Government

The Boundaries and Future of Solution Space

gc2smOff the keyboard of Nicole Foss

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Published on The Automatic Earth on August 20, 2015

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Intro

A great deal of intelligence is invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.
Saul Bellow, 1976

More and more people (although not nearly enough) are coming to recognise that humanity cannot continue on its current trajectory, as the limits we face become ever more obvious, and their implications starker. There is a growing realisation that the future must be different, and much thought is therefore being applied to devising supposed solutions for that future.

These are generally attempts to reconcile our need to make changes with our desire to continue something very much resembling our current industrial-world lifestyle, with a view to making a seamless transition between the now and a comfortably familiar future. The presumption is that it is possible, but this rests on foundational assumptions which vary between the improbable and the outright impossible. It is a presumption grounded in a comprehensive failure to understand the nature and extent of our predicament.

We are facing limits in many ways simultaneously – not surprising since exponential growth curves for so many parameters have gone critical in recent decades, and of course even more so in recent years. Some of these limits lie in human systems, while others are ecological or geophysical. They will all interact with each other, over different timeframes, in extremely complex ways as our state of overshoot resolves itself (to our dissatisfaction, to put it mildly) over many decades, if not centuries. Some of these limits are completely non-negotiable, while others can be at least partially mutable, and it is vital that we know the difference if we are to be able to mitigate our situation at all. Otherwise we are attempting to bargain with the future without understanding our negotiating position.

The vast majority has no conception of the extent to which our modernity is an artifact of our discovery and pervasive exploitation of fossil fuels as an energy source. No species in history has had easy, long term access to a comparable energy source. This unprecedented circumstance has facilitated the creation of turbo-charged civilization.

Huge energy throughput, in line with the Maximum Power Principle, has led to tremendous complexity, far greater extractive capacity (with huge ‘environmental externalities’ as a result), far greater potential to concentrate enormous power in the hands of the few with destructive political consequences), a far higher population, far greater burden on global carrying capacity, and the ability to borrow from the future to satisfy the insatiable greed of the present. The fact that we are now approaching so many limits has very significant implications for our ability to continue with any of these aspects of modern life. Therefore, any expectation that a future in the era of limits is likely to resemble the present (with a green gloss) are ill-founded and highly implausible.

The majority of the Big Ideas with which we propose to bargain with our future of limits to growth rests on the notion that we can retain our modern comforts and conveniences, but that somehow we will do so with far less resource use, and with a fraction of the energy we currently employ. The most mainstream discussions revolve around ‘green growth’, where it is suggested that eternal economic growth can occur on a finite planet, and that we will magically decouple of that growth from the physical basis upon which it rests. Proponents argue that we have already accomplished this to an extent, as the apparent energy intensity of developed state economies has fallen.

In actuality, all that has happened is that the energy deployed to provide developed world comforts has been used in the emerging markets where goods destined for our markets are manufactured, so that the consumption falls within someone else’s energy budget. In reality there has been no decoupling at all. Economic growth requires energy, and there is an exceptionally high correlation between the two. Even the phantom growth of the bubble era, based on the expansion of virtual wealth, requires energy in order to maintain the complexity of the system that generates it.

It is crucial that we understand the boundaries of solution space, in order to be able to focus our finite resources (in every sense of the word) on that which is inherently workable, at least in theory. ‘Workable In theory’ implies that, while there is no guarantee of success given a large number of unpredictable factors, there is also no obvious prima facie barrier to success. If, however, we throw our resources at ideas that are subject to such barriers, and therefore lie beyond solution space, we guarantee that those initiatives will fail and that the resources so committed will have been wasted. It is important to note that ‘success’ does not mean being able to maintain anything remotely resembling business as usual. It refers to being able to achieve the best possible outcome under the circumstances.

Sculptors work by carving away excess material in order to reveal the figure within the block they are working with. Similarly, we can carve away from the featureless monolith of conceivable approaches those that we can see in advance are doomed to fail, leaving us with a figuratively coherent group of potentially workable ideas.

In order to carve away the waste material and get closer to a much smaller set of viable possibilities, we need to understand some of the non-negotiable factors we will be facing, each of which has implications restrictive of viable solution space. Many of these issues are the fundamental substance of the message we have been propagating at the Automatic Earth since its inception and will therefore constitute a review for our regular readership. For more detail on these topics, check out our primers section.


Global Financial Crisis – Liquidity Crunch and Economic Depression

As we have maintained since the Automatic Earth’s launch in early 2008, we have lived through a gigantic monetary expansion over the last 30 years or so –  the largest financial departure from reality in human history. In doing so we have created a crisis of under-collateralization. This period was highly inflationary, as we saw a vast increase in the supply of money and credit versus available goods and services. Both currency printing and credit hyper-expansion constitute inflation, but the outcome, and therefore prescription, for each is very different. While currency printing cuts the real wealth pie into many more pieces, each of which will be very small, credit expansions such as this one create multiple and mutually exclusive claims to the same pieces of pie, hence we have generated a vast quantity of excess claims to underlying real wealth.

In other words, we have created a bubble of virtual wealth, with no substance to back up the pile of promises to repay that it rests upon. As we have said before, this amounts to playing a giant game of musical chairs where there is perhaps one chair for every hundred people playing the game. When the music stops, those best positioned to understand the rules of the game will grab a chair as quickly as possible. Everyone else will be out of the game. The endgame of credit expansion is always a credit implosion, where the excess claims are rapidly and messily extinguished. This is, of course, deflation by definition – a contraction in the supply of money and credit relative to available goods and services – through the collapse of the credit supply, where credit is of the order of 99% of the effective money supply.

A credit implosion crashes both the money supply and the velocity of money – the rate at which money circulates in the economy. Together these factors determine how much economic activity can be sustained. With both the money supply and the velocity of money very low, a state of liquidity crunch exists, where there is insufficient liquidity in the economy to connect buyers and sellers, or producers and consumers. Nothing moves, so there is little or no economic activity. Note that demand is not what one wants, but what one can pay for, so with little purchasing power available, demand will be very low under such circumstances.

During the expansion, both the money supply and the velocity of money increased dramatically, and the resulting artificial stimulation of demand led to an increase in supply, with the ability to sustain a much larger than normal amount of economic activity. But once the limit is reached, where all the income streams of the productive economy can no longer service the debt created, and there are no more willing borrowers or lenders, the demand stimulation disappears, leaving a great deal of supply without a market. The demand that had been effectively borrowed from the future, must be ‘repaid’ once the bubble bursts, leading to a prolonged period of low demand. The supply that had arisen to service it no longer has a reason to exist and cannot be maintained.

The economy moves into a period of seizure under such cIrcumstances. We have frequently compared attempting to run an economy with too small a money supply in circulation to trying to run an automobile with the oil warning light on, indicating too little lubricant. Engines seize up when run with too little lubricant, a role played by money in the case of the engine of the economy. The situation created can also be compared to a computer operating system crash, where nothing functions until the system has been rebooted. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, people noted that they had plenty of everything except money. Liquidity crunch creates a condition of artificial scarcity, where even being surrounded by resources is of little use for a period of time once the operating system has crashed and has yet to be ‘rebooted’.

We will be looking at a period of acute liquidity crunch followed by a long period of chronic financial instability. The initial contraction will be driven by fear and that fear will persist for a long time. This will result in little credit being made available, and only at high cost. In other words, interest rates, which are a risk premium, will be very high as we move beyond the initial phase of contraction and fear is in the drivers seat. Deflation and economic depression are mutually reinforcing, hence once that downward spiral, or vicious circle, dynamic has taken hold, we will remain in its grip for many years.

Given that the cost of capital will be very high, and there will be little purchasing power, proposed solutions which are capital-intensive will lie outside solution space.


The Psychological Driver of Deflation and the Collapse of the Trust Horizon

The collective mood shifts rapidly from optimism and greed to pessimism and fear as the bubble bursts, and as it does so, the financial system moves from expansion to contraction. Financial contraction involves the breaking of promises right left and centre, with credit instruments drastically revalued downwards in the process. As the promises that back them cease to be credible, value disappears extremely rapidly. This is deflation and the elimination of excess claims to underlying real wealth.

Instruments once regarded as money equivalents will lose that status through the loss of confidence in them, causing the supply of what retains sufficient confidence to still be regarded as money to collapse. The more instruments lose the confidence that confers value upon them, the smaller the effective money supply will be, and the more confidence will become a rare ‘commodity’. Being grounded in psychology is the primary reason that deflation cannot be overcome through policy adaptations which are inherently too little and too late. Nothing moves as quickly as a collective loss of confidence in human promises, and nothing destroys value as comprehensively.

The same abrupt change in collective mood will also drive contraction in the real economy, but more slowly, since the time constant for change in the real world is much slower than in the virtual world of finance. This process will also result in broken promises as structural dependencies fracture when there is no longer enough to go around. There will be wage and benefit cuts, layoffs, strikes, strike-breaking, breaches of contract, business failures and more on a huge scale, and these will fuel further fear, anger and the destruction of trust.

In the political realm, trust, such as it is, will be an early casualty. Political promises have been regarded as highly suspect for a long time in any case, but considering that the electorate tends consistently to vote for whomever tells them the largest number of comforting lies, this is not particularly surprising. Our political system selects for mendaciousness by design, since no party is normally elected by telling the truth, yet we have still collectively retained some faith in the concept of democracy until relatively recently. In recent years, however, it has become increasingly clear that the political institutions in supposedly democratic nations have largely been bought by big capital. More often than not, and more blatantly than ever, the political machinery has come to serve those special interests, not the public interest.

The public is increasingly realizing that ‘representative democracy’ leaves them unrepresented, as they see more and more examples of austerity for the masses combined with enormous bailouts guaranteeing that the large scale gamblers of casino capitalism will not take losses on the reckless bets they made gambling with other people’s money. In the countries subjected to austerity, where the contrast is the most stark, a wave of public anger is already depriving national governments, or supranational governance institutions where applicable (ie Europe), of political legitimacy. As more and more states slide into the austerity trap as a result of their unsustainable debt burdens, this polarization process will continue, driving wedges between the governors and the governed which will make governance far more difficult.

Governments struggling with the loss of political legitimacy are going to find that people will no longer follow rules once they feel that the social contract has been violated, and that rules no longer represent the public interest. When the governed broadly accept that society functions under the rule of law, in other words that all are equally subject to the same rules, then they tend to internalize those rules and follow them without the need for negative incentives or outright enforcement. However, once the dominant perception becomes that rules are imposed only on the powerless, to their detriment and for the benefit of the powerful, while the well connected can do as they please, then general compliance can cease very quickly.

Without compliance, force would become necessary, and we are indeed likely to see this occur as a transitional phase as social polarization increases in a climate of increasing anger. The transitional element arises from the fact that force, especially as exercised technologically at large scale, requires substantial resources which are unlikely to remain available. Force produces reaction, straining the fabric of society, quite possibly to breaking point.

As contagion propagates the impact of financial and economic contraction, we will rapidly be moving from a long era of high trust in the value of promises to one of low trust. The trust horizon will contract sharply, leaving supranational and national governments lying beyond its reach, as stranded assets from a trust perspective. Trust determines effective organizational scale, so when the trust horizon draws in, withdrawing political legitimacy in its wake, larger scale entities, whether public or private, are going to find it extremely difficult to function. Effective organizational scale had been increasing for the duration of our long economic expansion, forcing an across the board scaling up of all manner of organizations by increasing the competitiveness accruing to large scale. As we scaled up, we formed structural dependencies on these larger scale entities’ ability to function.

While the scaling-up process was reasonable smooth and seamless, the scaling-down process will not be, as the lower rungs of the figurative ladder we climbed to reach this pinnacle have been kicked out as we ascended. Structural dependencies are going to fail very painfully as large scale ceases to be effective and competitive, leading to abrupt dislocations with ricocheting impacts.

Proposed solutions to our predicament that depend on the functioning of large-scale organizations operating in a top-down manner do not lie within viable solution space.


Instability and the ‘Discount Rate’

The pessimism-and-fear-driven psychology of contraction differs dramatically from the optimism-and-greed-driven psychology of expansion. The extreme complacency as to systemic risk of recent years will be replaced by an equally extreme risk aversion, as we move from overshoot in one direction to undershoot in the other. The perception of economic visibility is gong to change substantially, as we move from a period where people thought they knew where things were headed into an era where fear and confusion reign, and the sense of predictability evaporates abruptly.

This is an important psychological shift, as it affects an aspect known as the ‘discount rate’, which reflects the extent to which we think in the short term rather than the long term, or the extent to which we value the present over the future. The perceived rate of change is an important factor in determining the discount rate, and fear, being a very sharp emotion, causes the rate of change to accelerate markedly, driving the discount rate sharply higher in contractionary times.

True long term thinking is relatively rare. We manage an approximation of it at times when all immediate needs, along with many mere ‘wants’, are met and we are not concerned about this condition changing, in other words at times when we take a comfortable situation for granted. At such times, the longer term view is a luxury we can afford, and we find it relatively simple to summon the presence of mind to think abstractly and constructively, and to ponder circumstances which are are neither personal nor immediate. Even at such times, however, it is not particularly common for humans to transcend mere contemplation and actually act in the interests of the long term, especially if it involves aspects beyond the personal, or perhaps familial.

As the financial bubble bursts, and we rapidly begin to pick up on the fear of others and feel the consequences of contagion in our own lives, our collective discount rates are going to sky-rocket. In a relatively short period of time, a large percentage of the population is going to begin worry about immediate needs, let alone wants, not being met. A short time later those worries are likely to transition into reality, as has already happened in the countries, like Greece, in the forefront of the bursting bubble. As discount rates go through the roof, the luxury of the longer term view, which is always quite ephemeral, is likely to disappear altogether.

Where people have no supply cushions and find themselves abruptly penniless, cold, thirsty, hungry or homeless, the likelihood of them considering anything much beyond the needs of the day at hand is very low. Under such circumstances, the present becomes the only reality that matters, and societies are abruptly pitched into a panicked state of short term crisis management. This of course underlines the need to develop supply cushions and contingency plans in advance of a bubble bursting, so that a greater percentage of people might be able to retain a clear head and the ability to plan more than one day at a time. Unfortunately, few are likely to heed advance warnings and we can expect society to shift rapidly into a state of short-termism.

Given the coming rise in collective discount rates, if proposed solutions depend on the ability for societies to engage in rational planning for longer term goals, then those solutions are not part of solution space.


