Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Retrotopia: A Change of Habit

I went back to the hotel for lunch.  The wind had picked up further and was tossing stray randrops at anything in its path; my clothing was waterproof but not particularly warm, and I frankly envied the passersby their hats. For that matter, I wasn’t happy about the way that my bioplastic clothes made everyone give me startled looks. Still, it was only a block and a half, and then I ducked back inside the lobby, went to the glass doors to the restaurant, stepped inside.

Maybe a minute later I was settling into a chair in a comfortable corner, and the greeter was on his way back to the door, having promised the imminent arrival of a waitress. Stray notes of piano music rippled through the air, resolved themselves into an unobtrusive jazz number.  It took me a moment to notice that the piano was actually there in the restaurant, tucked over in a nook to one side. The player was a skinny kid in his twenties, Italian-American by the look of him, and he was really pretty good. Some musicians play jazz laid-back because the fire’s gone out or they never had any in the first place, but now and again you hear one who’s got the fire and keeps it under perfect control while playing soft and low, and it’s like watching somebody take a leisurely stroll on a tightrope strung between skyscrapers. This kid was one of those. I wondered what he’d sound like with a bunch of other musicians and a room full of people who wanted to dance.

As it was, I leaned back in the chair, read the menu and enjoyed the music and the absence of the wind. The waitress showed up as prophesied, and I ordered my usual, soup and sandwich and a cup of chicory coffee—you can get that anywhere in the post-US republics, just one more legacy of the debt crisis and the hard years that followed. I know plenty of people in Philadelphia who won’t touch the stuff any more, but I got to like it and it still goes down easier than straight coffee.

Lunch was good, the music was good, and I’d missed the lunch rush so the service was better than good; I charged the meal to my room but left a tip well on the upside of enough. Then it was back outside into the wind as the kid at the piano launched into a take on “Ruby, My Dear” that wouldn’t have embarrassed a young Thelonious Monk. I had plenty of questions about the Lakeland Republic, some things that I’d been asked to look into and some that were more or less a matter of my own curiosity, and sitting in a hotel restaurant wasn’t going to get me any closer to the answers.

Outside there were still plenty of people on the sidewalks, but not so many as earlier; I gathered that lunch hour was over and everyone who worked ordinary hours, whatever those were here, was back on the job. I went around the block the hotel was on, noting landmarks, and then started wandering, lookng for shops, restaurants, and other places that might be useful during my stay: something I like to do in any unfamiliar city when I have the chance. There were plenty of retail businesses—the ground floor of every building I passed had as many as would fit—but none of them were big, and none of them had the sort of generic logo-look that tells you you’re looking at a chain outlet. Everything I knew about business said that little mom-and-pop stores like that were hopelessly inefficient, but I could imagine what the banker I’d talked with would say in response to that, and I didn’t want to go there.

The other thing that startled me as I wandered the streets was how little advertising there was. Don’t get me wrong, most of the stores had signage in the windows advertising this or that product or doing the 10% OFF THIS DAY ONLY routine; what was missing was the sort of corporate display advertising you see on every available surface in most cities. I’d figured already that there wouldn’t be digital billboards, but there weren’t any billboards at all; the shelters at the streetcar stops didn’t have display ads all over them, and neither did the streetcars; I thought back to the morning’s trip, and realized that I basically hadn’t seen any ads at all since the train crossed the border. I shook my head, wondered how the Lakeland Republic managed that, and then remembered the notebook in my pocket and put my first note into it:  Why no ads? Ask.

I was maybe six blocks from the hotel, by then, looping back after I’d checked out the streets on the west side of the capitol district, and that’s when I tore my shoe. It was my own fault, really. There was a cluster of moms with kids in strollers heading down the sidewalk, going the same direction I was but not as fast.  I veered over to the curb to get around them, misjudged my step, and a sharp bit of curbing caught the side of my shoe as I stumbled and ripped the bioplastic wide open. Fortunately it didn’t rip me, but I hadn’t brought a spare pair—these were good shoes, the sort that usually last for a couple of months before you have to throw them out. So there I was, looking at the shredded side of the shoe, and then I looked up and the first store I saw was a shoe store, I kid you not. 

I managed to keep the ripped shoe on my foot long enough to get in the door. The clerk, a middle-aged guy whose hair was that pink color you get when a flaming redhead starts to go gray, spotted me and started into the “Hi, how can I help you?” routine right as what was left of the shoe flopped right off my foot. He started laughing, and so did I; I picked the thing up, and he said, “Well, I don’t need to ask that, do I? Let’s get you measured and put something a little less flimsy on your feet.”

“I take a men’s medium-large,” I said.

He nodded, and gave me the kind of look you give to someone who really doesn’t get it. “We like to be a little more precise here. Go ahead and have a seat.”

So I sat down; he took the remains of the shoe and threw it away, and then proceeded to use this odd metal device with sliding bits on it to measure both my feet. “9D,” he said, “with a high arch. I bet your feet ache right in the middle when you’re on ‘em too long.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I take pills for that.”

“A good pair of shoes will do a better job. Let’s see, now—that’s business wear, isn’t it? You expect to do a lot of walking? Any formal or semi-formal events coming up?” I nodded yes to each, and he said, “Okay, I got just the thing for you.”

He went away, came back with a box, and extracted a pair of dark brown leather shoes from it. “This brown’ll match the putty color of those clothes of yours pretty well, and these won’t take any breaking in. Let’s give it a try.” The shoes went on. “There you go. Walk around a bit, see how they feel on you.”

I got up and walked around the store. My feet felt remarkably odd. It took me a moment to realize that this was because the shoes actually fit them. “These are pretty good,” I told him.

“Beat the pants off the things you were wearing, don’t they?”

“True enough,” I admitted. He rang up the sale on some kind of old-fashioned mechanical cash register and wrote out a bill of sale by hand; I paid up and headed out the door.

Half a block down the same street was a store selling men’s clothes. I went in, and came out something like an hour later dressed like one of the locals—wool jacket, slacks and vest, button-up cotton shirt, and tie, with a long raincoat over the top, and my ordinary clothes in a shopping bag. I’d already more than half decided to pick up something less conspicuous to wear before my shoe got torn, and money wasn’t a problem, so I bought enough to keep me for the duration of my stay, and had everything else sent back to the hotel; the bill was large enough that the clerk checked my ID and then called the bank to make sure I had enough in my account to cover it. Still, that was the only hitch, and quickly past.

From the clothes store I headed back the way I’d come, turned a corner and went three blocks into a neighborhood of narrow little shops with hand-written signs in the windows. The sign I was looking for, on the recommendation of the clothes store clerk, was barely visible on the glass of a door: S. EHRENSTEIN HABERDASHER. I went in; the space inside was only about twice as wide as the door, with shelves packed with boxes on both walls and a little counter and cash register at the far end.

S. Ehrenstein turned out to be a short wiry man with hair the color of steel wool and a nose like a hawk’s beak. “Good afternoon,” he said, and then considered me for a moment. “You’re from outside—Atlantic Republic, or maybe Upper Canada. Not Québec or New England. Am I right?”

“Atlantic,” I said. “How’d you know?”

“Your clothes and your shoes are brand new—I’d be surprised if you told me you’ve been in ‘em for as much as an hour. That says you just came from outside—that and no hat, and five o’clock shadow this early in the day; I don’t know why it is, but nobody outside seems to know how to get a proper shave. The rest, well, I pay attention to lots of  little things. How’d you hear about my shop?”

I told him the name of the clothing store, and he nodded, pleased. “Well, there you are. That’s Fred Hayakawa’s store; his family’s been in the business since half an hour before Eve bit the apple, and his clerks know a good hat, which is more than I could say for some. So are you in business, or—”

“Politics,” I said.

“Then I have just the hat for you. Let’s get your head measured.” A measuring tape came out of his pocket and looped around my head. “Okay, good. Seven and a quarter, I should have in stock.” He ducked past me, clambered onto a stepladder, pulled down a box. “Try it on. The mirror’s there.”

With the hat on, my resemblance to a minor character from a Bogart vid was complete. “Absolutely classic,” the haberdasher said from behind me. “Fedoras, homburgs, sure, they’re fine, but a porkpie like this, you can wear it anywhere and look real classy.”

“I like it,” I agreed.

“Well, there you are. Let me show you something.” He took the hat, slipped a cord out from under the ribbon. “In windy weather you put this loop over your coat button, so you don’t lose it if it blows off. If I were you I’d do that before I set one foot outside that door.”

I paid up, accepted the business card he pressed on me, and got the loop in place before I went back outside. The wind had died down, so the hat stayed comfortably in place—and the adverb’s deliberate; it kept my head warm, and the rest of the clothes were pleasant in a way that bioplastic just isn’t.

You know what it’s like when some annoying noise is so much part of the background that you don’t notice it at all, until it stops, and then all of a sudden you realize just how much it irritated you? Getting out of bioplastic was the same sort of thing. In most countries these days, everything from clothes to sheets to curtains is bioplastic, because it’s so cheap to make and turn into products that the big corporations that sell it drove everything else off the market years ago. It’s waterproof, it’s easy to clean—there’s quite a litany, and of course it was all over the metanet and the other media back when you could still buy anything else. Of course the ads didn’t mention that it’s flimsy and slippery, and feels clammy pretty much all the time, but that’s the way it goes; what’s in the stores depends on what makes the biggest profit for the big dogs in industry, and the rest of us just have to learn to live with it.

The Lakeland Republic apparently didn’t play by the same rules, though. The embargo had something to do with it, I guessed, but apparently they weren’t letting the multinationals compete with local producers. The clothes I’d bought were a lot more expensive than bioplastic equivalents would have been, and I figured it would take trade barriers to keep them on the market.

I kept walking. Two blocks later, about the time I caught sight of the capitol dome again, I passed a barbershop and happened to notice a sign in the window advertising a shave and trim. I thought about what S. Ehrenstein had said about a proper shave, laughed, and decided to give it a try.

The barber was a big balding guy with a ready grin. “What can I do for you?”

“Shave and trim, please.”

“Your timing’s good. Another half hour and you’d have to wait a bit, but as it is—” He waved me to the coatrack and the empty chair. “Get yourself comfy and have a seat.”

I shed my coat, hat, and jacket,  and sat down. He covered me up with the same loose poncho thing that barbers use everywhere, tied something snug around my neck, and went to work. “New in town?”

“Just visiting, from Philadelphia.”

“No kidding. Welcome to Toledo. Here on business?” Instead of the buzz of an electric trimmer, the clicking of scissors sounded back behind my right ear.

“More or less. I’ll try to talk to some people up at the Capitol, make some contacts, ask some questions about the way you do things here.”

“Might have to wait a day or two, according to the papers. Did you hear about this latest thing?”

“Just that there’s some kind of crisis.”

The scissor-sound moved around the back of my head from right to left. “Well, sort of. Tempest in a teapot is more like it. Something in the budget bill for next year set off the all-out Restos, and so one of the parties that’s had Meeker’s back says they’ll bolt unless whatever it is gets taken out.”


“You don’t have those out your way, do you? Here the two political blocs are Conservatives and Restorationists; Conservatives want to keep things pretty much the way they are, Restos want to take things back to the way they used to be. Okay, lay your head back.” I did, and he draped a hot damp towel over the lower half of my face, then went back to trimming. “Used to be about half and half, but these days the Restos have the bigger half—all the rural counties going to lower tiers, and so on.”

“Hmm?” I managed to say.

“Oh, that’s right. You probably don’t know about the tiers.”


“It works like this. There are five tiers, and counties vote on what tier they want to be in. The lower the tier, the lower your taxes, but the less you get in terms of infrastructure and stuff. Toledo’s tier five—we got electricity, we got phones in every house, good paving on the streets so you can drive a car if you can afford one, but we pay for it through the nose when it comes to tax time.”


He took off the towel, started brushing hot lather onto my face. “So tier five has a base date of 1950—that means we got about the same sort of services they had here that year. The other tiers go down from there—tier four’s base date  is 1920, for tier three it’s 1890, tier two’s 1860, and tier one’s 1830. You live in a tier one county, you got police, you got dirt roads, not a lot else. Of course your taxes are way, way down, too.” He put away the brush, snapped open an old-fashioned straight razor, and went to work on my stubble. “That’s the thing. Nobody’s technology gets a subsidy—that’s in the constitution. You want it, you pay all the costs, cradle to grave. You don’t get to dump ‘em on anybody else. That’s what the Restos are all up in arms about. They think something in the budget is a hidden subsidy for I forget what high-tier technology, and that’s a red line for them.”

“Mm-hmm,” I said again.

 “They’ll get it worked out. Go like this.” He drew his lips to one side, and I imitated the movement. “Meeker’s handled that sort of thing more’n a dozen times already—he’s good. If we let our presidents have second terms he’d get one. Now go like this.” I moved my lips the other way. “So they’ll drop whatever it is out of the budget, or put in a user fee, or come up with some other gimmick so that everybody’s happy. It’s not a big deal. Nothing like the fight over the treaty, or the time ten years ago when Mary Chenkin was president, when the Restos wanted to get rid of tier five, just like that. That was a real donnybrook. This close to the Capitol, you better believe I got to hear all sides of it.”

He finished shaving, washed the last bits of soap off my face with another hot wet towel, then splashed on sone kind of bay-scented aftershave that stung a bit. A brush darted around my shoulders, and then he took off the neckcloth and the poncho thing. “There you go.”

I got up, checked the trim in the big mirror on the wall, ran my fingers across my cheek; it was astonishingly smooth. “Very nice,” I said. While I got out my wallet, I asked the barber, “Do you think Toledo’s ever going to go to a lower tier?”

“People are talking about it,” he said. “I mean, it’s nice to have some of the services, but then tax time comes around and everyone says ‘Ouch.’ Me, I could live with tier four easy, and my business—” He gestured at the shop. “Other than the lights, might as well be tier one. A lot of businesses run things that way—it just makes more sense.” He handed me my change with a grin. “And more money.”


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Alex said...

This story is going great. I can testify, a good suit is comfy! His story is basically describing how almost all of us want to live.

Ray Wharton said...

Restorationists as mirror image progressives yet also something like the popular image of libertarians, I think I get it. A very clean cut explanation.

I suppose you've got a pretty decent sketch in mind of what precisely each tier adds to the set of government subsidies.

siliconguy said...

Refrigeration. The 1950 refrigerator would work fine, but it's pretty inefficient compared to a modern one. Kicking all the way back to 1920 means ice boxes at best. Given there was a noticeable drop in stomach cancer ( and all sorts of food poisoning) once refrigeration came in home smoking went out, I think they threw the baby out with the bath water in the lower tiers.

Hopefully they kept the vaccines in all tiers. Letting polio come back for old times sake would be really stupid. And even 1950 predates that vaccine.

MindfulEcologist said...

Simply loving this work of yours, though I do miss your analysis at times. Last week was refreshing.
All the best with your Lovecraftian tale too, I'm waiting on pins and needles for that one.

John Roth said...

It took me a moment to figure out "what the way things were" actually meant for the Restos. I thought it was higher, but it seems to be lower; that is more or less what happened after the civil war and the embargo?

Jo said...

I am really appreciating this series, not the least because of the range of possibilities it opens up in my own life. For some years I have been beginning to practice Green Wizard skills - gardening, preserving, cooking real food from local sources. Your 'Green Wizardry' book was a catalyst for me - for some time I had been uneasy about the impact of my own modern life on the planet, and for social justice reasons. Your book, plus your wonderful 'Butlerian Carnival' helped me to sit up and say, "Hang on, I can live my life any way I want."

So over the past year or so I have been quietly downshifting. I cannot say that I have worked my way down any of those tiers yet, but that is certainly my intention. I have mostly stopped buying new stuff, and when I do, I buy from exactly the little Mom-and-Pop stores that Mr Carr patronised this week. I stopped using the tumble dryer and the dishwasher, and next am planning to sell my lawn mower and get a push mower instead. I am walking a lot more. My family watch so little television that if I got rid of it, they might not even notice. We have reintroduced board games and reading aloud for entertainment and my teenagers are loving it. By Christmas I will be a proud chicken-owner, and I plan to learn to sew this year. I am nearly finished my first ever crochet project, a large granny-square blanket, a craft that I got my mum to teach me and my daughters this year, and which was mostly made with left-over scraps of wool from friends and garage-sales.

And I have never been happier or more content with my life. I just wanted to let you know that your posts and books are not just academic for me, that I treat them as a weekly DIY-life-manual. Retrotopia is not a pipe-dream, it's a way of life we can all quietly insist on. This week I am annoying the tax department by jumping through all of the considerable hoops they have set up to discourage people like me from lodging an actual paper tax return, instead of doing it on-line, and will be sending in my tax forms by mail, with actual stamps.

We all have choices that we make every day. Some are convenient, but lead to a life that we mostly don't actually even want, some require more thought, planning and effort, but take us to a place we would really rather be..

Hawkcreek said...

I like the tier method of selecting what level of services you want to pay for.
I got a letter today from a county agency that somehow knew that I am a senior citizen living on Social Security. They wanted to know if I needed help in paying my utility bills. Kind of funny because I have been living off grid for years,and my only utility bill is for an occasional tank of propane.
I didn't realize that some people have their utility bills paid by other peoples taxes.
I vote for Tier 1.

Eric Backos said...

Dear Mr. Greer, Your Grace, &c.
I am pleased to report this week’s Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association, Chapter Number 440 meeting is now listed in the MeetUps forum on Please note that the venue has changed. Splendorem Lucis Viridis!

Howard Skillington said...

Trade barriers? How un-American!

For over a century more than half of the furniture manufactured in America was produced within a hundred mile radius of where I live in North Carolina. In about a generation the old timers who know how to run a furniture plant will be gone. Americans generally regard the French as ridiculous for their determination to continue to have farmers in their country.

But when container ships full of furniture stop arriving from China, and produce from Chile no longer fills our supermarket shelves in winter, it will finally occur to people that maybe it would have been a good thing for our society to have retained the skills required to meet our own needs.

MayHawk said...

Very Good. I think I am too old not to want some basic comforts. If I was young Tier 2 or 3 would be my choice but as I am now I would probably prefer Tier 4. 1920 has an appeal. The right combination for me of quiet and unhurried yet with a modicum of technical and labor conveniences. Electric lights, maybe radio. Refrigerator if one wanted to spend the money but well built ice boxes if not. Milk, ice, and other perishable delivered. Green grocers, butchers, and most basic necessities in local shops at easy walking distance. And Trolley and Cable cars in every town and city!!

Of course there are downsides to every tier level. No antibiotics if I remember and a lot of people died every year of pneumonia and influenza. Will you write of downsides of the various Tiers? Of course you already have indirectly.

Stacy said...

In addition to the greater comfort Mr. Carr has experienced in tailored natural fiber clothing, there is an additonal advantage. Natural fiber clothing is less flammable (especially wool) and he wouldn't receive the horrible resin burns on his skin that bioplastic and other petrochemically-based fibers leave behind. My Midwestern great-grandmother, born 1900, used a woodstove for all cooking and heating in town until the late 1970's and regularly burnt trash in a dedicated metal barrel. Ashes were buried in the garden. She was very careful about what she wore while tending the stove.

Misty Barber said...

"these were good shoes, the sort that usually last for a couple of months before you have to throw them out."

I thought the indignity of wearing a tyvek suit and relying on a smart phone equivalent that stores nothing locally and didn't seem to have any media capabilities was humiliating enough, but to force Carr into shoddy medium-large slippers that he defends as "good" that is comedy gold. I do wonder though about the quality of his socks or if the shoe salesmen sent him off without any.

Eric Backos said...

Mr. Carr’s experience with bioplastic is similar to my experience with “high end” outdoor clothing. Fortunately, wool clothing is still available and durable.

Dan the Farmer said...

To be sure I knew what you meant, I searched for images of porkpie hats. And then I saw pictures of hipsters in porkpie hats. Because I live in a rural area and don't watch a lot of media, I'm not so familiar with hipsters. But I looked at the pictures. And now, because I have no taste and my clothing ranges from quirky to functional, I'm concerned I might be taken for a hipster. This worries me. I guess that's something.

But this brings up a point: People trying to be 'retro' often get it wrong. They mix things and come up with anachronisms. They're trying to reference a time past, but they come up with something not quite the same. They try to look Rat Pack, but end up looking like Elvis Costello instead. There's always stylistic variation.

Joel Caris said...

I really enjoyed this installment. Interesting line from the barber about our Mr. Carr having to wait for his trim and shave if he had arrived a half hour later. Afternoon prayer?

Definitely curious to hear more about the political scene, and about debates over the tier system. Is there a general belief among the Restorationists that Tier 5 is unsustainable long term? How about among the general population? And when he says Restorationists want to take things back the way they used to be, what's the way they used to be? At what point in time?

Lots of little hints and details in this one. I like it!

Unknown said...

If the dancers were lucky the piano man might sound like the late grate Brent Mydland.

Myosotis said...

Thank you for not treating clothes as feminine frivolity. Good fabric is important.

Mister Roboto said...

Our narrator is probably going to go entirely native by the end of the story, I'm guessing. I suspected that from the very first chapter.

usedkey said...

What a thought-provoking concept the tiers are. I like it.

I'm really enjoying this story, and especially the serial aspect of it. It gives me plenty of time to think about the cultures, and to chew it all over with my family and friends.

Thank you for writing it!

Dan Mollo said...

I like the tier system of taxes, makes sense. If the fine denizens of the Lakeland Republic wanted to think really long term, perhaps they would be wise to read any competent treatise on the decline of complex societies and add in tier 0 for dark age services? The difference between tier 5 and tier 1 would seem miniscule compared to the difference between tier 1 and tier 0.

Cherokee Organics said...


It was very nice to see the reappearance of hats and also the introduction of chicory coffee into the story. I grow chicory here and consume it as a summer salad green (the bees enjoy the flowers too), but haven't quite yet decided to experiment with the dried chicory roots as a coffee substitute which was done back in the day. But then as you may be aware, I've recently cracked the secret to growing a single tea camellia - which is a tropical plant - outside of a green-house in this cooler southern mountain climate. I'm feeling pretty smug about that win too. ;-)! Mind you, a very hot summer may come along and destroy that possibility. The tea camellia is producing lots of new growth right now. I suspect with a bit of global warming, you may be able to grow it in the future in areas that receive only a very light frost in the US. The plant doesn't like any frost at all, as it is a bit of a light weight compared to the flowering camellia's here which put up with heat, frost, drought...

So, our protagonist has been asked to look into some things - you never quite mentioned by whom though? No, please keep your plot secrets - although I do suspect that he is also a part time spy or an old school style intelligence gatherer.

I hear you as I'm very dubious about expenditure on advertising. I read somewhere recently that down here we suffer from the highest per capita expenditure on advertising in the world, but then I avoid it like the plague.

Yes, I'm sure he takes pills for that ache - you'd be surprised just how often I note that people actually do think like that now, when the actual long term solution requires adaption to circumstances and a holistic approach, rather than just popping a pill.

Just for your interest, I gave up buying and wearing synthetic garments years ago. Wool and cotton are my mainstays, but the editor also enjoys silk, cashmere and alpaca. The funny thing is that people are grasping for the latest stuff - which is usually cheap, synthetic and disposable, and they don't realise just how good and cheap the natural materials actually are. In all seriousness, those materials should be well out of my price range, but they are way under-valued due to the mysterious workings of the invisible hand of the market.

Haha! Too funny. What a great idea those tiers are. Very clever indeed. Is that your original idea? Excellent work. I deliberately chose to live in a tier 2 zone here (the dirt roads are actually maintained by the council once or twice per year when there are just way too many potholes). There are very little services provided here at all and I love that because it means I can't get scammed by the centralised service vultures (the local council property rates / taxes are exorbitant though). Even then, sometimes a centralised vulture will levy a charge on the property here and the annual water rates that I have to pay makes me furious because they do not contribute one single service to this property. It is an outrageous scam.


Cherokee Organics said...

