Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Waiting for the Other Shoe

Picking a route down the far side of Hubbert’s peak requires some of the same skills hikers use when navigating any other mountain trail, and one of those skills is a curious sort of double vision. On the one hand, you have to pay attention to the terrain around you, watching for places where the footing might prove treacherous or other hazards such as falling rocks might make the trip a little too exciting. On the other hand, you have to pay attention to the bigger picture, the way the land lies, so the trail you choose will actually take you in the direction you want to go.

In the last few months here on The Archdruid Report I’ve dealt mostly with that longer view, partly out of disquiet with the peak oil community’s fixation on immediate issues, partly in an attempt to lay foundations for a conversation about how choices we make today can help shape the far future. I’d planned on continuing that this week with another exploration of the successional process that bids fair to shape the next few centuries of human social evolution. Still, sometimes you have to set the long view aside and concentrate on the ground in front of your feet, and that may turn out to be a good idea just now.

I suspect most people whose interest in the news doesn’t center on Britney Spears’ taste in underwear have noticed some very unsettling data points in the last three months or so. Since August 15 of this year, the price of crude oil has shot up $25 a barrel and the price of gold has rocketed $175 an ounce, and these are just the poster children for soaring commodity prices that have affected nearly every raw material for sale in the world. Part of this is driven by real scarcities. The usually optimistic International Energy Agency, for example, has issued an uncharacteristically harsh report warning that global petroleum supply is failing to keep up with demand, creating an energy crunch that will only get worse in the decades to come

Another part of this shift, though, tracks the continuing collapse in the US dollar. Since August 15, the British pound is up 6% and the Euro 9% relative to the dollar. The only currencies that buy as many dollars as they did a month ago are those locked to the dollar by government edict, and some of those governments, at least, are having second thoughts. The latest round of panic selling of dollars today was sparked by a comment by a Chinese banker that his government was really going to have to get more of its reserves out of the dollar and into some stronger currency.

At the same time, the subprime mortgage collapse – a misnomer, really, since many billions of dollars in supposedly AAA mortgages and other speculative instruments have turned out to have values just as evanescent as the most dubious subprime loan – is continuing to worsen. Citibank, the world’s largest bank just now, announced over the weekend that they had lost $11 billion over the last month. Several other big banks have made similar admissions in the last two weeks or so. One of this morning’s news stories mentions that US investment banks will shortly have to write off approximately $100 billion of paper value on top of this; other stories hint at even larger losses waiting further down the road.

Meanwhile, the New York Stock Exchange has announced that the controls on computer trading put in place to damp down volatility after the huge 1987 stock market crash are being discontinued. According to NYSE officials the controls, which were triggered eleven times last month, are “no longer necessary.” On a day when the Dow plunged 360 points amid panic selling of banking and real estate stocks, this is not exactly a comforting claim.

The last of these unsettling news stories comes from an unexpected place: the pen of Francis Fukuyama, the Johns Hopkins professor whose 1989 essay “An End to History?” attempted to portray America’s victory in the Cold War as the culmination of human history and provided the intellectual underpinnings, such as they were, for the Bush I and Clinton administrations. More recently Fukuyama made the news again as part of the right-wing revolt against the current administration’s disastrous policies in Iraq and the resulting wreck of the post-Cold War international order.

His latest essay starts with a commentary on the rise and fall of American hegemony in the post-9/11 era. At the end of the essay, though, he suggests that maybe the world would be better off if the US were kept in line by a balance of power – even if not all the players in the balance of power were not, in his delicate phrase, “fully democratic.”

This is an astounding admission. What Fukuyama is suggesting is that he – and by extension, the faction of the US political class for whom he has long been the spokesperson – would be willing to accept the end of America’s global dominance and the emergence of a world order in which Russia and China – the less-than-fully-democratic powers he clearly has in mind – have some measure of parity with the US. From anybody in the American political class, this would be a remarkable statement; from the onetime prophet of a unipolar world under American leadership, it looks suspiciously like a white flag.

