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Dmitry Orlov: Ukraine Crisis, Russia and Crimea Update | Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog

Dmitry Orlov: Ukraine Crisis, Russia and Crimea Update | Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.

By Greg Hunter On March 19, 2014

4Dmitry Orlov:  Ukraine Crisis, Russia and Crimea UpdateBy Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com

Dmitry Orlov is a Russian blogger who writes about the parallel between the U.S and the USSR.  Orlov lived through the financial collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s, and he thinks the U.S. is on the same trajectory.  Orlov contends, “The trajectory is defined by this sort of incompetent militarism where more and more money results in bigger and bigger military fiascos around the world and less and less of actual foreign policy that can be pursued or articulated.  There are massive levels of corruption.  The amount of money that is being stolen by the U.S. Government and its various appropriations processes is now in the trillions of dollars a year.  Runaway debt, the United States now has a level of debt that is un-repayable.  All we’re waiting for is interest rates to go across the magic threshold of 3% and the entire budget of the country explodes.  There are also all types of other tendencies that point in the direction of collapse and systemic failure at all levels.”

So, how close are we to collapse or system failure?  Orlov contends, “I am pretty sure that anyone who makes a prediction when the collapse will happen is wrong.  Nobody can say when it will happen.  It’s the same as saying a bridge that is structurally deficient; you don’t know when a truck is going to fall through into the river below. . . . You can be chronically sick for a long time, and then one day, you go into a coma or your heart stops.  You cannot predict what day that will happen.  Orlov does say, “The United States right now, from my point of view and the point of view from observers from around the world, is on suicide watch.  It’s a country that is going to self-destruct at some point in the near future.”

On the Ukraine crisis, Orlov thinks, “The Crimea referendum was the first legal way to find out what the people wanted to do.  The turnout was remarkable, and they voted overwhelmingly to rejoin Russia, to become part of Russia once again.  The interesting thing here is it was not just the Russians that voted to join Russia but the Ukrainians in Crimea, which makes a sizable part of the population voted to join Russia. . . Ukraine is composed of sort of a no man’s land in the West and then Russian territories in the East. . . .  If that trend holds, you are basically left with this insolvent nugget of nothingness, and it will be up to the international community to decide what to do with these people.  They are right now marching around Kiev with baseball bats and going into government offices and beating up members of local government and installing their own members.  They are basically running amok.  They don’t even have the support of the Ukrainian military at this point.  So, it will be a mop-up operation against these neo-fascists that are running amok.”  Orlov goes on to say, “In Washington, in the Obama Administration and in the Kerry State Department, we have absolutely breathtaking levels of incompetence.  These people really don’t know what they’re doing and are dangerous at any speed; and everywhere else, we have this follow the incompetent leader thing taking place, and it’s really, really frightening because the incompetents are leading the world to a really dangerous place.”

Orlov goes on to say, “What are these people doing trash talking the Russians?  What would these people do without Russia?  How would they get out of earth’s orbit and visit the international space station?  Who would negotiate international deals with Syria and Iran because all they can do is blunder and lose face.”  Russia doesn’t need the United States for anything.  The United States is the most dispensable country on earth.”

On possible war between Ukraine and Russia, Orlov contends, “They are not going to fight because the Ukraine military is part of the Russian military.  There really isn’t any opposition.  The Ukrainian military will decide what to do in a few days, and then they will inform the Russians, and after that, maybe they will inform their own government.  Maybe they will just go into the government offices and just round them up.  Last I heard, 60% of Ukrainian military accepted Russian passports already.  The remaining parts are being shipped out to the mainland.  That is happening peacefully.  So, there isn’t going to be any fight.  The really important point is the Ukrainian military all over Ukraine does not support the government in Kiev.  They are withholding support, and what they really want is to join the Russian military. . . . The best thing Russia can do is sit back and relax and let this work out.  I don’t think the government in Kiev has any legs.”

Join Greg Hunter as he goes One-on-One with Dmitry Orlov of ClubOrlov.com coming from Central America.

(There is much more in the video interview.)

 


After the Interview:
Dmitry Orlov is currently working on a new book that will be out later this year.  Orlov says, “The new book is about communities and what makes them resistant to adverse events such as financial collapse.”  Orlov adds, “The U.S., as a whole, is not resistant to shocks, but some parts of America are.”  You can find Dmitry Orlov at ClubOrlov.com.  

Dmitry Orlov: Ukraine Crisis, Russia and Crimea Update | Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog

Dmitry Orlov: Ukraine Crisis, Russia and Crimea Update | Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.

By Greg Hunter On March 19, 2014

4Dmitry Orlov:  Ukraine Crisis, Russia and Crimea UpdateBy Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com

Dmitry Orlov is a Russian blogger who writes about the parallel between the U.S and the USSR.  Orlov lived through the financial collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s, and he thinks the U.S. is on the same trajectory.  Orlov contends, “The trajectory is defined by this sort of incompetent militarism where more and more money results in bigger and bigger military fiascos around the world and less and less of actual foreign policy that can be pursued or articulated.  There are massive levels of corruption.  The amount of money that is being stolen by the U.S. Government and its various appropriations processes is now in the trillions of dollars a year.  Runaway debt, the United States now has a level of debt that is un-repayable.  All we’re waiting for is interest rates to go across the magic threshold of 3% and the entire budget of the country explodes.  There are also all types of other tendencies that point in the direction of collapse and systemic failure at all levels.”

So, how close are we to collapse or system failure?  Orlov contends, “I am pretty sure that anyone who makes a prediction when the collapse will happen is wrong.  Nobody can say when it will happen.  It’s the same as saying a bridge that is structurally deficient; you don’t know when a truck is going to fall through into the river below. . . . You can be chronically sick for a long time, and then one day, you go into a coma or your heart stops.  You cannot predict what day that will happen.  Orlov does say, “The United States right now, from my point of view and the point of view from observers from around the world, is on suicide watch.  It’s a country that is going to self-destruct at some point in the near future.”

On the Ukraine crisis, Orlov thinks, “The Crimea referendum was the first legal way to find out what the people wanted to do.  The turnout was remarkable, and they voted overwhelmingly to rejoin Russia, to become part of Russia once again.  The interesting thing here is it was not just the Russians that voted to join Russia but the Ukrainians in Crimea, which makes a sizable part of the population voted to join Russia. . . Ukraine is composed of sort of a no man’s land in the West and then Russian territories in the East. . . .  If that trend holds, you are basically left with this insolvent nugget of nothingness, and it will be up to the international community to decide what to do with these people.  They are right now marching around Kiev with baseball bats and going into government offices and beating up members of local government and installing their own members.  They are basically running amok.  They don’t even have the support of the Ukrainian military at this point.  So, it will be a mop-up operation against these neo-fascists that are running amok.”  Orlov goes on to say, “In Washington, in the Obama Administration and in the Kerry State Department, we have absolutely breathtaking levels of incompetence.  These people really don’t know what they’re doing and are dangerous at any speed; and everywhere else, we have this follow the incompetent leader thing taking place, and it’s really, really frightening because the incompetents are leading the world to a really dangerous place.”

Orlov goes on to say, “What are these people doing trash talking the Russians?  What would these people do without Russia?  How would they get out of earth’s orbit and visit the international space station?  Who would negotiate international deals with Syria and Iran because all they can do is blunder and lose face.”  Russia doesn’t need the United States for anything.  The United States is the most dispensable country on earth.”

On possible war between Ukraine and Russia, Orlov contends, “They are not going to fight because the Ukraine military is part of the Russian military.  There really isn’t any opposition.  The Ukrainian military will decide what to do in a few days, and then they will inform the Russians, and after that, maybe they will inform their own government.  Maybe they will just go into the government offices and just round them up.  Last I heard, 60% of Ukrainian military accepted Russian passports already.  The remaining parts are being shipped out to the mainland.  That is happening peacefully.  So, there isn’t going to be any fight.  The really important point is the Ukrainian military all over Ukraine does not support the government in Kiev.  They are withholding support, and what they really want is to join the Russian military. . . . The best thing Russia can do is sit back and relax and let this work out.  I don’t think the government in Kiev has any legs.”

Join Greg Hunter as he goes One-on-One with Dmitry Orlov of ClubOrlov.com coming from Central America.

(There is much more in the video interview.)

 


After the Interview:
Dmitry Orlov is currently working on a new book that will be out later this year.  Orlov says, “The new book is about communities and what makes them resistant to adverse events such as financial collapse.”  Orlov adds, “The U.S., as a whole, is not resistant to shocks, but some parts of America are.”  You can find Dmitry Orlov at ClubOrlov.com.  

ClubOrlov: Is anyone really in control in Ukraine?

ClubOrlov: Is anyone really in control in Ukraine?.

[While everyone is concentrating on the referendum in Crimea, let’s not lose sight of what’s happening in the rest of (formerly independent) Ukraine. As we already know, the government in Kiev is dead broke; the aid that is forthcoming from the US is barely enough to cover its debt to Russia’s Gazprom, for natural gas. Ukraine’s bond yield has spiked to 50% while $15 billion of these bonds mature andhave to be rolled over this year.

A lot has been made of the Russian and Belarussian troops massing all around Ukraine and in Crimea, but so far little has been heard of the state of the military within Ukraine itself. But now it appears that Ukraine’s military (which has never been involved in any armed conflict anywhere and is poorly trained and poorly armed) is mostly on the Russian side already, and, in any case, not willing to follow orders from Kiev. It also appears that the National Guard goon squadsbeing hastily organized by the government in Kiev may be effective at intimidating civilians, but that they won’t be much of a military force.

This information comes from a well-positioned source. There is a Spanish-speaking air traffic controller working at the Borispol International Airport in Kiev, who has been tweetting in Spanish and giving a blow-by-blow account of the goings on in the air and on the ground, along with some useful commentary. What follows is a summary of some of the recent tweets. Many thanks to Francisco for putting it together.
Here is what I see as the best case scenario for Ukraine: Russian and Ukrainian militaries fraternize and merge without a single shot fired, followed by a joint mop-up operation against the nationalist thugs.Once the nationalists’ ability to intimidate the populace is neutralized, the country can be reorganized, ideally as a federative structure that supports local languages, dialects and cultures.]