Isn't it funny how people get upset about charges for centralised services, but at the same time they want them - and more of them. It is a contradictory desire and it must give people serious internal tensions. I hear people saying: oh, solar is just so expensive – to which I always reply yeah, if you expect it to deliver as much electricity as a coal fired powered generator can - but if you just want to run a few lights, a pump and maybe a radio - no problems, it's very cheap. It is just that they want more than it can give.

Oh, there is an unprecedented (in recorded history) heat wave about to hit the farm over the next few days. Yoda might say: Adapt, you must!



PS: I've got a new blog entry up: Berry nice!. I pose a social question which has been delightfully answered in the comment section. Spring has sprung here and there are lots of photos showing all that is going on. The new berry enclosure using local sapling pickets has been completed and I've started planting it out with various berries. The tomato seedlings have all mostly germinated in the unlikely medium of mushroom compost! And in a world's first I reveal dog food secrets.

patriciaormsby said...

I'm guessing that "bioplastic" is made from engineered microorganisms. One might think of "soylent green" as well, and indeed, with a little propaganda, it's easy to get people to reproduce like livestock, but the purpose would be leaked, and the livestock in this case would mutiny.

I loved the description of the piano player's skill! This is such fun reading! Such a boost from the daily news. My husband's been having nightmares despite good nutrition (well balanced B vitamins seem to prevent most nightmares). Yesterday morning, my dreams pointed out to me the reason: the world is headed to war, and it will be a miracle if that can be stopped.

Joseph Seedsman said...

Thank you for another great blog.

Caryn said...

Nice one. The barbershop 'daily gazette'! & this barber has collapsed early and will avoid the rush. Hopefully Mr. Carr, in his quest to get the low-down on LLR, will remember that other font of local information, (from his Bogart vids) - the bartender - and next go get himself a nice drink.

RE: The bioplast shoes lucky to last for a few months: I don't know if that was exaggerated conjecture on your part or if things have gotten that bad in the US, (i've been away for so long), but that is no exaggeration here for the lifespan of clothes, shoes and appliances here in Asia. Planned Obsolescence reigns. It's really very alarming.

Thanks, I've enjoyed this installment immensely. :)

Jim R said...

If I live in a tier one house, am I free to run a length of twisted-pair wire to my neignbors on all sides? (mesh network / phone lines)

thenoteswhichdonotfit said...

I'd probably vote to live in Tier 4. I can't think of anything I'd especially want from 1950 technology which I couldn't also get from 1920 technology. Maybe over time I'd warm up to the idea of going to lower tiers, but I rather like electric lighting, electric streetcars, and both a good sewing machine and an icebox would be handy.

With regards to vaccines and polio ... ironically, the polio epidemic was triggered by an increased level of technology, not a lack of technology. If I recall correctly, if babies a) get antibodies for polio through breastmilk and b) are exposed to polio while breastfeeding, they get lifelong immunity without suffering, and this used to happen to almost everybody. However, when running water became widely available, children might not get exposed to polio until they were, say, seven years old...

FiftyNiner said...

The reference to chicory coffee really grabbed me. My maternal grandparents used Luzianne RT Coffee with Chicory(red can or bag) all their lives. I fondly remember eating breakfasts that my grandmother cooked on the big wood cook stove and the wonderful aroma of the strong coffee that I learned to drink black and truly enjoy! To this day, I will only drink coffee with absolutely nothing added to it. (I know you grew up in the Northwest, but I have never understood what Starbucks does to something so pure as coffee.)
I did not learn until I went to school that chicory coffee was looked down on as something that poor people drank. This was a holdover from the Civil War when people substituted many things for coffee, which became virtually unavailable during the blockade of the southern ports. Apparently as soon as people could go back to coffee they shied away from anything that revealed that they could not afford pure coffee.
The irony of all this, however, is that during my lifetime anyway, the coffee with chicory has never been cheaper than regular coffee. Indeed, the coffee my grandparents used was somewhat higher than the national brands. The J T Riley Coffee Company of New Orleans is the purveyor of Luzianne RT Coffee and I do not know how far from NO it is sold. We still have it in some stores here.

If it is true that "clothes make the man," I think our protagonist is about to be "re-made".

Joe Roberts said...

The obvious fact occurred to me when reading this installment that some of these people would actually be alive today. If S. Ehrenstein were 65 in 2065, he'd of course be 15 years old now. I picture him as a high-school sophomore at the end of September 2015, let's say in an upper-middle-class suburb of Toledo, playing Call of Duty on his PlayStation 4 and aurfing Wikipedia for homework hints on his his Apple 32GB ipod touch 5th generation with retina display, while simultaneously FaceTiming on his iPad with a friend visiting Orlando and texting with an insomniac former exchange student who's back home in Belgium. How does a kid who grows up like that -- a spring-break trip to Spain with his Spanish class, trying different types of sushi at the local 24-hour Kroger, a 3,400-square-foot home with lawn service, an Amazon Prime subscription so he can order nearly anything that fits into a box and have it within two days (and if that all seems too affluent, pick and choose from the list or tone it down one notch) -- how does a kid like that grow up to be content as a haberdasher (when does he even learn the word haberdasher?), talking about fedoras and hamburgs as if he were in a high-school production of Our Town?

I hope you get my drift. In no way do I mean to suggest that I think progress is an upward arrow (I read your blog because I mostly agree with your premises), but I wonder at how people who have lived in this world, as awful as much of it is -- even the goodly majority that doesn't have anything like what my hypothetical young Ehrenstein has -- I wonder at how contented they really would find themselves with 1950 (let alone 1830) levels of technology and lifestyle. Because everyone in your story seems so happy.

I also wonder what going back to 1950 means for (to use that much-used phrase) social issues. I'd be curious if there's been regression in LGBT rights in the Lakeland Republic, or what the status of abortion is. I know I'm probably overthinking this, but I wonder if Carr's observation of Ehrenstein's "nose like a hawk's beak" -- as though someone from 2065 Philadelphia would find such a nose the least bit noteworthy -- has a sinister overtone vis-a-vis events in some of these republics, in terms of Jews, the scapegoats during so many other of history's economic rough spots.

And this is too long already, but that got me to thinking about how 50 years really has had the potential to mark an incredible societal break, more so than the 1965 vs. 2015 Toeldo differences I mused on in an earlier comment. Think of a well-off, largely secular Jewish family in the eastern part of Berlin just before the First World War -- 1913, let's say -- whose family members have known and do know various degrees of casual anti-Semitism but basically live a great, comfortable, integrated German life, speaking German obviously, entrenched in commerce and the cultured life of the city. Fifty years later, in 1963, and the family members and their descendants who are alive, if any of them are and very possibly none of them are, will be living in the US, Israel, or maybe the UK, totally dissipated, speaking other languages, with completely different mindsets. Their former neighborhood, now part of East Berlin, is full of ugly tower blocks that look nothing like the houses of 1913, behind an uncrossable wall in a divided city, in a puppet state of the Soviets -- not one bit of which would be imaginable in 1913. So, that's one real-life fifty-year trajectory.

Tony said...

Re: planned obsolescence of clothes.

Not everybody seems to have fallen into that trap. My colleague is from Armenia, and is sure to only buy shoes when he goes home to visit family in his home country. He is able to buy counterfeits of most of the American brands for a fraction of the price, which are many times as durable as the ones you can buy here.

Toro Loki said...

Theonioid monk?
Felonious Monk?
I know some people around Here who are almost desperate enough to become felonious.
Not me fortunately. Because I know magic :).

Claire said...

Great! I've been wondering how the technology could be uniform throughout an entire county. A tier system wouldn't prevent people from investing in any technology they like but it would limit the public services and infrastructure demands. I bet the quality of available medical care is uniform throughout the country. Obviously better roads would mean better emergency response.

I think Carr would have more of a reaction to being shaved with a straight razor. That's got to be a bit of a shock to someone who hasn't experienced it before.

John Michael Greer said...

Alex, good. That's exactly the point, of course.

Ray, I do indeed.

Siliconguy, that is to say, you weren't paying attention. What tier you're on doesn't determine what technology you're allowed to have -- that's up to you. It determines what kind of infrastructure is paid for out of public funds, i.e., your tax dollars. If you're in tiers five or four, you can have as modern a refrigerator as you like, since both tiers have electricity. Below that, you can still have it, as long as you're up to generating your own electricity. A bit clearer?

MindfulEcologist, the Lovecraftian tale is in the publisher's squamous, rugose hands even as I speak, and -- ahem -- the sequel's on the upside of 20,000 words. I'll post when there's news.

John, heh heh heh. Stay tuned...

Jo, thank you. It's comments like yours that make it easy to keep hammering on the keyboard week after week.

Hawkcreek, our entire society is riddled with overt and covert subsidies -- that's the brontosaur in the room, the thing that nobody wants to talk about that defines modern American life, and I've come to think that it's also a primary reason why so many wildly uneconomical activities retain a veneer of plausibility. More on this as we proceed!

Eric, glad to hear it.

Howard, that was part of the hard times and economic crisis Carr mentions offhand over and over again. After Partition, the formerly United States discovered that they had to learn how to produce goods and services again. As for trade barriers, the US used trade barriers to build its own industrial economy -- why do you think we discourage all other countries from doing the same thing?

MayHawk, here again, your tier level just determines what services are provided by public utilities, not what technology you can bring it. By 2065, btw, antibiotics no longer work because bacterial resistance is universal; sorry.

Stacy, true enough. Wool is good for clothing; plastic isn't.

Misty, glad you liked that. You're right that I probably should have mentioned socks -- no doubt he'll ditch the bioplastic socks and underwear promptly enough.

Eric, good. It's based on my experience with nylon, polyester, etc., which I find loathsome.

Dan, of course -- and we'll be discussing that. Even the all-out Restos who live in tier one counties and wear poke bonnets and straw hats end up bringing in bits of sustainable technology; what's evolving in the Lakeland Republic is not a return of the past but a bricolage of technologies from many different eras.

John Michael Greer said...

Joel, nah, starting at three in the afternoon you start seeing people get off work who started at six, and had the canonical one hour lunch break. As for what date the Restos want to return to, that depends on the Resto -- that's why there are five Restorationist and three Conservative parties in the legislature. The rest, why, stay tuned...

Unknown, or any number of great jazz pianists in their early years. I'm partial to Fats Waller and Thelonious Monk myself.

Myosotis, you're welcome. It's only because of the absurd amount of energy we waste in today's America that people can allow themselves to forget why good clothing matters.

Mister R., heh heh heh. Stay tuned!

Usedkey, you're welcome and thank you!

Dan, not at all. Dark age communities had some form of local policing (the local baron and his warband) and dirt roads; tier 1 has local policing and dirt roads. The technologies used by individuals were different but the infrastructure was the same. No, "tier zero" will come up for discussion later on...

Cherokee, yes, the tiers are as far as I know original to me. More generally, the role of public subsidies for technology hasn't gotten anything like the exploration it deserves -- most of the really toxic technologies we have today exist only because they receive gargantuan direct and indirect subsidies, and of course the wealth that goes into those subsidies is no longer available for other, more productive uses. Nobody notices the connection; that should change. Yes, I'd meant to congratulate you on the camellia -- hurrah for tea! -- and trust that you've got plenty of cool beverages on hand for the heat wave. Here it's 60 degrees F. and raining, with a cat-3 hurricane due to hit Monday; I'd send you some rain if I could!

Patricia, we'll be hearing more from the piano player. As for war, no argument there; things could get very ugly very fast.

Joseph, you're welcome and thank you.

Caryn, why, yes, he'll be visiting a bar sometime soon. He doesn't drink before five in the afternoon. As for shoddy clothing and shoes, it's that bad for the poor in the US; it hasn't yet metastasized up to Carr's income level, but it will.

Jim, as already noted, sure -- the tier level just determines what services your tax money provides via public utilities. Of course most people who live in tier one counties aren't interested in mesh networks, you know.

Notes, well, there you are. Me, I'd probably go for tier 3 or 4, for similar reasons, but I know a growing number of people for whom off-grid, low-tech living is a lot more appealing. As for polio, we'll get to health care down the road a bit.

FiftyNiner, don't blame me for Starbucks! Coffee gives me migraines, so I'm not a fan regardless, but the sticky overpriced goo that Starbucks sells would appall me even if I liked coffee. As for chicory, good -- it's grown as a significant crop in 2065 in the Lakeland Republic, as well as the Confederacy and most of the other former US republics, precisely because the collapse of the old economy left most people unable to afford coffee beans, and the habit stayed in many places. I like roasted chicory brew a great deal, also roasted dandelion root tea, and hey, it's my utopia! ;-)

mgalimba said...

"Some are convenient, but lead to a life that we mostly don't actually even want, some require more thought, planning and effort, but take us to a place we would really rather be.."

Very well put! It takes a very long time to figure out what one actually wants and how to get there! But its so worth it.

John Michael Greer said...

Joe, good. Sam Ehrenstein would indeed be alive today, and about fifteen; there are still family-run haberdashery shops in quite a number of cities today, and they've gotten a new lease on life in recent years with the popularity of hats among the hipster contingent. So Sam may be wasting time with the vapid electronic gizmos you've named, and daydreaming of going into some exciting career in vaporware rather than following his dad into the hat trade -- but let's look at the future ahead of him. The economy's gone to bits by the time he graduates from high school; the higher-ed bubble has collapsed by then, too, and so college is out for everyone but the rich; in 2021 the US digital infrastructure gets shredded by Chinese hackers, and never really recovers; in 2024 the Second Civil War begins, and he's either drafted into the US Army or he joins one of the ragtag rebel groups that eventually become the Alliance. Four brutal years later, the war is over, the surviving members of his family are living in a refugee camp in Ontario or in makeshift shelters in northern Michigan because Toledo got bombed hard during the fighting, and the Midwest is in ruins. Then there's Partition, followed by the debt crisis, followed by an economic crisis at least as bad as the Great Depression -- and because natural gas and other heating fuels basically aren't available any more, lots of people want hats again. Is Sam going to help his father get the old haberdashery business going again, learn the trade, and become one of the fixtures of the Toledo hat trade? You bet he is, because reality has intervened.

As for social issues, I've been trying to lay down a trail of bread crumbs to point in the direction this is going: a brown-skinned woman on the border guard, an African-American banker, an Italian-American jazz pianist, and so on. Older technologies do not require older social mores -- much less older prejudices. Carr noticed Sam Ehrenstein's nose the same way he noticed the shoe salesman's pink hair (notice how this tags the guy's ethnic roots) or Melissa Berger's height -- he's a guy who notices things, and in the highly multiethnic post-US North America of 2065, if you're in politics, you notice ethnicities among many other things, because it's no longer "important white guys" vs. "everyone else;" the different ethnic communities have clout, and paying attention to who's who is essential for successful politics in a multipolar society. More on this as we proceed!

Tony, when your colleague from Armenia starts coming back from trips home with good sturdy shoes to sell here, let me know!

Toro, er, do you know who Thelonious Monk was? If not, and you like jazz, look him up and prepare to have your mind blown.

Claire, exactly. The last thing the Lakeland Republic (or anyone else) needs is an overgrown homeowner's association enforcing rules on what technology you can have. It's both easier and fairer to limit the tier system to infrastructure and public services, and link that to the tax code, so that those who use the least pay the least.

David from Normandy said...

M. Greer, I like very much the story you're currently writing. But... could you just write faster? I feel frustrated every week :)
Seriously, thank you for your very interesting work, I follow you since 2012 I think, and I plan to continue as long as you do, or as long as internet works.

ed boyle said...

What I generally dislike about sci-fi is how to get the whole worldview into casual conversation. In any novel or short story written now, whenever or wherever that was, so much is taken for granted, by ancient romans, shakespearean English, midwesterners in 1920s. I find it al so unnatural writi g 'out of present time', backwards or forwards' as the whole point of storytelling is character development, which isuniversal, eternal. Technological state of society is just paper wrapping around true substance of what it means to be human. That said, as life is moving so quickly, that wrapping changes color and shape so quickly it needs some paying attention to. You do this well. This is written crisply, reminds me of Harry Potter books. Tech, worldview takes up lots of space, people are superficially described. The haberdasher is terribly like the magic wand salesman.

I wonder how difficult it would be for me to write a deeply felt short story which lasts the test of time, you know people watch a film and see the hair style, car types, etc. and know immediately steretypical social types and problenms ofthe era and adjust or turn away. Maybe it has to do with being half poet. Hamlet is still most seen play globally. Once tier one is universal perhaps my complaint here will be superfluous as technological choice will be unknown and character study will be all that matters in a relatively static world. Even then climate change will destroy civilizational basis so maybe my hope of middle ages or ancient type basic tech at iron age agricultural level with written stories and large settlements is wishful thinking. Perhaps oral story telling memorized by blind musicians will suffice.

Children's books make bestsellers when they're on a roll, you might try your hand, if you want to make ready money.I bet a trilogy for preteens to early teens would roll off your pen easily. This could be set ina fantasy dark ages of future and your premise would get to a wider audience than just us doomergeeks.

Hubertus Hauger said...

Unknown: "Putin has made himself the master of Russia by strategy and ruthlessness. He believes that what he is doing will make Russia great again."
I know from myself, when I am shaken, I long for something to hold on. Parentfigures, leaders, redeemers I see as quite attractive. The praises of Putin are showing me not his quality as a Alpha but our very need for an Alpha.
Its bad, to live insecure, isn´t it? As I am myself live in this society in turnmoil, what a hopeful perspective, that there may be somebody, to resurrect me. I feel the relieve, having someone, to depend on that strong shoulder. Him taking off me the effort and instead of being burdened with the responsibility myself and feeling so painfully my restrictions, not to be a superman. But there might be one? So I hope. Just let me only touch him once and all will be good again. That would be fine, wouldn´t it? And much better than me laubouring hard, and achieving most probably less than desired.

I talk to mayself; "Lets get out of that trap and become selfreliant!

Allexis Weetman said...

Hello Mr Greer. I am a first time commentator but long haul reader of your blog and books. I came here via J.H. Kunstler. Unfortunately his latest opinions seem to have more to do with reactionary bad temper than any basic truth or logic. Maybe he is becoming a grumpy old man. I'm glad we have your blog for a more civil discussion.

I wonder if there are certain elements in the resto's who would like to see social mores and prejudice go back to pre-1950 as well as tech subsidies? Hopefully a minority only.

Since reading your stories I've wanted to write future fiction for my own part of the world in the UK. But it can be hard to imagine the future. At first I started by imagining a future and then trying to shoehorn events into the intervening time that would explain said future, but this may be putting the cart before the horse.

In my house we have been trying out your ideas about retro living and they are a success. We scour the car-boot-sales and charity shops(you would call them something else in America maybe)for retro 2nd hand items that have stood the test of decades and even centuries. A cottage industry is had from selling these on for a profit to those who would not stoop to pick up a penny themselves.

Martin B said...

@ Joe. If you want to know how reversion from today's high-tech world feels like, try retiring on an inadequate pension. You adapt and make the best of it. I'm drinking a coffee/chicory mix and wearing a knitted cap as I write this. Later I'll walk down to the shops (no car) and buy fresh veggies (no freezer or microwave). Tomorrow I'll hand wash my laundry (no washing machine). It keeps me healthy and my weight in check.

On shoes: I would have gone for a stout pair of lace-up boots like gentlemen in Edwardian photos wear, given the unpaved roads. But maybe lounge shoes are de rigueur for civil servants and the like.

On shaving: In the 1970s I got beaten up in Scotland (long story). With my eyes swollen shut I wasn't confident enough to shave around the stitches on my face, so I went to the local barber. He was an older guy and said I was lucky, most of the newer barbers didn't know how to shave customers, and he gave me a decent shave, meticulously leaving the stitches untouched.

I'm interested in where Lakeland gets its power from. So far, no mention of wind turbines or solar panels. 1950s power was mostly coal-fired, but no mention of the characteristic cooling towers either. I can imagine the Tier 1s getting income by charging the Tier 5s for the transmission lines across their county, or renting out marginal land for wind turbines. (I'm guessing that if you can have diesel-electric locomotives, you can have wind turbines. Similar technology.)

Scotlyn said...

I like the simplicity of this system of exposing and reallocating hidden subsidies and costs back to their original "owners". Well thought! Of course this presupposes a robust approach to hidden threats as well (and, indeed, you've strongly hinted the Lakelanders are not averse to responding robustly to threat).

I wonder if the policing available in tier one includes any form of ecological "cost" policing. Such "off grid" places in today's world are too often dumping grounds for other people's poisons that their inhabitants haven't either the knowledge or the clout to resist. (and I don't expect the Lakeland Republic has extricated the occasional urge to cheat from its inhabitants).

I wonder if at least one of the 5 political flavours of "Restos" is a strongly green, perhaps even Gaian-flavoured one, that would lament all of humanity's works and effects upon the natural world.

Unknown said...

JMG, a thoroughly enjoyable mental exercise, my deep thanks. Down here in Tasmania, that little island just south of Australia there is a recalcitrant tendency to the home made/retro/artisan/craft mindset. I watched a program on the idiot box a couple of weeks ago on how there was a move away from mass produced items to the hand made/bespoke. It featured a Tasmanian knife maker who makes his knives from recycled car springs and old bandsaw blades, forging them together to produce damascus blades that he sells and trades all over the world.

Again, my thanks for your enduring effort to get us thinking.

eagle eye.

Johannes Roehl said...

It probably was mentioned in an early post to "retro-appeal" but some of the clothing of yesteryear is coming back. There are the Hipster's hats, the merino wool undies for hiking etc beating the hightech stuff, wool was never gone from heavy duty socks because it is just unbeatable there.
In Germany a guy got rich by founding (and later selling) a mail-order-shop (with a bunch of actual stores in big cities) selling all kinds of upscale retro-stuff.

It's very expensive, so mostly catering to the fairly well-off but it's interesting enough that it apparently keeps making money. Of course, with some economy of scale, I bet that durable, natural fibre clothes could be offered for not much more than today's flimsy stuff. And because they'd last longer, they'd be easily worth it.

MigrantWorker said...

Good morning mr Greer,

The tier system also has two other interesting effects.

First, you would no longer be seen as an outcast just because you cannot afford some of the services. You just cannot say evict a tenant for falling behind on the electricity bills if the tenant himself produces any electricity that he uses! And so by extension losing access to (self-produced) electricity does not imply a risk of losing access to heating, water, shelter etc. People might still look down on you, and I imagine in Lakeland Republic they do, but this does not amount to a cascading catastrophic failure of all living arrangements.

Second, high taxes in top tiers would act to push some of the businesses out to lower tier areas - or, from those lower tiers' perspective, to pull those same businesses towards them. I wonder if for some counties the choice of lower tiers is not, among other ways, a way of saying: "let's live with less so that this tractor parts factory opens in our county".


Thomas Mazanec said...

I'd pay the taxes for tier five, myself...I was born Mar 5, 1958, so it wouldn't be that much different, except perhaps for TV.

Alex said...

Not afternoon prayers, but something people used to have called "a regular job" which typically they got done with at 5 in the afternoon, then if they needed a shave or a trim, they'd go to the barber shop.

Weird, I know.

Jim R said...

I asked that because, where I live, local codes prohibit it.

The thinking behind the code was probably something to do with people running electric circuits outside the right-of-way, and therefore a safety hazard, but also applies to communication circuits.

It helps keep the local utility and communication monopolies in place.

Michael said...

So...if I were there and wanted to pay less tax, I would have to shed a tier?


Shane Wilson said...

FYI--Toledo is Lucas Co. Used to work for both major phone companies, so had most OH counties memorized...

Steve Carrow said...

Tiers- heh, I envisioned some sort of localized exodus or mad shuffling must have happened when that was enacted, as everyone moved to a county more to their preference in taxes and public commons. There are things to work out in a patchwork tier layout, like how does a county that wants some service that needs more regional coordination get it? Maybe it's just not on the menu?

Shane Wilson said...

JMG, Older technologies do not require older social mores: are we going to have openly LGBT people appear in this tale as well as ethnicities? Just wondering...

Denys said...