I am an archdruid, not an economist or a political scientist, and my exposure to the worlds of high finance and international politics consists entirely of interested observation at a distance. The precise meaning of each of these scraps of information can be left to specialists. Their broader significance, though, may be of much greater importance. None of these data points is a symptom of business as usual. Combine them with the many other troubling stories moving through the media, the internet, and specialist journals, and it’s hard to miss the implication that a major discontinuity may be approaching.

One of the reasons I find ecology a useful guide to history is that the natural world and the human world relate to time and change in similar ways. Most of the time, in an ecosystem or a human society, change happens gradually, cycling through predictable patterns or bridging the space between one set of conditions and another. Watch a vacant lot turning back into woodland or a pond moving through its annual cycle and the continuities are much more striking than the changes, at least in the time scales the human senses and mind pick up most easily. Similarly, human societies change through the cumulative impact of many small changes over time, and it’s often only in retrospect that we blink in surprise, wondering where a once-familiar world went.

Sudden change is the exception, not the rule, but it does happen. The implosion of the global economy after the September 1929 stock market crash, the dizzying plunges into war in the summer months of 1914 and 1939, and the disintegration of the Communist bloc at the end of the 1980s are examples of the way radical changes can sweep over a society. In each case, human affairs continued along their normal course while pressures built beneath the surface, and warnings of the coming crisis fell on deaf ears, until the deluge hit and swept every trace of business as usual before it. In each case it took years for stability to return, and when it did, much of the old order of things had vanished forever.

Prophecy is a risky business at best, and archdruids are not necessarily any better at it than anyone else. Still, the possibility that another such wave of dramatic change might be about to break over the industrial world has been much on my mind of late. The model of the future I’ve been discussing on The Archdruid Report for the last year and a half envisions a stairstep process of decline, with sudden discontinuities followed by periods of respite and partial recovery. A real chance exists that the tremors in the commodities and credit markets are foreshocks of the first such downward lurch, an economic crisis that might leave most of today’s conventional wisdom in shreds.

If this is the case, there may not be much time to make preparations before the pressure of events puts anything beyond day-to-day crisis management out of reach. Still, this might not be a bad time for my readers to shed any speculative investments they might have, to be particularly wary of economic risks, and to keep more food than usual in the pantry, while we wait to see if the other shoe will drop.

27 comments:

Panidaho said...

JMG, I concur. We are doing all of that and more over here. We have just finished shedding nearly all of our consumer debt and are now switching over to laying in supplies of tools and anything else that has to be shipped in - as well as setting aside extra food, clothing, medicines and heating fuel.

The way things seem to be going, anything we buy now that we know we will eventually use will probably be cheaper now than it will be in the coming months as prices continue to rise. Which they will as long as oil is rising and the dollar is falling. (Think of how much of the cheap stuff for sale in the MegaMarts is imported, and you will get the picture.)

I might also add, if your livelihood or health depends on being able to use your car, make it a habit to keep the tank full. If that shoe does drop, gas shortages are probably a given.

But even if no shoes drop, this sort of preparation just seems to makes good sense in these uncertain times.

John Michael Greer said...

Fast note to all -- I'll have very limited internet access for the next few days, so it may be a bit before your comments go up.

Stephen Heyer said...

John Greer: “Combine them with the many other troubling stories moving through the media, the internet, and specialist journals, and it’s hard to miss the implication that a major discontinuity may be approaching.”

So this is what history feels like.

As for the discontinuity bit, try punctuated equilibrium (Wikidedia: “theory in evolutionary biology, which posits that evolution amongst sexually reproducing species takes place in rapid bursts, separated by long periods in which little change occurs.”)

Punctuated equilibrium now seems to be very mainstream in evolutionary theory and for some time I’ve thought that it looks like it applies equally to the evolution of human societies.

Jean-Michel said...

Great JMG,

"Combine them with the many other troubling stories moving through the media, the internet, and specialist journals, and it’s hard to miss the implication that a major discontinuity may be approaching."

