumpiness downward. Obviously they’ll be locale-dependent, but I hope to assist the transition and contribute something of benefit in my remaining time here though for me, now, the “almost unimaginable” quality holds sway.

  4. JMG: “They also defined the future of every past civilization, because that’s how civilizations end, and it’s how ours will end, one to three hundred years from now.”

    Actually, I have a question about this. What is “our” civilization? Do you mean the Western civilization, or do you mean the industrial civilization?

    I’m not sure about the West, but I would imagine that something recognizable as China will still be around, not just a century or three from now, but a millenium or three from now. It’s just that it’s unlikely to be burning fossil fuels!

  5. Thanks for the flashback to the good old days of ADR, which turned out to be a gateway drug to the occult. You gave me something I can work on vs going over the same apocalyptic fantasies again and again.

    Regarding organized labor, one of the issues we have been running into lately is that the bosses identify with the industry executives more than the workers themselves. My own middle class family was horrified by my career choices, being a college grad, but when they heard I got my union card they were excited about the possibility that I could get into a management position. It was a rather odd and uncomfortable suggestion at the time.

    Now I have watched long enough to see the latest rush of so-called leaders carve out comfy positions for themselves, protect the criminals among their ranks, and throw our lower status members under the bus. The suggestion of my family and your post helped me put this into context, that they are scrambling to create bureaucratic positions for themselves at the expense of everyone else.

    It will obviously fall apart, and now I am wondering if there will be anything left worth salvaging. What do you see as the role of organized labor going forward? Pandemics are supposed to be good for workers rights, but it seems like our leaders are dead set on blowing any and all opportunities with their greed and incompetence.

  6. Hi JMG and commentariat – The University of Missouri System Board of Curators voted Tue. July 28th 2020 to combine the positions of University of Missouri Chancellor and System President. The board discussed the combination as a way to save the university system money during the ongoing issues of Covid 19. The decision could save the university as much as 10 Million Dollars Annually! Talk about bureaucratic deadwood.

  7. Excellent as always.

    Not only is faith in the false god of Progress going to be shaken, that of Progressives as well. Too much of their agenda is also “uneconomic” to put it kindly. The faithful will not be amused, and the protests will continue.

  8. Thanks JMG, excellent post. I hope that you are right about the USA avoiding a civil war. However, even without that kind of conflict, I think that the USA, and much of the industrialized world, is in for a reset to accommodate itself to the realities of resource scarcity. The Japanese seem to be well on this path in that they are accepting of a population decline since that should allow them to live within their means. I don’t know how well we in N. America will adapt to changing circumstances.

  9. Dear Mr Greer

    Good post. What techno enthusiasts forget is that technology is not energy. Technology is what you do with energy. Without energy this computer I am typing this comment on would be a piece of useless junk. All the great and wonderful technology we rely on, all the minerals, food, the electricity and gas we use to cook, heat and light our houses depends on energy. The scientists have been looking for new sources of energy since the 1970’s and they have not found it. Our civilisation is still run on fossil fuels.They may have made some improvements in terms is efficiency of solar and wind etc, but that is all. Due to the intermittency and the diffuse nature of renewals you simply cannot run the kind of industrial civilisation we have on them. Energy is the foundation of our civilisation. Just because you cannot see the foundations of your house, it does not mean that they are not there. Without them your house will fall

    The reassuring solidity of matter is an illusion. Physicists tells us that matter is made of energy. Civilisations are the same. They may look reassuringly solid, but they too are made of energy, and when that goes, they go. Like the Bard said in the Tempest

    Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
    As I foretold you, were all spirits and
    Are melted into air, into thin air.
    And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
    The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
    The solemn temples, the great globe itself—
    Yea, all which it inherit—shall dissolve
    And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
    Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
    As dreams are made on, and our little life
    Is rounded with a sleep.

  10. I hope you are right regarding Trump’s tenure as a sort of pressure relief valve to perhaps avoid US Civil War 2 and more suffering.
    I’m not convinced.
    I’ve lived for 40+ years in small conservative towns, first in the South and now in the Midwest, trying to act as a bridge. The anger, discord and despair now grow almost daily.
    It’s never been this bad, barring right after Obama was elected and just before Trump was elected. Perhaps these spillovers and small pockets of violence instigated in part by Trump’s divisive strategy are just what you mean. Relief valve. Just what we need.
    But sheesh.
    So much negative energy.

    I blame my fellow liberals for their incredible intolerance while proclaiming ‘we are in this together’. Ken Wilber was spot-on.

    We are not growing up in time. I see much suffering ahead, regardless of whatever Trump has offered to us, which we anti-Trumps were not able to adequately mirror as our own shadow work.

    We in the US are continually sidetracked from obvious overshoot realities, and these latest Covid and shaken economic wake-up calls are not seen for what they are; what they have offered to us.

    Please, please continue to bring overshoot realities into your spiritual conversations.
    And I thank you!

  11. Great update! I’ve been reading for a while about the Bronze Age Collapse, the Iranian and Chinese civilizational interludes, and the end of the Roman Empire, and it always strikes me how … fine it is for the lower strata of society. Not good, certainly, but … fine. Less taxation, post-Imperial rulers who come to power with good sense rather than bureaucratic bona fides, and the destruction of rigid ideological forms that inhibit lifeways. We get overly gloomy and biased sometimes, partially because all of our histories are created by the literate members of these culture’s professional-managerial classes! Well duh, an expert in obscure Roman jurisprudence or a modern corporate middle manager isn’t going to do well in a world of scarce resources. Go figure!

    On a semi-related note, I’ve been thinking about solve and coagula again. It seems as though the American social reality is currently full of solve, as is obvious when looking at our nihilistic view of ourselves, and the destruction of history that is ongoing. That said, the BUREAUCRACY, or political reality, seems to be wallowing in an overdeveloped and dysfunctional coagula lately. JMG, Your comment earlier about Lillith’s presence representing excess female energy got me to thinking. Perhaps the solve of our social reality, and the coagula of our political reality represent the same thing, the harnessing of rising, overweening female energy by our country. The social reality of historical destruction for the sake of safetyism and the political reality of bureaucratic/corporate mediocrity for the sake of “inclusion” feels to me like obvious examples of this. Perhaps the aeons of women’s dis-empowerment make this inevitable, a sort of karmic blow-back to harsh patriarchy. As a man, I’m not a fan of the constant hysteria, unreason and contempt for men/male principles floating around in the proverbial airways, but perhaps there’s not much I can do about it. What do you think, JMG? Would you advise us men to take a wry, stoic stance on this storm of misapplied female energy, or push back when we see it at work?

  12. John–

    How do you see the transformation of the GOP playing out? Some members of the Old Guard have already crossed a line by publicly declaring support for Biden, not unexpected given their commonalities of worldview (US hegemony, economic globalism, etc). Will we see wholesale defections (e.g. the Dixiecrats in the early 1970s) or will McConnell and company continue to believe that they’ll get they’re party back once Trump is done. (I don’t think they will.) Trump’s successor isn’t Pence, but someone else who can take the essence of Trump’s legacy (economic nationalism, withdrawal from empire) and transform it into coherent policy. (Ivanna? That’d be a hoot!)

    Similarly, would the migration of the Republican Old Guard to the Democratic camp sufficiently reinforce their lines so as to: 1) be able to ditch the Progressive Left once and for all, and 2) delude them into thinking that the status quo future of US imperialism remains an option?

    I know I’m wishing for the impossible (okay, the very, very unlikely) by hoping for a coherent, methodical plan for our national transformation from global hegemon to modest republic, from a dependent of global trade to a self-reliant producer of our own goods and services, and from a bloated and centralized bureaucracy to a loose collection of semi-autonomous states under a common federal government with limited and strictly-defined powers, but hey, a guy can dream…

  13. JMG,
    I am disappointed in this update. You see, deep down I am enjoying the thrill of the Hollywood style collapse despite the fear of what that might bring. I guess I knew that in the big picture not much has changed but the emotions and the need for a satisfying denouement are still there.

    To clarify – I shared the emotions I go through not as a criticism for your essay. On the contrary, I needed that bucket of cold facts. What worries me is that my emotional self has not learned about real collapse.

    Is there a way to internalize the slow arc and decline and apply it to our lives? I am working on my own goals and I am making slow progress. Maybe I spend way too much time online. Back to working on LESS now.

    Thanks again,

  14. Thanks for this update, it looks like things are basically decline-as-usual, so it’s good I’ve been making at least some of the appropriate preparations, at least in my personal life. My job, however, is another story.

    You may recall last week I asked commenters about how to escape the rat race (thanks very much by the way to pamouna, Bewilderness and CS2 for your answers, much appreciated!). That’s motivated by my sudden realization a few months ago that I’m basically a bureaucrat. I got promoted last year, and I was somehow slow to realize that my new duties are best described as administration. Hence my desire to escape.

    In Canada’s Globe and Mail the other day, I saw an article about how management positions are being cut in certain sectors due to Covid, but they’re not talking about any of the points you’ve raised. Instead, they’re talking about “automation” replacing these jobs.

    With the switch to online shopping and online services happening so quickly as businesses are forced to because of Covid, I imagine you’ll see a lot of that going forward, at least in the short term, I have it on good authority that tech firms are very busy preparing online tools for all facets of life. The upper classes are about to turn even more on the middle classes, and automation will be the weapon they’ll be brandishing.

  15. A question. Does this mean that you don’t count on a more aggressive US policy towards China and/or Russia in the foreseeable future?

    My gut feeling (nothing occult) is that some kind of black swan event will upset everyone’s applecarts. Perhaps a major disaster in China followed by a war with the US in the near future, with Russia becoming the only superpower by 2025…

    But yes. The longterm decline perspective is true.

  16. The Long Decline can be a harrowing prospect. It can be very easy to give into despair when you look it full in the face. And in many ways it will be very rough, especially on those whose quality of life is dependent on medical technology (that and cheap food of any kind, anytime of the year I suspect are what people will end up missing the most).

    But there are… compensations. Take it from someone who used to live in a small community.

    Say, right now, you like to act. Or play music. Right now, to get any kind of reasonable combination of satisfaction and profit out of your skill, you have to be the best of the best or the most well connected of the well connected. Even if you’re a skilled craftsman, you’re more likely than not to end up in some position where you spend your time building commodities for those who don’t notice them or appreciate them. But when you shrink down the size of the community, those skills become a lot more important and lot more notable. Your skills and talents matter a whole lot more, and you actually see the impact those skills have on others. It sounds Rockwellian and even a little childish but it’s very true.

    Even if you find yourself working as an administrator or a lawyer or even a (gasp!) analyst when a random crisis levels your particular community or field, as long as you can learn you can pick up the skills you need to contribute. Credentials won’t matter in the slightest compared with what you know. And this a decline, not an apocalypse, so your choices won’t necessarily be limited to farmer or scavenger either. Are you handy with fixing things? Awesome. Plenty of people own tons of things without having the slightest idea how they work. How long can you nurse and maintain a community’s vital few working computers? Can you sing? Tell stories? Cook?! When the last Ruby Tuesday’s packs up shop, knowing how actual spices and vegetables work is going to get very important, and maybe you’ll replace that chain-restaurant mediocrity with an actual local inn.

    Our lives will get harder. But they might get richer too.

    The death of convenience might be the death of some other social evils as well. It’s a lot harder to hate/blame immigrants/minorities/rural folk when they are the only ones who remember how to actually get things done. This already getting book length though, so I think I’ll leave further supposition to others.

  17. One interesting aspect of the long decline that is manifesting itself right now, is the destruction of the elaborate bride-centered wedding industry built up over the last 40 years. Large and elaborate weddings have been a fixture of traditional societies for centuries, but they had a very practical function and were driven by the family and commercial associates of the couple for the purpose of pooling resources to get a new family started in the absence of todays easy credit. In recent years they have become princess-for-a-day moments ( for anyone in the economic strata that can afford it) and totally driven by the whims of the marrying couple, turbocharged by tv shows, websites and advertising. The travel restrictions, gathering size restrictions and multigenerational nature of such gatherings has made these big elaborate weddings impossible for all but the most foolhardy. This change is not going down easily as we know many late middle aged folks who are being tormented by close relatives insisting they attend traditional weddings with air travel ,that somehow must still go on no matter what. But even after the virus is thru we will never go back as travel problems, wary elders, and personal finances will make sure that this aspect of modern industrial society is left behind on the long slope to the future. It may be a while till we return to traditional weddings involving gifts of lifestock and land.

  18. Thanks for this timely discussion. The longer view here helps position the covid mess in it’s proper context.

  19. I was thinking about your suggestion that school leavers should be able to work on New Deal type projects as a form of national service. For those who wanted to continue some aspects of that experience through life, a good way to do that would be to bring back civil defence volunteer organisations. They could learn things like advanced first aid, firefighting, flood response, urban search and rescue, disaster recovery, and the basic repair, maintainance and operation of essential infrastructure. While they’re ‘between disasters’ they could do nightlife harm reduction like this https://www.halifaxstreetangels.org/ and this https://www.crew.scot/. Combine the two and you get brawny types that are good to have around when things go downhill, who remain connected and compassionate towards people. It seems a pretty easy sell across the political spectrum. Give the social side long enough to cook and you might end up with a fraternal organisation with its own traditions and rituals.

  20. Irena, I think that’s an important part of it.

    Jessi, one of the reasons I got back into fiction is that it’s a useful tool for imagining the future. I may just dust that off again and do some vignettes of the near-term American future. Thank you for the anecdotes; it doesn’t surprise me at all that permaculturists had no clue that there are plenty of people in the world who are still making haystacks the old-fashioned way!

    Temporaryreality, that’s one of the central purposes of my writing. Let’s see if we can imagine some things.

    Irena, you’re right that I should have phrased that more clearly. What I mean is industrial civilization, of course.

    Aloysius, organized labor in the US was co-opted in the 1950s and now simply functions as another means of elite control over the masses. Some different approach is probably necessary.

    Phil K, thanks for this.

    Danaone, thanks for this. If they’re at the point of slashing top-level positions, things have gone very far indeed.

    TJ, we’re in the middle of a massive political reshuffling here in the US, with so-called progressives embracing the corporate state they used to oppose, while conservatives morph into radical populists. I doubt many certainties anywhere will remain intact.

    Aidan, thanks for this.

    Raymond, we’re headed into that reset right now, and yes, it’s going to be traumatic.

    Jasmine, thank you! Yes, exactly. I spent years trying to hammer that point through the yard-thick skulls of the technofetishists who used to flock to the old blog.

    Jenny, yes, there’s an enormous amount of negative energy at present. That was inescapable; the cult of toxic positivity that’s played so large a role in the culture of the comfortable classes bottled up a great deal of rage, hatred, fear, and shame, without doing anything to address the causes of these things. Now it’s all come boiling up in a classic return of the repressed, catalyzed by the overwhelming shadow-projection said comfortable classes are throwing on Trump. Still, the current outbursts are a form of healing crisis; I’ll talk about that in a future post.

  21. This was a great incisive post. Cut right to the heart of the matter. I wanted to improve on my intuitions about certain topics discussed in this post so I’m looking to elaborate on that.

    On politics and bureaucracy, we can agree that there are constructive and destructive regulations. One of the things I find hard to understand is how we draw the line when it comes to designing them. I tend to think about “power begets power” in politics. A government institution will continue the stranglehold on machinery to the benefit of upper middle class and managerial class. For a massive corporation that grew out of lack of regulations, the state becomes merely a “tool” to implement regulations that sustains monopoly.

    On the matter of 2020 election, in your opinion whose election would benefit the country long term? The motivation being best chances of a true grassroots movement from the working class. My politics is on the leftward end but I’m yet to see any real shift towards a focus on local governance and community.

    Thought I’d share an interesting data point from my family. I have a cousin who showed surprising resilience during the pandemic. His family went from being heavy consumers of industrial society to becoming a little more self reliant.(growing their own food, helping neighbors and homeschooling where possible). The cool factor being he has zero interest in politics and somehow skipped all the steps to do what all of us should be trying to do.

  22. Hey hey JMG,

    Net energy is a metric some of your readers might find useful for understanding the oil situation. Back in the early days of the oil industry it took one barel of oil’s worth of energy to extract one hundred barrels of oil from the ground. So the net energy from a hundred barrels of oil was ninety nine barrels.

    The biggest and best oil fields were developed first and were used up first. We are moving to smaller and lower quality deposits like fracking, also know as tight oil, and large but lower quality mines like tar sand. They have much lower net energies. If memory serves tar sand uses one barrel of oil for every three produced and fracking averages one to five.

    I find it useful to look at this from the perspective of agriculture. If a farmer can produce enough food to feed himself and nine other people then ten percent of the population will be farmers and the other ninety percent are free to do other things. If the farmer can only grow enough to feed himself and one other then half the population has to be farmers.

    And oil is food for the economy. As the quality of the resource declines the percentage of the economy’s resources that have to be devoted to extracting fossil fuels increases. And JMG is quite right that the direct costs have been hidden.

    The fracking industry has borrowed an enormous amount of money to drill a staggering number of wells. This has created a large increase in American oil output. Large, but short lived. These wells dry up quickly and new ones have to be drilled to maintain the output. The trouble is that the fracking industry can’t pay back the loans when oil is at a price that the economy can bare. The fracking companies had been going bankrupt even before covid, but the drop in oil prices since covid killed a lot more all at once. They’ve lost $280 billion so far.

    Thanks,
    Tim

    P.S. JMG, I was hoping for something a little more detailed. Maybe halfway between your mundane astrology reports and this post. I suspect that there are going to be substantial political, economic, and cultural changes this decade and I was hoping to get more insight. Will the December 21st posting cover that ground?

  23. I have previously expressed my concern about a “workerless paradise” in the future. I fear what socio-cultural radicalism on social media does not destroy about people culture, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will…and continue the process of credential inflation/elite overproduction to breaking point.

    Do you see the Long Descent as disrupting any of these trends Mr. Greer?

  24. Excuse the hyperbole in the last sentence of my comment, automation will be one of the tools used, but certainly not the only one, and because it’s so dependent on certain types of information technology it will have a relatively short shelf-life given its energy usage.

  25. Decline has been a feature of my life for almost as long as I’ve been alive (almost 64 years) I recall a few years in the mid 1960s when I was old enough to pay attention to the larger world around me when everything was onward and upward and we’d all be jet-packing to work ala George Jetson. It felt real, not laughable. Since the early ’70s most everything has been in decline or maybe it’s better to say contraction. Neighborhood schools have been closing for years, factories have been shuttered, retail buildings sit vacant. I guess one has to be working class to experience this. The comfortable classes -top 20% or so- experience new suburbs and “tech” jobs and stores with 159 varieties of coffee all made with free range beans. I’ve come to regard recognition of decline as a pretty reliable indicator of socio-economic class. This decline has been present all my adult life. I have no problem at all accepting the idea of the long descent. I’ve been living through the early stages for 40+ years.

  26. JMG says: …the fantastic ballooning of administrative staff at schools and universities correlates precisely to the steady plunge in the quality of the education you get from these institutions…

    Ah, but they still think that more money and staff is all that they need! There was a recent report in the news about a local protest group’s efforts to defund the police. They want the money taken from policing and used for…wait for it…more counselors, social workers, and teachers for public schools. More? The school system has shrunk in size, both in student population and buildings used, due to the state voucher system. Many people have used vouchers to flee the failing city public schools for private and charter schools, or even nearby public school corporations that aren’t as bad as ours. Why should they need MORE staff, instead of less? Oh, right, we need more jobs for all of those grads with soft degrees that universities are pumping out….

    JMG says: Watching the consequences of neoliberal economic policies in the US, I was seriously worried about the rise of a domestic insurgency or outright civil war…I think we may have dodged that bullet…

    So we don’t have to worry about insurgency/civil war anymore? Or will any confrontation be limited to local skirmishes? I provided a link very late in this month’s open post cycle on the rise of militia groups, of both right and left, in this country. Will they simply remain in the background? Maybe just the thought of them existing will keep things in control, like MAD did during the cold war?

    For those who missed the article, you can read it here: https://tinyurl.com/y2xtmggr

    Joy Marie

  27. Field Report from Ohio
    Something interesting happened here in the Lakeland Republic. We joked the Green Wizards’ Benevolent & Protective Association into being, made fun of the greenwashed hucksters, and woke up a few years later to find that we are practicing green wizardry as outlined in your dread tome. How did we go from reading your fiction and propitiating the Crawling Chaos by pouring beer on our gardens to studying astrology, magic, and philosophy? No idea, but your seed grew… and now, I’ve got a rental tractor coming Saturday to turn my outside compost heap into a garden bed for the second time. (And plans to keep it more manageable in the future.)
    Funny how parody and farce can strike a creative spark, no?
    Rusty

  28. Great post John, it makes me wish every month had an extra Wednesday.

    Having a child about to turn 2 and another one on the way, the future is something I think about all the time. The greatest gift I have to bear them is my love of music. Still collecting vinyl after all these years. Rare soul obsessions are hard to live down but as the good man said, ‘Life without music would be a mistake.’

    Making do with less is fine, just let the music play and in my heart of hearts, when power goes low, maybe, just maybe, musicality will make a comeback. Harmonizing on a street corner, what’s old could be new again.

    It’s that kind of thinking that makes me actually look forward to what’s coming. It’s why I keep coming here week after week. Thanks for the throwback!

    Still, I have to say, I was hoping for that post on synchronicity. Noticing a lot of it these days.

  29. The Missouri State Fair was cancelled too, due to Covid 19. Our State Fair is a BIG deal, drawing a lot of tourists, carnival and concert goers and Agricultural Exhibiters. The state of Missouri maintains a huge dedicated fairgrounds complex with dozens of historic century old structures as the permanent home of the fair. I would hate to see it fall into decline.

  30. RE labor unions. Well that is a gut punch. It is not easy to find reading material that supports your hypothesis, but my own experience in the microcosm was leading me to the same conclusion. That sound of my idealism rattling down the drain means I need to keep moving in my exploration of a resilient social structure worthy of supporting. Industrial civilization was only a couple hundred out of 10k years, so a model that still works must be out there somewhere.

  31. Thank you! I’d love to read more on the future of “the world as a whole” and less on the USA, but you have often explained why you prefer writing about the country you know firsthand. While I have mostly given up on predicting the future (2013-2018 in Brazil taught me that), I do wonder how long Canada and Brazil will remain under US influence as strong as is exercised on them right now.

  32. @ JMG – Fascinating essay – laid out quite clearly, and thought provoking as usual. Thanks! You wrote: “It so happens that the most significant result of every reform movement of modern times has been to increase the number of well-paid administrative positions in government, business, and the nonprofit sector. Poverty’s a problem? Why, then, we’ll build an immense bureaucracy to administer a gargantuan system of overlapping benefit schemes, which provide a miserable life to the people who have to survive on them, but a very comfortable life indeed to the tens or hundreds of thousands of middle-class office drones who administer them…”

    The above reminds of friend, of mine (she died in 1994, in her eighties). She worked for many years as a social worker with the state government, back in the 1950s-1960s. Most of her time was spent in the field, going to and working directly with families*, educating them so that they learned skills to help themselves (what a concept!): basic nutrition, hygiene, child development, cooking, canning, and other homemaking skills. The home office was run with an iron-fisted** supervisor (a social worker who had moved up in the ranks – and who occasionally went out in the field with the social workers to check on their work) – tardiness and slacking off were not tolerated, employees had to be at their desks 5 minutes early to prepare for the day and stay for another 5 minutes to clear their desks after the work day officially ended; administrative paperwork was minimal. The supervisor made it clear that the workers need to earn their wages that were paid with tax dollars. Wages were fair, but modest. A college education was not required. Things changed in the following decades with less and less field work & clients had to come to the office (sometimes traveling long distances), various self-help skills were no longer taught (although a pamphlet or two might substitute), a bachelor’s degree, then later a master’s degree was required, more and more deskwork, specialized agencies (government and contract) multiplied requiring more management, more theory (‘they can’t help themselves’ – except stated in academese); a high degree of professionalism remained and employees worked hard yet less and less effectively for the ‘clients’, politics intruded more frequently (directly and indirectly). I wish that social services could go back to ‘basics’, albeit suited to present day needs. Same for other public agencies (especially, the public health offices – don’t get me started on that one…)

    * I was rather surprised that some of these skills had to be taught, but the need was there because of severe poverty and lack of practical skills, lack of knowing how to access resources,
    **The thought of this iron-fisted discipline both horrified me and made me envious; horrified in part because I had absorbed some crazy notions during my college years in spite of my upbringing; in part because it was too rigid at times. Yet I was envious because this structure was based on a strong work ethic (and at that level at that time politics was not then allowed to get in the way, and this in a state where undue political influence was not unheard of).

  33. JMG. Thanks for writing:

    “Watching the consequences of neoliberal economic policies in the US, I was seriously worried about the rise of a domestic insurgency or outright civil war—that’s why my novels Star’s Reach (2014) and Retrotopia (2016) both presupposed a Second Civil War sometime in the first half of the 21st century.”

    Today the governor of Oregon called federal officers, including ICE and Customs and Borders police, an “occupying force” in the city of Portland. Do you consider acts of state violence and other recent events to reflect a “domestic insurgency?” If the “populist right” has been appeased by the election of Trump, what happened to the “populist left?” Are their concerns legitimate?

  34. Hi JMG,

    Thank you very much for this update on the Long Decent. I have been following this conversation since 2010 on the old ADR, and I really appreciate your levelheaded perspective on a topic that makes most people go completely insane.

    I have to admit I still struggle psychologically to accept some of ramifications of decline. There is still a tremendous amount of counterproductive activity going on, and the metastatic bureaucracy seems to be increasing, not decreasing, in my corner of deep-blue New England. I am in a battle with my town government over a property matter right now and the incompetence of the town government is truly amazing. Also, the layers of bureaucratic defenses they have developed would make the Catholic Church blush.

    How do you avoid getting angry, bitter, or exasperated with the senselessness of other’s behavior, especially when it is not just counterproductive in a decline sense, but oppressive?

  35. Hello Mr Greer

    In one of your books you predicted that Exxon would end up a subsidiary of the Chinese National Overseas Oil Corporation (CNOOC). Well they are making a start in the North sea, with CNOOC now being the largest oil producer there. Though they are being blocked from owning oil assets within the USA, that will not stop CNOOC buying up the non USA oil assets from American oil companies when they have the opportunity.

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3754249/China-BIGGEST-crude-oil-operator-North-Sea-amid-concerns-growing-influence-Britain.html

    Regards Philip

  36. Jessi Thompson,
    Good to meet (indirectly) a fellow Romanian here. I grew up with family building the haystacks the traditional way. Even as kids we could help – turn over the hay, gather it and run around in circles on top while the stack was slowly built up.
    Unfortunately none of that remains now that I see. In only 30 years, the countryside has “progressed” from mostly self sufficient people with no money but plenty of everything else to overworked stressed out consumers killing themselves with smoking or drinking. I guess they will get a compressed cycle of progress, with collapse coming soon. Is it possible to contact you offline – I have some questions about scythes?

    I hope I didn’t stray to far offtopic with this. I do have a question for JMG and everybody else – at what level do you think US will stabilize for the next couple of decades? Given the expected oil crisis and the increase amount of damage due to weather extremes, do you expect car culture to change?

    Thanks

  37. I’m far from sure the US is out of the woods yet: I don’t know that the populist right will accept a Biden victory, under any circumstances. I think there’s still a good chance of having a major crisis after the election.

  38. Thank you writing on this topic. Your other topics are of course fascinating, but the sheer quantity of raw emotional energy aimed at politics lately makes me glad to get an update on the long descent. With all that said, I have a question.

    My understanding of the generational cycles, which I believe you are sympathetic towards, was that every 80 or so years a crisis hits and there is a fourth turning. A major, philosophical crisis occurs and answers are provided, often in the context of war. The first time this happened in US history there was a revolution, then a Civil War, and then a depression leading into WWII.

    You mentioned that we may have dodged war this time because of the victory at the ballet box. I understand your argument, but if that is the case why are we seeing such division along generational lines? It feels like baby boomers are lining up behind Trump while millennials are lining up behind the democrats. If Trump represents a future path that will systematically undercut the privileged bureaucratic class then why is Trump loosing the youth? Aren’t they the ones you need to watch if you are trying to anticipate the next uprising? Or is this not actually the case and just a propaganda induced mirage?

  39. I mentioned the peak oil issue to a Boomer who runs an fb group on sovereignty. She is a former Sunday Times journalist and is quite astute on politics. Her immediate response was, “you might as well say we are running out of air!!” They just refuse to even think for a second that oil etc might be a finite resource, even though this woman prides herself on being a hard-headed realist lol. The media refuses to talk about peak oil and now there isn’t even a peak oil scene (as if the problem went away!).

    I worked out that if I am still alive at 82 (in 2050) I will be treated to a sad dystopia although it will be much worse for the young if that graph is anything to go by. By then maybe people will believe in finite energy resources…

  40. @Y. Chireau:

    “Today the governor of Oregon called federal officers, including ICE and Customs and Borders police, an ‘occupying force’ in the city of Portland”

    That comes strikingly close to an assertion of sovereignty and de facto declaration of secession. I am wondering if Oregon will be this round’s South Carolina…

  41. I would like to share an analogy that I came across somewhere, sometime, where people running amok under the skirts of infinite progress maps remarkably well to tantrum chucking (en masse). Stomping feet, drawing on walls in the absence of authority figure (absent God). A prolonged scene out of an Enid Blyton novella. Naughty. Inferring that we’re all tanty-chucking is perhaps not such a helpful analogy when seeking to enter into creative discourse, say about discussion of options in the here-and-now.
    In appreciation of the regular thought bubbles you float into my world 🙂
    Amanda

  42. All the finance and business web blogs have been buzzing with the idea that work from home will change the world,revitalize small towns, change the work day, etc. etc. But they never stop and think what will happen with that model if the internet becomes decreasingly reliable, or fails all together. They never ponder what it means that so many jobs can be done at home in your pajamas. Once you get past the obvious ones like writing, and software tweeking ,you have to think about how useful all these administrative jobs are that can be done purely in front of a screen. In world of decline, complexity reduction, and disintermediation most may be rapidly disappearing. This may be especially true in the private sector. Instead of a logistics expert who spends their day tracking the online shipping paperwork of pallets of molded plastic shoes on their way from China, they (or their descendants ) may be in a work shop crafting shoes for the local townspeople. No internet connection or computer needed.

  43. Thanks John.

    I really needed this reminder. I had been getting too caught up in the details and had lost track of the overall process. Hope you and S. are well.

    W. Bro. Vokes

  44. holy cow… this is your BEST writing EVER…. wow… i’m savoring it…. what a MIND… WOW… everything’s going “snap!”

    x

    (erika “kitten” lopez)

  45. Our culture imagines that apocalypse is the alternative to infinite progress because the last book of the New Testament is the Book of Revelations, also known as the Apocalypse of John of Patmos. Christianity has always imagined time as linear, not cyclical, and it has an endpoint. Our culture may no longer be Christian, but its foundations are Christian, and it structures our way of thinking.
    A good new thinker who writes about historical cycles is Peter Turchin. He’s a mathematician, and creates mathematical models of history. Shades of Hari Seldon and the psychohistorians of Foundation!

  46. Derpherder, this is one of the places where The Cosmic Doctrine is a fine guide to strategy. Don’t resist the craziness — that just locks it into place. Do an aikido move on it instead: pivot deftly out of the way and let it zoom on out to the Ring-Pass-Not, where it will dissolve. A lot of people seem to be getting the hang of that, which is why the craziness has gotten so extreme and alienated so many people in the center…

    David BTL, to my mind, the drubbing Jeff Sessions got in the Alabama primary this year is a useful straw in the wind. The old guard of the GOP is in the process of discovering that it doesn’t have much of a constituency any more; I notice that it’s the career bureaucrats rather than the elected officials who are siding with Biden, since they don’t have to worry about being primaried the next time they run for office. The Democrats could have made Trump a one-term wonder easily if they’d moved to the center, but their embrace of radical extremism has probably doomed them. As for a coherent, methodical plan, those generally don’t work well on issues of that scale. What we need instead is some inspired moment-by-moment improvisation!

    NomadicBeer, I don’t have any easy answers. I know that decline just isn’t as exciting as a grand spectacular collapse, and the mere fact that it’s what we’re going to get doesn’t change that.

    Jbucks, that’s another factor, of course. Get out while you can!

    Tidlösa, the US will bluster and pound its fists and rattle its saber at China and Russia. It has to — it’s engaged in that most difficult of military operations, an orderly retreat through hostile territory, and it needs to make sure that its major geopolitical rivals won’t try to turn the retreat into a rout, as they surely want to do. As for sudden geopolitical shocks, those are guaranteed, and keeping an eye out for them is crucial just now.

    Andrew001, excellent. Yes, exactly — the Long Descent can be a return to sanity and local scale, and it bears remembering that the Long Ascent was a really ghastly time for a lot of people around the world.

    Clay, dear gods, I hope so. My wife and I got married in my dad’s back yard; everyone was dressed in nice clothing, but there were no formals and no absurdly overpriced gown; the family made the food, pictures were taken by anybody who wanted to bring a camera, and there were about 30 people there. It cost maybe $500, and everyone had a great time. 36 years later, we’re still happily married, and our wedding day remains a very pleasant memory.

    Darrell, you’re most welcome.

    Yorkshire, what an excellent idea! Thank you for this.

  47. Relevant to this week’s post I believe is the following article: The Soviet web: the tale of how the USSR almost invented the internet. It shows how an advanced bureaucracy and progress are actually at odds with each other, and in the Soviet Union at the height of the so-called Cold War we have an example of how this combination was doomed to failure.

    From the article: “By 1960, 3 million officials were attempting to track the economy’s unfathomable information flows, and it was forecast that if future growth targets were to be met, a bureaucracy equivalent to the entire working population would be required with[in] 20 years.”

    Today Russia has moved on. Today in the U.S. progressives are motivated to increase bureaucracy. It is as if the documented failures of the past are somehow an inevitable and unassailable blueprint for the future. “Whom the gods would destroy …”

  48. @JMG,

    I’m inclined to disagree with one of the things you said in the OP, vis, “Nor does technology allow one energy resource to be replaced with another, except in small and irrelevant ways.”

    Perhaps that’s true of “technological progress” or the sorts of things that most people think about when they hear the word “technology.” But you’ve devoted a lot of your corpus of writings to explaining why technology is not a monolith, talking about “retrovation” and why some technologies are more sustainable than others and deserve to be revived, and giving numerous counterexamples to the claim you just made. For instance, solar water heaters can replace gas or electric water heaters, and windjammers can replace steamships. These resource substitutions (solar for gas, wind for coal, etc.) may be small when compared to the size of the present-day industrial economy as a whole, but they aren’t irrelevant.

  49. Hi JMG,

    An idea I’ve had been pondering for some time now is a literary analogy in how we understand the world. Specifically, I’m thinking of the difference between the action/adventure genre and the horror genre.

    In the action/adventure genre, there’s good guys and the bad guys and both are fighting for control. We can empathise with the bad guys because they are powerful and competent which means we can either convert them back to good or hold them to justice (regain control). Either way, a happy ending.

    A horror story, on the other hand, does not involve actors but forces. A powerful force is out there. It doesn’t care about you. You can’t communicate with it. You can’t reason with it. And it might kill you.

    Most people recoil from a horror interpretation of the world and will try and convert the story back into an action/adventure. This is the root of all conspiracy theories. Better to believe that there are competent bad guys pulling the strings than that nobody is in control. That’s why conspiracy theories flourish whenever the world seems to be out of control.

    Elon Musk is an action/adventure hero fighting to save us from the horror story of The Limits to Growth.

    Masks and vaccines give us back control against the invisible enemy which cannot be reasoned with.

    Cheers,
    Simon

  50. Thank you, JMG, as always. May the ancient starlight shine upon you….

    What do you foresee regarding the woke/SJW/critical theory/postmodernist thing that seems to be metastasizing on the “progressive left”? The cult-like nature of it seems alarming to many more than just myself, particularly when organizations like Legal Aid (who are tasked with fulfilling the basic right to legal counsel) are buying all-in to woke virtue-signaling shibboleths like “white supremacy drives every policy and law.” You have pointed out recently “Outbursts of blind vindictive rage, frantic efforts to enforce belief in the failing religion, and over-the-top virtue signaling meant to shore up one’s wavering faith and convince God or Progress or whoever to deliver on the promises made in its name — all these are bog-standard features of a failing prophetic religion in extremis.” The flip side of that coin is that all this looks disturbingly similar to the murderous impulses of Stalinist Russia or Maoist China; and I recall some time ago on the old blog, you posited that Marxism may get a good solid second look here in America at some point during the Long Descent. You have also pointed out that only about 9-12% of Americans support this stuff. Do you get the sense that “woke-ism” is currently overplaying their hand by attempting to invalidate every actually good idea that exists in Western society? I am worried how much damage will be inflicted before “wokism” slips down the chute into history’s compost bin…

  51. One of the most useful things in JMG’s take on apocalypse and progress is that not only are they polar opposites in the same culture, they also hang together in various intriguing ways. Even premillenialism ends in progress (the Millennium). At least on Europe, I sometimes get the impression that the debate is between secular postmillenialists (liberals) and ditto premillenialists (radical Left or Greens). I was surprised to learn that many Americans believe in a final apocalypse *without* a happy ending Millennium!

  52. Archdruid,

    The limits we’re all suddenly facing is exposing a lot of interesting things about the world. I never quite realized how totally incompetent our leadership, at nearly every level of government, actually was. People opinion about pandemic aside, it is stunning to me that a country as wealthy as ours couldn’t lock itself down when it felt the need to do so. We immediately fell to bickering and finger pointing, not to mention not having a solid game plan at any step.

    I mean seriously, two weeks into the lock down and every governor should have met (online at least) with county and municipal leaders, who should have in turn met with business leaders. Simple questions like how do we deal with all these unemployed people? How do we deal with the imminent housing crisis, and etc…weren’t discussed until the problems were already sitting on top of our heads.

    For all this talk of progress, it’s like all of our leaders are totally unable to see the road even two months ahead, forget about 20 or 30 years.

    What’s really weird to me is that even the populist movement totally wiffed this crisis. The orange Julius had three solid opportunities to push forward with a populist agenda, and instead chose to listen to the neo-cons and anti-establishment figures in his administration. Seriously, if you’re a populist leader a national crisis is a godsend, we got three national crisis’ in rapid succession and he’s managed to capitalize on none of them.

    And please notice all our leadership, left and right, are pushing to return to the status quo. Like what?!

    I just can’t wrap my head around this nonsense.

    By the way, I need to deep think about the fact that so many people on this forum haven’t heard about the working class left. That took me by surprise.

    Also, with your permission, I have a story about Tulsi Gabbard I would like the share. I think it fits neatly into the leadership vacuum we’re currently facing, and that ties in perfectly with the idea of the long decline.

    Regards,

    Varun

  53. @Yorkshire, Another synchronicity! I was talking with my co-workers at lunch about a program like this. Most were skeptical of a federal level program, but we thought that there was certainly a role for state level national guard to train people in disaster preparedness, and in ordinary times get them plugged into useful vocations as an alternative for kids leaving high school.

  54. Another question about bureaucracy: in last weeks comments you talked about ” idiotic requirements inflicted on the general public by busybodies who claim to be concerned with the public good”. How do you square the reflexive rule-making aspect of Americans on the one hand with the individualistic, Tamanous tendency on the other? I have seen both, but they seem to be in direct opposition to each other.

  55. @PatriciaT

    You just described my workplace. Thankfully still able to “go in the field”.. however the time spent documenting said field work is a bit much. Teaching skills like canning isn’t on the list however child development and hygiene is. I teach parents how to take children’s electronics away and build basic structures like house rules.
    I also am paid to assist families navigate the overlapping social service resources available in the region.
    Can’t say after all the hard work done in the trenches that this makes the hard worker in me proud. I got to the current position working with extremely difficult people, not acquiring degrees. My clinic is privately funded specifically so fieldwork actually continues to get done. It was the face-to-face interaction from what I’ve heard that the funder wanted to ensure continued. Our conservative provincial government has begun to cut bureaucracies up focusing recently on the LHIN bureaucracies that are supposed to streamline services. I assume that the skills I developed in face to face interactions will keep me employed for awhile longer.

  56. Nomad, this election is like the 2016 election — I look at the two candidates on offer and shake my head at the thought that these are the best we can do! That said, Biden offers nothing but a return to the failed neoliberal policies that made someone like Trump inevitable. In Trump’s first term, despite the united resistance of the entire political elite and its tame media, he got the US out of several highly destructive trade treaties, reduced illegal immigration sharply, cut a vast amount of the regulatory state, and as a result has unemployment rates among minorities and the poor at historic lows. He also didn’t get us into any more wars and has begun the process of extracting our troops from the Middle East. Four more years of that will do much more for the country in the long term than four years of warmed-over neoliberalism.

    Tim, a lot of the changes ahead will depend on what happens this November; before then, it’ll be difficult to predict. I’ll do something on the next decade once the smoke clears.

    Aidan, the “workerless paradise” has been being predicted since the 1930s; it’s right up there with flying cars, part of the imaginary future we won’t get. It’s already the case in many Third World countries that hiring people is cheaper than buying and powering machines, and that’s going to become more and more common as resource constraints bite.

    Jbucks, yes, but I suspect there’ll be much more talk about automation than any of the other factors, since that sounds progressive and forward-thinking and all that drivel.

    Christopher, yes, and so I have I — I’m 58. The astonishing thing is how many people have seen the same things we have, and still continue to believe in the mirage of progress.

    Joy Marie, of course they do. All they know how to do is to demand more money, more jobs, a bigger and bigger share of wealth and influence. As for the militias, we’ll see what happens on November 4, but my guess is that there’ll be brief localized outbreaks at most.

    Tower 440, parody and farce are good at that.

    Jeff BKLYN, the post on synchronicity is on its way. I commented last week that all the topics that got a lot of enthusiasm will get posts in the near future.

    Danaone, I hope it thrives.

    Aloysius, I wish it wasn’t the case, but everything I’ve seen involving labor unions in the US argues that it is. Keep searching!

    Matthias, I’m planning a post on international affairs fairly soon.

    PatriciaT, that’s exactly the trajectory that landed us here.

    Y. Chireau, the governor of South Carolina said exactly the same thing about the Federal troops at Fort Sumter in 1861. As in that earlier case, the governor of Oregon isn’t speaking for any kind of populism — he’s speaking on behalf of an elite class that feels its privilege slipping through its fingers.

    Samurai_47, I generally go out of my way to evade any such conflicts, knowing that fighting an idiotic bureaucracy is among life’s more futile activities. I know that may not help if you’re stuck with such a quarrel.

    Philip, that doesn’t surprise me at all.

    NomadicBeer, I expect it to stabilize at a level that permits some degree of car culture, but the sort of thing you saw in the 1970s, when the cost of gasoline mattered and a lot of people were looking for alternatives.

    Kevin, that’s why I put in the reference to electoral fraud. I think it’s very unlikely that Biden can win this one honestly — and if the election is too obviously rigged in his favor, this country could go up like a crepe suzette.

    Stephen, my take is that it’s propaganda. The split between Trump voters and Biden voters isn’t a generational split, any more than follows the lines of race and gender. The division nobody wants to talk about — social class — is the one that matters.

    Bridge, I know. It’s bizarre.

    Amanda, you know, that’s probably the most useful metaphor I can think of just now.

    Clay, exactly. My guess is that one of the features of the next economic downturn will be gargantuan layoffs in the desk-jockey fields.

    W. Bro. Andrew, thank you! We’re fine.

    Kitten, thank you. It was almost a relief to get back to the familiar territory of peak oil!

    Tomriverwriter, exactly. As for historians of cyclical history, I prefer Oswald Spengler, but of course your mileage may vary.

    Someone, fascinating. Thank you for this.

    Wesley, if the entire post had been about that concept I could have gone into a great deal of nuance — the point was to stop progress fetishists from insisting that inevitably some new energy resource will come along, blah blah blah. The thing that has to be remembered about retrovation is that it’s never plug-and-play. Windjammers won’t do everything that steamships can do, solar water heaters have limits that gas or electric heaters lack, and so on.

    Simon, good! One of the reasons I enjoy Lovecraft’s fiction is that he delighted in presenting the world as a reality that human beings do not and cannot control. Still, I know that’s a minority taste.

    Robert, my take is that wokesterism is the last gasp of a dying ideology, and in the usual fashion, it’s running to extremes that drive more and more people away from it. I don’t expect it to last much longer. Still, we’ll see.

    Tidlösa, that’s one of the useful things about Spengler’s suggestion that the secular ideologies of every culture are its religion with the serial numbers filed off.

    Varun, no question, our elite class these days is stunningly incompetent. Yes, you can pass on a story about Tulsi Gabbard.

    Samurai_47, the reflexive rule-making aspect is a function of the Faustian pseudomorphosis, not of the movement toward the Tamanous culture of the future.

  57. As concerns your statement: “…climate change activists and people of privilege continue to do things that ignore what the environment seems to require.” Although many have gotten the message and have switched heating their homes and hot water with heat pumps, now drive electric vehicles, and due to the plague are afraid to fly. Zoom meetings are taking over as the preferred way to meet. I simply love that sort of technology because in my life I have flown hell high over to have a short meeting. I’ve done that for half a century. How unproductive that behavior is and energy wasteful! The days of the three-martini lunch thankfully have gone away, so we are just enjoying our freedom to meet electronically. That’s probably a keeper for as long as there’s a way to do it. And at $115 a year vs maybe a $65K budget for personal airline travel beats the heck out of the expenses. Just think of how efficacious it is also to attend the school of your choice electronically, and how elementary kids may be driven to homeschool. So, we are in a strange time where if people search for how they can contribute to living with a lower energy footprint while honoring one’s culture they can look at Drawdown’s list of solutions. They’ll find one or more that suits them for sure. I have fourteen and practice some every day. https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/refrigerant-management. But importantly do the big wigs in Drawdown only use electronic meetings? I doubt that they do. Bill Mckibben and other’s in that movement sometimes have blinders on, just traveling and traveling. Luckily we can learn positive behaviors from their ways of being: We can limit our travel, eat local food, live lives sharing with others by giving our excess garden produce away! We can show others by our behavior how to live honoring the planet and our neighbors. We can show others how to grow food almost anywhere with little effort, and how experts like Rudolf Steiner handled manure piles and made rich compost. We can make a difference and ride out the decline with ease and grace.

