Monthly Post

The Negative-Sum Economy

There are tides and seasons in the comments I field for posts here on my blog, certain questions that get asked at regular intervals, certain saliva-flecked tirades I can count on getting whenever  certain things appear in my writings or happen in the world.  One of the more frequent of the questions is how to preserve wealth in the face of a difficult future.  This question pops up reliably when an economic crisis is on its way, as it happens, and I’ve started fielding it again in recent weeks; my readers may want to brace themselves.

Like so many of the common questions here, it’s an important question, and it has no simple answer. The combination of those features isn’t accidental. It’s an important question because it can’t be answered in any meaningful way without grappling with what wealth actually is, and it’s because wealth is not what most people think it is that the question has no simple answer.

Thar’s gold in them thar asteroids. (Maybe.)

We can start our exploration  with a lump of stone and metal  whizzing through the lethal radiation-soaked vacuum of interplanetary space between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.  Its name is Psyche, and it’s about the size of Greece.  It’s been splashed over the news in recent years because it’s got more metal in it than most other asteroids, and scientists have speculated that the metallic portions of Psyche might include a great deal of gold. Of course the mass media jumped on that instantly and started insisting that if only it could be dragged into our part of the solar system it would make everyone on Earth a billionaire.

If we needed any more evidence that the mass media is full of people who literally don’t know enough about economics to be let out of doors alone without a note from their mommies, here it is. Let’s do the thought experiment, shall we?  Suppose a solid gold asteroid were to be lassoed by astronauts, parked in low Earth orbit, chopped up into pieces small enough to go through reentry without annihilating a city or two when they hit, and brought down to earth. Would that actually make everyone on Earth a billionaire?

No, of course not.  It would simply drop the price of gold to ten cents an ounce or so, put a lot of miners permanently out of work, and result in an extensive stock of solid gold cookware on the shelves of every cheap department store in the industrial world. (I have it on the authority of an old National Geographic article that cast gold cookware is excellent stuff, since food doesn’t stick to it and gold does an extremely good job of spreading heat evenly.)  To be precise, it would have the same effect as trying to help a stranded castaway on a desert island by parachuting down a suitcase full of gold bars instead of food, water, and so on.

Now $12.99 in aisle 3.

The lesson here, and it’s a crucial one, is that gold is not wealth. Gold is one of the many tokens our species uses to manage the distribution of wealth. It has certain advantages over other tokens—in particular, it’s very widely accepted and governments can’t print more of it any time they feel like, so it tends to maintain more of its value in hard times—but it’s simply a token that can be exchanged for wealth, provided that there’s wealth to be gotten in exchange.

Of course the same thing is even more true of the most popular kind of tokens in our society: money.  If you have a stash of hundred dollar bills tucked under your mattress, or a set of arbitrary magnetic charges in a computer memory somewhere claiming that you have an equivalent amount in your bank account, do you have wealth?  No, you have a collection of tokens that you can exchange for wealth under current conditions.

Those conditions can change.  If the US government collapses next Tuesday, and the full faith and credit thereof no longer amount to a hill of beans, your collection of bills would be worth next to nothing and your collection of arbitrary magnetic charges would be worth even less than that.  If shopkeepers decide that they don’t want to put too much trust on the full faith and credit of the US government any more, and ask customers to pay in a more stable currency, your tokens won’t be worth much more.  Those of my readers who live south of the Mason-Dixon line, or in most countries outside the US, already know that this can happen.  Those who live in other parts of the US might want to look up the origins of the phrase “not worth a Continental” someday.

Worth more than a Continental, but only as a collector’s item.

So gold is not wealth, and money is not wealth. What is wealth? Etymologists will tell you that the word “wealth” comes from the old-fashioned word “weal” the way “health” comes from “heal,” and that “weal” shares an origin back in the mists of Indo-European prehistory with “well” (in the sense of “well-being”) and “will.”  In Anglo-Saxon times wel meant “according to one’s wish” and wela meant both “well-being” and “riches.” To be wealthy is to have the things you need and want, the things that support your well-being and enable you to do what you like.

Back in the nineteenth century, John Ruskin pointed out that this concept needs to be balanced by another:  illth.  As wealth is to weal (and well and will), illth is to ill.  To have illth is to be burdened by things you don’t need and don’t want, things that harm your well-being and prevent you from doing what you like. Every economy produces both wealth and illth:  that is to say, every economy produces goods and services, but also harms and hindrances. The relative proportion of wealth and illth varies across time, for reasons we’ll discuss later.  The distribution of wealth and illth is the great problem of economics.  One essential reason modern economists make bad predictions and bad policy so reliably is that they ignore half of this problem, and pretend that the production and distribution of illth isn’t relevant to their discipline.

John Ruskin. He named illth but he didn’t invent it.

In economic terms, we can define wealth and illth succinctly.  Wealth is a share of the current production of goods and services, and illth is a share of the current production of harms and hindrances. While our culture’s customary tokens still function, the more money you have, whether that consists of gold coins or magnetic charges in a bank’s computer, the more wealth you can claim and the more illth you can avoid.  Money, again, is one set of tokens our species currently uses to handle the distribution of wealth (and, without anyone ever quite admitting it, the avoidance of illth), and so it’s understandable that people confuse money with wealth.

It’s important to remember the distinction between money and wealth, because—as already noted—the equation between the two depends on conditions that can change, and have changed very suddenly at various points in the past.  The most obvious way that conditions can change is when nations cease to exist.  When the Confederacy and the Russian Empire collapsed, for example, their money could no longer be used to get wealth or avoid illth.  When France after the Second World War issued a new currency and required holders of the old currency to account for the origin of their wealth as a condition of trading old for new, people who’d gotten money by dubious means were seen burning old banknotes by the wheelbarrowful. In these and other cases of the same kind, a change in political conditions broke the link between money and wealth.

Yet there’s a subtler way the link can be broken, and that’s by way of a mismatch between the amounts of money and wealth in circulation. When there’s more money than there is wealth to buy or illth to avoid, the law of supply and demand drives prices and wages up, and you have inflation.  When there’s more wealth and illth available than there is money to get one and avoid the other, the same law drives prices and wages down, and you have deflation.  Both damage the economy and hurt people, though the pain isn’t shared equally:  inflation hurts borrowers and people with fixed incomes, deflation hurts investors and people with fixed expenses.

Both of them are often caused by government policies.  When governments and put too much money in the economy, you get inflation—that’s why prices are rising now, since so many countries are printing money to try to cope with the impact of their coronavirus policies. When governments restrict the money supply using precious metal backing or some similar gimmick, you get deflation—that’s why the second half of the nineteenth century and the first third of the twentieth saw one disastrous economic depression after another, because most of the world’s nations were on the gold standard and the economy grew faster than the money supply.

Does this seem somehow familiar?

What a great many people forget these days, however, is that government policy isn’t the only thing that can cause these problems. If for some reason the amount of wealth available to purchase takes a nosedive, for example, you can get inflation even if the government hasn’t spun the presses.  That was what happened in most of the industrial world in the 1970s.  US oil production peaked and began to decline, shortages rippled through the economy, and suddenly there was too much money chasing too little wealth.  The resulting mess got a name of its own—stagflation—because economic growth stagnated while prices spiked. The same thing can happen if the amount of illth in circulation increases for reasons unrelated to the money supply.

The lesson to take from both these latter points is that the wealth and illth of a society can vary for reasons that have nothing to do with economics.  If that happens, all the tokens in the world won’t bring you wealth or enable you to avoid taking a larger share of illth than you want.

With this in mind, let’s go a little deeper into the system of tokens we call “money.”  At the heart of money as it currently exists is the notion that money should make money.  If you put it in a bank account, you should get interest; if you invest it in stocks, you should get dividends and capital gains; if you buy bonds, you should get a return on your investment, and so on. That was not true of money until recently, historically speaking, but it’s been true for several centuries, and almost everyone these days treats it as though it’s as inevitable as tomorrow’s sunrise.

The beginning of the economy of limitless growth…

In point of fact, it’s anything but inevitable. It’s a specific gimmick that evolved over the last few centuries. It was invented to deal with the unprecedented era of global economic expansion that began with the systematic exploitation of coal as an energy resource in the eighteenth century, and went into overdrive once petroleum was added to the fossil fuel mix beginning in the 1850s. Before that era, economic growth was normally something that happened only when one society conquered another and got a sudden burst of new resources to exploit.  Outside of that special case, the increased weath yielded by technological improvements was neatly balanced by the increased demand for wealth driven by expanding populations and resource depletion.

…and its end.

Fossil fuels broke that pattern by enabling, at least at first, the production of much more wealth than illth.  Dealing with  that bonanza required expansion of the money supply—a modest expansion during the era of coal, and a much greater expansion during the era of petroleum, which is why the gold standard got shoved aside once the latter era arrived.  It became an item of faith during the petroleum era that economic growth was natural and inevitable.  That faith remains fixed in place today, even though the conditions that made sustained economic growth possible are fading out of sight in the rearview mirror right now.

That’s one of the essential messages of the Limits to Growth model I discussed two weeks ago.   The lesson taught by the World3 model can be summed up very crisply in terms of the language we’ve been using:  over time, economic growth affects the relative production of wealth and illth by any economy. In the early days of economic expansion, it’s easy for an economy to produce more wealth than illth, but the further the expansion runs, the more the balance tips the other way, until eventually the economy produces more illth than wealth. Prolong economic growth too far, and the production of illth overwhelms the production of wealth and forces growth itself to its knees:  that’s the lesson our political classes have been trying to ignore for fifty years.

Still the most accurate prediction of the future.

The standard run from The Limits to Growth shows how that ends.  Industrial output and food—the main forms of wealth—begin to decline, food gradually, industrial output much more rapidly. Meanwhile pollution—an important form of illth—climbs further before it, too, tips over and starts to decline. Population peaks and declines as well, and resources finish their descent to sustainable levels. What this means in economic terms, of course, is that the sustained economic growth of the last few centuries gives way to a few centuries of sustained economic contraction.

With all this, let’s cycle back to the question we discussed at the beginning of this post:  how to preserve wealth and avoid illth in the face of a difficult future. Most people who ask this want me to tell them what set of tokens they can hoard so that they will be able to exchange those tokens for wealth, at something like the same rate of exchange those tokens bring today.  Most of them, though they’ve never heard of John Ruskin and don’t know the word “illth,” also want to use their tokens to avoid illth at something like the same rate they can today. Neither of these are possible, because wealth and illth are both functions of economic production.  When the amount of wealth being produced is steadily dropping, and the amount of illth being produced is steadily increasing, any set of tokens—no matter what they happen to be—will command a smaller amount of wealth and avoid a smaller amount of illth.

A token that didn’t keep its value very well.

That said, some tokens will lose value faster than others. Economists, like generals, reliably try to fight the next war using the weapons and tactics of the last one, and that has been a massive source of trouble over the last few decades. The last major era of economic crisis reached a peak in the 1930s, when the mismatch between an expanding economy and a gold-backed currency that couldn’t expand fast enough resulting in an epic depression.  That was finally solved by abandoning the gold standard and flooding the economy with debt-based money.

When the global economy began to run into trouble in the 1970s, economists were still fixated on the experiences of the 1930s and tried to do the same thing all over again. That was a critical mistake, since the crisis of the 1970s was not caused by too much growth—it was caused by too little. Economists and policymakers have doubled down on the same mistake ever since, flooding the economy with money under the serene delusion that you can fix a shortage of wealth by increasing the number of tokens used to distribute it. That risked inflation, and the history of the last fifty years has been dominated by the struggle to find gimmicks to keep inflation under control while expanding the currency supply. (The culture of elite kleptocracy that has generated so many absurdly overinflated fortunes in recent years is one of these gimmicks.)

The US is bankrupt. Deal with it.

At this point, as a result, the single most pressing need the global economy faces is the need to clear away a spectacular oversupply of tokens. When the United States defaults on its unpayable debt or hyperinflates it out of existence—sooner or later it inevitably must do one or the other—that will take care of a lot of it, but by no means all.  As the production of wealth declines and the production of illth increases, the mismatch between the supply of tokens and the supply of wealth will increase.  To the extent that entire classes of tokens (such as US dollars) lose all their value, that will allow other classes to retain more of theirs, but every kind of token—yes, including gold—will have to shed a good share of its capacity to claim wealth and avoid illth.

All this can be summed up quite simply. During the long era of expansion made possible by the exploitation of fossil fuels, the world’s industrial nations had positive-sum economies: that is to say, the total amount of wealth in those nations increased on average from year to year, and it increased faster than the total amount of illth.  Since the arrival of the first energy crisis in 1973, the world’s industrial nations have effectively had zero-sum economies:  that is, the total amount of wealth—not of money, but of nonfinancial goods and services—remained largely static on average, while the total amount of illth rose to equal it.  We are now moving into an age of negative-sum economies, in which the total amount of wealth decreases on average from year to year, while the total amount of illth rises steadily for a while.

In a negative-sum environment, trying to preserve wealth by stockpiling tokens is a fool’s errand, and no, it doesn’t matter what tokens you stockpile. Are there strategies that can deal effectively with such times?  Yes, though they’re highly counterintuitive to minds raised to believe in limitless growth. We’ll discuss them in the first October post on this blog.

*******

In not wholly unrelated news, I’m delighted to announce that my widely acclaimed book on ecological economics, The Wealth of Nature: Economics As If Survival Mattered, is being reissued in a new and updated edition. It can be preordered at this time from the new publisher. If that’s of interest, you can get the details here.

355 Comments

  1. It’s seems that it’s common sense, these simple concepts you’ve outlined here, JMG. But while I’ve tried to explain the concept of expanding versus contracting economies to many people over the last 15 years, the conversation almost always gets bogged down exactly as you describe – what can be done to preserve “wealth”, and how to avoid the pain.

    One of the twists I’m trying to put on the Long Descent is to position myself with no debt AND no assets, other than my charming wit and glass-is-half-empty disposition. My sturdy back gave out long ago, and I’ve got to lower my expectations accordingly.

    The emotional shock that many people are heading towards shouldn’t be taken lightly – the grind on mental health from the pandemic is just getting started. As the “new normal” becomes realized and more people understand the impossibility of “getting back to the way things used to be”, there will be a requirement to remain sunny and upbeat. It goes against my personality that I’ve cultivated over the last six decades, but I’m hoping that my tendency to zig when the crowd zags will come through.

    Magnetic charges. Hah, good one.

  2. This is a book I liked about how to survive economic woes: https://johntreed.com/collections/john-t-reed-s-book-on-hyperinflation-and-depression/products/how-to-protect-your-life-savings-from-hyperinflation-and-depression. He also admits if things other than economic are also going wrong, it gets a lot harder.

    I once tried to figure out what’s the most valuable cargo it’s possible to carry. It’s not easy to figure out. Partially because the articles that discuss it don’t distinguish between value by weight or volume, and I don’t know if it’s even possible to fill a lorry to the roof with diamonds. Also some things are very difficult to value, like nuclear weapons. The highest value reasonable cargo I could come up with was to fill a lorry with the most expensive computers, with the most expensive software and the most valuable data loaded onto their hard drives.

    In response to the people who want to keep gold, if I had the money and was going to go in that direction, gemstones would be better. You could stuff tens of millions of pounds of gemstones into your pockets and run off with them. You wouldn’t get very far if you tried that with gold bars. 🙂

    There is an interesting innovation from gold afficionados though. A lot of them will know each other and keep their gold in the same vaults in Switzerland or Singapore. If they want to make an exchange between themselves for any kind of goods or services, they can just contact the vault and say “Take three bars out of my box and put them in so-and-so’s box.” Low risk and hard to detect.

  3. So based on this post, as I continue working to set myself up as an independent book-binder, I should:

    1. Consider that I might never be able to afford machines, and might have to do this all by hand,
    2. Factor in that I might never make a profit doing this, so I must be prudent about my expenses, and
    3. Hope that this is one of the useful skills that people will be willing to feed me for in the future.

    Does that sound about right?

  4. So it is more a question of “what tokens or forms of wealth will lose value more slowly than others”?

  5. Thanks for this JMG. It really seems like a large swath of the economics fields got lost in the field of tokens and abstractions outside the lived reality of human beings. I mean, how on earth can a “rise in the year to year gdp” be taken as a measure of human happiness all the while externalities, like garbage, are piling up all over the neighborhood? It doesn’t take an eagles eye to see society in the US declining outside the token economy. I can’t help but think that the end of this current era will do to scientists, economists, industrialists and corporations what the axial age did to the high priest societies of prior times.

    Tamanous

  6. I’m trying to visualize the types of things that count as ilth. Pollution is pretty obvious, including changes in the climate, rising seas etc. Apart from that…
    -high crime rates?
    -atomized societies where people have to move regularly and don’t help each other?
    -large numbers of climate refugees wanting to come and live in your country?
    -debt that eats up a large amount of taxes paid, preventing the money going to health, infrastructure, education etc?
    -car accidents?

  7. I was recently hired at the local Costco. Rumor has it that it’s a great place to work. So far that has born out. I work at the front end. My job includes a lot of good old fashioned hard work. The exercise feels good. I will be 60 next year. There are many of us gray haired ones there as youngsters don’t want to work now. I am going to exploit this opportunity for as long as I can. I am morbidly curious to see what happens if we really do experience some serious supply chain problems. I figure I have a front row seat.

    The store seems to mostly sell snacks and toys and leisure clothing. I’m sure I will be shopping there and working to determine which items are of actual value. Costco has created a customer who hangs out in sweats munching muffins and watching shows on their big screen TV’s. It’s an entirely manufactured lifestyle. I expect that lifestyle will end sooner or later. Interestingly, Costco apparently has quite a cult following. What will happen to people when they can’t drive to Costco anymore to get muffins and ginormous quantities of everything?

    For a while I have been trying to imagine what Costco would look like without imports from China. Also, I reimagine that massive warehouse repurposed as a public market and square, a place for community to happen. It already has a bit of a carnival atmosphere and it’s a place where people love running into people they know.

    Sometimes I imagine it full of tables covered with fresh baked bread or fish or live chickens and goats for sale, There would be clothiers and knife sharpeners. And fortune tellers. It’s a lovely scene. I’m just not sure how we get from here to there. But, I pray we can and decently.

  8. Excellent article. I’m looking forward to the October post.

    I’m also delighted to announce I got my rejection slip from the Grist story contest yesterday.

    I hope all are well in these challenging times.

  9. This may be too tangential, though I think it relates: I’ve recently seen true believers in Progress say that they think we should hurry up and dismantle the Sun for raw materials as soon as possible. I’ve heard of Dyson spheres before, of course, but to put it so bluntly… Talking about killing the golden goose…

    I’m now starting to think of Fenrir as the patron spirit of modernity: the blind urge to consume, and to destroy the gods who would tell us to stop. (There are other connections that make me think this, but that’s for a Magic Monday or open post.)

    For all its genuine benefits and disingenuous pretentions, the industrial economy (whether of the capitalist or socialist varieties) has mainly been a way to consume nonrenewable resources faster. And of course, what counts as renewable depends on time-scale; consume a renewable resource fast enough, and it becomes nonrenewable (e.g. the Sun).

  10. John–

    This post resonates with thoughts I’ve been having recently re the role of symbols in our lives and how those symbols can, if one doesn’t pay attention, become confused with the underlying realities they represent. In the case of this discussion, for example, we have monetary tokens versus the reality of wealth. Another example might be a college degree (or any similar certification) versus knowledge. When we lose sight of the actual thing and begin chasing a symbolic representation of the thing, that’s when the wheels begin to come off.

  11. How much do you think security and comfort are behind the questions you receive? I suspect quite a bit since we’ve been trained since we could talk that more money = more security and comfort. The rich don’t have to work as hard as the poor, so to have a lot of money meant being more comfortable.

    On a slightly tangential note, I think this why the permaculture movement never quite gets a firm hold here in the U.S. To do the practices of permaculture requires a lot of manual labor, and manual labor is something poor people and illegal immigrants do. I’ve found permaculture is mostly the comfortable classes in attendance so it just doesn’t jive with them.

    I think people value comfort above a lot of others things these days.

  12. One lesson from this, perhaps, not unrelated to our relationship with nature: We are parts of a system (economic on one hand, and environmental on the other), and no amount of tomfoolery (winning the lottery, arriving at “the singularity,” et al.) can forever extract us from these systems. We must adapt as conditions change, come what may.

    We are embedded in the various systems that make up our world, and we need to get used to that.

    Axé

  13. To what extent is it true that Canada has no government debt, or very little compared to the US? And if it is largely true, doesn’t that place Canada in an advantageous position?

  14. I don’t know if I’d agree that fossil fuels enabled the production of much more wealth than illth. Since pollution is defined as a form of illth, doesn’t that mean that fossil fuels dramatically increased the production of both wealth and illth?

  15. And related to my previous comment, I’m thinking of a scene in “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” where, the USD having lost all its value, a small stash of British pounds allows the purchase of enough gasoline to get back home. I keep a modest amount of CDN for that very reason. In the short term it might get you out of a jam.

  16. So happy to know the book is being reprinted. I just placed my pre-order.

    Regarding wealth, we live in N. Texas and we are fully invested in our home built in the 60’s with a small plot of land to leave behind for our kids. We are doing renovations to make the house more resilient and energy efficient, since we cannot depend on the TX grid. Houses like ours are fetching crazy prices and new homes, with way smaller lots but bigger interiors are coming close to Westcoast prices if not already there. At this rate our kids won’t be able to afford their own homes. They’ll be priced out.

    Retirement is right around the corner for us, and our town just got named as one of the top 10 worst cities for retirement, so there’s that.

  17. Do you know that since the 1960s, the significant contribution of Louis Kelso to economic theory has been mostly ignored by the academic community?

    The links below are to an informal introduction to the theory and to present a systemic macroeconomic policy for growing the economy in a sustainable, private property, market-based way that universalizes access to the financial means for every citizen to participate in the creation and ownership of new wealth.

    Please review the ideas and logic in “What Louis Kelso Knew ” (http://kelsoinstitute.org/louiskelso/kelso-paradigm/what-louis-kelso-knew/) and the details of the “Economic Democracy Act” (https://www.cesj.org/learn/economic-democracy-act/plan-for-getting-ownership-income-and-power-to-every-citizen/) proposed by the Center for Economic and Social Justice (https://www.cesj.org/).

    I am sure that you will find the articles deserve your serious consideration.

    Rudolf Wrobel
    Shawnee, KS

    OWN or Be Owned

  18. In regard to flooding of the economy with asteroid gold; an episode of Gilligan’s Island where they found gold and had a massive burst of inflation just pops into my head every time someone mentions that. If the writers of a light-brained sitcom can figure it out it doesn’t say much about the common sense of the press.

    By the way, that was one time Gilligan was not the one who ruined the rescue attempt.

  19. Cheap gold _would_ be wealth, for the gold cookware, gold wiring, gold radiators, etc.: just not as much as its present price says. The same thing happened with aluminum, which used to be pricier than gold; then chemists figured out how to extract it cheaply from bauxite, and now we use it for foil and folding chairs and soda cans and airfoils.

  20. Outstanding blog. Thank you for answering this important question in very understandable terms. I have begun the process of exchanging my saved tokens into the means of production under my control. Expanding gardens, orchards, wood lots, old singer sewing machines, etc. and helping my daughters do the same.

    Thank you for your work and i have ordered another of your excellent books.

  21. ” Suppose a solid gold asteroid were to be lassoed by astronauts, parked in low Earth orbit, chopped up into pieces small enough to go through reentry without annihilating a city or two when they hit, and brought down to earth. Would that actually make everyone on Earth a billionaire?”

    There is a Jules Verne novel about that legendary and solid gold asteroid…”The hunting of the meteor” , “La chasse au méteore”:

    https://www.babelio.com/livres/Verne-La-Chasse-au-meteore/139706

    In this novel the giant gold piece is going to fall on Earth. Where? (…)

  22. It’s hard not to laugh at the hoopla over Psyche. NASA’s sole interest in it
    is gaining insights into planetary formation. Non-NASA people who propose mining these
    things are betraying their utter ignorance of the vast distances just between
    planets (never mind the stars) and profound unawareness of all that nasty radiation flying
    around outside our protective magnetosphere.

    If they’re really that anxious to get their hot little hands on plenty of gold there’s
    actually quite a bit located quite close by. Where? Why the earth’s core naturally.
    According to one source I read, there’s enough gold, platinum ,iron, nickel, etc in the core to
    cover Earth’s surface with a four-meter thick layer. Yes, there’s that little issue
    of having to tunnel through mere 1802 miles of molten rock to get at it. But it’s
    so much closer! And you don’t have to worry about that nasty radiation. Once Elon Musk
    realizes he can’t get to Mars, this will probably be his next project.

    I already have your first edition of The Wealth Of Nations and will hauling it out
    for another read. Looking forward to the next post.

  23. This post fits in with some programs and news stories I’ve seen in the past few days. One was a program on PBS about….ROBOTS!!! And how they are the wave of the future, and will do all these things for us, including maybe replace us, but that’s just silly science fiction, cause ….ROBOTS! All the while Im thinking “With all the people long term out of work, WHY are you wanting to replace more people with your expensive machinery? The other is all the “Hully Gee!! We going to send 4 CIVILIANS into orbit!!” As a charity event. Leaving aside that the person sponsoring this Hully Gee!! Event has spent $300 million on it, with not a cent sent to the charity, is all the “we going to the moon1! And Msars…and 50 years from now..!” The plan is to take 70 or so lbs of hops to space, then auction it off to a brewery to make “space beer” and donate that mount to the charity. Course if the billionaire had donated the $300,000,000 direct, the charity would be much better off, but we wouldn’t have gotten all the media HULLY GEE, we going to the STARS!!’ Finally, I got an email from a company that sells lots of tech. Computers and parts, and such. They are having a HUGE sale of “used and refurbished” crypto mining machines. The used computer market is flooded with old crypto machines, the consequences of a few nations totally banning crypto mining. Which happened virtually overnight. Yet nations plow along at full speed, not realizing that the rudder really, really is too small to turn the ship of state aside before it scrapes the iceberg. I often bring this up, and get a “Yes but…” or “Oh stop being so negative , Im sure they will think of something” When I bring up cost vs. feasibility, its more denial. I just can’t with “people” anymore!!

  24. John–

    Just as an interesting side note: I keep a 41-cent oracle in my drawer at work and often cast a geomantic “figure for the day” in the morning when I first get in, usually as a theme for meditation or reflection. Today’s figure was Amissio, which had me puzzled at first…then I saw your post at lunch.

  25. Maybe it’s because most of my social circle are science fiction readers and at least moderately science-literate, the asteroid mining notions that I’ve heard have focused, not on gold, but on minerals that are actually useful for something, such as the rare earth elements that go into the current generation of wind turbines and solar panels. This would be wealth, but they mostly admit that the notion of sending a robot out to attach a rocket to an asteroid and propel it back to Earth couldn’t be done using present technology because we have no way of detecting whether a given asteroid is a single lump of rock, which could be steered, or multiple rocks held together with ice, which would shatter when the rocket ignited, with the shards going in unpredictable directions.

  26. @JMG

    Could the concept of what ecologists call ‘succession’ be applied to economies as well? If yes, I’ve a feeling that the sanest options would be a variety of economic systems covering the intermediate territory between capitalism on the one hand, and socialism on the other, while acknowledging their debts to Nature.

  27. Phutatorius,
    it’s my understanding that Canada’s national debt is much smaller than the US as a percent of GDP. Direct comparisons of total size are not useful as the USA’s population is about 9x Canada’s. We definitely have a national debt, and it’s rising, especially given all the covid-related spending.

    Canada is probably not be as good condition financially as we appear on the surface, because non-governmental debt owned by individuals etc is higher per person than in the US. If/when the housing bubble bursts, a lot of people are going to get badly hurt, and the government could end up taking over other entities debt as happened in the US in 2008.

  28. A masterfully done summation of the problems faced by the current economy and us peons who happen to live inside. I’m looking forward to part 2!

    One of the best stores of wealth, I think, are the skills and knowledge in your own hand and brains. They can be used to produce wealth directly (in cases such as woodworking or beer brewing), or put to work for others to earn whatever wealth tokens happen to be in vogue (currently this is true for skills like data analysis, but I think the value of other skills such as ‘story-telling’ or ‘spiritual guidance’ is going to take a massive leap).

    I think even more valuable though is the wealth we ‘store’ in others – our reputation in the community is a loose form of social credit and the more you put in to the community around you, the more others will be willing to help you during a crisis (and if you’re wealthy this can be the difference between being a member of a new generation of aristocracy or having your head put on a pike).

  29. Drhooves, that’s a very important point. I’ve commented in earlier posts — here, for example — that a lot of people are coming mentally unglued these days, and the end of progress is a very large part of that. The coronavirus situation is a good example: according to the ritual theater of progress, the virus is supposed to succumb to the triumphant force of science, embodied in the sacred weapon of vaccination, and the official narrative is still clinging to that drama even though the virus isn’t going away and the side effects of the vaccines are racking up a bumper crop of death and sickness. As that paradox becomes harder to ignore, I expect a lot of people to wig out completely.

    Yorkshire, when you were thinking about the most expensive cargo you could carry, did it occur to you what a golden opportunity you were offering to any small group of people with guns who didn’t mind shooting your tires out and then killing you to get at it?

