Monthly Post

Walking Away From The Marketplace

The recent sequence of posts here on lenocracy (from Latin leno, a pimp)—that is, the form of political economy in which productive economic activity gets squeezed dry by various kinds of legally mandated pimping—has fielded a response I find interesting. Next to nobody has tried to argue that lenocracy is an unfair description of the current state of affairs in the United States and its close allies. Everyone seems quite aware of the fact that most of the people who make big money in our grand post-industrial kleptocracies are doing it by exploiting those who actually produce goods and services, in exactly the same way that a pimp exploits sex workers.

No, the question that’s come up over and over again is as simple as it is challenging:  what can we do about it?  I offered one answer a month ago, discussing the way that modern lenocracies work by dangling various baits in front of you. If you take the bait—and nearly everything that comes oozing out of the orifices of the consumer economy counts as bait—the hook sinks in. Walk on by without falling for the lures and you go free. That’s not a complete answer, though, and it’s worth discussing some of the other possibilities.

Don’t fall for it.

We can start by taking a hard look at the realities of modern life.  Let’s grant that it’s increasingly hard to make honest work pay these days because a regiment of lenocrats backed by local, state, and federal laws and regulations all demand a cut of the profits. Let’s grant that lenocracy has metastasized so far that the United States can’t do simple tasks like repair a wrecked bridge or provide artillery shells for its proxy wars within a reasonable time or for a reasonable cost. Let’s grant, too, that all this is getting worse as the real economy of nonfinancial goods and services shrinks, leaving an ever-increasing horde of lenocrats frantically trying to extract their habitual take from a society in the early stages of rigor mortis.  Given all this, is there anything we can do to protect ourselves from lenocracy run amok, or do we just have to hunker down and wait for the inevitable implosion of the system?

To the extent that this question is meant to justify political activism, I’m sorry to say I have very little hope to offer on the national scale. There’s still quite a bit of work that can be done in local politics, and some on more general levels, but let’s please be frank here. The machinery of representative government in the United States and most of its allies was shunted aside long ago, becoming a kind of sideshow where clowns not quite ready for the Big Top go through their comic routines for an audience of rubes.  Most real policy in the modern West is decided within the vast and overlapping realms of government, corporate, and nonprofit bureaucracies, and then pushed through the formalities of the legislative branch as an afterthought. We had a nice clear display of that a little while back, when Speaker of the House Mike Johnson turned on a dime and dropped his opposition to more funding for Ukraine and his demands for more border protection for the US after a quiet little conversation with federal bureaucrats. That showed clearly enough where the real power lies.

Calling this a Congressional subcommittee is arguably unfair to clowns.

That doesn’t mean that nothing can be done. It means that nothing can be done by relying on tools that have long since lost their edge, or playing games that the house has rigged so that it never loses. You don’t succeed in a challenging environment by doing the things that everyone else expects you to do. Nor do you succeed in a challenging environment by competing on the other guy’s ground, where he gets to set the rules and can change them at will.  You win by doing the unexpected, and by moving the struggle someplace else, where you can set the rules and tilt things in your own favor.

It’s important here to remember that power is never an abstraction; it is always dependent on context. During the twenty-odd years it spent trying to browbeat the people of Afghanistan into submitting to the will of Western kleptocrats, the United States had far more power in every sense than the Taliban forces arrayed against it. Overwhelming as it was, America’s military, economic and cultural power still turned out to be useless against a nation that’s made a specialty out of humiliating mighty empires since ancient times. Why?  Because the Taliban knew how to avoid those situations in which American power could be deployed effectively, and chose instead those modes of combat where the huge but clumsy invader was at a disadvantage.

The same principle is just as valid in the sort of nonviolent contention I have in mind here. Violence itself makes a great test case for the principle I’m discussing here.  At this stage in the game, certainly, the vast bureacratic system that runs this country has a hugely disproportionate advantage when it comes to violence. Start shooting at the people tasked with enforcing all those laws and regulations, and the result can be neatly described as “suicide by cop.” Again, you win by fighting on your own terms, not on terms that advantage the other side.

How do you do that in the present case?  You start with your own choices and your own life, the realm over which you have the most control.

Robert Anton Wilson in standard operating mode.

The great secret of today’s lenocracies, as I suggested a month ago, is that they depend so much on the voluntary submission of their victims. Of course there are ways in which this isn’t true, exactions that can’t be avoided without running great risks, but there are plenty of other ways in which you can opt out if you’re willing to make certain changes or do without certain things. In societies as crowded, as ramshackle, and as decrepit as ours, one of Robert Anton Wilson’s maxims—“government is a delusion in the minds of governors”—is almost true. It would be still more accurate to say that government is a delusion in the minds of the governed. Cure yourself of that delusion, recognize that most of what happens in today’s America goes on unmanaged and even unnoticed by the bureaucrats, and the world becomes a much more interesting place.

The same thing is even more true in nonpolitical contexts. Consider employment, the most common way that people in modern lenocratic societies support themselves. Being somebody’s employee seems so normal and natural to most people these days that it can take a real effort to recognize how complicated and exploitive the system of employment is. Let’s take it from first principles.  You have somebody who needs a good or a service, and somebody else who knows how to provide the good or the service. Do the two of them agree on some exchange of value—say, so much money in return for the good or the service—shake hands, make the exchange, and that’s that?  In most human societies, they do, but in a lenocratic society they don’t.

No, in a lenocratic society there’s usually at least one person, an employer, who inserts himself into the transaction and takes a cut from it.  In a mature bureaucratic lenocracy like ours, there are scores or hundreds of people who each take a cut from the transaction. Consider what happens when someone wants a hamburger and goes into a typically understaffed fast food joint to get it. The harried, overworked kid behind the counter prepares the hamburger, bags it, hands it over and rings up the sale. Of that sale, only a small fraction goes to pay the kid the inadequate wage he receives. The rest gets sucked straight up the corporate ziggurat, shedding bigger and bigger paychecks all the way; an ever-expanding realm of managerial bureaucracy battens off it, with the biggest checks going to the inmates of corner offices, and what’s left spews into the air from the top of the ziggurat and rains down on stockholders.

In case you were wondering what a ziggurat looks like.

One of the eternal verities of lenocracy is that nobody in a managerial bureacracy is ever willing to consider taking home a smaller paycheck. Another is that nobody in a managerial bureaucracy is ever willing to consider having fewer subordinates. A third is that the stockholders, too, always expect their shares to gain in value and their income to go up. As a result, year after year, the share going to the people who actually do the work dwindles, while the share going up the ziggurat bloats. This is among the major factors driving impoverishment and immiseration in today’s America, though of course the corporate media doesn’t mention that.

Are there alternatives?  You bet there are. Once again, the great secret of lenocracy is that it depends so much on the voluntary submission of its victims.  There are plenty of ways to get by  that don’t involve being anybody’s employee, and all of them share one huge advantage that employment doesn’t have: the income you receive from them goes to support a much smaller number of bureaucrats. So long as you make any money at all, you’ll have to put up with the exactions that support those who are paid out of tax dollars, but there are plenty of others you can ignore with perfect ease—and that means much more of your income goes to you.

This is why everybody I know who is thriving in today’s American economy is self-employed. The great majority of them have found niche markets that match their personal quirks and aren’t well served by the one-size-neglects-all mentality of today’s corporate managers. This is how I make a living, for example, and how a growing share of other people do the same thing. If you work for yourself you get to keep a much larger share of the value of your labor, and you can also usually provide better quality to your customers at a more reasonable price—after all, neither you nor your customers have to worry about covering the the salaries and benefits of a ziggurat-load of overpriced office fauna, the way employees and their customers do.

Since the lenocracy has made it prohibitively costly to rent these, would-be entrepreneurs are finding more evasive ways to go into business.

This is possible because in today’s American economy there are a huge number of needs that are going unmet because big businesses decided it wasn’t worth their while to meet them, while the government-enforced barriers to smaller business can often be evaded by an enterprising individual who doesn’t mind keeping things on a small and local scale. I certainly wouldn’t want to suggest that anyone break the law, but it may be worth noting that a lot of people these days are working under the table:  they don’t have business licenses, they don’t leap through the endless array of bureaucratic hoops that have been set up to shield big corporations from competition, they simply provide goods and services quietly on an informal basis and receive their pay just as informally. Sometimes they don’t receive pay, in the strict sense of the word, at all—and that moves us into an even more challenging dimension of our theme.

Despite the high-grade handwaving of economic textbooks, after all, a market economy using money to mediate exchanges is not the only way to organize an economy. Nor is it always the best way. History shows that market economies emerge at a certain stage in the economic development of any complex human society, right around the time that the society moves from the relative economic stability of its childhood to the growth phase of its adolescence. During those tempestuous years the growth of lenocracy can rarely keep up with the growth in the production of goods and services, and so nobody minds the lenocrats much; very often, too, at this stage they still provide some kind of service or other in exchange for their cut.

All this has to be paid for out of what’s left of the productive economy.

As maturity arrives and the production of goods and services slows and peaks, however, lenocracy keeps growing.  This produces the illusion of continued economic growth, since there is always more money changing hands and more people busy at allegedly productive work, but services come to predominate over goods.  Most of the “services” in question are useless to individuals, and have value only in an ever-expanding bureacratic sphere in which public and private bureaucrats become increasingly indistinguishable.  Inflation comes into the picture as the currency is debased to keep money flowing to the lenocrats in the absence of productive activity.  So you end up with the classic predicament of a civilization in its terminal years, full of bustling bureaucracies busy with whatever ritual activities occupy their time—making offerings to Isis and Ra in ancient Egypt, circulating memos in modern America—while essential systems come slowly apart under an ever-weightier burden of malign neglect.

It’s the behavior of the ordinary people in terminal societies like these that bears close attention here. The greater the share of wealth taken by the privileged lenocratic classes, the less reason anyone else has to participate in the system at all, and so more and more people stop participating.  There are many ways they can do this. Very often they stop having children, since the sheer economic burden of raising a child in a terminal lenocracy becomes a massive disincentive to reproduction. Very often, too, they embrace new religious movements of the sort that glorify poverty, celibacy, and nonparticipation in the cultural and economic life of the lenocracy.  It’s not accidental that monasticism, for example, became wildly popular in late Roman times, or at several equivalent periods in Indian and Chinese history; to become a monk or a nun is among other things to extend a decorous but unmistakable middle finger toward a society that demands too much and gives too little in return.

It’s certainly one way to opt out of a failing lenocracy.

Yet there are less drastic ways of doing the same thing, and most of them amount to finding some route out of market economies that have been rigged to the disadvantage of anybody but the lenocratic elite. There are many kinds of economies, after all, that don’t rely on market exchanges. Any good or service that you provide for yourself is outside the market economy.  So is any good or service that members of a family provide for one another. So, in effect, is any good or service that you provide directly to someone else for some nonfinancial consideration. It’s from this latter form of exchange that feudalism, the normal political economy of a post-market society, emerges over time.

All through my career as a blogger I’ve had occasion to roll my eyes at the many people for whom “feudal” is an emotion-laden snarl word rather than a description of a system of political economy. A feudal economy is based entirely on customary contracts.  Here’s the peasant who wants to farm his land undisturbed by raiders; here’s the local warlord whose band of young toughs is happy to get out there and fight. The warlord pledges to defend the peasant, and the peasant pledges to support the warlord:  so many pecks out of each bushel of grain, so many days of labor in the off season, and when the warlord marches to battle the peasant grabs a spear and an old iron helmet and marches along with him.

The average medieval peasant worked only 150 days a year. And you?

The peasant and the warlord don’t bargain over the terms, and that’s what sets a feudal economy apart from a market economy. Those same terms have been in place since time out of mind—tolerably often the peasant’s great-grandfather had the same relationship to the warlord’s great-grandfather, and all parties in the transaction assume the same will be true for their respective great-grandchildren. Static?  Sure.  Unequal and unfair?  That too. Yet the average medieval peasant worked fewer hours each week, had more holidays, and kept a larger share of the value of his labor than you do.

We’re some centuries away from the point at which feudalism can be expected to emerge in the deindustrial world of the future. Already, though, the ordinary people of late lenocratic America are turning away in less obvious ways from a market economy rigged so blatantly against them. The steep decline in birth rates is one telltale sign.  So are the “Help Wanted” signs splashed all over most businesses these days—more and more people are doing the math, totting up how much they are expected to pay out of their own pockets for the privilege of being employed, and realizing that they’re better off doing something else with their time. So, finally, are the growing number of people who are working under the table, or who find their own unique ways to earn a little money doing something outside the corporate economy, or who drop out of the paid workforce entirely to become housewives, househusbands, live-in help for an older relative or younger couple with children, or what have you.

Which if any of these options might be suitable to you, dear reader, is not something I can tell you; it’s of the nature of times like these that one size never fits all.  You will have to make your own choices and feel your own way.  Still, I think you’ll find that the fewer lenocrats you support by the sweat of your brow, the happier and more prosperous you will be. For that matter, I think you’ll find that the more things you do for yourself, or arrange to have done in some way outside the market economy, the easier a time you’ll have of it in our troubled economy, and the more of your purchases you can make from individuals or small local businesses instead of vast lenocratic corporate chains, the happier you’ll be with the results.

The more burdensome lenocracy gets, the better collapse looks by comparison. This may be a major reason why civilizations fall.

There’s another side to this whole issue, of course. Just as a pimp can’t survive without the sex workers he exploits, while they can survive very well without him, the lenocracy depends for its survival on the willingness of ordinary people to keep supporting it by their purchases, their labor, and their loyalty.  Whether or not you continue to give it that support—why, that, too, is something you will have to decide for yourself.

296 Comments

  1. Greetings ADJMG!

    I think it’s obvious that the lenocracy will resist by mandating a blockchain based digital currency that allows every transaction to be traced. That’s part of my job, already. I work in a financial institution searching for money laundering, most any use of cash is automatically suspect.
    What do you think, pieces of eight will make a comeback?

  2. I’ve been enjoying some of Ted Gioia’s writings on music and culture since someone first posted to his substack here (thank you!) … his latest post had me thinking of your recent posts, and made me wonder if he is reading you:

    “We’ve reached a point where even the people in power at the top of the industry want to bypass the system. Even the gatekeepers are sick of dealing with gatekeepers. That’s how bad it’s gotten.” -Ted Gioia

    https://www.honest-broker.com/p/why-creatives-will-win-by-thinking

    Just thought I’d share that…

  3. The fastest growing service business in my neck of the woods are food carts ( trucks). In some parts of the country you mostly find these on the street, where they move around, or park on the same corner everyday. Around Here ( Metro Portland) they are usually found in pods. Some landowner with a spare parking lot rents out part or all of the spaces to food trucks. These pods have slowly evolved to become more elaborate with individual power, water and sewer hookups for each movie vendor. Often a decorative fence surrounds the place for after hours security and in the latest development in the last couple years, bathrooms and covered patio with a beer and wine vendor.
    As the brick and mortar restaurant business becomes more difficult with inflation and lenocracy, this seems to be the only thriving model. The big reason is that puts everything on a small enough scale for the owner of the food cart (truck) that they can do it all themselves without employees and the attendant lenocratic clown show that goes with having “official” employees today. They can own the truck and pay a small rent each month that is usually manageable enough they can pick their own hours. Some can make enough income just being open around the lunch hour, others just serve breakfast until the food runs out and they close up and move on to other activities for the day.
    Interestingly up until a few years ago these Non-Permanent restaurants were illegal in the county I am in ( while being common in neighboring Portland) due to pressure from brick and mortar restaurants. But somehow the overwhelming economic advantages of the model won out and the laws were eliminated ( rare I know) and the carts multiplied like bunnies. Right now there are two new pods within walking distance of my house, and two “super deluxe” ones under construction nearby.
    The best thing is that they give opportunities to new immigrants, young people, and even part time retirees. One of my favorite ones is run by an old Scottish guy In a small converted travel trailer. Of course,he serves authentic Fish and Chips and only uses the traditional fish of his native country. ” No bloody cod here, you will have haddock and like it!

  4. For the past decade or so I have been telling every young person I encounter that “The future of employment is self employment”. I rock back in my rocker and wave my cane and tell them that prior to the 1980s, there weren’t just a handful of monopolistic behemoths providing goods, services, etc. But that there were more independent, family owned businesses than multinationals, private equity groups and franchises. And that the money that people spent stayed and circulated within their town, their state, their region, etc., raising all local boats. (How selfish and discriminatory! Think of the shareholders!) Having come to adult consciousness after the corporate takeover of everything in the US they can’t imagine it. And they believe that “what is will always be”, and sadly that “safe and same” is better. I do hope that changes soon.

  5. Seems like some of the lenocratic fast-food chains you mentioned are already suffering the consequences of a shift away from their business practices:

    https://www.nbcnews.com/business/consumer/red-lobster-closing-50-locations-what-cities-why-rcna152159

    Red Lobster is closing over 50 locations, about 15% of their total. Considering all the talk you hear nowadays about how expensive fast food is and how fewer and fewer people can afford to eat out, it’s not surprising, and I suspect other chains will start following suit in the not-too-distant future. How much of their decline is from economic parasitism, and how much is from steadily-but-relentlessly-increasing energy and material prices, I’m not sure. The fast food model is a product of cheap abundant energy, so I suspect it’s more the latter.

  6. Thanks for dispelling some of the dream. I need to figure out where to begin when explaining this to other people without sounding crazy. As Upton Sinclair said: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

  7. @JMG,

    > to become a monk

    I seriously considered it, but with three children in their early teens, it is not an option (yet?). I almost live like a monk, though.

    >This is why everybody I know who is thriving in today’s American economy is self-employed

    I considered it too, and indeed I have an interview tomorrow with a potential first customer.
    However, the differences with regular employment are not huge, at least in my niche. Sure, I get to keep more money and do not have to sign up for a sectoral pension scheme (that is how it works in the Netherlands; I do not think there will be a pension waiting for me at the end of my working life and I am not happy to pay for it). On the other hand, I am on my own for finding customers, unemployment, all sorts of insurances, bookkeeping…

    The few people I know in my sector who went freelance have all sorts of stress-related issues and generally recommend not to imitate them.

    Self-employment is more stressful than a cozy Dutch employment contract (you actually need to do some work and can get fired) and I would still be reporting to someone. I would also have to humiliate myself with self-advertisement or “networking” events (I am about as sociable as the Rancor in Jabba the Hutt’s palace).

    Finally, I need three different customers per year to qualify as self-employed, and changing work environment frequently is not great for social contacts and mental health, either.

    So I am not sure that I really want to go freelance, and I think that I will stay in regular employment after all.

    Of course it also depends on your particular niche. If you are one-of-a-kind and can dictate your own terms, it is one thing. But I am not that extraordinary and I have bills to pay…

  8. Such a timely article for me, as I sip my coffee and spend a little time trying to figure a way out of my corporate hellscape. I’m going to act, not just ponder. Hear ye, hear ye! I shall take my first steps toward self-determination.

    Refreshing info!

  9. “Any good or service that you provide for yourself is outside the market economy.”
    It’s no accident that the government was deeply involved in getting women into the workforce. A whole array of services that used to be done at home, outside the market economy, are now outsourced so that both parents can put on “professional attire” and make their living.
    So now instead of 1 breadwinner being taxed, you now have 2 breadwinners, child care services, more restauraunt/takeout business, lawn care, housecleaning, etc. etc.
    I say this not as a value judgement, just an observation.

  10. It’s been interesting see , mostly within the last 9-12 months, article after article in the UK right-of-centre media raging about the several million people of working age who seem to have left the workforce. At the moment about 9.4 million people between ages 16 and 64, about 1-in-7 of the UK population, are not in work or looking for work though this includes people who have retired at age 60 as many public service employees can do. Various theories have been put forward – mental illness as a result of Covid lockdowns, snowflake-like young people finding workplaces too stressful, gullible doctors too easily signing people off as too disabled to work so they can claim benefits, etc. Rarely has it been suggested that working for a huge corporation at minimum wage with scant progression possibilities, is a mugs game and more and more people are dropping out of the system as a result.

  11. John–

    As I wrote this, I am sitting at an energy industry conference (user conference put on by a major industry vendor) and the discussion right now is about future trends and challenges. It is all about data centers and generative AI, the need for double and triple current generation capabilities, all while decarbonizing, of course. No acknowledgement of resource constraints, limits, or conservation. I sit here and shake my head at the vast misallocation of resources and money.

    With the to this week’s post, I’d make note that the crapification of everything, we as a utility are seeing a decline in the value of the larger transmission grid while experiencing an increase in costs required to support it. In general, I expect “the grid” to be one less stable and less resilient over time. (And not just because of the present brilliance of replacing base load fossil fuels generation with intermittent renewable as though these are equivalent units on a per megawatt basis…which they are obviously not.). As such, one of the futures my utility is exploring is one of self-sufficient operations, that is, how can we serve the city as an electric island not connected to be broader grid? Interestingly, the city didn’t interconnect until the late 1950s, operating for nearly a half century as an island. Everything old is new again. At some point, it will be cheaper to carry our own reserves and manage our own redundancies than to pay for the shared resources of the transmission grid. I suspect that point is closer than many think.

  12. Every year I get more and more tempted by the idea of trying to become some kind of urban hermit. Find a small room, books, something to do that supports both room and books, and then just… see if I can find a kind of peace. I spent years learning lenocratic skills, as I thought there was value in them, and have spent the past 14 years working as a policy analyst in the system, until I flamed out and am now trying to build myself up again in a world that just seems to go faster and faster with louder and louder demands. It feels all so heavy, and all I want to do is crawl under my desk and hope it goes away. I know there are other things I can do, but I feel like all the vital energy has been sucked out of me. And yet I feel I can’t take a break to figure out a creative solution being of pressure, both external and internal, to be able to get that good job so we can take that good vacation and so I cannot be useless. But when you are not just personally burnt out, but know that what you do no longer has a point, its very difficult to find the will power.

  13. Since I was “excused” from my last corporate job over 20 years ago, I have made every effort to fly under the radar of any bureaucracy in an effort to earn money. I found that jobs like being a house cleaner were very tolerable when you are self employed while they totally intolerable when you are someone’s employee doing that work. Word of mouth referrals are pure gold and you can arrange to be paid every time you complete your work. Great for cash flow.

    I found that income from my craft work, calligraphy and sewing were not as well paying as cleaning someone’s house but I enjoyed them very much. I also run a pretty large garden with a friend of mine and we can and preserve a lot of the produce. Not sure if that saves us much money, but we do get first class food and we might could sell some of it with a little bit of effort that we so far haven’t been able to expend.

    Currently, my husband and I run an Airbnb lodging in the house next door. We purchased the house at a very low price due to it’s dilapidation and in order for me to get my money out of the IRA casino, I used most of it for the fix up of the house. My brother who is very experienced in this work was my contractor/builder and he did a great job. It is now paying for itself and while Airbnb is a corporation that takes it’s cut, so far I found it has delivered on the services it promises. Especially screening out scammers.

    I can’t say that I was totally supporting myself through all my self employment efforts and I have been collecting a social security check while my husband was still an employee, I was making a useful financial contribution to our needs. Now we just have to see if what I have learned through two decades of self employment and flying low will be enough should we loose social security or the national economy takes a dive.

    How nimble can we be? We both have skills that could be of service to many others and I think we could manage if we can avoid bureaucratic notice. Taxes will be the worst.

  14. I think the lenocrats also put wasting time to use on their behalf. Life in America is insanely complicated. Take a simple transaction such as you discussed, for example wanting to buy a movie. What service is selling it? Do I have that service’s equipment? If not, can I afford that service and its equipment? If so, can I figure out how to use the service and its equipment? If the service sells “my” movie, will I still be able to watch it? (The answer, usually, is “maybe.”). And that’s just a frivolous transaction that could be skipped. Transactions you need to live are equally complicated. Day after day after day of this leaves American minds too numbed to consider questions like “Why do we put up with this?”

    And this is just the average American. Poverty is a thousand times more complex yet, and for the poor, one misstep or mishap, can, literally, be fatal. I think it’s important for everybody, but critical for the poor, to get out of the system as much as possible. The growing real economy, mostly still a barter economy, could save your life.
    The situation may be as bad or worse in other countries, I’ve never lived anywhere but America.

  15. Thanks JMG for these common-sense suggestions. I’ve long believed that the enforcement arm of the lenocracy is not up to the task of keeping everyone in line, and so mass civil disobedience (along the lines of ignoring the various covid-era edicts) is a viable option.

    In the economic sphere, though, it seems to me that there is another factor at play in the near term. I can set up an under-the-table hamburger stand with no overhead, no licenses, no buildings, no stockholders, all cash and no taxes, and I still can’t beat McDonald’s on prices while making a living. Of course some of this has to do with massive economies of scale and the rock-bottom prices they’re able to pay suppliers, but it feels to me like the lenocracy is increasingly being propped up by a shell game of sorts that converts fake value (i.e. real estate and stock prices and investment dollars and government subsidies) into real value that pays the lenocrats’ salaries and also allows them to set consumer prices at a point that precludes competitive alternatives.

    That obviously can’t continue for much longer before it implodes, but in the near term it’s an added barrier to creating viable alternatives – particularly in the realms of food and agriculture where I am currently working.

  16. I know someone who worked in HR for a few years who told me that a lot of the “Help wanted signs” are actually because someone has decided that one of the best ways to comply with some legal obligation or other is to pretend to be actively hiring. This is also what drives a number of the companies to place impossible to meet standards: they want to present the illusion of hiring, and still make sure they don’t actually run the risk of finding someone qualified. It certainly explains why so many people have had the experience of applying for jobs they were extremely qualified for and then not hearing anything back; or worse, as has happened to me a couple times now, going through some elaborate process and then being rejected on some absurd basis.

    This is actually slightly impressive in a twisted sort of way: they found a way to exploit workers not just when they work for someone, but even when they are merely seeking a chance to do so. There’s a massive amount of time and energy which gets wasted because the people placing ads to attempt to meet whatever legal obligation or other they see have zero intention of hiring anyone, but still need to go through the motions.

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

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

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

    May Ms. Krieger’s hometown of Norwalk, Connecticut recover quickly and fully from the gasoline tanker fire that destroyed an overpass and shut down interstate 95 on May 2. May the anger and fire that has made driving in the area so fraught cool down in a way that benefits all beings. May all people, animals, and other beings around the highway, the adjacent river and the harbor be protected and blessed, and may the natural environment improve to the benefit of all. (update)

    May Christina, who passed away on 5/8, experience a peaceful repose; may the minor child she leaves behind be cared for, and the needs of all affected me met; and may her family be comforted in this difficult time.

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

    Jay (SDI) and his family are in the process of moving. May they settle quickly and easily into their new town, and may their old house find its way to whoever is best to care for it next.

    May Erika’s partner James, who passed away on April 4th after a battle with cancer, be blessed, soothed, and lent courage in his soul’s onward journey; may Erika be blessed with the support she needs in this difficult time, and be granted the strength and self-understanding to avoid unhealthy levels of darkness and despair.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  18. It would have been good to hear not just about the harried and overworked kid who hands a sack over to an equally harried and overworked drone in a fast food restaurant, but also about how the contents of the sack gets less and less satisfying to the recipient as the Algorithm’s automatic cut is prioritized over the drone’s satisfaction. It used to be that the difference between what was promised and what was supplied was made up in marketing gas.

    Now, even that modest effort is being dropped, replaced by the attitude on the part of the suppliers that we should be delighted with what little they provide, with the unspoken assumption that it will be even less in the near future. As more of the cream is rerouted to meet the demands of the Algorithm, the milk from the Corporate Teat will become increasingly watery, and eventually “the juice won’t be worth the squeeze”.

  19. This is why everybody I know who is thriving in today’s American economy is self-employed. The great majority of them have found niche markets that match their personal quirks and aren’t well served by the one-size-neglects-all mentality of today’s corporate managers.

    And this is how I make my own living as well!

    After years of having been the typical wage slave, over 20 years ago I started my own small (well, maybe “micro” is a better descriptor) business, based on two long-standing passions of mine: cooking, and gathering edible wild plants. I gather a wide variety of the wild berries that grow here in Alaska, and turn them into jams and jellies which I sell to both tourists and locals.

    Is my business, financially, a gold mine? No, hardly so. But it does keep me alive and afloat, and just as (if not even more) importantly, the satisfaction, and lifestyle flexibility, and freedom, that I derive from it are all immeasurable — and all are immeasurably greater than while I was working as a mere employee.

    Is this particular route that I have taken suitable for many others? No, probably not at all. But the point is that there are literally thousands of such potential avenues of self-employment, mostly contingent upon only the skills, interests, imagination and determination of the particular individual.

  20. Hello Ethan! A while back, private equity bought Red Lobster, so most likely bleeding it dry was the goal (it usually is). Sonkitten and I went to Red Lobster a few years ago—it was good, as usual. A few months later we went back and it was terrible. The PE takeover turned out to have occurred between the two visits. You may remember the subplot in Goodfellas where the gangsters tell a bar owner they’re taking over, and when they’ve squeezed out every possible cent, they burn it down to collect the insurance. I will never understand why this is illegal when rhe Mafia does it, but legal for guys who hang out with politicians.

  21. Dashui, if the lenocracy makes money too burdensome to use, people will work out other ways to manage exchanges. The abandonment of money in favor of nonmonetary economies is a standard feature of the last stages of falling civilizations — for a thousand years after Rome fell, most peasants in Europe rarely saw a coin from one year to another. They had no use for money in an economy of customary exchanges.

    Justin, that’s an important data point. When a system becomes so burdensome that even the people who benefit from it most find it frustrating, that system is not long for this world.

    Clay, glad to hear it. Food trucks are a longstanding institution here in Rhode Island, but at least in my end of this tiny state, the pods haven’t followed. I’ll look forward to those.

    Heian, thanks for this.

    Stink Bug, oh, it’ll take a while for that to sink in. There are still teenagers going to college, after all, even though that’s probably the single most self-defeating thing you can do these days.

    Ethan, yes, I read about that. The entire fast food model is hopelessly unsustainable and will be going under at an accelerating pace from here on in.

    Bradley, don’t worry about explaining it to anybody. Just do it. Let your example do the explaining.

    Disc_writes, it really depends on what you want to do. Some niches are not well suited to self-employment, but most people can thrive in more than one niche…

    Randy, go ye forth and do that thing. Goethe’s dictum comes to mind: “Anything you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now!”

    Joel, I’ve been pointing this out for years. Many, quite possibly most, two-income couples will experience a sharp increase in prosperity and disposable income if one member of the couple leaves the workforce and becomes active in the household economy. No, it doesn’t have to be the woman — I was a househusband for years, before my writing income got to the point that my late wife could stop working (and her failing health made that a good idea anyway). One income plus a thriving household economy produces more wealth, by and large, than two incomes.

    Robert M., yep. It’s happening here, too, for the same reason. I’m pretty sure the main reason the US government has basically thrown open our southern border to illegal immigrants is that the corporations are frantic for people who will keep doing crappy jobs for inadequate pay.

    David BTL, thank you for this! To my mind, it’s a very positive sign that your utility is thinking about decoupling from the grid — the more utilities explore this, the more likely it will be that some places still have electricity when regional and national grids become too costly and dysfunctional to continue.

    Allie001, if I may be blunt, you only have so many years before you die. How much of that brief period do you want to waste in your current miserable situation? Don’t wait to work out the perfect solution — find some stopgap if you must, but act.

    Kay, thank you for this! It’s good to hear from those who’ve found their own way out.

    Your Kittenship, that’s an excellent point.

    Mark, sure. That’s one of the things I was including in my comment about not trying to fight the system on its own terms. You can’t compete with the corporations in one of their rigged games; that’s why it’s important, as I also pointed out, to find some good or service that people want but the lenocracy doesn’t provide for. Those are the niches where people thrive.

    Taylor, sure, but it’s not just the big corporations that have help wanted signs out. Here in Rhode Island, at least, most businesses — even very small ones — have them.

    Quin, thanks for this as always.

    Mule, I could have added a lot more if I was writing a book rather than a blog post! As it is, this addresses a different point — equally valid, but not the point I was talking about this time.

    Alan, thank you for this. As I noted in my response to Kay above, it’s good to hear from those who’ve found their own exits from the system.

  22. Daniel Quinn wrote something to the effect that the system has robust defenses against rebellion, but little or no defense against abandonment. At this stage of the lenocratic trajectory, I suspect that they can’t imagine that someone would simply walk away. This has been a great series. Thank you!

  23. David BTL, here we pay for gas and electricity to one company called National Grid (NG). Which is a British company. Now, NG, so far as I am aware owns no stateside powerplants or natural gas extraction facilities. NG contracts with companies which do both those things. So that is three separate corporate entities, not even mentioning various brokers, law firms and the like, being supported by ratepayers. Wait there is more. NG then contracts with (more brokers, etc.) different companies to transmit the gas and electricity to our homes and businesses. So, at least two more entities plus attendant fixers. Still not finished here. NG operates no offices. For Luddites like me who insist on paying, and receiving a receipt, in person, NG contracts with a grocery and a drugstore in my town. AND, the payments are made via the absolutely unnecessary good graces of Western Union. The cut taken by each above mentioned entity, plus no doubt a host of others I forgot–who does own the grid?–would go a long way towards maintaining what used to be a wonder of the world, our energy infrastructure. To be fair, NG does respond quickly to emergencies, and the teams they send out are capable and experienced technicians. But a locally owned power company could employ the same people, probably at comparable salaries.

    Also, to be fair again, one of the reasons localities signed on with commercial power providers was to get out from under the nepotistic and corrupt families who all too often controlled what should have been public utilities.

  24. @ JMG #22
    Re electric decoupling

    I agree. We are ~90% the way there for emergency operations. If there were a massive regional outage today, we could light most of the city, though maintaining system stability would be rough sledding. We need to add some addition equipment and capabilities to smooth that out. I hope we continue to consider the longer-term possibility of decoupling completely and investing the $ we currently send to the transmission company and regional grid operator in our own system instead.

    At that conference presentation, the Singularity was, of course, mentioned.

    @Allie001 #13
    Re urban hermitage

    As I navigate my divorce, I am pursuing a variant of that idea, reevaluating my consumption and reducing my needs, not to spartan simplicity but more in the sense of being brutally honest about what value any given item or service actually brings to me. I’m finding that I require far less than I once thought I needed to be happy and content.