  58. I am happy to say I read this post without a flicker of unconscious resistance 🙂

    For me I guess, decline is an everyday reality. Even though I’m someone who is relatively comfortably middle class. What really helps I’ve found, has simply been in letting go of a lot of the western middle class cultural expectations. Its not even necessarily about money. Its about whether or not one is attached emotionally to the trappings of being ‘middle class’. I’m far happier now than I ever was in the old mindset.

    A lot of ‘middle class’ people are still very attached to either identity as ‘global citizens’ and not being a member of the ‘deplorables’ or ‘old angry white men’. Letting go of this identity and bringing my identity back to something more indigenous has been one of the single most useful things I’ve done to help cope with the long decent.

    Once again I’m immensely glad I started reading your work in early 2013 and have been able to steadily ‘collapse ahead of the rush’…

  59. How much should we worry about the crumbling of American Empire and Western Civilization given how little we can actually do about, beyond broadly being ready to roll with the punches?

    I was a Steampunk twenty years before it was cool, I’m all in for Maker Culture, I love Homesteading, and I’ve had an odd feeling since my young teens, forty years ago, that I was living in the twilight of our culture so the decline is not a shock. I can tell myself than I’m a lot better prepared than most but I’m not really. I still love my cosmopolitan life and lay awake nights wondering how much of it the Pandemic and looming depression will destroy.

    The things that I actually can do to prepare for a dysfunctional future often seem more like games, though. I have always hated plastic! It’s generally ugly, cheap, unnatural, unsanitary, unnecessary. Now we know that it leaches unhealthy chemicals into our food and destroys the environment. There is very very little about it that is good, other than being light weight and unbreakable. I’ve long tried to limit it’s presence in my life and it becoming an Environmental Issue has made that easier and less eccentric. A few months ago, I was at the grocery store holding a jar of mayonnaise and realizing that there were no glass jars. I thought that I have come about as far as I could eliminating plastic and the rest is mostly up to manufacturers to give us choices. Then I thought, “Unless you make your own mayonnaise. You know how and it’s not difficult.” So I went home and did, and felt very proud of myself. The second time, I realized that the oil, vinegar, and mustard come in plastic bottles and the eggs come in a Styrofoam carton and there are no readily available alternatives.

    Later tonight, when it’s cooler, I’ll go downstairs and make peach preserves with peaches I picked myself. I drove forty miles round trip to go out to a farm and pick them, though. I tell myself that I had fun doing it and that’s only slightly farther than driving into town for other entertainment so the gas “doesn’t count.” I can’t afford to move closer to my social life. I could give it up and become a hermit but I would still have to have a car for work which requires extensive local travel. Growing my own peaches isn’t an option. I have small garden but given limitations of both space and physical health I will never be remotely close to self sufficient. It seems like the vast majority of us are inextricably trapped in the modern industrial matrix and thinking we can just opt out is little more than fantasy.

    YES! Please do “dust off your story telling skills.” I used to practically count the days between new chapters of Stars Reach and Retrotopia.

  60. @JMG, re the nuances of retrovation and energy substitution: understood.

    So while I object to your characterization of energy resource substitutions as “irrelevant,” I don’t object to calling them “small.” At the same time I am endlessly annoyed by hearing people in the media talking about how “energy is our most vital commodity” or some such drivel; the problem with characterizing energy as a commodity is that commodities are fungible and most energy resources are not.

    But when you see energy as basically a monolithic, interchangeable thing, then you start falling for delusions like the idea that renewable electricity sources like hydropower are a solution to peak oil, while overlooking how dependent our economy is on liquid fuels. Or you claim that uranium must be the end-all be-all of energy sources because it contains by far the most joules per pound (and per dollar!) without thinking about the cost and complexity of the infrastructure needed to get to those joules.

    @Simon S,

    Those are some interesting thoughts about action-adventure vs. horror stories and how people frame the struggle to preserve industrial civilization. Though perhaps we would be better off if we lived in a culture that still knew how to tell adventure stories whose basic premise is something other than “the hero has the means to achieve his goal and is bound to find a solution by the time the movie ends.” In the old days we had more stories like “Frankenstein” and “Moby Dick” where the protagonist’s decision to square off against the natural forces involved was foolish in the first place, and the wiser characters knew this and had an inkling of what sort of ending to expect.

  61. JMG

    I’m quite surprised that you seem to think Trump might not win. If we have a fair election and barring even worse shenanigans by the deep state bureaucrats, I see him far more popular than he was in ’16.
    Meanwhile, you seem to think that a D win in November would be no big deal and that maybe they learned their lesson! Wow. When did that happen. Instead what I see is that the temper tantrum that began in ’16 has grown to demonic proportions, they are pulling out all the stops, now censoring a doctors symposium on what actually works for them with covid for one example, and blatantly lying about what looks exactly like a color revolution and no matter how stark the violence and destruction becomes, many of the powers that be, along with their media lackeys continue to say with a straight face that it is a peaceful situation.

    It is plain that many, many democrats in power and including Biden plan to allow an insurrection, in which case our staid little discussions about how many regulations Trump can discontinue will be a sad little memory.

  62. Darkest Yorkshire, thank you very much for your posts (July 29, 2020 at 3:40 pm) about ‘Halifax Street Angels’ and ‘Crew 2000’! Reading about them and what they do brought tears to my eyes. I’d absolutely love to be part of such groups. Your citing them does provide wonderful examples of things we could really do, to make a true and vital difference in peoples lives, and in growing a sense of community and general kindness.

  63. I’d like to thank everyone who’s responded to my EM sensitivity post! I’ve unplugged the router and placed in the closet, and will be relying on public internet for the forseeable future: as with a lot of new routers, there is no way to turn off the WiFi. Huzzah, Progress!

    JMG,

    My concern is that it won’t matter how the election looks: even if Biden pulls off an honest victory, I fully expect a sizeable portion of the populist right to assume it was rigged and react accordingly.

    On a different note, something in my new neighbourhood has me smiling: even where there are automated checkouts, a sizable number of people won’t use them. There are two reasons given: one is that the machines don’t work as well as a person.

    The other is that as long as enough people refuse to use the machines, companies will hire cashiers. In the suburbs either argument got blank looks or a furious response; here it’s common sense. It truly is amazing how different things are in different neighbourhoods even in the same city……

  64. “Would you advise us men to take a wry, stoic stance on this storm of misapplied female energy, or push back when we see it at work?”

    Push back. But calmly.

  65. Wesley (and JMG) – Solar water heaters indeed have several significant drawbacks, relative to the electric and gas-burning ones that we’re probably all familiar with. I won’t enumerate them in detail (weather dependent, slow to respond, constrained by architecture, etc.), but the drawback that came as a surprise to me is the differences in the ways that they fail. A solar water heater has to have a panel exposed to the sun, of course, which mean that it probably needs to be on the roof. And it needs a storage tank, which is most efficiently placed close to the panel. (If it’s not close to the panel, solar-heated water must be piped to the tank.) My gas water heater is in the basement, next to a utility drain. So, when a solar water heater springs a leak, water falls down into the finished space of the home, causing damage as it goes, instead of trickling across the basement floor to a drain.

    I think this could be a useful metaphor. When presented with any proposed technology (or social structure), after you ask “how does it work?” be sure to ask “how does it fail?”

    For example, the Remington Arms company, according to the Washington Post, today, “were found to have design defects that sometimes caused them to fire without a trigger pull.” That’s a bad way to fail, and the company has declared bankruptcy for the second time in two years.

    As another example, consider group decision making. A group that insists on consensus can fail by failing to decide, or by alienating (or ejecting) members who prevent consensus. When a majority vote is good enough, decisions get made, winners can’t afford complacency, and losers can look forward to attracting swing voters next time. (Ref.: Robert’s Rules of Order).

  66. It’s interesting to see the current overlap between the persistent progress myth and the
    obvious signs of decline. On the one hand is Elon Musk with his madcap Mars plans
    and on the other is the country’s inability to maintain basic infrastructure as shown by the recent
    train derailment in Arizona accompanied by partial collapse of the bridge it was on.

    There’s the multi-billion boondoggle, er I mean, fusion reactor under construction
    in France (world’s biggest ever!) at a time material resources are growing scarcer and scarcer.
    Inquiring minds wonder if it will ever get finished, never mind functional.

    I see the taboo about finally discussing decline and the best way to respond to it being overcome at the
    same time these projects both inevitably tank. However, the ruckus to follow may be problematic. Madam Guillotine may conceivable show up, at least in France. We may be better at keeping our heads
    over here but there’s likely to be a bit of gun fire before we finally settle down enough to map out a more
    realistic future.

  67. I have an internet problem, and have been journaling on it to try to get to the bottom of it, and my subconscious has declared this: “I’d rather die! Internet is all that’s keeping us from living in caves!”

    I’ve been mulling it over ever since. At least part of my subconscious hasn’t let go of progress yet, and is clinging to the internet as the last talisman of progress. I’m going to assume I’m not special, and that therefore my dysfunctions are not unique to me, but more likely are somewhat widespread. This particular problem actually explains a lot: the reason so many people cling to the internet and use it to an absurd amount; the reason why so much money is wasted on it, both societally and at the individual level; and the frankly deranged way a lot of people react to things which could replace it, like newspapers, radio news, or people going to public libraries.

    The metastisis of the internet through so much of life today then is not an accident, nor is it the result of manipulation by the “elites”, but the frantic effort on the part of ordinary people to cling to Progress. What this means then is that the internet will probably start to collapse almost right away once the religion of progress ends.

    The simple fact is that it will face a triple whammy: a lot of resources ordinary people and governments waste on it will vanish; at the same that investment capital will dry up, as people will look at the internet and realize that almost none of the companies have made money, and it’s likely many of them never will; and the regulations which are put in place to hinder the competition, like the fact the city I live in has banned phone books, or the town a friend lives in banning anyone who doesn’t already have one from getting a print newspaper subscriptions, will vanish as people look at it and decide that phone books, encyclopedias, newspapers, etc are just fine after all.

    The next few years could be a very interesting time to live in Silicon Valley….

  68. Okay, I see your point about this really being a class warfare divide and gender/age/race being distractions. But with all that said, how can Trump hold onto the labor class given all the financial difficulties that Covid threw at him? Whether justified or not the lock downs seem to have undermined much of the momentum Trump’s economic reforms created. If the sort of worries that Martenson/Knustler/Orlov predict for the economy come to pass, does Trump have a chance? Or will that undermine the old school establishment more?

  69. In fact, I did not perceive us as being close to a civil war before the 2016 election, but I do now. If Trump wins, no problem. But if he loses it will almost certainly be due to blatant cheating, which will be fairly obvious and will have come on the heels of the nonstop temper tantrum of the final months, i.e., now. The thing is, there are, I will wildly guess, up to 200 million people in this country right now who are consciously preparing themselves to defend the republic and who will be very angry if they don’t see justice, by which I am referring to Obamagate, Epstein and perhaps a couple of more issues of that sort.
    So that’s two things. One, if the election is stolen, and two, if there is no justice.
    Anger is not dissipating, it is building. Anyone who watched some of the very recent AG Barr hearing will have no trouble understanding why.

  70. @JMG,

    I noticed in the “Limits to Growth” graph which you reproduced in the OP is that the expected date for world population to peak and begin its decline is sometime in the next decade, i.e. before 2030.

    I am curious as to whether you think the Club of Rome people got that right or whether the actual peak is still further off. To me it looks pretty clear that any event capable of reversing population growth within the next decade or so would have to be very dramatic indeed: right now the world is at about 142 million births per year and only 59 million deaths. So either the first number has to be reduced by more than half, or the second increased by more than double, or some combination of the two, before we hit peak population.

    The ongoing gradual decline in fertility rates is not going to do the job fast enough to fulfill the prediction, since a country will usually keep growing for decades after fertility goes below 2.0. (The young generation that’s producing children is still so much bigger than the older generation that’s dying off; this is why China, for instance, is still growing today despite falling below two children per family in 1992.)

    Presently, Africa is the only continent with above-replacement fertility; the others average out to 1.9 or so but even so, Africa at 4.1 is still enough to put the global mean at 2.4 or thereabouts. Since this isn’t going to change overnight – and since even if it did change overnight, it would still take decades for the change to translate into population shrinkage – the only way I can see for population to start declining within this decade is if a cataclysmic famine or disease outbreak wipes out a large portion of a whole continent’s (probably Africa’s) population.

    Is this something that you foresee happening within the next ten years?

  71. Right after I posted my prior comment, it occurred to me that the internet as the Talisman of Progress also explains a lot of otherwise weird things about the shutdowns. The purpose here, not that the people pushing for it can admit it to themselves, is partially to kill the alternatives to the internet.

    The libraries are physically closed, but you can request books online and come pick them up; restaurants are closed, but fast food joints offering WiFi are open; in person classes are off the table for the year, but online classes are going forwards; the art gallery is closed, but you can check out all the art on the website; and so on and so forth.

    The truly fascinating part is that I suspect a lot of the people who are currently using the lockdowns to expand the internet hate it, and would really rather grab a coffee with a friend instead of having a Skype call, and that this is part of why they get so freaky about people pushing for things to reopen: they hate the effects of the lockdown themselves.

  72. I’ve noticed that because new cars cost way too much for young people to afford to buy, that many twenty something’s are buying used classic cars from retiring and downsizing baby boomer collectors.

    Even if someone has to dish out $15,000 for a classic 70’s car from a collector, it is way cheaper than buying a car new for 20, 30, or 40 thousand plus with a usurious 8 years of interest payments to a cold heartless bank. Some full size trucks that won’t last 8 years sell for $120,000 dollars, it’s insanity.

    Just in the last year, I can’t count how many young people I see tooling around in classic cars from the 60’s, 70’s, and so forth.The car companies need to deeply cut the cost of cars back down to what people can actually afford to pay, or go out of business. Looks like most are choosing the go out of business route.

    So, its not that cars are suddenly unavailable, but affordable cars are scarce. I can see less and less people driving new cars, and more and more old cars being fixed up, repaired and kept longer. This is decline. If every year there were 3% less cars on the road, who would really notice the change?

    Eventually a sea change occurs where cars end up being a novelty for only the rich, or the wastefully stupid among us, and it will be accepted as ‘just what happened’

    Great essay.

  73. Hello,

    I was interested in the commentators who talked about their Romanian family who knew how to build a tradional hay stack. My husband is Chinese and as a child and teenager grew up in the country and harvested wheat. We were talking about the western grim repear and their assocation with scythes in the west when I showed him some and said they were for harvesting wheat he pointed out I was wrong.
    He had spent years harvesting wheat and the villegers had a specially shaped scyth that is smaller and somehow has a curved handle. We looked on the internet but could not find one. He said he could make one. The larger scythes are more similar to what the mongolian used to harvest their taller Mongolian grasses with. Every crop and every job would have special tools and methods. People often dont realise the amount of effort and knowledge even the smallest job can take. Also these jobs were communal, one or two people can not do everything.

  74. Re: Oregon

    Our governor is a woman, Kate Brown, and I have a fair amount of respect for her. She is definitely a Democrat, but she is better at actually listening to people than most politicians, and she has guided the state through the covid pandemic with less extreme restrictions than neighboring blue states that seem to be rooted more in logic than paranoia.

    The federal officers here are a strange phenomenon. They are mostly Border Patrol tactical agents, assigned to guard a federal courthouse from US citizens, and they have done very little to actually quell the protests and have actually reinvigorated them as they were starting to die down. They seem to be part of a political ploy to tap into TDS, give Trump some fake campaign fodder (“saving Portland from ‘siege’”), and distract from the real issues that the BLM protests are focusing on. Our NAACP leaders have been urging protestors to ignore them, and Gov. Brown seems to be calling their bluff, saying “we got this”, and showing them the door.

    @JMG

    Thanks for the promised update. Not a lot that is new for those of us who have been following you for years, but I’m looking forward to a future with less bureaucracy!

    @Varun

    Looking forward to the article about Tulsi Gabbard.

  75. A fine example of excess complexity has just happened to me. My computerized telescope (line it up with the North Star, and one other star, and then you can have it point to anything on a long list of interesting sights) had its motor driver board blow. (The magic white smoke departed.) So contact the manufacturer, and low and behold they don’ t make that model or any parts for it anymore.

    Their solutions: buy the current model of the same thing, ($350) or buy a manual equatorial mount ($300). (So the actual telescope is only $50? The real money is in a tripod?)

    They had one other option, apparently they have a even higher tech model. You can attach a smart phone to the telescope, and between the GPS in the phone and what the camera sees, it can do all the aligning and aiming for you. So now not only do you have to worry about stepper motor driver chips, but you also get to worry about when the software might not be supported by the next iteration of the phone’s operating system, or if the phone changes size or camera position too much and the camera is no longer in the correct position to see the sky from its mount. Even more points of failure.

    I found a reasonable manual mount on Ebay attached to a broken telescope, and hopefully it will work with my telescope.

  76. @ Varun

    Ever read the book “Muddling Towards Frugality”? The author Warren Johnson makes the point that in an era of decline it is better to have disorganised government because it encourages people on the ground to try things out and this better facilitates the search for viable and sustainable new ways of living.

    I think the corona event has provided a great test of this theory.

    It’s probably going to sound crazy to you, but I look at the US response to coronavirus and think it’s actually the best one. Even better now that Trump has withdrawn from the WHO. Although it’s unprovable, in my opinion the lockdowns caused more deaths than they saved. If you are prepared to consider that as a possibility, this is a great place to start – https://medium.com/@JohnPospichal/questions-for-lockdown-apologists-32a9bbf2e247

    Here in Melbourne, Australia we have a strong, organised state leader who has taken decisive action. We are now in our second lockdown. Unlike the first, the second lockdown is occurring in the middle of flu season. As a result, the numbers are not going down. They are going up. This means we will probably be in lockdown for several months. Small businesses who were already on the ropes after the first lockdown are going to go under. All states in Australia must now get to 0 infections for political reasons (although we will be told it is for health reasons). To be clear, we had strong, decisive, organised leadership here in Australia and practically no political fighting over the corona event. The exact opposite to the US.

    Therefore, the US and Australia are going to provide a nice test case for whether organised leadership is better. I have a feeling the US is going to come out of this better than us but the results won’t be clear for a few years.

    Cheers,
    Simon

  77. Thanks, JMG. This took me back 12 years. I did not come on board until 2008. I used to come back to my desk, after lunch on Wednesdays, and read the new Archdruid report, when I should have been working. Thanks for the update and nostalgia.

    Mac

  78. @Jessi Thompson

    If I may, what I lovely depiction of the Reaper you have brought forward! Thank you.

  79. Varun,

    “The orange Julius had three solid opportunities to push forward with a populist agenda, and instead chose to listen to the neo-cons and anti-establishment figures in his administration.”

    That’s interesting. What were they and what should he have done? What figures did he listen to?

  80. From Robert; “The flip side of that coin is that all this [over-the-top virtue signaling] looks disturbingly similar to the murderous impulses of Stalinist Russia or Maoist China;”

    Especially the Cultural Revolution. Wikipedia’s article is quite illuminating. The parts about urban students forming “struggle sessions: and seizing power from local governments seems quite topical. As does the part about the Red Guard destroying historical relics and artifacts.

  81. Remember the conversation here about Vice Presidents of Diversity with six-figure salaries? Almost synchronicity-immediaty afterwards the university where I work had us all attend a mandatory meeting with our new-you guessed it-Vice President of Diversity. This person is a minor sports celebrity, and is surely pulling down the big bucks. Since the kafkatrapping survey preceding said meeting was not mandatory, and number of us declined to take it, and one of my co-workers questioned its legality… Just last week another, much smaller, university where I sometimes work has promoted someone to the newly-minted post of Director of Diversity. That place has 1,300 full-time equivalent students, so no room for a second vice-president, I guess. Sigh.

  82. Hmm, I just had a thought. The new racism against whites has perplexed me as it is run by whites. But, perhaps what is going on is that the privileged are ready to throw ‘other’ whites, by whom they really mean working class whites, under the bus so as to maintain their own positions.

  83. John,

    One thing you didn’t mention, I suspect because it is merely tangential to your point, is who is going to be rewarded with these new administrative jobs. One consequence of the recent crisis forcing everyone to work at home is the removal of the social aspects of office culture. This ultimately makes it much easier to replace humans with AI workers.

    The public needs to understand machine learning and AI. I got my degree in computational neural systems back in the early 90’s, and what we are seeing today isn’t a revolution so much as a freight train that has finally built up steam. The structures and algorithms that we are employing to solve increasingly complex tasks already have 4 decades of research behind them. We just didn’t have the computing power before. It isn’t going to take decades for this to change our lives. This train is now accelerating rapidly.

    The truth is that a work at home culture is the optimal environment to be rid of millions of human administrators. Accountants, lawyers, management, even doctors are going to find their jobs on the chopping block, replaced with a computer. Without a strong office culture that would harm morale, there is almost no downside to this process. The rewards are so much higher than the primitive outsourcing from the past. AI’s are basically slaves who work 24/7 for free.

    And unlike outsourcing overseas, which meets strong resistance from consumers, AIs play into the Religion of Progress, and will be tolerated, possibly even welcomed, by the faithful. I may not have the crystal ball that your vast experience seems to have given you, but I just can’t help but look at the (over)reaction to the current pandemic and not see a level of intelligent design that doesn’t bode well for the dwindling middle class. This may not have been planned, but if it were planned, I would congratulate the architects for diabolical cleverness. Whatever anger exists today, I expect it to be seriously amplified in the new paradigm.

    This new culture can silently whittle all but the most loyal from their white collar jobs. I’m not sure I believe the second civil war you proposed has really been averted. It seems to me like the logistics and battlefronts are simply being established and firmed. I don’t see that the ballot box is going to fix where we are headed.

  84. I think the privileged classes/Progress devotees have unwittingly booby trapped themselves via overreaction to the virus that shall not be named.

    Clay Dennis said: All the finance and business web blogs have been buzzing with the idea that work from home will change the world, revitalize small towns, change the work day, etc. etc. But they never stop and think what will happen with that model if the internet becomes decreasingly reliable, or fails all together. 

    Yep.

    All of the petty middle managers and despotic CEOs who forced low-wage employees to work while they were sick or exhausted just kneecapped their ability to race to that particular bottom of the pyramid scheme. All you have to do to get a paid day off from the corporation you work for is (pretend to) sneeze — thanks seasonal allergies! — and if they don’t give it to you, you can probably sue and win. Whoops.

    My local school district in northeastern Illinois just delayed its start to September 1. They usually start mid-August. There are all sorts of draconian rules. For K-8, no recess, no lunches, plastic partitions everywhere, kids can opt to go to physical school 2 days a week only. They have to be online from 7am – 3pm. In Barrington, far to the north of me, they’ve decided to offer no in-building classes at all. Rumor has it that the rest of the state will soon do the same thing. I’m a private music lesson teacher and I had about 12 students who did the e-lesson thing from March 18 – May 15. It’s glitchy. The video part goes out frequently even if you pay for a Zoom upgraded membership as I did. Sometimes it won’t connect at all. E-conferencing is a wonderful option to have in case of emergency but to rely upon it is just plain stupid.

    Obviously quite a few people are fed up and are looking into homeschool co-ops with traditional and hopefully mask-free curricula and structure as well as other options. Many will fall through the cracks and end up like my husband’s second cousin, who was unschool-homeschooled and is an illiterate but not developmentally disabled adult. Freed of the failing school system, far more I think will come to represent a renaissance of classical learning as loving parents figure out they can organize and do a far better job educating Gen Z than the school system managed to do pre-COVID.

    All of those wealthy people who moved into the suburbs to pay astronomical housing prices for boxes made of ticky-tacky are shelling out thousands in property taxes for empty ghost schools. The association won’t let them do anything practical like rent out parts of their home to boarders, farm the yard, or run a home business and put signage over the door to advertise it. That’s going to work out well in an age of decline… *sarcasm*

  85. JMG and all,

    You may have noticed that the latest in the NT Times UFO disclosure series included this tidbit: an unnamed Pentagon official revealed that the remains of an otherworldly craft have indeed been discovered and are now in the hands of government/military officials.

    I’m with you re the real nature of such “disclosures”, ie., it’s camouflage for classified military aircraft flyovers of populated areas, but …. I think this kind of thing could also be an attempt at bolstering a faltering national sense of Eternal Progress – if aliens have developed space-faring, FTL travel, we will have it too, plus all kinds of other super-tech wonders.

    It was funny how this remains-of-alien-craft item was just casually dropped into the article in an “oh, by the way” manner, which of course made it, in Raymond Chandler’s words, as conspicuous as a tarantula on an angel food cake, which I’m sure was the intention.

    And no big outcry. Basically, crickets. UFOs always seemed to me to be a somewhat fringe part of the Progress4Ever/Utopian Dream, but the Dream’s adherents were vocal and there were a lot of true believers. Not so much now, it seems, so it could be the Progressive Dream has lost a lot of its clout, at least among the Space Bro community.

    OTOH, maybe casually mentioning that we have proof that aliens are visiting earth is just an attempt to get a rioter to drop his Molotov cocktail and stare up at the sky in wonder for a few minutes.

  86. Larry, er, perhaps you’ll point to where I said that.

    BB, good! It really does make life less stressful.

    Btidwell, so long as you’re ready to roll with the punches, it’s nothing you have to worry about. I’m interested in it because I’m a history geek, and it’s fascinating to be living through such events, but so long as you collapse now and avoid the rush, there’s nothing to fret about.

    Wesley, oh, granted. An enormous number of people are stunningly ignorant when it comes to the things that support their lives. Did you ever read the fine E.M. Forster story “The Machine Stops”? The attitude of the characters in that story toward the Machine — basically a kind of clueless reverence — is very much on display these days.

    Onething, oh, I expect him to win. His opponents wouldn’t have tried a regime change operation against him this summer if they thought there was any chance they could beat him in the election. I expect him to win by a large margin, and I expect any attempt at an insurrection against him to be quickly and efficiently crushed. The reason I put those caveats into the post is to remind people that Trump is just the most prominent figure in a massive political realignment that will continue with him or without him.

    Kevin, that’s a real possibility, of course. Good to hear about the automated checkout machines!

    Lathechuck, I like it.

    Jeanne, those are good examples! I think we’re actually getting close to the point of being able to talk about the post-progress future, but we’ll see.

    Kevin, fascinating. Yes, that makes a good deal of sense.

    Stephen, he’s been clever enough to make state governments make the relevant decisions, so the people I’ve heard from so far aren’t blaming him — they’re blaming state officials. (There are recall campaigns already started to remove some Democratic governors.) I expect to see Trump use that in his campaign advertising in September and October.

    Onething, fair enough. It’s going to be interesting to watch, certainly.

    Wesley, it’s a good question just how exactly to take the LtG curves. It’s quite possible that peak population will be further out. That said, the decline in the food curve and the steepest part of the rise in pollution are both coming up; if there’s a sharp decline in food availability, that could squeeze African population growth good and hard, as African nations don’t have the farmland to support current populations, much less projected ones.

    Kevin, that makes a great deal of sense too!

    Workdove, excellent! That’s a sign I’ve been waiting to see for some time now. Thank you.

    Mark, you’re welcome and thank you. Do you think the feds should simply go away and let the federal courthouse be burned to the ground, by the way?

    Siliconguy, a fine example. Thank you.

    Mac, you’re welcome and thank you.

    Berserker, yep. That’s the Bureaucratic Kleptocracy Tango: take a step to the left and then hire somebody for six figures.

    Onething, that’s exactly what it’s about.

    Abelian, as I noted in response to another commenter earlier, I expect AI programs to replace a lot of office fauna. Given the class divide in the US, though, that isn’t going to cause any weeping among the sectors of the population who are well enough armed to take part in a civil war. Quite the contrary! Also, a great many of the positions that will be terminated won’t be replaced by AIs, because there will be no need to replace them at all. A vast number of office employees perform no necessary function, and once we reach the point that administrative activities can be streamlined to meet the actual need for administration, there will be a lot less.

    Kimberly, that certainly matches what I’m hearing from elsewhere. It fascinates me that the schools are going all control-freak just at the moment when the profound emptiness of a public school education has become so visible to so many people…

    Will M, my working guess is that too many people have begun to catch on to the scam. I’ve seen people in an astonishing number of venues comment, in response to the latest UFO schtick, “Yeah, that’s just the Pentagon testing something.”

  87. Soviet planning: There is a fictionalized account of the mathematical genius in the early Soviet Union who thought he could abolish money and prices and use linear programming to produce the optimal quantity of every good. The book is called “Red Plenty”, and it then shows him discovering that no computational power in the world would be sufficient to perform the necessary calculations, dooming a planned economy already in the 1930s. That is even without counting how many people would have to do the counting! “Red Plenty” has received lots of praise, I read the first chapter online and liked it.

    David by the Lake, you might be more familiar with linear programming and optimizing functions than I am!

  88. Sue about scythes and sickles (the smaller tools for harvesting wheat) – The scythes are strictly for hay and the sickles are for the wheat (though I never saw it used, that was all done by machines).
    I can tell you that there is a whole suite of human technologies that could be lost. To give you an example today there is a lot of talk about permaculture. It is toutes as the latest and greatest but everyone was doing that in the village. Every hayfield served dual purpose with fruit and nut trees. The gardens were full of herbs and half-shaded by more trees. Black locust was used extensively. All of this was not unique to Eastern Europe – the same was true in Western Europe and US 100 years ago.

    Onething, about election: It’s hard to imagine that the neoliberals have gone to all the trouble and spent billions to foment a color revolution only to accept the popular will and go quietly away.
    So I expect that Biden will “win” magically. I don’t see people revolting even if the cheating is obvious. After watching the whole establishment shamelessly repeating the same con job they did in 2008 (stealing trillions) while not one politician even dared to mention medicare for all – after all that I am convinced that US has not hit rock bottom yet. My guess is it will take another decade before the tide turns decisively against neoliberals and the managerial class.

  89. @ Jessi Thompson – How to build a haystack. There’s a series on YouTube. Just search “Ruth Goodman”. She did a “Victorian Farm”, “Edwardian Farm” and “Monastery Farm.” She and two archaeologists spend a year living as people did in those times. Each episode covers one month. I think it was “Edwardian Farm” where they had to preserve hay for the winter. But, might have been “Victorian Farm.”

    The series is a great overview of all kinds of old ways of doing things. As you said, now’s the time to use the tech to learn these things. Lew

  90. JMG, one note about government health insurance – the reason the democrats are fighting it tooth and nail it’s because it would reduce the bureaucracy not increase it. Currently the overhead for US health insurance is 40% which is probably highest in the world. Most countries with government healthcare have an overhead of less than 10%. I don’t have a link now but it could easily be researched.

    Given the fact that the US economy is inflated with hustles (so called FIRE economy) no politician dare get rid of them because it would cause a halving of the national product. Can you imagine the impact that would have on the shaky US dollar as a reserve currency?
    So I disagree with you about this – if Britain could implement national healthcare after the second world war when they lost their empire and the country was in ruins, US could easily do it too.
    The problem is there is no way to go there from here without going through a financial or economic collapse first – do you think that will happen this decade?
    Thanks

  91. Lots of zingers, deadpan and chock full of sense.
    ” I suggest that this was the real point of the whole operation.”
    That reminds me of the old Roman principle of “who benefited?” when you can’t figure out what’s going on. But of course, even the garbage collectors and myself are catching on, so the jig is up. I was thinking today about the progression : Unjust > Tyrannical > Illegitimate. And the attitude, “it can’t happen here”.
    Lots of soft targets out there for the Populists to start with, which is an advantage in a democracy:, for the long term, we don’t want another Civil War on American soil. “That’s also why cutting Federal funding for universities has become the latest battle-cry on the populist right in the US. That’s what happens to privileged castes that lose track of the fact that their benefit to society has to be large enough to cover their maintenance costs…” The Russians have an old proverb, “better an unjust peace than a just war” (up to a few, sacrosanct points).

    @Derpherder – Eckhart Tolle actually said something similar in an interview once, about the yin and yang principles. Just be careful not to swing too far the other way. Still, not much danger of that at the moment…as long as one stays rooted in metaphysical reality and good first principles.

    @ David by the Lake: I think you will be hearing more of Senator Tom Cotton and General Michael Flynn in the future – they took very unpopular public stances, and at the minimum, will be heavily involved in supporting the successor to the Trump populist movement. Although I suspect it will be a younger, more charismatic, possibly ex military person, probably a male, but not necessarily.

  92. Regarding the decadence of the managerial class, the Taoist concept of ‘Yin nourishing Yang’ interests me. It is considered highly improper outside of short term crises and fundamental to the problem of group or societal stagnation and decadence.

    The idea is that a position of power involves an absolute obligation to ‘nourish’ the weak – to look after the needs of those who are dependent. Therefore the correct relationship between leader and led is trustworthiness, rationality, and moral principle (yang) to devotion and submission (yin).

    Relating this to my own experience of the managerial/professional class there is a strange reversal of this obligatory arrangement. Much as children in some kinds of dysfunctional family are required to look after their parents in order to get their own most rudimentary needs met, my experience of most in this class seem to have an over-weaning sense of entitlement and intricate (and self-interested) obligations to each other, but would be hard-pressed to articulate their own personal, moral obligations to the people or projects they are theoretically serving. Almost of the obligations and “rights” seem to run one-way. There is a grand but shallow rhetoric in buzz-phrases within mission statements and ethical codes, for example. They sound noble yet never seem to translate into real-world attitudes and behaviours.

    What I see is looking out for themselves, throwing any blame for cock-ups downwards and somehow seeing this as serving the collective. Systems have evolved to make this seem to be worthy and ‘normal’ and to enable overlooking the fact that they are being pampered and propped-up in return for a few crumbs towards the goals and people they are responsible for.

  93. Kevin said “I have an internet problem, and have been journaling on it to try to get to the bottom of it, and my subconscious has declared this: “I’d rather die! Internet is all that’s keeping us from living in caves!”

    I am just old enough to have grown up without internet, but just young enough to have had it for my entire adult life (yay Xennials!) and I have the opposite problem. Some days I have to teeter back from the madness that lurks under the realisation that we won’t lose internet for awhile. I hadn’t realized the extent to which I motivate myself to stop noticing the abyss stares back at me by saying to myself “it’s okay, it’ll be a fad for a few years, then we won’t have enough energy to run this garbage anymore”.

    We went camping in a beautiful remnant of an old growth forest, but there was still WiFi. Small children were playing games on their phones at the playground. Others were calling their parents back at their campsites to say they’d got there. Parents who did go to the playground with their kids were on their phones. (I mean… We were in a forest but there still had to be a playground so that kids could be allowed to play!!) I had a panic attack staring into the fire one night as I tried to imagine how I would avoid this incompetent, brain dead fugue state fate for my kids. The childhood I got to have is gone, gone for generations. I had pinned too much hope on a faster collapse, I hadn’t planned to have to make the choice to be the weirdo abuser family who won’t let their eight year old have a cell phone… Or maybe it won’t even be a choice I can make. If he can’t ride a bus without an online user payment… I’ll have to do it. In all likelihood, there will be 5G, and smart buses, and health passports for us. None of it will do what it’s supposed to, each innovation will be replaced by a worse one, but they’ll keep trying. We sank our plans into building the community and land we had instead of looking for a new one, and now we’ll be stuck here, and the stars will not be visible again in my lifetime. The best case scenario sees me live long enough to be one of the old geezers they trot out to ask about the old ways that only now seem to matter, just before the last of us knowledge holders all die off. I imagine there is a great deal of racial karma in that, but knowing that doesn’t make it better.

    It turns out none of us want to deal with the future we’re actually going to get.

    Bah… My cards say I’m still wrong, the “new thing coming” is here now, no longer on its way, so perhaps it won’t look so bad soon…

  94. Abelian Memes, about AI,
    I have a very different impression about the power of AI. Yes the algorithms are not new and there is a lot more processing power now but the end result is not necessarily smarter. There are niche applications related to big data but most of the jobs the AI can replace are just make work anyway (like JMG says).
    It seems to me that AI is not quite good enough to solve the problems created by the computer technology (like drowning in meaningless data).
    Do you have a good example of AI being useful? For example I don’t know of any app that is good at identifying plants (which would be great).

  95. A few points.

    Bureaucracy is like Accountants in a business. Some are good, a lot is too much. If a business/bureaucracy has too many of them, they will spend all their time focusing of strategy rather than actually doing anything. Boils down to the saying, “Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics.”.

    Peak oil: A few folks like Nate Hagan and Art Berman have identified October 2018 as looking like the most likely peak of total oil output. It is not impossible for it to come back for one last hurrah – but it is very unlikely at this point outside of some direct monitary intervention. The virus demand shut down combined with Russia and the Saudi’s messing with oil prices may have brought forward the peak by nearly a decade. Odds of the world being able to out run the decline at this point is slim. There was a good podcast episode on Kunstler cast a few months back (Episode no. 329 – Art Berman) about the problems of geology when it comes to shutting down oil rigs.

    I have to admit, having never owned or driven a car – it is amusing to watch the fuel price go up and down. It looks like demand is slowly pickup up again, next year could be when we start to see prices really hurt some folks in lower classes.

    As for the politics, nowadays it feels like the things that get the most immediate negative press will be the ideas that will work out fairly well in the long term. For instance, the big shouting match over Brexit. I’m expecting Brexit at the start of next year to be a right mess initially – I also think that in about 20 years time it will look like one of the best moves they could have ever hoped for. We are now moving into the global position that Garret Hardin proposed in ‘Lifeboat Economics’ and Britain is ahead of the pack. It was interesting seeing their last election with Boris Johnson lean into the idea of Brexit with the slogan “Get Brexit done!”, it proved once again that the lower classes are gaining back some control. It isn’t all grim any more.

    Lastly, funny you mention Fusion. This week they have started assembling the ITER in France, it has meet the usual fan fair of “unlimited clean energy” even though folks that have worked in the field have basically said it is a lost cause. Will be interesting to see folks speak lovingly about this thing for decades to come while waiting for anything more than some glowing press releases.

  96. @JMG

    I’m far from convinced that the Portland federal courthouse would have been burned to the ground had the federal officers not showed up, but in any case they are making its ongoing protection a condition of their eventual departure. The city and state governments are frustrated at the way the feds are increasing tensions, and I expect they will take that commitment seriously. But we shall see. Certainly the building is more of a target now than it was a month ago, before 100 federal officers in camo and riot gear started emerging nightly in clouds of tear gas and volleys of impact munitions. I just have a hard time viewing the federal strategy here as anything other than political theater, since they don’t have the numbers or the authorization for the sort of show of force or mass arrests that would really put an end to the nightly violence. Confronting the feds about how they are objectively not improving the situation on the ground is one way to break free from playing the assigned reactionary role. Though I would agree that calling them an “occupying force” is unnecessary and a bit excessive.

    In other descent-from-empire news, dollars as a proportion of Russia-China trade are dropping rapidly, down from 75% in 2018 to 46% now. https://www.rt.com/russia/496570-russia-china-dedollarisation-process/

  97. Hello JMG! I’ve been reading your work a few years, love it, a really important perspective in these times etc. etc. I’ve signed in as a Portlander to comment on your question you asked of Mark: “Do you think the feds should simply go away and let the federal courthouse be burned to the ground, by the way?”

    My answer: PLEASE YES. The reality: That building isn’t going anywhere – it will outlast this entire civilization, probably, at least in its ruins. It was built within the last 20 years and designed, apparently, to withstand a literal siege–or at least that’s what its blocky, so-much-concrete-it’s-wasteful, hideously modern design suggests. I have walked past the area of the protests several times (I work downtown) and I assure you that literally every “damage” done to the building so far could be cleaned up in 24 hours and business conducted as normal. It would take literal use of dynamite to change that in any way.

    Every function in that building could easily be performed in a random office building somewhere else. Its very existence, though, is a symbol.

    The protests are kicking off because there really *is* a feeling of “invasion”, at least among people who actually live in the city (I don’t think people in the suburbs or the rural areas have any idea what is going on). Police there are already a bit unpopular – I think that sentiment is a bit overblown, but it is the culture – and having a *foreign* police squad (again, this is really what it feels like) show up to tear-gas people over protesting local issues has turned it all up to 11.

    Right now I’m holding my breath a bit – I very much hope that the governor’s statement means the feds will actually leave. Trump’s goon Chad Wolf says they won’t, though, so it’s all up in the air. But really – why the hell did Trump send them here? It wasn’t needed. Our police protests are local issues, not national. Hell, large chunks of Minneapolis were burned down! NOTHING like that has happened in Portland!! This has all made civil unrest *so* much worse. And Oregon was doing good, too, with COVID cases not too high and the economy starting to reopen…

    If they don’t go, and soon, I predict escalation will follow. I don’t want that – I value the lives on both sides of this. I also don’t want secession, or a second Civil War. I’ve been trying to counsel hotheads (online) as I can, but frankly, I understand why they are out there. The feds need to leave immediately, or they will bring some real trouble on themselves. Just because I do expect America to balkanize eventually… doesn’t mean it needs to happen THIS YEAR!!

  98. @Clay Dennis on weddings.. Oh my gosh! My Wedding was not like JMG’s, it was unfortunately pretty close to the stock standard you get nowadays. Needlessly over the top and if I could do it over, it would be very different.

    My father in law and I both protested the idea of what is now considered a “traditional” wedding and where insisting for a ‘keep it simple’ approach; But my mother in law insisted that the entire extended family come, plus the fancy dress, plus the DJ and the catered meals and… well you get it. In the end they were paying for it so I figured it was on them if it blew out of control.

    In that position, My wife and I essentially resided to just see through all the fluff and enjoy the day for what it was. Have fun regardless of all the expectations we were meant to live up too. It is better to see the bright side in an event like that rather than dwell on a what if. With that said, I hope it is an industry that suffers a big and painful fall. It preys on the ambitions and desires of people that already have their minds rattled with the idea that they need more stuff and apparent status to be happy. Any industry that does that will get no sympathy from me.

    About a year back my brother got married in the local court house, we went to a restaurant afterwards, and it was a fantastic day! That is how it should be done!

    My parent got married in the same court house in 1970, they celebrated by going to the local pub afterward with friends. They are still together almost 50 years later.

    A return to a simpler more restrained form of wedding would be a very welcome change.

  99. JMG, thanks for the response. On Biden, my friends and I cringe at the sight of him during a public appearance. We have a running joke that he reduces his chances for each press conference he gives. On the neoliberal establishment, the “the boy who cried wolf” syndrome seems to be terminal during this election season. At some point people are going to call out their b*******. Even legit criticisms have lost effect as they attempt to color every Trump decision in negative light.

    Just today, Trump announced plans to cut back troops in Germany from 36,000 to about 24,000. I welcome any move that reduces America’s imperialism on the world and I expect major instabilities due to this. How big can we expect these impacts these to be as US retreats from it’s role? I’m starting to sense a “every country to it’s own” feeling in the geopolitical arena in the near future.

  100. @JMG

    1. It’s not just peak oil that we have to deal with. As the Limits to Growth book pointed out, water plays a critical role in almost all industrial processes. Now, there are doubtless many people who believe (many engineers included) that desalination plants will solve the problem. However, thanks to the Second Law of thermodynamics, any water purification process will always be less than 100% efficient. Add to it the uncomfortable fact that the resources needed to build desalination plants and keep them running on such a large scale simply aren’t available. Far better an option is to cut down on water use on an individual level (we can do so only on an individual level, because serious collective action is unlikely to happen) by using a bucket of water instead of a shower or a bathtub for having a bath, using cloth napkins which can be washed instead of use-and-throw paper napkins (while paper napkins can be recycled, they can’t be recycled indefinitely, moreover, the recycling efficiency goes down each time), and using water to wash one’s butt instead of using a toilet paper (I know this sounds disgusting, but here’s an experiment: apply chocolate syrup to both your cheeks. Wash one cheek with water and wipe the other with a toilet paper, and see the difference. The same logic applies when it comes to cleaning one’s butt).

    Also, certain old water conservation techniques can be revived. For example, in the Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, there are many stepwells which have been built using local materials by the Rajput kings hundreds of years ago. These have provided an excellent option for water conservation and have thus provided much needed water to people in these traditionally arid states. If I’m not mistaken, similar structures have been built by the Native American tribes like the Pueblo and others to store water in the arid parts of the United States. If revived and cleaned, these could provide a capable low-tech option for water storage, which will be especially important during the Long Descent. Also, afforestation is certainly helpful.

    2. What do you think that the chemical sciences of the ecotechnic societies of the far future that you mentioned in The Ecotechnic Future will be like? I mean, the compounds that we synthesize today in chemical plants from scratch are relatively very simple as compared to the ones that are found in the biosphere, and the complex man-made ones are almost always never made from scratch (i.e basic elements). Today, chemistry is to me, somewhat reductionist, in the sense that, we always are looking to isolate things down to the basic elements. However, the material and energy costs needed to make the equipment and reagents for a chemistry laboratory are such that they will not survive the Long Descent. Possibly, future ecotechnic societies might have a different way of looking at chemistry? The nearest parallel that I can think of is somewhat similar to what we call systems chemistry (I could be wrong, of course).

  101. Thank you to John Michael for today’s offering. It is good to keep the long-term in mind, despite the day-to-day crises that seem capable of derailing the whole show, just like the twists of Japan’s seasonal stationary front make it nearly impossible to forecast precisely when it might rain during the rainy season, there are going to be quite a lot of big to-dos over little things in the political realm for a while, and if you don’t like it now, wait an hour or so and it will change again.
    In exchange I’ll offer a brief account of what I am seeing in Japan, but @Raymond Reichelt, I’d be curious to know where you’ve heard the Japanese are accepting of depopulation. I hope this is the case. While not as extreme as the transhumanists (I really would love to see them go off to Mars), the Japanese are pretty solid believers in technology and progress. Their country has done a remarkable job of promoting technology but not allowing it to infringe on most human concerns. (They’ve had a string of pollution tragedies, where the victims were given paltry compensation if anything at all. As long as the victims remain a small minority, it’s put down to bad karma and forgotten.) They have a love affair with robots, and if they are coming to accept depopulation, it is because they believe technology will help them cope. I see three major groups in Japan. The first are a elite who have not gone to the extremes the western elite have because of Confucianism’s explicit social contract, but are aligned with them ideologically.
    The second group is the still very large middle class. They tend to be preoccupied with the intricacies of social life in Japan, and with politics being a taboo subject, have little interest in it. This includes a lot of very comfortable retirees and any grown children still depending on them, though young men are less accepting than young women here of being sidelined, or so I hear from my husband who says there are a large number of young men in our village who have suddenly found themselves unemployed due to the virus and crash in tourism. It is this third group–the growing victim class–that could suddenly erupt and overturn the stable order of the post-war years. Crime is apt to be an increasingly prevalent issue, led by fraud, where again, if you are a victim, society has no sympathy.