The Psychology of Contraction and Social Context

Expansionary times are times of relative peace and prosperity. If those conditions persist for a relatively long time, trust builds slowly and societies become more inclusive and cooperative, tending to perceive common humanity and focus on similarities rather than differences. In such times we reach out and interact with distant people, even if we have no relationship of personal trust with them, as we have, over time, vested our trust in stable institutional frameworks for managing our affairs. This institutional trust replaces the need for trust at a personal level and is a key factor in our ability to scale up our economies and their governance structures. Individuals raised in such an environment tend to show a presumption of trust towards others, and their inclination is generally to act cooperatively.

There is a sharp contrast between this stable state of affairs and the circumstances which pertain when suddenly the pie is shrinking and there is not enough to go around. As difficult as it can be to share gains in a way perceived to be fair, it is infinitely more difficult to share losses in a way that is not extremely divisive. As elucidated above, a deflationary credit implosion involved the wholesale destruction of excess claims to underlying real wealth, meaning that a majority of people who thought they had a valid claim to something of tangible value are going to find that they do not. The losses will be very widespread, but uneven, and the perception of unfairness will be almost universal.

Under such circumstances a sense of common humanity is much less prevalent, and the focus shifts from similarities to the differences upon which social divisions are founded and then inflamed. An ‘us versus them’ dynamic is prone to take hold, where ‘us’ becomes ever more tightly defined and ‘them’ becomes an ever more pejorative term. People build literal and figurative walls and peer suspiciously at each other over them. Rather than working together in the attempt to address concerns common to all, division shifts the focus from cooperation to competition. A collectively constructive mindset can easily morph into something far more motivated by negative emotions such as jealousy and revenge and therefore far more destructive of perceived commonality.

The kind of initiatives which capture the public imagination in expansionary times are not at all the type which get traction once a contractionary dynamic takes hold. Attempts to build cooperative projects are going to be facing a rising tide of negative social mood, and will struggle to get off the ground. Sadly, negative ideas are far more likely to go viral than positive ones. Novel movements grounded in anger and fear may arise to feed on this new emotional context and thereby be empowered to wreak havoc on the fabric of society, notably through providing a political mandate to extremists with an agenda of focusing blame on to some identifiable, and marginalizable, social group.

While it will not be the case that cooperative endeavours will be impossible to achieve, they will require additional effort, and are likely to succeed only at a much smaller scale in a newly fractured society than might previously have been expected. It is very much a worthwhile effort, and will be far simpler if begun prior to the end of the period of cooperative presumption. All the more reason to adapt to a major trend change adapt in advance. There is nothing so dangerous as collectively dashed expectations.

If proposed solutions depend on a cooperative social context at large scale, they will not be part of solution space.


Energy – Demand Collapse Followed by Supply Collapse

As we have noted many times, energy is the master resource, and has been the primary driver of an expansion dating back to the beginning of the industrial revolution. In fossil fuels humanity discovered the ‘holy grail’ of energy sources – highly concentrated, reasonably easy to obtain, transportable and processable into many useful forms. Without this discovery, it is unlikely that any human empire would have exceeded the scale and technological sophistication of Rome at its height, but with it we incrementally developed the capacity to reach for the stars along an exponential growth curve.

We increased production year after year, developed uses for our energy surplus, and then embedded layer upon successive layer of structural dependency on those uses within our societies. We were living in an era of a most unusual circumstance – energy surplus on an unprecedented scale. We have come to think this is normal as it has been our experience for our whole lives, and we therefore take it for granted, but it is a profoundly anomalous and temporary state of affairs.

We have arguably reached peak production, despite a great deal of propaganda to the contrary. We still rely on the giant oil fields discovered decades ago for the majority of the oil we use today, but these fields are reaching the end of their lives and new discoveries are very small in comparison. We are producing from previous finds on a grand scale, but failing to replace them, not through lack of effort, but from a fundamental lack of availability. Our dependence on oil in particular is tremendous, given that it underpins both the structure and function of industrial society in a myriad different ways.

An inability to grow production, or even maintain it at current levels past peak, means that our oil supply will be constricted, and with it both the scope of society’s functions and our ability to maintain what we have built. Production from the remaining giant fields could collapse, either as they finally water out or as production is hit by ‘above ground factors’, meaning that it could be impacted by rapidly developing human events having nothing to do with the underlying geology. Above ground factors make for unpredictable wildcards.

Financial crisis, for instance, will be profoundly destabilizing, and is going to precipitate very significant, and very negative, social consequences that are likely to impact on the functioning of the energy industry. A liquidity crunch will cause purchasing power to collapse, greatly reducing demand at personal, industrial and national scales. With production geared to previous levels of demand, it will feel like a supply glut, meaning that prices will plummet.

This has already begun, as we have recently described. The effect is exacerbated by the (false) propaganda over recent years regarding unconventional supplies from fracking and horizontal drilling that are supposedly going to result in limitless supply. As far as price goes, it is not reality by which it is determined, but perception, even if that perception is completely unfounded.

The combination of perception that oil is plentiful, falling actual demand on economic contraction, and an acute liquidity crunch is a recipe for very low prices, at least temporarily. Low prices, as we are already seeing, suck the investment out of the sector because the business case evaporates in the short term, economic visibility disappears for what are inherently long term projects, and risk aversion becomes acute in a climate of fear.

Exploration will cease, and production projects will be mothballed or cancelled. It is unlikely that critical infrastructure will be maintained when no revenue is being generated and money is very scarce, meaning that reviving mothballed projects down the line may be either impossible, or at least economically non-viable.

The initial demand collapse may buy us time in terms of global oil depletion, but at the expense of aggravating the situation considerably in the longer term. The lack of investment over many years will see potential supply collapse as well, so that the projects we may have thought would cushion the downslope of Hubbert’s curve are unlikely to materialize, even if demand eventually begins to recover.

In addition, various factions of humanity are very likely to come to blows over the remaining sources, which, after all, confer upon the owner liquid hegemonic power. We are already seeing a new three-way Cold War shaping up between the US, Russia and China, with nasty proxy wars being fought in the imperial periphery where reserves or strategic transport routes are located. Resource wars will probably do more than anything else to destroy with infrastructure and supplies that might otherwise have fuelled the future.

Given that the energy supply will be falling, and that there will, over time, be competition for increasingly scarce energy resources that we can no longer take for granted, proposed solutions which are energy-intensive will lie outside of solution space.


Declining Energy Profit Ratio and Socioeconomic Complexity

It is not simply the case that energy production will be falling past the peak. That is only half the story as to why energy available to society will be drastically less in the future in comparison with the present. The energy surplus delivered to society by any energy source critically depends on the energy profit ratio of production, or energy returned on energy invested (EROEI).

The energy profit ratio is the comparison between the energy deployed in order to produce energy from any given source, and the resulting energy output. Naturally, if it were not possible to produce more than than the energy required upfront to do so (an EROEI equal to one), the exercise would be pointless, and ideally one would want to produce a multiple of the input energy, and the higher the better.

In the early years of the oil fuel era, one could expect a hundred-fold return on energy invested, but that ratio has fallen by something approximating a factor of ten in the intervening years. If the energy profit ratio falls by a factor of ten, gross production must rise by a factor ten just for the energy available to society to remain the same. During the oil century, that, and more, is precisely what happened. Gross production sky-rocketed and with it the energy surplus available to society.

However, we have now produced and consumed the lions’s share of the high energy profit ratio energy sources, and are depending on lower and lower EROEI sources for the foreseeable future. The energy profit ratio is set to fall by a further factor of ten, but this time, being past the global peak of production, we will not be able to raise gross production. In fact both gross production and the energy profit ratio will be falling at the same time, meaning that the energy surplus available to society is going to be very sharply curtailed. This will compound the energy crisis we unwittingly face going forward.

The only rationale for supposedly ‘producing energy’ from an ‘energy source’ with an energy profit ratio near, or even below, one, would be if one can nevertheless make money at it temporarily, despite not producing an energy return at all. This is more often the case at the moment than one might suppose. In our era of money created from nothing being thrown at all manner of losing propositions, as it always is at the peak of a financial bubble, a great deal of that virtual wealth has been pursuing energy sources and energy technologies.

Prior to the topping of the financial bubble, commodities of all kinds had been showing exponential price rises on fear of impending scarcity, thanks to the human propensity to extrapolate current trends, in this case commodity demand, forward to infinity. In addition technology investments of all kinds were highly fashionable, and able to attract investment without the inconvenient need to answer difficult questions. The combination of energy and technology was apparently irresistible, inspiring investors to dream of outsized profits for years to come. This was a very clear example of on-going dynamics in finance and energy intertwining and acting as mutually reinforcing drivers.

Both unconventional fossil fuels and renewable energy technologies became focii for huge amounts of inward investment. These are both relatively low energy profit energy sources, on average, although the EROEI varies considerably. Unconventional fossil fuels are a very poor prospect, often with an EROEI of less than one due to the technological complexity, drilling guesswork and very rapid well depletion rates.

However, the propagandistic hype that surrounded them for a number of years, until reality began to dawn, was sufficient to allow them to generate large quantities of money for those who ran the companies involved. Ironically, much of this, at least in the United states where most of the hype was centred, came from flipping land leases rather than from actual energy production, meaning that much of this industry was essentially nothing more than an elaborate real estate ponzi scheme.

Renewables, as we currently envisage them, unfortunately suffer from a relatively low energy profit ratio (on average), a dependence on fossil fuels for both their construction and distribution infrastructure, and a dependence on a wide array of non-renewable components.

We typically insist on deploying them in the most large-scale, technologically complex manner possible, thereby minimising the EROEI, and quite likely knocking it below one in a number of cases. This maximises monetary profits for large companies, thanks to both investor gullibility and greed and also to generous government subsidy regimes, but generally renders the exercise somewhere between pointless and counter-productive in long term energy supply terms.

For every given society, there will be a minimum energy profit ratio required to support it in its current form, that minimum being dependent on the scale and complexity involved. Traditional agrarian societies were based on an energy profit ratio of about 5, derived from their food production methods, with additional energy from firewood at a variable energy profit ratio depending on the environment. Modern society, with its much larger scale and vastly greater complexity, naturally has a far higher energy profit ratio requirement, probably not much lower than that at which we currently operate.

We are moving into a lower energy profit ratio era, but lower EROEI energy sources will not be able to maintain our current level of socioeconomic complexity, hence our society will be forced to simplify. However, a simpler society will not be able to engage in the complex activities necessary to produce energy from these low EROEI sources. In other words, low energy profit ratio energy sources cannot sustain a level of complexity necessary to produce them. They will not fuel the simpler future which awaits us.

Proposed solutions dependent on the current level of socioeconomic complexity do not lie within solution space.


Blind Alleys and Techno-Fantasies

The majority of proposals made by those who acknowledge limits fail on at least one of the previous criteria, and often several, if not all of them. Solution space is smaller than we typically think. The most common approach is to insist on government policies intended to implement meaningful change by fiat. Even in the best of times, government policy is a blunt instrument which all too often achieves the opposite of its stated intention, and in contractionary times the likelihood of this increases enormously.

Governments are reactive – and slowly – not proactive. Policies typically reflect the realities of the past, not the future, and are therefore particularly maladaptive at times of large scale trend change, particularly when that change unfolds rapidly. Those focusing on government policy are mostly not thinking in terms of crisis, however, but of seamless proactive adjustment – the kind of which humanity is congenitally incapable.

There is a common perception that government policy and its effect on society depends critically on who holds the seat of power and what policies they impose. The assumption is that elected leaders do, in fact, wield the power to determine and implement their chosen policies, but this has become less and less the case over time. Elected leaders are the public face of a system which they do not control, and increasingly act merely as salesmen for policies determined behind the scenes, mostly at the behest of special interest groups with privileged political access.

It actually matters little who is the figure-head at any given time, as their actions are constrained by the system in which they are embedded. Even if leaders fully understood the situation we face, which is highly unlikely given the nature of the leadership selection process, they would be unable to change the direction of a system so much larger than themselves.

Where public pressure on elected governments develops around a specific issue, for whatever reason, the political response is generally to act in such a way as to appear to do something meaningful, while actually making no substantive change at all. Often the appearance of action is nothing more than vacuous political spin, assuaging public opinion while doing nothing to threaten the extractive interests driving the system in the same direction as always. We cannot expect truly adaptive initiatives to emerge from a system hostage to powerful vested interests and therefore locked into a given direction.

Public understanding of the issues agitated for or against tends, unfortunately, to be limited and one-dimensional, meaning that it is essentially impossible to create public pressure for truly informed policy changes, and it is relatively simple to claim that the appearance of action constitutes actual action. A short public attention span makes this even simpler. People are also extremely unlikely to vote for policies which, if they were to make a meaningful difference, would amount to depriving those same people of the outsized consumption habits to which they have become accustomed. The insurmountable obstacles to achieving change through government policy become obvious.

Planned degrowth assumes the possibility of a smooth progression towards a lower consumption future, but this is not how contractions unfold following the bursting of a bubble. What we can expect is a series of abrupt dislocations that are going to wreak havoc with our collective ability to plan anything at all for many years, by which time we will already be living in a lower consumption future arrived at chaotically. Effective planning for an epochal shift requires the capacity for top-down policy implementation at large scale, combined with social cohesion, the ability to maintain complexity, and the energy to maintain control over a myriad distinct aspects simultaneously. It is simply not going to happen in the manner that proponents envisage.

Similarly, a steady state economy is not a realistic construct in light of many non-negotiable realities. Human history, and in fact the non-human evolution which preceded it, is a dynamic history of boom and bust, of niches opening up, being exploited, being over-exploited and collapsing. It is a history of opportunism and the consequences following from it. In the human experience, boom and bust in the form of the rise and fall of empire is an emergent property of civilizational scale. A steady state at this scale is prima facie impossible.

An approximation of steady state can exist under certain circumstances, where a population well below ecological carrying capacity, and surrounded by abundance, is left in isolation for a very long period of time. The Australian aboriginal existence prior to the European invasion is probably the best example, having persisted for tens of thousands of years. The circumstances which permitted it were, however, diametrically opposite to those we currently face.

Proponents of the steady state economy do not seem to appreciate the extent to which we have long since transgressed the point of no return from the perspective of being able to maintain what we have built. Even if we were merely approaching limits, instead of having moved substantially into overshoot, we would not be able to hold society in stasis just below those limitations.

Populations grow and expansion proceeds with it. Intentionally preventing population growth globally is unrealistic. Even China, as a single country, has struggled with population control policies, and has had to take drastic and dictatorial measures in order to slow population growth. This clearly relies on strong top-down control, which is only barely possible at a national level and will never be possible at a global level.