Looking forward to what Lakeland has for schools. What is the alcohol making and distribution like? Carr did the have a drink with lunch and didn't comment. Does the government control sale and distribution? What about tobacco? And other drugs currently illegal? Alcohol and cigarette sales and taxes are significant money makers in PA.

Denys said...

I just realized that my one grandmother wore hats all the time and my other grandmother and great grandmother never wore them. The hat wearing one was Catholic and I remember a comment about how a woman needed to cover her head in church. Men took their hats off in church or anywhere indoors.

Please tell me baseball caps are totally gone. When I see grown men in baseball caps I immediately think "there is a person who doesn't have any real responsibilities."

Our local hat making factory just expanded and added another shift of workers. Yes business is booming and yea more real local jobs!

carol.b said...

Loving the story and so happy you have started to explain the tier system - can't wait to hear more on that. I was however surprised you had a group of mothers with strollers. While carriages/strollers are useful for collecting groceries with an actual baby, even very small children can actually learn to walk on sidewalks, no technology required! When my daughter went to daycare as a two-year old, the teachers all commented on her apparently unusual awareness of how to walk on a public street, e.g., stay on the sidewalk, don't push in front of people, etc. In a pre-1950 world, I think there would be relatively few strollers out and about unless you had a serious baby boom in full swing.

Grim said...

I wonder what Tiers 1 and 2 are using instead of whale oil for lighting?

As for living below tier 5, without the intervention of our local hospital and a few bags of saline 5 years ago, I wouldn't be typing this right now, so forgive me if I'm a bit predigest. As several posters have mentioned, I hope they haven't thrown all the medical technology away. I hope Mr Carr gets to visit a doctor or hospital, I'm quite curious.

I'm definitely enjoying this story and finding it quite thought provoking.

Patricia Mathews said...

For the first time since you started this, I felt impelled to follow Peter Carr in the person of his older sister Phyllis. You see, a man's business suit sends as clear and unmistakable a signal as a uniform does the only thing he could get wrong is the implied rank of the wearer. ("Unless he opens his mouth," Phyllis added.)

Phyllis wants to send the same sort of signal and is way ahead of Peter; she brought enough clothing-cash to be in danger of having it confiscated as illegal money - how many different sets of clothing will she need?

What does the serious high-ranking businesswoman wear in Lakeland? And what are the local clothing-signals that say "fluff", "handmaiden", "flirt", etc that she would want to avoid? Can she look like a lady without freezing? And would there be a mom & pop shop? A tailor? Or would she have a dressmaker called in?

No, she's not going to ditch HER handler/native guide any time soon.

P.S. My computer was in the shop for a week. Amazing! I even had time to do some handwork!

Somewhatstunned said...

A side point which I cannot resist offering:

Thelonious Monk's wife reputedly sometimes referred to him as "Melodious Thunk".

(An accurate summary of his very individual style).

John Roth said...

about antibiotic resistance:

I would expect Lakeland to have a full spectrum of antibiotics, because the bacteria find the extra DNA etc for resistance genes expensive. Quit using a particular kind of antibiotic for 20 years or so, and the bacteria shed the useless DNA. Presto, you’ve got an effective antibiotic again. This has been demonstrated with malaria medicines: some of the old medicines that quit working started working again, much to people’s surprise.

What will limit the use of antibiotics is the massive bad effects they have on the digestive ecosystem.

zaphod42 said...

Proceeding nicely, JM. Memory lane and all.

Having been raised in "tier 5," I remember a lot of those shops. Each had its own look, and its own SMELL. Shoe stores really smelled like leather and polish. Barber shops like the aftershave and the hair tonics they used. Even haberdashers had a smell... I'm not sure what it was, but it was distinctive. I would know I was in Bill's Hat Shop blindfolded!

The largest store in a tier 5 paradigm would be a local department store. Somewhere there would have to be wholesalers, and entire workforce mostly known today by its absence. They would be 3 or even 4 stories, and they had elevators with "starters." Those were folks who drove the elevator, and announced the floor and what departments were on each. The more prosperous departments stores had escalators... much fun for a young lad.

Even in the 50's there were horse & buggy delivery wagons, and carriages. Of course, municipal codes required the horse to have a bag on its rear end to minimize waste removal. Some waste still managed to fall out, so there were street cleaners. Our town was one of the first to have electric street lights, and even the lower middle class neighborhood we lived in was lit up by lamps which had lids but no glass enclosure - just the bare bulb. It was picturesque in winter during snow storms as the snow piled up on the top of them.

To me, most of the memories do involve smells. Coal powered steam engines in particular had a sulpherous smell, reminiscent of gun powder.

As you can see, I am enjoying the tour of Lakeland. Looking forward to each week's installment, and planning to buy the book when available, hopefully in print!


Kevin Warner said...

Sounds like our hero is in severe danger of 'going native' here. Anyway, a very entertaining episode as well as being thought provoking. I do have two questions though.
Does the Lakeland Republic still retain States as an intermediate level of governmental administration or does it go direct from County to the Republic. The reason that I ask is that sometimes someone here in Australia suggests that we should abolish the States and just have Local Councils to Federal Government. Trouble is no-one trusts that the Government would not try to impose a one-size-fit-all Council model over a continent-size country.
Second question is that I understand the Tier system and how that does not limit the amount of technology that any citizen chooses to pay for personally. However, how do taxes for the Republic come into the equation. Even having a 1950s army does not come cheap and taxes would have to be somehow levied evenly across all Counties. A Goods and Services Tax could not work due to the differing technological standards among the five Tiers of Counties so how does this work?
After being a long time follower of the Archdruid Report website, I find that my thinking has changed so that I am thinking more in terms of whether more 'advanced' actually means more 'effective' as well as the principle of making sure that technology is actually suited to purpose. I saw a video clip on YouTube at which illustrates these principles. Yes, I know that it is from an old sci-fi television series but nonetheless the points illustrated seem valid here.

Felix The Cat said...

Wow...I really dug the "Stars Reach" novel. This is shaping up into something even better. Perhaps because the world you are describing sounds so great. I often have the contradictory impulse to want to get away from all of this digital muck. Thing is I wouldn't be able to read your wonderful journal every week. Thanks for keeping me entertained. You've got a gift of making the synapses fire in ways I hadn't contemplated.

Pinku-Sensei said...

@Dan The Farmer: "[B]ecause I have no taste and my clothing ranges from quirky to functional, I'm concerned I might be taken for a hipster. This worries me." Maybe, but I doubt it as you probably lack the irony inherent in their fashion sense. Even so, it could be worse. You could be dressed like one of the Steampunk fans ejected from San Diego area mall. The mall used rules designed to keep gang members out. The middle-class and mostly middle-aged people were astonished that those rules were used on them. Ah, the privatizing of the commons! Speaking of gang members, I wonder if they'd be as upset that the FBI declared the fans of Insane Clown Posse, a hip-hop band, a gang? The band was so outraged that they sued the FBI on behalf of their fans. A lot of the discrimination they allege was also based on the fan's clothing. As I wrote, it could be worse.

jonathan said...

one of the most difficult aspects of "collapsing" to life in an earlier era, whether the 1830's or the 1950's has to be the loss of the skills that were normal in those eras. there are so many crafts that have essentially disappeared, just during my lifetime, and those skills will need to be relearned. knives were always sharp because the itinerant knife grinder came around every now and then. shoes lasted for years because there was always a shoe repair place nearby. the shade tree mechanic could fix almost any car problem.
as people consider how to adopt a simpler, perhaps more self sufficient lifestyle, they should ask themselves if they can sharpen knives and axes, bake bread, can food, butcher an animal etc. etc. it's always a good time to learn a new skill.
the porkpie, while a great hat, might be a little too sporty for a gentleman such as mr. carr. he should probably have gone with the homburg.

Wayne A. Shingler said...

I'm looking forward to seeing whether Mr. Carr takes any of these new habits home with him to Philadelphia.

Sven Eriksen said...

"I, um, take pills for that." Priceless!

It is good to see that our friend Pete seems destined to get wise, though I wonder about the dire consequences he might face when he returns to Philadelphia. Had me thinking of that scene in "Dances With Wolves" where the protagonist has the stuffing pounded out of him by the yankee sergeant going "You went injun, didn't you?! Didn't you?!!!"

Mister Roboto said...

@siliconguy: I think you could have at least halfway decent fridges on a 1920 level of technology, along with the entertainment luxury of films with audio. It just took a bit for them to get around, I think, to start making certain things because the impetus to produce these newer things wasn't urgent. (I'm sure a lot of working-class housewives in the twenties would have said, "Don't need none of them newfangled frigerators I hear folks talkin' about, my icebox works just fine!")

William Church said...

I found the clothes portion of this story fascinating. Not least because I was grinning at how I would fit into the local scene.

Clothes seem to now be an expression of tribe or status. Maybe it has always been so. But clothes haven't always been an economic afterthought. They were more expensive and quality really mattered. I don't know why poor quality clothes go against the grain so much with me.

My winter coat was bought in 1999 and looks brand new after a LOT of use. The shoes I am wearing were purchased in 1997 and have been resoled 3 times so far. Wool and leather can last a long time if cared for and used within certain bounds.

I'm not trying to make some deep, meaningful comment on modern styles or sensibilities. But I do think, for me at least, that money spent on frivolous and overpriced clothing is as much against my nature as throwing away fresh leftovers or neglecting car maintenance. It seems terribly wasteful.


James said...

Just thinking of what the revenue structure would look like at each tier:

Tier V: 34.7 percent local tax rate
Tier IV: 15.3 percent local tax rate
Tier III: 13 percent transaction tax, i.e. sales tax, ad valorem, some business taxes
Tier II: 10 percent transaction tax
Tier I: 7 percent transaction tax

I'm definitely enjoying what I'm reading. It's the kind of universe you want to play around with. All of your universes are good places for playing around in...maybe not *living* in depending on how many of the Four Horsemen are galloping, but I enjoy the food for thought.

Patricia Mathews said...

A handful of memories:

I used to live in Indianapolis between 1948 and 1952. If Peter goes native in cold weather, the hot and sticky Midwestern summers - without air conditioning - will send our spoiled city mouse back to the border shuddering and screaming.

Swamp coolers can be made with and run on 1950s - or 1920s - technology, but they only work in a dry climate.

And about woolens: there are good modern woolens that do not itch. The ones of my youth assuredly did. Itchy, scratchy, and heavy. Different wools from different sheep?

BTW, a lot of Lakeland does spell "Post-Crisis Recovery Era" for me. And I grew up in one. That's when people pass sensible regulations in a "never again!" spirit. Intentional or not, good work.

Peter VE said...

I'm deliberately moving much of my life to Tier 4: straight razor, fedoras for the winter, Panama hats for the summer; hand grinder for coffee; canning produce. I'm trying to wean my daughter from the latest tech, but it's a struggle....

Sylvia Rissell said...

Sir, you have imagined a political party that really is FOR smaller government.

I wonder about the relationship between population density and level. Is there a maximum safe/healthy population density associted with each? For example, tuberculosis was a terrible problem in the actual 1920s. I hope Lakeland medical science has a solution.

Ricardo Rolo said...

Well, Mr Greer, so far I've been liking your little "utopia" ( technically if you can place it in a map it is not one , right? ;) ), and most of all, the fact that Lakeland Republic arrangements are like that both by choice and by force of circumstances ( say, like the lack of metanet, that was basically forced on them by the neighbours nefarious activities ). But today you really cracked me up wit Mr Carr remarks on his good shoes ... being myself from a line of shoemakers by my father side, when I read his remark on his good shoes lasting a couple of months I just thought to myself "That guy never seen , even more wore, a pair of good shoes in his life" ;) .

That said, let me drop some quibbles:

- My own experience, being from more warn climates than yours, points out other issues with "bioplastic" clothes: normal plastic fibers suffer photolysis under strong solar light, so you can't really expect them to last more than a couple of years ( if that much ) in Mediterranean climates or sunnier ( I've seen that a lot of times: the fibers literally start breaking apart ). Natural fibers also suffer from that, OFC, but due to their slightly diferent chemistry, they tend to last longer. Other issue is that plastic fibers could be made to have similar properties to the natural ones, but that would need both more work and money, so, the manufacturers run from that.

( Continues ... )

Ricardo Rolo said...

( ... Continued )

- On your side point about antibiotics ... well ( I'm speaking as a biochemist here, so you'll see a lot of ranting about the medical and agriculture industries usage of antibiotics. Caveat emptor ;) ), the whole antibiotic crisis is pretty much a scam.

Sure, antibiotics lose potence as "natural" selection kicks in, but antibiotics were never meant to be used as a kill'em all solution to be delivered at blind at every infection, or worse delivered in bulk or sprayed in top of our food productions. What is waning in efficience is that, and not actual antibiotic usage IF done in case by case basis and after careful analysis. OTOH most of the antibiotics are poison to pretty much every life form ( say, stuff like tetracicloamides or even the granddaddy of the antibiotics, the sulfamides ), so they will always work simply due to the fact you're bigger than a microbe and you need more of the stuff to get killed by it. Note that is pretty much the same principle than current chemotherapy and has the same drawbacks: has to be custom tailored for every patient ( thus requiring actual medical skills and work , gasp ) and is a dreadful experience for the patient.

That said, there are other aproaches to bug killing, like using custom phagocytes ( basically bacteria that eat other bacteria ) on bacterial diseases, as it is done extensively in the ex-Soviet Union countries since the 70's of the last century, that don't suffer so much of the natural selection issues bulk usage of antibiotics have. But they all require actual diagnosis, custom tailored solutions and most of the times doctors preparing ( or in case of a new disease, developing ) their own medicines is situ. And I really don't need to tell you how both the education and medical industries feel about teaching doctors to be competent, careful in their diagnosis and able to develop and prepare medicines on their own :P

In other words, this whole antibiotic crisis IMHO is pretty much the industry bemoaning the inevitable fact that easy usage of bulk antibiotics, that should had never been implemented in the first place is going out of the window ...and bemoaning even more that this fact spells the end of easy profits by the sell of bulk "junk medicines" due to the inevitable return of in situ medicine preparation ( in other words, local competition . Ugh ;) ). I expect fully that in 2065 antibiotics will still be in general usage, just in far smaller fashion, in far more targeted treatments with heavier dosages and being just one minor tool on the local doctor arsenal, along side with some out of the Petri dish phagocytes or the good ol'herbal infusions for minor stuff like colds or minor infections ... and this even in the fractured US of yours ;)

- I'm feeling that someone from the Atlantic seaboard of what is currently the USA would know and talk more about the rest of the world ( atleast from the North Atlantic area, that is easily acessible even without fuel-powered devices ), especially in the case where there is a state of all but closed borders to the interior of the continent. It should be easier and cheaper to bring anything from Europe or South America to there than from Lakeland republic or more interior areas and I can easily see thriving enterprises of small sail ships bringing stuff like Cuban cigars, Jamaican Rum or even Spanish or Portuguese olive oil or French wine to the Atlantic states, especially if those stuff are forbidden or highly priced there ;). Lakeland Republic surelly will not do that, OFC ...

I surely would like to see more of Mr Carr adventures. In fact , I just wonder how such a open minded individual actually suceeded in Politics :P

MayHawk said...


Ok, think I have it. We are determining the level of our Social Contract not living as if we lived in that time frame. So say I wanted radio service. The cost of the radio would have to include the cost of raw material, (and the restoration of any environmental damage) shipping cost (including tail pipe tax if any) the cost of manufacture (and the handling of any waste products) and the list goes on. Same for Transmission service. Either we pay directly or we agree collectively to be taxed to pay for all of this. Hmmmm, That paints a different picture.

I gather pushing payment onto the future (credit purchases) are a thing of past as well, or at least much different than our current structure of "Buy now and no payments for 90 days!!!".

And your right about the antibiotics which is why I refuse them for common ailments in case I ever contract say, meningitis where Antibiotics can be the difference between life and death. Which is also the reason I stay away from "Factory Farmed" animal products which are loaded with Antibiotics.

Odin's Raven said...

How did Lakeland get 'there' from 'here'? 'History' is a rather vague explanation. How did normal politics get replaced by a passion for the concerns which you hold dear? Why did it happen there? Is that perhaps the region that shows most interest in your work?

Do they acknowledge your influence as a Founding Father of their Republic? Presumably your texts are canonical within their education system and we may anticipate that Mr. Carr will receive copies when he visits a school - and may even be tested on them before he is allowed out! Would a visitor be able to see a noble statue of you, perhaps outside their Capitol, or even within a little shrine in the manner of Lincoln? Would stone or bronze be the more appropriate material? Would you be posed as a Thinker,(presumably clothed!), or shown seated at a writing desk? Would you be penning words of wisdom with a quill, a ballpoint, a fountain pen - or even a computer? You must have headgear; perhaps a nemyss - but please not a porkpie hat! Please! Please!

Eric S. said...

I'm still very curious about Carr being familiar with films and musicians who are this point in time over a century and a quarter old, but not with any classic literature (even through film adaptations of it). It seems like the Atlantic's memory of the past is not so much short as selective.

Other thoughts/questions: Is there any precedent to something along the lines of the tier system being enacted anywhere? It seems like in the wake of a crisis of the sort that the Lakelanders endured in the 30s, decentralization of public infrastructure to the county level like that would be a basic, common sense decision since it would prevent a major interruption in supply chains or infrastructure from being a nationwide catastrophe, but I'm curious as to whether you got the idea from something that's been done before.

More on topic for last week, but still relevant to the story, I'm wondering if you've noticed the way that bringing back the 1932 banking act the way that the Lakeland Republic did has been popping up with some frequency in this presidential campaign. Last time I recall it being seriously considered was back in 2009. I wonder if Glass-Steagall legislation could wind up becoming one of the core debating points of the next election if the economic crisis that's currently unfolding continues to worsen. That'd make Retrotopia quite timely.

Varun Bhaskar said...


This isn't fair. Ever since I started reading this blog my reading list has exploded past the point of sane management, you guys have dumped articles and books and concepts on my lap at an insane rate. Now you're going to start adding MUSIC?!?!!? NOT COOL...I mean Monk is awesome, but come on!!!! :P

I love the idea of technology limited by funding available, my gods what a world that would be. Loving the story so far.



librarian@play said...

Regarding "bioplastic": It's worth noting that the use of synthetic fibers in clothing is having a huge negative impact on the environment. The lint that gets washed away unfiltered from synthetic clothes makes its way into nearly every water supply. They don't degrade, and they're ingested by creatures at almost every level of the food chain. This is a problem athletic- and outdoor-wear manufacturers, who rely heavily on "breathable" materials, refuse to address. The problem is worse than even the plastic microbeads in facial scrubs and toothpaste that have been banned in several states. We're so afraid of our own sweat, we're choking the ocean.

For more on this:

aiastelamonides said...


Interesting as always. Are there any kind of trade barriers between the tiers? Is it common for people to live in one tier and work in another?

RPC said...

So Mr. Carr is a connoisseur of jazz! I run into few enough people who know who Thelonius Mink is today; to be familiar with the man's works in fifty years, especially in the Atlantic Republic, would imply a strong interest.

I like that he's discovering the ceremonies of daily living; that veneer of civility that our age has forgotten can be quite pleasant.

(And I still want to know what happened to Cleveland!)

Ed-M said...


I really liked this post. An interesting item is that Porkpie hats, now all the rage amongst the millenials, marks out one as a politician or government type! Heheheheh.

And for the Restorationists, or "Restos" for short, Ray Wharton appears to describe them perfectly to a T! (Just like our Libertarians and opposite of our Progressives.)

Now I wonder something about those "Restos": do they revere James Howard Kunstler as their patron saint? Because he's always saying that North America is destined to fall back to 1830s technology, and quite rapidly, too.

RPC said...

"The clothes I’d bought were a lot more expensive than bioplastic equivalents would have been, and I figured it would take trade barriers to keep them on the market." Ah, but how expensive are they per minute of wear? If a good bioplastic shoe lasts a couple of months and a good leather shoe lasts a decade, the latter can cost ten times as much as the former and still be a far better deal.

daelach said...

I'm happy the ads topic made it into the story. (:

Troy Jones said...

The tier system sounds like an interesting idea to me. I have long felt that part of the problem with public policy is that there is no real connection in the public mind between taxes collected and government funds spent. Even self-proclaimed budget hawks will usually object to this or that government program because it "costs too much", but what is "too much" is in most contexts a matter of opinion. (And often, objections to government programs costing "too much" are a stalking-horse for ideological objections to particular programs anyway).

If things were set up such that everyone knew that we have Program X because we pay Tax Y-- i.e., non-fungible funds-- then debates about the government's budget would be more sensible. You want to expand Program X? Then you will need to increase Tax Y and/or create a new Tax Z to pay for it. Instead, today, the public demands that Program X be expanded and Tax Y eliminated at the same time. And so the government does what the people want by issuing bonds and/or printing money, but that's not a sustainable practice in the long term.

The tier system sounds good because there is an easily understood link between the spending and the taxes. You want streetcars and 24/7 electricity? Vote to raise the county's tax tier and there you go. You want low taxes? Do without public infrastructure. None of this, let's have government services today and leave the bill, plus interest, to our grandchildren.

One potential problem with the county-based system though is that, like most any tax code, it can still be gamed. For example, assuming the tax you pay is based on where you live (e.g., property tax), you could live very near the county line between a low-tier county and a high-tier one, on the low-tier side (so, lower taxes), but work and shop and spend all your leisure time on the high-tier side (thus enjoying many of their services essentially for free). People do basically that in the real world today and it's part of the reason for suburban sprawl, and for cities going broke while the suburbs around them are rolling in money (relatively speaking, at least). Super-long daily commutes are not going to be possible in 2065, but I could see people placing their homes and/or businesses as close as possible to the county line to take advantage of differing tax climates. I suppose a simple partial fix would be a national law that says you must live in the same county in which you work, have a bank account, and/or own a business.

pygmycory said...

I'm looking forward to seeing how the medical system is handled. Does that get done on a Tier system too, or is it dealt with differently?

Clothing... I tend to get most of mine from thrift stores these days. The cheap stuff is shoddy and the new things at department stores are too expensive. I found a fine second-hand merino turtleneck for 10% of the price of a new department store one last week. I make exceptions for underthings, socks and some shoes. And raincoats, since being wet aggravates my fibromyalgia and it is really hard to tell if an old raincoat is waterproof without wearing it in the rain! I'm working on making my own clothes - for things like scarves and wooly hats that's easy, but other things are a work in progress.

I know used clothing will likely dry up a bit in the future, but for now it is a wonderful and underused resource.

Buying most things second-hand means I have money to spend on better quality new items when I need something that is new and has to fit and last decently. And I can spend more on musical instruments and other hobby items. I'd rather have a good instrument than buy all my clothing new. I play the celtic harp, among other instruments. Harp is not a cheap instrument to buy but I really love my good harp and play it a lot, so it is worth it to me. It's second-hand too, for that matter, but who cares? I don't.

Ozark Chinquapin said...

I'm wondering if there are many influences of other cultures on Lakeland's clothing, art, music, and technology, to go along with and mix with the older American fashions. You've written in the past about how Civilizations in decline tend to start looking to the fashions and values of other cultures for inspiration, which has already been happening for a while and I imagine will only increase by 2065 when the myth of progress speaks to an ever smaller percentage of the population. So, I'm surprised that there hasn't been any mention (at least so far) of Hispanic, Oriental, African, or even American Indian influences on the clothing, architecture, music etc. of Lakeland, or any new synthesis between the retro American culture and other influences.

There's lots more possibilities that could be created from a 1950s level of technology (or 1830s for that matter) than what was popular in America at that time. Respect for the classics is good, but I'd expect there to be enough cultural difference in a society that has come to terms with the limits of nature and the end of the American empire from the mindset of growth-oriented pre-1950s America that there would be plenty of niches for new cultural forms. Even given the exact same technologies, an era of decline would have many differences than one of growth. If your prediction from a couple of years back of the rise of the new religious sensibility holds true, that will make a huge difference in culture between 2065 and 1830-1950. A good chunk of the past clothing styles, for instance, had not just to do with available technology but also Victorian-era sensibilities, and if the sensibilities of 2065 are pretty different, I'd think there would be a difference in the clothing styles as well.