  102. @Kevin Taylor Burgess,
    I spend too much of my time in front of a computer despite my condition too. For me, being forced to socially distance for the past twenty years, this was a way to have a social life under conditions where I could control my level of EMF exposure to some degree, and you are also right that they seem to be making it deliberately hard to accomplish anything without going on line. I think what is most important right now is to make sure you have a life off line as well, and cultivate it consciously. You’ll be healthier for it, and when the Internet ship founders, you’ll be a happy swimmer. Keeping your marbles through what’s coming up will give you the great advantage of clearer vision.

  103. I for one welcome some decline, I think it’s long overdue. The entire western world seems to be stuck in a cycle of fear, alarm, flight to safety, panic. We’re living in a collective psychosis. With social media and other forms of information overload, the average American needs a daily trip to the ‘information overload vomitorium’. Nobody knows how to dispel this negative energy. The pace of our daily lives mirrors the world at larges inability to maintain the kingdom.

    Things need to slow down and the mental health of the world will improve, the collective psychosis will slowly disappear. Once Covid panic subsides, we’ll panic about something else to the point of halting life at large again. We’re living a collective nervous breakdown that is difficult to watch. I’m tired of watching relatives live frenetic lives, and the constant blearing projection of emotions to the red headed stepchild of the day which is usually Trump, Covid, masks, BLM.

  104. @Wesley

    After looking at the (latest) BP 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy, it feels to me that our energy future does not look as grim as what I felt reading the Archdruid Reports. Of course, renewable energy won’t substitute fossil energy. But we won’t end up relying solely on human power in a desolate Mad Max landscape either.

    One scenario that seems likely to me is that solar and wind power will keep growing and reach 5-10% of our world-wide energy production capacity from now to 2030. As long as the infrastructure can last 20-30 years, we could power ourselves with renewable energy with a drop by a factor of 5-10x of energy usage/person on average. It is not a given that the energy infrastructure will be able to maintain itself from its own production, but if not, that can still cushion the descent.

    Of course, our economic organization would again have to follow weather patterns to be compatible, which would be a good thing and could bring relief to anyone over-stressed by the constant productivity requirements of over-the-clock arrangements. But to me it still feels (some) essential industrial production capacities can be maintained on that base, at least, for example, to manufacture bike components. As a side note, using a mechanical bike rather than a car lowers resource and energy usage by at least a factor of 100x for production, maintenance, and direct use which would generate surpluses within a 5-10x reduction scenario.

    @Kevin

    “The Internet” need not be ultra-high speed broadband with unlimited cap, coupled with world-wide surveillance-based advertisement networks with “free” services on the side.

    The key idea of the Internet is that you can split data in small packets and that if everyone agrees on how to route these packets around, you can connect every participant world-wide through multiple kinds of physical connections and allow a wide variety of applications to be built on top of that basic system. All on a royalty-free, freely documented protocol (TCP/IP), with free and open source implementations that anyone can access.

    The physical connections could be a network of amateur radio operators and the applications can be designed to rely mostly on local storage and processing, with minimal network usage only when energy is available. If the energy usage is low enough, people could exchange data while doing their stationary bike exercise for the day and be independent of the weather. The latency in interacting with someone on the other side of the planet might go to a full-day, instead of the milliseconds of today, but that would still be at least an order of magnitude faster than relying on postal services.

    Most of the current popular services (Netflix watching, Google searching, Facebook stalking) won’t be compatible with this, which could be a relief to anyone wondering whether the current surveillance will lead us to a cyber-dystopia (it won’t, the energy and material limits also apply to the big tech companies and governments). But this particular blog and its conversation rhythms would certainly be.

    So if open source communities keep vibrant, the technical knowledge for the key computing ideas are passed on, and we figure out how to build good-enough computers on a smaller scale from abundant materials and at a low embodied energy, I believe we can still have communities of interest interacting over an Internet infrastructure in the far de-industrial future, perhaps even to help with the next Renaissance.

    Also, given how the 20-something I live with seem comfortable with uncertain careers and seem to find a relief at dropping the expectations of keeping the status quo going, it may well only take 20-40 years until the cultural space clears up. I guess that will happen after most of the baby boom generation has found a comfortable resting position for their current life! So perhaps the bottoming out of industrial civilisation will happen within two generations, fast enough to still have access to some of our current most important and future-proof ideas, as todays’ youth will hopefully be grand-parents and still alive by then.

  105. @ Workdove re: Cars

    I don’t drive (never even learned), but if I was, I don’t think I would want any new car, at least nothing that had any software, converters and whatnot added on over the past 50 years. For something functional and simple, I’d check out the website Prewarcar.com. They have all kinds of stuff, over 100 different makes, most of which I have never heard of. All of this stuff is for sale. You can get a Ford “woodie” station wagon for $37,000, a 1935 Rolls-Royce for $30,000, and numerous Ford Model As and Ts for under $20,000. You can even get a 1934 American La France Fire Engine (this will set you back $138,000) And if you can do some basic mechanics, there are a lot of fixer-uppers starting at a few hundred bucks on up.

    prewarcar.com

    Antoinetta III

  106. John,
    Interesting comment from Workdove about the trend towards young people buying classic cars. Modern cars have increasingly become excessively complex, with computer controlled radar emergency braking systems, automatic emergency hand brakes instead of a mechanical lever, auto start/stop etc. All these computer controller devices have a short lifespan and cannot be repaired with basic tools at a modest price, unlike a classic car. Their crude simplicity is why I have always owned a, non-computer, classic car of one type or another for the last 30 years. I picture Cuba as demonstrating the way forward. People cobbling together old cars using whatever parts are available as a means of keeping them on the road. All the hybrid and battery powered vehicles are extremely expensive new, and there is no chance the prices will drop to compete with gas powered cars. When they reach the end of their lives they will never become ‘classic cars’ because they will be too costing to repair.
    Regards
    Averagejoe

  107. @Simon, why restrict your comparison to the USA and Australia? What about strong leadership in Taiwan, Vietnam, Germany or New Zealand?

  108. John–

    Re planning vs improvisation

    My INTJ programming immediately retorted: “But the necessity of improvisation is a failure-state that results from not planning properly!”

    Which I know is not true, btw. I’ll need to spend time with that. More fodder for meditation!

  109. I have several tangents that I will post separately.

    About the beginning of the Decline. It was in 1973-5, the U.S. went off the gold standard. I was a part of that in that I had to monitor gold reserves worldwide, prices, and currencies. It was a combination of the U.S. fiscal and monetary authorities with the Bank of International Settlements (BIS). France went off along with the rest of Europe. U.S. was one of the last. At that time, the U.S. had 98 percent of all of the world’s gold in Fort Knox (5 percent) and the rest at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The remaining 2 percent was the Soviet Union and South Africa. Now, the gold has been moved more and more overseas to Russia, India, and China.

    When the U.S. went off the gold standard, the dollar became the reserve currency of the world. The U.K. pound sterling had set with the U.K.’s problems in the 1970s. Now, people are looking to bitcoin, gold, and petro-dollars. All of which have major problems in what they can do. (Bitcoin takes tremendous amounts of electrical power. Petro-dollars is based on the oil market.)

    The currencies of the world are now fiat in that they are worth whatever the government says they are worth. The basis of capitalism has failed. I haven’t a clue as to what comes next.

    Meanwhile, since 2007 except for 2015, banks have been failing regularly. This did happen in the Depression but once WWII happened, they came back. It is now 2020 and more and more banks are either holding on to their reserves or failing. The fundamentals for a sound banking system and economy has been going since the 1970s. And now everyone is running on fumes.

    In other words, cheap energy, cheap credit and cheap land is not long available. All that is left is credit which is failing the system. The technocrats that Mr. Greer rails about are totally clueless as to how the monetary system works. No cash, no gold, no i-phones or anything else.

  110. Second tangent. I do enjoy this blog since it explores things below the surface.

    I woke up today and realized that Biden and H. Clinton were tree-tops candidates. They were forced on people by the powers that be. (TPTB). Trump is grassroots. He has staying power since he is the voice of the people. That is the scary aspect of Trump, and why he can’t be dislodged.
    il
    It is correct that what is going on with BLM and other protests is that it is astro-turf and not generated by the people. The Portland Wall of Moms is getting the attention while the Black Moms in Portland have been toiling for racial justice for six years. No media attention to them. So this is all about the former ruling class trying to regain their power.

  111. Third tangent. I have noticed the push for progress for people within the recovery industry. Having a brain injury has opened my eyes to how people push you to progress in your recovery. There is no help in trying to help you adjust in your new reality but a relentless push to make you well. I have found that stepping about from all of that has helped me recover skills for living as I find myself.

    I do believe that part of the problem with people denying the long decline is that they do not know how to live where they find themselves.

  112. Final tangent. I have been reading about the Mongol invasions of Europe and Asia. When Genghis Khan and his family were done, the landscape had changed completely. I read where the population of Iran and Afghanistan did not recover from the 1200s to the 1970s. So I do believe in a population decline.

  113. JMG – I know you don’t watch TV, so you probably missed the self promoting commercial by Amazon.com about how “green” their operations will become in the next few years. Amazon employees will be driving electric cars and their business will run on “renewable” energy, becoming carbon net zero by 2035? So they are going to save the environment while selling us a lot of unnecessary plastic junk from China? I question whether Amazon.com will even exist in 2035.

  114. Hi JMG, long-time reader, but generally a non-commenter, firm degrowther and early-collapser coming from the deep-green ultraleft via a hard sciences background and experience in the auto industry; this point people keep repeating strikes me as weird, especially coming from you, when you yourself consistently espouse the logic that undermines the argument that gets trotted out: “minority and poor unemployment – lowest ever”

    Given what we know about catabolic collapse and where we are in the curve, combined with the atomization and gig-ification of the economy in the wake of automation, minimized unemployment (a number thoroughly massaged and squeezed by federal statisticians) for the lowest classes is _not really a good thing_. It equates directly to the overproduction of luxury goods that won’t be sold to the squeezed bureaucratic class (see: $75,000 Ford trucks, and all the blue-collar jobs those supply chains support), technologies that won’t be delivered on or serve no purpose or are deliberately inferior/more likely to break than older, better designed things, and the explosion of gig work (nearly all in support of convenience for the salaried). It’s an unsustainable position to be in as a society.

    Plus, as you discuss in the OP, practically all the growth in the U.S.-led economy post 2010 came from a combination of the fracking boom, dark and arcane financial wizardry, and riding the last of the bubble in cheap labor in China propelled by their burning all the coal they could possibly mine or import. I don’t get how one could laud Trump’s policies in artificially extending this bubble via deregulation, cost-cutting, and administrative overhaul as coherently populist. To me, the whole thing with him and his political attempts since the 90’s screams “canny enough to recognize when to loot a burning building”. He and the fed have even invented a whole new genre of meme this year in pursuit of making sure the stock market stays overinflated, wild pump-and-dump schemes are the order of the day, and in exchange the base gets a dose of psychological salve rather than actual material support, while entropy continues to do it’s thing to our physical and social infrastructure.

    An actual populist would be able to tell people about our situation honestly (which to be fair, 2000’s-era Trump could tell we were off the rails) and mold the public will towards resiliency/something in the Lakeland republic vein. Instead we get still more calls for a return to that bygone age of growth and expansion – “Make America Great Again – Again”, leading to yet more political backlash/disillusionment when the growth does not materialize. Frankly, between him and Joe, I see only a difference in who the promised beneficiaries of this imaginary growth are, and I’d like to know what gives with this seeming contradiction.

    My personal prediction is simple: The election will be considered illegitimate by all, because it will be obviously so (and shame on any of you that somehow don’t think all sides will be cheating their utmost to ensure their faction stands atop the ashheap).

  115. I agree that a Trump win is less likely to precipitate a civil war. Still, couldn’t we do better than Trump? I wonder what you think of Unity2020’s plan of drafting two ethical (as opposed to Trump) people, one from the center left and one from the center right to govern together as president and co-president (but officially vice-president). It probably won’t be able to overwhelm the 2 party Mafia-like stranglehold on votes, and the “lesser-of-two-evils” prisoner’s dilemma-like situation, but it has a failsafe if so.
    Do you think the plan could work better than Trump for creating less misery for more people, at least in the short run? What is Trump doing for climate change (nothing)? What is he doing for localizing economies? Well maybe something with tariffs, but national economies are not local enough, especially when they rely on global industrialization. I agree that he might help localize economies by reducing government burocracy.

  116. @JMG & Wesley: A data point of the cluelessness of the PMC and the LtG:

    This morning, the BBC had a long story on the rose industry of Kenya. In short, roses are grown in greenhouses in Kenya, cut and airshipped to be sold in Europe. Sales have dropped massively, and the roses are left in rotting heaps outside the greenhouses. But the Government in Kenya has just given a nice subsidy to support the industry, so the managers should be able to continue their march into thin air.

    I may be showing my non-PC-ness here, but the manager whom they interviewed sounded to me as if he had a distinct Indian accent. Were I him, I would be looking for a way out, to avoid being blamed for Kenyans going hungry in the near future.

  117. I am really worried about the future of employment for myself and my children here in the US, in a future where hiring and promotion is increasingly reserved for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). California is going to vote in November on whether to remove the ban on affirmative action hiring for public positions. Ignoring for the moment the continued decline in employment prospects just as a matter of the Long Decline, what’s left seems like it will be increasingly inaccessible to whites. I worry less about myself and more about my kids really. I look at BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) in South Africa and wonder how long until we get there? What do you see JMG?
    I read something the other day that said American elites have always stoked conflict between working whites and working blacks for their own (the elites) benefit.
    The lockdowns are having a deleterious effect on my family, and my extended family, emotionally and mentally. My mother-in-law has gone full nutjob conspiracy theorist (McDonald’s serves baby meat they got from Epstein’s island), my sister-in-law is screaming at everybody, my wife and I have talked about our kids being the only reason to try and keep going. My children are regressing emotionally and socially. I’ve been the positive one for the last 4 and a half months, trying to encourage and look on the bright side, trying to encourage discussion and activities and a positive outlook, but I also now feel myself succumbing to the despair.
    Neither side is prepared to accept losing in November. There will be fireworks, it just isn’t clear how much and to what degree. Another astrologist I follow predicts a crisis in December of this year with a resolution in January. She is sure that COVID will define the world for the next 20 years. I think she is right if you strip COVID out of the situation. Maybe whoever wins the election gets assassinated and it takes a month to sort out who should be in his place. Maybe the world economic system melts down. I don’t know. Anyway I highly encourage you to read this astrologer’s article and I would be interested in your take should you care to give it: https://www.jessicaadams.com/2020/07/12/astrology-predictions-to-2040/

  118. Just to add a relevant data point here about schools. My oldest child is due to start kindergarten in September. I have considered homeschooling him for a while, but before the pandemic I didn’t know how I could justify to my job keeping him at home and still working (I was already a remote employee before all this), even though I know that I can spend a fraction of the time teaching him for better learning than he would get at school. Now that my child’s school district has announced that it will be online only for the first semester, I decided to officially unenroll him and homeschool him for the year. Since he’s going to be home anyway, why would I want to be forced to follow the schools curriculum while making my five year old stare at the computer and do busy work all day? By the way, thanks to whoever it was for mentioning The Well Trained Mind last week. I’ve already checked out a copy from the library and I’m excited about using it as a guide.

  119. Another quick speculative question: how high do you think gas prices will get in the next few decades?

  120. @siliconguy.
    A trick I’ve used is to get the motor’s manufacturer and model number, then google it. Lots of shops have put their list of spare parts online, and will be glad to mail you the part.

  121. siliconguy-

    While I think the point of your telescope example fits this discussion, I have a flip side to point out.

    I bought my kids one of those telescopes with the smartphone app to guide it, but it was low-tech, no motors to break, hand adjusters, just a mirror that you point your phone (or since I don’t have a phone, small tablet) camera at. Then the app tells you where to point the telescope to see whatever celestial object you want to see.

    It got my kids every interested in the stars because they’re actually able to find things rather than just hunting around. And now, nearly a year later, they hardly ever use the app, they just know where the various constellations and nebulae are and move the telescope where they want it. Now you could argue they haven’t learned much math or technical terms, declination, azimuth and the rest, but they’re only 8, I figure there’s time.

    And FWIW, I bought this particular telescope *because* it failed gracefully, which I think is the key to all future-proof tech, as someone pointed out above, the important question is: how does it fail?

  122. Excellent summary as always. JMG, Prediction is a problem especially if it is about the future. The trendlines of resource depletion and the LTG model seem clear enough and you point out correctly that the linear view of history and progress has the society locked in to a fraudulent model. I favor the cyclical view of history where we go from growth period of relative stability to a crisis every so often, say every 100 years or so and right now it does appear things are delaminating in economics, finance,, social stability, urban living models, you name it. I do not share your slight optimism of relative stability as the world begins a slow adaptation to a resource constrained future. It could happen that way and I hope it does but a sudden catastrophic collapse could also happen provoked by one of the 4 horsemen or something else like asteroids, or a pandemic or some other catastrophic natural calamity. Your landmark Catabolic collapse theory will almost certainly play out over some span of time but things here in the US could get real WESTERN real soon. Not sure about civil war but this place is increasingly ungovernable and we could be in for a sudden collapse, Seneca style rather than a series of steps down. Best be prepared for the worst while hoping for the best. My view is that the country may go its separate ways, region by region. I don’t see how the country will stay together as currently configured. Social unrest seems baked into the cake as well as income inequality and when/if the food or water supply lines dry up, Katie bar the door.

  123. Hi JMG,

    Being that you seem confident in a Trump win this November, what do you make of current polling around the election? As we all know, the polls wrongly indicated a Clinton victory in 2016, but the situation seems an order of magnitude different this time around–with Biden (over the course of this summer) consistently polling at leads that double those Clinton had four years ago. Has the accuracy of polling declined in some massive way–or does this reflect of a genuine loss of support for the incumbent?

    Thanks!

  124. Hello JMG, thank you for the update. How do you think the population will decrease lots in a relatively short time – say 50 years as shown on the graph ? Historically it happened with the usual unpleasant epidemics, wars or famines. People in North Korea and other places have shown that people do not die easily even in very difficult circumstances . Life can be very hard now in some places in India, Africa and Latin America and the population keeps increasing .

  125. @Kimberly Steele & @JMG “All of those wealthy people who moved into the suburbs to pay astronomical housing prices for boxes made of ticky-tacky are shelling out thousands in property taxes for empty ghost schools. The association won’t let them do anything practical like rent out parts of their home to boarders, farm the yard, or run a home business and put signage over the door to advertise it. That’s going to work out well in an age of decline… *sarcasm*”

    This is something I think about very often. Knowing how slow bureaucracy moves I often wondered how what mechanisms would allow a dismantling of petty restrictions. And also on what timeframe will all these petty bureaucratic restrictions be lifted in the upcoming ragged decline. I didn’t have much hope in any speedy reduction in bureaucracy.

    But the bureaucratic reaction to COVID crisis actual did surprise me. Many of the “hard and fast rules” of the past were quickly paused and I think that really showed how petty many of those rules were. For my state during COVID, in less than one month, decade long rules were removed allowing breweries and liquor stores to do curbside pickup and even home delivery. To go alcoholic cocktails were then legalized! Permits for outdoor dining and drinking were expedited and allowed in days instead of slowly mucking through a bureaucratic quagmire.

    Maybe Donald Trump signals the beginning of concerted efforts to dismantle layers of bureaucracy. Maybe a combination of the weakening of the managerial class and continued crises will expedite the removal of unnecessary red tape.

  126. Dear Wesley,

    From where do you get your numbers for Africa? From the international organizations who rely on the reporting from the various countries and deliver aid accordingly? Is there an effective control for fraud?

    I don’t know what the real numbers are, but I do know that for every married person with children in my husband’s generation in his family there are two lifelong, childless, bachelors or spinsters, and two seems to be the most common number of children, with a few having three.

    What I hear from the family doesn’t match the official statistics. I don’t think I’d trust the stats. I don’t know what the true numbers are, I doubt anyone does, but the prize for false numbers is more international aid: the rewards are great, the punishment negligible, of course there’s fraud.

  127. A data point for your consideration regarding Biden’s chances in the election: we now have SettleForBiden.org, which does not appear to be a joke. Parties that think they have a candidate who can win don’t do this sort of thing.

  128. On the topic of the feckless administrative class during the twilight of industrial civilization, here’s a few personal anectdotes for the audience, with a large helping of schadenfreude:

    My niece went to university to become a veterinarian and came out with a boatload of debt and an African American studies degree, the sole purpose of which seems to be blasting her (uber-liberal, multi-racial) family with white privilege sermons on social media. The likes and “you go girl!”s are drying up currently… I suspect she’ll have some regrets in life.

    I work for a tech startup. Our product is suprisingly quite useful, but we’ve swallowed 30 million dollars with no profit. Well, Lord Covid came through and slayed all non-essential workers in the company (about 1/2), including the CEO! With this new and crazy idea of listening to our customers, we’re now on the path towards profitability. Whooda thunk?

    My city, though not wealthy by Silicon Valley standards, offers a wide array of services no one asked for, with the best pensions fiat money can buy. Meanwhile the basic infrastructure of the city is in visible decay. Well, 2020 happened and no one’s signing up for Zumba. My hope is for widespread creative destruction of the budget. Even in California, one can hope!

  129. Mr. Greer, respectfully …

    There has been much hand-ringing/nashing-of-$harp teeth as of late, in the halls of economic punditry, from Orange de Julius and some of CONgress, and the lugenpress generally .. about how the lowly mokes are refusing to work for less than the monthly temporary ‘relief’ given by both the federal and state govs. .. both of which having put the working classes through the wringer, what with general lock-downs and all that’s followed in it’s wake.

    Mainly true? .. a Wall$treeter’s Jedi mind-trick?? Trumpian campaign blather???

    I have no dog in this .. uh .. ‘fight’, as I don’t ‘work’ ….. as in having a money paying gig, being an all-around male domesticarian (the wife brings home the bacon, whilst I deliver to the home, from the home .. the honey, the eggs, the fruit, and clean dishes, repairs, and such ..)

    I think a meme is being pushed out there .. in the official ether, so as to continue to push wages down further on the already severely stressed lower portion for the 80%ers, as the Ferengi Classes cynically thumb their big ears and guilt-shame, while making acquisitional bank at the liliputian’s expense.

    Would like your take on this.

    *apologies for the mixed metaphors

  130. 1) Robert and JMG – on the topic of the decline of wokesterism, I have to hope that you see that trend clearly because I had an ‘uh oh’ moment when I read this article and thought about the era of new religiosity being germinated in these times (https://apnews.com/4afb2c5488043dbd7e4ae79530ae9802).

    “Faith in protests as young people find fervor and connection on the street”

    [while chanting “I can’t breathe, one protestor reported]…”‘I just started choking and I broke down…And I do feel like that was also a spiritual experience that I’ve never experienced before.’ The demonstrations…that have raged…are often led by young people who find a sense of purpose, ritual and community on the streets. Many involved say the protests deepen spiritual connections and embody familiar elements of traditional faith.”

    It goes on to talk about the feelings of religiosity being inspired, the community-building, and the filling in of either a (society-wide) lack of meaningful purpose and spiritual impetus or the continuation of the varied ways younger generations are turning to ritual and religion.

    So, maybe claims of wokesterism’s terminal prognosis are premature.

    2) I just posted a poll on my local neighborhood social media page that inquires of families of previously going-to-school-kids about their plans for schooling if/when schools open up. Thirty-seven people have responded so far. My question was: If your children were enrolled in public or private schools (k-12) pre-pandemic, how likely are you to homeschool even if/when schools reopen? The options and results so far are:

    Very likely (this is my plan) – 30%
    I would if I could (but I have other responsibilities, so I can’t) – 8%
    I’m considering a multi-family homeschool option – 3%
    I am undecided – 8%
    I will send my kids back to school as soon as schools are open – 49%
    other – 0%

    I’ll give it another few days before closing it and will report back on the numbers if there are any more respondents.

  131. @NomadicBeer Plantnet is a free and open source, publicly funded by French tax payers, plant identification application, that I suppose is powered by machine learning: https://plantnet.org/en/. It worked quite well the last time I tried it. I think it is one of the good examples of what public research should be about when it works well.

  132. Hi John,
    nkfully,
    Great essay, per usual.

    I’m a member of that bureaucratic class you mention, a lower-ranking member but one nonetheless, and from that vantage point I think you are spot on. The administrative bloat plaguing higher education is indeed an employment program for college graduates and increasingly for graduate school graduates, as students increasingly pursue graduate degrees as a means of postponing loan repayment.

    Speaking of loan repayment, what is particularly irksome to me is that, even as they lament the military-industrial complex, faculty ignore the equally loathsome higher ed-finance-politics complex, primarily because of how much they benefit from the arrangements; undergrads are merely a source of funds, graduate students a source of cheap labor, and occasionally a gold star for a prof’s promotion packet, and consequently many faculty ignore that the educations they provide are usually paid for with government-backed loans that cannot be discharged via bankruptcy (a situation arranged with bipartisan consensus) other than to call for all of those loans to be forgiven. Rather than recognizing the bloat and ceaseless growth as the problem, and calling for stricter admissions or smaller student classes or other potential de-growth measures, the academy instead critiques the rest of society as being too obtuse to see the value of paying $120K to study decolonizing the academy and tries to create more jobs programs for their graduates while asking all those without the benefits of college education to write off the costs.

    Regarding post-election 2020, you said, “Even if [Trump] loses this November, so long as the election isn’t obviously fraudulent, there’s reason to hope that the lesson has been learned.” What happens, though, in a nation that can no longer agree on what counts as “obvious” or “fraudulent”?

    Up-page Kevin said “My concern is that it won’t matter how the election looks: even if Biden pulls off an honest victory, I fully expect a sizeable portion of the populist right to assume it was rigged and react accordingly.” But how will anyone know if Biden or Trump pulls off an “honest victory,” since we cannot agree on what the terms of an “honest victory” mean?

    Kevin assumes the populist right will assume it was rigged; but after 2016, and the subsequent “not my president”/”ban the electoral college”/”RussiaGate”/”Orange Man Bad” hysteria, can you honestly blame them? Trump won honestly (moreso than W., certainly) and his opponents still have not accepted it. Even a populist leftie like me is mind-boggled that not one of my leftist and liberal friends are concerned at how the party which has not accepted the results of the 2016 election is already priming the pump of not accepting the results of the 2020 election, revealed via their projection (just like in 2016) of that urge on to Trump.

    So let’s assume the opposite, let’s say Trump pulls off an honest victory. (I laughed out loud typing that, because I imagine heads exploding in news offices around the country Scanners-style as they try to figure out how to spin that as dishonest or a loss or both.) Are the granny-hassling, head-kicking black bloc thugs in Portland and elsewhere going to knock back an IPA and say, “Well, dangit, that systematically racist, sexist and transphobic ballot box has once again determined a fair election outcome, and so we should desist in our efforts to burn the nation down comrades”? Will the Not Fracking Around Coalition put down their AK-47s and start singing “Kum ba yah”? Will all the professors who’ve been in a full-blown ictal state for the last three and a half years suddenly snap out of it, just because a system designed centuries ago by white, slave-owning men said so?

    My bones tell me no, that no matter the outcome of this election, shale will hit the fan. Not apocalyptic, wrath of God type stuff, with dogs and cats living together, mind you but a serious rise in politically motivated violence and a concomitant diminishing of the rule of law.

    Dennis Miller says it’s time for the nation to divvy up its record collection, and to that end I’ve been whispering about the constitutional disuniting of these 50 states via constitutional convention to anyone who will listen. I fear the will to power on both sides is too strong right now for that sort of de-escalation and de-growth, but the future will bring what it will bring.

    I hate it that we’ve gotten to the point in history and decline where I regularly find myself defending Trump and seeing the Republicans as the opposition party… the 18-year old me (hell, the 50-year old me) would never have believed it.

    Thanks always for your thoughtfulness and for allowing us to share in your musings!

    Best,
    Monster

  133. 33: “the sheer cost of the last few fusion reactor projects has demonstrated conclusively that no nation on Earth will ever be able to afford to power its grid that way.“ Are you sure about that? Is it possible that the projects were co-opted from the get? They Were just used for a black market slush fund n the “research” was designed to paint the tech as an unfeasable solution to our energy crisis. But we won’t see the tech until the developers have the money In their hand?

  134. JMG,

    The “future we’re going to get” is the future I’ve seen (as have others). The evolution of the species is assured.

    Although we may not experience that future, 200 years’ “time” from now it will be upon those who remain to stay.

    For Earth’s sake, and an evolved way of BEing, I say…

    Bring it on!

    Thank you Brother, as always, for your clear and concise synopsis of reality as it is.

    Waves of love ~

    ~ Tanya

  135. About the violence in the protests –

    I am totally convinced that those on the left who blame the right, and those on the right who blame the left, are both quite correct, but not completely so. I am also convinced that everyone with a vested or ideological interest in stirring up trouble is also mixing in, not to mention crazies, looters, and vandals at large. And, JMG to the contrary now but not in Twilight’s Last Gleaming, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that Boris Badenoff, Natasha, and the minions of Ming the Merciless are in there, too. That’s because for the most recent cycle of history, in which we are now in then endgame, they’ve had the greatest interest in undermining the United States and its empire. Bear and Dragon may have better things to do with their time and money now, but again, they may not.

    I am advising anyone who asks me to sit tight until the protests stop including or meeting with violence unless they’re prepared to don a uniform and shoulder a gun. The very thought of which would make most of them wrinkle their noses and accuse me of being, at the very least,in extremely bad taste.

  136. @Polecat,

    People are definitely choosing to stay home on unemployment rather than make less money by working (those that can… once you are offered your job back you have to take it or you become a quitter who is ineligible for unemployment). I don’t know why this is a surprise or some sort of “moral failing” to them. It’s simple economics. American working class households don’t often have the luxury of making less money purely for ideological reasons.

    That said, it is a gamble. Everyone’s benefits will run out at the same time, so there will be a sudden mad scramble for work after that happens. Right now is an excellent time to find a job if you want one, it’s certainly easier to find work now than it will be in a few months.

    I think if this particular economic policy is creating problems, blame should rest on those who designed the policy, not on those making economic choices based on the policy.

    Sincerely,
    Jessi Thompson
    anotheramethyst

  137. Antoinetta III – except that prewar cars were made for grown American *men*, not itty bitty women like me. Have you noticed? When the little Japanese cars came in, sized for little Japanese men, the once-rampant jokes about women drivers taking out the back of the garage or running over the fire hydrant (still seen in The Lockharts) started dwindling?

    I, for one, welcomed the advent of our little Hondas and Toyotas. Of course, now they’re all on steroids to put a 1962 Cadillac to shame, but they also have power-everything and all sorts of sensors etc.

    For us shrimps, may I suggest an old-time VW bug? Or a little Honda CRX if you can get it.

  138. JMG,

    I’ve been puzzled for a while about your assessments of both the performance and re-election prospects of Orange Julius. I will agree he started well, cancelling TPP on Day 1 if I recall. For a while (that is, while Bannon was still there) it looked like he actually wanted to build a wall. But Bannon departed and so began the reign of idiot-boy Prince Jared. The Prince has been whispering notions into Julius’s ears, that he needn’t worry about the white working class, because, lets face it, where else can they go?

    Now, the Prince had no political or government experience at all, nor is there any evidence he even took a passing interest in such things. Apparently, nobody (to include Julius) has thought to explain to the Prince that Julius’s voters, whether white, working class or any other kind, are not required to turn up to vote. Even antifa, who like to have their way, will fail to molest them if they stay away and thereby partially disobey antifa’s orders to vote exactly as antifa requires. And people say antifa is intolerant!

    Thus we have the endless boasting from the Orange One about minority unemployment, while curiously omitting any boasts about employment amongst those who actually voted for him. I gather that one reason for that might be that most new jobs are indeed going to minorities and not to Orange Julius voters.

    Neither Julius nor the Prince seems to have noticed that their brilliant strategy of ignoring their voters (and more to the point, their increasingly desperate needs) while pandering to groups that will never vote for them, is far from new. It is actually just the standard miserably failed playbook of the GOP for many years. It also, notably, the exact opposite of the play that allowed the Great Orange to take over the GOP and actually win an election.

    Adding insult to injury, Trump and the GOP rolled over for the rioters on day 1 and have shown that they don’t care at all about mass violence against their own voters, not to mention statues.

    In short, if Trump was the only hope for avoiding an insurgency … that is, the last hope for democracy, I can’t imagine how his erstwhile voters will see any remaining point in voting. They did what you are supposed to do, they won the election … and have nothing to show for it except bullet holes in their yard signs and the entire media egging on the destruction of their country while Orange Man sends impotent tweets (when Twitter doesn’t just delete them, that is).

  139. Really excellent post.

    I would like to see a post on what you think will happen to the world at large on the next fifth Wednesday.

  140. Some comments on the comments:

    No one in my household likes talking to pollsters and when we do, we lie. We lie about our ethnic background, gender, age, wages, and political affiliations. Bad answers generate bad polling results. I wonder how many other people lie.

    I never use a self-checkout, ATM, website, or any other kind of shadow work. When I’m asked about this or I’m pointed to the handy website (or what have you), I point out that I don’t believe in sending a message to corporate headquarters to get rid of another job.

    I think many older cars will gradually come onto the market based on what happens in my own family. My mother has finally decided to gift her 2002 Buick LeSabre to Younger Son so he has a car for his hoped-for, future career as an electrician. Plenty of older Americans have unneeded cars that are, like my mother’s Buick, cream-puffs with low mileage, excellent maintenance records, and the radio permanently set to the local classical music station.

    She is keeping the even lower-mileage Ford station wagon (15 years old and about 50,000 miles) but someone will eventually get that car too along with its three-digit license plate. In Delaware, a low-digit license plate will sell a car.

  141. Matthias, funny. I’ll want to read that sometime.

    NomadicBeer, one way or another, we’re heading for a massive economic reset, probably a US default on its unpayable foreign debt, and quite possibly a new currency. The US dollar is losing its place as a reserve currency, and when that process gets far enough along, the FIRE sector is toast anyway — thus the critical necessity for rebuilding the US manufacturing sector while we still have the funny money necessary to do so.

    Arkansas, thank you. Yes, cui bono? is always the question to ask.

    SarahJ, that’s an excellent point. The wise old concept of noblesse oblige — that is, the idea that increased privilege brings with it increased responsibility to the less privileged — has gone out the window, replaced by exactly the attitudes you’ve described. (And of course the fact that it’s taboo among respectable thinkers to talk about class privilege — no, no, we can only talk about race and gender! — makes it very easy for members of the privileged classes to hide their privilege from themselves.)

    Michael, of course some bureaucracy is useful. It stops being useful when the bureaucratic caste becomes a privileged aristocracy — as of course it is now. As for your other points, spot on — I’m also looking forward with wry amusement to the outcome of the ITER boondoggle.

    Mark, of course it’s political theater — but it’s political theater on both sides. The Portland city government actively encouraged rioting in order to embarrass the Trump administration; Trump responded by putting his own team of actors on the stage, and is pretty clearly using it as a dry run for the tactics that will be necessary if he wins and the Democrats try to stage a general uprising, as I think they will. The city government could put a stop to the whole show in a moment by enforcing the laws, but I doubt they will.

    Shinjuki, as I noted to Mark Luterra, it’s political theater on both sides, and it’s also giving the feds a very good opportunity to refine the tactics they’ll probably have to use on November 4. If the Portland city government wants the federal police to leave, all they have to do is guarantee the security of Federal property, as they are required to do by law. The fact that they won’t do this shows me that they’re just as much into the theater as the feds are.

    Nomad, I was delighted to hear of the troop withdrawal also. I’m planning on a post soon about the twilight of American global hegemony, because the impacts are already big and will be getting bigger.

  142. JMG,

    on the question of office fauna: I can’t help noticing that throughout the West, vast numbers of people that were previously employed are now unemployed, yet as far as I can tell, nothing much has stopped functioning. It’s almost as if … their labor, slaving hard over an overheating laptop, might not have strictly speaking been necessary! Perhaps it was all just a very odd way of distributing money from the few remaining productive activities … and now governments have figured out a much easier method .. just give them some money!

  143. JMG,

    My wife is convinced Trump will be re-elected in November. I’m not as sure. My fondest hope is that he is and that it serves as wake up call to the left. They take stock of why they keep losing and course correct. But I fear that is not what will happen if he does win.
    My fear is that, like in 2016, they will double down. NPR is already running regular stories on the evil Russians trying to steal our election. Never mind that of all major countries polled Russia’s opinion of our current leadership is dead last. But still they want Trump in office because, “reasons.” So, new accusations of election tampering are trotted out, new riots, new virus scares, basically throw anything and everything at the wall and sees what sticks.
    Tensions keep ratcheting higher and higher. There is no civil war but something like the “Weather Underground” eventually appears – maybe more than one (one left, one right? Wouldn’t that be a hoot!).

    AV

  144. Hi John,

    A lot of interesting thoughts that you have shared. I thought I’d contribute as this is a topic that I am most interested in.

    First of all, when it comes to Trump, I’m somewhat of a sceptic that there is going to be any major changes in elite policy for quite a while yet.

    You see John, Trump is basically the American version of Mikhail Gorbachev. Everything that Gorbachev did to try and restore the Soviet Union Trump is trying to do. Combatting free trade agreements and illegal immigration is sort of his very glasnost and perestroika.

    He has all the same problems as Gorbachev too. The elite despise him and are trying to remove him from power, a good half of the population hate him.

    There is only one key difference and that is the elite haven’t given up on the old ideas yet. You see, what we have to remember that during the last days of the USSR, the Soviet elite had pretty much given up on the idea of socialism and wanted to become Western. When Gorbachev opened the system for collapse, they grabbed it and helped themselves to the country’s riches, allowing the Soviet Union to fall into the dustbin of history. These days, the only thing you can see with CCCP on it is the traditional ice cream maker from that period still selling it’s wares….

    My point is, the American elite have not yet given up on the system and still heavily believe in globalism and neo-liberalism. They simply do not believe in an alternative yet. The only way for Trumpism to truly be triumphant is when the elites in Washington finally realise that the old way is no longer viable and give up. I do not yet see this happening.

    Also there is the question of demographics. Trump sort of is a last hurrah in that the traditional Republican voting bloc is likely going to be a minority within the next two decades. Only a small percentage of the Hispanic, Asian and black community actually vote Republican. The vast majority vote Democrat. Now, if the Dems are sticking to the globalist agenda and their voters are quite happy with the status quo, then the only way for Trumpism to truly win out would be in the long term a peaceful secession a few decades down the line.

    I could be wrong in this assessment and I look forward to your input on the matter but these are just my thoughts regarding now.

  145. Mark L,

    I’m curious. You say the agents who have shown up are Border Patrol? What I have heard is that they are DHS with jurisdiction to protect federal property only. How do they distract from issues when their mission is to prevent the destruction of the federal courthouse, a physical task?
    You say they are to protect the courthouse from US citizens. US citizens have a right to peaceably assemble to address the redress of wrongs. After more than 50 days of property destruction and personal violence toward others, at what point would you feel that maybe your governor isn’t handling it adequately?
    I am really wondering where the disconnect is here. I have seen footage. Have you? Do you live near enough to see it? Have you watched only mainstream reporting? Because we have a very big disconnect here. Please tell me what it means to say that strange agents are coming to “protect the courthouse from US citizens.”
    Why would the courthouse need protection?
    Is what the citizens are doing legal?
    Do you think that it should be legal?
    Isn’t that a really odd phrase considering that US citizens do things like murder and break-ins quote often? Are US citizens capable of really bad and dangerous behavior?
    Do you think that the people who brought about the destruction of China, Cambodia and Russia were citizens of those countries?

  146. I am in the odd position of getting a raise this year, as I start back with my middle school teaching job. My district has not yet decided how much we are going to be inside the building, attempting to teach Spanish with a face mask to young people who, historically, can’t keep their hands to themselves, or whether we are going to be shouting into the abyss of Google Classroom, sending assignments out to people who will likely not complete them.
    That being said, I am getting the raise anyway, about $1500 for the year, and I wonder what advice you, JMG, and the Commentariat, have for investing in collapse now materials. I have considered an emergency solar panel, battery pack and inverter. I have also considered fruit trees…$1500 is a lot of fruit trees…
    We already have some money put away, a house with a yard and garden, a basement full of old National Geographic magazines. Brainstorm with me, folks, what would be good to have stashed away?

  147. Monster,

    well, what can I say. You have reassured me.

    It was the cats and dogs living together that I was truly dreading. I mean the 679 genders was one thing, to be sure, but I really do think we ought to be able to expect proper behavior from kitties and puppies.

    Not that I had dared to hope, naturally. But I am buoyed by your confidence 🙂

  148. @Viking,

    Perhaps you’ve misunderstood my point – I’m not actually disagreeing with the main theme of the Archdruid Report regarding a much-lower-energy future! My original beef with JMG in this post was over characterizing resource substitution as “irrelevant;” though as he explained a few comments ago, a more nuanced view of the energy crisis does involve talking about the ways that some (but not all) of the technologies which the industrial world uses can, with some effort, be replaced with more sustainable alternatives.

    As for the “Mad Max” scenario which people on this blog delight in pointing out is not the future we’re going to get, I sometimes wonder if y’all are talking about the newer Mad Maxes and not the 1979 original. Because as far as I can tell, that one pretty-much depicted the sort of future that our host has been describing all these years, with increasing scarcity, inept government, and the slow abandonment of the countryside to bands of marauding outlaws.

    @Peter, thanks for that! It saddens me to see how many of the elites in nominally independent third world countries seem to think that a “good future” involves their own country aping the most unsustainable habits of the west. But perhaps it is always like that on the periphery of an empire.

    @BoysMom, in what country does your husband’s family live?

  149. Simon S

    Unfortunately, it appears that the complete irrationality of the covid response is going to be one for the history books. You said zero infections for political reasons. Tell me the reason(s) over there because I know what political reason is driving the response here. Also you will likely never reach zero infections because the test has some amount of false positives built in.

  150. JMG,Well, I am trying to chill out, I know I should, so when you say this: “I expect any attempt at an insurrection against him to be quickly and efficiently crushed.”

    I find myself a bit befuddled as the attempt is ongoing and so far as I can see isn’t being crushed at all, either quickly or efficiently.

    What am I missing?

  151. John, et al.–

    More immediate future than longer term, but here in WI, the good governor just issued a mandatory mask order. I’m already not voting for him in 2022 and may even vote for the Republican candidate if that party puts forth someone remotely sane (who’s also not Scotty, whom i refused to vote for b/c of Act 10). Given the fact that Evers is a Dem, I wonder if this will have any impact on voter inclinations in Nov.

    I guess what sticks in my craw re planning (to return to my earlier comment) is that there’s *so much* we could be doing to proactively adopt to the future we’re getting and we’re instead wasting all that time and all those resources on trying to maintain/build a future we’re never going to have. We could be constructing canals and passenger rail, but instead we’re blathering on about landing on Mars and self-driving vehicles. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

    @ Monster

    Re a constitutional convention

    I’ve always thought that there should be a legal path for secession, among other constitutional reforms that no Congress would ever put forth (e.g. limits on consecutive congressional terms) and I’d like to see a constitutional convention happen, as it’s the only way such amendments could be presented to the states for consideration. I’d love to watch the reaction in DC when all the federal power-brokers realized that they’d have *absolutely no say* in the matter!

    Re the future of the US

    I think we’re five to seven countries held together by the US empire. In the absence of that empire, I do not see the present arrangement (with its centralized federal bureaucracy) continuing, but rather the US breaking into our constituent regional nations or else adopting a much looser system with stricter limits on federal power. Quite possibly a mixture of the two. But this will take some time yet to unfold.

  152. Hi Teresa,

    I’m praying my 2013 Honda lasts as long as I do. It was one of the last models that doesn’t spy on you. I’d be afraid to buy a new car as I don’t know anyone who could disable the spying machinery, if it’s even possible to do so.

  153. My Dear Mr John Michael Greer-

    as an artist who took my art off the page and have lived it in my musculature lately, what i love is how you are re-teaching how to imagine, the hard work of running an imagination (via your fiction), and changing the american mind from passivity, helping remind us how to stumble back into dealing with reality… then imagining or re-imagining… visualizing.. planning… manifesting another story another potential.

    and not being a passive viewer “consumer” about what’s coming up.

    i said this to you a long time ago, but i feel it more than ever as i think about this week’s post. / it’s almost as if those of us who didn’t have kids but would’ve been good parents, it’s like it’s this way on purpose because then your love is freed up for epic gifts to everyone. pole vaulting past your own tiny family.

    it’s a beautiful thing to have witnessed and i thank you. it inspires me and lets me know…

    yeah… we’re gooood.

    like Andrew001 i think it was, i have a smile that’s more solid about what’s next, even as i get sad about what’s going on. i got used to them all whistling past the graveyards.

    thanks.

    erika (“kitten”) lopez

  154. @hapigreenman – you beat me to it. I just now finished reading it was was about to post to as a comment. “Everything old is new again in the same way, in a different way.”

  155. @ Wesley

    Good point. Our action stories feature a hero who we know is going to win and it’s simply a question of how. Reminds me of the phrase “they’ll think of something”. As in, we know industrial civilisation will keep going, it’s just a matter of how.

    @ Matthias Gralle

    Hypothesis: the response to the corona event predicts the political direction of that nation in the decades ahead.

    Prediction:-

    Australia, New Zealand and most of western Europe see power centralised even further in the public bureaucracy and large corporates with a hollowing out of civil society.

    USA will stumble on as at present.

    Tanzania will become a bastion of freedom, democracy and science.

  156. Stephen D (July 29, 2020 at 8:41 pm, above) made a passing reference to Orlov. In Orlov’s latest post (Jul 23, 2020 at 6:39 AM), “The virtuous Collapse Sequence”, (mostly behind a paywall) he contrasts the USSR collapse with the developing US collapse, noting a fundamental civilizational difference, based on love: for the US, the damning object of this love is money. For Russia the object of this love is Ródina. Orlov attempts a loose translation of a poem by Nikolai Kurilov which expresses this love:

    My Own Kin
    I found out that I have
    A gigantic family:
    The footpath, the forest,
    Every head of wheat in the field,
    Animals, birds and beetles,
    Ants and moths…
    Everything that is near to me—
    It is all my Ródina!
    Then how can I in my corner of it
    Not care for it?

    “Ródina simply is, like the sun and the moon, and one’s love for it cannot be undermined by political upheavals, societal dysfunction, economic collapse or any other calamity. Nor is this love considered optional: inculcating “love of Ródina” is an explicit, stated function of Russian public education.”