The Ukrainian military are by and large refusing to follow orders from he government. Many if not the majority of them are incredibly angry. Some generals have openly declared that they will not follow orders from some foreign-imposed government. The chief of the Air Force is a major problem for the government: so far he has flatlyrefused to fly any missions at all, and has grounded all the planes. He says that he will not follow orders except from a freely elected governent. Until such a time, he will follow only his own orders.

In this ATC’s opinion, this attitude within the military is a good thing, because there would already be lots of casualties had they had followed their orders. It looks like at least half, and probably more, of the military feels much more affinity toward their Russian colleages than towards the Ukrainian Nationalists who are nominally in power. The government is frantically trying to recruit and organizea National Guard, with whatever western help they can get. There is no equipment or money in the country.

The problem with this National Guard is that it’s being recruited based on an ideology of nationalistic bigotry and hatred rather than any useful aptitude. The people in Kiev are much more afraid of the nationalists and the National Guard being created than of the military. It appears that the sentiment towards the Russians is in general very friendly, that most Ukrainians consider Russians to be their brothers. The exception is the ultra-nationalistic faction, whichsuperficially seems to be gaining a lot of power through intimidation.

A Gift From The Collapseniks  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards

A Gift From The Collapseniks  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards.

Of what possible use is it to imagine the end of civilization or even of the species? Is it simply a pessimistic indulgence or can it contribute to progressive and other positive results?

When I was a child, my family’s pastor used to elbow into almost every sermon an admiring reference to “St. John languishing in exile on the rock-bound, sea-girt island of Patmos.” He was referring to the author of  the grisly Book of Revelation , the dominant Western source of apocalyptic imagery.

We chuckle at cartoons of robed men on city sidewalks carrying placards that claim, “the end is nigh,” and at bumper stickers that declare, “in case of Rapture, this car will be driverless” (which sounds more dangerous than driving under the influence). Since St. John’s fiery prose, there have been many predictions of the end, including the modern cult studied by social psychologist Leon Festinger in When Prophecy Fails (1956).

Those who see danger tend to accuse others of “denial,” of “refusing to listen.” Perhaps a tincture of denial has given humans an evolutionary advantage. Speaking positively, psychologists refer to “optimism bias.” Most of us tend to imagine that things will turn out better than they do, a common mental pattern studied by such authors as Tali Sharot. While this trait arguably encourages enterprises, some of which succeed, it may also, on occasion, blind us to the possibility of avoidable loss, even terminal loss.

In A Year to Live (1997), Stephen Levine asks readers to pretend they have the awful privilege of knowing when they will die (in 52 weeks) and challenges them to review their histories honestly and to live abundantly in the remaining time. As my wife and I know, from working through Levine’s book with another couple, the result can be an enhancement of life.

During the Cold War, Joanna Macy gave us Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age (1983). Before writing on ecology, on general systems theory, and on hope, Macy taught that a fuller life, including activism, could be approached through uninhibited expression of the deep feelings that led us to be concerned. More recent examples are the grief work of Carolyn Baker, author of Sacred Demise (2009) and Collapsing Consciously (2013) and of Francis Weller, author of Entering the Healing Ground (2012).

Still, it’s going against the grain to ask people to imagine extreme loss. Unlike some so-called primitive groups, our society is not set up for it, apart from isolated workshops. According to both Baker and Weller, working through grief requires the support of a community and the additional safety of a ritual container. For all its virtues, U.S. culture is based more on individuality, the frontier, and risky enterprise, than on mutual support and safe space.

Nonetheless, a growing number of observers of climate change and other trends foresee disaster. We can describe them as collapseniks, a term with a suffix derived from Russian in honor of Dmitri Orlo*, who grew up in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) and emigrated to the U.S. An engineer, sailor, and writer, Orlov believes that his adopted country will descend into collapse, and that the U.S. is less well prepared than the country where he was raised. If we define collapsenik as an observer who is conscious of the possibility of economic, political, and social collapse and who believes collapse is worth taking seriously, then Orlov has a parade of company, of which I will give chronological highlights at the end of this piece.

There are big differences among collapsenik authors and even in a single author at different times. A spectrum exists, from those who feel we could avoid the worst of climate change by changing our ways substantially (“we’re sleepwalking toward disaster but could conceivably wake up”) to those who believe our species is doomed (“it’s already too late”). For example, scientist Guy McPherson has come to believe that, as a species, we are headed toward “near-term extinction” (niftily abbreviated as NTE).

While pessimists predict NTE, optimists envision the triumph of a progressive politics that would render climate change survivable, perhaps shifting us toward a steady-state economy, slowing the sixth extinction of species, and fostering a network of local and democratic institutions. An optimistic scenario would resonate with what Macy, expressing hope, now calls “The Great Turning.”

In contrast, McPherson argues that it’s already too late for ad equate reform: humans have inadvertently created feedback loops that will keep making the situation worse. For example, the release of methane, caused (in part) by warming of the shallow Arctic ocean and the Siberian and Canadian tundra, will cause more warming because methane is a greenhouse gas even more dangerous than CO2. And so on.

Humans don’t have a very good record of predicting the future, in spite of various divinatory schemes. Whether developments are technological, political, or economic, we have proceeded without reliable forecasts. Given the surprises inherent in complex systems and in technical development, nobody can show that we face certain demise, though we can discuss probabilities.

Could we learn to regard collapse not as a firm prediction but as a scenario worth exploring? After all, the Pentagon has contingency plans for events that are arguably less likely and less devastating.

To return to our original question, what could be the use of taking seriously a scenario of collapse, especially the views that argue that it’s already too late or that changes could help, but probably won’t be made? If we feel grief at what seems to be happening, instead of simply seeming smug in a prediction of certain doom, if we invent ways to lessen the turbulence and create the best that is possible in the new circumstances, if we live intensely instead of habitually, then the scenario of demise might seem no worse than knowing that, as individuals, we each will die. Meanwhile, what are we capable of?

According to Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell (2010), disasters can bring out the best in people. If the scenario of the collapseniks plays out, we will have opportunities to discover what kind of gardens we can create in the ruins of our present society. So what is the gift? That by responding fully to the scenario, we can meanwhile live more intensely and develop the elements of a society that, under new conditions as they develop, would work.

Now here are the promised examples of recent writers who are aware of the possibility of collapse and who, in various cases, are sketching alternatives. In this century, we’ve been given Tim Flahherty’s The Weather Makers (2001), Richard Heinberg’s The Party’s Over (2003), Jared Diamond’s Collapse (2005), James Howard Kunstler’s The Long Emergency (2005), Clive Hamilton’s A Short History of Progress (2005), Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes from a Catastrophe (2006), George Monbiot’s Heat (2006), another assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007), James Lovelock’s The Revenge of Gaia (2007), John Michael Greer’s The Long Descent (2008).

And in the past five years: Sharon Astyk and Aaron Newton’s A Nation of Farmers (2009), Hamilton’s Requiem for a Species (2010), Chris Martenson’sThe Crash Course (2011), Guy McPherson’s Walking Away from Empire (2011), Dmitri Orlov’s Reinventing Collapse (2011), Paul Gilding’s The Great Disruption (2012), an even more dire IPCC assessment report (2014), Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction (2014), and the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society, Climate Change: Evidence and Causes (also this year). (With a few exceptions, I have listed only the first book in which each author shows a pervasive awareness of collapse.)

In addition, apart from the writers already listed, many of whom write blogs, you can find many provocative personal and organizational websites, some of which publish several writers, such as Arctic News (Sam Carara), Climate Progress (Joe Romm), Collapse of Industrial Civilization (xraymike 79),   Collapsing into Consciousness (Gary Stamper), Culture Change (Jan Lundberg), Dark Mountain Project (Paul Kingsnorth), Grist, How to Save the World (Dave Pollard), Our Finite World (Gail Tverberg), Radio Ecoshock (hosted by Alex Smith), Speaking Truth to Power (articles gathered daily by Carolyn Baker), and Yale Environment 360 (edited by Roger Cohn Sr.).

We should of course judge not by the number of collapseniks, but by the quality of evidence these writers bring. It’s a conversation worth having.

Op-Ed News

A Gift From The Collapseniks  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards

A Gift From The Collapseniks  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards.

Of what possible use is it to imagine the end of civilization or even of the species? Is it simply a pessimistic indulgence or can it contribute to progressive and other positive results?

When I was a child, my family’s pastor used to elbow into almost every sermon an admiring reference to “St. John languishing in exile on the rock-bound, sea-girt island of Patmos.” He was referring to the author of  the grisly Book of Revelation , the dominant Western source of apocalyptic imagery.

We chuckle at cartoons of robed men on city sidewalks carrying placards that claim, “the end is nigh,” and at bumper stickers that declare, “in case of Rapture, this car will be driverless” (which sounds more dangerous than driving under the influence). Since St. John’s fiery prose, there have been many predictions of the end, including the modern cult studied by social psychologist Leon Festinger in When Prophecy Fails (1956).

Those who see danger tend to accuse others of “denial,” of “refusing to listen.” Perhaps a tincture of denial has given humans an evolutionary advantage. Speaking positively, psychologists refer to “optimism bias.” Most of us tend to imagine that things will turn out better than they do, a common mental pattern studied by such authors as Tali Sharot. While this trait arguably encourages enterprises, some of which succeed, it may also, on occasion, blind us to the possibility of avoidable loss, even terminal loss.

In A Year to Live (1997), Stephen Levine asks readers to pretend they have the awful privilege of knowing when they will die (in 52 weeks) and challenges them to review their histories honestly and to live abundantly in the remaining time. As my wife and I know, from working through Levine’s book with another couple, the result can be an enhancement of life.