  25. “The greater the share of wealth taken by the privileged lenocratic classes, the less reason anyone else has to participate in the system at all”

    That seems to be the case in China, too. The “Tang ping” (or ‘lying flat’) movement is gaining popularity there, so it’s not just a problem unique to the Western world at the moment. I believe it is a consequence of industrial society overall; it just tends to turn sour very rapidly. So, probably, Kaczynski was right that “The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race.”

  26. My husband and I run an above-the-table small business, and while the regulatory hoops can be frustrating, choosing the right niche and some up-front strategizing can still allow you to keep a large share of the value you’re producing compared to employment. Employing others makes everything several times more difficult and also quite a bit more expensive, and has so far prevented us from hiring anyone except independent contractors.

    Excluding business expenses, our living expenses are about $9,000 per year for our family of three despite the fact that when we do buy things, we have certain values regarding purchases which can make things more expensive (we buy only certified organic at the grocery store, avoid plastics and synthetic fabrics, try to buy US-made, etc). We can cut this down to between $6,000 and $7,000 per year if we go into austerity mode, but so far have trouble dropping below that without really feeling the pinch. $12,000 annually feels like we’re living high on the hog.

    Outside of but adjacent to our business, we are exploring ways of offering equity (in our land and/or business) in exchange for labor as a way to avoid some of the potential financial, social, and ethical pitfalls of the employer/employee relationship.

    For those considering starting an above-the-table business, I would recommend the much-maligned Rich Dad series of books by Robert Kiyosaki and his associates. Take things with a grain of salt and probably don’t buy whatever investment he’s advertising on his newsletter, but I think he’s actually a really good resource for escaping the employee trap and structuring your business to minimize taxes and vulnerability to frivolous litigation within the limits of the law.

  27. The most easily accessible way to opt out of the Lenocracy is to start shopping second hand. Almost 100 years of gross conspicuous consumption has left mountains of stuff for the taking. I have a household and wardrobe far above my pay grade because I literally buy nothing retail. Last week I bought a few packs of boxer briefs and those were the first off the rack clothes I’ve bought in over year. The last time I bought something it was probably underwear or socks. Buying second hand *is* recycling, no matter how fancy the item is. Whether you choose to buy second hand Brooks Brothers dress shirts for $15 at an Estate Sale, or $6 blue jeans at the thrift store is up to you. Either way, you are better off, the environment is better off and, you are putting money in the pocket of an individual or charity, or at least supporting a small business.

    It does require two things. First that you develop a very clear vision of your lifestyle and your aesthetic so that you can pounce on “perfect things” when you see them because they may not immediately appear when you decide you need them. The other is that you embrace the required shopping as a recreational treasure hunt in which you are building a life, rather than “saving time” by mindlessly shopping. But those are things that everybody should be doing regardless of where they spend their money.

  28. Like Most self destructive systems a lenocracy is a feed forward loop. It is like a thermostat where whenever the temperature exceeds the set point, it turns on the furnace. What I mean by this is that Lenocracy creates more lenocracy nothing is more besieged by pimps than lenocracies themselves.
    A typical public agency ( I am most familiar with public wastewater districts) which is more useful than most, but has monopoly pricing power, tells you where and how you can dispose of the human waste in your house and charges fees to connect to the system. But this lower-level organization ( in the ziggurat ) has many more lenocrats extracting rent from them ( which then comes from its customers). Fully private business’s, while besieged by lenocrats can say no to some things like DEI, if they want to. But these public agencies are swarmed by requirements to do the right thing. Gotta have a diversity hiring manager, gotta provide counselors for troubled employees, someone complains and you are required to hire special “employment investigators” , and on and on.
    So each level of Lenocrats is bedeviled by more Lenocrats. You might say it is ” Lenocrats all the way down.”

  29. “It’s important here to remember that power is never an abstraction; it is always dependent on context.”

    There’s a synchronicity! I said almost exactly that this morning to someone bleating on about “white privilege” and how white people are always the in-power group.

  30. JMG wrote,

    Speaker of the House Mike Johnson turned on a dime and dropped his opposition to more funding for Ukraine and his demands for more border protection for the US after a quiet little conversation with federal bureaucrats. That showed clearly enough where the real power lies.

    I wonder what the nature of such a conversation is. I wonder where/what the threat is. Does the deep state member tell a person they will lose their position if they don’t comply?

    I also wonder why Trump went along with this.

    Jacques

  31. Clay Dennis says:
    May 15, 2024 at 9:40 am

    “No bloody cod here, you will have haddock and like it!”

    Here in the UK, land of fish and chips, haddock is considered the superior fish – less coarse and finer tasting than cod and priced accordingly.
    Hat’s off to your Scottish chippie.

  32. A timely post for me. I have recently finished reading How to Survive Without a Salary by Charles Long, which I discovered during my investigation into ERE. I’m curious whether you have ever read this book JMG, it was written in the 90s and comes at this exact problem from a “conserver” mindset, covering cottage industry, freelancing, and money-saving strategies like buying used. The author actually advocates for trying to prune your needs below the standard tax deduction in your country ($14k single, $20k married in the US as of 2024) so that you would not even be obligated to pay taxes. Although the information inside was dated in some ways (no mention of the internet, for example, and housing is not nearly so affordable now as it was for the author) I found it a useful guide to what sort of strategies one could pursue when attempting to “opt-out” of the system. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone here who would be interested.

  33. 💨Northwind Grandma💨🪻🕵🏼‍♀️🤡👀👷🏼‍♀️👩🏼‍🌾👩🏼‍🏭👩🏼‍🔧🚐📖⌨️💾🧾🗂️ says:

    Oh, good. I got my two-week hit of JMG this morning.☑️

    Thanks for this post. Gotta mull things over.

    Kind regards,

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🪻🕵🏼‍♀️🤡👀👷🏼‍♀️👩🏼‍🌾👩🏼‍🏭👩🏼‍🔧🚐📖⌨️💾🧾🗂️

  34. Justin, funny. I can just imagine an ancient Egyptian priest at the end of a long work day saying, “You know, I wish I could just spend my time writing some kind of messages for people instead of doing all those offerings…” But Sun Ra’s always worth a listen.

    Alan, thank you for this! We’ll be talking further about that next month.

    David BTL, well, that’s promising!

    Ecosophian, and yet a century and a half ago you saw essentially none of that in the rapidly industrializing world. People wanted to get out of the factories if they could, but not to stop working. I think it’s not a matter of industrialism as such, but industrialism in a post-peak environment, where the pressure is rising and the opportunities for human thriving within the system are becoming increasingly scant.

    Jen, I haven’t yet gotten a good sense of what my expenses will be now that I’m single, but I’m in much the same situation — I make more than I need, and live very comfortably at a level of expenditure many people consider spartan. Being self-employed is certainly part of what makes that work.

    B. Tidwell, I can heartily second this. One of the things I learned years ago when I was very poor was that secondhand shopping is your friend. It’s still my usual habit.

    Clay, thanks for this — that’s an important point and one I hadn’t considered.

    Chris, did they listen? If so, I’m impressed.

    Jacques, my guess is that he caved on the Ukraine money because next to none of that money is actually going to Ukraine. It’s probably being used to prop up the Enron-style accounting fraud that allows the United States to keep borrowing when nobody wants to lend. Similarly, my guess is that he caved on the border because so many people are walking away from low-paying, miserable jobs in the US that the country would grind to a halt if corporations couldn’t recruit illegal immigrants to do the work. The US just now is far more brittle than it pretends; it’s not at all impossible that it could suddenly go the way of East Germany if the wrong things happen.

    Your Kittenship, thanks for this — but, er, I do prefer off-topic links to be posted on the monthly open posts.

    Untitled-1, no, that’s not one I’ve read. (I wonder if Dolly Freed’s Possum Living, a 1970s-era equivalent, is still available.) I’ll give it a look at some point.

    Northwind, you’re most welcome.

  35. My family has made this transition starting in 2020 and it had worked out for us so much better than I could have imagined. My husband and I both worked in healthcare in professional positions that earned a decent income but we never felt like it was enough to pay our bills and we felt too depleted if we worked more. On the side , starting as a teenager, my husband developed his skills in carpentry, building and remodeling. He always hated his job because he just can’t bear working for someone else, it just isn’t in his temperament. In 2020 he was ready to completely shift and start working for himself.

    He opened his own building company right as covid started, but he got his first customer and he hasn’t slowed down since. He doesn’t advertise or market, people just seek him out. He does excellent work; the quality is just higher when the service is provided by the owner of the company. So more and more people find him. He has to say no to people now as he can only do so much.

    Meanwhile, I could no longer work in the nursing home setting. And with the pressure to keep everyone vaccinated in those buildings, it just didn’t seem healthy or worth it and now I’m a housewife. I think that’s the first time I’ve used that term, and I get pushback, because people can’t imagine that this is fulfilling or that I’m contributing. But I love it. I’m home when my kids get home from school, I get to be involved with their activities, we have home cooked meals. I feel like I’m just doing hobbies when I’m home – gardening, I have a community garden plot, keep the house clean and organized, we rent out a portion so I keep that up, and I help my husband as needed.

    I think about family differently now. We are a system that all supports each other and we are better together that way, rather than a group of individuals all working to move up in their career and ‘better themselves.’

  36. I wish there was a kind of retirement monastery.
    A place where you could do daily spiritual practices. and engage in activities that support and care for the other members of the monastery , cooking, cleaning, gardening, maintenance etc.

    Maximize what the community does for itself, minimize the demands on the outside world.

  37. @ Mary Bennet #26

    I am of the firm opinion that any natural monopoly (including most if not all utilities) should be operated as a not-for-profit, either as a publicly owned entity or a cooperative. For profit operation is only justified in a competitive market, which doesn’t exist for a regulated monopoly.

    Reducing consumption, then, is the best way to “opt out” in the sense of this week’s post. On the other hand, the management of a publicly or cooperatively owned system is also closer to, and more responsive to, the end-user. (At least, I know that my municipal utility tries to be!)

  38. Monasticism has much to recommend it, particularly for those that find themselves alone in the latter part of their life on Earth. The well known Brother Cadfael series of mysteries by Edith Pargeter (nom de plume – Ellis Peters) illustrates this point with the main character. I have been fascinated by the Shakers since I was a child and from all that I can glean, Shaker villages were a non-fiction example of the idea of embracing orphans, widows, and the elderly into a monastic life of work, mutual care and spiritual study. Many religions have multiple monastic orders but the one that most of us writing in English think of are the Catholic orders. I don’t know if you could call the Catholic Church lenocratic but I am would bet that Martin Luther considered the priesthood’s role intermediation! Of course there was and perhaps still is, a certain distance between the abbey system and Rome.

  39. The Food Conspiracy Cookbook: How to start a Neighborhood Buying Club and Eat Cheaply
    by Lois Wickstrom might be worth a mention here. Unfortunately for me, my neighbors are at the stage where they respond, “interesting but unworkable,” and insert the usual excuses for beating the rush by collapsing now.
    archive.org/details/foodconspiracyco0000unse/mode/2up
    In other news of making other arrangements, my collapse has led me to a job in a big-box DIY known for making a fine art of catering to homeowners and small businesses, the popularity of which lines up with the idea of ordinary people making other arrangements. Also, the (un-)surprising return of professional duty hand-powered tools I’d mentioned a while ago continues with the addition of lines made in the US.
    The suggestion of economic woe inspiring the return of simple tools brings me back to my question about the significance of drawing Ruis reversed when I asked my staves if my economic woes were personal. You pointed out Ruis suggests a humiliating end, but when I revisited it the entry in The Druidry Handbook, “harsh anger, that is, punishment,” stood out. This line jibes rather distressingly well with my daily observations of the working poor and floundering middle class, who would like an end to the absurdity and seem be moving from exasperation to the kind of anger capable of generating both destructive and creative chaos.
    Might you or the commentariat have made similar observations of mood or sentiment and have any insight on interpreting them beyond my thought that the light of the end of the tunnel has a great big cowcatcher below it?
    Rhydlyd

  40. David BTL #12
    “…self-sufficient operations, that is, how can we serve the city as an electric island not connected to be broader grid?”

    Your utility is not alone; I noticed this yesterday:

    “JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – Seeking to fortify defense infrastructure, the Department of the Air Force has signed agreements for groundbreaking geothermal energy prototype facilities at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, and Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. When operational, the new facilities will deliver continuous clean energy for direct consumption at the installations.”

  41. JMG – Would it be possible for you to include the post number you are responding to in your comments? I frequently go back to search for the question or comment you are responding to and a post number would be quite helpful. I appreciate that you have a lot of comments you are responding to and one more thing might be one too many! But perhaps I am not the only one madly scrolling up and down?

  42. This is a great series JMG.

    It is academic, but the dynamics of bureaucracy have long interested me. Bureaucracy is a fascinating organism, and
    bureaucrats are fascinating creatures!

    But I often mull Tainter’s Diminishing Returns. As an example, when I was eight years old, our house burned down. This greatly shaped the rest of my childhood, and still impacts my parents deeply to this day. Fortunately, we were not home and the neighbours were able to move the goats out of the nearby pen, so nobody died except my pet guinea pig.

    Needless to say, I am twitchy about fire. I always check the stove before I leave the house, and sometimes I have to check it two or three times. Let me remind anybody reading this to change the batteries in their smoke alarms—and if you don’t have any, get some please!

    Anyhow. There is a long bureaucratic history of reducing the risk of house fires. I happen to have recently googled fire brigades, and found they were established in Edo in the 1600s. We have property setbacks to reduce fire risks, building codes about siding materials and window penetrations to reduce spread from a neighbouring building.

    Basement suites are required to have egress windows. Large spaces must have multiple points of egress—many of these rules came out of the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

    And bureaucracy never stops. It is likely that all new residential construction will be required to have fire sprinklers in the not too distant future.

    At some point we end up pretty far down Tainter’s curve, with very high costs for every life saved.
    And, every statistical death is also a family, a community, and a network of relationships with a hole left in them by someone who could still be with them…perhaps if there had been residential fire sprinklers.

    Anyhow, academic. But interesting to try to map these things onto Tainter. Interesting to wonder about how to find more effective solutions.

  43. I feel like the opportunities for self-employment are truly endless.

    I just watched a documentary from 1984 in which a young high school student made a highly lucrative business out of house parties — yes, house parties — of the wild, bacchanalian variety. When his parents were out of town, he would advertise the parties with DIY flyers, hire friends as bouncers, buy several kegs of beer, and charge a reasonable fee to the dozens of teenage party animals who would then show up at his parent’s McMansion.

    At a single party he raked in over $1,800 (which is roughly $5,300 in today’s money). Not bad for a Saturday night. And no pesky lenocrats to stick their dirty fingers in the pie.

    Obviously, that’s not a business most people could or would want to operate here. But it certainly indicates the many possibilities for self-employment. Just find something people want and provide it.

  44. Princess Cutekitten (comment 15),
    Some bit after the great post-covid re-opening started, there was a series of articles lamenting how women just were not going back to the work force and how terrible this was for these poor women and how women must be encouraged and bullied into returning to work (they didn’t use ‘bullied’, of course, but that was what the tactics suggested amounted to) . . . a few fellow SAH/entrepreneur/home school moms and I looked at each other, laughed, and said “Sounds like women finally had time to actually do the math and decide that having someone at home was a better situation.”
    I think they broke their employment system when they mandated no work for the low-paid but not quite bottom tier jobs for all those months. People had time to take a deep breath, add up their expenses, subtract their income, look at what employment versus non-employment cost, and the folks who got a negative number just . . . quit.
    Every cloud has a silver lining, right? Or ‘Tis an ill wind that blows no good?
    This is a good that came from covid: many people finally had time, for the first time in their lives, to stop and think about what they were doing.

  45. I guess that happens to anything when it just becomes some rote thing you do over and over again. (Instead of a ROTA thing.) But I think the Egyptians, if they had to write memos in your average American office, would get tired of the drab surroundings pretty quick. Of course, they might be emailing people in hieroglyphics so that would fun. But if they priests were emailing people then the scribes might feel like somebody is overstepping their boundaries without getting a cut.

    It’s a complex life.

  46. Not that i disagree with your general thesis, but I’m going to offer a few counterfacts:
    When an oversized load ran into a railroad overpass on I95 in Philadelphia, the bridge was repaired in three days.
    Last year when a gas tanker took a curve too fast under a bridge (also on I95 in Philadelphia) and destroyed it, a contractor erected walls, filled the space between, and had the road open again in ten days. Now, about a year later, the finishing touches on the replacement bridges are almost complete.
    It took three weeks for the wreckage of the F. S. Key bridge in Baltimore to be cleared enough to allow smaller vessels through. The Dali was moved last week and it is expected the channel will be completely clear by the end of May.
    We still have the capability to react quickly and effectively to emergencies when we so desire – it’s day-to-day living that’s clogged with lenocrats to the point of thrombosis!

  47. Here on the central CA coast, i see that someone has opened a barber shop in the camper shell of his truck. It looks very pleasant inside, and he always seems to have people hanging out and chatting and petting his lovely dog, and, I assume, enough getting haircuts to keep going. I don’t know what he charges. I get my hair cut in Mexico and just trim above my ears or get a friend to do it when i am up here.
    There are a lot of food trucks in the ag areas of the interior valleys. Here on the coast I don’t see many food trucks, but there are a lot of pop up restaurants starting, where they will have use of the facilities for one or two days per week. i am not sure of their logistics, but it must certainly be cheaper than having to run the whole thing full time.
    In Mexico ,of course, one sees many food stalls or tiny places with most of the seating on the street. In the town where i live there is even a bar made of pallets right on the edge of the main square, as well as various restaurants and desert places. They often have their tables right in the square and there facilities right up against the side of it
    Stephen

  48. I find it valuable and sad at the same time to read people from around the world observing similar patterns.
    Lenocracy and corpocracy uses their rigged rule-set to over-regulate smaller business units (specially if you want to produce/work with food) and try to suck everyone (other business entities, consumers). They use the law, taxes, fines, market and financial dominance, corruption to siphon away resources for their own benefits without contributing to the maintenance of the same system. These siphons have already creeped into our current system of different loans, credit-cards, fees and cuts.

    Also all sort of production was concentrated in specialized factories forcing most of the citizens to work for the system but little to their own benefit. Instead of many independent, small actors few concentrated production powerhouses.

    It is still possible to find niches and self-employ yourself (or have an one man company and similar partners) and either work for other individuals or other companies on a per job basis. Industrial maintenance, cleaning are good fields with long relationships and returning jobs. This way you can still skip much of the corporate overheads and be more flexible while have more control over your business playing with the system.

    However, i also share the ops view on that the current system can not be sustained forever. Maybe sort of half-sustaining local communities could work. Some sort of local food production is essential on a community level depending on local possibilities. This could provide fresh, healthy local food without the corporate/plastic/transportation overhead and employ local people.
    Same community could support its own doctors, schools etc.

  49. I remember Possum Living; I bought a second hand copy out of a cardboard box many, many years ago while going to college in Santa Fe. There were some less-than-completely-healthy things going on in the book as I recall; rabbit herd living loose in the basement, excessive alcohol use, etc. The same behaviors now would likely bring the health department and social services knocking on their door. And yet the author seems to have done quite well in her life without the meddling of lenocrats: “Following her success as an author, Dolly Freed grew up to be a NASA aerospace engineer. She put herself through college after she aced the SATs with an education she received from the public library. She has also been an environmental educator, business owner, and college professor.”

    All it takes is an extended power outage to remind me of what I actually need, rather than what I think I need, but actually just want. Willingly or no, many Americans will likely enjoy a multitude of opportunities to discover the same differential for themselves in the years ahead! The decline of a civilization is generally bad for the elite lenocrats, but history suggests it can have genuine benefits for everyone else. Not least of which is time to think for yourself.

  50. As Jen noted;

    “Employees are a hassle, a waste of time and a psychic energy sink. You should avoid them at all costs. Your incredible secret money machine should have 0.834 employees — that is 83.4 percent of you, nothing more,no less. The remaining 16.6 percent of you should go for fun and rewind time. Spend much less time on your money machine and the job will never get done. Much more and you’ll be grinding yourself down.”

    From Don Lancaster as of 1978.

    The limitation of this is not that many jobs are doable alone or even in a family. For example the electric utility needs around the clock babysitting, and the number of components of that system suitable for hand crafting is very limited.

  51. I’ve always been associated with anti-capitalists, like the anarchists, socialists, communists, etc. Even though I do not fully agree with their doctrines.

    One of the many points of contention I have with them is that they don’t seem to eschew consumerism. Instead they just want to cut out the capitalist middlemen so that they can consume more, and they share many of the same assumptions that capitalists do, like that growth and technology will solve every problem and that there aren’t any limits to growth or human ambitions. Of course, not all of them are like this. In particular anarchists seem to be more skeptical of prometheanism and they tend to do a lot more gardening (which the communists mock as a “petit-bourgeois yeoman fantasy.”)

    In practice, most of the self-proclaimed anti-capitalists are just as consumerist and destructive as any other denizen of the industrial world. I think they would have more success taking down the system if they began to eschew consumerism and encourage others to do the same. It would at least be more successful than their current activies such as vandalism and fantasizing about bloody revolution on the internet.

  52. So there is a word that may interest you, which is at the root of the issue, the cantillon effect. I heard the word Cantillionaires earlier today and it described the issue to a t. So the shrot story is that the Cantillon effect, named after french 18th centuary economist Cantillon, is that the benefit of debasing a currency goes to those closest to the issuance of new currency. So in essence, when the Federal reserve is forced by congress to print up another gazillion, the first ones to get a hold of the new money benefit because they get to buy tomorrows goods, at yesterdays prices and todays delivery.

    Ie, they get the squeeze of the inflating money supply, and the further out you go from that lot, which is going to be the stockholders of major federal government contracts, so essentially Blackrock and Vanguard, the more you end u paying. So we poor suckers have to pay more for less as a direct consequence of them having had the priviliege of paying less for more through the cunning use of the printing press.

    Of course there is no “democratic” solution to this, as the pimps are not going ot vote themselves out of power, but there are monetary options, and what these have in common is that their supply is fixed. Gold and Bitcoin being the main one, but actually work and barter work too if the market breaks down. The market breaking down being that prices are no longer effective price signals, which is something that is currently happening with the dolllar. But that means that there is another option on top of the self employed one, you can try to get paid in BTC, or probably better a more private solution such as monero or pirate coin. This would allow anyone to shift from their local market to the global market through the power of the internet.

    Doing the latter, also allows the next item on the list on how to adapt, moving abroad. The entire world is not going to sink down into the same catastrophic morass as the USA once the empire comes crumbling down. Some places are going to benefit tremendously by attracting creative talent and have tremendous economic growth in the future, and it may be a good idea especially for the younger to work towards moving there.

  53. There’s a lot of relevant symbolism in a news story from last week. At least one person figured out a way to put an artifact of late-stage capitalism’s wasteful excess to good use, until she was discovered and evicted.

    Woman found living in Michigan grocery store sign (NBC News)

    I note that she refused referral to homeless shelters and housing agencies. I hope, and suspect, she has more rent-free lairs in reserve. When it reaches that point, who’s parasitizing whom?

  54. >one of the best ways to comply with some legal obligation or other is to pretend to be actively hiring

    “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us”. I think you have stumbled on the Soviet Murican version of that old pre-collapse saying. “They pretend to hire and we pretend to look for work”?

  55. I really appreciated Allie’s first description of her job, and spent most of my working life in the same worn-out way. I also think that someone else’s post about reusing things is very, very important. Where I live, in a small upstate NY city, there is a very robust reuse center where you can get almost anything you need. My husband and I always go there first, if we need something. An older friend of mine and I were discussing this very subject last evening,and she said “The first thing I did before I bought anything was to separate what I needed from what I wanted.”
    I hope we can continue this conversation on this blog,because it is at the heart of how people will survive in the future. It’s so obvious to me that we are on the societal decline path, where none of the things that have value to the general population (health care, education, etc.) don’t function well anymore. WE need to learn how to take better care of ourselves. Thanks to all of you.

  56. What does JMG & the commentariat think on the following:

    When putting out ones own shingle, how do you pimp yourself and promote your wares without coming off sounding like a soulless shill? What do those who are already self-employed do to get the word out about their business? What strategies does one enact in place of social media?

    Thanks for anyone’s thought’s I’m genuinely curious.

    P.S.: I’m getting to the end of the Harry Smith biography and his latter years in the Chelsea Hotel have me thinking he was living like a monk or cleric, albeit of Chaotic Good alignment. It seems to me the artistes of our futures could become Bohemian Monks. Voluntary poverty for the virtue of poetry and pottery, et al.

  57. Thank you for this!

    For myself, I am both surprised and pleased to have found that walking away from employment, clearing away debt, working for myself, producing for myself, entering into productive networks with others which happen to be chock full of non-monetary exchanges, together with a careful programme of minimising the prices (in money) that I charge to such an extent that no one is ever too poor to be able to afford my services** is creating such a zone of great comfort for me in my “autumn” years. And my movement into this zone of comfort has been “midwifed” in great measure, by the ecosophia/archdruid blogs, themes and conversations over the past ten years or so since I discovered them. 🙂 🙂 🙂 For which so many, many thanks.

    There is a wee wrinkle worth adding to this thought – “We’re some centuries away from the point at which feudalism can be expected to emerge in the deindustrial world of the future.”

    And it is this. Although anthropology itself was responsible for dividing societies into “types” – hunter/gatherer, pastoral, market, feudal, etc – and other disciplines, such as economics followed by dividing economies into “types” – gift, feudal, capitalist, communist, etc – it was one of David Graeber’s genious moves to point out that all of us already know HOW to carry out transactions and exchanges of ALL these types. Which is to say, no society or economy, even now, is all of one “type.”

    The feudal type of customary exchange (which Graeber called the hierarchical & customary type) is one that is STILL be found whereever people with clearly unequal statuses develop customs of unequal exchanges. A good example of this is the Christmas staff dinner my old boss hosts at a good restaurant year after year. Every staff member turns up, eats and drinks their fill, the boss picks up the tab, and not one ever thinks – I’d better reciprocate this favour by taking him for a meal sometime. Everyone somehow understands that the staff dinner is NOT a gift or a favour from an equal, which would drive us to reciprocate, but is a custom that emphasises the existence of the hierarchy and MUST remain unequal so long as the status differences are to be respected. The boss buys the dinner because the boss is the boss. The employee turns up to eat it (and enjoy it) because the employee is the employee. The Christmas staff dinner continues year after year, because once such a custom is established it is very hard to overturn.

    So, the point of this digression is to say, I think Graeber is right, and we do not have to wait until a “feudal” society or economy develop. We can already engage in feudal type exchanges already, and more to the point, if we put our minds to it, we will realise that we already know HOW. (As well as the many other types of exchanges we already know HOW to carry out),

    The thing that a money transaction introduces (and by the same token the thing that a money system takes away), as Graeber points out, is strict equality between the transacting parties. Such a strict equality is the only condition under which any two parties can make an exchange, and walk away from it as strangers, with no left over unfinished business. I can walk into a shop, exchange a strictly accounted for sum of money for an equally priced item, and walk away from the till as a complete stranger. The reason money – as a system – takes away the equality that it strictly imposes in every individual transaction, is that money itself is not a commodity and has no [qualitative] value. Anyone who can “lenocratically” insert themselves anywhere into any given chain of monetary transactions, including, but not limited to, with menaces, can become a non-productive leech in a monetary system.

    ** My slogan has become – “I’m affordable (quantity) but not cheap (quality)” 😉

  58. It’s a hard one, because whilst in the US, there’s a massive and diverse population. with government and bureaucratic systems still paper-based, or at least having paper equivalents, for many countries, the markets and population sizes are smaller, and the ability to just quiet quit, and get away from government is less easy. Other countries have also largely digitised their government systems, making it very hard to just walk away. That of course is part of the issue. The people that I know are thriving are those that have placed strong limitations on their main source of income, do enough to keep that job, and have a side gig. Often, the side gigs are supported by their employers and colleagues, because they may be doing the same. That applies at a local government level – because if there’s any form of government that might get through, it’ll be local government that maintains its legitimacy. There’s an unspoken contract there, and boundaries, sure, have a side gig, but don’t freeload on the main job.

    Also, in two couple households, ensuring you can maintain a family on one income is vital.

  59. From what I hear and see – inflation is substantial at thrifts these days. I suspect new customers are arriving daily.

    Being self-employed for most of my work life, in a field where employees and lenocratic contracts were required, it can be a mixed bag. I slept better, avoiding many of the bureaucratically induced moral hazards, and doing what I could to take good care of my employees. But not gaming the system (benefiting patients), cost me dearly on the income side. Dealing with the government and corporate bureaucracies, when I closed the business, led me to stringently avoid ever hiring again. Interestingly, articles on “Moral Hazard” along with “shortages”, are increasingly prevalent in both lay and academic literature.

    As you often emphasize, saving money and keeping expenses down is key. Few things help more than growing (and cooking) healthy food, thinking through priorities, and then looking after what matters.

  60. Interesting, thanks.
    Have you ever read Forster’s “the machine stops.” ?
    I’m currently wrestling my way through Quigley’s tragedy and hope. And have toynbees abridged books and bertalanfeyys general systems theory awaiting.
    Would appreciate a recommendation or 2 of “forbidden literature” to add to the list ?

  61. JMG,
    I think this post speaks to a lot of people right now in America struggling to meet the expectations of their wealthier parents who grew up with the myth of successive generations being wealthier. Do you think another reason that employment is difficult is that a lot of us “office fauna” are apart of the lenocracy that gets catabolized OR apart of the “unmaintainable infrastructure” that was built during the growth phase that is now being catabolized? along with ugly examples like banking and government lenocracies could also art and engineering be non critical things that face the same de-growth even if those thing are “prettier”?
    your example of small small family sizes as a protest reminds me of both the “Laying Flat” trend, and demographic collapse in China. In mono cultural societies I can understand how protest through non engagement makes sense but I think this trend is bucked where cultures are competing.
    For example minorities in middle eastern countries tend to have large family sizes as a way to bolster the numbers in THIER culture. one example is seen in Israel and Palestine both with highly fertile Palestinians and orthadox Jews, however this demographic trend is quite rare.
    Do you think the demographic collapse is a tragedy? or do you think it is a reasonable response at an individual level that is a more comfortable collapse than collapse through competition through war? Is the western world mirroring the same transition as ancient rome and other empires this way?
    Thanks!

  62. Definitely agree that the “abandon ship to the rats” method is a good one – I’ve always detested the coercive pressure to make everything accountable to “economic growth”.

    The most interesting method of walking away from the system that I’ve come across recently is exemplified by miss Keturah Lamb who is fourth generation American without a social security number. She talks about what that entails and implies in some detail in various blogs (just search her name), and most recently on her substack (https://thesocialporcupine.substack.com/). It’s sure not widely disseminated that it’s completely legal to NOT have a social security number (though impossible to ever get rid of one if you’ve already been snared), and to not pay taxes, but to have a drivers license, a passport, and a (non-interest-bearing) bank account if you wish.

    Something to consider, when figuring out a way (for your kids/grandkids, etc.) to wriggle out of the dying beast’s clutches.

  63. I’ve come to appreciate a saying from the Soviet Union, something along the lines of: “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” As to needs, I receive a government pension. Unfortunately, it has evolved into a source of unearned income because the payout is greater than what I paid into the fund when I was employed. So, to square away the bad karma, I bake bread and prepare meals for friends, tend neighbour’s gardens, look after people’s pets, help with renovations, visit elderly shut-ins, dispense cash to friends and family, and am always on the lookout for opportunities to make myself useful. I cannot accept payment because I would have to declare it on my income tax, and worse, doing so voids the karma points I’m working very hard to accumulate. To those who claim I’m taking away someone’s paying job, I’m always ready and willing to hand over any particular task to anyone who wants to do it for money. I know, this sounds like I’m a “Ms. Goody-Two-Shoes.” Not so. I need to wrack up a large number of karma points because of the dissolute life I’ve been leading, and as a senior citizen, I’m very much aware that I’m running out of time. Charles Dickens summarized this issue nicely in a conversation between Jacob Marley and Ebenezer Scrooge, in which Jacob warned his old friend that once one has passed to spirit, one’s options are limited.

  64. BOOKKEEPING

    Hi JMG,

    This post got me ta thinkin’.

    In the 1980s, I spent several years bookkeeping for our small business, quite enjoying it. Those were the days of being able to find software packages for the Macintosh that were high-quality in graphic user interface (easy to use) and low-cost. As big companies took over, all/most little businesses evaporated, including our small business. No bookkeeping necessary because we had shut our doors.

    Fast forward thirty, forty years to 2020. We moved to Wisconsin. Due to our then-new small business, I looked for a bookkeeper plus someone to do our taxes. No bookkeepers. Nothing. Nobody. Or least none available. Each person I contacted said that (s)he was only one person, and did not have time or inclination to take on new clients—they were more than busy, financially secure, and happy keeping their existing clients. They were still very much in bookkeeping/accounting business, but had closed their practices to anyone new. Years ago, they had hung out their shingle, but now, they were removing it.

    Now that WAS during Covid, but that was no excuse.

    In the meantime, bookkeeping softwares were either all Internet-dependent (they say secure/private but I doubt that), and/or getting hugely expensive (like $200/month). It was obvious they were ignoring neighborhood sole proprietors, partnerships, and mom-and-pop enterprises.

    The Eye-Are-Ess, state taxxes, and property taxxes are still around and hungry as ever to get any free stuff coming their way. (How much do you make? $XXX. Gotcha. We will take all of it except you keep five dollars).

    I experimented with several bookkeeping packages for the Mac. I chose one, and it turned out to be a disaster. I didn’t know it, but “the numbers didn’t add up” (2+2=3). The Eye-Are-Ess didn’t like that. We are just recovering two years later.

    I came🤏🏼this close to doing our bookkeeping on a manual, paper system I had trained on in the 1970—handwritten paper journals and such.

    While looking for a bookkeeper and tax accountant, I spoke to a LOT of people in the field—probably at least thirty local/regional people. I discovered that the phones for bookkeepers and tax accountants were “ringing off the hook”—others were looking for bookkeepers and tax accountants same as me, and finding the trough empty same as me.

    More and more small businesses were starting up, and they were in the same boat I was: nobody available to do their bookkeeping. What to do? The whole experience told me that there was ABSOLUTELY HUGE demand for bookkeepers, with nearly ZERO supply. 2024, this has not changed.