    “The Ródina phenomenon explains why after the financial, commercial and political collapse of the USSR Russia was able to arrest and reverse the process at social collapse, never ran much danger of cultural collapse, and has been able to claw everything back and then some. It is because Ródina has nothing whatsoever to do with finance, commerce or politics. Its place is in the heart, and no vicissitudes of fortune can dislodge it.”

    The quotations are from Orlov.

  157. @ onething

    Yes. We could quite literally still be “testing” for “covid-19” in 10 years. Nothing would surprise me any more.

    The irrationality of it reminds me very much of JMG’s writings on apocalypse cults. Namely, when you stake your reputation and your identity on a thing that then turns out not to be true (i.e. the world will end on such and such a date), rather than admit you were wrong you double down.

    We bet the farm on the coronavirus being a super virus. That bet was wrong but nobody can acknowledge that now. What is going on now is pure theatre whose only purpose is to stop ourselves from acknowledging that fact. I find that very dangerous because reason and science are completely off the table now.

    Specifically about Australia, all states except Victoria have low or no “infections” while the state of Victoria and Melbourne in particular has increasing numbers of “infections” (about 700 more were registered yesterday). Other states shut their borders with Victoria some time ago and the only way they will be re-opened is when we get back to “0”.

    That’s the political reason for what is going on.

  158. I’m curious about who is behind “Settle for Biden” and wonder if it could be a psy-op by the Trump campaign to help already frustrated Dem-leaning people cross further into disgust with the DNC, and cast votes for Trump to express that disgust.

  159. Viduraawakened, (1) water conservation and afforestation are of course crucial, as are programs to rebuild damaged topsoil, and — well, the list goes on. I tend to talk about petroleum a lot because it’s fairly easy to get most Americans to freak out if they think they’re going to lose their cars. 😉 (2) I have no idea. My background in chemistry is limited enough that I have no basis on which to venture a prediction.

    Patricia O, thanks for the update!

    Dave, no argument there. It’s really dreary to watch.

    Anselmo, er, thanks, but no, I’m not.

    Averagejoe, thanks for this. The Cuban model seems very plausible to me.

    David BTL, in a universe simple enough for the human mind to understand, no doubt that would be the case…

    Neptunesdolphins, (1) 1973 will do very well as a date for the beginning of decline. I tend to think of the first oil crisis as the turning point, but the end of the gold standard will also serve. (2) That’s certainly my take on things. (3) Hmm! Fascinating. I hadn’t thought of this, but you’re right, of course. (4) In 300 AD, southern Britain was a prosperous, thickly populated countryside dotted with thriving cities; four hundred years later, a battle to decide the kingship of Wessex — one of the largest of the kingdoms of the Heptarchy — had fewer than 250 warriors involved on both sides, and the cities had been abandoned for so long that an Anglo-Saxon poet assumed that they must have been built by giants. Depopulation happens!

    Danaone, if they’re resorting to that kind of propaganda, they’re running scared.

    Lars, in some idyllic Utopian world, maybe. In the world we actually live in, the vast majority of people aren’t willing to imagine the possibility of degrowth, and a candidate who came out with a Lakeland-style platform would be lucky to get 1% of the vote. (That’s why I had the Lakeland Republic emerge out of a series of difficult necessities that left no other choices.) A populist, ahem, does what the people want, not what fringe intellectuals like you and me want. Nor is it even remotely true that low unemployment in the unskilled and semiskilled sectors equates to overproduction of luxury goods — quite the contrary, most luxury goods come from the skilled sector. The primary effect of deregulation has been to make it much easier for small businesses to be started — the regulatory state, after all, was largely a means of squeezing out small businesses so that multinational corporations could take their places. Finally, as for election fraud — er, of course both sides will be doing it. They always do. Vote fraud is as American as apple pie, and most people here are well aware of that.

    Iuval, as one of my other commenters noted, Trump sets a very low bar, which the Democrats consistently fail to jump. As for Unity2020, I’ll be amazed if they get on the ballot in even one state.

    Peter, oof. Yeah, that’s a good example.

    DT, you might consider leaving California. Most of the country isn’t that crazy. As for the astrology article, thanks for this; I think she’s right about the end of globalization and easy travel, but some of her other predictions seem very unlikely to me. Still, she’s put her predictions out there, as I have; we’ll see who turns out to be right.

    James G., nobody seems to be able to tell whether it’s satire or not. The irony to me is that the other side has exactly the same pitch: “Vote Republican — they may not be perfect but the other side has gone insane.”

    Kwo, I’m glad to hear this. I think it’ll turn out very much for the best. As for gas prices, my very tentative guess is that we’ll see a spike to around double the current price, followed by a decline.

    Rendezvous, people have been predicting some such catastrophe since I was a small boy, and that was quite a few years ago now! Meanwhile, the Long Descent is happening all around us. Maybe one of these days people will recognize that ignoring what’s happening in order to fixate on what might happen, but never does, isn’t all that sensible of an approach…

    Balowulf, a recent study has shown that 62% of Americans don’t feel safe talking about their actual political opinions. As far as I know, that’s unprecedented, but it’s also unsurprising. After four years of increasingly shrill social media witch hunts directed at anyone who dissents from the political establishment, there are literally tends of millions of Americans who disagree with the viewpoints being pushed by the Democratic party and the corporate media, but have no way to express that disagreement safely…except in the privacy of the voting booth. This sort of thing happens quite commonly at this stage of the historical process — which is why FDR’s victory in 1936 blindsided the establishment of his time, for example.

    Tony C, fertility rates have already leveled off sharply in India and Latin America, and in the Middle East, which used to be a hotbed of extreme population growth. Africa’s still behind the curve, but it’s the only continent on earth that has a fertility rate above replacement level right now. Once that changes, and it will, we’ll be in contraction territory fairly soon.

    GP, that’s what I’m expecting.

    Roy, I’m still trying to figure out if that’s a fine bit of satire or if it’s serious. Either way, of course, you’re quite correct.

    Brian, thanks for all three of these. There is indeed hope!

    Arkansas, thanks for this. I expect we’ll hear a lot more about this in the years immediately ahead.

    Polecat, I think a lot of people in government are discovering to their astonishment and horror that ordinary people make decisions on the basis of their own personal advantage, and don’t simply do whatever their lords and masters want them to do. If you can get $1200 a month from unemployment and only $1000 a month from a job, or whatever the actual figures are, why on earth would you want to get a job?

    Temporaryreality, exactly the same thing happened in the protest movement of the Sixties. A vast number of the people in question shortly thereafter became “Jesus People,” because they’d figured out that religion was after all what they were looking for — and then a few years further on they ditched the beards and granny skirts and became perfectly ordinary Methodists. I expect the same thing to happen in this case as well. As for your poll — whoosh! 30% for homeschooling? That’s going to have an impact.

    Patricia M, on schedule indeed.

    Monster, thanks for the date points on higher “education.” As for the election, a lot depends on the scale of a Trump win, and on what happens with Congress. If he wins solidly and the GOP takes the House, I expect the gloves to come off very quickly and cities that encourage riots may find the Insurrection Act invoked against them.

    Birkley, that would only be plausible if there was only one such project. Dozens of nations have pursued fusion power; most have dropped it because it’s obviously a subsidy dumpster rather than an economically viable energy source.

    Tanya, of course the evolution of the species is assured. It’s just going to be a bit of a rough ride for some of us.

    Patricia, not sure where you got the idea that I don’t think there’s foreign money involved in encouraging the riots. I’ve pointed out several times that the US and Britain have doubtless been funding the unrest in Hong Kong, and so it would make perfect sense for China to give us some of our own medicine. Someone was paying for those pallets of bricks turning up in advance of the riots, right where they would be needed for rioters to start throwing them…

    Forecasting, thanks forthis!

    Hapigreenman, thanks for this also.

    Collapse-a-tron, you’ve left out among other things the dismantling of NAFTA, the major decrease in illegal immigration, and — ahem — the sharp decrease in unemployment for all ethnic categories in the unskilled and semiskilled sectors. As for Bannon, Trump realized promptly that the Traditionalist end of the alt-right is a fringe group almost as small and powerless as the one I represent, and focused his appeal on the broader populist movement that actually won him the election. I understand that this has been a big disappointment for the alt-right, but them’s the breaks.

    Teresa, so noted. It may be sooner than that.

    Your Kittenship, fascinating. I’m not sure, but it’s worth watching.

  160. @Patricia Mathews re: Cars

    If size is a problem, check out the 1909 Pierce-Arrow Model UU HP 36. There are two models that are identical, except that one is 2/3 the size of the standard version. And if elimination of tailpipe emissions is a concern, these are Electric cars.

    Now the full-size version will set you back a bit, it sells for $275,000. But the 2/3 size is a mere $27,000.

    Go to prewarcar.com, scroll down an inch or so, and click on “Make” in the menu on the left. This will take you to a page listing over 100 different makes. Scroll down until you fine “Pierce-Arrow”, and click on this. The electric cars should be on the second or third entries on the first page. There are also about a dozen detailed photos of the car; just click on the main photo, then use the arrow-signs at the edge of the page to scroll thru these.

    Antoinetta III

  161. Collapse-a-tron, you’re far from the only person who has noticed this!

    AV, a lot depends on how decisively the vote goes, and also on what happens with Congress. I’m quite sure the left is prepared to stage a general uprising if Trump wins — but at that point he has all the cover he needs to invoke the Insurrection Act, declare martial law, and send in the troops. After all, he doesn’t have to worry about being reelected at that point…

    Ksim, that’s an interesting comparison. I think you’re mistaken, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

    Katsmama, skills are the best investment. Do you have the spare time to take some classes and pick up some materials to learn some skill you’ve always wanted to try? That would be my advice.

    Temporaryreality, thanks for this.

    Onething, it’s not being crushed now, because the GOP couldn’t pay for that kind of publicity. All over the country, people in the middle are coming to the conclusion that the Democrats really have lost their minds.

    David BTL, I ain’t arguing. I wonder if it would be helpful to put together a set of coherent policy proposals and get them into print and onto the web, just to plant some ideas.

    Erika, you may be right about that. I know I’ve had the freedom to take risks and say things I couldn’t have gotten away with if I had a family to worry about.

    William, he’s becoming quite the expatriate romantic.

    KW, it’s not impossible!

  162. An excellent post, and thank you! I have one clarification to ask, however:

    In your patreon post on the Grand Mutation you mentioned that the reading in the 12th house indicated that the USA might not survive the next twenty years in its current form, and that some sort of dissolution or constitutional crisis might occur during that time. Is this something you still see here?

  163. I am beginning to feel sorry that I suggested a post on the updated future, and I move to declare the entire year of 2020 off-limits for this week. In fact, I propose discussion of current officeholders to be off-limits for this week. Weren’t we supposed to stop for a moment, step back and take a wider look? Interesting questions have been posed.

    When and how fast will population start do drop? How might that affect each one of us?

    When and how fast will automobile use drop? How might that affect each one of us?

    Will a majority of people in our lifetime stop earning money by working for other people?

    How might international conflicts be handled if the remaining great powers can’t afford to spread military bases and carriers around the world?

    There are many others to be asked.

  164. @ William Allen re: poetry – absolutely lovely! American patriotic hymns have only one song that comes close: America the Beautiful.

  165. @Erika “Kitten” Lopez:

    Your phrase, “re-teaching how to imagine,” makes a very important point, IMHO. One of the most significant inventions of the later 20th century will surely turn out to be the LARP (“Live Action Role-Playing Game”). It seems to me likely to be more significant, in the very long run, even than the invention of the personal computer.

    I’m far too old to ever have been a LARPer myself, but many–maybe even a majority–of the very best undergraduate students whom I have taught in all my 40 years of active university teaching have been active LARPers. It seems to do something wonderful to the quality of their imagination, and hence to the quality of their thought.

  166. Simon S,

    I didn’t understand your answer at all. Here, it seems that ruining the economy is something the deep state is willing to do in order to unseat Trump. Fomenting insurrection likewise. But what reason would your states have to insist on zero infections? How is that a benefit and to whom?

  167. @JMG – OK. Gotcha. – I assumed from your statements about the Left going bonkers over Russian involvement that you didn’t think they’d have their fingers in this particular mess of garbage. Incidentally, I ran the events past my friend in Klamath Falls and she pointed out that Portland has an active Black Mask Anarchist movement, whatever that may be; and that the daytime protests were peaceful. It’s at night that the crazies came out.

    @whoever it was upthread who asked for proof the Border Patrol was being sent to Portland; the Gainesville Sun said so at the bottom of a story (probably from the Associated Press) which detailed the number of Department of Justice agents – FBI, DEA, :and others” being sent into Detroit (42), Cleveland (“more than 25”) and Milwaukee (ditto), 300 to Chicago “to fight crime.” At the end of which they added that ICE and Border Patrol agents were also being sent into Portland, but gave no numbers. (Portland is HOW FAR NORTH of the Border?!?)

    Now, you can either take their word for it on not, but believing everybody is lying is as full of traps as believing everybody is telling the truth.

  168. John, I agree that it may be a more idealized world that would take to doing the needful, but people here in Michigan are more ready for it than I think. Everyone I know, strident communists, liberarians, religious conservatives, squishy libs, all of em have grokked (even when they can’t face it themselves) that this is “it” and they’ll never have it so good again. All I have to do is mention the west’s thirst for the Great Lakes and secession comes to people’s lips.

    As to the production of luxuries, idk, what jobs are you seeing created where you are? Here, what little growth there is is in vehicles, overpriced bars and dining, and gig services catering to the salaried. Further, you and I must be seeing very different results of deregulation between the midwest and the northeast, because from inner Detroit to the UP, and all the bits of Ohio I have to drive into, there is absolutely no reversal in the trend of mega-corporate consolidation, and the only small business formation occurs on the level of the abandoned community (whether rural or urban) reinventing the barter economy. I agree with you that that’s why the regulatory state developed in the first place (that and a lot of dead kids), but claiming that reversing that mechanism restores prior conditions flies in the face of what I’m seeing. The past three years have been worse than the preceding ones in accordance with the existing trends, where things only get better on paper to maintain the appearance of progress. Here, the locally owned everythings are finally gone, replaced by chain operations and amazon. Not meaning to be overly confrontational, but it flummoxes me that a person who’s prognostication I respect is seeing good news out of a situation I see as “always more and always worse.”

  169. JMG, I am trying to formulate a question that you may have addressed already with what you said about the bureaucratic deadwood. I think local communities that work to create a sustainable life will be/are harassed by controllers, bureaucrats, exploiters, and possibly abusers. All these usually do not produce much for society. What do you think are ways to fight them off ?

  170. JMG,

    “Onething, it’s not being crushed now, because the GOP couldn’t pay for that kind of publicity. All over the country, people in the middle are coming to the conclusion that the Democrats really have lost their minds.”

    That, essentially, is what Q says. (Sometimes, you can’t tell the people. You have to show them.)

  171. Blimey, do you really think the woke hipsters of the 2010s will become the Moonies, Jesus People, and Hare Krishnas of the 2030s and 2040s. It would be a sure irony of the Pacific Northwest and New England become the centre of Charismatic Christianity again! It least it would boost the birth rates!

    Speaking of birth rates, I noticed some discussion about global population trends. So far, according to current projections, Sub-Saharan Africa and some parts of the Middle East will be the only parts of the world with above-replacement fertility by the end of the century. The only potential exceptions to this rule would be closed fundamentalist sects (i.e. Amish, Mormons, Finnish Laestadians, Hutterites, Haredi Jews, etc) (https://books.google.ca/books/about/Shall_the_Religious_Inherit_the_Earth.html?id=0wCVCDlo40oC&source=kp_book_description&redir_esc=y). This coupled with if the “breeder hypothesis” proves true (https://jasoncollins.blog/2018/10/11/an-evolutionary-projection-of-global-fertility-and-population-my-new-paper-with-lionel-page-in-evolution-human-behavior/).

    What do you think of these projections Mr. Greer?

  172. Looking forward to your article on the twilight of American Empire!

    I noticed you mention in a comment that we can expect dollar to be replaced by a new reserve currencies. I’m not sure if it’s discussed extensively on the blog here, but I wonder what the future of crypto and monetary systems looks like as we head towards long descent. I code for a living so I’m biased in it’s potential to decentralize aspects of economy. We are going to see multiple national currencies collapse but also large failures on the internet infrastructure itself (the underlying infrastructure for crypto). That said, would you recommend “The Wealth of Nature” to study more on this topic? The excerpt and the contents has me hooked.

  173. Archruid,

    If I may interject a point on your response to Y. Chireau. Just because Trump’s elite opposition doesn’t have popular support, does not mean that Trump has no popular opposition. During periods of historical turmoil, there are always multiple populist movements vying for political space.

    @Simon S., You know, I haven’t read “Muddling Toward Frugality,” yet. It is on my list, and I will be getting to it as time permits. The logic is exactly the same I’ve been using, but I would say we’ve achieved the best outcome given our current capabilities and relative lethality of this virus.

    I said this toward the beginning of the pandemic, this crisis is the perfect stress test of our system. Anyone with any sense should be studying how their local systems responded. Where did they succeed, where did they fail, and where can your capacity fill in the gap?

    Of course none of this means that our response was the only “best,” other countries responded according to their cultural values and will continue to do so as the long decline proceeds. Each to the best of their abilities, which in many cases may not amount to much.

    If the body county generated by this virus was higher, we would be so screwed.

    @Onething,

    I ask that you excuse me for not writing in greater detail about this, but I don’t want to add another essay not this post.

    The crisis came in three waves.
    1) The Pandemic – All he had to do was get up on stage and said something like “We are currently facing a great threat to the country. We don’t know the extent of the threat but we must all stand together, and take every precaution to safeguard our nation. I’m asking all citizens to wear masks and socially distance while our best people analyze the extent of the threat.” He could have then proceed to blame the hell out of China and push hard for the reindustrilization of the US. Both of which he technically did, but his unwillingness to take the pandemic seriously was so exposed from day one that he publically refused to take precautions himself.

    I love the fact that kicked the authority down to the state and local levels, but then proceed to put his son (or was it son-in-law?) in charge of the coordination. That turned into a royal mess.

    I get it, the body count wasn’t that high, but when we’re facing a global crisis people need a flag to rally around. He couldn’t even be that flag, choosing instead to listen to every rumor and conspiracy about the virus. These would be the anti-establishment sources in his administration, I’m still trying to pin a name on this one.

    2) The Riots – “We are facing an attack upon our country by foreign supported agents, who are trying to steal the just and peaceful protests against police brutality. I promise to work with state and local leaders to bring about sustained police reforms, and punish those who would use this tragedy for their own political purposes.”
    Create the distinction between rioters and protesters, even if it was fairly arbitrary in some places. Hammer home this is part of the great Chinese plot or what have you. I’m pinning this one Steven Miller, dude has some shady links to the etho-nationalist factions on the fringes of American politics. Miller is opposed by someone else in the administration, I think Ivanka and Kushner, but I’m not totally sure.

    3) The Economic crisis – “Our people, the hardest working people in the world, are suffering during this period of crisis. While we wait for our experts to give us the all clear, we MUST take care of them. I promise to work with congress to insure that no one gets evicted during this national crisis, and that every American has the money to keep themselves and their families fed.”

    The bailout we got? Focused toward the largest corporations, allowed banks and other lenders to grab the $1.2k payout to pay off outstanding debts, a complex morass of bureaucracy for any small business that needed help, and an arbitrary cut off date.

    This one is on Steve Mnuchin, dude is a corporate hack and a neocon to the core. He’s butted heads with Navarro, the architect of the reindustrialization of the US and trade war with China. Mnuchin has lost those fights because Trump backed Navarro, but domestic economics is left to Mnuchin, and what we got was the current nonsense.

    Anyway, that’s just a very brief analysis, those are just three missed opportunities. Obviously there are details I’ve omitted for the sake of brevity, but I hope it a useful perspective none the less. I don’t think they’ll sink Trump, but he made his path to reelection much harder by not taking full advantage of those opportunities.

    @ Patricia Mathews. You know how much it costs to run a disinformation campaign in the US today? Less than a million. For two million you can disrupt national crisis response to degrees previously unimaginable. Bears, Dragons, and a whole jungle full of other animals have realized that the game has changed.

    Regards,

    Varun

  174. @onething

    You asked me about 20 questions. I don’t live in Portland but have friends who do, and I go there fairly regularly though I would never choose to live there. Portland is a liberal west coast city with the same problems as San Francisco and Seattle which primarily boil down to elitism and a sky-high cost of living that no one dares to address in a meaningful way.

    I don’t pay attention to much mainstream media. My opinions are formed from a mix of local reports and media stories across the spectrum including RT and BBC. From local reports the affected area is a few square blocks, and right-wing media claims that the city is “under siege” are outright lies.

    Per reports the officers are a mix of Border Patrol and DHS; there isn’t a large pool of federal law enforcement officers to my knowledge, so it seems they are bringing in whoever might be qualified. My point was that they do not appear to be well trained for the task they have been assigned.

    The idea that the federal courthouse was in need of “protection” sounded more like an excuse than a real justification for their presence. I like JMG’s interpretation that this is a practice run for a response to a larger left-wing insurrection in the future. The whole debacle makes more sense if it is viewed as a warm-up exercise.

    I’m not sure what the best approach is to the young anarchist rioters in Portland. There is a balance to be struck between ignoring them as much as possible until they get bored and laying down the law, which risks bringing more people out of the woodwork and intensifying the conflict and collateral damage in terms of effects on downtown businesses. Certainly the feds have made things worse, and if the state/city have to choose between a heavier-handed police response and federal involvement, the former starts to seem preferable. And that appears to be the deal struck in the last days: federal officers will leave if Portland police agree to steadfastly protect federal property. I still have respect for our governor for being willing to negotiate with the White House to strike such a deal, rather than simply react petulantly as is common on the left these days.

  175. It was good to read your rational and well reasoned thoughts on what’s going on, re-emphasizing the big-picture forces that are driving it all. While I do agree those are the true forces at work, I tend to put a bit more stock on those dreaded conspiracies – and it does seem to me that the elites are pushing both the covid overreaction and the riots for a variety of reasons relating to their hopes for increased power. There is no science behind the masks and the time for flattening the curve is long past, but a population in fear is easier to manipulate, and a good economy only helps the incumbent. In my view it’s far more likely to be the elites supplying the bricks, leaf blowers, plasma cutters and more importantly money and organization, than it is to be foreigners. It’s all the standard color revolution playbook.

    Nonetheless, I think they’ve over-reached, and I’m hoping for a Trump win that’s decisive enough to prevent much dispute of the results, and which might allow a brief respite and regrouping. An increasing number of people are catching on and getting angry. The elites won’t be able to beat the real driving forces with these strategies.

    As for federal facilities in Portland and cities that won’t protect them, I wish Trump would announce they would be closed for the safety for the workers and moved to other cities willing to protect them. Courthouses employ a lot of highly paid functionaries.

    Last, I thought you might find Alastair Crooke’s latest piece to be interesting. It wanders around a bit, but where it winds up at the end is quite consistent with your views:
    https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2020/07/27/the-fork-in-the-road/

  176. Regarding classic cars as substitutes for new cars: I have mixed feelings about this. I don’t know what the American situation is, but here in Canada you can get a new car for $16-17000 CDN at the low end. On the other hand, the same makes and models could be gotten 10 years ago for $13-14000 CDN with the same features. I have been driving a car made in 2008 for 10 years now, and it has mostly ‘just worked’. Other than the scheduled maintenance in the manual, I have spent less than $1000 fixing it. Last time it had engine trouble, I was able to buy a $35 CDN OBD-2 scanner, diagnose the problem and fix it for $50, plus the $60 I spent on a hex wrench set which I will have for the rest of my life. Needless to say, taking an old car with mysterious engine troubles to a mechanic would have cost me more than $145, and I wouldn’t have gotten a free hex wrench set.

    I know that the progress fairy has gotten her pink slip and so on, but the reality is that we are *really* good at making cars these days.

  177. neptunesdolphin – Your claim that “banks are failing” came as a surprise to me, because I’ve been following FDIC press releases for about ten years, and there have been only two “formal” bank failures (and those, fairly small) so far this year. By “formal”, I mean situations in which the FDIC has to pay off some relatively healthy bank to assume the assets, liabilities, and customer list of a failed bank. That’s been a rare occurrence in the last five years, though it was a popular practice 5-10 years ago, during the Great Financial Crisis.

    Today, I’ve been wondering whether the pandemic has made bank take-downs impossible, due to the degree of travel and face-to-face interactions involved to cut off the on-line services, freeze the assets, count the cash, etc. and re-open with re-branding. Also, the criteria for “failure” might be much more forgiving during the pandemic, anyway, with the idea that everything will just bounce back once Business As Usual returns, so why mess with the structure. Meanwhile, I assume that there are ways for a bank to fail quietly, making their own arrangements to “become one flesh” without the FDIC paying the dowry.

    So, what do you know about bank (and credit union) failures, and how do you know it?

  178. JMG said

    I’m quite sure the left is prepared to stage a general uprising if Trump wins — but at that point he has all the cover he needs to invoke the Insurrection Act, declare martial law, and send in the troops. After all, he doesn’t have to worry about being reelected at that point…

    At which point the Dems and their Antifa/BLM/SJW attack dogs have just made full-blown Caesarism an inevitability and a reality. Suddenly, the prospect of President Ivanka doesn’t sound so far-fetched..

  179. I think that the response to COVID-19, at least in the U. S., might lead to some interesting unintended consequences. From the top down there is control. But from the bottom up, we’ve seen the excuse of the official rhetoric about the “pandemic” to justify an increase in homeschooling, and so moving out from under top-down control of education. In my own case, I’m going to be among the last to be called back to work (plus all the people I work with) because we can do our work as well if not better from home (a five-minute commute from the coffee-pot in the kitchen is a lot more efficient than a1.5 hour commute on public transportation). Will we ever “go back to work”, and if so, why? Multiply a “no” by all those who work in high-rises. Now think of the impact those high-rises have on the environment, and what a lack of demand for them might do.

    Not everyone has the luxury that I do. But for those for whom “going to work” is itself the luxury (to “get out of the house”, to socialize on the job), our not indulging in those luxuries might well have the result of more freedom, for ourselves and for our children (those of us who have them), and so get us out of the control of those who seek to control us.

  180. katsmama – Here are a few books that I have that seem useful. “Survival Medicine Handbook” (Alton and Alton), is not about getting an injured hiker out of the woods to the nearest hospital, but making do when there is no hospital, maybe no doctor, and you’re on your own (but you’ve been expecting this, so you have supplies.). 670 pages, $40. “Garden Primer” (Damrosch) comprehensive on vegetables, flower, shrubs, trees.
    “The Backyard Homestead” (Madigan), garden planning for various lot sizes, vegetables, herbs, nuts, bees, chickens, goats, food preservation, and so on.

    Each book will probably give you a shopping list!

  181. Thank you Mr. Greer for your kind reply. My question was prompted by a short conversation that I had with a neighbor just recently. He manages a local restaurant. I asked how things were going .. He mentioned how busy they were .. and were looking to hire more help, and said that someone who inquired had asked if the establishment would pay as much for hire, as said ‘applicant was receiving in unemployment/ppp relief .. My neighbor, who has been through his own rough patches .. since the Last economic imbroglio (2009-11), insinuated, or so it seemed .. that said applicant was just an unworthy, lazy, conniving sot!
    I wonder if he has any self-awareness at all, as he comes off as, in my opinion, as God’s gift to ‘work’ .. whatever he deems to be, which seem to carry-over to his family as well – a sense of hubristic entitlement, if you will.
    I try to broach my take on things, to what I perceive as needing to be dealt with, for the good of everyone .. to seemingly no avail! I’ve, in the past, given this person some of the fruits of my labors, only to feel vailed condescention on his part, as well as some other ‘neighbors’ on
    the street..

    Thus, the whole meme of neighbors helping neighbors during hard times is something I find rather wanting personally, in spite of my attemps to foster!

    Sorry if this seems like a rant.

    ps .. just an fyi for you’all – my moniker begins with a lowercase ‘p’ .. as per my somewhat humble stature.

    Cheers.

  182. JMG,

    I just googled Traditionalist alt-righter & …Traditionalist Workers Party? Not sure if that’s exactly what you meant there.

    Jared knows nothing about Orange Voters, yet by all accounts, he is the one who has the Orange Ear & generates an endless series of debacles. Orange Man seems happy with this arrangement.

    – True, Orange Julius did zap NAFTA. But promptly replaced it with much the same thing. When it was announced, I couldn’t see anything that would change the economics of NAFTA, ie bring any industry back. A classic Orange Nothing-Burger move.

    – illegal immigration: Trump spent years telling the whole world the border was undefended. The world duly listened, then noticed that Orange border enforcement was a Nothing-Burger and flew into Mexico from The Congo, Bangladesh etc to run the border. The Left arranged the Caravans, which His Orangeness tweeted about stopping, but didn’t actually stop. Illegal crossings skyrocketed way above the Obama years. With covid he eventually closed the border (but really? or just a tweet?).

    -legal immigration: he sold out tech workers who are forced to train their H1B Indian replacements. Only changed very recently due to virus (and, well, the election).

    – I read a while back (pre-virus) that overall, there was zero improvement for white male employment. This included all skill levels, i.e. includes effect of massive H1B replacement of Americans. He clearly believed (as Jared advised) that he could deliver the Orange Nothing-Burger to his primary demographic.

    – He talked about ending the anchor-baby scam prior to 2018 election by Executive Order…. another Orange Nothing Burger. Almost as if he was trying to lose. He has a history of not realizing that every con has a pull date (Eg. Orange University).

    Now to be fair, the Dems are trying at least as hard as Orange Man to lose the election, in their own inimitable style. So there’s that.

  183. Matthew, that’s what the astrology says. It might happen in the next 20 years; it will certainly happen in the next 199 years.

    Matthias, those are fine questions. Do you have answers to suggest?

    Patricia M, I don’t think the Russians are involved. I think the Chinese are involved — and the fact that so many Democrats fall over themselves not to criticize China is one of the reasons I think that that’s the case.

    Lars, interesting. Here I’m seeing little businesses popping up — cheap restaurants, specialty shops, little internet firms, and the like — and also individuals figuring out self-employment schemes of various kinds. It intrigues me that you’re seeing none of that.

    Tony C, there are two primary strategies. The first is invisibility — self-employed individuals can fly under the radar and evade the bureaucrats. The second is politics — supporting populist candidates and pushing the idea of deregulation and debureaucratization. There may be more options, but those are the two that come instantly to mind.

    Onething, interesting.

    Aidan, if you told people in 1968 that the hippies were going to embrace Christianity en masse, they’d have wanted to know what you’d been toking and whether they could have a drag of it. As for the projections, that’s been being predicted for a long time; what happens is that fundamentalist religious communities lose a large share of their children to the secular world, so it balances out.

    Nomad, I’d definitely encourage you to have a look at The Wealth of Nature. One of its core points is that any form of money is a means of economic control and profiteering, and that most societies in the history of the world handled most economic exchanges by way of non-market systems such as the gift economy, the domestic economy, the feudal economy, and so on.

    Varun, can you point me to sources of information concerning Trump’s popular opposition? As I noted earlier, I haven’t encountered this, and I’d like to add that into my analysis.

    Twilight, ha! That would be a smart move. relocate the federal courts to Klamath Falls, say, and do the same with all other federal offices in Oregon. In Washington state, Yakima would be a good choice. Thanks for the Alastair Crooke piece; I’ll read it when I have some time.

    Galen, yes. I’ve been saying all along that Trump is our Julius Caesar — and his rise, and the rise of Augustus after him, was made inevitable by the kleptocratic excesses of the senatorial class.

    Someone, I could see that.

    Polecat, so noted, but it’s standard English to capitalize proper nouns and I’m kind of fussy about such things.

    Collapse-a-tron, Steve Bannon makes a better example. Perhaps you might look into his interest in Julius Evola. As for the other points, your comments seem rather biased to me. Still, your mileage may vary, I suppose.

  184. There’s a street named after Polecat in beautiful Yellow Springs, Ohio.

    We always like to go back and visit for the street fair (June and October). June’s was cancelled and even if October’s goes ahead you wouldn’t get me within 100 miles of YS that close to the presidential election. Darn it.

  185. @ onething

    You have to bear in mind that Australia fell backwards into an elimination strategy. Once the international borders were closed the numbers went almost to 0 everywhere.

    So, the reason we tried to get to 0 was simply because it seemed like we could.

    Now that everywhere else in Australia is at 0 or thereabouts, the only option politically for Victoria is also to go to 0.

    In my opinion this is just a case of bureaucrats doing what they do best and covering their rear ends. Pretty sure it’s the same in the US. Of course, Trump has just defunded the WHO so the public health bureaucracy there has good reason to be against him. They are next in line.

  186. @ Nomadic Beer – I have a funny story about aps that identify plants. I live in government senior housing. We do have our garden plots. But, mostly, a lot of our grounds are taken care of by the Master Gardeners. These are people sponsored through the State Agriculture Extension offices. They show up once a week, and are available for consult. A really nice bunch of folks. Now that the scene is set …

    One of the Master Gardeners in training, was very chuffed about his new ap on his device to identify plants. So, I waltzed him over to my plot, pointed out a plant, and he unleashed the App. After about a minute, he very proudly said, “It’s Dill!!!” I gently told him, “No, it’s parsley.” I could actually hear the deflation of air … Lew

  187. Dear Mr. Greer. Today, I read that the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) took a plunge of 32.9% in the second quarter.The worst decline in “modern times.” So, I don’t know if that includes the Great Depression. What does that mean? On the ground?

    http://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/07/30/896714437/3-months-of-hell-u-s-economys-worst-quarter-ever

    There was also a side bar that I didn’t read, that said Germany had also suffered the worst quarterly drop, ever. Lew

  188. Nearing the end of another reread of WWOH (Wonderful Weird of Hali) books. The decline you present in the series feels plausible even with out the MiGo and the Radiance. They just take the place of a civil war and major pandemic. Twenty years might be a bit fast on the decline with out them. It really is a good over view of the changes that could come in the next 50 or so. The question is are there enough the ‘good life (the Nearings, Ruth Stout, Salitan….. ) ‘ type people to take the place of the EOD and Starry Wisdom to help stabilize the decline in all it’s roughness.

    (Oh, where does the ice for the ice boxes in Arkham come from? Ponds and an ice house or do they still have enough for an ice plant. My grandparent still used one in the late ’50s.)

    Coop Janitor – with six new girls about read to star laying.

  189. @JMG,

    Since you mentioned the gold standard in your reply to Neptunesdolphins, I have a few questions for you about how you think the economy will involve in the future.

    1) You’ve said for a long time that FDR getting America off the gold standard in 1933 was a good thing. (And the “Nixon Shock” of 1971 isn’t that big of a deal in comparison – keeping the façade of a gold-backed currency while nobody is allowed to own gold but central bankers was never anything more than a transitional state anyhow). You’ve also said that the reason ditching gold in 1933 was necessary was that the tight supply of gold couldn’t keep up with a rapidly growing economy, and the result was deflation which made life really hard for the poor and the debtor class, etc.

    So the question is, now that we’re in the long descent and facing a multi-generational shrinkage of the real economy, would it be beneficial to restore gold and silver currency? Do you expect any countries to do so within your lifetime?

    2) I am curious as to your opinions on share-cropping. Mainstream opinion is that the only reason to be a share-cropper is if you are too poor/oppressed to afford to pay rent on your land in cash. But to me that never really added up: handing over a portion of your crop instead of a fixed sum of money seems to be an arrangement that is both more durable, because neither a bad harvest nor fluctuations in the value of the currency jeopardize the farmer’s ability to keep his end of the bargain, and also more just, because the burden of lean years is split between landlord and tenant instead of falling entirely on the little guy.

    Do you think that share-cropping has a future as more people try to move away from the money economy?

  190. Hey mr. John Michael, just a quick post (to be totally honest I didn’t even read your post this week, but life has me by the horns, literally) to say that I just keep sharing your post on Burkean Conservatism because it is lovely and brilliant. The only writing I share more is “Russia and the Menace of Unreality”. (which if you haven’t read it you really should.)

    I shared the Burke post about how to maximize Liberty with my mother-in-law today. And she liked it! 😉

    Stay brilliant. Really, wonderful work.

  191. @JMG

    Thanks for the update and fitting recent developments seamlessly into the flexible theory of the long descent.

    Maybe it’s time for some humor…

    “In the future we’re actually going to get, there will be many fewer people on Earth, living more restricted lifestyles on a much less lavish resource base and having access to much less in the way of industrial production”

    Yet these few people will have more in the way of meaningful relationships, more in the way of intertwined and interdependent communities, more in terms of cherishing and having gratitude for what they have. Furthermore…Heroes will be needed, love will be sacred again, life will be precious. No longer will people be soaked in the magic that encourages them to hoard piles of useless junk. Trades and crafts will once again become important, and perhaps guild systems will return. Nature will flourish as pollution reduces and cultures will grow closer to it. Sword fighting will return with a vengeance and blacksmiths will become the most important people in town again…

    Romantic enough yet?

    I think there is currently a need out there for harlequin type romance/fantasy novels for Druidly minded people… Nothing well thought out mind you… I plan to write one a week.

    I see cheap paper backs covered with sturdy timber framers and stone masons of the future uniting to build great structures celebrating shining new religions of old gods. Adventurous bearded men in floppy hats fighting through thick vines to obtain secret herbs of deep forests.

    I bet at least a half dozen would sell…

    Maybe some poetry like…
    Where the wind and stars blur together,
    Lies a land of a peculiar weather,
    Where endless forests sparkle and shimmer,
    And hills flow like running water

    could grace the back cover… Just need a few titles now. They should write themselves.

    Fortunately we are perhaps living in the stupidest time in written history and people just need this stuff to have faith in their next incarnation! Druid Harlequin Novels are coming to an internet site near you!

    Cheers!

  192. @JMG

    Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame and now an alt-lite crusader (and by his own admission, something of a willfull charlatan), noted that his weakest critics, with easily disproven arguments, were professional journalists, writers and artists. He speculated that, because they don’t have experience with real world limits, they are especially prone to misinformation, correlation errors, confirmation bias, etc.

    Based on my own experience in both worlds, there’s some truth in the accusation. Art in the broadest sense can reveal hidden narratives about human nature (and thus history), but the real world is very harsh and specific on the ground, especially in the span of a human lifetime. The toilet either works or it doesn’t. Sometimes SHTF even with the best primary sources.

    I wonder how this accusation applies to this essay and the “collapse crowd” more broadly. I mean, given the historical evidence, we can confidently say there will be A collapse, but can anyone say HOW? I mean, the UK and China are different countries, right? In other words, famine has little relationship to soil fertility and more to do with religion.

    Now, you’ve been better than most and said, well, catabolic collapse is my best guess folks, based on the evidence. Here’s how I think it will play out… But the hunger for specifics from your fans continues unabated as if you could predict Biden’s bowel movements, future crop yields in New England, etc. Jesus H. Christ.

    No offense, but why do people place any trust in professional writers? After all, they have literally no experience in anything except writing. I’ve found more useful, actionable information from Wikipedia in 10 minutes than from 10 years of reading news, novels, research and opinion…

  193. I don’t mean to impose my opinions on anybody, and I actually humbly suggested an update on the future because I was hoping for tentative answers to this kind of questions from both yourself, JMG, and from other commenters! But since you ask, here are my guesses:

    1. When and how fast will population start do drop? How might that affect each one of us?

    Wesley and boysmama and others have started to discuss this above. I think the Middle East and Africa will take a long while to enter into population decline in absolute terms, and in the meanwhile Europe and North America will import boatloads of Africans and Middle Easterners to brake the demographic decline (South America won’t export people much longer, it seems). I hope this can be done through regulated, legal immigration such that the prospect of legal immigration dissuades individuals and countries from attempting and promoting illegal immigration. I also hope the receiving countries can reinvigorate their local and national culture to better integrate the children of the immigrants. I know many on this blog disagree with me on these points, and I am open to hearing other perspectives.

    2. When and how fast will automobile use drop? How might that affect each one of us?

    I hazarded a public guess in 2015 that in another 20 years the km driven would be much less, whether because people have no cars anymore or because they leave them mostly at home. I have no idea if I will be right (oil is cheap right now), but I live in the center of town because I don’t want to buy a property that requires a car. I have developed a visceral aversion to automobiles, however, to their noise, the space they occupy, the danger they pose to children, so I don’t trust my judgment on this.

    3. Will a majority of people in our lifetime stop earning money by working for other people?

    i see people doing project work and gigs, but I don’t yet see them doing better than those who landed a safe job. We live at a habitation cooperative, which is sometimes exasperating, but feels like the right place anyway. I would love to see the grand corporations being dismantled, and your post on syndicalism was one of my all-time favorites, but I don’t see it happening in my lifetime.

    4. How might international conflicts be handled if the remaining great powers can’t afford to spread military bases and carriers around the world?

    Brazil was in meteoric ascension in 2010, and now it’s the USA’s lapdog, ready to go to war for its master in Venezuela, handing over the oil tax-free to American and British companies, letting FBI agents roam freely and influence political judgments. Canada seemed to hover between the USA and China, but still seems to obey the USA more. Quebec specifically has lots of advantages going for it, especially hydropower, but could hardly defend itself militarily even if it wanted to. For all the apparent desire to retreat from Empire, the Monroe doctrine seems to be going strong. I have no expertise in military affairs, so I wonder how long the USA will be able to keep this up – for another century?

  194. My apologies for getting a little ahead, but I did look on the calendar and noticed that the next five Wednesday month was in September, and looking over the requests in last weeks comments, and the comments thus far, I realize that a lot of people are worried about the future and are wanting some reassurance in their decisions for what to do. With that in mind, and also with the recommendations of improvisation you’ve made thus far, I’d like to ask if you could discuss the values of improvisation in September. Obviously, with the curveball that covid19 threw, people are unaware of the value that resilience combined with improvisation have in getting through difficult times. The past year since being rejoined together with my wife, I’ve spent conversing with neighbors of my high school days and their parents. They’re farmers who work on the side (actually they plow snow during the winter months and get a lot of time off in the summer) whose parents remember haying in piles, and constantly point out that every device has pros and cons, often whether intended or not, confess admiration for the utility of devices made in years past whose main purpose was to produce with as little function as possible, compared with things of today which produce in great quantity but whose complexity stops their functionality, and thus value, within a few years. This all leads me to believe the ability and options for improvisation are greater with simpler lifestyles/technology, and a more resilient life can be had from improvisation in favorable environments.

  195. @Wesley

    And I was not disagreeing with you either. I was going through the door you opened with a perspective that I thought complemented your points. I am also for a more nuanced view around energy and technology. It took me a few years to distance myself enough from the original (and powerful!) arguments laid out in the Archdruid Reports, which did succeed at making me question the dominant narratives and start entertaining the Long Descent as a likely scenario, to identify other forces at play that may have been overlooked and could still be important enough to enable a fair amount of diversity on the post-industrial technology and energy landscape.

    From personal experience in trying to discuss the subject around me, I also agree with JMG that we might not have reached the point where we can collectively look at the downward curves squarely and honestly. I still face knee-jerk reactions in flights of fancy, in blaming others, and outright denial around me. So I think his (broad) approach is more effective at the collective level to get us out of these knee-jerk reactions. The nuanced collective deliberation minimally requires that we agree that there is a problem, which is not yet a given.

    In the meantime on the fringes, I am certainly interested on your take on this. And now I will have to watch the 1979 Mad Max version ;-).

  196. @Wesley
    “Since this isn’t going to change overnight – and since even if it did change overnight, it would still take decades for the change to translate into population shrinkage – the only way I can see for population to start declining within this decade is if a cataclysmic famine or disease outbreak wipes out a large portion of a whole continent’s (probably Africa’s) population.”

    Bubonic Plague is the candidate that would do just that.

    @JMG
    Those scenes from the Movie “Brazil” capture the Spirit of Bureaucracy perfectly:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xNnRBksvOU

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFlFIG22Y9E

    It will look like this if we had not invented computerization methinks. What a Nightmare.

  197. Hi JMG,

    I was floored by the Cato survey. Good heavens.If things are this bad, then the night of November 3rd would do full justice to the word “Historic”, one way or another.

    I also see that Trump is doing the smart thing by letting the rampaging mobs (both online and on the streets) do the campaigning on his behalf (and figuring out ways to needle them). With enemies like these, who needs friends?;-)

  198. Samurai, certainly true, and this is a major feature of American life and always has been. And you hear this too: for every “rugged log cabin” tale, there is the “Puritan church elders” tale. There is the huntin’ man life, but the Superbowl Sunday life. They both exist; they have to. Theory has it of at least four American traditions (there are probably more), and they correspond to regions but also mythos: The independent Appalachia, the Business New York/New Englander, the expansive Plantation Cavalier, the industrious Pennsylvania tolerant. And you see each spread through the West, to Upper midwest, to Texas, to California, bringing their story and self-image with them. So now, even in the washed out nation of WalMart and McDonald’s, you see the same divisions within every community everywhere. Work together, leave me alone; share, create and own. That’s how it is, but as all cultures need a balance of these things, no harm in them to me except people’s exaggeration and intolerance of others’ differing emphasis.

    All that to say that the standing bureaucracy are the intolerant witch-hunting do gooders, banishing heretics, while anyone working, building cabins, drinking whiskey, saying naughty words, or taking any independent action are their prey. When you have an exaggeration of power like that – as he says about the working class going down the mine and getting the shaft, you get these tensions. They ARE in opposition. No wonder. They have been for 400 years. I think both are going down, but Puritan bureaucrats will go down faster and have more to lose. That wonders what the industrious Penns and noblese Cavaliers are doing right now.

    It occurs to me that nothing goes straight down: nothing goes straight anywhere. Surely after this 4th turning of unnecessary drama, there will be a period of flat-to-up for many years before we find the next emergency.

    The point of sending everything to the internet isn’t that: it’s WHO GETS PAID. All the “right” people get paid, i.e. Bezos, and if the wrong people got paid, e.g. Joe Plumber, you’d hear screaming from the rooftops. So they are making money on your Pizza, your car, and now even your children, your book rentals and friendships. Dis-intermediate them. They are evil and a dead end. The continual daily panic is manufactured and delivered via the flashing boxes. Go outside and see your world.

  199. JMG, that’s what I’m saying too. I’m not claiming the democrats or other more normal republicans are better than Trump in their moral character. I’m saying we might do better by forming a populist party that has people from both left and right. But yeah, I don’t think that it will work because most people won’t sign on to it even though the planners of Unity2020 tried to dispel the standard fears that have prevented people from signing on to similar efforts in the past. I’m more concerned about avoiding civil war than anything else, actually.