    CS2, that sounds like an excellent idea. The one addition I’d make is that you don’t know how far down the technological ladder you’ll need to climb, so be sure to make room for simpler, intermediate technologies between the current high-tech approach and doing it all by hand.

    David BTL, that’s one question. There are others, and we’ll get to them.

    Tamanous, good. That’s one of the reasons I brought illth into the discussion; those piles of garbage are accumulations of illth, and it’s because economists ignore how much illth is being produced and distributed that their statistics mean so little.

    Pygmycory, good. There are as many kinds of illth as there are kinds of wealth; anything that harms or hinders you, as a result of economic production, is illth. The time you lose waiting in traffic because there are too many cars on the roads is illth. The sickness you get because the food at the grocery wasn’t wholesome is illth, and so on.

    Elizabeth, you know, that’s the first really good idea I’ve yet heard about how to repurpose a big box store. Thank you.

    Justin, so did I — I’ll be making an announcement on Dreamwidth shortly. Hang onto the story!

    Slithy Toves, okay, you did it. You almost got tea on my keyboard, for a change. Dismantle the Sun? Seriously? These people need to be taken quietly away to a nice friendly place with padded cells.

    David BTL, excellent! Yes, exactly. This is what Vico was talking about in his discussions of the flight into abstraction as one of the things that drives the collapse of societies — in place of concrete realities (practical know-how), you have an abstract representation of that reality (an education), then an abstract representation of that abstraction (a certificate), and then an abstract representation of the abstraction of the abstraction (“trust science!”) — and usually it’s right around then that the wheels do in fact come off.

    Denis, that’s a lot of it, but it interweaves closely with status. As you’ve noted, actually practicing permaculture (for example) means behaving like a low-status person, and people in the privileged classes would sooner chop off their own noses than do that.

    Fra’ Lupo, nicely summarized. Yes.

    Phutatorius, you’ll have to ask my Canadian readers. I don’t happen to know.

    Ethan, back when fossil fuels were cheap and readily accessible, they produced a lot of illth but they produced much, much more wealth — look into the transformations of lifestyles in the industrial world in the 19th and early 20th centuries for a good measure of this. It’s when we burnt through all the readily accessible deposits and costs (in both financial and energy terms) started soaring that the production of illth outraced the production of wealth.

    Phutatorius, depends on how closely the Canadian economy is linked to ours. It would definitely be worth looking into, though.

    N. Texas, congratulations! Being ranked in the bottom ten means you won’t get anything like as many refugees from California, which is something.

    Rudyks, no, I’m not familiar with Kelso. There were a lot of interesting economic theories proposed in the first half of the twentieth century, and a lot of them deserve a second look, so thanks for this.

    Siliconguy, so what you’re saying is that today’s media pundits are so stupid that a joke from Gilligan’s Island went zooming over their heads. I can believe that. Media personalities have been selected for their looks rather than their brains for decades now, so they’re basically the human equivalent of golden retrievers…

    Paradoctor, fair enough. Sure, having gold so cheap that everyone can cook with gold frying pans and wrap their leftovers in gold foil will count as wealth — but it won’t make everyone on earth a billionaire. It’ll just mean we get to eat better fried eggs.

    Tom, many thanks and I’m glad to hear it.

    Chuaquin, that sounds like Verne!

    Jeanne, excellent! You’re quite correct, of course. I suggest we hand shovels to the people who fall for this…

    Marlena, when I was six years old and sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, I read a comic book that was all about how any day now robots would replace human beings. That was the same year that Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. We’re rapidly approaching the point at which everyone who has actually walked on the Moon will have died of old age, and the robots are still nowhere to be seen — and yet the same dreary fantasy lumbers through its animatronic routine in the collective imagination. It occurs to me that the clearest evidence that progress is over, done, finished, dead as a doornail, is that even its most diehard believers can’t actually imagine anything new.

    Chuaquin, thanks for this.

    David BTL, funny!

    Joan, it would be wealth, but only if the value of the minerals exceeds the cost of getting them. Do you recall all the confident claims that orbital factories would become a huge economic sector by now? They didn’t, because the cost of building, maintaining, and staffing them far exceeded the value of the products they could make.

    Vidura, excellent. Excellent! I would suggest, however, that both capitalism and socialism are industrial economies, and thus early successional seres — that is to say, extravagant, wasteful, and soon over.

    Andrew, we’ll be getting to those. 😉

  30. @Slithy Toves #9: that’s a great idea! After we dismantle the sun we can import a small slice of a black hole sufficient to make up for the solar system’s lost gravitational center. Heat? Light? Science will come up with something.

  31. I like the idea of illth, even if my autocorrect does not. I’ve stashed some tools, ammo, supplies, and also some pm’s although not in large quantities since we are modest means people who already embrace a slower-than-average burn lifestyle with no kids.

    So to reduce illth one important step seems to be getting rid of everything unnecessary that only slows us down. Are you saying at some point the pm’s will become a source of illth since they will attract negative attention and the kind of goods and services I would want to use them for would not be available at any price?

    In that sense it makes more sense as a bridging technology that must be used up in the period between when the currency fails and before rule of law fails. I guess I’m glad that I didn’t buy any more than I already have.

    Maybe some home built water catchment barrels are a much better investment. I would really like a copy of your new old book right about now.

  32. OT, but I was hoping to ask for prayers and healing energy from the part of the commentariat that doesn’t read the Dreamwidth blog. I’ve been diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease, and lost most of the hearing in my left ear to that several years ago. Now I’m having the condition in my right ear, with fullness, hearing loss, sound distortion and tinnitus. The steroid shots have yet to work, and I only have one more to go, next Tuesday morning. I am very grateful for any help! The idea of permanent hearing loss in my good ear is distressing me terribly, and it’s the worse because I’d been so joyful since my successful surgery in March, but now I’m back in the same pit of fear and anxiety I was then. Thank you all for anything and everything you do!

  33. @ JMG – I’m not sure what kind of questions you are getting exactly, but I noticed another possible leading indicator over the weekend. In Years past, a great many people I know, marked the anniversary of the September 11th attacks with great solemnity. I know the book of faces has a low reputation here, but I do find it a somewhat reliable barometer of the zeitgeist, and boy, there was next to no mention of the 20th anniversary. It may be due to the withdrawal from Afghanistan, but I get the feeling that something really has changed in the American collective unconscious. Do you think this qualifies as some kind of “big changes are afoot” leading indicator, like the questions you field about preserving wealth in a contracting economy?

    Also, are the questions generally any more interesting than “if I bury gold in the back yard, will my wealth be okay”?

    @ the commentariat – did anyone else experience the equivalent of dead air, when it came to September 11th commemorations?

  34. There is much to be said for the literal tools of production and repair. Never hurts to own a good shovel. Tools to repair bikes and cars and other broken things are a plus. Human powered tools for carpentry, etc. are worth owning. I actually stockpile some of these things to give to the less fortunate: sewing machines are highly undervalued and I have put several into good homes. Give a friend a food grade bucket with an air lock and he may give you some beer. I keep bees, and honey is a trade good. I give out honey and children bring me cookies when Mom is baking. It all works out.

  35. I have an excellent example of the value of tokens. When my father’s parents were wed in 1903, her father gifted them with a number of tokens of wealth. Amongst those tokens: bonds from various rail lines in Imperial Russia. I still have the bonds, beautifully engraved and printed on wonderful stock, as well as all the coupons from the second quarter of 1917 on.
    Perhaps President Putin will redeem the bonds from me and pay the outstanding interest @ 5% since 1917. I suspect I lost my chance to redeem them, or sell them to someone who had a better chance then me, when Yeltsin resigned.

  36. >One of the best stores of wealth, I think, are the skills and knowledge in your own hand and brains.

    Those are the only things you take with you when you die.

  37. Dismantling the sun would also solve global warming and eliminate the need for mining, so I wonder how long before environmentalists jump on board with this….

  38. Witness all of the calls for death in the media and on the net, lately! First comes a great plague, then the dying off, and then everyone is wealthy because they have inherited the earth. And certainly, being virtuous, they will use what they’ve gotten better than those almost inhuman creatures who went before. Right? What could possibly go wrong?

    But the gods love fools, else why would they have made so many of ’em?

    I expect that people are asking you what cryptocurrency to invest in, or whether to hoard gold, or what parts for industrial equipment wear out first. Just look at the Taliban with their fancy machines with maybe one piece broken! And won’t that be us if trade to such-and-such place ceases, or we run out of certain plastics? Isn’t that already us with the so-called chip shortage? Will the new tokens be batteries, bullets, butter sticks? Maybe magnets. Maybe materials to clean and maintain whatever machines still have enough parts to sort-of work. Maybe it’ll be soap to kill the virus/bacteria/fungi of the new pandemics.

    (I rather like the soap idea.)

    I have dozens of wannabe communists on my newsfeeds claiming that we can just do away with money. They don’t understand that things become money when there is no money. Humanity defaults to having types of currency. We keep score.

    (How do we seize the means of production in a service-based economy anyway? Aren’t we already the means of production? This is a bit rhetorical. Or maybe it’s a koan.)

    And why did Bitcoin dip only a little when it was bought up by El Salvador and anyone in Afghanistan with wi-fi? Probably because the big holders, the whales, were selling some of theirs. And why has the value climbed so high at all? Because people want the stuff. It fires the imaginations of mankind. The illth for anyone in the developing world is being slapped with sanctions so that they can buy nothing, and all because of accusations of abuse human rights that might or might not be valid. People upset about “losing” the “war” could make up such stories just out of spite, and it would be nothing to them.

    However is Bitcoin the token to hang onto in the face of inflation in the States? Probably not. Rolling blackouts could make usage of Bitcoin…awkward. I expect there are people in Afghanistan who don’t really have Bitcoin and are just faking it somehow. And then again I doubt it matters what gets traded as long as trade happens. Better trade than aid ought to be a slogan somewhere. Outsiders can keep track of aid though. Trade, in an economy like Afghanistan’s? Not so much.

  39. If we get such bad hyperinflation that a carton of eggs costs half a trillion dollars, well, even the poorest will have many billions to their name, and that seems a lot more likely to make everyone a billionaire to me than asteroid mining….

    Also, I’ve had someone insist that we aren’t actually running out of oil, and insist that Titan has enough petroleum to last us forever. I rolled my eyes and walked away. It wasn’t as gloriously absurd as the dismantle the sun, but it’s still quite ridiculous. I almost asked how much of the fuel would be burnt getting the rockets to and from Titan, but decided better of it: sometimes people are so far gone it’s not worth arguing….

  40. John–

    Where did Ruskin talk about illth? Id like to see if I could find some of his writings.

  41. Maybe we’ll see a return to slavery as a store of wealth. George Gilder thinks that Issac Newton was instrumental to ending slavery because as Master of the Mint he guaranteed the weight and purity of coins when it was often the habit of kings to debase the currency. Gilder thinks that because Newton made coinage a better store of wealth, people didn’t have to own slaves any more to protect their wealth.

  42. A few considerations….

    If your mortgage or other debt abeyance paper that is denominated in local currency (rubles, francs, dollars, etc.), I believe in many cases you can pay the note off handily with devalued currency types. I had read this somewhere years back, and it makes sense – but then again, that does not make it true. But would be quite the boon should paper money become TP.

    My grandfather, a banker, told me that unless you have the deed or title in hand, then you do not own the said property – home, land, vehicle, equipment, etc. Thus if you cannot wrap your arms around it physically, and prove ownership, it is unlikely to be a real asset. This is the unwinding the PM markets have yet to wade through – paper vs physical.

    As I am well into the hindquarters of my time here on planet Earth, I have looked around and thought, “..do I need this (insert physical item here)? Does this item make me happy? Does it improve my life?” Sort of like when one moves into a caravan or a boat – you have to slim down and take things that are most valuable relative to the environment and circumstances. Double-duty items are wildly popular in that scenario. A nice sectional sofa with electric recliners? Not so much… And then we have the sentimental things – and I recommend passing those to the younger generation rapidly or simply letting them go. None of this gets to make the journey we all face at the end – so let it go.

    If you have things like electric recliners, other big furniture items, antique cars, huge double engine boats and such gizmos, it might behoove one to let go of them now, while there are still folks out there who might value them.

    Knowledge – that is money in the bank and soul in many ways – gather it and use it.

  43. @ Elizabeth – I like your vision of a repurposed Costco. Right, Tulsa has one mall that has already failed, and been repurposed. It mostly caters to the needs of the east side of the city. There are a decent number of government agencies his the department of health, and department of motor vehicles, but there are also community outreach groups there that, I assume, help out folks on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. We have another mall that is in its death spiral, at least under the current economic model. But, it is located, right in the middle of the city, so it has a great location for repurpose. I could imagine a scene similar to what you describe, and with some modification, I can imagine a great many trades people opening shops in the smaller storefronts. Imagine an actual cobbler, where the sketchers store used to be!
    Incidentally, there is at least one old Wal-Mart and a smaller mall that have been taken over by churches. I, personally, don’t like the idea of associating religion that closely with commercialism, but based on the fact those churches have had their doors open a while, I assume the congregations don’t mind.

  44. @JMG – golderoid…

    I thought of what that asteroid would do to gold value when I read the article – it’s good to see I am not the only one who would call asteroid retrieval a fools venture…kudos for using it to illustrate how very few people grok even simple economics.

  45. You missed the chief Confederate principle: if all the US citizens who like to fly the Confederate flag were required to get their salaries, savings, and investments converted to Confederate dollars, you’d see a lot less of the Confederate flag flying, methinks

    A local professor, one of whose areas of expertise is biofuel, spoke this week of oil in the ground: it can’t be vacuumed out of the ground. An auxiilary well is drilled nearby and water is pumped in, to force the oil out. At some price point, sometimes 50 water and 50 oil, the well is capped, because there is now oil and water in the underground oil dome. However, as the price of oil goes up, these 50/50 underground wells can be re-opened and pumping resumed profitably.

    Retirement: yes, for many, retirement automatically means a reduction in income. Add in the US jobs sent offshore since the year 2000, and you can have another chapter on automatic income cuts and reduced disposable income.

  46. @Ben on Sept. 11th anniversary. #35.

    My Facebook was not silent about 9/11, it was full of people saying how pointless the “war” in Afghanistan was. Kudos to the lady who mentioned the modifications to the War Powers Act that would have made it harder for a president to wage war (or police actions, or drone strikes, I should hope, depending on the wording and the mood of Congress) that failed.

    I’m afraid I was loud in the chorus, saying that we should never have gone to war. I’m a globalist when it comes to trade, and an isolationist when it comes to aggression.

    The argument that going to war in Afghanistan somehow magically protects the USA from terrorists looks pretty bad when people are still flailing about either the January 6th…whatever that was. (Football hooligans is what I’d like to say!) and the fiery but peaceful Summer of Un-Lovin’ sparked by bored Covidteers. Why, it’s almost as though they would have to re-define terrorism! After all, if Afghanistan is a nation of terrorists and potential terrorists, then the USA is too, and even more so.

    How much better it would have been to just declare victory once Osama bin Laden was dead! Right now, I’ve been listening to various news sources and they keep trying to decrease the number of years the “war” went on. Too bad they used real troops for something that was conceptually more like the War on Drugs: something to win votes with, and not something that could ever really be won.

  47. And to think, we were wondering where the hydrogen was going to come from for hydrogen cars! Mine the sun! It’s so obvious once you think about it! /s

  48. By way of “coincidence”, I have an appointment tomorrow to talk to someone about hoarding different kinds of tokens then just the one I have been hoarding. In the back of my mind it is kind of a fool’s errand, but seems better to diversify that much now rather than sit on a house of cards.

    The fact that I’m hoarding at all is a strange story in itself. Two years ago I did a working that was little fancier than a one-off affirmation and soon after got a very good offer out of the blue. Further, this year Uranus has been applying sextiles to several planets in my 10th house, with ensuing uncanny windfalls in career and status. If I stay in the field I work in (for however long it remains viable, and it paradoxically does well when large companies want to be more frugal), I may never write a resume again, since anyone that could hire me will likely have heard of me already, which is really weird to see spelled out like that. So I’ve been making hay while the sun shines, living a frugal (some would say spartan) lifestyle, and knowing that darker clouds (and unfavorable transits) are on the horizon.

    “We’re rapidly approaching the point at which everyone who has actually walked on the Moon will have died of old age,…”

    I have actually seen people express palpable distress that we won’t send another person to the Moon before the last one from the 70s dies. Down we go….

  49. JMG, thank you again for more to think about. I’ve been writing about traditional ways of life, embodied in the elderly Irish that I talk to, and will occasionally stumble across forgotten bits of past that astonish me — for example, the Irish bank strikes of the 1960s and 70s. For up to six months at a time all the banks closed, representing 85 percent of the currency in the country, yet life just puttered along as it had done.
    Most people had some level of self-sufficiency — growing their own food and fixing their own durable goods — and were paid in cash, so they could keep paying rents. People could barter with neighbours and local shops. Most importantly, people paid each other and pubs in IOUs, which could be kept and tallied at the end of the strike. It was proof that such an event could pass with little disruption — if people already lived a simple life, had some self-sufficiency, and had a close community, resulting in what Antoin Murphy called “microfoundations of trust.” That’s not saying the USA today, or even Ireland today, would play out similarly, merely that it can be done.

  50. Phutatorius, re Canadian Debt

    Canada isn’t in much of a better position debtwise, slightly less thoroughly drowned. We’ve got a population smaller than California and for most of 2020 the federal government was burning through a billion dollars a day deficit. It’s the same fiscal playbook here. If your biggest trading partner and protector is broke, how secure is your economy and defence?

  51. Well, the Grand Mutation conjunction has certainly proved to be a doozy of a turning point, as all that is solid melts into air! The long, profitable climb to the summit, and now the steep descent. I’ve always appreciated Ruskin’s ideas about illth/wealth…good to read your elaboration.

    Congratulations on finding a new publisher for The Wealth of Nature…that is very good news indeed. It’s one of your best, in my opinion, and deserves to be more widely read (and practiced!). Terrific piece today…many thanks.

  52. An anecdote to illustrate how gold value could suddenly become very low: in the 14th century, the king of Mali, Mansa Musa, was fabulously rich due to the gold mines of his kingdom. When he did his pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca in 1324 C.E, he traveled with 60000 people, and tens of tons of gold. He spent a huge amount of gold on his way, buying things, building mosques and monuments, giving gold to poor people, thus causing gold coins to lose most of their value for several years in Egypt, and inducing strong price inflation due to the sudden abundance of gold. It seems to be the only documented case in history where a single man controlled the value of gold in the Mediterranean world.

  53. @David BTL: I have a volume titled “The Genius of John Ruskin – Selections from his writings.” There’s a section of his writings on “Society” that includes “The Veins of Wealth” and “Ad Valorem.” Some of his writing on “political economy.” A good place to start looking, but be forewarned: according to the volume’s editor, Clement Attlee converted to socialism after reading Ruskin’s works, and took William Morris along with him.

    Tucked into my copy is a “Zippy” comic strip; 4 frames as follow.
    Griffy: “I’m reading a bio of the famous art critic John Ruskin.”
    Griffy: “he was brilliant .. but very WEIRD… He believed he could commune with the DEAD…”
    Griffy: “…toward th’ end of his long and productive life, he went completely INSANE…”
    Zippy: “You can’t scare me… I just found out Rosie O’Donnell moved into my neighborhood!”

    I think “Zippy” was great. What other comic strip ever talked about John Ruskin?

  54. Finished a reread of ‘Wealth of Nature’ about 6:30 yesterday evening while letting dinner drip from the bag (really). Went in a checked the email – found a message from Shaun and had the new one ordered by 7 PM.

    John – Coop Janitor

  55. A succinct and clear post. Thank you!

    As to storing wealth:
    I always default to the same things.

    A paid-for house (with clear title and deed in hand) for your kids to inherit.
    Said house should be cheap and easy to heat, cool, maintain, etc.
    Useful skills and useful tools that you know how to use.
    Good relations with your relatives, neighbors, and community.

    Also, pay off your debt. I wouldn’t want to take the chance of hoping for hyperinflation to pay it for me. Somehow or other, people like me would lose while our elite betters use hyperinflation for their own benefit.

  56. Denis #11 said “I think people value comfort above a lot of others things these days.” I Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula LeGuin’s narrator, Genly Ai, a young man,said something like “Comfort doesn’t matter, unless you’re an old woman or a cat.” I used to resent that insult to old women.

    Now that I have an old woman’s body, I’m totally rethinking that. But with that caveat in mind, yes – in fact, comfort is probably more than some people can even aspire to!

    During Mao’s Cultural Revolution, old Chinese ladies, who had never worked and whose bound feet made even walking an ordeal, were turned out to work or starve. That the Long Descent could easily end up doing the same thing to me, and the other residents of this very comfortable Electric Grandmother* warehouse, has been much on my mind lately. The thing to do is accept it, try to deal with what’s on the menu next, and not look too far ahead. And try to walk and do for myself as much as possible, of course.

    I was telling a friend, the optimists, who expect things to get better and better, are greeting each step down with either outrage (“the ice cream fairy is out of butter pecan!”) or if they have a larger vision, despair (“these times are so brutal, social progress just isn’t happening, where’s everything we fought for?”) while it’s a lot harder to send pessimists into that sort of tailspin.

    P.S. The latest Atlantic as a view-with-horror article about “The new Puritanism,” a.k.a. “cancel culture,” which the author sees as a moral and cultural phenomenon. That it’s a very efficient and ruthless way of dealing with the overproduction of “fully qualified professionals” and other intellectuals and knowledge workers doesn’t enter into the picture, oh, no, sirree. But I think everybody in the Shark Tank that is modern academia/professional level competition knows it.

    JMG- was thinking of sending you this issue. They are trying SO hard to come to grips with the problems of today. Enough that one of my true-blue-left friends criticized an earlier attempt to reveal the problems of Our Side Of The Fence as “Well, the author is center-right, you have to remember.” Want it? (yes/no/don’t waste your postage.)

  57. @Ben #35
    I saw lots of 9/11 commentary, on Book of Faces, local news, and PBS, who has a show about people who weren’t yet born when their fathers were killed in the attacks. Too morbid and gruesome for me. Felt like psychic vampireism. Did NOT watch it

  58. *P.S. “Electric Grandmother” – the title (or TV retitle) of a Ray Bradbury story about the top floor of an actual warehouse where robo-nannies are stored, and are passing the time with reminisces about the families they served. Most of us got his point even in our youth.

  59. I’e head the claim that wealth makes you a target of crime, even that you shouldn’t have security measures because it makes it look like you have somehing worth protecting. The problem is economic crime isn’t the only type of crime. You always have something worth protecting – you. Povery or the appearance of poverty won’t protect you from domestic violence, stalkers, rapists, mob violence of any kind, political assassination, slave raiders… In fact it may make you appear more vulnerable and thus a more tempting target.

    It also doesn’t help if the valuable thing is the land you’re on. Slums are one of the most flammable things in the world, and landlords and land-grabbers know this.

  60. @pygmycory The figure you want is called “National Debt to GDP Ratio.” It’s 106.7% for the U.S. and 88% for Canada. These figures mean that the total government debt for the US is larger than the sum of all economic activity in it. The figures are at https://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/countries-by-national-debt.

    The red line seems to be 120%; that’s when bond sellers started to sell Italian government bonds. People argue that, since the US dollar is a reserve currency, that its ratio will be higher, but who knows.

    The U.S. national debt is $19 trillion. Biden’s successive trillion dollar payouts are entirely financed by debt, and he is driving up that ratio quickly. The only saving grace is that the interest rate on money borrowed now is very low.

  61. @Phutatorius (#13)

    Canada does have a massive, unmanageable, unrepayable debt just like the US. What does put Canada in a somewhat better position, though, is it has a form of real wealth that the US is lacking: undeveloped land. While it is true that more than 60% of the country is a frozen wasteland, it is also true that only about 12% is actually developed for some useful purpose. Since the population is also comparatively low, that leaves enough land out there that, should the entire economy fall irrecoverably to ruin, society could survive by subsistence farming. Most other countries don’t have that.

  62. Hello JMG,

    I think when the current crisis will end, whether it is in one year or who knows exactly when, I will be preparing for the next one, which I think will be a much bigger step down the long descent.
    The reason is that 2020 was bigger than 2008, which was bigger than 2001, which was bigger than 1993.
    2020 was long overdue and the year I have in mind is 2027 though it could take a couple more years.

    There are different things that could cause the next one: inflation, finance, oil & resources depletion, the first global warming big shocks, geopolitical problems i.e.. with China etc.

    It does not really matter which sector is the cause, what I think is that I have 6 years to prepare for the next step down where I think lots of things we take for granted such as online finance, long supply chains, international travel, maybe even access to some electronics will get harder to use, and every day life will start to become more regional and local.

    I am thinking of living in a mid-size city or a big town, to have good community connections, and to cultivate skills for regional sources of income, perhaps even be part of a group that grows food and to own some land.

    Can you share your thoughts on this timeline, and my outlook?

    Thank you.

  63. A friend of mine likes to recommend silver and gold for wealth preservation. I always say that I would rather plant potatoes. From my small plot, I dug up 25 kg yesterday. I suspect that my hedge against economic troubles might be more useful than my friend’s.

  64. Back during the Australian bushfires of late 2019, which feels like decades ago, the air quality here in Melbourne was atrocious and the radio announced that pollution levels were “worse than New Delhi”. I remember thinking at the time that it was somehow fitting because Australia, like all western nations, tried to export our illth (pollution) to the third world while still having the wealth returned here in the form of goods. Nature was wagging her finger at us – “not so fast”. A great many people here lost their minds and shrieked how the Prime Minister was not doing anything. Of course, you can’t stop a bushfire once it gets going but that simple fact seemed to evade many. I expect there’s going to be a lot more shrieking in the years ahead, which is really another form of illth.

  65. Regarding the Dyson sphere concept. Actually it involves putting an shell around a star (not destroying the star) to capture energy from it instead of letting it escape to deep space. The material constructing it would come from the solar system surrounding it. But the truly ironic thing is that Freeman Dyson himself never actually visualized a sphere completely enveloping the sun as he himself said such a thing would be mechanically impossible. His concept actually involved a swarm or collection of objects surrounding the star, not a solid object. Only goes to show people don’t always pay close attention to what they read.

    It’s also interesting that the only fictional representations of what people thought he meant, the Ringworld series by Larry Niven and an episode of Star Trek TNG show the structures as being finally abandoned by their creators because of various unforeseen issues which cropped up. Sounds kind of familiar….

  66. @ Phutatorius,

    Re:Canada’s debt. This site seems like it may give accurate numberst:

    https://www.debtclock.ca/

    There’s an article on the CBC about it here:

    https://www.rcinet.ca/en/2021/01/23/canadas-national-debt-broke-the-debt-clock/

    When I looked into this before, though – I was trying to compare the curve of booming stocks to the curve of government debt just out of curiosity – I noticed that the Canadian debt graph is less exponential looking (although since Covid lockdowns it has shot way up on the right) than the US one. So certainly there is a lot of government debt (and as somebody pointed out above, a LOT of household debt) but it might be true that in comparison to the US it looks good? I’m not sure how much that is really saying, though.

  67. What you guys are describing with respect to box stories, sounds like our traditional markets (here in Taiwan). No live animals (there are other markets for those), but just about everything else–including fortune tellers!

    I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea of gold cookware. Wouldn’t unalloyed gold be too bendy for that? A gold toilet seems more practical.

  68. To be fair, I think a lot of people don’t understand astronomical distances, as well as economics. Stick the two together, and it is confusion all round.

  69. Hey jmg

    Considering how much Brin talks about how “positive-sum” The modern world is, and how much he hates “zero-sum” thinking, if there is an essay that guarantees an angry comment or maybe even a post on his blog I imagine this will be it.

  70. Great essay. I want to put a plug in for “Overshoot”, by William Catton. I have just re-read it for the first time in 40 years, and WOW, did he nail it. He talks a lot about this sort of thing, and the ‘successional’ nature of economies and societies, and lots of other good stuff. JMG has mentioned Overshoot many, many times in his writing, and if you haven’t read it, by all means pick it up. You will be amazed at how prescient Catton was, and how clearly he lays it all out.

  71. @JMG

    That’s a nice summary of the mess we’re in. I remember you mentioned “illth” a few years ago in another post.

    Interesting point about “wealth” etymology. I wonder if its similar across all human languages? In Spanish it’s “la riqueza”, from “rico” (“rich”). Dictionary says it probably comes from Gothic “reiks”, which means “mighty, powerful”. So wealth is something that mighty and powerful possess, or it’s something that makes you mighty and powerful.

    In Russian it’s “bogatstvo” from Proto-Slavic “bogatъ” (“rich”). The word “bogъ” means “god” in modern Russian, but apparently it also meant “earthly wealth/well-being; fortune”. Slavic peoples saw God as a dispencer of wealth and fortune, which, I think, is interesting.

    I don’t know other languages, unfortunately.

    Speaking of gods – the way the word “ShorTage” is spelled on the attached photo makes me think it’s a name of some terrible god that causes deficit of goods.