This is what I have tried to tell you all along. "Discontinuity" is the exact word I use with my friends or family.

"Bifurcation" (with all the room for individual creative action it implies) is another word I used in one of my writings.

Still, this "discontinuity" is made necessary by the gap that exists between current western thinking (view of the world) and what it would take ti insure survival of the species.

This is this "discontuinity" at the metaphysical level, and that's going to appear very clearly, that I find personnally more interesting than the monetary or stock market or geopolitical "discontinuity" you are talking about.

Yuri said...

JMG,

I really enjoy your articles and your perspective on the unfolding events. In my case, my background is as a Taoist master and mechanical engineer who works in biotechnology - so I bridge a number of different disciplines. In Taoism we have always viewed the internal and external as being in balance - a balance through qi (energy). Your commentary,

"One of the reasons I find ecology a useful guide to history is that the natural world and the human world relate to time and change in similar ways."

is striking and prescient.

In the Taoist's view the biosphere as having energy flow and even "health" similar to our internal systems. So the present situation may be viewed as one where we have burnt up stored qi much too rapidly (peak oil) and caused a massive fever (global warming) that looks like it will be very serious.

Such a situation, on a human level is strikingly similar to the response to cancer. Although we view change as the only constant (the Taiji symbol represents this endless cycle) we too believe that such rapid change cannot have a happy outcome in the short-term just like the pain and trauma associated with healing cancer.

Thanks again for the articles and I look forward to reading more.

yooper said...

Hello John! After folowing your thoughts of decent for awhile now, perhaps this could best be described as a ball bouncing down a staircase. I might suggest, that this ball will pick up speed on it's way down. Perhaps we're at this point now and in the process of transition of finding another gear.

Like a manual transmission on a vehicle, a surge is required, to provide momentum and time in order to make this transition possible. This can be described as a pause. I'd like to suggest, that this last surge generated in the last few years, has momentum enough to carry us through until next spring.

What happens next, is anyone's guess. After this pause, can we just slip into a controled response and make the transition from 4th gear to 3rd? Or 4th to 1st, perhaps skipping a few steps down altogether?

For years it has been argued that our economy is based on the assumption of continous growth. Once growth cannot be obtained and there's no sense in masking this anymore, what happens?

Perhaps, this will be like when that shoe drops, straight down, "Thud!" Sure, it won't be the end of the day, humanity will go on. However, it will not, (no that's the wrong word!), it cannot support the present population, at that point.

This may not be a slow transition, at first. It could be quite a violent process, until we can manage to find a process of a slower transition down. Many steps for some will be missed altogher on their decent down. Still some will never live to see another step down. For those people, the ball has completely missed the staircase and went over the cliff....

Thanks, yooper

RAS said...

JMG, I haven't commented for a while, but I have been reading every week's post and the comments. I feel compelled to comment this week because I find this post very disconcerting. Mostly because it parallels my own thinking of late. I thought I was reading too much into things or just being paranoid, but if others have been thinking along the same lines -particularly someone as level-headed as you -perhaps my perception that the first roof is about to come crashing down isn't as far off the mark as I thought.

Mike said...

Sounds like we are nigh to a Fourth Turning and a saecular winter, to borrow an idea from Strauss and Howe.

Mauricio Babilonia said...

Former CIA anylist Tom Whipple has been writing some good forward-thinking columns like this one for the Falls Church News Press, and his weekly Peak Oil Review is a good thumbnail of Peak Oil's progression.

John, you're certainly correct that prophesy is a tricky business, but one does get the impression recently that sour times are in the offing.

Sabretache said...

JMG - A couple of points:

1. Further to the IEA's surprisingly candid report, this from GWB at his joint press conference with President Sarkozy yesterday:

Question: Mr. President, with oil approaching $100 a barrel, are you concerned that your hard words for Iran on its nuclear program are helping drive up oil prices, which can end up hurting the U.S. economy?