  200. Eric Kaufmann opines that the rapid decline of “mainline” religions means that the “gateways” that have historically connected fundamentalists to the outside world are falling. For example, in the past, evangelical churches served as gateways away from sects like Mennonites and Amish.

    Subsequently, fundamentalists in today’s world have much higher retention rates than before and their continuously higher birthrates give them a long-term advantage.

  201. Lots to consider here, and thank you for it – made me quite nostalgic for the ADR days. I continue to hope that we see more conscious and accelerated movement towards a more local, productive and smaller footprint for our society and economy – it would be fun to participate in a broad movement with leadership from the top, rather than just working on it bottom up via green wizardry and other private efforts. But I have no illusions that is going to happen in my remaining years. Maybe in my next life.

    On a hopeful note, I see more and more people – especially among my 20 something children’s cohort (middle of the middle class I suppose) – realizing that the future they were promised is running seriously behind schedule. Mostly they are just doing the best they can and adjusting expectations downward, but there’s a lot of confusion and a few are turning angry in their politics, to both the right and leftward ends. But I’d say only about 10% have strong political convictions, most are just living their lives. So I’m still hopeful that the center will hold as we continue our descent.

    My nearish term predictions (not worth much more than the pixels they are typed with) are:
    – Biden wins the election in November, but not in a landslide and Republicans just keep the Senate.
    – Trump rather happily goes back to private life, tweeting up a storm and helping to keep the new populist vision very much alive.
    – Biden tries to govern from the center, courting the homeless never-Trumpers and begins building the Dem-Reps in all but name. Plans are announced for brave new progressive programs (infrastructure, urban investments and healthcare, and we all have to grit our teeth through several months of “our long national nightmare is over” type headlines.
    – Over the next couple of years though not much gets done: another couple of unexpected crises hit, the economy does not immediately flip back to previous levels of spending and consumption (it never quite will), it becomes more and more clear that US hegemony days are over. It’s not an easy ride, and by 2023 Biden is POTUS in name only. But there is a smooth transition to another centrist heir apparent for 2024.
    – Meanwhile populist opposition on both the right and the left begins to evolve and consolidate. For the next twenty years, US politics features: a puritanical and vocal left wing that nags a lot and has cultural clout but doesn’t have numbers to form its own party, it’s just an anger valve; the numerically-dominant Dem-Reps fighting a slow losing battle to keep progressive neoliberal faith alive; and a populist Republican party that never quite manages to shake off it’s “USA, USA, USA!” imperial memories so never quite gets its groove on in Washington – but it takes and holds power in quite a few state and local assemblies and does much to encourage local improvements where it can.
    – This all buys everybody more time to get their heads and hearts around our true predicament and make change where it counts in our own backyards. Plus, quite a few more of us leave the planet.
    – In about 20 or so years we’re finally ready to start the national discussion about what do we want to do when we grow down. 50 or so years too late, but we get there eventually, proving once again the wisdom of Churchill’s insight: “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have tried everything else.”
    – I continue to make a lot of compost, grow a lot of herbs and vegetables, drink a bit too much beer and get ready for the dirt nap (I am 100% confident in this prediction).

    Thanks again.

  202. John–

    Re planting seeds

    I suppose we’re limited to such things at present. Varun and I have long been discussing the act of “gardening in the cracks of empire” in our correspondence over these last few years, which is very similar. Back when I was commenting on PoliticalWire, I’d hoped to do something like that, scattering seeds out to the wind, but got ran out on a rail for my trouble. My three years on city council produced few significant outcomes of the goals I had going in, so I had to be content with the though that someone at some point might take one of my ideas and run with it. It is immensely frustrating to be so constrained, watching scads of opportunities get passed over.

    I’ll give some thought to such policy proposal writings. I don’t see how it will amount to anything, but it can’t hurt to put ideas out there. I just wish we were doing these things yesterday rather than the day after tomorrow. Still, better than nothing at all.

    @ Collapse-o-tron (if I may)

    Re USCMA vs NAFTA, and Trump generally

    From what I’ve read there are some considerable differences: among others, things like greater requirements for domestic sourcing (% content rules) and minimum wage requirements (which undercut the cheap labor incentives to move production south). I’ve seen bellyaching by economic globalists griping about the protectionism Trump had built into his NAFTA replacement. Of course, that approach to trade (and more!) is precisely what we need to support our working classes: American products made with American labor and American resources for the American market.

    With re to Trump generally, his faults are legion, I quite agree. However, even with all those faults–his haphazard policy-making, his bloviating arrogance, his over-the-top rhetoric–his is still orders of magnitude better than the alternative offered by the Democrats. I’d be more than willing to support a Democrat who erected tariffs, brought troops home from Europe, ceased US imperialist nonsense, and slashed the bloated administrative state, if only one were on the ballot. If the Great Orange One is the only option for moving this country in the direction it needs to go, however stumbling and bumbling the course, then who’s fault is that?

  203. Collapse-o-tron, JMG, et alia–

    Re my last comment

    Just realized I wrote “who’s” rather than “whose.” I’m slacking terribly. My eighth-grade English teacher would be very upset with me!

  204. JMG – about the NAFTA replacement for example. I can’t say I looked into it in detail, it just seemed that it was going to continue BAU… so what was the point other than an Orange Man branding exercise? Is there anything that changed economically between the US and Mexico due to this new deal? I gather it was a bit tougher on Canada, but Canada wasn’t being used by big business to rip any remaining manufacturing out of the US.

    As for bias, well, I will say that the Donaldanator had me thoroughly entertained, pretty much every day for 5 years. I think he’d be a nightmare to deal with personally, and I’d never do business with him without the strongest of contractual defences (including an absolute requirement that he pays for all legal costs in any disputes). However those caveats don’t mean much because he isn’t my Daddy, I don’t want to marry him and I never wanted to do business with him. But the fun ran out when he totally whiffed the very real crisis posed by the virus and then totally failed to capitalise on the obvious fact that the virus validated all the policies than he ran on and he could have taken advantage of this (as Varun points out) but he just didn’t bother or it just didn’t occur to him. That is, he doesn’t actually believe most of his own populism (or even believe it *is* popular) so that’s why he whiffed when he had his agenda handed to him on a silver platter. Maybe he needed the platter to be gilded, like in his Orange Tower lifts…

    The infamous picture of The Donald and The Nigel in The Donald’s gold-plated lift still gives me a laugh though, don’t get me wrong about that. Comedy gold … literally.

    (although I’m sure the gilding is very, er, thin… *cough*)

  205. katsmama – One area that I overlooked: nutrition. Find a good book on what you need to eat to thrive, and how to cook it, because as our civilization declines, we will not have the luxury of throwing excessive amounts of food into our bodies just so we can sift out the essential nutrients we need. I have “Diet for a Small Planet” (Lappe) and a sort of companion/update “Recipes for a Small Planet” (Ewald, with an Introduction by Lappe).

    Even the most enthusiastic carnivores may find themselves vegetarians by necessity much of the time, so it makes sense to learn how to do it well. That is, do it with science, to stay healthy, and do it with style, for mental health and community.

  206. At the end of last week’s comments, I slipped in an anecdote that seems relevant to this week’s discussion on unrest in Portland, especially the “unmarked agents in unmarked vehicles”. I won’t repeat myself here.

  207. Re: “That would be a smart move. relocate the federal courts to Klamath Falls, say, and do the same with all other federal offices in Oregon. In Washington state, Yakima would be a good choice. ”

    John! Whatever did Klamath Falls do to deserve that horrible fate? A plague of bureaucrats and a rash of gentrification? No, no, a thousand times no!

    BTW, I can see China sticking it’s fingers in. My thought about Russia was largely payback for 1989 and the Great Russian Yard Sale. Stereotype alert – I just realized I see the Russians as being able to hold a grudge a long time – emotionally. Projection?

  208. @onething and Simon S – the only thing “Zero infections” will do is leave the doors open for fudging the figures, because it’s an impossible standard. Idea courtesy of Jean Lamb in Klamath Falls, OR.

  209. Ksim:
    Ask a group of well-educated Russians about Gorbachev and stand back for the tsunami of hate. I found that out while working as an English language instructor for a group of Russian immigrants old enough that they were children during Stalin’s tenure. The reasons were wildly varied and frankly, some didn’t make a lot of sense (one of them said something about beer), but there was no question about how passionately they detested him. Come to think of it, maybe it is comparable to the reaction to Trump.

  210. Tony C. (and JMG), regarding population contraction…one thing to remember, at least in the U.S. and western Europe, is that the Boomers are reaching the ends of their lives. We were the pig the snake ate and now it’s going to excrete us! This alone (the natural deaths of a huge population cohort) will cause significant population contraction.

  211. ” I’ve been saying all along that Trump is our Julius Caesar — and his rise, and the rise of Augustus after him, was made inevitable by the kleptocratic excesses of the senatorial class. ”

    Ave Ivanka Augusta! Brrr….

  212. @ JMG – I’m glad you came back to the Long Descent thesis! Couple of thoughts on the state of things in the USA going forward:

    1 – With armed people showing up to counter-protest each other and BLM and Back the Blue rallies, I’m afraid we may get that civil war after all. So far, cooler heads are prevailing, but accidents do happen, and I’m worried that between the longstanding racial grievances and worsening economic situation, people are being pushed towards a really dark path. What do you think are the chances of ethnic violence over the class-based kind going forward?

    2 – On the “people can only imagine apocalypse or progress” note, I do think the current year is proving apocalyptic, but in the original Greek sense. We are seeing exactly for whom Congress and the larger economic system works (not that more evidence was needed). I think its quite telling that those measures that are supported by large majorities of Americans (according to polling data) like more stimulus checks, eviction moratoriums and continuing unemployment insurance, are dead or dying in Congress, but corporate liability protection, which is very unpopular, according to the same polling, is a red line for senate Republicans (and I’m sure Democrats will go along with it, they have mostly the same donors). What are the chances, as you see it, of a genuine populist reaction to this mess? Maybe the rise of a legitimate 3rd party? A throwing out of the bums in primaries?

    Link to the poll I’m referencing: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/29/coronavirus-stimulus-voters-support-enhanced-unemployment-cnbcchange-poll-finds.html

  213. neptunesdolphin – Your claim that “banks are failing” came as a surprise to me, because I’ve been following FDIC press releases for about ten years, and there have been only two “formal” bank failures (and those, fairly small) so far this year. By “formal”, I mean situations in which the FDIC has to pay off some relatively healthy bank to assume the assets, liabilities, and customer list of a failed bank. That’s been a rare occurrence in the last five years, though it was a popular practice 5-10 years ago, during the Great Financial Crisis. from Latterchuck

    Hi Latterchuck,
    You are correct that there are only two “Formal” bank failures.

    What I am referring to is the behavior of community banks. I invest and finance them. What I have noticed and have been told by the bank officers of the various banks is that loans are drying up. They have healthy deposits but no one is taking out loans. They cannot make a profit.

    They can invest in the bond market, but that is not returning a profit. The Fed (where I worked for years) have invested heavily in the bond market to keep the cost of running the U.S. government low. The payments for the bailouts has to come from somewhere. Government debts were being financed by the Chinese, who are now becoming unpredictable. The Chinese are the major holders of the U.S. debt. U.S. bonds are their source for hard currency.

    The loan market in the community bank level is mainly mortgages. There are very few young people in the towns, and the ones that are are not buying houses. They have huge student debt loads.

    What is happening is that community banks are merging to offset costs and still be solvent. The problem is that they are no longer tied to their local communities. They still have the problem of having deposits but no way of turning a profit. That is a subtle form of failure – when banks merge or buy each other out.

    The other trend is that national chartered banks are giving up their charters and becoming state banks. The requirements for solvency are looser for state chartered banks.

    Also, people interested in starting a bank are buying banks to get the national charter. It is too much of a burden to get a charter, so they simply buy a bank for the charter.

    Of course, the COVID has stopped payments of mortgages, so either the bank has to foreclose or wait until they are allowed to foreclose, depending on the area. But the result is the same – no money or little money.

    My info comes from working in the field as an investor of banks, post Fed career. And working at the Fed in bank regulation and examination. Also, Yahoo Finance has information available. American Bankers Association has a splendid website but it is restricted in how many articles you can read free each month.

    I hope this answers your question.

  214. @JMG

    Here’s another data point for the Long Descent. 5 days ago The Wall Street Journal had an article that EA and Activision Blizzard have decided to put tv commercials inside their console games. All while leaving the console games at their full price. This, in addition to a despised oft-used video game revenue tactic of loot boxes which turns certain “game rewards” into more of an online casino.

    They know from past experiments in trying to raise console game prices – and experience with in-game-“casino”-like loot boxes they are hitting the limits to how much they can charge up front for AAA video games. I wonder since they’re running this risk of further alienating the their consumer audience they figure it’s do this – or shrink the corporation and start losing our appeal to Wall Street. They’d rather risk losing their appeal to Main Street in order to hold off losing their appeal to Wall Street for as long as possible.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/marketers-experiment-with-tv-ads-in-console-videogames-11595768400

  215. JMG wrote: “Lars, interesting. Here I’m seeing little businesses popping up — cheap restaurants, specialty shops, little internet firms, and the like — and also individuals figuring out self-employment schemes of various kinds. It intrigues me that you’re seeing none of that.”

    Lars: I am seeing some of this as well, here in the urban mid-Atlantic. I am DEFINITELY seeing this around my hometown (junction of Ohio, PA, WV), with Trump flags all over the place. New restaurants and food trucks, all kinds of little stores, help wanted signs everywhere. Even with the pandemic, the place is doing better than it has in decades and decades. I was also in central Michigan this summer and the area I visited, an upscale suburb, was struggling. The town-built-around-a-mall model is falling on hard times while developers double down on upscale housing subdivisions.

  216. I was watching Rep. John Lewis’ funeral yesterday. What struck me was how people were actually using Lewis as a prop in their drama. They kept discussing the past but not the future. They were staging their own memorial service for the end of their way of life.

    While that was going on, the local condo association took down three ancient trees around my building. All oaks that were dying, and were at least 100 years old. As a Roman Polytheist, I do divining and the pondering of omens. Today, I was visited on my balcony by two crows, who refused to leave. What came to me in a flash, is that the old order is gone and that the Neo-liberal Democratic hegemony was done. The Democrats would lose everything – the House, Senate, and Presidency. The crows seem to herald that the new order was coming.

  217. A question, not entirely off topic I hope. Why do the Democrats support the demand to defund the police in many cities? Is it just rhetoric, or is the point of the demand to give a “progressive” gloss to the fact that they no longer have the money? Their real program is for rich people to hire private security, while the middle class will be left to itself. Or is it an attempt to grab money for the police and redirect it to the bureaucracy ostensibly “controlling” the police? It struck me that this is part of the long descent…

  218. About accepting where you find yourself. After my brain injury, I realized that things had changed and that night was day, and I had forgotten what day was. I accepted that, and did not try to reclaim my old world.

    I believe that after 1973, people were wounded and looking to reclaim that old world. Reagan and Clinton offered that to them. However, it was all built on a house of mirrors. The fundamentals of the old world had vanished. Grief that had no name and was not discussed set in.

    In the brain injury community, both the rehabbers and the brain injured folks are not self-aware. They think that if they try this or that, they can get their old life back. As for me, I can never drive, and have accepted that. Quite a few of the TBI people still drive and complain about their near accidents. Never thought that they were at fault.

    Then there were the two women who decided they could work again, and were working on that. Only thing was that it took them three hours to prepare for a party. Spend two hours at the party, and then three days in the brain cave recovering. Neither had thought well gee maybe I can’t go back to work. The doctor who was running our little group kept encouraging them to figure out how to work.

    Meanwhile, I decided to live in the universe that I found myself. That I could go through the sound barrier and come out the other side. What the other side was, was unknown. But it was better that beating my head against a wall. Needless to say, I was unwelcomed in our little group, and was asked to leave. I was not with the program of progress.

    I believe that push back against the Long Descent is like that. The virus has changed the world utterly but people still think that the old world is coming back. So everyone settles for a faux world of things. A life style instead of a life. I do believe that TDS is a result of the old world suddenly vanishing. What is going on is that people are not self-aware or are so wedded to progress that they can’t see their way forward through the sound barrier.

    Grief and fear hold people hostage in holding on to their dreams of progress. Once the death of the dream is accepted, then true grief will come. Until then, TDS is the result.

  219. Darkest Yorkshire said:
    “I was thinking about your suggestion that school leavers should be able to work on New Deal type projects as a form of national service. For those who wanted to continue some aspects of that experience through life, a good way to do that would be to bring back civil defence volunteer organisations”

    Have you heard of the US Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training?

    https://www.ready.gov/cert

    As it was in the past, before dependency on the government to rescue you became to norm, this kind of training is going to be very valuable going forward. They also give you a cool backpack of rescue goodies and a hardhat to look official I’ve been told. Have friends who have taken the training, just haven’t had the chance myself yet.

  220. katsmama – One more thought on what to invest in. It took the neighborhood critters a few years to discover that my yard had tasty plants in it, but we seem to be on the midnight restaurant circuit now. Squirrels are going after the tomatoes now. A groundhog destroyed my butternut squash patch last year. Deer love sweet peppers, and rabbits love bush beans.

    Home Depot is offering 4’x50′ rolls of poultry netting (galvanized steel wire) for $20. I splice two pieces together to make an 8′ semi-circular tunnel over my low crops. It’s not entirely self-supporting, so I have steel wire arches (salvaged political campaign sign supports) reshaped to suit. They also sell 5′ x 50′ welded wire fencing with 2″x4″ mesh, $66, which I formed into cages for my tomatoes and peppers. Besides providing partial protection from varmints, they keep the tomatoes from sprawling on the ground. Plastic mesh can also help protect plants.

    So far, they seem to be working, though it’s a hassle to weed and harvest with them in place. However, I don’t think I’d get these crops otherwise.

  221. One of the things I find curious about the protests here in Portland is that nearly all the damage, fires, physical fighting etc. has been the work of a relatively few antifa, black block anarchists, street punks etc. In my past experience within the radical wing of the environmental movement back in the 80’s( earth first, cathedral forest action group, etc.) the normal strategy of the feds is to use informants, surveillance and infiltrators to indentify the leaders of the troublemakers, document crimes and send in the prosecutorial wing of the justice department (the FBI) to make legal arrests in a transparent and public way to scare the rest. The fact that most of the destructive agitators have stayed on the streets night after night for two months or more with only a few ham-handed arrests via unmarked vans tells me one of two things. Some powerful group within or with connections to the federal government is covertly backing the anarchists. Or there is a feud between the FBI and other parts of the federal government.

  222. @Robert Mathiesen, re your comment to Erika “Kitten” Lopez,

    I hope you’re right about LARPs. From the early 80s through late 90s I devoted all my creative energy and free time to pioneering and organizing one particular variety of LARP (“theater style” aka “ILF” or “SIL” type), to the point of being perpetually broke and chronically sleep-deprived. I never regretted the pursuit because if nothing else, it brought a lot of great people together, many of whom ended up happily married to one another. But by the time I moved on to other things, I didn’t feel all that successful with LARP creatively, as interest (though intense among the groups of participants) hadn’t seemed to grow. Arguably I’d sacrificed some hypothetical career I could have been striving to build, in favor of wrestling with a tricky narrative form nobody heard of.

    Twenty plus years later, evolved versions of that LARP style and many others (I don’t know which kind(s) your students have been involved in) are rather less obscure and and appear to be going strong, and will likely outlive me. Still, I had no idea they were benefiting participants’ quality of thought in ways perceptible from an “outside” perspective, and I hadn’t considered the possibility they might be important in the very long run. Thanks for making my day!

  223. Just my $0.02 here …. I think in order to meet a Political Science requirement or degree, a course in “Roman History from Gaius Marius through Vespasian” should be compulsory. If that’s too broad, at least “Sulla’s last years through the first years of Tiberius.”

    And for public education, a miniseries based on the entire Dying Republic Century…. oh, that’s already been done on HBO.

    And for “endless progress” vs “we’ll all be long pig for starving cannibals” crowd,* a really good course or study on 5th-6th Century Rome

    *Not an exaggeration! Someone on the S.M. Stirling list actually gave “Long pig for Eaters” as the alternative to keeping high-tech civilization going. I posted a “Get real!” answer along with a mini-lecture on said period and a suggestion that they study it. As always, it fell on deaf ears.

  224. “Even if he loses this November, so long as the election isn’t obviously fraudulent, there’s reason to hope that the lesson has been learned.”

    It’s quite clear, that ever-more numbers of knowledgeable folks are concluding that, far from the lesson having been taken to heart, the Dems/ Left are mostly *doubling down*.
    Such folks include T. Carlson, L. Ingraham, and (less well-known, but at much length) Andrea Widberg, see
    https://www.BookwormRoom.com/2020/07/16/scott-adams-the-coming-Election-is-an-EXTINCTION-event/ .
    So, recent events are instead showing a great many (desperate) people, that the ballot box is less likely to be a viable alternative to war, than seemed so four years ago.
    .

  225. Was it John Galbraith’s book, “The Culture of Contentment”, not Complacency, from 1992?

  226. clay – lets put it this way: if the FBI were a formal branch of antifa, how different would their behavior have been since 2016?

    Director Wray basically giggled in Senate hearings when Ted Cruz demanded that the FBI take antifa threats seriously.

    Who appointed Wray: Orange Julius. Why hasn’t he sacked him? Well, er, … I mean, he eventually sacked Bolton after he tried to start WWIII. But I guess Wray hasn’t yet tried to destroy the whole world, so no need to do anything rash like replace him with someone who actually cares about political violence against your supporters…

    As for why he appointed Bolton, I mean, it’s not like it was an important job or anything, so may as well just appoint a crazed neocon warmonger ….

  227. @ katsmama

    Do you own your house? Do you plan to remain there? If so, pay off your mortgage in full as quickly as possible. It’s much easier to scrape up the $$ for the annual tax bill than it is to make the mortgage month after month.

    At the same time, do the major repairs while you can afford them. Roofing (white shingles to reflect the summer heat), strategic shade trees to keep the place cooler without AC, heavy insulation, etc, etc.

    Put your $$ to long-term capital improvements (including a comprehensive home library), learning new skills, and debt reduction. None of those choices will harm you.

    Heck! I wrote a book on the subject if you’re interested. Go to https://peschelpress.com/suburban-stockade/ for the details.

    It’s work but you can become stronger and better able to weather the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

  228. @ Lady Cutekitten

    Your car will last so much longer if you do the routine maintenance faithfully. Never, ever skip an oil change. Every 5,000 miles, just like the owner’s manual says. Or whatever your owner’s manual says. It can seem like overkill and $$ spent at the dealer but we’ve made cars last — and in good condition too — longer than the norm because we saw the dealer every 5,000 miles or so.

    Drive gently. No jack-rabbit starts or hard stops. Drive defensively too. You’re never in a killing hurry.

    Wash the car regularly if you can’t keep it garaged. Use touch-up paint whenever a scratch appears. This keeps rust at bay.

    Wash the windows faithfully (every time you get gas) so your windshield is crystal clear and you can see the accident about to happen in front of you. This also helps cut down on the glare, thus preventing the accident. Clean your headlights and taillights too.

    Drive regularly but not that much. Cars need to be driven or they fail anyway. At the same time, if you go to the trouble of combining trips and only going out when necessary, you won’t rack up the miles and you’ll keep the seals and hoses in good working order.

    Make the accommodations you need to make for age-related issues. I have night vision problems so as a rule, I arrange my life so I don’t drive at night. If I have to, I’m very careful. Not driving at night means I’m less likely to have an accident which prolongs the life of the car and keeps me from having more problems.

  229. JMG,

    I would like to join those celebrating the collapse and (hopefully) demise of the Weddings-and-Bridal-Industrial Complex.

    I do feel some guilt about the slightly disturbing joy that this brings me. I shouldn’t be quite so pleased about it. But I really always found the whole thing just hideous in a way that I can’t quite put my finger on.

    I recently suggested to a friend that her daughter might consider a simple, modest occasion instead of the customary extravaganza. My intent was to make it *better*, not to limit the joy of the occasion in any way. My suggestion was breezily dismissed … but at least I wasn’t accused of a thought-crime, so there’s that.

    I do feel sorry for all those bewildered people who do, um, whatever it is that one does when one works in the WBIC. Organized Bridal mania? Is that what they do? Anyway, they will have to figure out something else. I would feel more guilty if I could relate to them in any way, but I can’t … I think that’s what I find disturbing.

  230. John, et al.–

    Re the arc of the future and our responses thereto, emotional and otherwise

    I find myself whipsawing here again between a mildly detached acceptance of our trajectory and a myopic frustration with our seeming inability to alter course without slamming into brick walls. It is unsettling. If I could only clamp my emotional response down so it wouldn’t get in the way, perhaps I could both get something worthwhile accomplished and do so in a calm and reasoned manner, without frittering my energy uselessly off into the void. These fits of frustration are immensely frustrating!

    Of course, the other thing that echoes in the back of my mind is Whomever She May Be telling me: “The things you think are important are not and the things that are truly important you miss completely.” So perhaps I’m latched onto the wrong aspects of this, or the wrong perspective, or maybe I’m just plain wrong all around. But if managing our decent into the coming dark age isn’t important, if attempting to preserve what we can of the knowledge we’ve amassed isn’t worthwhile, then what is? On the other hand, this isn’t humanities first dark age and it won’t be the last. But at the same time, this is *our* dark age, the one which we get to watch steadily approach like unstoppable floodwaters. How does one deal with that?

    On the other, other hand, of course, all manifested things–civilizations, creatures, even planets and suns–are mortal, with lifecycles of birth, growth, decline, decay, and death. Transience is a fundamental characteristic of manifestation. And after death comes rebirth, in time and in another form. It is hard to keep this in mind, particularly when one is caught up in the furor of the crisis du jour.

  231. Regarding the whole woke/critical theory topic, a brief anecdote. Back when I was pretending to be a student socialist in London, around 1980 or so, I was invited to a socialist workers party (SWP) meeting by a college friend who thought I might be agitator material – he was seriously wrong, and learned his lesson quickly, but I got to go to a couple of meetings. The SWP was one of several marxist/communist parties in Britain at the time, each trying to organize/save Britain’s proletariat (what would now be dismissively called the “white working class”). Anyway, the meetings were pretty interesting, even to a young idiot like myself. The meetings were led by a cadre of college marxist intellectuals and attended by a mix of workers/union members and students. There were endless points of order, and much ideological intellectualizing about practical matters (like exactly what slogans to write on the placards at the upcoming strike and when it was right to call a comrade brother or sister). There was a clear tension between the actual workers and the mostly middle class intellectuals, and after a quick version of the Internationale the workers went off to the pub and pointedly didn’t invite the intellectuals. Class divisions cut through most things. It was all very Animal Farm.

    Anyway, in the bigger picture, quite a lot of Britain’s workers ended up voting for Thatcher during the 80s – she was wise enough to give some actual economic help to the working class, and by the time the USSR collapsed socialist intellectuals had moved on to other things. But the rift between student intellectuals and workers would be enduring. The current attempts to stitch together a viable intersection of oppressed peoples will, I expect, falter along class lines once the intellectuals stop twittering at each other and get to grips with organizing mass movements of people who don’t care that much about critical theory or correct pronouns.

    That’s my guess at least, but we’ll see how it plays out.

  232. Lincoln, it was a lot better for American workers than NAFTA. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the significantly better!

    Lew, the fascinating thing is that in most parts of the country life goes on tolerably well. How much of the GDP consists of smoke and mirrors?

    Coop Janitor, oh, granted, I was rushing things to pack everything into twenty years. (That was necessary because Owen still had to be young enough to handle his role in the final crisis.) In the real world it’s likely to take longer, and involve fewer tentacles. As for potential shortages of Starry Wisdom initiates, well, that’s one of the things my blogging is meant to help with! The ice comes from ponds and ice houses — the people of Dunwich and Chorazin started doing things that way again once electricity became unreliable (a few old people remembered how it was done), and the habit spread to Arkham promptly once the grid started faltering there.

    Wesley, 1) in a contracting economy, all forms of money become obsolete; I’ve explained why in my book The Wealth of Nature , but it can also be observed from history. Contracting societies inevitably move to non-market economic systems, usually involving a mix of domestic production, gift economics, and sharecropping (which is among other things the basis of the feudal system). (2) Sharecropping makes extreme sense in a contracting economy because it’s keyed to the production of real wealth, rather than to the notional wealth of money. That’s why it’s universal in periods of sustained economic contraction — post-Heian Japan, post-Roman Europe, the post-Civil War South, and the list goes on. It’s inevitable that we’ll see it emerge again.

    Ryan, thank you! That’s very good to hear.

    Ian, there’s potentially a huge market for that. Put in some explicit sex and self-publish, and you could have a full-time income stream within a few years. I know you’re joking, but I’m not. It’s not something I can do — I’ve tried writing pulp, and I’m no good at it — but cheap colorful genre fiction of the kind you’ve described could help a lot of people reorient their imaginations toward the future we’re actually getting. You might consider giving it a try…

    Brian, doubtless that would be the case if writing for a living is the only thing I’d ever done. That’s not the case; I’ve worked as a dishwasher/busboy in a restaurant, an aide in nursing homes, a microfilm technician, a counter clerk at a dry cleaner drop shop, and a clerk at a copy shop, among other things. Since I also got into writing as a career the hard way, and made very little money from my writing for the first decade or so of my professional writing career, I also had the chance to learn all about poverty — which is another form of limits, of course. I suspect that’s why a lot of people take my essays more seriously than they do those written by people who’ve never had to worry about where their next meal is coming from. That said, if you don’t find my writing useful, hey, it’s a big internet and I’m sure you can find something more to your taste elsewhere.

    Matthias, I’d probably have to write a post on each of those themes if I wanted to respond to them in any kind of detail. Thank you for your suggested answers!

    Prizm, I’ll certainly consider that. Please bring it up in a September post.

    J.L.Mc12, yes, I’ve been following that. It’s fascinating that they haven’t been able to manage that.

    Info, I don’t do videos, but thanks anyway.

    Ramaraj, yeah, that was a remarkable glimpse into the underbelly of politics. The Democrats made the catastrophic mistake of thinking that punishing dissent is a workable substitute for making a case to the electorate, and I suspect they’re going to find out the hard way just now bad an idea that was.

    Iuval, if a party gets started now, it won’t be in a position to field its first real presidential campaign until 2024, and probably won’t have a shot at winning until 2032. Mind you, it’s a good idea and might go somewhere, but it’s not something that can happen in a matter of a few months.

    Aidan, we’ll see whether that pans out. As for the Great Awakening et al., of course! Radical secular religions are very often a gateway drug to more orfinary religions.

    Mark, leadership from the top is exactly what we won’t get, because decentralization involves the top losing power and authority. Grassroots change is the only way to get decentralization — and the people you know who realize that the shining future of progress is so much pie in the sky are exactly the people who can make that happen. As for your predictions, I could see those happening!

    David BTL, you’ve got my email address, right? I’m going to suggest that we make this a joint project. You’ve got real-world political experience, which I don’t, and I think we can work something out that will have an impact. Basically, the goal is to do what Marx and Engels did with the Communist Manifesto: propose a platform for a party that doesn’t exist yet, in a situation where the current political dialogue has run out of new ideas but plenty of people are bitterly dissatisfied with the status quo. It might have immense effects. Drop me a line if you’re interested.

    Viduraawakened, thanks for this, but I don’t do videos.

    Collapse-o-tron, I’d have liked to see him handle the latest mess differently, too — and no, I wouldn’t do business with him for anything. (His nickname in the New York business scene was “Deadbeat Don.”) He’s still done some things I consider helpful, and the Democrats are offering nothing but failed policies and ethnic hatred.

    Patricia M, oh, I know. Klamath Falls is a very nice town — I’ve spent time there — but they may have to take one for the team.

    RPC, that’s an excellent point.

    Patricia M, brrr indeed.

    Ben, (1) I think there’s a very real chance that bullets will start flying here and there. Everything depends on what happens in response. I may be wrong, but the leftists I know are not the kind of people who will put their lives on the line in a firefight, while many of the rightists I know are; if that proves to be true more generally, it’ll be ugly but brief. (2) There’s already been some primarying of mainstream Republicans by Trumpistas — Jeff Sessions’ miserable showing in the Alabama primary is a good example. If the populists fail to complete their takeover of the GOP, yes, a third party is a real option.

    Panda, fascinating! This is part of a broader picture, because the cyber-industries in general have had a very hard time finding ways to monetize the services they offer — thus the increasingly intrusive advertising on the internet, and the steady decline in free services.

    Patricia M, and about time!

    Tidlösa, I have no idea. It’s yet another idea that is supported by maybe 20% of the electorate, and the Democrats are rushing out to embrace it and giving the GOP another club to beat them with. You may be right, though, that cutting budgets (or redirecting funds) is the deeper motivation.

    Neptunesdolphins, thank you for this! Though my experience was of course far less drastic than yours, I went through something of the same kind of reorientation once I finally got diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome; it became clear to me that there was no point in trying to act like “everyone else” when I have a damaged nervous system with its own quirks and harsh limits. Your analysis of the sources of TDS makes sense to me. I wonder what will happen if Biden does win, and then people discover that the old world still isn’t coming back…

    Clay, or the Trump administration realizes that the rioting in Portland is convincing people elsewhere that the Democrats are unfit to govern, and has no interest in stopping that…

    Patricia M, I’m all in favor of it. There’s much to be said for a good classical education generally.

    aNanyMouse, well, we’ll just have to see, won’t we?

    Johnf, thank you. Yes, that was it.

    Collapse-a-tron, now there’s something we can definitely agree on!

    Galen, of course. That’s one of the things that makes me think they’re losing and they know it. Hmm — I imagine a song: “If you’re losing and you know it blame your friends…”

  233. @ Patricia Mathews

    It never made any sense. You can’t stop a virus. We’re in for some interesting times now because the measures which seemed to work the first time (even though they made no sense even then) are now not working cos we’re in the middle of flu season. So, the government is having to just try anything to continue to give the illusion that we can get control back. To my mind, the entire corona event is a big show where we try to convince ourselves that we are in control.

  234. I’m going to grab a copy. I agree with the core idea to a large extent. In my own personal experience, I feel like the money I’m saving is increasingly meaningless knowing what is to be expected in the near future.

    On long descent, one of the things that has me spooked is toxic excesses from military and industrial processes. US, Russia and China maintain large nuclear arsenal running into thousands of warheads. A large number of weapons run on ancient security systems (intentionally) with a limited few with the know-how to manage these. For Pentagon this has become a strategy to get more money from congress with the intention of upgrading the older warheads. I have also observed increasing reports of oil leaks in fresh water systems. A simple oil leak could wreak a massive fresh water body and obliterate ecosystems. There are two main forces here, countries looking to expand their arsenal with increasing geopolitical tensions while simultaneously pumping in money to maintain these excesses, which frankly they cannot afford. How do you see this playing out?

  235. Note: FYI: Governor DeSantis has explained the difference between the mail-in ballots Trump has been calling fraudulent, and the “absentee” ballots used in Florida. First, they are not mailed to all voters en masse. Which, whether there is fraud or not, certainly leaves a lot of room for error by the very nature of things. Voters die, move away, change their names or used a different version of their names than the one on their registration, and are confused with each other if their names are common.

    In Florida, you have to request the ballot – I did so by phone – and IIRC, gave them my Florida ID card number. Then the ballot is mailed to you. We have closed primaries in this state, so that it’s on record what party you belong to, and your ballot has candidates only from that party. The precinct number on the ballot is followed by a letter D,R, or whatever minor party you belong to. Now, anything can happen at the ballot-counting end, agreed. And Florida has had its troubles that way; they’ve been notorious, in fact. Machine failure, different tabulating machinery in different counties, etc …. However, the paper ballots are there.

    The Florida voting machinery website explained why level machines aren’t in widespread use: they’re fiddly little things with thousands of moving parts, and hard to keep in repair and operating. (Lang Descent at work here?)

  236. @Simon S: They’re not trying to stop the virus per se. They’re trying to stop the droplets that carry the virus from human mouths and noses to human hands. The cloth masks do a decent job that way. Likewise the hand sanitizing is to minimize transmission of the virus by hand contact. Viruses don’t have wings: they are carried by something – hand contact, droplets, hand-to-object-to-hand. That’s why we’re also told not to touch our faces with our hands.

    Hope that helps.

  237. Patricia Matthews,

    I in no way said that anyone was lying about border patrol agents, I believe that they are under the DHS or that it may be the same thing. You mention that at night the crazies come out but then take it away in the next breath.
    I am genuinely perplexed. I understand that some people are of different political persuasions. But just how far does this violence by the “crazies” have to go before people begin to see it as a problem? How many people hurt? How many police officers injured and killed? How many thousands of businesses torched? 5 small children have been shot. Is that enough?

    I just don’t think a revolution is a good idea.

  238. neptunesdolphins – Thanks for the detailed explanation on bank failures.

    I see stores closing, and I wonder “who does the landlord expect to move into those spaces, and when?” I hear about apartment tenants falling behind on their rent, and I ask the same question. I hear about home buyers delinquent on their mortgages, and I ask “who will have the money to buy those properties from the bank, if the current occupants get foreclosed and evicted?” Last time around (ten years ago), the “smart corporate money” bought up lots of single-family homes to rent them out, and some in my neighborhood stood vacant for years. (I assume that was to prevent a flood of properties crashing the market.) If the same companies are now not collecting rent, not able to service their debt, who gets stuck taking the loss? Corporate bond investors? And that means insurance companies, pension funds, and anyone else with a heap of money that demands a higher return than government bonds, but more “security” than stocks? (We’re about to see what that reach for security is worth.)

  239. Varun,

    Thank you very much for this.
    I disagree on 1). You are expecting Trump to have been ahead of the entire world and Fauci by asking everyone to mask in March. Fauci himself spoke about masks back at that time and said there was no reason for regular people to wear masks. Also, you obviously firmly believe masks make much difference. All studies show they do not – so while that is contentious, I don’t believe it is reasonable to fault Trump for not thinking that way. Meanwhile, all countries and most states of the world have enacted masks about two weeks ago. I find that suspicious as a coordinated ongoing agenda by the deep state. In my opinion the pandemic has been taken way too seriously, so I don’t fault Trump for decreasing fear rather than buying into it.

    2) I agree mostly and it would have been great if he had called it an attack upon our country, which it is. I’m a little less sure about saying it was done by foreign agents. Do we know this? As Twilight pointed out, it could be the elites right here at home. Certainly our media is complicit in failing to cover it correctly.

    3) I agree and it does seem to have been a bit of a boondoggle with with all the piggies crowding at the trough.

    Mark L

    Thank you. Some of the questions were a bit rhetorical! Some of the opinions I have written are within the context of the other riots, not just Portland. The whole picture is pretty nasty. As to ignoring them till they get bored, well, I can see your point about the balance needed not to over react, but honestly, nearly two months of ongoing riots with thousands of destroyed buildings and many people hurt – again in all the cities not just Portland, I think perhaps enough patience was shown.

  240. JMG,

    I know I probably won’t buy it if Biden wins myself, and I’m not a right wing populist! I suspect that a lot of them will react quite poorly. Thus my prediction right now is that by the end of 2021 the US will be facing a large insurgency if Biden wins. However, given the recent flurry of 538 related synchronicities, I suspect that won’t be the case…

    Pixelated,

    I’m quite confident that within a year of the end of the Religion of Progress, the idea a child needs a cell phone will be dismissed by nearly everyone, with a sizable number thinking it counts as a form of child abuse, and the internet will be rapidly coming undone. Quite a few people are probably able to go internet free with only a little effort, and an awful lot more will be able to easily enough if society changed to get rid of a lot of the policies designed to force connection on people.

    The interesting thing here is that I think the internet will be dying off even while it’s still economically viable: if people decide it’s not worth it, it’ll fail even if it’s economically thriving, and I’m quite convinced, having watched my own behaviour as well as that of others around me, that a very large part of why so many people push the internet right now is that they are using it as a talisman for progress.

    So my guess, since I expect to see the Religion of Progress dead within the next couple years, is that any children I have will be able to have the sort of childhood I didn’t have: one without the internet.

    Patriciaormsby,

    I’ve just spent a day without using the internet, and I think having brought up the absurdity of clinging to a belief I consciously reject by obsessively using something I don’t particularly like seems to have eliminated the hold it has on me.

    The interesting thing about my issue right now is that I don’t seem sensitive to EM radiations aside from from that one router. I’m not sure what it is about it, but I don’t seem sensitive to anything else, and my parents house is saturated in EM. The best I can think of is that everything else is old and this is new and maybe newer models produce a lot more EM radiation, since a lot of the limits have been gutted in the rush to implement 5G, but that’s just a theory for now.

    Green Rage Monster,

    Truth be told I’m wondering about that too. I’m increasingly thinking that the social conventions which make democracy work (crucially, that the losers accept the loss) are fraying in the US and I’m beginning to worry that it may not matter who wins the election.

  241. Lew – That “32.9%” drop is an “annualized” extrapolation of an actual quarterly drop of about 8%, so we’re talking about 1/12th, rather than 1/3, of GDP currently affected. These numbers are usually small, less than 1%, and we like to compare them to such things as Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) on investments, so those that compute them scale the quarter as if it were a year. Now, what does it mean? I don’t think anyone really knows. I don’t think there’s any precedent for the government (at all levels) simply issuing a decree that “business shall halt, starting now, and continuing until we say you can restart (unless you’re ‘essential’)”. The economy was put into a “medically-induced coma”, entirely un-like a normal recession (say, an oil-price shock), where consumer circumstances lead to drops in consumption, which leads to job loss, which leads to recession. The patient is weakening during the coma, and who knows what shape they’ll be in when the drugs are allowed to wear off.

    When I first heard about a possible “bird flu pandemic” a decade or more ago, I looked up at the TV set in the cafeteria and thought “a lot of people make this cable-TV programming possible, and they’re all expendable.” The more I looked, the more bewildered I became. I discovered that “bass-fishing tournament professional” was a career choice!

  242. David BTL & JMG,

    David, thanks for those details re. NAFTA replacement. I guess something is better than nothing. My concern with this kind of incrementalism is that there is only a finite political window to get serious change done and if quarter-steps are taken you just may never arrive.

    More generally, I don’t wan’t to be misunderstood: I am on no account suggesting anyone should vote for antifa in November. (they seem to be the Democrats paramilitary wing).

    My trenchant comments may have given the wrong impression … I was incredibly relieved when Hillary “it’s my turn” Clinton failed in her presidential bid. She was promising to start a war with Russia and most likely would have done so. Trump hasn’t deliberately created catastrophe as Hillary intended to, and as she indeed had already done re. Libya and Iraq. Trump isn’t a war monger, but it was a retarded move to install John Bolton. Like most of Trumps failures it seems to be something to do with personality getting in the way of intelligence. He correctly diagnosed a whole host of problems in the 2016 campaign, then installed a huge number of BAU Republicans who opposed all of his policies and continue to very successfully sabotage them. To me it looks like (a) self-sabotage due to a lack of confidence in his own intellect when it comes to the point of actually doing things, and (b) a profound lack of loyalty causing epic misjudgements like sacking Flynn, which crippled his presidency for years.

    Failing to live up to very clear promises, he now relies on the utter insanity of the Democrats … instead of charting his own course he is at the mercy of these strange currents. More to the point, so are his voters. I question whether they are in any mood to show up but I don’t pretend to know, I really have no idea. I ain’t no astrologer!

  243. @Ian…I, for one, would be very interested in reading your Druid Harlequin romances. Tentacles and monsters scare me, so the sci-fi genre is hard to broach, but romance I find far more approachable and fun to read.

    @ JMG and all…a good essay/book review by Andrew Sullivan about SJWs, wokeness, intersectionality and the like, from a recent (last 50 years) cultural/linguistic history perspective.

    https://andrewsullivan.substack.com/p/the-roots-of-wokeness

    @JMG and @ David BTL…I’d like to help with the policy project, if help wanted. Have 20+ years in trenches of local government engagement as concerned citizen, reporter and such, reading and analyzing (among other things) un-useful local zoning and other codes.

  244. @Lew, that GDP figure is an annualized rate. The actual quarterly decrease was roughly 1/10th, not the 1/3rd figure that made headlines.

  245. Re: Fusion power

    Some back of the envelope calculations here. It would take about 400 fusion reactors ITER-like reactors to provide 10% of current world’s electricity demand. How much would that cost?

    If we take ITER’s cost estimation – $22 billion – construction of 400 reactors would cost $8.8 trillion.
    The US Department of Energy however estimates ITER construction and maintenance costs at $65 billion. At this price 400 reactors would cost $26 trillion, which is more than US annual GDP of approximately $21 trillion. World annual GDP is about $80 trillion, so theoretically it’s possible to build enough fusion reactors to satisfy 10% of current electricity demand if all nations were to drop everything else and just build fusion reactors. But I wonder if we would turn into a sort of Easter Island civilization worshiping our stone (fusion, in our case) idols until we go extinct.

    Building 4000 fusion reactors ($88 – $210 trillion) to satisfy 100% of the current electricity demand is absolutely impossible, no matter how you slice it.

  246. Archdruid and Company,

    Representative Tulsi Gabbard is at the end of her very short political career. She gave many people on this forum hope that a truly populist and honorable candidate would one day hold the white house, and help guide the country through this stage of twilight of the empire.

    Most people were fairly disappointed that she endorsed Biden, and decided that she was no longer worthy of support. I was undeterred, the muddiness of politics being what it is, I figured that she had to make a deal to keep herself in the Democratic party. However, something didn’t sit right about the endorsement, and within a few weeks the truth came out. The true series of events was revealed to the Indian American circles, where she is immensely popular, and her most loyal supporters. By the time the actual story came out, the national conversation had moved on, so most other people missed the story and its importance.

    Let’s start from the beginning.

    Tulsi Gabbard is a congress woman from a fairly minor state. Hawaii, despite being one of the most important military bases in the country, is political unimportant. Gabbard entered the political scene with an impressive pedigree, a serving Major in the Hawaiian National Guard, a combat veteran, and an ethnic and religious minority.

    When she won her seat as a Democratic candidate she was a rising start in the Party. She enjoyed the support of the very affluent Hindu community, which would become a major factor in her eventual downfall. She leveraged that support and was heavily involved in promoting Indo-US ties through the Hindu community, where she eventually drew the attention of the Indian government. She developed a working relationship with Prime Minister Modi, and became a prominent part of the Hindu cultural revitalization that is currently taking place. But again, I’m getting ahead of myself.