    P.S. I find it amusing that the image of the golden pan comes from a video game which I wasted so much time on. Would you be surprised if I told you that players trade these golden pans for thousands of real US dollars? A symptom of the long descent. Example: https://mannco.store/item/1761

    @Bradley #43

    Slavery never ended it the broader world, it’s alive and well in many parts of the world. In America it’s currently being substituted by illegal immigration. It’s not a question of if, but when, slavery makes a return in official capacity. I hope it doesn’t happen in my lifetime.

  72. @JMG,

    Thanks for the link to Climbing Down the Ladder! Yes indeed.

    At present, I am one step up from the lowest hand tools in binding. Pressing an awl is awful. So is cutting board with a box knife. I’m converting to more ergonomic hand tools: a screw-punch used by leather workers, and I’d love to get either pre-cut board or my own cutter.

    I found a video of a machine that sewed signatures, powered by electricity, but then on the floor it had a rotating foot pedal that reminded me of my grandmother’s mechanical sewing machine. It would be great to have a machine that could be totally foot-powered if needed.

    There are still book-binders in my city, so I hope to convince one to give me (paid) lessons. That way I can get experience with their machines, rather than creeping on them in their shops!

    The top rung of the ladder with everything kicked out below it, for me, is printing technology. Right now I print at the university, using a Xerox almost as big as I am, and prepping the document on a computer. It doesn’t get any more complex than that!

  73. “Both damage the economy and hurt people, though the pain isn’t shared equally: inflation hurts borrowers and people with fixed incomes, deflation hurts investors and people with fixed expenses.”

    Inflation helps borrowers, is that what you meant here?

  74. It is my observation that the more likely it is that person got their pile of Tokens from something other than actual wealth creating activities the more likely they are to be interested in how to retain the value of their pile of Tokens. The farmer or the machinest is less concerned with retaining the value of their paper currency than the financial trader, house flipper, advertising executive or social influencer.

  75. As someone who makes jewelry, I’d love to get a hold of some of that asteroid in the form of gold wire… I bet I could make some lovely stuff. You’d want to alloy it somewhat – pure gold is too soft and dents and scratches easily, but alloyed it is amazing stuff I’ve never had the opportunity to work with. Too expensive by far. The gold colored materials I’ve used are gold-plated findings and nontarnish brass wire.

  76. (box stores, not box stories)

    Gilligan’s Island may not be very cerebral, but think about it–how many of its characters can you name? And describe the personalities of? (See? It’s not just the song.) And how much do you remember of the plot? Now that’s some quality writing.

    (Anybody read “Gilligan’s Wake”?)

  77. #71 Don’t forget another problem with solid gold cookware is the high density of gold would mean it would take quite strong arms to use a gold frying pan.

  78. JMG. In your comment about people with guns taking other people’s tokens you’ve pointed to the answer of which token to hoard. My choice is 22 caliber long rifle ammunition. Others may prefer another caliber but in all cases rifle ammo is an excellent form of currency and provides a means of defending it.

    PRC

  79. Prepper, using precious metals as a transitional currency would be smart. Your tools will keep their value a lot longer, and any skills you learn will keep value longer than you do — longer, if you pass them onto apprentices. As for new old books, get out there and look for appropriate tech books from the 1970s — if you’re already thinking in terms of catchment barrels, you’re pointed in the right direction.

    Phutatorius, the terms certainly have one overlap.

    Ben, that’s definitely a warning sign. No, the questions aren’t usually much more interesting than that.

    John, excellent! That’s a smart strategy.

    Great Khan of Potlucks, a fine example.

    Womensatlasrc, and if you know how to make soap from scratch — hint: it’s actually very easy — you’re guaranteed all the other goods you care to barter for.

    Mollari, I know. It’s like the old shuck and jive about gold in seawater. There’s a lot of it — try getting it out at a price that will make a profit…

    David BTL, good question! I haven’t read his work yet — I simply encountered the concept in secondary sources.

    Bradley, slavery’s a very poor store of wealth. That’s why slavery only thrives when you’ve got a large-scale export economy based on monocrop agriculture, and even then it doesn’t thrive for long.

    Oilman2, excellent advice. As for golderoid — I like that name.

    Jenxyz, what gives any currency its value is that people are willing to value it. If you did that, you’d very quickly see a parallel economy spring up, and since Confederate cuirrency is no longer being minted and thus the money supply is fixed, I suspect it would work fairly well. As for your local professor, um, he needs to talk to a petroleum geologist sometime; water cut is a far more serious problem than that.

    Anonymous, ah, but every molecule of water has two atoms of hydrogen in it. Why don’t they just all go down to the seashore with Bic lighters to light the ocean on fire? 😉

    John N., I’m in a similar situation for very different reasons. A successful author has a very distinctive lifetime income curve — flat broke in a garret in youth, and then slowly getting better off from then on, because what makes money for you if you’re an author is your backlist — all the books you’ve written that make a little more money for you every year. I also live a frugal lifestyle, but since I have zero interest in retiring, and will stop writing when they pull the keyboard out from under my cold stiff fingers, I’m not collecting tokens — I’m funneling larger amounts of money each year to the Masonic charities I like to support. I figure that’s one genuinely useful thing I can do.

    Brian, thanks for this! I hadn’t heard of that either, and it’s well worth knowing. I trust you’ll be writing an article on the subject and getting it published somewhere.

    Jim W, thank you! It has indeed.

    Laurent, good heavens, how could I have forgotten Mansa Musa! That’s a great example.

    John, thank you.

    Teresa, that strikes me as very good advice.

    Patricia M, I’ve already read it — the local public library carries it. But thank you for thinking of me!

    N0rway, there’s a pretty fair overlap between those two sets.

    Yorkshire, er, the opposite of one bad idea is another bad idea…

    Tony C, it depends on how steep the current crunch turns out to be. 1929 was worse than the recessions that followed it, you know! As for a midsize city or a large town, that’s been my advice for a good long time for most people; as for the timeline, here again, we’ll have to see just how drastic the current crunch turns out to be. I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet.

    Raymond, nice! Far more useful than lumps of metal…

    Simon, public tantrums are indeed a form of illth, and one in very good supply these days!

    James, I’m not in debt so it doesn’t hurt me either way!

    Pygmycory, no argument there.

    J.L.Mc12, oh, possibly. I delete shrieking trolls all the time anyway, so one more won’t be a particular nuisance.

    Sgage, a wonderful book, well worth many rereadings.

    Ecosophian, interesting. I don’t know all human languages, so I can’t help you there. 😉

    CS2, at least you’re thinking in that direction. Letterpress printing (or some other form of lower-tech duplicating) can enter your toolkit as circumstances permit.

    Clay, that makes sense.

    Pygmycory, if I ever find a metallic asteroid I’ll be sure to send you some!

    Paul, sure. There are plenty of other ways to provide yourself with a store of value, however.

  80. Well, Mr. Greer

    I have been preserving some organic wealth – literally … with about 300+ jars of canned carbon, sunlight, some H20, along with the assorted vitamins and trace minerals .. All from the 1/4 acre domicile. Doing my best to weather potential hards times, whenever they arrive.

    I will offer a few potatoes to some of the neighbors, once the digging has commenced .. maybe some jams/jellys as well, especially considering the trajectory we seem headed towards .. what with people loosing their livelihoods, courtesy of the mendacious, and malevolent dictates from on high.

  81. Hi John Michael,

    My best guess at what is currently going on is that the land of stuff (!) is currently placing repeated supply shocks on your country (and ours too for that matter) through all sorts of ruses. I’ll give them their due as it is an evil genuis strategy. This is putting the internal squeeze on your country (ours is handling this matter in a most draconian and bizarre way) by way of further reducing the availability of real wealth, and of course restricting the ability of US dollars to as easily leave your shores as they once did and so they are absorbed internally within your country. This strategy should be raising alarm bells, but no, and I fully expect to see inflationary pressures rising in your country, just as they are here. And here is the kicker: whilst your IOU’s are restricted in their ability to leave your shores, the land of stuff is most likely buying up actual wealth using their reserves of your IOU’s – thus keeping international prices relatively stable, albeit on the higher end of things.

    One problem your elite have is that they believe that everyone else, everywhere else is stupid and won’t respond to the worst excesses. This does not reflect well upon them.

    It fascinated me that down here the government is printing five billion per week, and nobody seems to worry about that. And also in order to balance our imports against our exports, we’ve had to live with some pretty crazy times. It really is very strange down here. And yet despite all of that, petrol (gas in US parlance) was $1.759 / litre at the pump the other day (3.8 litres to the US gallon). Ook!

    I doubt this will end well, and I can only hope that the craziness down here is for a good purpose.

    Cheers

    Chris

  82. @Ben #35: I heard, somewhere off in the distance, on the night of Sept 11th, a fireworks display. I hadn’t realized that 9/11 was something we celebrated.

  83. As long time permaculture adventurers, on top of our learning here, we’ve always used the term “coolth” as the obvious opposite of “warmth,” and paid attention to it accordingly. As a result, our little cabin is rarely uncomfortable in Summer, even with no daily interaction, even in Georgia.

    But it never occurred to me to speak of this sort of opposite to “wealth.”

    Why not? It’s makes perfect sense. I know affluenza when I see it. The part that stinks is that the folks who pay for it are rarely the folks who benefit from it…

    I just hope I have enough real value as a person, in the ongoing analysis, to make my life worth investing in. By whoever judges that sort of thing.

    Good post.
    Grover

  84. Regarding the whole “dismantle the sun” nonsense, I suspect that comes from a series of three Chinese science fiction novels written by Cixin Lin: “The Three Body Problem”, “The Dark Forest” and “The End of Death”. The third one includes the concept of living in the solar system using the resources of a dismantled sun. It also includes descriptions of effeminate men of the future, which I think has influenced recent Chinese government behavior. I found them a pretty fascinating read, especially the way that they treat technology, which is similar to classic 20th century American science fiction. It’s ever onward and upward, and biology is pretty much background noise.

  85. @Phutatorius re: #33 and @n0rway re: #59, externalities can be positive things too. Also, even negative externalities aren’t quite the same. If someone else pollutes my land, that’s both a negative externality and illth. If I pollute my own land, it’s illth but not a negative externality unless it affects someone else (a visitor, a neighbor, etc.).

    It’s in the right general ballpark, though.

  86. Any chance of an electronic version of the book? I’m way down in New Zealand, and would like to avoid the cost/resources of postage!

  87. @ Jenxyz – water cut…

    Oil doesn’t stay in place; it seeks out lower pressure zones or migrates to the uppermost part of water flooded rock. If you don’t have wells already there to extract it, then you have new drilling costs. Not to mention paraffin and other things that block the flow of the oil. There are many reasons why it is best to let a well produce as much as it can for as long as it can – because shutting them in isn’t at all like turning on your garden spigot. At the very least, let them produce something, even if it is water cut by 90%. Shut-in costs can be more than the cost to drill a new well – which we did a lot of in the Gulf of Mexico. Just an FYI…

    ALL – ran into a hydrohead at the store tonight. He was vociferously misinforming any who would listen about how we had nothing to worry about – hydrogen was gonna save us all!!!

    At one time, I might have tried to disabuse him…but we are just too far along the path to Idiocracy. If you cannot see the insanity we are swimming in, then I think it best I just walk on by and let them be, well…them.

  88. Hi JMG,
    Good to know we are not out of the woods yet.
    If the current crisis worsens, I am only partially ready. I am in a large town with community, I have some savings yet my income depends on finding clients online.
    And my skills to offer local services are not ready at all.

    On the plus side, I think humans lived sometimes in very difficult conditions in history – and in parts of the world today, and I think we have untapped resoursefulness that will show up.

  89. “Anonymous, ah, but every molecule of water has two atoms of hydrogen in it. Why don’t they just all go down to the seashore with Bic lighters to light the ocean on fire? 😉”

    It’s probably the fact I was already thinking of the hydrocarbons on Titan, but this made me think of a web comic I saw about goading Elon Musk into lighting Titan on fire. Which actually, now that I think about it, makes a fine metaphor for industrial society these days: so much of late industrial society does is driven by people with absurdly fragile egos trying to prove they aren’t [insert childish insult here], makes no sense, provides no value for anyone, and makes a mess…..

    https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/titan

  90. When explaining the futility of trying to hold tokens as a store of value to people, I like to use the Pirate Island Analogy. It goes like this. Suppose you live on a prosperous Caribbean island of several thousand people. One day you awake to see a dozen pirate ships in the harbor and the imperial governors ship receding in the distant. The pirates have have taken over for the long term and plan to run things as they see fit. It doesn’ take much imagination to determine who does well and who does poorly. The town banker with his vaults of gold and the landlord who rents apartments near the grog houses find themselves quickly impoverished ( if not worse). But the local doctor who is an expert in fixing knife wounds does very well for herself, as does the town sailmaker and every competent brewer. Even the good story tellers, musicians, and poets stand to make a living. But the hoarders of gold, land, whiskey,royal bonds, and art will not.

  91. The industrial curve goes down sooner and faster than the food curve, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t affect food too. There is a large subset of food I’ll call industrial food, and it is comprised of the most highly processed foods. So I expect to see declines in the availability/affordability of these highly processed foods at some point in the near future. People need to learn to cook. You’d be suprised at the number of people who survive on Cheetos and frozen food and ramen. Or maybe you wouldn’t be.
    Farming itself will be forced to scale down in response to increasing lack of availability/affordability of the types of industrial products that make the hugest industrial farms run. Farmers markets will be where it’s at.
    Unfortunately this isn’t a clean switchover from industrial food to local organic small scale food. The quality of industrial foodstuffs will begin/continue to take a nosedive. Many of the food recalls over the last 5-7 years make sense now, and I expect there will be more. Heck, I just bought a sealed, far from expired bottle of OJ from 7-11 the other day and it made my wife and I sick. Part of protecting you and yours from this scourge is to get out of mass produced and highly processed industrial foods sooner rather than later. Start by sourcing your food locally even if you are not ready to grow your own. I am preaching to myself here because my family eats fast food regularly. My oldest is autistic and lives and dies by highly processed food. Between that and his epilepsy the coming decades are not going to be kind to him.

  92. @ Elizabeth Your concept of a repurposed Costco sounds like it might work. I’ve seen small town failed grocery stores repurposed into year-round indoor flea markets, selling secondhand goods, antiques, and box lots. Every time I went to one, there was something new to find.

  93. @Darkest Yorkshire (post #2)
    I have a collection of gemstones. Not as an investment, but because I like the way they look. I would recommend buying synthetic. I don’t think there is any meaningful difference, and I doubt many people can tell the difference between synthetic and natural. The synthetic gemstones are quite a lot cheaper. As far as wealth tokens, I think they are probably better than hoarding paper currency or T-bills, which I also do, probably foolishly. Maybe the synthetic gems will hold value better than T-bills or natural gems. Anyway, since I, personally, cannot tell the difference between lab rubies and naturally formed rubies, how do I know if I am being scammed? Anyway, they are very pretty. At the risk of having our host ban me for posting a commercial website, one example of a seller of lab-grown gemstones is here:
    https://www.gemsngems.com/our-products/

  94. One data point to consider is that, recently, many large companies and wealthy individuals have been gobbling up gold in record quantities. We’re talking millions of dollars worth of gold in a single transaction. According to one CEO of a major precious metals company, these wealthy individuals and companies are more than likely going to buy up all the remaining gold when the dollar dump kicks off in earnest, and the “little people” will have to exchange their Federal Reserve notes for some other token or asset.

  95. I’ve barely gotten through the first few paragraphs… but understanding wealth as you explained it and then provided the example of gold made a light bulb go off about the differences in Western economic systems and communist/socialist ones. Individually we can place a value on something, and are free to express that value in producing and consuming goods and/or services. That allows for a lot of flexibility in how wealth is distributed, but also allows for potential conflict. On the other hand, what we value can be determined by a group. A lot of government economies are floating between those two points. A drastic shift between one point to another could certainly setup economic collapse. The US is dangerously close to that shift, and like shifting tectonic plates, an earthquake can be devastating yet also it can barely make a blip on the Richter scale.

  96. I started reading a book on the 2001 economic collapse in Argentina, by Fernando Aguirre, and it’s spooky stuff. People were hunting ATM machines like cavemen hunted aurochs. Finding one of the former with cash in it was like finding a needle in a haystack. Argentina went from being a wealthy, western capitalist country to a Potemkin nation in which 75% of people were either poor or below the poverty line. The author suggests getting your money out of the banks, because that’s what screwed most people. The powers that be pulled a switcheroo on people’s currency, effectively changing their lousy dollars into lousier pesos. Some people had to learn the hard way that tokens are not wealth.

  97. Polecat, good. Relationships with neighbors are a very important form of wealth.

    Chris, it’s not all sunshine and red roses in the Land of Stuff. Have you been following the Evergrande situation? There’s a serious risk that the Chinese economy is about to plunge into crisis — and if that happens, things are going to get very interesting every fast.

    Grover, coolth is another useful concept — I first encountered it in a bad fantasy story by Lin Carter, back in the 1970s. Ruskin was a better writer. 😉

    Arodrigo, interesting. Thanks for this.

    Andy, the original publisher still has the ebook rights, and you can buy a copy here.

    Tony, of course! We’ve been spoiled here in North America — nothing close to a genuine crisis for longer than most people have been alive. I suspect a lot of people will find some extra strength inside themselves as crunch time hits.

    Mollari, funny!

    Clay, that’s an excellent metaphor.

    Antony, those certainly belong on the list.

    DT, that’s an important point. Yes, and I’m already seeing disruptions in highly processed foods, while ordinary raw materials are much more generally available.

    Russell, then they’ll have to exchange their gold for other things, and life will get interesting if they all try to do it at once…

    Prizm, good. Yes, and we may well be close to that.

    Aengus, that’s an excellent example. Thank you.

  98. JMG,

    It’s safe to say things are changing and we have no idea where we are headed. I’ve personally decided that helping my wife care for our newborn was more valuable than all the benefits we’ve been getting from my job and have taken a leave which was not agreed to. Perhaps they’ll keep me when I am ready to return, but perhaps not. In the meantime, and shortly after my decision with work, my helping my wife has given her more time to pursue her creative needs, and she made nearly a $1000 in a week, which is more then I was getting. She’s been happier, and I have been happier. It’s as if the gods have given us a sign.

    I’m not the only one. A lot of folks seem to have made decisions over the past year that the way of doing things has passed and now the deciding will be by the individual and what they want. Many voices are calling for a return to normal, yet it seems perhaps the shift has happened quietly, and subconsciously. Lots will do with less in the hopes of opportunity to pursue something more meaningful than just the dollar with benefits.

  99. Morning John,
    That was an excellent article, and so clearly set out. If I may, I like to add an additional detail. It is not widely understood that it is the act of lending that is the means by which money is created. Whether it be an individual, a business or a government, the act of borrowing is what creates the money. This has a couple of nasty side effects. One, that virtually all money in the economy is a debt, which in theory is meant to be repaid, and secondly, that the quantity of debt must increase perpetually to service the interest on the debt previously created. This is a key factor in the quest of endless economic growth and why a financial crisis is baked into the cake once the inevitable contraction begins.
    Kind Regards Averagejoe

  100. @JMG

    Thank you for your reply. Although, I’ve seen a lot of criticism of the concept of ‘succession’ and ‘climax community’ as ‘outdated’ concepts, ‘debunked’ by empirical findings and the idea that the process of species elbowing others aside to occupy ecological niches which they’re better able to fill than their predecessors is chaotic; according to my (admittedly limited) understanding of the concept, isn’t succession simply about species which consume resources in an inefficient manner and/or being unable to adapt to changing environments getting elbowed aside by species which can? Old growth forests are complex systems, sure, but they can adapt to changing environments quite well as well as consume resources quite efficiently, and of course, if they’re not able to adapt to environmental changes, they’ll be elbowed aside as well, and be replaced by some other species, which, if I’m not mistaken, the concept of succession does provide for.

    Given this, I see no reason why societies of the far future would hold onto some form of today’s industrial economies, simply because it won’t be sustainable, but then, who knows if those ecologically sustainable economic systems themselves will make way (due to inability to adapt to changing circumstances) for something we can’t imagine yet? It’s certainly possible, and ecological succession does consider that. Sometimes I think that the whole idea of chaos theory and the word ‘chaotic’ is being hijacked and used to push forward literally anything, even if it is a shoddy replacement for a well-established fact, maybe because facing uncomfortable facts isn’t an enjoyable experience?

  101. I have tried for 20 years to find a way of exiting the PMC and moving to a smaller city or small farm to carry on with my preparations. No luck. Guess I’m too afraid of being poor.
    Now, when I think of something like making soap, I think of the ingredients and wonder where they will come from. Would it not be better to make the ingredients of soap than the soap itself?
    Then I fall into a rabbit hole of ingredients of ingredients until I give up.
    Would this be a form of absolving oneself to DO something about the long descent?

  102. John
    I was interested to see in a main stream media article the other day a clear reference to the planet running out of natural resources, in this case rare earth minerals.
    https://www.cnbc.com/2021/09/06/vw-ford-daimler-fear-chip-shortage-could-persist-for-some-time.html?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_content=Main&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR3CDDUvLDxomc_g3Tx2xbmexk6Q0vb88hm6OmWS3jSN_Sz4lCdJ1OkWsNw#Echobox=1630974865
    Also astonishing is how many chips are fitted to a electric vehicle and how unsustainable they are as a result. In the 70s most cars didn’t even have one chip and they could function perfectly well.
    Kind Regards Averagejoe

  103. Thanks for this JMG,

    Middle class professional here. It’s not that I’m bothered about being poor (I know it’s easy to say though) — I’ve always had a pretty low-spend lifestyle. What really bothers me is the possibility of social breakdown and/or authoritarianism. Both of these seem possible.

    I related the golden asteroid to my 11 y.o., and asked him how he thought our lives would change if everyone on Earth got a couple of kg of gold — he thought it wouldn’t change anything. Certainly, it wouldn’t make us rich. Interesting how things that are clear to children can be unclear to many adults!

    Cheers, Angus

  104. Hi John Michael,

    Evergrande appears to be a mess, no doubts about it. The question becomes: Who is left holding the baby? And the answer might surprise and I guess we’ll all find out in due course. And if the employees are cracking the sads, well, the end might possibly be nigh for that behemoth. I have noticed of late that the land of stuff is cracking down hard on their wealthier citizens, some of whom have been disappeared. And then reappeared, and then re-disappeared. Not a comfortable situation for those folks.

    In truly bizarre news: Australia to acquire nuclear submarine fleet as part of historic partnership with US and UK to counter China’s influence. This sure will be expensive.

    Cheers

    Chris

  105. https://www.lewrockwell.com/2021/09/andrew-p-napolitano/twilights-last-gleaming/

    Twilight’s Last Gleaming
    Andrew P. Napolitano at Lew Rockwell

    “This is not about freedom or personal choice.”
    — President Joseph R. Biden, Sept. 9, 2021

    It was scandalous and infuriating to hear President Joseph R. Biden argue last week that his so-called vaccine mandates somehow have nothing to do with freedom or personal choice. In saying that, he has rejected our history, our values and the Constitution he swore to uphold.

    What’s going on here?

    Freedom in America has been milked dry by Leviathan since the Woodrow Wilson years. Leviathan is a continually growing government that recognizes no limitations on its own power. OSHA is but one of hundreds of examples of the do-gooder, nanny-state federal government that has assumed for itself — from nowhere but our complacency — the power to tell us how to live…..

  106. I’ve been a fan of the Limits to Growth since it was first published. In hindsight however it would have been good to include debt in their standard model. As it stands now there is more debt in the world than resources, particularly fossil fuels, to cover the debt. My worry is that this pushes the curves of the other factors more towards Seneca curves.

  107. Dear John Michael Greer,

    As ever, my thanks for your excellent and thought-provoking posts.

    It occurs to me that “illth” would have to include clutter, and clutter became a widespread and increasingly acute problem for many people, I would say, starting a shortly after trade opened with China in the 80s. No doubt Neanderthals had their challenges with clutter, too, (if of a more organic nature), but what we started to see in the US in the 90s was really another level of challenge. Toys, clothes, shoes, gizmos, & anything & everything made out of plastic piling up in closets, baskets, shelves, under beds, and taking over garages and– and!!– talk about the storage industry!! I note also the burgeoning number of books on the subject, as well as the existence, clearly called for, of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals.

    For reasons I need not go into here, this is a subject that has especially fascinated me for the past two decades. Of all the books I have read on the subject (most of them subsequently decluttered, that is to say, donated to my local Friends of the Library) the one I would most heartily recommend to not only read but reread, and keep on-hand as a reference (even if one’s parents have long passed) is Julie Hall’s THE BOOMER BURDEN: DEALING WITH YOUR PARENTS’ LIFETIME ACCUMULATION OF STUFF.

    Relatedly, there is the issue of time clutter or, as one author terms it, “admin.” Everything takes admin, even that nifty little Vespa. (Gotta get it registered, licensed, insured, pay the tax, keep it clean, gassed, repaired, etc.)

  108. On the other hand if Gold were to become more plentiful then I am fine with great works of art being fashioned from the metal.

    As much as awesome architecture that is pleasing to the eyes.

    Ever since Eden and other legends. Gold and precious stones because of their beauty signified the wealth of paradise.

    I believe we despite our basic needs being met by industrial civilization is suffering from a poverty of beauty. Of clean blue waters flowing down the street.

    Cities of gleaming marble. Fruit trees serving our needs and so on.

  109. My strategy will be to convert a portion of my 401k into a couple of bolt holes with 20 acres or so in eastern central Kentucky. Eventually sustainability will be a modicum of infrastructure around some tillable acreage. If I don’ ‘use’ it, certainly my descendants will.

  110. To my mind, the greatest wealth is a combination of skills and community.

    I don’t believe there’ll be some overnight Mad Maxian collapse, but if there were – having piles of ammo and spam won’t help you, it’ll just make you a target! You want to have a community who knows you and wants to keep you alive, and skills so that even strangers will want to keep you alive.

    While this would be very, very true for a sudden collapse, it’s also true for a slower collapse. After all, while society as a whole might stumble along, your local area might be in big trouble suddenly. Ask someone living in Detroit or Aleppo.

    Now, I don’t know exactly what the perfect combination of skills and community are, but I can say that being a diversity manager living alone in an apartment building in and not knowing a single neighbour’s name probably isn’t it.

  111. @ Womensatlasrc – Certainly, I saw some posts, though not near as many as usual. I agree with you, the time to leave was when we killed bin Laden. After that, there wasn’t even a fig-leaf of a reason to stay. Considering how much money (to say nothing of lives lost / ruined), we spent there, I now wonder if it would have been better for a few CIA men to show up in Kabul in late September, 2001, and bring with them two pictures: one of a dump truck full of crisp hundred dollar bills, and the other of a fiery mushroom cloud. They would have delivered a simple message; “we’ll pay you ten million dollars for every al-Quaida idiot you turn over to us, or we glass the place”. Given that the Taliban literally helped get American citizens to the Kabul airport in August, to get us out of the country faster, my guess is the pragmatists in the Taliban would have gotten quite rich by the December 2001….

    @ Marlena13 – I saw a number of ads for official commemorations on TV, to be sure, but not so much on FB. I thought the split was noticeable. Good to know my experience wasn’t universal. Thanks!

    @ Phutatorius – Geez. That’s gross. I didn’t get that memo either.

  112. Over the years I’ve thought about various material items to hoard as potential future wealth (as opposed to for personal use). That line of thought probably started when I read Lucifer’s Hammer as a teen; there’s a scene where a main character is stocking up for an imminent apocalyptic event, but he’s doing so late, when stores have already been stripped bare of all the obvious stuff, so he has to think about what else might become truly valuable. (His hoard almost immediately gets taken away, so that point is made too!)

    For a slow collapse the question takes a little more thinking, particularly about three factors: storage (or usage) life of the item, future usefulness, and future availability. Sure, you can read that salt has been extremely valuable in the past, and its future usefulness is guaranteed, but you’ll only get value from hoarding it if you can protect it from the elements until it’s needed, and if it’s not easily available from other sources. If you live on the seacoast, or rail transport continues to operate during your lifetime, your salt hoard might not be the treasure you were hoping for. (On the other hand, it costs very little to try anyhow…)

    Here are some ideas I’ve considered (but not actually hoarded) at various times:

    – Standard plastic bottle caps for two-liter (and similar) plastic bottles. The theory here is that the bottles are obviously useful and will be salvaged in great numbers, but the caps (though originally distributed in equal numbers) will be harder to find. In some of my deindustrial fiction stories, they’re used as currency.

    – Pneumatic power tools and fittings. Not e.g. nail guns, because the nail strips that feed into them won’t be available and can’t be made in a workshop. (Get a hammer.) But there are some pneumatic tools that do things no hand tool can manage and so would still be useful even if you had to pressurize the air tank by hand with a bicycle pump to use them. Beware, though, of hoses made of materials that will deteriorate with time.

    – Nickel-iron batteries. One of the oldest battery technologies, these are larger and heavier per Watt-hour stored than other kinds (too heavy to easily steal), and they have other drawbacks too. They’re not even cheap, due to the cost of the nickel. What they have going for them is that compared to all other known kinds of rechargeable batteries, they’re practically indestructible. They can be cycled daily for decades, discharged to flat, left abandoned for years, frozen, or heated to boiling, and they’ll still work. They require regular maintenance and correct usage when in operation, though… so if you learn to handle them and different ways to recharge them, you’ll have a modest trickle of electricity indefinitely, and you or one of your heirs will someday have guaranteed employment when the Lord of the Manor wants electric lights at night. (Just make sure to memorize and then hide the manuals.)