BUSH: No. I believe oil prices are going up because the demand for oil outstrips the supply for oil. Oil is going up because developing countries still use a lot of oil. Oil is going up because we use too much oil. And the capacity to replace reserves is dwindling. That's why the price of oil is going up.


Not sure about developing counties "STILL using a lot of oil" - as in, maybe there's a plan to stop them so that the good ol' US of A can continue using upwards of 25% of global production - but it is yet more evidence of official admission that oil supplies are a real problem.

2. The relaxation of the NYSE volatility restrictions: As a humble day-trader myself I agree it is significant, but not perhaps in the manner you imply. Fact is the big professional operators are the ones whose style is cramped by those restrictions. In their absence, they are much better equipped than anyone else to profit from increased volatility, not to mention their ability to deliberately engineer it - which really means at the expense of everyone else. It is effectively equipping the large proprietary trading desks with a big additional edge. The cynic in me sees it as preparation for vastly increased volatility known to be approaching, that favours de Boyz,

Loveandlight said...

As you can see from the chart in this post, the first half of next year is going to be, um, shall we say, interesting, when all those Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) have their rates reset.

Dwig said...

John,
I like the change of focus; maybe it'd be worth making it a pattern, with a couple of long-term posts followed by a near-term focus on possible futures in the now-2015 range.

Sudden change is the exception, not the rule, but it does happen.

This reminds me of a review I wrote a few years ago, specifically the last section of the essay, examining the nature of "sudden changes" in the context of the overall cycle of complex system dynamics. (By the way, this review wasn't intended as a finished product; I posted it to get feedback, and never went back to elaborate or polish it. Still, there are some interesting concepts brought out in it. John, how about a post on the possible roles of indigenous peoples in the coming crises?)

There are other changes at work as well in the current situation. One interesting recent event was the Mayors' Climate Protection Summit, which evidenced both an increasing awareness of the challenges facing us, and an increasing willingness on the part of local and State govenments to act independently of -- and sometimes in opposing directions to -- the federal government. (The Summit featured some quite harsh criticism of the Bush Administration's policies.) This shouldn't be interpreted too broadly, but it does show that there are multiple levels of change going on, and that the most creative and successful responses, even in the near term, may well be local and regional.

RJ said...

I too noticed Fukuyama's mea culpa, and could hardly believe my eyes. Perhaps he's privy to some inside neocon machinations or lack thereof.

This current group of idealogical zealots in power couldn't have come at a worse time for humanity, unless hastening the rapture or "endgame" as as Derrick Jensen puts it, was their goal all along.

Yes, I think we may be on a precipice of sorts, but one that will not be without opportunity. Disillusionment with the current power structure may be about to go parabolic, and hence a possible power vacuum. The fascists have had their chance and failed miserably.

Reduce debt, bike or walk, turn off your television, and keep your savings in silver eagles are all good suggestions, but may not be possible for the vast majority of Americans. Unfortunately for a culture fixated on quick fixes, there are none.

Alan said...

Yes, more food in the pantry...
and more shoes, more clothes,
more tools, more ammo, more
everything.

And gold, and silver. Both have
been oustanding investments, since
that long period of languishing
in the $300 & $5-6 area (1998-
2002). And they will do nothing
but get better, for years to
come.

Trade your U.S. dollars for
real stuff, folks. Do it now,
while you still can, and while
the dollars still buy things.

Laodan said...

All the talk about peak oil and climate change that we hear nowadays misses indeed historical perspective. It's not as if the end of the world was nearing upon us and humanity is also not going to fall back in a primitive stage of development. Those are like intellectual short-cuts that only create a distance between their authors and followers and what is really going on out there in the world.

We most often forget that humans can't survive out of their societies and societal evolution takes thus central stage in humanity's history. Animism and small groups living in harmony with their environment have been displaced by larger societal groupings (kingdoms, empires) that reproduced themselves through the sharing by all their citizens of a common religious or philosophic worldview. Animism thrived along tens of thousands of years while kingdoms, empires, and their reli‭gions and philosophies thrived for only a few thousand years. Modernity, that in Europe displaced Christianity, was not much longer than the time it takes for a blink of the eye on the scale of the long history (a few centuries). So each stage of societal development, when compared to the one that preceded it, loses one zero on the timescale of its existence.