    I did eventually find a bookkeeping software for the Mac, one where the information of our small business STAYS on OUR computers—totally Internet-independent. Which does not need to be updated. And affordable. It is a stupendous piece of software, and the numbers literally do add up (2+2=4). It was blood, sweat and tears finding the company that makes that software. It figuratively cost me an arm and a leg, so I would like others to not have to experience the same near-death experience I went through, so may I mention the name? I know you would rather not (hint, hint, M-o-n-e-y-w-o-r-k-s by C-o-g-n-i-t-o in New Zealand). This is for our existing two-person partnership.

    Anyway, back to my story.

    My husband has definite plans to embark on a second partnership venture within five years. In that, I will be doing bookkeeping for us ANYWAY, and with this new software, it is (and no reason think that it won’t be) a breeze.

    I enjoy doing bookkeeping. Once I get in the swing of it, I am good at it. I *could* offer bookkeeping services to local cottage industries, ones that, around here, are desperate to keep tax collectors at bay (just like us). This would be for the part of the beginning decline where I am still alive and cogent. My ‘bookkeeping’ practice would be as full as I want it.

    Bookkeeper is just the kind of back-office activity I am good at. At my age (70+), I AM slower, but in this, who gives a c##p❓— it is my time, with no-one looking over my back. “Slow” is in. I don’t much like people, but would/could get along with a limited number of clients whom I can pick and choose.

    I don’t know where this is going—I am totally shocked that I am thinking this way. I never in a million years thought I would contemplate returning to bookkeeping (other than for ourselves). But the need is great. If I am physically and mentally able, what worthier cause than to spend my “spare time” supporting (struggling) cottage industries in my vicinity❓

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🪻📖🧾⌨️👩🏼‍💻🔢
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  65. A thought-provoking article, and lenocracy is a concept that has so much to say about our troubled times. I find the theme personally extremely relevant as, after some 20 years struggling at the lower echelons of the system, I am now leaving it somewhat involuntarily. I would like to add to some of the topic raised.

    As discussed, lenocracy draws people in against their own better interests by providing them withsomething they want. For me, and realising that this will sound awfully snobish, it is a certain refinement of spirit. While this wouldn’t be obvious to anyone reading the comments on this blog which are universally well-informed, knowledgeable and brimming with ideas, in my experience similar conversations in real life only happen with people who have spent too much time in formal education and usually have no practical skills whatsoever (in fact, just like me). For example, some topics in which I have been interested in recently are Montaigne, qigong and indie folk – all hopelessly middle-class, and none of which I can talk about with the lady who sells me eggs.

    Another point from the article is that being outside of the system pushes people towards celibacy, and this has certainly been my experience. My serious relationships all broke down because I could not meet my partners’ need for security (underpinned by social status and wealth) even while I was clinging to middle-class respectability, and with that effort behind, I guess monastery beckons.

    How does one meet deep-seated needs for companionship and intelectual stimulation outside of the lenocratic system?

  66. I think it is all about the reward/punishment system of society. The lenocrats are most likely useful pawns at the moment to the powers to be, but once things hit the ‘great reset’, they will be shoved aside for a more open outlook of mafia control, without any attempt to hide its face-sided operations.

    It would make sense that they would not panic over our economic/political collapse, because both too many people are blind to who they are, and what they are doing, but also because they know that society follows the reward/punishment system in place of social values. Keep the social values dead, and you keep them subservient to the rewards/punishment outflow, which does not have to follow any normal logic or reasoning whatsoever, just enough predictability to keep the masses ‘herd’ moving in a general direction. Deviations in the herd’s form does not matter as long as it is in eternal reaction mode, and where nothing changes without a power-to-be approved stamp (reservation of veto power).

    The only way people can end this effort is to either split off into different less-predictable herds, or to restore social values and historical knowledge (such as debt societies, as presented by Michael Hudson). Regardless a chemically functional and educated people are needed to restore our society, to build something sustainable in the future.

    I was thinking that society needs a socialist-nationalist stance that restores control of the reward/punishment system to the people, just without the Nazi uber-bureaucracy and hype driven nationalism that ignores present conditions. However that might be exactly what the powers to be want, as a nationalist centralized state is the perfect nest which the people themselves work towards building, that they would love to ‘fiat’ their way in and rule the roost. I would guess they already tried that against the actual German nationals within the Weimar-Nazi society transition.

    Since any pro-nationalist movement is going to be poisoned from within, once it gains traction (with welfare-socialism being the probable fish bait, or shadow Trump), then it stands to reason that a fracturing of society is needed in order to split up the economic outlets, which creates friction for the centralization of assets (bankers/lenocrats crying in the background).

    What I am saying is you have to remove the ‘power’ to remove the powers-to-be, and no amount of political based movements is going to change that, short of a war of violence targeting the mafia. Non-compliance may be more effective if widespread, but they do not need us, our neighbors, or a general majority of the current population.

    Check and mate, illegal-soon to be legal-migrants by the millions. I think people often make the wrong assumption that our future won’t take a Racist-Bolshevik turn to the worst possible measures, when death, rape and torture are the norm, thus stealing your property seems kinda trivial, and not very exciting for the young immigrant male.

    While that would require a sustainable southern base of operations (Do CIA funded NGO’s precede military occupation/direction?) for the migrant invasion, it is of note that a influx of military over-saturation on a heavily pressed front can lead to huge gains and be a momentum changer when facing a poorly trained militia. They would not have to take all of america, just enough to forever change the population demographics, in order to keep the invaded region’s borderlands in constant conflict.

    While things might not get that bad, it *will* require force to uproot the migrants from their invasion agenda. And that is where the next forever-conflict will be born. We can see how that went for the last couple of decades: same disposable lenocrats, same money, different branding / same mafia, same branding, slightly shifting agenda.

    I don’t think any solution is possible until the demographics are settled out. While the mafia / powers-to-be can be deleted from existence at any time (Why are they not dead yet? I must ask…), the problems they created will continue regardless. Self-sufficiency and non-compliance can work only if our society is without military conflict.

    Pay attention to the rewards/punishment system, for one sad day a mid-level migrant warlord that supplies in bullets and services in death, might be wealthier than Bill Gates, and then not even comparable to the newfound riches of the Mexican cartels. Economics is the light side to the dark one of human conflict, this is one reason our mafia stays in power is that they peddle both sides of that same coin.

    What you export/sow you will eventually import/reap, and we have tons of warfare and monetary debt coming back in a vicious boomerang. On the upside, the middle east may finally recover.

  67. Another way of thinking about being self employed, is think ‘self invested’. As I look back at my off-track life, I have put more money into tools, of various trades, than into SS or savings. I’ve done alot of work, but no more than necessary, haha. All the tools paid for themselves, and the materials as well. The first key to my success though, was eliminating costs, expenditures, and spending on modern teck which all becomes obsolete in 4 months.
    It was a strategic choice to not become a father also. Not my first wish, but it became more and more clear to me, it was the right choice, especially given the cultural drift. Now that so many people are younger than I, I treat them all as my own kids, who have moved out and have their own lives, and their own victories and defeats. Each gets an annual nugget of wisdom — no more ! which I expect them to ignore until they think of it themselves, and in the meantime I lead by silent example. Also mostly unrecognized. Still write Haiku for myself such as:

    All the little chores
    Done. Hey! the trees are leafing out!
    Green grass stands to Sun

  68. About the steep declining birth rate, I think Japan and South Korea are interesting experiments,
    What do you think are ways society will be able to support age pyramids where 25% of people are over 70 years old?

  69. Hi JMG

    Self employment has certainly worked for me but in my case this meant going into partnership with a like minded person. This has helped as he is more comfortable with the selling and marketing of our services where I am better at the technical aspects of our services. These complementary skills have helped us grow the business whereas we would have found it much more difficult if we were working solo.

    We both agreed on certain aspects before going into partnership, work from home, no employees, low overhead and only grow to a certain point where we are not consumed by the business. This has helped steer us while working together

  70. Hi Ken
    Re madly scrolling up and down—thanks to JMG, I have a right thumb that can split boards.

  71. 💨Northwind Grandma💨🪻🌱🧄🍵🍳🧹🧵🧶👖👕🐴🐖🫏🐓🐄🥛🛌🪑👶🏼👴🏼🤕🤢👞🌞🌗⛪️✝️🧘🏼‍♂️📿🦠🧫 says:

    Ken #42

    CADFAEL

    I also recommend Brother Cadfael. I eventually got all the author’s (her) murder mysteries in used books, and still watch the TV series, time and again. The series streams, I forget the network, Britbox or Acorn. The series was shot in Hungary in the 1990s. Even though the film-style feels old, the storylines hold up, all set in 1300s England near Wales.

    It is refreshing to know that there was murder back in the 1300s.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🪻🌱🧄🍵🍳🧹🧵🧶👖👕🐴🐖🫏🐓🐄🥛🛌🪑👶🏼👴🏼🤕🤢👞🌞🌗⛪️✝️🧘🏼‍♂️📿🦠🧫
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  72. Ken #42

    > Many religions have multiple monastic orders but the one that most of us writing in English think of are the Catholic orders.

    There are quite a few monastic orders that are Anglican and/or Episcopalian. I didn’t know they existed until I specifically looked for them—they keep a low profile. There are some Lutheran too. There may be more, but they probably would only show up under their specific denomination.

    There is actually quite a bit of choice. They ARE around but get absolutely no press.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🪻
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  73. The Other Owen (#60),

    Funny enough, I do know someone who is doing just that. The way welfare is run here, he’s okay as long as he doesn’t get a job, but the moment he actually is employed (or turns down a job offer), he’ll be financially destroyed. The law only allows him to stay on as long as he’s able to convince bureaucrats that he’s actively looking for a job, and so he’s been pretending to job hunt for years….

    JMG,

    Oh, my point is not that places aren’t struggling to find people; it’s just that there’s a bitter irony to the fact that a lot of places are also faking that they’re hiring, and that it’s somehow impressive just how the lenocrats have managed to game even something as simple as trying to find a job and make it miserable for everyone. The fact that it’s making it so much harder to find positions at small businesses, which are usually much better places to work at, is just bitter icing on an already bitter cake.

    Also, in Canada, I haven’t seen any help wanted signs in years, and everyone who hires for any legal position does so through some online process (usually a job board), including the small businesses. I’ve heard from people that a lot of places, even if hiring, will now refuse to accept resumes in person. It’s weird enough that I’ve started to wonder if there’s some sort of weird law or regulation in place that makes it necessary for anyone hiring legally to use the internet and avoid advertising in the local area.

    The “Now hiring” signs are actually one of the many subtle differences I notice when I visit family in the States. I’m not sure if your employment market is suffering more than ours, or if there’s something else happening, but it is an odd difference.

  74. Tamar, thank you for this! A heartening story; I hope it inspires others.

    Dobbs, it’s an intriguing thought.

    Untitled-1, glad to hear it. Thank you!

    Ken, if the Shakers had the option of lay membership for non-celibates they’d probably still be around. I wrote about that (and some other familiar themes) here:

    https://thearchdruidreport-archive.200605.xyz/2013/10/reinventing-square-wheels.html

    My guess is that monasticism is going to become increasingly attractive in the years ahead. Who knows, somebody might revive the Shakers.

    Rhydlyd, now there’s a blast from the past! I’m familiar with the book. As for Ruis, well, that may also be an issue. Right now what I see in most Americans is hopeless misery rather than rage, but it’s always possible that could change — in which case, watch out.

    Ken, I’ve tried that several times and it always ends up looking as though I’m addressing numbers rather than people. One trick that many people seem to use with good results is to have two browser windows open and page along that way.

    Ruben, and you also get to the point at which the real returns are not those that are on the label. Many of the earlier fire-related code requirements were in fact intended to save lives and property. Many of the more recent ones are there to boost the price of new construction so that real estate continues to rise in price, thus allowing banks and holding corporations to claim increases in value.

    Samuel, well, if somebody had told me that I’d be making a good share of my income from subscribers to my political astrology predictions, I’d have wondered what they were smoking. There are indeed a vast number of unexpected niches out there.

    Justin, on second thought, they had plenty of memos —

    — but as you noted, it wasn’t the priests who were writing them.

    Roldy, oh, it depends on where you are. Here in Rhode Island we have the ongoing debacle of the main bridge carrying I-195 across the Seekonk River, an important regional artery, which is structurally unsafe and is the subject of frantic repair efforts that don’t seem to be accomplishing much. And of course there’s the production of munitions for Ukraine…

    Stephen, good for the barber! That’s ingenious.

    Eutaxpayer, I think for a lot of people the change will have to wait until the system breaks down, as of course it will. In the meantime, there are niches for those of us who choose to use them.

    Ken, oh, it has its issues, but that’s true of everything of the kind. As for the benefits of decline — why, yes, and I’ll be talking about those at length in due time.

    Siliconguy, sure, but as lenocracy moves into its terminal stages those jobs will simply stop being done, and will be replaced in the process of technological contraction by jobs better suited to small scale production, simply because that’s what will be available.

    Enjoyer, they don’t want to take down the system, they want to take it over, and scoop the benefits themselves. Marxism claims to be against class hierarchy but that’s pure pretense — in practice, it’s all about elbowing the existing ruling class out of the way and taking its place.

    Quift, thanks for this. I hadn’t encountered the Cantillon effect, and it’s a useful concept. (You’ll notice I deleted a bit from one sentence, btw; anything that comes across as though you’re advocating illegal activity needs to be left out, for my protection and that of my readers.)

    Walt, yes, I read about that! She’s a pioneer of the salvage lifestyle; I hope she finds a new lair — and I hope its notional owners are smart enough to leave her alone. No doubt they could ask her to keep an eye on the place after hours!

    Katherine, you might also consider joining the conversation at the weekly Frugal Friday’s post over on my Dreamwidth journal — here’s the latest one, and a new one goes up every Friday. Saving money and doing things yourself are the subjects of discussion there.

    Justin, well, you’ve seen how I market myself; it seems to work, though I have no idea if it will work for anyone else.

    Scotlyn, you’re most welcome. That’s an interesting point about different modes of exchange.

    Peter, oh, granted. It’s not easy — but then neither is continuing to slog through life as an employee.

    Gardener, that’s interesting. Most of the things I buy at thrift stores remain about as cheap as always — but then maybe my purchasing choices are weird.

    T.Y., please ask this on next week’s open post, where it’s on topic!

    Alex, yes, that’s also a factor — the lenocracy is already beginning to catabolize itself, with private equity firms playing a large role in that. As for demographic collapse, I discussed that in an earlier post:

    https://www.ecosophia.net/an-unfamiliar-world/

    TemporaryReality, interesting. Thanks for this.

    Claus, that may just prolong your life. Once pension systems start breaking down, as they will, your willingness to pitch in and help may get you a place to live with a younger family.

    Northwind, doing bookkeeping on paper instead of via software is the wave of the future. Have you considered letting people know that you know how to do it and will teach it to them? That might be quite a lucrative side gig just now.

    Soko, since I have Aspergers syndrome I’m not the guy to ask about how to handle interpersonal relationships, but it seems to me there’s a market here for a venue for conversation and companionship, which somebody could fill. In the meantime, don’t assume you have no useful skills. Does a background in occult philosophy sound like good job training? It’s paid my bills for more than twenty years now.

    Eruption, er, whatever. It seems to me that you’re crediting the current political classes with much more in the way of clear thinking and effective policy than they’ve displayed at any point in my lifetime.

    Mark, that’s a useful concept. “Self-investing” might be a phrase worth getting into circulation, in fact.

    Tony, by abandoning the concept of retirement, of course. That’s quite a new thing, historically, and can’t be sustained unless you have a surplus of younger people. I suspect deaths from neglect, if not outright gerontocide, will also play a role.

    S A, my late wife and I did that. I’ve had to scramble a bit to take over her share of the workload, though so far it’s going okay.

    Taylor, thanks for this. Here in the US, hanging out a sign has been a standard way to look for new employees all along.

  75. >Jacob warned his old friend that once one has passed to spirit, one’s options are limited

    On the contrary, the afterlife is where the opportunities are.

  76. >is that the benefit of debasing a currency goes to those closest to the issuance of new currency

    I’d generalize that to say that those closest to the money flows make the most money. There are some real morons on Wall Street. But they are rich morons. Because they are closer to the money than you.

    But you hit the nail on the head about how hyperinflation works, at least in the early stages. The rest of the economy does adapt eventually, and much like how fighting the disease is actually what makes you feel “sick”, it’s those adaptations that eventually lead to the wheelbarrows of cash trundling down the streets.

  77. re: feudalism

    Sigh. Feudalism is sorta like gold – it’s what’s left when everything else has failed and you’re on your own. Your typical feudal society was also almost completely autarkic as well. Because all trade had broken down from the collapse of the Roman Empire. I suppose if globalism exists as one pole, feudalism would be the other.

    I think I’d rather live on the equator.

  78. Katherine #60

    > My husband and I always go there first, if we need something

    Clothing is one of my fortes. Buying second-hand eventually ends because supply dries up. People who bought twice find they can no longer afford to buy more than the one they immediately need; therefore nothing gets given away because the buyer became a wiser buyer. Used clothing stores are filled with garments people “over”bought. By becoming a less extravagant buyer, people wear out things rather than giving away the one extra rag that had been lying around for ages.

    Like blue jeans. People used to buy two. Now they buy one. No trips to the used clothing store.

    Far in the future, little surplus will exist. Time would be better spent learning how to make functional-yet-appealing-yet-classic clothes rather than depend on unknown-others to make them for you..

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🪻👖👕👞
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  79. Hi John Michael,

    Exactly, taking a pay cut is the last thing on such folks minds. And so, the debt wheel has been spun – and wow, it sure got spun hard. And the thing continues to be spun even harder, as it has to be. That’s the nature of decline. Debt is where truth hides, it has become the nemesis. What do you reckon about that theory?

    And you wonder why after 2008 I went off and did something more useful with the time available? Probably not… 🙂 Thanks for this essay.

    Cheers

    Chris

  80. A gift economy is great, but it requires other participants who feel obliged to give in return or a social order that will pressure them to do it (such as a tiny medieval village). Particularly on American forums, I’ve noticed a nasty idea that swindlers or con artists are somehow ‘smarter’ than their targets, and ‘deserve’ their wins over the people they parasitize. A sort of lenocracy of the spirit, which isn’t surprising in a lenocratic society.

    Gift economies are still a great way of getting by, and people who will reciprocate are easy to find, but one must keep a weather eye out for the freeloaders.

  81. @Taylor,
    that might be a local thing. I’m on Vancouver Island, and we do have a moderate number of help wanted signs in the windows of local stores. Though some of them do seem to want you to use the internet to actually apply to work there, and there are fewer help wanted signs than last year.

  82. As many have pointed out, thrift shops are a great source of quality items at a cheap price.

    Another option (which I use for clothing such as business shirts, which I want to be new) is outlet stores. You can often get brand-new discontinued items for a fraction of retail, if you are alert.

    I have maintained my own wardrobe for years in this way. Some things (like, trousers) I have to buy new, since (like JMG) my measurements are a bit odd in that area. But you can find all kinds of items in outlet stores if you know where to look.

  83. Mr. Greer,
    A week or so ago a good friend of mine mentioned that Jimmy Dore had highlighted the scam that is dermatology.. as it relates to the um, ‘scaryness’ of the possibility of CONtracting skincancer.. and how often such practitioners charge rather large bank to treat the Fear thereof..
    Now, I have not viewed the above blog post, however .. I do know from hearsay that a local dermatologist was known to charge mucho $$$ to be examined, let alone treated..
    I personally have had some skin warts, growths, what have you … where I’ve applied the rather effective use of wart remover to burn the livin shale out of said ‘protuberance(s)’.. with great
    success! I’m approaching my 7th decade on this speck of a blue orb … and will deal with things healthwise going forward, on MY terms whenever, however possible, to the best of my ability – warts, faults, and dietary wants aside. (and no, I do not endeavor wanting to live beyond a natural lifespan). If I can pull in another decade before traipsing into the great beyond, I’m good..
    After witnessing the gross, rank hypocrisy that has happened in the last 4+years, what itsy, bitsy faith I had in the Medical/Dental Pimpocracy has vanished like a fart in wind, never to be regained!

  84. Kind Sir,
    Confession of a lenocrat.
    Quite possible Australia is further down the road than the US here. I think lenocracy, bureaucratic processes and corporate hierarchies touches something very deep in our national psyche. This makes the real estate outside of it very small and hard to reach. The system will not easily let you go.
    There are four sectors to the economy
    1) the primary or extractive sector where you get paid for extracting. This is where a lot of Australia’s money comes from.
    2) the secondary or productive sector where you get paid for producing stuff
    3) the tertiary or service sector. Here you get paid for providing services
    4) and finally the quaternary sector. I like to call it the endurance sector because you get paid to endure management. This is where most Australians work.
    I have no marketable skills outside the fourth sector. None of my talents, passions and interests translate into an income. Believe me I have tried many times in the past at great financial cost.
    So at some point i resigned myself to a (well paid, low stress) BS job https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullshit_Jobs
    I get a decent paycheck out of basically doing nothing.
    There are a million other things that I would rather do, but I like to eat and sleep under a roof rather than a bridge.
    To rationalise my shortcomings I tell myself that this is fighting the system from within.
    Dunno if it is true, but it seems plausible enough and makes me feel better about myself.
    Strangely, most of my fellow pimps still seem to believe that their work is of great value, vital to the survival of civilisation. But maybe that is just their way of maintaining self respect.

  85. Thanks for another inspiring essay, JMG.
    Husband and I cashed out a fair-sized chunk of our retirement 401Ks this year to pad out our emergency fund and to pay for home improvements to help us continue to age in place and/or help older family members who may need assistance in the years ahead. As part of this plan, we replaced our rickety washer and dryer. We are certain it will be MORE expensive, not less, in a year or so. Rather than go to Costco or another Big Box store, we went to a family business in town and were blown away by the knowledge of the sales person. We handed over a sizable chunk of change for a pair of American-made, built to commercial standards, Speed Queen machines. Flawless, friendly delivery and installation two days later, and we are blown away by how sturdy, quiet, and efficient these appliances are. Money well spent. Plus, it benefits people here in town and at the factory in the Midwest. No way would this have happened in Big Box land. It still makes me smile. We do indeed have choices about where we do business, and those choices, large or small, matter.

    OtterGirl

  86. I have had precious little luck making either formal employment or self-employment work out for me.

    But I do seem to do a fair bit completely outside the monetary economy and I find my money goes further than it has any right to. I like growing food. I currently have more salad than I can eat, so I gave my landlady a bag full this morning. I find all sorts of useful things by the side of the road or in recycling bins and take them home and put them to use. Sometimes I babysit for my landlady. I fix my clothes and keep wearing them.

    There’s no way it would be enough if my disability check stopped coming (all the frugal creativity in the world can’t fix having no income while having some monetary expenses), but it has allowed me to save a useful amount of money from a disability pension, which I don’t think you’re supposed to be able to do. I’m not even being totally frugal right now either – I’m taking lessons on recorder and voice, which I could drop if things get harsher.

  87. I’ve worked relatively comfortably in the software industry for over 35 years now. There was one startup that from an administrative/bureaucratic perspective was a nice break from the norm for a while, but my first job was at a well-known corporate behemoth whose three letter name is a slight offset from the name of the psycho-computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and my current employer is a well-known corporate behemoth whose two co-founders eventually decamped from high-tech with their legendary wealth after sniffing out greater opportunities for grift in sports teams and self-named NGOs, respectively.
    I can conclusively state the the corporate world is nauseating from top to bottom. However, it seems to have taken on a rather nastier edge these days. My previous employer leapt to declare me a federal contractor after our mentally deficient POTUS signed an executive order declaring that all federal contractors had to jab an untested genetic therapy falsely labelled a ‘vaccine’ in their arm (twice, in fact, according to the protocol at the time), so I nearly got fired when I told them to go do to themselves what I won’t repeat here. Then that company got acquired my by the above-mentioned behemoth, which requires all employees to undergo a full set of D&I (known to the rest of the world as DEI) training classes (radical nonsensical activism falsely labeled ‘values’) and puts D&I hoops that you must dutifully jump through into their labyrinthine review process that I still don’t fully understand. I came close to telling them what they should do to themselves also, but finally decided the aggravation wasn’t worth it, especially after the vaccine fiasco (in which I was left to dangle in the wind without so much as a word of sympathy or support from anyone), and that it was better to collect their money for another year and wait for courts to clear this up like they did the other matter. Unfortunately my current employer has relatively little direct exposure to the consumer market except in their games division, which is doing about as well as Disney).
    The point of all this is that I am well-entrenched in the lenocratic system here in one of the bluest of blue states. Five years ago I commuted to work, sat all day, ate out, and was getting steadily fatter and unhealthier (my few experiences of the horrors of the health-care system scared me straight more than anything else). Then thank God the pandemic happened. I’ve been working from home (an apartment) ever since, and even in my limited ways I’ve been able to drop out of large parts of the lenocracy. I barely drive any more, and go months without filling my tank. I buy mostly real food and cook it myself (my own mouth-watering pizzas seem to cost about $2 to make, so I can’t understand why pizzas cost $20 these days). I became a home brewer and bread maker. I walk, jog, or work out at home (doing mostly body weight exercises or using simple, easily acquired equipment) nearly every day. I’m about the same weight and waist size I was when I graduated high school. I don’t have cable and only a couple of cheap subscription services, and I’ve been getting rid of any subscription service I don’t actively need or use regularly. I really wish to some degree I could grow my own food, but that’s not a realistic aim at the moment. But minus the loathing of my current employer’s fascist tendencies and my state’s concerted attempt to nullify the second amendment within its borders, I can say I’m rather happy with life and with chucking as much of the system as I’ve managed to do.

  88. 💨Northwind Grandma💨🪻🧑🏼‍🔧👩🏼‍🌾👷🏼🧑🏼‍🍳🛏️🚶🏼‍♀️ says:

    Tony #74

    > where 25% of people are over 70 years old

    How do you envision the typical 70-year old as being?

    If the elder you are thinking of is like my mother-in-law, she milks the system for every cent she can squeeze out but, most of all, SHE DEMANDS SERVANTS: do-for-me, gopher this, gopher that (go for this, go for that). She is avarice personified—she was no awareness other than her primary needs—she, the hungry ghost—only she exists—others exist only to serve her. She has no pride or, for that matter, morals.

    Or if the elder is like me, I am out working at the maximum of what I am capable of doing. I do things myself—I have no servants—and when it is time, I plan to don a hermit’s dung-colored tunic and mud boots, find the wooden staff I have made for this purpose, walk down the road into the sunset🌄, take a sharp left turn into a field or forest and find a nice patch of quicksand to disappear in. Or just keep walking ’til I drop. I don’t plan to be around long enough for someone to empty my chamberpot.🚽I have pride. And morals.

    Or something in between❓No one stereotype fits even most elders.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🪻🧑🏼‍🔧👩🏼‍🌾👷🏼🧑🏼‍🍳🛏️🚶🏼‍♀️
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA
    70 something

  89. With due note of your observations, I’m seeing neither hopeless misery nor rage here in of Flyover Country. What I am aware of is a collective pivot from this’ll-blow-over sentiments to what’s-going-on-here??? attitudes. Anger and outrage generally follow. After that, the questions, answers, solutions phase kicks off… with tinhorns and crackpots in the lead, naturally. I can pitch Green Wizardry to individuals, but – as with Food Conspiracy – I get no spark and find the tinder needs to dry a bit. One thing I am getting is regular reports of liberal relatives having full-on tantrums – no, really, foot stomping, hand waving, bleating bumper stickers and thought stoppers in that high, tinny cornered-cultist voice.
    Hmm…
    Anyway – Have I spun too far in discussing the interpretation of Ruis? That it is the only clear association with anger in the fews might be throwing me off. I will dig out The White Goddess and see where she leads.

  90. On a slightly different level, if you were to have a significant sum of money in today’s world what would you want to do with it?

    As our host has pointed out going forward investments are likely to lose money. I am still trying to wrap my head around what that means from an economic standpoint but that is maybe for an open post later. I feel like I am in the middle of two worlds being lucky in my choice of careers that I am comfortable and can support my family but looking to invest in a future where in all likelyhood that money won’t be able to do much for the future generations. It seems like on an individual level I can use the abundance to build locally productive assets so while they might not generate cash it seems like they would have a good return in improving lives later.

  91. The US (and maybe other countries, but I don’t know of them), has one huge advantage – jingle mail, where you can cancel a mortgage by mailing the keys into the bank. It’s the single best reset mechanism available. However, most countries and jurisdictions don’t have this, you can’t walk away, the debt is legally bound to you, not the house, and given the high cost of rent, that simple legal concept keeps the whole system grinding on, because you can’t walk away unless you have no mortgage.

    Many banks also require update proof of income, and proof of employment contract.

    So yeah, in jurisdictions with lower rent costs, you can perhaps get away with it, or places where the mortgages aren’t as tied down.

    Across the old commonwealth countries, not so easy.

  92. JMG and Joel – re: post 10.

    This brings to mind the “Trad Wife” phenomenon. I think it’s the GenZ way of backing into an older way of doing things. There is a retro patina to it, but dig down deeper and I think it’s a realization that H/W both having “careers” isn’t working for a lot of people. It’s not just the money either – it’s a way to avoid living in a frazzled state for decades on end. If it catches on I suspect we’ll see the retro aspect receed.

    w

  93. Some thoughts:

    How much exactly of the current system is propped up on the backs of law enforcement and the legal system, and can only stay afloat while they stay afloat? Absent active enforcement, court orders and bureaucratic regulations are just pieces of paper with words on them… but what happens if the enforcers get priced out of living there? Cops and sheriffs need to eat too, after all, and they need to sleep somewhere, too.

  94. Gnat, thanks for this.

    Other Owen, no doubt there’s a temperate zone between them, but history tends to cycle from one to the other and back again.

    Chris, and that’s why such frantic attempts are being made just now to pretend that debt doesn’t matter. Au contraire, the USA is on the verge of economic collapse because of it.

    Kfish, of course. That’s why feudalism tends to precede gift economies: it has teeth. If you break your commitments in a feudal system you get your attitude adjusted with something uncomfortably sharp.

    Michael, a good point. I should find out whether there are outlet stores within my lacking-a-car range.

    Polecat, I learned that same ugly lesson more than thirty years ago, at the cost of a lot of grief. I haven’t been to a physician since, and I’m healthier than most of the people I know.

    DropBear, all the Commonwealth countries seem to have that problem. I’m very grateful for the gang back in 1776 who decided to cut ties with Britain using the business end of a musket. May I suggest that you consider picking up some non-lenocratic skills? There may be a sell-by date on the system that supports you.

    OtterGirl, delighted to hear it.

    Pygmycory, you’ve been dealt a difficult hand and seem to be playing it quite well. I hope that continues to work out well for you.

    Mandrake, fascinating. I wonder how many other people are finding it possible to do the same thing, and opt out of most of the system while still drawing a paycheck from it.

    Team10tim, funny. Thanks for this.

    Rhydlyd, I’m delighted to hear this. Those tantrums are a telling symptom.

    Bill, if I had such a thing I’d use it to get training in useful skills and acquire the tools to use them. I can’t think of much else that will retain any value at all.

    Peter, ain’t that the truth! Sara and I had to jingle mail our house in Maryland — banks were no longer issuing mortgages there, so selling it wasn’t an option.

    Christopher, very likely yes. It’s also a way to be rebellious, of course.

    Brendhelm, a fascinating question and, I think, a valid point. The defection of law enforcement is a normal event in the collapse of a decadent society, and is usually followed in short order by the collapse of the system.

  95. JMG #80

    > doing bookkeeping on paper instead of via software is the wave of the future

    Was it you who said that you don’t tease people? I know you must not be kidding but, A-R-E Y-O-U K-I-D-D-I-N-G? I would never have guessed. Nah, in my lifetime❓

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🪻📖🧾🔢✍🏼⌨️👩🏼‍💻🍂🪑
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  96. What do you think of co-ops as part of a strategy of walking away? I have been involved in a number of co-ops over the years, ranging from being a clerical temp at the Harvard Coop (which started out as a textbook-buying club for Harvard undergraduates and, by the time I got there, had morphed into, basically, a corporation with members instead of shareholders) to joining a little buying club that met once a week in somebody’s garage to divide up cases of beans, dried fruit, etc., and pick up raw milk ordered from a local Mennonite dairy farm. I’ve noticed that, while officially all co-op members are equal, in practice a whole lot of unpaid desk work and phone work is required to manage it all, usually from a little handful of people who end up being the de-facto leaders because they’re the only ones who know how things work.

    One of the co-ops I belonged to had a volunteer doing the bookkeeping; it went under because the volunteer had been embezzling for years and finally made one big unauthorized withdrawal and fled the country. There was another in the same metro area that didn’t get their incorporation paperwork right. A few years on, they got sued and the person who sued them was able to reach into the private finances of the co-op’s board of directors; one board member lost his house. Right now I can think of one that is faltering because the core people are all boomers and, as they age and their health worsens, just don’t have the energy to put into it that they used to.

    Nevertheless, co-ops can be wonderful community centers and sources for local products that never show up on the shelves of for-profit stores because they aren’t available in large enough quantity to be worth the for-profit store’s time. I keep coming back to co-ops despite their flaws and dangers because they attract a certain kind of people, people like me, and because they are, at least potentially, immune to lenocratization. So are co-ops only possible in an affluent society that provides enough slack that there’s an adequate supply of people with time on their hands who can work for free to make it happen? Or will the wide range of contacts and the neighbor-to-neighbor aspect make co-ops more useful than ever before?

  97. JMG #80

    > outright gerontocide

    I had put something about gerontocide in one of my responses today, but deleted it before posting because I felt it would likely go beyond the Pale. But no: I am glad YOU said it, indicating gerontocide is okay to at least obliquely talk about. I really shouldn‘t speak more about it (unless you were to dedicate a post to it) because I can fast go beyond the Pale, and I wouldn’t want that. I will now shut up.🙊

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🪻🙈🙉🙊
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  98. Ottergirl #92

    > Husband and I cashed out a fair-sized chunk of our retirement 401Ks this year to pad out our emergency fund and to pay for home improvements to help us continue to age in place

    Thanks for the mention. This is an inspiration. I will definitely keep it in mind as a possibility. What emergency is more important than using retirement💸 for home improvements to better age in place❓

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🪻👴🏼👵🏼🏚️🏠
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  99. “You win by doing the unexpected, and by moving the struggle someplace else, where you can set the rules and tilt things in your own favor.”