In China we are also going to see that the outcome of population control has challenging consequences, and that a policy supposedly designed to foster stability can have the opposite effect. The desire for a male child has dangerously distorted the gender ratio in ways which will leave the country with a large excess of young men with no prospects for either work or marriage. That is a guarantee of trouble, either at home or abroad, or possibly both. There will also be far too few employed young people to look after a burgeoning elderly population, meaning a rapid die-off of the elderly cohort at some point.

Even then China is unlikely to have managed to get itself back below the carrying capacity it has done so much to destroy during its frantic dash for growth. The tremendous modernity drive China has engaged in essentially undone any benefit curbing population growth might have had, by increasing energy and resource consumption per capita by an enormous margin. It is population times consumption which determines impact, and in China the ecological impact has in many ways been catastrophic. That has to some extent been compensated for by obtaining access to a great deal of land in other countries, but economic colonialism has done nothing for global stability.

While it is possible to conceive, as some steady-state and degrowth proponents do, of a world in which civilization and large-scale urbanism have been dismantled in favour of autonomous, yet networked, village-scale settlements, that does not make it even remotely realistic. Humanity may, in the distant future, after the overshoot condition has been resolved by nature, as it will eventually be, find itself living in villages once again, but they would not be networked in the modern, technological sense, and the population they housed would be very smaller smaller than at present.

If it is below carrying capacity, then it will grow again, restarting the cycle of expansion and contraction rather than settling for a steady-state. Reaching for the stars again would not be possible however, as the necessary energy and resources have already been consumed or dissipated.

People are often inclined to think that a different trajectory is a matter of choice – for instance that we must collectively choose to live differently in order to prevent an ecological catastrophe. In fact it is not a matter of choice at all. There is no basis for top-down control capable of delivering meaningful change, nor would humanity ever collectively choose to scale back its consumption pattern, although individuals can and do. Given opportunities as a species, we take them, as evolution has shaped us to do.

Groups which made a habit of forgoing opportunities in the past would quickly have been out-competed by those who did not. We are the descendants of a long long line of opportunists, selected over millennia for our flexibility in turning an incredibly wide range of circumstances to our advantage. But, in this instance we will have no choice – the shift to lower consumption will be imposed on us by circumstance. The element of choice will be only in how we choose to face that which we cannot change.

Another class of ideas for ways forward is grounded in techno-optimism, suggesting that because human beings are clever and creative, and have tended to push back apparent limits before, that we will be able to do so indefinitely. The notion is that changing our trajectory is unnecessary because limits can always be circumvented. Needless to say, such a view is not grounded in physical reality. These ‘solutions’ are entrepreneurial rather than policy-driven, although they may expect to be facilitated through policy.

Ideas in this category would include such things as smart renewables-based power grids, high-performance electric cars, high-tech energy storage systems, thorium reactors, fusion reactors, biofuels, genetically modified (pseudo)foodstuffs, geoengineering, enhanced automation, high-tech carbon sequestration, global carbon trading platforms, electronic crypto-currencies, clean-tech, vertical farming skyscrapers and many other notions.

Notice that all of these presume the ready availability of cheap energy and resources, along with large quantities of capital, and all assume that technological complexity can be maintained or even increased. Options such as these also have a substantial dependence on the continuation of globalized trade in both goods and services in order to satisfy their complex supply chains. However, globalization depends on the ability to operate at large scale in extremely complex ways, it depends on cheap energy, it depends on maintaining trust in trading partners, and it depends on the ability to travel without facing unacceptable levels of physical risk from piracy or conflict.

Trade does very poorly in times of financial and economic contraction. In the Great Depression of the 1930s, trade fell by 66% in two years. Trust collapses, and with it the contractual ability to agree on risk-sharing arrangements. Letters of credit become impossible to obtain in a credit crunch, and without them goods do not move.

Many goods will in any case have no market, as there will be little purchasing power for anything but essentials, and possibly not even sufficient for those. As we move from the peak of globalized trade, there will be an enormous excess of transport capacity, which will drive prices down relentlessly to the point where transporting goods becomes uneconomic. Much transport capacity will be scrapped. Without credit to oil the wheels of trade, our highly leveraged economic system will grind to a halt.

It is natural that we regard our current situation as being normal, and take for granted that the march of technological progress – the only reality most of us have known – will continue. Few question very deeply the foundations of our societies, and even those who do recognize that change must occur rarely realize the extent to which that change will inevitably strike at the fundamental basis of modern existence. Globalization has peaked and will shortly be moving into reverse. The world will be a very different place as a result.


Solution Space

To use the word ‘solution’ is perhaps misleading, since it could be said to imply that circumstances exist which could allow us to continue business as usual, and this is not, in fact, the case. A crunch period cannot be avoided. We face an intractable predicament, and the consequences of overshoot are going to manifest no matter what we do. However, while we may not be able to prevent this from occurring, we can mitigate the impact and lay the foundation for a fundamentally different and more workable way of being in the world.

Acknowledging the non-negotiable allows us to avoid beating our heads against a brick wall, freeing us to focus on that which we can either influence or change, and acknowledging the limits within which we must operate, even in these areas, allows us to act far more effectively without wasting scarce resources on fantasies. There are plenty of actions which can be taken, but those with potential for building a viable future will be inexpensive, small-scale, simple, low-energy, community-based initiatives. It will be important to work with natural systems in accordance with permaculture principles, rather than in opposition to them as currently do so comprehensively.

We require viable ways forward across different timeframes, first to navigate the rapid-onset acute crisis which the bursting of a financial bubble will pitch us into, and then to reboot our global operating system into a form less reminiscent of a planet-killing ponzi scheme. The various limits we face do not manifest all at the same time, and so to some extent can be navigated sequentially. The first phase of our constrained future, which will be primarily financial and social, will occur before the onset of energy supply difficulties for instance. Some initiatives are of particular value at specific times, and other have general value across timescales.

Moving into financial contraction is going to feel like having the rug pulled out from under our feet, and all the assumptions upon which we have based our lives invalidated all at once. Preparing in advance can make all the difference to the impact of such an event. At an individual level, it is important to avoid holding debt and to hold cash on hand. It is also very useful to have prepared in advance by developing practical skills, obtaining control over the essentials of one’s own existence where possible and being located in an auspicious place. Human skills such as mediation and organizational ability will be very useful for calming inevitable social tensions.

However, community initiatives will have far greater impact than individual actions. The most effective paths will be those we choose to walk with others, as even in times when effective organizational scale is falling, it does not fall far enough to make acting individually the most adaptive strategy. Even in contractionary times, cooperation is not only possible, but vital. In the absence of lost institutional trust, it must occur within networks of genuine interpersonal trust, and these are of necessity small. Building such networks in advance of crisis is exceptionally important, as they are very much more difficult to construct after the fact, when we will be facing an unforgiving social atmosphere.

Cohesive communities will act together in times of crisis, and will be able to offer significant support to each other. The path dependency aspect is important – the state we find ourselves in when crisis hits will be an major determinant of how it plays out in a given area. Anything people come together to do will build social capital and relationships of trust, which are the foundation of society. Community gardens, perma-blitzes (permaculture garden make-overs), maker-spaces, time-banks, savings pools, local currency initiatives, community hub developments, skills training programmes, asset mapping and contingency planning are but a few of the possibilities for bringing people together.

Essential functions can be reclaimed locally, providing for far greater local self-sufficiency potential. The existence of locally-focused businesses, with local supply chains and local distribution networks for supplying essential goods and services will be a major advantage, hence establishing these in advance will be highly adaptive. Choosing to form them as cooperatives is likely to increase their resilience to external shocks as risks are shared. Where they can function at least partially through alternative trading arrangements, or as part of a local currency network, they can be even more beneficial.

Alternative trading arrangements are a particularly important component of local self-sufficiency during times of financial crisis, as they are able to mitigate the acute state of liquidity crunch which will be creating artificial scarcity. Implementing alternative means of trading will allow a much larger proportion of economic activity to survive, and this will allow many more people to be able to provide for themselves and their families. This in turn creates much greater social stability. Alternative currencies in particular are already being relied on in the countries at the forefront of financial crisis, which already find themselves facing liquidity shortage.

It is by no means necessary to wait until crisis hits before establishing such systems. Indeed they can have considerable value locally even in stable times. Since they only constitute money in one area, and, being fiat currencies, must necessarily operate within the trust horizon, they help to retain purchasing power locally, rather than allowing it to drain away continually. Once well established, alternative currencies can go from being parallel systems to being the major form of liquidity available locally.

Beyond a close-knit community, it will be very helpful to have an informed layer of local government, as this confers the potential for a top-down/bottom-up partnership between local government and the grass roots. Local government is capable of removing barriers to people looking after themselves, assisting with the propagation of successful grass roots initiatives and acting facilitate adaptive responses with the resources at its disposal, even though these will be for more limited than currently.

Contingency planning in advance for the distribution of scarce local resources would be wise. With the trust horizons drawing inwards, local government may be the largest scale of governance still lying within it, and therefore still effective. It operates at a far more human scale than larger political structures, and is far more likely to have the potential for transparency, accountability and reflexive learning.

That is not to say local government is necessarily endowed with these qualities at present. The odds of it becoming so will increase if informed and public spirited individuals get involved in local government as soon as possible, rather than setting their sights on regional or national government. Presiding over contraction will, however, be a thankless task, as constituents will tend to blame those in power for the fact that the pie is shrinking. The job will be a delicate balancing act under very trying circumstances as the fabric os society becomes tattered and torn, but as difficult as it will be, it will remain essential, and getting it right can make a very substantial difference.

Higher levels of government may currently appear to be the relevant seats of power, but are far less likely to be as important in a period of crisis as their response time is far too slow. It is possible that higher levels of government may temporarily be involved in useful rationing programmes, but beyond a certain point, the most important initiatives in practice are likely to be those profoundly local. National governments are more likely to generate additional problems rather than solutions, as they crack down on angry populations during an on-going loss of political legitimacy.

Given the fragility of trade in the future we are facing, programmes of import substitution could be useful, if there would be time to implement them before financial crisis deepens too substantially for the necessary larger-scale organizational capacity to fucntion. Being able to provide for the essentials, without having to rely on vulnerable international supply chains, is extremely beneficial, and food sovereignty in particular is critical.

Once trade withers, we will once again see tremendous regional disparities of fortune, based on differing local circumstances. It would be wise to research in advance what one’s own local circumstances are likely to be, in order to work out in advance how one might live within local limits. Getting expectations aligned with what reality can hope to deliver is a major part of adaptation without unnecessary stress.

In the longer term, we can expect to move through economic depression into some form of relative recovery, although we may see large scale conflict first, and will not, in any case, see a return to present circumstances. We will instead be adapting to the age of limits, mostly in an ad hoc manner due to on-going instability and consequent inability to plan for the long term. The bursting of a bubble on the scale of the one we have experienced has far reaching consequences that are likely to be felt for decades at least. In addition, our current condition of extreme carrying capacity overshoot means that we will actively be tightening our own limits, even as the population declines, by further cannibalizing remaining natural capital.

The operating system reboot which could lead to relative recovery would involve the restoration of some level of trust in the financial system, following the elimination of the huge mass of excess claims to underlying real wealth, and very likely the subsequent destabliization of a currency hyperinflation some years later (timeframe location dependent). We are very likely to see financial innovation, which is nothing more than another name for ponzi scheme, banned for a very long time, and likely the creation of money as interest bearing debt as well.

Humanity is in the habit of locking the door after the horse has bolted, so to speak, only restoring financial regulatory controls once it is too late. Once restored, regulations requiring plain vanilla finance will probably persist until  we have once again had time to forget the inevitable consequences of laissez faire. This will be measured in generations.

The small-scale initiatives which we need to navigate the crunch period could be scaled up as trust is slowly re-established. The speed at which this might happen, and the scale that might eventually be workable, are unclear, but it is not likely to be a rapid process, and scale is likely to remain small relative to today. Society will be lower-energy and therefore significantly simpler by then, with far smaller concentrations of population.

While some fossil fuels will no doubt be used for essential functions for quite some time to come, the majority of society will be excluded from what remains of the hydrocarbon age. We will likely have renewable energy systems, but not in the form of photovoltaic panels and high-tech electricity systems. Diffuse renewable energy can give us thermal energy, or motive power, or the ability to store energy as compressed air, all relatively simply, but at that point it will not be a technological civilization.

We are heading for a profoundly humbling experience, to put it mildly. Technological man is not the demigod he supposed himself to be, but merely the beneficiary of a fortuitous energy bonanza which temporarily allowed him to turn dreams into reality. We would do well, if we could summon up sufficient humility in advance, to learn from the simple and elegant technologies of the distant past, which we have largely discarded or forgotten.

We could also learn from present day places already constrained by limits – places which already operate simply and on a shoe-string budget both in terms of money and energy. It takes practice to learn to function without the structural dependencies we have constructed for ourselves, and the sooner we begin the learning curve, the better off we will be. Focusing on solution space for our ways forward would save us from countless blind alleys in the meantime.

 

Great Statesmen

logopodcastOff the microphone of RE

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on March 25, 2015

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OUT WITH THE OLD…

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Snippet:

http://www.carlaanne.com/uploads/2012/01/Ahrias-Knight-Painting.jpg…As we observe the ever upward spiral of crisis around the world and the utter madness of the responses begin to overwhelm you, you begin to wonder why no White Knight in Shining Armor ever turns up? Where are the Great Statesmen of Yore who saved the world in prior calamitous times? Why aren’t such great men & women apparent anywhere these days, but rather just further iterations of puppets like Shillary Clinton and Jeb Bushsky?

Depending on who is writing and what the political spin is, you have any number of people who are pointed to as an example of a Great Statesman. The Founding Fathers of the FSoA often get the nod, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Sam Adam and the rest of the folks who dropped their John Hancocks on the Declaration of Independence. Later on in the FSoA, “Honest” Abe Lincoln and “Old Hickory” Andrew Jackson are seen by some as great statesmen.

Over in Eurotrashland, the winning side History books often portray folks like Winston Churchill, Benjamin Disraeli as great statesman, Otto von Bismark is seen by some as great and you had some post WWII folks like Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle considered by some as great…

…and in with the NEW!

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For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

Either you’re the Butcher or the Cattle

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on October 16, 2014

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I know many people have no interest in watching the boob tube because 99% of the programming is either mindless drivel or government sanctioned propaganda. It’s the 1% that reflects the deeper themes and moods engulfing our society. Television shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead reflect the darkening mood of this intensifying Fourth Turning. I wrote one of my more pessimistic articles called Welcome to Terminus in April regarding the season four finale of the Walking Dead series. I essentially argued we are approaching the end of the line and the world is going to get real nasty.

