Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Retrotopia: The Scent of Ink on Paper

This is the sixth installment of an exploration of some of the possible futures discussed on this blog, using the toolkit of narrative fiction. Our narrator, roaming the streets of the capitol of the Lakeland Republic, visits a newsstand and a public library, and discovers that information and knowledge are two different things...

I swung past my hotel, dropped off the shopping bag with my bioplastic clothes, and went back out onto Toledo’s streets. That makes it sound easier than it was; some kind of event—a wedding reception, I guessed from the decor—was getting started in one of the second floor ballrooms, and the lobby and the sidewalk outside were both crammed with people in formal wear heading in. It took some maneuvering to get through it all, but after not too many minutes I was strolling up an uncrowded sidewalk toward the unfinished white dome of the Capitol.

The Legislative Building back home in Philadelphia doesn’t have a dome. It’s an angular blob of glass and metal, designed by I forget which hotshot European architectural firm, and when it opened twenty-two years ago you could hardly access the metanet at all without being barraged by oohs and ahs about how exciting, innovative, and futuristic it was. You don’t hear much of that any more.  They’ve spent twenty-two years now trying to get the roof to stop leaking and coming up with workarounds for all the innovative features that didn’t turn out to work too well, and the design looks embarrassingly dated these days, the way avant-garde architecture always does a couple of decades down the road. I was curious to see what the Lakeland Republic had done instead.

It took two blocks to get to a place where I had a clear view of the building, and when I did, I wasn’t in for any particular surprise. They’d modeled it on state capitol buildings in the old Union, with a tall white dome in the center above the rotunda and the big formal entrance, with a wing for each house of the legislature on either side. The Lakeland Republic flag—blue above and green below, with a circle of seven gold stars for the seven states that joined together at Partition—fluttered from a flagpole out front. Long rows of windows on each wing showed that there was plenty of room for offices and meeting rooms along with the legislative chambers. The walls were white marble with classical decor, and the peaked roofs to either side of the dome didn’t look as though they were likely to leak much. I thought about what the banker had said about history, and kept going.

Another block brought me to an open storefront with a big gaudy handpainted sign above it yelling KAUFER’S NEWS in big red letters. Down below were more newspapers and magazines—the kind that are printed on paper—than I’d ever seen in one place. I remembered what Melanie Berger had said about newspapers, and decided to check it out.

Inside, magazines lined the three walls and newspapers filled a big island unit in the middle. Signs with bright red lettering on the island unit gave me some guidance: one yelled TOLEDO PAPERS, another LR PAPERS, and a third FOREIGN PAPERS. That narrowed it down a bit, but there were still fifteen different newspapers in the Toledo section.

The proprietor was sitting on a tall stool next to the entrance. She was a scruffy-looking woman in her thirties with blonde hair spilling out from under a floppy cap, wearing an apron with KAUFER’S NEWS printed on it that had seen many better days. By the time I turned toward her, she’d already unfolded herself from the stool and came over. “Can I help you?”

“Please,” I said. “I’m new in town and I don’t know the local papers.”

“No problem.” She pointed to the stacked newspapers. “The Blade and the Journal are the two dailies—the Blade’s the paper of record, the Journal’s the community paper and a lot more lively. The rest of ‘em are weeklies—neighborhood, ethnic, religious, what have you. The Blade’s a buck twenty-five, the Journal’s seventy-five cents, the others are twenty-five, except for the Wholly Toledo—that’s the arts and nightlife rag and doesn’t cost a thing.”

It’s always amused me that everywhere in the former United States, the basic unit of the local currency is still called a buck—that’s true even in California, where what trade goes on around the edges of the civil war is mostly in Chinese currency when it isn’t just barter. I pulled out a couple of Lakeland bills, and got that day’s Toledo Blade and the latest Wholly Toledo. “Thanks,” I said.

“Sure thing.” She turned to another customer who had a magazine open. “You want to read that, Mac, you gotta buy it. This ain’t the library, you know.”

The other guy looked sheepish, closed the magazine, paid for it and left the newsstand. “Speaking of which,” I said, “how do I get to the library from here?”

“Two blocks that way, hang a left, three blocks straight ahead and you’re there.”

I thanked her again, tipped her one of the quarters she’d given me in change, and left.