    Absolutely! The latest thing on TikTok is to block celebrities on social media. The “block party” trend is in retaliation to a stunningly vacuous short video by an influencer named Haley Kalil and the Met Gala, which cost an obscene $75,000 a seat. In the short video, the influencer preens in an ugly Marie Antoinette inspired dress and lip syncs “Let them eat cake”. Kalil unintentionally unleashed a deluge. Tik Tokers obsessively compared scenes and fashions from the Met Gala to the Hunger Games. Many are angry that celebrities waste so much money when normal people are hurting. They’re also mad that celebrities are unwilling to take Palestine’s side in the current war. Every major celebrity is on the table for cancellation, including Beyonce and Taylor Swift.

    I wrote about it this week, and I think we are on the same wavelength once again because I too suggest people go their own way. In my case, I am trying to give them magical means of blocking celebrities in the deepest sense: by being kind, humble, self-sufficient, thrifty, and grateful. I know you don’t follow celebrities but many of them have been outed/blocked for being extremely rude, haughty, wasteful, extravagant, and entitled. I am planning on putting this same essay on TikTok later tonight.

    How to Block Celebrities with Magic
    https://kimberlysteele.dreamwidth.org/118730.html

  100. JMG, and anyone else who might have an insight,
    I do very little shopping of any sort, and most of it, and therefore most of the shops , are pretty specific. Any clothes shopping and some other things, my first go to is usually a thrift shop.I have got some great stuff: some clothes for instance that I have had for years. I find , though, that some items I almost can’t touch, or if I do get them have to get rid of them after one wearing or just trying them on., even after washing them. . My feeling is that they somehow have picked up the energy of their previous owner. I think that a lot of men’s clothes especially have been donated after the previous owner died, and retain his energy. I notice that especially when I find a lot of similar shirts or pants together on the rack. Most others are fine, so probably that person’s energy was too. I would be interested to know if anyone else experiences this.
    Stephen

  101. Ken #46: “…include the post number you are responding to in your comments? I frequently go back to search for the question or comment you are responding to.”

    I do the same, and I just use ctrl+f to search for “Ken” or whatever the commenter’s name is.

  102. Another Lenocracy synchronicity in recent news: Belgium just passed a law allowing prostitutes the ability to have proper employment contracts – https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2024/05/08/belgium-sex-workers-employment-contracts-pensions-maternity/

    Among the conditions, the prostitute is able to refuse to service clients up to ten times in a six month period. If she exceeds that, her pimp can ask a government bureaucrat to settle the matter. It’s hard to think of a more perfect example of the Lenocracy at work!

  103. Hi JMG – a timely and relevant post for me anyway. My first serious experience with lenocracy happened over 20 years ago, when I got caught between a big financial company (green charge card weenies) and a big IT company (bigger Blue weiners) working on a contract to “fix” some problems. I was hired through a 3rd party contracting company and initially started on an hourly rate of 18.4% of what the customer was being charged. When things didn’t improve, I decided to quit but then the customer asked me to stay on because, “..you’re the only one telling us the truth”. So, after a renegotiation in my contract, I increased my personal take to 27.6% of the going rate, bringing in well over $100K. There were lots of fingers in the pie getting the other 72.4%.

    Just this week, while on an overnight 1000 mile road trip, I stopped in at a truck stop in Iowa and noticed a “hybrid” employee working the Wendy’s counter – he took my order, cooked up the burger and fries fresh, and was friendly and fast. Reminded me of the one person cooking shacks in the old movies. Tipped him $3 for a $10 meal and got a better meal out of the deal.

    Now I’ve got a new challenge to evade lenocracy. I’ve recently started collecting social security and now “make” too much to be eligible for medicaid as I’m in that window of 62-65 age range. About $500 bucks too much per month. Denninger blogged on that issue this week, warning those that are thinking of taking Social Security “early” had to consider the impact of super high health care premiums:

    https://market-ticker.org/cgi-ticker/akcs-www?post=251290

    I’m still looking into my options, but it’s likely I’ll be riding a motorcycle without a net, so to speak. I’d rather not gamble on my health (or more correctly, my net worth), but I despise being robbed even more. So far my attitude has been met with some alarm – “you’ve just got to have health insurance!” Ugh, no. No I don’t.

  104. George McGovern learned first hand all about lenocracy. He bought a hotel and then found out about the onerous legal and reporting and regulatory folderol foisted by governments. Ironic given his prior role. He wrote a letter to the WSJ saying that lawmakers never consider the financial burden to businesses.

    Then of course there’s taxes. No country worth its salt is without a ludicrously ornate tax code, the more byzantine the better. I’ve seen tax legislation where sentences run on for pages. I mean, how else are lawyers and accountants going to show us how cute they are? But then what has it got to do with business? Oh, yes, right, it’s the price of civilization.

  105. I think your description of a feudal system misses out that the peasants relationship to the baron and his friends is more akin to mafia “protecting” shop owners from “accidental” fires for a “small” stipend.
    Learning to grow food in preparation for societies collapse is just learning to grow food for the local warlord. This is why I am training now to be a petty warlord, and not a farmer. Setting up petty warlord weekend retreats might be a good way to sidestep the current economy as you suggest. For craft courses, etc, read “serf courses”.

  106. All,

    You might be familiar with the “What color is your parachute?” handbook series. It is a technique to find one’s own vocation, against the whims of the marketplace, very much in the spirit of this week’s blog post. The author, Bolles, is a priest, in a way almost like JMG.

    The books are pretty easy to get second-hand even here in Europe, so they must be even easier to find in the US.

    I read one of the editions years ago, and while I did not do the exercises, I applied its philosophy at some point in my career when I switched to technical communication. So I can confirm that it works. The method itself should not be anything new for anybody who has done any sort of spiritual practice.

    I was actually kind of looking forward to a post on this blog (or a book?) comparable to the Parachute books. So rather than “Walking away from the marketplace”, something like “HOW TO walk away from the marketplace”.

  107. I used to raise sheep some years ago, hopefully I will again in the near future. I would butcher some myself every year. Then I traded meat for milk from a local dairy farm. Felt pretty good.

  108. JMG, how’d you manage to rent an apartment after “defaulting” on your house? ( I maintain the concept of “default “ puts the blame on the wrong party and a better word needs to be found..)

  109. @dropBear #91,

    So true! That is my situation, as well.
    I have several interests that maybe could become a source of income. However, I am not nearly good enough at any of them. So I, too, have resigned myself to a well paid, low stress BS job. I, too get a decent paycheck out of basically doing nothing.

    My independent-minded ancestors from the agrarian age (my grandparents and older) must hate me from the afterlife. My dad, a plumber and jack-of-all-trades, probably scratches his head and wonders where I went wrong.
    But sorry, ancestors, this is all I can do. I have a mortgage to pay and children to raise.

    And that is, I am afraid, the weak point in JMG’s take on lenocracy: it might suck, but it pays the bills for many people who would not otherwise know what to do with their life.

  110. Hi JMG,

    You mentioned about how the share of wealth going to the people who actually do the work keeps dwindling. As it happens, these people at the bottom are the foot soldiers whose job it is to collect the rents and funnel them to the top. When these people at the bottom are being overworked and underpaid, they will start losing interest in keeping the system going.

    They may turn a blind eye to people skirting the rules, and may even give people advice on the sly on how to avoid paying the cut to the lenocrats without getting caught. Think of people like cops, municipal workers who monitor individuals and businesses for compliance of various regulations. When they start doing all this, less and less money will start flowing to the lenocrats.

    The other set of people who are very likely going to play a key role is the group of renegades who have been fired or pushed out of various jobs in the lenocracy. Doctors who have lost their licenses to practice for one reason or another might discover that there is a sizeable market for treating people under the table, and charging them much less than the hospitals. I expect a black market for barely expired pharmaceuticals to pop up once that gets going. Some enterprising individuals who are already in the business of manufacturing certain (ahem) chemicals at home might see the demand and expand their “product line”.

    It’s going to be wild.

  111. “Yet the average medieval peasant worked fewer hours each week, had more holidays, and kept a larger share of the value of his labor than you do.”

    Any books I could read to get more info on this and other stuff related to everyday life in the Middle Ages?

  112. John,
    An excellent article in the current series. The other day in the UK the major supermarket Tesco announced its profits this year, which have increased by 159% over the last 12 months. This is excessive by any measure. Clearly they have used inflation as an excuse to screw their customers with higher prices than were justified. Meanwhile they own the cash and carry business Booker, that small independent stores use for their supplies, which allows then to manipulate prices and prevent smaller stores from undercutting their prices. Meanwhile farmers are paid peanuts for their produce by large corporate supermarkets and can barely make a profit on their crops. Of course the solution for farmers would be to sell straight to customers. There is a little of this happening, but its a token gesture. The supermarket firms will ultimately collapse, as their business model will rely on cheap transport costs. As most of their products travel huge distances between supplier and customer, and as the costs increase, it will force prices and higher, and suppliers will eventually realise they can make much more profit by cutting out the middle man and suppling straight to the market. How quick this will happen though, is anyone’s guess.
    Kind regards Averagejoe

  113. Hi everyone,
    In terms of providing education as a non-market service in the future (for example as part of a home-schooling group), do you guys think dictation and taking notes from the board will come back as a methodology?
    If textbooks become harder to come by , it seems like a nice low-tech way of getting information across.
    Any other ideas on this topic would also be welcome 🙂

  114. An interesting perspective on the theme of today’s blog:

    “When you look at the profession of medicine in the US, an important part of what legitimizes it is its own hierarchy, with physicians at the top. Allopathic biomedicine is very hierarchical. And the acupuncture profession is trying to fit itself into that hierarchy, but acupuncture by nature isn’t hierarchical at all, so it doesn’t really work.”

    Overhead is too expensive for healthcare provided by small business owners, and acupuncturists need to work around that: https://workingclassacu.substack.com/p/how-can-you-control-it-when-its-already/

  115. @ Justin # 62

    “When putting out ones own shingle, how do you pimp yourself and promote your wares without coming off sounding like a soulless shill? What do those who are already self-employed do to get the word out about their business? What strategies does one enact in place of social media?”

    A good question, because I’ve never been comfortable “touting”. Occasionally I have written a web post or an FB post about what I do, but the need to spread the word is long past. I simply do the work for whoever comes, and then people talk to other people, and other people come looking for me as a result. I do the work to the best of my skills and ability, also invoking the guidance and aid of my patron deity of healing, and trust that people will be guided to come as and when they need my services. So far, my practice has grown comfortably – numbers that I can deal with, and never so many that I feel overwhelmed. I do think that doing the work well and skillfully has to be at the heart of the “draw” you put out. Anything else will eventually feel like a “cheat” to customers. If you expect your customers to be local, you do not want them to feel cheated.

  116. Some slight push back on the peasants had it better motif that has been going around recently. If I work 260 days a year for 8 hours it’s near enough 2100 hours for the year. If the peasant worked sun up to sundown for his 150 work days he’s right with me at 2100 hours. Granted there were many more holidays back then but I doubt your average peasant thought of himself as living a life of ease and plenty.

    I would make the case that we don’t have it that bad if it weren’t for the bloodsucking.

    I vend at my local farmer’s market and every purchase has 5.3% sales tax, 2.6% + $.10 per transaction for credit card fees through square, 4.5% market stall fees plus a flat yearly fee of $350, and if I manage to make any money I pay 15.3% in payroll taxes because I am self-employed. Then there are state and federal taxes on top of that. I track expenses meticulously so I get a lot of state and federal back but the rest I have to find a way to pass on to the customer without crossing that invisible boundary where they walk away when I tell them the price.

    There is plenty of demand there and our local folks are willing to pay the premium for quality items with a known provenance.

    It’s just the bloodsuckers.

  117. Ruben at #47 makes a comment about fire brigades first being establish in Japan in the 1600s. But the first known fire rigade was established by Macrus Licinius Crassus, in the 1st century BCE. Their practice was to show up at the burning house while Crassus offered to buy it from the owner. As the fire continued and destroyed more of the property, the money offered declined. Only when the offer was accepted did they start putting out the fire. Afterwards, Crassus’ slaves rebuilt the house, and quite often leased it back to its original owner. And so the lenocracy being part of fire brigades is not a new idea! There is no indication Crassus actually started the fires, though, so in this respect he was more honourable than, say, the modern finance sector.

  118. @Justin Patrick Moore #62

    (JMG, apologies, this has gotten rather longish – but it seems to be an issue for a lot of people, hence I hope this is ok. If not, please delete.)

    Justin,

    I’ve been involved in marketing things online for quite a few years. I’m not a marketing genius or anything, but I’ve learned a thing or two during this time…

    0. In the following text, I’m using “stuff” to cover goods, products, services, or anything else you might want to sell. I’m assuming you’re offering good-quality stuff, at reasonable prices (although “reasonable” doesn’t have to be cheap! Never try to compete on price alone – you’ll always lose out against the big guys!!). I also assume you’re a decent person, and will act like one. 😉

    I distinguish between “advertising” and “marketing”. Advertising = the obnoxious “art” of shouting as loudly as possible at random people, or to bully them, or to entice them, in order to make them buy your stuff. Marketing = informing the right people in a good way that you have a solution to their problems, and how they can get that solution/find you.

    Advertising is the radio ads which just keep getting louder and louder, and they’re never relevant to you. Marketing is when you get the new catalogue of your favourite fishing/hunting/sewing/beer brewing/gardening/… supplier in the mail, which you’ve been looking forward to for weeks, since you’re chomping at the bit to buy from them again.

    Also, I’m sprinkling examples throughout the text which I hope make sense – if some don’t, ignore them and don’t get too hung up on them. They’re just to illustrate the points.

    With this as a given, here’s my take on how to approach marketing:

    1. Most of the time, any “marketing issues” of small businesses and freelancers aren’t rooted in problems with marketing, but in problems within the people themselves. In the end, these issues can be reduced to a few fears: fear of not being good enough, fear of not being liked, fear of failing, fear of starving/going broke, etc etc.

    If you want to do marketing without bending yourself into an emotional brezel, you will need to work on these fears if you have any of them (hint: most people have). Get these fears out of the way to the extent possible, and things will be a lot easier.

    Btw, a lot of times, these fears already show in the phrases people use when they talk about marketing their stuff. (cough, “how do you pimp yourself”, cough”) 😉

    2. You first need to know who your target group is. (Yep, I know that “target group” is a horrible word, we’re not shooting at people, yadda yadda – and if this was your initial reaction to this phrase, I suggest you read point 1. again… 😛 )

    Be as specific as possible: E.g. you’re not selling to businesses, your selling to small, home-owned businesses in your area, with a specific setup, who are due to this setup suffering from regulation X and would love to have help dealing with the paperwork.

    You also need to be clear about who makes the actual buying decision. E.g. you’re not selling homeschooling material to “families” – you’re selling it to the home-schooling moms (i.e. they are the ones who make the buying decisions, not the kids or the husbands). Or if you’re marketing to mid-sized businesses, who will be making the buying decision? Figure that out.

    3. You then need to figure out what exactly it is these people want to get from your stuff.

    If possible, talk to people within your target group. And not just to one, but to a few. Figure out what they want, what they need, what they are looking for, what they might secretly be hoping for in stuff like yours.

    This doesn’t just include the obvious features, but also the things they might not even consciously realize themselves. E.g. if people ever had contractors who smoked in the house, or who left everything dirty, you’re a star to them if you only smoke outside, don’t leave cigarette stubs in their yard, and clean up after yourselves. Advertise with “we leave no dirty footprints around your house” or with “I clean up after myself”, and you’ll be miles ahead the others.

    At this point, you’ll also need a sanity check: Does your stuff honestly fulfill your target group’s needs? If not, you might be better off changing your offer, or looking for another target group.

    This is also the time to decide whether you want to work with this crowd at all. There are some target groups which I wouldn’t serve if I could help it – and everybody will be better off if you like your customers… 😉

    4. If you’ve figured out who you want to serve, and what they want, and that you, your target group, your stuff, and their needs and wants are a good fit, you’ll next need to figure out where and how you can reach them.

    For most local businesses who are looking for customers, this is _not_ social media, and _not_ SEO (search engine optimization).

    Both cost a lot of time and/or money to get right (seriously – much more time and money than most people assume). They are also constant work, as the algorithms change all the time, and in most fields you’re up against an insane amount of competition, most of which has deeper pockets than you.

    With few exceptions, I’d forget about both. One exception is e.g. if there is a local facebook group where your target group actually hangs out (!!), and which you don’t mind joining and participating without selling anything (!!). Then you could simply join, be a decent neighbour and human being, give tips regarding to your field were warranted (“for that wet wall, what kind of plaster/wall is it? If it’s X, you might be able to salvage things by Y, if it’s Z, you’ll probably need to tear it all out – sorry to be the bearer of bad news”), and they will remember you when they need a plasterer.

    For most local businesses, you’re better of being creative in your marketing. Thinking outside the box can go a long way with a small budget.

    E.g. if you’re selling stuff to small businesses, actual letters with hand-written envelopes cost almost nothing but the time to collect their addresses. If you cater to home-school moms, where do they hang out? The playground, maybe in church groups, and also in the second-hand shop for kids’s clothes. How could you reach them there? Flyers, bulletins, or maybe, if your topic is a good fit, an informational talk for a church group. Can you make a deal with the owner of the second hand store: they lay out your flyers, and you lay out theirs? Etc etc.

    Also don’t underestimate ads in small local papers – people actually do read them (much to my confusion, but hey, to each their own… 😀 ).

    5. Once you have some ideas of where and how to reach your target group, you’ll need to craft your message.

    There is a golden rule here: Your marketing is always, always about the customer, about their wants and needs. It’s _never_ (!!!) about you, how great you are, etc. Nobody cares why you have chosen this profession, for example. And people only want to know how long you’ve been in business to determine if your business is stable or “from here”. 😉

    On the other hand, you’re a real human being talking to real human beings, and you should do just that: Be real, and don’t be afraid to be seen as a person. E.g. if you’re doing ads in your local small paper, and you’re approaching an important holiday, you can totally wish all your customers a happy thanksgiving with their family and good food – why not? Or if you write letters, they shouldn’t come across as stiff and impersonal – but then you shouldn’t talk about yourself in the letter, but about how you fulfill your customers needs.

    (And yes, I know it’s hard to square both things – but once you read people’s marketing material from both angles, you’ll see what I mean.)

    This is where you circle back to the people from your target group you talked to in step 3. Which words and phrases did they use? Most of the time, you might be surprised to realize they talk about things in terms which you wouldn’t have used (or, to put it more bluntly: most of the time, you as the “expert” will use expert slang which other people would never use, and might not even understand… 😉 ).

    I.e. no matter whether you write classified ads, letters, flyers, produce a video, call them, put up signs, …: Talk to people in their own terms and words!

    6. Finally, you need to get your marketing material out there.

    Don’t stop here because you’re afraid you might fail, or because it’s embarassing, etc (if you’re tempted to do so, re-read step 1.). 😉

    7. Stop and assess:

    You’ll need a reasonable amount of eyeballs on your marketing to tell whether it works or not. 30 people is _not_ a statistic! Also, you cannot expect all of your flyers/letters/… to produce a customer, no matter how good your targeting and preparation work in the previous steps was. (And nope, you cannot even expect every tenth of them. If you get more than 1 customer out of every 100 people who seriously see your marketing, you’re doing good – continue what you’re doing, and refine over time.)

    If your marketing doesn’t work, this could be due to various things:

    Your targeting the wrong people. You’re targeting them in the wrong place, or with the wrong message, or in the wrong language/style/… Your stuff might not be what they want or need. The “offer” around your stuff (i.e. the way you deliver it, the format it has, any conditions or restrictions or …) might not be to their liking. Etc etc.

    I.e. don’t give up here – figure out what you need to adjust, and adjust it. Rinse and repeat.

    (Note: Most people, when their marketing doesn’t work right away, tend to think their stuff sucks and they are losers, and want to throw in the towel. Don’t.

    On the other hand, there are some people who think they and their stuff are god’s answer to everybody’s problems, and simply fail to realize that they have built a solution to a problem which nobody has – and thus nobody will pay for their solution. It’s up to you to figure out which category you fall into – but if you’re seriously considering this, it’s probably the former… 😀 )

    8. Finally, don’t be afraid to talk to people. Tell your neighbours, friends, former colleagues, sports buddies, church members, … what you are offering. If nothing else, it gives you practice talking about your offer.

    …..

    So. I know all of this is easier said than done – been there, done that, got more shirts than I care to count. 🙂

    But on the other hand, you’ll only figure out what works for you if you start trying things. If you have no idea where to start, try to follow these steps, and try to think like a “normal” person, not like an “advertiser”. If you think outside the box a bit, in a lot of cases it doesn’t take a big budget to reach the right people – especially for the kinds of businesses JMG is talking about here.

    Hope this helps,

    Milkyway

    PS: Don’t let anybody talk you into doing X (social media, SEO, …) because “you have to do this” or “this is what everybody does”. You don’t need to do anything, unless it works for you and your business. There are even businesses who (gasp!) thrive without a website. It really depends, and there is no one-size-fits-all.

  119. @dobbs

    ” wish there was a kind of retirement monastery.”
    This role in Austria is taken, inconspicuously and quietly, by the Krishna (ISKCON) community,
    that indian cult. They have one center near Vienna that is prominent among the indian community, the priests are mostly Austrians, as are some followers. They have a garden and facilities for people to stay. Wealthy indian families (as I saw) visit them for special festivities.
    A friend of mine stayed there for a time. Of course you have to show you really have a special relationship to Krishna.
    That friend of mine once stayed in Sai Baba’s Ashram in India (a controversial figure, while not infallible, definitely inspired by a higher order according to my friend).
    This community allows lay people to stay without necessity to fully join an order (like the catholic monasteries).
    I was told by one follower there’s one in Bavaria too, where they do gardening work and all kinds of crafts too.
    I was invited, but until now did not find it within myself to leave this civil life.
    But the idea you put forward is something I have thought about often in this life.

  120. The problem is that much of our western society revolves around the provision of utilities (power, water, sewage, transport, communications) where it simply isn’t possible to move to small-scale economic activity and self-employment. But that’s where most of the ill-gotten gains are, and that’s where the frustration of ordinary people is at its greatest. Consider: fifty years ago, the necessities of life, at least in Europe, were provided by publicly-owned bodies, staffed by modestly-paid but technically competent employees whose function was to make things happen, and sort out problems when they occurred. No-one went into such organisations, even into senior management, for the money. Moreover, a Minister was ultimately politically responsible for the services, and governments could be, and were, publicly criticised when things went wrong.

    From the 1980s, we had “competition,” except that in practice most of these activities are natural monopolies. Thus, so-called “competition” in electricity provision is simply competition between middlemen who buy and sell electricity without producing anything, and are forever pestering you to change “providers.” Ludicrously, much of the electricity in the UK is “provided” by EDF, the partly-state owned French Electricity Company, which buys electricity from the UK grid and sells it to UK customers. As usual, the idea with liberal capitalism is to take simple and easy processes, and make them complicated and difficult, such that you have to pay money and spend time overcoming obstacles that private companies have erected for this purpose. And because of sub-contracting, mergers, de-mergers and tax havens, nobody really knows who owns what any more, and no-one can be held responsible. It’s a liberal capitalist paradise.
    The only hope I can see is that these cumbersome, expensive and legally opaque systems will wind up eating themselves and each other. Already in Britain, after thirty years of disastrous “competition” on the railways, and numerous bankruptcies and safety scandals, it looks as though railways will have to be taken back into public ownership, to prevent them from collapsing entirely.

  121. Kay (and JMG, if you want to say what you think about this),
    I hate to be that person, but if you were being supported by social security while going out of your way not to pay taxes, it must mean that someone else was supporting you through their own taxes. I think that we should withdraw from the system to the extent we are prepared to go without the benefits of the system, too.
    Apologies if I’ve misunderstood your situation.

  122. Your Kittenship (#21), that’s a good point as well. Private equity firms are kind of a type of economic parasitism as well, but not quite the same sort as the ones I was suspecting. I guess if the lenocrats are like a parasite that stays in your body and slowly drains you without actively trying to kill you, the private equity firms are like a tarantula hawk wasp, quickly killing their prey to prosper. As for it being totally legal, I guess it’s a matter of how much money you have to bribe the relevant officials, and/or how useful you are to their careers.

    Kfish (#87), your comment reminds me of the discussions of game theory I’ve read in the past. Economic exchanges in a gift economy could be seen as a sort of inverted prisoner’s dilemma — you’re not choosing whether to keep silent or rat your partner out, but whether to reciprocate their altruism or selfishly take advantage of it. Experiments conducted with the prisoner’s dilemma seem to show that when the game is unbounded — that is, neither of the participants know when the game will end, or for how many more rounds it will be played — altruism is favored, while selfishness is favored in one-off situations. It might work the same way for gift economies; if you live among the same few people, you’ll be interacting with them more frequently, and so would have reason to stay in their good graces.

  123. A different perspective on looking for “help”, i.e. workers, and not finding it. Long story short, I tried hiring, to expand my small agricultural business, but failed and gave up. To those who said: pay more!, I replied that I would have loved to, but the system made it impossible to do so, for reasons outlined in this series of posts, and more. I would have been ready to pay people more than I made myself, but even that wasn’t enough.
    However, and this is my main point, those people refusing to work for me were those who were taking advantages of the “lenocracy”, not me! I was trying to produce food, an objectively useful thing, while they could afford to not work at all, or not do any productive work, because they were: supported by parents with very large pensions paid with public taxes, or spouses with generous salaries, doing “lenocratic” jobs in government or corporate bureaucracy, receiving unemployment or other kinds of subsidies, etc.
    If you don’t have a partner, friend or family member who will help you, and you are doing something that is very difficult or impossible to do alone, it’s very sad to be unable to find help and be forced to give up, while other people live large and act like they’re too good to work.
    So before we celebrate people refusing jobs, which is good in a lot of cases, we should also remember that some work does need to be done and if everyone can afford not to work, the few that do will just be exploited by everybody else.

  124. Thank you for this, and for introducing the concept of the lenocracy to the collection of useful ideas you’ve already given us over the years. This essay definitely resonates, as someone who’s always found the wage labor (and grade school) system bizarre and alienating and never managed to fit in there. I think the concept that you’re supposed to be someone’s employee is even more culturally ingrained in my corner of northern Europe for various historical reasons, including how strongly our postwar history was shaped by the Labor Party.

    On the other hand, I suspect employees are treated much better here than in the US on the whole, and there’s still a lot of both financial and real wealthy sloshing around the system. Or: we’re still a ways off from the fall, but when it comes it’ll be really ugly. (Not on topic for this week, but a potential shutdown of the AMOC/Gulf Stream could also deal a body blow to our cozy existence as a wealthy enclave on the imperial fringe.)

    Anyway, I think I’m the kind of person who might have done alright in a monastic setting. At least I can see the appeal, even if I’m only now feeling my way into more of a spiritual life (in no small part thanks to your influence) after spending the first half of my adulthood as a materialist. The main problem for me is that it seems like the Abrahamic religions and Buddhism are the only ones with monastic traditions of the current crop of faiths, and both of those religious traditions do very little for me personally. In the case of Buddhism, the vast majorities of its monasteries are also in Asia, and belong to cultural traditions that would feel pretty inaccessible to a Westerner.

    It’s hard to envision any kind of modern Paganism, Druidry or other non-traditional religions having the numbers and institutional weight to found monasteries, and I suspect most of the adherents are too individualistic (or dare I say self-centered? :)) to want one anyway. And one of the more prominent strands, Heathenry, almost seems to be an explicitly anti-monastic religion in its outlook, which is interesting in itself. Maybe it’s not a coincidence the original Heathens rose to fame after raiding a monastery…

  125. In the morning news
    “Head of the Mezha Anti-Corruption Center, Martyna Bohuslavets, has written a report in Pravda asking “Where are the fortifications?” She reports that millions of dollars that were intended for the construction of fortifications in Ukraine were instead “transferred to Kharkiv OVA to front companies of avatars.” Bohuslavets said the Ukrainian Kharkiv Regional Military Administration (Kharkiv OVA) paid out funds to fictitious companies during the construction and fortification of the Kharkiv region. ”

    And the Russians are rolling happily south, no pillboxes, no trenches, no mine fields.

    And King Charles’ official royal portrait is not being well received. “Some compared it to the “Ghostbusters” villain Vigo the Carpathian. Others noted the overwhelming redness of the painting;”

    I need to weed the potatoes. They just shot out of the ground this year even though I planted them extra early.

  126. (I wonder if Dolly Freed’s Possum Living, a 1970s-era equivalent, is still available.)

    ————

    It is. I’ve got two copies on our shelves, after loaning one copy and not having it returned until after I’d ordered a second copy. Both were contemporary reprints.

  127. Northwind, I’m not teasing at all. Sara went back to doing our books on paper because the new programs were so bad. The same thing is doubtless happening elsewhere in a quiet way. Since bookkeepers are so hard to find these days, offering people the chance to learn how to do simple bookkeeping tasks in a ledger would very likely get a lot of interest.

    Joan, co-ops are unfortunately not immune from lenocratization — the Harvard Co-Op underwent one kind, the one that went under due to embezzlement underwent another kind. In the right conditions they can be useful, but those conditions aren’t necessarily that widespread just now.

    Northwind, I think we can leave it there for now. The concept’s been mentioned, and I think my readers are smart enough to draw their own conclusions.

    Kimberly, thank you! Hearing about the “block party” movement made my day. May your post get a million views.

    Stephen, yes, very much so. I have to be picky about clothing for that reason.

    Simon, government bureaucrats mediating between pimps and harlots — yeah, that just about takes the lenocratic cake. I bet the licensing fees are high and rising.

    Drhooves, I’ve never had health insurance: couldn’t afford it for many years, and after Obamacare came in and the costs soared above my mortgage — well, you can do the math yourself. I’ll doubtless get the free part of Medicare once I’m 65, and ignore it thereafter. That is to say, if your health’s decent, don’t worry about it.

    Smith, I don’t imagine McGovern’s comment caused any changes. Karma…

    Benn, that’s a considerable oversimplification. Did that kind of protection racket happen? Sure, but in the early Middle Ages, when the feudal system took shape, public order had broken down completely and the local baron was the only source of protection against serious dangers, so there was another side to it. Btw, I hope your warlord classes teach you how to win and keep the loyalty and trust of the people you think you’re going to lead, because otherwise your lifespan will be measured in very short intervals.

    Disc_writes, thanks for this.

    Seideman, sounds like a good plan.

    Your Kittenship, I rented the new place first, and then jingle mailed the house. That’s the usual way of doing it. Since it took most of a year before the jingle mailing finished, my landlord knew I was good for the rent long before my credit rating took the hit — and it wasn’t that bad of a hit, all things considered.

    Anonymuz, and both of those are already happening. I’ve said it before, and it’s even more true now: here in the United States we are in a pre-revolutionary situation.

    Russell, I don’t know what’s available these days. Anyone else?

    Averagejoe, a great example of lenocracy on the hoof. Do you know any farmers? Buying directly via personal connections — that’s another wave of the future.

    Russell, depends on the supply of blackboards and chalk…

    Peter D, thanks for this.

    Thibault, you can certainly give it the ol’ barbarian try!

    Daniel, now factor in your commute time — and the bloodsucking’s central to my argument, of course. I pointed out that the medieval peasant kept a lot more of the value of his labor than you do of yours…

    Aurelien, of course. The question is whether they’ll be taken back into public ownership, or whether they’ll simply collapse. I expect some of each, depending on local economic and political conditions.

    Gaia, oh, granted. In a lenocracy it’s not just the very rich who learn to survive by lenocratic means! I’m not suggesting, by the way, that people should not work — I’m suggesting that they should be self-employed, or in some other way cut as many lenocrats as possible out of the loop.

    Kim, oh, if the Gulf Stream shuts down you’re screwed, no question. Britain will have the climate of Newfoundland in that situation. As for monasteries, you’re probably right about Heathenry but the Druid order I used to head now has a monastic branch with a significant number of participants, and plans for a physical monastery are on the drawing boards. We’ll see if the Universal Gnostic Church, of which I’m apparently the only bishop still active, can revive its monastic tradition as well.

    Siliconguy, yep. There are plenty of reasons why Ukraine is in deep trouble, but spectacular corruption in its military sector is one of them. As for the official painting of Charles III, well, it’s also just mind-numbingly ugly — the Windsors aren’t generally much to look at, granted, but this is really bad.

    Horseman, thank you!

  128. @averagejoe #120: I saw an extreme case of this in Brazil in 1995. I spent a year working on a school farm in orange planting county (Santa Catarina). Farmers would get paid R$0.12 for a 20 kg crate of oranges, which was so low many preferred to plow the oranges under instead of selling them. On my way back home, I stopped a few days in Rio de Janeiro and was flabbergasted to have to pay around R$2.00 for 1 kg of oranges.

    A few years later I found the missing link. The newspaper Veja sung the praises of the orange juice business, which was able to make record profits because of its extreme concentration. I haven’t read any investigation of how that business managed to become and stay so concentrated, but I am sure it involved some kind of government deal.

    My boss in Santa Catarina was trying to sell higher-end products like mushrooms directly to customers, but that only pays a profit when you produce them near a big city.

  129. @ Ken #43: Also recommended for the monastic life: Margaret Frasers’ Dame Frevisse mysteries, with titles a la Chaucer. Start with The Novice’s Tale and work on up. Setting: 15th Century, as troubled a time as Brother Cadfael’s.

  130. JMG,
    Of course participation in the financial scheme that is US currency is one of the most important and difficult things to drop out of. As discussed, there is the gift economy, and barter but one that is rarely talked about is local currencies. One that I am familiar with ( and one of the longest lasting and most widespread) was the ” Ithaca Hours” local currency in Ithaca NY. It lasted for about 20 years before its founder and evangelist had a stroke around Covid-time and moved out a of town. Each Ithaca hour represented about $10 and were usable by a fairly wide range of business’s from dentists to farmers markets.
    The trick as far as I know from keeping currencies like this off the governments radar is to never make them exchangeable for Official currency, so they have only a nebulous local value. But since it is not still in use it does appear that society has not quite collapsed further enough to make local currencies viable today. But that day is just around the corner and the denizens of small towns and cities like Ithaca would be wise to start preparing the groundwork now.