During the Cold War, Joanna Macy gave us Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age (1983). Before writing on ecology, on general systems theory, and on hope, Macy taught that a fuller life, including activism, could be approached through uninhibited expression of the deep feelings that led us to be concerned. More recent examples are the grief work of Carolyn Baker, author of Sacred Demise (2009) and Collapsing Consciously (2013) and of Francis Weller, author of Entering the Healing Ground (2012).

Still, it’s going against the grain to ask people to imagine extreme loss. Unlike some so-called primitive groups, our society is not set up for it, apart from isolated workshops. According to both Baker and Weller, working through grief requires the support of a community and the additional safety of a ritual container. For all its virtues, U.S. culture is based more on individuality, the frontier, and risky enterprise, than on mutual support and safe space.

Nonetheless, a growing number of observers of climate change and other trends foresee disaster. We can describe them as collapseniks, a term with a suffix derived from Russian in honor of Dmitri Orlo*, who grew up in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) and emigrated to the U.S. An engineer, sailor, and writer, Orlov believes that his adopted country will descend into collapse, and that the U.S. is less well prepared than the country where he was raised. If we define collapsenik as an observer who is conscious of the possibility of economic, political, and social collapse and who believes collapse is worth taking seriously, then Orlov has a parade of company, of which I will give chronological highlights at the end of this piece.

There are big differences among collapsenik authors and even in a single author at different times. A spectrum exists, from those who feel we could avoid the worst of climate change by changing our ways substantially (“we’re sleepwalking toward disaster but could conceivably wake up”) to those who believe our species is doomed (“it’s already too late”). For example, scientist Guy McPherson has come to believe that, as a species, we are headed toward “near-term extinction” (niftily abbreviated as NTE).

While pessimists predict NTE, optimists envision the triumph of a progressive politics that would render climate change survivable, perhaps shifting us toward a steady-state economy, slowing the sixth extinction of species, and fostering a network of local and democratic institutions. An optimistic scenario would resonate with what Macy, expressing hope, now calls “The Great Turning.”

In contrast, McPherson argues that it’s already too late for ad equate reform: humans have inadvertently created feedback loops that will keep making the situation worse. For example, the release of methane, caused (in part) by warming of the shallow Arctic ocean and the Siberian and Canadian tundra, will cause more warming because methane is a greenhouse gas even more dangerous than CO2. And so on.

Humans don’t have a very good record of predicting the future, in spite of various divinatory schemes. Whether developments are technological, political, or economic, we have proceeded without reliable forecasts. Given the surprises inherent in complex systems and in technical development, nobody can show that we face certain demise, though we can discuss probabilities.

Could we learn to regard collapse not as a firm prediction but as a scenario worth exploring? After all, the Pentagon has contingency plans for events that are arguably less likely and less devastating.

To return to our original question, what could be the use of taking seriously a scenario of collapse, especially the views that argue that it’s already too late or that changes could help, but probably won’t be made? If we feel grief at what seems to be happening, instead of simply seeming smug in a prediction of certain doom, if we invent ways to lessen the turbulence and create the best that is possible in the new circumstances, if we live intensely instead of habitually, then the scenario of demise might seem no worse than knowing that, as individuals, we each will die. Meanwhile, what are we capable of?

According to Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell (2010), disasters can bring out the best in people. If the scenario of the collapseniks plays out, we will have opportunities to discover what kind of gardens we can create in the ruins of our present society. So what is the gift? That by responding fully to the scenario, we can meanwhile live more intensely and develop the elements of a society that, under new conditions as they develop, would work.

Now here are the promised examples of recent writers who are aware of the possibility of collapse and who, in various cases, are sketching alternatives. In this century, we’ve been given Tim Flahherty’s The Weather Makers (2001), Richard Heinberg’s The Party’s Over (2003), Jared Diamond’s Collapse (2005), James Howard Kunstler’s The Long Emergency (2005), Clive Hamilton’s A Short History of Progress (2005), Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes from a Catastrophe (2006), George Monbiot’s Heat (2006), another assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007), James Lovelock’s The Revenge of Gaia (2007), John Michael Greer’s The Long Descent (2008).

And in the past five years: Sharon Astyk and Aaron Newton’s A Nation of Farmers (2009), Hamilton’s Requiem for a Species (2010), Chris Martenson’sThe Crash Course (2011), Guy McPherson’s Walking Away from Empire (2011), Dmitri Orlov’s Reinventing Collapse (2011), Paul Gilding’s The Great Disruption (2012), an even more dire IPCC assessment report (2014), Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction (2014), and the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society, Climate Change: Evidence and Causes (also this year). (With a few exceptions, I have listed only the first book in which each author shows a pervasive awareness of collapse.)

In addition, apart from the writers already listed, many of whom write blogs, you can find many provocative personal and organizational websites, some of which publish several writers, such as Arctic News (Sam Carara), Climate Progress (Joe Romm), Collapse of Industrial Civilization (xraymike 79),   Collapsing into Consciousness (Gary Stamper), Culture Change (Jan Lundberg), Dark Mountain Project (Paul Kingsnorth), Grist, How to Save the World (Dave Pollard), Our Finite World (Gail Tverberg), Radio Ecoshock (hosted by Alex Smith), Speaking Truth to Power (articles gathered daily by Carolyn Baker), and Yale Environment 360 (edited by Roger Cohn Sr.).

We should of course judge not by the number of collapseniks, but by the quality of evidence these writers bring. It’s a conversation worth having.

Op-Ed News

ClubOrlov: How To Time Collapses

ClubOrlov: How To Time Collapses

Douglas Smith
Zeus

Over the past half a decade I’ve made a number of detailed predictions about collapse: how it is likely to unfold, what its various manifestations are likely to be, and how it will affect various groups and categories of people. But I have remained purposefully vague about the timing of collapse and its various stages, being careful to always append “give or take half a decade” to my dire prognostications. I wasn’t withholding information or being coy; I really had no way of calculating when collapse will happen—until five days ago, when, out of the blue, I received the following email from Ugo Bardi:

Hi Dmitry,

You may be interested in this post of mine.

Starting from this post, I’m trying to draw a parallel between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the impending collapse of Italy. There are, as always, similarities and differences. In particular, the Soviet Union collapsed almost immediately after that oil production flattened out and started declining. On the contrary, the Italian government survives despite a loss of 36% in oil consumption.

My impression is that it is all related to different taxation methods. I understand that the Soviet tax system was based mainly on commodity taxes and on taxes on production. When production stalled, people had nothing to buy and the government had nothing to tax because most people owned nothing and had little or no savings in banks. So, the government had no choice but to fold over and disappear.

Instead, the Italian system is based largely on income tax and property tax. The government is losing revenues on commodity taxes (e.g. on gasoline) but it can compensate with property taxes. Italians, on the average, are “rich,” in the sense that they have savings in banks and most of them own their homes. So, the government can tax their properties and their savings. As long as Italians still have something taxable, then the government will survive. It will disappear only when it has managed to strip citizens completely of everything they have.

Do you agree with this interpretation? (BTW, Italy as a state may be even more culturally diverse than the old Soviet Union was.)

Ugo

I wrote back:

Hi Ugo,

Very interesting article. Yes, the entire southern tier of the EU is in some early stage of collapse, but so far it hadn’t occurred to me to draw parallels between it and USSR. Now that you mention it, the parallel is obvious: it is financial collapse triggered by something having to do with oil, but with polarities reversed, and delayed by a period of wealth destruction.

In the case of USSR, taxation wasn’t really a source of government revenue. The national economy was based on government ownership of everything, central planning and budgets, and a system of assigning ministerial contracts to enterprises owned by the ministries. The external economy was a matter of exporting hydrocarbons in exchange for foreign currency, which was used to buy grain—mostly feed grain for cattle, without which the population would become protein-deprived and malnourished. Over the so-called “stagnation” period of the 1980s the Soviet economy became hollowed out because of several trends. Too much spending on defense was one of them. Another was that investment in capital goods (machinery, plant and equipment) reached the point of diminishing returns, which is very difficult to characterize but not so difficult to observe. Lastly, Solzhenitsyn and the dissident movement had done irreparable damage to Soviet prestige, destroying morale. The coup de grace, when it came, consisted of two pieces. One was the inability to expand oil production given the state of Soviet oil extraction technology of the era. The other was the fall in oil prices, down to $10/bbl at one point, because North Sea and Alaska both went on stream, and the Saudis pumped as much oil as they could based on a tacit agreement with the US to depress oil prices and thus crush the Soviets. In this they largely succeeded. The USSR became heavily indebted to the West, and, at the very end, needed Western credit to keep the lights on in the Kremlin. One of the final scenes featured Gorbachev on the phone with [West Germany’s Chancellor] Helmut Kohl asking him to ask the Americans to release some funds.