The library wasn’t first on my list, though. The Blade had a couple of articles on the front page I wanted to read. The wind was picking up, so the idea of plopping down on one of the park benches out in front of the Capitol didn’t particularly appeal; the question in my mind was where indoors I could sit down and read the thing. As it happened, I’d gone less than a block when I passed a little hole-in-the-wall café, and in the window seat was an old brown-skinned woman in a heavy wool coat with a cup of coffee in her hand and a copy of the Journal open in front of her. I took the hint, ducked inside, and a couple of minutes later was perched on a slightly rickety chair with a cup of coffee and the front page of the Blade to keep me company.

The lead article was on the political crisis that had blown up that morning. I’d guessed that the paper would have more details than you’d find in the 140-character stories you get from most metanet news sites, and I was right; for that matter, it had more detail than what you saw on the old internet, back in the day.  I’d seen classified briefing papers on political issues that didn’t cover as much ground. By the time I’d finished the first paragraph I knew the basics—the group that was threatening to bolt out of Meeker’s coalition was the Social Alternative party, and the issue was whether lowering the tariff on three industrial metals counted as a government subsidy for technology—but the rest of the story, part of it on the front page and part of it back in the middle of the first section, filled in the details: who was backing the tariff reduction, who was opposing it, what the various arguments were, what the upper house of the legislature and the justices of the Constitutional Court had to say, and so on. By the time I’d finished reading it I had a pretty fair snapshot of the way politics worked in the Republic.

The other article that caught my eye was a follow-up piece on the destruction of the Progresso IV satellite a week before. That was news, and not just for spaceheads, since it was the first satellite to get taken out by orbital junk in a midrange orbit, and it was big enough that its fragments could turn into a real problem for other satellites in that range. The article quoted the head of the Brazilian space agency and an assortment of experts, with opinions ranging from sanguine to sobering. None of the facts were new to me—I’d been following the satellite situation since my first stint in government a dozen years back—but the story put it all into context effortlessly in a page and a half of newsprint, all the way from the first warnings back in the 1970s, through the slow motion Kessler-syndrome disaster that got going in low earth orbit in 2029, to the increasing pace of satellite failures in geosynchronous orbits in the last half dozen years. Since the 2030s, I knew, the midrange orbits had gotten pretty crowded; the last thing anybody needed was a Kessler syndrome there, too.

I got a refill of my coffee, flipped through the rest of the paper. The business section was going to take careful study, I saw that at a glance.  Some of it was pretty straightforward—several counties issuing bonds, commodity prices in the Chicago exchange veering this way and that, and two full pages that looked like ordinary stock market data, except that I didn’t know any of the companies that were listed—but some of it was right out there in left field. The one that stuck in my mind was a corporation that was being wound up: not going bankrupt, being bought, or any of the other ways that corporations die back home, but winding up its affairs, distributing its remaining assets, and closing its doors. I shook my head, kept reading. The sports section seemed pretty much normal, except that I didn’t know any of the teams and there were a lot of them, enough that I wondered whether every middle-sized town in the Lakeland Republic had its very own. The arts and entertainment section in back had everything from concerts to theater listings to a page of radio programs. I nodded, slid the paper into one of the big outside patch pockets of my raincoat, paid my tab and headed out into the fading afternoon light.

The library was easy enough to find. It was a big two-story brick building with arched windows and a wide porch over the entrance, and a couple of cloth banners out front with CAPITOL BRANCH—TOLEDO PUBLIC LIBRARY on them. The lobby was spacious, with a bulletin board full of flyers. To the left, the door was propped open, and I heard a woman’s voice telling some kind of story about a mole and a water rat; a glance upward met the sign saying CHILDREN’S ROOM. I turned right, and went through the door into what I hoped was the adult section.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that I’d guessed right, even though it didn’t look like any library I’d ever seen. Instead of rows of long bare tables studded with keyboards and screens, it had shelves upon shelves upon shelves of printed books, more of them than I think I’d ever seen in one place before. Tables and chairs clustered in the middle of the room, with people sitting bent over books, and over toward the windows were a few sofas and overstuffed chairs with their own contingent of readers. Heavy carpet covered the floor and a historical mural covered the vaulted ceiling, spanning the distance from the native tribes on one end to a half-built Capitol on the other.