It becomes apparent today in late-modernity that modernity's non-intended consequences are well on their way to destroy most of its construct.

But the changes that are coming our way are not consequences of one or another unique determinant parameter (environment, peak resources). Those changes are being put in motion by the interactions between a number of factors:
- the globalization of the world economy into an economy-world.
- the financialization of capitalism.
- the side-effects of modernity. (population, environment, resources,...)
- the atomization of societies (the mirage of individualism, in the West, has collapsed the substance that allowed for the reproduction of societies)

Your 5 last posts referred to the consequences of the side-effects of modernity while your present post refers to the consequences of globalization and financialization that are starting to be felt in our daily lives.

Financialization has been the strategy of big capital to globalize its reach and it succeeded quite well until the present financial singularity exploded in our faces. What appeared to work well on paper or in models, in the end, appears to be defeating the initial ideological assumptions of big capital.
- Globalization added new economic actors and the sheer volume of their accumulated State controlled capital becomes a direct threat to Western capital holders. (China, energy producing countries)
- Financialization has been conceived of as an economic game driven by models. But it resulted in a financial singularity. Nobody seems any longer able to understand what is real and what is thin air in the total of accumulated financial instruments. When all will have been counted and the results are transparent we are going to awake in a very different economic landscape than the one we are accustomed to.
See The First Crisis of Financial Globalization and Securitization. And the Coming Generalized Credit Crunch by Nouriel Roubini and Why financial engineering doesn't work.

It seems to me that the rebalancing of the world economy during the next decades is going to have the greatest impact on our daily lives well before peak oil, climate change or any of the other side-effects of modernity. Do you believe that "capital holder whiteman" will easily accept the perspective of its economy crashing at the margin of our economy-world? I don't think so.
What we are going to observe in the West is:
- a cruel economic fragilization of most citizens. (don't you observe the first traits of such a fragilization at work already?)
- a strengthening of the political centers of power whith a decision making process firmly in the hands of representatives of the big capital holders. In this process democracy is going to be superseded by sheer manipulation. (the first signs of such manipulation are already well visible)
- those 2 factors will combine in making possible the gluing of us all behind a common worldview (what we feel very unpleasant today we could very well feel necessary tomorrow!)
The outcome of such a reengineering of our Western societies, a few years from now, is bound to impact the Western response towards the rest of the world in terms of Peak Oil and Climate Change.

I'm afraid that, after the rebalancing of power in our economy-world, the West will have not much left other than its milirary muscle and that our reengineered Western societies could very well be demanding the exercice of their weapons on the rest of the world as a response to Peak Oil and Climate Change that by that time will start to have a strongly felt impact on the lives of all.

senecascenes said...

JMG said:
"The precise meaning of each of these scraps of information can be left to specialists."

I'll take the longest and widest view available, (gathering as much surface data as possible from all directions) and allow intuitive process to work from there. You clearly have a gift for that sort of process.

Specialists tend to get blind-sided, but I'm happy to glean from their data.

There is a crescendo in progress. Entities of every type tend to be reactionary given sudden shift of awareness. Discontinuities can be assumed, I agree.

Well done as always.

Mikey D.

Solamente yo said...

I also follow the situation since is a subject a like and since my work depends on having an idea of what is going on around me. Also I try to think ahead to take the best path possible (it doesn't work for me every time tought).

If you put this all together: food shortages, dependency on an energy system running out, big enterprises running the show, environmental damage, climate change, families getting into financial troubles and then you see the people in charge don't care and dont' do anything about it. You have to assume we are in for a big disaster in the not to distant future.

I feel that when the real crisis unfold, lots of persons in this world are in for a struggle of life and death. Mostly the poor are going to die off in mass, peoples in cities won't know what to do and will end of either starving or having to work for food. We could end of in a kind of Technological Middle Ages of sort.