Now, I can see parallels to this in what is happening now in the US and in the EU, but with all the polarities reversed: here oil flows in and money flows out, and the coup de grace [will be] high oil prices rather than low. Instead of failures of central planning, which failed to allocate production effectively, we have failures of the globalized market, where production is effectively globalized but consumption is ineffectively localized among the wealthy and the formerly wealthy, and has to be fueled by credit. Instead of diminishing returns from deployment of capital goods, we have diminishing returns from deployment of capital itself, where a unit of new debt now produces much less than a unit of economic growth. The damage to reputation and morale is mostly on the US side of the Atlantic, where in place of Solzhenitsyn and the dissident movement we have Abu Ghraib [scandal], [Wikileaks’ Julian] Assange and [Edward] Snowden. With the EU, most of the damage has to do with [the] experience of economic disparities between the rich core and the increasingly impoverished periphery, and the recent move in Ukraine to walk away from the EU, and the ensuing Western-financed mayhem in Kiev, show that the bloom is off the EU rose as well. The runaway military spending is likewise mostly a US issue, although epic failures in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, in which the EU is complicit, are likely to have some effect as well.
Comparing USSR to Italy is difficult because of the disparity of scale: 1/5 of the planet’s dry surface versus a smallish peninsula; an economy that slowly decayed in isolation versus an integral part of the EU; a country where the choice is between burning hydrocarbons or dying of exposure versus one where the choice is between riding a scooter or taking the bus; a country with a ravaged agricultural sector unable to grow enough protein calories versus a nation of foodies where corner groceries make worthy subjects for oil paintings. But I think that when it comes to the actual collapse, when it finally comes, there will still be identifiable similarities. Financial collapse always comes first: all sorts of financial arrangements unravel as the center becomes unable to float the periphery, and in response the periphery starts to withhold economic cooperation. The result is a breakdown in supply chains, shutdown of production, and, shortly thereafter, shutdown of commerce. In the case of the USSR, this unfolded in 1989-91 as the various republics and regions refused to cooperate with Moscow. I suspect that this will also happen in the EU, at some point. But I think that you are exactly right that whereas the average Soviet citizen could not be fleeced, Italy, and much of the EU, still have plenty of fat sheep that the government can shear to keep things running. Thus we are looking at a few more years of steady decline before the lights start going out. This, then, is the key distinction: the USSR collapsed promptly because it was already skin and bones, whereas the US and the EU still have plenty of subcutaneous fat to burn through. But they are, in fact, burning through it. And so, the conclusion is, collapse will come, but here it will take a little longer.
-Dmitry
Ugo responded:
I agree with you, of course. It makes perfect sense to me and it is the main point I was making: the Soviet government couldn’t tax Soviet citizens too much because they owned very little.
The Italian government instead has some luck in the sense that Italians have some savings and most of them own their homes. So, the government is progressively strangling their citizens to squeeze out of them all that they have—while they still have something.

The last round of tax increases in Italy is targeting homes and it is really, really hurting, especially the poor. You can be poor here, and still own a house that you inherited from your parents. Now the government asks you to pay as if that house were revenue! That is truly evil. People who don’t have the money to pay this property tax can only indebt themselves with banks (or worse). Eventually, they’ll have to sell their homes or give them to the bank (or to the Mafia)—the result is disaster for everybody, including for the banks, and even the government. But the whole thing has a perverse logic. It has the advantage that it generates some immediate cash which is badly needed, then the hell with the future.

The [next] phase will be to target bank accounts. Then, when there will be nothing left, the government will decamp and say bye to everybody. Hell, what a planet I landed in…..

All the best,

Ugo

And so here is the outline of the method for calculating the timing of collapses:
1. Find out when the collapse clock starts running by looking for a significant drop in energy consumption
2. Calculate how long the clock is going to run by dividing the total wealth of the citizenry by the economic shortfall of the shrinking economy
For any industrial economy the collapse clock starts running as soon as the consumption of fossil hydrocarbons starts dropping appreciably. It is sometimes difficult to tell whether this has already happened if the country in question is still a major hydrocarbon producer. Gross production numbers can still be holding steady or even seem to go up a bit, but once you subtract all the energy that is being expended on energy production itself, and on the unprofitable mitigation of its many undesirable consequences, you might be able see a decline sooner rather than later. Notably, the net energy yield, or EROEI, is very low for all the newer unconventional sources that have been trumpeted as panaceas in recent years, such as ones that require hydrofracturing and drilling in deep water, tar sands and so on. (The so-called “renewables,” such as wind, solar and biofuels, are an even bigger joke, because all of them with the exception of hydroelectric plants have net energy that is too low to sustain an industrial economy, plus they all depend on technologies that are “nonrenewable” unless the country maintains a vast industrial base which happens to run on fossil fuels.) And so the drop in net energy consumption is clear for Italy, which produces 7% of the oil it consumes and imports the rest, whereas the picture is somewhat less clear for the US, which still manages to supply around a third of its oil.
Since all industrial economies literally run on fossil fuels, lower energy consumption immediately translates into a lower level of economic activity and a shrinking economy. The gap between the expectations of economic growth that are dialed into all of the financial arrangements, and the reality of economic decline driven by lower energy availability, has to be plugged with the population’s savings. There are a number of ways of expropriating wealth, generally proceeding from various kinds of stealth taxation measures, to more overt measures, to outright expropriation. Taking the US as the example (since I am most familiar with it) the expropriation cascade is proceeding as follows:
1. Central bank policy of zeroing out of interest rates on savings combined with massive money-printing. This forces money into speculative markets (stocks, real estate, etc.) creating huge financial bubbles; when these bubbles pop, savings are said to be destroyed, but in reality that money has already been spent by the government or used to fill the private coffers of those closely associated with the government.
2. Government policy of canceling retirements or short-changing retirees. The federal government has worked hard to make its official measure of inflation all but meaningless so that it can justify its policy of making cost of living adjustments to social security payments that are far less than the the real increases in the cost of living. Another federal expropriation scheme is via guaranteed student loans, which cannot be discharged through bankruptcy, and which have created an entire class of indentured servants. At the more local level, state and municipal governments are curtailing or canceling retirement programs by virtue of going bankrupt.
3. Ever more onerous reporting requirements for financial transactions, especially for those who try to leave the country and expatriate their savings. All foreign bank accounts must now be reported, and people who work abroad are now forced to file voluminous annual reports that cost thousands of dollars to prepare. Those who decide to repudiate their US citizenship are made to pay a hefty exit tax. Nevertheless, record numbers of US citizens have been doing just that. Just having a US passport often makes it impossible to set up accounts in foreign financial institutions, which have little desire to comply with US demands for financial disclosure.
These are the measures that are already in place. Looking at what’s been tried before, here and elsewhere, we can see what other measures are in the works. Among them:
1. So-called “bail-ins” where insolvent financial institutions are rescued by confiscating depositor funds. We can expect the script to be similar to what happened in Cyprus: politically connected depositors get word ahead of time and yank out their money forthwith; everybody else gets shorn.
2. Limits on bank withdrawals. You might still “have” money in the bank, but that’s the only place you can “have” it. The semantics of the verb “to have” can be quite tricky, you see…
3. Ever-increasing taxes on property resulting in property confiscation. It works like this: government prints money and hands it out to its friends; its friends use it to temporarily bid up property values; property taxes go up to a point where the property owners can’t pay them; owners lose their properties. A staggering 63% of real estate purchases in Florida last December were cash purchases.
4. Various kinds of sudden, new, super-complex regulations, noncompliance with which results in very large fines. In turn, nonpayment of these fines results in forfeiture of assets. The US has some very curious laws according to which inanimate objects such as cars, boats and houses can be charged with a crime, seized and auctioned off. We can expect lots more of such property grabs in the future.
5. Gold confiscation, which happened once in the US already, so there is a precedent for it. Yes, I know that this will make a number of people upset, but I am yet to hear a convincing argument for why the US government would not resort to gold confiscation when that turns out to be one of the few remaining cards it can play.
This list is by no means comprehensive. If you feel that I have missed something major, please submit a comment, and I will consider it for inclusion.

Now, it would be nice if all of these measures worked like clockwork, always producing the right amount of wealth confiscation to levitate the government, and the financial scheme on which it is based, for a little while longer. Alas, as with most things, something is bound to go wrong at some point, most likely when you least expect it. And it seems like a dead certainty that something will in fact go wrong well before every last American citizen is relieved of every bit of their accumulated wealth and is living peacefully in a roadside ditch, wearing an attractive loincloth and a stylish mudpack for a hat, quietly perfecting a nouvelle cuisine that features snails au jus and dandelion salad au chaume. Maybe you can imagine it, but I can’t. Beyond a certain point, I can only imagine reports of widespread “public disturbances” followed by “breakdown of law and order.”
Still, I hope that this framework will allow us to set an upper bound for how long collapse can be deferred for any given country. Once hydrocarbon consumption drops appreciably, the clock starts running. Then it is possible to estimate how long the clock can theoretically run by dividing the remaining net worth of the population by the size of the hole in the economy created by falling energy consumption.
But after that things get messy. Some countries will hollow themselves out quite peaceably, and go softly into the night, while others will explode and fast-forward though the financial-commercial-political collapse sequence. And so perhaps the most useful thing to know is whether the collapse clock is already running for any given country, because if it is already running, then it becomes a fool’s game to wait around for the inevitable outcome.
One reasonable approach is to get another passport and quietly relocate to another country. It is important that this country be one for which the collapse clock is not running and won’t be for a long time yet. Ideally this would be a financially secure, politically stable, energy independent, militarily invincible, underpopulated, non-extradition country which will be among the last to be severely disrupted by climate change and where you could have lunch with Edward Snowden. But this approach doesn’t appeal to everyone, and I understand that.
And so another approach is to adapt to what’s coming while remaining in the US, or in any other country for which the collapse clock is running, by making yourself, and your wealth, should you have any, illegible. Here is a very nice article by one smart cookie by the name of Venkatesh Rao on the concept of illegibility. And here is his very nice primer on being an illegible person. This kind of illegibility has nothing to do with bad handwriting; it is about hiding in plain sight. Please read these as homework, because I will have more to say on this topic in the near future. And I would love to see a list of countries for which the collapse clock is running, along with first-order estimates for how long it could possibly run for each one, based on their population’s net worth and the country’s economic shortfall. But since this post has just gone over 3000 words, I am leaving this as an exercise for the reader.

What do I believe about the world complex? Or, why I think a collapse is inevitable.

Last evening (January 12, 2014) I sat down to create a compilation of beliefs I hold about the world complex. The first twenty that popped into my head were pretty easy with the last few (I only went as far as once through the alphabet) requiring a little thinking. In no particular order I offer this quickly composed list with some links to articles/websites to support them:

ECONOMY/FINANCES

a)     Economic markets are rigged.

  1. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-12-11/are-markets-rigged
  2. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-06-12/summarizing-known-rigged-markets
  3. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-06-11/wmreuters-busted-latest-market-rigging-and-collusion-scandal-foreign-exchange

b)    Gold has been moving from the West to the East.

  1. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/guest-post-world’s-gold-moving-west-east
  2. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-12-19/chinese-dont-want-dollars-anymore-they-want-gold-londons-gold-vaults-are-empty-why
  3. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-05-08/chinese-gold-imports-soar-monthly-record-insatiable-demand

c)     The world’s primary reserve currency never lasts forever.