I really had no idea what to make of it all. In place of the clatter of keys and the babble of voices that gave the libraries I knew their soundtrack, the room was as hushed as a funeral parlor. I watched one of the patrons go up to the big desk where the librarians stood to ask a question, and the conversation that followed took place in murmurs. Lacking anything better to do, I crossed the room to the shelves of books. There was some kind of numerical code on the spines of the books, which didn’t tell me much of anything, but from the titles I figured out quickly enough that numbers in the low three hundreds, or at least these numbers, had to do with politics. I pulled out a couple of books, glanced at them, and was about to go to another shelf when I spotted a slim volume titled Changing Tiers.

I pulled the book out, opened it, and found that it was exactly what I’d guessed, a guide for Lakelanders who were moving from one county to another at a different tier. I paged through it for a few minutes, decided that I needed to read it, and went looking for a free chair.

I realized pretty quickly that I’d found the book I needed, because it started out with a chapter on the history of the tier system, and that gave me the key to the whole arrangement. During the Second Civil War, the book explained, the states that became the Lakeland Republic got pounded most of the way back to the Stone Age by Federal airstrikes and two years of town-by-town fighting. When Washington finally fell and the fighting ended, nearly every bit of infrastructure in those states—roads, railways, power grids, water and sewer systems, you name it—was in ruins, and once Partition and the beginning of the debt crisis put paid to the last hope of a fast recovery, Lakelanders had to figure out how to rebuild and how to pay for it. The differences of opinion were drastic enough, and funds and other resources short enough, that the provisional government decided to make each county responsible for deciding what kind of infrastructure it wanted, and taxing itself to pay the costs.

From that beginning, over a decade or so of contentious local decisions and gradual rebuilding, the tier system evolved. A second chapter sketched out the legal framework—certain clauses in the constitution and its amendments, two important decisions by the Constitutional Court, and the laws that regulated what counties could and couldn’t do, and what they could and couldn’t enforce. It was all very clear, and I got out my notebook and filled most of four pages with notes. More to the point, I ended up with some sense of the logic of the tier system and the reasons why it made sense to Lakelanders.

By the time I’d finished those two chapters the last daylight was gone and the window in front of me looked out on a night scene lit by streetlamps and occasional windows. I decided not to read the rest of the book, put it back in its place on the shelves, and headed out into the cold wind.

I don’t get lost easily, or I’d probably have ended up wandering off in some random direction until I could find a cab or something. As it was, I wasn’t sure of my bearings until I got within sight of the Capitol. The sidewalks were anything but deserted—I gathered that Toledo had a lively nightlife scene—but I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the people I passed just then. I was thinking about the book I’d read and the newspaper in my pocket, and the difference between the fragmentary bits of information I was used to getting off short squibs on the metanet and the knowledge-in-context I’d gathered from the longer, more context-rich pieces I’d just taken in. It was a sobering comparison. I decided I’d have to check out Lakeland schools and colleges, and see if the difference applied there as well.

When I got to the hotel where I was staying, though, I had to pay attention, because there was no way in; the crowd from the wedding reception was out in front, lining a narrow path from the door to the edge of the sidewalk, where an ornate horsedrawn carriage waited. I didn’t have too much trouble figuring out what was about to happen, so I stood there on the outer edge of the crowd, waiting for the happy couple. Some of the guests had taken the time to put on coats and hats before heading out into the night air, and I blended in well enough that a young woman pushing her way through the crowd handed me a little bag of rice to throw. I took it, amused, and waited with the rest.

A few minutes later, the guests of honor came out—two  young men in their early twenties, laughing and holding hands and obviously very much in love. I pelted them with rice along with everyone else, and stood there while they climbed into the carriage and waved. The driver snapped his reins and the horses broke into a smart trot; the usual cheering and waving followed, and away they went.

The crowd began to scatter. I turned toward the door and found myself facing the pianist who’d been playing in the hotel restaurant during lunch that same day. Of course he didn’t know me from George Washington’s off ox; he turned to go back inside, and since that was the way I was headed, too, I followed him. The lobby wasn’t too bad, but the stair was a river of people headed for the doors, and so the pianist and I ended up standing next to each other at the foot of the stair, waiting for the crowd to pass by and let us through.

“That was pretty good jazz you were playing,” I said to him, “here at lunchtime.”

He gave me a startled look. “Thank you!” Then: “You’re one of Sandy’s political friends?”