The rich and powerful will take over in a way it has not been seen for over a century, no more middle class and those who own the land will be in charge. The rest will have to abide by their rule.

In the end, our ultra liberal capitalism/democratic models will takes us to serfdom under a ruling elite.

Not the kind of future I want for my kids.

Damien Perrotin said...

JMG, I've begun to translate your texts about Peak Oil in French (Breton will come eventualy). It's primarily for "internal" use as I belong to the direction of the pro-devolution party in Britanny, and likely to become a town councilman next year. Peak-oil awareness is unfortunately not very high among the rest of the leadership and the languare bareer doesn't help.

I'd like to have the authorisation to put the translations on my site, with due credits and links of course. Few people can read English here.

Regards,

Damien Perrotin

leai@aliceadsl.fr

www.damienperrotin.eu

John Michael Greer said...

Thanks for your patience, all. My duties as an archdruid don't always leave me in easy reach of an internet connection.

Stephen, that's an excellent point, and one I'll follow up; might be worth trying to apply evolutionary theory more generally to my theory of catabolic collapse.

Jean-Michel, I find your term "bifurcation" telling -- it suggests that there are only two options, the way people think today and the way you think they ought to think. I see a much more open field. Today's ways of interpreting the world depend on the myth of progress, and are already headed into the compost heap of history. What new ways of seeing the world evolve out of that are by no means predetermined, though, and I suspect some of them will horrify you. In the meantime, the economic and social discontinuities we may be facing over the next few years are a much more concrete reality, and one that deserves attention from anybody for whom little things like food and shelter are relevant.

Yuri, I'm not surprised in the least that you as a Taoist find some of these ideas congenial. On the one hand, Druidry is in some ways a Western equivalent of Taoism -- there are some remarkable parallels in teaching and practice -- and on the other I've been practicing taijiquan for some years now and I'm sure some of the implicit structure has rubbed off.

Yooper, I'm expecting a fairly slow population decline at first, though much depends on the role of war in the approaching downshift. But we'll see.

Ras, it's not the end of the world, but I do think it's quite possible that we could be in for a couple of very harrowing years in the near future. "Batten down the hatches and rig for foul weather" might be good advice.

Mike, I haven't actually studied that end of historical-cycle theory, so can't respond intelligently. I'll give it a look as time permits.

Mauricio, thanks for the links! I've been reading Whipple closely for quite a while now.

Sabretache, thanks for the info. I don't claim to understand the fine points of the stock market, which is one reason I've stayed strictly away from it. All I know is that when a set of safety measures is put into place, and a certain phenomenon stops, taking away the safety measures makes it at least a bit more likely that the phenomenon in question will resume. But we'll see.

Loveandlight, yes indeed -- I don't think most people have thought through the economic impact of the avalanche of ARM resets and ensuing foreclosures that will come rushing down over the next year or so. It won't be pretty.

Dwig, thanks for the suggestion; I'll consider it (and take a peek at your review when time permits). My guess is that pretty much all the constructive responses to the next wave of crises will happen on the local and regional levels.

RJ, glad to hear you noted Fukuyama's jawdropper. Remember that he's not in the core of the neocon movement -- he was an ideologist of the Bush I variety, pushing for stability rather than the radical reshaping of the global system. A lot of people from his end of the "conservative" movement (that word belongs in quotes -- we don't actually have any significant number of real conservatives in US politics these days, just radicals pursuing mutually incompatible Utopian ideologies) have been breaking with the administration of late -- did you see the article a little while back by the head of the CFR, of all people, denouncing Bush II?

Alan, aside from the precious metals business, agreed. I'd encourage people, though, to concentrate on getting and practicing useful skills while they're still readily available -- that's the best investment there is just now.

Laodan, of course peak oil isn't the only factor at work in the unfolding crisis, but it's not somewhere off in the future -- we passed peak two years ago and the economic impacts are already beginning to show up. The current financial crisis is entangled with the soaring costs of commodities and the need to generate infinite pyramids of debt to allow Americans to keep consuming when the national resource base that once justified their extravagance isn't there any more.