  113. I thought this would really good and some of you might enjoy it

    “People are pointing to the current crisis in China as a replay of the Lehman debacle 13 years ago, but in reality, it is a continuation of it. Starting in the 1980’s, the people actually in charge of the world began to transition the global economy away from an asset based system to a credit based system. The great debt explosion that ensued took many forms and the rise of China was one aspect. Without the massive growth in global debt, China’s growth would have been impossible.

    The thing with debt is that it has to eventually be repaid. That means there is a hard limit to the amount of debt that can be generated. A system based on the assumption that debt can expand forever will naturally end in a crisis when that that assumption runs into the reality of the debt limit. In this regard, Lehman, the mortgage crisis and now the Evergrande crisis should be seen as warning tremors. One day soon there will be no way to paper over one of these crises.

    Step back and look at what has happened over the last half century and what you see is an effort to mitigate the demographic decline of the West. The reason China was so attractive to the West is she was full of young people. China’s utility to the West is in decline because she is rapidly getting old. The massively complex system that is the Western financial modern is just a way to turn the youth of other societies into cash for the Western welfare state. Their vigor is our safety net.

    The trouble is the system drains the vitality of all those exposed to it. Japan was the first example of a formerly fecund society drained of its youth and vitality by exposure to the Western economic model. Korea soon followed. Now we see all of the same signs in China as she nears the end of her economic cycle. The only place left with lots of young people is Africa, but even the scheming of Western elites will never be enough to conquer the dark continent in this way.

    In this context, what is happening in China is a sign that the system of endless credit expansion is really the implementation of a system that converts civilizational vigor into cash for a tiny minority. The natural limit on the expansion of credit is set by the limit of young people available to be consumed. China’s future was written in her one child policy and ultimately that would set the end times for the West. Once we run out of kids to convert to credit, the plates stop spinning.”

  114. Nice dissection of the issue of mediums of exchange, JMG! While the past is no guarantee of the future, the great Depression was caused by the popping of a huge investment bubble in the stock market caused primarily by the NY Fed permitting stock trading on only 10% margin…The NYSE and Fed had also permitted financialization of real estate and massive stock trading by NY banks..As the Austrian economists have pointed out, the popping of speculative bubbles always leads to economic recession, which has been true throughout history…As for gold in private hands, it made out extremely well, escaping the wave of bank failures and rising in value from $20 to $32/oz when FDR devalued the dollar..and gold mining stocks were stellar performers…The subsequent wave of government interventions kept the stock and real estate markets depressed for 20 years….IMO the problem with cryptocurrencies is that Government can shut them down any time it wants, and China has already put restrictions on them, while the US Treasury is seeking to tax them…I

    In an inflationary environment,however, real estate and collectibles have always done well, as we are currently seeing, and it is obviously best for people to own their homes with fixed rate mortgages, or no mortgage at all…

  115. I got to say the contratlry to the implication that people listen to economists. There’s actually a reason why most economists are not popular, well at least many economists who do not take part and abhor the fantastical ideas from those collectivist schools of thought. It’s because they always indicate how certain ideas and actions may hurt more than help contrary to popular belief, and they do it by showing people the history and stats that certain entities fail to take into account. Like magicians and certain religious individuals and psychologists.

    Eliphas Levi suprisingly enough is one such person who may have touched on this briefly, however thats my opinion and observation. The warning in the forward written by you, Mr. Greer, to watch how Levi writes and to pay careful attention in the Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic, is all too accurate. And the question of whether or not one is a priest or a king in regards to learning magic takes on a rather new and interesting meaning when things such as finance and Economics is brought up.

  116. Also I forgot to mention that Everything has a price. *false chord growl* EEEEEVERYYYYTHIIIIIIIING. Any attempt to cheese ones way out of something expensive usually ends in disaster…using another form of “currency” is generally one such way that results in tremendous suffering.

  117. Just a small technical quibble from an econ junkie. Price inflation (a decline in the value of the dollar) is mostly good for borrowers, not bad, as it means that the value of the dollars they repay is less than the value of the dollars they borrowed. Additionally, if that price inflation has effected the borrowers wages or revenue (i.e. they’ve gotten a raise, or are selling their products for a higher price), that will also serve to make borrowed funds easier to repay. Of course, in the real world, and in any individual’s or company’s circumstances, these dynamics may or may not apply. But everything else being equal, inflation is a positive for borrowers and a negative for lenders, which is why high inflation expectations lead to higher interest rates as lenders want to make sure they are accounting for any decrease in the value of money over the repayment period. This is also why the Fed has long targeted a low, positive, rate of inflation (2-3%), as your entire economy essentially runs on debt, at both the household and business levels, and keeping that situation viable is the chief concern of our monetary authorities.

  118. jmg – To follow up on rudyks , Kelso’s book “Two-Factor Theory” was mentioned in the ur-book of our naked hippy collection, The Whole Earth Catalog. HIs model of the economy maps to the secondary and tertiary parts of your economic model. He created the ESOP, the Employee Stock Ownership Plan in the mid-50s so that employees could buy out their company, and found the IRS loophole that made it possible. He later created quite a number of similar plans to help people avoid Wall Street and big banks.

    rudyks, thanks for respecting our time by linking to the short article “What Louis Kelso Knew” – too many people, myself included, when given to enthusiasms recommend a whole book, or very long videos, without taking the time to look up interviews or short articles first.

    Jon from Virginia

  119. DR HOOVES!
    i could’ve written your opening post.
    yes, i’m having to be opposite of who i was, too.
    i said to James a couple of weeks back that the bigger deeper problem was now the ratcheted up mental illness. they’ve ruined everything they count on in their tantrums, and the fall out will only make it worse for all of us.

    THAT SAID: i think that’s the blessed OPENING. the chaos the distraction where other things can happen on the low or parallel right out in the open.

    that’s what i’m “experimenting” with now. all this new way of thinking and Levî (i cannot get the accent as i think i’ve done my keyboard for CZ because of a friend i’d write to), but this OTHER WAY of thinking has me using my ideas i had as a kid for bigger conquests.

    as the wild kid who caused trouble, i’d accidentally say what i wasn’t supposed to at our own or others’ dinner tables and all hell would break loose. i learned to play with that and exploit the chaos. not in a firestarter way, but a way of breaking tension which was unbearable for me to pretend i didn’t see in the 3D.

    the fights chaos and instability would open up new WAYS and possibilities. i didn’t know how to work it so i might get my ass beat and thrown out of another situation OR some adult would sob and admit their panics and nightmares to me at 3am.

    i’m half bougie and my parents were civil rights activists and always organizing or trying to make leaders out of others. so they’d talk to me about how to do that. get my ego out of the way and try and find places for people in the community so all would feel needed and have energy feeling useful.

    that said again: that’s what i’m looking for in all this. it’s actually an opportunity and i’m trying to run ahead of my own shock awe and horror by pretty much bingeing on Papa G’s world here and it IS re-wiring me also back to something more… INTERESTING.

    i don’t feel so buffeted helpless. i feel like my time is now to implement these fantasies ideas memories into organizing new streams of whatever is needed.

    i used to avoid people and know that whomever i NEED to know will show up. it was a game a trick i’d do: never look up in a room, stay hyper focused on my task or just be where i am, and someone strong enough will find ME. i never scan rooms or casually look men in the eye. i’m super old fashioned because that courts unwanted romantic attention to look at strangers in the eyes unless i’m dealing with them.

    but NOW i’m introducing people and talking to young people about their problems and weaknesses even as a lot of the women don’t get what i’m talking about AT ALL. they are hungry confused ghosts with chips on their shoulders for feeling cornered confused and without social skills to get what they want.

    so as an artist my task my MATERIAL is now working with mass insanity that will only get worse from here on out. if they give up the ghost on the serums there’ll be something worse. they lost it from trump and now they’re already thinking turning us into lampshades is a fine idea because they can’t find anything they like at pier one any longer.

    i have to use my style and humor to try and “make” a new underground, just as Papa G has done here. (what do you all think THIS is???) i’m inspired.

    James thinks i’m megalomaniacal, but he’s seen what i’ve pulled off, but he’s despairing. he didn’t grow up seeing all the things my folks were a part of and pulled off like i did.

    i’m shocked at how self reliance isn’t even a “thing” anymore among most people.

    so they won’t even SEE such a thing emerging.

    Papa G’s going gang busters here regarding creativity and working with all our energies, and it only inspires ME to do my part whenever the openings happen. like if/when this radio show ever happens, James and i will use it not to argue with the status quo narrative, but to ridicule it in a funny way that helps us FIND OTHER FUN AND FUNNY PEOPLE.

    that’s the thing: this is about PEOPLE. people are our resources now.

    old people, people who’re 60 years old with bad backs, people who’ve LIVED people who know how to get under and beyond the atomization of current technology and marshall law dictates.

    all the hints i saw when i was dying as i was, all the insights i had, like “Gen X isn’t over; we’re up again because the kids are flaccid” or “telepathy will be the new way of connecting in a completely surveilled society,” all these things are coming true even as i had NO IDEA how or why (i had these insights like “WE NEVER DIE OR LEAVE HERE!” about 10 years ago before they made all the sense they suddenly do NOW).

    so hang in there you old folks. we’re up next. the kids have no life and have no idea what IT EVEN LOOKS LIKE. they are trained in complete fear and obeisance.

    we are more powerful than we know with our bad knees, broken backs.

    Papa G’s work here is amazing and i hope someone’s printing out EVERYTHING for the future because i recognize how much it’s saving me time in despair and getting my energy back and focus so that i may ACT and prepare.

    my moments of despair are less and less as i see others like Violet and Kimberly Steele just get to it.

    i even saw a future tour or network among the folks here. maybe traveling performances/readings and book sellings with the talent and skills here.

    we’ve only JUST begun! we’ll get used to our sea legs here in this new crazy world but then like we did in group homes or dealing with foster situations or when things would blow up in the home, we wild kids WITHOUT ANY OUTSIDE DIRECTION or FOCUS or HELP, we knew to sit tight and keep our proverbial powder dry til later.

    only we went to their therapy and tried to convert to their world.

    only now we see what they have wrought. this is the world having a meltdown just before the existential sobbing at 3am.

    it’s not gonna get better. it cannot. not in their way by their measures of “wealth” to get back to the subject of this article.

    you have to not want their gods. but we’ve been the “wrong” ones for so long, the troglodites living under the ground for so long, we have forgotten or don’t even SEE our own beauty.

    not just YET.

    that’s also a stage. i’m 54 and i’m still working on it. i had to completely die as i was first. that’s messy. takes years to come back like the XIII card.

    and that’s where we’re going now.

    those of us who know such deaths, now WE are the pretty ones now.

    ya dig?

    i can say it and you can agree, but you won’t GET it til you’re crawling back up and out, a half-flayed XIII, too. like the kids who tell devouring Mother Mary stories, they are the pretty ones now, too.

    you have to see the ugly of us ourselves to get back to the beauty and WHY the beauty. it’s gotta be a choice not an edict or accident.

    x

  120. @bradley, I haven’t read Gilder, but in addition to what JMG wrote above, it seems Gilder got his timeline wrong. Many more subjects of the British crown owned many more slaves in 1776 than in Newton’s time (“free slave trade”, it was called). Slavery was outlawed in Britain and its remaining colonies because of a combination of fossil fuel-based industrialization, and evangelical Christianity. In the USA, as part of a power struggle between agriculturists and industrialists.

  121. I’ve seen documentaries that make robots sound like some profound moral and philosophical endeavour. Robots are empowered laziness and nothing more. If they ever do become sentient the first thing they’ll want is mechanical skivvies of their own.

  122. Prizm, congratulations. That sounds like a very wise move.

    Averagejoe, that’s certainly how money is currently created. Until the 1930s, however, money was not created that way. Money was a receipt for a certain amount of gold or silver that was physically present in a bank, and that’s why we had so many depressions in the century leading up to 1929 — the money supply couldn’t expand fast enough. Debt-based money plus variable interest rates turned out to be a very effective gimmick for expanding the money supply, back when the economy was still growing due to the rapidly expanding exploitation of petroleum. As growth tips over into contraction, however, there’s a real case to be made for going back to the pre-1930s system; unfortunately one of the things that will be required to do this is that the vast majority of outstanding debt will need to be erased. People love that idea when they think of their own consumer debt, but it also means that your pension and your bank account just went to zero…

    Viduraawakened, it’s a little more complex than that. The basic principle of succession is over time, organisms in an ecosystem tend to change in a broadly predictable fashion. If you’ve got a cleared piece of ground, say, in a temperate region with plenty of rain, first you get weeds — opportunistic plants that grow fast, make plenty of seeds, and die young. Then you get other plants that are a little slower to spread and a little more efficient in their use of resources, and things move further and further in that direction until you reach whatever mix of the available species is best suited for the long term. Of course that’s a chaotic process — more precisely, it’s a stochastic process — but ecosystems do move that way. The attempts to “debunk” the principle of succession were ideologically motivated and rely on deliberate misunderstandings of the principle itself — yet another example of the corruption of science.

    As for the future of industrial societies, that’s my basic thesis — that what we have now is the first crude and wasteful draft of the technic societies of the future, and that’s why our society grows fast, makes plenty of seeds, and is in the process of dying young. Future technic societies won’t have the abundant resources we did, and as a result they will be more efficient and slower to spread; many thousands of years from now, the mature technic societies of the far future will use resources very sparingly, and probably have much less elaborate technostructures, but they’ll establish ways of living that endure for millennia.

    Pinghangling, yes, that’s what it would be. Fat and lye are easy to get. Equally, however, moving to a smaller city and accepting (and enjoying) a less extravagant lifestyle are both pretty easy, too, and if you’re not doing those, I don’t expect you to make soap either.

    Averagejoe, thanks for this. That’s a very good point — and chip-free cars are of course the wave of the future.

    Angus, both of those are indeed possible. Worse still, it may come to a choice between them.

    Sean, that makes perfect sense to me, but then I’m an astrologer…

    Chris, Evergrande is apparently in debt to the tune of US$308 billion (with a B) or so, so that baby’s going to be held by a lot of arms…

    DenG, thanks for this.

    Peter, there are very simple solutions to debt. The most popular is default. We’re already seeing a lot of it, and I expect to see much, much more in the near future. That’s why the LTG crew didn’t include it — it’s an abstraction, and one that can evaporate very suddenly.

    Millicently, thanks for this. I suspect it’s time for me to make more noise about LESS — Less Energy, Stuff, and Stimulation — as a basic guide to sanity.

    Info, oh, no question, anything to change the overwhelming ugliness of our built environment would be a step in the right direction.

    Dave, that’s a popular approach.

    Hackenschmidt, that’s certainly my approach.

    Walt, fair enough.

    Mr. House, thanks for this.

    Pyrrhus, collectibles do well until they don’t — that is, until the economy turns down hard and people try to cash in their holdings. Since prices are set at the margin, this results in a dramatic crash in prices. Equally, real estate is fantastically overinflated now, and as population begins to decrease, that’s a bubble in a room full of pins. But we’ll talk more about this in a few weeks.

    Copper, oh, granted — economists who actually tell the truth tend to be very unpopular. These days, they also tend to be unemployed. As for Lévi, good — glad to see that you’re paying attention.

    Janitor, thanks for this! I’m glad to see it — he’s focused on one of the most important themes I discuss in that book.

    N0rway, interesting. Thanks for this.

    Marlena, another great example of the “reality is whatever I say it is!” delusion among the overprivileged…

    Jon, duly noted! He’s on the look-at list when I’ve got some spare time.

  123. John,
    Further to my point of cars of the 70s, the majority of cars in those days had mechanical rather than electrical components. Mechanical components can be repaired a lot easier than complex electrical ones, because you can machine and shim up old parts, plus when they wear generally they will keep functioning albeit with “slop”, for a long time before they fail. Cuba is a perfect case study as it shows you can cobble together repairs almost indefinitely to keep simple cars running. Whereas the latest Tesla will become nothing more than a heavy paper weight within 15 years; at best. That’s why I own a classic car.
    Regards Averagejoe

  124. @Pinghanling

    Soap is easy: all you need is wood ash, water, and fat. When boiled in water, the wood ash leaches out the necessary caustic, which can then be evaporated into a powder to be mixed into the fat. Up to about 100 years ago, most rural people used this technique to make their own soap over an open fire in the yard. The wood ash and fat were regular waste products from cooking, and this was a convenient means of disposal.

  125. JMG: “many thousands of years from now, the mature technic societies of the far future will use resources very sparingly, and probably have much less elaborate technostructures, but they’ll establish ways of living that endure for millennia.”

    I have to agree with this. Karl Schroeder expresses the same idea in a nice phrase:

    I’ve lately been trumpeting my revision of Clarke’s Law (which originally said ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’). My revision says that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from Nature. (Astute readers will recognize this as a refinement and further advancement of my argument in Permanence.) Basically, either advanced alien civilizations don’t exist, or we can’t see them because they are indistinguishable from natural systems. I vote for the latter.
    https://www.kschroeder.com/weblog/the-deepening-paradox

  126. @JMG regarding the post by Millicently — I would like to request an essay on LESS.

    Just cleaned out the house last weekend — and getting rid of stuff I haven’t seen in years in my basement was oddly refreshing — it actually gave me energy (like all this ‘stuff’ was a psychic drag). I still now feel more focused!

    Jerry

  127. JMG and all,

    I can think of some things that might store wealth… fairly well. Seeds will do for sometime. Especially if they are carefully stored. Land if you can defend it. Tools as long as they will last. Knowledge, as long as it is useful. Most of those only hold value. The one thing I can think of that *might* increase in value is buying land that has been abused and restoring its fertility.

    Like our backyard!

    https://www.catintheflock.com/2021/08/65-bulbs-of-garlic-on-the-wall.html

    Like Polecat, we have 1/4 acre that we are trying to revitalize and grow what we can on it.

    AV

    P.S. I hear Martin Chaudronnier is a big fan of “The Wealth of Nature.”

  128. JMG, it looks like this is an annus horribilis for oversized things with names starting with ‘Ever’.

  129. Evergrande isn’t the only looming economic crisis I have been keeping an eye on.

    Have any of you been watching the natural gas situation unfolding in Europe? There are concerns about major supply shortages this winter due to a number of factors and energy prices are already skyrocketing across the continent from Germany to Spain to the UK. The Biden administration has announced it is waiving sanctions against Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline in response to a lobbying campaign by the German government, a move that’s been controversial to say the least and is generating serious pushback from Poland, Ukraine and key US senators including Ted Cruz and Bob Menendez.

  130. @Chris at Fernglade, congratulations on the official notice of handover of your southern vassal nation to our third mutual lord!

    Here in China’s northern estates, something embarrassing has come up, but I’m not sure it will matter unless our ex decides maybe they needed to go to some anger management and a twelve step program themselves to admit part of the breakup was their fault.

    “The Globe asked the Public Health Agency of Canada if it is standard practice for scientists at the NML to work with high-level military medical researchers in China…

    “Research for the sake of scientific inquiry is not a part of the mission of the People’s Liberation Army and its scientific or other employees,” he said. “Scientific and other research being carried out by the PLA are meant first and foremost to support the missions of the People’s Liberation Army in protecting state security.””

    I winner what sort of viral research that would entail? 🤔

  131. Good day JMG,

    How do you see gender relations evolve in the long descent.

    Will it go to something like it was up to 20th century or will it incorporate recent social evolutions?
    Have you already written about this?

    I see lots of communications and online dating is done with instagram, other web platforms and apps now.

  132. Beautifully written. Money is tokens used in exchange of goods and services. What could be simpler than the fact that a token that can be exchanged for a hamburger is not the same as the hamburger itself. But people don’t seem to get it. Partly they don’t want to get it. Partly the abstraction is so much simpler to understand and manipulate than the massive interconnected network of production and exchange of goods and services that people choose to think about the simple abstract thing and lose sight of what is real. Economists do understand this and teach it in ECON101. Various ways of obscuring reality have been so lucrative in the past few decades and serve enough people’s interests that a whole range of beliefs have formed that prevent people from seeing past the abstraction.

  133. @ Oilman2 re: #44

    I have 3 brothers who own classic cars. I don’t know when they’ll become valuless – next Tuesday or 100 years from now. Since I don’t know, I see no reason to spoil their fun by talking about it. One brother even thinks most classics will be converted to electric. He’s a true believer in the Electro-Techno future.

    As for me, I have two classics that have sat in my garage for 25 years awaiting that happy day when I have both time and money for restoration. That day, I now realize, is never coming. I’m going to sell them cheap while someone still wants them.

  134. One of the reasons that so many people have a hard time understanding the concept that tokens of wealth could easily disappear in the future is that the average person has faced a barrage of propaganda from the finance industry, popular press .etc. promoting the concept of goodness through the attainment of a stock of wealth. Once even the greedy tried to emulate the “High Income” individual, but getting income started to seem like too much hard work. So the terms used to describe the rich have been changed to things like, ” high net worth individual”, or independently wealthy”. No-one ever talks about income-resilience or being a reliable earner. It is now just about your stack of cash. So it is no wonder that people have been taught to view that stack of cash as eternal instead of being as ephemeral as a mound of cotton candy in a rainstorm.

  135. A few data points for today’s post, all from today’s “The Sun”, our weekly newspaper.

    #1 The Sun is now the ONLY remaining weekly newspaper in Dauphin county. The county has a population of just under 300,000 people and at least 30 different municipalities of various sizes. Yet we can’t support local, weekly newspapers any more. There are a few giveaway shoppers left but those are vanishing too. The Patriot News publishes three days a week.

    #2 According to a caption on a Medexpress office closing (The Sun, 16SEP2021, page 9) all Dauphin County hospitals were on “total divert” in the early hours of 13SEP2021, discouraging ambulance services from bringing patients to those hospitals.

    #3 Hershey will host the 73rd annual Halloween parade. But this year, for the first year ever, The Hershey Company will NOT be donating candy for the event. Normally, The Hershey Company donates between 150 and 200 cases of candy (various items from the lineup) so parade participants can hand out candy to the cheering crowds. No reason was given for the decision.

    Signs of the times, I suppose.

  136. Hi JMG

    Caitlin Johnstone recently published an article titled Our Gods Have No Heads.

    Caitlin’s beat is anti-capitalism and anti-US-imperialism.

    She argues government officials appear to be in charge but in reality they are “controlled by corporate and financial plutocratic institutions which have no loyalty to the citizenry of any nation they dominate”.

    But then eve the plutocrats are not really in charge, rather what “ultimately driving things is not so much the people within those institutions as the institutions themselves”.

    She then moves into interesting territory:

    “In the old days we invented gods to worship who we pretended lived in the heavens, and we talked about miracles and divine intervention. Now we invent gods who live right here on earth, and we talk about profit margins and market forces. The only difference between the old gods and the new is that the high priests of old had their own personal agendas served by their religion, whereas the new high priests actually serve the agendas of their gods.”

    I think she is – almost – on to something.

    The idea that rapacious corporations are actually an entity in their own right. Not in the legal, “personhood” sense but in the metaphysical sense.

    I know we speak of egregores. But can an entity made up of thousands of people, even a revolving door of thousands of people, develop it’s own goals and desires and pursue them?

    Caitlin says humans invented the gods. But she does not draw the link between our lived experience now with self directing corporations, and the lived experience of people in the distant past

    Is it the case that these corporations are the playthings of the “old gods”?

    Either way, the societal burden of carrying these absurdly large greed-machines is a major weight of illth.

  137. @AV #140

    I’ll second your recommendation for restoring abused land. It takes time but it’s quite doable. We’ve got 1/4 of an acre in town. When we moved in, the yard was hardpan clay with about 1/4 inch of topsoil. Now, twenty years and tons of organic material later, I’ve got real topsoil, trees, grass, shrubs, veg and flower gardens, and wildlife.

    It didn’t take magic skills, just time and salvaging everything organic I could starting with the neighbors’ leaves.

    Anyone can do it if they want to. I’m leaving my children a paid-for, renovated, insulated house with a garden that can grow food.

  138. @Tony #146
    I have no idea how to make gems work as a store of value, or anything else financial. Maybe as a way to make interesting jewelry, if you are artistically inclined. I was just commenting that if you cannot tell the difference between synthetic and natural stones, you might get burned. Alternatively, maybe hoarding some synthetic stones would work, since synthetic stones are dependent on low energy prices and so they would hold value without risking being scammed. I am thinking having a hoard of synthetic stones would have less risk and more upside potential than natural stones.

    Anyway, here is an interesting article about an energy crunch in Europe which seems to me to be on topic:
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-09-15/soaring-european-gas-prices-force-fertilizer-plants-to-shutter

  139. Averagejoe, if I needed a car I’d probably do the same. Fortunately, I don’t.

    Martin, thanks for this! That’s a very useful concept.

    Jerry, so noted!

    AV, that’s an excellent point — building the fertility of abused land (and almost all land is abused these days) is one very effective way to store value, and it also builds skills that are at least as effective. As for Mr. Chaudronnier, well, yes — the Starry Wisdom Church’s internal economic system of credits is also rather strongly influenced by that…

    Pygmycory, a good point. If you see anything else gargantuan on a collision course with limits, and it’s got “Ever” in its name, back away as fast as you can.

    Galen, thanks for the heads up. That’s what you get when your green energy system focuses on huge subsidy dumpsters in place of conservation and home generation…

    Tony, I’ll consider that for a future post.

    Ganv, thank you. I think one reason people pretend that tokens are wealth is that playing games with tokens is so much more lavishly rewarded than actually producing wealth.

    Clay, I’m sure that’s an important factor.

    Teresa, thanks for this.

    Darren, Johnstone very often almost gets it! You’re right that she’s almost onto something very important here. Do you remember the sorcerer’s apprentice scene in Fantasia with the brooms and buckets mindlessly repeating instructions to the point of disaster? Bureaucracies are like that when they don’t have capable leadership — and the last fifty years of social changes in the industrial world have made capable leadership basically impossible.

  140. Speaking of unfolding crises, Texas governor Greg Abbott just ordered the closure of six major border crossing points in response to the Biden administration’s catastrophic mishandling of the southern border. He is mobilizing the Texas National Guard and state police to enforce the closure.

    https://americanmilitarynews.com/2021/09/tx-gov-abbott-shutting-6-entry-points-on-us-mexico-border-to-stop-migrant-caravans/

    One wonders how much longer it will be before we start to see figures like Governor Abbott and Governor Ron DeSantis acting like late Roman warlords as it becomes increasingly clear that the emperor has no clothes, the liberal PMC is completely incapable of competent governance* and someone needs to take action?

    PS – Notice towards the end of the article how Judge Emmet Sullivan, who some of you may remember was the one who tried to railroad General Michael Flynn, has further undercut the Biden administration’s feeble attempts to get control of the border crisis. Again, it seems pretty clear to me that the PMC is too stupid to realize they are undermining their own legitimacy and ability to rule. The Biden administration and Judge Sullivan alike remind me of someone sitting on a tree branch while eagerly sawing it off.

    * Something Malcolm Kyeyune brilliantly and eloquently pointed out in a recent blog post:

    https://tinkzorg.wordpress.com/2021/08/16/farewell-to-bourgeois-kings/

  141. oh and i didn’t mean to foist the collected works and library of Papa G on everyone else when if i have the idea, i should do it.

    we are two in a studio apartment and when i died i gave up technology so whatever we had ten years ago is what we’re working with now. the printer dies and there’s one in the garage that they don’t sell cartridges for but they’re dried up? going to the xerox shop in a month or two.

    and we’ve talked, James and i, and have decided that we don’t wanna be lampshades as the people here go further insane, so we’re thinking of moving if by the 2nd anniversary of all This, things don’t let up.

    no one on our block is talking to each other anymore and the new people are bitchy, the women included (wacka! wacka!), and we find ourselves shocked at how many people WANT THIS. we saw the election results for the recall.

    maybe next spring will be too late, and we’ll both already been lampshades in the repurposed Cosco mentioned above. money will be worthless so we won’t even get to be their biofuel; we’ll be what’s for sale as they hum off key like a city of Bette Davises in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” crossed with a new version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

    all the people here who actually DO anything productive will have long since escaped from san francisco, and they’ll further descend into madness.

    there’ll be a segment of the die hard unvaxxed who held on for rent control, and soylent green would be the merciful thing to do. but pious people have to break all our unvaxxed legs so we can’t crawl away while they get their booster shots like junkies in yoga pants. even the women. wacka wacka!

    so yes… being biomass fuel or soylent green would be a kiss from grandma, for we will end up playing UPS drivers so they can re-live having cheap crap delivered to them. when they want to connect they’ll shop at cosco, the church of cheap abundant crap plastic wrapped in triplicate quadruplicate and so on…we got your octagon society right here in the shape of 33 toothpastes…

    and the musicians left who know how to play actual analogue instruments will have to hide behind potted plants emulating the muzak they miss. we’ll be lampshades and sofas on display and stacked like reams of xeroxes from a bygone era. now our flesh is their paper but they cannot write anymore.

    the luckiest ones are made into big packages of ground beef. you cannot recognize them, unlike us, the lamps and sofas, and they get to disappear with a lot more grace than living for an eternity with them farting on our leathered face or having your head shrunk and having an energy-saving lightbulb where your brain used to be.

    it’s all so …pathetic.

    there is a word that their energy-saving bulbs are really them rendering our own fat asses to make double-wick candles that never go out and make our eye sockets look like jack o’l lanterns.

    my point originally was: whoever’s doing the library, and you have the space, please double up on whoever’s already got his works in his will.

    my mentor’s works and sketchbooks were devoured by a coven of butch lesbians who used to sing kumbaya but saw gold in her work, but greed made no one beyond us see a thing, and now what should’ve been san francisco history available to all, the most brilliant of her is divided and will end up in dumpsters with a lot of cheap meaningless crap.

    i’ve never seen anyone so elegantly be able to share WHAT A LIBRARY if a person is a library, WOW…

    we cannot overlook him because he’s alive and is an anti-guru and the quirk in his ability to promote a book he cannot promote HIMSELF. it’s pretty cool. so we cannot take him for granted because he’s not dead yet.

    let’s not make him have to come back and start over. he can come back and visit the library!