“No, just staying here at the hotel.” He nodded, and I went on. “You play anywhere else?”

“Yeah, this is just my day gig. Friday and Saturday nights I’m at the Harbor Club downtown.” He reached into his jacket, pulled out a little rectangle of stiff paper and handed it to me. I realized after a blank moment that it was an old-fashioned business card. Fancy script spelled out:

Sam Capoferro
and his Frogtown Five

Down below in little print was contact info.

“Show that at the door and there’s no cover charge,” he told me. “See you there sometime.”

A gap opened up in the crowd, and he headed up the stair. I pocketed the business card and waited for another opening.


Misty Barber said...

Text message sized news articles and information fragmentation that follows current trends; these glimpses of what life is like in the Atlantic Republic are truly depressing.

The Lakeland Republic has regressed too: rice instead of birdseed!

Doctor Westchester said...

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Doctor Westchester said...

It's the sixth installment by my count.

Cherokee Organics said...


Too funny about architecture. I may have mentioned to you before that in choosing to base the house design here on a 19th century Victorian farm house I created a monster architectural faux pas. Pah! The federal parliament house was constructed only a few short decades back and I recall at the time, the politicians wanted to install a nuclear bomb and fall out shelter and the population in general absolutely cracked it with them and forced them to understand the populations general concern in that what is good for the goose is good for the gander (as they say).

Wholly Toledo sounds very amusing to my ears and I'm sure there is a joke in there somewhere (something possibly from the very dodgy Batman television series from the late 60's to early 70's is ringing a mental bell) but I'm not culturally attuned to understand the joke.

Oh my, the article contains the full argument, alternative opinions, names were named, motivations analysed and blurted out loud for all the world to read - what is the world going to? ;-)! hehe! I'll bet you enjoyed writing that bit!

Yes, well I'd be in favour of winding up companies that behaved badly - fines are no impediment to the wealthy. I read of more such abuses with each passing week and it appears to me that if anything corporate corruption is on the increase as real wealth declines. A big mess is brewing over in the tax office down here as it appears that the very largest accounting firms have taken it upon themselves to undertake the reviews of their own clients affairs on behalf of the tax office which is possibly a very generous offer - pah! what does conflict of interest really mean anyway? It isn't a good look and surely they can't think that it could possibly ever be dressed up nicely?

The story was very enjoyable I just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to write it. I'm pretty certain that you are enjoying yourself too as I read your amusement in between the words.



PS: I've got a new blog entry up: Strange days indeed , discussing the recent large out of control bushfire in the area and the forests down here in general. It is a bit of a digression from the usual stuff and I hope you enjoy the text and very cool photos.

Plus, I have decided to open the garden here this Sunday 18th October between 2pm and 5pm for local readers of the ADR blog and also the Fernglade Farm blog. If you are in the area please drop by - the details can be found here: Fernglade Farm Open Garden Sunday 18th October 2015 2pm to 5pm . I rarely open the garden to visitors so the event is not likely to be repeated any time soon.

Pinku-Sensei said...

I'm glad to see that the Toledo Blade has survived the Second Civil War to become the paper of record for a nation. Right now, I'd be happy just to have it survive the current crisis in print journalism which has been causing papers to downsize, merge, and fold. As for there being fifteen newspapers in Toledo, I'm amazed. New York can barely manage that now. Given that diversity and how newspapers cater to their readership, there might be a mid-Twenty-First version of the "Yes, Prime Minister" monologue about who reads the papers for American newspapers in which the Toledo Blade is read by people who run the country.

As for the incident with the Brazilian satellite, the good news is that countries can still afford spaceflight in your future. The bad news is that affordability may not be what kills off space travel; the Kessler Syndrome will. That's the thing that a lot of viewers missed about "Gravity." It was really about the end of crewed spaceflight. That didn't stop NASA and its astronauts from praising it. I'm sure if "The Martian" wins Oscars next year to go along with its box office, they'll come out in droves to congratulate it, too.

Mark said...

"...and a couple of minutes later was perched on a slightly rickety chair with a cup of coffee..." Nice to think chair repairmen will still be needed. Also nice to imagine a wildly optimistic future. Take away the Corporate Colonization of present-day-mind, people can sometimes have a Renaissance. If the Second American Civil War in this story was about Emancipation from Un-Natural Corporate Law, it will have corrected the chief fault of the first Civil War, as I understand from this book by Ted Nace:

See Chapter 6.