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In the six short months since I wrote that depressing article, we’ve seen men beheaded on Youtube videos by terrorists no one had ever heard of at the beginning of this year. Somehow a ragtag band of 30,000 Muslim terrorists, using American military equipment supplied to fight Assad in Syria and taken from the Iraqi Army when they turned tail and ran away, have been able to defeat 600,000 Iraqi and Kurd fighters with air support from the vaunted U.S. Air Force. Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan descend into never ending religious based warfare. We’ve even had passenger planes mysteriously disappear in Asia with no trace.

Crimea seceded from Ukraine and rejoined Russia, initiating a plan to punish Russia by the western powers. America supported and planned the overthrow of a democratically elected government in the Ukraine, with a predictable push back response by Russia, leading to a bloody civil war in the Eastern Ukraine. We’ve had a false flag shooting down of an airliner over the Ukraine by the Ukrainian government, blamed on Russia and Putin by Obama and his EU co-conspirators. The American corporate media mouthpieces have ignored the cover-up of missing controller transmissions, black box recordings, and physical evidence regarding the murder of hundreds of innocent people by western politicians. Israel and Hamas resumed their endless religious war in Gaza, with thousands of casualties and destruction.

UK fear mongering and financial threats barely averted the secession of Scotland from the UK. Cantalonia continues to push for a secession vote to leave Spain. Violent protests have broken out in Spain, Italy, France and even Sweden. Turmoil, protests and riots in Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico have been driven by anger at political corruption, high inflation, and general economic dysfunction. Saber rattling between China and Japan has increased and young people in Hong Kong have been protesting the lack of democratic elections being permitted by China. The world economy, undergoing central bank monetary stimulus withdraw, is headed back into recession as Germany, China and the U.S. join the rest of the world in economic decline. And now the Western Africa outbreak of ebola has gone worldwide, with predictions of an epidemic potentially causing worldwide economic chaos.

What’s happening in the real world makes the dystopian zombie world of Walking Dead seem almost quaint. The writers of this show brilliant use of symbolism and imagery captures the violent, chaotic, inhumane, darkening, brutal world we inhabit as the Fourth Turning crisis period we entered in 2008 deepens on a daily basis. There is a good reason why the first episode of their fifth season drew the biggest cable TV audience in history. The show is clearly tapping into the mood of the masses. Early in the latest episode you realize Terminus has become a processing center run by cannibals. The line between victim and criminal, killer and prey, good and evil, madness and sanity, and moral and immoral is blurred. Everything is relative in the post-pandemic world of the Walking Dead.

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Seeing Wall Street cannibals walk away unscathed after devouring the worldwide economic system in 2008 with their fraudulent financial schemes, corrupt politicians enriched by throwing taxpayers under the bus, militarized police forces trampling the Fourth Amendment, the NSA spying on every American, a private central bank enriching their owners by funneling trillions into their bank vaults, a president trampling on the Constitution by issuing executive orders to bypass the other branches of government, and billions of welfare and tax fraud from the urban ghettos to the penthouse suites in NYC, has convinced a large swath of Americans that everything is relative and nothing matters in our warped dystopian world. Right and wrong no longer matter. Morality is an antiquated concept. Adhering to the Constitution is an outmoded notion. Our society celebrates and condones our dog eat dog economic paradigm. Or zombie eats anything world in the case of Walking Dead.

The Terminus complex is reminiscent of the concentration camp in Schindler’s List. It is complete with railroad cars to hold the prisoners, gates with barbed wire, armed guards, and extermination facilities to “process” the prisoners. Thick black smoke belches into the air. There is a room stacked full of booty, teddy bears, watches, clothes – everything except the gold fillings.The Nazi like precision and attention to detail is reflected in the almost business-like method in which the Terminus administrators go about gutting their prey. The bone chilling efficiency and antiseptic processing facility evoke memories of the holocaust gas chambers. The opening sequence when Rick, Daryl, Glenn and Bob are among a group of men lined up to be gutted like pigs over a trough in place to collect their spilled blood, might have been the most brutal scene ever put on non-premium cable TV.

The callous and dispassionate way in which the prisoners (cattle) are lined up in front of a stainless steel trough is disconcerting and bone chilling. The victims are hit with a baseball bat and then their throats are slit over the trough by men in protective suits. They have become nothing but cattle to be butchered and consumed by the Terminus cannibals. You see another part of the processing plant where human remains are hanging from hooks like sides of beef. Gareth, the leader of Terminus, supervises the operation like a CEO, berating the butchers for not meeting quotas and following standard operating procedures. Not much different than how our mega-corporations are run today.

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The other fascinating similarity between the dystopian “nightmare of want” setting of Terminus and our modern day dystopian “empire of excess” is the use of false advertising and propaganda to lure “customers” into their web. Their version of billboard advertising was plywood with the hand written messages of “Sanctuary for All”, “Community for All”, and “Those Who Arrive Survive”. The Terminus cannibals would have fit in well on Madison Avenue with the highly paid spin artists, propagandists, and whores for the corporate oligarchs.

The signs along train tracks and radio transmissions from a call center like facility showed the calculated business-like efficiency of the cannibals in systematically and methodically luring victims to their slaughterhouse. It is the same techniques used by the apostles of Edward Bernays to consciously and intelligently manipulate the habits, opinions, tastes, ideas and actions of the masses, in order to control and influence their buying habits, voting decisions, and support of their rulers. The unseen men who constitute the “invisible government” use these techniques to keep the cattle docile, fed, and ignorant, as they are led to slaughter.

The government and lack thereof is always lurking in the murky background of how and why the United States has devolved into an infected world of the walking dead. This episode provided some clues about government labs producing viruses as weapons to be used against some unexplained enemy. The insinuation is that the government somehow lost control of the virus and the ensuing pandemic destroyed our modern world and left the survivors to battle the biters and each other for the remaining scraps. The Federal government caused the societal collapse and is nowhere to be found in rebuilding the nation.

It is unclear how the apocalypse went down, but you can assume it began with fear, which led to panic, chaos, economic collapse, violent upheaval, war, and total breakdown of governmental authority and control. It is ironic that today fear of a worldwide ebola pandemic is coinciding with an inevitable economic implosion, wars raging in the Middle East, violent protests raging around the globe, and trust in governmental authority plunging to all-time lows. The Walking Dead has wittingly or unwittingly captured the ambiance of our turbulent times.

When you are faced with desperate circumstances you can either do whatever you need to survive or you can submissively accept your fate and die. Gareth and his cannibalistic cohorts had been in the same situation as Rick and his posse, but they had somehow turned the tables on their captors. Gareth’s survival of the fittest creed was “either you’re the butcher or you’re the cattle”. Human beings react to intense pressure and life threatening situations in different ways. Some people snap and turn into monsters, like Gareth. Some people snap and lose their minds. Others, like Rick and Carol, summon an inner strength to do whatever it takes to survive while barely maintaining their humanity. Others turn into blind followers of a strong forceful leader, not questioning the morality, legality or humanity of what they are ordered to do. The line between right and wrong, necessary versus unnecessary, vengeance versus justice, and butcher versus cattle is blurred in a world without rules, government or accepted norms.

I believe the “butcher or cattle” analogy is sadly a valid meme for the world we currently inhabit. In the Walking Dead world, individuals must choose to be butcher or cattle. It’s a Darwinian world of kill or be killed. Like minded individuals with common values and goals form communities to protect themselves, provide for themselves, and attempt to bring a semblance of order in a chaotic world. The community of Westbury, led by the governor and the community of Terminus, led by Gareth, are founded upon a foundation of evil and ultimately destroyed. Rick’s community of liberty minded freedom fighters do whatever is necessary to survive, but retain their humanity, decency and desire to create a better world.

Our present day world may not be as brutish as the Walking Dead world, though the line between reality and fiction is often indistinguishable when you turn on the news, but the distinction between butchers and cattle is clear. The elected and non-elected rulers of the deep state are the butchers, sending young men off to die for oil companies and arms dealers, impoverishing the masses through inflation and their control of the currency, and enriching themselves through their complete control of the political, financial, judicial, and economic systems. This establishment, or invisible government as Bernays described, is committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. Its scope, financial resources, and global reach put it in a predator class all by itself.

The common people are the cattle being led to slaughter. We are kept docile with incessant propaganda from the mainstream media; marketing messages to consume from Madison Avenue; filtered, adjusted, manipulated economic data fed to us by government agencies; an endless supply of iGadgets and other electronic distractions; government education designed to keep us ignorant; 24/7 reality TV on six hundred stations to keep us entertained; corporate toxic processed food to keep us obese and tame; and an endless supply of Wall Street supplied debt to keep us caged in our pens with no hope of escape. The butchers of the deep state have maintained control for decades, but we’re entering a new era.

Fourth Turnings result in the tables being turned on the butchers. Some cattle are awakening from their stupor. They can see the bloody writing on the slaughterhouse wall. Anyone who isn’t sensing a dramatic mood change in this country is either a mindless zombie or a functionary of the deep state. The financial shenanigans of the ruling class are again being revealed as nothing but a Ponzi scheme built on a foundation of debt and propped up by delusions and ignorance. When the house of cards collapses in the near future, the tables will turn. When people have nothing left to lose, they will lose it. The butchers will become the cattle. There will be no sanctuary for these evil men. Their reign of terror will be swept away in a whirlwind of retribution, death and destruction. It might even make the Walking Dead look like a walk in the park.

 

Ebola & the Management of Mass Psychology

Off the keyboard of Brian Davey

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Published on FEASTA on October 8, 2014

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Public Health or Public Relations Crisis?

In the discussion about Ebola there appears to be a public relations message that we are all expected to accept that it is far less likely to run out of control in “developed countries” which have healthcare systems. In an article yesterday the chief concern of the Guardian‘s health editor, Sarah Boseley, was one of the management of mass psychology, the headline being: “Spanish Ebola case requires rapid response to allay western fears. It is important to ascertain exactly how Madrid nurse was infected to prevent inaccurate scare stories circulating on the internet.”

As one person commented after this article:

“No, it’s important to prevent the frigging ebola virus from infecting more people, especially medical staff and their families.”

In a potential epidemic situation like this we really all are in this together and it irritates the f*** out of me when journalists, officials and managers see it as their main job to “reassure the public”. This is because this “reassuring the public” starts from a presumption that everything will be OK – in other words it starts with the smug complacency that we always hear from “senior people” – that we can trust them, that they know what they are doing, that they are somehow immune from making mistakes and screwing things up. It is exactly the same attitude with fracking – oh there will be no problems here “because we have the best regulations in the world”.

And yet the experience in Spain and the USA shows quite clearly how the real world deviates from the ideal world which we are supposed to believe in – once we delve into it we find that staff at the hospital were protesting about the inadequate equipment and protective clothing for example and used the same lifts used by everyone else to take out infected materials and how they were generally unprepared for what happened. Exactly what you would expect from a lumbering management bureaucracy in the face of a complex challenge.

In this regard the situation in the USA in Dallas shows a similar failure to think things through in advance – like no arrangements to remove sweat soaked and infected bedding, like the need to trace people who are difficult to trace like homeless people.

Let me say in this regard that it does not seem obvious to me that the provisions for disease control and preventing an epidemic in “developed countries” are much more robust than in places like West Africa. That’s because (1) although there are a tiny number of super sophisticated centres for containing highly infectious diseases there is obviously a threshold magnitude of imported infections beyond which the arrangements for containing the disease would outstrip these resources and the system would likely break down entirely; (2) because the “developed countries” have much more mobile populations using mass transport systems where anonymous contact with large numbers of people can take place and (3) because there will be reluctance to impose the necessary controls because of the economic disruptive effects until it is too late – by which time (4) the economic disruptive effects could feed back into and amplify the chaos.

Let me explain each of these points in turn.

Firstly even a cursory reading of descriptions about medical procedures shows that containing this disease is highly resource intensive. In Nigeria at this time it looks as if the importation of the virus by a single traveller who flew in has been contained. But how has this been possible? It is interesting to note that from a single traveller there were 19 confirmed cases of further infection. 8 of these resulted in death and the last was detected on 31st August. So how on earth have the Nigerians contained it. The answer is that they have had a polio eradication programme using much the same procedure and skills and this programme has spare capacity because of its success. But get this:

“It took two weeks for the first isolation ward to open and health workers were initially reluctant to work in it. However, 1,800 health workers were eventually trained, protective gear was provided, and safe wards with enough beds and access to chlorinated water were set up so that patients could be treated safely. In total, health workers made 18,000 visits to 900 people to check the temperatures of possible contacts. As with polio eradication, this wasn’t easy but it was imperative to stopping the disease in its tracks.”[1]

So just one man entering the country requires a resource effort of 1,800 workers, properly trained and equipped with safe wards to fall back on – able to make 18,000 visits and checking 900 people!

Is our health service ready to do that? To deploy that level of resources? It seems to me that the resource intensity of this is such that there is likely to be massive overwhelm if there are not one but a few cases – for example an infected family not an infected individual comes into the country, the children go to a school and the parents travel around on work commitments.

This brings me to the second point. West African countries are by and large settled communities by comparison with our society. Yesterday I started to think about these matters when I wanted to get on a Nottingham tram just before 9 in the morning to go an get a flu jab. I let a couple of trams go by because of the difficulty that would be involved in getting in to the cram. Someone vomiting in a mass transportation system like this would be rather difficult to follow up – as indeed in a shopping centre or in the loos of my local pub. How would an epidemiological team follow that up? Or how do they follow up if and when infection circulates in a network of drug addicts?

Third point. It is obvious from this that, at a particular point, the level of infection, or protective measures against infection, are likely to be severely disruptive of “hub interdependencies of society” – like transport networks. Beyond a certain threshold magnitude of infection people are going to be fearful of using shared facilities – I can think of times I have not wanted to use a cash machine that someone appears to have spat upon. One such hub interdependency in a global economy is air travel itself. An article by an ebola expert in the German news magazine Der Spiegel mentions his fear that ebola will spread into the slums of India via air traffic hubs in the middle east. “Dubai could become a location of super contagion for those who change planes there are not subjected to any kind of health monitoring and travellers from Europe, America and Asia all sit together in the transit area in a colourful mix with people from Guinea, Kenya, Nigeria with no controls at all. Then they fly off to everywhere in the world”.[2]

Now the point here is that the logical thing to do would be some form of quarantine arrangements for a number of weeks before travel is allowed between countries but the consequences of this on the world airline industry would be catastrophic – and quite soon we are talking about a collapse or severe disruption of a large part of the global economy. Yet we know how our betters react to this – when “Mad Cow Disease” was identified in the UK it took 6 months to acknowledge the problem for the public so great was the fear of disrupting the meat market. And of course a disruption of the global economy should not be talked of lightly anyway – the pharmaceutical giants who. in principle, might eventually deliver us a treatment operate transnationally too.