    Her entrance into the Democratic ranks was noticed by a very powerful clique within the party, who saw great promise in her. Within her first term she was selected, and subsequently elected, to be the Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee. That position is a career guarantee for a first term congressperson, and if she had played her part she would be enjoying a long and comfortable career within the party ranks. Unfortunately her character got in the way. The clique that selected her and pushed her election? None other than the Clinton faction of the party. If rumors are to be believed, Hillary herself had a role in Gabbard’s selection and election, but I could not confirm the rumors.

    She served as Vice chair for three years until 2016 when, as you all know, she resigned her position to support Sanders. She did this because she was well aware about the plot against Sanders and could not, in good conscience, play a part in the act. When she resigned and supported Sanders over Clinton, she committed the one cardinal sin in politics, she bit the hand that fed her. You never, ever, attack your patron unless you have another patron or faction to support you. Gabbard had neither another patron, nor another faction.

    Sanders obviously did not get the nomination and Gabbard attempted to ingratiate herself with the Sanders faction, but there was a problem. As the party revved itself up for the 2020 elections, and Tulsi made her intention of running clear, she came under heavy attack by party loyal activists (PLAs). Gabbard’s proximity to the Hindu community came under increasing attacking from the PLAs. Congresspersons like Primilla Jaypal, Ro Khanna, Illian Omar, and others accused Gabbard of being a Modi shill, and supporting Hindu Fascism. The attacks got so bad that Gabbard publicly withdrew from the 2018 World Hindu Congress in Chicago, much to the disappointment of her fans.

    Gabbard played smart throughout the campaign, working on her popularity among Trump’s base. To this day I continue to hear Trump voters sing her praises, but she did too well because her popularity among the democratic base never rose past the single digits. This was partially a result of her on going conflict with the two major factions of the democratic part – the New Progressives and the Old Guard.

    She made two promises during her campaign that bound her to her fate, and like a good solider she made good on those promises. The first was that she would not launch a third party campaign, and the second was that she would support whichever candidate that won the primaries.

    As 2019 went on, Hillary Clinton stepped in for one last strike. Clinton hit with a pointed jab calling into question not just Gabbard’s integrity, but her loyalty as well. Gabbard’s character forced her to publically react and the fallout sealed her fate. The lawsuit she launched was never going to go anywhere, and trapped her in a death spiral.

    When she finally folded her campaign she tried to give her endorsement to Sanders, but was rejected. You read that right. Tulsi Gabbard attempted to endorse Sanders, but because the Sanders camp was against Modi and Gabbard’s repeated courting of the populist right, they refused Gabbard’s endorsement. Gabbard was left with little choice except to endorse Biden.

    Gabbard, left with no political protection, no patrons, no real support from the left, is out in the wilds…which, is kinda where we are.

    This link is a statement her borther posted about her relationship with Bernie Sanders: https://nationalfile.com/report-bernie-refused-tulsis-endorsement-brother-claims-he-treated-her-like-shit/

    Regards,

    Varun

  247. @ Varun: thanks for this. I am an admirer of Gabbard, although I disagree with her politics to a large degree. She seems to have dignity, something most politicians lack. Too bad for her career, but I am pretty certain some political future awaits her when the time is right. Maybe she can make peace with the populist party on the right, and move on from there. Stranger things have happened. Maybe an important lesson was learned (although she did right in keeping her word), about making deals with the you-know-who, and supping with a longer spoon. She’s intelligent, so I doubt she missed it.

  248. Nomad, nuclear arsenals are extremely expensive to maintain — you literally have to remachine the fissile materials every six months or so because they’re soft metals and warp out of shape. For reasons mostly astrological in nature, I expect to see a treaty sharply decreasing everyone’s arsenals by 2036 or so — since a few hundred warheads are all you need for deterrence.

    Aidan, um, what? That looks like a compilation from the old “Websites That Suck” site.

    Kevin, I don’t think it’ll be the case either, but if it is, yeah, it could get very ugly very fast.

    William, so noted!

    Collapse-a-tron, duly noted. Our nation has a habit of electing leaders who muddle through — it was only after their deaths, for example, that Lincoln and FDR were redefined as decisive characters. We’ll see if things work out the same way this time.

    KW, thanks for this. (An email is en route.)

    Galen, I hope the GOP is getting ready to use that in an ad.

    Ecosophian, that looks about right. And that’s if the ITER actually works! (Which it won’t; to get sustained nuclear fusion, you need a source of centripetal compression that can’t be twisted out of shape by electrical or magnetic charge. The only one of those in the universe is gravity, and the only way you can get enough gravity to do it is to have the mass of a small star…)

    Varun, duly noted. I wonder what will happen if the Democratic party implodes, though.

  249. Re how things fail:
    Solar hot water systems. I’ve had my system for 20 years. It has never leaked. I bought the evacuated tube collectors, installed and plumbed the system myself with copper pipe, all joints were brazed and pressure tested. This is an active pumped system which does not have a heavy tank in the roof, but instead uses a large stainless steel hot water heater in the garage to hold the hot water. The tank is heavily insulated and has 2 backup electric elements for use when there is no sun. There is a tiny 12vt dc circulating pump running on a small photo voltaic panel that pumps the water to the collectors on the roof and back to the tank. The system is low tech, made out of quality components and since I put it together myself, I know that every brazed joint will outlast me.
    I was a live-a-board world cruising sailor for 17 years, and also lived on a very remote off-the-grid rural property for 12 years. Living that kind of life, unless you are mega rich, means you have to fix all kinds of things in all kinds of situations. You quickly learn to tell the junk from the quality stuff.
    For stuff you really rely on, you get quality gear that can be fixed, from companies who provide spare parts. For some stuff, you just go cheap, quick, and dirty because its nonessential, you can buy 5 of them for the cost of a good one, and its not used often.
    My point is that how and where things fail depends a lot on the quality of the things, the care taken to put them together, and also knowing when and where the probable failure will happen so you can anticipate it (everything fails eventually). That means that you know your systems intimately. Most people these days haven’t a clue as to how the things they own actually work. Most of these things have digital black boxes that can’t be repaired anyway. Old style electro-mechanical things can be taken apart, investigated, and potential failure points found.

  250. @Varun:
    Thank you for the information on what happened with Tulsi Gabbard. I, too, though disappointed, guessed that the Biden endorsement was due to murky political factors, but it’s good to have more information on the details.
    I _am_, though, now wondering if I should change my planned write-in vote in November from Gabbard-Sanders to Gabbard-… not sure. Well, there’s time left to decide.

  251. @Kevin Burgess Taylor,
    It is common among the EM sensitive to be noticeably affected by one form of EMR (frequency, modulation, polarity, coherence, etc.), but not so affected by others. I know of one person who is badly affected by 4G radiation, but not by 5G, whereas for many people around her, it is the opposite. I generally do not notice Wi-Fi right away, but have a lot of trouble with smart meters. Each new technology brought out seems to bring with it a new and expanded group of people who are aware there is a problem. There has been a conversation among specialists recently saying that it’s not so much the MHz/GHz frequencies themselves that are problematic, but the low-frequency modulations, often in the kHz range that are most highly bioreactive. Wi-Fi is pulsed at 10 Hz, sounding like a jackhammer in audio, close to the Schumann resonances, which are said to be critical for health. It is said to be particularly harmful.
    20 years ago, Arthur Firstenberg remarked that in Soviet research they kept finding a 70% ratio of people affected by EMR, and 30% apparently unaffected, which would mean a 30% elite would emerge able to handle the altered environment. That may have been true then, but recently researchers are saying everyone is affected. The blood-brain barrier is reduced, among other upstream effects, and toxins can get in and cause harm. Thus being aware of your reaction to EMR–as long as you are not incapacitated–is an advantage now. You also become aware that reducing the forms you are not immediately affected by improves your health long term.

    @Everyone, EMR is one of the forms of pollution that will increase in the short term, and if the research on rats pointed to by Dr. Martin Pall is relevant to humans, it will contribute to infertility and population decline wherever 3G and 4G are in use, and especially where 5G is. See: https://www.radiationresearch.org/articles/5g-risks-8-types-of-harm-martin-pall-2018/

  252. @Matthias

    The LTG graph shows a steady worldwide population decline from around about now, and I can certainly see how it might happen in the UK. It’s the usual suspects, food, war, and disease.

    Over here we only produce about 60% of the food we use and although the gap has varied over the centuries it’s been there very long time. It seems fairly obvious to me that as our technical abilities degrade, the ability to import enough resources to cover the gap also diminish. That suggests that if the technical level of sophistication settled at around the Edwardian level, with a mixture of coal, renewables, and small amounts of diesel powering it – we’d have a population of perhaps 40 million, down from 66 million currently. Would coal be a big player? Probably; we are floating on a sea of it and I can’t see my descendants worrying too much about the long term impact of CO2 when in the short term they are having to live through a harsh winter.

    What about war? Something of a rarity recently on the landmass of the UK, civil wars excepted. The channel combined with a somewhat underfunded navy still offers quite decent barrier to the projection of force into the UK. There are now two new factors on the scene though. The first is that there’s an excellent chance that Scotland will break away from the union and resume its interrupted status as a distinct state. There’s lots of built up resentment and of a long term history of violence prior to and in the early stages of the union. I’d expect this to resume.

    Secondly, the UK now has several towns with quite a different ethnic makeup from the rest of the country, and they have sharp physical boundaries too. That’s certainly everything you need to set up a city state, and if central authority weakens because of technical (read energy) problems, they will at first be asked to look after more of their own affairs. Naturally this will rapidly develop into these areas demanding that they look after their own affairs and once again the stage is set for population reducing violence. Looking at the situation in Italy in the 15th century I don’t find it implausible to suppose that one such city state could declare war on the other either.

    Last but far from least is disease. Pandemics come and go but to really reduce a population what you need is poor hygiene and bad sewage arrangements. Setting up and maintaining a decent sewage system takes a Victorian level of education and engineering ability. As the UK falls below that, we’ll lose the ability and the will to maintain these arrangements. A population that is worrying about where the next meal is coming from is certainly not going to have the excess resources needed to repair collapsed Cloacas. If the level of education drops below the level where most of us understand the germ theory there will be little support for making the effort. I’m now perfectly will to accept that the germ theory is far from the whole story of medicine – but it’s a very significant part of the story.

    What we know of the history of the UK after the departure of the legions simply underlines the point. Within a few hundred years, fine villas and working bath houses were little more than ruins. Not twenty miles from where I write this there’s an archeological site from this period open to the public with the lower sections of frescos and many of the mosaics still visible. One of the mosaics has been completely ruined by an Anglo-Saxon plough that’s torn it up when the dining room ended up under a field of wheat. The farmer who did this simply regarded the villa as an impediment to the fact that he had to feed his family. I imagine no more emotion than a certain amount of swearing at the poor quality of the ground. It’s the natural reaction and it’s going to be repeated endlessly in the years to come.

  253. @neptunesdolphins and @lathechuck – about banking and loans

    “What I have noticed and have been told by the bank officers of the various banks is that loans are drying up. They have healthy deposits but no one is taking out loans. They cannot make a profit.”

    I can testify to the other side of this. In 2008, I was in Ireland when the “Banking Crisis” got real. (And continue to live here). What our government did, after a late night tete-a-tete with spooked banking representatives was to temporarily steady the banks by offering state guarantees. Over the next two to three years, it became clear that what the state had undertaken to “steady” (underwritten with public/national wealth) was a banking system that was not just tottering, but had already failed, and that its “steadying” action would translate to the failure of the people, whose public goods would steadily be offered to the bottomless maw of the bank failure and swallowed up for good.

    What I personally noticed was the sound of business failure and personal failure all around my own rural area, as money seemed to be “sucked away” into thin air. Although the same people, with the same skillsets, and the same means of production were all still present and accounted for, suddenly there was no money around for paying wages or for buying and selling. It was apparent to me that the lack of money was initially because the banks had stopped lending, especially to local small businesses, but persisted because people, especially those who had just become unemployed, stopped borrowing. Everyone who was still able was repaying all their loans as quickly as possible (obviously those who could not were also busy defaulting and having businesses and homes repossessed).

    I personally paid off all my loans, other than my mortgage, as quickly as possible (it took us until about 2014 to accomplish this with a vast sense of relief and of freedom) and our mortgage will be paid within a year or two. We have no intention of ever borrowing again, and our children are very well inculcated with the idea, arising from our experience, that borrowing is a handy way to acquire a creditor who will want everything including your firstborn child, so just say “no” to loans. (They both live -rent – and work – service jobs – in the urban “precariat” class, but appear to have taken this advice to heart and have avoided borrowing).

    We seem to be at an impasse where it has become genuinely dangerous to people to borrow, because in downturns, borrowers lose, and lose heavily, but banks cannot thrive without lending, and economies cannot keep money in circulation without borrowers being willing to take out loans.

    I have no idea how this circle can be squared, but I do know now that debt-based money systems are traps for the unwary, and especially for the small time borrower like me, who despite being such a small borrower, still stands to be a big loser, should our house or farm be repossessed. (A fate we have *hopefully* staved off for the present, at least).

  254. @Wesley and @JMG – re sharecropping

    This will probably emerge in many places, although it is worth paying close attention to what James C Scott called “The Peasant Moral Economy” – it is a full book length treatment of the economic relationships (and failures in the face of industrialisation and capitalist financing) of share-cropping practices in Southeast Asia.

    The short version is that a feudal share-cropping system can be successful (from the cropper’s or peasant’s POV) PROVIDING, the landlord never takes MORE than the peasant needs for basic survival and subsistance. Counter, intuitively, what this means, in practice, is that in a good year, extractions of 60-80% of the crop can be “tolerable”, while in a bad year, extractions of even 10% may be intolerable. The key is not the “steadiness” or size of the percentage taken (which is how a market economy would like to set it up), but the size of what is left to the peasant and their family to survive on.

    In the “old days” the wise patron or landlord (whose “wise provisioning” was also enforced by local custom) might take plenty off his sharecroppers in good years, but also put away plenty in storage for two purposes:

    1) to be able to afford to take a much lesser cut in a bad year, and
    2) to be able to make emergency supplies available to the sharecroppers whose bad year had completely emptied their own stores.

    When capitalist financing and other changes came along, landlords had to keep their loans financed at a steady rate, and were no longer able to be responsive to the quality of the harvest or to the need to keep hands off of a sharecropper’s basic subsistence need, and the system quickly eroded, with great loss to many.

    If the system comes in again, the idea of the “basic subsistence” amount being sacred and untouchable, but anything over and above that being *relatively* painlessly extractable will be the essential knowledge that will allow such sharecropping systems to be restored and thrive.

  255. I am more than horrified, by the fact that few if any of the comments mention the depredations that the current Trump/Government are making on the natural environment – I guess we are now all so urbanized, that the environment has become invisible to us. I hear the calls for us to become farmers – but that knowledge and those capabilities are fast vanishing. I fear that no one seems to know what is involved in producing enough food from an increasingly depauperate soil (unless you are lucky to live in a high fertility area). It requires WORK – which rather takes one mind off the horrors of our dysfuntional governmental situation. This will be a limiting issue – a point of reference – in the early 1900’s NY was supplied by farms in a 100 mile radius. Now???

  256. Hi John Michael,

    Your words from many years ago: “There’s no brighter future”, were not lost on me.

    In point of fact, the word ‘brighter’ is a relative concept, and your spell also failed to disclose for whom you were directing the words at. Respect.

    It is hard to convey my current experience without sounding as if it comes across as bragging, because that is most certainly not my intention. However, taking a different approach to life that does not seek the ‘brightness’, and having followed that path for many years is a strategy that works – for now. The future is unclear to me and I don’t really know how the strategy will play out in the future and there are many risks to living where and how I do, but you know, you do get better at living comfortably with less as the years progress.

    “Nor does technology allow one energy resource to be replaced with another, except in small and irrelevant ways.” The very large batteries used to keep the house powered are nearing the end of their economic life and now have to be replaced at an extraordinary cost. At least I can repurpose the old batteries. This renewable energy technology is really good stuff, it just makes no economic sense whatsoever. None at all and I’ve been at it for years and given it the good-Aussie-go.

    Beats me! One foot in front of the other and keep on learning as you go and try to dodge the traps.

    Cheers

    Chris

  257. Collapse-o-from, JMG

    Re Trump, incrementalism, and muddling through

    No disagreement here. As I’ve mentioned, I’d much prefer a clear, coherent, purposeful program to transition us from a (waning) global hegemon to a modest, self-reliant republic. The problem is, of course, that the popular mindset hasn’t yet caught up with our national circumstances and one has to work within the limits of what can be done. Even my small amount of experience in politics has brought home to me the sharp differences between theory and application. Politics is ultimately a practical discipline, rather than a theoretical one, and I think it was Franklin who opined that “Politics is the art of the possible.”

    So Trump has to cut deals and take partial measures, but he can cut those deals and take those partial measures in such a way as to move us somewhat in the needed direction. His successors may be able to be more direct as the reality of our national predicament begins to dawn in popular consciousness, but that will take some time yet.

  258. Doesn’t look like the administrative bureaucracies are going down without a fight. One could say that the new Bio-Security Police State is a last desperate attempt to retake and keep control of their privileges.

  259. @ JMG – 1 – I’m concerned about ethnic violence both because the US has a long history of (who doesn’t?), and because ethnicity, unlike political leanings, is not easy to hide. We will see, I suppose.

    2 – I saw that Tubberville won. Hopefully we see more of that in both parties. The Democratic Party spent something like 15 million this year against insurgents. I really hope that even if Biden wins, the left remains insurgent against the crummy leadership. Your thoughts?

    @ Varun – I’d heard very similar accounts. I hope this is not the last we’ve heard of her. Do you think she might run for US Senate representing Hawaii?

  260. JMG,

    decades ago I looked at the papers coming out of fusion research and it was all the same old magnetic confinement. I thought “well, we know it’s unstable, what are you going to do about that?”. The answer seemed to be “nothing much that looked even plausible but we’ll study it some more”. There’s a huge amount of theoretical work on plasma instability, but I didn’t see anything suggesting real confidence in a solution. I wasn’t convinced that the instabilities were adequately understood at all, despite much effort.

    In the early days of fusion work, chaos theory was not well known (the ground work for chaos was laid by the 1920’s but its broad implications were dormant). However, simpler forms of instability were very well known and plasmas were a notorious example. In physics, the word “plasma” is all too often followed by the word “instability”. Then chaos theory became very well known amongst physicists by the mid-eighties and was part of the newer theoretical work on magnetic confinement. The main lesson of chaos theory is that in general, it’s very hard to predict highly nonlinear systems driven by external energy flows, let alone control them. Plasmas are about as nonlinear as it comes. It seemed to me very clear that the monster instabilities of these plasmas were not well understood enough to be moving to an engineering phase, but that’s what they just keep doing. Building things without (to me anyway) a plausibly robust understanding of how to discourage these plasmas from making the building jump, which they like to do rather often.

    Even if you are “technically” wrong, that is, even if it turns out that they can tame the plasma reliably enough while getting more energy out than they pump in … just look at all the exotic materials they have to use for the chamber walls, magnets etc, all of which is subject to radiation damage and mechanical shock from plasma events. They admit all these problems. How long is it supposed to last before you have to spend gazillions replacing all the exotic materials, giant precision manufactured structures etc. Just a nightmare. This is your economic argument, of course.

    If they spent a fraction of that budget on truly novel confinement concepts it would be more credible, although still a poor bet I would guess.

    My guess is that ITER etc will be a truly great way to expend energy. Has anyone dared to add up the fossil-fuel energy used for construction, mining of exotic materials, etc? Ouch, I don’t even want to think about it.

  261. Well, Dana Blankenhorn – Mr. “Tech Rules!” himself – has it right this once.

    “The 1944 Game
    “Where are we in terms of confronting the Trump Crisis, the great political challenge of our lives?
    “In terms of my parents’ generation I’d say we’re in 1944. In terms of their ancestors, it’s 1864.”

    ***Of course, his definition of what the crisis IS, is more same-old-same-old Orange Julius BAD! But at least he knows where in the cycle we are.****

  262. @pixelated

    Yes, everything you said about internet, and phones.

    I don’t have a smartphone, my kids don’t have them, and my kids don’t go on the internet. It is possible, you don’t have to let the internet have access to your kids. Don’t be afraid to be *that* parent! Much as I like some things on the internet (tutorials on how-to everything, this blog…), I’m wishing for its death and dismemberment, followed by the demise of cell phones. When people start telling scare-stories about Skynet and information technology tracking our every move, and people uploading their brains to servers and living forever… I comfort myself with the thought that very shortly, energy will be expensive, and someone will look at the cost of running all those servers, and quietly pull the plug. Then they’ll turn off the A/C, and all the electronics will sit there peacefully corroding until our great-great grandchildren start picking through them for salvageable bits.

    I saw some video recently– one of the few videos from the protests that the news was willing to air– the news anchors got all mushy about it, because all the protesters were singing together, and in lieu of lighters or candles, were all holding up their smartphones with the “flashlight” feature on. It was both funny, and deeply sad. Comically, here is this huge crowd of people who are supposedly representing the oppressed and downtrodden of America… and they all have these electronics in their hands that I assume cost more than my monthly grocery bill for a family of five. It is like an anecdote I heard about the movie version of “The Grapes of Wrath”… where they tried showing it as a propaganda film in Russia, but gave up after a brief test run because the message the Russian viewers took away from the movie was “In America, even the poorest people have CARS!”

    And at the same time… it showed, in stark relief, the gulf between me, my values, and what I think of as a decent life, and… who? Who is this group waving cellphones? People who are allowed to talk in public and be seen on the news?

    What if there are a whole lot more of us out here than we think, and it just feels like we’re weirdos because of the unspoken rules about who can be seen in the news?

  263. Archdruid,

    You know both of the great Indian Epics start with a period of exile from the courts. Her saga has me thinking of the Pandavas, and she is a worshiper of lord Krishna…

    Also, I’m going to try to find some writing on the working class left. I honestly don’t know any websites or publications currently, all my knowledge comes from personal experience.

    Onething,

    I actually don’t know whether masks work or not, I’m sure there are plenty of publications arguing both sides. I’m not great at science so I just asked my friends and relatives, who work in medical or biotech fields. They all said “wear the damn mask.” Good enough for me.

    My logic has to do with the political symbolism. Trump could have gotten ahead of it if he had simply said “we don’t know how bad this is going to be, but lets all take precautions.” donned a mask and been done with it. Politically it is much easier to defend against accusations if you’re literally wearing a symbol of your concern, than if you’re not. This was a tactical mistake.

    I get it, he and a lot of other are paranoid right now, but you don’t go on the offensive when you don’t know the whole picture. If he had taken a defensive stance and his opponents had attacked him for wearing the mask, which they probably would have, then at least he can argue “I was doing it because I care about the American people.”

    As for the riots…we’ll have to see. I know there are internal factions playing dirty right now. I just don’t agree with the Archdruids “general uprising” theory.

    Still we’ll have to see how this all plays out. I wish I had the time to be doing intelligence gathering 40 hours a week, but I only catch glimpses between work and life.

    Regards,

    Varun

  264. Lathechuck and everyone else

    In answer to what is happening in the financial markets and the economy. We are in a new world. The old ways do not work. In other words, the Long Decline is in force. We are all now sailors on the seas of fate. Hopefully we can tack to the winds.

    Negative interest rates are coming (they have them in Europe). You *PAY* the banks to keep your money.
    I would take your money and stuff it in a mattress. Feudalism is coming.

    Time has no meaning. In the capitalist economy, you rent time or buy time with money. Wages are computed by the hour or by the year. Bond markets are now offering 100 year bonds – in other words, you wait 100 years before getting a return on your money.

    The capitalist system as based on Keynes doesn’t work anymore. Nobody has trained for this nor has anyone come up with anything new. They are throwing socks on the walls hoping some will stick.

    Anyway, that is why we are having all of these pseudo-Marxists pop out with their solutions. Somehow, they have the answers to make things right again. Problem is that Marxism is based on capitalism. If capitalism doesn’t work, neither will Marxism. Consider one Rhyd Widmuth who declaimed fascists Pagans and decided that Marxism was the future. His whole website etc enterprise etc is firmly entrenched in capitalism. Without it, he and his buddies are out on the street.

    One place people might want to check is “The Keiser Report” on RT. If you can sit through Max Keiser rambling on about the glories of bitcoin, you can gleam gems of the coming collapse and new future. It is video based.
    https://www.rt.com/shows/keiser-report/

  265. @ Mark, JMG re: the Portland courthouse…

    It’s one of those horrible faceless modern concrete eyesores. Part of me wishes the feds would go ahead and abandon it, let the rioters trash it, and then insist that it be replaced with a regionally, historically, climatically, and aesthetically harmonious building, as per a recent Trump executive order…

  266. Ponderings.
    I noticed that the AWFLs and those folks are melting down over the mask wearing of others. That in itself is unremarkable since they melt down at regular intervals. What I gleamed from my Facebook checking (I do FB to spread squirrel love through squirrel pictures.) is that they are expecting others to take care of them.

    Their thinking: We don’t wear masks for ourselves, we wear them for others. Therefore, they (the others) must wear their masks for us. They must protect us. I think that this exchange is a form of virtue signaling. It is also a form of learned helplessness. (and a source of TDS and Magic Resistance).

    Before the virus, I had problems going into stores. My brain injury was caused by a big box store which had an improperly constructed wall. Wall fell on me….. and well PTSD of falling walls came with the injury. So I had to learn how to shop again and just live with the fact that buildings i.e. walls exist. Long story short, I learned to cope and care for myself, not expecting help. Welcoming it but not expecting. After the virus, I go in with my mask and my stuffed ladybug support animal. I do fine.

    These folks expect others to clear the way for them and to carry them forward. They will not last in the Long Descent.

  267. I find it highly amusing that so many expect an uprising against a Biden presidency when it’s only been the left that has shown the proclivity for violent fits.

    The right’s “demonstrations” have had all the tension & drama of a large family picnic. Unlike the left’s destructive tantrums, the right don’t damage anything and clean up after themselves such that you couldn’t even tell they were there.

    It’s not hard to identify the spoiled children in politics.

    Everyone read that now Seattle wants to join Minneapolis in replacing their PD?

    JMG, I’d be interested in the platform development towards a third party. The RNC & DNC are lost causes.

  268. Trump may be Julius. But I have a hard time imagining Ivanka as Augustus. She doesn’t seem to give an impression of being a Strategic or Political genius.

    Augustus was a Political Genius and knew how to play the power game.

    He humored the Republic by keeping its form but turning it functionally into a Kingdom. And the Senate into a Rubberstamp committee.

    I’d imagine Donald Trump Junior or Eric Trump are more likely candidates.

    But I’d imagine Barron Trump may be the most likely. Or an adopted adult son who he recognizes talent in.

    Similar to how the best Roman Emperors were all adopted Adult Men.

  269. @ Clay dennis et al on the Wedding-Industrial Complex:

    It can’t end too soon! We did ours for about $900 total, and it was lovely. The only reason it even cost that much is because we needed to rent a hall to accommodate a wheelchair-bound relative. I sewed my own dress, my husband borrowed a suit, my in-laws cooked a bunch of food, and a plant-nursery-owning relative loaned us a bunch of potted flowers. My sweet uncle took photos. A good time was had by all, and we are still married, so it must have worked 😉

  270. @ Varun: Thank you for the update on Tulsi Gabbard. I ran as Tulsi delegate to the DNC, and so I knew most of your information. I garnered a massive 50 votes here in Rhode Island! I was sad when she endorsed Biden: I would have preferred she wait until he was the official candidate.

    I suspect she will have a major part to play in future politics: in person she quite charismatic, and an honorable person who is unafraid to repeat a fact is a rarity in our politics today. I suspect her destiny may be as the first Prime Minister of the Second Kingdom of Hawaii, to our loss.

  271. There’s been some talk about the population curve. One of the curves that is often left off of reproductions of the Limits to Growth chart is Death. From around 2030 onward, death spikes. Unfortunately, I think a large amount of that will come as a result of a dieoff of medically fragile individuals, diabetics, asthmatics, epileptics, anybody who relies on things like special foods, air conditioning and filtration, or inexpensive/subsidized and reliable provision of pharmaceuticals and medical care.
    Just remember that, those of you who seem to long for the day that life stops being so modern and industrialized.

  272. @ Varun

    In regards to the working class left. I think you have mentioned that you live in Wisconsin. I live in Minnesota and we too have a working class left here. This week when I was eating out at the patio of a local bar I listened to several younger working class folks discuss how they really don’t want to vote for Trump but they might because Biden is hard to like.

    As for articles look up Collin Woodward. He wrote a book called American Nations. It talks about American’s regional cultures. He has several articles talking about these things and he talks about the working class left in them. The best articles seem to have been moved behind a paywall.

    Good luck

  273. Dave said: “We’re living in a collective psychosis.”

    I think you’ve got it. I was trying to figure out for a while WHY is this covid made into such a giant deal. Yes there are some people that might gain for it (Gates and his pharma) and there are some people that use it as a coverup for economic troubles but that does not seem enough. Remember that the powers that be could not accept any reduction in economic growth despite the obvious limits that we already hit and the worse ones ahead.

    So one possible explanation is just mass hysteria. During the witch hunts in the middle ages there were some German towns where 40% of women were killed. It’s hard to explain that as a power struggle or status signaling or even overpopulation.

    I see some supporting evidence for this – the fact that most of our economic arrangements are already insane (from the stock markets to the car culture) and the cultural discourse is so divorced from reality that the panicdemic is just one more step into .

    If that is the case, it is possible that this hysteria will increase. I don’t have enough imagination to guess what could be next so if anybody here has any visions of the future please share!

  274. A new and rather alarming sign of the times …

    I live in Providence, the capital city of the state of Rhode Island. The day before yesterday I went to Walgreens to buy a very modest amount of some urgently needed supplies that happened not to be available that day at stores we prefer to patronize.

    At the checkout counter the man (who seemed to be the manager) asked me–before he rang my purchase up!–whether I could to pay for my purchase with a credit card, and he explained that they didn’t have enough cash in the store to make change for any cash purchases.

    Another clerk nearby asked him whether they were entirely out of cash now, and he told her (in my hearing) that he had one single roll of quarters left, and he was hanging on to that … just in case things got worse in the next few days!!!

    I had not expected to see such a thing anywhere for a few years yet, and certainly not in a major chain store like Walgreens. (Such chain stores get their supplies of cash from local banks, and generally the chain’s credit is good with whatever local bank supplies their cash. This almost certainly means that the bank itself could no longer manage to stock sufficient cash for all its clients’ needs.)

    Whether this lack of cash on hand is a temporary thing, or whether it will be the new normal in retail commerce here, I can’t tell yet. I’m planning to go back to that Walgreens in a week or two and test whether I can make a cash purchase then.

    If not, then that will be a very very bad sign of the times indeed! And it will be a sign that I had not expected to see for several years yet.

  275. @Andy Dwelly:

    Thanks for your detailed description of population decline. I completely agree that radical population decline is possible and even probable over one to two centuries. In fact, the Balkan peninsula from about 550-700 AD is an even more extreme example than Britain! I should have it made it clearer that I was talking about the next few decades. All regions in the world will evenutally see their populations decline, and in Europe this has already started, but in the next few decades I can’t believe Africa’s population will already stop growing. If the security and industrial infrastructure in Britain (or Germany, or others) doesn’t completely break down over the next few decades (and I don’t think it will, though it will change), population flow will be hard to avoid. I suggest to channel it.

  276. I have been thinking a lot about the Long Descent and trying to cobble together some sort of mental map of how it will play out in Russia, where I live. I have booked a week of vacation later this month and am planning on embarking on what to many in my social circle is a bizarre trip. I plan to travel through the Urals province of Chelyabinsk Oblast. Any Russian readers among us will understand.

    The hardscrabble industrial belt of the Urals is dotted with grim, ghostly industrial cities. Identical rows of forlorn block apartment buildings lie prone under the billowing smokestacks of giant factories. In some places remnants of a sort of dilapidated elegance linger on in sensitive details of craftsmanship such as ornate stucco work on older buildings, meticulously fashioned wrought iron railing or charming old wooden houses. But this is often juxtaposed with eyesores of outright decay and degradation and the cheap, tacky commercialism that sprouted in the initial post-Communist years. Many are one-industry towns in which the factory plays an outsized role in city life, providing most of the employment and dominating local politics. The factory giveth and the factory taketh.

    These cities are throwbacks to a bygone era. They are surviving links to the earlier phases of the Industrial Revolution. In America, formerly gritty industrial cities have long since abandoned their roots and have thrown their lot with nebulous industries of dubious local utility such as consulting or banking or the pharmaceutical industry. I suspect most are basically sustained by consumerism and public administration. This transition, which as far as I can tell has been universally applauded as a sign of progress, does mean less pollution and more vegan cafes and modern-art galleries, which are often housed snugly (or smugly?) in the very same facilities in which steel was once smelted. But something has clearly been lost, and it is more than just jobs and output. I think these cities no longer know why they exist. A deeper sense of purpose is lost.

    Yet, lest anyone think I am romanticizing Russia’s gritty factory towns, these polluted, largely culture-deprived cities aren’t places most people want to live. Ambitious and educated young people flee at the first chance and don’t come back. Opportunities beyond factory work are few, and the factories don’t pay well anyway and are deleterious to one’s health. Modernization of facilities has been slow to reach many of these cities, while lax or poorly enforced regulations have meant huge environmental problems. (Try Googling the town of Karabash, for example.)

    And yet for some reason that I can’t quite identify I feel pulled toward the Urals. I have a fondness for old-fashioned heavy industry. There’s something earthy and vital in it, and I think old factories have a certain strange beauty. I can easily accommodate them in my conception of the overall landscape, where human endeavor and the natural world intersect and must exist in harmony (I can’t accommodate strip malls and suburbs). But there’s more than aesthetics at play. I work in investment banking in Moscow, which means I am basically a part of that bloated, overpaid administrative class, which in Russia has congregated almost exclusively in Moscow. We are heavily Europeanized: we consume a lot; we don’t drink vodka (we prefer single-malt Scotch); we have developed a taste for gourmet coffee and artisanal cocktails; we almost always vacation in Europe rather than here. I am becoming increasingly aware of both the unsustainability of this city and the superfluousness of most of the work carried out by its office-inhabiting denizens (like me). I want to return to something tangible and earthy.

    I can state unequivocally that nobody here is thinking about the Long Descent. We have just emerged from our own long descent — the one that began rather abruptly in 1917 and finally ended sometime in the early 2000s. And yet surely Russia is subject to the greater forces of contraction that were laid out in this post. Surely this process will run its course here too.

    So in this context, I wonder whether places like Chelyabinsk Oblast could be the key to the future, as implausible as that may sound now? Can these cities be revitalized? Will their still-functioning factories — almost seen as a curse now — be a blessing later? Or will the looming contraction be the final nail in the coffin? The pollution can be dealt with; the scarred land can heal. Will steel mills and iron foundries contribute to an economy on a smaller scale? When will the inevitable flight from the overpopulated, underproductive Moscow begin and will energetic, creative people return to the myriad decaying cities of Russia’s hinterlands? These are all things I wonder.

    Russia has always been a hugely centralized country, although the Soviets made some inroads against that. But it is back with a vengeance now, as it seems the whole country is converging on Moscow. People here seem content to let these towns die. Just the other day I was discussing Chelyabinsk Oblast with a colleague who hails (escaped) from a small town there. He told me that it was littered with dying industrial towns that the modern world is rapidly leaving behind. And he added: “thank God they’re dying.”

  277. Regarding the coin shortage that Robert Mathiesen wrote about:

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-08-01/coin-shortage-u-s-laundromats-are-running-out-of-quarters

    CNN and Fox also have articles about it. Apparently what is happening is that, because of Covid-19, people are not going to the bank to deposit their spare coins, nor using the machines that take coins and give you back bills. Some banks will now PAY you extra for coins. The Mint is upping its coin production, and the government is raiding its coin stockpile to get the coins to banks.

    I think the problem will have no impact on the dollar’s status as reserve currency — unless what is really happening is Gresham’s Law at work, i.e. bad money replaces good money in circulation due to hiording of the latter.

    So are people horading coins becase of a loss of faith in paper money?

  278. @kwo

    Welcome to homeschooling! I will bite my tongue so as not to overload you with advice you haven’t asked for, but… there are several homeschoolers here in the combox, most of them considerably more seasoned than I, so if you want resources, advice, or sympathy, just ask!

    My one exception: I encourage you to check out HSLDA (the homeschool legal defense association). FYI they’re not just for religious homeschoolers: they defend all homeschoolers. A small annual membership fee gets you an on-call lawyer in case your school board gives you a hard time or a truancy officer shows up at your door, and you need advice. Normally, this is not a big deal for 99% of homeschoolers, but… this year is weird. We’re all homeschoolers now. Money talks, it’s going to hit school budgets like a wrecking ball, and I expect at least a few districts will react in unscrupulous ways to try to get kids back into the roll-call to preserve their funding.

    I hope I’m wrong about that. I could be wrong. But I want to put that idea out there in case it helps. Be prepared: at the very least, make sure you know what the homeschooling laws are in your state.

  279. Patricia Matthews: Portland may be far from the southern border, but it’s not all that far away from the northern one. If news reports are to be believed, people started sneaking in through Canada (not Canadians, aliens from other countries) so it makes sense that border patrol agents are hanging around.

    onething: It’s mission creep. Remember when it was ’14 days to flatten the curve’ back in March or so? Good times. Even though our state’s virus rate is pretty close to 0, our governor, in consultation with his health experts – or so he says – has instituted a mask requirement starting today, August 1. Does it make sense? Not to me. Will it help bring down an already-low rate? How will we tell, given that there’s only a handful of sick people in the whole state to begin with.

    If, however, the goal is to keep people frightened and obedient, all this seems to be working beautifully.

    Galen Diettinger: While they’re letting real criminals out of jail to protect them from the virus, they’re busy arresting ordinary non-criminals for insufficient quarantining. Or fining them: I read that somewhere (Florida, maybe?) there is a $100 fine for not wearing proper face gear in public.

    Teresa from Hershey: My husband bought a small pick-up truck in 1989 or so to drive to work (construction; lots of driving involved). When that little GM had almost 300,000 miles on it he replaced the engine – rigged up his own hoist in our driveway. Drove it another 100,000 miles and then decided to replace the truck so he sold it to some neighbors of ours, a father and two sons who could, I swear, build a vehicle from scratch from a couple of tires and some angle iron, and they drove it back and forth to work another couple of years until they moved and we lost track of our truck. By that time it was the early 2000’s. I like to think that the Grey Dumpster (so named because of my husband’s habit of driving around with all kinds of stuff? junk? in the truck) is still out there somewhere.

  280. From WIlliam Wenrich on the Bujold fandom list,

    “I’ve been trying to abstain from OT posts but I think this is too funny to pass up.

    “Give us three words to describe 2020.”

    “Control-Alt-Delete”

  281. Sandy, thanks for this.

    Scotlyn, of course. That was what differentiated successful kings and barons from failures — the readiness to stockpile grain so that the people could be fed when the harvest was bad.

    Hugh, would you care to document some of those depredations? What I’ve seen has been no different from what happened in the Obama years — it’s like the whole “children in cages” business, which was going on through all eight years of Obama’s presidency, but the left didn’t show the least bit of outrage as long as it was their guy in the White House.

    Chris, excellent. That was of course one of the points of the spell.

    David BTL, exactly. I’ll take clumsy muddling that moves awkwardly in the right direction over crisp, clear, rational planning that presupposes a future that was never possible in the first place.

    Patricia M, I think we’re well past SNAFU territory, and possibly even past FUBAR!

    Rrodina, of course they’re not going without a fight. The question is whether they can win.

    Ben, I think we may be approaching a point I didn’t expect to see in my lifetime — the point at which the status quo is rejected by everyone but the elites that benefit from it. I was assuming, as per Retrotopia, that the uniparty (the Dem-Reps in the novel) would end up as one party and the populists on the other, but you’re right that insurgents are gaining ground in both parties.

    Collapse-a-tron, the difficulty is that there are only so many basic physical forces in the universe, and none of them provide the kind of containment and compression on the kind of scale that would be needed for commercial fusion power. That’s one of the hidden downsides of scientific discovery: a growing number of scientific laws end up saying, in effect, “You can’t do that.” Only the delusion that progress is inevitable keeps nations pouring billions of dollars down the rathole of fusion when there’s every reason to think it’s exactly as possible as perpetual motion.

    Patricia M, and he thinks his side is going to win, too.

    Varun, thank you. I’ll look forward to what you find — and yes, I could see Gabbard spending her time in the forest like the Pandavas!

    Methylethyl, so noted!

    TJ, the left throws tantrums. If the right ever rises up, it’s going to be a bloodbath, not a tantrum. As for the third party issue, thank you — there’s been enough interest at this point that I’ll be doing a post down the road a bit, probably on Dreamwidth, to get a conversation started.

    Info, a real possibility.

    DT, it’s already happening to some extent — see the way that the death toll from the coronavirus is concentrated among the medically vulnerable. Yes, there will a lot more of that.

    Ian, go ye forth and do that thing! Genre fiction is a great way to get ideas into circulation.

    Robert, yep. The coin shortage nationwide seems to be easing, but it was pretty tight there.

    A Reader, nope!

    Cloven Kingdom, my sense for a long time is that the Volga basin is where the future Russian high culture will emerge, and when it spreads across the Urals to the Ob-Irtysh basin — which will be much more hospitable in a future of global warming — it’s game on for that high culture’s rise to power. That’s a couple of centuries away, though. In the meantime, if your intuition tells you that the factory cities of the Urals are the place to be, listen to that. There may be any number of possibilities that you can’t gauge until you go there.

  282. @ Clay Dennis, methylethyl, et al.

    Re the industrial wedding complex

    It was neither of our first times, but not quite eleven years ago my wife and I had a fifteen-minute civil ceremony in the courtyard of a local art museum with my wife’s (adult) daughter and a friend attending as witnesses. It was done on a Thursday lunch-hour (chosen b/c it was the two month anniversary of our first date…yes, I know) and it’s still the only time I’ve worn a tie to work 😉 Not for everyone, but it worked for us and was quite affordable.

  283. @NomadicBeer: I don’t mean to sidetrack the discussion, but do you know a reference for 40% of women being killed as witches, anywhere, at any time? Your mentioning “the middle ages” in this context rang an alarm bell for me, since witch-trials were almost unknown from Christianization until 1486, as far as I know.

  284. It may have just been a shortage of coins, but the man at the Walgreens cash register did speak of a shortage of “cash,” not simply one of “coins.” Of course, he may just have been speaking loosely, since he did go on to say that he had only one last roll of quarters left.

  285. I know that in some ways environmental policy can be indistinguishable between the two parties, but one area I see in which the Trump administration has been significantly worse than the previous administration is public land policy.

    BHA–Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (a grassroots, non-partisan conservation group that consists of about 33% Republicans, 33% Democrats, and 33% independents)–has fought back hard against some of this administration’s policies and worked to keep public land access available.

    https://www.backcountryhunters.org/new_blm_leader_is_advocate_for_sale_of_public_lands

    https://www.backcountryhunters.org/yearinreview19

    https://www.outsideonline.com/2277446/public-lands-war-timeline

    Jacques

  286. @ Ian and genre fiction and druids and romance.

    Go for it. The miracle of indie publishing means you can publish stories traditional publishing would never even let be tossed over the transoms.

    I’ve mentioned here previously that my husband and I self-publish in a variety of areas. Our publications range from specialized to extremely niche. If you don’t expect to get rich from your writing, it’s fun! And yes, there are people who do generate six-figure incomes from self-publishing.

    We do not.

    We had hoped to break into five figures this year because of all the events on our calendar but then the quarantines struck and all our events got canceled, along with all the events that would have popped up along the way.

    The key to doing well is writing a darn good story, minimizing your costs (i.e. don’t spend $5000 on a book midwife), and being lucky. Then write a bunch more darn good stories. Series sell. Good covers help immensely.

    My husband is a member of the Facebook group 20booksto50K. They are a fountain of information about marketing. Whatever you do, however, do NOT join the group and say ‘buy my book’. You’ll be banned immediately.

    So go for it! You could start an entire, new category in genre. That’s what I’m doing as Odessa Moon. You can too.

  287. From the abstract of a paper that looked at wedding spending (https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2501480):

    “In this paper, we evaluate the association between wedding spending and marriage duration using data from a survey of over 3,000 ever-married persons in the United States. Controlling for a number of demographic and relationship characteristics, we find evidence that marriage duration is inversely associated with spending on the engagement ring and wedding ceremony.”

    So, yeah, let the industry fail.

  288. Well, JMG, I always knew government was “Mickey Mouse” (both parties!), but I didn’t know your state government would admit to it!

    Rhode Island mistakenly issued tax refund checks signed by Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse
    https://people.com/human-interest/rhode-island-issues-refund-checks-signed-walt-disney-mickey-mouse/

    I have been thinking of paying off my house, and now after reading some of the comments, I definitely will. I’m on the downside of the mortgage, but I do have enough saved up I can pay it off. No one knows what the future holds, and as someone said it’s easier to come up with money for taxes than a monthly mortgage payment. Negative interests rates? I think I already have that: I get very little on my savings account and nothing on my checking, but I have to pay a monthly fee. And I’m a member of a local credit union, not a big interstate bank!

    Oh, and regarding driving older cars, I drive a 2003 Toyota that I bought used. It’s the best car I’ve ever had; the others started having expensive problems after 100,000 miles. On this one, the cruise control decided to quit, and the air conditioning died a couple years ago, but the engine’s still chugging along good, so I’m satisfied. When the day comes to replace it (I need it to drive to work, I’m night shift and no buses run then) I’ll try to get another Toyota.

    Joy Marie

  289. Okay – ClusterF territory?

    “And what’s worse than that, Aunt?”
    “Dead and defeated, boy.”

    (From S.M.Stirling’s Tears of the Sun. The aunt being a hardened old warrior just in from a nasty fighting retreat.)

  290. @Matthias – a good many people think the 17th Century was Medieval – some even think the 18th century deserved that name! Shakes head.

    There are some pretty good reference books out there who give the exact figured from parish records and the like, and while there may have been some truly troubled villages where the witch hunts got severely out of control like that – or places where someone had a vested interested in laying the accusations in order to get their property – the accepted figure for all of Europe up until the second half of the 18th century was something like 60,000 people burned as witches, all told.

    Oh, and to kill another legend, they did not go after the village herbwives or midwives or folk healers; those were valuable and respected members of the community. They went after the unpopular, mostly. Of course, where factions were rife, the cross-accusations could be deadly. And where law and order had broken down completely, as, say, during the 30 Years War that tore Germany apart in the 17th century, there was a big upswing in such incidents. Oh, and in England under that fanatic Matthew Hale, though in England, they were hanged, not burned.