  1. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-01-10/todays-reserve-currency-tomorrows-wallpaper
  2. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-07-06/bundesbank-warns-chinas-currency-its-way-becoming-global-reserve-currency
  3. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-10-13/guest-post-how-much-longer-will-dollar-be-reserve-currency

d)    Central banks have been coordinating their monetary policies from interest rates to ‘money printing’ to ‘forward guidance’ that is resulting in currency devaluations

  1. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/here-comes-mother-all-rumors-g-20-sources-say-central-banks-preparing-coordinated-action
  2. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/goldman-todays-coordinated-central-bank-bailout-it-isn’t-enough-save-anyone-or-solve-averything
  3. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-10-03/guest-post-rise-and-fall-monetary-policy-coordination

e)     Central banks have been monetizing sovereign debt through increased holdings of government bonds.

  1. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-01-07/japan-may-or-may-not-mint-quadrillion-yen-coins-it-will-monetize-european-debt
  2. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/ecb-monetizes-another-€10-billion-piigs-debt-trichet-says-prudent-ecb-not-fed
  3. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2012-10-20/presenting-all-us-debt-thats-fit-monetize

f)     Sovereign nations are in extreme debt.

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_debt
  2. http://www.economist.com/content/global_debt_clock
  3. http://www.tradingeconomics.com/country-list/government-debt-to-gdp

g)    Private households are in extreme debt.

  1. http://www.oecd.org/std/fin-stats/
  2. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-06-04/debt-nations
  3. http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/06/focus-1

h)    All fiat currency experiments eventually end.

  1. http://dailyreckoning.com/fiat-currency/
  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oql8CTy6AcA
  3. http://georgewashington2.blogspot.ca/2011/08/average-life-expectancy-for-fiat.html

i)      Robotic technology is replacing increasing number of jobs.

  1. http://www.news.com.au/technology/science/robots-to-replace-almost-50-per-cent-of-the-work-force/story-fn5fsgyc-1226729696075
  2. http://robotswillstealyourjob.tumblr.com/post/48210312400/robots-are-taking-our-jobs-and-we-will-take-their
  3. http://www.amazon.com/Jobocalypse-Human-Jobs-Robots-Replace/dp/1482701960

j)      There exist trillions of dollars of IOUs supporting the financial system.

  1. http://demonocracy.info/infographics/usa/derivatives/bank_exposure.html
  2. http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/the-coming-derivatives-panic-that-will-destroy-global-financial-markets
  3.  http://moneymorning.com/2011/10/12/derivatives-the-600-trillion-time-bomb-thats-set-to-explode/

k)    Unemployment has skyrocketed across western nations, especially for the young (under 25).

  1. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/14/youth-unemployment-wreck-europe-economic-recovery
  2. http://business.time.com/2012/11/05/why-the-u-s-has-a-worse-youth-employment-problem-than-europe/
  3. http://www.workopolis.com/content/advice/article/study-why-youth-unemployment-in-canada-is-here-to-stay/

ENERGY

l)      Production of conventional oil has begun to decline.

  1. http://www.oildecline.com/
  2. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2013/dec/23/british-petroleum-geologist-peak-oil-break-economy-recession
  3. http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Energy-Voices/2013/0412/The-decline-of-the-world-s-major-oil-fields

m)   New technologies and dirtier sources are being increasingly required to sustain fuel production.

  1. http://www.peakoil.net/future-oil-production-in-canada
  2. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d005f176-4ad8-11e3-8c4c-00144feabdc0.html
  3. http://www.theoildrum.com/node/10017

n)    Fuel production barely sustains demand.

  1. http://omrpublic.iea.org/balances.asp
  2. http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/06/oil-production-and-consumption
  3. http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=12891

o)   The Shale Oil Revolution is not.

  1. http://shalebubble.org/drill-baby-drill/
  2. http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-10-21/major-study-projects-no-long-term-climate-benefit-from-shale-gas-revolution
  3. http://mondediplo.com/2013/03/09gaz

p)    Models of future fuel production rely on significant ‘yet-to-be-discovered’ sources.

  1. http://www.abo.net/en_IT/publications/reportage/togo/togo_1.shtml
  2. http://seekingalpha.com/article/236162-iea-forecast-economy-depends-on-yet-to-be-found-oil
  3. http://www.jeffrubinssmallerworld.com/2010/11/24/even-the-international-energy-agency-forecasts-peak-oil/

q)    Fossil fuel extraction, transportation, and use have polluted the planet with numerous toxins.

  1. http://www.ec.gc.ca/energie-energy/default.asp?lang=En&n=1F4E5D8A-1
  2. http://www2.epa.gov/nutrientpollution/sources-and-solutions-fossil-fuels
  3. http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/our-energy-choices/coal-and-other-fossil-fuels/the-hidden-cost-of-fossil.html

ENVIRONMENT

r)     Climate extremes are increasing in frequency, duration, and magnitude.

  1. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/dec/18/2013-extreme-weather-events
  2. http://www.climatecommunication.org/new/articles/extreme-weather/overview/
  3. https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/special-reports/srex/SREX_FD_SPM_final.pdf

s)     Polar ice caps are melting.

  1. http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/qthinice.asp
  2. http://www.dw.de/polar-ice-sheets-melting-faster-than-ever/a-16432199
  3. http://uk.news.yahoo.com/what-if-the-world-s-icecaps-melted-overnight–120351663.html#PK3eE9D

t)      We are experiencing peak water.

  1. http://www.wired.com/science/planetearth/magazine/16-05/ff_peakwater?currentPage=all
  2. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-06/peak-water-the-rise-and-fall-of-cheap-clean-h2o.html
  3. http://www.princegeorgecitizen.com/article/20130606/PRINCEGEORGE0304/306069987/-1/princegeorge/peak-water-limiting-energy-production

u)    Deserts are expanding.

  1. http://www.nature.com/climate/2009/0909/full/climate.2009.84.html
  2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningzone/clips/desertification-expansion-of-the-sahara-desert/1498.html
  3. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/science/131211/waterless-world-inner-mongolia-desert-wasteland

v)     Sea levels are rising.

  1. http://pri.org/stories/2014-01-10/sea-levels-rising-uk-starting-let-go-some-its-coastline
  2. http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/critical-issues-sea-level-rise/
  3. http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/cas/adaptation/sea_level.html

w)   Honeybees have been decimated by human chemical use.

  1. https://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/05/24/9177
  2. http://www.businessinsider.com/the-world-without-honeybees-2013-6
  3. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/honeybee-population-decline-and-its-devastating-effects-are-topic-of-vanishing-of-the-bees-82364717.html

LIBERTY

x)    Governments are spying on their citizens.

  1. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/02/revealed-australian-spy-agency-offered-to-share-data-about-ordinary-citizens
  2. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/02/revealed-australian-spy-agency-offered-to-share-data-about-ordinary-citizens
  3. http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=dae581de-2490-45f8-90c7-919d01fbd4f4

y)    Governments are spying on each other and themselves.

  1. http://www.globalresearch.ca/nsa-spying-on-congress-to-manipulate-intimidate-blackmail-top-government-and-military-officials/5364273
  2. http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/new-snowden-docs-show-u-s-spied-during-g20-in-toronto-1.2442448
  3. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/21/world/nsa-dragnet-included-allies-aid-groups-and-business-elite.html?_r=0

z)     Governments are manipulating the data they provide to the public.

  1. http://www.businessinsider.com/government-data-manipulation-pricestats-argentina-inflation-2012-10
  2. http://www.wealthdaily.com/articles/unemployment-data-manipulation/4767
  3. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-11-19/government-investigate-government-over-jobs-manipulation-report

I know many people would prefer to hear a message of hope but when these ‘realities’ exist I can’t help but be fairly pessimistic about our chances of a ‘sustainable’ future or a ‘soft landing’ for our economic woes. Unless some unforeseen miracle can save us from ourselves, I can only conclude that the day of reckoning is quickly approaching; it’s a matter of when, not if. Some event, minor or major, will be that snowflake that begins a cascading collapse of our interrelated, complex world. And by collapse, I mean a sudden, devastating drop in the standard of living (similar to Dimitry Orlov’s Five Stages of Collapse) OR an elongated, slow contraction (similar to James Howard Kunstler’s The Long Emergency or John Michael Greer’s The Long Descent); to me, these are not too dissimilar and require simply a change in time perspective to interpret the change as either ‘sudden’ or ‘lengthy’.

To quote William Catton Jr., from his book Overshoot: “…the pressure of our numbers and technology upon manifestly limited resources has already put out of reach the previously acceptable solutions to many of our problems. There remains steadfast resistance to admitting this, but facts are not repealed by refusal to face them. On the other hand, even the ‘alarmists’ who have been warning of grave perils besetting mankind have not fathomed our present predicament…” (p. 5).

Update 1. January 17, 2014

1.  Far more ‘paper’ precious metals exists than actual ‘physical’ metal in existence (a type of ‘fractional reserve’ banking):

2. Large Western financial institutions (i.e. U.S. Federal Reserve; Bank of England) have sold/leased their gold holdings and misled their clients about this:

3. The United States government and/or people within it have carried out domestic assassinations of numerous leaders:

4. The Fukushima Daichii Nuclear Plant disaster is far worse than the corporate media is letting on:

5. ‘Democratic’ countries are becoming more secretive and totalitarian through ‘legislation’:

Interesting thoughts: Murray Rothbard, Anatomy of the State (ISBN 978-80-87888-43-8):
“…the government is not ‘us.’ The government does not in any accurate sense ‘represent’ the majority of the people…Briefly, the State is the only organization in society which attempts to maintain a monopoly of use of force and violence in a given territorial area; in particular, it is the only organization in society that obtains its revenue …by use of complusion; that is, by the use and the threat of the jailhouse and the bayonnet. Having used force and violence to obtain its revenue, the State generally goes on to regulate and dictate the other actions of its individual subjects…The State provides a legal, orderly, systematic channel for the predation of private property; it renders certain, secure, and relatively ‘peaceful’ the lifeline of the parasitic caste in society….The State has never been created by a ‘Social Contract’; it has always been born of conquest and exploitation…”

Feel free to offer some further ‘beliefs’, and three ‘credible’ links, in the comments. I will update the list periodically.