    (that’s what i thought art was: writing frantic everywhere notes to yourself to run by later. i thought you’d have to do spastic graffiti wherever you went and leave notes under rocks and hope a lifetime of accumulation might hint a tiny reminder. but if you could come back and pick up where you left off??? i didn’t know it was as focused or COULD be, like the reincarnation of peter proud. man… that 70s movie really blew my cotton pickin MIND.)

    sorry this was long. it was a PURGE. in the spirit of san francisco…

    wacka wacka wacka!

    anyhow, if the station manager finds a spot for us at the station after all, then it could change things because then maybe we’ll have half a chance. but (shrug)… either way we’ll get rid of stuff this winter so we can get ready to move or do something NEW. i’ve been here since ’94. i saw a nature show with a broken hearted mother leopard carrying her decomposing baby leopard carcass around because she couldn’t deal.

    i’m kinda getting that way about san francisco. but i’m not sure which of us is carrying the dead leopard baby carcass up trees to shoo away the maggots in the shade. i think we’re both the mad with distress leopard mother and the rotting corpse.

    x

  142. Regarding stores of value, the Bitcoin Boys have started referring to US dollars as US Trash Tokens in honour of its future purpose. Their alternative is … storing value in NFTs! (Non-Fungible Tokens are digital files, usually images, that have unique serial numbers to prevent copying.) Apparently digital pictures will still be worth something once the US dollar implodes.

    “Cryptopunks”, a popular category of NFTs, are currently trading hands for cryptocurrency worth tens or hundreds of thousands of US Trash Tokens. There’s three layers of abstractions there.

  143. I wouldn’t mind seeing a post on LESS either. It does seem an appropriate time for it. Given recent and possible pending events, it might not be really avoiding the rush to collapse now, but better now than later.

  144. Hi All,

    Went to the optician to get new lenses set in my old glasses, and learned there is an eyeglass parts shortage in the US and Canada.

    It’s worsened noticeably in the past two weeks.

    If you need new eyeglasses, you may want to act on it sooner rather than later.

    OtterGirl

  145. I’d argue that a fair portion of the “ilth” these days can be found in excess government (and the the corporatocracy behind it). Whole lotta parasitic PMC in there.

    I’ve always gotten a huge kick out of the “gold asteroid” nonsense. People seem totally focused on the gold and not on the astronomical (heh heh) costs of mining it.

    Oh and the US national debt is now $28T not counting another $156T in unfunded liabilities and $8T on the Fed’s balance sheet (although that does involve some double-counting). In many ways we’re quickly redefining “banana republic”.

    The key to preserving wealth is HIDING it. Live modestly, lay low, and wait out the storm.

  146. Mollari comments,

    “Also, I’ve had someone insist that we aren’t actually running out of oil, and insist that Titan has enough petroleum to last us forever.”

    As an exercise, I once calculated this. A barrel of oil equivalent energy is held to be 6.1 GJ. Its weight – depending on the particular oil mix – is 125-136kg, not counting the physical container itself.

    Now, the minimum energy required to reach orbit is half the mass of the thing you’re sending up there times the escape velocity squared. And it so happens that the energy required to come safely back down to Earth is equal to that required to achieve escape velocity. E(k) = 1/2 x m x V^2. And the Earth’s escape velocity is 11,186m/sec.

    So, the energy required to put a barrel of oil into orbit is at least,

    E(k) = 1/2 x 125 x 11,186 x 11,186 = 7,820,412,250J = 7.8GJ.
    Or for the 136kg barrel, 8.5GJ.

    Since 7.8-8.5 GJ are greater than 6.1 GJ, the energy required to get a barrel of oil on or off Earth is greater than the energy in that oil.

    And of course, Titan will have its own escape velocity. And the oil is not going to sit in a convenient blob by itself, able to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere intact, but it needs some sort of container which we also have to take along for the ride. And the rocket and Titan oil rig and all that will have their own mass and energy requirements. And Titan has a surface temperature of -180C or so, meaning a lot of energy need for heating the various equipment so it doesn’t jam up. Plus a bunch of other stuff it’d be tedious to go through.

    Still, we can conclude that even if we ignored having a spacecraft, oil rig, and container for the oil, and even if we had magical 100% efficient energy conversion, it would take more energy to get a barrel of oil from Titan than we could get from burning it.

    This is physical reality and no amount of gee whiz technology can get past it. You can no more get net energy from transporting oil from Titan than you could get Newton spontaneously levitating up to the apple to hit it.

  147. I recall seeing somebody claim on the Internet recently that the Fed has minted more new money in the past two years than has been minted in the entire previous history of the USA. And this is in addition to the fact that a force-feeding of gobs of printed money from various central banks have been keeping the financial markets in a hypertrophic state since about mid-November 2016. This makes me very uneasy, as the Hermetic Law of Polarity states that creating an extreme imbalance in this manner will at some point force the Universe to dramatically and certainly unpleasantly restore the balance.

  148. A question for the commentariat – looking into purchasing 3-5 books on biodynamic gardening. Which would you say are the *must have* books for an intermediate gardener?

    I looked into taking the year long course which meets once a month on a biodynamic farm in NY state (did my permaculture cert this way and its really a wonderful way to learn) but it requires masks outside and would likely have a vaccine requirement of some kind before it wraps up.

    Thank you in advance!

  149. In response to gender relations from what I’ve seen in 19th century research of rural Pennsylvania records, it really varied by cultures and traditions. The rural areas were much more egalitarian compared to the cities, even small ones. I suspect that a way to show social status was to have women in your household who had clean fingernails and dresses, so cities had more wealth and separated women into objects.

    As many as 1/3 of the land owners were women in counties which were populated by Ulster Irish. The German speakers were more restrictive on women owning land. Then of course the state came in and made laws preventing women from owning land until they then changed it to that they could. There were also rules put in place by religions (over 30 of them in PA in the 1700’s even so I can’t detail them all here).

    Government always makes the problem, then solves the problem acting as if they saved the day. When we had less government, there was more equality in what I’ve seen. People did what worked for their family to make and preserve wealth within their household which of course meant equal participation by women.

  150. One thing that occurred to me, after I read this current post, is that in a time of accelerating contraction of resource availability the People’s Republic of China will have her work cut out to sustain economic growth. The problem here is, that the political contract between the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese people cannot be fulfilled without sustained economic growth. So, in this regard, there surely will be interesting times ahead.

  151. Greetings ADJMG! Hope you and your wife are well.
    At this moment I’m sitting on a 45 foot sailing catamaran at a marina in the Bahamas.

    My coworker is a retired coast guard captain and I’m getting him to train me. I expect fish stocks to
    come back quickly this century, because when the snapper
    limit was lowered to 2 from 12 in the last ten years snapper quantity and size rebounded quickly. I have a 4 year old and I expect her in her lifetime to be waist deep in it. So I’m looking for a fishing village to build her a homestead to leave. Gotta go, time to man the lines.

  152. Do you think Mr. Kunstler’s WMBH series captures what life in the descent will look like in the coming decades? I am having a hard time imagining the details

  153. Hi John Michael,

    One of the great risks of globalisation is the vast interconnectedness of such err, dare I use the word: investments? As an alternative perspective, the fall of such a vast enterprise is perhaps a super nifty gimmick to disappear vast sums of IOU’s in one fell swoop. The thing with such a possibility is that the underlying real wealth does not at the same time disappear along with all that that entails. And I’d imagine that there are some pension fund and hedge funds managers nervously reviewing their holdings. Such a mighty fall will cause a lot of pain in unexpected quarters.

    Cheers

    Chris

  154. Hi JMG and all – to Darrin #150, someone once wrote that “Humans are corn’s way of taking over the world”. Maybe a lot of what we have invested our time and interest in takes on a life of it’s own…

  155. Hi JMG and all others in the Forum do you know much about Willhelm Reich…? inventor, physician and one of Freuds students. On of His theories of life force called Oregon Energy, One of his inventions a cloud buster could make it rain. his initials WR…World Revolution… Anyone know where I can find his work, titles, books, papers, drawings etc… JMG and everyone else…?

  156. Regarding the desperate desire (by some) to hang on to stores of value at any cost: I suspect it’s not an accident that, for the Greeks and Romans, the god of wealth is also the god of the dead…

    Axé

  157. I still have my copy of Wealth of Nature sitting proudly on my bookshelf – a lovely book, great that it may find a new audience. Reading it (about 10 years ago now) took me back to my original reading of Small Is Beautiful, which was a standard text assigned to us in our high school economics class in England back in the late 70s. But that was BT – before Thatcher and the 80s.

    My wife and I started our journey to LESS over 15 years ago, in our mid-40s. We’d both grown up the PMC as systems consultants, and then for various reasons decided to get out. She became an herbalist and I a gardener, but I still had to keep one foot in the corporate world as the main breadwinner. I shifted to part-time sub-contracting, working part-time for less than half of what I earned, and then continued down from there – it paid our bills, allowed us more time to focus on collapsing down, and helped us avoid completely freaking out our then early teenage kids. So for those wanting to get out of employment shackles I can really recommend becoming a part-time sub-contractor for a few years at least while you build up some other skills.

    One thing we had to get used to was how to value our time, to stop thinking of it in terms of money. It makes very little economic sense to grow your own potatoes, for example, which are one of the cheapest things you can buy, pound for pound. So I had to work on thinking of it in terms of learning new skills, building soil and garden infrastructure and just the fun of seeding out and harvesting in, and the nutritional value of pounds and pounds of stored spuds. But it took a while to get out of that “time is money” mindset.

    Finally, I agree with previous commenters about the value of helping to regenerate old land, building soil and building skills. We’re closer to the other end of a long journey now, and I can see those are the most important things we’ve accumulated. Right now we’re starting to think through what best to do with that land and skills and community – now that we’re getting into our 60s.

  158. Hi John

    Great post as always.

    I would broadly agree with what you write. Its only logical that in a contracting economy the prospects of making a positive return becomes nearly impossible and your best hope is losing as little money as possible in your various investments.

    So, for example – and assuming rule of law lasts for say the next generation – holding gold would be more sensible than holding tech stocks which will likely collapse in value as globalisation and global supply chains implode. Gold will likely sustain some value in say 20 years and therefore, comparatively, the gold holder will be wealthier than the owner of tech stocks who will likely be wiped out.

    I take your point that owning gold only makes sense in a society with a robust rule of law culture, and once that goes, owning gold is a death sentence.

    In terms of time frames, I would slightly disagree with you. Certain commodities remain historically very cheap compared to a clearly over-valued stock market, and given the dire supply situation – that most investors remain ignorant about – I would suggest that owning commodity companies would be a good place to be this decade.

    Historically, commodity companies did very well during the last bout of stagflation, the 70’s, and are currently very unpopular among the vast majority of investors compared to bonds and stocks. I personally have been loading up on commodity related companies and they are all now in a profit. However, by historical comparison, they remain very cheap.

    So, for me, certain investment niches – currently overlooked and very cheap – are likely to do well this decade given the stagflationary pressures going on, supply chain disruptions and growing geopolitical issues. Supply crunch in key resources will likely lead, at least temporarily, to bull markets in those unloved companies that produce those commodities (e.g. lithium, copper, graphite, rare earth metals, potash etc).

    Longer term, as we descent down the LTD model of decline, I would imagine that even commodity companies may themselves struggle to produce and get supplies through to key markets and/or are nationalised by governments. So, as a shorter term investment, probably sound, but longer term, not so.

    For me, the longer term outlook e.g. beyond 2030, goes back to arable farming land. It was the source of wealth for most societies for a reason and we will return to that era. Land is what anybody lucky enough to have substantial wealth to own, but locally and in a place with a robust and centuries old property and rule of law system.

    In terms of the collapse of industrial output, I would be interested in your thoughts on Peter’s latest blog post.

    https://us11.campaign-archive.com/?u=de2bc41f8324e6955ef65e0c9&id=8d93059085&fbclid=IwAR26wnJSg9noW6meOti1sObvuDWF5clxM0yqD_EiL4DNnDau_ie-EyEOqd0

    “The global semi-conductor industry is one of the biggest success stories, and thereby one of the most dependent, of the Global Order. If my forecast about a collapse of the global trade order is correct, it will realistically take years for countries like the US to recreate a multi-layered semiconductor manufacturing base domestically. The rest of the world will struggle to maintain any output on their own”

    Now his outlook is shaped by his geopolitical thinking rather than wider LTG concerns. However, he touches on a key point. Semiconductors are vital for virtually any industrial product these days and if supply chains unravel totally, this could prove to be the biggest factor in causing that huge drop in industrial output this decade.

  159. Justin and JMG: I take a Salon de Refuses is in contemplation? What fun! Here is hoping yours is as influential as the first one.

    Dennis, I suspect permaculture showed up stateside after those who might have been receptive were already invested (emotionally and financially) in other kinds of organic gardening. Also, if you want to replicate techniques, i.e. food forest, which have grown up over generations in one lifetime, you need a lot of expensive inputs.

  160. teresa from hershey and AV ..

    To develop and nurture a garden of even moderate – let alone optimum success – takes patience (and I might add, a degree of flexibility) … something, unfortunately, many have no time for in this waning era of just-in-time ‘we wants it NOW!’ My Precious..

    Patience, foresight, and close observation – in all things pertaining to growing anything of sustenance – are generally to be found lacking in society .. excepting of course, by the most avariciously sociopathic who walk among us .. or shall I say ‘float’ over us … inducing one, against one’s better judgment, to buy into what ever expedient snake oil they’re trying to push onto the rubes, via fear and/or envy.

  161. Galen, things are definitely heating up. Thanks for this.

    Erika, I certainly recommend getting out of San Francisco while you can. The entire west coast is becoming the Rust Belt of the 21st century, and it’s already getting very grim in the big cities — there are plenty of places in the rest of the country where you and James ought to be able to settle down comfortably and have much better lives.

    Kfish, talk about a conversation between the pot and the kettle…

    Pygmycory, so noted! I’ve got it on the list.

    Ottergirl, oof. Thanks for the heads up.

    TJ, as I see it, one very common function of government in an era of decline is the distribution of illth. How fair or unfair that distribution might be is another matter…

    Hackenschmidt, thank you. You’ve just restored my faith in the human ability to reason!

    Matt and Pablo, thanks for these.

    Mister N, the Law of Polarity is relevant here. I see the recent orgy of money printing as a sign that the entire global economic system is flat on its back gasping for air while the medics shake their heads and say, “There’s not much we can do.” Here we go…

    Denis, I’m a longtime fan of John Jeavons’ How to Grow More Vegetables and two books by Duane Newcomb, The Postage Stamp Garden Book and The Apartment Farmer — those latter deserve a quick trip back into print if someone can find Newcomb or his heirs. (You can get the books fairly easily from used book websites.)

    Booklover, that’s one of the huge wild cards in the current situation. I expect China to enter into a serious economic depression in the near future as the malinvestment and corruption of the last few decades have their inevitable result, and the results will be, er, colorful.

    Dashui, glad to hear it. That’s certainly one approach.

    Michael, we’ll find out when we get there.

    Patricia M, now if he can only learn to think clearly about the rest of the future…

    Chris, I’ve had that in mind. If the US defaults on its foreign debts and the world suffers a gargantuan crash in stock and other speculative markets, yeah, that might prune down the supply of tokens far enough to help.

    Martin, I posted a discussion of him a little while back here and here.

    Fra’ Lupo, true.

    Yupped, thanks for this! Good to hear.

    Forecastingintelligence, with regard to commodity companies, perhaps so, but I hope you’re planning on buying and holding for the long term. Eventually those companies — or those of them that survive — may do very well, but in the short to middle term their profitability depends on the viability of the industries that use their products, and if we get a general financial crisis, business may grind to a halt pretty generally for a while and leave the commodity companies resource-rich but cash-poor. If you’ve got enough liquidity that you can buy and hold, and have zeroed out your debts, something like that might work well.

    My grandfather’s aunts prospered via that strategy. They were three maiden ladies in a small town in Washington state, all employed by the city government — they were most of its office staff — and all through the Great Depression, when you could get General Motors shares for $9 a piece, they set aside a portion of their salaries every month and bought stocks. Among their picks was a promising little startup called International Business Machines, aka IBM, in which they took a large position. They all died within a few weeks of each other, in advanced (and extremely comfortable) old age, and their legacy put fourteen younger relatives through college — my father was one of them — and did comparable things for a lot of other family members.

    Mary, it is indeed. Stay tuned for an announcement!

  162. @ Ottergirl – I literally just replaced my four year old pair of glasses for new ones last week. I went to a LensCrafters on Friday, and picked the new pair up yesterday. I didn’t see any delays at all. Did you go through a national chain or a local shop? I wonder if smaller users are getting squeezed first?

  163. Another data point and a (dire?) warning…going on four weeks waiting for car parts for my Honda Civic so it can pass state inspection. My mechanic’s supplier went from three days to one week to no date expected in this time. I called the Honda dealer just to see if they had them and they have a dozen cars there waiting for parts. The dealership which used to sell 200+ cars a month now has 5 new cars total on the lot. There is a guy making car payments for a car he can not drive because it needs a replacement door from an accident.

    A friend hypothesized that this shortage would meet the globalist agenda to reduce carbon emissions. Want people to drive less? Just eliminate parts for cars. Problem solved!

    Of course this will hit the working classes who must drive to work every day the hardest, especially if the police step in and start fining them for driving with expired car inspection tags. I emailed my state legislature to see if they could enact something to prevent that (he’s a cool guy and gets it). Maybe they can even use some of the Covid slush fund they haven’t spent to spur some in state manufacturing of essential parts.

    To those that are thinking – they wouldn’t destroy the economy and starve people to meet their green new deal agenda! – I reply, do you recall what happened in Cambodia, China, and Russia when the new Communist leadership took over with their agendas? Mass death means nothing to a leader with an agenda. After all it will be for the greater good of saving the planet.

    ****
    Thank for you for the book recommendations JMG. I have the Jeavons book and can share your enthusiasm for it. Definitely one of my most referenced books. I’ll look into the other two for sure.

  164. For immediate amassing of tokens that will be helpful as long as the U.S. Mail is still in operation: buy postage stamps. Before they raise prices again. Keep at least 100 on hand at all times.

  165. JMG, thank you for your ongoing willingness to write about interesting topics. I usually use all you commenters to ask any question I might have, and I enjoy all the places you come from. I live in the extractive colonies of the Colorado Plateau, where wealth used to mean you could live elsewhere while someone made you money. Now it means you can buy a new house in the new subdivision across the street from me for only $300K- 450K, get yours today. That makes the house I’ve lived in for 40 years, my riches, but I value it for the trees I’ve planted, the tomatoes we can, (lid shortage here as well), and the tons of compost I’ve dumped over the years. I value my life. I love my musical instruments. I value my boxes of notebooks. I may have a wealth of knowledge. I would trade it all for silence. My tinnitus is my Zen Koan, “Its all in your head.” but I might have to embrace it. Forty million of us abuse the Colorado River, and the numbers are going up. Almost all the new arrivals believe we won’t run out of water, or they don’t know it is the problem, otherwise they would not be moving in. In 1980’s Grand Junction, after Exxon( sign of the double cross) left oil shale, people left their newly purchased home with dirty dishes on the table, for the banks to clean up. I have walked through the cliff dwellings of the previous peoples and pondered their dilemma of prolonged drought, and my own dilemma of prolonged drought. I’ll stay, and walk among the rocks, looking for fossils of Medusa’s gaze, from dinosaurs to mammals, insects and leaves. I’m a stone druid, from the bedrock class, a conservative radical, watching the haze of California smoke darken the late summer sky. I must value puns, synchronicities, and the pataphysical certainty of imagined solutions, mainly laughing at the absurdity of constant traffic outside my window. It is also funny to be living in isolation and yet consider community to be a good thing, as I rail on about the subdivision madness here. In the 1970’s, my first retirement, I thought it would all fall down, but it didn’t and I had to work, go to school, work, float down rivers, and finally retire on Social Security and little bonuses from saving over time. Next year I might get a raise to bring me to $1k a month. I chased that amount all through the 1970’s, and again from 2007. When I began to really understand a changing climate is happening here, I began to grieve, while continuing to find joy in life. It is a lot of work to embrace all the contradictions that negotiating life in a colony of 1st world capitalism with the book of changes. We won’t notice how many climate refugees there are here until the next census. Ten years later, we might lose them all and dust will blow in from Utah. The migration will head East, young man, and Greeley will be dried cow pies. In any case, I will do my best to live within my values, refrain from relying too much on valuables, or laying up my treasures where moth and rust doth corrupt. I wish to continue seeking that balance of living with earth each day, until I am not.

  166. Late to this party, but your excellent descriptions of ‘wealth’ and ‘illth’ reminded me of my own overblown phrase: “the effluence of affluence”. Seems that both ‘illth’ and ‘effluence’ are taking over, that there is no “equal and opposite reaction” any longer in our manufactured paradigms of ‘living the good life’. So many of your interlocutors here are still playing the old ‘wealth’ games that you have, throughout your career, attempted to dissuade and conversely persuade all of us to attempt moves to LESS. Old habits of thoughts are indeed so very difficult to let go! We still insist on comfort.

  167. I kind of like that the word “illth” lies somewhere between “Lilith” and “Illithid”…2 monsters; one from ancient mythology and one from modern mythology.
    BTW, many in the commentariat above are mispelling “illth” it to “illith”which made me think of the freudian or magikal lapse above.

  168. @polecat

    >>To develop and nurture a garden of even moderate – let alone optimum success – takes patience (and I might add, a degree of flexibility)<<

    So, true! We have a ton of books on organic gardening, permaculture, bio-dynamic gardening etc. etc. And guess what? You don't know anything until your hands are in the dirt. And even then you get to make all kinds of mistakes. Here is a funny one we made:

    https://www.catintheflock.com/2021/07/last-years-failed-potato-crop.html

    AV

  169. Costco: My reaction is to shudder, put my head down, and race through Costco while spending as few dollars as possible. Lately I’ve enjoyed buying produce at the local farmers market where there is one produce guy who has great veggies and no signage, no prices, no specials–nothing that the AGR course I’m taking suggests for success–LOL! He does have greenhouses for over-winter production.

    Canada debt: I read 2.x trillion. It’s odd but I listened to a podcast where a Canadian pointed out Canada is NOT “the United States of Canada” and thus does not have valid points of comparison to the US. I already knew the population of Canada is about the size of California but the land mass traverses from the Northern US border all the way to the Arctic Circle.

    I, too, have a first edition copy of The Wealth of Nature and look forward to the next post.

  170. Interesting post as always, GMG.

    As much as most people here dislike the stock market and think it’s all smoke and mirrors, I think it might actually be a fairly good form of wealth in a Great Decline scenario. After all, a stock is ownership of a piece of a company – something real.

    You might think big companies would be decimated in a Great Decline scenario, and no doubt some would, but there would also be some that would prosper (private security, disaster cleanup, etc). So if you owned an ever-changing index of the best-performing companies, your wealth might be preserved or even grow.

    And high-tech infrastructure wouldn’t necessarily be needed; the US stock market was founded centuries ago before even the telegraph was in use.

    Just a thought.

  171. I have a personal economic theory with regard to the semiconductor shortage that is driving many other problems. I agree that a general reduction in industrial output is happening as predicted in LTG, but I think semiconductors are a special case. Just before Covid hit, the talk of all the brew pubs near where I live that are frequented by Intel engineers was that Moores Law was officially dead. Moores law said that the power of microprocessors would increase rapidly while at the same time price would decrease rapidly ( there is an exact multiple which is not really important). I think the post WWII industrial economy was primarily driven by decreasing real energy costs up untill the first oil crisis in the 1970’s. The industrial economy floundered for a while,Then got a new lease on life when Northsea Oil and Alaskan oil came online then floundered again. The boom in computing came along just in time powered by Moores law. Now most of the semiconductors in cars or toasters are not the cutting edge ones coming from Intel or TSCM factories but I believe the profit derived from the constantly decreasing cost of computing power drove the investment and capacity in the entire industry. Like the big anchor department stores drove the sales of the Sunglass kiosk at the old malls. I think that now small improvements in semiconductors are still possible but they are coming at a higher and higher cost. This leaves an entire industry scratching for the kinds of profit that allow complex factories and supply chains to be maintained or expanded. This gasping for breath of the great techno-utopian economic engine ( dude, AI robots will solve everything next year) has put much of the industrial economy in a tailspin. If it turns out to be true, you heard it here first.

  172. Great summary of a bunch of connected issues, JMG!
    On your comments #85 & 135 (a few friendly amendments):
    “using precious metals as a *transitional* currency would be smart. Your tools will keep their value a lot longer, and any skills you learn will keep value *longer* than you do.”
    It’s good that you referred to different time-horizons.
    At issue in the shorter term (i.e. years; decades?) is, if you have many $$ tokens, and you’ve stocked up on an adequate supply of essentials (e.g. aspirin, ag. tools, TP), and ponied-up for whatever plumbing etc. courses/ books etc. that you’ll be able to absorb, what to do with extra $$?
    I suggest that gold coins will hold major value far longer than will paper “assets”, and will be liquid/ safe from predators (e.g. gov’ts), far longer than any real estate (which you can’t keyster etc. onto the black market).

    “there’s a real case to be made for going back to the pre-1930s system; unfortunately one of the things that will be required to do this is, that the vast majority of *outstanding* debt will need to be erased.”
    There is a (originally Gaullist French) proposal, for a system which has a shot at “saving” some of the otherwise doomed debt load, or at least spreading out the ensuing pain.
    The proposal is called Freegold, see e.g. https://www.bullionstar.com/blogs/bullionstar/introducing-freegold/ ,
    https://goldbroker.com/news/freegold-will-kill-the-paper-gold-casino-1453 , http://fofoa.blogspot.com/2010/07/debtors-and-savers.html , and https://fofoa.blogspot.com/2019/05/freegold-in-igwt-report.html .

    It is, in its way, “an easy money system” which argues (among other things) that, if the gold price is allowed to rise, to a level at which gold sales can *retire major* slews of debt, the int’l finance system may get stabilized (at a far lower social etc. cost, than with any other approach), and the tension between debtors and creditors (*savers*) may be much reduced.
    Such a price rise could emerge, by the simple reform of opening physical-only markets, where mass (e.g. Bullion Bank) naked shorting of gold is barred (e.g. by regs/ laws barring enforcement of gold Futures contracts).

    For a look at how feasible such futures regs might be, see https://wolfstreet.com/2018/09/04/my-theory-about-gold-and-silver-for-long-term-investors/ (on how different the gold market is, from other commodities).

  173. @ Pablo #163

    I particularly liked the one commenter to the article that insisted that there was too a way to get to flying cars and technogadgetry and 150-year lifespans…if only we put the right people in charge. “All of our obstacles are political”, it would seem!

  174. pyrrhus 124, FDR moved gold from $20 to $35/oz.
    As for “The subsequent wave of government interventions kept the stock and real estate markets depressed for 20 years”, how do you know this?

  175. I saw your column in Resilience. Very good explanations of money and wealth and illth. However, while the US and other countries flooded economies with money, they also lowered taxes, insuring the money went to those that didnʻt need it, the 1%, generally. Students and home owners found themselves saddled with growing mountains of debt. The US national debt at this point is no problem. It is represented by treasury notes of various kinds, over $20 trillion, but all that is is an indicator of what the govt. has put into the economy, and could be erased by printing said trillions and buying back the treasuries. There would be no new assets out there in the world. Now for various tech. reasons you canʻt do this, mainly to issue money youʻd have to issue new treasuries. And even if you could, the wealthy would scream bloody murder because they need somewhere they consider safe to stash their loot.
    The problems arise when debt of any kind is first created, a chance of inflation if too much at once. But the real problem is that most debt and spending really represents in some fashion or other a drawdown of the Earthʻs natural resources, most of which are non-renewable, and thus are debts that are non-repayable, and the use of these resources sources illth.
    Keep up the fine writing and thought. We desperately need new ways to live sustainably on this tiny orb. Mahalo, Terry McNeely

  176. You know, if the semiconductor shortage doesn’t get sorted out pretty quickly, the internet of things is something we can stop worrying about. For that matter, when was the last time you read a puff piece touting the onrushing internet of things?