It will also return the Lakeland Republic to the sensibilities of the generation of the Revolution of 1760's

See Chapter 4

When repairing chairs, I used to think, the root of all tragedy was all the things that don't get repaired.

HalFiore said...

When the left the tip, I pictured a pre-64 silver quarter, but I don't suppose that makes sense. What would stop someone visiting from another republic from absconding with as many as they could fit in their baggage?

Todd S. said...

This isn't about the current post in particular, but I came across an article today that I found quite fascinating. The bulk of it is a critique of post-apocalyptic fiction; a topic featured before on this blog. Now, in this case I didn't find the critique all that interesting or well done. It was pretty banal, truth be told. The most interesting part of the article - to me - was the first part, where it makes the observation that the world is running out of sand suitable for making concrete. We tend to focus on issues of fossil fuel depletion, but there are so many other ways that we can run out of resources.

John Michael Greer said...

Misty, er, "regressed"? This project is titled Retrotopia, you know.

Doctor W., you're quite correct. Serves me right for not doublechecking.

Cherokee, "Holy Toledo!" was a common not-quite-profanity of the kind that was once very popular in the US -- my father still says "Cripes!" and "Oh for crying out loud!" in place of more hardcore turns of phrase. The winding up of the corporation -- stay tuned; I've had quite a bit of fun chasing down details of the way corporations originally functioned, before they metastasized into the economic carcinomas they are today, and the Lakeland Republic has taken a stroll down memory lane in that respect as well. In general, this is turning into a fun project -- I'm glad to hear that's coming across.

Pinku-sensei, I'm pretty sure the Blade suspended publication during the war years, but got things going again afterwards. According to Wikipedia, Toledo currently has one daily and seven weeklies, so it didn't seem improbable to me that in a town with no television and no internet/"metanet", two dailies and fifteen weeklies would be a likely number. As for the Kessler syndrome, yes, that's why I mentioned it in the story. We'll be hearing more about the Progresso IV and the Kessler syndrome as the tale unfolds.

Mark, the Second Civil War was rather more complex than that, but one of the main things that made it happen was a Federal government that consistently put the interests of a handful of big corporate interests over the interests of everyone else. There'll be more about that as we proceed.

HalFiore, there's a law in the Lakeland Republic that coins have to be worth more in face value than when they're melted down. Sorry!

beneaththesurface said...

A reminder: DC area Green Wizards will be meeting Sunday, Oct. 25 at 2 pm near the Clarendon Metro in Arlington, VA

If you are interested in attending (or staying informed of subsequent meet-ups), please RSVP to rwhite at fastmail dot fm

and I will then tell you our specific meeting location.

PatriciaT said...

Where did the marble for the capitol building come from?
Where did the rice come from?
Where did the coffee come from? (Yeah, I know, not really a priority, but none the less I happy to see there's coffee in the Lakeland Republic. Hope the coffee is truly sustainably grown at fair prices for the farmer, etc.).

From your description, the design of the flag seems quite lovely and striking.

Enjoying the series - Thanks!

peakfuture said...

Sweet! Luckily, the towns I've lived in and visited have always had good libraries, like the one you have pictured. The part about the Capitol should have Jim Kunstler smiling.

Oh, and your flag is ready, sir:

Will this be a gift, sir, or will you be flying this yourself on Truce Day? [One wonders if people in the Lakeland Republic view their flag as people view the US flag now. Hmmmm...]

You didn't specify the RGB's for the colors, but perhaps the Lakeland Republic is flexible about such things.

I'm tempted to ask a seamstress friend to make one. One wonders if all this talk about map making and flag making will make people think that yes, it might happen one day.

niklinna said...

Speaking of Wikipedia, I actually caught myself before going there to look up the Second Civil War. A telling moment.

jonathan said...

the tier system is a very interesting concept and in a post apocalyptic scenario makes considerable sense. however, it may have a few unexpected outcomes. one is the free rider problem. is it not possible that a person living in an 1830's tier could work in a 1950's tier earning money that would leave the higher tier community without paying the higher taxes that the higher tier imposes on itself? another is the absence of scalability. suppose two 1950 era counties want to trade with each other. each has invested in railroads and or paved roads that will carry goods between them but they are separated by an 1830's county that does not need, want or have rail transport or paved roads. the same could be true of electricity distribution, canals, river dredging or port facilities. must be very frustrating.
in any event, i eagerly await each section of the tale as i compare your toledo to the boston of my childhood.