In the meantime though there is a threshold, a tipping point in which a disease outbreak would be amplified by disruption to the economy. We can already see that in West Africa where ebola has led to rising food prices because it has disrupted the cultivation of food. In our own society it is easy to see that we cannot easily withdraw from close interpersonal contact without economic effects – for example it seems obvious that schools might be vectors of infection yet closing schools has profound effects on the ability of parents to work….

So…should we be fearful? I think that we should and if we could direct our reasoned fear at the politicians, officials and health managers to wake them up from their complacent attitude and devote a lot of resources and attention then that would be a thoroughly good thing….

More to follow…for now let me conclude with the following remark: in 1348 – 1349 probably one third of the population of the UK died from the Black Death that had already killed millions of people in India and the middle east. it then re-occured repeatedly over the next few hundred years. The depopulation of the Americas by disease introduced by the invading europeans was even more startling – with a death toll from disease by a startling 90%.

It could happen again – if we don’t want it to we will need a lot more focused attention and resources to prevent it – and a lot less complacency.

——————————-

PS [added at 15:41, October 8]: People are very concerned about airborne infection and I think a concern about droplet infection assumes that people are “producing droplets” – yet, I’ve not heard of coughs and sneezes from Ebola victims.

It seems to me that the problem is more likely to be that, once ill, people may soil themselves, vomit, sweat, bleed and pee too – and that has to be cleared up somehow. It has to be cleared up in a specially constructed highly controlled medical setting ideally – but there will be a need to deal with this in their own homes, in hotel rooms, on trains and planes, perhaps in public loos and so on – and in many cases it may not be known to the person concerned or those clearing up that this might be infectious stuff because this is at the early stage of the onset of symptoms and a diagnosis has not yet been made.

So what are the protocols for clearing up in these multiple different settings and for cleaners, nurses or family members, working in a hotel or public lavatory, for knowing whether a drunk just spewed up because s/he had too many or there is something more serious on the floor of a public lavatory?

What do you say to people who have been living with someone found to have ebola – what are they to do with those sheets? How does a teacher or nursery nurse know that the small child that soiled itself is from an infected family?

And here’s another thing to be concerned about. I’ve translated it from the latest copy of Der Spiegel (Issue number 41: 2014 page 117) This really is an example of Murphy’s Law

“Protective suits becoming scarce

Because of the ebola infection in west africa the demand for suits to protect against viral infection has risen so steeply that there is a threat of a bottleneck in the supply. DuPont, one of the world’s largest suppliers of these protective suits, is speaking of a “critical situation”. Because the the overalls can only be used once the need of international health organisations can barely be met. Already many hundreds of thousands of such protective suits are used every month according to DuPonts business manager Albrecht Gerland. There will soon be a need for a million. The Dutch business Imres, which has also produced more than 270,000 protective overalls since the beginning of the epidemic, is complaining that the production of overalls is becoming ever more difficult”

Further discussion of the effects of a global pandemic can be found in David Korowicz’s paper Catastrophic shocks through complex socio-economic systems: a pandemic perspective.

Endnote

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2014/oct/07/nigeria-ebola-experience-teach-world
[2] Der Spiegel 40/2014 (Print Issue ) “Seuchen. Indien ist schutzlos” Interview with Gerd Antes page 104

Feautered image: Ebola virus. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebola_virus#mediaviewer/File:Ebola_virus_em.png

The Money Valve II

Off the keyboard of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on June 1, 2014

money_spigot_1

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Prior articles in this series: The Money Valve

In my last article, I diagrammed out the gross flow of downhill energy through the Money Valve, down through Industry and Consumption toward its final destination as Waste. Readers interested in this aspect of Industrial Economics may be interested also in the Waste Based Economy series here on the Diner.

Waste Based Society
Waste Based Society II: Vendor Financing & Planned Obsolescence
Waste Based Society III: Solutions & Alternatives

MoneyValve3

The basic flowchart turning resources into waste through the Money Valve of Central Banks is straightforward and easy to understand. However, it does not look at all the various Feedback Loops that are engineered into the system in order to keep it operating. Most notably what is not included in the diagram is how Goobermint and the Military are involved, or how taxation and interest serve to capture wealth out of the system for the Elite class of society.

So for this installment of the Money Valve series, I made a basic Web diagram to show the relationships of these portions of the economy, and from that define where the waste is produced at each level. Rather than try to show all the flows and backflows on the diagram with a bazillion arrows and colored lines (which would have taken forever),  what I did was to label each of the Nodes with a number, and each number has a corresponding explanation below for the connections. So, let’s look at the Web of Connections in the Waste Based Economy.

The large number of connections that results from even a restricted number of nodes results in a lot of information to cover, much more than you want to eat for the Diner Brunch on a Sunday Morning.  So I have broken this analysis up into 3 parts, and for today we will look at the first 5 nodes and their relationship to the rest of the economy.

MoneyValve7

oilwell1- Energy Resource

The whole game begins with a large stock of Energy yet to be accessed. In the example I will use here, we are looking mainly at the FSoA in the mid-1800s when Standard Oil first began pumping Oil out of Pennsylvania, then Texas and Oklahoma and California, right up to today fracking the last of it out of the Bakken and Marcellus shale formations. However, all the principles apply globally as well to Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, everywhere the Industrial Economy moved to either on the Extraction or Consumption end.

In order to gain control over the resource in any given area, you need a Military to take control over the area.

2- Military Acquisition and Control

In the case of the FSoA, using the Military to gain control over the territories was done during the “Manifest Destiny” period, clearing the land of the Native Population that still remained and making it “safe” for the Industrial Economy begun in Europe to move into. The Civil War was a part of that Battle, pitting Industrialists from the North against the more Agrarian based economy of the South. Globally speaking, WWI & WWII were about taking control over the vast Oil Reserves held in the Middle East, and bringing those resources under the control of the Industrial based Economy.

http://www.christiebooks.com/ChristieBooksWP/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Smedley_Butler.jpgGeneral Smedley Butler wrote about how the Military functions as the enforcement arm of the Capitalist Racket in his paper War is a Racket.

You see 4 Connections in addition to the Energy Connection on the Web from the Military Node, to Industry, Consumers, Goobermint and Infrastructure.

The connection to Goobermint should be obvious, your Goobermint provides the Justification for your Army. If you don’t have the Stamp of Approval for Violence from Da Goobermint, then you are Thieves and Murderers. Goobermint has a monopoly on Legal Violence, and provides Political and Legal justifications for all military actions.

Industry is essential for the Military in the modern age, since all warfare is conducted using Machines made by Industry. As Smedley Butler wrote, the folks who benefit the most from War are those who control the factories that make the War Machines. Industrialists profit by selling Guns & Bullets to BOTH sides of any War

Why are Consumers necessary for the Military? Consumers are the Cannon Fodder! Where else are you gonna get people to go out and fight from? The Elite certainly aren’t going to get out in front of the Bullets and RPGs!

Infrastructure? Just how much do you think it costs each year to maintain hundreds of Military Bases here in the FSoA and all over the world? That is some expensive Infrastructure out there! Besides that, you have all those roads necessary to drive the Humvees and APCs on! HTF would the military machine operate without all those roads? About as well as it operated in the Jungle of Vietnam, which is to say EPIC FAIL. Does the Military pay for those roads? Hell no, the Taxpayer pays for them so he can Happy Motor around, longs as he can still afford Gas anyhow.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6f/John_D._Rockefeller_1885.jpg3- Energy Extractors

Now, in popular parlance these folks are called “Energy PRODUCERS” but in fact they produce nothing so this is a complete misnomer. These folks simply extract Energy that has been stored up underground for a few million years and pitch it out to be burned up. The process of burning it is what generates the gobs of “wealth” the folks controlling this bizness have, so it behooves them to encourage as much consumption as possible. At least it did as long as they had gobs of it easily available to dig up anyhow.

The energy because it came up so cheap and easy served as a Loss Leader for the other Industries it was based on, specifically the Automotive Industry, the Aircraft Industry, the Electrical Grid and the Telecommunications Grid. Each of these Industries requires copious amounts of cheap oil and cheap credit to keep functioning. At the moment, these industries continue to be supported by cheap credit, but they run shorter each day on cheap energy to keep them functioning. Even if they still have access to credit, if the Consumers do not, they can’t sell it.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/30/Standard_Oil.jpg

http://www.bilderberg.org/standard.jpg4- The Money Valve: Central Banking

Obviously the topic of Central Banking is way too deep to explore in a couple of paragraphs here. Basically however, once you have control over a Resource, you need to also have control over the credit creation mechanism for people to begin to buy that resource from you. It is no coincidence of course that the very same people who are the energy extractors and Industrialists involved in this game are ALSO the people who issue out the credit to buy it. John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan both live on today as JP Morgan Chase, Standard Oil lives on in Exxon-Mobil and so forth. The Banking and Energy Industries are integrally tied together, one does not function without the other.

In presenting it, you notice I use a much larger Font for the Banking System, and also present this before Goobermint in the structure. Why?

Well, in the olden days, Goobermint came before Banking and Money, but in the modern world, Banking controls Goobermint. Entities like the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and Da Federal Reserve Bank (really a Private Company, not a Goobermint Agency) are all controlled by a supra-national Cartel, often referred to as the “Illuminati”. Basically these are just all the people and families which took control of the Banking System beginning in the Medici Era, continuing through the Colonial Period and currently running the entire economic syste that built up through the period.

Today, this system can even make somebody like Vlad the Impaler in control of Russia capitulate. Remains to be seen if a Chinese-Ruskie alliance is strong enough to combat the economic sanctions and loss of credit from the International Bankster Cartel.

So for today, and for at least the last couple of Centuries, Banking has led Goobermint in control over the kind of civilization that developed, which of course is the Waste Based Economy.

 

http://anticap.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/broken-ladder-economic-immobility-cartoon.jpg

5- Goobermint

On the administrative level, Goobermint is necessary as a means to make Legal Warfare, and provide cover for the Banking System. J6P is sold the idea his Goobermint is Democratic and represents what he wants, when really it represents what the Banking Cartel wants. Nobody gets elected without kowtowing to the Banksters, money required to GET elected is beyond the reach of all but Billionaires these days, so each person elected to a Representative position in a “republic” is in fact beholden to numerous Special Interests that funded his campaign. Whether Democrat or Republican, every member of Congress and State legislatures is beholden to the folks who can fund their campaigns.

Once IN office, anyone who has even a sliver of moral decency left in their soul is bombarded every day by various Lobbyist, all also funded by Industry. The end result is that all legislation that gets passed is directed to benefit the Industrialists who run the system. Even supposedly good Agencies like the EPA just serve as an excuse to offshore industry to cheaper labor countries where they don’t have strict laws regarding pitching pollutants out into the atmosphere and water supply. The EPA would never have gained any ground at all if industrialists didn’t KNOW they could simply move the factories to other locations.

http://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/lookandlearn-preview/B/B001/B001746.jpgAs you can see, Goobermint has numerous connections to all the other areas of the Economy, primarily funded by Taxes on all the Commerce going on, and Debt floated by the Money Valve Banks. Taxes worked OK in the early days of the Ponzi, now it is all increasing Debt that keeps Da Goobermint floating. In theory a Goobermint should be able to issue it’s own money, however since the International Banking Cartel took over the Money Biz going back to the Medici Era, it has been close to impossible for any Goobermint to do this independently. The Cartel steps all over them, cuts them off from Credit, their Money Hyperinflates and they are screwed. In the current case of the Ruskies and China, they are trying to break free of this and may be large enough to do so, but even if they succeed it just crashes the whole global trade system. No win situation there, damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Besides providing Justification for the Military arm, the main job of Da Goobermint is to provide Infrastructure to make the whole system work tha Industry doesn’t want to pay for, because if they did they couldn’t sieve off any Profits. This includes all the Road Maintenance, Police necessary to enforce laws and Private Property claims,Teachers and Schools to Warehouse kids until old enough to get a job (assuming any exist in the economy when they get out of school in their 30s sometime) etc. Also of course the ballooning SS and Medicaire liabilities incurred here over time. Da Goobermint provides the sinkhole for all the stuff Industrialists don’t want to foot the bill for. Which of course becomes greater all the time as the system becomes more complex and involves a greater population size, while at the same time revenues decrease across the board because of a decreasing energy stock available at a cheap credit price. its a combination of positive feedback loops that send the debt levels exponential as the Ponzi draws to a close.

http://www.fedupusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/sec-revolving-door-cartoon.jpg

The main difference in this part of the network chart is the curved lines I drew between the Money Valve and Goobermint. What those represent is the Revolving Door that exists between these two entities that allows for stuff like Regulatory Capture to occur and keeps all legislation favorable to Industry. It is the system of Fascism which underlies all Goobermints participating in this monetary system, which is essentially all of them around the Globe today. Central Bankers and Financial Ministers are all selected from the ranks of Banksters who worked for Goldman-Sachs or JP Morgan Chase. Lobbyists all come from the ranks of ex-Politicians who get juicy high paid jobs from Industry after leaving office. Agencies like the SEC which supposedly regulate the system are entirely in the pocket of those they are supposed to be regulating. Together, these two entities form a parasitical symbiosis that feeds on the rest of the surrounding economy.

In Part III of The Money Valve series next Sunday, we will look at the connections between the core Infrastructructure and Systems elements of the economy that serve as the engine which drives the machine forward, so long as there is sufficient available energy to drive it.

RE

The Fourteen Year Recession

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on March 24, 2014

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“When a government is dependent upon bankers for money, they and not the leaders of the government control the situation, since the hand that gives is above the hand that takes. Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain.”Napoleon Bonaparte

Click to View

“A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is privately concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men … [W]e have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated, governments in the civilized world—no longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and the duress of small groups of dominant men.”Woodrow Wilson

When you ponder the implications of allowing a small group of powerful wealthy unaccountable men to control the currency of a nation over the last one hundred years, you understand why our public education system sucks. You understand why the government created Common Core curriculum teaches children that 3 x 4 = 13, as long as you feel good about your answer. George Carlin was right. The owners of this country (bankers, billionaires, corporate titans, politicians) want more for themselves and less for everyone else. They want an educational system that creates ignorant, obedient, vacuous, obese dullards who question nothing, consume mass quantities of corporate processed fast food, gaze at iGadgets, are easily susceptible to media propaganda and compliant to government regulations and directives. They don’t want highly educated, critical thinking, civil minded, well informed, questioning citizens understanding how badly they have been screwed over the last century. I’m sorry to say, your owners are winning in a landslide.