My own guess, for what it's worth, is that the result of the next round of crises will be social disintegration rather than any sort of imposed unity. The United States in particular is far more vulnerable to political collapse than I think most people realize.

Mikey, many thanks for the vote of confidence.

Solamente, I wouldn't worry too much about serfdom. In times of economic contraction and social instability, the rich get hit much worse than the poor. Look at stats for the change in the distribution of income between, say, 1925 and 1935, and you'll find that the 1929 crash and its aftermath caused the relative distribution of income to flatten out dramatically. The rich are more vulnerable to financial crisis than anyone else -- their assets and income depend on the smooth functioning of the financial system, and most of them have no skills that would allow them to hold down an honest job or barter something for food. They prosper because they know how to manipulate the system, and when the system breaks down, they lose the basis for their survival. That's why, when civilizations fall, their elite classes go extinct in a hurry while the peasants usually just pick up the pieces and keep going.

Damien, by all means! I'll be in touch offlist.

Panidaho said...

"And gold, and silver. Both have
been oustanding investments, since
that long period of languishing
in the $300 & $5-6 area (1998-
2002). And they will do nothing
but get better, for years to
come."


Unless I'm really far off in my understanding of our current monetary hallucination, the main reason gold is going up is because our dollar has lost so much value through inflation.

My finance prof this last summer said many times "Gold is a poor investment - look, all it does is keep up with inflation!" If he's correct, then that means that much of, if not most of, gold's apparent "increase in value" is often just an illusion, because we're always comparing it with even cheaper dollars. So what the recent increase in gold prices is really showing us is just how badly debased our currency has become in such a very short time.

Personally, I think food, tools and skills are a much better bet for us little folks, and more likely to hold their value and be usable no matter what comes. But to each their own.

yooper said...

Hello John! I've just came back from a trip to the big city,(Ann Arbor), big to a fellow like me anyway. While I was there I was fortunate enough to aquire, "Atlantis, Ancient History, Hidden Prophecy".

Although, I'm only six pages into this book, the introduction called, The Myth of Progress", I'm very, very impressed! For one, I can't wait to read what the second story reveals, "that progress is a tempporary thing, that history moves in a circle, not in a straight line from caves to the stars. It claims that somewhere in the distant past, another civilization-maybe as advanced as ours, maybe even more advanced than ours-collasped and gave way to a long age of decline and darkness, from which humanity has only just recovered in our own time."

We have discussed this many, many times before...You're "cyclical view" versus my "linear view" of history. I'm deeply humbled.... Even though I was open to the idea that your above thought could occur in the future, it never occured to me that this process has indeed occured throughout time.

Even now, I'm so wrapped up in myth. Perhaps reading this book will help unravel this and clear my mind to seeing a more realistic, clearer future.

Again, many thanks, John.

Sincerely, yooper

Jon said...

JMG,
On other forums there is a common theme of a sense of forboding or, for lack of a better word, the "quickening" from the Highlander meme, that is upon us now. I don't quite buy into that yet as I believe there are many more hands to be dealt before this mess we've gotten into plays itself out.

When I last commented here, you questioned my "conspiracy theorist" mindset and why I even bother looking for "the man behind the curtain." With your admission this week that things (as in bad) may be coming down the pike faster than you expected them to, I wanted to reiterate why I think it's important to determine whether the pending economic collapse is a result of random events or an engineered event.

The point I was trying to make is if a pending economic collapse is the culmination of random events, there is still hope available for the survivors. However, if this collapse is one based upon collusion and conspiracy, the chances of even those who are prepared, but not members of the elite classes, coming out of this mess as freemen is nil.

Dwig said...

John, with regard to

Jean-Michel, I find your term "bifurcation" telling -- it suggests that there are only two options, the way people think today and the way you think they ought to think.