Cheers,

Steve

Forecast 2014 — Burning Down the House | KUNSTLER

Forecast 2014 — Burning Down the House | KUNSTLER.

      Many of us in the Long Emergency crowd and like-minded brother-and-sisterhoods remain perplexed by the amazing stasis in our national life, despite the gathering tsunami of forces arrayed to rock our economy, our culture, and our politics. Nothing has yielded to these forces already in motion, so far. Nothing changes, nothing gives, yet. It’s like being buried alive in Jell-O. It’s embarrassing to appear so out-of-tune with the consensus, but we persevere like good soldiers in a just war.

Paper and digital markets levitate, central banks pull out all the stops of their magical reality-tweaking machine to manipulate everything, accounting fraud pervades public and private enterprise, everything is mis-priced, all official statistics are lies of one kind or another, the regulating authorities sit on their hands, lost in raptures of online pornography (or dreams of future employment at Goldman Sachs), the news media sprinkles wishful-thinking propaganda about a mythical “recovery” and the “shale gas miracle” on a credulous public desperate to believe, the routine swindles of medicine get more cruel and blatant each month, a tiny cohort of financial vampire squids suck in all the nominal wealth of society, and everybody else is left whirling down the drain of posterity in a vortex of diminishing returns and scuttled expectations.

Life in the USA is like living in a broken-down, cob-jobbed, vermin-infested house that needs to be gutted, disinfected, and rebuilt — with the hope that it might come out of the restoration process retaining the better qualities of our heritage. Some of us are anxious to get on with the job, to expel all the rats, bats, bedbugs, roaches, and lice, tear out the stinking shag carpet and the moldy sheet-rock, rip off the crappy plastic siding, and start rebuilding along lines that are consistent with the demands of the future — namely, the reality of capital and material resource scarcity. But it has been apparent for a while that the current owners of the house would prefer to let it fall down, or burn down rather than renovate.

Some of us now take that outcome for granted and are left to speculate on how it will play out. These issues were the subjects of my recent non-fiction books, The Long Emergency and Too Much Magic (as well as excellent similar books by Richard Heinberg, John Michael Greer, Dmitry Orlov, and others). They describe the conditions at the end of the cheap energy techno-industrial phase of history and they laid out a conjectural sequence of outcomes that might be stated in shorthand as collapse and re-set. I think the delay in the onset of epochal change can be explained pretty simply. As the peak oil story gained traction around 2005, and was followed (as predicted) by a financial crisis, the established order fought back for its survival, utilizing its remaining dwindling capital and the tremendous inertia of its own gigantic scale, to give the appearance of vitality at all costs.

At the heart of the matter was (and continues to be) the relationship between energy and economic growth. Without increasing supplies of cheap energy, economic growth — as we have known it for a couple of centuries — does not happen anymore. At the center of the economic growth question is credit. Without continued growth, credit can’t be repaid, and new credit cannot be issued honestly — that is, with reasonable assurance of repayment — making it worthless. So, old debt goes bad and the new debt is generated knowing that it is worthless. To complicate matters, the new worthless debt is issued to pay the interest on the old debt, to maintain the pretense that it is not going bad. And then all kinds of dishonest side rackets are run around this central credit racket — shadow banking, “innovative” securities (i.e. new kinds of frauds and swindles, CDOs CDSs, etc.), flash trading, insider flimflams, pump-and-dumps, naked shorts, etc. These games give the impression of an economy that seems to work. But the reported “growth” is phony, a concoction of overcooked statistics and wishful thinking. And the net effect moves the society as a whole in the direction of more destructive ultimate failure.

Now, a number of stories have been employed lately to keep all these rackets going — or, at least, keep up the morale of the swindled masses. They issue from the corporations, government agencies, and a lazy, wishful media. Their purpose is to prop up the lie that the dying economy of yesteryear is alive and well, and can continue “normal” operation indefinitely. Here are the favorites of the past year:

  • Shale oil and gas amount to an “energy renaissance” that will keep supplies of affordable fossil fuels flowing indefinitely, will make us “energy independent,” and will make us “a bigger producer than Saudi Arabia.” This is all mendacious bullshit with a wishful thinking cherry on top. Here’s how shale oil is different from conventional oil:

PP Oil 2

  • A “manufacturing renaissance” is underway in the US, especially in the “central corridor” running from Texas north to Minnesota. That hoopla is all about a few chemical plants and fertilizer factories that have reopened to take advantage of cheaper natural gas. Note, the shale gas story is much like the shale oil story in terms of drilling and production. The depletion rates are quick and epic. In a very few years, shale gas won’t be cheap anymore. Otherwise, current talk of new manufacturing for hard goods is all about robots. How many Americans will be employed in these factories? And what about the existing manufacturing over-capacity everywhere else in the world? Are we making enough sneakers and Justin Beiber dolls? File under complete fucking nonsense.
  • The USA is “the cleanest shirt in the laundry basket,” “the best house in a bad neighborhood,” the safest harbor for international “liquidity,” making it a sure bet that both the equity and bond markets will continue to ratchet up as money seeking lower risk floods in to the Dow and S & P from other countries with dodgier economies and sicker banks. In a currency war, with all nations competitively depreciating their currencies, gaming interest rates, manipulating markets, falsely reporting numbers, hiding liabilities, backstopping bad banks, and failing to regulate banking crime, there are no safe harbors. The USA can pretend to be for a while and then that illusion will pop, along with the “asset” bubbles that inspire it.
  • The USA is enjoying huge gains from fantastic new “efficiencies of technological innovation.” The truth is not so dazzling. Computer technology, produces diminishing returns and unanticipated consequences. The server farms are huge energy sinks. Online shopping corrodes the resilience of commercial networks when only a few giant companies remain standing; and so on. Problems like these recall the central collapse theory of Joseph Tainterwhich states that heaping additional complexity on dysfunctional hyper-complex societies tends to induce their collapse. Hence, my insistence that downscaling, simplifying, re-localizing and re-setting the systems we depend on are imperative to keep the project of civilization going. That is, if you prefer civilization to its known alternatives.

Notice that all of these stories want to put over the general impression that the status quo is alive and well. They’re based on the dumb idea that the stock markets are a proxy for the economy, so if the Standard & Poor’s 500 keeps on going up, it’s all good. The master wish running through the American zeitgeist these days is that we might be able to keep driving to Wal-Mart forever.

The truth is that we still have a huge, deadly energy problem. Shale oil is not cheap oil, and it will stop seeming abundant soon. If the price of oil goes much above $100 a barrel, which you’d think would be great for the oil companies, it will crash demand for oil. If it crashes demand, the price will go down, hurting the profitability of the shale oil companies. It’s quite a predicament. Right now, in the $90-100-a-barrel range, it’s just slowly bleeding the economy while barely allowing the shale oil producers to keep up all the drilling. Two-thirds of all the dollars invested (more than $120 billion a year) goes just to keep production levels flat. Blogger Mark Anthonysummarized it nicely:

…the shale oil and gas developers tend to use unreliable production models to project unrealistically high EURs (Estimated Ultimate Recovery) of their shale wells. They then use the over-estimated EURs to under-calculate the amortization costs of the capital spending, in order to report “profits”, despite of the fact that they have to keep borrowing more money to keep drilling new wells, and that capital spending routinely out paces revenue stream by several times… shale oil and gas producers tend to over-exaggerate productivity of their wells, under-estimate the well declines…in order to pitch their investment case to banks and investors, so they can keep borrowing more money to keep drilling shale wells.

As stated in the intro, these perversities reverberate in the investment sector. Non-cheap oil upsets the mechanisms of capital formation — financial growth is stymied — in a way that ultimately affects the financing of oil production itself. Old credit cannot be repaid, scaring off new credit (because it is even more unlikely to be repaid). At ZIRP interest, nobody saves. The capital pools dry up. So the Federal Reserve has to issue ersatz credit dollars on its computers. That credit will remain stillborn and mummified in depository institutions afraid of lending it to the likes of sharpies and hypesters in the shale gas industry.

But real, functioning capital (credit that can be paid back) is vanishing, and the coming scarcity of real capital makes it much more difficult to keep the stupendous number of rigs busy drilling and fracking new shale oil wells, which you have to do incessantly to keep production up, and as the investment in new drilling declines, and the “sweet spots” yield to the less-sweet spots or the not-sweet-at-all spots… then the Ponzis of shale oil and shale gas, too will be unmasked as the jive endeavors they are. And when people stop believing these cockamamie stories, the truth will dawn on them that we are in a predicament where further growth and wealth cannot be generated and the economy is actually in the early stages of a permanent contraction, and that will trigger an unholy host of nasty consequences proceeding from the loss of faith in these fairy tales, going so far as the meltdown of the banking system, social turmoil, and political upheaval.

The bottom line is that the “shale revolution” will be short-lived. 2014 may be the peak production year in the Bakken play of North Dakota. Eagle Ford in Texas is a little younger and may lag Bakken by a couple of years. If Federal Reserve policies create more disorder in the banking system this year, investment for shale will dry up, new drilling will nosedive, and shale oil production will go down substantially. Meanwhile. conventional oil production in the USA continues to decline remorselessly.

The End of Fed Cred

It must be scary to be a Federal Reserve governor. You have to pretend that you know what you’re doing when, in fact, Fed policy appears completely divorced from any sense of consequence, or cause-and-effect, or reality — and if it turns out you’re not so smart, and your policies and interventions undermine true economic resilience, then the scuttling of the most powerful civilization in the history of the world might be your fault — even if you went to Andover and wear tortoise-shell glasses that make you appear to be smart.