The government controlled public education system has flourished beyond all expectations of your owners. We’ve become a nation of techno-narcissistic, math challenged, reality TV distracted, welfare entitled, materialistic, gluttonous, indebted consumers of Chinese slave labor produced crap. There are more Americans who know the name of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s bastard child (North West) than know the name of our Secretary of State (Ketchup Kerry). Americans can generate a text or tweet with blinding speed but couldn’t give you change from a dollar bill if their life depended upon it. They are whizzes at buying crap on Amazon or Ebay with a credit card, but have never balanced their checkbook or figured out the concept of deferred gratification and saving for the future. While the ignorant masses are worked into a frenzy by the media propaganda machine over gay marriage, diversity, abortion, climate change, and never ending wars on poverty, drugs and terror, our owners use their complete capture of the financial, regulatory, political, judicial and economic systems to pillage the remaining national wealth they haven’t already extracted.

The financial illiteracy of the uneducated lower classes and the willful ignorance of the supposedly highly educated classes has never been more evident than when examining the concept of Federal Reserve created currency debasement – also known as inflation. The insidious central banker created monetary inflation is the cause of all the ills in our warped, deformed, rigged financialized economic system. The outright manipulation and falsity of government reported economic data is designed to obscure the truth and keep the populace unaware of the deception being executed by the owners of this country. They have utilized deceit, falsification, propaganda and outright lies to mislead the public about the true picture of the disastrous financial condition in this country. Since most people are already trapped in the mental state of normalcy bias, it is easy for those in control to reinforce that normalcy bias by manipulating economic data to appear normal and using their media mouthpieces to perpetuate the false storyline of recovery and a return to normalcy.

This is how feckless politicians and government apparatchiks are able to add $2.8 billion per day to the national debt; a central bank owned by Too Big To Trust Wall Street banks has been able to create $3.3 trillion out of thin air and pump it into the veins of its owners; and government controlled agencies report a declining unemployment rate, no inflation and a growing economy, without creating an iota of dissent or skepticism from the public. Americans want to be lied to because it allows them to continue living lives of delusion, where spending more than you make, consuming rather than saving, and believing stock market speculation and home price appreciation will make them rich are viable life strategies. Even though 90% of the population owns virtually no stocks, they are convinced record stock market highs are somehow beneficial to their lives. They actually believe Bernanke/Yellen when they bloviate about the dangers of deflation. Who would want to pay less for gasoline, food, rent, or tuition?

Unless you are beholden to the oligarchs, that sense of stress, discomfort, feeling that all in not well, and disturbing everyday visual observations is part of the cognitive dissonance engulfing the nation. Anyone who opens their eyes and honestly assesses their own financial condition, along with the obvious deterioration of our suburban sprawl retail paradise infrastructure, is confronted with information that is inconsistent with what they hear from their bought off politician leaders, highly compensated Ivy League trained economists, and millionaire talking heads in the corporate legacy media. Most people resolve this inconsistency by ignoring the facts, rejecting the obvious and refusing to use their common sense. To acknowledge the truth would require confronting your own part in this Ponzi debt charade disguised as an economic system. It is easier to believe a big lie than think critically and face up to decades of irrational behavior and reckless conduct.

What’s In Your GDP                          

“The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is one of the broader measures of economic activity and is the most widely followed business indicator reported by the U.S. government. Upward growth biases built into GDP modeling since the early 1980s, however, have rendered this important series nearly worthless as an indicator of economic activity.  The popularly followed number in each release is the seasonally adjusted, annualized quarterly growth rate of real (inflation-adjusted) GDP, where the current-dollar number is deflated by the BEA’s estimates of appropriate price changes. It is important to keep in mind that the lower the inflation rate used in the deflation process, the higher will be the resulting inflation-adjusted GDP growth.”John Williams – Shadowstats

GDP is the economic statistic bankers, politicians and media pundits use to convince the masses the economy is growing and their lives are improving. Therefore, it is the statistic most likely to be manipulated, twisted and engineered in order to portray the storyline required by the oligarchs. Two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth usually marks a recession. Those in power do not like to report recessions, so data “massaging” has been required over the last few decades to generate the required result. Prior to 1991 the government reported the broader GNP, which includes the GDP plus the balance of international flows of interest and dividend payments. Once we became a debtor nation, with massive interest payments to foreigners, reporting GNP became inconvenient. It is not reported because it is approximately $900 billion lower than GDP. The creativity of our keepers knows no bounds. In July of 2013 the government decided they had found a more “accurate” method for measuring GDP and simply retroactively increased GDP by $500 billion out of thin air. It’s amazing how every “more accurate” accounting adjustment improves the reported data. The economic growth didn’t change, but GDP was boosted by 3%. These adjustments pale in comparison to the decades long under-reporting of inflation baked into the GDP calculation.

As John Williams pointed out, GDP is adjusted for inflation. The higher inflation factored into the calculation, the lower reported GDP. The deflator used by the BEA in their GDP calculation is even lower than the already bastardized CPI. According to the BEA, there has only been 32% inflation since the year 2000. They have only found 1.4% inflation in the last year and only 7.1% in the last five years. You’d have to be a zombie from the Walking Dead or an Ivy League economist to believe those lies. Anyone living in the real world knows their cost of living has risen at a far greater rate. According to the government, and unquestioningly reported by the compliant co-conspirators in the the corporate media, GDP has grown from $10 trillion in 2000 to $17 trillion today. Even using the ridiculously low inflation BEA adjustment yields an increase from $12.4 trillion to only $15.9 trillion in real terms. That pitiful 28% growth over the last fourteen years is dramatically overstated, as revealed in the graph below. Using a true rate of inflation exposes the grand fraud being committed by those in power. The country has been in a never ending recession since 2000.

Your normalcy bias is telling you this is impossible. Your government tells you we have only experienced a recession from the third quarter of 2008 through the third quarter of 2009. So despite experiencing two stock market crashes, the greatest housing crash in history, and a worldwide financial system implosion the authorities insist  we’ve had a growing economy 93% of the time over the last fourteen years. That mental anguish you are feeling is the cognitive dissonance of wanting to believe your government, but knowing they are lying. It is a known fact the government, in conspiracy with Greenspan, Congress and academia, have systematically reduced the reported CPI based upon hedonistic quality adjustments, geometric weighting alterations, substitution modifications, and the creation of incomprehensible owner’s equivalent rent calculations. Since the 1700s consumer inflation had been estimated by measuring price changes in a fixed-weight basket of goods, effectively measuring the cost of maintaining a constant standard of living. This began to change in the early 1980s with the Greenspan Commission to “save” Social Security and came to a head with the Boskin Commission in 1995.

Simply stated, the Greenspan/Boskin Commissions’ task was to reduce future Social Security payments to senior citizens by deceitfully reducing CPI and allowing politicians the easy way out. Politicians would lose votes if they ever had to directly address the unsustainability of Social Security. Therefore, they allowed academics to work their magic by understating the CPI and stealing $700 billion from retirees in the ten years ending in 2006. With 10,000 baby boomers per day turning 65 for the next eighteen years, understating CPI will rob them of trillions in payments. This is a cowardly dishonest method of extending the life of Social Security.

If CPI was calculated exactly as it was computed prior to 1983, it would have averaged between 5% and 10% over the last fourteen years. Even computing it based on the 1990 calculation prior to the Boskin Commission adjustments, would have produced annual inflation of 4% to 7%. A glance at an inflation chart from 1872 through today reveals the complete and utter failure of the Federal Reserve in achieving their stated mandate of price stability. They have managed to reduce the purchasing power of your dollar by 95% over the last 100 years. You may also notice the net deflation from 1872 until 1913, when the American economy was growing rapidly. It is almost as if the Federal Reserve’s true mandate has been to create inflation, finance wars, perpetuate the proliferation of debt, artificially create booms and busts, enrich their Wall Street owners, and impoverish the masses. Happy Birthday Federal Reserve!!!

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When you connect the dots you realize the under-reporting of inflation benefits the corporate fascist surveillance state. If the government was reporting the true rate of inflation, mega-corporations would be forced to pay their workers higher wages, reducing profits, reducing corporate bonuses, and sticking a pin in their stock prices. The toady economists at the Federal Reserve would be unable to sustain their ludicrous ZIRP and absurd QEfinity stock market levitation policies. Reporting a true rate of inflation would force long-term interest rates higher. These higher rates, along with higher COLA increases to government entitlements, would blow a hole in the deficit and force our spineless politicians to address our unsustainable economic system. There would be no stock market or debt bubble. If the clueless dupes watching CNBC bimbos and shills on a daily basis were told the economy has been in fourteen year downturn, they might just wake up and demand accountability from their leaders and an overhaul of this corrupt system.

Mother Should I Trust the Government?

We know the BEA has deflated GDP by only 32% since 2000. We know the BLS reports the CPI has only risen by 37% since 2000. Should I trust the government or trust the facts and my own eyes? The data is available to see if the government figures pass the smell test. If you are reading this, you can remember your life in 2000. Americans know what it cost for food, energy, shelter, healthcare, transportation and entertainment in 2000, but they unquestioningly accept the falsified inflation figures produced by the propaganda machine known as our government. The chart below is a fairly comprehensive list of items most people might need to live in this world. A critical thinking individual might wonder how the government can proclaim inflation of 32% to 37% over the last fourteen years, when the true cost of living has grown by 50% to 100% for most daily living expenses. The huge increases in property taxes, sales taxes, government fees, tolls and income taxes aren’t even factored in the chart. It seems gold has smelled out the currency debasement and the lies of our leaders. This explains the concerted effort by the powers that be to suppress the price of gold by any means necessary.

 

Living Expense

Jan-00

Mar-14

% Increase

Gallon of gas

$1.27

$3.51

176.4%

Barrel of oil

$24.11

$100.00

314.8%

Fuel oil per gallon

$1.19

$4.07

242.0%

Electricity per Kwh

$0.084

$0.134

59.5%

Gas per therm

$0.712

$1.078

51.4%

Dozen eggs

$0.97

$2.00

106.2%

Coffee per lb

$3.40

$5.20

52.9%

Ground Beef per lb.

$1.90

$3.73

96.3%

Postage stamp

$0.33

$0.49

48.5%

Movie ticket

$5.25

$10.25

95.2%

New car

$20,300.00

$31,500.00

55.2%

Annual healthcare spending per capita

$4,550.00

$9,300.00

104.4%

Average private college tuition

$22,000.00

$37,000.00

68.2%

Avg home price (Case Shiller)

$161,000.00

$242,000.00

50.3%

Avg monthly rent (Case Shiller)

$635.00

$890.00

40.2%

Ounce of gold

$279.00

$1,334.00

378.1%

Mother, you should not trust the government. There is no doubt they have systematically under-reported inflation based on any impartial assessment of the facts. The reality that we remain stuck in a fourteen year recession is borne out by the continued decline in vehicle miles driven (at 1995 levels) due to declining commercial activity, the millions of shuttered small businesses, and the proliferation of Space Available signs in strip malls and office parks across the land. The fact there are only 8 million more people employed today than were employed in 2000, despite the working age population growing by 35 million, might be a clue that we remain in recession. If that isn’t enough proof for you, than maybe a glimpse at real median household income, retail sales and housing will put the final nail in the coffin of your cognitive dissonance.

The government and their media mouthpieces expect the ignorant masses to believe they have advanced their standard of living, with median household income growing from $40,800 to $52,500 since 2000. But, even using the badly flawed CPI to adjust these figures into real terms reveals real median household income to be 7.3% below the level of 2000. Using a true inflation figure would cause a CNBC talking head to have an epileptic seizure.

Click to View

The picture is even bleaker when broken down into the age of households, with younger households suffering devastating real declines in household income since 2000. I guess all those retail clerk, cashier, waitress, waiter, food prep, and housekeeper jobs created over the last few years aren’t cutting the mustard. Maybe that explains the 30 million increase (175% increase) in food stamp recipients since 2000, encompassing 19% of all households in the U.S. Luckily the banking oligarchs were able to convince the pliable masses to increase their credit card, auto and student loan debt from $1.5 trillion to $3.1 trillion over the fourteen year descent into delusion.

When you get your head around this unprecedented decline in household income over the last fourteen years, along with the 50% to 100% rise in costs to live in the real world, as opposed to the theoretical world of the Federal Reserve and BLS, you will understand the long term decline in retail sales reflected in the following chart. When you adjust monthly retail sales for gasoline (an additional tax), inflation (understated), and population growth, you understand why retailers are closing thousands of stores and hurdling towards inevitable bankruptcy. Retail sales are 6.9% below the June 2005 peak and 4% below levels reached in 2000. And this is with millions of retail square feet added over this time frame. We know the dramatic surge from the 2009 lows was not prompted by an increase in household income. So how did the 11% proliferation of spending happen?

Click to View

The up swell in retail spending began to accelerate in late 2010. Considering credit card debt outstanding is at exactly where it was in October 2010, it seems consumers playing with their own money turned off the spigot of speculation. It has been non-revolving debt that has skyrocketed from $1.63 trillion in February 2010 to $2.26 trillion today. This unprecedented 39% rise in four years has been engineered by the government, using your tax dollars and the tax dollars of unborn generations. The Federal government has complete control of the student loan market and with their 85% ownership of Ally Financial, the largest auto financing company, a dominant position in the auto loan market. The peddling of $400 billion of subprime student loan debt and $200 billion of subprime auto loan debt has created the illusion of a retail recovery. The student loan debt has been utilized by University of Phoenix MBA wannabes  to buy iGadgets, the latest PS3 version of Grand Theft Auto and the latest glazed donut breakfast sandwich on the market. It’s nothing but another debt financed bubble that will end in tears for the American taxpayer, as hundreds of billions will be written off.

The fake retail recovery pales in comparison to the wolves of Wall Street produced housing recovery sham. They deserve an Academy Award for best fantasy production. The Federal Reserve fed Wall Street hedge fund purchase of millions of foreclosed shanties across the nation has produced media proclaimed home price increases of 10% to 30% in cities across the country. Withholding foreclosures from the market and creating artificial demand with free money provided by the Federal Reserve has temporarily added $4 trillion of housing net worth and reduced the number of underwater mortgages on the books of the Too Big To Trust Wall Street banks. The percentage of investor purchases and cash purchases is at all-time highs, while the percentage of first time buyers is at all-time lows. Anyone with an ounce of common sense can look at the long-term chart of mortgage applications and realize we are still in a recession. Applications are 35% below levels at the depths of the 2008/2009 recession. Applications are 65% below levels at the housing market peak in 2005. They are even 35% below 2000 levels. There is no real housing recovery, despite the propaganda peddled by the NAR, CNBC, and Wall Street. It’s a fraud.