  131. Russell @ 119: Three things.

    This website looks interesting: https://www.medievalchronicles.com/

    There used to be a minor genre of Daily Life in _____. books, often available back in what I am beginning to think of as the golden age of public libraries. Try Thriftbooks.

    Frances and Joseph Gies were American medievalists who wrote a series of books about medieval life, all based on actual extant archives. Their book about a medieval village used archives from a manor in England. A similar volume about towns did the same with records from a French town.

    JMG, I am intrigued by your statement that banks were not writing mortgages for RE in Cumberland when you and Mrs. Greer left. Interesting. I suppose available RE might have been scooped up by cash buyers? By an amazing coincidence.

  132. Russell @ 121, there certainly is a niche and need for someone(s) who can attend and report on local board meetings and the like. This what local newspapers used to do.

  133. @Kim A. #133 and @JMG #136 re: Heathenry and Monasticism

    Oh, I’m not so sure Heathenry is inherently anti-monastic, though I will certainly say it mostly lacks the emphasis on renunciation that is near the heart of Christianity or the strong preference for the company of trees and animals over other humans that comes naturally to Druidry, so certainly not especially prone to monasticism either.

    That being said, 1) I think some of that might be due to historical circumstance and 2) the elder heathens had at least some dedicated religious groups/communities, just of a very different character.

    On 1), as this post implies, monasticism requires a certain population size and societal complexity to coalesce – otherwise you just get lone hermits and weirdos, which Heathenry certainly had (the tantalizing hints of ancient and long-lasting influence from cultures with shamanic practices is suggestive here). The English, for example, took up monasticism with great gusto shortly after Christianizing (and the monasteries were major vectors of ongoing Christianization). So, if Heathenry had been allowed to keep going as the population of northern Europe had grown in size and social complexity, maybe we would have seen organized religious communities withdrawn from normal life (or maybe not, who knows!).

    On 2), there’s very good evidence that the Berserkers were a kind of religious group that renounced much of normal adult society, and there’s a lot of tantalizing suggestions that there may have been groups of human Valkyries in a similar situation. Obviously working yourself into a rage to fearlessly vanquish your enemies so that you can take their women and their stuff is pretty different from most monks, but most of the historical accounts of berserkers we have show them as more-or-less caring only about battle and the ecstatic state they reached in it, with any treasure or honors more to keep them satisfied in between. You don’t really hear about berserkers marrying, having families, or becoming lords. So, again, in a weird way, it was a kind of opting out of what was expected (my favorite theory, as spelled out in Kris Kershaw’s The One-Eyed God is that berserker bands originated as coming-of-age warbands of adolescents, but that normal folks were expected to “graduate” to being a responsible landholder and family man. Staying a berserker into adulthood was a sign of some kind of weirdness).

    Anyhow, as I said, who knows what those might or might not say for any future heathen monastic activity.

    Cheers,
    Jeff

  134. @Northwind Grandma: There’s a name in the mythology of the far upper Midwest for the woman you mentioned. “Wendigo.”

    @Russell #119 – the Society for Creative Anachronism could give you a complete book list. Try looking for titles like “Life in a Medieval village,” etc. Or the aforementioned murder mystery series.

    @Warburton Expat #126: fairly shortly after that, the Imperial government started “the vigiles,” (watchmen), who were basically firefighters with a side order of local cop. Also – anyone starting fire in Ancient Rome with all its ramshackle tenements often ended up on the wrong side of spur-of-the-moment street justice, a.k.a. lynching. P.S. – Crassus got into a lot of trouble for apparently stalking the Chief Vestal Virgin, but got off the hook by explaining that he was hounding her to sell her villa at cut-rate prices.

    @Benn: To be a good warlord, you need to give gifts to your followers with an open hand, and hold open house for them, with your wife serving the food and drink. And support your local bard. It would help to read the sagas and epics of the period first, and see what traits were valued. Example: in Old English, the term for “Lord” translates as “Bread giver,” and for “Lady” as “Bread server.”

  135. @Milkyway:

    Thanks for your expansive tips! I’ve copied and pasted them into a document so I can read over them again. With my first book coming out (already here but officially on June 14) there is some fear for sure. Usually excitement and anxiety go about hand in hand for me, but I push through the anxiety anyway to continue on, and learn new things, and then what was once uncomfortable becomes comfortable. That’s how it was when I first stepped into a radio station to do a show by myself -full of nerves, but in time, though I still had them on occasion , I learned to “sit chilly” with it and just have a good time.

    Your words are great, because now I’m reaching out to different journalists, bloggers, and electronic musicians who might help share about my book. This is one reason why going all the way down the self-publishing route would be hard for me. The publisher is doing their part, but I am also being asked to also do some footwork in this area, so a bit of a learning curve. And though I do frequent some reddits and other forums besides this one, I’m not otherwise on social media and tracking down some writers or peoples emails can be tricky.

    Anyway, there was an acronym for fear that I always liked, especially in my more difficult moments of life: False Evidence Appearing Real. It’s just a good a reminder now as it was then.

    The shortwave radio show I participate in has grown a small following due to us posting trailers, flyers and reminders of our upcoming posts on the shortwave reddit and SWLing post… so going to where the people are who are also interested in the topics I am interested and hanging out seems a good way forward. Otherwise I think more writing might be the best marketing for my other writing.

    Thanks for this and your blessings. I hope your tips are also read by others here whom they will certainly benefit as I already have!

  136. Thanks for this JMG as always. Still reading though I rarely comment. I am currently trying to find my way back into paid work after a long time housewifing and raising children so the subject of how to pay the bills is at the top of my mind.

    Russell, I don’t know if you might like Marjorie Quennell (aka Marjorie Rowling)’s books on everyday life in various historic eras mainly in Britain. Lots of good detail and illustrations and informative text.

  137. JMG,
    thanks! wow, just read your post “unfamiliar world” that you suggested to me! this sums up many of the thoughts rattling in my head in the last few years as my intuition connected peak oil and demographics. I always appreciate the comparison of human behavior to animal behavior as we forget that human behavior is not unique.
    my ramblings: Humans pride ourselves on our altruism and reason however other animals have the same exact behavior for example wolves routinely make pack decisions and communicate simple plans. Language (complex) is what separates us from animals but this has not lead to more truthful reasons, just more complex ones. And I think humans evolved language for inter competition, as we used language alongside violence and other more common inter competition, to help determine resource allocation.
    ive been very interested in peak oil for the last year or so as it seems to have very strong explanatory power for demographics, economics, and our unique position in history. Some random questions i have. Do you think there was a civilization in the past that took advantage of a different high energy non renewable resource, that is now basically gone? and went on a similar ride as us?

  138. In a situation that the Onion writers couldn’t possibly have come up with themselves, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has decided that tenants can be on the hook for the tax obligations of their overseas landlords. A foreign landlord is required to remit 25% of their rental income to the CRA, just like an employer remits wages to the CRA every payday.

    There is a huge amount of overseas property ownership in Canada from the days when a degree from a Canadian institution was highly prized by Asian and Middle Eastern elites. They would send their sons and daughters to Canada with money to buy a property, and then in many cases, when the degree had been granted, the students returned but retained ownership of the house or condo. Some of these properties are empty, but many are rented.

    Now that the cat is out of the bag – how many of Canada’s foreign landlords will simply stop paying their taxes? How many situations are there where there are years worth of tax plus interest owing? The CRA is on a hiring and enforcement binge to attempt to create revenue – this might be just another dismal anecdote from Canada, but it might be the start of something significant.

    Source below:

    https://www.bennettjones.com/Blogs-Section/Tenants-Beware-The-Risks-of-Landlord-Tax-Liabilities

  139. As an Indian. the American market has always seemed a little clinical and artificial to me based on the descriptions I have received. In most countries you see individual shopkeepers and grocers on the sides of the streets marketing items, often hawking their wares (which means they shout out the item and the rate they offer loudly in the hope that a passerby will hear and take an interest in the trade). Such traders also tend to barter explicitly, and there is no fixed price of the goods. Of course, malls and shopping complexes are now a feature in urban areas - they have been mushrooming since the economic liberalization in the early 1990’s - but the best bargains are still available on the streets. Most countries have that sort of market, the wild market of the streets. Of course, there is are lenocrats in such markets, but they are mostly bureaucrats who take small bribes from the traders in return for turning a blind eye towards the encroachment they do on the footpath, which is prohibited in by law but not in practice. I think that with the advent of food carts and under-the-table trades, Americans are returning to a more organic marketplace.

  140. Clay, my impression of Ithaca Hours and the like is that they’re boutique products for upscale countercultures — entertaining but not really that useful. I’m prepared to be wrong, mind you! Control of the money system is crucial enough for government and big business alike that I would expect any really effective alternative to be crushed using all the powers of the state; it’ll be interesting to watch what happens if cryptocurrencies ever get past boutique status and become significant media of exchange. Thus my tendency to focus on household economies, very small-scale gift exchanges, and, ahem, just plain doing without.

    Jeff, the penny finally dropped. There was at least one Heathen quasimonastic order in pre-Christian times, the Jomsvikings. As you’d expect, they were a military order, a sort of Heathen forerunner of the Knights Templar; women and children were not permitted within the walls of their settlement at Jomsborg. The Jomsvikinga Saga covers some of their deeds. So I think there’s definitely a place for Heathen monasticism of a very specific type — and the age to come (“a wind age, a wolf age”) could use such men.

    A Dishwasher, well, what skills do you have that local people would gladly pay you to use on their behalf?

    Alex, exactly — we behave just like other social mammals, and then use the unique gift of human language mostly to come up with excuses for failure. As for past cycles of civilization, I don’t know of any evidence that they had comparable energy resources, and there’s some evidence-from-absence that they didn’t — the kind of gargantuan earth-moving projects we do with diesel fuel don’t seem to show up anywhere in the recent geological record, during the last interglacial period or the last ice age (the periods in which occult tradition sets the four earlier cycles of human civilization). So I tend to think that they were civilizations of a kind you see in the global South these days, in which most people are still living a low-tech lifestyle but the elite classes have access to advanced technologies.

    Justin, I don’t suppose that Canadian law gives tenants the right to sue the government to reverse so blatantly unfair a ruling. Why doesn’t the CRA slap liens on the properties instead?

    Rajarshi, the US government and big corporations have been doing their level best to eliminate such free markets for more than a century now. Me, I’d be delighted to see that change.

  141. Rajarshi, Americans tend to think that price bargaining is inherently unfair. Why should Mr. or Mrs. Loudmouth get a better price than anyone else? Now, mind, most have no objection to the sort of under the table “understandings” by which local elites used to keep themselves in elite status. I suppose the difference is that the understandings were thought to be in some form reciprocal exchanges of favors and influence, while the Loudmouths are seen as getting something for nothing. It is the more polite shoppers who contribute most to maintaining a vendor’s income.

  142. Reading Henry David Thoreau –especially “Walden” — will flesh out these ideas very well.

  143. @Justin Patrick Moore #62

    Coming at this a little late, but this is something the book I mentioned earlier had some advice to offer for, so I figured why not share it here. Long suggests, for people who are uncomfortable coming off like a “shill” for their products, to adopt a focus on “samples” as a marketing strategy. That is, figure out how to get your product in the hands of your intended customers and let the quality speak for itself. So, to use our host JMG as an example, he markets his writing quite successfully by keeping this blog, sharing his thoughts for free, and offering his books to those who take an interest in reading more of what he has to say. An artist or craftsman can manage similarly by showcasing their work online or offline.

    Admittedly, this is easier to do with goods than with services, but there are ways to market services in this way as well. Videos demonstrating your expertise and process are an example, sharing expertise in Facebook groups and otherwise as Milkyway suggested is another. Another suggestion from Long is to get genuine testimonials about the quality of your work from satisfied customers. He suggests focusing on smaller, local customers to start and building a reputation from there.

    Of course, the caveat here is that I am not speaking from my own experience, but I felt the Long’s advice was potentially valuable regardless, so I am merely resharing it here. Good luck with your book! I hope it does well.

  144. @Alex Thurber (#146) and JMG (#149) in reply:

    In 1922 the linguist E. H. Sturtevant published a brief article arguing that “language was invented for the purpose of lying.” [“The Origin of Language,” The Classical Weekly,, vol. 16, pp. 34-38.] I’ve always prefered that theory over all the others that various linguists and anthropologists have put forth over the decades. And it’s not very different from JMG’s “excuses for failure,” which are also usually lies.

  145. JMG, I have no idea if the victim can sue the government. I doubt it, but I’m thankfully not a lawyer – so who knows? As for why a lien simply can’t be slapped on the property and the property sold to pay the liens once they are too large – well, what class of people gets to write the laws?

  146. I have gained a bit of insight as to how a gift ( informal exchange) system could develop on a small scale. I frequent a small brewery with tap room that is run by a fellow who has a full time job as a union pipe fitter. He opens the tap house each day when he gets off work and brews on the weekends. The place is hidden away in a nondescript industrial park and so it has a regular clientele made up mostly of pipe fitters, workers from the industrial park, and Chinese people from the local area ( the owner’s wife is from Hong Kong).
    Slowly over time various activity nights have developed with Mah Jong night, D&D night, craft night etc. along with the holidays, and various regulars birthdays. Since food is not served ( tap rooms are the only. kind of alcohol serving operations in Oregon not requiring food service) most of the activity nights have food provided by pot-luck. The only informal rule ( as you would expect) is to buy beer and cider from the establishment.
    From time to time regulars bring in home made snacks or self-made beverages to pass around on non-potluck nights. Regulars even bring in decor items, or lend their talents fixing bar stools or dart boards. Now regulars have begun to do small favors for each other such as plumbing, simple car repair, etc. Non of this seems to be done with a specific exchange in mind, so it is similar to a gift economy.
    It seems that this sort of system has to unfold on its own with a slow pattern of trust development among the participants. The other lesson seems to be that for the appropriate trust to develop a physical hub or nexus must exist. I would doubt that a gift-exchange economy would ever work on the internet.

  147. I’ve been forced out of the money economy — corporate just ground me down and spat me out. I take hope from your words that I can be more valuable in the home economy, or at least make some use of myself. It is hard to see that right now, though. My inner critic is always like “well you could have done this anyway on weekends or off hours, so what are you really adding?” (Given how broken I was by working the fact that I did nothing but veg evenings and weekends is something my inner critic does not accept. I’m working on that.)

    One poster mentioned “what color is your parachute” — a version of that aimed at people looking to exit the formal/corporate/market economy would do very well indeed, I think. There’s a market for such a book. Most of the self-knowledge exercises in the original could be adapted very easily; that part works either way. What would be needed is a good review of what the options are– at first I thought well, that’s going to be too difficult to do. There’s too many, and what works one place won’t in another. If one was to keep it sufficiently vague and self-guided though (like the “Parachute” books do– they hardly list every profession the market economy has on offer) it might be a doable project. I do think the most important part would be a chapter on dealing with the FEAR of doing anything yourself, outside the system. They do a very good job indoctrinating a sort of learned helplessness into all us tax cattle. Breaking that would be the biggest thing, I suspect.

    @JMG,
    Some weeks ago around Easter I reported seeing a US Army recruiting center in a Northern Ontario strip mall– as per your request, I did make it back there to ask some questions. It turns out I was fooled by a rather convincing set-piece. (Convincing from a moving vehicle anyway). Someone was filming a movie (set in the USA), taking advantage of the Canadian and Ontario governments’ respective lenocratic subsidies. Holywood north, eh?

  148. Even if you have a low income you can still have a good credit score. I’ve always paid my bills, but been rather cavalier about exactly when — sometimes a day or two late, sometimes as much as a month late. What I didn’t realize then was that if you are even one day after due date with your payment it is classed as a default.

    This came back to bite me when I applied for a special offer from my ISP. Instead of buying internet data every month, I could get double the data for half the price by signing a 24-month contract. I was rejected. Poor credit score. Even though I pointed out I had been paying double the monthly amount for years, they could check my account to verify this.

    Ever since then I have paid everything on or before due date, and top up my credit card at the end of each month if needed. Consequently, two years later when the same offer came around I was accepted and have more data than I need at a very reasonable price. It’s saved me a few thousand Rand over the years.

  149. In the nearby gas station on weekends a family puts up a tent and has a small portable grill – they cook up excellent Mexican food at a price point that undercuts the mediocre fast food by several dollars. Once done they roll up the tent, load up the grill and they are gone. A data point but one that illuminates your point I think.

  150. More and more, when it comes to voting, I think “What’s the use?” Perhaps it means more at the local level, but where I live one party has things tied up pretty tight. At the state level, it’s tied up by the other side. Not much room to budge. And being in my sixties, I’m not keen on looking into running my own business. I wouldn’t know what to start up, much less all the ins and outs of running a business. So it looks like the only way for me to walk away is to pare down my lifestyle and live frugally, which has always been my goal. I still have room for improvement, but at least I’m on the path. I suppose in a few more years when I retire, Social Security will still be struggling along, but how much I get from them before it goes belly up is a crap shoot. All in all, that old Chinese curse/blessing “May you live in interesting times” seems more real every day.

    Joy Marie

  151. Very happy to report, we have reached Lenocracy Nirvana: We have officially spent $7 Billion dollars to install 7 Electric vehicle chargers! Take that, former corruption records! Bet you never did it like we did it. We’re still the best at something.

    I shake my head, since that’s about $7 Billion more than they’re worth, and even in the greatest corruption imaginable, $7B is a lot of money. What did they DO with it all? Where did it go? How was it divvied up? It’s not to 300 Million Americans and one middle manager didn’t suddenly become a billionaire from it. Where did it go?

    On the other side, they honestly and truly think, if they can get a CBDC, they can pull 30% more tax out, and keep it going another year or two. And then blow $8 Billion to make 7 chargers? Like, the problem isn’t the “taxing”, the overhead side. It’s on the spending and stealing side.

    Akin to “sanctioning” all nations except us, if you “tax” a thing, you get less of it and people go around it. Anyone who refuses to to business with the West gets better paid for less work. Just as anyone who refuses to join the Lenocracy gets better paid for less work. It’s a self-solving problem.

  152. Otter: I was going to say the same thing about appliances, mine are +50 years old.
    “But they are energy INEFFICIENT” my coworkers say. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Surely you jest. First: go look at the oldest, worst freezer in the Box Store: it costs $25/ year to run. Give me twenty.

    Second: appliances are getting to cost five thousand dollars. And STILL last 5 years. Because that one sub-board broke and they don’t make it anymore (this is a true story, with $10k furnaces). HOW many years can I run my inefficient un-self-defrosting fridge again for that? Like 50 more years for free?
    Is everyone really bad at math?
    The chrome and enamel on a 1954 36″ stove is as if brand new and they’re gorgeous. We somehow forgot to make ENAMEL. That’s just glass powder. Too complicated for us now, too technological. That stove is $150 on CL. If that bothers you, go to the used appliance store who will deliver, warranty, and re-fit them professionally. They know all the tricks. They also deal mostly with landlords so they’re very simple and reasonable and you’ll seem like a generous benefactor by comparison. Get a 1961 or whatever they say is the best model ever made. Like those commercial washers, they are like a Harley: you can always get cheap, simple parts and there are a million of them.
    Okay, I just saved you $5,000 and stole it from the Lenocracy. I’ll leave my address so you can mail me a check in thanks. Never don’t do this. You’ll be sorry and stab yourself in the eye if you buy new.

  153. @Jeff Russel #142 and JMG

    Warrior orders as a form of monasticism? That’s an interesting one. The idea of monasticism is too bound up with contemplation, book learning and mysticism for me to fully accept that connection, but maybe I’m just too biased by the Christian and Buddhist version. Still, I’m with you that those orders count as a form of asceticism if nothing else, and very possibly a spiritual one at that, so I suppose it’s in the neighborhood. And of course Asia has its own traditions of monastic orders with a martial aspect, even if I’m not too familiar with those myself.

    I’ll also admit I was mostly thinking of modern-day revival Heathens with my comments. If historical Heathenry had survived, they might very well have ended up with something more like a modern institutional religion with monastic orders. On the other hand… as one of the few comparable examples, I don’t think Shinto has any, but maybe that’s because Buddhism already filled that niche so thoroughly in Japan?

    On the subject of a Heathen survival, since I live in one of the countries where the original Norse religion was practiced I’ve been fascinated by this particular what-if for a long time. There’s definitely potential for an alternate history novel there. 🙂

  154. JMG.

    The thing about our lenocracy is that no matter what you do, the thing itself is going to follow a set path.

    You can’t redirect it, you can’t lengthen the road its on, and you can’t shorten the road it’s on…. there is just too much momentum and too much weight. And this rigidty applies (in time) to every single thing it touches. This is where people stumble because they think “No, it hasn’t reached into my job and my community yet.”

    So it’s very tough to actually find an island for yourself but I am sure you would say “You can’t find it unless you start searching”.

  155. In response to Dashui (post #1),

    I would LOVE to see the return of “pieces of eight”, or their modern equivalent! Indeed, in contrast to so many Americans today, who are profoundly ignorant of monetary history, particularly in regards to the precious metals (which have been mercilessly demonized by the predatory and parasitical Keynesian financial establishment), I fully expect to see gold and silver — as in PHYSICAL gold and silver, not some ersatz ‘digital’ versions — return as a circulating medium of exchange when (not if) our current worldwide fiat monetary system collapses. It has happened before, and it will happen again.

    Our host believes that something along the lines of a feudal order will eventually appear, and/or return, at some future time, as or after our hyper-financialized civilization breaks down. But before that happens, or possibly even while that happens, all of monetary history suggests that hard money, sound money, precious metal money, will make a comeback, as trust in the current system continues to collapse — and there is NOTHING backing a fiat monetary system but both trust and coercion.

    Perhaps my favorite quote regarding precious metals (in this case, gold) as money was a throwaway line in an obscure book, The Case for Gold, written by Ron Paul in the early 1980s: “Because gold is honest money, it is disliked by dishonest men.” I think that pretty much sums up almost every establishment financial pundit today.

    On this note, I will have to disagree with our host in one particular matter. Correct me if I am wrong, JMG, but I believe that you have stated on more than one occasion that going forward, most investments will be long-term losers as the economy contracts. On this I agree with you. But you have further lumped-in gold and silver with investments, and claimed that the precious metals will also lose value going forward. On this I do not agree, because contrary to most current and shallow financial and monetary analysis, gold and silver are NOT investments, but simply forms of savings, as well as mediums of exchange. And unless and until the worldwide economy utterly breaks down completely, there will still be trade, and the need for a medium of exchange, and fundamentally still today, nothing is a better medium of exchange than gold and silver, for all the same reasons that Aristotle listed almost 2500 years ago.

    I will also point out that both gold and silver held great value in virtually every society in history, even well before the advent of money.

  156. Re (post)modern monasticism and the possibilities thereof

    One of the things that is slowly sinking in as I navigate my divorce to what a significant degree the possibilities for my future have opened up as a result. Aside from some near-term and temporary financial obligations, I will truly have few constraints, particularly if I continue with my low-impact lifestyle. Diving more deeply into my spiritual practices has been in mind, of course, but I’m realizing that a monastic or quasi-monastic hermit path is very much an option now that I will only have my life to support. I will have to think (and meditate and pray) on this.

  157. Wow, this reminds me so of the late David Fleming’s wondrous ‘Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It’, with his emphasis on existing outside the market economy (or rather, inside what he — following Edgar Cahn — calls “the core economy”, the non-monetary economy).

    One of his many memorable lines comes to mind, while so many of us walk away from the marketplace:
    “As people surrender the power to build the institutions they want, which would enable lives that make sense to them, the system as a whole sacrifices the intelligence it needs: it loses its minds. ”
    (from https://leanlogic.online/scale/)

    Are you familiar with his work?

  158. I highly recommend reading Mr Money Moustache’s blog.
    And Jacob Fisker’s Early Retirement Extreme blog.

    They’re both ahead of their time.

  159. disc_writes #117

    > I have several interests that maybe could become a source of income. However, I am not nearly good enough at any of them.

    Don’t give up. Your spirit is at stake‼️

    (A) If you can find someone in your locale WHO IS ACTIVE IN ONE OF YOUR INTERESTS as a skilled craft, see if you can apprentice. In the old days, if I am not mistaken, the apprentice’s family or church would pay the skilled-one to take on the apprentice. I would hazard a guess that it could be good experience for the skilled-one these days because (1) if it is an isolating craft, the apprentice affords companionship; and (2) the apprentice “assists.”

    I wouldn’t let age get in the way. Apprentices used to be somewhere between 14 and 20, if I am not mistaken. But if you happen to be 50, go for it.

    (B) There is tons of videos on UTub for self-learners. I mean, tons. Tons and tons and tons of experts who have already spent major time (years) creating teaching videos.

    Hundreds of teachers making videos in dozens of disciplines/specialties. Husband learned woodworking that way (over 10 years), and me hand-weaving (this last year). For while UTub is up and running, this actually is an absolutely HUGE resource, one of the best uses EVER on the Internet. The vast majority of the videos are free of charge (except for the UTub account itself). Definitely create a UTub account (it has to be a gmail account) because you can then save links to your favorite videos and channels (worth its weight in gold). Take advantage of UTub while the Internet lasts. There is a lot you can do if your off-time from your current job. For me, it was fun part of the time, and anxiety-producing other times.

    My experience regarding hand-weaving was I watched any video I could find, and filed the worthy ones for reference. I knew virtually zero about hand-weaving but armed with a strong interest and high motivation. I created a playlist for each category, like “Warping.” I did that for a month or two. I felt bewildered as ever; it was really very uncomfortable at times. I didn’t go out of my way to make sense of it. Over months, my brain started putting bits together.

    The following is my own peculiar way of learning. I have probably been learning-disabled since birth but I was out of high school (1970) before anyone knew anything about learning disabilities.

    I liken my brain to a wall cupboard that has, let’s say, six cubes across and four down (6×4=24), 24 cubbyholes in all. My brain was the wall cupboard, with 24 slots. (Timing is different for everyone.) Starting out learning hand-weaving, I had two slots filled (I knew that hand-weaving existed, and pieces were colorful). During two months, maybe two more slots got filled (2+2=4), the first of which was that there is something called a warp and something called a weft (I did not know the difference); the second of which was that cotton yarn behaves differently from woolen yarn. After about 3 months, another five slots got filled (4+5=9). More and more slots got filled. After 6 months, enough had jelled in my brain that I ventured into purchasing the minimum I needed to do my first project. I am still working on that first project, but since I call the piece a “sampler,” doing all lots of weird s### on it, I am learning a heck of a lot but as a piece, am totally ruining it.

    Bit by bit, my brain made connections from random and isolated pieces of data. The neurons tied themselves together, one neuron at a time. My brain had to go at its own speed; there was no pushing it.

    If I can do it, anyone can, given time and exposure. Frankly, I am quite the dunce at times. Many people are between a rock (old world) and a hard place (new world) these days but reading JMG, at least a handful knows which way the wind is blowing, and what shore to head for.

    I hope this doesn’t sound preachy. I don’t mean it to be. It is just that I feel passionately about learning new skills.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🪻📽️👨🏽‍💻👀🎞️🍿
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA
    70 something

  160. Peter W, true. Where do you think I originally got some of them? (Some of the others are from the early Taoists, btw…)

    Robert M, thank you — now I can footnote it. 😉

    Justin, yeah, I know. If Canadians sit still for this, well, they have no one to blame but themselves.

    Clay, an excellent example. Of course it can’t work online — a gift economy only functions in the context of personal relationships.

    Tyler, some journaling might help with that. Or you can do one of Harry Gardener’s practices. Every day, write ten reasons you’re sure you’ll fail on a sheet of paper. Then, without reading it again, burn the paper. It’s a surprisingly effective little ritual. Thanks for the clarification about the recruitment site, btw.

    Martin, I learned that one from Sara — always pay your bills before they’re due, and your credit rating soars.

    Ken, a fine data point.

    Joy Marie, granted. I vote as an intentional ritual action, not because I think it will make a difference in any ordinary sense.

    Kim A., er, Christian monks?

    Buddhist monks?

    That is to say, martial arts and monasticism are quite compatible with each other in both of those traditions. I hope the Heathens try their own version one of these days.

    GlassHammer, of course. But you don’t have to be on board the bus when it finishes hurtling off the cliff…

    David BTL, I know the feeling.

    Jason, I’ve got a copy. It’s well worth reading.

    Tom, thanks for this.

  161. about feudalism, warlords, medieval mafias and others. I think that the vision we have about this time is very distorted.

    If I take as an example the Middle Ages in the Iberian Peninsula, from the High Middle Ages to the Central Middle Ages, people lived, created their own laws in an assembly-based manner and defended themselves in council militias, it was not until later that our lords of the War and the feudal apparatus begin to gain importance. If anyone is interested in the subject, there are several books on this, although in English right now I only remember A society organized for war: the Iberian municipal militias in the central Middle Ages, 1000-1284
    https://archive.org/details/societyorganized0000powe
    We have examples of this same phenomenon of peasant militias that has occurred in more recent times.
    the Mexican self-defense groups that fought and expelled the Templar cartel in michoacan
    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-25708297

  162. @Justin Patrick Moore #144
    You’re very welcome, both for the tips and the blessings – in fact, it always makes my day when people come back for more blessings, so I have to thank _you_! 🙂

    As I said, I’ve got my share of marketing-failure shirts, and I know that not all of this is always easy. But it’s more doable than most people think, especially on a local level, and reducing one’s own fears around it is an important first step.

    For your book in a very non-mainstream field, I think your best bet is to build connections (e.g. to podcast hosts, as JMG does), especially if you plan to write more books in the same or closely related fields. But I’m not a marketing guru, and your mileage may vary…

    Love that acronym for FEAR! 🙂

    @JMG: I don’t think the earlier comment in the trash was due to length – my first attempt at posting this rather short one to Justin also ended up somewhere AWOL. But I’ve had issues with comments on dreamwidth this week, too. Seems to be just one of those times…

    I only hope we (or rather: you 😛 ) won’t end up again with my dreamwidth comments triple-posting themselves on autopilot, as they did before on such an occasion!

    Dunno why people fret about Mercury retrogrades – his retrogrades have never messed with my comments! 😉

  163. Russell #119

    > Any books I could read to get more info on this and other stuff related to everyday life in the Middle Ages?

    I have, but have not read:

    (1) “Cask Strength: The Story of the Barrel, the Secret Ingredient in Your Drink”
    by Mike Gerrard
    ISBN 9781637742976

    Being a family historian and genealogist, I bumped into what existed “that held things” before plastics were invented. Barrels was one of them. Crates was another. Barrels held all sorts of things, not only liquids. For example, barrels are what got loaded onto wooden ships in 1620 that helped emigrants to survive long ship voyages, holding things like grain and cheese. Making a barrel is a specialized talent.

    The following book I think I heard about here:

    (2) “The Medieval Machine: The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages”
    By Jean Gimpel
    ISBN 0760735832

    Hope this helps.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🪻🛢️⚙️
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA
    70 something

  164. @ Tyler A – would it make you feel better to think about all the money you are helping to save? After all, a dollar saved is $1.30 earned, after taxes. In their book ‘The Millionaire Next Door’, the authors Stanley and Danko describe how many of the very rich couples they interviewed had one ‘earner’ and one ‘saver’; as they put it, one plays offence and the other plays defence and together they work as a team.

    Unfortunately, our society has put a massive amount of propaganda out to convince people they’re worthless if they don’t bring in the green.

  165. JMG,

    Agreed,

    You know it dawned on me the other day that when Hagbards Law is in full effect the “right answer” (i.e. the one closest to the facts on the ground) matters so very little that one gains almost nothing by being “the person who is right.” Conversely, you rarely lose anything by being “the person who is wrong” or “the person who said nothing”. I think one has to “let the right answer go” when you work in a lenocracy, it’s just can’t be utilized.

  166. Kind Sir,

    what I am trying to express is that here in Oz it is mighty hard to survive outside the lenocracy. There really is not much outside. The society mirrors the geography. A narrow strip of fertility turning abruptly into very harsh territory as you go west. There simply is nowhere to go outside the officially approved zone. And opposed to the american situation where people do better when they go out on their own, here you get a kick in the but for stepping outside the system.
    To thrive here you have basically two options:
    1) get a BS job
    2) borrow money until your nose bleeds and buy realestate.
    for my whole adult life (old genx in my 50s) this has been the way to success. Break out of the herd and you will be punished severely. Pretty much everyone here runs their life on that strategy. Those who don’t usually do anything to get in.
    I am aware that 1) has a used by date and 2) is a ponzi scheme, but this is how it has worked for all my adult life. Economists have predicted a collaps of 2) for as long as I can remember. Other economists say it’ll go on forever. So far there has not been even a small correction to the bubble here, and while i know it will pop in the long run, the problem with the long run is that we’re all dead, to coin a phrase. I have to live life in the short run.

    I am beginning to realise that the US and Oz are very very different. Oz looks more and more like a soviet style system. Not sure if it has only become like this recently, or if I am only now starting to wake up.
    This means that the strategies to weather the storm will be quite different here than in the US. And the storm here might be a lot worse when it hits.
    Not sure. Not trying to make predictions here, just wondering.

    @disc_writes
    presumably you are a fellow aussie. For a long time I assumed that being an aussie is almost like winning the lottery of life. Not so sure anymore. This country is changing for the worse at a tempo that is nauseating. If I was younger, like in my 30s or so, i’d get the hell out of here.
    Then again, i am not sure if other places are getting any better. Might just be the grass looking greener on the other side…

  167. Pygmycory,

    Interesting. I live not too far from Ottawa, but I haven’t seen any help wanted signs in a long time, anywhere in Ontario. I wonder what’s behind the difference.

  168. A long time ago I saw a documentary about India. One of the segments showed a marketplace where a chap was sitting with an old fashioned portable typewriter. This guy was helping people with correspondence and filling out government forms. This was how he made a living. Presumably his clientele was on the lower end of the educational and literacy spectrum.

    Which brings us to today and the glorious and magnificent First World. What I noticed in my long and dreary corporate years was an amazing number of people with only rudimentary literacy and numeracy. It’s a mystery as to how they got out of high school never mind college. But somehow they did. It wasn’t only dismal writing and number skills, general knowledge didn’t include basic geography, history, current events, personal finance and a lot of other things. You wonder how they functioned as self-sufficient grown-ups. Maybe they didn’t. Maybe this explains encroaching rottenness and decrepitude.