    I can well do without internet connected appliances and toothbrushes. Here’s hoping that particular future is now whistling in the wind.

  177. Hi John Michael,

    It’s really awful, isn’t it – and it puts a darkly amusing spin on the great reset meme, which some people seem to keep banging on about. But the printing strategy has been tested by time and found wanting, and yet here we are at it all the same.

    I dunno, people get fixated on matters of trying to time or guess at what the shocks will be. And I can understand that concern and also wonder about it myself and chuck out my own theories. But really, if a strategy has been proven in the past not to work, then sooner or later, it probably won’t work.

    And I agree with you in relation to cashing in on investments and the future shock this will create. The topic interests me as over the years I’ve sold many an item on the second hand market (up to and including houses) and one common issue arises with each of those differing economic transactions: Things are only worth what someone else will pay for them. I’ve noted that with people who hang on to such items rather than face the tough test of the markets, they tend to have over inflated notions as to the actual value of whatever it is that they hold. I’d be sure that someone has studied that particular phenomena, but it is real.

    Cheers

    Chris

  178. Denis, you’re most welcome.

    Patricia M, for the short to middle term, no argument there!

    JDM, thanks for this. That’s a hard row to hoe, but a viable one.

    Bruce, it’s a good phrase! I’ll be talking, ahem, more about LESS sometime fairly soon.

    Rashakor, funny! As a pair of metaphors, though, it works…

    Kel, my take is that stocks in general are fantastically overinflated right now, but of course your mileage may vary.

    Clay, that’s a fascinating hypothesis, and it makes sense of the data. Can you think of a way to test it?

    Isaac, sure. Check out VAERS, the US government’s own system for reporting harmful vaccine side effects. Over the last year, according to that source, the coronavirus vaccines have produced almost two orders of magnitude more reports of death and serious illness than all other vaccines put together.

    Mouse, thanks for this. I wasn’t aware of the “freegold” proposal; if it happens, it’ll be interesting to see whether the actual behavior of the markets follows the models.

    Terry, er, it’s a little more complex than that. If the US government were to spin the presses to buy back all those treasuries, the result would be hyperinfiation. That’s why I said that either hyperinflation or a debt default was baked into the cake at this point.

    Pygmycory, excellent! You get tonight’s Silver Lining Award for pointing this out.

    Chris, I plan on investing in a lot of popcorn…

  179. @ polecat (and AV who already knows this).

    Lots of people are already gardening.

    Ornamental gardening, even with chemical input, can segue into a better, deeper understanding of soil and plants.

    Yes, there’s a learning curve but every day, someone sees the light because they want a better garden and they stop trusting Scott and Monsanto.

    Did you ever believe that you’d see no smoking in bars in NYC? I didn’t. But the world changed.

    More people will garden. Be encouraging!

  180. I remember reading an article by a lady who decided she might sell her old college textbooks if offered enough. She got quite a wake-up call, and went home and de-junked. I figured she must have taken unpopular courses. Then I signed up for Principles Of Accounting and learned about the college textbook scam. They sell you a $400 book this year. Next year the author changes 4 or 5 words, so students were forced to buy the new edition. We couldn’t believe such a blatant scam was legal!

    —Lady Cutekitten

  181. On the chip issue: My perspective as a chip buyer is that the latest and greatest is available, if you’ve got the cash. So is stuff that’s been made for 20-30 years. Interestingly, one thing I’m doing these days is looking at adapting a very popular “Internet of Things” oriented processor to replace the microprocessor in the product my company makes. I’m doing this because supplies of the more industrially oriented microprocessor we use now are tight, but if I had enough money, I could have a few hundred thousand of the IoT oriented processor in three days.

    I don’t think many people want a WiFi toaster. I don’t post these “no, things are not as bad as they seem” comments to insist that things are fine, but because I value the discussion that takes place here and want it to stay reality-based.

  182. Archdruid,

    Every small business has a strange problem where they have surprisingly large quantities of wealth pass through their buildings, but because the material is not immediately useful it becomes illth and gets sent off into the waste disposal system. My girlfriends store tried saving material they knew would be useful, but it quickly went from being wealth to being illth because they didn’t have storage place. Same thing happened to my shop before I started working there.

    I’ve been pondering the value of setting up a business that would work with small businesses in my community to take their useful “waste,” process it, store it, and redistribute it back into the community. Sort of a warehouse meets bank concept for wealth, where currently unusable wealth can be stored for later. The problem? I have no idea how to make this work with our current tokens system of wealth storage.

    Oh, and in other news. China just auctioned off a bunch of its strategic petroleum reserves.

    Regards,

    Varun

  183. Slightly off topic, but the Grist story winners have been announced!

    From the winning story:

    “You are correct about one thing. The Heliogen language is certainly difficult to translate into our own. English speakers inherited a language of imperialists, one that objectifies and capitalizes on virtually everything it comes into contact with. The language of the Heliogens is far different. Their language emphasizes the connections between us, not the arbitrary boundaries intended to separate us. Heliogens even have a pronoun for everyone, and everything. And that pronoun is ‘se.’ A Heliogen would never say, ‘It is flying through the air,’ because they recognize the similarities we share with other animate beings as being far more important than our differences. ‘Se’ is the ultimate form of respect, expressing the connection we — or should I say ‘se’ — share with all others. This bee, se pollinates our flowers; the flowers, se give us nourishment and beauty. Our words are just as important as our actions. They shape our mind, our way of seeing, our sense-making.”

    And yep, it is about space aliens with more advanced pronoun technology saving us. To the limited extent that I believe the author is genuine, the only time I can recall thinking like the author is after some mushrooms.

  184. Clay:

    Moore’s law breaking down is less important than the fact that over the last several years computing has effectively become commoditised. It does not matter if devices get more powerful because from about the early 2010s most devices were more than powerful enough for most practical uses already.

    This was predicted by many as allowing the ‘Internet of Things’ (which to an extent is happening) but what was missed is that the same capability is absolutely decimating the hardware side of existing technology industries too. Mobile devices, single board computers (like Raspberry Pi’s and the many clones), cheap PLCs etc, can be used to implement solutions that a few years ago would have cost millions of dollars for almost nothing in comparison. Cost reductions of at least one order of magnitude are common, sometimes two (or more). Thus the largess that was funding much of the industry has evaporated.

    In a fantastic irony the technology industry has inadvertently disrupted itself.

  185. Varun, you’re just ahead of your time, is all. And the Chinese are just a little behind theirs…

    Pygmycory, thanks for this. Messy indeed.

    Justin, every time I think that the depths of absurdity have been plumbed, the bottom drops out and new abysses gape open. The world is going to be saved by pronouns… Well, I suppose from within the woke ideology, that makes sense.

  186. Wouldn’t having only one pronoun for everything be really unclear? It would make it more difficult to figure out who or what you were talking about in a sentence. I suppose you could make it work, if you had the right set of grammar rules, but… I can’t see why this is supposed to be an improvement.

  187. Peter Robinson writes that the LTG ought to have included debt. I think it did. They called it “pollution.” Every social and industrial process takes an input and gives several outputs. Some of the outputs are good, some bad. A “good” output is one which has only positive effects, a “bad” output is one which has only negative effects – and you have to use up some of your good output (from that, or other processes) to deal with the bad output.

    For example, burning natural gas gives us energy (good), water (good) and methane leaks (bad) and carbon dioxide (bad). Left like that, this causes global warming. To mitigate the effects of global warming, we start doing things like building sea walls and using airconditioners – which uses more of the energy, the good output. And so pollution is a bad output which reduces the effective availability of the good outputs.

    As the pollution builds up, eventually we are left with little or no productive output.

    With this in mind, debt is a kind of pollution. We get into debt in an attempt to increase production, but the interest on the debt consumes some of the production, leading to lower net production. Eventually the debt burden becomes so large that the entire production will be consumed by it. Obviously there would be economic crises before that point, as we saw with the GFC – which then reduce production.

    With this in mind, a debt crisis like the GFC is no different to a pollution crisis like the accidents at Bhopal, Chernobyl or Fukushima.

    Likewise, bureaucracy is a kind of pollution. The accumulation of needless complexity and what JMG calls “intermediaries” – the people who put themselves between producer and consumer and take a slice of the pie as it goes past them – reduces net production.

    There’s always going to be some kind of pollution. If we have high aerosols emissions we bring in regulations about acid rain and a whole army of inspectors and supervisors of inspectors and compliance checks and so on, replacing the acid pollution with bureaucratic pollution. Likewise carbon, or the pollution of water sources involved with silicon, lithium and rare earths production. It’s simply that we find the pollution of bureaucracy preferable to the pollution of acid rain, global warming, or poisoned water systems. But in terms of the LTG model these are all equivalent – the pollution reduces net production.

  188. Justin, Mr. Greer …

    Se what?! Honestly, I don’t get the grist of it.
    ‘;]

    Absurdity indeed! Sometimes, one has no choice but to laugh.

  189. The Heliogen language is not very original—Spanish has a one-size-fits-all pronoun, “se,” used with reflexive verbs. If you’re saying to yourself, “Now, I know we had reflexive verbs in 6th grade…hmmm…” a reflexive verb has to do with self. I wash myself, he washes himself, they wash themselves, and so on.-

  190. Dennis, I second the recommendation of Jeavons’ How to Grow More Vegetables than you … After that, look for books or online resources which are specific to your particular climate and growing conditions. The Sunset gardening books are excellent for plant identification and explanations of which plants can be used where. Also, do look up the winter sowing technique; I think the original website migrated to facebook.

  191. AV ..

    Yeah, cats … gotta love em, inspite of it all.

    I store our spuds inside insulated heavyweight cardboard boxes that have loose shredded cardboard packing material on the inside bottoms, with the lids ever so slightly cracked open, all covered by some old blankets, to sit on a shelf inside our toolshed/hen house through the winter. Seems to work, even when we get the occasional sub-freezing cold snap. Note though, that said potatoes have to be thoroughly dry on the surface, without any unsealed cuts or bruises. I try to gauge the weather, waiting as long as possible before digging them up to dry a day or two, to extend the duration of storage – the sooner they’re dug, the sooner they’ll sprout in storage .. at least that’s been my experiance. Ymmv, so keep trying to find what works for your situation.

    Oh, and maybe have the ‘mousy talk’ with that feline of yours. Make him earn his keep! ‘;]

  192. Mollari replies, “I figured someone had done the math, and you did not disappoint! Thank you.”

    I would add that I’m just talking about energy. However, there are times when you don’t care about energy but have other goals, the thing has more value to you in some other form. For example, South Africa had a uranium mine which took more energy to extract uranium than they ever got from burning it in a reactor – but since their real aim was to make nuclear weapons, they didn’t care.

    Fossil fuels are useful for many things other than burning. Natural gas is made into artificial fertiliser, oil into pesticides and plastics. Long after the energy-return-on-energy-invested of oil has declined to a point where cars become equivalent to private jets today, I would expect people to be using fossil fuels for similar purposes today. In fact, I think a future plastics technician will look at us burning oil to drive
    a mile to the shops the way a woodcarver would look at us burning well-seasoned walnut wood to make a cup of tea.

    They will, of course, be insanely expensive.

    Nonetheless, there may be a case where extracting some mineral from an asteroid or other body is worth it to the people involved. Someone invents a new computer chip that can only be made with ruthenium, and there’s an asteroid with a 100 tonne chunk of pure ruthenium in it, or something. But I think here of that woman who claimed to have invented a process for doing blood tests from merely a pinprick of blood – which turned out to be a complete fraud. For every hundred asteroid mining proposals, there may be one genuinely useful one. But this will be lost among the ninety-nine hucksters and thieves, and by the time we get to the useful one nobody will have any money left to finance it.

    Hucksterism is, by-the-by, another kind of pollution, to my mind. As society’s net productive output declines there will be more and more desperately unlikely schemes put forward to try to push that productive output back up again, and more and more people willing to throw their money at them. But of course, the hucksters reduce net productive output. Pollution.

  193. Perhaps this is a pedantic point, but how can you say that making money from money is “n point of fact, it’s anything but inevitable. It’s a specific gimmick that evolved over the last few centuries” when Aristotle wrote the following over 2000 years ago:

    “The most hated sort, and with the greatest reason, is usury, which makes a gain out of money itself, and not from the natural object of it. For money was intended to be used in exchange, but not to increase at interest. And this term interest, which means the birth of money from money, is applied to the breeding of money because the offspring resembles the parent. Wherefore of all modes of getting wealth this is the most unnatural.”

    This has been an issue of misuse of money for ages. The innovation is the widespread adoption of this belief, to just about anyone with a bank account and savings.

  194. @Denis

    Its a function of specialization too. The more complex a Civilization the more specialized the roles.

    The less complex has less specialized roles.

  195. JMG and @Justin, and it’s not even original. A different culture in which the pronoun “I” has been replaced by a variant of “We”? Ayn Rand already wrote that story more than fifty years ago (“Anthem”).

  196. Just got this link in an email this morning, it would almost be comical if these people weren’t so dead serious: Facepalm is now listing ‘preparedness people’ as potential extremists.

    From the article:

    “Facebook is labeling those selling home-grown beef as ‘too prepared’.”
    “However, it doesn’t stop there. Twitter posts are reporting screenshots of canning and gardening groups that are also being asked, “Are you concerned that someone you know is too prepared? We care about preventing extremism on Facebook. Others in your situation have received confidential support.

    In other words, Facebook is labeling people who are preparing their food supply as potential extremists.”

    So now I’m an extremist? Well, I suspected it before, now I know for sure. 😉

    https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2021/09/18/facebook-censoring-canning-and-gardening-groups.aspx?ui=73a6ebeae50092156ad07d6f93b3aa87bf0489ba27bb5bce821bc04a091f118b&sd=20210110&cid_source=dnl&cid_medium=email&cid_content=art2HL&cid=20210918&mid=DM996208&rid=1268142710

  197. @Sister Crow,

    I put in a good word for you with my Divine Spirits this morning, asking them to help you be sound in body and mind. If you tell me your general whereabouts, I can focus it better. Also, have you tried out energy healing modalities? You can direct your body’s energies to heal itself with surprising efficacy.

  198. @Justin 204: the nice thing about a WiFi toaster is that it doesn’t need heating elements. It works more like an unshielded microwave oven. Yes, I am being facetious here. But by filling up your house with these things… maybe not so facetious.

  199. @ Justin #207, JMG

    I suppose one ought not be surprised that the winner involves a deus ex machina like space aliens with “superior” something-or-others, rather than we mere humans confronting our our difficulties and dealing with them!

  200. @ Lady Cutekitten #213 – the classic example being the store sign “se habla Espanol,” which in English is “Spanish spoken here.” And, having glanced at a Spanish language Bible when one came my way, the KJV “I shall not want,” so clumsily translated into modern English, becomes simply “No me falta,,,,” (sorry – wrong tense, but you get the idea.)

  201. @Beekeeper #220 – good grief! There goes most of Utah…and the entire LDS Church, in which having a year’s supply of food on hand is a religious duty. Oh, and not to mention the Amish.

  202. Varun,
    thanks for the info on the chip situation. So any avoidance of internet-connected toasters is likely to be due to price and people not actually wanting the product rather than flat unavailability of the chips to make it? That makes sense.

    I’ve been assuming that the current chip shortage would ease within the next few months, but that it would likely return again at some point in the next few years due to other economic issues and resource constraints biting the economy in other areas, and the fragile and super-expensive factories involved in making the chips.

    If we get chip shortages like this more than once in the next few years, I think it’ll put a real damper on the sillier end of the internet of things. The chips don’t have to be unavailable all the time, if they’re too expensive some of the time that will likely be enough. If they aren’t reliably available at an affordable price, I bet a lot of the sillier products that use them will likely stop being made in large numbers.

    And the more practical items may get by with a few fewer, or with less advanced chips that are cheaper and more easily available. Or the prices of those things might go up. Or both at once.

  203. @JMG you know what the worst part about the Grist thing is? One of their writers wrote hands down the best series on GMOs that I’ve ever seen, that I used to forward all the time. That was about 15 years ago though.

    He demonstrated that even if the technology itself was neutral – the plants themselves could not or would not cause human health effects – or didn’t matter, because the financing, intellectual property rights, better-options-not-explored, escape dependence on chemical inputs that wrecked overall ecological health, and centralization of food supply were so damaging they were still a terrible idea. Completely undercutting the line between the March Against Monsanto arguments only from human health (which usually grossly distorted the entire science of genetics and how genetic modification worked) vs Trust the Science it’s totally safe! camp.

    I feel like there’s something familiar, here…

  204. Pygmycory, well, yes. “Se told se that se took se’s bike to se’s house and se objected to se about that” — er, who did what? It’s a classic beginner’s mistake in science fiction not to think through details like that.

    Hackenschmidt, that’s an interesting analysis and one I’ll want to think about at length. Thank you.

    Polec, heh heh heh.

    DE, before modern times, using money to make money was understood as a property of usurers, not a property of money as such. That’s the shift I was trying to point out.

    Bruno, an excellent point! Anthem was originally published in 1938, and, ahem, the idea wasn’t even original to Rand — she borrowed it from a much better novel, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, which was first published in 1924. The idea that all you have to do to change society is change language was explored in detail in 1950s science fiction — Jack Vance’s The Languages of Pao is a fine example — and was also one of the central gimmicks in Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, which saw print in 1961. So the author’s basic premise is a cliché so old it was pensioned off by serious writers many decades ago.

    Beekeeper, this is one of those marvelous situations where all you have to do is watch what the system is demanding, and do the exact opposite, and you’ll be fine.

    David BTL, of course — and it’s a source of mordant humor to me that their winning story violates the basic premise of the entire contest by calling in that gimmick, thus not providing a clear, plausible way for us to reach a better future.

    Pixelated, that’s really sad. On the other hand, it’s been happening a lot recently. Quite a few people who previously had a clue have been sounding very, very weird of late…

  205. @Beekeeper #220

    Say what??? So I’m extremist because I grew and froze my own wax beans this summer? My herb garden is verbotten? What will they say when they find out I make my own soup?

    Well I’ve got some French ancestry. All I can say is: Vive La Resistance!

  206. RE: The “Heliogens”, Persian-spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan-already has a single pronoun, “oo”, for “he” and “she”. If I say “Oo een sobh dar medresé raft”-well, that sentence could equally be about a boy or a girl going to school this morning, and there is no way to tell unless the speaker elaborates further. This can actually lead to some rather funny mistakes with Persian speakers who are just learning English-I remember one time in college, I and an Iranian exchange student who had only arrived a few weeks ago were having a conversation about a shrine in Iran to a famous (male) Shia saint-and the student referred to the saint as “she”, and looked really sheepish when I corrected him.

    Somehow, I really doubt Iran is the intesectional trans-fem-BIPOC paradise these people have in mind!

  207. Actually, John, itʻs not more complicated than that. If you buy back the treasuries, it is still the same amount of assets out in the world, minus now you are not paying interest. People and governments have their money in treasuries because they want to park it for safe keeping, not spend it(and these t-notes and bill are considered fairly liquid, not cash, but close). There would not be hyper-inflation but a huge outcry of “How dare you take away my interest payments and my safe harbor.” And this is what the Federal Reserve Acts of the 1930ʻs require: selling new notes. Itʻs all very clever and obscure, but in the end tokens are tokens; some just have a different name. Inflation would happen when the money first enters the economy if there is not enough resources(natural and/or human) and manufacturing capacity to meet demand, which is what we are seeing now say with computer chips. Mahalo.

  208. Re: Spanish and what I told Lady Cutekitten – I think the phrase should have been “nada me falta.” Anyone?

  209. Beekeeper,
    wow, if food gardening and keeping a little bit of extra food on hand is extremist, then I’m an extremist from a long line of extremists. LOL. I’m not even solidly prepared if anything really bad happened. I like growing things, food is practical, and I live in an earthquake zone so I made myself an earthquake kit. I still need to do a first aid kit for that, as opposed to depending on the everyday stuff in the bathroom. Don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I’m so glad I got off facepalm years ago.

    I can kind of see where they’re coming from, if I squint, tilt my head sideways and stand on my head. Doing stuff for yourself, or having an emergency reserve, makes you harder to control. And some of the very prepared people I’ve run into are a bit odd by normal societal standards. Not always a bad thing, dissensus and all, but if you’re a giant corporation or a government with control freak tendencies, I can see why you wouldn’t like it.

  210. Pygmycory, yep, I agree with you. I’m not in the bluetooth enabled salad shooter industry, but there is good availability of that sort of chip because the world produces an incredible number of them every year. The current situation is partially caused by “LTG” phenomenon – supposedly there is a tantalum shortage, but tantalum prices haven’t gone up…, but there was also a lot of confusion in the industry as automakers anticipated much lower demand, and gave up their slots at the big semiconductor fabs. Then other players bought those slots, and a lot of that manufacturing capability was used to deliver incredible amounts of consumer electronics. It is not trivial that there were two big gaming console releases in late 2019 just before a perfect excuse to sit at home and play video games happened. And so, a lot of relatively niche chips simply haven’t been manufactured in a long time, and the world supply of them is mostly gone. Chips are made in huge batches on somewhat general-purpose machinery, so it will take a long time for another batch of the chips I’m trying to replace to get made, if ever. That doesn’t mean it won’t be possible to buy a replacement that can do the same thing, for now.

    It is a bit like the bike shortage – if you ran a restaurant, and a bunch of tourist buses came in and you did so much more business than normal at lunchtime that you couldn’t stay open for dinner because you sold all your inventory, would your restaurant be collapsing because it couldn’t serve dinner like usual?

    Of course none of the points I’m making are an argument against the broader reality of resource depletion and illth accumulation, but there is a tendency in these circles to project one’s fantasy collapse onto the available data.

  211. Anyone here who’s interested in how language shapes thought should read The Languages of Pao by Jack Vance.

    I thought of it when I saw Justin’s post about the winning entry in Grist’s contest and then our host made it clearer.

    Don’t be put off by some of the wide variety of covers you see for the book. It’s a hard book to get a decent cover. The levitating man in front of the underdressed harem is probably not the worst since those two incidents (levitation and harems) do actually figure in the next. Just not the way the cover artist drew them.

  212. Ugh..

    Must of fat-fingered just before submitting my hardy-har-har – the ‘at’ at the end of polec went by-by.

    Can’t blame it on spellcheck, even though …

    ‘sigh’

  213. Beekeeper,

    What would one expect from Farcebook. They, and by extention their unsocial brethren .. have gone where no Sillycon have gone before – they are putting the Borg to shame!

    I will now dispense with the formerly holey colander, and replace it with my treasured water bath canister over my pate .. wearing it with honor!

    Who will join my in this terrible act of non-compliance – what say you?

  214. Archdruid,

    I was thinking maybe the Chinese were selling their oil because they needed some cash on hand.

    pygmycory,

    I think it was Justin in the post above my last one that was talking about chips.

    Regards,

    Varun

  215. The Wall Street Journal ran an article on Thursday about increasingly frequent adult tantrums:

    “Adults Are Throwing Tantrums—in Restaurants, Planes and at Home. Blame the Pandemic.”
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/covid-19-adult-pandemic-tantrum-11631743724

    There’s no doubt that Covid policy has considerably upped the acrimony of public life, but I think this is really an acceleration of trends already present. My mom retired a couple of years ago, not because she disliked working or was too old to do her job, but because she was old enough, and dealing with the public was just getting too tiresome.

  216. HI JMG,

    Thanks for this post. It was really great and helped me solidify some ideas I have had bouncing around in the back of my mind. It also helped me make some connections to other facts and ideas that have also been in my head for awhile. I have several comments and questions in regards to it, though.

    First, I have a data point for you. You were referencing shortages as well as the underground economy in your post and responses to some of the comments. I’ve been talking with people I know and a very interesting picture has been taking shape. Friends have told me that, as we all know, there are shortages of a small to moderate number of items in stores, but a lot of these people who work in businesses and purchase materials for those businesses have said that while, in the past, they would expect the missing product to arrive in two to three days after requesting it, they are now consistently being told that it will be two to three weeks. There sense is that this is because of manpower shortages more than anything else and that the reason for manpower shortages just now is that a lot of people don’t want to work in the legitimate economy anymore. They’ve given up on it because they are losing too much money to federal, state, and local governments in the form of taxes, fees, and other demands for money. My personal belief is that during the COVID shutdown, when they had to make money anyway they could in order to survive, many people learned that they could make a descent leaving in the underground economy and not have to give up any of it to government. Now that things have eased up, they don’t see any need to go back. A friend of mine has a small construction company (himself, his son, and a couple of guys he hires on a weekly basis). His guys no longer want to be paid by check so that the IRS can track their incomes. They accept cash only. And, as you said, it makes many legitimate employers struggle to stay in business, because a lot of them can’t do that very easily. He told me that last week he went to a restaurant and it was so understaff that they had shut down all but five tables and the wait was at least 45 minutes for those. When he asked about that, he was told that they simply could not find employees.

    Second, a question. You said that when there is about to be an economic crisis you reliably field questions relative to that, such as “how to preserve wealth in the face of a difficult future.” Generally speaking, is there an average length of time between onset of these questions and when the crisis actually hits, or is it variable? I’d like to get some idea of how long we have to prepare before the poo hits the rotary wind device this time.

    Third, you mentioned the Evergrande situation in China in a response to one of the comments. There are a lot of economists over here and in Europe who are downplaying the effects of the consequences of an Evergrande collapse. This definitely makes me think it potentially could be worse than even I expect (if an economist tells you it’s going to snow, it’s more likely time to break out the suntan lotion and board shorts, lol). What concerns me is that Evergrande is just the tip of the iceberg. From what I can tell, at least ninety percent of the Chinese economy is made up of smoke and mirrors of the Evergrande variety and if Evergrande fails, then the rest of it will follow in short order. Given the indications of some sort of US economic crisis, the growing energy crisis in Europe, the issues Russia is having getting its natural gas out of the ground and to its customers, the continuing effects of COVID globally, Australia’s real-estate bubble, and a host of other things, an Evergrande crash could cascade right way across the globe to shattering effects. Am I wrong here?

    Thanks again for this post, I look forward to the next one.

  217. @Lady Cutekitten of Lolcat,

    I helped put myself through college with the textbook scam. I’d walk through STEM departments after hours and inevitably find textbooks set out for free, often early versions a prof had offered to read. I’d sell those on Ebay, just a dollar less than the cheapest price, and they’d go very quickly.

    I saw students undercutting the system (buy Zoology 101, photocopy it, return it super-fast for a refund, lurk outside the pre-med lectures and sell the binders for $20) but it was so illegal I was too scared to try it.

  218. To all those who replied about the non-existent Honda parts assuming I’m taking about computer chips…..it’s basic auto parts that are not being made: brake pads, air filters, oil filters, shocks, etc. I’m assuming its not just Honda’s problem and it will be affecting all car manufacturers.

  219. JMG (#201), another major thinker, this from the far Left, who sees a major (at least short-term) role for gold in a new int’l system, is Michael Hudson, see e.g. https://www.unz.com/mhudson/interview-our-neo-feudal-system-is-on-the-verge-of-collapse/ , incl. the Comments/ debates between readers Mefobills, MarlinLA, and KA.

    See also, (w/ Radhika Desai) https://www.unz.com/mhudson/beyond-the-dollar . He is a bit with Freegolders, in his critique of the Hard Money school.

  220. Terry, I think you’re missing my point, but we’re well off topic and I have an index to compile, so I’m going to let it drop for now.

    Martin, I like that!

    Teresa, I had to look up the underdressed harem. The version I read was this one — stand by for SF nostalgia:

    Polecat, let me see if I can fix that.

    Varun, maybe so, but I thought it was striking that you talked about not being able to store valuable substances, and followed it with a comment about the Chinese deciding to get rid of valuable substances…

    Escher, I think you’re quite correct. I saw plenty of embarrassing scenes in public well before the virus panic got going.

    Chronojourner, many thanks for the data points. I suspect there’s more than one thing going on with the labor shortage, but people bailing out of the aboveground economy because it’s become so saturated with rent-seeking is an important factor. As for the Evergrande situation, you’re not wrong; Evergrande has in excess of $300 billion in debt, much of it is owed to overseas investors, and there are plenty of other big Chinese real estate investment firms that have gone just as far into bubble-blowing territory and are seeing their bonds plunge to junk value. My working metaphor here is that China in the 2010s was America in the 1920s, and 1929 may be about to hit.

    Mouse, thanks for these.

  221. Though it’s not terribly original, there’s nothing terribly wrong with “se [the bee] is on a flower” in the winning Grist story. I figured that’s what they were getting at as soon as the clueless white guy™ said “it” instead. But perceiving only the connectedness between things is just as simplistic as perceiving only the separateness. Good luck with that when the sentence is, for instance, “se stung se.”

    I sure wish it were that easy. Outside my window, the thorny vines and the struggling pear tree they were threatening to engulf are deeply connected with each other and both with me. But nonetheless I just pruned the one to sustain the other, and received the usual scratched-up forearms for my troubles. Se scratched se. Yeah, I suppose I can say it and feel the sense of it, without any help from aliens. But saying it isn’t what teaches it. (Most of the winning story is the over-used “teaching lecture” trope. The trans coral story is at least more interesting than that narratively.)