It is the pinnacle of arrogance and hubris that a few Ivy League educated economists sitting in the Marriner Eccles Building in the swamps of Washington D.C., who have never worked a day in their lives at a real job, think they can create wealth and pull the levers of money creation to control the American and global financial systems. All they have done is perfect the art of bubble finance in order to enrich their owners at the expense of the rest of us. Their policies have induced unwarranted hope and speculation on a grand scale. Greenspan and Bernanke have provoked multiple bouts of extreme speculation in stocks and housing over the last 15 years, with the subsequent inevitable collapses. Fed encouraged gambling does not create wealth it just redistributes it from the peasants to the aristocracy. The Fed has again produced an epic bubble in stock and bond valuations which will result in another collapse. Normalcy bias keeps the majority from seeing the cliff straight ahead. Federal Reserve monetary policies have distorted financial markets, created extreme imbalances, encouraged excessive risk taking, and ruined the lives of working class people. Take a long hard look at the chart below and answer one question. Was QE designed to benefit Main Street or Wall Street?

The average American has experienced a fourteen year recession caused by the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve. Our leaders could have learned the lesson of two Fed induced collapses in the space of eight years and voluntarily abandoned the policies of reckless credit expansion, instead embracing policies encouraging saving, capital investment and balanced budgets. They have chosen the same cure as the disease, which will lead to crisis, catastrophe and collapse.

“There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.” – Ludwig von Mises

 

Can Democracy Work in the Absence of Sufficient Sapience?

Off the keyboard of George Mobus

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Published on Question Everything on October 5, 2013

human-evolution

Discuss this article at the Epicurian Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

What is Going On in Washington DC?

If it weren’t so tragic it would be funny. I’m not worried about whether or not the government stays shut down, or even that the US should default on its promises. The return to recession is not going to be prevented by avoiding these possibilities. It is baked into the cake. No, I am worried about the implications of some of the most “powerful” people in the world acting like absolute idiots (on all sides). I see no evidence of even a small smattering of sapience in any of the decisions being made in Washington. In my opinion the Tea Party members of Congress are demonstrating the antithesis of sapience right now. But I see nothing in the balance of the Republicans or the Democratic leaderships either. And the president doesn’t get a pass either. The US government is broken because those people are there because of the democratic process that led to their selection.

What is most worrying about it is that the citizens who sent them to Washington seem not to have a clue. The people get the government they deserve.

In Feb. 2008 I ran a series of posts critiquing democracy and how it works as a system for choosing who will participate in the governance process. The first, “Might we have gotten it wrong about democracy?”, asked that question and examined a microcosm of democratic governance in the form of academic institutions. It considered how real people make decisions in situation where they are expected to have the competence (or so they think) but do not, in fact. I examined the way in which the academy’s “shared governance” model is failing to work. Using this microcosm as an example of the larger problems with democratic (or representative democracies) politics and governance. I concluded: “…government would work if people were wise.” If they were wise they would be able to meet the minimum requirements for an electorate to choose capable people to represent them in their governments.

The second post, “How is representative democracy working out for us in the modern world?,” pointed out some of the cognitive issues that produce obstacles to a viable democratic process. A big problem is the cognitive load, or overload, that modern people under due to the complexity of modern society and especially technology. I said, “The concept of democracy depends on citizens who understand the issues and the way things work.” The modern world is overwhelming to the vast majority of citizens. The coping mechanisms that have been adopted by so many have made it impossible for democracy to work.

Finally, I posted “If not democracy, then what?” In that post I introduced an alternate way to look at governance from the perspective of hierarchical cybernetic theory (and mentioned how it operates in many natural systems). In a separate series of posts, “Sapient Governance,” I followed up with a description of that alternate perspective. In all of these I have given evidence that the current system is failing badly given the context of the modern, technological world, overpopulated world. I have argued that the real underlying cause is that humans only evolved a primitive level of sapience (the attribute that makes us different from all other animals) that is simply inadequate in this world. Democracy depends on capacities in the electorate that are simply not being met, and the people they are sending to office are no better able to make good judgments.

A Knowledgeable, Informed, and Thoughtful Electorate

Democracy can only work if the electorate has these capabilities. Granted that the environment has a lot to do with how these are actualized. For example, to be knowledgeable depends somewhat on the education system. I say somewhat because I know many people who survived the modern school-based education system and came out knowledgeable in spite of it! A fundamental aspect of sapience is sensing that you do not know and then seeking information that helps you self-educate.

Nevertheless, the education system is responsible for literally squashing curiosity in the young minds while training them to simply memorize what will be on the test and calling it education. Notice I said the education system. There are many fine and capable educators out there who understand this problem from personal experience. But the system determines punishments and rewards to teachers. In the university we have student evaluation surveys at the end of each term. Students fill out a bubble sheet of Likert scaled questions meant to evaluate how the teacher has done and the quality of the course. Aside from the many obvious criticisms of this approach (its validity in measuring quality of teaching and curriculum) administrators rely on the outcomes when deciding on those rewards and punishments. The high schools have done a great job of teaching students that the game is actually teach/learn to the test, which is actually fairly straightforward and devoid of any real cognitive work on either the teacher or the student. When they get to college, they expect the same sort of system, one they now know how to game for the coin of the realm – grades. The most common question I get from freshmen is, “Is this going to be on the test?” The most common complaint I get, even from juniors, is that my courses are not structured enough (take a look at my syllabi and tell where they get that notion). The fact is that many of my colleagues seem to have acquiesced to this game and especially in order to get tenure and promotion they teach from the textbook to the tests. Those students generally give better grades to their teachers! Fortunately for me, I got tenure before the No Child Left Behind (at the bottom all alone – keep them all there) mentality with its standardized tests providing the measure of success, had yet had a major impact on students’ attitudes. The student evaluations from that time reflected that many students appreciated the greater rigor of college and expected to have to work at thinking and integrating knowledge. My scores while still an assistant professor reflected that. Even then, administrators were happy to take the expedient path of evaluating teaching on the basis of this one measure.

We now have seen several high school graduating classes come to college after the NCLB-standardized testing (high stakes testing) has left its mark on the culture of high school. And we have seen new junior faculty who need good evaluations in order to get tenured quickly pick up on how to play the game (this also goes for lecturers who have to get their contracts renewed). Indeed some of them actually went to high school as the transition to the game was underway and so know very well what to do.

So just how knowledgeable is the citizenry that has been emerging out of our education system over the last two decades? There are numerous studies now that indicate that most are not very well educated when it comes to critical thinking. Indeed they are not even educated about facts. I asked some freshmen how the three branches of government (US) interacted systemically as we tried to model a governance system. Over half could not remember what all three branches were let alone how they interacted. They would say things like, “the president, the cabinet, and the senate.” I don’t know but that doesn’t sound promising to me. When I corrected them and showed them the model they all then suddenly remembered that they covered something like that in civics courses, but it was so dull they didn’t pay attention. At least they were honest about their experience. But seriously, this same thing has been shown for college graduates and people who have worked for years after college.

So strike out one for democracy. Over forty percent of the American population don’t “believe” in evolution, as if it was an option to believe in. Though the number is growing smaller, at one point more than half of American citizens didn’t “believe” in human-caused global warming. But now that it is too late to seriously do anything meaningful about it, the freaky weather patterns that are taking over have got more of them believing. The point is that none of these people were in a position to critically evaluate the evidence and the science.

Strike out two — informed electorate. To have an informed electorate you need an information system that actually works. Here I would put much more blame on the modern main-stream media. It is supposed to be their job to detect the changes in our societies, analyze the causes, and report unbiased to the public. How does Fox News measure up to that? But Fox News is an abhorrent example. They are driven by ideology to begin with. The other networks, even including National Public Radio and TV are culpable for a slightly different reason. Their approach to reporting has been shaped by the markets. For-profit networks have to publish what sells to gain eyeballs and thus advertising dollars. PBS and NPR never have sufficient resources and so often rely on commercial news feeds for their content as well.

Let me give you an example of misinformation that has gripped the media of late and has had an influence on public media as well. For the past year or more the ideas of energy independence for the US and vast resources of oil and gas, albeit in tight shale plays, have been filling the papers and airways. The story is downright false. Even as I write this some of the early plays are winding down because the availability of oil or gas was tremendously over hyped in the media by the carbon companies because they needed to attract investment capital to stay in business. Those plays, which we were told by the media, would last a hundred years, are already in serious decline and will fall far short of the promises. The media’s role in this was to simply parrot what the so-called expert talking heads were feeding them. Those folks, in turn, were in the pockets of the major carbon players. But did anyone in the media stop to critically analyze what they were saying? Of course not. They played the game. Sell advertising spots. Sell viewer/listener support. Tell the audience what they WANT to hear. Even while these stories (which are still circulating even as the plays are starting to decline) were being foisted on the public, there were several researchers who had already determined, scientifically, that the tight gas and oil was just a hyped story. They had the data and the models to prove it. But did any of the media want to listen. Hell no. That isn’t the way to sell papers or advertising spots.

So the public’s information channels are simply dysfunctional. More misinformation than information is being spread. And in the area of political information it is even worse. The media people have absolutely no concept of critical thinking when it comes to presenting various ideological views. In the so-called interest of fairness to all sides they present Tea Party nut jobs as somehow equivalent to liberal politicians. Well, I guess, in some sense they are equivalent. But more often the liberals show a bit more respect for facts (and science) than do the right wingers.

Which leads to strike out three: thoughtfulness. We are a hedonistic species. Given the option of reading a knowledge book or a juicy novel, guess which one most people will choose. Given a choice between going to a lecture on the evolution of plants or going to a NASCAR race, again, which one will most people choose? Entertainment rules. And it really isn’t hard to understand why. Start with a pathetic education, a lack of motivation, and a spoiled lifestyle (too many energy slaves) and it isn’t really any wonder that people are basically just entertainment/novelty junkies.We do not teach people how to think. In a sense we really shouldn’t need to teach them. The human brain is a natural learning machine. But what we do is teach them how to not think, how to accept what the talking heads and prominent leaders say is true. Since they can’t evaluate claims for truth of subjects, competing claims cause a deepening division. Conservatives listen only to conservatives and liberals listen only to liberals. It is much easier than being thoughtful about the claims.

The world has become incredibly complex. And in a sense you can’t blame people for wanting to take the easy way out.

All of the institutions that are supposedly there to support citizen development are failing badly. And because they all interact with one another they form a reinforcing loop that is driving us deeper and deeper into ignorance, disinformation, and simple hedonistic responses, the antitheses of what it takes to be successful in democratic governance.

What we have ended up with is a governance system that is broken (in my opinion beyond repair). We get the likes of James Inhofe, senator from Oklahoma as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The guy consistently claims the global warming is the greatest left-wing hoax ever perpetrated on the American public. In order to make that claim work, of course, he has had to accuse the entire legitimate climate science community of lying about climate impacts and change. Explain to me how this could ever happen if our democracy is working.

As another example of the sorry state of affairs in government take a look at this article about Congressman Paul Broun, a member of the House Science Committee dismissing evolution. This is not an aberration, unfortunately. Most of the members of the House and many in the Senate do not understand or believe that evolution is the explanation for all biodiversity and our origins as a species of animal. Please explain to me how this man and others like him (and many her’s such as Michele Bachmann, a Republican representative who rails against homosexuality as being against god’s plan) can make thoughtful and knowledge-based decisions.

 

The Absence of Sufficient Sapience

You cannot point to any one aspect or institution and say, “There, that is the prime cause of everything else going wrong.” Everything ‘causes’ everything else. It is a great recurrent web of interactions and positive feedback loops that exist because the actors in all of these institutions are human beings — Homo callidus (formerly sapiens). We are so clever we can figure out, subconsciously of course, how to avoid facts that don’t support our a priori held beliefs and find pseudo-facts that support them. And therein is the problem. If there is a cause it isn’t the cultural and structural elements of the system, it is the actors and decision makers, and benefactors of the system and their lack of sufficient sapience to deal with this complex world that we have created. The few examples we have of more highly sapient beings are not selfish, hedonistic, narcissistic beings. They are more often cooperative, moral, selfless, and thoughtful. They care about others and they think about the future of everyone. They would desire to help make things better if possible. But they also recognize when the systems aren’t working. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people on this planet are inherently low in sapience and that is why they dominate the system.

But there again it isn’t even our fault! We didn’t decide to be low sapients. Blame evolution. Blame natural selection that led us to agriculture where a different set of selection pressures may have started us losing much of the sapience we had evolved up to that point. It does little good to bemoan our situation. It is what it is. I just would like to understand it better, I guess, to satisfy my curiosity.

I don’t write this stuff to point out what the problems are and thereby find solutions anymore. I have long ago realized that the system simply is what it is and it will continue in a dynamic that was set in motion by the evolution of Homo callidus and will lead to, I think, the evolution of Homo eusapiens in the distant future. You and I and our whole human-culture system are just milestones along the path. We can’t be saved, preserved forever. We should not be saved in the sense of preserving the population and going on with business as usual. The essence of humanness, the sapient, abstract symbol processing, tool making, creatures that evolved on this planet does not depend on the current species existing forever. But that essence needs to be saved (if we can). Some of our kind need to succeed in persisting beyond what will surely be a massive population bottleneck event so that the seed of a new, emergent species will be available when the time is right.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Meanwhile try to enjoy the comedy-tragedy that is Washington DC, and for that matter, every other national capital in the world. Washington is probably just the most dramatic because it was the most powerful capital in history. All good things must come to an end eventually.

BLOG-A-THON: Save Eustace Conway & Turtle Island

Off the keyboard of RE

Published on the Doomstead Diner May 12, 2013

Discuss this article at the Doomsteading Table inside the Diner

Every day on the Internet these days you get treated to something VERY WRONG in our society, but rarely is it possible to do much about it.  I am not certain even in this case of complete TRAVESTY and STUPIDITY much can be done to put a stop to it, but in this case it is so ABHORRENT, so RIDICULOUS, and at least for Diners so UTTERLY against all our principles that every means must be undertaken to at least TRY to STOP it.  So with this article, I begin a Week Long Blog-a-thon to raise awareness and assist someone who truly has lived a life by principles of living in Harmony with Nature

Out there in the Boonies of North Carolina in the Appalachian Mountains there is a man named Eustace Conway who built a life for himself as a Modern Day Mountain Man, on the Model of Jeremiah Johnson.  Jeremiah was a Fictional Character, Eustace Conway is not, he is a VERY REAL Person, and what he built and what he stands for is now under attack by the megalithic State that defines our lives in the Age of Oil.