The Fed painted itself into a corner the last few years by making Quantitative Easing a permanent feature of the financial landscape. QE backstops everything now. Tragically, additional backdoor backstopping extends beyond the QE official figures (as of December 2013) of $85 billion a month. American money (or credit) is being shoveled into anything and everything, including foreign banks and probably foreign treasuries. It’s just another facet of the prevailing pervasive dishonesty infecting the system that we have no idea, really, how much money is being shoveled and sprinkled around. Anything goes and nothing matters. However, since there is an official consensus that you can’t keep QE money-pumping up forever, the Fed officially made a big show of seeking to begin ending it. So in the Spring of 2013 they announced their intention to “taper” their purchases of US Treasury paper and mortgage paper, possibly in the fall.

Well, it turned out they didn’t or couldn’t taper. As the fall equinox approached, with everyone keenly anticipating the first dose of taper, the equity markets wobbled and the interest rate on the 10-year treasury — the index for mortgage loans and car loans — climbed to 3.00 percent from its May low of 1.63 — well over 100 basis points — and the Fed chickened out. No September taper. Fake out. So, the markets relaxed, the interest rate on the 10-year went back down, and the equity markets resumed their grand ramp into the Christmas climax. However, the Fed’s credibility took a hit, especially after all their confabulating bullshit “forward guidance” in the spring and summer when they couldn’t get their taper story straight. And in the meantime, the Larry-Summers-for-Fed-Chair float unfloated, and Janet Yellen was officially picked to succeed Ben Bernanke, with her reputation as an extreme easy money softie (more QE, more ZIRP), and a bunch of hearings were staged to make the Bernanke-Yellen transition look more reassuring.

And then on December 18, outgoing chair Bernanke announced, with much fanfare, that the taper would happen after all, early in the first quarter of 2014 ­— after he is safely out of his office in the Eccles building and back in his bomb shelter on the Princeton campus. The Fed meant it this time, the public was given to understand.

The only catch here, as I write, after the latest taper announcement, is that interest on the 10-year treasury note has crept stealthily back up over 3 percent. Wuh-oh. Not a good sign, since it means more expensive mortgages and car loans, which happen to represent the two things that the current economy relies on to appear “normal.” (House sales and car sales = normal in a suburban sprawl economy.)

I think the truth is the Fed just did too darn much QE and ZIRP and they waited way too long to cut it out, and now they can’t end it without scuttling both the stock and bond markets. But they can’t really go forward with the taper, either. A rock and a hard place. So, my guess is that they’ll pretend to taper in March, and then they’ll just as quickly un-taper. Note the curious report out of the American Enterprise Institute ten days ago by John H. Makin saying that the Fed’s actual purchase of debt paper amounted to an average $94 billion a month through the year 2013, not $85 billion. Which would pretty much negate the proposed taper of $5 billion + $5 billion (Treasury paper + Mortgage paper).

And in so faking and so doing they may succeed in completely destroying the credibility of the Federal Reserve. When that happens, capital will be disappearing so efficiently that the USA will find itself in a compressive deflationary spiral — because that’s what happens when faith in the authority behind credit is destroyed, and new loans to cover the interest on old loans are no longer offered in the non-government banking system, and old loans can’t be serviced. At which point the Federal Reserve freaks out and announces new extra-special QE way above the former 2013 level of $85 billion a month, and the government chips in with currency controls. And that sets in motion the awful prospect of the dreaded “crack-up boom” into extraordinary inflation, when dollars turn into hot potatoes and people can’t get rid of them fast enough. Well, is that going to happen this year? It depends on how spooked the Fed gets. In any case, there is a difference between high inflation and hyper-inflation. High inflation is bad enough to provoke socio-political convulsion. I don’t really see how the Fed gets around this March taper bid without falling into the trap I’ve just outlined. It wouldn’t be a pretty situation for poor Ms. Janet Yellen, but nobody forced her to take the job, and she’s had the look all along of a chump, the perfect sucker to be left holding a big honking bag of flop.

We’re long overdue for a return to realistic pricing in all markets. The Government and its handmaiden, the Fed, have tweaked the machinery so strenuously for so long that these efforts have entered the wilderness of diminishing returns. Instead of propping up the markets, all they can accomplish now is further erosion of the credibility of the equity markets and the Fed itself — and that bodes darkly for a money system that is essentially run on faith. I think the indexes have topped. The “margin” (money borrowed to buy stock) in the system is at dangerous, historically unprecedented highs. There may be one final reach upward in the first quarter. Then the equities crater, if not sooner. I still think the Dow and S &P could oversell by 90 percent of their value if the falsehoods of the post-2008  interventions stopped working their hoodoo on the collective wishful consciousness.

The worldwide rise in interest rates holds every possibility for igniting a shitstorm in interest rate swaps and upsetting the whole apple-cart of shadow banking and derivatives. That would be a bullet in the head to the TBTF banks, and would therefore lead to a worldwide crisis. In that event, the eventual winners would be the largest holders of gold, who could claim to offer the world a trustworthy gold-backed currency, especially for transactions in vital resources like oil. That would, of course, be China. The process would be awfully disorderly and fraught with political animus. Given the fact that China’s own balance sheet is hopelessly non-transparent and part-and-parcel of a dishonest crony banking system, China would have to use some powerful smoke-and-mirrors to assume that kind of dominant authority. But in the end, it comes down to who has the real goods, and who screwed up (the USA, Europe, Japan) and China, for all its faults and perversities, has the gold.

The wholesale transfer of gold tonnage from the West to the East was one of the salient events of 2013. There were lots of conspiracy theories as to what drove the price of gold down by 28 percent. I do think the painful move was partly a cyclical correction following the decade-long run up to $1900 an ounce. Within that cyclical correction, there was a lot of room for the so-called “bullion banks” to pound the gold and silver prices down with their shorting orgy. Numerous times the past year, somebody had laid a fat finger on the “sell” key, like, at four o’clock in the morning New York time when no traders were in their offices, and the record of those weird transactions is plain to see in the daily charts. My own theory is that an effort was made — in effect, a policy — to suppress the gold price via collusion between the Fed, the US Treasury, the bullion banks, and China, as a way to allow China to accumulate gold to offset the anticipated loss of value in the US Treasury paper held by them, throwing China a big golden bone, so to speak — in other words, to keep China from getting hugely pissed off. The gold crash had the happy effect for the US Treasury of making the dollar appear strong at a time when many other nations were getting sick of US dollar domination, especially in the oil markets, and were threatening to instigate a new currency regime by hook or by crook. Throwing China the golden bone is also consistent with the USA’s official position that gold is a meaningless barbaric relic where national currencies are concerned, and therefore nobody but the barbaric yellow hordes of Asia would care about it.

Other nations don’t feel that way. Russia and Switzerland have been accumulating gold like crazy at bargain prices this year. Lat year, Germany requested its sovereign gold cache (300 tons) to be returned from the vaults in America, where it was stored through all the decades of the cold war, safe from the reach of the Soviets. But American officials told the Germans it would take seven years to accomplish the return. Seven years ! ! ! WTF? Is there a shortage of banana boats? The sentiment in goldville is that the USA long ago “leased” or sold off or rehypothecated or lost that gold. Anyway, Germany’s 300 tons was a small fraction of the 6,700 tons supposedly held in the Fed’s vaults. Who knows? No auditors have been allowed into the Fed vaults to actually see what’s up with the collateral. This in and of itself ought to make the prudent nervous.

I think we’re near the end of these reindeer games with gold, largely because so many vaults in the West have been emptied. That places constraints on further shenanigans in the paper gold (and silver) markets. In an environment where both the destructive forces of deflation and inflation can be unleashed in sequence, uncertainty is the greatest motivator, trumping the usual greed and fear seen in markets that can be fairly measured against stable currencies. In 2014, the public has become aware of the bank “bail-in” phenomenon which, along with rehypothication schemes, just amounts to the seizure of customer and client accounts — a really new wrinkle in contemporary banking relations. Nobody knows if it’s safe to park cash money anywhere except inside the mattress. The precedent set in Cyprus, and the MF Global affair, and other confiscation events, would tend to support an interest in precious metals held outside the institutional framework. Uncertainty rules.

Miscellany

I get a lot of email on the subject of Bitcoin. Here’s how I feel about it.
It’s an even more abstract form of “money” than fiat currencies or securities based on fiat currencies. Do we need more abstraction in our economic lives? I don’t think so. I believe the trend will be toward what is real. For the moment, Bitcoin seems to be enjoying some success as it beats back successive crashes. I’m not very comfortable with the idea of investing in an algorithm. I don’t see how it is impervious to government hacking. In fact, I’d bet that somewhere in the DOD or the NSA or the CIA right now some nerd is working on that. Bitcoin is provoking imitators, other new computer “currencies.” Why would Bitcoin necessarily enjoy dominance? And how many competing algorithmic currencies can the world stand? Wouldn’t that defeat the whole purpose of an alternative “go to” currency? All I can say is that I’m not buying Bitcoins.

Will ObamaCare crash and burn. It’s not doing very well so far. In fact, it’s a poster-child for Murphy’s Law (Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong). I suppose the primary question is whether they can enroll enough healthy young people to correct the actuarial nightmare that health insurance has become. That’s not looking so good either now. But really, how can anyone trust a law that was written by the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry? And how can it be repealed when so many individuals, groups, companies, have already lost their pre-ObamaCare policies? What is there to go back to? Therefore, I’d have to predict turmoil in the health care system for 2014. The failure to resolve the inadequacies of ObamaCare also may be a prime symptom of the increasing impotence of the federal government to accomplish anything. That failure would prompt an even faster downscaling of governance as states, counties, communities, and individuals realize that they are on their own.