I'd hope that the retro traditions in Lakeland take a path like folk music has in the current era, where the classics are valued but there's also room for new synthesis that speaks to the issues of the present.

Denys said...

I get confused every time I see someone comment "Oh I wish I could live like that." I don't think anything is *really* stopping you, as in physically standing between you and the way you want to live. There's a bunch of stories in our heads about what we need and difficulty of living and omg not knowing what is happening out there.

Today two women announced an app called "Peeple", with a slogan of Character is Destiny. Users are able to rate other people without their having a profile in the app, all you need is someone's phone number to set up a profile for them. Then you can post online your thoughts and ratings of other people.

And that is when I decided I didn't *need* social media of any form, any more. Bye-bye Facebook!

Even commenting on here is kinda an empty feeling since there are people right outside my doors who I could actually converse with on these same topics. I mean I agree with you JMG and love your writing, but I really don't have much more to add than carrying yet another verbal pitchfork.

I did set up the Skill Share with my township running it, teaching people skills their great grand-parents knew and practiced, and that is just where the action is for me these days.

HalFiore said...

I hope the Lakeland dollar is pegged to "shave and a haircut, two bits."

Hubertus Hauger said...

Ricardo Rolo: "Sure, antibiotics lose potence as "natural" selection kicks in, ... I expect fully that in 2065 antibiotics will still be in general usage, just in far smaller fashion, in far more targeted treatments with heavier dosages and being just one minor tool on the local doctor arsenal, ..."
Guess so too.

JMG cannot put all into his narrative in epic proportions like Game of Thrones.

The real future will be as compex and complicated as today. But all like Ricardo says: "just in far smaller fashion"!

Mister Roboto: "... have at least halfway decent fridges on a 1920 level ..."
Don´t be whiny about the comfy in future most people won´t have them anymore. We humans have a collection of thousand of years by experience with low energy conservation. Drying, Baking, Salting, Bottling, Destilling, Cellaring and what do I know. What a variety of ways to preserve. Instead of energy-consuming yet comfy refrigeration we´ll get time and labour consuming smelly footstuff all over.

Like dry garlic. Keeps them Draculas away. Hehe!

James: "... what the revenue structure would look like at each tier:
Tier V: 34.7 percent local tax rate ... Tier I: 7 percent transaction tax"

One real bad thing for ruling classes or admins was, to collect taxes. Brougth easily up the peoples annoyance. How to collect it smothly and peacefully, after our present infrastructure, including automatic tax-collections have tumbled down, I rather marvel.

Not to forget the elites. They quickly will try to keep that spending to accumulate capital expotentially.

Ozark Chinquapin said...

Thinking about the county tiers system, it really sounds like it could be a good idea, allowing a diversity of adaptations rather than the one size fits all "solutions" so often touted in the current era. I'm thinking that there would end up being a few issues that would come up as well, specifically in the relations between the counties.

I'd imagine the edge of a lower tiered county next to a higher one would attract quite a bit of attention. The taxes would be lower but the infrastructure of the higher tiered county would be close by. I'm thinking in particular of roads. People could live in the counties with dirt roads right at the edge of the paved road system of a higher tiered county and have their cars but lower taxes. Businesses could also locate themselves in this zone, still accessible by paved road but lower taxes. This would hurt the higher tiered county due to diminished tax revenue. I suppose they could block off roads near the border if the problem got too extreme.

I also wonder what differences in real estate values, wages and costs of living would develop between the different tiers. The costs of living would be obviously higher in the higher tiers, but if the real estate values and wages were higher as well, then the lower tiered counties would face the same situation as poorer parts of America do today, an influx of wealthier people from the higher tiered counties buying up the best land, pricing out the locals and bringing at least a portion of their more expensive, more complex technology with them. That would surely breed tension and resentment.

Jason Fligger said...

Neat post. There is a strong tendency to wish this to be reality. This is tempered by the knowledge of what must have come before this. I hope you will cover that soon.

Marian Veverka said...

Yes, what has happened to Cleveland? Are they the example of a bad outcome? Failure to take advantage of a chance to start their city planning according to environmental standards?

Or perhaps Lake Erie ( and the other Great Lakes) have enlarged due to changes in global circulation which has brought increased precipitation in that region.

Also, what about the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant? Did that enormous cooling tower tumble? Was it de-commisioned, then hidden away & forgotten while Toledo found its power supply in some other source?

I remember, vaguely, the big department stores in downtown Toedo in the 1950's. They lost most of their business to the malls that sprang up in the surrounding suburbs & countryside. Perhaps those are the places, renovated,
that Mr. Carr has been walking past - several small shops occupying a larger

donalfagan said...

What a day this has been!
What a rare mood I'm in!
Why, it's almost like being in Lakeland.

There's a smile on my face
For the whole human race
Why it's almost like being in Lakeland.

Of course Lakeland exists more than one day every hundred years ...

Wash away my troubles, wash away my pain
With the rain in ShambaLakeland
Wash away my sorrow, wash away my shame
With the rain in ShambaLakeland

Ah, ooh, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Ah, ooh, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Everyone is helpful, everyone is kind
On the train to ShambaLakeland
Everyone is lucky, everyone is so kind
On the train to ShambaLakeland

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@Patricia Mathews--I echo your questions about women's attire.

As I expect you know, circa 1890-1910 there was a business uniform for women. It consisted of an ankle length A-line walking skirt in a dark color, a matching hip length fitted jacket, a white blouse with cuffs and a high neck or a peter pan collar, a dark menswear style necktie, optional vest/waistcoat tailored to the female figure, buttoned boots or shoes, and long hair put up in a loose and simple style.

I've only seen pictures of this, not the actual clothing, but this outfit appears to have many of the virtues of the modern male business suit, such as being dignified but not overly constricting, adjustable to some range of temperatures by removing the jacket, looking all right on a variety of figure types, and not requiring many decisions when getting dressed in the morning.

I'm a fan of 1905 clothing, art and architecture; not so much their racial attitudes.

John Michael Greer said...

David, by all means -- if you can arrange for there to be more hours in a day and more days in a week, I can probably get more writing done! ;-)

Ed, thank you! The vast majority of children's book authors make next to nothing, though -- it's badly paid even by the standards of other kinds of writing, very few of which make much money. Fiction generally is very hard work for very little pay, unless you happen to get absurdly lucky -- mind you, I'm willing to take a chance now and then, and there are also stories that demand to be written.

Allexis, there are some minority religious groups in the Lakeland Republic that have an assortment of old-fashioned prejudices, but there are constitutional protections in place. We'll get to that in due time.

Scotlyn, if people in one county try dumping waste into the next county, they're going to face an exceedingly unfriendly response -- there are laws about that, and triple damages plus punitive damages plus court costs are about the lightest penalty they'd face. (We won't even talk about less formal or legal forms of retribution.) Yes, there's a dark green flavor of Resto, also a religious conservative flavor, and several others -- it's a disparate movement.

Unknown Eagle Eye, you're welcome and thank you.

Johannes, you can still get tolerably well made clothes of old-fashioned styles here in the US, too -- with any luck, as the sort of thing I'm satirizing with Carr's bioplastic drops out of use, those will become more widely available.

MigrantWorker, good! Yes, both of those are among the positive effects. Once you set up an institutional framework that both allows and rewards living with less, all kinds of advantages unfold.

Thomas, well, that's why there are tier five counties; a significant number of people share your opinion and your willingness to foot the bill.

Alex, ding! We have a winner. ;-) Yes, exactly.

Jim, fair enough. The Lakeland Republic has an interesting philosophy when it comes to monopolies. If something's a natural monopoly -- say, the sewer system -- it's owned by the people via local government. If it's not, it had better not try to become an unnatural monopoly -- there are laws, and they're enforced, for reasons we'll be discussing down the line a bit. So you'd be able to string wire to your neighbor's house without running afoul of the laws.

Michael, hah! Okay, we have our first suitably rancid Lakeland pun. ;-)

Shane, many thanks. The same road atlas that I used to map Trey sunna Gwen's travels around Meriga lists county names, fortunately!

John Michael Greer said...

Steve, it's basically not on the menu. For a variety of reasons, the Lakeland Republic's gone for a very decentralized approach to public services, and above the county level there's regulation (from the national government) but not much interconnection or coordination.

Shane, indeed we are. One of the people Carr's already met is gay; it's not a big deal (in many parts of the US, it's already not a big deal) and so I didn't see any reason to point that out. Things will be a bit more obvious further on.

Denys, we'll be visiting two schools, a sectarian school in Toledo and a rural schoolhouse in a tier one county south a ways. As for the rest, stay tuned!

Carol, I figure they were mothers with very small babies, and yes, there's been a bit of a baby boom, since the end of the embargo and the signing of the Treaty of Richmond has caused a loosening of some of the tight economic conditions. We'll be seeing plenty of kids on their own feet as the story proceeds.

Grim, I'm not sure how many times I'll have to repeat this before everybody actually notices it, but the only thing the tier system determines is what public services are paid for by tax dollars. It doesn't determine what other technologies people choose to have -- only what public services they can expect to support their technological choices. It doesn't take particularly advanced technology to produce saline solution, by the way...

Patricia, Phyllis would go to a mom-and-pop women's clothing store unless she wanted something really fancy or had unusual measurements, in which case a women's tailor would be called for. ("Dressmaker" isn't used much since dresses are far from the only option.) I don't know a great deal yet about the women's clothing styles that are in fashion in the Lakeland Republic, although I do know that Phyllis could certainly look like a lady, if that's her preferred option, without freezing: Melissa Berger, whom we've already met, favors wool skirts (below-the-knee length) and jackets of a very understated, professional cut, severe blouses, broad-brimmed hats, sensible shoes (no heels, please), and trench coat style raincoats. Pants are also an option -- Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn both wore them in the 1930s, and I challenge you to find anything unladylike in either one's appearance.

Somewhatstunned, hah! I like that.

John, in which case they'd be used very sparingly, to prevent the same problem from emerging again.

Zaphod, it will indeed be available in print -- I personally don't like e-books, so I always make sure my books are for sale in print form.

Kevin, good. There are no states; it's the Republic, the counties, and then township, town, and city goverments within each county. National taxation -- well, we'll be getting to that; it's handled very differently from the way nations these days do it.

Felix, thank you! If you weren't able to read this on the internet, you could read it the way people in the Lakeland Republic do -- as an article in a weekly magazine or newspaper. Carr will be visiting a newsstand shortly...

Jonathan, we'll be talking later on about how the Lakeland Republic managed their reskilling program!

Patricia Mathews said...

Thanks; I do like to have clear visuals with some things. It was the Marlene Dietrich style pants I had in mind. Very elegant! Melissa's outfit sounds fine, though I think boots might be practical with calf-length skirts, and I know they're very attractive for those who can wear them.

I wear what I can only call women's dress loafers, bought decades ago and still good,with my navy wool (tropical weight? Fine-woven, lightweight, good for all seasons but the hottest days, doesn't itch.... courtesy of the Animal Humane Thrift Store) trouser suit for dress wear.

I keep getting the feeling that women in Lakeland wear their hair longer than the Atlantic (Atlantean?) women do. Some styles call for longer hair than the length I wear it at, but it's better to dress for your face and let the sort of style follow naturally.

Which reminds me - I need to acquire a simple felt hat of a style and size that doesn't overshadow my face. Larry's Hats, a quarter of a mile from my house. Thanks again!

Patricia Mathews said...

P.S. You WILL be getting an order for this book from me the minute it comes out in print.

Alexandra said...

(JMG--I believe I accidentally left this comment on the wrong post. I repeat it here, where I intended to put it. Feel free to delete either one. Or both--hey, it's your blog after all.)

I can only imagine how lovely the fabric stores in the Lakeland Republic must be. My grandmother worked as a seamstress in the men's suits department of a local store and saved money by sewing her own and her children's clothes; I know how to sew, but can't afford to sew most of my clothes because fabric is so cheap (in quality) and expensive (in price) these days. Evidently fabric is now a craft supply rather than a necessary home good. The other day I bought a little plain, unbleached cotton muslin--$13 a yard! If you can even find plain cotton jersey amongst the wall-to-wall rolls of polyester at your local big box fabric store, it will make for one expensive t-shirt in a guaranteed-to-be-ugly color.

Meanwhile, my flimsy plastic sewing machine outlived its intended demise, lasting me something like a decade with light use. I took it to the repair shop where the owner told me that most of these modern machines can't really be fixed because the internal gears are also made of plastic and wear down. (Who thought that was a good idea? Oh, right...) On the other hand, I'm still using my mom's 52-year-old hand mixer in the kitchen and it runs like a top. And I used a 1940s Singer at a friend's house--it too worked perfectly. Light bulb! My next sewing machine is going to be a vintage model, 50 years or older. Hunting down vintage, appropriate-technology replacements for my planned-obsolescent trash is my new hobby. I thank JMG and the commenters on this blog for the inspiration!

Meanwhile, JMG, I am really enjoying this series. I have always wondered what it was like to read serialized fiction, like it would have been for the original Sherlock Holmes readers. It's fun, but surprisingly suspenseful. I find myself getting quite impatient by the time Tuesday rolls around. I look forward to seeing what Mr. Carr discovers next!

N Montesano said...

On collapsing now: I don't have, or want, a dishwasher, although we do use the tumble dryer, because my husband does most of the laundry, and insists on using it, though he does line dry things as well, and I tend to line dry everything, if I'm washing. I also garden and make most of our food, including a great deal of preserving.
It is not at all slow paced or convenient, especially during harvest season, when I'm canning, freezing, drying, cooking, etc., before and after work and on the weekends, and still trying to find time to work in the garden, which needs harvesting, weeding, planting for winter, etc.. It is a lot of very hard work, and I'm sometimes tired and stressed, and frustrated by the never-ending list of things to get done, and the list of things that have to be let go, because there just aren't enough hours in the day. Friends and family think I'm nuts for working so hard. But that's the price of doing things for oneself, in this particular society, especially if you work full-time. They like the food...
And I'm gradually nudging more of them into doing at least a little of their own preserving and gardening.
This is all good, satisfying work; I like doing it, and can't imagine choosing not to. But sometimes it's hard, and that's an important truth, too.
Haven't tried chicory coffee, but late last winter I dug up a lot of large dandelion roots that had grown in the garden over the winter, scrubbed them clean, ground them up, and roasted them in the oven. They make a very nice tea/coffee substitute; full-bodied and a little bitter, very nice with homemade filbert milk creamer (also with cream, if you are a milk drinker). Though, it has not persuaded me to give up drinking chocolate.
@ Patricia Mathews, yes, breed makes a huge difference in whether the wool itches. Depends on what the sheep were bred for. I think there's a lot more attention being paid these days to comfort. There are also some lovely, silky wools from other animals, such as angora rabbits.
It doesn't take long working in the garden to learn the value of a good straw hat. Keeps the sun out of your eyes much more effectively than sunglasses, which fall off every time you bend over, and keeps your face from getting sunburned.

John Michael Greer said...

Wayne, heh heh heh...

Sven, heh heh heh...

Will, I wear a lot of cheap secondhand clothing, largely out of habit -- the first decade or so of a writer's career is a good time to learn the virtues of poverty. Down the road, I'd like to be able to afford clothes of good quality!

James, each county sets its own tax rates based on its actual expenses -- if county A has more miles of paved road to keep maintained, for example, it's going to have somewhat higher taxes than county B, which has fewer roads. Still, yes, it works out to something vaguely along those lines.

Patricia, thank you. It's quite intentional -- one of the things that's central to the fiction is that the Lakeland Republic became what it is out of massive crisis.

Peter, the only way I know of to successfully lure someone away from high-tech gimmickry is to have much more fun without it. Fortunately, this isn't hard.

Sylvia, the population's somewhat lower in 2065 than it is today -- a brutal civil war followed by a long economic depression will do that -- and yes, the Lakeland Republic's Department of Public Health has effective tuberculosis treatments, though there again resistant microbes are a challenge. (Resistant TB is a major issue today, though the media doesn't say much about it.)

Ricardo, exactly! Carr has never seen good manufactured goods in his life, because his life has been spent in a country that's held hostage to the logic of the globalized economy: the cheapest, shoddiest, most disposable products make more money for shareholders, so that's what the stores carry. I agree that bioplastic has many negative features beyond the ones Carr has noted -- there'll be more later on. As for antibiotic resistance, though, there I think you're mistaken. Two members of my family have been made severely ill by two different resistant microbes; one of them, my father, was nearly killed twice by resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which he got via a heart operation in an infected hospital, and his health has never recovered. It's not just a matter of not being able to keep on using antibiotics in the present way; people are being harmed and killed, right now, because microbes that used to be killed by antibiotics are shrugging them off.

As for the Atlantic seaboard, the oceans are rising, and so a lot of port facilities in the Atlantic Republic are no longer functional. More on this as we proceed!

MayHawk, exactly. You're also quite correct that "buy now, pay later" isn't the way the Lakeland Republic does things; instead, people save up money to buy things. I suspect we'll be visiting a post office down the road a bit, and see signs talking about Christmas Club accounts -- do you recall those?

Raven, ironically enough, I favor driving caps. No, there's no statues of me in the Lakeland Republic or, I hope, anywhere else in 2065. I'll be talking in more detail as we proceed about just what happened to convince an independent Midwest to do the sensible thing and chuck the mythology of progress into the nearest recycle bin.

John Michael Greer said...

Eric, good! One of the consequences of the internet, and presumably also of the metanet, is that it encourages the fragmentation of culture; you meet plenty of people who know a fantastic amount about a few narrow subjects and not a thing about anything else. Carr is like that. He's fond of a number of kinds of music, and he likes old movies and history programs; he knows a bunch about those things, and has huge gaps in his knowledge elsewhere. I don't know of any equivalent to the tier system, no -- and yes, it's intrigued me to see Glass-Steagall brought up again and again. Not because there's anything strange about reenacting a law that successfully stopped the abuses that wrecked the banking system in the 1920s and early 1930s, and are doing exactly the same thing now; what's intriguing is that in a society that seems incapable of learning the lessons of repeated failure, this one lesson does finally seem to be sinking in.

Varun, my evil work is done. Bwahahahaha!

Librarian, yep. As I noted to Ricardo, the downsides of bioplastic go beyond what Carr has noticed so far.

Aias, depends on how county councils get along. It's far from uncommon, if a lot of people who live in a lower-tier county shop, work, etc. in a higher-tier county, for there to be out-of-county fees they have to pay when they do things in the higher-tier county, to cover the cost of the services they use.

RPC, Carr's an old-music fan, and belongs to that subculture (and surfs those sites on the metanet when he's at home). As for Cleveland, I thought I'd answered you earlier. Cleveland is a thriving port city and manufacturing center, just as it was until the Rust Belt went bust; some of the schooners Carr saw in episode 2 were heading there. It's tier 5, though there's some agitation for a referendum to go down to tier 4 for the sake of lower taxes.

Ed-M, the Restos are a very diverse lot. There are probably some who treasure Jim's collected writings, although I suspect the critiques of suburbia and bad architecture are at the top of their reading lists, rather than any of his more decline-and-fall writing. Others draw from other sources.

RPC, an astonishing number of people never do that kind of math, and there are also a lot of people who can only afford the cheap product because the up front cost of the better product is more than they can spend at any one time.

Daelach, it was already on the list, but I appreciated the reminder! ;-)

Troy, that's not the way the Lakeland Republic does things -- laws requiring people to do X, Y and Z are not that common outside of the criminal code. Instead, what usually happens is that out-of-county fees get slapped on people who try to game the system that way. You work in a higher-tier county and live in a lower-tier one? There's a fee for county services deducted from your paycheck. You live on the edge of a car-free county and drive in a tier 4 or 5 county? Your license fees go *way* up. By and large, when Lakeland governments want to discourage something, they don't prohibit it unless it's something that really has to be prohibited; instead, they slap it with taxes and fees that make it unattractive, and not incidentally help keep tax rates low for those who play by the rules.

Pygmycory, again, the tiers just determine what kind of public utilities your tax dollars pay for. Medical care isn't a public utility -- though you'll likely find the way that it's handled interesting. As for used items, including musical instruments, agreed -- I have a variety of instruments, mostly lap dulcimers and hammered dulcimers, and not one of them was new when I bought it.

Jo said...

@pygmycory - exactly, I buy most of my clothes at thrift stores (op-shops in Aust) and only buy very well-constructed, classic style clothes, sometimes vintage, that last for years. The money I save I use to buy Aust-made or fair-trade underwear, socks, shoes etc, mostly from local stores.
@ Denys - absolutely, we could all live in Lakeland, by making daily choices in how we live, what we participate in, what we buy. If enough of us do that, and make a bit of political clamour in our local electorates for sensible by-laws, then we will be well on our way..

Scotlyn said...

I suppose my point is... Such dumping would have to be detected in order to attract a response, and there's always a chancer. Even at Tier 1, then, detection would have to be top notch?

John Michael Greer said...

Ozark, not yet. As we'll see, the current culture of the Lakeland Republic was powerfully shaped by nostalgia for times when the Midwest was thriving, and still tends to copy styles and trends from those eras. As the Lakelanders become more confident, they may well draw from other sources of inspiration -- but in 2065, for example, the most successful theatrical production in the Republic was a musical comedy about the almost-war between Michigan and Ohio over the city of Toledo in 1835-6. The not-quite-a-battle scene at the end of the second act was practically a Busby Berkeley number. Did it play in Peoria? You bet; just about everybody in the Republic could be heard whistling the opening number "Toledo Strip" at some point during the summer.

Denys, I know. I use this medium because it's what's readily available, and will reach the largest possible audience, but it's the only thing even approximating social media that I use at all.

HalFiore, funny! I don't think so, alas.

Hubertus, one of the things about civil wars is that senile elites don't usually survive them with their power and wealth intact, and quite often don't survive them at all. More on this as we proceed.

Ozark, yep; as already mentioned, that's why high-tier counties typically levy user fees on residents of low-tier counties who want to use their services without paying for them. You live on the edge of a tier 1 county, and want to drive on the roads of the tier 4 county next door? Sure you can, so long as you don't mind the extra license fees to pay for your share of the county road system, etc.! As for real estate values, the sharp difference in tax costs helps balance that -- if you want to live in the tier four county, your property taxes are going to be a lot higher, and since speculation in real estate (or anything else) faces steep taxes as well, there isn't that driver to overinflated real estate prices; for people in the Lakeland Republic, a home is a place you live, not an investment.

Jason, I've already discussed parts of it. Stay tuned for more!

Marian, as I mentioned to RPC, Cleveland's one of the Lakeland Republic's big cities, a thriving port and manufacturing center, tier five as of 2065. As for the nuclear power plants, those got shut down safely in the opening phases of the Second Civil War -- neither side wanted to be stuck with the mess after victory -- and the fate of the high-level waste will be mentioned later on. It's all out of the country at this point.

Donalfagan, funny! Or:

"The Maumee River delta was shining
Like a national guitar
I am following the lakeshore
On the railroad
Through the ruins of a civil war
I'm going to Lakeland, Lakeland
A startling sight to see
I'm going to Lakeland."

Patricia, I think hair length varies a good bit, but yes, a lot of women like to wear theirs fairly long -- again, the retro thing. I wonder if the Gibson Girl pompadour will come back in...

Alexandra, glad you're enjoying it! No question, a fabric store in Toledo or any of the other big cities would be a trip to Nirvana for a lot of people who like to sew -- good quality cloth from mills all over the Republic, pretty much anything you can make from wool, cotton, linen, or hemp. Even a small town store will sell you a good range of quality fabrics -- and then of course you go into tier 1 counties that have plenty of full-on Restos, and you start to see a lot of homespun dyed with butternut and other natural dyes; a lot of the extreme Restos won't sell but will gladly barter. More on this as we proceed!

John Michael Greer said...

N Montesano, of course it's hard. That's one reason why I imagine people adopting it after a series of massive collective traumas -- living low-tier seems hard to us, but it would seem comfortable and, more important, secure to people who've spent several years living in refugee camps and then struggled through a long economic depression.