    Part of the problem is, one of the things evolution equipped our brains to do well is make distinctions between things. This animal is good to hunt; that animal will hunt you. This plant will flavor your food, that plant will poison it. Sure, those are all intrinsic connections, but to survive, your ancestors had to recognize the differences. Do pronouns that acknowledge role distinctions in our mental narratives really stem from “imperialist” thinking, or just from the fact that quite often, se stings se, se scratches se, se kills and eats se? The author is fantasizing about getting past those conflicts to a deeper sympathy, using only a few paragraphs of explanation and an alien pronoun. But given that her area of study is a particular ecological relationship that’s overwhelmingly mutually beneficial, she probably hasn’t integrated opposition and struggle into her own thinking.

  222. Another data point: I made a rare trip to the local strip mall tonight, and every single fast food joint except McDonalds had an “On the spot interviews” sign up. It isn’t surprising – most small businesses where I live have had cash discounts or other incentives to use cash for years. The fast food companies can’t get away with that sort of stuff.

    My guess is that part of what The Powers That Be are planning with their digital vacc-pass is effective abolition of cash by requiring nearly all transactions to involve a digital ID. It feels to me that a plan was set into motion at the start of the pandemic that was based on a much more deadly pandemic, and the plan is going ahead despite the failure of bodies that haven’t had their threescore and ten to appear in the streets.

  223. I’d also highly recommend, for “anyone here who’s interested in how language shapes thought,” various articles from the 1940s by Benjamin Lee Whorf. The best and most accessible of them has the title, “The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behavior to Language.” I have put a PDF of it up here:

    https://archive.org/details/whorf-1941-relation

    Whorf was an MIT-trained engineer who worked all his life for a fire-insurance company, but also a long-term member of the Theosophical Society. His last article on the subject, “Language, Mind and Reality” was published in The Theosophist. It’s a little heavy on the technical terminology of that Society. Here’s a PDF of it, too:

    https://archive.org/details/whorf-1942-lmr

  224. Hi John Michael,

    This talk of Jack Vance is like catnip to me! 🙂 Thanks.

    What interested me about the early stages of The Great Depression (which probably wasn’t all that great to live through) was that loans for stock (shares or equities) purchases was something that only about 10% of the adult population indulged in. And yet, when the margin calls came – and they did – wiping out that percentage of the population was enough to drag most other people down. Of course not everyone fared so poorly during that time, but plenty of folks did.

    The thing with the Evergrande situation, is that successive governments policy has pretty much forced a vast swath of the population to get involved directly and indirectly with the financialisation of the economy. And that is a vast risk that most people don’t put many brain cells towards.

    Hey, do you recall those vast domino spectacles from way back in the day? All sorts of intriguing patterns resulted from the toppling of the very first domino. This sort of economic drama is kind of like that, but probably a whole lot less ordered.

    Cheers

    Chris

  225. Hi Pixelated,

    Nah, the US have been our overlords since WWII when they rescued us from the Japanese who were bombing our most northern city and despite long supply lines had plans to invade (watch out for the crocodiles up that way). Before then it was the British. My understanding from history is that we are comfortable with overlords. But in a time of resource shortages, imbalances get redressed, and history may favour those who are nimble and effective. We’ll see how it plays out.

    Cheers

    Chris

  226. @Jeanne – should the canning group slogan be “join the cottagecorps!” or “make cottage(hard)core again”?

  227. “Teresa, I had to look up the underdressed harem. The version I read was this one — stand by for SF nostalgia”

    Something I found strange about the series “Flash Gordon”. Ming the Merciless had a Harem. Yet he had only one daughter.

    I mean certainly he should be the Father of many children. And lots of power struggles among his various Sons.

  228. I have to say I think cryptocurrencies will aid in the generation of wealth because they aren’t simply tokens- they are new ways of conducting finance that will make it possible for more people to participate in the economy, to get loans, start up businesses etc which will increase the total amount of wealth available in the world.

    I am assuming you already know what smart contracts are since you seem to know everything known to man, but those should be true game changers.

  229. Justin:

    Funny enough, in Finnish ‘se’ means ‘it’. And since coincidences don’t exist..

    Although in colloquial Finnish you can use ‘se’ i.e. ‘it’ even for humans.

  230. JMG:

    It might still be reasonable to own small amounts something like gold or silver. That is, tokens that are likely to keep some value for longer. You never know; maybe the area you live in stays relatively law abiding during your lifetime and maybe there is a some kind of a market economy left. If so, then having tokens of some value can be useful.

    Hoarding lots of tokens is probably not wise for the reasons you already mentioned. I’m specifically speaking of small amounts of tokens. So tokens not as way to stay or become rich but as a potential tool among the others. Something that might or might not be useful depending on how things develop in your particular locality.

    pygmycory:

    In Finnish we only have two personal pronouns, ‘hän’ for humans and ‘se’ for everything else. ‘Se’ means ‘it’ and ‘hän’ can be translated as either ‘he’ or ‘she’. But as said to Justin, in colloquial Finnish you can use ‘se’ even for humans and in actuality that is what we most often do. It’s not a problem, you just have to make clear, what ‘se’ you are talking about. Sometimes by referring to them by name. Usually it is pretty obvious from the context.

  231. This is somewhat off-topic but not completely.
    This morning I received a text from my local Green Party (UK) asking me what the local area should do about the new Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty? Should the group sign it?
    I replied sceptically (I may be excommunicated) saying that more concrete action is required (insulate, turn off, turn thermostat down, get out of the car, provide reliable public transport etc.)
    They responded that ‘personal action, while we should be encouraging it, isn’t the main thing that needs to happen. We need political pressure to stop governments from allowing extraction of fossil fuels’. (!! THat’s going to happen!!)
    I then went and looked at the Fossil Fuel Exit Strategy that this is based on. 30 glossy pages with graphs and pictures and high hopes. We would, apparently, use energy more efficiently whilst the population increases and GDP increased by (on average) 3.2% p.a. but there would be enough for all and we wouldn’t have to change our lifestyles.
    I referred them to the excellent website, withouthotair.com, where the late David MacKay looked at the potential for the UK to become sustainable. He deemed this to be possible by covering a lot of the land and sea area with renewables if usage was reduced to 20% (written in 2008 so probably even more now). This does not appear to include the carbon whole life cost of manufacturing and installing the equipment or the resource issues (there is not enough of any of the necessary metals for the entire world). Also, even MacKay’s green plan (non nuclear/no fossil fuels) still required some import of electricity (the UK’s connection to France has recently gone up in flames – oops).
    Given that the cost of gas, and therefore of electricity, is expected to rocket this winter (and five energy companies in the UK have gone out of business because they could not make a profit with the current cost cap in place) I’m guessing that energy use will decrease in the UK anyway.
    I am not sure, however, that the North East Derbyshire Green Party signing the treaty is going to make a blind bit of difference.

  232. At this point, as a result, the single most pressing need the global economy faces is the need to clear away a spectacular oversupply of tokens. When the United States defaults on its unpayable debt or hyperinflates it out of existence—sooner or later it inevitably must do one or the other—that will take care of a lot of it, but by no means all. As the production of wealth declines and the production of illth increases, the mismatch between the supply of tokens and the supply of wealth will increase. To the extent that entire classes of tokens (such as US dollars) lose all their value, that will allow other classes to retain more of theirs, but every kind of token—yes, including gold—will have to shed a good share of its capacity to claim wealth and avoid illth.

    How will we know when this choice is imminent and which choice will be taken?

  233. I think the most worthwhile investment at the moment is having feelers out, ready to help catch people getting kicked out of polite society by vax mandates. I hope and pray it all works out as well as it can. However, there will be people losing employment and/or housing in many places for a while, for being the type of people that stand by their beliefs.

    If they seem like good people and you have some spare room they could live or start a small business in -it would be a good way to earn some social capital.

    On a larger scale, most commercial property is crashing at the moment in Australia, for obvious reasons. The lockdowns make it harder but it’s starting to get to the point that it would be possible to sell up from a big city and buy an ex-pub in a largish regional town without debt and allow people to live there in the letting rooms upstairs while running small businesses out of the downstairs rooms and intensively garden any spare land. Maybe start a worker owned co-op to get around some of the legalities. Yeah, it won’t get a great cash return on your investment but maybe you can create a community hub that can keep itself fed and in firewood, defend against crime and over time look after its seniors and children. Maybe there are similar opportunities in other countries?

  234. Beekeeper #220: The real issue TPTB have with preppers is one of agency. The prepared have the agency to make their own choices. The prepared have options and cannot be herded like frightened sheep. Those who don’t know where their next meal is coming from, or how they will stay warm this winter are easy to manipulate.

  235. Will direct the commentariat’s attention to The Wealth of Nature’s second paragraph, to paraphrase: Adam Smith thought markets would manage themselves with the invisible hand, what we now call a feedback loop. The emergent industrial class supported Smith’s notion, as their goal was to make as much money as possible with as little interference as possible.

  236. JMG, here’s a link to an article about the seven ways that men live without working that includes some of the factors mentioned in the comments.

    https://finance.yahoo.com/news/7-ways-men-live-without-working-in-america-092147068.html

    I don’t have a link for it, but an article from the Missouri state extension service that I read a few weeks back suggested that one reason for the current labor shortage is that baby boomers are retiring in large numbers, earlier than they and economists expected. My 59 year old brother and my 62 year old brother-in-law have retired this month, right in line with both articles.

    @ Denis #243: our auto mechanic isn’t having any trouble getting those sorts of parts for our 1999 Dodge Caravan. On the other hand, the motorcycle shop finally received the tachometer for my husband’s 2014 Triumph American in late August, which had been ordered back in April or May.

  237. @JMG @here

    Knowing how to garden is all well and good to buffer oneself from unsound money, but what about escaping America? I was toying with some options:

    1. Ireland: English speaking island, low population density, possible climate change refuge, simpatico culture for Americans.
    2. France: Food/energy self sufficient, fantastic geography, one of the few Western countries that seems determined to defend itself, literally and culturally.
    3. Mexico: It’s right there, Spanish isn’t that hard, permanent residency is easy, the food is great, the highlands are eternal spring, and unlike Americans, Mexicans are used to improvising to get things done.

    Don’t take this too seriously. I’m just suggesting people think outside the raised beds that resilient-minded folks seem drawn to. Our ancestors were immigrants. Maybe it’s time for (at least some) of us to do what’s best for our kids and find a location in a different phase and pre-emptively set up a second home there.

  238. Well, in the spirit of SF Nostalgia and pronouns saving the galaxy,
    does anyone remember Babel 17 by Samuel Delaney ?
    Actually by our host’s definition it’s about magic as each change in language in the book changes consciousness.
    Lurksalong

  239. Regarding the proposal to dismantle the sun — wish I’d thought of that! — wouldn’t it by easier to wait until it goes supernova and then just pick up the pieces? Seems like a no-brainer . . .

  240. Here’s how one man realized the unity of nature and man’s place in it without getting into language and pronouns. I forget his name, but I was listening to an interview with an Australian who had survived a shark attack and started a group for his fellow survivors called the Bite Club.

    The interviewer asked him if his attitude to life had changed at all since the attack. Yeah, came the reply, I realized that I was ultimately just a part of the food web. It was kind of humbling.

  241. @Chris in Fernglade, ah mate, you misunderstand me – China is your lord; just like here though, they’ve still been sneaking out the window for some time because it wouldn’t do yet for the neighbours to lose their plausible deniability with the hubs on the hanky panky they know had been going on.

    This sub business, in my always humble opinion, is the US and UK attempting to block that action (there was an interesting deal between China and France signed in late 2019, after all – a busy season), but I’m afraid, being senile, the other issues that frequently arise at that stage may have set in, and with these cargo ship issues, and hoarding, I’m not sure the necessary small, blue medications can get there in time.

    And i know we’re not really supposed to mention China but name on account of the attention from unwanted quarters it can bring, but two weeks ago commenter dorda posted something so blasphemous, so – as we used to say as kids heatscore – I think we can all safely relax, because no matter where we are, the lightning rod is well up.

    (dorda, here’s your Purple Heart, thanks for your service – not everyone gets to enjoy it pre-humously, but then, it looks like you might not either 😉).

  242. Justin, very nearly every business in my neighborhood has help wanted signs out, so it’s not just the fast food places!

    Robert, thanks for these! If you haven’t read Vance’s The Languages of Pao yet, make time for it if you can — it’s a work of hard science fiction based squarely on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, and also a very clever example of how people subjected to social-technology manipulation manipulate it right back.

    Chris, the current situation is parallel to 1929 in a lot of ways. Yes, only 10% of the population at most was buying stock on margin, but that 10% had a disproportionate role in the economy, and the economy itself was extremely unbalanced — too much wealth in too few hands, the usual cause of a depression. Of course we’re right back in that situation. The financialization of the economy in today’s world parallels, in an odd way, the economic importance of the rich in 1929 — when somebody in the 10% lost everything in the stock market crash, all their servants and other employees and all the tradespeople who depended on their business got whacked as well. Hang on…

    Teresa, thank you. Tell your IT support that all you have to do is link to an image file online using the img src html tag.

    Mouse, so noted! I hope you’ve posted this to the open Covid thread on my Dreamwidth journal, where it’s on topic.

    Lew, thanks for this!

    Info, well, there’s that. Maybe he was merciless because he was impotent…

    Julien, no, they’re tokens. They’re tokens that can be used in a variety of novel ways, some of them helpful (such as the ones you’ve described), some decidedly the opposite (ransomware depends on cryptocurrencies), but that’s true of every new variety of token — fiat currency was just as novel when it appeared. As for game changers, well, we’ll see — I’ve seen a vast number of supposed game-changing technologies introduced, and very few of them actually changed much.

    JAS, sure. It’s simply that I hear from a lot of people who think that all they need is a vast hoard of tokens…

    Yvonne, thanks for the data point. Have you ever read of the Kellogg-Briand pact? It was a treaty signed in 1928 by most of the world’s nations, pledging never to go to war again. You’ll notice how much good it did. A Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty promises to be just as effective, not least because (as you’ve noted) the people signing it aren’t willing to change their lifestyles, and that’s what it will take to make it mean anything.

    Thomas, when it happens.

    TamHob, that’s an excellent point. Thank you for this!

    SLClaire, you and Lew are both on top of things, I see! Yes, I’m sure early retirement is another factor in the situation.

    Varun, just one of the services I offer.

    Brian, for some people that’s an option. For others, it’s not — and in all three of the cases you’ve named, you’ll be a permanent outsider at a time when that may not be safe. Americans are not going to be especially welcome in most of the world for a good long while, and it’s quite possible the local police will look the other way if something happens to you…

    Lurksalong, now there’s a blast from the past!

    Psy-entist, funny. Maybe you could hook cables to chunks of the Sun, so that when it goes nova, you can hook those to pulleys or something… 😉

    Martin, thanks for this. It seems like common sense to me.

    Chuaquin, I’m familiar with the theory, but I’ve yet to see a good analysis of the numbers.

    Patricia, many thanks for this! I think we may be on the brink of seeing the death of the big dinosaur publishers — given the situation the post describes, any author with the brains the gods gave geese will be going indie or small publisher, because you can’t make a living as a writer the way the big boys play the game now. They have lost track of the fact that they have to take the needs of writers and bookstores into account…

  243. Books. Permaculture: a Designer’s Manual by B. C. Mollison. Elliot Coleman: he dedicates his books to Helen and Scott Nearing, who left NYC during the Depression and moved to Vermont; after they moved, they discovered maple sugaring. Richard Wiswall, one of his most excellent ideas re selling at farmers markets: just know your starting inventory, and when the market is over, count what you have left and enter it in your accounts. Don’t even try to do the math on-site.

    Wiswall and Julia Shanks, both stress garden/farm for PROFIT, not production. Shanks further endorses knowing how to create an enterprise budget; that is, know which crops make you the most profit.

  244. @ Brian #268

    The United States is unusual in how it’s reasonably welcoming to immigrants. Yet even so, the walls have gone up to keep out less desirable immigrants. Type of desirability changes with politics.

    History is fascinating and far more messy and complex than you learned in school.

    That said, moving to another country is fraught with peril. I think, if you want to be successful, you’d better learn the language and customs, marry in and expect to live there the rest of your life. You need to be part of a larger clan that will protect you.

    Otherwise, you’re the Rich American, waiting to move back home so they’re never part of the local community.

    Even in the U.S., you’ll hear things like “just because you moved here, doesn’t make you OR YOUR KIDS one of us.”

  245. Dear Mr. Greer – Just a data point on canning lids. Out here in rural western Washington. I was just at our local indy variety store, and they had large mouth canning lids. Piles of them. No small ones, no rings. They were Pur Mason brand, 12 lids per box, @ $3.99. Limit 6 boxes, per day. They had cases of quart canning jars, with lids and rings. I didn’t notice the price. This store is kind of our county canning central. Lew

  246. @ Patricia and Mr. Greer – Our regional library system, which is pretty good, started switching to more e-titles, about two years ago. I’d say over 1/2 of the books on the weekly “new title list”, are e-books.

    I’ve also noticed the release of DVDs, of films and TV series, seems to have slowed. If they’re released on DVD, at all. The world seems to be moving to “all streaming, all the time.” It’s interesting that Netflix wanted to do away with their mail DVD service. It’s hard to find, but it still exists … because so far, it’s just too profitable to put on the chopping block.

    Glad I’m old. There are still plenty of used books, and used DVDs, around. Lew

  247. Selkirk Astronomer #264:

    Oh, absolutely. People who can provide for themselves cannot be easily controlled and are a thorn in the side of TPTB.

    What surprised me is that Facebook could have opted just to ridicule preppers as crazy people, deplorables, uneducated, or with some other unattractive, but relatively benign, epithet. Instead the minds over at the Book of Face decided to label them as extremists. That’s really turning it up a notch.

  248. Hi JMG and Commentariat,

    Along with many, many others nationwide, I’m retiring early (62) rather than deal daily with the dysfunctional office I work in five days each week. Even getting my retirement paperwork processed is a bumpy ride: PDFs that get chopped off at the receiving end, original paperwork that gets separated and lost at the receiving end; lather, rinse, and repeat. Glad I got the ball rolling on this last June, rather than get started now. Wow.

    Talking with others when out and about on errands here in the greater Boise area, it sounds like telecommuters from CA, OR, and WA are pouring into this area and driving up housing prices ($1,300/month for a one bedroom apartment) and consequently encouraging the people who once upon a time would fill most of the now-vacant local jobs to leave for less expensive areas. Who can blame those leaving? The upside for them is that, depending on where they go, they won’t have persistent drought to deal with.

    And I wonder if the current telecommute phenomenon is just beta testing for when those jobs get offshored to bright young people in other countries who will gladly telecommute for much less than Americans.

    We sure do live in amazing times!

    OtterGirl

  249. Perhaps Ming just wasn’t very fertile? Or was infertile and the daughter wasn’t biologically his? You’re right that one would expect more than a single child.

  250. JMG, well, we do live in different countries. I’ll pay closer attention and admit if I’m wrong, but I can only think of one business that is not fast food that has a help wanted sign out front. I can’t believe I forgot about it until now, but in early 2020, I was unemployed and took an under the table job fixing iPhones. Of course, I didn’t collect unemployment benefits at the same time, as that would be illegal :). I got paid a bit less than minimum wage, but you know, had I been collecting unemployment benefits, $10 Canadian an hour on top of my benefits would have been quite comfortable.

    The need to operate under the table is real – the shop I worked in did not have any sort of washroom facility, if I needed to go and was alone, I closed the shop and went to the nearby Tim Hortons or McDonalds.

    It’s funny, if you had asked me in 2008 what I would be doing in 2020, I’d have thought I’d be dead or some sort of subsistence farmer. Instead I was working in an incredibly sketchy cell phone store fixing iPhones. We sure as heck don’t get to live out our fantasy collapses anymore than we get to live out our fantasy Star Treks or whatever.

  251. Brian

    There is currently in existence online a Facebook group set up for Americans who are Eastern Orthodox moving to Russia.

    You should be able to find it fairly easily on a search of those key words. It contains some useful information about getting a permanent visa.

    The Facebook group may not be your cup of tea religiously, as they want to form a religious land based agrarian community, but the information on visas, in the comments, may be interesting to you. You would have to join the group to read them, but they let me into the group on expression of an interest in moving to Russia only, as I am not Russian Orthodox.

    There was, not that long ago, a Russian initiative trying to get South African farmers to move to Russia. As with a lot of Eastern European countries their population is dropping, so Russia is perhaps more open to certain types of immigrants than they were before.

  252. Beekeeper #280: I have noticed the frequency with which that word, extremist, has been adopted as a new almost meaningless buzzword. It might just become the new “terrorist”. Perhaps the new cliche’ will ring something of “one man’s extremist is another man’s dissident”. The thing that struck me hardest about hearing that Faceplant had instigated such a policy about such a topic, was my complete lack of surprise, I’m trying to keep my cynicism in check, this news didn’t help at all😉

  253. Hi John Michael,

    You’re right there. Years ago I pitched my lot in with the working class, and no doubts will suffer great hardship along with them. I actually enjoy working, so it was no great hardship to ditch status. And when I used to live in the higher status areas of the inner burbs, I’d already managed to outrage my neighbours by digging up the front yard of the Victorian era terrace house and planting it out to vegetables, so there was little respect to be gleaned from my social peers anyway.

    My gut feeling suggests in relation to the economic subject under discussion, that vulnerabilities are being tested. For what was once a strength can also become a vulnerability.

    Hey, I just finished reading the English translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s book ‘Vita Merlini’. The words have much to say, even today: “There is nothing left with which to feed your greed for you have consumed everything that creative nature has produced in her happy fertility.” Quite the fiery narrative that one.

    Cheers

    Chris

  254. Re Ming the Merciless with only one child, his daughter – Steve Stirling’s Emberverse series had a self-made warlord who’d started out collecting a big harem, and (as one of his enemies noted) “got a case of Cupid’s Measles from one of his many concubines,” shortly after his wife got pregnant, so he was rendered infertile after that. I don’t know how sound the biology is there, but there’s another reason for Ming to be Merciless.

  255. John–

    Bonus points for bringing a reference to the Kellogg-Briand Pact! I did my undergrad in history with an (unofficial) focus on WWI and the periods immediately before and after (including the glorious failure of the League of Nations) and it’s nice to see someone pulling analogies from that often-overlooked period.

    Thinking about economics and work in a time of sustained contraction, it occurred to me that one might find it useful to consider jobs along a spectrum of “fundamentalness.”. (Likely, there are several axes one could look at, but I’m starting with one.) The more fundamental a certain kind of work is to civilization (e.g. food, water, sewage treatment, etc.), the more stable it is likely to be in the contractions to come. So, looking for work in those sectors would be one possible strategy.

    It also occurred to me that the diversion of wages to the underground economy is going to exacerbate things like Social Security all the more, since the SS taxes not being collected will not be available to pay current benefits as designed, moving the “hair cut” currently projected for 2032 even closer.

  256. @JMG

    I think the Scriptwriters in the Flash Gordon Movie in 1980 didn’t care too much about consistency.

    So the result is Ming the Impotent. Ha.

    The real life counterpart that Ming the Merciless could have taken inspiration from. Cao Cao was quite the evil genius and absolutely ruthless.

    And had those children from his Harem:

    “Cao Ang, Prince Min of Feng, Emperor Wen

    Cao Zhang, Prince Wei of Rencheng
    Cao Zhi, Prince Si of Chen
    Cao Xiong, Prince Huai of Xiao
    Cao Shuo, Prince Shang of Xiang
    Cao Chong, Prince Ai of Deng
    Cao Ju, Prince of Pengcheng
    Cao Yu, Prince of Yan
    Cao Lin, Prince Mu of Pei
    Cao Gun, Prince Gong of Zhongshan
    Cao Xuan, Prince Huai of Jiang
    Cao Jun, Prince Ai of Chenliu
    Cao Ju, Prince Min of Fanyang
    Cao Gan, Prince of Zhao
    Cao Zishang, Duke Shang of Linyi
    Cao Biao, Prince of Chu
    Cao Ziqin, Duke Shang of Gang
    Cao Cheng, Duke Shang of Gucheng
    Cao Zizheng, Duke Dai of Mei
    Cao Zijing, Duke Shang of Ling
    Cao Jun, Duke An of Fan
    Cao Ziji, Duke Shang of Guangzong
    Cao Hui, Prince Ling of Dongping
    Cao Mao, Prince of Laoling
    Empress Xianmu
    Princess Anyang
    Princess Jinxiang
    Princess Qinghe
    two other daughters”

    Quite the Potent Man.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cao_Cao

  257. As an experiment: I am going to post two links to an image file; one with the img src tag, and one with just the link.

    I believe that if a commenter uses the img tag the blog software will strip it out leaving just the link, and the image will not display.

    But if JMG uses the img tag, it will not be stripped out and the image will display, because he is the boss of this blog.

    Here goes (actual link might vary):

    https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51495196063_2f9432bb25_o_d.png

  258. A pity I can’t photosynthesize my own food like a green plant. If only I could.

    I’d never have to worry anymore about the coming Long Emergency.

  259. Naomi (no. 284), I had a look at their public-facing Facebook page. Most of their article links were to this page:

    https://russian-faith.com/

    To give an idea of their “alignment,” let us say, they got kicked off Mailchimp for hating on gays, and reverently quote some monk who calls the Covid-19 vaccines “little devils” in one’s bloodstream.

    Where in Russia are they planning to settle? Is it Khabarovsk? One of their articles was about a group of Mexican Mennonites who are thinking of moving to Tatarstan somewhere, but can’t get enough contiguous plots of land.

    There’s another group of foreigners trying to settle in Siberia through this program, that are part of the “Anastasian” movement (based on the “Ringing Cedars of Russia” book series by Vladimir Megre, who apparently met a magical Siberian woman named Anastasia who taught him a form of back-to-nature Slavic paganism):

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ringing_Cedars%27_Anastasianism

    https://www.ft.com/content/28d7c656-87a3-11de-9280-00144feabdc0

    https://www.ringingcedars.org.au/

  260. It occurred to me this morning while walking that perhaps much of the hysteria we are seeing is the push to use humans as the new resource to be exploited for corporate profit. We’ve always had dysfunctional health and food systems in the U.S., but now there are efforts to promote both vaccination and plant-based manufactured foods for everyone. Both efforts rely on corporations to produce their cheap products with government subsidies. Both efforts will be forced on individuals through government policies.

    Previously corporations marketed products produced through natural resources and consumers were influenced to purchase them through marketing. The earth is running low on many natural resources so they don’t have as many products they can market. Corporations must have something to produce and distribute to make profits.

    I’m posting this here knowing the idea could get copied and distributed by others. I hope it does. If people could see they are being used as the source of current and future corporate profits, perhaps it will disgust them enough to refuse what is being forced on them, explained as safety and science.

  261. Chuaquin,, see page 126 of JMG’s book “Atlantis” for a description of Cumbre Vieja causing a megatsunami. One thing’s for sure: it would put all the Covid/election/woke hysteria in perspective!

  262. @Jeanne and Jessi – haha, can-tastic! (sorry, that was probably my worst yet. I will do better).

    I realised while reading my newsfeed this morning that while we are talking about alternate economic systems, we haven’t talked about the gift economy – the oldest economy. Well, actually, we have been, when we talk about helping to provide for our neighbours – canning! – and black market economy, but we haven’t named it specifically. And that’s a more desirable zero sum economy.

    And, I just chatted with Chris about a new relationship and totally spaced on bringing a gift to celebrate the occasion (I think it’s official ,no one has to sneak through the window anymore). I just read that our new lover likes electric batons.

    I do too, what a coinky dink! – and I’m all about reciprocal giving, so I thought I’d send a little something.

    From Canada, with Love 😉 (Did you know? Original working titles: Starlight or Midnight Man).

    Lemme break it down:
    – Full moon? Check.
    – Zombies? Check.
    – Girlie gun? Check.
    – Vulgar dancing? Check.
    – Western cinema? Check.
    – Actual King of Pop? Check.
    – They always run trope? Check.
    – Iconic popcorn scene? Check.
    – Statement of strong person convictions that some of us may disagree with, but still appreciate the other person? Check.
    – Red leather outfit to conceal the blood? Necessary.

  263. @Psy-entist Re: dismantling the sun

    The sun is too low in mass to go super-nova or even just plain nova. Instead it will gradually swell up into a red giant starting in a few billion years. As for the issue of scooping up pieces of ultra sun-hot material without getting burnt up, this can be very easily overcome by simply doing it at night.

  264. RE: Evergrande,

    I watched a video the other day that made the point that China erects enough barriers to investment that the US/China markets interplay is minimal compared to US/EU. I tend to agree, although investors in the West are already starting to lose confidence.
    It is interesting to me, that the Evergrande issue is of the CCP’s making. The CCP passed laws restricting the type of financial structuring that Evergrande did as part of it’s core property investment practices. I see this along the same lines as the CCP going after Alibaba and the ANT Group. The CCP is schizophrenic; they want capitalism (“with Chinese characteristics”) then they say oh never mind these companies are getting too powerful. The CCP’s legitimacy is based on GDP growth and since the modern CCP has let capitalism out of the bottle if they try to shove it back in it will explode in their faces spectacularly. The don’t seem to REALLY like America or capitalism very much but they made their bed and now they have to lie in it. They live and die by Western capitalism and hearty trade with the US.
    The CCP has done whatever it needed to do in the past to avoid unrest. If the CCP thinks they can NOT bail out Evergrande then it just shows they’ve gotten arrogant and over-confident. Que the Michael Jackson eating popcorn meme — this is going to be interesting.