Sorry to skip around, but a few stray words about the state of American culture. Outside the capitals of the “one percent” — Manhattan, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, etc. — American material culture is in spectacular disrepair. Car culture and chain store tyranny have destroyed the physical fabric of our communities and wrecked social relations. These days, a successful Main Street is one that has a wig shop and a check-cashing office. It is sickening to see what we have become. Our popular entertainments are just what you would design to produce a programmed population of criminals and sex offenders. The spectacle of the way our people look —overfed, tattooed, pierced, clothed in the raiment of clowns — suggests an end-of-empire zeitgeist more disturbing than a Fellini movie. The fact is, it simply mirrors the way we act, our gross, barbaric collective demeanor. A walk down any airport concourse makes the Barnum & Bailey freak shows of yore look quaint. In short, the rot throughout our national life is so conspicuous that a fair assessment would be that we are a wicked people who deserve to be punished.

Elsewhere in the World

Globalism, in the Tom Friedman euphoric sense, is unwinding. Currency wars are wearing down the players, conflicts and tensions are breaking out where before there were only Wal-Mart share price triumphs and Foxconn profits. Both American and European middle-classes are too exhausted financially to continue the consumer orgy of the early millennium. The trade imbalances are horrific. Unpayable debt saturates everything. Sick economies will weigh down commodity prices except for food-related things. The planet Earth has probably reached peak food production, including peak fertilizer. Supplies of grain will be inadequate in 2014 to feed the still-expanding masses of the poor places in the world.

The nervous calm in finance and economies since 2008 has its mirror in the relative calm of the political scene. Uprisings and skirmishes have broken out, but nothing that so far threatens the peace between great powers. There have been the now-historic revolts in Egypt, Libya, Syria, and other Middle East and North African (MENA) states. Iraq is once again disintegrating after a decade of American “nation-building.” Greece is falling apart. Spain and Italy should be falling apart but haven’t yet. France is sinking into bankruptcy. The UK is in on the grift with the USA and insulated from the Euro, but the British Isles are way over-populated with a volatile multi-ethnic mix and not much of an economy outside the financial district of London. There were riots in — of all places — Sweden this year. Turkey entered crisis just a few weeks ago along with Ukraine.

I predict more colorful political strife in Europe this year, boots in the street, barricades, gunfire, and bombs. The populations of these countries will want relief measures from their national governments, but the sad news is that these governments are broke, so austerity seems to be the order of the day no matter what. I think this will prod incipient revolts in a rightward nationalist direction. If it was up to Marine LePen’s rising National Front party, they would solve the employment problem by expelling all the recent immigrants — though the mere attempt would probably provoke widespread race war in France.

The quarrel between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands is a diversion from the real action in the South China Sea, said to hold large underwater petroleum reserves. China is the world’s second greatest oil importer. Their economy and the credibility of its non-elected government depends on keeping the oil supply up. They are a long way from other places in the world where oil comes from, hence their eagerness to secure and dominate the South China Sea. The idea is that China would make a fuss over the Senkaku group, get Japan and the US to the negotiating table, and cede the dispute over them to Japan in exchange for Japan and the US supporting China’s claims in the South China Sea against the other neighbors there: Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

The catch is that Japan may be going politically insane just now between the rigors of (Shinzo) Abenomics and the mystical horrors of Fukushima. Japan’s distress appears to be provoking a new mood of nationalist militarism of a kind not seen there since the 1940s. They’re talking about arming up, rewriting the pacifist articles in their constitution. Scary, if you have a memory of the mid-20th century. China should know something about national psychotic breaks, having not so long ago endured the insanity of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution (1966-71). So they might want to handle Japan with care. On the other hand, China surely nurtures a deep, deadly grudge over the crimes perpetrated by Japan in the Second World War, and now has a disciplined, world-class military, and so maybe they would like to kick Japan’s ass. It’s a hard one to call. I suspect that in 2014, the ball is in Japan’s court. What will they do? If the US doesn’t stay out of the way of that action, then we are insane, too.

That said, I stick by my story from last year’s forecast: Japan’s ultimate destination is to “go medieval.” They’re never going to recover from Fukushima, their economy is unraveling, they have no fossil fuels of their own and have to import everything, and their balance of payments is completely out of whack. The best course for them will be to just throw in the towel on modernity. Everybody else is headed that way, too, eventually, so Japan might as well get there first and set a good example.

By “go medieval” I mean re-set to a pre-industrial World Made By Hand level of operation. I’m sure that outcome seems laughably implausible to most readers, but I maintain that both the human race and the planet Earth need a “time out” from the ravages of “progress,” and circumstances are going to force the issue anyway, so we might as well kick back and get with the program: go local, downscale, learn useful skills, cultivate our gardens, get to know our neighbors, learn how to play a musical instrument, work, dine, and dance with our friends.

As it happens, the third in the series of my World Made By Hand novels, set in upstate New York in the post-collapse economy, will be published in September by the Atlantic Monthly Press. It’s a ripping yarn. Whether anyone will have enough money to buy a copy, I can’t predict. Happy 2014, Everybody!
New Features this week at kunstler.com:
Jim’s Garden Report, 2013
Jim’s New Paintings, 2011-2013

Published as an E-book for the first time!

The 20th Anniversary edition

With an entertaining new introduction by the author

 

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Collapse of Trust and Faith in the System

article-0-1A9F18B5000005DC-299_964x636Collapse of Trust and Faith in the System

I began reading Dimitry Orlov’s recent publication, The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivors’ Toolkit, last week and it has got me thinking about his thesis with respect to the revelations around the U.S. surveillance system being used globally by the-powers-that-be (both corporate and political), in combination with the ongoing exposure of manipulation of various markets and interest rates.

Orlov argues that “my five stages of collapse…serve as mental milestones…[and each breaches] a specific level of trust or faith in the status quo. Although each stage causes physical, observable changes in the environment, these can be gradual, while the mental flip is generally quite swift” (p. 14).

Here are his five stages:
a) Financial collapse where faith in risk assessment and financial guarantees is lost (think Cyprus).
b) Commercial collapse that witnesses a breakdown in trade and widespread shortages of necessities (think Greece).
c) Political collapse through a loss of political class relevance and legitimacy (think current events almost everywhere).
d) Social collapse in which social institutions that could provide resources fail (coming to a locality near you?).
e) Cultural collapse that is exhibited by the disbanding of families into individuals competing for scarce resources (hopefully we never witness this).

Stage One: Financial Collapse
Orlov states “all that is required for financial collapse is for certain assumptions about the future to be invalidated, for finance is not a physical system but a mental construct” (p. 17). It would appear that we are well into this first stage as more and more people are questioning not only the stability of the financial system, but its very structure and long-term viability.

The subprime mortgage crisis of 2008 has left lingering concerns about the fragility of the global economic system. Add to this the ongoing manipulation of global interest rates and markets that has been exposed (see this). This manipulation has little to do with improving a system for the majority but has a lot to do with enriching the elite minority and transferring wealth to them from the majority (see this and this). Add to this the ever-increasing liquidity injections (i.e. money printing) by the world’s central banks (see this) and the theft of allocated funds by unprosecuted criminals (see this) and we have a recipe for increased loss of trust throughout the global financial system. In fact, there are many who have already lost complete faith in the system and recommend disinvesting one’s savings from these corrupt institutions and investing in hard assets (i.e. gold, silver, agricultural land, art, memorabilia, farming supplies, wine, etc.) that maintain or increase their value over time relative to the government-mandated fiat currency which loses its worth due to central bank malfeasance-inflation (see this and this).

Stage Two: Commercial Collapse
A breakdown in trade is beginning as more and more sovereign nations impose tariffs and/or devalue their currency in a vicious circle: currency devaluation leads to increase in exports for the ‘devaluer’ but a decrease for competitors-it’s a zero sum game after all); the competitor either devalues their currency in kind (see this and this) or imposes tariffs on the nation engaging in purposeful devaluation (see this).

In Greece, a peripheral nation within the Eurozone and a test case for extreme austerity, this type of collapse has occurred in regions, resulting in shortages of necessities such as pharmaceuticals, energy, and food (see this and this).

Stage Three: Political Collapse
I believe we have begun down this path with evermore revelations of government malfeasance. The latest salvo in this ongoing struggle between what we are told by our governments and what is the on-the-ground reality has been launched: the American National Security Agency’s decade+ invasion of privacy through a global surveillance regime. It’s bad enough that the elite have lied about this for more than a decade; what’s worse is their targeting of whistleblowers as ‘traitors’ as this de-incentivises exposing immoral or illegal acts perpetrated by our elite (see this).

We are moving ever closer to Orwell’s vision of a totalitarian world as expressed in his book 1984. One commentator has argued that 1984 was not designed to be an instruction manual but a warning (see this), and others have been warning about this type of intrusion for some years (see this).

There are numerous examples of political malfeasance and corruption being uncovered recently. For example:
a) Toronto mayor videotaped participating with others smoking crack cocaine (see this);
b) America’s National Security Agency’s creation of a global, electronic surveillance state-apparently even used to eavesdrop on other nations’ leaders at meetings (see this);
c) Montreal mayor arrested for corruption (see this);
d) Numerous former presidents/prime ministers/etc. being arrested/charged for various crimes from torture to murder (see this, this, this, and this)
e) The current and former premier of Ontario being linked to decisions cancelling gas plants to save political seats during an election (see this).

Using Orlov’s framework to interpret these concerns, arguments, perspectives, and facts, it would appear that trust and faith in the various systems are collapsing at an incredible rate. Faith in the financial system is crumbling; commercial enterprises, especially multinational corporations, are losing support and trade barriers are beginning to be erected; and, finally, all that is needed for political collapse is for more citizens to come to the realisation that the status quo is no longer working for the benefit of all but for the benefit of the elite. When the masses finally come to better understand the corruption and malfeasance that percolates throughout the political world, collapse of the political class will occur.

 However, even given the various signs that the system is on the verge of collapse, it is important to realise that NO ONE can predict when this might occur. It could be tomorrow, next week, next year, or next decade…one never knows what event, minor or major, could spin us in an unexpected direction. Learn how to protect yourself and your family financially, socially, and practically (i.e. survival skills) to be in a better position to adapt to the coming changes.

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