Scotlyn, for reasons we'll get to down the line a bit, there's a lot of close and suspicious attention to such things, and the penalties if anybody actually gets harmed by it are draconian -- and here again, that's just the legal penalties. Due to some of the history we'll be covering, someone who was caught dumping something toxic into somebody else's fields or water supply might just get dragged away by a bunch of folks with shotguns, and never be seen again. (I'm not saying that that's a good thing, but it has happened.)

patriciaormsby said...

@Joe Roberts,
I'm in contact with quite a number of people who on account of health issues have been forced to "collapse before the rush." Many of them were early adopters of new technology. Some have doctorates, one was forced to abandon medical school in his final year due to long-term effects from a hazing incident. They found themselves "allergic" to modern society, but due largely to the civil religion of Progress JMG has described very well in prior posts, a mere mention of them is taboo. They are not supposed to exist. If they raise their voices too high, they are treated as "mentally ill."

They certainly miss a lot from their former lives. For one thing, most of them had to abandon their career. To the degree that they are able to find a place to recover their health (not easy these days) they don't fold up and feel sorry for themselves. To survive you have to be philosophical. Most realize their lives were being tied up with trivia, and that the most important things were escaping their attention. Some certainly continue to battle the demons-that-be of Progress; some do so angrily at the rank injustice, but others, happily, because it has given them a new purpose, where they may be able to help someone else. Others among the hypersensitive enjoy the freedom that got forced on them. Their stories are inspirational as we face a time of accelerating competition for the scraps of the "good life." Life goes on. Love exists where life does. Passion does not require connectivity.

Hubertus Hauger said...

John Michael Greer: "... elites don't usually survive them with their power and wealth intact, and quite often don't survive them at all..."

I may object your idea, that elites are diminishing. I say, its quite the opposite!

Our history is painting a picture, making the impression, that in times of conquer, overthrows and revolution the elites do perish. I long went along with this extinction message. However my insight has changed. The picture of elites nullification is either a illusion or misunderstanding. Elites are far from disappearing. Its as with all living beings alike. There is no extinction. Thats rather a myth. What I observe is a general transition.

Giving a contemporary example; In Germany one ancient form of elite is the nobility. Now, since our 2nd republic the nobility has formally lost their privileges.

Yet as representatives of the common citicens they consist 2000 % more than their actuall portion of the population. That is one single statistical evidence, to stretch my point. Elites are very persistent in upholding their status and privileged position. Thats just reflecting their place in society troughout the ages. Elites persevere. Banning them publicly is letting them disappear on the surface. However underneath they do remain and flourish.

In reality elites prosper overproportional!

patriciaormsby said...

@Hubertus, I'm not sure whom you've heard praising Putin--the American right wing? I have never perceived him as the "Master of Russia," merely a strategic minded bureaucrat with a mission to accomplish. Nor do I perceive him as an "alpha male." He does nothing really different from the average Russian dudes I know. They bare their chest to get some needed sunshine in summer. The mosquito bites are "good for the organism."

By making compromises with the oligarchs, he has started getting corruption under control in his country. There's still a long way to go on that. But he basically stopped the theft of Russia's natural resources, restored the economic system somewhat to where it functions better than before for the average citizen as a capitalist system, and he managed some humanitarian good deeds such as restoring pensions to seniors. In these ways, he defied the international vampire squids, and you must understand that this is the reason you hear so many unflattering assessments of him. There will always be people with gripes against him (some of them are my friends), but the more pressure comes to bear against him from the vampire squids, the higher and higher his popularity soars. Honey catches more flies than vinegar.

Jo said...

Thanks to my fellow Tasmanian, Eagle Eye, above, I did a little searching and found...


..the knifemaker's apprentice.. see, this is what I am talking about. Tasmania actually IS Lakeland, tier one in this case. Note, in part two, which leads straight on from part one, the knifemaker's apprentice, all of about 12 years old, is wearing a pork-pie hat:)

Shane Wilson said...

@Joe Roberts,
JMG may have been a little to generous regarding your upper middle class Ehrenstein. My guess is that the Ehrenstein in JMG's story would have had a much more modest upbringing, while your upper middle class kid's family would have been strung up or found the business end of a pitchfork during the Civil War, troubles/uprisings. If they were fortunate enough to have escaped that fate, they would've probably been sent into exile. If they managed to survive in place, I'd imagine that people of that class would be too frail to survive the dramatic drop in lifestyle, and would succumb to suicide, alcoholism, or drug abuse. People of lower classes/more modest means would be more resilient and would be the stock that our Ehrenstein is likely to come from. They'd be the ones kept down by today's senile elite that would thrive in a Lakeland.
Regarding hyphenated ethnicities, JMG, wouldn't people be "African-Lakelandian" and "Italian-Lakelandian" rather than "African-American" or "Italian-American", much the same way that people in Canada are African Canadian, Chinese Canadian, etc, or do people still think of themselves as American in Lakeland?
It may not be obvious someone is gay walking down the street, JMG, but when they're raising 4 kids in a home they share with their lawfully wedded husband or wife, it should be fairly obvious to anyone in the neighborhood.
Let me guess, the guy on the old cash register knows how to count change back the old fashioned way, counting forward, right? The total being $4, "one makes five, five makes ten, and ten makes twenty, thank you for shopping ____ and come back soon!" :) My dad had an old NCR in his liquor store that worked on electricity, but had a back up manual crank.

Ricardo Rolo said...

Well, Mr Greer, I did not say that current antibiotics are not losing potence ( in fact that was my first sentence on my screed ). But that was a expectable result and it was known to happen even before any one of us had come to this world ... that was a big reason why peniciline was so welcomed when discovered: the previous kill it all "wonder drug", the sulfamides, was being outgunned by "natural" selection in the same way our current Koch's bacillus are outgunning our current medicines against Tuberculosis. That is not to say that sulfamides stopped being used, it was just that the dosage needed to kill the bugs became so big that it started to be toxic for the human taking it and thus it's usage became very restricted to the cases where it was really needed.

That said, and not wanting to be too technical, there are two kinds of antibiotics: a class that tries to target metabolic paths that are exclusive to the bacteria causing the disease and ones that target more or less universal metabolic paths ( DNA replication, the Krebs cycle, protein synthesis ... all of them are pretty much done in the same way in all living things ), thus also harming the patient, but relying in the fact that you need more to kill a 70 kg human than some microscopic being.

Most of the current antibiotics fall in the first category and thus are rendered useless as soon as "natural" selection kicks in and rewards any bacteria that starts doing stuff diferently ( like having slightly diferent surface receptors, a typical evolution on Multi-resistant strains ), but like I said, any antibiotic of that kind comes with a expectable shelf live and if reasonable minds were behind their usage they would be dosed with parcimony, with a careful analysis of the active principle to use in each case, just to increase their usable time. But , as our world has been filled with not so rational minds, we have boxes of uniform dosage antibiotics being handed down by lazy or ill-prepared doctors like Oprah handling her audience, and more, we'be being spraying and feeding them by the bucketloads to our plants and livestock ( in the deranged belief that it will somehow prevent diseases on them , thus increasing profits ). As you can imagine, this is the exact thing that should not be done. OTOH, it is not that new antibiotics of this can't be created, but that requires research and money and will have the same shelf live issues, so it is not that profitable as that ...

( continues ... )

Ricardo Rolo said...

( ... continued )

That leaves the other kind of antibiotics, the heavy stuff. Like I said in my other post, that kind of stuff works under the same basis as chemotherapy: it is poison both to you and to the bacteria , but they need less to die than you, and thus they are not that used today ( you need to be careful with the dosage, otherwise it will kill you too ...and it is normal that it will not leave you exactly healthy afterwards even if the treatment goes well ). A pretty extreme case are the organo-mercurates ( coumpounds that result of the reaction of mercury with organic molecules ): there is a reason why people started associating taking mercury in as a recipe for long life, as those coumpounds ( that are naturally created if you ingest mercury ) are potent full-spectrum antibiotics, but they also kill you if taken in excessive dosages and even if the dose is not excessive, you will suffer from it ( good ol'mercury poisoning ). Thus doctors tend to be very reluctant to give that kind of stuff out, as you understand ( and in the cynical side, they also don't want to deal with the lawsuits for poisoning a person to save them ... ).

Well, in resume: Current specific bacterial metabolic route antibiotics are probably going down the window, but then again they were never permanent to start with and we also did not act to extend their usage. Given enough time and money, we can most likely develop new ones, but even if that happens, they will again be rendered useless sooner or later ... OTOH the class of antibiotics that is universally usable will also poison you and has to be used in a very controlled fashion that is both time and money consuming .

That is why I said I beleived antibiotics usage would probably never die out, since that second class of medicines will still be in hand. OTOH, given their drawbacks, I do not expect that doctors use them in a so stupidly blind fashion as today. But that also means that the current model of business regarding antibiotics is pretty much dead in the water , and that is why you see so many people crying about that ...

( disclaimer: The feminine side of my close family of my mother side , including my mother and my sisters, are strongly allergic to penicillin related antibiotics and all of them already passed by atleast one near death experience due to some doctor giving out penicillin-related coumpounds to them blindly, sometimes even after knowing that they were allergic ( last time was 2 months ago ). Sometimes I just wonder how many people died so far due to doctors giving away antibiotics as candy to people that are allergic to them ... )

daelach said...

Regarding itchy wool, there is a trick. I made a vest out of an old army wool blanket, and it was scratchy. Here we go:

- get wool fat / wool wax. You get it in any drugstore where they use it as basic ingredient for making salves. Drugstores are usually overpriced, so you may prefer to get it over the internet while it lasts. Do not use lanoline, that is an emulsion of wool fat and water.
- get dish detergent.
- make half a litre of water boil.
- put a tea spoon of dish detergent in (less if your detergent is a concentrated one). It makes the wool fat soluble in water.
- put heaped a tea spoon of wool wax in.
- stir the liquid until the wool wax has dissolved.
- fill a bucket full of luke warm water (around 30°C - must not feel hot), around 8 litres. 10 litre buckets are standard, that leaves a bit room for the garment's volume. If your bucket isn't metric, use somewhat equivalent values.
- put the boiling liquid from above into the bucket and stir.
- put your scratchy wool garment in. Do not agitate, wool doesn't like that. Just put it under the liquid surface.
- let it rest overnight.
- get the garment out. Do not rinse, do not wring, do not iron, do not tumble.
- put the garment between two big towels.
- press some of the remaining water out. Pressing, not wringing.
- put the garment flat onto some laundry rack. Do not hang it up, or else it may warp due to its own weight.
- it is normal that it feels a bit greasy at this point.
- let it dry.
- the greasy feeling should vanish, or else it will after some wear.
- now the wool should scratch much less.

Nastarana said...

I am tempted to buy copies of this book when it appears and send them out to friends and relatives. I would donate a copy to the public library if I thought the librarians would keep it.

Alexandra, I have been finding good quality fabric in usable lengths at yard sale and thrift/antique/collectible stores lately. I think maybe people are cleaning out their elders' closets.

N Montesano said...

"Would seem secure to people who've ... struggled through a long economic depression." Oh, yes. I'm driven by a lot of motives; not wanting to participate in the current system; vastly better quality, social justice, sheer fun of making your own, and so on, but one is awareness of just how vulnerable you are when relying on the grocery store. Few people around me seem to able to grasp the idea of not being able to just go buy what you want when you want it; they seem to think I'm a crazy doomer to suggest there could not be food on the shelves. Or you could just not be able to afford it. This even though my own grandparents survived the Great Depression by gardening and preserving. And then there's the issue of the nice gentleman being sentenced right about now for selling peanut butter he knew was contaminated with salmonella...
@ Alexandra, we've found that, at least in our area, there are an amazing number of high quality vintage metal sewing machines, often quite inexpensive, through things like Craigslist. For high quality fabric produced with awareness of environmental pollution and social justice, you could try Organic Cotton Plus, though the prices are astronomical.

MayHawk said...

JMG Said " I suspect we'll be visiting a post office down the road a bit, and see signs talking about Christmas Club accounts -- do you recall those?"

Yes; I do remember those. My Mother and older sister both had Christmas Club accounts and my Mother used to buy winter coats for us kids on "Layaway". I remember when Sears came out with "Revolving charge accounts" and my father sneeringly said "Yah! They get you coming and going!". I grew up in a "Cash and Carry" household and I have now returned to that as much safer then credit cards.

FLwolverine said...

JMG: "good quality cloth from mills all over the Republic, pretty much anything you can make from wool, cotton, linen, or hemp"

I've been wondering about the sources of textiles for clothing, felt for hats, leather for shoes, etc. All these technologies were available in 1950 and even in 1830, but the working conditions for people employed in mills and tanneries tended (so I've read) to be difficult - long hours, low wages, and of course no benefits or safety nets. How does the Lakeland Republic enforce some fairness for the workers?

I am enjoying this story. Since I grew up in the 1950's,much of this sounds familiar and comfortable. I will be very curious to find out how the Lakelanders managed to make so many rational choices and forsake the religion of progress.

Bruno Bolzon said...

JMG, another problem with bio plastic...
It burns.
I mean it literally. Plastic is inflammable. Recently, a patient came into the ICU with severe burns on her legs. She had accidentally ignited her synthetic pants. Her torso, which was covered with a heavy woolen sweater, was unharmed.
Plastic is simply fossil fuels in solid form. Not safe to wear at all.

donalfagan said...

I was thinking about Lakeland on light rail this morning, and my mind turned to The Shipping News as another story in which a man moves to a simpler, but ultimately more fulfilling place - a waterside town in Newfoundland. I haven't heard good things about the film version, but the book is a good read although ... well, I read it, then loaned it to a friend. When I got it back, our new puppy chewed up the last forty pages, and my friend said, "I guess he didn't like the ending either!"

Anyway, I'll be interested to see whether and how people extend and use credit in the Lakeland Republic. When I was a kid we were taught about the "installment plan," and there were also layaways, but now some people owe more on credit cards than they can ever repay.

@ Howard Skillington, I deleted your comment in my blog as off-topic. Quoting my ShambaLakeland comment from here, and adding ZZZZZzzzz... has nothing to do with VW's clean diesels.

dfr2010 said...

For those wondering about the (senile) elites or toxic dumpers, I only mention the late colonial/early American tradition of tarring and feathering. Running out on a rail was optional.

If Mr. Carr was out of the clothing store in about an hour's time, he must not be an unusual size or need alterations for proper fit. I was amused at his notice of the lack of advertising, as he sounds quite malleable to peer pressure, with wanting to look less conspicuous.

@Dan the Farmer: according to my son, a few years ago when he was in high school, if an adult must google to try to figure out what a "hipster" is, then said adult can never be a hipster. His exact reassurance to me was: "Mom, you can never be a hipster because you are already what hipsters want to be when they grow up!" So relax, man ... JMG may actually be right when he calls folks like us "trendsetters." I guess our theme song ought to be Huey Lewis and the News' "Hip to be Square" from the late '80s.

@JMG, I do certainly like the idea that very little is prohibited in the Republic, just taxed and feed to discourage all but the determined. That will mean a lower cost for law enforcement ... and also much less criminalizing of the population.

Martin said...

Hmmm. In many ways some of the 'reality' your protagonist is describing mirrors my own experience during my childhood and youth and to some extent on into my early adulthood.

I was born into a lower-middle-class family in 1936 and carry fond memories of growing up and living in the Pacific Northwest during a less complicated (i.e., less distracting) time. For example; when I was about three years old, my parents wisely purchased an acre of land on the edge of town that supported a small house and proceeded to create a mini-utopia over time that supplied much of our food for eight years or so. We had a huge garden, a small orchard, raised berries of various types, raised rabbits and ran a sizable chicken yard full of chickens - and we all (my three older siblings and myself) pitched in to keep it going (remember 'chores'?).

Initially, even though we did have electric power, we had an icebox and a root cellar of sorts and my mother and older sister canned any surplus produce we grew or could obtain. A big event in my young life was a trip with my father to the ice-house in town to pick up a block of ice or to retrieve something from the freezer locker we rented there.

Also early on (until I was six or seven years old) we made do with an outhouse - we had indoor plumbing but there was as yet no public sewer system to serve our area. And the 'central heating system' was just that, a wood-fired stove that occupied a spot on one side of the living room that was pretty 'central' to the entire house. The upstairs bedrooms were heated through vents above the stove that opened to a landing at the top of the stairs.

Later on we were blessed with a refrigerator and a sewer system, so the icebox and outhouse went away (but we kept renting the locker), and the wood-burner was replaced with an oil-burner (ugh!) that sported a fan-driven heat distribution system of sorts, but other than that things went along pretty much the same until we moved to another town when I was thirteen. Oh, and we didn't have a tv until after we moved - books, board games, cards, home-made music, the radio (a big, stand-up thing with a 'green eyeball' tuner on the dial), and an occasional movie were our primary sources of entertainment, not to mention fishing. As I recall, even though there were stresses, both outside and internal to the family, we lived pretty well and life was all-in-all pretty good.

After I left home and went on my own, I moved to the city (Portland), which at the time (mid-fifties to mid-sixties) was not unlike the Toledo your protagonist describes. I went to work in a bank downtown, which was full of smaller home-owned shops, restaurants and coffee-shops, sported two or three larger, locally-owned department stores and, right in the middle of it all, covering a half-block, there was a perpetual open-sided market with numerous permanent stalls selling fresh produce, fish, various meats and cheeses, breads and other goodies.

Most of that's gone now, replaced by a newer, more 'hip' culture and infrastructure. And I no longer live there, but I fondly carry memories of the time I did and my experiences as the place evolved and changed.

Jeff Balvanz said...

Greetings! I have been enjoying your blog for some time but haven't posted. I also come from reading a lot of science fiction in the 1970's. The only thing I've seen even close to your tier system is the paid avoidance zones from John Brunner's The Shockwave Rider. After the Great Bay Quake devastated California, the expense of rebuilding the infrastructure was so great that the government offered instead to pay people to live in areas with reduced services. Some areas were little more than shanty towns, but others developed extremely sophisticated green technology. And most places would take credit cards, but they used the old-fashioned carbon paper machines to process them, which means it would take a day or two for the transaction to get into the network. That was extremely handy if you were on the lam, as you could be gone before the feds got there.

James said...

I wonder if our protagonist will ever get out to those Tier III and below cities. He might see something there that he's never seen before - the star-lit sky at night. I suspect that even Tier IV and Tier V residents can actually see the stars and constellations.

No tech = no light pollution.

Martin B said...

@ JMG: Maybe poverty-stricken children's book authors should get together with animators. Google "Peppa Pig creators bank £47m each".

Zaphod's mention of smell reminded me of our local grocer in the 1950s. Run by the gloriously-named Toodles Noppe, whose husband ran the butchery next door, it served middle- and working-class customers. Walk in and you were immediately hit by the smell of paraffin (kerosene) and blue laundry soap. Want paraffin? Bring your own bottle and pump it out of the square paraffin tin with a paraffin pump. Want laundry soap? Break what you want off the long bars of soap. Want sugar? Toodles would put a paper bag on the scale, scoop the sugar from a burlap bag, and weigh out half a pound. Then grip the bag by the corners, a twirl and a tuck, and hand you had a neatly-sealed bag of sugar.

Of course we kids were most interested in the big glass jars of n**ger balls, marshmallow fish, bubble gum, sherbet, etc etc. Other kids would be running round outside pushing bicycle wheel rims using wire guiding rods.

The paraffin would be for the Primus stove. Prick the jets clean, pour a little methylated spirits in the reservoir and light it to warm the burners, then pump like hell and hope it burns properly with a hissing sound and doesn't flame out in a yellow smoky flame.

bicosse said...

I note that Mr Carr hasn't met any hippies yet, and the nearest to a hipster-bohemian he has encountered in Lakeland is the distinctly 1950s jazz pianist. It seems to me that part of what you are trying to do here is to reimagine the ecology movement without its heavy burden of hippie counterculture. If some Greens choose to adopt a hippie lifestyle that is not a problem, indeed it contributes to the creative diversity of the movement. But if hipster countercultural values become de rigueur, which was my experience of the British green movement of the nineties, it is a problem, because many potential supporters will be alienated because, though they want to live less unsustainably and more in harmony with nature, they don't smoke dope, believe in earth energies and the coming New Age, &c. &c.

gjh42 said...

Old sewing machines never die ;)
I have a 1950's Singer that my little sister gave me in the 80's when she got a new one (she had been given it second-hand in the 70's). It is an ugly beige tank, but it has sewed more than one 20' x 30' heavy canvas roof and does whatever I want except zigzag.
I also have my mother's 1930's Singer, a little wasp-waisted classic, which she kept maintained and useable. I will keep it and maybe one of my grandnieces will want it to use someday...

changeling said...

Well, the tier system and diversity of law/taxes/ect. remind me strongly of "Holy" "Roman" Empire — a multiethnic group of territories in Central Europe that existed from the early Middle Ages — an elected emperor was to rule over hundreds of small political entities that had different levels of wealth, power and autonomy. It was quite durable and lasted hundreds of years, but the problem with that system was that it was both chaotic and inefficient as political structure via constant infighting; . I wonder what downsides you envision for Lakeland Republic?

Shane Wilson said...

You've mentioned that adopting older technology does not equate adopting older social mores, and have mentioned minorities in particular. For one of your characters in particular, the African-American banker, how do attitudes change over the years from say, his civil rights era great grandmother, for whom belief in the myth of progress meant progress towards equality, and for whom older technologies and fashions most definitely represent a return to older social mores of segregation, lynching, and worse, to your banker, who obviously has different ideas? Is it just repeated discomfirmation of old myths until they just can't be believed anymore? The failure of the federal government? I'm thinking it's like I was saying with the Confederacy, that old myths handed down by tired, old elites just don't describe reality anymore (How can the South at the same time be the most diverse, integrated region with the largest African-American & Latino communities, with continued black and Latino inmigration while at the same time being the national scapegoat for racism and retrograde beliefs in general?) I'm just curious how you see those attitudes changing over generations with one group in particular in Lakeland.
"and in the highly multiethnic post-US North America of 2065, if you're in politics, you notice ethnicities among many other things, because it's no longer "important white guys" vs. 'everyone else;' the different ethnic communities have clout, and paying attention to who's who is essential for successful politics in a multipolar society. More on this as we proceed!"
So, are you saying that the trend over the last 200 years of "becoming white", of the term "white" expanding from just British/Anglo Saxon people to include more and more people, will reverse? I've heard/read that "white" is now expanding to include Latinos, multiracial people, and Asians, that is, that increasing numbers of these groups are now adopting the term "white" to describe themselves.

Unknown said...

JMG I am intrigued by your Bioplastic. I can just hear the adds. The latest in recyclable material. The newest high tech. Save the planet by using clothes sustainability grown with the latest super bugs the newest material.


Martin said...

As an amendment to my nostalgic post above regarding my 'idyllic' early life in the Pacific NW during the 40's and 50's I want to point out that it wasn't just nostalgia-driven.

My purpose was to indicate in factual terms to your younger readers just how rapidly - and radically - things can change during one person's lifespan and to indicate that the coming retrograde in our culture is not only survivable but might not be such a bad thing - for awhile - even though it certainly means less leisure time in general and much harder work for most. It might even bring purpose into the lives of many who now lack it.

jean-vivien said...

Hello John,
on what may appear to be off-topic from the events in the Lakeland Republic.. and yet.
After the Blood Moon's night, I listened to the news dispatch on our public news radio.
In the news bulletin, you had :
- one of the 4 biggest banks in France is gonna close some brick-and-mortar agencies because of increasing use of Internet banking => less jobs because of technology
- the government wants to instate a symbolic penalty fee for tax payers who will still (gasp) pay by paper instead of the Internet public tax site
- some architects are paying themselves a stay on the big official refugee camp in Calais (North of France, where you enter the Tunnel under the Channel to Britain). The reason : a lot of the recent stream of refugees from the Middle-East are educated people, who have developed ingenious solutions to build makeshift housing (shanties, but that word should no longer be used) from salvaged or recycled materials, solving basic problems such as ventilation, insulation...
- the biggest commercial airline in France is planning to cut pilot jobs
- a new fashionable idea : "good-enough innovation". No kidding...