    But back to the guy with the typewriter. Nowadays we see people charging money for doing tax returns. But if the level of functional literacy and educational attainment is on a downward path, and who cares if the highly and expensively degreed have pieces of paper proclaiming their wonderfulness if they don’t know beans, maybe the guy or gal that can actually read and write and do basic math will make a decent living doing exactly that like that guy in India with the typewriter.

  169. A friend of Diogenes see’s him eating nothing but lentils and bread.

    Friend – “Diogenes, if you were to serve the king then you could eat better than lentils and bread”

    Diogenes ” It is because I eat lentils and bread that I do not need to serve the king”

    It is the simplest example of how power works.

  170. Kind Sir
    “doing bookkeeping on paper instead of via software is the wave of the future.”
    This future is already here. I know someone who works at a medium sized manufacturing company. I’d guess around 2000 employees in a few countries.
    The were hit by ransomware late last year and cant access any of their books. So they are doing things the old way again for now.

  171. Hi John Michael,

    I’m of a similar opinion. Frankly speaking, the talk in the media reminds me of all the “it really doesn’t matter” talk leading up to the 2008 fiasco when bad news, made the daily news. But then, John Kenneth Galbraith, if he were alive today, may have had some rather pointed things to say on that subject! 🙂 Might be time to re-read The Great Crash 1929, again?

    I read somewhere recently that your current lot had to issue some of the latest bond issues at short term rates, which to my way of thinking, reflect a markets loss of appetite for the risk. Then there is the sticky inflation. A swelling burden of future claims at $1tn every hundred days. Under employment, and of course as you note: abandonment of formal employment. Rising gold prices. Declining exchange rates between most other countries and yours. Rampant immigration. Supply issues with proxy wars. Just saying, there’s a lot of bad news out there, and I may have missed some items!

    To sum it all up, there are diminishing returns for any path, and we look like we’re fast approaching a point where some minor innocuous event or incident, causes waves. From what I can ascertain of the events, taking a massive pay and wealth cut across the board at the top end of town would assist matters. Folks there may wish it upon their peers, but I doubt they could wish that upon themselves, and so they will get to face their biggest fear of all.

    For the rest of us, life will go on, but with far less bling and unnecessary stuff. It took a while and a lot of bad news back in 2007/8 before there was a significant pivoting moment. Do you remember the feeling of trouble brewing back then? I’m getting similar vibes these days.

    Cheers

    Chris

  172. To Mr. Greer & commentary @ large,
    Re. the Euro-Zoned-out Lenocrasy, I’ve found it fascinating that the imbeciles within Brussels can’t gokk that many within the ‘zone’… plus those ‘outside’ it’s periphery, aren’t buying their ‘We knows bestest!!’ shite.. Witness one Josep Borell, Euro rep for security and such, stating ‘We are the Garden People’ e.i. the white euro elites vs. the, uh .. burdens to the south… whilst not seeing the rake before their very feet!

    These pustulent bureaucrats have no self-awareness what’s-so-ever.

  173. JMG, of course I should have known better than to take your question literally – and while I don’t think the Canadian state literally plans to make a significant proportion of the tenant class pay 25% of their rent to the CRA and 100% to their landlord – I thought this was an interesting case of elite cluelessness and compounding problems.

    The optics of this particular issue are so bad that I do expect change here but it could take years.

  174. Do yo have any thoughts on Yanis Varoufakis premise that Capitalism is in the process of being replaced by “Technofeudalism”?

  175. Achille, feudalism varied considerably from one part of Europe to another. The more deeply influenced by Roman culture the place was, the more it reorganized on the basis of city militias and the like; the less the Roman influence, the more it was a matter of local barons and warbands. Of course you’re right that this has to be kept in mind in drawing parallels for the future.

    Milkyway, for whatever reason, your first draft of this one ended up in the trash too. I have no idea — sometimes the internet just misbehaves.

    GlassHammer, I think Robert Anton Wilson would have agreed with you.

    DropBear, hmm. I’ll defer to my other Australian readers about this.

    Smith, you know, that really could be a growth industry.

    Michael, Diogenes has always been a hero of mine. Besides, lentils are tasty.

    DropBear, there I am again, behind the times!

    Chris, oddly enough, I was reminiscing about the 2008 real estate crash earlier today and thinking, “You know, this really feels similar.” Except our current predicament is much worse.

    Polecat, I’m going to steal that rake metaphor. That is to say, you’re square on target.

    Justin, oh, I think it’s quite possible that that’s exactly what the bureaucrats are thinking. I really think they’ve lost track of the fact that they could provoke blowback.

    DJ, Varoufakis is one of the people who uses “feudalism” as a snarl word unrelated to its meaning. His “technofeudalism” has nothing in common with actual feudalism — it’s the standard mode of kleptocratic elite rule that you get in dying civilizations.

  176. Re: Job “offers” in a Lenocracy

    One of the more interesting things that happened with a long-time job I had was that, for a while, I was taking “failed trucking hires” to the airport. Quotes are used because of what I heard from these “failed” hires:
    1) There were quite a few stories about how these candidates were “fired.” Everything from “Not knowing how to shift (although the trainer said the driver was learning how to shift that truck) to a gap in the trucker’s ten year history (this despite getting their okay beforehand), it seemed that the trucking companies were looking for reasons to fire these people.
    2) All the “fired” drivers were “newly hired.” Meaning they had traveled to the terminal I had picked them up at for training only to be booted out soon after.
    3) They weren’t the only ones. One person told me of 45 prospective drivers being reduced to 18 at the end of Day One (he was fired on Day Three), another heard a trainer being told that they needed to fire a few more trainees.

    I thought that job offers that weren’t meant to be filled (of which there were plenty) were bad, but bringing in hires from a distance knowing that most would be fired within days takes the cynicism to a whole new level. Of course, when you’ve persuaded congress to subsidize your hiring, you get such games as this.

  177. JMG, maybe – I’ve spent far too long trying to figure out when the law that puts tenants of foreign landlords on the hook for their taxes was actually written to try and get some perspective on the issue. The actual law covers a very wide variety of payments one might make to an overseas entity, and it is unsurprising that liens aren’t written in because in most of the cases the law covers there is no property to put a lien on. The last time overseas landlords were much of a problem for Canadians was a century or more ago, when tenant farmers banded together and effectively got a lot a lot of foreign-owned (in this case mostly UK owned) land effectively confiscated – the federal government bought out the foreign landlords and resold the land back to the tenants. Overseas ownership – in many cases ownership of a single property – of residential properties is a new phenomenon in Canada. Not only would a similar federal buyout be far more complicated because there are millions of landowners in dozens of countries rather than thousands in a handful, it simply isn’t going to happen at this stage of lenocracy.

    While, by the grace of God I am not an economist, I have read convincing arguments that exponentially increasing real estate prices are necessary to keep the Canadian financial system going, and therefore anything that might cause a rash of sales (like expecting foreign investors to obey Canadian law) will be avoided. This is the best argument I can come up for for why you may be correct, and it is therefore entirely possible that the state will be insane enough to levy this tax on the 20% or so of renters who might fall into this situation. I think the balance of probabilities is on the side of the state doing something to protect renters.

    However my view of the state is that it is something like the ur-version of the industry groups that have self-formed to enable the industry to self-regulate to avoid state regulation. Except, in the case of the state, the purpose of the state is to avoid revolution. As an example of what I am thinking of, the movie industry and the comic book industry both self-regulated in the interwar period to avoid state interference, and here in Canada grocery stores are currently doing something similar, except it’s a little more rotten than the older examples of industry self-regulation in the face of popular outrage.

  178. Regarding silver and gold as “savings”, you can expect that they would face the same issues as any other currency in a world of declining population. Simply put, in a world of rising population as in the past, the demand for a form of exchange, like silver and gold, increases in step with the population. Historically the fluctuation of silver and gold’s value was then tied more to changes in the supply. That is, the value of silver and gold per unit of weight is reflective of the inverse of the supply of such divided by the population, i.e. the more population the higher the value per unit of weight, and the higher the supply the lower the value per unit of weight.
    So in a future world where most easily exploitable sources of gold and silver have been worked (i.e. no or little increase in supply), but much gold and silver is entering circulation from previously being tied up in jewellery/cutlery/etc, and a declining population is reducing the demand, I would expect the value per unit of gold and silver to decline.
    As a general rule, IMHO, a decline in population will have a similar effect on fiat currency as printing excess money.

  179. @ North WindGrandma RE: Book keeping.

    While I am onboard with pencil and paper book keeping (yes, I do know double entry book-keeping!). If you need to do digital account keeping I would recommend the software GNU Cash. https://www.gnucash.org/

    It is zero cost to download and being a part of the Free/Libre software folks, it is built by the community not corporations. No online accounts, subscription costs or forcing anything. It is your software to use as you wish.

    This means it looks and functions more like software from the 90’s/2000’s and that can be a good thing. The usage license is designed to use copyright in reverse (Copyleft) and is specifically designed to go against any kind of corporate control. It has a viral license that means you cannot distribute it without giving the person receiving it the ability to share and modify it as they wish. Sharing is good, especially when it goes again power structures to some degree. More reading on all that if you wish. https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html

    @Polecat RE : dermatology

    This might belong in Frugal Fridays but – I had bad flaking skin on my face for years. Now every second night before bed, I use a small dab of White Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline if you want to over pay). Problem cleared up immediately and a single 200gm tub lasts a year for only $2! If I live another 50 years, it can mean the total cost of this stuff will still probably be less than the initial consultation by any dermatologist by a wide margin.

    As for greater health, I refer you to U. G. Krishnamurti – from his Wikipedia page. He lived to 89. A very unique person with a very wide and varied view on all manner of things.

    “After 1949, U.G. never saw a doctor or took medication, believing the body would take care of itself. Often complimented for good looks in his old age, U.G. would respond “that’s because I don’t eat healthy food, I don’t take vitamins, and I don’t exercise!” “

  180. One place one sees food trucks a lot in Cali is at pubs. It is pretty much a win win situation. The food truck has a ready made clientele, the pub doesn’t have to have a kitchen and staff, and the customer gets pretty much the same food they would from the pub at a comparable price, and often a variety from different trucks on different days. Most of the pubs I am thinking of are micro breweries or beer gardens. Some may have wine, but they don’t do spirits, so have a cheaper license: also better beer.
    Stephen

  181. @Mary Bennet, that’s one of the things about organic systems — they’re never fair systems. Fairness is always an artificial imposition, and when people put in efforts to build artificial and clinical systems, the most common justification is the pursuit of justice. Organic systems are Darwinian and resources are usually in a Pareto distribution (80% owners have 20% of the resources). I have seen packs of stray dogs here in India, and a small number happen to be well-fed while the remaining look progressively more ill until you get to the runts, which are scrappy little sacks of bones. I have tried to rectify this by selectively awarding biscuits and cakes to the ill-fed ones, but invariably they are scared of any new experience and don’t dare to approach me, and if I toss the food at them they run from the tossed food. Before they can work up the courage to approach the food, a healthier dog comes along, assertively approaches the snack, ignores my shooing like apes don’t matter, and then sniffs the goodie, confirms its edibility, and smartly scoops it up with their tongue and consumes it. The starving dog is left starving. This experience has happened often enough for me to take Peterson’s lecture on seratonin (in the first chapter of Twelve Rules for Life) seriously.

  182. Northwind Grandma #106,
    Glad to have your companionship on the age in place journey!
    JMG’s essays and the insights of the commentariat over the years inspire me to consider what, exactly, is the best use of savings. It sure isn’t one size fits all.
    OtterGirl

  183. Patricia Mathews #143

    GHOSTBUSTERS

    > There’s a name in the mythology of the far upper Midwest for the woman you mentioned. “Wendigo.”

    Wow. Thanks for the info. I will read up on wendigo (which I did a few hours later). How shall I remember that word? Wendy-a-Go-Go.

    I think I have met such a spirit twice. If so, they hide in plain sight, in one case, as a mother.

    In an earlier case, what I just read about wendigo is a good description of a demon I feel entered me around 1991, and, on my own, I labored several years to expel it/neutralize it. At the time, I was dealing with a serious chronic illness that was slowly killing everything about me, and I felt very abandoned by humanity.

    My fight against a demon/wendigo was literally an agonizing, prolonged battle. It didn’t occur to me that I was in over my head—that something was after me—that my life and soul were in danger—and I needed to find assistance. But seriously, who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters? JMG, what category of person CAN assist expelling the likes of a wendigo? Tibetan Buddhist monks? Tibetans know ‘their’ demons up close and personal. (I am not amenable to Christian-oriented exorcism.)

    My long-time spiritual practice involving meditation helped somewhat—but not all.

    I never heard of anyone saying they help expel wendigos/demons—maybe that is a new job description. Wendigo-Expeller. Outside of Christianity, how does one expel a demon? If one does need to go head to head against a demon/wendigo, (s)he had better know how to swim out of the undertow, or figure it out fast or there won’t be anything left. Scary as hell, but by-the-skin-of-one’s-teeth-doable. One skill to learn real fast: face one’s fear and anger, because this entity slips in through fear and anger. Another thing, as a society, is to admit such things/entities/whatevers exist (which the West is loathe to do), and learn about them ahead of time. Education.

    Hmm, if someone walked up to me on the street, and said, “I sense you are combatting a wendigo—can I help?”, I would have keeled over dead. Are there people who can sense such things?

    I am sorta scared I will meet up with a third one. What to look out for? How to feel “vibes” of a human-bodied wendigo? At 84, my mother-in-law (“Camilla, the Komodo Dragon”) looks like a walking corpse. Half of her body seems to have fossilized,—as in collapsed (thanks to modern medicine). I have no idea what the mechanics of this could be. Her MDs are perfectly fine with this manifestation. I wonder if any of them see the Frankenstein monster-nightmare they have collectively created. Isn’t the miracle of modern drugs terrific? I don’t know what keeps holding her up. She is like a punching bag, which, after a good whack, she comes ‘boing’ right back up. Maybe the boing is a dead giveaway. Somewhere along the way, her soul vanished. Knock, knock, nothing there. I am very happy that she is located a thousand miles away.

    With decline, wendigos,—and the like,—will have a field day, if they aren’t having one already. I am thinking that U.S. Congress is filled with wendigos. That would explain a lot. Congress-critters certainly are acting like it.

    Every “body” who does NOT have an established spiritual practice is/will be susceptible. Maybe if someone ’has no spiritual practice’ is something to watch out for👀; in other words, to be wary of. They have nothing to fall back on when life gets super-tough.

    Just surmisin’.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🪻👹🤡🧞👀
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  184. I am an 84-yr old male living in Southern Ontario having no particular skills beyond those acquired many years ago while earning several university degrees in biological sciences. I parlayed those into a professorship that I endured for 25 years, at which point the management decided that senior academics were earning way too much money and offered the entire group (age dependent) a very favourable early retirement plan including continued medical and dental plans, a generous pension, and a hefty cash parting gift. As you might expect, those of the professoriate who were the most successful but fed up with the academic life and yearned for another career jumped at the offer while the ones who viewed academia as a free-lunch requiring but little work opted to stay on and continue sucking the system dry.
    It was only after I had cut the cord that I found out the pension wasn’t indexed and I learned to meaning of ‘inflation’ the hard way. Finding myself in this predicament meant I had to acquire some method of making money to fill the widening gap. What I did was learn the basics of investing, turned my parting gift into a portfolio of safe, dividend-paying stocks, moved to a small cottage in the country, taught myself how to grow vegetables and process the produce, and now I have a reasonably growing income and a healthy diet. I have found a group of tradespeople who are happy to work for cash and many friends and neighbours who are willing to lend a hand and who help to educate me in what one has to know to live partially ‘off the grid’. Now I find myself passing on this information to newcomers.
    Soon I expect I will not be able physically to continue looking after myself. But, I am beginning to learn that there are a number of people quite willing to trade a few hours a day of housekeeping for cash. I am sure there are those reading this who view me as part of the problem the author is describing. Yes, I acquire money from the hard work of others but I expect corporations will continue to pay dividends as long as they are profitable and I am taxed on this income. But, I have found a niche that supplies me with a living free of the encumbrances that many must endure. I have been reading your columns for many years and have finally found one to which I feel qualified to reply. You are doing good work

  185. @Robert Mathiesen (#153)
    “In 1922 the linguist E. H. Sturtevant published a brief article arguing that “language was invented for the purpose of lying.” ”
    Thank you for this reference. I will look for the article. I never heard of it, but was always interested in the question of language and what it is good for. On my own, I came to the same conclusion. Lying confers a huge survival and procreation advantage as in “Honey, don’t believe your lying eyes. Let me explain.”.
    Nowadays, in corporate environment people are desensitized to lies in order to get through the day, survive all these sexual harassment trainings and be able to say with a straight face “birthing person”.
    Do you know where I would find this journal?

  186. @dropBear #180:

    I know someone who works at a medium sized manufacturing company. I’d guess around 2000 employees in a few countries.
    The were hit by ransomware late last year and cant access any of their books. So they are doing things the old way again for now.”

    I safeguard my desktop very simply:

    (1) I have Linux Mint, which is harder to hack than Windoze.
    (2) I back up my files once a week, and keep the backup disk disconnected from the computer.
    (3) I have my two operating systems (Mint and W1n 10) on CD, so I can “nuke” my OS and rebuild from scratch, if it gets corrupted.

    I did a “disaster recovery exercise” about a year ago, and I was able to rebuild everything from scratch in about 2 hours.

    So, anyone who hits me with ransomware can “go pound sand” while I laugh at them!

    Still, I do agree that paper-based systems will make a big comeback,as high-tech winds down,

  187. JMG, you wrote “A Dishwasher, well, what skills do you have that local people would gladly pay you to use on their behalf?”
    Thanks for this. I have not found answers to this yet, but will do more market research.

  188. @ Stephen Pearson #108,
    I’ve been a self-employed “scavenger” for about 15 years now, ever since it became apparent that I would not be able to re-enter the parasitic economy, thanks to having a disabled young person to care for. I buy (from physical auctions, house sales & the Recycling Centre) & sell on, in person, good fabrics & textile craft tools, and sometimes good garments too. I’ll clean & repair or refurbish them, then take them to markets & sales where interested parties are likely to gather. We are often asked why we don’t have more gentlemen’s clothing to sell; my usual answer is that men seem to wear their clothes until they are far beyond repair (quite true!) but there is also the fact you’ve put your finger right on; there is often what I can only term a “bad energy” which makes me not even want to pick such garments up, let alone store them, cart them round & try to sell them on, no matter how stylish & well-cut. I know I’m not alone; other traders (an interesting and often lovely bunch of eccentric & highly-talented individuals) have said things like “it made my skin crawl” about perfectly good garments. Rarely happens with ladies clothing.; perhaps we don’t “inhabit” items quite so much?

    @Milkyway # 108
    “Without a website” – that’s me! I did do online sales when I started, and many of my fellow-traders still do & do well from them. But I found the increasing pressure to do more, faster, “boost” sales, post items quicker (with a postal service that’s becoming increasingly useless & expensive) too much. I do all right without that pressure… and I need the time to tend my fruit & vegetables!

  189. One question I have for JMG and commentariat is about conflict resolution outside of lenocracy i.e. all those “informal courts” that exist outside of the state judicial system.
    I personally never had to deal with “informal courts” myself. The rumours I heard were mostly negative.
    Anyone has any experience to share?

  190. dropBear, JMG, re: living in Australia: The biggest hurdle here in Australia is securing a place to live. Rents and house prices are sky-high right now anywhere there is work. If you can get a workaround to that, there is a lively tradition of cash-in-hand work and steady demand for amateur handymen. The van life people are out there still on the highways with the grey nomads. The WWOOF program is still going (free farm labour in exchange for room and board). Outside the major cities, Australia is a large empty place where a lot of things can happen.

  191. Hey JMG

    On the subject of ideas for Self-Employment that anyone could do, it occurred to me recently that one could benignly take advantage of all the immigrants that the elite insist on importing into the west by offering to help them practice their English skills by having conversations with them, either in-person or by video-chat, in exchange for cash. I am uncertain how much demand there would be for this service, or how much they would willingly pay, but it may be worth giving it a shot.

  192. I think “pimpocracy” packs more punch. “Lenocracy” requires someone (cough, cough, JMG) to explain the Latin root to you. “Pimpocracy” is self evident even to dolts. As long as they’re english-speaking readers, of course.

  193. @Untitled-!: The library has the book by Long so I put it on hold to have a look. Well, I started writing some posts for an online music magazine first as a once off last year when I was asked to review an album by Nigel Ayers Nocturnal Emissions and Matteo Uggeri on a collaborative album they did. I had also written a review of a Skinny Puppy concert and offered that to them, which they put up. I was asked to write more for them, and this year thought it would be a good idea to give them some regular content, so I’ve added that back to the mix. ( Igloomag.com ) I certainly hope to get on some podcasts, but I know at least two radio shows will have me! One on shortwave, one on community FM…

    I have some other strategies up my sleeve and hope to acquire a few Moore : ) Thanks for the encouragement, and best of luck in your own endeavors!

    @Milkyway: As I mentioned just above I started writing for an online music magazine more regularly… I need to see what and who is out there on substack. Lots of political and fiction blogs, but I haven’t explored as many music substacks as I’d like to (I just finished up an email interview for one though, need to go through it one more time and tidy it up before I send it along…) so things are happening. But there are more alliances to make. I have felt guided on this journey all the way along, so I trust I will be guided further as I go.

    I do have two more niche books, one finished (except for hopefully interviews of people who are still alive to add to the material, and editing) and one I am working on, posting some drafted material slowly on my website. I do have some ideas for works with broader appeal, and fiction in various draft stages, that I think while fringeworthy in its deindustrial aspect, is of broader appeal than my writings on avantgarde music. Thank you for your encouragement and your ideas!

  194. re: warlords

    If you’re really serious (?!) about being a warlord, I’d watch the movie Air America. Forget the flying stunts (although they are entertaining), what you want to take notes on is one of the characters of the movie – General Lu Soong. That title of “General” is a clue to how he got his start – he joined the military. So, if you’re really serious, I hear the Army is recruiting. In fact, they are – anxious – to meet you. So get going.

    The other warlord I can recall would be Kony. He wasn’t a military type, instead he was a religious prophet, who happened to be good with weapons, I think? So there’s your other route – go join a church. Or start one. Praise Jesus and pass the ammo.

    Whichever route you take, I’d keep your real ambitions to yourself – either you’ll get co-opted or kicked out. Good luck, have fun.

  195. >Diogenes ” It is because I eat lentils and bread that I do not need to serve the king”

    The reminds me of what a megacorp middle manager type told me long ago about Lou Gerstner of IBM. He had a private jet, a personal chef, a driver, etc. Then he said something like the guy is only worth a few million (this was back when money was still real) and on his own, he couldn’t begin to afford that level of lifestyle but because the corporation is paying for all of that, he gets to live a bigger lifestyle than he otherwise would. He gets to live like a billionaire, riding on the back of IBM.

    And then he drove the point home – that’s what attracts those kind of people to become C-levels. Or, C-levels tend to want those kinds of things.

    In any case, there are more Gerstners out there than Diogeneses. I dunno, personally, what are you learning if you have all these people doing everything for you? You’re nothing more than a big baby.

    Goo goo goo.

  196. Thanks, JMG for this very insightful post. With hindsight, the moment our Lenocracy was solidified in me was seeing Ben Bernanke on the cover of the Atlantic with the word “Hero” boldly pronounced. I realized that everyone had thrown their hat into a very corrupt ring.

  197. @JMG: You’re right about the warrior monks, of course. I’d also like to see the Heathens try that, and I’m sure it could be a valuable option for some of the young men in the West who find themselves drawn to more of a warrior path, especially since those are in such short supply right now.

    Oh, and I forgot to say in the previous comment, but I’m impressed AODA/the Gnostic Celtic Church are planning a physical monastery. I hope that project comes to fruition one day.

    @dropBear #176

    Funny how the grass indeed tends to be greener on the other side. Ie., I’m a European in my late thirties who’s increasingly thinking Australia seems like one of the best places to be, and I feel some regret that I didn’t realize when I was younger, which means it’s basically impossible for me to move there at this point in my life. Of course, every industrial country is going to be in deep trouble one way or the other when the “absurd extravagance” (to quote our host) of the oil age goes away. Still, from my perspective over here Australia has a low population density, a strong agricultural base, a good climate for low-energy living (the parts of it that aren’t an infernal desert, anyway) and the biggest moat on Earth isolating it very nicely from most of the potential wars and great migrations of the future. It’ll also be unaffected by the Gulf Stream shutdown I mentioned upthread (I think?).

    Anyway, the reality check is appreciated, and I definitely understand the sadness at seeing such a decline. Again, that might be common to most of the industrial West, though. I’ve tended to see Australia as a sort of mid-point between the American and European mentality, but what you’re describing in both your comments sounds more similar to how things work here in Norway. Even down to the extractive industry being the basis of our wealth, while most people work in services and BS “management” jobs thinking they’re doing something of great value. So (to put it a bit tongue in cheek) many of the same problems, but at least you guys have a much better climate and aren’t on the doorstep of the Middle East and Russia. On the other hand, we might have a bit more social cohesion and less neoliberalism, even if it’s been slowly chipping away at us for 40 years now and has taken its toll.

    Your point 2) sounds familiar too. As in every Western country, it’s getting harder and harder for young people to afford property here, while the bubble keeps inflating. Every place even remotely resembling an urban area has some very unreasonable prices, necessitating the debt slavery you mention. (Thanks, lenocrats.)

  198. Alan, as I see it, the problem with gold and similar currencies, is that one can easily be relieved of it. Useful tools can also be seized or stolen, but at least one has the use of them in the meantime. The best use of gold, etc., IMO, would be for taxes, whether official or unofficial. Maybe tactfully “hidden” to give the thief some bragging points. Nathaniel Hawthorne, traveling in rural Spain, carried a small bag of currency for payoffs in case the party should encounter bandits.

  199. Donald, that’s just so weird.

    Justin, you’re certainly right about real estate prices — it’s true here in the US as well. If those were to be subject to market forces every bank in the country would be broke in a week. It’ll be interesting to see how long the charade can be continued.

    David, glad to hear this. You seem to have played the cards dealt you quite well.

    Vlad, I’ve avoided them successfully so far. I’ll be interested to hear what others have to say.

    Kfish, thanks for this.

    J.L.Mc12, might be worth a try.

    Helix, then by all means use that term. I have reasons for the one I chose, of course.

    Jon, yeah, I saw that one too, and gagged.

    Kim, I’m cheering the project on. As for the New Jomsvikings, here’s hoping!

  200. >who’s increasingly thinking Australia seems like one of the best places to be

    If you’re in the frying pan, Australia is the fire. If you’ve been paying attention on what’s going on down under, Ozzies have no rights, they are all test rabbits for every cockeyed globalist experiment. You live down there, you’re consenting. To god-knows-what.

    And it seems what goes for Oz goes 10x for New Zealand. I’m not sure where to go to, but I am almost certain that Australia is the last place I should.

    Then again, maybe you like being a test rabbit? Nyeah, what’s up doc?

  201. Gaia #130
    As the saying goes there are only two unavoidable things in this life, death and taxes.
    I am not sure how I gave you the impression that I was avoiding taxes and benefiting from a service at the expense of others . All my life that I worked for a paycheck, I was paying into the social security system. With every paycheck, I could see how much I was paying into it as well as how much was being withheld for State and federal taxes.
    Currently I pay sales taxes to my State and the municipality where I sell my clothing items after every event. I have also paid self-employment tax (this pays into the social security system) every year to the IRS since the early 2000’s and sometimes it has been a hefty chunk even when I have planned for it. Airbnb collects all the requisite fees and taxes for our short term rental, pays them to the necessary entities before we get paid. Since they are the ones collecting all the money, that seems reasonable to me. The money we earn from this endeavor gets reported to the IRS as income and of course the self-employment tax applies.
    If our economy/government collapses, I expect that last thing that will collapse will be tax collections of any kind, especially local taxes. I try very hard to stay currant so as to avoid the notice of any taxing entity and that may become much more difficult as things unravel.

  202. Seideman, where do you live? I raise sheep too, but even in this sector the bureaucracy is insane. You have to register each one of them, fill a form every time you move one, get vet permission for everything, and they even get to decide which rams you can breed and which you must slaughter. If an animal dies, you must pay for a truck to come collect it and then burn it in an incinerator. You cannot bury it.
    Every one of these things costs money. A public veterinarian is paid (by the taxpayer) thousands of euros every month, and does nothing for the animals, it’s just paperwork.
    I wouldn’t mind if this truly guaranteed animal welfare, but it doesn’t. For example it makes butchering at home a lot harder, even though it’s less stressful for the animal.

  203. @JMG, you mentioned there is no evidence for intense energy usage from previous civilizations, and to that point there is no evidence of domestic grain older than 12k years, i also wonder where all the ancient glass is (older than 12k years) you mentioned in previous articles the pure aluminum from ancient China so i agree there was at least technology but maybe just not at scale. While the evidence suggests against it i think there is room for a possible civilization that had energy at scale. if for example a million years ago they figured out Fusion (water in hydrogen and energy out) there would be no trace of the water used and the hydrogen exhausted would be swept away out of our atmosphere.
    @Robert Mathiesen
    i agree with the general sentiment but to be more specific i think language is not a type of communication like lying or excuses, that kind of communication happens all the time with animals, but rather language is a more complex version of the same communication. Humans have the same outcome and communication styles as animals its just that we form tribes in more complex forms, and influence through communication more complexly.
    Another tid bit on this topic, The Hermetix podcast recently had a guest that compared Human buildings and homes to termite mounds. Both are considered to the guest “external organs” as they provide temperature regulation and need maintenance. Just like internal organs they have a cost and a benefit to the system (body). An interesting way to think of our creations and society. Can be applied to many things we do, maybe art is an external peacock feather!
    liking the conversation thanks all!

  204. @Kirsten (#195):

    I just uploaded my own PDF of Sturtevant’s short article to archive.org, so you should be able to download it there. (The red underlining of the keyb sentence was added by me.)

  205. JMG,
    It occured to me that while the general population needs the reminder to try doing things without a financial intermediery, many states need this as well.

    It used to be that the state would sometimes subsidise something by actually paying for it or by waving taxes, but there were other forms of subsidies. For example, by maintianing a reliable maui service, small buisnesses who would otherwise not be able to afford doing mail orders can now expand their buisness this way.

    But today, states try to solve problems chiefly by throwing money on them, not by trying to use political power and connections to start new arrengements that could serve as infrastracture for a new direction for society.

  206. Some news on the tide as is:

    A recent survey in Austrian newspaper Kurier concerning the young and their state of mind showed:
    – a majority are interested in trade jobs
    – most don’t want to pursue a “higher education” anymore
    – they value their leisure time and social relationships more than giving up their life energy for work

    Now, that was also the topic in the liberal outlet “DerStandard”.

    As expected, the “rebels” of yesterday turn out to be the narrow minds of today!

    Here’s the gist of their rants:

    “The youth just dont want to work anymore, I had nothing in the seventies and now I earn well!”
    “We live in the best of all times, there has never been so much wealth and opportunities for the young, they are just lazy!”
    “Their complaints are obtuse, they just don’t want to get moving and earn money because they are so spoiled!”

    Needless to say but I am saying it anyways, obviously these people live in their own bubble and they have absolutely no idea what’s going on in other people’s lives offside their comfortable bubble.

    Anecdote: I met a university colleague from back then. The past years he was either unemployed or doing meagre jobs that were very depressing. He never made it into the PMC at that, like I did.

    Now however, he found work as a partner to a gardener with his own workshop. He seemed very happy and had a very firm handshake, suretale sign of someone doing physical labor, unless he is climbing ot doing exercises with like push ups with his fingers spread out (I did that once upon a time- effective, but risky).

    Another of my acquaintances is a carpenter. In between, due to serious injury, he reeducarted and worked as a bookkeeper. But now he returned to doing under-the-table carpentry.

    Mostly designing and installing kitchens, as the big warehouses do not offer customized services like he does. He is very happy and refuses to work a registered job, as he would earn nothing after taxes and be exploited for the hell of it.

    Recently I was at a totally useless “business lunch” with some colleagues of my government administration job. One old bloke saw some builders as we walked back to the office and commented “Now THAT is real work!”
    He affirmed that working with your hands is so much more rewarding than sitting in front of a screen.

    I asked him, why did you choose informatics back then? Well, he said, it was 1982, I did not know what to do and informatics is a good choice, they said.

    To be honest, despite my PMC job being part time and still the best of offers among others of the type, when I just hear colleagues talking excitedly about these endless abstractions we deal with, it gives me nausea.

    I hate it. I resent it. I should be thankful – for now – that I am not exploited hellishly like others are. But I am looking for other options. As others here commented – no it isn’t easy, esp for those of us who have been raised and molded to be office drones and nothing else.

    May the spirit world guide me I guess. I will do what is in my power. Either I succeed or I will perish with this, but as I am getting old and the world turns crazy a notch all the time, my willingness to risk it all rises.

    I don’t know if I am being ungrateful, or delusional, but I just hate these abstractions, even if for now they are kinder to me than to others.

  207. @Vlad Tepes #199

    Interesting, I don’t usually comment so much but it seems this time for whatever reason my experience is relevant to the discussion. I spent three years in an activist space in a conflict resolution role where we attempted to make these ideas work. My conclusion is that unless you make effective conflict resolution a priority in your organization from the very beginning, it’s very, very difficult to get it right after the fact.

    The biggest problem is that the people you are working with think and act in lenocratic terms. Once two activists start seeing themselves as “opponents”, the temptation for many of them is to use the same tactics with each other that they use against external threats, like corporations. This, as one could imagine, gets ugly very quickly. Training this behavior out of them was something we tried very hard to do, and failed at, because it simply wasn’t a priority for most people. Our program was considered kind of an afterthought, as far as the movement was concerned, and everyone except our team treated it as such. All of the core principles instilled by leadership were externally-focused, with nothing speaking to internal relationships.

    Putting one team “in charge” of conflict resolution and expecting them to “handle it”, while everyone else goes about their business, is itself managerial (lenocratic) thinking, and I think fundamentally that was our undoing. My advice, if you want effective conflict resolution in an organization or community, is to instill in that community that resolving conflict is everybody’s responsibility, and though there are people who can help facilitate that, they can’t force anyone to stop fighting, or to even come to the table in the first place.