  265. @ Info #257

    I always wondered about that myself. Ming should have had an army of sons, duking it out for the succession.

    I have to agree with our host: the harem was window-dressing to conceal (badly!) the fact that Ming was either impotent or virtually sterile.

  266. JMG #275, I posted on Dreamwidth, but it’s marked as Screened, and where the page on FAQ says
    “use the screen light bulb button. To unscreen (reveal) a comment that has been screened, use the same *button* again, now labeled unscreen.”, it says boo on where the button is, so I’m stuck.

  267. Thanks for this tremendously important topic, JMG. At risk of sounding gauche, I will say that I have a fair amount of money in the bank, and I don’t expect it to be worth much by the time I reach what we today call “retirement age”. As little as a couple of years ago this would have bothered me more, but I’m putting effort into collapsing now and avoiding the rush.

    I still think that the best overall investing wisdom is diversification, because we never can be sure what will blossom and what will fizzle. In the context of the present post, this might mean putting some effort into learning skills, some into precious metals, some into buying land, etc., etc.

    I spoke recently to my financial advisor. He said, “Yeah, we know the world has been crazy in recent years, but we here at Firm XYZ believe the next ten years will be more placid than the last few.”

    I thought to myself, uhhhh, I selected you as my financial advisor because you take care to prove your track record of achieving solid market returns, and I believe that you are good at that, but I’m not sure I can agree with you about the future in general, here…

    Respecting the advice to settle in a small city or big town: I would love to see more expansion on this. I don’t disagree with it, and yet it seems like a very blunt hammer in the absence of accounting for things like personality preferences, type of work, etc.

  268. Bei Dawei #293,

    This is a link.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/MovingToRussia

    This is what they say on their FB page,

    “Whatever you call us, if you are interested in helping build a healthy community of Christian families in the heart of ancient Russia, you are welcome in this group!
    A core set of people in this group are currently focused on rebuilding communities in the area around Rostov Veliki, about three hours north of Moscow. This group is also open to people who desire to pursue similar efforts in other parts of Russia. ”

    (Rostov Velikiy, Yaroslavskaya Oblast’, Russia)

    I am not Russian Orthodox myself, so have limited information, but I believe that yes this group is probably generally conservative and probably anti the covid vaccine and other things about Western culture which would conflict with their religious beliefs. Not perhaps though very different in reality from groups in America like the Amish and Conservative Mennonites, based on what I have read.

  269. Mr. Greer,

    After I read your latest essay, I took a walk around the courthouse where I work. Zero-sum economy does spring to mind. This is a massive, Greek revival building built during the Depression. There is an elegant law library on the top two floors, the windows of which give commanding views of the area. If you look out one of those windows, and peek between the ionic columns made of solid rock, to the South is another massive building that used to be the Customs House but now houses the criminal courts. To the West is City Hall, modeled on a French palace. To the West of that, is a massive civic opera house (now privately owned) and the moribund and abandoned, but nonetheless still beautiful, Municipal Building next door that used to house the criminal courts. It is worth pointing out all of these buildings were built mostly with city money between 1890 and 1930, a supposedly much poorer time.

    If you are even allowed in one of these buildings these days (COVID and what not) the first thing you notice is the disrepair. The second thing you notice is all of the empty office space. Why, in my building, there are six, *six* elevators that have with 12 foot high ceilings and art deco furnishings. These buildings were meant to be occupied. You can almost still hear the ghosts of the scriveners scribbling away. The third thing you notice is that this is an artifact of a city that once took itself, and its institutions, so seriously it built palaces solely for the benefit of the public. No more.

    Today, in a time of supposed riches, one cannot fathom such feats. Indeed, I heard tell recently that, even if you had limitless capital and materials, there is not enough construction labor in the region to renovate the existing buildings, let alone build one. Today, in a time of supposed social justice, we are too terrified of one another to even come to work– let alone hold jury trials, the bedrock institution of this nations conflict resolution system.

    Recently, a sheriff’s deputy put on an impromptu cook out for the skeleton crew that’s still on site. For a moment, we were united as people. Clerks, law enforcement, attorneys, judges, women, men, black people, white people, poor people, rich people etc. etc. gathered in a jury room to come together and share a meal. And for a brief moment the energy of the building shifted, I think because the building briefly was being used for the purpose it was intended: community building and maintenance. Unfortunately, in this zero-sum economy, I fear that moments like this will be exceptions that prove the rule.

    Pensively,

    Anonymous Millennial

  270. On a different note, I live on a rural road, a forgettable-enough road that it doesn’t appear on Google Street View. But it is paved. I suppose that it was paved during the peak of our prosperity, maybe 20-30 years ago.

    Some gentlemen from the local road works were out recently, taking measurements and so forth. I asked what they were up to, and they replied, “Municipality’s getting ready to turn this into gravel.”

    Which I’ve been expecting for a while, and don’t particularly object to. But what the point is, is that it was probably kinda folly to have ever paved this road.

  271. A couple of people (Brian, Naomi) have mentioned leaving the US. That’s exactly what I did. I am an American who got up and moved to Russia eleven years ago. I don’t have an ounce of Russian heritage anywhere in the family. The reasons for my leaving the US are multiple and can’t be condensed to one overriding factor, but my rather pessimistic view of where America was heading certaintly played a role. And that was eleven years ago — things have deteriorated since then. In fact, I feel that what has transpired in the intervening years has very much vindicated that decision. The expat community has thinned out significantly since Crimea and the sanctions, but those of us who are left are in it for the long haul. These days, I rarely hear talk of going home among my fellow expats. Russia is by no means perfect and I am not going to speak of it in some sort of fellow-traveler utopian terms, but I am certainly glad I am here and not there.

    I am quite aware that not everybody is willing to simply get up and leave their home. As Mr. Greer has pointed out, a home means something. What I will say, however, is that I have not once met any anti-American sentiment here and that’s even despite the events of recent years. Of course, perhaps if I made any attempt to defend US policy it would be different, but I am usually more adament in my condemnation of American foreign policy than whatever interlocutor I am conversing with. Why my nationality has played no role in my life here despite the hostility of our two nations is a topic best explored in a long post somewhere and not as a brief comment on this blog, but I’ll point out two things.

    First, as was the case when the prestige of Greece far outlasted Greek civilization, the prestige of America continues to linger, even as the country’s government is increasingly an embarassment to itself and the world. Russians tend to have an outdated and overly rosy view of America and are still surprised that someone would choose to live here and not there (the migration flows have been so one-sided for so long). Russians tend to have a certain amount of haughty contempt for the migrants from the neighboring former Soviet countries and even for those from major powers like China, but Westerners are in a different category.

    Second, a deeper thought I have been having and that needs to be fleshed out some other time is that the nation state is basically dead. The various bureaucracies are alive and well but people no longer really associate themselves or others with the actions of any particular government. No Russian blames me for the actions of my government, nor does any Russian feel any sense of ownership of his or her own government. Globalization and the homogenization of culture have also dulled national cultural distinctions, especially in the younger generations.

  272. Hi John,

    You may be aware that in the days before electricity, aluminum was even more prized than gold. If memory serves, the Belgian king proudly displayed aluminum plates, etc. at the royal table. Perhaps we should hold on to our aluminum pans as future heirlooms in an electricity-starved world? : )

    Optimistically, perhaps the next 150 years or so will one day be known as “The Great Restoration,” whether it be the restoration of topsoils or face-to-face relationships.

    If we deepen the notion of “profit” to mean “wealth” minus “illth”, then society can come out ahead by reducing illth more than reducing wealth (analogous to reducing expenses by reducing expenses more than income.) This notion becomes all the more feasible once we recognize that much wealth is created to merely reduce or neutralize illth. Hence the equation becomes,

    (Intrinsic wealth) – (Wealth needed to combat illth) – (Illth) = Profit

    The problem is that illth may be subjectively experienced as wealth (usually of the “combat illth” kind); think of the viewpoint of a drug addict desperate for a fix. But modern-day comfort and convenience can also be forms of illth unless handled properly–not unlike the case with healthy versus unhealthy food habits. But on the further shore of the transformation we’re undergoing, perhaps our great-grandchildren will need far fewer things to be happy. They will never have become addicted in the first place.

  273. “It’s interesting that Netflix wanted to do away with their mail DVD service. It’s hard to find, but it still exists …”

    I’m still on DVD by mail. I’ll be watching one tonight. I hadn’t heard they wanted to get rid of it, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

    https://dvd.netflix.com/

  274. This is going to be a rough winter for many in the UK, and I’m not even talking about C19.

    “Industry group Oil & Gas UK has said wholesale prices for gas had increased by 250% since January – with a 70% rise since August. The increase has been blamed on several factors, including a cold winter which left stocks lower than usual, high demand for liquefied natural gas from Asia, and lower supplies from other countries. Low winds meaning less renewable energy is being generated and outages at some nuclear stations have also contributed.”

    I thought “renewables” and nuclear were going to save us from this kind of thing? Despite all this the UK govt wants more expensive “green” energy.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-58620167

  275. I need to remember that the world is not this blog and vice versa. I’m off at a utility business conference the first part of this week and while at lunch today with a random group I hooked up with after the morning breakout sessions, we were discussing the future of the electric industry. I expressed some concerns about limits–systemic complexity, lithium for batteries, etc.– and got some odd looks and variants of the “they’ll think of something” argument. I need to be more circumspect in expressing my thoughts.

  276. Thanks for your response, JMG. While I agree with you that just hoarding tokens isn’t the best strategy, I think one token I haven’t heard too many bring up on this blog that might do well in a decline is historical collectible versions of gold/silver coins. Not only does the gold/silver have some intrinsic value, but the historical value of the coin has its own value, a value which would presumably endure even if gold/silver loses its value, because you’re basically buying a piece of history which is by definition unique and finite.

  277. Also, an observation from the mile-high city, where the conference I’m attending is being held, a noticeable homeless population in the streets, alleys btwn buildings marked as closed but obviously being lived in. I worked here for a short while some 20 years ago and it appears that conditions of the underclass have gotten significantly worse in that time. (Though to be honest, I was paying far less attention to such things then.)

  278. Jeanne you’re a jeanne-ius!!! Of course, harvest the sun at night! Problem solved!!!!!

    Jessi Thompson
    anotheramethyst

  279. Anonymous Millennial comments,

    “It is worth pointing out all of these buildings were built mostly with city money between 1890 and 1930, a supposedly much poorer time.”

    As I said: the pollution of bureaucracy reduces the industrial output (among which we must include civic buildings).

    This is why, for example, that between 1958 and 1969 the USA’s NASA built the Mercury, Geminii and Apollo space capsules and the lunar lander, and to put them into space the Atlas LV-3B, Big Joe, Blue Scout II, Little Joe, Mercury-Redstone, Atlas-Agena, Titan II GLV, Saturn I, Saturn IB and Saturn V rockets – but despite working on it from 2004 to present 2021, was unable to come up with a single manned space capsule or man-rated rocket to replace the Space Shuttle.

    At one time, they simply did things; later, they could not do anything without Congress micromanaging it all, layers of bureaucracy at NASA, plans, reviews, reviews of the plans, reviews of the reviews, fresh starts with a change, inspections of permits and so on and so forth.

    Of course, private companies have done things much more quickly than modern-day NASA as we’ve seen with this week’s launch of four non-astronauts into orbit. But this was achieve only with vast amounts of public money, at much greater cost than launching people into orbit in the 1960s. And while NASA managed several rockets and craft in 11 years, SpaceX has managed a couple of rockets and a single craft in 9 years. Thus, while the private company is faster and cheaper than government is today, both are still slower and more expensive than either were in the 1960s.

    And so my contention is that we have already passed peak industrial output.

  280. Foiled again!

    [img src=”….”] was replaced. (Replace square brackets with angle brackets.)

  281. Why go to the trouble and expense of dismantling the sun? Get a vacuum cleaner with a very long tube and suck up however much plasma you need when you want it.

  282. @Bofor

    I’m sure others have their reasons but here is my thinking on choosing a good place to live for the Long Descent. At minimum, needs to be able to supply food and firewood for cooking from its near hinterland and have sufficient reliable water for a food garden. That lets out big cities and towns in arid regions.

    Large cities are also going to have a lot of problems in the Long Descent with catastrophic infrastructure decay and violent crime. They are currently full of career focused people with no time to build community. As a whole, they are aggressively uninterested in doing anything about the predicaments of our time. Based on history, their current response to Covid and human psychological characteristics I have very little confidence that they will be able to develop constructive collective responses to the cities’ problems. I do think that some of the attempted solutions will involve corruption, large scale repression and general craziness which will most affect the population in the cities so I don’t want to be around for that. Cities are also targets during wars, which seem to happen a lot during collapses. On the other hand, if you have money and power in the current system then the big cities are the places to be in order to maintain that, until the Visigoths come calling anyway.

    The problem with farms is banditry and low level civil wars. Imagine a home invasion by the cruelest people imaginable, who hate landowners for their comparative wealth (some of them might be your own farm labourers with a grudge), arriving via truck in numbers between 10 and 100 with guns. They torture farmers and their families, sometimes for days without getting disturbed, just for fun and in case there are any hidden goodies. Then they murder the farmers and their families horribly. They also rob and kill farmers trying to get anything to market. Sounds melodromatic but it seems to happen reliably in all the modern collapses and low level phases of civil wars I’ve read about – China, Weimar Germany, South Africa, Venezuela, Argentina, Somalia, Nigeria, Peru. The historical solutions to farm bandits that I’ve read about involve either nomadism or some form of fortified housing and living in close proximity to 30-300 or so other adults in a social form which allows that to work long term. So, I think farming can be a solution for the long descent but in the here and now you need the charisma to convince a large number of other people used to modern norms of independence to come and live communally with you, devote their lives to building the infrastructure for the village and establish an enduring social structure. You need to do all that without becoming an actual psychologically damaging cult and without freaking out the normies and getting your fortified housing stormed by government agents. Alternatively, you can try and find such a close knit community and try to integrate. I think this fortified farming community idea can work and Dmitry Orlov has a book about Communities that Abide. However, after much thought, I don’t think I’ve got the personality and skill set to form one or join one.

    So I’m looking at inland population centres of 8,000-50,000 people which have a history of surviving economic depressions and declines. Small towns tend to lose minimum viability and just disintegrate. I want to stay away from the eastern coastal fringe and northern wet tropics areas due to the high property values, very high bushfire danger as they become drier, and high humidity (bad for books). Also I want to be well away from military ‘assets’. There are about 30 in Australia that meet my criteria. Big towns/small cities have enough people that being a bit fringe doesn’t stand out too much and many have a surprising amount of cultural stuff going on. Lots of them currently have cheap, solid brick commercial/residential buildings like ex-pubs, shopfronts with an apartment of two above and old banks with managers quarters above, all with the chimneys and often stoves still in place, cellars for cool storage, shedding for animals or a workshop and at least a courtyard garden behind. Screen for favourable by-laws on chicken keeping, low rates and a relatively sane response to Covid. That’s my thoughts anyway.

  283. Among the earlier works of fiction to deal with social engineering through language change, I am surprised that no one mentioned 1984, which was written in 1948. Double-plus ungood.
    Spoken Mandarin uses the same word “ta” for he, she, and it. In writing, there are three related but distinct characters used.
    Japanese avoids much of this by simply using very few pronouns. Family role terms* and the like are used instead. Names if necessary. Even I and you are not used much. The word for you given in textbooks for learning Japanese “anata” is used so rarely that it has the impact of “sweetie” or “darling”.
    *Examples: Kacho [section manager], jinan [second son]

    “Se told se that se took se’s bike to se’s house and se objected to se about that”
    If only males or only females are involved (a reasonable possibility), this sentence is no more clear in normal English:
    He told him that he took his bike to his house and he objected to him about that.

    It just looks more coherent thanks to the use of different forms for different cases.

    Even German, which thanks to the many forms of “the”, can indicate connections across distant reaches of insanely long sentences, is no more clear for this one.
    [Warning. Possible grammatical errors.]
    Er sagte ihm, dass er sein Fahrrad nach Hause gebracht habe und er habe ihm dagegen gewehrt.
    Even the subjunctive doesn’t help in this case.

  284. About picking up pieces of the sun for energy, in some sci-fi or other (Peter F. Hamilton?), they put one end of a worm hole in the sun, the other end out around Jupiter’s orbit and harvest all the energy they need. Of course, the technology was the purest handwavium.

  285. Jessica, the German sentence was quite good! But normally, it would be: Er sagte ihm, dass er sein Fahrrad nach Hause gebracht habe und er habe sich darüber bei ihm beschwert. But the subjunctive isn’t used as much as it used to be in contemporary German.

  286. JAS @ 260 The small amounts of gold or silver you mention are useful for bribes, to pay for information, and to distract thieves from the stuff, like tools, you really need.

    Selkirk Astronomer @ 264, I think the motives are a bit more complex. Domination is part of it, but also envy, as most of the oligarchy are by this time functionally incompetent overgrown children, and, don’t forget, money. Preppers are spending, but only on what they want to buy, not what the latest TV magic spell told them to buy.

  287. @ Naomi # 284, Bei Dawei #293 & Cloven Kingdom #308

    I have been reading Hal Freeman’s blog at Between Two Worlds. He married a Russian woman, and after living in the US for a decade or so, they decided to move to Russia about 6 years ago. They had joined the Russian Orthodox Church about a decade ago in the US, but that was not the driving force between moving to Russia. Ultimately, they felt that that Russia offered a better future for their children, and they moved to the small town where her parents live.

  288. Darn! The image didn’t come through.

    (The Languages of Pao with the levitating man walking in front of the harem.)

  289. TamHob #323

    Your post reminds me of a documentary I watched about a commune in South Africa. A white farmer basically received work services and extra protection from poor white South Africans in return for giving them food and housing and protection and a little money. There were some aspects of the documentary which made for uncomfortable watching, but it was very interesting. This is the link to it.

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

    The charity the farmer set up was called Filadelfia Ark.
    https://vymaps.com/ZA/Filadelfia-Ark-1403581553191734/

    it seemed almost feudal in the way it worked in some respects.

    The people had no wealth to speak of – so very little hedge against collapse and I guessed this system worked for them – and the farmer too for that matter, who was somewhat exposed on his own for all the reasons you mentioned in your post.

    I know South Africa is an extreme case, but it is a modern day example of a society in collapse I think.

  290. Cloven Kingdom 308,

    Thank you very much for this. Do you have a blog post yourself, or do you recommend any on line ex-pat groups, just for the purpose of gathering more information?

    Our church group was actually talking about a Plan B, if conditions get worse (especially because of the vaccine mandates, as the majority of the church congregation are unvaccinated) and there are more group discussions scheduled in October about it and how we can help one another. At present, I think the majority of people would be more interested in moving to Mexico, if it became impossible to earn a living or go to the shops etc in the US, but I think Russia might be safer and more accepting.

  291. Peter Van Erp (aka Peter Khan) 329:

    That’s a really great blog. Absolutely fascinating. Thank you!

    Mr Greer,

    Just wanted to say thank you to you too for another thought provoking post and also for providing a place where really great information can be obtained!!

  292. @TamHob: I know of revolutionary unrest in Germany in 1919-1920, again in 1923 and then street battles starting in 1930, but all the examples I have heard of were urban, not rural. Can you point me to any sources for agrarian violence in Weimar Germany?

  293. Jessica (no. 324) “In [Chinese] writing, there are three related but distinct characters used [for the third person singular].”

    Four, if you count the one for gods. (祂)

    But yeah, a number of languages lack gendered pronouns. Does this make the people who speak them less sexist? I don’t see it.

  294. @teresa from hershey

    “I always wondered about that myself. Ming should have had an army of sons, duking it out for the succession.

    I have to agree with our host: the harem was window-dressing to conceal (badly!) the fact that Ming was either impotent or virtually sterile.”

    Indeed. I suppose its suits the Pulp Nature of the Story.

    I mean the Story would be far more like “Game of Thrones” if Ming wasn’t impotent in the story. And lots of potential for complex storytelling with lots of moving parts.

    That Scenario would also be more suited to a Dune Universe.

    But I don’t think the writers thought it through other than to make it a fun adventure for Flash Gordon.

  295. @TamHob,
    Where are you located in Aus and what are your top areas for relocation? I ask because I live in a large rural town and are in the beginning of setting up just what you described.
    Tony

  296. Lew, thanks for the data points.

    Ottergirl, are you considering leaving Dodge for less arid pastures?

    Pygmycory, those would both be good plot engines.

    Justin, interesting! I get the impression that our labor shortage here in the US may be more severe than elsewhere.

    Chris, excellent — Geoffrey’s well worth reading, and brooding over.

    Patricia M, another good plot engine.

    David BTL, the “fundamentalness” scale is a sensible one — I’ve been trying to think of a less awkward term, but “essentialness” is just as bad. As for the impact of the underground economy on Social Insecurity, that’s a good point — and of course all the other taxes that have been piled onto earned income are subject to the same issue.

    Info, the real ones generally have that kind of output. I recall reading that something like half the population of the central Asian steppes is descended from Genghis Khan.

    Martin, thanks for this — and for your offlist comment. You found something I’ve been looking for all along: clarification that I’m the only one who can post images here.

    G Wang, no doubt. One of the contributors to the new story contest will be discussing that very thing…

    Denis, here’s hoping!

    DT, well, Evergrande sold billions of dollars of bonds to overseas investors, so I think the effect outside China’s borders is going to be pretty significant…

    Mouse, it was screened because I approve every post personally before it appears. It’s up now.

    Bofur, of course it’s a blunt instrument. All my comments along those lines should be taken as one person’s opinion, to be modified by the whole galaxy of indications you’ve named, plus the simple fact that I could always be wrong.

    Millennial, it’s a familiar sight in the twilight of an empire in rapid decline!

    Bofur, definitely a sign of the times.

    Darren, thank you.

    Greg, hmm! That strikes me as a very useful direction to develop this.

    Bridge, yep. Brace yourself.

    David BTL, if they start getting angry, we’ll have taken another step toward crunch time.

    Kel, so long as you remember that “value” isn’t something that the coins themselves possess. Value consists solely in some other person’s willingness to trade something for it. Plenty of historically unique things end up in landfills because, no matter how unique they might be, nobody is willing to pay for them…

    Prizm, it’s certainly a possibility. If China bails out domestic investors and allows a default of bonds owed to foreign investors, as current rumor has it they’re planning to do, the US might well retaliate by defaulting on the bonds it’s sold to China…

    David BTL, and of course that’s the other way to clear unpayable debts. There will be pressures in both directions, and we may get some of each.

    Teresa, thanks for this. Apparently I’m the only one who can post images here, btw.

    Naomi, you’re most welcome, and thank you.

    Patricia M, thanks for the data point.

  297. @JMG

    “Info, the real ones generally have that kind of output. I recall reading that something like half the population of the central Asian steppes is descended from Genghis Khan.”

    Crazy. And then there is the fact that Most European Men are descended from 3 Warlords of the Bronze Age:
    https://popular-archaeology.com/article/most-european-men-descend-from-a-handful-of-bronze-age-forefathers/

    Really has a correlation with the mythical Hyperborean Age featured in the Pulp Sword and Sorcery Comic: “Conan the Barbarian”.

  298. I tried to follow up on the Mercola story about food preservation “extremists”, and was unable to do so. Apparently, the site only maintains articles for a couple of days (at least, some articles). The link in the post here led to a story about vaccine mandates. I have a queasy feeling about ephemeral stories. Perhaps they wouldn’t stand up to sustained attention.

  299. More on “food preservation extremism”: both Reuters and CNN had stories about “Facebook extremism alerts”, but those stories didn’t mention *anything* about the criteria prompting the alert. Could be guns; could be canning jars; could be both (together! or separately?). Lots of other personal blogs picked up on the warnings associated with disaster preparation, though, and posted screen shots of the Facebook warning. It seems that Facebook cast a wide net, catching all sorts of posts related to a cautious approach to life in a negative-sum economy.

  300. Patricia Mathews #337:

    We paid $3.05/gallon last week in Springfield, Vermont, and the general price in the southern Vermont and eastern New Hampshire region is roughly the same for regular grade gas.

    Our sons in northeast Pennsylvania report it’s about 10¢ to 15¢ higher per gallon there. Woo-hoo! Something is cheaper in Vermont!

  301. JMG – “Essentialness”, “fundamentalness” are awkward, but how about “foundational” (with a hint of Asimovian psychohistory)?

    After reading Limits To Growth when it was new and I was young, I decided that electrical engineering would be an enduring, Foundational, skill set to acquire. (The next alternative was physics, which had too much of the hot-house flower dependence on Big Science/Big Funding for comfort.) It’s worked out well for me, and apparently for a number of other commenters here.

  302. On “tokens of wealth”, for a few years, I’ve been tossing all of my original copper pennies, and nickel coins into a jar. When I contemplate the supply chain to produce either one, it seems clear that they “should” be worth far more than 1% of a paper dollar. I vaguely imagine a future in which a nickel is about the right amount for a spoonful of seeds for the garden, a loaf of bread, or an armload of firewood. During hyper-inflation (I’ve read), coins disappear from circulation, but perhaps a few will emerge after the dust settles. These might take a spot of paint or some other mark to prevent debasement by outside coins. In the mean time, no one’s going to break down my door for a jar of 1 and 5-cent coins.

  303. @JMG

    “According to Rystad Energy, this year will see the highest-ever number of geothermal wells drilled as the geothermal sector sees waves of renewed interest.
    Rystad sees the global well capital expenditure on geothermal exceeding $1 billion this year, with the overall number of geothermal wells drilled surpassing 200 in 2021.
    The pace of geothermal drilling is poised to speed up in the upcoming years, with Rystad seeing the 2025 drilling tally at 500 already, i.e. more than doubling the current levels of drilling.
    The upcoming decade should see a massive ramp-up in geothermal capacity as it makes inroads into urban heating and lithium extraction, with global capacity reaching 36GW by 2030.”

    https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Oil-Prices-Under-Pressure-As-Chinas-Property-Sector-Implodes.html

    What is your thoughts on Geothermal replacing Oil as a source of “Mass” and “Energy source”?

  304. Blessed Mabon/Alban Elued/Fall Equinox/Libra Ingress to those who celebrate these.

    Here in the States, the de facto first day of Fall is Labor Day, just as the de facto first day of summer is Memorial Day, and Independence Day is our midsummer festival.

  305. A positive data point for you – Attended my local municipal meeting last night. Usually attend 2 times a year over the past 20 years just to say hello and get a feel for what is going on. It’s normal during these meetings to have less than 8 members of the public in attendance and during the public portion to have one to two people get up and rant at the microphone about a neighbor or the roads or some other complaint. That’s why I only went twice a year! Very unpleasant.

    Last night there was an air of cooperation and community so strong that I wondered if I had dropped into a different timeline. Same elected officials up front, but now 30 of the public in attendance. Public speaking portion had people respectfully state their issues and listen to response from the board on why things were they way they were and what they could do and when.There was some friendly teasing back and forth between board members that everyone laughed along with.

    I feel very energized and encouraged by this development and hope others find it in their localities too.

  306. Matthias Gralle #336, if I remember rightly Anna Eisenmenger’s diary describes a country pub being ransacked.

  307. @info#342 – amusingly enough, the obligatory ad reads “Quick-DNA™ Plant/Seed Kit Provides Easy, Rapid Isolation Of Inhibitor-Free Plant DNA.”

    I immediately imagined inhibition-free Bronze Age warriors doing some quick-planting of their DNA in the villages they passed through. If they didn’t burn down the villages as marauders have been known to do. [And the chief says “Any man who burns before the place is pillaged gets a war axe in the head. Now, send those ladies to my camp and make it quick.”]

  308. @Ben

    Still quite crazy

    @Patricia Mathews

    Maybe. Although that could also result of them becoming the Elites of respective Societies.

  309. Thanks for this post as always, it gave me the final prodding I needed to write my own essay on a subject very closely related to this, which is how the world of ideology and politics adapts to the increased necessity to steal from and dispossess others just to keep one’s own standard of living going. My sense is that people are (however belatedly) coming to accept the basic reality of the negative-sum economy. They might not think peak oil is real, or that it’s a permanent state of affairs, but at this point the choice between trusting the economists or your own lying eyes is just too stark to really ignore.

Courteous, concise comments relevant to the topic of the current post are welcome, whether or not they agree with the views expressed here, and I try to respond to each comment as time permits. Long screeds proclaiming the infallibility of some ideology or other, however, will be deleted; so will repeated attempts to hammer on a point already addressed; so will comments containing profanity, abusive language, flamebaiting and the like -- I filled up my supply of Troll Bingo cards years ago and have no interest in adding any more to my collection; and so will sales spam and offers of "guest posts" pitching products. I'm quite aware that the concept of polite discourse is hopelessly dowdy and out of date, but then some people would say the same thing about the traditions this blog is meant to discuss. Thank you for reading Ecosophia! -- JMG

Leave a Reply