Pretty much from nothing at the age of 17 Eustace Conway walked out in the Appalachian Mountains and taught himself how to live off the land as a modern day Hunter-Gatherer.  That this was even possible at all without running afoul of the Law before this is remarkable in itself, but not only did Eustace survive this way for the last 40 odd years or so, he actually earned a living in the Monetary sense at the same time, as a Teacher of Primitive Living skills.

He didn’t just earn it and spend it either, since he lived mainly off the land, he spent about none of the money he earned, and so some years ago was able to buy a patch of land of 1000 Acres he dubbed “Turtle Island”.  On this land he build numerous structures, Barns, Cabins etc and created a School for Primitive Living Skills.

North Carolina Building Codes Council: Alter NC building codes to exempt structures at Turtle Island Preserve.

What’s the PROBLEM with this?  The problem is said structures are not “Up to Code”, he doesn’t have flushing toilets and so forth and Sprinkler Systems for Fire Prevention aren’t installed, yadda yadda.  Anybody who has ever worked in the Building industry or run any kind of Commercial enterprise knows how much money it takes to bring everything “Up to Code”.

So the local Goobermint Apparatchiks wanna shut down Turtle Island.  Given the state of the world, there is probably no more important example of how to get off the Oil Economy and become self-sufficient as Turtle Island.  Besides that, it is ludicrous to say these buildings are “unsafe”, since prior to around 1900 or so just about everybody lived in such buildings without toilets and sprinkler systems.

Here on the Diner, besides myself we publish the work of numerous Bloggers all concerned in their own ways with the collapsing Oil Economy and Industrial Civilization.  On almost every one of our Blogs in the Commentary you will find many MORE people concerned with the problems we face, along with the constant Search for Solutions.  Here is a man, Eustace Conway who provides a very REAL and SUCCESSFUL model who now faces seeing his Life’s Work be destroyed by an ever more invasive and omnipresent Fascist Goobermint.

To all my Blogger Friends and Cross Posters here on the Diner, I say we CANNOT LET THIS STAND. We need to use our Bully Pulpit here on the Internet to do the best we can to PUT A STOP to this.  So with this article, I am kicking off a Week Long BLOG-A-THON to Raise Awareness and lend support to Eustace Conway and Turtle Island in the best way we can, with what we do as Bloggers.  This week I ask all my Blogger friends to contribute an article to support Eustace Conway, to Sign the Petition yourselves as I have done and to ask all your readers to do the same.  Together, we all get 100s Thousands of Page Hits/Day.  The Petition only needs another 8000 or so Signatures to meet the 25,000 requirement.  If we muster up all our readers, I am certain we can meet this number of Signatories.

Below I am publishing the Petition written by Dan Tingen, Chairman of the Turtle Island Community published on Change.org.  Please go to that website and sign it, and contribute what you can to keep the Turtle Island Preserve functioning and growing and providing a great example for our Nation and ALL PEOPLE on how to move off the Oil Economy and Reverse Engineer back to a more sustainable way of life more in harmony with the only home we have, Mother Earth.

RE

North Carolina Building Codes Council: Alter NC building codes to exempt structures at Turtle Island Preserve.

Dear Friends of Turtle Island Preserve,

Turtle Island Preserve is in danger. Please read this letter, and, if you feel moved to do so, carefully follow the suggestions for support provided at the end.  

Recently, local county government authorities have targeted Turtle Island Preserve, attacking our way of life, and forcing our educational camp to close to visitors.

On the morning of September 19th, eleven county officials (being paid by tax payers) barged into our living room unannounced, uninvited, and unwelcome. A large caravan of county vehicles blocked our private road, miles away from any public area. The men (some armed) presented a search warrant two and half miles into the interior of our private land, a most intimate zone of refuge where we do not even take visitors, and then spent the next half of the day violating our privacy and photographing our buildings and personal homes. The unwanted invasion team came prepared with topographic maps, aerial photographs, GPS equipment to discern coordinates, laptops, pages of highlighted photographs of unknown origins, and even a county 4-wheeler to more easily get around the property. Much time and tax-payer money had clearly been spent preparing for this deployment against our 501c3 non-profit education center.

The primary focus of this action centers on our buildings and construction methods. The American heritage buildings that we keep alive and teach about are “unacceptable” in today’s modern world. The very building techniques and materials that all of our ancestors thrived with are now being deemed unacceptable and targeted as illegal because they don’t fit into the cookie-cutter code status that is so extremely far from what we are about. The buildings and lifestyle of our working farm and education center teach about true American freedom. The invasive attack was a surreal wake-up call to the illusion of the American myth: “Land of the free.”

Those of you who have visited Turtle Island Preserve know that our structures are unique in that they are built with materials harvested here on the farm and adhere to natural and historical methods. Our buildings are unquestionably structurally sound, but do not fit the wording or application of modern building codes, as the methods used to build them predate the conception of modern building codes.  The veteran, licensed engineer we hired to assess the structural concerns expressed by the county stated that our buildings are “Better than code.” If modern, cookie-cutter buildings fit our purposes or needs, we would have built them. But they certainly do not.

To comply with current, modern building codes and regulations, with no variance or allowance for natural, traditional, historical, cultural or educational models, is at the very least a compromise to our integrity, our mission, and our value to the community and the world.  If we were forced to function like every other public facility, the values, ethics, and practical knowledge we teach would be lost. Trying to force a modern framework around a facility that is specifically designed to be primitive does not make sense. The methods we teach go back tens of thousands of years. The modern building codes go back only 40-50 years.

For the past twenty-six years, Turtle Island Preserve has been a functioning farm and education center for primitive skills, cultural heritage, and traditional/natural living. We are run by volunteer laborers and administrators, good citizens who believe in the worth of volunteering their time to share natural traditional living in hopes of making life for people more meaningful and our impact on the earth a gentler footprint. Our non-profit education center has brought thousands of people from all over the world, of all ages, faiths, and socio-economic backgrounds and enabled them to develop a personal relationship with the natural world.  In many cases, these are people (usually children) who would not have the opportunity to gain that experience elsewhere.  What they get here, they keep forever.

Eustace Conway, full-time volunteer director of Turtle Island Preserve for the past 26 years, now faces the threat of criminal charges. That’s right, for dedicating his life to celebrating and preserving American cultural heritage, his American government is condemning his interest in exercising what he believes is an inalienable human right to build and live in the traditions of our ancestors. He said, “If this was a joke or something out of a science fiction novel about corrupt government control, maybe I could laugh about it… but it is very, unbelievably, maliciously true… and I can only cry about it, and ask for the voice of friends to support me and citizens that care about the ‘American Dream’ of freedom to speak up for their rights and interests now.”

Our recent studies show us that there may be no variance for any private, state, or federal interpretation sites that exhibit natural/primitive historic structures or practices. The recent attack on our home and lifeways makes us question the confines of our state building and county codes on our most fundamental freedoms of American heritage, Appalachian regional culture, and a three million year precedent of inalienable human rights concerning structures and living.

We are working with legal counsel and structural engineers to present a clear and thorough assessment of our structures, practices, and mission to authorities who are not personally familiar with Turtle Island Preserve. We have drawn up a petition and begun a letter writing campaign, all of which we’ll present to the North Carolina Building Codes Council on December 10, 2012 in the hopes of educating the council about the unique importance of Turtle Island Preserve and securing a variance for our continued operation without sacrificing our integrity and commitment to historic structures and natural lifestyle.

We need your help in raising a voice. This matter will not be resolved positively without your support. Please help support Turtle Island Preserve by taking the following steps:

1.      Sign the petition at www.change.org.

2.      Join the letter writing campaign! Write your own letter in support of Turtle Island Preserve, or use the attached letter – just print, sign, and send to the Chairman of the North Carolina Building Codes Council.  Either way, be sure to send us a copy of your letter, too.  

It is impossible to overstate how important your swift support is to the future of Turtle Island Preserve.  With the North Carolina Building Codes Council meeting just three weeks away, we need all the voices we can get, and as quickly as possible. Please set aside a few minutes to sign the petition, send a letter, and stand with us as we work to save Turtle Island Preserve.

Keep checking Facebook for updates, and for more information on the Building Codes Council meeting or if you have any questions at all, please email mail@turtleislandpreserve.com or call our office at 828-265-2267.

In appreciation,

The Staff and Community Members of Turtle Island Preserve

Addresses:

NC Building Codes Council

Dan Tingen, Chairman

322 Chapanoke Dr.

Raleigh, NC 27603

 

Turtle Island Preserve

2683 Little Laurel Road

Boone, NC 28607

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Quote from: jdwheeler42 on September 17, 2019, 09:52:55 PMI didn't think it possible, but if one of these idiots is nominated, I just might be casting my vote for Trump.  Accusations of sexual misconduct are serious, but when the a...

Someone did an experiment where ducks controlled the slugs for their mushroom production:https://www.dropbox.com/s/gadgtoimbpqirym/DeSluggingtheWoods_FINAL-WITHP...

I didn't think it possible, but if one of these idiots is nominated, I just might be casting my vote for Trump.  Accusations of sexual misconduct are serious, but when the alleged victim won't corroborate the accusation, I find it not to have a shred o...

The Swedish environmentalist was one of several who spoke at a Senate climate crisis task force[img]https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/d28e4ae50c03cbea4417dc652d81146c5d4fcee7/0_0_4162_2498/master/4162.jpg?width=620&quality=85&auto=format&fit=max&s...

Two exit polls show Kahol Lavan overtaking Likud ■ Labor Party, Democratic Union make it in ■ Kahanist party wiped off political map ■ Gantz: We succeeded, Netanyahu failed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has failed to secure a ruling majorit...

Knarf’s Knewz

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - The European Union’s order [...]

As the 2018 harvest approached, North Dakota farme [...]

Diner Newz Feeds

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Doomstead Diner Daily September 17The Diner Daily [...]

Fracking boom tied to methane spike in Earth’s atm [...]

Russia hacked the FBI to prevent the bureau from b [...]

Quote from: Surly1 on September 16, 2019, 06:08:09 [...]

Retail Apocalypse: 2019 Store Closures Already Sur [...]

Quote from: UnhingedBecauseLucid on March 18, 2019 [...]

CleanTechnicaSupport CleanTechnica’s work via dona [...]

QuoteThe FACT that the current incredibly STUPID e [...]

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - The European Union’s order [...]

As the 2018 harvest approached, North Dakota farme [...]

Scientists have unlocked the power of gold atoms b [...]

Quote from: azozeo on August 14, 2019, 10:41:33 AM [...]

Wisconsin Bill Would Remove Barrier to Using Gold, [...]

Under extreme conditions, gold rearranges its atom [...]

The cost of gold futures on the Comex exchange inc [...]

Quote from: K-Dog on September 15, 2019, 08:08:32 [...]

Good interview.  You sounded smart. [...]

A little Political Bickering is a small price to p [...]

Alternate Perspectives

  • Two Ice Floes
  • Jumping Jack Flash
  • From Filmers to Farmers

Shaking the August Stick By Cognitive Dissonance     Sometime towards the end of the third or fourth [...]

Empire in Decline - Propaganda and the American Myth By Cognitive Dissonance     “Oh, what a tangled [...]

Meanderings By Cognitive Dissonance     Tis the Season Silly season is upon us. And I, for one, welc [...]

The Brainwashing of a Nation by Daniel Greenfield via Sultan Knish blog Image by ElisaRiva from Pixa [...]

A Window Into Our World By Cognitive Dissonance   Every year during the early spring awakening I qui [...]

Event Update For 2019-09-15http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2019-09-14http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2019-09-13http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2019-09-12http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2019-09-11http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

With fusion energy perpetually 20 years away we now also perpetually have [fill in the blank] years [...]

My mea culpa for having inadvertently neglected FF2F for so long, and an update on the upcoming post [...]

NYC plans to undertake the swindle of the civilisation by suing the companies that have enabled it t [...]

MbS, the personification of the age-old pre-revolutionary scenario in which an expiring regime attem [...]

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Sustainability

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The Trickster's Tale"Everyone has some wisdom, but no one has all of it." Come gather 'round my children [...]

Nothing Again - Naomi Klein Renews Her Climate Prescription"By now we should all be well aware by now of the havoc being caused by climate change." I [...]

Leaves of Seagrass"Seawater is the circulatory system of Gaia"In 1855, Walt Whitman penned the free verse, “ [...]

Treeplanting Olympics"Withdrawing 700 gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere could be accomplished by as early as mi [...]

The Dark Cloud"Skynet needs to send a terminator back to 1984 and take out Mark Zuckerberg’s mom before he ca [...]

The folks at Windward have been doing great work at living sustainably for many years now.  Part of [...]

 The Daily SUN☼ Building a Better Tomorrow by Sustaining Universal Needs April 3, 2017 Powering Down [...]

Off the keyboard of Bob Montgomery Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666 Friend us on Facebook Publishe [...]

Visit SUN on Facebook Here [...]

What extinction crisis? Believe it or not, there are still climate science deniers out there. And th [...]

My new book, Abolish Oil Now, will talk about why the climate movement has failed and what we can do [...]

A new climate protest movement out of the UK has taken Europe by storm and made governments sit down [...]

The success of Apollo 11 flipped the American public from skeptics to fans. The climate movement nee [...]

Today's movement to abolish fossil fuels can learn from two different paths that the British an [...]

Top Commentariats

  • Our Finite World
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Art Berman is saying he sources are saying the attack was an inside job. https://twitter.com/aeberma [...]

That is an interesting viewpoint. I haven't heard it before. [...]

Right--he did the same thing with North Korea. People are onto him. [...]

Sounds like a problem that could have been solved by a few hundred people directing traffic... [...]

The main barrier to selling your old diamonds is not De Beers, but the fact that the predominantly O [...]

Hi Steve. I recently found what I believe is a little gem, and I'm quite confident you'd a [...]

The Federal Reserve is thinking about capping yields? I don't know how long TPTB can keep this [...]

As some one who has spent years trying to figure out what the limits to growth are. let me say that [...]

Peak oil definitely happened for gods sake. Just because it isn't mad max right now is no indic [...]

@Volvo - KMO says he made some life choices he regrets. Not sure what they were. And I don't th [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

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Simplifying the Final Countdown

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Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

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Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

Discuss this article @ the ECONOMICS TABLE inside the...

Singularity of the Dollar

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Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

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SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

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Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

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Merry Doomy Christmas

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Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

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Collapse Fiction

Useful Links

Technical Journals

The Antarctic Centennial Oscillation (ACO) is a paleoclimate temperature cycle that originates in th [...]

The building environment parameterization scheme (BEP) is a built-in “urban physics” sch [...]