    It felt, more often than not, that what the organization really wanted from us was an internal law enforcement or justice system, or, failing that, a scapegoat to blame when trust and community broke down internally. This was how people treated us, at any rate.

    My conclusion from these experiences is that we are simply not in a place culturally where effective conflict resolution can take place in most organizations. I expect this to improve as communities shrink and become more tight-knit. Trust among peers is paramount. If most people do not really trust each other, it simply doesn’t work.

    I’d be happy to hear of stories that contradict mine, of course. It’s possible our team simply wasn’t “good enough” to navigate the challenges at hand. Hearing someone else’s positive experience would be encouraging, if nothing else.

  208. “I hope [the woman who was living in a gigantic store sign in Michigan] finds a new lair — and I hope its notional owners are smart enough to leave her alone. No doubt they could ask her to keep an eye on the place after hours!”

    It’s as likely as not that she had that kind of understanding in her previous place too. I’m sure you noticed that it was outside contractors who “discovered” the dwelling.

    But for the time being such understandings have to be as clandestine as a nod across a room. Any tangible sign of overt permission would invite bottomless potential trouble for either or both parties. “You agreed to let them live there so you’re now required to provide them with plumbing, HVAC, and wheelchair ramp access.” Or “you knew they were there and didn’t follow policy so now you’re being sued for millions in damages after they burned the place down.” Everyone involved needs airtight, not just “plausible,” deniability.

    Which makes this an example case that relates to a comment I made a few weeks ago about being alert to suggestions that aren’t and can’t be spoken, when dealing in the margins. Such as when someone with authority (like a licensed professional or a property owner) tells you that there’s something they’re not allowed to tell you. Or uses the phrase “don’t let me catch you…” [doing some particular thing]. Usually “get it in writing” is still good advice, but in some circumstances there’s no chance of getting anything in writing, and your best play is the opposite: to not ask questions or make requests that force them to give you a firm no.

  209. Alex, domestication of grains was an emergency measure undertaken in several parts of the world in the face of the terrible droughts that followed the end of the last ice age. Before then the evidence suggests that systematic management of native ecosystems, the sort of thing that so many Native American peoples practiced so successfully until the European conquest, seems to have been standard. Equally, glass was a makeshift at first, a response to the exhaustion of supplies of volcanic glass, and only later came to be used for a much wider range of purposes. I see no evidence for energy consumption at modern scale any time in the last 100 million years — the runaway greenhouse events in the Mesozoic could well be traces of the rise and fall of what some have called anthroposaur civilizations — but that’s just it; the occult traditions insist that in the last (“Atlantean”) cycle, at least, scientific knowledge and advanced technology were jealously guarded by elite priesthoods and thus never got used on a large scale.

    Four Sided, that strikes me as a very good point.

    Curt, thanks for these data points.

    Walt, oh, granted. I still hope she finds a new lair.

  210. @ #179 Michael Gray and #185 JMG:
    I became consumed a few days ago with the phrase ‘a mess of pottage’. I was pretty certain it was from the Esau story (ie, he gave up his birthright for a mess of pottage) but it is translated in lots of different ways. I never knew pottage was basically lentil stew. Sounds yummy. I’m sure Diogenes would have approved.

    I don’t post very often but maybe I’ve done so enough times now to explain my handle. It has nothing to do with magic or magicians or 16th century poetry (‘get with child a mandrake root’). It was a name I chose to play Quake 2 under many years ago. When I needed to make up a name one day, I elected to pick one from the movie Dr Strangelove. Most of the names in that movie are too ridiculous to use, so I settled on this one (“Mandrake, have you ever seen a commy drink water?” — gets me every time).

  211. Ethan L. #131
    “Economic exchanges in a gift economy could be seen as a sort of inverted prisoner’s dilemma — you’re not choosing whether to keep silent or rat your partner out, but whether to reciprocate their altruism or selfishly take advantage of it. Experiments conducted with the prisoner’s dilemma seem to show that when the game is unbounded — that is, neither of the participants know when the game will end, or for how many more rounds it will be played — altruism is favored, while selfishness is favored in one-off situations. It might work the same way for gift economies; if you live among the same few people, you’ll be interacting with them more frequently, and so would have reason to stay in their good graces.”

    This game theory only really works if you think the point of a “gift economy” is the stuff, not the relationships. The thing about gift “economies” is that they are not actually “economies”, they are communities. The *POINT* is the relationship. The fact that gifts (stuff) frequently change hands in such contexts is part of how the bonds of the community are maintained. What Marcel Mauss pointed out in “The Gift” is that we tend to feel the receipt of a gift as an obligation to reciprocate, which is premised on a notional “equality of exchange”. The length of time that can comfortably elapse between receiving the gift and reciprocating with a gift of similar value (but never exact, for reasons that will become clear in a moment), bears witness to the strength of that particular relationship. Some gifts impose an obligation that we are unwilling to accept – witness the many times you’ve watched a mafia/gangster movie where someone is “inducted” into the gang by a magnanimous “gift” they can neither refuse, nor refuse to repay upon demand. Witness the discomfort you might feel when a stranger buys you a drink and you have to wonder – “what is it they will want in return”?

    We *know* how gifts work, because despite our society’s best efforts we are still members of *some* family or community or network of friends. We know that if we offer to immediately repay a gift, that would be like saying “this relationship is finished.” Think about it. Say you go home and your mother or other relative cooks you a meal. What would they think about you rising from the table and saying “how much do I owe you for that?” You’d get a smack around the head! And yet, there will be some kids that acquire a reputation of “treating this house like a hotel” (which, ironically, *doesn’t* mean paying for the meals and accomodation like a good guest would), and others known to be helpful and generous in their turn.

    Something about a strong relationship *permits* there to be a length of time that elapses between one gift given and another given in return. Or that there is always a *bit* of unfinished business left to the future held in trust by the strength of the relationship, as no gift between good friends is ever reciprocated *exactly*. Or for everyone concerned to be so close and so sharing to simply stop counting. But, what the people value is the *relationship* not the *stuff*. The *stuff* happens… as a side effect.

    The thing that money did was to *keep* the insistence upon an exchange being “=”, but shorten the timeframe of the transaction – this for that, over and done – so much that even perfect strangers could exchange stuff with no leftover business needing to be “carried” by an ongoing relationship between them. And It somehow persuaded us that what counts in an “economy” is the “stuff”, not the people.

  212. The impish side of me thought of a ‘fun’ new board game called ‘Lenocracy’. With each move you have to pay off some bureaucrat or pay some service fee or apply for some licence, etc. Plenty of diversions that end up being huge time-wasters if not outright dead ends. And the best part of the game: nobody wins! Except for the lucky person who draws the ‘secretly start your own business’ card.

    The advertisement can say: “feeling chipper and up-beat today? Well, don’t let that bother you! Play a round of “Lenocracy” with your friends and you’ll be in a right blue funk in no time!”

  213. @The Other Owen #210

    Yes, I intended to bring that up, but decided not to for the sake of brevity and not straying too far off topic. (Since your comment was approved, I’ll assume a brief reply is okay too.) It’s a very real and valid concern, and I have no more interest than most of the readership here in being a test rabbit. The hysteria around you-know-what seemed especially intense in Australia, and I was disappointed to see the reports on JMG’s weekly forum of such a latent authoritarian streak among many people there.

    That said, my answer is still that I think the advantages might be worth it anyway on the whole. Every state in the industrial world is going to enthusiastically push all these schemes, and I’m sure their next move will be to use digital currencies as a cudgel. Resisting will be hard going no matter where you’re located. Maybe the American red states will be somewhat of a safe haven for those who’re able and willing to move there and adjust to that culture.

  214. @Mary Bennet #208: When I lived in Rio de Janeiro, it was common practice to carry a second purse and a second cell phone “for the bandit” and keep the primary ones well hidden. Most bandits were in a hurry and would take the first ones.

  215. JMG, maybe my idea of tying “advanced” to dense populations and wide use of technology is a bias on my part, and is me just looking for our current state in the past as a measure for “success” in ancient times. Among humans is it inevitable that given extra resources some form of competition arises? for example in our age it seems to be competition through consumption and growth (tragedy of the commons), for the Atlanteans maybe they had surplus but competed territorially (guarding tech among elite). Is there examples among geneticly unique individuals choosing sustainability even with surplus resources? sure it is the best decision in terms of reducing extinction risk but once one person/society consumes and over reproduces it leads to a tragedy of the commons runaway pretty quickly. It will be easy in retrospect to look at the oil age as a silly use of resources but im wondering if there was a lesson to learn or if we are just on this ride together. On the flip side, are the lessons we can learn from sustainable native american tribes lessons for the time of collapse, or did we miss the lesson for the growth phase as well?

  216. Rajarshi, there is nothing organic about any marketplace. Markets, of whatever kind, are a social construct. I know that phrase is inaccurately overused nowadays, but here I think it is accurate. In pre industrial Europe, craft guilds determined prices, because all members had to be able to prosper. They also enforced quality standards. No clever workman was allowed to undercut the others. India, or any country, can have whatever kind of market it wants. Folks who want to live in the USA have to put up with what we prefer. I have scant sympathy for the person who feels insulted by fixed prices.

    As our host has said, new ideas come from the fringes. That would be the 20% you mentioned. The folks that more “successful” people despise as woebegone losers.

  217. Mr.Greer, by all means .. use that tined metaphor as you will. Just watch out for any sharp, pointed hoes laying about! ‘;]
    I hear tell that wilted eurocrats do quite well if deeply buried upside-down, and then ‘watered in’ with copious soakings of pre-salted peter….. not that they’ll grow up to be strong determinates or such.

  218. @Untitled #218
    You said that your team was put “in charge” of conflict resolution. Was is just the leadership decision or did entire organisation agree to put your team in charge?
    Was there a system of appeals? If there was how did it work?

  219. A lot of people in this neck of the woods were well out of The System for decades, growing “weed” in the hills. I read in the local paper that the President is looking to change cannabis from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3, which makes total sense. Honestly, it makes little sense that it was ever Schedule 1 in the first place.

    Anyway, to paraphrase most of the comments to the article in the parlance of this blog, most people’s first response was, “The good times are over, boys. Here come the lenocrats!”

  220. Hi John Michael,

    It is worth noting that the Indigenous folks down here at the earliest time of the European arrival, were growing vast acreages of grains and tubers. Probably on a scale we can’t imagine nowadays. Early explorers report the grain millet being grown on a truly massive scale, and in cooler areas not suitable for grain growing, yams were grown. Introduced sheep and cattle, not to mention hungrier European grains pretty much wiped out most of the soil fertility. From the historical accounts, it didn’t take that long to do. An impressive achievement.

    The vibe is weird isn’t it? Like trouble brewing, but with no clear notion as to what event will push things over into a new dynamic. I began reading your essays in 2008, and if I recall correctly, wasn’t there a housing bubble blogger who used to conclude the analysis with: “This is going to end badly”? I’ve always liked that snappy line. Of course more learned people suggested that the blogger was wrong, until they themselves were proven by events to be wrong.

    It’s the volume of bad news, and also the escalation of agreed upon policies and strategies, which gives me the 2008-all-over-again vibe. Of course there are underlying structural issues (or predicaments), but plenty of trouble is being caused by the very policies and strategies being implemented. Not much says ‘limited shelf life’ to me like that scenario, but it also kind of displays what you’ve been writing about: An inability of our leaders to resolve basic issues and respond to changed circumstances. It doesn’t look good.

    I don’t have any clear insight into where things are going in the mid-term distance, and that bothers me a bit. How are you with that vision?

    Cheers

    Chris

  221. @DropBear and everyone else regarding Aus

    It’s all about getting out of the cities, which are the problem because Australia is so urbanised. It’s like an American saying LA San Francisco or New York is representative of the whole of the USA, which would be ridiculous but because Australia population is so concentrated in two or three big cities it can feel that way.

    However, In the rural and regional areas small businesses and self employment are kicking off into high gear, and everything negative you and others say is not as much of a factor. The difference I think is family/community connections and the government has far less reach. Large scale agricultural land ownership helps too, in that no one can really tell you want to do on your farm (without them taking personal risk), but this extends over to everyone letting everyone else go about their business relatively unmolested. All the same regulations exist in theory as the city, but aren’t really enforced and are often actively ignored. We barely noticed the whole COVID episode here, and if one didn’t watch the TV or check the news you wouldn’t know anything was amiss.

    As JMG says power is not an abstract thing, and part of the Aus gov authoritarian streak is because it’s a tiny force on a massive untamable landscape. Go out and become part of the that landscape and the petty power games and decrees of the government seem laughable.

  222. Ron, if you were to make that game and market it via Thegamecrafter.com I suspect you’d make a remarkable amount of money at it.

    Alex, Native American cultures worked out sustainable ways of living after a long age of crisis and repeated collapse — the end of the Clovis culture and the extinction of most megafauna in North America being just one of the best documented. That is to say, they learned the lesson we’re learning now, and they learned it the hard way, just as we will. I’m far from sure, btw, that cooperation is better than competition for reducing extinction risk, as cooperation minimizes the production of novelty and thus the chance that there will be variant individuals and cultures equipped to ride out the storm. As it is, I don’t think there’s any great risk that human beings will go extinct any time soon — the collapse of industrial civilization won’t greatly impact subsistence farmers in the New Guinea highlands or their peers in various other corners of the world, for example.

    Polecat, “The Wilted Eurocrats” would make a great band name!

    Slink, yep. The end of Prohibition was a major crisis for the homebrewing and moonshining industries, too.

    Chris, that was the Housing Panic blog, and the line was, “Oh dear God, this is going to end so badly.” Quite accurate, too. I’m not much more certain about the middle term than you are, because the situation is so fragile and there are so many different fissures opening up in it. Whether the shock that starts the unraveling here in the US is a matter of domestic politics, foreign politics, economics, or (may the gods help us all) military is really hard to judge as any of them could tip us over into the terminal crisis of the existing order and the beginning of convulsive change.

  223. Anyone with the skills to replace damaged (or overcomplicated or confusing) computerized controls, with a manual dial and on/off switch, may soon be set for life. Ditto for revising or bypassing the power source, from the no-longer-available special sized battery. Replacing perfectly functional devices, because one part (simple, but designed to be irreplaceable) gave out, is one of the most frustrating, wasteful and polluting examples of lenocracy. Good to see the right-to-repair movement making progress to some degree.

  224. @Vlad Tepes #229

    Both of those questions, if I understood them correctly, are based on misunderstandings of the role conflict resolution plays in an organization. We did not have any actual power over anybody. Our role was not to assign blame, but rather to mediate discussions and help people to manage their own emotions so that all parties in a given case can discuss things like mature adults and agree (informally) on steps forward. This involves cooperation and compromise on the part of everybody involved. There was no process or authority to grant us power because our role did not require it. What I meant when I said “in charge”, then (note the quotation marks), was that this fact did not stop everyone we interacted with from asking us to enforce their agreements, or punish people who failed to uphold their end of the bargain. Conflict mediation is much more informal than a court system, and as such we had no authority to enforce anything.

    Similarly, this also means there was no system of appeals, since it was not necessary. There are processes in the mediation for trying to identify if there are any misunderstanding about the agreements, or about the conflict itself, but that’s it. It’s up to the people involved to come up with fair terms everybody is satisfied with and will follow.

    There were internal processes for things like deciding whether to kick a person out of the organization, but they were unrelated to the work we did and were mostly decided by leadership.

    Please let me know if this answered your questions or if I misunderstood anything.

  225. A timely post! Given where things are headed, it’s well-advised to find various alternatives and sustainable options. For those trying to stay in, it seems that late-stage lenocracy is becoming more & more similar to helotry or debt peonage. After all, if most of your earnings are stolen from you in ways various & sundry, you’re essentially being exploited for your labor (aka bondage/slavery), just in a more subtle manner.

    #193 Northwind — Pardon me ma’am, I couldn’t help noting your discussion of Wendigos, a topic I asked JMG about on a recent Magic Monday. He demurred, due to not wanting to appropriate Native American lore, and I can respect that. However, I finally found the Wendigo story I remember reading in childhood — it was from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark! Apparently it was a reworking of Algernon Blackwood’s 1910 novella, The Wendigo (which I’d assume is a more accurate source). That seems like a useful starting point.

  226. Thrifty1 @198 and JMG
    Interesting.
    my daughter buys a lot of clothing from thrift shops and has never commented on bad energy. She does turn over a lot more clothing than I do. I think women in general do, and more lightheartedly, so it may well not not pick up bad vibes from them.
    Even if I buy something new, I will often get rid of it after a couple of wearings because it is just wrong.. If I keep it beyond that, I will usually keep it until it is rags. I do hope that when i die, someone will pick it up and say “this is pretty raggedy, but it does have a good energy” There could be worse epitaphs.
    Stephen
    Stephen

  227. Chris and JMG, re fragility and fissures. I wonder if we can look at the Freedom Convoy of 2022 that tied up Ottawa’s downtown for a few weeks as an anti-lenocrat rebellion. And I couldn’t help noticing that the police were awfully slow in moving the protesters out. It looked to me that the police chief was dragging his feet and so I have to wonder about his motivation. It couldn’t be that he was on the side of the protesters could it? IIRC, in the end he resigned, a new guy took his place and the protesters were dispersed.

    Which raises a question about the role of military and para-military (like police) in the inevitable societal and economic unravelling, or, to put it in more positive terms, reconfiguration. They scream ‘defund the police’ but it’s the cops (and military) that backstop the present-day dispensation and also those doing the hollerin’.

    Is it a stretch to say that the ruling class wields power through the sufferance of men with guns? So who has power? Is it a university president? Or a corporate CEO? Or is it the police chief and the guy with the big hat that commands an infantry division?

    So what happens when the uniformed, armed men demur, even passively, refusing to back up their supposed civilian bosses? Well, we got a small taste of it in Ottawa.

  228. JMG #233

    > the situation is so fragile and there are so many different fissures opening up in it

    I know you are thinking more short-term, but the one thing that won’t change is that buildings decay. Buildings failimh, like public housing, such as holes in roofs letting elements in, is a physical boundary. I am saying that even if there isn’t some big event creating a domino-level fail, there isn’t much refurbishing of buildings going on. In fifteen years, populations who cannot afford renovation of their homes, or get others to do it, or learn how to do it, are up s### creek.

    All infrastructure-failing needs is time. Even if things putz along as is, with decline, the unprepared are goners.

    I admire everyone here whose attitudes are “we are going to learn how to do things differently.” I wish I had time to learn how to grow a garden, farm our own food, raise cows, pigs, sheep, or horses, or see my husband learn electricity, plumbing, raising a barn, pouring concrete, build a roof, put siding on a house, put windows in, learn old-style car mechanics, become a sailor, blacksmith or by-hand woodworker, tend a bar, make beer, learn to cook over a campfire🔥using Dutch ovens and cast iron skillets, and many other tangible skills people used to have in ye olde days. I can read stories though.

    I wish I could participate in years to come, but don’t have that many decades😢. So I learn to weave well🧶.

    Pretty much the story of my life is to offer good cheer📣to younguns, and encourage each of your new brainstorms and endeavors some of which, I am sure, feel cockamamie. I remember what it was like ‘before’ plastics were invented (more accurately, when plastics were broadly dispersed in 1960s)—when things were made of wood🪵. When you find images of the 1930s, emulate those—it was all about wood. Out with petroleum plastics.

    I so want wood to come back. I have nostalgia for the future. What has come over me❓

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🪻🐄🐖🐑🐴📣🪵
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA
    70 something

  229. Kay, thanks for the answer, and I’m sorry that I misunderstood. Another commenter mentioned the story of someone they know receiving benefits just as long as they don’t work or refuse a job offer, so that definitely does happen somewhere. It depends a lot on the country and it’s very difficult to have a good system, humans being the way they are.
    I am in a somewhat similar situation to the one you describe, if I understand it correctly this time around; I do pay all the taxes I owe but I don’t pay as many taxes as people with a regular salary, and if I did I would lose my freedom to live frugally and purposefully. I am torn because on the one hand I definitely want to pay for hospitals, schools, etc; on the other hand, I see how much money is wasted or spent badly and I don’t want to contribute to that, yet you can’t choose, you pay into one single pot. My own personal solution is to write books and articles telling people, in the most interesting way I can manage, where public expenditure actually goes (industrial or consumption subsidies, money to the rich…), so that we can try and change things collectively. I don’t see that happening any time soon, but I’m trying.

  230. Dear Mr Greer and commentariat,

    This week I’m late to the party, but let me tell you something: your posts are getting uncannily timely. For a while I’ve been pondering on wether to go on to the typical corporate job my studies normally lead to, but this is too heretical to even discuss it in my PMC environment. Thanks for the sanity check.

    Spain must be way further down the decline path in this regard. The only people who seem to be prospering here are those working in or close to the gargantuan bureaucracy of public administration. Most people’s wet dream consists of working for the state as a professional paperwork pusher, so they can work -or pretend to work – 30 odd hours a week and get a bigger paycheck than those employed in the private sector. I don’t blame them though, working conditions and wages in corporate jobs are awful for those who joined the workforce after 2008 or couldn’t keep their old employment.

    At this point, a collapse à la Soviet Union starts to sound even better than what we currently have for most of us, but I sadly doubt it would be so benign here.

    Re: Manual bookkeeping as the wave of the future. Absolutely, for the lucky few with basic literacy and numeracy skills in the not too distant future. My 6-year-old nephew is supposed to start learning multiplication next school year, but it turns out the multiplication tables are not taught anymore. Kids are required to use a calculator or their smartphone instead now – yeah, some kids apparently have a smartphone at that age. I wonder what they’ll do when computers aren’t as cheap and ubiquitous as they’re now.

  231. Dashui,

    Pieces of eight are alive and well in my weird little world. I decided a few years ago to circulate, instead of just hoarding, some of my “junk” silver coins (90% silver U.S. half dollars, quarters, and dimes minted before 1965) at any establishment that would take them. I’ve purchased firewood, fruit trees, shop tools, a bicycle, and lots of cheeseburgers and chili dogs with my pieces of eight! I also give all of my regular bartenders and servers a silver half dollar for Christmas. Some of them really appreciate it.

    Clay Dennis,

    The food truck pods are happening in Atlanta as well, and just starting to happen in my small rural town north of there. Haven’t followed regulations on the subject, but it’s very encouraging to hear that your area is becoming increasingly amenable to the idea! My favorite watering hole serves fried haddock for their fish and chips and I have it every Saturday after the farmers market (along with some unAmerican football and a couple pints of Guinness). My wife’s little herbal products company buys our lunch to thank me for the muscle power setting up and breaking down the market, on a day when I’d much rather be sleeping in after a hard week of work.

    JMG,

    This is a great post. Looking forward to reading it to my wife after our pub lunch this afternoon. I think she could use the encouragement. This is her first year managing the farmers market and it’s been a trying experience for her. As a mutable mercurial type, she’s not a naturally effervescent and extroverted leader, but the market was in danger of folding if someone didn’t step in and take over. I’m proud of her for doing it, and your words will give her a nice boost I think.

  232. Heian,

    My 14 y.o. son loves Ryan George, so I get to see his clips occasionally. I’ll be sure to share the one you posted with him – it’s fantastic, and very appropriate to this week’s post. (He’s probably already seen it, but maybe it’ll score me a few Dad points…;)
    Cheers.

  233. JMG,

    What you’re talking about with Alex in your last comment – cooperation v. competition – just sounds like different seral stages of local development to me. As you know, the R-selected communities come first (after a disturbance) with a few aggressive species that dominate and thrive on competition, followed by the K-selected polyvalent community that thrives on cooperation.. As with any evolutionary lineage, one is not necessarily “better” than the other, just more appropriate to the current conditions. Lower levels of energy and resource availability do seem to foster species richness and cooperation in natural systems though, so the cooperative, multipolar, K-selected approach being organized by the BRICS coalition seems to me a timely response to the waning of R-selected Western hegemony. Just as an example.

  234. One of my sons has recently taken up the concertina, and we had a fun time playing together, with me on guitar. (We’re both a long way from performance-ready, but the idea is to just entertain each other.) Looking casually at his instrument, and having some success at repairing broken guitars, I started investigating the difficulty of making a concertina. It’s a traditional folk instrument, right? How hard could it be?

    Of course, there are YouTube videos on the subject, and I come away with the impression that, while it might be doable in a one-man (one room) “factory”, there’s a massive start-up cost. “Crook Concertinas” made the video that I have playing, and … wow. Just watching him fabricate a reed for one musical note is impressive. I didn’t expect to see a desk-top video microscope being part of the assembly process. Or the motorized shear, chopping off slivers of 0.015″ blued spring steel. “Making a C3 reed…” is the title.

    OK, well, he has a lot invested in his shop and personal expertise, but he will not be using it “forever”. Will there be someone standing by to operate this machinery and preserve the process, when he is no longer doing so? Maybe that’s a path for a young person to investigate: find a craftsman, and learn to love what he does.

    On a related note, there’s a great series of videos put out by “Rosa String Works”, which builds and repairs guitars, mandolins, etc. One sequence is about the old luthier taking on a young apprentice, watching him develop new skills, and then … something goes wrong, and he’s no longer in the picture. Did he get tired of waiting? Did he “do the math” and realize that he was never going to make enough money to buy land for a shop? Who knows?

  235. Re feeling like 2008: the thing that highlighted it for me was seeing a collection of signs at a corner in my neighborhood that included both “We buy houses for cash!” and “Learn to flip houses at seminar this weekend”. *shudder*

  236. >And the best part of the game: nobody wins!

    An interesting game, Dr Falken. Perhaps the winning move is not to play.

  237. Jen,

    Thank you for your small business advice. I got into the Rich Dad series for a while, and gleaned some useful kernels from it, but by and large find Kiyosaki intolerably arrogant and belligerent. That said, one of his books is on our required reading list for our two homeschoolers. Cheers.

  238. @ Mary Bennet I have to disagree with what you said about markets. Markets are obviously a social construct, but that is no reason why a market cannot be organic. Most social constructs are organic. That said, I see fixed prices and Maximum Retail Price (MRP) as a generally good thing. However, in my experience here in India, bargained prices tend to be cheaper than fixed prices. Certain goods are available both at a fixed price and at a variable, negotiable price in two different markets, and we see a common trend – that the negotiated price is almost always lower than the printed price. For instance, groceries come at a fixed price in supermarkets and their price is negotiable in the open street markets. The prices are invariably lower in the open street markets. Partly, this is because the supermarkets involve an entire chain of people who are there to take a cut, but also, there is an implicit assumption that the products which have a fixed price also have a higher quality. Many people prefer buying their vegetables from the streets, though, because they feel cheated when they buy at the higher, fixed price. I can understand why Americans prefer fixed prices, of course, and bargaining is not always a happy way to spend one’s time. But there are certain advantages of a competing market with negotiable prices.

  239. Gardener, that seems like a very good idea to me. So many appliances these days, in particular, are burdened with fragile software in place of robust mechanical switches that knowing how to replace the former with the latter will be a valuable skill once salvage becomes the order of the day.

    Xcalibur, definitely helotry, with the right of management to terminate anybody without notice filling in for the slightly more robust Spartan approach.

    Smith, that’s how revolutions happen: there’s a riot or a protest or an insurrection, the local armed force sides with the people rather than their notional bosses, and it’s all over pretty quickly. As Mao Zedong pointed out, political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. As he didn’t point out, it wilts pretty quickly when deprived of that habitat.

    Northwind, infrastructure collapse is a normal part of the decline and fall of a civilization, of course, and it’s already started picking up speed here in the US. At 61, I’m more or less in your position, focusing on finding ways to deal with the next few decades of decline because I won’t be around for more than that; it has its awkward elements but it’s also liberating, because I don’t have to have really long-term plans. For example, I’ll probably still be able to make a living as a writer as long as I’m alive; if I were 20, that might not be true.

    Hispalensis, many thanks for the data points. I don’t imagine many people have thought about what’s going to happen when the Spanish economy can no longer support so outsized a government.

    Grover, I hope it helps. As for cooperation and competition, it really depends on the stability of the environment, of course — and as for your political example, if you think that the rising hegemon will turn out to be any less R-selected than the current one, think again. The US used all that same rhetoric when it was taking over from Britain, you know. BRICS is very much like the Allies in the Second World War, an alliance of necessity between nations that have the same enemy but few other interests in common; once the US goes down, as of course it will, it won’t be too many years before BRICS divides into two or three competing blocs, and away we go.

    LatheChuck, there may be a point to focusing on instruments that are relatively easy to make — one of the reasons the mountain dulcimer was so popular all over Appalachia is that you can make one sound good even if you’re not a master craftsman. (Banjos and fiddles have the same virtue.) I hope that somebody somewhere remembers how to make the classical Western instruments, as even with that it’s going to be hard enough to save any of classical music.

    Adara9, thank you for the data point. There’s only one thing to do regarding real estate at this point. In the immortal words of King Arthur:

  240. @Allie001 #13, I have been where you are. I refer to the autumn of 2019 as that time I was three-quarters dead, and I am now thriving. I have a couple of suggestions — one is revolutionary and the other sounds too small, but please hear me out. First the revolutionary: how you feel matters. Even if every person around you, including your loved ones, is invested in you meeting their expectations whether or not your early demise is the cost, HOW YOU FEEL MATTERS. Tell yourself this fifty times a day if you need to.

    Now the small: I started with 30 minutes a day (60 if I could get it) BEFORE bedtime to read a book. Just for enjoyment, and not to further my career or to “fix” why I wasn’t blooming where I’d been planted. At first I had to defend that time like a lioness defending her cubs, but eventually it became the new normal. I looked forward, while sitting in my cubicle, to having one nice thing just for me at the end of the day. Pretty soon I was rearranging the bedroom to accommodate a comfy chair. I became an aficionado of relaxing herbal teas. I got the To Be Read pile out of the bedroom and focused on enjoying the book I was reading. I started sleeping better and waking up only half dead. My mood improved. I gained the strength I needed to set other boundaries, and people actually began to respect them. I started hearing my own voice again, and unearthing what I wanted or needed to do next. My life hasn’t become the perfect, stress-free zone I dreamed of, but now I have more strength and tools to handle what comes my way.. You may choose a different baby step. But take it. Then one day you will be ready for the next one, and the next. You will be amazed at where you are one year from today. The creative solutions will come. You’ve got this.

  241. Speaking of 2008 revisited: The Dow just hit 40,000 – an all-time record.

  242. In principle I agree that one person from a couple staying at home and managing the household is much more pleasant for everyone than both adults partaking in the rat race.
    But what if the relationship falls apart? The person who stayed at home might find it very difficult to re-enter the workplace.
    I have often thought that the stay-at-home partner should have a trust fund to take care of them if they have to leave the relationship.
    But what if s/he finds a new partner? Should the remainder of the trus fund then be shared equally between the original partners?
    And then there’s the fact that trust funds function only in certain types of economies.
    It becomes very complicated…

  243. @Grover
    I agree i think quantity over quality and competition strategy goes further in a high resource environment and vice versa for low resource. I wonder if we are a product of our time rather than on a bad path per say. If previous civilizations always learn the hard way when their environment changes fast from low to high resource that would make sense to me as i view human society as reaching a scale of a more predictable system.
    @JMG, oh no doubt the tribes and sustainable farmers throughout the world will not loose sleep when global trade halts! Additionally there is strong evidence that their lack of technology has maintained their populations genes better for example the Amish have genes that help them live longer and stay healthy. It makes sense that technology usage supports more variation, most of which is “bad”. As we collapse those peoples will be more prepared as the environment slowly heals.

  244. Hi JMG and Commintariat,
    Back in the day, I did retail tax preparation for five tax seasons in a Walmart. I enjoyed working with the public, but eventually parted ways with the corporate world. My customers sometimes went off on tirades about the evil government taking their hard earned money. That quote about taxes being the price we pay to live in a civil society came to mind. What I said was “I drive on I-5, my kids went to public high school, my mother gets her social security check every month. My friend called the sheriff when a client threatened him on the job site, and she came.”

    In the US before the plague, 51% of taxpayers provided 80% of the federal revenue from personal income taxes and less than 2% of taxpayers provided the other 20% of the revenue. That left 47% who paid zero in income taxes. Of that, 20% of taxpayers get more back from the government as refundable tax credits than they pay in.

    When the plague hit, it went down to only 40% of taxpayers paying in to the system.
    As for lenocracy, we monkey people are smart and figure out how to work the system. In my lifetime, we have exported our manufacturing base, destroyed the noble profession of agriculture, made viable small scale and family businesses nearly impossible and preached to generations that they had to go to college. That leaves few outlets for creative energy.

  245. On serf hours vs modern hours
    To me the time doesn’t matter. Back then they had a real reason for their hours based on seasons and weather and phases of the moon. That seems reasonable to me.
    When I worked (CPA firms and universities) I went to work everyday with this thought in my mind “who decided it has to be this way”?

  246. @Vlad Tepes #255
    Sure, no problem. I will just reiterate, despite my negativity I think these systems can work well in communities with high levels of trust. People these days are just too used to thinking of things in terms of coercion.

    @Justin Patrick Moore #203
    Sorry, I missed this comment earlier. Happy to hear you are giving the book a shot! I hope you find it useful.

  247. Slink #230 and JMG #233 regarding the effect of marijuana legalization: “The end of Prohibition was a major crisis for the homebrewing and moonshining industries, too.”

    Apparently, people are still growing it illegally even in states where it’s been legalized – that way, they won’t have to pay taxes, or comply with environmental and other regulations: https://apnews.com/article/california-marijuana-a17923276d4cacb34e88017cf244f23e
    https://daily.jstor.org/the-environmental-downside-of-cannabis-cultivation/

    I don’t know why that didn’t happen with the end of Prohibition. There wasn’t nearly as much regulation back then, for one thing. Also, because alcohol had been legal for so long before Prohibition, maybe the legal alcohol producers just picked up where they had left off in 1920 when Prohibition was repealed in 1933?

  248. Patricia M, yep — and my massage therapist told me this afternoon that she’s getting into real estate. We are in for it, big time.

    Luddite, you’re still assuming that being somebody’s employee is the only option there is. Au contraire, the partner who becomes a househusband or housewife has the time to work on developing skills and an income stream outside of the employment racket, and if the relationship breaks up he or she can then go into full time self-employment. This isn’t theoretical — it was while I was a househusband that I turned my writing from a hobby into a profession, and so could become the full time breadwinner when my late wife’s health got too bad for her to keep working.