(- I also have noticed nowadays you see a lot of ads for websites on TV... it feels really strange to me, because when I was a kid, TV was king, you even saw "Seen on TVs" stickers on toy packages)

(and the latest diplomatic summit on Ukraine took place in Paris... without the USA's head of states. I have started my pop-corn stash !

Basically, I get the feeling that the facts making the case for LLR's views are there and now slipping to the public attention, too loud to ignore, but the coherent set of ideas have not yet coalesced around those facts : Green wizardry, technology cutting jobs and still getting funded by the states, technology tiers for tax subsidies... It will still take bravery to articulate it publicly, even if the facts can no longer be ignored.

One of the reasons why the idea that technology is subsidized by the states does not get more discussion is pretty simple : blindness to whole systems. Once that blindness dissipates, the idea that states are funding technologies to create more unemployment, thus requiring more funding from tax payers... would just look pretty bad. It's not gonna end well, hmmm ? No wonder you haven't envisioned an exactly rosy historical path leading to your Retropia. Hopefully it takes less than that here to get there.

Another reason, and one of the pillars of the Internet economy, is the superstition of marketing. Because most of the Internet giants and startups are paying themselves on just advertising revenue... Superstition does seem to be a renewable resource. i am sure the LLR would feature plenty of it, but under different forms.

Caryn said...

Alexandra: If I were in your shoes, I'd be hunting for a sturdy old industrial sewing machine. Back in the way-back days, (1990's) when I worked in costume design for theatre & film, in several costume shops I got to use some of these and they are a DREEEEEAM to sew on! From the lightest, most delicate silks to heavy leather or felted wools (and it might not matter to you now, but with a ball-point needle, even synthetics/polyester/nylon/etc.) Fairly simple mechanics, easy enough to keep the tension properly adjusted, keep oiled and cleaned on your own. Needles and bobbins were pretty standard sizes. They just run forward, so you have to double stitch the beginning and ending of each seam, but that's easy enough to get used to. I can't recommend them highly enough.

@Patricia, RE: Phyllis's shopping: That caught my eye too! As a former costume designer, I'm also costuming this out in my head. :) IMHO, she would already have a few items from LLR, procured on the Atlantic Rep. black market, there is always such a market for things-you're not-supposed-to-have. Maybe just a simple tasteful woolen scarf or hat, but it would be her wardrobe 'passport' or street-cred on her trip to LLR.
The seamstresses/dressmakers/couturiers she visits, (also found through black market connections); I think not all, but many of them would work from their homes, designing and sewing in the evenings for fun and spare money. There has always been a market for fashion and there always will be. The impulse to adorn ourselves and express ourselves through outer appearance has been found present in every single human society, bar none. This also leads many of us to accept a certain measure if discomfort in our clothing, like wearing a smart dress, (stockinged legs) in winter, or putting up with a bit of scratchiness from woolens, even, if one doesn't know any better, perpetual clamminess from bioplastic, although that is really pushing the limits.

Even in economic hardship, I think some, like Phyllis -as you describe her - would feel a strong compulsion to prioritize this.

Caryn said...

As for the fabrics - that is indeed a fair-sized technological suite. I think LLR would have to have a textile mill or two, dyers and industrial looms to provide a Tier-5 amount of textiles and clothing. I don't think hand-spinning, dyeing and weaving would provide enough for any haberdashery to keep off-the-rack clothes in stock. Maybe they've resurrected some old mills within their borders or traded for some of the last ones in the Confederacy. I was working for a garment mfgr. in 1997 when our supplier, one of the last hold-out mills in NC closed up in the face of NAFTA. My company closed up soon after.

As for the choice of the 1940's styles: (As a costume designer, I'd actually extend that both ways to a mix of 1930's, 40's even a bit of 1950's trends); A popular style often comes from the perception of who we want to be, so JGM, right on the money that Lakelanders would gravitate towards a look from their regional glory days as well as something that is smart or elegant and achievable. Today, women favoring cargo pants and tank-tops, looking like survivors from 'The Walking Dead' is good because they're not actually fighting any war. If/when they have to go through a real war, bloody and messy and PTSD- when it's over, they/we will probably find ourselves drawn again to clothing/an outer appearance of elegance and sophistication.
Additionally, those styles are currently a marginal part of the steam-punk oeuvre a la 'Bioshock'. It's a great look, always has been, I can see it raging back in a place like LLR, where it's again achievable.

Finally: Apart from wool-wax. A lot of vintage woolens were also lined with either silk, nylon or a thin woven cotton to keep the shape of the outer-garment additional warmth and to fend off scratchiness. If no lining, women wore slips and camisoles, men wore undershirts and boxers which did the trick. Sans synthetics, the stockings would have to be either (smuggled?)imported silks or cotton lisle, maybe even wool for the winter.

Urban Harvester said...

The tier system is really intriguing. Who would shoulder the costs for the inter-county trade routes though? We've seen that agriculture takes place in the range of tiered counties, with the associated variety of technological suites in use. However, one might expect more productive farmland in a low tier county, and more land given over to industry and urban infrastructure in a Tier 5 locale.

If a high tier county has to draw on the resources of its low tier neighbor for its food, fiber and fuel needs, does it subsidize a road or canal across county lines into farm country so that Tier 1 farmers can get their ox-carts to barges and trucks? Or does the low-tier neighbor shoulder the cost of the trade route?

Put another way, is the land for food. fuel and fiber viewed as part of the infrastructure that makes up the county's tax level? (Do urban centers have to set growth boundaries, ensuring adequate land in its county to meet the basic needs of its constituents, and not require low-tier counties to produce a surplus?) Or is e.g. sheep ranching in tier 1 one country just profitable enough to justify paying road-use fees out of what are likely decent fleece prices at the woolen mills on the outskirts of Toledo?

Perhaps these issues are worked out more on the national level of taxation that we are eagerly awaiting to hear about. On the other hand I suppose one could see a formerly urban area that is a Tier 1 county in 2065, populated by proto-ruinmen using urbanite to build rough shelters. The beauty of the tier system would be that if sheep ranching were an important part of the local economy, the cost of the trade route could be part of the tax assessment given enough ranchers, and I guess it would be the truck and barge drivers working the usage fees and pollution taxes into their budgets. But I'm curious to see how the tier system plays out with the urban/rural divide.

Thanks for this journey!

Unknown said...

I am just loving this story. It brings to mind a conversation I had with a professor down here in NZ a few years ago at an expo about climate change, peak oil etc - Susan Krumdieck is an engineer and she said to me - don't panic, peak oil will only mean we go back to living how we used to live and we did just fine. You and Susan think alike :-)

I guess the effects of climate change are another issue and I'm not going to talk about that now. The story helps me to remember my childhood with outside toilets, washing 'days' and walking home from the market.

Your constant suggestion to work where you are and develop new skills has me thinking deeply. My current contribution to my community in response to the changes that are coming, is to focus on helping people my childrens' age. I'm working with two young people to develop a food business that might look like one Mr Carr might encounter. Using my memories of my first job, we're going slow and trying not to use too much 'technology'. Feeding the results of the trials to our local 'free store' for local homeless people. We're visiting local suppliers and it was interesting to hear the sales lady at one say "we're reverting back to a five day week with clear terms of trade and not giving accounts to people we don't know. Once you've built up a relationship with us we can discuss credit." It was even more interesting to hear the young people reply "we don't want credit, if we can't afford it, we don't want it."

Really looking forward to the next instalments and praying for more hours in your day to help you along!


John Michael Greer said...

Hubertus, er, how many Russian aristocratic families still had significant power and wealth in Russia after 1917? Germany's situation is, if not quite an outlier, then by no means common, much less universal. A lot depends, of course, on how many people after the crisis consider the elites from before the crisis to have been responsible for the crisis...

Jo, well, there you are. Do you think there's any chance that Tasmania might someday become an independent republic? I can see putting a Tasmanian embassy in Toledo...

Ricardo, thank you for the clarification! I'm familiar with the use of mercury and arsenic compounds to treat STDs in the late 19th and early 20th centuries -- a slow and very delicate process due to the toxicity of the drugs -- but hadn't thought of the same principle more generally. So what you're suggesting is that in the future, toxic antibiotics will be a last resort for intractable cases? I could see that.

Daelach, thanks for this. American readers will want to know that here, wool fat is usually called lanolin.

Nastarana, thank you!

N Montesano, exactly -- but that helps explain why, in the Lakeland Republic of 2065, there are a lot of people whose dreams of a comfortable, secure, happy life lead them straight to tier 1.

MayHawk, your father was a smart man!

FLwolverine, we'll get to that. The thing to remember is that in 1830, all working class jobs had no pay and low benefits -- and this was one of the reasons why the economic history of 19th century America was a moonscape of booms and busts. As Henry Ford among others figured out thereafter, if your workers make enough money to buy the products they manufacture, things are going to go a lot better for everyone.

Bruno, no argument there! That's a useful way to think about synthetic fabrics, too -- basically, you're daubing yourself with crude oil. My wife likes to say that polyester fleece feels like exactly what it is: the slimy, decayed remnants of dead dinosaurs.

Donalfagan, there isn't much use of credit in the Lakeland Republic. The government at all levels is barred by the constitution from deficit spending; investment capital for business is available, but speculation is heavily taxed; mortgages are available from county banks, but for anything else, most people do the smart thing and save up in advance instead. Since the Republic was cut off from international credit markets for thirty years, those habits were pretty much inevitable, but they were also very productive, in ways we'll discuss.

Dfr2010, I'm not sure whether anyone thought of tarring and feathering, much less riding 'em out of town on a rail. During the Second Civil War and the troubled years immediately afterwards, for reasons we'll get to, it was not safe to be a former billionaire or corporate executive in most of North America, and some really regrettable things happened in rather too many cases. As for laws, in a sane society the laws are few, sensible, and strictly and uniformly enforced. I'll let you draw the logical conclusion about our society... ;-)

John Michael Greer said...

Martin, exactly. One of the things that the Retrotopia project is meant to bring into focus is that right now, the past is a considerably more pleasant destination than the future toward which "progress" is headed -- so why not go there instead?

Jeff, thanks for the blast from the past! You're quite right, of course; it's been a very long time since I read that Brunner novel, and I'd forgotten about the paid-avoidance zones. Some dim memory thereof might have helped inspire the tier system.

James, stay tuned. Carr is going to want to see a tier 1 county -- he's convinced that he's going to find unremitting squalor. Is he in for a surprise...

Martin, I've used Primus stoves! Another blast from the past...

Bicosse, good. You get tonight's gold star for catching one of the bits of underlying strategy in this project!

Changeling, of course there are downsides, and we'll get to some of them as we proceed.

Shane, there's a lot of regional variation in how important the label "white" happens to be -- I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it's more important down South than, say, in the Midwest, and of course one of the points of the fiction is that different parts of the country are going their own way culturally and otherwise. What I see in large parts of the country is a transformation from the "melting pot" to a sort of tossed-salad effect, with different subcultures, ethnic and otherwise, that are learning to get along with one another in various ways. As for your earlier question, we'll get to that; the very short form is that, yes, the old myths finally imploded due to their failure to match lived experience. There's a rich irony in the banker's comment about history, since every generation creates its own history out of the raw materials of the past.

Tomxyza, nice! You might be interested to know that every big box clothing store in the Atlantic Republic has the same six or seven styles in the same three colors -- those change yearly, and marketers decide what are going to be the fashionable (that is to say, available) styles and colors. Ah, the wonders of limitless choice in the consumer's paradise...

Martin, as already noted, exactly.

Jean-Vivien, I probably need to do a nonfiction post on the way that direct and indirect subsidies make the entire notion of the free market a laughable fiction and guarantee idiotic consequences from allegedly objective economic decisions.

Caryn, the Lakeland Republic has rather more than a textile mill or two. Textiles are a major manufacturing sector; the woolen mills of Cleveland, the cotton mills of Paducah, the hemp mills of Milwaukee employ many thousands and contribute mightily to the Republic's economy. The spinning wheels and handlooms of the tier 1 counties are mostly a matter of families meeting their own needs, and it's fairly common except among the most hardcore Restos for homespun to go for everyday wear while store-bought fabric gets turned into Sunday go-to-meetin' clothing or what have you. As for the logic behind the broadly 1940s styles, exactly -- nostalgia for better days in the past is a powerful engine of human motivation, and tends to express itself in clothing among other things.

John Michael Greer said...

Urban Harvester, depends on which trade routes. Railroads are privately owned though carefully regulated, and (since they're not a public utility) aren't subject to the tier system; even in a tier 1 county, odds are you've got a train stopping at least once daily at the county seat, and that means you can load your cargo into the appropriate rolling stock and have it anywhere in the Republic in a few days. (Note for the attentive: this is one of the reasons why locomotives carry their own fuel with them, rather than using electricity off a grid or the like.) Canals are public utilities, but canal technology is appropriate in any tier, so any county that has access to a canal is in good shape there also. (All the old canals either have been reopened by 2065 or are in process, and several new ones are being built; we'll discuss the funding mechanism down the road a bit.) Roads aren't much used for shipping freight except for very short distances -- say, from your sheep ranch to the county seat where there's a train system -- because, fuel being expensive and road systems no longer subsidized, it just doesn't make economic sense when train travel is so cheap.

Unknown Toni, glad to hear it! I've actually integrated climate change into this future scenario -- in 2065, for example, there's a lot of cotton grown in Kentucky and southern Illinois because the climate belts have shifted northward, and ports on the Great Lakes are thriving because the eastern seaports are having to cope with rising sea levels and are not doing too well at it. More on this as we proceed.

Alexandra said...

@Caryn, @gjh42, @NMontesano, and anyone else I may have missed (if so, apologies): Great minds think alike. As I wrote my previous comment I was already searching for a new (old) sewing machine in my area. I will soon be picking up my 1956 Singer. :)

Next up: a nice "dumb" phone that doesn't follow me around and track my every move.

Learning the skills and artisanship of the past and connecting with, curating, and honestly just treasuring these old artifacts has really intensified the feeling of connection with my ancestors. I might have guessed that would happen, but would never have guessed how strong the effect has been for me. It has literally changed the entire direction of my life, and yet there is a sense of peace rather than turmoil. It's deep medicine. I have a feeling a lot of my friends and relations may be getting Retropia the Book as gifts when it comes out.

Donald Hargraves said...

One question about the Atlantic Republic, if you don't mind:

Are they really independent, or is the AR a client state, say, of the Confederate/Brazil alliance? I get the feeling that things aren't as we've been led to perceive them in Mr. Carr's homeland.

Martin B said...

On economics: I'm guessing the primary relationship between city and country is, "We buy your food, you buy our poop."

On technology: I can remember when petrol pumps had two graduated glass cylinders on top, and a big lever at the bottom. You told the attendant how many gallons you wanted, and he swung the lever back and forth to pump the required amount of petrol into the cylinders, then released it into your car's petrol tank. No electricity required.

On fashion: I was reading an ethnologist's account of living with the !Kung bushmen. Their favorite campfire dance was the "Giraffe Dance". "I suppose you leaned the dance from your father, and he from his father, and he from his father, and so on," said the ethnologist to a dancer. "Oh no," came the reply, "It was invented by a guy a couple of years ago. It's all the rage now."

On living in a Tier 1 county: Many years ago I heard the BBC interview a 100 year-old man, and they asked him what was the biggest change in Britain over his lifetime. "No dust," he replied. "Back then the roads weren't tarred and it was always dusty."

Jo said...

@ Caryn and all interested in textiles - you know the current interest in local eating and the 100 mile foodshed? Well, here is a woman who has assembled a wardrobe using only textiles grown and processed from a 150 mile 'fibershed' in California..

As she says, showing that it can be done, that plants keep growing and sheep keep breeding, even through economic downturns..

Jo said...

re The Republic of Tasmania - I have to imagine that in fifty years Tasmania will be almost the only habitable state of Australia - an increase of a couple of degrees in global temperatures is an average - that means spikes much higher. With most mainland Australian cities spiking up to 45C(113F) sometimes and over 40C(104F)for days at a time now in summer, and with all new housing stock built only to be liveable with air conditioning, I don't see those cities (all coastal, of course) thriving into the far future. Tas high temps are generally more around 32C(89F), which give us a lot of wriggle room.

Right now we are the poorest state. Federal politicians love calling us 'the mendicant state' because we aren't economically self-supporting. But if we ever had to be actually self-supporting, I think we would have a good chance, because everyone grows veg, has chickens, fishes, hunts, has family with a farm or bit of land. There is lots of old infrastructure that would still be viable as well. Recently one of the oldest stone-grinding mills in Australia was lovingly restored and now provides niche-market local ground flours. We have all the food here, all the trees, lots of expertise, and such water as there is on the continent.

But without strict regulation I think what will happen is that as the Australian mainland heats up, the wealthiest segment of the population will move here and buy the whole place out, and it will become a giant gated community:(

Unknown said...

JMG, Tasmania is an interesting study in the effects of history. The settling British convicts and their thuggish, psychopathic jailers all but killed off the local aborigines and developed an inbred form of corruption that sees any attempt to introduce a fair and even system of justice resisted by those with the power and influence. For instance the 2nd Integrity Commisioner just quit 3 years into a 5 year contract. Active opposition to attempts to address corruption via a culture of "gift giving" in the public service from the politicians, the heads of the public service, and the public servants union saw a resignation "to retire back in Canberra" 10 days later.

When it all turns to custard or whatever, there will be a number of "elites" that will be swimming like mad, and bugger the white pointer sharks in Bass Strait that are partial to anything seal sized that thrashes in the water.

It is a beautiful place, full of wonderful people, it has some of the best crafts people and artists in the world and yet it has some of the most hopelessly stupid politicians that ever drew breath. And that includes the Greens. Sadly I am convinced it will need some sort of revolt to fix that impediment to a sustainable, prosperous future.

eagle eye

Cherokee Organics said...


The tier system is an excellent bit of original thought.

Exactly, but it is a hard concept to get across to people as they see those really large scale and polluting activities as being a necessity, rather than the subsidy dumpsters that they actually are. It amuses me to see neo-conservatives decrying this and that and yet at the same time they want government subsidies for road construction and maintenance. For them, confused and conflicted appears to be a lifestyle choice! Just sayin...

Now speaking of personal vehicles, and I do realise that you have about as much interest in them as perhaps you do in household powered climate control, but I was wondering whether you had taken note in the unfolding scandal over at the world's second biggest vehicle manufacturer VW? To cut a long story short it appears as if that manufacturer employed a dodgy software fix which appears to be able to run a second and more emissions friendly engine management program (in some diesel engine vehicles) - if the vehicles computer sensed that it was being tested in a laboratory. The other program was reserved for the real world. It would have been an easy check for the engine management computer too because if say a front wheel drive vehicle was in a laboratory on a dynamometer in operation, one set of wheels would be rolling, whilst the other was not. Easy.

The scandal in and of itself does not interest me, although the reputed number of diesel vehicle engines worldwide is apparently a huge number - truly massive, in fact quite impressive in scale. What does interest me in that scandal is that it perhaps indicates that a threshold has been reached and/or passed with vehicle engineering developments, whereby further decreases in emissions may be achieved, but the cost must be prohibitive. Diminishing returns in action! Why else would such a scandal take place? It is very alarming.

The funny thing is that if I diverted all of the solar photo-voltaic output here during the very depths of winter to the sort of electric vehicles being sold today, then I'd probably be able to drive perhaps about 20km (12.5 miles) in a day and not do much else. Oh well.

Thank you about the tea camellia. I'm going to try and replicate that win and double production (two plants! Don't laugh this is serious business!) over the next year and maybe chuck in a coffee plant for good measure too. You never know. Still chicory seems to be a whole lot easier.

Incidentally, the coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) herb is going feral here at the moment and producing huge leaves and spreading out from its initial planting zone. I don't smoke anything and have never smoked, but I am aware that that particular herb is a major component of herbal cigarettes. I was wondering whether people in the Lakeland republic enjoyed the occasional smoke as I haven't noticed any references to it? No stress as I don't have a dog in that fight so if it is too controversial a subject no need to reply.



Nastarana said...

Caryn, about the industrial machines, would you perhaps be able and willing to share maker names and model numbers?

Ozark Chinquapin said...

Well, I hope there's at least some people in Lakeland who would appreciate a musician who played songs of his/her own creation, and some readership of new novels, ones set in the world of 2065, hypothetical future settings, interesting new fantasy worlds etc. Hopefully there's some sort of subculture that appreciates experimentation in life in general. I can completely understand shunning things from the late 20th and early 21st century because of the association with the mess that became of it, but I still have trouble imagining a turn to the past so complete that it stifles any other values and associated cultural forms coming in. For instance, dies anybody in Lakeland do yoga or eastern-inspired meditations, or go to acupuncturists? Or did those things go away entirely in Lakeland? You've mentioned before that there are many more possibilities associated with a1950s level of technology than the culture of 1950s America.

Tidlösa said...

I´m not sure if this has already been dealt with, but how are labor-managment relations regulated in the Lakeland Republic? Are there national trade/labor unions? Are the major industries co-owned by the workers? Etc.

Otherwise, I think its clear by now that the peculiar system in Lakeland is the result of a severe crisis - today, a five-tier "anti-technology" system probably can´t be implemented in a democratic fashion, and whatever authoritarian regime would implement it wouldn´t be tier one!

In the future, after all those wars and crisis, who knows?

I Janas said...

If the story comes out in bookform - would you include an appendix that shows a picture/manual of a slide ruler? Maybe stories will be holden onto longer than actual examples or actual manuals?

RepubAnon said...

I smell a lecture on the Samuel Vimes "Boots Theory of Economic Inequality" coming up. Care to bet that although bioplastic goods cost less to buy, the shorter wear time means that one spends more over time?

"...A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. ...

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet."

Source: Men at Arms (a DiskWorld Novel), Terry Pratchett

Christophe said...

John Michael, if you have not already seen the link at Naked Capitalism to Lawrence Wilkerson's lecture, I highly encourage a listen. It astounded me that this William and Mary professor sounds like an avid reader of the Archdruid Report. A Burkean resemblance.

There won't be much new to you in his lecture, but it is promising that some of today's college students are being taught how the historical trajectory of empires overlays our own decline. Our future leaders need to be trained and prepared for the real challenges they will be facing.

Ozark Chinquapin said...

While not as destructive to the environment as the present era, the 1830s through 1950s America were overall not exactly the pinnacle of sustainability, either. After ali, that includes the dust bowl era and many rampages of industrial logging.. J. Russel Smith among others in the early 20th century exposed how the soils had gotten badly depleted by the ahrucultural practices of the time. Much of the prosperity was driven by depletion of the land even before the chemical era began. Many hilly parts of the eastern half of the country lost the majority of thier topsoil before 1950. Some individuals were taking good care of their land, but I wouldn't call the culture at large sustainable.

Most of Lakeland does have more forgiving soils and climate than the rest of North America (regular moisture, mostly flat so fewer erosion issues), so there was less degradation going on there pre-1950s than many other places. Even in Lakeland there were problems, Also Leopold describes in "A Sand County Almanac" the abuse of the land that was going on in Wisconsin during that time.

That's a different matter than clothing and music for sure, but it's the main reason why returning to a pre-1950s lifestyle isn't a cure for all our ills. There are plenty of skills and technologies from then that are very valuable and worth revitalizing, I'm the last person to argue with that, but if any future North American society is going to have a sustainable relation with the land, I suspect it will have to include a mix and synthesis of influences from traditional America, other traditional societies, methods being figured out in the modern sustainability scene, and things that nobody has even thought of yet that will be figured out in the future.

Patricia Mathews said...

One item Retropia would find very useful, which doesn't seem to be known to writers of today's recipes and cooking instructions, is the double boiler. It's - literally - medieval tech, invented by alchemist Marie La Jueve in, I think, the 12th Century. There is nothing better for making gravy or roux-based sauces, or for cooking hot cereal on a stovetop, without the need to constantly stand over the contents and stir incessantly for fear of them sticking or burning as they do over direct heat.