Kevin Warner said...

Your description of a real working library brought back many memories. I think that one thing that Carr missed would have been the library card catalogue files simply because he would not have recognized what those cabinets containing the cards were for. Fellow readers might be interested on a story at which tells how the last print of these cards has now been made.
Would I be correct in assuming the title 'Changing Tiers' is also referring to someone changing gears? It does seem appropriate.
I am wondering if the post-Partition Lakeland Republic, when faced with the lack of money to rebuild, simply decided to go with the Wörgl option. For those not familiar with this experiment in Depression-era Austria there is a synopsis that can be seen at which gives a good run down. I am guessing that they just decided to create money to get the economy going again.
From my limited understanding, if you can buy goods and services with it, it is money. If you can pay your taxes with it, then it has absolute seal of official approval.

pg said...

I wondered about those details, too. Wood or tile flooring is much easier to clean and lasts longer than carpet.

pg said...

The rice, if it's wild rice, could come from Minnesota. But if it's meant to be a fertility symbol, why bother?

My donkey said...

Your mention of the destruction of the Progresso IV satellite reminded me of the latest news on the downing of flight MH17, which has prompted another round of finger pointing.

Thanks to a history of government lies on various topics (verified by Wikileaks cables), I've come to the point of automatically doubting whatever the government feeds to the public via mainstream media. My trust has fallen to near zero, and I fear that more war is in the offing but feel powerless to stop it. What a horrible situation.

Nastarana said...

I believe it was one of the Milnes, whether Christopher or A. A. I don't recall, who said that a man gives his nephew a copy of The Wind in the Willows and then makes his will accordingly.

By 2065, might coffee be being grown in the Great Smokey Mts.?

The rice is Carolina Gold, of course, being grown in the middle reaches of the Mississippi Valley.

The dominant faith in the Lakeland Republic could hardly be Islam, if gay men are getting married. I rather think Islam is in a fair way to being hated and feared for centuries to come, just as were Catholics in the centuries after the Inquisition.

Joe Roberts said...

I'm happy to see that legal same-sex marriage has survived two civil wars and the breaking apart of the United States. I've long thought that the one advantage gay men and lesbians have over other minorities is that we are somewhere in every extended family. It's difficult to "otherize" and demonize your own family members and friends, or at least it's more difficult to do so than it is with people from minorities that a majoritian can spend a lifetime avoiding and know in only the most cursory ways. As the closet becomes more and more rare, so does discrimation against and misunderstanding of gay people. A long way of saying that I find your take on this believable.

Anyway, it was a fun twist. Your 2065 Toledo has such a 1940s vibe -- I feel pretty much anything cultural and societal in this installment could have described 1940s America -- except for that wedding scene!

Claire said...

Looks like Carr has had a whole day in LR and no word from the government about his meeting. Maybe there's a message waiting for him at the hotel. Also he seems fairly well informed about the 'satellite situation'. From his conversation with Melissa Berger I expected it was going to be news to him.

Its not yet clear whether the national government plays a role in promoting legacy technologies and infrastructure. Is fostering transportation routes that facilitate inter-regional trade; funding public libraries; and sponsoring public health measures within their mandate? Or has all that devolved to a county level as well?

Lynford1933 said...

I enjoy your description of the town. As an old guy, I find the description not much different than what we had when I was a youngster. Here in the high desert woodshop, I am building a table completely with hand tools to better appreciate the craftsmen of 150 years ago. It is an interesting endeavor that everyone should try.

RPC said...

Unrelated to this week's post, but fodder for your synthetic* mind…we're having local elections this year (eastern Pennsylvania) and the billboards and flyers have started to go up. Now here's the interesting thing: I have yet to see one that names the party affiliation of the candidate. Names, yes; slogans, yes; positions, yes. But the words "Democrat" or "Republican" are nowhere to be seen.

* That's "synthetic" as in "creating a synthesis," not "synthetic" as in "artificial!"

Mike said...

This series seems well suited to a graphic novel version, if you could find the right artist to work with.

Allexis Weetman said...