    Actual Medieval law put harm-by-magic on a par with harm-by-physical-means. Early period law borrowed from Roman law on that.

  291. JMG –

    How viable do you think the Hudson Bay littoral would be as the center of a major tamanous American civilization in a globally-warmed environment?

  292. I know this is off topic, but I just read some of the last Magic Monday, and I’m going to ask that the karma clear ritual be added to the list of things which are too dangerous to provide much information about. I’m particularly going to ask that you never reveal how to do it.

    A few years ago I came very close to committing suicide, and part of what held me back was a strong belief in karma, and the firm knowledge that I’d have to deal with the consequences of making such a shortsighted decision.

    I am 100% convinced that had I found the karma dump working then, I would have cast it, and destroyed my life. This kind of working is dangerous, especially because for a certain kind of person, it is a “constructive” alternative to suicide: sure, I’ll ruin my life, I’ll lose everything I care about, and suffer greatly; but I deserve it, it’s not like I have anything left to live for anyway, and I’ll get a better future life out of the deal.

    I think the morbid curiosity about the ritual probably means several readers of yours are in a similar headspace to the one I was in, and are seriously considering using some such working as a way of committing suicide.

  293. PatriciaOrmsby,

    Interesting to hear about the old Soviet research! If 70% of people were being affected in the Soviet days, I imagine it must be really high now. I wonder if this is part of why so many people end up feeling a lot better when they go camping. It’s also interesting to hear that different people find different things problematic, but it makes sense given the general variability of human beings!

  294. Well, thanks JMG – (to any and all)

    I didn’t know if you would go with Hubberts Curve or Club o’ Rome, but the result is the same. I have found it interesting in talking with a few of the old TOD writers that they prefer to move the Peak production date to include shale oil rather than place it on the backside as a part of the “bumpy descent”. I place it squarely as part of the “bumpy descent”, from plateau to plateau, as we decrease production due to less affordable costs. I do this as it was only enabled by ‘funny munny’ from sucker investors chasing profits who knew zero about drilling and reserves.

    I agree that early 1970’s is where the immediate future will be set. The likely driver will be the whipsaw spike in oil prices due to several years of near zero exploration drilling. It doesn’t really matter much if the world GDP drops – the baseline usage for energy is still very high regardless of GDP. I might sugget that when countries like Belize and Bahamas start having power generation issues we will be in the heart of it. This will also hammer any nascent “economic recovery” right back into the prevailing downward slope.

    I would suggest to readers to look at about 1930ish as the next plateau down – where owning a car was a privilege, people still used draft animals on the farms along with the tractors and public transport was something people appreciated and wanted.

    Water is coming to the fore with the Grand Renaissance Dam being front and center. I am grateful to Trump for ending the EPA policy of “all your waters belong to us”; this was heading to a flashpoint with rural Americans. I am also hoping that what happened in Oklahoma wrt Indian Lands is a harbinger of the Feds realizing they need to shed the BLM by shedding ownership of such massive tracts of land.

    I agree with you regarding what Trump has managed to get done even in the headwinds of current political storms – hoping he gets another four years where he isn’t worried about repercussion at election time. This country has needed regulatory and administrative downsizing for generations. Cutting payroll taxes is a great idea. One hopes dumping income tax or severe reform isn’t off the table as we contract.

    And thanks for the ITER/fusion debunk – maybe we need to dive into physics some in future? Many still think the old physics is all there is…

    I’m in my 60’s, so my outlook is shorter term than many here. But were I younger, I would be all over learning various trades and doing lots of favors for my neighbors. Those friendly networks will be ever more important in the future. Any skill that involves “coding” is a casino bet when compared to being able to plumb or frame houses or weld. Beekeeping is one of those things that I have latched on to in my dotage (incipient), as it involves far less walking.

    I really just wanted to see if your views echoed mine, and they do so reasonably well. I think Gen. Mike Flynn is right – surfing is a great metaphor for life. I’m just trying to ride the waves as I see them forming up along the shore of the present(s?).

  295. @David re: weddings: I was very much in favor of a similarly no-fuss arrangement, but… there were some religious obligations that could not be avoided. For anyone not burdened by such things, I wholeheartedly endorse the public-notary-and-two-witnesses route! I’m not a party person, and would just as soon have skipped the reception. But I know people who love to have a get-together, and still managed to go minimal: they got married at the courthouse, and then announced “Hey everybody, we got married! BBQ Friday at the in-laws’ house!” and that worked out great.

  296. @Sandy Fontwith thank you for that anecdote, I had avoided looking into the evacuated tube hot water heater because that seemed like increasing complexity past the self fix (husband fix…) reason, but now I’ll look into it.

    @methylethyl yes, I think not being afraid to be “that parent” is the crux of it – I have an inherited over reactive fear of social services taking my kids away, but I’m well past the socio-economic strata they could get away with it now. They could try, but hell hath no fury like the overeducated nouveau professional class white lady, so it might as well be put to good use for once 😉. Absent their actual physical ability to hurt my family, I think it was Patricia Mathews who quoted ‘never to accept judgment from people you wouldn’t ask for advice’, and that seems most apt.

    @JMG I have noticed that the mask debate looks exactly like the urban bike helmet safety debate. I am thinking of pointing this out on the public channels I have access to to snap the left (who dominate here) out of it, because it is a very clear example of how they have perfectly switched roles. Assuming I know and am willing to accept any blowback that entails… Do you think it is useful, or would entrench the argument further? The crux of it goes: urban active transportation advocates have long pointed out with actual data that the only thing that truly makes cycling as basic transport safe and attractive to the “hesitant but interested middle 60%” and increases cycling use is to build separated bike lanes or other separated infrastructure. But the bike haters enter a frothing rage about the incursion into their car space, and they inevitably insist on waging punitive ticketing campaigns to enforce helmet laws out of (feigned) concern for cyclist safety. Helmets of course have utility, in single bike accidents, when the force applied is from hitting black ice and supermanning over the handlebars. They do squat against a car strike, and have been proven to actually make car strike (and cyclist death) significantly more likely by giving the drivers and cyclists false confidence about the safety measures taken. The parallel is exact to covid masks, which is why the Canadian health authorities at federal and provincial levels (notably, not the city politicians) refused repeatedly and strenuously to endorse masking unless no other measures in a crowded indoor space with high potential viral load was possible. In my area, the cycling debate has remained high pitch (the mayor has now been forced off Twitter and Facebook due to the vitriolic death threats bout bike lanes), so it seems a perfect opportunity… Or would it set up too strong of a psychological pushback?

  297. As for “Settle for Biden”? I think it’s for real. This Baltimore Sun commentary from July 13 says it’s been floating around on social media.

    “This year’s vote for president is a choice between the lesser of two evils: Joe Biden and his past or Donald Trump and his present… It’s an uncomfortable choice, but Joe Biden is the right one. He can help steer us away from Trump’s America.”

    https://tinyurl.com/y5a99ho6

    So the choice for Progressives is: settle for Biden, stay home, vote third party, or throw your vote to Trump as a protest for what the Dems did to Bernie.

    Actually, if you really think this country is foul and evil, from its start unto the present day, and you wanted people to turn to revolution, wouldn’t you vote for the worst candidate there is because that would just run everything downhill faster? If you really think Trump is the devil incarnate, isn’t that who you should go for, so the people will (you hope) rise up? Drive the system into the ground under its own incompetency? Or…do they think that will happen under Biden, because he won’t crack down on them? I’m so sick of the whole mess, I can’t wait for Nov. 3 to be over with!

    Joy Marie

  298. Varun,

    She made two promises during her campaign that bound her to her fate, and like a good solider she made good on those promises. The first was that she would not launch a third party campaign, and the second was that she would support whichever candidate that won the primaries.

    Well there’s her mistake. I can’t quite fathom this weird loyalty to a disintegrating party that is increasingly showing itself to be unfit to govern. You indicate she has character and decency. What then is she doing hanging onto the democratic party?

  299. methyl

    What if there are a whole lot more of us out here than we think, and it just feels like we’re weirdos because of the unspoken rules about who can be seen in the news?

    And/or, as Q says, the mainstream media is the enemy of the people.

  300. Robert Matthiesen,

    I am not sure why you had expected problems with cash in the future, but I suspect that the current shortage of change is yet another ploy in the globalist agenda for power. Certainly there have been for some time urgings toward a cashless society and now covid has given some stores, like one of our local grocery chains, the excuse to refuse to take cash.

  301. Jacques, thanks for this.

    Temporaryreality, that makes perfect sense to me!

    Joy Marie, that sounds like Rhode Island. 😉

    Patricia M, getting on for that.

    Brendhelm, Hudson Bay won’t be there indefinitely — the land is rising there at a rate of half an inch a year. My guess would be the greater Mackenzie River basin instead; a few more degrees of global warming and that’s going to be a major agricultural region.

    Kevin, duly noted.

    Oilman2, that seems quite plausible, though it’ll be a different “early 70s” and a different “1930,” as we lack resources that were still abundant in both those periods.

    Pixelated, I’d say give it a try. It may not influence the true believers, but it will certainly help the undecided see just who’s lost their minds.

    Joy Marie, oh man. I could see the pro-Trump basement brigade going to town on that one:

    AMERICA IS EVIL
    HELP DESTROY IT
    VOTE FOR TRUMP

  302. @onething:

    You asked why I expect cash to become problematic in the future. The short answer it that I expect a nation-wide, near-total loss of confidence by the citizenry in the ability of our Federal Government to so much as govern its way out of the proverbial paper bag.

    When confidence in a nation’s governing institutions goes that far down the tubes, its legal tender becomes highly problematic and people slowly stop accepting it for goods and services. Then that legal tender begins to fall out of circulation, to slowly vanish from the big stores. The big stores are tightly tied to the official economy, more tightly than really small businesses are. The latter can switch to under-the-table transactions and to barter much more readily than the huge chains can.

    That’s the simple form of what I had in mind.

  303. Oilman2:

    As the great surfing shaman Don Redondo teaches, “Life is a wave, your attitude is your surfboard. Stay stoked and aim for the light.”

  304. @Kevin Taylor Burgess,
    Camping is one of the best things a person could do at this time, I think. I see so much anger on line these days, with people clearly trying to make a valid point but instead name-calling and blustering away ineffectually. I’ve been tempted to ask them if they’ve managed to get out to nature recently and if not, to do so ASAP to clear their thoughts.
    Depression is another major sign of radiowave toxicity, so getting out to nature would be recommendable for that too. After the first wave of COVID had passed and the parking lot to the local waterfall was reopened, I noticed people camping there. I think the minus ions in that environment are well recognized, and a lot of people realized their home environment was not very good after getting stuck there. I don’t even think you have to mention the EMR thing, most people instinctively recognize the environment in a forest as being much healthier and an important break from city life.

  305. @Pixelated:
    I’d be very happy to get in touch with you via e-mail for a more detailed discussion of solar hot water systems. I worked with a professional solar installer for a year here in New Zealand.

    My local climate is mostly frost free, and that makes solar hot water systems much less complex than in climates with heavy frost where you have to design the system to avoid freezing water which can damage the collector. Of course in those climates you also have the limitation of long winters with low sun angles that make solar hot water systems mostly uneconomic (especially if you have to pay a professional to provide the system).

    So the first stage is to carefully evaluate your climate, possible position of the collector for maximum sun, shade from trees, etc. There are on-line free tools to help you do this. If that is looking good, then you can move on to system design.
    IMHO, tube type collectors are the way to go; more efficient than flat plate types. Old style non-pumped systems with heavy tanks on the roof are very simple, but inefficient and slow to heat the water. Plus the roof structure may need to be beefed up to support the extra weight.

    Cheers,
    sandyfontwit(AT)slingshot.co.nz

  306. Dear JMG,
    I’m, as always, thankful for this space you’ve created and which I’ve been visiting for the last 13 years.
    Since I haven’t lived in the USA for over 30 years and renounced my USA citizenship some time ago, your years of USA-centric political posts were of generally less interest to me (no “skin in that game”) than your prior posts, but I also understand why you got diverted, and of course political developments in the USA are part of wider global changes which you always linked to, and which are of interest to me out here in small-time player on the world stage New Zealand.
    Keep on following your own interests, and good luck on forming a 3rd party!

    With much respect,
    Sandy Fontwit

  307. @JMG

    “That was what differentiated successful kings and barons from failures — the readiness to stockpile grain so that the people could be fed when the harvest was bad. ”

    The advantage we have is Potatoes. Since not only are they more nutritious but they produce far more food per acre. Also as long as there is a diversity of Potato types. Disease like the Potato blight in Ireland could be countered.

    So if they can be dried to become Chuno:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chu%C3%B1o

    They can last quite a while. And support a higher population long-term than the days when Grain was one of the only staple foods in our World outside of South America.

  308. @Cloven Kingdom,
    Such beautiful writing, and it’s summer! I always figured the literary genius of so many Russians was a result of the long winter with time to think, read, talk it over with trusted friends, and compose. I have friends on Baikal, and have visited in all seasons, including the microsecond between spring and fall some time in July when you are distracted by mosquitoes. It impressed me that one fellow, an ex-military officer, looking forward to meeting me taught himself English in a few months one winter, and was fluent by the time I got there.
    Regarding your question about how long it might be until the average Muscovite makes the “U-turn” as it is known in Japan, first, I am really really glad Russia could have these years and the fine life and vacations abroad, just as I look back on my time in Tokyo and the high technological and cultural life there with gratitude for the experience. Second, I was at the stage where you are right now twenty years ago when we moved out to a rural area and started learning to farm, because we saw collapse as only a matter of time and wanted to get a head start on it. A trickle of people joined us. Most have found it economically very hard. Since I could telecommute, we managed the transition successfully. Our Russian friends all thought we were crazy (and the FSB couldn’t imagine what I saw in Transbaikalia–lessons on self-sufficiency, down-to-earth practicality and how to face collapse). Given that the current international situation does not bode well anywhere, you might see others waking up much sooner than in 20 years. Other reasons we went early were that our health was suffering in Tokyo, and with my husband having lost his job to computerization, we had to cut back on expenses. Those considerations may also give you neighbors sooner than later. This year, COVID has started fueling a real move away from the cities here..
    Today I became aware once again what a gem I got in my husband. He’s teaching the local auto mechanic a lesson we learned in Siberia, which is if your car has trouble and the parts aren’t available, you grab a spare piece of metal and hammer it into the shape you need, and fix it on with wire or something. The mechanic, one of the most honest and decent people in our town, is really grateful for the knowledge. Japan isn’t quite at the point yet where improvisation is the best choice (beware the bureaucracy), but this fellow sees such a future in the cards.

  309. Maybe this simply covers old territory you’ve gone over before, but the idea that progress is inevitable is like the quest for eternal youth – or if an analogy for the rise and fall of civilizations is a human life cycle, and if we’re in the midpoint of our civilization, then perhaps our civilization is having its midlife crisis. Maybe the ITER reactor is the shiny red sports car that makes its ageing driver look so awkward.

    I know Spengler uses the metaphor of seasonal cycles for the lifecycle of civilizations, and it may be a useful reminder in light of your post to look for those activities that are most useful in late summer and early autumn as a guide for how to proceed, metaphorically speaking.

  310. @JMG

    1. I got this from an ecological engineering textbook:

    “The smallest size ecological engineering application may be in nanotechnology, which has been called the last frontier of miniaturization. Nanotechnology is molecular engineering or “the art and science of building complex, practical devices with atomic precision” (Crandall, 1999). It involves working at the scale of billionths of a meter with microscopic probes. This field was first articulated by physicist Richard Feynman in 1959 and has been championed by futurist Eric Drexler (1986, 1990). While nanotechnology is very early in its development (Stix, 1996), small-scale engineering applications are arising (for examples, see Caruso et al., 1998; Singhvi et al., 1994). There are probably many possible uses of nanotechnology in ecological engineering, such as the construction of molecular machines that cleanse polluted sediments or regulate biofilms, but this kind of design must wait for future developments in the field. Several speculative environmental applications are listed by
    Chesley (1999) and Lampton (1993). To be truly ecological, these applications need to affect interactions between species or biogeochemical pathways. A molecular machine, for example, that improves phosphorus sequestering in a treatment wetland might significantly increase overall performance”.

    Leave aside the fact that nanotechnology can only be made using a fossil-fuel dependent technostructure, and that these ‘molecular machines’ might help sequester phosphorus, but may also have unnoticed environmental and health consequences that far outweigh their benefits, but I can’t help noticing this overwhelmingly dreamy-eyed vision of the future the author seems to have. What’s sadder is that this comes from an ecologist, who, of all people, should have been the last to succumb to the religion of Progress.

    2. A cursory search on the Internet reveals a whole lot of mathematical models predicting rising growth for an indefinite period. Some of these models include things like ‘Greenhouse gas constraints’ in order to make their models more ‘realistic’. IMO, the problem with such models is that they assume some kind of techno-fix to solve all ecological and resource-related problems (some even include such terms explicitly in the model). Maybe that’s why it is said, “the strength of a good model is mostly in its assumptions”.

  311. @teresa from hershey

    Thank you for all these tips and encouragement! It’s really quite inspiring to hear that people are self publishing successfully now. Like yourself I also find writing to be fun and enjoy it when I’m writing about something I find exciting and ‘out there’. I think getting some “darn good” original stories down on paper is my aim now and I’ll see where I can go from there!

    Sounds like your family has an interesting life writing stories by the way and that is also inspiring!

    Will be interesting to see what I add to my current piece after the Lughnasadh ceremony today. Also, will humbly check out the group you posted about once I’m confident I like what I’ve created. Good luck to you and the new genres you have created.

    Many thanks🌞

  312. @Matthias, @JMG

    The UK in the next decade? I’d guess an initial severe contraction in the economy as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown and the initial stages of Brexit. A spike in unemployment. Inflation. There’s also going to be a long expected demographic hit on the population as the Boomers pass.

    Until a few years ago in the UK there was no theoretical upper limit to the amount of state benefits that could be claimed if you were prepared to keep increasing the size of your family. This led a a very few but well publicised cases of large families doing remarkably well simply from state benefits and eventually a cap was bought in.

    Now the principle of an upper limit on your claims on the benefit system has been established it’s going to be relatively easy for a cash strapped government to ‘adjust’ this whilst offering an ever expanding array of schemes in order to appear both caring and electable.

    There’s certainly going to be an increase in demand. Until a few months ago, Retail was a significant employer albeit in severe difficulties on the high street. Now it’s on life support and unlikely to recover. Online shopping is both more efficient for consumers looking for staples and exotic items, and certainly more efficient in terms of the logistics of supply. As the business chains contract the shop floor staff will have nowhere else to go, and no very relevant skills to offer alternative employers. The lockdown has cemented the online shopping habit, there’s been a big increase.

    A harsher benefits system combined with a significant increase in joblessness does not bode well for indigenous population growth. Despite this it’s possible that the population may go on rising for a while. The reality is that the UK government has not been terribly effective in preventing undocumented immigration and until the news leaks out that life is not as good here as has been advertised I’d expect that to continue and offset the fall in the local population. So, perhaps a plateau?

    One assumption I’ve made here is that in the UK the Internet will survive in some form for quite a long while, whereas I believe our host here is expecting it to collapse soonish on the grounds that it uses absolutely ludicrous amounts of electricity. If I’ve missed some subtleties in the argument I’ve no doubt that a druidical correction of my muddy thinking will be forthcoming. I accept this argument as a matter of fact but claim the UK is an edge case. Several offshore wind farms have come online in the last few years and the UK now quite regularly sees around 25% of all its electrical power from that one source. combined with nuclear a typical day gets about 50% from non carbon sources. It was 56% this morning as a matter of fact. More such wind farms are planned and if there’s one thing the UK has a lot of, it’s coast. In short, the UK has or will soon have the means to produce the necessary electrical power. It will not be cheap of course.

    Perhaps surprisingly, the UK government now has more than the usual amount of motivation too. It’s not that Twitter and Facebook are in any sense fundamental, but if most of the population rely on online shopping for the majority of their daily needs, it becomes critical infrastructure. Also, there’s been a steady trend of any new piece of legislation that shuffles money around (to or from the state) be accompanied by a new online service. That’s pretty much the cheapest way to implement new legislation these days since you do not want to have to start hiring people to start processing forms.

    Means and motivation add up to a powerful incentive, and I think that incentive will weigh heavily in the favour of something internet like in the UK for quite a long time yet, even if it’s considerably more clunky that our current experience.

  313. A late comment on masks – I have been unable to find any actual research showing them to be effective against a virus. Lots of appeals to authority by puffed up people with positions and degrees, but no science.

    Further, if the type of mask and the way it is used don’t matter, and if it’s fine to reuse the same old mask day after day, then clearly something else is going on. That something else is to get you used to acceptance of arbitrary rules, and the promotion of fear to make you accept more rules. Pretty much exactly like the airport security screenings.

    If I tell you a lie and you believe it, well then I’m just a jerk and hopefully you won’t listen to me again. One the other hand, if I use coercion to get you to go along with something we both know is a lie, that is true power. You have agreed to let me set your reality for you. The obviously futile nature of the mask rules, as well as the closings and the rest of the overreactions is not a bug, it’s a feature.

  314. Robert Mathiesen, Walter Mandell, onething, and all – Regarding the shortage of coins, part of it could be that coins are now of such little actual value that few of us bother counting them out when we make a cash purchase. It’s faster (and therefore, more polite to the people in the queue behind us) just to hand over a bill or two, and let the cashier (or point-of-sale machine) return a few coins. The coins go into our pockets, but they don’t come out until we get home. And, as mentioned earlier, fewer shopping trips means fewer chances to use the coin-counting machines. But there’s something else, too.

    The “melt value” of a nickel is close to (depending on market conditions) the face value. In that sense, it’s the most real money we have. If the dollar is devalued (relative to copper, because who cares how it changes relative to the Euro or any other fiat currency?), the nickel is still the same metal. (Put “nickel hoarding” into your favorite search engine for more. “Prepper and Homesteader” magazine argues that nickels are heavy and bulky, and that silver is a better metal to hoard. But “heavy and bulky” is just what I want potential thieves to consider!) But there’s something else, too.

    When I look at a nickel and imagine the process of digging the ores out of the earth, refining, smelting, alloying, forming the sheet and stamping the coins, it seems like it should be worth a lot more than (for example) 1% of a loaf of good organic bread, or 1% of a dozen farm-fresh eggs. It seems like it should be a lot closer to 100% of those transient, renewable goods. So… I’ve got a mason jar full of nickels. They’ll only be worth 1% (or less) of a loaf of bread for as long as they can be exchanged for the cheapest slip of green paper. But I can imagine, vaguely, a world in which these nickels circulate within the neighborhood to keep track of who owes whom a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs, a bag of kale, etc. long after the slips of paper are gone. (I’ve got a jar of full-copper pennies, too, so I can make change! Copper-nickel dimes and quarters are sort of intermediately fiat.)

  315. Mildly OT: but I think the question of the accelerated Long Descent in the Weird of Hali novels came up here. JMG gave a Doylist answer: “So that Owen would be young enough to take part in what had to be done at the end.”

    My accounting training gave me a good Watsonian answer to the question that puzzled all everyone in the series, “Who crashed the economy?” Not the Great Old Ones; they don’t bother with short-term fluctuations like that. No human faction. But … what nonhuman sentients were making out like a pack of bandits from the economic devastation? Which is to say, “Cui bono?” As I said, *granted the knowledge of all the players in the game*, any auditor could take it from there.

    The Fun Guys from Yuggoth, who were harvesting brains en masse from desperate job-seekers. Either in human disguise, or via their puppets in The Radiance. If the puppets were deceived into thinking the economic advice was sound, none of the foot soldiers like Michael Dyson would ever have the slightest clue who was involved. But I rather think they did so directly, probably remotely, by computer. The right Sell order at the right time could get things started, and a few pushes and nudges would keep the crash going.

    Make sense?

    Okay – my obsession with Watsonian answers eased, we now return you to the current stage of our own world’s Long Descent.

  316. @ David BTL said: “I’ll give some thought to such policy proposal writings. I don’t see how it will amount to anything, but it can’t hurt to put ideas out there.”

    @ JMG said: “….I think we can work something out that will have an impact……It might have immense effects.”

    I feel as if I’m present at the planting of the seed of a mighty walnut tree that will feed our future; stuff legends are made of. From your lips to the Gods’ ears, may it be so!

    (if nothing else I think you guys would have a blast writing it)

  317. John—

    IIRC, you had previously opined that the US empire would come apart “messily sometime in the 2030s” or thereabouts. Understanding that our immediate trajectory depends on the outcome of the election in Nov, are you generally speaking still of that opinion? That is, that the US empire will come apart in a messier rather than cleaner manner and/or that this event (or clustered series of events) will occur in the next decade?

    If this were indeed our trajectory, it would suggest to me that the successor(s) of Trumpian populism, those who might take his very, very rough draft of core ideas and refine them into something more coherent and sustainable as a political platform, are of critical importance, as it is those successors who will be battling with the Democrat’s status quo worldview of economic globalism, US hegemony, and faith in Progress(tm) in the brief window of time we have available in the 3-5 presidential administrative periods between now and then. If we’re are to make our retreat from empire as stable as possible, we need to have administrators working from the right script.

    (I’d also agree with the other commenters that the successor is unlikely to be Ivanka; though she seems to be an astute businesswoman, I don’t know that she has the same kind of charismatic appeal as her father. Dynasties are unhealthy for a republic, in any event. Still, it’d be funny if the first female president were a populist elected by the great unwashed masses of despised deplorables!)

  318. @ cloven kingdom – I lived in St Petersburg from 2003-2004, and run down industrial towns were all around northwestern Russia if you left the big city. A friend of my was from Luga, and it looked like any Ural city you’re describing. Have you been to St Pete lately? How are things going there?

    @ JMG – so if the establishment facade is crumbling ahead of schedule, does that mean Retrotopia may be arriving sooner than expected?

  319. @ Robert Mathiesen: I saw the same lack of coins at a Walgreens in Providence several weeks ago. It may have even been the same one – Pitman Street?
    I wonder if the shortage of coin is a deliberate attempt by the Treasury to move us into a system where only the large prosper, and all our purchases are tracked. It could be a sign that some of the economy is moving into the informal sector. Or just a sign that that the Treasury is incompetent at such a basic function.
    Finally, it could be a sign that everyone has those jars full of coins totaling ~$50 or so, just like I do in the kitchen.

    @ Joy Marie: Re Evil Incarnate. I’m having a discussion on the Faceplant on whether 45 is evil incarnate. It started with a post from my UU Minister that Progressives Must Vote for Biden! I pointed out that Biden had kicked progressives in the face, and that was not likely to convince then to vote for him, and the first response was that the alternative is Evil Incarnate. The opportunities for responses to that are legion, but I held myself to pointing out that true Evil would have a glossier sheen than 45, more like a Megachurch Pastor or a Silicon Valley CEO.

    Responding in Faceplant in the fashion maintained here is rare, but I’m trying. Many thanks to our gracious host!

  320. @William Allen

    “for the US, the damning object of this love is money. For Russia the object of this love is Rodina.”

    That seems to be an extremely simplistic one-dimensional view of both nations.

    @JMG

    “I think we can work something out that will have an impact. Basically, the goal is to do what Marx and Engels did with the Communist Manifesto: propose a platform for a party that doesn’t exist yet”

    JMG you certainly have the beard to join the ranks of barbate revolutionaries! I’m looking forward to reading your proposal.

  321. @Neptunesdolphins

    In response to “These folks expect others to clear the way for them and to carry them forward. They will not last in the Long Descent.”

    I won’t beat a dead horse, everybody has reached their own conclusion on whether mask “work” (depending on what you think they are supposed to achieve) or not.

    But I will tell you this. Nobody is able to brave the Long Descent on their own strength alone. The people that collaborate, the ones who do good things for you before you ask them, and that expect you to reciprocate, – or at the very least, to not pee in the well, – are the ones in the right (even if yes, it is possible to collaborate in useless or counterproductive projects). It is baffling to see how you Americans do worship Liberty to such an extent as to ignore other virtues such as Solidarity and Prudence.

    Regarding your individual case, it is not the same. As much as I sympathize with your ordeal, you cannot give other people PTSD simply by walking in the same room as them. Free idea association wont go in public health discussion because you can basically find arguments in favor of any preconceived idea you started with. It would be best to discuss first what are the goals we want to achieve (values), and then what are the best means to achieve such goals from a technical point of view (facts).

    @Everyone

    I am afraid all I can offer is hearsay, given that the adds are only transmitted in live and get stripped from the Internet podcast afterwards, but for the last weeks I have been hearing paid advertisement in local AM radio (in Guadalajara, Mexico), in Spanish, promoting vote in the American elections. The adds of course say “if you are an American national, please not let pass this opportunity of making history. You and your children sign up.” or something along those lines. It does not promote any candidate, just an invitation to vote. Then the last words say “this message was paid for by…” some civil association that is not quite the Democratic Party but has the word Democrats in the middle of their name.

    From this, my assumption is that the expat community rather leans more in the anti-Trump camp, and that the Democrats are surely scratching the bottom of the barrel. Has any other of the international readers heard something like this?

  322. @Peter Van Erp

    My coinless Walgreens was the one on North Main Street, near the northern end of the North Burial Ground and Farmacy Herbs. Hmm, so it’s not just a fluke at one store, then …

  323. Re Weddings — interesting to see the inverse relationship between money spent and length of the marriage. Based on many Pagan weddings I have seen, I formulated the ‘inverse vow” relationship. The longer the vows written and exchanged by the couple, the more references to lives past and future, and the otherwise unending nature of the love being celebrated, the shorter the handfasting would last.

  324. @Peter Van Erp – re Indian in Kenya – many African countries have large Indian diaspora communities (originally sent over by the British as bonded labourers etc centuries ago) – the guy you saw growing roses in Kenya was almost certainly one of them, not a recent immigrant (Idi Amin famously ordered all the Indians out of Uganda in the 1970s and they ended up in England).

  325. P.S. On accelerating the Long Descent, Part 2: sabotage of anything that can be reached by and depends on computers, that the saboteurs and their masters aren’t using themselves. The enslaved brains can tell their Yuggothian masters where to hit, and our national rivalries will give them an ample supply of those willing to inflict said damage on a rival nation’s grid or transportation network or bureaucratic database. (Children, do NOT try this at home! I FAR prefer soft landings to crash ones.)

    And anyone who wants a fictional portrait of the Decline & Ruin of D.C., check out the first two books of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Science in the City trilogy, which I call the 40-50-60 series. “Forty Days of Rain,” “Fifty Degrees Below Zero,” and the latter, “Sixty Days and Counting. Alas, “in “60 Days,” our heroes defeat That Evil Other Party and promptly proceed with an amazing array of high-tech geoengineering – most of it untested and all of it mega-expensive – to cure climate change. But for those interested in disaster/survival porn with a fair amount of human interest and wit, have a good read.

  326. @patriciaormsby

    That’s a good story. Not too many Westerners make it out to Zabaikaliya, although Baikal itself gets its share of visitors. My wife is actually from near Baikal. There are a lot of hearty people out there, and they know how to make do in less than ideal circumstances. What your husband learned from the local mechanic doesn’t surprise me at all.

    @Ben Johnson

    I spent about six months in Petersburg in 2003-04, so we were probably roaming the same streets. These days, I make it back there at least once or twice a year. The city has changed a lot since then. Incidentally, Dmitry Orlov, a name I think many here will be familiar with, is living there now. I was actually supposed to have lunch with him when I was there last November, but it fell through. I like Petersburg a lot. Even as my mental projection of the world tells me that globalization and the internet have destroyed all regional variety, every time I am in Petersburg something happens (usually something positive) that wouldn’t happen in Moscow. The people there are still holding on to a sense of place. The city has a proud history and the people are aware of it. That said, in recent years there have been some absolutely disastrous architectural and city-planning decisions that have really marred the city.

  327. “That was what differentiated successful kings and barons from failures — the readiness to stockpile grain so that the people could be fed when the harvest was bad.”

    So long as its understood that, looked at from the POV of the peasant/serf/share cropper, this readiness PLUS an absolute respect for the inviolability of a family’s basic subsistence needs, is what differentiates a king or baron who is “useful” from one who is “useless” – agreed. 🙂

  328. JMG – long ago I used to think fusion would be a good thing if it worked. Now, I wonder what would happen if we stumbled on another monster pile of cheap energy? What would we do with it? It boggles the mind, but it would just supercharge the late-industrial stage, leading to an even more unpleasant denouement at the other end.

    I tend to think that we’ve reached the stage where there are very few true believers in progress. Hence it was a serious battle to even get ITER funded – I don’t think anybody really believes it will solve anything.

    Instead, just as with Mr Musk’s antics, it’s more of a matter of “well, the show must go on, I suppose …”

  329. @ JMG – more than once you have commented that the opposite of a really bad idea, is another equally bad idea. Privatization of a number of government functions was a reaction to the growing bureaucracy, notably prisons, which has created all kinds of other issues.

    @ Varun (July 30, 2020 at 8:37 pm) re your reply to onething: Excellent points! In point #1 (The Pandemic), not only could the President have asked Americans to wear a mask, while setting an example, then he could have had his campaign headquarters distribute cloth masks with eagles, flags, “real patriots wear masks”, “I (heart) (great orange one*), “wear a mask for (great orange one*), etc., etc. Lost opportunity there. I wonder how the left would reacted…. *Sorry, no fan of the great orange one & can’t bring myself to type his name. No fan of his opponent for that matter.

  330. About the possibility of civil war, I agree that if Trump wins, the left is very unlikely to be able to mount a full scale civil war. However, I’m less sure about further down the road. I’ve seen the shift in the far left to where violence is more acceptable. A couple of decades ago, most of the far left identified with nonviolence of the sorts practiced by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and had more of a view like Starhawk in “The Fifth Sacred Thing” that their enemies were mostly simply ignorant and uneducated, not evil, and the right sort of persuasion would get them on board. That started to change in the 2000s but it was still a small fringe of the far left that embraced violence (such as Derrick Jensen). Since Trump, it’s gained far more traction. I see attitudes toward violence on the left changing in tandem with the change from thinking their opponents simply need to be educated better to thinking they’re evil. If your opponents are evil and unredeemable, violence then becomes necessary to deal with them.

    Since Trump’s victory in 2016, there’s been a divide between those on the far left who’ve gone completely into “our opponents are evil” mode and those who still think the past four years are an aberration caused by misinformation or the Russians keeping people ignorant and that if we get rid of Trump, the march of moral progress will get back on track. If Trump wins again, I expect that most of the left will go completely into the fighting evil mode, which will include embracing violence. A major question in my mind is, how much will embracing violence in theory translate into actually being willing and learning the skills to stage a violent insurrection? If enough people get serious, and enough Elites who want rid of Trump and/or foreign powers who want to end America’s global dominance back them. I could see a real civil war happening by 2923 or 2024.

    On the other hand, if people do lose faith in progress en masse soon, there may not be enough of the current incarnation of the left around in a few years for any of this to happen, but I’m still skeptical of that. If, as you’ve suggested, riots happen after Trump is elected and he brings in the military, I could see that as just polarizing the left even further in a hurry, and leading them to embrace guns (even if they still are virtue signaling about gun control).

  331. Since quite a while I got the idea that the current crisis with its retreat from globalization, its geopolitical unravelings and the rise of populism has quite a few similarities to the Crisis of the 3th Century, when the Roman Empire nearly fell apart, inflation hit, trade between far-off corners of the Roman world shrunk dramatically and the first foundations for the feudal age were laid. I think it is possible that the two crises are at least somewhat homologous.

  332. Sandy, thanks for dropping in! Well, of course — if I didn’t live in the US I wouldn’t be paying much attention to the antics in Washington DC either.

    Info, we also have buckwheat — that was just beginning to be grown in Europe in large quantities toward the end of the Middle Ages. (It’s Siberian, originally.) Another highly nutritious food source, and insanely easy to grow. Nonetheless, since population increases to the edge of carrying capacity, there will still be bad harvests and years of scarcity.

    Jbucks, that’s an excellent point. Yes, ITER is the red convertible and the comb-over of industrial society.

    Viduraawakened, excellent! Yes, those are classic examples of religious tracts in honor of the great god Progress. Those mathematical models? The old acronym GIGO comes to mind…

    Andy, no, I don’t expect the internet to collapse soonish. I expect it to start being rationed informally by price and location. At first it’ll just become more and more expensive to get decent service in out-of-the-way places; over time, costs will go up and service will go down over larger and larger regions, until fifty years from now it’s restricted to government, big business, and the rich.

    Twilight, that’s plausible — and it also explains the increasing anger toward mask requirements. On some level, people are aware of this.

    Patricia M, interesting. My take was the same as Jenny’s — some things just happen.

    Aidan, thanks for this.

    JeffinWA, I expect to have a lot of fun with this project — but with any luck, it may go far.

    David BTL, US global hegemony is going to come apart by then. Whether it’ll be messy or not depends on whether the US leadership has the brains to realize that a controlled retreat is a lot more survivable than a collapse. That’s one of the things I’d like our project to put front and center.

    Ben, I hope so — and with any luck, without a civil war first.

    Ecosophian, it’s a good multipurpose beard. 😉

  333. @ Cloven Kingdom & others: I have been following the blog of Hal Freeman, an American who married a Russian woman, and after about a dozen years living in the US, moved to Luga about 4 years ago. He had previously lived in St. Petersburg for several years in the early 2000s. https://halfreeman.wordpress.com/

  334. Regarding your predictions about the Internet, I hope social media goes down first. I estimate that 65-90% of the bizarre elements of our zeitgeist come from social media, as this brilliant article illustrates:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/12/social-media-democracy/600763/

    I am currently a generation old, born in 1995. The growth of the internet has tracked and followed and emerged with my entire existance. I have been thinking a lot over the past couple weeks what the world might look like today if one of the two following scenarios occurred:

    1) The World Wide Web never took off. Perhaps due to some short-sighted bureaucrat or a lack of interest, etc…but the “Eternal September” of 1993 never happens and the Internet remains a place for sharing information beteween governments, intelligence agencies, scientific facilities and some universities. There are still home computers and video games so the stereotype of millenials and Gen Z here is that of the reclusive shut-in. Technological shifts include innovations in fax machines, portable SD Cards, whatever GameBoy’s evolved into, etc. Meanwhile, cable TV now has thousands of channels with the trends of the 1980s and 1990s continuing in the absense of an alternative outlet for new visual information. There is also a much bigger culture of newspapers, print magazines, specialty radio stations, ham radio, and so on. Oh, and Blockbuster is still open!

    2) The World Wide Web does take off but it never leaves the “Wild West” Era before the age of broadband connection and Silicon Valley giants (Google, Youtube, Twitter, etc). Subsequently, the Internet remains a “nerd thing” in the popular consciousness and the Trope that There Are No Girls on the Internet (https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ThereAreNoGirlsOnTheInternet) still exists! Otherwise, the culture of the alternate internet remains largely informative (blogs, personal webpages, corporate webpages, news sites, etc) and there is much less advertising and commercialism on the medium.

    What might our world look like today if either of these scenarios was real?! It’s hard to say, but I suspect the social, political, and cultural climate would be calmer.

    In the mean time, meet up with me downtown to join the protest against President Rubio’s wars in Korea, Venezuela, and Iran and the rubes who support him!!! 😉

  335. Edging a little way out along a littler limb: tantrum is an expression of panic, anger is an expression of grief. Tantrum and anger acted out to move the feeling one or both of those emotions through the body without being crippled by either (panic or grief). You may or may not wish to give me the leeway to allow the suggestion that panic is an emotion.

  336. [JMG – please delete if inappropriate]

    I mentioned last week that I have been writing a series of posts on the corona event. I would like to invite interested readers to review my latest post which is my best attempt to tell the story of the early days of the corona event which I believe set the pattern for the whole thing. It is one hell of a story and if it was a work of fiction I would pat myself on the back and be done with it. However, this one is a true story and, while I have made every effort to check its veracity using publicly available sources, I am very keen to get eyeballs on it so that any errors of fact or interpretation can be corrected.

    http://simonsheridan.me/covid-19/the-coronapocalypse-part-5-cargo-cult-science/

  337. For the Providence dwellers who have had the no-change experience at different chain stores, I think it’s pretty much nationwide. My last two grocery runs in central Florida required me to make change for Walmart, but now I’m running low. Official spokescritters say the Mint is aware of the problem and working on it, but impeded by epidemic precautions, so the issue may last for months. Remember the toilet paper crisis?

    I don’t think this was foreplay to a sudden move to abolish cash; the harbinger there would be a huge propaganda campaign against that dirty contaminated currency. The currency is facing long run problems from both ends. The control freaks are trying to take the hundred dollar bill out of circulation, and maybe the fifty as well. (“We must stamp out untaxed local transactions, er, I mean Smug Druggling andTerrzm!”) The penny and nickel are on the way out, because the cost to mint them is too high to make any profit. The one and five dollar bill will probably be replaced soon by cupronickel sandwich coins like the dime and quarter.

    JMG: An old IT expert, Stan Kelly-Bootle, gave a nice meaning for the acronym GIGO, when poorly defined inputs are run through a computer model with unrealistic assumptions, resulting in ludicrous predictions with the mantle of Science: Garbage In, Gospel Out.

  338. @Robert Mathiesen

    David Graeber has written a very interesting book entitled “Debt: The first 5,000 Years” In it he argues that barter based societies are basically a myth. In the absence of hard currency, economic transactions are mediated by social obligations, or by record keeping, with actual exchange of currency being rare. For example people in western Europe continued to use Charlemagne’s monetary system for accounting for 800 years after the fall of the Carolingian empire, even though many of them may not have ever seen an actual coin from that system.

  339. Update: I went back to my cashless/coinless Walgreens this afternoon, Since there weren’t any other customers in the store, I asked about my last visit. I was told that it was only coins they couldn’t get that day, not bills; but also that just this last week all check-out stations except one were changed to accept only credit or debit cards, no cash! So the commenters here who mentioned the push toward a cashless society were right on target after all!

  340. JMG – Buckwheat is insanely easy to grow? I tried it once. Maybe it’s easy to grow, but it’s not so easy to harvest (IMHO). I found that, unlike the annual grasses (wheat, rice, oats), buckwheat grows new flowers at the tip of the stalk while the old flowers are producing seeds. It seems to be a judgement call as to when the best time is to harvest the mature seeds before they fall on the ground, but ignore the developing seeds to come.

  341. @Patricia M on accelerating the long descent:

    The most terrifying conversation I’ve ever had, was but a few years after 9/11. The guy had recently retired from a long career in an infrastructure-related field which I will not name. He noted it was a good thing the terrorists attacking us were morons more interested in symbolic targets than real ones, and then proceeded to outline how he’d do it, if he were a terrorist. According to him, a small low-tech team could cripple the entire Eastern seaboard of the US, with considerable reach inland, along with parts of Canada, probably for months, in a way that would result in tens of thousands of deaths, widespread food and supply shortages, and stunning loss of jobs, businesses, etc. “Good thing I’m not a terrorist” he chuckled. That still haunts me, and I don’t think anything much has changed since then, that would make his scenario less plausible. And it had nothing directly to do with computers.

  342. @Scotlyn

    The mongol empire boasted that a maiden with on gold nugget on her head would remain unmolested the entire length of their conquests.

    If a maiden can’t do that through the realm of the Baron and King. Then they have failed.

  343. @ Ben, I hope so!

    @ Peter, I certainly hope so, I’m thinking of writing her a letter. Where do you suggest I send it that has the highest chance of getting into her hands?

    @ Will Oberton, Thank you, I’ll start my search there.

    @ Onething, It’s a two party system. If both parties are corrupt, and also the only real way into office, then what difference does her choice of party make?

    @ PatriciaT, Yeah, the number of avenues that would have opened would have been stunning. Both sides do indeed suck. I’ll be voting for Gabbard come November.

    Regards,

    Varun

  344. It is not evident to me that the right side of the curves in that graph from The Limits to Growth will follow the same downward slope as the nice upward slope manifested on the left side, thus giving the curves that symmetrical bell shape. The possibility of a sharp, asymmetrical descent — what Ugo Bardi calls the Seneca Effect — may need to be considered. Catastrophic collapse is not out of the question.

    https://cassandralegacy.blogspot.com/2011/08/seneca-effect-origins-of-collapse.html

  345. Mexican, fascinating. I’ll be interested to hear if anyone else is encountering this sort of thing.

    Scotlyn, of course.

    Collapse-a-tron, if we end up with a new source of energy, that just means that we get to crash into a different set of limits. It’s a sign of the intellectual limitations of our species that so few people realize this.

    PatriciaT, of course! One of the themes of my novel Retrotopia is that there are some things that private industry does best and some things that government does best, and if you pay attention to that, you get better results than if you try to have either one do the other’s work.

    Kashtan, that’s one of the risks we run.

    Booklover, I ain’t arguing! It seems quite similar to me too.

    Aidan, I’ve also imagined an alternate history where Reagan lost in 1980, the US continued on track toward a sustainable economy, and all the bright young businesspeople and researchers of the 1980s and 1990s went into renewable energy and conservation tech instead of computers. In that history the internet remained a wholly theoretical possibility.

    Amanda, of course it is. It’s related to fear, which is certainly an emotion.

    Aidan, thanks for this.

    Simon, thanks for this also.

    John, hah! That’s really good — thank you.

    Lathechuck, one of buckwheat’s virtues is that it starts producing early and keeps on producing until the end of the season. Yes, you have to be used to that, and use a different approach to harvesting.

    Aidan and Waffles, thanks for these.

    G Wang, yes, people have been saying that over and over again since before I was born. They’ve been wrong every time. If you want to keep waiting for the catastrophic collapse of your dreams, by all means, but be aware that the rest of us will laugh at you when it fails to show yet again.

  346. Matthias Gralle, mentioning middle ages witch hunts was my mistake. As for the proportion of women killed, I can’t find the old article but this one mentions 500 out of a population of 2000 which would be in line with what I said: https://www.google.com/amp/s/qz.com/1183992/why-europe-was-overrun-by-witch-hunts-in-early-modern-history/amp/
    They also come up with an economic explanation for it- maybe historians of the future will do similar research into our many societal delusions.

  347. Thought y’all would get a kick out of this – my husband is watching his NBA game (with the creepy digital fans) and the social justice jersey messages. One guy with an economics degree got flamed on Twitter for putting “group economics” on there, which he countered with,

    “To those I question, what is the purpose of putting a social issue on the back of the jersey? To inspire change right? Considering that nobody opts out of the complete global financial system and the USA weaponized the dollar that means you need leverage within the system.