Just my $0.02, thanks to my mother, born 1914, who got a lot of use out of hers.

Alexandra said...

I'm curious about the aesthetics of the LLR. In my mind's eye, I can't help but visualize the brick buildings as being the rather ornate style from the Victorian/Edwardian era (and even later) that you still see in some Midwestern cities. I realized that might not be accurate for a populace that has been through a civil war not too long before. But then, that was also true of turn-of-the-20th-century Lakeland. Do Lakelanders in 2065 consider columns and finials, mosaic floors and stained glass to be appropriate uses of resources? Or do those fall by the wayside along with imperial hubris?

Meanwhile, I dearly hope that when Mr. Carr comes to learn about health care, we find that there is room for herbalists in the LLR.

William McCracken said...

One of the issues I am struggling with in this world is family breakdown. Not so much with uncaring siblings, but lack of them! As my parents age, I am taking care of my parents but I am at a point where I can no longer leave them alone. Unfortunately, I have no other sibling to share duties with. In this future world, as perhaps a tier2 person, would it benefit me to move me and my parents to tier5 a year or two before I need the services of a nursing home for them? Do these services even exist? Also, how are the mentally ill or truly disabled (lacking limbs or blind) handled? Are the less that fully fit simply put outside the igloo one winter evening?

Shane Wilson said...

I'm kinda baffled as to why states were abolished, I'd think an Ohio, Indiana, or an Illinois would have more resilience than to be abolished. In fact, I think an intermediate regional form of government is all but universal in nations of any size, be it state, province, prefecture, oblast, canton, etc. Where I COULD see Lakeland varying is from a federal system, in which the state or province has its own rights and responsibilities spelled out in the Constitution, to a unitary system, where states or provinces are a direct creation/responsibility of the national government and can be changed or abolished at will be the national government.
I do agree with you about the myths no longer matching reality. That's why I had the prototypical Confederacy borrowing Mexico's racial founding myth, because the current one of the South as scapegoat for racism and poverty never served the South in the first place, and does not and will not match the reality of continued diversification, integration, and racial mixing, and I'm assuming that by the time the next Civil War begins, unity and harmony will be an even more pressing issue for the South than today.
"Shane, indeed we are. One of the people Carr's already met is gay; it's not a big deal (in many parts of the US, it's already not a big deal) and so I didn't see any reason to point that out. Things will be a bit more obvious further on."
Oh, no, is Mr. Carr going to see a classically trained drag queen doing a May West number in a Lakeland bar? :D

Caryn said...


I'm sorry, I can't be much help with model numbers. I was in that business decades ago and at that time, would not have even thought about things like that. The makers were almost all Singer & or Pfaff and one stray Durkopp Adler. I remember the odd name because we spent weeks trying to come up with a good nickname for it! It was meant for and did the most outstanding work on really heavy leather and felt or quadruple layers of denim; but I found it soooo easy to work on, I kept pushing it's limits with more delicate stuff like silk charmeuse and chiffons. With simple tension adjustments and paper under the chiffons, it did fine. I always coveted that machine, but when the shop-owner decided to sell it, I couldn't afford it, so I talked her out of letting it go. Hope it's still there.

Best of luck in your search. :)

Patricia Mathews: I use just a glass bowl on top of a pot for double boiler action. Must needs for essential oil infusions, melting chocolate, etc. Hmmm, will have to try the gravy that way. Thanks.
Looking into any older cooking methods as we will soon be moving (going local!) into a cheaper, more local Chinese flat - no oven, only a stove-top burner, (gotta find a dutch oven) no washer or dryer so we can't cheat! Another stair-step down and a big one for the likes of us. Fingers crossed!

Lastly: Thanks so much JGM; I look forward to these installments each week. I'm really enjoying them.

whomever said...

One small question: I notice you keep using miles etc. With Québec dominating trade, I don't see them ever abandoning metric, so I'd guess you'd end up with a sort of semi-metrification like the UK did (keeping Miles but switching to kilos/liters/etc).

Re Tasmanian republic, could happen, but I'm not sure they would have the size to bother setting up an embassy. It's a LONG trip from there to the Lakeland republic, especially if the Panama canal has broken down, and I'm not sure there would be that much trade. I'm quite sure NZ will still be around, and if they are smart they'll be doing something very similar to the Lakeland republic, mostly because it'll be forced onto them. Note that both NZ and Australia are very unlikely to descend into civil wars as there's much less regional differences and very different cultural history (eg, much more focus on being egalitarian; Australia required a living wage starting in 1907...sure right now it's looking very right wing but I think that's a temporary abberation), but when resources become tight, you never know. I do agree by now tassie will be the most inhabited part of Aus.

whomever said...

Forgive me for double posting, but:
Just want to follow up with my last comment about NZ and Tasmania and what they would trade. I just realised that I wasn't thinking it through. Firstly, we already have the 19th century precedent of the clipper routes, which were to the UK but going to Montréal shouldn't be much different. Things Tasmania & NZ can offer the Lakelanders include wine (they both have excellent terroirs that should survive global warming), out of season produce (different hemisphere and all that), meat (the first shipment of frozen NZ lamb was in 1882 so the tech definitely is doable), things that thrive in a Mediterranean climate (I could see Tasmanian olive oil being prized). I also wouldn't be surprised if both countries don't become prized coffee growers (climate change should actually help that). In return they get back manufactured goods (I'm assuming the industrial base will not get any better than today, which is to say minimal), prized lakeland cheese and culture: Books are prized when you live in tiny countries in the middle of the Pacific.

That said, small countries can't afford embassies everywhere.

N Montesano said...

"that helps explain why, in the Lakeland Republic of 2065, there are a lot of people whose dreams of a comfortable, secure, happy life lead them straight to tier 1."
Yes, I imagine that after life in a refugee camp, tier 1 would sound like heaven.
It does not sound terrible to me, for that matter. What I find most difficult about my lifestyle isn't the work itself so much as it is trying to do all of the homesteading in addition to the full-time job. Spoiled, and inexperienced, American that I am, however, I would prefer a tier with a few extra comforts -- hot running water, refrigerator, electric stove -- which would entail higher taxes, which would necessitate that full-time job... fascinating thought experiment; which would I choose in the end? I would like to book reservations for a few days stay in each of the five tiers, and in-depth interviews with the local housewives.

John Michael Greer said...

Donald, the Cascadian Republic's the only one that's actually a client state in the full sense of the phrase. The Atlantic Republic is in roughly the same situation as, say, Chile -- not actually under anybody's thumb, but very sharply constrained in terms of its potential international activities by the fact that it's not one of the big dogs by a long shot.

Martin, nah, it's "you buy our food, we buy your manufactured goods," just as it's been in urban/rural economics since cities were invented.

Jo, your mission, if you should choose to accept it, is to come up with a future history in which Tasmania doesn't become a gated community of the rich, but is left to more or less the people who live there now. Once you've done that, then you know what you have to do to make that happen!

Unknown Eagle Eye, I dunno -- I bet that here in America we could match your stupid polticians with our own homegrown crop, and then some!

Cherokee, I have indeed followed the VW scandal, and it's a perfect microcosm of the way that industrial society is (not) dealing with anthropogenic climate change: treat it as a public relations problem, and figure out some way to cheat that looks good. My guess is that VW didn't get around to paying enough in bribes, is all.

Ozark, keep in mind that the Lakeland Republic has just spent thirty years under an embargo by most of the rest of the world, with three attempts at regime change and an outright invasion intended to force it back into line with the mid-21st century version of the global economy. Are they going to be enthusiastically open to all kinds of ideas from outside, given that history? Not yet. Give 'em twenty years and things may be different -- but the sort of angry affirmation of local values and local traditions that's very common in countries treated that way (consider Iran today) plays a significant role in giving plausibility to the transformations I'm chronicling.

As for new novels, music, etc., I take it you didn't read my earlier response to you. The musical I mentioned, "The Battle of Toledo," wasn't written in the early 20th century; it hasn't been written yet. It'll be written in 2063 by Joleen Williams, with music composed by Michael Wu -- by 2100, Williams & Wu will be as famous in the history of the musical as Lerner & Loewe, and very nearly as famous as Gilbert & Sullivan -- and though it draws on the grand tradition of 20th century American musicals and takes its story from an event in local history, it's an original creation, part of the late 21st century revival of the theatrical musical as an art form. There's a difference, in other words, between creative participation in an existing artistic tradition and slavish repetition of existing works!

Tidlösa, we'll get to that.

I Janas, no, because then I'd have to include pictures and manuals for all the other technologies in the book, too. If you want to do something to help the slide rule survive, get one, learn how to use it, and teach the skill to somebody else!

RepubAnon, no lecture, but yes, that's part of the underlying logic here.

Christophe, yes, I saw that! Most remarkable. I've long thought that when and if my ideas start sneaking into the collective conversation of our time, nobody, but nobody, will admit that they got those ideas from a wild-eyed archdruid...

John Michael Greer said...

Ozark, here again, you're jumping to conclusions with the verve of Superman, but without his infallible sense of aim. ;-) Stay tuned!

Patricia, actually, it was invented by a female Jewish alchemist named Miriam in Alexandria in the second century BCE. Alchemists still use it -- in the Latin jargon of the art, it's called the balneum Mariae (Mary's or Miriam's Bath), and she's remembered by alchemists as Maria Prophetissa, "Mary (or Miriam) the Prophetess."

Alexandra, a lot depends on when something got built. In the decade or so right after Partition, getting plenty of housing and other necessary buildings up in a hurry was a priority, and a lot of very plain, undecorated buildings came out of that. More recently, as the Republic got its economy stabilized and thriving, fancy brickwork and carved stone came into fashion -- thus, among other things, the Capitol building with its white marble dome. As for herbalists, why, yes -- we'll be talking quite a bit about medicine as things proceed, and the shady practices that are used by the current medical and pharmaceutical industry to squeeze out competition from less expensive and intrusive modalities, where those are appropriate, have long since gone the way of the internet and the space program.

Shane, there's a lot of variation there. I'm thinking here of France after the Revolution, which abolished the old provinces and replaced them with small, compact, functional departments. The Lakeland Republic did much the same thing, and simply used counties as the smaller units. I'm quite sure the Confederacy has retained its states, and equally sure that some of the other new republics have abolished theirs. Texas may have divided itself up into sub-states just to be ornery!

Caryn, you're welcome and thank you.

Whomever, double posting is fine if you have more to contribute, as you do. Based on what you've said, I'm quite sure that sailing vessels carry freight from Tasmania and New Zealand to Montréal and whatever port on the lower Hudson River is replacing New York City now that the latter floods whenever there's a high tide and a strong onshore wind. In the absence of a formal embassy, by the way, small countries typically grant honorary consular status to a respectable citizen of theirs who lives in the country in question, and who then handles whatever minor duties happen to come up. The Tasmanian consul in Toledo is probably the person who runs the Lakeland office of a Tasmanian business that imports Lakeland machine parts, cheese, or what have you, and reports as necessary to the big Tasmanian embassy in Montréal. He's on a first name basis with second-string officials in the Lakeland Republic's State Department, and enjoys attending the occasional state function.

N Montesano, by all means talk to those housewives. You'll learn that a waterback on the woodstove plus a solar water heating system will give you the hot running water you want, and that there are refrigerators available that don't require grid electricity at all. Those are among the things that make lower-tier status attractive to a lot of people, housewives included.

Unknown said...

Tasmania's manufacturing capabilities might just surprize you. The NW Coast was until recently home to Caterpillar Underground manufacturing, producing world class machinery. Businesses owned by the founder of that activity make world leading rail track maintenance equipment (Railmax) and specialist mine haulage trucks (Haulmax.)He has been a director of Caterpillar at the global level and his view is that the NW corner of Tasmania can compete easily in the manufacturing field. He has interests in a local company servicing wind generating towers and building specialist mine power supplies. Another local company exports oyster grading equipment globally and also manufactures a clever solution for using windmills to pump water from water sources deep down side valleys where the wind does blow using compressed air. Another builds huge mine flotation tanks that get shipped to the NW of Australia in bits and reassembled because they do it better and cheaper than the Asians who are closer. At the other end of the field we have a local vintage car enthusiast whose work in restoring old vehicles sees rich folks from all over the world sending their cars here for his magic touch which provides work for a number of skilled local artisans who do the upholstery and make the wooden spoked wheels and an old fashioned engineering shop in the small town of Smithton who do everything from replicating 1808 de Dion gearboxes to machining up a replica engine block from another car of the same era that no-one else in Australia would attempt. And the annual 4 day craft fair at Deloraine is as good as anything I have seen anywhere. On really important note, a Tasmanian whiskey recently won the title of worlds best, and yes the still was built here, quite possibly by that same Smithton engineering business as it would be far from the first they have built, having once set up a continuous process for turning sugar beets into alcohol based vehicle fuels. (it died courtesy of the oil companies who strong armed the government into refusing it a license)
The subcontractors that do most of the modern manufacturing are working together with the local University to create other products and (sadly) are about to turn their hands to military vehicles. We mine and process aluminium, Zinc, iron ore, and copper. Smelting steel is not done on island but there are casting works here whose products last longer and are much cheaper than the Krupp components they replace in the cement manufacturing plant. Mineralogically Tasmania is freakishly well endowed, we have an abundance of hydro-electric energy and wind power is under-utilised in terms of the potential from the Roaring Forties. We have a thriving marine manufacturing industry that produces both wooden and aluminium boats, including the holders of the transatlantic speed record and a world leading marine college training students from all over the world. Google Muir Winches, Incat Catamarans and The Hobart Wooden Boat festival. Also the annual Sydney to Hobart sailing race.Having worked with most of the players, big and small in service and sales roles, what holds this place back is not ability or capacity, but self confidence and an irritating communal ability to focus on the trivial while ignoring the obvious. If the effort spent avoiding having a real corruption watchdog was devoted to fixing the primary school education system and producing competent teachers who were actually allowed to teach the place would be impossible to beat. Great people, an awesome climate, lots of water, a sustainable energy supply, some excellent agricultural soils, and a 300 mile wide moat. That's why I made the decision to collapse voluntarily here over anywhere else on the planet. and yes JMG, it has a gate, and there is a view it might need to be shut in order to preserve what we have got before the wave of rich refugees sinks it. That conundrum is perhaps our biggest challenge in the future, balancing self preservation against an urge to support those fleeing hardship elsewhere.

eagle eye

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

JMG, you wrote, "Patricia, actually, it was invented by a female Jewish alchemist named Miriam in Alexandria in the second century BCE. Alchemists still use it -- in the Latin jargon of the art, it's called the balneum Mariae (Mary's or Miriam's Bath), and she's remembered by alchemists as Maria Prophetissa, "Mary (or Miriam) the Prophetess."

The details of that story reminded me of passages in the Passover Haggadah about the original Miriam, Moses and Aaron's older sister. So I looked up "Miriam's well midrash" on the Web.

Exodus 15:20 calls Miriam a prophetess. "Then Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel . . ." Numbers 20:1 mentions the place where Miriam died. The verses immediately after say that there was no water for the congregation to drink, nor for their cattle and crops. So Moses struck a rock with his rod and water gushed out. But while Miriam was alive, it was not necessary for Moses to do this.

Various teaching stories in the Talmud expand upon these Biblical passages to say that when the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness after escaping The Narrow Place (Egypt), they were sustained by manna through the merit of Moses, the guiding pillar of cloud by the merit of Aaron, and a miraculous traveling well by the merit of Miriam. According to what I read, the well is portrayed in a mural in the Dura Europus synagogue, which was destroyed in the third century CE, about a century before these well stories began to be written down.

There is no logical reason why an Alexandrian alchemist would be called "prophetess" and I think she acquired it as a nickname because her namesake Miriam is one of the most well known women in the Bible and is associated with water.

Urban Harvester said...

@Jo, the Fibershed just had their 'Grow Your Jeans' conference today in No. California. We've been trying to figure out what we'd make jeans from here in the great basin (no cotton), our ubiquitous nettles seem like the best candidate since we can't grow hemp. Woad is a vigorous invasive plant and we've made a lovely indigo dye with it that would work as well!

Scotlyn said...

Going back a chapter, if you don't mind, I'd like to comment on strollers, an item of equipment we never bothered to acquire while rearing two children. My mother made me a baby sling, a simple length of cloth gathered at one end into a longish strap and at the other into a short strap ending in two large rings. I could securely hold my baby/child, wrapped in the open span of the sling's centre in the most suitable position with one hand, while using my other to secure and adjust the long strap into the rings. I've gone into detail because this design proved so easy to use, so versatile, and so movement friendly (we did almost all our international travel with one or another. child in my beautiful, simple sling) that we were never tempted to supplement it with a stroller. Ie, the design made the policy, not the other way around! There was a single, memorable occasion on which a friend lent us a stroller to take our six-month-old to an open air concert (Neil Young at Slane Castle) it proved to be a boon on the booze smuggling front, but otherwise so far the inferior of my mother's gift that I praised her often and loudly for it!

Phil Harris said...

JMG & All
There have been some splendid comments. The USA can be a great place despite what I read and hear in the daily news.

A good while back JMG hazarded in a comment to something that I wrote that UK would take the ‘world of hurt’ when ‘America went down’. That seemed to me very likely, but does not say it all.

Some comments these last few weeks suggest that going back to an earlier set of 'Americas' after the rubble had stopped bouncing might be salvation for some.

Some years ago I examined a similar comforting thought for us in UK. My wartime childhood (‘blood, sweat and tears’ and all) and even post-war grey rubble and rationing of food and clothing did not seem so bad. We had newly instated universal health care and we walked weekly to our public library and there were wonderful imaginative children’s programmes on radio. But, and here is the rub, even with constant ‘balance of trade’ difficulties – UK must import the majority of its calories and most raw materials – we still had coal: 700,000 miners to be exact. Mining families existed at about the economic level of miners in China today, and suffered the same overwhelming health hazards, of course.

My family lived in a comfortable lower middle class London suburb. OK, we had no car; dad cycled to work or got the train to London. He grew vegetables and a little fruit in the garden. Mum had no washing machine or refrigerator. As I said, we were tightly rationed for food and clothes, and our (relatively) expensive leather shoes needed sole and heels every few months. There was a cobbler and he was an important item of expenditure. Mum and dad worked pretty hard.

Our cooking was done with coal gas and our heating including hot water was by coke and coal. Our electricity was from coal-fired power stations. The country relied on a rail network (coal) and the electric London Underground and commuter rail again needed coal-fired power stations. Industry was fired and supplied and distributed by coal and to a much lesser extent by petroleum. We used a great deal of energy per capita.

This last point is worth rubbing in. Energy consumption per capita late 1940s and early ‘50s was not actually very different in UK from when my mum and dad were children before the First World War. OK, back in 1913 UK exported a third of its coal production, which helped pay for the imported food and the British Navy. Nowadays we are essentially mined-out of coal. There is no going back. What coal we use is imported for electric power. And for transport we overwhelmingly use petroleum. We rely heavily on Natural Gas for everything else, and that means increasingly we need imported NG.

The last time we fed ourselves was about 1850 when England’s population was under 20 millions. My guess is that we could survive a USA meltdown, but our world could easily shrink to ‘Europe’. It could get very tough if ‘Europe’ goes down. I personally cannot imagine for the UK any mixture of historical set-points that we could return to as the ‘energy pie’ and global trade shrinks. But I am open to ideas and appreciate the frugality of my mum and dad and our early childhood. And shoes aren’t everything!

Phil H

Cherokee Organics said...


That is possibly a fair conclusion. There is also the other problem for them that so many people would have been involved in the scam that sooner or later someone would spill the beans. It only takes one disgruntled ex-employee or even a disgruntled ex-spouse of a current employee to talk to the right people and spill the beans.

Of course you are totally correct in that it is most certainly not a public relation exercise and the problem cannot be handled that way because it is a problem on the material plane. You would think that they would understand that? What is also chilling to me is that someone, somewhere must have performed a cost-benefit analysis and decided that the cost of getting busted was cheaper than the cost of actually correcting the core problem. And what does that say? Hang onto your hat because we're in for a wild ride if those are the sorts of decisions that are getting made at the big end of town.

To be brutally honest, one of the main reasons for walking away from the big end of town was simply because I witnessed some very strange and often predatory practices going on up there. If they understood ecology a bit better, they would understand that predators are in business with their prey, but alas such understanding is not to be found there as they focus on the short term goal of domination instead.

PS: Stay safe in your cat3 Hurricane. If you get the chance, and you have a little bit to spare, please send some rain down here?



Patricia Mathews said...

So I'm 1400 years late? Shakes head ... I thought she was medieval for sure. And French; I gave her name and title in French, according to the vaguely remembered reference. Well, we live and learn, and you caught me with my medieval studies down around my ankles, you did. Would like reference if it's convenient, so I can correct myself.

dfr2010 said...

JMG: "Texas may have divided itself up into sub-states just to be ornery!"

Actually, it is part of the Texas state constitution to be able to break up into five smaller states, if the state so chooses. Texas just enjoys being big. LOL

Ozark Chinquapin said...

You're right, I was assuming way too much and should just wait and see how the story evolves. The sort of clothing that Mr. Carr got hit an emotional nerve and made me assume too many other things about the culture.

Nastarana said...

About the stupidity of politicians, the Republican presidential campaign of 2012 featured a disgraceful exhibition on the Republican side which assured the win of a vulnerable incumbent. Among other follies, the remarks about "legitimate rape", whatever that might be, alienated millions of conservative, prolife women, who, whatever their views about abortion, were and are not about to see their friends, daughters and granddaughters forced into shotgun marriages with violent criminals. The Catholic Republican Vice-Presidential candidate, with all the centuries of Catholic social teaching to chose from, instead proclaimed his hero worship of the unspeakable Mme. Rosenbaum, AKA Rand.

This round the Republican field is even worse, which I would not have thought possible, and is being openly spoken of as a clown caravan. Meanwhile, Mme. Clinton seems to believe her sociopathic warmongering qualifies her for the highest honors. Libya, whatever one might have thought of its president, was once a flourishing, well fed country. When it comes to stupid politicians, I fear we may still be Number 1.

Neither side even bothers to conceal its allegiance to business interests or its foreign funding.

I am horrified by the contemporary revival of the peculiar institution and I hope that The Lakeland Republic prohibits both slave ownership and slave trading.

Patricia Mathews said...

If Peter Carr's social level is such that he's wearing bioplastics (i.e. he's not of the Elite, who probably import the Good Stuff from Lakeland), and wearers are constrained to wear the handful of 'fashionable' styles and colors the big box stores decree, why, I'm surprised his business suit doesn't also bear the image of a sports team, 'licensed character', or at least the logo of the store/corporation/so-called 'designer' - or even, if he's Affluent Left, some fashionably worthy cause.

i.e., that he is not also constrained to be a walking advertisement.

I'm not exaggerating, BTW. Try and find a kid's birthday card in the local drugstore, or a T-shirt, nightshirt, pajamas, etc in a big box store that is free of such abominations. (Kids, folks - get your T-shirts from the arts & crafts department or the Hobby/Craft stores. They are guaranteed blank.)

Aron Blue said...

This week on Retrotopia Radio, a beautifully familiar song followed by something a little more experimental.

Sweet Lorraine
as sung by Carsie Blanton

Mother Earth
performed by Dee Pop's private world

Any WFMU listeners in the house? It's the kind of radio station I would expect Lakeland to have. Gosh, I really can't wait to hear more about radio. I love radio.

Tyler August said...

I'm willing to wager that most of the textile mills in Lakeland are run, regardless of tier, by direct-drive hydropower. Like the shoe store, it just makes more sense and more money to stick with Tier 1 technology, when possible.