I think his intended meaning for the word is more like the way I used it in my review -- as a somewhat technical term for a mode of change in dynamic systems. (There's a brief definition of it at http://www.calresco.org/sos/sosfaq.htm#6.5 .) For example, the iterative collapses in your Catabolic theory are bifurcations.

Laodan said...

The Oil Drum had a few excellent articles recently about the same subject.

John Michael Greer said...

Teresa, I'd check the price of gold in euros or British pounds to compare the change in the price of gold to the fall of the dollar. As I recall, gold's gone up a lot more sharply than the decline in the dollar would explain. Mind you, your advice is still sound; skills and tools will be worth far more than stockpiles of soft metals for which other people will happily kill you.

Yooper, thanks for the vote of confidence! Atlantis is meant to talk about some of the same themes I'm addressing here, but it's aimed at a very different audience, one that's more receptive to the language of myth than that of (hopefully) reasoned discussion. We'll see how well it works.

Jon, like most conspiracy theories, yours works only if you assume that the alleged conspirers are omniscient and omnipotent. If you look through history, you'll find that a very large percentage of conspiracies blow up in the faces of their perpetrators. If the American political class does have some evil agenda in mind -- and I find this unlikely -- have they shown the competence necessary to pull off something as daring and complicated as you suggest? Not hardly. More on this in this week's post, though.

Dwig, thanks for the clarification; duly noted.

Panidaho said...

JMG wrote:
Teresa, I'd check the price of gold in euros or British pounds to compare the change in the price of gold to the fall of the dollar. As I recall, gold's gone up a lot more sharply than the decline in the dollar would explain.

That's quite possible, I agree, which is why I qualified my statements with "much of" and "most of" and "often." What we may be seeing right now is the occasional large "speculative spike" which was also shown on the charts I've seen - times when the price of gold was much higher than the average rate of inflation for that particular time frame. But after these speculative peaks, the price spikes fell very hard and very fast back to tracking the inflation line. The charts I saw (which covered about 100 years of history, I believe) showed that gold, in the main, always returns to fairly closely tracking the inflation rate. Were they accurate? I don't know, but I suspect that in the main they were.

The problem with buying gold now, the way I see it, is that there is no way to tell if the price of gold has hit its speculative peak already, or if it still has a ways to go. Another issue is, all the normal inflation indicators seem to be showing unbelievably low rates of inflation, when several key commodity prices are going haywire. So I'm personally not sure that we will even know what our current rate of inflation is for this timeframe until things settle out somewhat. Only then will we be able to attempt to separate the inflationary rise in price from the speculation-triggered increases.

And if gold really is in the middle of a huge speculative bubble, then again, from my perspective, this would be pretty much the *worst* time to buy. Especially if you are doing so for survival purposes, because you'd be paying far more for the gold than it's "worth" and there are likely other things that would hold value better in the short term than overpriced gold. And riding a speculative bubble right now is exactly what you were asking people to consider NOT doing, a sentiment I also heartily agree with.

Baubo said...

You are right that the world economic ship is taking on water fast now. The dollar (which is sitting on 20-year support) has been "let down" off a false high in order to keep up appearances in the stock market (which is sitting on 8-year support). At this point somethin's gotta give and it will be the dollar because Americans worry less about currency risk than their 401Ks and because crashing the dollar is necessary to get people to accept the Amero, the NAU... Gold has been fairly successfully kept in bag through the first phase of the dollar's decline, but it cannot be contained (except maybe by edict)through the upcoming violent wave 3 down. The other problem with gold/silver/etc (beside government making them illegal or taxing the profit out of them) is that you can't eat them. If we really are just starting down the big hill of the roller coaster to hell then ultimately toilet paper will have more value than gold. So, I agree with you that shedding debt and stocking up on what you really need to live should be your economic priorities with the laying in of supplies as your first priority. If you have some funds you can afford to lose and you want to play gold's moonshot, then go for it, but consider that it is going into the steep part of the handle of a decades long cup and handle pattern and that when the wild ride up is over it will turn and plummet into oblivion. Hang on too long and you might wish you had bought toilet paper instead of bullion.