    Alex, exactly. Industrial civilization is doomed, and the human population of this planet is going to contract sharply as it goes down, but our species will be fine.

    Raphanus, yep. That’s a situation with a short shelf life.

    JustMe, fair enough!

    Yavanna, of course it happened — I’ve had moonshine brewed by guys whose family was in that business a couple of centuries ago. The problem moonshiners faced in 1932 was that they lost most of their customers to legal manufacturers.

  249. >Patricia M, yep — and my massage therapist told me this afternoon that she’s getting into real estate

    Have you watched _The Big Short_? You might want to.

    To quote from that movie – “Yup, it’s a bubble.”

  250. One of the tragedies is that many of the people dropping out of full time corporate jobs ( not readers of this blog I would guess) are then supporting themselves with a series of corporate owned, internet driven ” side hustles”. Some seem to think that delivering food via door-dash, driving for uber, putting together furniture for Task Rabbit and carrying around packages for Roadie ( a division of UPS) is the ticket to freedom from the man.
    But while these might give illusion of freedom to some, the are despotic in different ways, and most of these internet driven “app” companies are losing money, and have little prospect to ever make money. So I would guess almost all of these and their cousins will probably collapse before as as soon as the big corporations collapse.
    It is certainly ok if someone realizes that and just uses these side hustles to get by while they build up their appliance retrofit business, or sharpen their draft horse harness making skills, but most of the people I know doing this don’t realize how fragile the whole thing is, and are not working on a plan b.

  251. If you look at it as self-employment, it’s often overwhelming. But… one small step nearly all of us can take is, anything you already do for yourself, you can probably do for one or two other people as well. You don’t have to start anything by making a living at it. Or even making any money at all. I’ve been contemplating this since the beginning of lent– how do we do less in the virtual world, less in the commercial world, less in the tracked-and-controlled world, and more in the world of human contact and community building? More direct contact and fewer middlemen? I posted a little about it here:

    https://methylethyl.dreamwidth.org/35115.html

    And have been making wee little forays into sapping the GDP since, figuring out how it is that I’m useful to others, what skills I have, and what I already produce, that could act as little levers. Spring’s well sprung here, and I started seeds for my garden back in february– my system is, never direct-sow anything but winter groundcovers. Start everything in pots and transplant. In practical reality, what this means is I end up with far more plants than I have space for in the garden, already established in little pots and ready to go. So once my garden was all planted up, I put my extras in salvaged Aldi boxes, wrote “FREE PLANTS” on the side and took them to church. And now half a dozen other people have plants, who might not have gotten around to planting anything at all, or who might’ve spent money at Hardware Megabox to get stuff that isn’t suited to the local climate. People were delighted. A few things changed hands without registering anything to the GDP, and everyone was better off for it. And, unexpectedly, some people have a hard time with free stuff, so I ended up, somehow, with twenty bucks donated to my potting soil fund and broke even on my own plants and the giveaways. Now I know who else at church is interested in gardening. A tidy bit of community-building recon.

    So… it’s a fun game anyone can play. No need to break the bank. It’s just as easy to make four loaves of bread as two– and give the spares away. You can make a liter of vanilla extract for the same time and effort (albeit not the same price) as four ounces. Once you’ve got the sewing machine out to make one drawstring bag… eh why not go ahead and make four? Plenty of people go over and mow the elderly neighbor’s yard whenever they mow their own. I already have all the tools and do my own car’s oil changes. It’d be a very tiny step from there to doing a friend’s too. You don’t have to be a company to enjoy economies of scale. It’s just a matter of… do you know anybody who could use it? Once you start, you might find out that people you know will either *insist* on paying you anyway, or they have stuff they produce, that they only needed the excuse to share. Turns out my neighbor’s hens produce far more eggs than she can use– she’s just short on egg cartons. My garden produces far more tomatoes than any sane person could eat. I think we could reach a congenial agreement.

  252. @JMG: “my massage therapist told me this afternoon that she’s getting into real estate.”

    (whistles)

    In a year or so, I’m gonna be really glad that God didn’t let us buy a house yet.

  253. Dear JMG and community:
    This may be a tad off topic, but in Tim Watkins’s blog Consciousness of Sheep, his latest post: Killing St George indicates he thinks the economies based on fiat currency are going to shortly get hurt by economic activity based on real resources and most of the world being involved. That doesn’t bode well for lenocrats (or unfortunately a lot of people).
    As an aside, he notes in most empires the junior powers actually call the shots (being demonstrated even as I type).
    An interesting post.
    Cugel (the clever, but worried)

  254. Dear JMG and community:

    I suddenly realized a nice example of the modern regulatory environment. I am a geologist in the environmental investigation/remediation industry. I have a license in several states. In at least one oil producing state, I must have a license to be in responsible charge of a project. There are two classes of geological employment who don’t need licenses:
    Educators (teachers/college professors)

    And: (drum roll please)

    Petroleum geologists!

    Guess who has the deeper pockets and better lobbyists!

    Cugel

  255. Other Owen, I don’t need to watch the movie. I read the book.

    Clay, exactly. There’s a whole world of fake alternatives to corporate employment; you can tell they’re fake because they’re all owned by big corporations. When you work for yourself, with nobody but you setting the terms of your hire, then you’re actually independent. Otherwise? As you say, they’ll be caught in the same trap as any other corporate lackey.

    Methylethyl, thank you for this. A very good point. As for your whistle and comment — well, yes.

    Cugel, I haven’t been following Watkins as closely as I should — thanks for the reminder. He’s worth reading. Your example’s a great one, btw.

  256. 24 years ago, I was working for a large fast food corporation (known for their coffee and donuts). I had been there over ten years, was well paid with good benefits, and couldn’t stand it. While there, I had gained the respect of the franchisees, frequently arguing for their point of view instead of the company’s. I had the strange idea that since the franchisees were paying us, they were our clients, and should be treated as such.
    I left to work for myself, opening a solo architectural office with no employees, mostly working for those same franchisees, and now their children. I made less money, and still have to deal with the corporate lenocracy, but I’m a lot happier. I’ve added multiple income streams beyond my professional services: our guest room is on Airbnb; I drive a tour boat in the summers. I was surprised to find that I can speak comfortably in public, spinning the tale of our history.
    My parsimony keeps my wife deriding me as cheap, which, since I’m of Dutch heritage, I take as a complement. (I can tell which of our tour boat customers are of Dutch heritage: their arms are very short).
    I have rapidly woven “lenocracy” into my daily discourse. Once seen, it is everywhere. I am a part of it: some of my work as an architect includes going with my clients before the government bureaucracy, though I’ve always avoided it as much as possible.
    Regarding real estate: I expect to see some real buying opportunities in about 5 years. We bought our house 5 years after the late 80s peak hereabouts.

  257. Lazy Gardener #234

    > Replacing perfectly functional devices, because one part (simple, but designed to be irreplaceable) gave out, is one of the most frustrating, wasteful and polluting examples of lenocracy

    I can attest to this, big-time.

    In 1995, husband and I bought a new Dudge vehicle, which we turned into our primary vehicle. We bought Dudge because we wanted to give an American-made company a chance.

    We maintain, commit to, and keep, each vehicle forever,—or so we thought. Unbeknownst to us, the manufacturer had other ideas.

    Roughly at the 2015 mark, the Body Control Module (“BCM”) started to do weird things on a chronic basis, got worse, and never stopped. The open-door dingle stayed on at all times. The turn signals and brake lights would go on and off at random. The electronic window controls opened and closed windows at random. The vehicle began not starting at all (with absolutely nothing wrong mechanically)—we never knew whether it would start. The battery kept draining. We bought new batteries because the old ones got wrecked simply by being attached to the vehicle. The vehicle was possessed. Nothing within our power was able to stop these malfunctions.

    We tried to buy a new (matching) BCM. Nope, Dudge had stopped producing them years ago. Each Dudge vehicle has its own model number BCM. BCMs are not interchangeable. Over a two-year period, between trying to obtain a functional BCM on eBay (we gave up after six), and mechanical shop (long-time customers of a small town shop), we spent over $4,000. We were on tender-hooks for years, knowing we did not have a reliable car.

    Dudge would have no part in reimbursing our expenses. They washed their hands of it. They said FU🖕🏼to us. “Not me, not me, not me.” “Not our fault you wanted to keep the vehicle after we decided what was ‘best’ for us.”

    I am convinced that Dudge designed these malfunctions on purpose—to emerge at a given time. There was nothing innocent about it. We will NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER buy another American vehicle. They took our goodwill and shoved it.

    After sitting in a garage for years, in 2022 (if one excludes the BCM), everything was in mint condition because we had kept it that way. We finally had to unload it for $10 to the automotive department of the local high school. It was a Northern California vehicle, housed in a garage its whole life, and had zero rust.

    One part—the BCM—went bad, replacement unavailable. After the BCM went bad, even though the rest of the vehicle was in absolutely perfect condition (we had babied it for decades—I mean spotless), we had to junk it. Even so, it was a monumental task finding a party who could take the vehicle and use it for educational purposes rather than ending up crushing it. We took a huge financial hit—it was an incredible psychic punch and physical waste.

    All our vehicle needed was for a team of teenagers to take several exact model, equally bad, BCMs, do electronic testing, get rid of bad components, replace parts on circuit boards, and come up with one A-OK BCM, and voila, perfect vehicle. Had husband and I wanted to, we probably could have done it, but it would have been a huge learning curve, and we had better things to do, like making a living.

    Dudge has a disease. It does not deserve to survive—let it go belly-up. This goes for the entire automobile industry in the USA. I will never stop feeling bitter towards Dudge.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🪻🚐🎛️🔈
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA
    70 something

  258. Hi John Michael,

    Ah, thanks, that was the blog. Quite a good line too.

    Reading through the comments, I noticed you had a 1928 shoe shine boy unsolicited investment advice moment! 🙂 Always a worry.

    And I agree, there are a lot of vultures flying around right now. With the volume of trouble, it’s hard to know which will start feasting on the corpse first, although a part of me believes that this is already happening and has been going on for a long while.

    The Big Short film is good, but Michael Lewis’s book of the same name, which provided the source material and narrative for the film, is even better. I re-read it every second year or so, as an antidote to any thoughts that perhaps the underlying economic foundations are more solid than they appear to be.

    It’s hard to know what actually happened at that time in 2008, but I’ve long suspected that nobody was convicted of err, bad stuff, because without all those derivative games, the economic metrics so proudly mooted would not look so good and possibly hard questions would be asked. And also, it is a way to disappear the excess cash floating around the landscape and replace them with paper, lest all those loose notes begin increasing prices for say, food and housing. My gut feeling has also long suggested that the interval between each crisis will decrease.

    Cheers

    Chris

  259. To Yavanna #260, In California I can walk into any number of stores and pick up a bottle of vodka, whiskey, gin, rum off the shelf for a reasonable price, go to the check out counter, show ID, pay for it, and walk out. There is no market niche for illegal moonshine. Buying cannabis products is much more complicated in California and not cheap though cannabis is extremely easy to grow and quite productive per plant. The legalization of marijuana was presented in California as a way to eliminate the black market and make small producers legitimate out in the open small businesses.. Well the onerous fees and registration process is a difficult hoop for the small guy to jump through, as many don’t have a huge chunk of cash laying around to finance the process. Cannabis can only be sold in special high security storefronts scattered here. and there. So the high price point of the legal stuff leaves plenty of margin for the black market to be profitable for small illicit producers and the cartels to continue operation. For a product that is arguable safer or at least no more dangerous than vodka IMO, cannabis could be easily sold as cigarettes are from behind the counter in ordinary stores out of a locked case. I have a friend who is famous for the strains of cannabis he has developed being invited to exclusive cannabis conventions as a result.
    I asked him who put together this suite of cannabis fees, regulations, and taxes as obviously our legislators don’t have the time or expertise to do this hands on themselves. His answer – people from Monsanto.

  260. Stephen Pearson #237

    > Even if I buy something new, I will often get rid of it after a couple of wearings because it is just wrong.

    Being fabrics has been a major interest during my life, I feel that all the way down the fabric-making chain has been tainted. These days, each transaction generates bad vibes. Seeds used, possibly copyrighted. Animals treated roughly to get their fur. Yarn and cloths treated with poisons including dyes. Children and adults treated like slaves while handling warehouse-size looms that cut off limbs. The list goes on.

    Incidentally, there is a movement, including home-based businesses, where one takes used clothes/throw-aways/rags, slices them into ribbons, makes a sort of lumpy yarn out of it, and weaves the lumps into cloth. Sounds appetizing? One of the cloth’s uses, so I have read, is making throw rugs, literally made from rags. Other than that, I stay away from the whole thing because, as a weaver, it gives me the willies. I know rags are being made into rugs (they could do worse), but I keep it at arm’s length.

    As an aside, at least in Europe, after mattresses (at least partly made of fabric) started being manufactured, I think around 1860, the spreading of disease started out, and remains, an issue. Mattresses are great ways to spread plague, for example. Used mattresses, even today, are viewed with suspicion. For that matter, ALL used clothes/fabrics deserve to be viewed with suspicion, for their disease-carrying capacity—assume fabrics are diseased until after some sort of disinfecting process (not just wash-and-dry). With decline, less attention will be paid to seeing that used fabrics have some sort of disinfection. There are different levels of disinfection, but that is another story.

    Personal wearing of fabrics does carry the mark of, or vibes from, the former wearer(s), no matter how one interprets the issue. It is creepy, if not has a distinct element of danger. I believe this is an old wives’ tale (even though I am an old wife telling the tale) to be taken seriously. Possible transmission of disease is why “high-class” people won’t go near used clothes: they might catch a “low-class” disease because one never knows if an assumed low-class person has been sleeping with flea-infested vermin.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🪻🛌👕
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  261. Economics is formed by trust and cooperation, and that means placing the needs of the community over those of greed and power.

    For example if I am going shopping and the store does not have the items I need for suspicious reasons, then I am going to get angry, out of selfish purposes, with a sense of distrust growing wider.

    But if those same goods are off the shelves, because they were donated to the people who actually need them (within the community, not via some corrupt charity organization), then I am not only going to self reflect on my actions or perceptions, I am also going to increase my trust level of that store, and even attempt to engage with the owners or workers, in both a pleasant manner, but also to keep them in the umbrella effect of what I consider community.

    Honestly why would people want to invest time, money and energy supporting other people’s children (the purpose of community) if you know those very children, once grown, are going to screw you over. DEI is another term for societal displacement, using real problems of the moment in order to justify a new social order that is self-defeating.

    When trust is lost, boundaries and space are needed in order to heal the remaining cooperative ties left between both parties. The one thing America does not allow is boundaries and space creation, as that would require that individuals control the options of their own choices, and that abuse is dependent solely on surface contact, but with the media and internet, abuse is not only widespread, it is rewarded, which means it no longer has to make sense.

    A decent metaphor would be like cleaning a small wound on your arm, by amputating your entire arm. You may have stopped the blood loss through a cauterized seal, yet you lost something more important over the long haul.
    —–

    Also I would like to ask if there are any books or reading material online that will explain why Europe’s western culture is committing suicide. I understand the actors/perpetrators of Monetary/Lenocratic/Deep state culture, and I understand why the USA is doomed to disintegrate, but I have no idea why Western Europe would choose the same path. Certainly there were other options or possibilities, none of which required a war in eastern Europe.

    I feel like I am missing something, like a hidden migration of intelligent people from western to eastern Europe, similar to atlas shrugged. I heard rumors that German people were moving to Russia, in recent times, but certainly that cannot explain current events which are becoming increasingly insane.

    Another possibility I can think of is the mafia elements of European society are so interwoven into their society & government, that they can no longer feel the painful pinch of reality, or the due diligence of self-sustainability. You burnt down the barn to spite the cows, and then have problems explaining why the milk went dry?

    IDK, maybe the British really would starve in order to pay the Queen/King/It their taxes, no matter the human cost. Apparently Americans must have no decency, trying to duck taxes, through corporate law loopholes, or paying under the table, away from the pry-bars and billy clubs of Europe’s bureaucrats.

  262. Grover and JMG, with respect to BRICS, it is worth noting that India, a founding member, has not permitted Chinese Belt and Road investment within its borders. One also notes New Delhi’s unhappiness with the new pro-Chinese govt. in the Maldives.

  263. @ JMG, Methylethyl: There are two groups in my area that still practice the gift economy. One is an organic gardening group where members bring spare plants, cuttings and fruit to meetings for others to take. The other is my local Morris dancing troupe who have developed the habit of bringing spare possessions to dance nights and giving them away.

  264. Re: the system’s reliance on the tolerance of men with guns: Latest news here in Germany is that our beloved Minister of the Interior, Nancy Faeser (“Fancy”) is appointing a special investgator to check the loyalty of the police force. Apparently, too many officers have expressed their sympathy for the AfD, and now we need to purge all those Nazis from our force. They even created a new office for it (which drew a bit of criticism because it’s going to be so lavishly equipped, which of course costs a lot of money that our government actually can’t spare. But, well, priorities). This tells me that our elites are quite aware that the tolerance of their armed enforcers is shifting, and are getting increasingly nervous about it.

  265. Hey JMG

    Regarding the state of Australia atm, I shall add my own observations.

    As the others have said, housing availability is getting quite low. While there may be a bit of leeway if you decide to live in a Share housing situation, the fact remains that there is not as many housing options as people would prefer. While Immigration is making the housing situation worse, it is not the real cause per se, which is simply a lack of supply due to some faulty government choices, lack of investment and trades people, and housing speculation encouraging homeowners to keep many properties off the market. One of the best sources for understanding our housing situation is the Substack “The Emergent city.”
    https://substack.com/@theemergentcity

    Regarding employment, I agree with what others have mentioned, such as the prevalence of “Cashies” popular with Tradies, people who want to make more money than Centrelink/ATO would allow, and people who want to deny ex-partners as much child-support as possible. I can also say from personal experience trying to find jobs on official job-searching websites such as “Seek” and “Indeed” that a lot of jobs seem to fall into a few major categories. Retail, Education, Factory, Food/coffee, Office and Cleaning/landscaping.
    As you can see there is not a lot of diversity, and furthermore so many people apply for each job that getting one is a lottery. (Speaking of lotteries, one of Australia’s biggest, and also most socially damaging industry is Gambling.) As such I agree with your suggestion that Self-employment is probably the way forward, despite its difficulties.
    I also agree that there is a bit more freedom the further you are from the City, at the cost of losing easy access to some services and luxuries. That being said, I would not exaggerate this too much, as I was still living in a country town during Covid, and though it took a while for it to concern people, and they did not get very crazy about it, they eventually did participate in covid restrictions to a mild degree, mostly the shops and community centres.

  266. In Chinese belief when a sculptor polishes an artwork he is polishing his own inner nature at the same time. So a kind of enlightenment is possible through the perfection of art and craft skills.
    In a dark age one can also practice calm abiding meditation (shamatha) and chi-gung (tai chi is an advanced type of chi gung).

  267. The title of this piece reminded me of Ursula le Guin’s novel about walking away from Omelas. And yes, my wife found this post very encouraging! Thanks again.

  268. Methylethyl #264 “…unexpectedly, some people have a hard time with free stuff…” ***

    Yes, they – we – really, really do. Not all that unexpectedly, though if you think about it. How do you feel when you receive a gift?

    If you are like *most* people – you’ll feel grateful, but also, along with that you will feel obligated (a feeling which is even embedded in the Portuguese word for “thankyou”), you’ll feel the social weight of an obligation to reciprocate. And, on top of THAT, those feelings will be modified towards a positive or a negative sense of the welcomeness of that obligation, depending on the degree to which you know, and trust, the giver. Because if the giver is a stranger, or someone you dislike or distrust, you will not welcome the weight of being obliged to them in any way, it may feel like a burden, even a coercion. Whereas if the giver is someone you know and trust, you will welcome the gift, and the obligation, and you will, over time (because the strength of the relationship between you can handle this delay) you will find a way to reciprocate with a different gift – to honour the giver, and how you feel about them, and to maintain the relationship you (jointly) have built up together.

    Money is a technology that lets us “off the hook” from that sense of obligation and trust which makes gift economies succeed. You can repay your feeling of obligation instantly, and not be “obliged” into sustaining a relationship you are uncertain about. And it allows perfect strangers to *reciprocally* exchange with one another while remaining strangers. It changes gift economies into something different. And yet, sometimes, people “give” each other money in the old way – as a gift, not as a payment.

    Anyway, well done. You have cottoned onto the “fuel” that makes gift economies “run” – GIVERS GIVING GIFTS. That makes stuff go round, and makes stuff happen! 🙂

    *** I myself realised the extent to which people *really* don’t like getting free stuff when I tried to give people discounts off my acupuncture prices. I was always of the view that acupuncture should be affordable and accessible to as many people as possible, but people do not want a discount from a price beyond their means, that would put them under an “obligation” to me. I would offer, and it would be accepted, once or twice maybe, but often the person would not come back. Nowadays, since I started following JMG’s advice (that if your product or service is priced so affordably that the poorest can afford it, you never run out of customers), lots of people will keep coming back happily, knowing that they are paying the full affordable price, and sometimes, they give me a bit extra, which means they get to feel generous and it puts me under the obligation to them, a feeling they much prefer to them being under obligation to me.

  269. Gaia #240
    Glad we can understand each other.

    Where I pay taxes, on a local level, I pay for a lot of services I want, street maintenance, fire, police, water, sewer and the like, but as this series of JMG’s posts indicate, probably most of that money goes to lenocrates. Schools are the worst I think, if the stories from my teacher friends are anything to judge by. None of my tax dollars goes to pay for hospitals, they are all for profit entities, mores the pity, but I do use alternative health practitioners and for as long as it lasts, I have Medicare.

    I don’t want to deal with hassles from the various tax entites, so I just have to hunker down and pay up. It does help a great deal if you can minimize your expenses so you don’t need so much income and thus your tax bill is less. I work on that a lot.

  270. An interesting social media dust-up with regard to woman staying home instead of going in to the workforce. You have said many times that it can be a wise choice for one member of a couple to stay home and work in the domestic economy and have opportunities for self directed work.
    Apparently a famous football player in a college graduation speech extolled the virtues of women staying home and having children as opposed to going in to the corporate work force. Apparently he garnered a firestorm on social media from leftest and women’s lib groups. And was eventually defended by none other than Bill Maher.
    It will be interesting how long this line of pushback keeps going as the empire travels down the bumpy ravine to ignominy.

  271. @J.L.Mc12: thanks for the link to the Emergent City substack! I believe some of the arguments apply to Canada, too.

  272. Wer here
    Well another interesting post. Too bad that a lot of people have this belief in the market (it is almost crazy, a lot of people often call me out on being a Catholic but they themselfs belive in manipulations of currency can give them anything) I belive in god but never did I’ve read a verse in the scripture that money should be easy to come by, or you should expect an easy life. On a diferent matter a lot of people noticed a bigger problem (that Poland is facing labor shortages, Ukrainian migrants for the last couple years had ingrained themselfs as a cheap labor force, that is until last September thay had been being deported to serve in the miliotary) I’ve decided to read an article in a british newspaper that said “Ukrainian goverment considering calling migrants home” I was confused they started drafting them and sending home more than a half year ago, majority had vanished from the place Iive and suddenly labor shortages are becoming a problem. A lot of young people left the country to look for better paing jobs and rest doesn’t want to work low paing ones (inflation is high on a base salary you can’t buy much).
    BTW If you announce what JMG said in this post you will be pronounced an communist (don’t criticize the market)

  273. Great Khan of Potlucks, ah, that’s how you ended up in your present gig! I’d either never heard the details or forgotten them. That five year figure seems quite reasonable to me, btw.

    Chris, here in the US, at least, the Prime Directive is that nobody in the elite classes must ever face the consequences of their actions, no matter how moronic or vile those actions happen to be. That’s why nobody rich or influential ever had to deal with the blowback from the 2008 fiasco. (It’s also why none of the people who partied with Jeffrey Epstein has ever been charged with child molesting, even though the authorities have had all Epstein’s records for years now.) Consequences are for the rabble! Of course that policy means that mistakes keep piling up, and eventually it means that the society in question will come crashing down because of the burden of too many mistakes, but we’re not quite to that point yet.

    False Eruption, this notion of yours — “Economics is formed by trust and cooperation, and that means placing the needs of the community over those of greed and power” — is exactly why idealists always fail in business. Greed and power are inescapable in any human society, and are both especially active among those who claim to be beyond such things; for that matter, “the needs of the community” are always a matter of opinion, and always become a stalking horse for individuals trying to exercise their own greed and increase their own power. As for why Western Europe is committing collective suicide, why, it’s because it spent five centuries as a collection of brutal empires lording it over the rest of the world, and never figured out how to function without the constant flow of tribute from its colonies. Current European posturing about morality is a bitter joke to anyone who knows history.

    Mary, that’s just one of the fissures that’s going to break wide open once the United States and NATO have been defeated and broken.

    Kfish,that makes perfect sense — in both cases you’ve got a genuine community with interests in common.

    Athaia, I wonder if she’s asked herself how she’s going to be able to assure herself of the loyalty of the Praetorian Guard she’s establishing!

    J.L.Mc12, thank you for the data points.

    Tengu, true enough!

    Grover, ha! I was wondering if anyone would catch that. Yes, it was deliberate.

    Clay, yes, I heard about that. Watching the left shill for the corporate economy — “how dare women choose the lives they want! They should choose the lives we want them to have!” — was not exactly edifying.

    Tom, thanks for this. It’s good to see that somebody has noticed that some problems have no technological solutions.

    Wer, thank you for this! You’re right that faith in the market is a religion, and one considerably less reasonable than yours, or for that matter mine. I’d wondered about the Ukrainian refugees in Poland — it didn’t seem likely that they’d stick around to be rounded up and sent to die on the battlefields — so thank you also for the data point.

  274. “for that matter, “the needs of the community” are always a matter of opinion”

    From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. I’ve heard that somewhere before. The unstated part was always who decides my ability, and who decides my need? That part has always been vague, probably intentionally.

    Locally the taxpayers revolted and voted down the school levy. The school system is $20 million short and there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. They also claim enrollment is down, but the area’s population is up. Did that many people pull their kids out of the public schools? Between the Catholics and the LDS it’s distinctly possible.

    One last note fitting the title of your this essay, Woody Harrelson posted a video on what was twitter that fits right in. Don’t spend your money on corporate junk food or junk products. I found the posting on today’s (19 May) posting on The Automatic Earth site. I don’t think this one will stir as many people as his turn on SNL pointing out how accurate the conspiracy theories about the Covid vaccine turned out to be, but it’s still fun to watch (along with the football player and the guy who wrote The Rich Men North of Richmond).

  275. @Boysmom re: the cost of *not* being a SAH spouse… yeah, we ran those numbers and came to the same conclusion back when our kids were born. The number we came up with was, I could work fulltime and basically make $200 a month. Which would not remotely make up for having to leave my baby in the care of strangers all week. And that was back when we only had 2 kids! Now I’d have to *pay* to go work a “good job”.

  276. @Scotlyn: re: reluctance to accept free stuff:
    yes, I do on some level understand it, though my relationship to free gifts is… complicated. My mother is one of those people who can’t give you a thing without some heavy-duty strings attached so I am very careful when giving stuff away, particularly to friends I’d like to keep! If it’s more than just a trifle, I have a sort of magic divestment formula I give with it, along the lines of: “Once this leaves my hands, I have no claim over it, I will never ask you about it, and I have no personal interest in what happens to it. If it’s not useful to you, please don’t keep it.” I’ve gotten some odd looks, but friends know the backstory, and they get it. I want to generate good feeling, not lingering guilt and obligations.

    That said, I didn’t feel the need with the plants– I had more than I could transplant and they were gonna die in the too-small pots. I was just sending them out into the world, where they’d at least have *some* chance 🙂 But apparently, if you’ve been shopping for plants at a retail outlet recently (I haven’t), a whole box of nice-size garden plants is no mere trifle! Even if they are potted up in cutoff milk jugs and I started them from seeds that volunteered in my compost (I have tomatoes and peppers that re-seed aggressively!)… this is hard to convey though. Ah, the social complexities.

  277. Northwind Grandma #273
    Thank you for your extensive reply. there is a lot to ponder there. It helps me understand why I almost never buy any clothing, and then keep what i do until it is worn out.
    Your reference to making throw rugs out of rags reminded me that when I lived on a Greek island in the 1970s’ they made throw rugs out of old plastic shopping bags. Maybe not the most elegant, but they did the trick. They sort of crochayed them. All the shopping bags then were plain blue, so it didn’t look too bad.
    Stephen

  278. @ Alan re: Gold and Silver–
    While it’s true that the metals will always have value and be exchangeable for goods and services, we have to be careful to examine the underlying conditions; In the hyperinflation of Weimar Germany, there were still excess foodstuffs and other products that could be had for barter or sound currency. The problem was mismanagement of the monetary system. In such an environment, someone with gold or silver will be able to get along OK until their gold and silver run out. Even there, it would be much better to be the farmer with a field full of beets than the canny investor with a pocket full of silver dimes who is buying them. At the end of the transaction, the farmer has beets AND silver. The investor has beets. When the farmer runs out of beets, he can grow some more.
    Gold becomes a false friend when we get into real shortages, where no one has any surplus to trade. The farmer is mostly eating his own beets at this point, maybe with an egg or two–Not great, but he is surviving. The canny investor has some silver dimes and gold sovereigns–but no skills, no connections to a community. It is too risky for him to attempt to buy food, or anything else because as soon as he does, word gets around that he has silver and gold. People will come visiting…
    It’s not either / or though– If we want to, we can get a coin or two, just remember to make contacts in the community now, and practice trading while it’s easy.

  279. A thought, for the people who are experiencing issues with second-hand clothes:

    I‘ve used both the SOP and blessings to good effect on used books and on library books (which can be surprisingly icky!). I don‘t see why either one shouldn‘t be put to good use on used garments either.

    Milkyway

  280. Alex,

    Yeah, I think we are probably just a product of our time/environment., our “wereold,” as JMG puts it. Which likely means we have more opportunity for spiritual growth than most, if we take it? I struggle with it.

    Mary Bennet,

    Thanks for the data point! Sounds like India is being wise about all this.

  281. SiliconGuy #288
    “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

    Again this type of exchange is one we already participate in, and also know HOW to participate in, along with feudal type exchanges (based on custom and marking/making hierarchy), and gift type exchanges (based on reciprocity and marking/making community), this “communistic” type exchange is actually found everywhere among us, but, as Graeber pointed out when he elaborated on the subject of exchange, we mostly self-select to engage in it where EITHER the need is very great (someone is about to drown, and you know the skill of water rescue) OR where the cost is very slight (a stranger on the street asks you for directions or the time of day). Also, ironically, the workplace is often the context for this type of “communistic” exchange. You’re doing a job together and the co-worker asks if you’ll hand over the hammer. You don’t negotiate a price first, they incur no debt to you, and no new custom is established by the fact that you hand it over. It was simply a case of your ability and their need coming together at this moment.

    What Graeber noticed, and few others seem to, is that ALL of these exchanges are taking place ALL the time, and we are ALL already engaging in them, and understanding how to, and also understanding the subtleties involved. IOW we don’t have to wait until anyone waves a magic political or economic wand before engaging in these types of exchanges right NOW with more deliberation and more awareness, in order to undo some of our sense of entrapment in the money/lenocracy cycle.

  282. @ Methylethyl #290 – So, yes, you discovered the dark side of the gift in your upbringing. Gifts with strings… like those given by The Godfather, and other mafia types. So you are absolutely right to be “very careful when giving stuff away, particularly to friends I’d like to keep”. Gifts make relationships, but can also can break them. When relationships go well, we do not feel like accounting for everything, we give and give and receive and receive and it feels right. But if the relationship goes wrong, we instantly start putting a price on everything and counting it all up with very strict exactitude.

    So, the thing is gifts do have strings, but it is very often the receiver who feels the tugging without the giver HAVING to do intend or do anything about that. In fact, most givers simply feel a sense of warmth about their own generosity and self-regard, which can be its own reward. Which is why people I offered discounts to often felt terrible about themselves, and didn’t come back as a result. Their feeling terrible was not a result I had either anticipated or intended. I offered discounts freely, because in my mind every single person, whatever they pay, is *giving* me the opportunity to practice my gift, so I am in their debt, too! But it is amazing how little people actually want “free stuff” – at least not from (as you rightly point out) people they care about.

    An exception to the easy acceptance of “free stuff” is when it is part of a hierarchical (feudal) customary arrangement, as opposed to relationships between equals. The lord of the manor provides two shirts a year per peasant and hosts them at feasts 4 times a year, and allows them so much firewood, and so on. The peasant makes different customary supplies to the lord, but also, tips the hat and in other ways affirm the lord’s superior status, as part of the customary arrangement. In this way, welfare payments do not “feel” like gifts received from equal others, to whom we owe reciprocity (and feel bad if we are not in a position to reciprocate) but like customary exchanges that flow down through a hierarchy. For their part the recipients of welfare must do an awful lot of tipping the hat and “your lordshipping” to all of the bureaucrats they meet in the process of applying and qualifying, to affirm their superior status.

    I think this is why welfare, specifically, sticks in the American craw, because it is so feudal, and Americans started off being so consciously anti-hierarchical, and anti-aristocracy in defining ourselves as a nation. Therefore every “proper” exchange is seen by us strictly in gift exchange terms (reciprocity of equal exchanges between equals) except that these gift exchange rules have been modified by our use of money which allows the putative equal exchangers to remain strangers to one another. But still, always strictly held to the standard of strict reciprocity in every actual transaction.

Courteous, concise comments relevant to the topic of the current post are welcome, whether or not they agree with the views expressed here, and I try to respond to each comment as time permits. Long screeds proclaiming the infallibility of some ideology or other, however, will be deleted; so will repeated attempts to hammer on a point already addressed; so will comments containing profanity, abusive language, flamebaiting and the like -- I filled up my supply of Troll Bingo cards years ago and have no interest in adding any more to my collection; and so will sales spam and offers of "guest posts" pitching products. I'm quite aware that the concept of polite discourse is hopelessly dowdy and out of date, but then some people would say the same thing about the traditions this blog is meant to discuss. Thank you for reading Ecosophia! -- JMG

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