I am reminded that Ontario's industrial heartland was once far from its current southwestern seat, further north around the Ottawa Valley and its tributaries where the rivers come off the Canadian Shield. Hydroelectric power from Naigra changed all that, and produced the first dream of power 'too cheap to meter' and pushed the balance of power down to the old Loyalist regions of Upper Canada. I'm wondering now how far that nation extends -- the so-called "Golden Triangle", that peninsula of land surrounded on three sides by the Great Lakes, is really a territory unto itself. The rest of the province could and would gladly go a different way. Most of Northern Ontario is in a state of quiet resentment towards the South, but it's only at the level of muttering into ones beer. If divorce were in the air everywhere else, though? Don't draw the borders of Upper Canada further north than Georgian Bay.

I could easily see the northern Ottawa Valley, Temiskaming and the Lesser Clay Belt, along with the Mattawa, Monteal Rivers and associated tributaries flowing to and from Lake Nippising forming a hydraulic nation of their own, separate from the southern remnant of Ontario, with the French River providing a link to the North Channel of Georgian Bay. (Though the French alone is a tenuous link -- shipping across Lake Huron would, I am sure, keep Manitoulin and the Islands and North Shore of Georgian bay firmly in the orbit of Upper Canada, as they were historically.) The area I'm thinking would more easily see economic integration with Quebec, once you take cheap and easy highway transport out of the picture; indeed, the presence of a large Francophone minority might lead to annexation, if Quebec was feeling irredentist after Canada's partition. Could the capitol's shift to Montreal reflect a small westwards shift in the new nation's center of gravity? Here's a map for some geographic context of the area in question.
The map doesn't show it, but Lake Temagimi drains into Lake Nippising, which drains into the Mattawa River, thence to the Ottawa and St. Laurence. Lake Abitibi to the north drains eventually into James Bay; that watershed was developed originally by steamships dragged across the Height of Land from the area under discussion. The Northwest is another matter altogether, and I'm not nearly as familiar with that area. Maybe a reader from the region could chime in?

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@Phil Harris--Ireland is currently a net importer of grain but before and famously during the Potato Famine it was a net exporter. Perhaps once transatlantic competition from commodity farming disappears, it will be worthwhile for Irish farmers to raise more wheat, barley, oats or whatever the climate allows.

Britain's energy budget looks dire unless there are unexploited geothermal sites or someone develops a useful device for turning the kinetic energy of ocean waves into electrical power. That would make a big difference to the large number of humans living near a seacoast. There must be massive technical difficulties or there would be demonstration projects by now, but it looks more attainable than fusion reactors. If I were Mr. Steyer, I would invest some of my anti-global-warming billions into that pursuit.

bicosse said...

Well, the double boiler in French is une bain Marie, a Mary bath, so maybe that's why you thought of her as French.

latheChuck said...

Alexandra- If you want a "phone" that doesn't track your current location, it'll have to be either a land line or a no-privacy ham radio with phone-patch privileges on one or more repeaters in your area. The mobile phone system has no choice but to track you, if it is to direct your incoming calls to the nearest cell tower. That said, there's tracking "to the nearest tower", and there's tracking "by GPS" which can be much more precise (especially if you're in a rural area where towers are far apart). Theoretically, a system could be designed that didn't track phone locations, where each to-mobile call would send a region-wide paging message to "stand up to receive a call", but that would make the calls take longer to complete, and most customers wouldn't put up with that.

latheChuck said...

Re: VW's dirty diesels. Suppose that, despite their best efforts, no one in the world has a diesel engine design that can meet the clean-air standards. (Technically, the problem is that the air itself is burning, not just the fuel, inside a high-compression/high-temperature engine. We all know that air is almost entirely nitrogen and oxygen, right? Under the right conditions, nitrogen and oxygen produce nitrogen-oxides, which are noxious pollutants.) The engineering team says "We can be clean or efficient, but not at the same time." So, the boss says "be clean when you need to be clean, for the emissions test, and be efficient when you need to be efficient, for the mileage test. Or, you can accept that your task is impossible, and look for another industry to work in." Maybe that's how we got where we are today.

As JMG says from time to time, "just because you need it, doesn't mean that nature will provide it." There may be no way to meet the specification.

For the conspiracy-minded, one way to play this is to invest in electric cars. "But they can't compete against modern high-efficiency, internal-combustion (IC) engines!" you object. But if you have private knowledge that the performance claims of the IC vendors are pure fraud, which will make the electric more competitive, you have a chance. Unless, of course, the ELECTRIC claims are fraudulent, too.

pygmycory said...

People in BC have been experimenting with making linen from flax. I've done a little bit of it - it is very hard physical labor when using simple tools. The hardest step is breaking the flax. I'd be surprised if someone isn't growing hemp, too.

There's a lot more sheep, llama and alpaca raising, plus some fiber goats and angora rabbits. I love working with alpaca fiber. It is soft and I find it less likely to be itchy than local wool, and there's quite a lot of it available from BC sources. BC sheep don't tend to produce merino wool because the coast is too humid and it apparently felts on the sheep.

latheChuck said...

On antibiotic resistance: some kinds have been shown to be reversible, if their use is reduced. See:


In Finland, after nationwide reductions in the use of macrolide antibiotics for outpatient therapy, there was a significant decline in the frequency of erythromycin resistance among group A streptococci isolated from throat swabs and pus samples.

latheChuck said...

Fabrication of LED lighting may not be sustainable in a post-carbon future, but I've just gotta say that I love the new 19.5W (3 x 6.5W) and 22.5W (3 x 7.5W) light fixtures I've installed in my kitchen and dining room. They've replaced a 400W (10 x 40W candelabra) and 100W (circular fluorescent) fixtures. They were off-the-shelf at a major US home-improvement retailer, about $120 each (including lamps). I calculate break-even in a few years (not to mention the joy).

peakfuture said...

The Lakeland Republic needs a proper flag!

In all seriousness - the flags of this future "split-America" might tell something about how these nations view themselves. A few folks have thought this over, especially those in the alternate history worlds.

What would an Atlantic Republic flag look like? Something far reaching, and corporate-looking, like the "New Confederate Flag" that is being proposed?

Somewhatstunned said...

@Deborah Bender

You said, re the UK ocean energy potential:

There must be massive technical difficulties or there would be demonstration projects by now,

Wave energy is challenging but there are demo projects (eg this and this).

However there is very little govt support - especially relative to the amount given to fossil generation. Plus the UK has a history of uprooting promising projects at the sapling stage. We almost seem to think renewable energy is unmanly or something.

(We can be such a grubby and stupid country).

Hubertus Hauger said...

patriciaormsby: "...whom you've heard praising Putin..."

Whomever; The praises of Putin, or any other salvation figure, show me our very need for a saviour. I want us to recognize the illusion and take its motivational impulse still and get selfreliant!

Martin B: "... what was ... in Britain ... "Back then the roads weren't tarred and it was always dusty."

... and without sewage system a stink allover of decomposing urine and manure.
... and without public waste disposal the stink of rotten meat and wegetable.
... and without electricity smoke allover the air and its remains on every surface.
... and without a shower every day and packs of clean cloth in the drawer there will be smelly people everywhere. Lot´s of sweat and fermenting odeur in the workingcloth worn for months.
... and without the plentytudes of comfy, life will become a lot smellier. Yet, if we dont´t get traumatized by the lack of noblige, we can leave as happy as swines in the mud. Enjoy!

Cherokee Organics: "... a threshold has been reached ... with vehicle engineering developments, ... cost must be prohibitive. Diminishing returns in action! ... alarming..."

With all of us being in denial and ignoring reality, being consumed by our addiction to comfy life, VW is a paramount example here. I have no doubt.
What i recognize too is, that confusion rises now and then. I feel it, we are close to panic and everyone remains in denial. Anxious to move, while doom is creeping towards us.

William McCracken: "...I need the services of a nursing home for them? Do these services even exist? ... the ... ill ... disabled ..."

My mother lives in an old peoples home. Cost is so high, no way it to become sustainable. I don´t, that when I am at her age, I might ever be cared for like she is now. No way.
What I see in the futere is, what we had in the past. We will all suffer. Yet the week and poor will do so much more.
Children are fragile and dependend on prober care and nurishment. Both physically and mentally. Onder harsher conditions they will either die earlier or carry on with the damages they got, for as long as they live. Cripples all over. Old people will do so too. Many will get rid of people who are a burden. Society will bully the weaker over the edge. People like Mr Guillotine will be merciful humanists, trying to cease the suffering of ther human fellows, quick and easy by a sharp blade, to avoid elongated torture. Dark ages are coming!

Phil Harris: "The last time we fed ourselves was about 1850 when England’s population was under 20 millions."

Getting food is the top priority in our needs. I see that.

Good news are, that we human beings have come trough the ages until today, by feeding ourselfs effectively. Also in our society few people work as farmers. In Germany actually 1.3 Millions out of 80 Million inhabitans. Quite small, isn´t it? So there is plenty of potential in working as farmers. We humans are a problem-solving species.

The bad new is, the public is not even seeing that perspektive. No public debate focuses towards that direction. So, as long as we are not thinking about solutions, we shan´t find some.

Drawing my conclusion, most important is to get started in every way possible. Then we shall feed ourselfs, after the treasure-cave of easy ressources is hardly accessible anymore. Thats what we here are chatting about, isn´t it!

Phil Harris said...

@Unknown (Deborah Bender)

Thanks for your thoughts.

Yes, there is technically possible renewable energy available to UK in significant but limited quantities, wind offshore and onshore, tidal, including barrages, and wave power, in that order. There is very little geothermal and home grown biomass potential. I pulled together the thoughts of an online group of engineers back in 2008, which was published by a journal supported by the UK’s Open University (Ed. Professor Dave Elliot). The outline and numbers still stand, very roughly. If you are interested I can send you a Word copy. I am philsharris2zerozero2 at y..hoo

I am much less optimistic than appears from that document.

Calories sufficiency and agricultural history in the British Isles is a long story. We have about 10 times the population we had in England in 1750 and have seen both massive and early urbanisation and ‘demographic transition’. ( The other bits of the British Isles show a more complex history.) We have limited acreage for crop cultivation (plowable) and grain yields are poor in the much wetter western half dominated by the Atlantic. Elevation of even a few 100 feet also makes a very large difference, and uplands especially in Western Scotland are ‘something else’. Historically climate was easier in the Bronze Age but we were intermittently subject to risk of harvest failure across mediaeval and modern period - cooling trend to circa 1900. There were shortages and even famines, usually localised. Parts of Ireland were dominated by subsistence agriculture until mid 19th C (see also population increase in above pdf), which is a history in itself. ‘Commercialised farming’ and devotion to laissez faire economy (ideology) did not help millions of impoverished subsistence farmers in Ireland, but migration from rural to urban areas was inevitably a massive theme in 19th C across the whole industrialising world.

Just a note: Ireland generally is not suited to high yields of cereal but has something of the same West/East division as the mainland. Present policy focus of course is stuck with ‘adding value’ to supply chains for export of higher value products of dairy and meat farming in the globalised economy.

Phil H

donalfagan said...

You need a suit that can hold up to angry worker revolts:

"As they invaded the committee room, the Air France chief executive, Frédéric Gagey, managed to escape unharmed. Moments later, Pierre Plissonnier, the vice-president of the Air France hub at Orly airport in the French capital, was led through the jostling crowd with his shirt and jacket torn off his back. Xavier Broseta, the deputy director for human resources and labour relations, also had to flee, half-naked, after workers ripped his suit jacket and shirt. Security guards helped Broseta climb over a fence."

Hubertus Hauger said...

John Michael Greer: "Hubertus, er, how many Russian aristocratic families still had significant power and wealth in Russia after 1917? Germany's situation is, if not quite an outlier, then by no means common, much less universal. A lot depends, of course, on how many people after the crisis consider the elites from before the crisis to have been responsible for the crisis..."

I don´t know, where you got that particular strong point of conviction, that former elites are being swept away from revolutionary forces, to the point of irrelevance afterwards? Being so much dedicated to history, formerly my opinion was likewise.

I got that conviction from the picture being painted in the Europeans view of the french revolution. I am addicted to filmical drama. From there I got that clarity, that the elite were eradicated by the guilottine. Like from "The scarlet pimpernel" and whatsoever.
Marie Antoinette and her noble fellows got their head chopped off. My impression was, that so they all died. Well not all. I had a little more insight then from the cinema. So I knew, some survived.
But it must have been a massacre. Only a few might have survive, as the last Mohicans.
Yet when I once read some boring statistical numbers of the actually executed, at least 80% were commoners. Not only in total numbers, but also proportionally ordinary people sufferd about 3 times as much as the elite.
Its the ordinary folks, who get victimized first and repeatedly. However the nobels could in worst cases easily emmigrate. While the little people got chopped to pieces regulary. For Russia ... guess what ... similarilly.

Elites remain and they keep on doing so.

While the memory of people does not. Instead of, false memory is placed and kept there by ritually rehaerse myths. Like the story; The king is at fault. The king is dead. Problem solved.

RPC said...

"...this is one of the reasons why locomotives carry their own fuel with them..." Just FYI, when the Pennsylvania Railroad electrified its main line in the 1930s, the electrification was completely independent of the utility grid. (Most of the power came from a dam on the Susquehenna River.) To this day, Amtrak's power between New York and Washington is at 25 Hz; the dam is still there, but is supplemented by cycloconverters which are powered from the grid. (These replaced fossil fuel plants.)


RPC the Railroad Geek

Martin B said...

@Hubertus: As long as everyone smells the same, you don't notice it. I'm reminded an interview with a grey-haired old New Guinea highlander. As a young man he was the first of his tribe to see a white man. Up to then they hadn't realized white people existed. In a deep, mournful voice he said something like, "We saw them across the river. They were white as ghosts, and dressed in strange clothing. Then their smell hit us. That terrible, terrible smell. A smell we came to know so well. It was the smell... of soap."

If you look at just the farm, there are almost no farmers today. But if you look at food production and distribution more broadly, it involves a higher proportion of the population. That would include people involved in the fertilizer and feed industries, agrochemicals and pharma, agricultural machinery production and maintenance, and bulk storage, processing, and distribution of farm and feedlot products to retail outlets. All are essential to getting enough food on our plates.

jean-vivien said...

I know this will be off-topic... but your Lakeland Republic seems very far away from here.
In a strange parallel to the South Carolina floods, one of France's Southeastern parts has known some of the most torrential rains for years.
Now the newspapers have started to utter the unthinkable, which is that those parts of the Mediterraen coasts are over-urbanized, to a degree that literally beckons regular floodings.
And the most... macabre irony of it all is that among the 17 casualties so far, seven of them did so because the first thing which occured to them was to run to their underground parking lots and rescue their cars.
There have also been some words to that effect in the press : "Dying for a car..." I have already noticed that people still drive fairly agressively sometimes, but this just beats me.
No doubt, nobody will shed a tear for 2015 when it ends. Not here. This a year of dark symbols for us, evils coming from far-away lands and yet bred at home... the absence of commentaries on the whole picture is just an omen of even darker times to come. A land of people resigned to just march on and live the status quo at all costs is scary the way a rising tide is unstoppable. Especially with no coherent leadership at the helm.
The worse thing is, the madness affects a lot of European peoples : Hungary, Portugal who just reelected governmnt officials with a track record of implementing austerity policies, Spain which elected the same breed of politicians 4 years ago and at the same time stars a number of troublesome cultural regions...
I hope you will treat us to an encounter with a traveller from the Cheese Marshlands. That's probably where I would be if I could pick up an utopian place to escape to.
Last but not least, for some eye candy :
this was not even hard to find on the website's front page. And happening to the major national commercial airline. Hmmm... those winds are not just innocent rainclouds blowing in the air, are they ?
Fortunately, we've got this helpful song to get us through dark times : "Tout va très bien, Madame la Marquise..."
To conclude with a more Tetropian note, in Star trek The Next Generation, Picard's brother is pictured as living back on Earth using a 19-th century wine maker's lifestyle...
I love Americans and their cliché about the world. By some irony of History, I suspect that soon you folks will be rallying behind a cheese-making utopia after banning our unhygienic dairy products :-)

pygmycory said...

On a different topic, who else is getting nervous at the situation with Russia and assorted NATO countries in Syria? The potential for Russia to bomb US/Can/Turkic/other assets/personnel either by accident or on purpose seems dangerously high to me. What would happen if someone shot down someone else's plane, for example?

Shane Wilson said...

Seems very unBurkean to get rid of states when they predate the US, so I'm sure you had a good reason. I'd be interested to know. Also, not sure how much of your novel will focus on KY, but KY has more counties than any other state (120), and it's been discussed forever that they are too small and too lightly populated for good governance. The original idea was that no one would be more than a day's carriage ride from the county seat.

jean-vivien said...

[1st comment with a profane word removed, and my apologies]

@ Hubertus :
Just like there is nobody like a Machine Learning expert to automate another machine Learning expert, there is nothing quite like a revolutionnary to assassinate another revolutionnary. The current mess in the MENA countries is a fairly good example of it... so are the far-left and ecologist political currents here. And so used to be the far-right... before they started getting their worn-out arguments sexy. And that happened by clearing quite a few people away from the Front National.
@ donalfagan :
whatever angst is raging across the population, it is silent, like a forest fire which starts burning through the undergrowth before rising to flame through the most fiery oaks. I suspect, to echo Hubertus' comments, that it will mostly consumate the population of commoners itself.

Last Friday, I came back from that really quiet, upper-middle class, residential and office area. Back to the center of Paris, by metro. Opposite to me was sitting a guy in a suit, looking like your average executive... except that he started banging the floor violently, and shouting at me, accusing me of being spineless despite the nice expensive suit I was trying to wear. I showed him my woollen pullover, to get the point across that I was not one of the suits. Then he accused me of being scared, so I tried to put on my most relaxed composure. And then he went on about how the Chinese were eating our companies, how some civil servants at the station were just ruining our country... All the while two Maghreban young guys were smiling and watching, and I am not sure whom exactly they were making fun of. It may be a dumb thing to say, but I noticed that Maghreban people appear a lot better at relating with people and dealing with concrete situations in the moment, while the culture I have grown onto is mired in its own abstractions. They can deal with stuff like this... and if there is a revolution, I am not sure a lot of the proud French people would be able to fight instead of blindly marching on behind their daily routine.

Somehow I felt that the strange metro guy was just looking for both a culprit to agress, and someone to confy his angst to. If you are too scared, and wearing a nice suit, then you are the culprit. If on the other hand you can scare the guy more than he does you, then you are leading. If I were a psychopathic murderous failure at some vocation, I would start my reconversion as a charismatic leader now. One female politician is doing very well at that game just now... The funny thing is, on that same day I had received confirmation that my big client would have to more or less shed its IT department following a "merger" on rather unequal terms with a Swiss company. So deep inside me, I felt somewhere a vague sense of empathy with the shouting guy.

A pretty strange wind is blowing through our lands, and its stealthiness scares me even more than its potential power.

John Michael Greer said...

Unknown Deborah, "prophetissa" is a Greek word; the Greeks had prophetes of their own, you know, and the Miriam who was active in the 2nd century BC alchemy scene may well have been a skilled diviner as well -- that was a common practice among occultists then as now.

Scotlyn, I don't doubt that at all. That said, remember that this is Retrotopia...

Phil, no question, Britain's going to have a very rough time as the industrial age ends, one way or another. So's the rest of the world, for that matter.

Cherokee, this week's post is going to take another brief vacation from Retrotopia to talk about that exact point, the widening gap between abstractions on various glass screens and facts on the ground. It's a massive issue, and the chasm between the two bids fair to grow wide enough that industrial civilization risks plummeting into it, never to be seen again. The hurricane seems to have given us a miss -- I'd encourage my readers in western Europe to keep an eye on it, though, because current models have it zooming your way.

Patricia, the book you want is The Jewish Alchemists by Raphael Patai -- well worth reading generally as a history of a neglected tradition in alchemy. It summarizes what's known of Maria Prophetissa in an early chapter.

Dfr2010, that sounds very Texan!

Ozark, this story is intended to stomp on a lot of sore toes and hit a whole range of emotional nerves. That sort of shock value is the only way I can think of to break through certain automatisms of contemporary thought.

Nastarana, in the Lakeland Republic slavery is forbidden by the constitution, and a capital crime in the national legal code. That would apply, for example, to a pimp who kept prostitutes locked up against their will, or a wealthy person who did the same thing to domestic help.

Patricia, that's a good point -- when I revise, I'll put logos all over the clothing of the immigrant family. Carr's status shows in the fact that there are no logos at all on his clammy, putty-colored clothes.

Aron, I wish you could tune into the Toledo AM stations! There are at least a dozen of them, with a great diversity of programming.

Tyler, my guess is that there's quite a bit of variation, depending on whether there are good hydropower sites available -- you need a decent vertical drop to get much power out of runnign water. Still, where the topography permits, yes, that would be a very economical way to run things, not least because direct-drive hydropower entails no smokestack taxes.

John Michael Greer said...

LatheChuck, ah, but then we need to start talking about the CO2 emissions from the plants that generate the electricity that powers the electric cars. Whole systems!

Pygmycory, nettle makes very good fiber for weaving and cordage, too, and western Washington state certainly has no shortage of it, so my guess is that BC is well provided too.

Peakfuture, the Lakeland Republic does indeed need a flag, and no, it won't look like a corporate logo! Again, remember that this is Retrotopia. Perhaps we should have a little contest here, to design a flag for the Lakeland Republic that looks suitably retro -- like something a 19th or early 20th century designer might have come up with. It has to be something that could be made with colored cloth, scissors, and a needle and thread, by the way.

Donalfagan, or you need executives who recognize that their employees aren't disposable components, and a government that recognizes that its constituency isn't limited to the absurdly rich.

Hubertus, that conviction is the product of a study of history. You've presented one example -- Germany during the 20th century. I've pointed out that your rule doesn't hold good in other cases -- for example, Russia before vs. after 1917 -- and noted that, as a whole, the elite classes of failing civilizations tend to be first up against the wall when things go down. The descendants of the Roman senatorial class didn't rule the post-Roman world, to cite another example! I've discussed this at great length in earlier posts such as this one; if you disagree, that's certainly your right, and we'll just have to see whose prediction turns out to be more accurate.

RPC, understood, but it still required a lot of infrastructure investment. It's entirely possible that at some point down the line, some of the Lakeland Republic's railroads will electrify.

Jean-Vivien, in 2065, those supposedly unhygienic cheeses will be prized articles of trade, imported via Montréal and sold at good prices all through the North American republics. (Well, except for Texas, where the Anglos insist that Velveeta is the only cheese worth eating and the Hispanic majority is much more fond of Mexican and Mexican-style cheeses.) By then, fortunately, the horrors of 2015 will be a distant memory -- though I'm sorry to say they'll likely have been supplanted by more recent horrors...

Pygmycory, the Russians at least are ready for the possibility -- thus the antiaircraft systems they have in place around their base at Latakia, not to mention the flotilla of naval vessels from the Black Sea fleet (headed by the guided missile cruiser Moskva) sitting right off shore. The fundamentalist militias trying to overthrown Assad's government, it probably bears noting, have no air force or navy, so there's no question whose ships and planes the Russians want to deter!

Shane, it was partly a matter of getting out from under the immense debts run up by many state governments, and partly a decision to flatten out the topheavy governmental structure. I wonder if counties were combined in the former state of Kentucky -- do you think that would get popular approval, or are people attached to their small counties?

Jean-Vivien, a strange wind is rising all over, and I don't know that it's going to blow anybody any good.

Gaianne said...

@ lathechuck--

"Unless, of course, the ELECTRIC claims are fraudulent, too."

If you live in the US, your electric car is running on coal. I think you can deduce the problems from that fact alone.


peakfuture said...

Yes, that was why the 'New Southern Flag' seemed a bit corporate to me (and it violated the "can it be sewn" rule I suggested).

Any one of the seven star Lakeland Republic flags I suggested could be done in the early 20th. It is also easy to construct. The 48 star US flag was adopted in 1912, so those examples could easily fit in.

Even a flag with seven stars in a line could work (similar to the City of Chicago flag, but with five pointed stars).

I'm really curious what the Atlantic Republic's flag would look like, since it is diametrically opposite to the Lakeland Republic. Maybe it takes design cues from that new digital camo pattern, and is bioplastic as well.

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