This story about a mole and a water rat, it wouldn't happen to also contain a badger and a toad would it? I love a good book. Those e-reader things may be fine for some, but I like to read in the bath and I need 'appropriate technology'

This thing about the orbital debris sounds interesting and will be the next thing on my research list. Thanks for the story it gives me something to look forward to (for the future and for thursday mornings).

Rob Rhodes said...

Dear Mr. Greer

I have been a regular reader for about two years now, it seems about time to drop by. Thank you for all you do and write, it has come to inform and support my thinking and my behaviour, especially after I bought and read Catton's "Overshoot."

While Claire and I have supported the project through purchases at our local indy bookstore, I have wanted for some time to add to the tip jar but have some resistance to using my credit card, so I have suggestion. If readers could send Money Orders it would be a small step towards Retropia, support our existing postal services and keep a few cents from the claws of credit card companies, even though I expect it is not the 'cheapest and most efficient' practice. Canada Post will issue one in Canadian or US currency for a C$7.00 fee. You would have to publish a conventional address of course, probably a PO Box to keep groupies from dropping by your house ;-)

Regarding tonights episode, I suspect that the corporation shutting down is doing so because it has completed the project it was formed to undertake, my understanding of their original purpose in your law.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@Robert Mathiesen--At the tail end of the comments on last week's post, I have answered your question about the name of the author of the navigation manual. You can see a photo of its cover on the Amazon listing, and the Library of Congress does have a copy. I wonder how many copies it sold in 1943, and whether more than three copies are extant.

John Michael Greer said...

Todd, no argument there. That's one of the reasons that the decline and fall of industrial civilization is guaranteed: any society that tries to support itself indefinitely on nonrenewable resources is going to run out of all those resources. It's just a matter of which shortage strikes hardest first.

PatriciaT, the marble was salvaged from the old capitol buildings of the seven states that combined to form the Lakeland Republic. The rice is grown all over the southern third or so of the Republic -- due to climate change, paddy rice does very well there in 2065. The coffee, as mentioned in an earlier post, is an expensive foreign import, usually cut with chicory; during the embargo it was smuggled in through the Free City of Chicago, while these days it comes up the St. Laurence Seaway from points overseas and is offloaded at ports along the southern shore of the Great Lakes. Next question? ;-)

Peakfuture, thank you! I didn't give the RBG values because I don't speak that language -- the colors you've chosen make a nice balance with the gold of the stars, so I'm hereby exercising authorial privilege and making them the correct colors. (People in the Lakeland Republic, by the way, treat their flag the way that most European countries treat theirs, i.e., with respect as a symbol of the nation, but without the totemistic passion that surrounds the current US flag; there is no Lakeland Pledge of Allegiance. The national anthem is called "Silver Waters" -- that's not its official name, but it's the first two words, and nobody but librarians remembers the official name any more.) As for the contrast between the capitols, trust me, I loathe architectural modernism at least as much as Jim does.

Niklinna, glad to hear that I've achieved that level of verisimilitude!

Jonathan, we discussed that in detail in the comments page a couple of weeks back. People who live in one county and make use of the resources of another get to pay user fees to cover their share of the costs. As for transportation, railroads are privately owned, not public utilities, so not subject to the tier system; then there's the canal system, which is a tier 1 technology and thus viable wherever a good route can be found. (The Midwest used to have an extensive canal network, and by 2065 many of the old canals have been opened up again.)

Kevin, there's certainly a card catalog, but yeah, Carr would have had no idea what it was. As for money, by the end of the Second Civil War the US dollar was worthless and most exchanges in what was about to become the Lakeland Republic used either barter or Canadian currency; after Partition, the provisional government started issuing its own currency to pay its employees and its bills, and since it wasn't being thrown around with wild abandon(cough cough, quantitative easing, cough cough), people took to it.

Pg, yes, but carpet makes for a quieter and more pleasant space. As for the rice, see above -- with climate change, the Louisiana rice belt will have moved quite a bit north by 2065.

My Donkey, no argument there. At this point, if a US politician opens his mouth, it's pretty much safe to assume that he or she is lying.

Nastarana, good. I was wondering who would catch the reference first. In 2065 Toledo, Islam is one of many minority religions; we'll be talking about that a bit as the story proceeds.

John Michael Greer said...