    In my opinion like it or not, change for us comes down to Group economics. Rethinking how we approach finances. Acquiring hard assets. Recycling dollars etc. Til then the slow burn of marches/protests will produce progress but will still yield similar results…”

    https://fee.org/articles/nba-player-stuns-with-controversial-social-justice-statement-on-economics/

    Guess he convinced others to do it, because it’s not Dunwiddie with the jersey in this game (both players going for the economics jersey so far are black).

  348. Dear Mr. Greer, et all. Off topic, but interesting. And, maybe a bit amusing. “Tyromancy”. Divination using cheese. Sometimes, mice are involved. 🙂 . Lew

  349. Twilight: https://twitter.com/NewYorkCityGuns/status/1289396167214653442

    Andy Dwelly: http://energyskeptic.com/2020/900-tons-of-material-to-build-just-1-windmill/ and http://energyskeptic.com/2019/wind/

    methylethyl: A similar notion occurred to me (directly) years ago. Even though it’d make the basis for a gripping book or even movie I’ve never discussed it because I just don’t want to give anyone such a horrific idea.

    Late to the wedding thing, but… ours was me, my bride and our dog plus the officiant, a photographer and two assistants. Wonderfully small affair on a beach. Definitely the way to go IMHO.

  350. Twilight,

    What’s missing from your analysis is the large number of people who believe the lie, believe the masks help and are actually quite afraid. I don’t know how to help them as they don’t want to hear good news.

  351. Patricia T and Varun,

    It truly is unreasonable to expect Trump to have suggested masks months ago when Fauci said they were useless and unnecessary.

  352. Amanda,

    “You may or may not wish to give me the leeway to allow the suggestion that panic is an emotion.”

    I feel reprimanded, but fail to understand your point. If you refer to the panic and temper tantrums over the election of Trump, I think we need to look deeper than just saying “people feel panic.” They feel it because of a coordinated and definite propaganda campaign by powerful interests. But if by temper tantrums you mean hurting other people while committing arson, I think they have to be stopped, regardless of what their emotion may be.

    Also, the problem isn’t in admitting they have emotion, but in wondering how to engage their frontal lobes instead.

  353. Varun,

    “@ Onething, It’s a two party system. If both parties are corrupt, and also the only real way into office, then what difference does her choice of party make?”

    Well, of course I have been frustrated by that for 30 years. I usually vote 3rd party. All it would take is for more people to stop saying they won’t throw away their vote and throw that vote away till it works! We also badly need reform to the stupid 2 party system.
    But anyway, that is a bit different than her having an insane loyalty to a corrupt party. Besides, the democrat party in recent years has broken away into true malevolence. Even I did not realize until these riots that a very large number of high ranking democrats are in fact something like communists, or playing a game that is way too close for comfort.

  354. @JMG

    My earlier 2 comments were the results of some toe dipping into discursive meditation – longer than they should have been. I’ll keep this one short.

    Inevitably your response sparked a thought. Rationing, and how we do it – overtly with government schemes, or less overtly with pricing mechanisms is going to be a central theme in the next 50 years.

  355. I may end up saying one of the most idiotic things in all know history, but I think that there is a safe and cheap way to do nuclear fusion.
    Allow me to explain my idea. The problem (apart from money) with fusion generators is that it requires a lot of energy. Energy to excite the hydrogen until it becomes a plasma and energy to be able to contain it.
    But if instead of using regular hydrogen we used tritium there wouldn’t be need for such a large input of energy. If we made piles of tritium with a pressure of several atmospheres, the tritium would react with itself to release energy and produce helium. The idea would be not to overdo the pressure to make sure that the release of energy would be slow instead of a nuclear bang. That could be done with early 20th century technology.
    Besides tritium is safer that other radioactive products because it’s half life in only 12,5 years.
    Tritium in nature is vestigial, and that could turn this idea into vaporware, but currently there is a permanent source of tritium, that will probably last a few hundred thousand year. Fukushima. “ In June 2016 the Tritiated Water Task Force released a report[17] on the status of tritium in tritiated water at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, as part of considering options for final disposal of the stored contaminated cooling water. This identified that the March 2016 holding of tritium on-site was 760 TBq (equivalent to 2.1 g of tritium or 14 mL of tritiated water) in a total of 860,000 m3 of stored water. This report also identified the reducing concentration of tritium in the water extracted from the buildings etc. for storage, seeing a factor of ten decrease over the five years considered (2011–2016), 3.3 MBq/L to 0.3 MBq/L (after correction for the 5% annual decay of tritium).”

  356. @Aidan

    Those alternate histories are more plausible than you’d think. Any number of legislative or court decisions in the 1990s and early 2000s (for instance, the Microsoft antitrust case) could have caused the Internet to remain in the Wild West for longer or even squelch it off nearly entirely – consider a policy saying that a signature must be physical for it to be valid, and the implications that would have on online services. Causing Amazon to fold early (founded in 1994, it didn’t turn a profit until 2001) or never get started at all would in and of itself have profound ripple effects.

  357. Hi John Michael,

    Thanks and I took your spell very seriously, and have long pondered its implications and applications. I don’t intend this as a critique, but thought you might like to know that I enjoyed the succinctness of the spell.

    Hey mate – Far out dude! My business was shut down today by the state government for six weeks. I’m an old school accountant and get out of the office and into businesses where I can be of immediate use. However, oh yeah, things have gotten really seriously weird down here: Do I need to go to work? The Victorian businesses and industries that will close under Melbourne’s stage 4 coronavirus restrictions.

    I’ll be fine, but economically it is a bloodbath and plenty of people won’t be fine. The smoking economic crater left after this will be very, very strange indeed to navigate.

    Anyway, what fascinates me is that in the article I linked to there are choices of who works and who doesn’t work and reading in between the lines there appear to me to be a lot of horse trading and/or moral judgements being made.

    Sorry to go way off topic, but I beseech your forgiveness because things down here are very weird and took a really sudden sharp turn this afternoon.

    Cheers

    Chris

  358. @ Varun: Send me an email at peter.g.vanerp at gmail dot com. I have the email address for the national volunteer coordinator for the Tulsi campaign, and I think it’s still live. She may choose to forward it. You can also check her Congressional website for her district office in Hawaii, and try a physical letter there. https://gabbard.house.gov/

  359. I would try to purchase and read such a book as soon as possible Mr. Greer. Perhaps you could call it part of a “Burke-punk” genre named after James Burke. He was the maker and host of the ten-episode BBC program “Connections” in 1978. I don’t know if you have watched Connections but to me it is a perfectly symbolic point of divergence because James Burke engages with the moral and ethical implications of technological dependence in a manner inconceivable since (particularly in the first and last episodes).

    From there, the changes would include John Anderson doing better in 1980 [1] (cancelling out some of Reagan’s appeal) coupled with the Iranian Hostage Crisis being successfully negotiated sooner resulting in Carter’s re-election. From there, popular stalwart Denis Healey wins Labour leadership over Loony Left Michael Foot in the UK and proceeds to win over Maggie Thatcher. Also, the National Government is re-elected in New Zealand and there is no “Rogernomics”. The story of how New Zealand went from a model of social democracy to a model of neoliberalism under the firm hand of Finance Minister Roger Douglas is one of the most fascinating (and disturbing) stories you have never heard of! [2] It was MUCH more aggressive than any other nation except perhaps Chile!

    I am especially curious to see how things go down in Eastern Europe, China, and the Middle East

    I am not sure however that the changes you have discussed would necessarily lead to the kind of sustenance of the wholesome, cohesive, WKRP in Cincinnati-era society that I wouldn’t mind seeing. In my opinion, none of the major social, cultural, and political trends and events of the past two generations can be fully understood in the absense of the elite overproduction that began with the status-striving higher-ed credential inflation of the 1960s. The Do-your-own-thing vibe of the (late) ’60s lead to the Me Decade of the ’70s, leading to the “Greed is Good” Decade of the ’80s. From there, things have steadily deteriorated as that generation came to dominate politics, culture, and the economy [3].

    Also, with the exception of conservation, taxes, and finance regulation, Carter was almost as neoliberal as Reagan. He turned away from Nixon-Ford-Kissinger era detente and doubled the number of warheads aimed at the USSR. Carter and Brezhinski began funding fundamentalist crazies to the fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. On the domestic front, Carter regularly cut and vetoed infrastructure projects that might have helped the working class and deregulated communications and transporation industries (the later serving as a symbolic precedent for Reagan’s famous Air Traffic Controller union-busting). Finally, his crime policies began the trend towards criminalization of minor offenses that ballooned in the Reagan-Bush and Clinton eras.

    [1] Most people forget about Rockefeller Republican John Anderson’s third-party candidacy in 1980 that won a lot of support from high-brow intelligensia types like Gore Vidal!

    [2] https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/03/new-zealand-neoliberalism-inequality-welfare-state-tax-haven/

    [3] I personally believe the 1970s and 1980s produced better culture because they combined the free-spirited, fun-loving attitudes of the Boomers with the cohesive civic-minded nature of the Greatest Generation. The TV show WKRP in Cincinnati perfectly symbolizes this.

  360. Re the conversion of present-day amenities into future luxuries–

    The “future” of air travel:

    https://www.investors.com/news/virgin-galactic-stock-high-speed-commercial-aircraft-q2-2020-earnings/?src=A00220&yptr=yahoo

    I think we’ll see continued bifurcation, as the economics of modern mass amenities (air travel, internet, etc.) fall apart and the surviving tier is priced above the threshold of the “common man.”

    Of course, the wealthy are only delaying the inevitable, whereas if we’re smart, the rest of us could build the infrastructure needed to accommodate our current and future circumstances by accepting a slower pace (slower travel, slower transport of goods, more localized sourcing, etc.) Collapsing now to avoid the rush, as our esteemed host has often suggested.

    @ Waffles

    Re experts and distrust

    That article was spot on.

  361. Here is a darker vision of the next two decades. The madmen of history have returned once again to haunt us. Their latest scheme to conquer the world is the Bio-Security Police State, a merger of Communism and Fascism complete with propaganda, censorship, and hooligans running wild in the streets. Covid19 is the Reichstag Fire they used to suspend constitutional governments all over the world. Six feet apart is optimum for surveillance cameras, masks are a beta test of social engineering techniques. Their vision of a better world is complete control of the internet, mandatory vaccines, biometric ID and locator chips, a cashless society and the 5G surveillance network. Once these plans are all in place (they think) they can control everything we think, say and do. World War III is between the compliant and the skeptical and the battlefield is your mind.

    Sound crazy? You betcha, but I can’t shake it because all the pieces fit.

  362. @ Cloven – Glad to hear that St. Pete is keeping a strong sense of identity and history in spite of the best efforts of modernization. I recently got back in contact with two friends from there, and always enjoy hearing about the city. I was a student at the Nevsky Institute of Language and Culture at the time.

    @ Pete Van Erp – thanks for the link! When I lived in St. Pete, a friend of mine was from Luga, so I spent a good amount of time there, including New Years. C Novim Godom!

  363. Thank you to who ever it was that brought up Jack Whyte books a month or so ago. The first ‘The Skystone’ has been really hard to put down. (Chicken didn’t get a clean coop this weekend – not so bad that another week or even a month would hurt. 🙂

    Coop Janitor

  364. I did want to explain about my phobia about walls, etc and tie it to the Long Descent

    When the wall fell on me, I felt I was at the mercy of the random universe. It was unexpected and without any warning. It was a random event. I felt powerless. Every time, I wanted to enter a building to do my business, I would panic and race outside. I felt that the walls would fall at any time. So I under went therapy to overcome my phobia.

    When a black swan event happens – the Oil Crises, 9/11, Trump’s election, people feel like the universe that they knew stop existing. Well, it did. Their assumptions of safety are gone. What to do – take control, do rituals to ward off the badness, or become depress and feel helpless. The reaction to the Oil Crises was Reagan’s election which was a pseudo-way of taking control and recreating the lost world. With Trump, the people involved have taken to screaming and shouting down everything they do not want to hear. They are wrapping themselves in a warm cocoon.

    With asking and receiving help, as person with a disability, the help that I often get is inappropriate. Rarely am I asked what sort of help I need. The focus is on the helper controlling the situation so that they feel good and ward off the fear that that could be them. The helper determines the help. It is a form of patronizing rather than a collaboration of two equals.

    The people who are railing against the maskless are trying to be in control by promoting their virtue of mask wearing. I wear the mask to save you, so why don’t you wear one for me. In other areas of their lives, they expect to be taken care of but on their terms. This is why well-off women rail about the Patriarchy – they get taken care of but on the male’s terms. In the Matriarchy, they would be taken care and they would dictate to others. In other words, they want control by being helpless but passive-aggressive. It is not a collaboration of two equals.

    I don’t know if I explained myself well. I do understand that in the Long Descent, we do need to be collaborative and pool our skills. But first, I guess people need to accept that the Descent is happening.

  365. JMG wrote: “Aidan, I’ve also imagined an alternate history where Reagan lost in 1980, the US continued on track toward a sustainable economy, and all the bright young businesspeople and researchers of the 1980s and 1990s went into renewable energy and conservation tech instead of computers. In that history the internet remained a wholly theoretical possibility.”

    I would like to be a bit pedantic here and suggest to be more precise about what we actually mean by “Internet”. I suggest using the invention and spread of the TCP/IP protocols as the beginning of the Internet of today. The precursor ARPANET project got started in 1966 to remotely connect computers. The TCP/IP protocols were invented in 1973 and the first version implemented in 1974. TCP/IP continued to be refined in multiple versions until v4, the version we are still running today, was deployed on the ARPANET in 1983. So TCP/IP appeared around the first oil crisis (1973) and started getting deployed in its current form 4 years after the second oil crisis (1979).

    Incidentally, as a joke that got later tested in real-life, there is a specification to carry IP traffic over carrier pigeons (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_over_Avian_Carriers). While this is not really convenient to buy stuff on Amazon or watching Netflix shows, it does illustrate that the TCP/IP protocols are agnostic of the ways in which the bits are actually transferred in the physical world.

    So we could very well have had a renewable-powered Internet built out of appropriate technologies in the 1980s, the ideas were ready by then. Now if we talk about the spread of commercial services in the 1990s and the re-organization of most of our public and private services around online platforms in the decades after, I do agree with our host.

    JMG wrote: “Andy, no, I don’t expect the internet to collapse soonish. I expect it to start being rationed informally by price and location. At first it’ll just become more and more expensive to get decent service in out-of-the-way places; over time, costs will go up and service will go down over larger and larger regions, until fifty years from now it’s restricted to government, big business, and the rich.”

    Rephrasing, I also think the amount of information we can transfer in a given time (bandwidth) will decrease and the time it will take for that information to be received after being requested (latency) will increase, given the price people can afford to maintain the infrastructure. But even at very low bandwidth and high latency, I believe it would still be economical for medium-sized communities, spread appart by thousands of kms, to exchange gossips, advertise local product prices for commerce, brag about sport achievements, advertise the dates of the next carnivals, warn of arrival of rival bands, exchange weather information, etc on basic radio equipment implementing some “Internet” with lower latency and higher bandwidth than postal services enough to be worth maintaining.

    As one example of interesting properties of an Internet-based information network, the TCP/IP protocol combined with cryptographic signatures can ensure the messages, even if transmitted in clear text and going through multiple operators, are delivered unaltered to the intended recipient(s). Both the routing of messages and the cryptography can be implemented with low technologies operated by people: they don’t need expensive computers.

    So even the poor could operate “an Internet” like this one. As an example, until recently, a grassroot community in Cuba was operating its own Internet (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_in_Cuba). And even if the government intervened to regulate it, there are still packages of popular digital material exchanged on the underground markets (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Paquete_Semanal).

    So I agree with our host that the Internet of the de-industrial landscape will look nothing like the one we have today, but I personally think there will be information technologies that won’t either be those of the 1970s, or earlier. They certainly won’t be the linear continuation of Progress in ever increasing bandwidth capabilities, decreasing latencies, and ever decreasing costs. But I don’t think they will completely disappear for everyone but the elites either. Even when mostly powered and operated by people, they are noticeably faster and reliable than, let’s say, postal services to exchange information. So I think there will be strong incentives to maintain information-exchange networks that still use some of today’s Internet ideas (or descendants thereof).

  366. A follow-up on the homeschooling poll. Results are informal due to respondents self-selecting to answer the question (so not representative of all families of kids in schools until this year), but they’re still interesting:

    51 respondents answered the question of whether or not their previously-in-school k-12 kids would be homeschooled even if schools reopen.

    Very likely (this is my plan) – 24%
    I would if I could (but I have other responsibilities, so I can’t) – 6%
    I’m considering a multi-family homeschool option – 6%
    I am undecided – 10%
    I will send my kids back to school as soon as schools are open – 49%
    other – 0%

    I didn’t ask about motivation (because of health concerns, the school environment, or the curriculum).

    Just under 50% of my respondents will send their kids willingly. An additional 6% will send them but would rather not. An additional 10% are still on the fence. That leaves 34% seriously considering or committed to educating their kids themselves or in cooperation with other community members.

    This is going to be fascinating to watch.

  367. Good to go back to this topic. I am guessing that global “industrial output” in 2050 will be closer to its present value than to its value in 1960 as the limits to growth chart predicts. Same with “food”. That chart has a far sharper collapse than your essay implies, and taken as a prediction it is likely to be simply wrong. I still think Limits to Growth is largely on the right track. It is just that those numerical models are not quantitative predictions. Rather they are possible outcomes.

    . Indeed it is political and economic factors that are the primary shapers of our future. There are technical options for a stable slow (polynomial, not exponential) growth of standards of living around the globe for centuries to come. But humans would have to make good decisions together to avoid the consequences of rapidly accelerating human impact on the planet. Since history essentially proves that humans can’t do that, the technical options are mostly irrelevant. This highlights a major failing of the peak oil movement. It focussed on predictions based on physical resource and technological limits when these are only triggers that destabilize political and economic decision making systems which are the true limits to growth.

    Your analysis of the unstable role of middle class bureaucrats is fascinating. It is of course much more complex than that, but that is a key piece missed because it is in the blind spot of the middle class academic and business analysts. Your emphasis on the drag of bureaucracy misses a key role that experts must play in guiding any successful response to the environmental and economic crises of our time. As long as the populist revolt against the elites remains anti-science, it will be crushed by competing movements that effectively implement ideas from experts.

  368. Regarding ITER, it might be worth pointing out that the goal is actually a fusion reaction much hotter/denser than the sun! While the sun produces a prodigious amount of energy, it is very, VERY large. If one were to teleport a cubic meter of the sun into a fusion reactor and keep it contained, it would release insufficient energy for the effort to be worthwhile.

  369. Hey jmg

    On the subject of economic decline and also Covid-19, are you aware of the recession in Australia, which has particularly been worsened by the Covid-19 restrictions, mainly in NSW and VIC, which have been most heavily infected?

  370. Peter Van Erp says: Re Evil Incarnate. I’m having a discussion on the Faceplant on whether 45 is evil incarnate. It started with a post from my UU Minister that Progressives Must Vote for Biden!

    Your UU minister is following orders from headquarters to “UU the Vote.”

    https://www.uua.org/liberty/electionreform

    For some reason, the UU church seems to think it has far more influence in politics and society than it actually has.

    Joy Marie

  371. @JMG- thanks for the advice on skill building- education is the one thing no one can take away. I’ll meditate on what skills to work on.
    @Lathechuck- thanks so much for all the recommendations. I have read the garden books, but had not come across the one about survival medicine. I have ordered it- seems really useful, thank you. Your point about food prep is well taken- I just bought a book on vegetarian Indian cooking that I am eager to explore.
    @Teresa from Hershey-Thanks for the reminders about debt- I will definitely look at your book. My husband and I have very little consumer debt, and we have about 10 years left on our mortgage. We have paid cash for home improvement projects over the past few years that have made the house more livable- egress windows in the basement, for example. We plan to stay here for the long haul.
    @Neptune’s Dolphins- Thank you for clarifying the idea that bank failures don’t always look like back failures. I had wondered why our little credit union had merged with one from 100 miles away- it makes sense that one or the other was in trouble, and they decided to join forces. It’s about the borrowing…
    A data point about that, I got a letter from a major credit card company, telling me they were reducing my credit limit from $Something stupid to $something slightly less stupid. I never have charged anything up to the previous limit- it amounted to about 1/4 of my annual income. I wonder if it was a way of playing with the books, adjusting the ratio of assets and liabilities.
    I don’t remember who all has talked about the change shortage, but I have read that it is partly due to those of us with jars of coins, and partly due to the fact that the companies who go around emptying change machines (armored car companies, perhaps?) weren’t sending out crews due to Covid, so the change that typically gets circulated, from laundromats or car washes, wasn’t getting to the banks to be sent out again as change.No source, sorry, I read it on reddit…

  372. Re earlier comment on Mexico —
    The Democrats Abroad have always been relatively more active than the alternative parties among US expats in Mexico, especially in Mexico City. Also, a relatively newer development of some importance is that in Mexico there are also many Mexican families with children born in the US– and therefore, by law, automatically US citizens. In recent years, very notably under the current administration, many of these binational families have been returning to Mexico, nonetheless in Mexico the US-born kids can still get their US passports and, when of age, vote in US elections. I doubt many such votes would go to the candidate who brags about building his wall, so with a get-out-the-vote campaign for US citizens in Mexico, cui bono? Let me put it this way: If the Democratic Party weren’t already behind running such ads I’d be mighty surprised.

  373. With reference to Mexican above I also am fascinated by the extreme importance citizens of the US attach to personal freedom. What about social responsibility? Adults simply don’t have unlimited freedom. We have a society to run and children to raise and friends to nurture.
    Reading this blog it is interesting to note the different perspectives people from different countries bring to any discussion.

  374. I’m a little bemused by this notion that the internet and social media will die the death as the costs are too prohibitive. Facebook, for example, is a corporation currently valued at $65 billion and it’s providing a free service. They (and Google and others) make coin by selling and reselling the data of it’s subscribers. They are certainly not going to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

  375. @ JMG…

    I know you’re probably working on wed essay, but this might be of interest to your readers.

    I go through my Spam weekly, just to check if something got shunted there that shouldn’t have. I got another Trump campaign email, and just out of pure curiosity, I read it – figuring more begging for my money from folks making 50 times my salary.

    LO and BEHOLD (the contents here):

    “I know how difficult the past few months have been. Your unwavering support during this time has not gone unnoticed.

    I am writing to you now, not to ask for a contribution, but to ask for your help.

    We are all in this together, and while I know there has been some confusion surrounding the usage of face masks, I think it’s something we should all try to do when we are not able to be socially distanced from others.

    I don’t love wearing them either. Masks may be good, they may be just okay, or they may be great. They can possibly help us get back to our American way of life that so many of us rightfully cherished before we were so terribly impacted by the China Virus.

    My feeling is, we have nothing to lose, and possibly everything to gain, including the next chapter to our country, and to keep things open whether it be schools or businesses.

    I recently tweeted that many view wearing a mask as a patriotic act, and there is no one more patriotic than me and you. Why not give it a shot!”

    It appears that we are being herded somewhere from both sides about these masks.
    Being who I am (skeptical, recalcitrant and extremely independent) – I’m just wondering about the JMG take on this, since now POTUS has chosen to get behind it…

  376. @JMG

    Perhaps the reason that happened was actually the perception that environmentalism is a package deal that has to also involve values contrary to their social conservatism.

    I do wonder if the Reaganites were actually pining for a steampunk future unconsciously.

  377. Hey John,
    I think you might have missed my last comment, but I have to ask you this. As one of your few African American readers from TOD to occult groups to Ecosophia, I wonder if you agree with Trump’s statement yesterday (and many times elsewhere) that “no one has done more for the black community” than he has. I wonder if you agree since you are a supporter. This is not a tricky question.

  378. Thanks for this post and all the thoughtful commentary…this forum is such a vital lifeline! I live in a peripheral (not urban) province of Wokeistan. Being ruled by crazed fundamentalists is no fun…tongue biting has become a fine art.

    I’m sure some of you must have noticed the April Harpers magazine with the provocative cover story Arm the Left! replete with an image of a muscular white arm cradling a rainbow sign featuring the black silhouette of an assault rifle and the caption Defend Equality. There’s lots of talk about civil war and the possibility of armed conflict in the air. The Wokeistan Warriors vs. Hell’s Militia? I’ve read that a common slogan among the antifa sympathizers is Punch a Nazi! Not sure they realize that these loathsome fascists can take a punch, and know how to strike back. I pray that this can be avoided but it seems perilously close as this sure-to-be-contested presidential election approaches. What an appalling spectacle!

    And what about the looming Presidential Debates? The dems cannot possibly allow Mr. Biden to appear in that setting and they’ve been maneuvering to cancel them since Uncle Joe became the presumptive nominee. The man seems to be descending into senility/dementia with alarming speed. Can his handlers keep him successfully sequestered for the remainder of the campaign? Are they working round the clock to produce credible real fake videos where he appears coherent and (gulp) presidential?

    I’ve lived through lots of crazy times (b. 1954) but the present fustercluck beats all. 2020 will be memorable for a long, long time. Started off with a devastating Saturn/Pluto conjunction in Capricorn, NEOWISE at the midpoint and ends with the Jupiter/Saturn grand mutation in Aquarius, sure to be a turning point of monumental proportions!

  379. @ Goldenhawk….

    I’m glad at this point I learned surfing on Padre Island in Texas. There is rarely such a thing as a long run here, mainly due to all the waves breaking right/left. You take the ride you can get and then relax for the next one.

    And that seems to be the best way to survive and retain sanity during this first leg down. Was thinking while fishing the other day, “Man, what if someone had the juevos giganticus to actually tell us we will be downsizing and it’s gonna hurt”. Instead, everything is muddle through, business as usual and things are normal. That all generates such extreme cognitive dissonance it’s no wonder people are scared and easy to flare. Because one look outside of your home and it’s NOT normal.

    I’m going tractor shopping for my little farm today – hoping to find a deal since many folks aren’t spending. Woke up to news that Houston is ticketing $250 for no masks and the police are right in there ready to write. For me, this means an added layer of BS, so I will drive to some smaller towns in different counties just to avoid this crazy paranoia and groupthink.

    I wonder how many others like me are taking their business elsewhere? Sort of like “evacuate now and avoid the rush” to co-opt JMG….

    Find a wave and grab a ride my friend….

  380. methyethyl–my ex, who was in construction, used to voice similar meditations on the frailties of our systems. For example, a major refinery right next to an interstate hwy in a populated area–easy target for someone determined to do damage. I’m not even any kind of engineer or mechanical type and I can see vulnerable things on most drives or walks–natural gas pipes, electrical installations, dams, tunnels. On a more professional level, Atlantic Magazine published an article sometime after 9/11 pretending to have been written ten years later and looking back at ten years of increasing terrorism–attacks on amusement parks, major malls, sporting events. Nothing high tech. Most required willing martyrs, but we know those are not that difficult to manufacture.

    Rita

  381. @katsmama: The add runs fully in Spanish.

    @El Vecino: The add explicitly says “you or your (adult) children”, so you may be onto something.

  382. neptunesdolphins wrote:

    “When a black swan event happens – the Oil Crises, 9/11, Trump’s election, people feel like the universe that they knew stop existing. Well, it did. Their assumptions of safety are gone. What to do – take control, do rituals to ward off the badness, or become depress and feel helpless.”

    There is a fourth option, too, in addition to the three you mention. It’s the option that I have always preferred to take whenever something important, which I thought I could rely on, suddenly goes away forever. More than a thousand years ago that fourth option was stated very clearly by an Anglo-Saxon poet. The speaker is Bryhtwold, and he is about to die along with his lord and the the entire company of his lord’s warriors at the Battle of Maldon Bridge:

    “Courage whall grow keener, clearer the will,
    The heart fiercer, as our force faileth.
    Here our lord lies leveled in the dust,
    The man all marred; he shall mourn to the end
    Who thinks to wend off from this war-play now.
    Though I am white with winters I will not away,
    For I think to lodge me alongside my dear one,
    Lay me down by my lord’s right hand.”

    In other words, look one’s impending harsh future squarely in its face and soldier on despite the absence of any hope. This is what I have always tried to do, and what I recommend.

    (Also, hope has always seemed to me like an addictive junk food or an addictive drug: it’s attractive, it’s compelling, it can even you motivate to action, but ultimately it’s very bad for you.)

  383. Lew, the number of things that have been used for divination over the years boggles the mind.

    Andy, it is indeed.

    Whispers, my background in physics isn’t sufficient to assess that, but my guess is that if your proposal was viable, people would have been all over it by now.

    Chris, how bizarre. You’d think they’d simply let you work over the internet, or what have you.

    Aidan, the specific scenario I came up with involved two changes: first, the Three Mile Island reactor accident turns into a full-scale Chernobyl-style meltdown, with thousands of deaths and a chunk of central Pennsylvania rendered uninhabitable for decades; and second, the US got warning of the intentions of the Iranian revolutionaries in time to evacuate the Tehran embassy, so there was no hostage crisis. Carter wins a second term, the Reagan era becomes a might-have-been, and John Anderson wins the GOP nomination in 1984 and takes the presidency with a platform focusing on sustainability and a retreat from empire to take care of domestic issues, and away we go.

    Jared, good heavens. This is starting to spread more quickly than I anticipated.

    David BTL, exactly.

    Rrodina, and you can fit those same pieces into a thousand other patterns, too.

    Viking, sure, but if the smart investment money had gone into sustainable technology instead, the internet as we know it would not have come into existence; it would be something like what it was in 1990, a mostly text-based network used primarily by government, big corporations, academia, and some hobbyists. As for a future internet, I’m far from convinced that that’s likely, and the reasons (again) are economic rather than technical; there are cheaper and less complex ways to do the same things just as well.

    Temporaryreality, fascinating. Many thanks for this.

    Ganv, yes, that’s pretty much the conventional wisdom. I remain unconvinced, not least because past predictions based on the conventional wisdom have flopped so consistently.

    RPC, which makes it even more unlikely that anything of the sort will ever pan out.

    J.L.Mc12, yes — remember that I read Australian papers online these days.

    Patricia M, as do I. Thanks for both of these!

    Evan, RCA was a huge and very valuable corporation in its day. You might check out what happened to it.

    Oilman2, I’m baffled by it.

    Info, that seems reasonable.

    Scotlyn, thanks for this.

    Y. Chireau, I responded to one comment of yours already, iirc — if there was another, yes, I must have missed it. As for Trump, of course not. The man’s a blowhard and a braggart; the fact remains that the policies he’s pushing are significantly better for most people in this country than the failed neoliberal consensus of his opponents.

    Jim W, it’s a wilder ride than I anticipated, and I expected a wild ride.

  384. Well, at least I was right on Anderson succeeding Carter.

    May I have any hints regarding what happens in Eastern Europe, the U.S.S.R, China, and the Middle East?

    In any case, I would be glad to help you with ideas.

  385. @onething

    Thanks. Another 6 weeks of house arrest was just announced here in Melbourne and there’ll almost certainly be more after that. So, I have plenty of time on my hands. Pretty sure I’ll have a book’s worth by the end.

  386. @ onething (August 3, 2:20am) – re masks – well, yes – but, still, it would have been interesting to see some of the reactions and meltdown to masks with slogans supporting the president. (and as i noted earlier, i not a fan of his or or his opponent; i am, however, a fan of popcorn…)

    @ Scotlyn (August 4, 5:47am) – Too true. From a first person narrative (of Mr. Kaywaykla as told to Eve Ball), you might find the following of interest: ‘In the Days of Victorio; Recollections of a Warm Springs Apache” by Eve Ball and James Kaywaykla. Although in bits and pieces in the narrative, the hunter-gatherer aspects were clearly not passive.

  387. I also hope Indiana Jones and Back to the Future still happen in the Burke-punk reality Mr. Greer (even if somewhat altered)!

    I’d also be curious if Japan still goes down its mediocre post-1992 path of OTL.

  388. At JMG and Viking, in regards to the future of the internet.

    Check out the work of low tech magazine and their solar powered server.

    https://solar.lowtechmagazine.com/2020/01/how-sustainable-is-a-solar-powered-website.html

    It is sort of proof that while technically possible, it leaves a lot to be desired. The entire site was re-written to dispatch nothing but static pages and to have very reduced image quality.

    The solar panel manage to power a single 1.2v credit card sized server, with battery backup and it still has around 16 days down time a year. A bigger panel and battery is possible but at that point it basically just becomes cheaper to just use the grid to run it.

    As JMG said, it will be a case of a slow creep of increasing connection costs, decreasing availability and a decrease of free/gratis content online. Look at how many sites have gone behind paywalls in the last few years. The ever rising trend of needing (not wanting) services like patreon just to keep content coming. Last year Facebook removed the slogan ‘free and always will be’, I’m anticipating that they will push for a ‘premium’ paid service in the next few years, eventually dragging more folks into that model or being left in the ditch.

    I can envision there will be three tiers of the internet for a while.

    The higher classes that can afford to stay online and with their privacy (mostly intact), nowadays you can see the early stages of this, think the folks with iPhones etc. Other wise it will be universities and governments.

    The middle class, those that can still afford an internet connection but have given up all personal freedoms to stay online, their data is extracted and maximized in every way to keep them online and feeding the data machine and thus the advertising machine.

    The lower classes, they cannot afford to get online, cannot afford any online services if they are on the internet and thus there will be no companies to will cater to them because they do not have the required capital to be even advertised at. They will gain anonymity again simply because they are so low down on the economic scale.

    The high and middle classes will slowly shrink in terms of numbers and the lower classes will keep on growing until things like the internet will simply be a think of the past, that thing grandpa used to waste his youth on.

    This is the big thing with decline, for the most part it will look like an economics issue not a resource issue. Not a cloud of oppression coming down to crush everything, but a rising tide of poverty.

  389. @Whispers and fusion power. Tritium, was chosen simply as a proof of concept. Hydrogen was far too hard to get into a reaction so the current state of the fusion game is “can we even do it with everything in optimal conditions?”. So far, not really.

    Current global supply of Tritium is 25Kg, the ITER in France uses 1Kg of it, so 4% of global supply. That is a large percentage of global supply for a single reactor that will probably barely be heat positive yet alone electricity positive. And as you pointed out, Tritium is a by product of fission, without that industry, it is dead in the water. That we need hundreds of fission reactors to get to a 25Kg sustained supply show just how fragile the entire premise is.

    There is also the factor that projects like the ITER need large backup power plants to keep everything in state even when not running. For the 14 minutes run time they are aiming to achieve once every few weeks, they need a secondary power plant running on fossil fuels non-stop to ensure things like the helium cooling is active and the plant standby is functional.

    It is estimated that if there is even a 1% loss of Tritium in the operation of the system (a near certainty) that the project will never be energy positive and that is before you count the externalities of the power plants.

    As JMG has mentioned before with disscensus, I am all for people trying to solve problems and in that sense I am watching on intrigued by what they achieve. But to those that fund these projects, how long will they put up with the lack of results?

  390. Evan – That “data” that makes the Internet businesses rich is ONLY valuable if it leads to sales, to real money changing hands from someone who buys a product (or service) from someone who provides it. Jeff Bezos’ genius was to realized that book sales indicated personal interests, and that sellers would pay for the prospects. (Buy a book about guitars? Maybe you’d like to buy some new strings, or maybe a whole new instrument?) But when people can’t pay their car payments, rent, and/or mortgages, when there’s a line around the block an hour before the food pantry opens, then those leads don’t produce sales. Then the data becomes worthless. For a while, the infrastructure can keep running without upgrades or new design work, and the cost-cutters congratulate themselves for cutting costs by letting the expensive staff go. But eventually, the redundancy gets used up, and segments go dark.

    Investor money is apparently easy to get when your network is growing. Metcalfe’s Law claims that the value of a network is proportional to the square of its nodes (users), since every new node provides new value to all of the others. That’s great when growth is expected, but it’s not so great when contraction is in the cards.

  391. @Temporaryreality

    This coming school year will certainly be interesting in the homeschooler scene! I worry, though, that the probably-huge transfer of students out of school districts will cause a funding crisis, and that there may be a lot of districts engaging in hanky-panky of one sort or another to try to recover the per-student funding they’re used to getting for those kids. It’s a thing homeschoolers occasionally run into in the form of school districts repeatedly “losing” their paperwork or rejecting a homeschooling notice for the pettiest of reasons (you didn’t use our non-mandatory form, we need a copy of your kid’s not-required-for-anyone-else birth certificate, etc.). I am afraid we could see an explosion of that kind of shady activity, as school districts run up against this year’s budgets.

    @Rita

    The gentleman I knew wasn’t any kind of operations bigwig– he just had a lot of experience with how infrastructure actually works. I expect there are many more who know just as much, where all the weak points are, etc. We should thank heaven that so far, the category of “competent guys who know that stuff” and “terrorists” are non-overlapping categories. Perhaps having a long career in a field where you are genuinely useful deters that sort of thinking?

  392. @RPC

    “If one were to teleport a cubic meter of the sun into a fusion reactor and keep it contained, it would release insufficient energy for the effort to be worthwhile.”

    276.5 watts per cubic meter, to be precise. That is remarkably similar to the time- and area-averaged energy input from the sun to the Earth’s surface of 164 watts per square meter. In other words, the sun is immensely powerful not because it is continuous thermonuclear bomb, but because is it extraordinarily large. That means that unless we can create conditions similar to the center of the sun over a very large volume (3.6 million cubic meters per gigawatt, the volume of NASA’s rocket assembly building in Florida), or conditions much more intense than those within our sun, fusion is never going to make economic sense.

  393. I like this phrase on Wikipedia regarding solar fusion:

    “Despite its intense temperature, the peak power generating density of the core overall is similar to an active compost heap, and is lower than the power density produced by the metabolism of an adult human. The Sun is much hotter than a compost heap due to the Sun’s enormous volume and limited thermal conductivity.”

  394. The false dichotomy of Mankind vs Nature may have its origins from Manicheanism or certain Gnostic sects that decry the Material World as Evil as it serves as a Prisons for the Spirit. And that sexuality and by its extension the resulting children is a form of pollution.

    This dislike of the Human body and Nature in General seem to have influenced the Early Church even as it sought to fight it.

    Men like Augustine and St Jerome for example had this notion impact their ideas on Sexuality. And it may have mutated into the attitude of the rapine of Nature.

    Its a hypothesis so I couldn’t truly confirm the pedigree with complete accuracy. But it seems that this particular Gnostic attitude was there during those days.

  395. @JMG

    “sure, but if the smart investment money had gone into sustainable technology instead, the internet as we know it would not have come into existence; it would be something like what it was in 1990, a mostly text-based network used primarily by government, big corporations, academia, and some hobbyists. ”

    Yes, mostly agreed. And one of my points is that such a lower-tech Internet is sufficient for the purpose of a blog like this one: just as today, it could have a readership in the 100,000s spread over the world and have interactive weekly conversations between our host and its readers with a turn-around of a few days, instead of the weeks or months of written publications distributed over a postal service.

    Moreover, it would still allow a future druid working from home, outside the mainstream institutions, to make useful predictions, and shape the collective discourse, in world politics. That druid could keep up-to-date with publications from all the major countries, without needing a large subscription budget or a whole house of paid informants to gather the relevant information, especially if the local library does not have the resources for that either.

    “As for a future internet, I’m far from convinced that that’s likely, and the reasons (again) are economic rather than technical; there are cheaper and less complex ways to do the same things just as well.”

    The technical point I was making is that the core protocols of the Internet still work with resource and energy usage several orders of magnitude lower than what the Internet of today uses (to provide uncapped large bandwidth, milliseconds latency, and always-on, world-wide connectivity). I believe, and only the future will actually tell whether that is accurate or not, that the lowest useful point on that curve can still offer information services for less resources with better bandwidth and latency than postal services combined with printing presses, even for the masses, at a level of complexity accessible to a de-industrial future.

    But I am not trying to convince you of this. Your perspective and focus on debunking techno-fetichism so people stop blinding believing that engineers and scientists will keep on doing their magic, while everyone can simply continue consuming an ever larger amount of energy and resources in a finite world, is still necessary. I support that even if we may not agree on what will be affordable. And I think this effort will keep being necessary until kitchen discussions on the limits to growth with family and acquaintances can last more than 5 seconds and proposals coherent with those limits eventually become part of the moderate and popular political parties platforms.

    Until then, what I am doing is preparing for a more detailed discussion, from a technologist perspective, of the technology choices we can still make together that are consistent with the limits of our world, for those with an inclination and the resources to actively shape the future of those technologies. As in the “collapse-now-and-avoid-the-rush” insight of our host, that perspective can still have major benefits in the short term even if the long-term predictions turn out not completely accurate.

  396. @Michael Gray

    The solar-powered low-tech server you mentioned is more than enough for a blog like this one, where the ideas are carried in the form of text essays with occasional images. But the bulk of what makes the Internet possible is not in the server, such as the low-tech magazine example, it is in the intermediary and mostly invisible nodes that carry the traffic between end-user devices and the servers. These intermediary nodes are currently designed to be always on and provide high-speed traffic and low-latency, regardless of the weather. You can’t change them without greatly affecting the bandwidth, latency, and always-on connectivity experienced by users. In fact, without those properties none of the major Web platforms could operate at the scale they currently do, and have such an online presence, and social impact.

    But if we accept lack of connectivity at times, lower bandwidth and much higher latencies, we could replace the intermediary nodes with renewable-powered alternatives. And rather than having information “on-demand”, our devices could express interest over long-term “subscriptions”, similar to a subscription to monthly magazine: the information would then propagate in the network when energy and capacity is available. For example, solar-powered Internet nodes would propagate information following the diurnal cycle. So, for example, you would get the messages of other world-wide readers of this blog in daily batches, which in practice follows the cycle of moderation of our host.

    As a side (political) note, the “Net Neutrality” debate of a few years ago was partly the correct recognition by network operators that they are providing critical infrastructure for the operation and profitability of major Web platforms, while being squeezed out of the profits. Since that debate got out of the public eye, and because the core network providing connectivity is so critical to their operations, Google, Facebook, and Amazon have participated in the deployment of undersea cables, either by directly owning them or buying a significant part of their capacity (source: https://blog.telegeography.com/rising-tide-content-providers-investment-in-submarine-cables-continues), progressively side-stepping the network operators.

    This “Routing-around-the-failures” property of the TCP/IP protocols was a core design goal for the Internet to survive major disruptions. It does not only allow major players to battle on the technical landscape, it equally enables citizens to build their own networks, and route around the major organisations too when they get in the way. Two of the cities I have lived in have wireless citizen local networks maintained by volunteers. And even under oppressive regimes, you can have an underground network of people exchanging memory cards, as in the Cuba example I mentioned in a previous comment. This keeps a diversity of viewpoints and opinions accessible to a large audience.

  397. @Michael Gray

    It is late on the cycle, but please let me comment on the technical feasibility of the Internet.

    The article you refer to focuses in the wrong side of the equation. It mimics the analysis of internal combustion vehicles, which burn lots of fuel through their lifetimes and therefore spend the majority of their energy requirements more or less linearly through time (after an initial bump for the initial cost of manufacturing the vehicle).

    Electronics is not like that. Most energy inputs are consumed by the manufacturing process itself, and it only takes a marginal amount to keep those running after they are created. I expect that if no industry insider takes measures to address this, we may have a more or less fast collapse of the Internet shortly after we loose the resources to keep producing cheap electronics.

    The key issue should be to design chips in a way that make them robust and resilient in the long term. This is anti-economic under current paradigm of our industry/culture, but some enlightened souls could theoretically pursue this agenda for strategic reasons.

    Also the survival of older, less efficient factories (which presumably use less costly processes) would help to navigate/cushion the downwards slope

  398. # AV I think you will find that all women, excluding the Trumpettes, are very afraid of a continuation of Trump and the Republicans. All, and I mean every single woman, and even many girls, except for a younger sister of mine, are terrified by what Trump brings out in Amercans. That younger sister is a hard right woman with a lot of guilt and anger issues. Trump is the perfect leader for those who see only black and white, the “other”, and allow their fear to run rampant.
    As my daughters grew old enough, I taught them that Nazis were all around them, and most of those people had no idea that they were clear examples of the human animal in full fear mode.
    No, the left are not “good guys”, they are just a better version of the human animal. Anyway, who will care in 100 years? Almost all of us will be dead.

  399. It is that little bit of higher brain function that allows us humans to think we are more deserving of our place on the planet than everything else. Believing it don’t make it so…🥰🥰🥰🥰

  400. Pingback: URL
  401. Have to say that the first few paragraphs I found a litmus of clarity, but you lost me when the analysis turned toward the political.
    In the essay ‘Dream of a Managed Society’ you expressed interest in the ideas that the then burgeoning movements of Thunberg’s SchoolStrike and Extinction Rebellion might be finding support from the elite Davos crowd because of the former’s tacit support for the latter’s “”solutions”” to the problem of anthropogenic climate change. Greta wasn’t exactly banging on the gates of the WEF’s meeting- in fact she was inside in the green room enjoying hospitalities after addressing conference. She makes promotional videos for them.
    At risk of being accused of embodying the ‘myth of the Man Who Found Out’, might we look at the Covid crisis in the same light of the same World Economic Forum’s “”solution”” to this pandemic ? It is not exactly hard to find out what that is. It is not such a leap of faith to look at the connections from there and them to the major figures in this year’s drama.
    In my view we are at a major juncture, and one that is not even really mentioned in this essay above. To those of us who see no epidemiological logic to the huge changes unfolding around us, the most obvious alternative narrative goes something like this : The resource limits have brought the economic to it’s limit, and that in turn has brought the political to it’s limit. Society’s managers realise this and are seeking the transition to a centralised control society based upon central bank digital money, wrap around surveillance, vaccine certificates, medical martial law, automation and the breakdown of all remnants of community and civic life.
    The ‘New Normal’ is going to be nominally ‘Green’ too – just as prefigured by the prophetess of last year, Ms Thunberg of the Longstocking.
    This will not work out long term, but then again, as you (more than anyone) have taught me, nothing does.

  402. JMG – apologies for the necro of an old thread, but it was the closest to relevant for this comment that I could find.

    This article https://thesideview.co/journal/why-civilizations-collapse/ seems to fit very neatly with what i’ve understood of your expressed expectation that western civilization decline will be a slow process of everything gradually getting a bit crappier, rather than a sudden apocalypse or a steady progression to the future.

    It’s particularly interesting, i think, because it explores some of the ways that societies institutions interact and fail due to entirely human reasons, at a human scale, which then builds up that gradual civilization-wide decline.

    Thought you’d be interested.

    Cheers
    Greg

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