Joe, my working guess is that by 2065 the current fuss around same-sex marriage will seem as bizarre and unreasonable as the fuss a while back about interracial marriage does today. The wedding scene is one of the things meant to remind readers that 1940s technology does not require 1940s social attitudes; the fact that people of color are in positions of authority and responsibility is another.

Claire, it was mentioned in the third episode that Carr would have the rest of the day free, and his comment about the satellite situation in that episode was meant to imply that he'd realized that Melissa Berger was very well informed and competent -- not that he didn't know anything about an important issue with huge implications for the future of most of the world's countries.

Lynford, we had the remains of it when I was a youngster, so the description comes easily. Enjoy building that table!

RPC, Oswald Spengler would nod, and note down another of his predictions that's been confirmed. Thanks for the data point!

Mike, I'd be happy to see any of my fiction turned into graphic novel form, if anybody's interested in making that happen.

Allexis, why, yes, it would indeed include those animals, as well as an assortment of stoats and weasels, the great god Pan, et al. I'm not much for e-readers myself -- printer's ink and paper, please and thank you! As for the orbital-debris issue, if you use the words "Kessler syndrome" as a search string you'll get quite a bit of information on it, and yes, it's well worth knowing -- given current trends, some of us alive today may get to watch the Space Age end because of it.

Rob, thank you! If you'll make a comment marked "not for posting" with your email address in it, I'll email you with a PO box where donations can be sent. Same goes for anyone else who prefers that route for tips.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

The accumulating orbiting debris is an example of the tragedy of the commons. No one pays any penalty for littering the spaceways, and no one has a responsibility to clean it up.

Perhaps in the near future some rich person could offer a cash prize like the ones that have been offered for successful solar powered airplanes and passenger rockets. This prize would be for a working prototype of an orbiting debris collector, to be deployed either from the International Space Station or launched like a satellite.

Anything with enough mass to sweep its orbit would make a large hole in the ground when it fell out of orbit, so I'm thinking of a self-spreading large sail or fine meshed net (but not so large that satellites run into it), which would vaporize the smallest particles that collide with it and slow larger ones down enough that they fall out of orbit. Possibly something with self-repairing capabilities. Eventually it would have too many holes to be useful and would need to fall out of orbit itself.

It would take a good number* of these to do any good, but the object isn't to clear up all the debris, only to clear out some path at critical altitudes so that satellite operation doesn't become completely impossible. I estimate that the amount of resources and research that would be required is less than the first moon shot but more than landing robots on Mars. It would be better to work on this now, while the resources for testing and development are still available.

*n>3, n<a zillion

John Michael Greer said...

Unknown Deborah, the problem with a sail, a net, or anything else like that is that everything in earth orbit is traveling between 18,000 and 25,000 miles per hour. At that speed a fleck of paint has the impact of a rifle bullet, and a small chunk of a destroyed satellite packs the punch of an artillery shell. It really is a diabolical problem. There have been a few proposed technofixes, but so far none of them have been tested, and they're all high-cost, high-complexity, high-uncertainty options.

Peakfuture, I've added your flag to the post so everyone can ooh and ah!

jean-vivien said...

@ Peakfuture & John : oooh !!! aaah !!!

Nice comical touch on the satellite's name ;-)

@ RPC : here in Ecnarf, it has been regularly happening as well on local elections. It depends on the political circumstances of the day, and helps prevent people from hijacking elections on a local level into a bashing of the party currently in power on the national level. It could become a law, too - party lines from national parties do make more sense when applied on a national level. I don't think it would happen anytime soon in Ecnarf, since our institutions are still organized along a centralized model whereby the big parties will want their names tagging even the local administrations.

jean-vivien said...

@ Pinku - Sensei : I have recently watched The Martian 's movie teaser, expecting to see romantic hints of some hidden lifeforms praying on lonely adventurous astronauts, or stories about exploring ancient civilizations... instead I got an incredibly dumb condensate of everything that makes the USA look dumb to the rest of the world : the fantasy that playing rock music as a soundtrack can save any bad situation, or justify any inconsequence... America giving maths and botany lessons to the rest of the world, while its own agricultural products cause fear in said rest of the world (see the fuss in Europe about TAFTA), and while it cannot even agree on an over-indebted budget and/or justify its foreign military policies. Enters here a reference to Neil Armstrong, and hence the strange belief that you can piss on common sense, History... just because you are an individual with a strong enough willpower. Folks, you have no idea how dumb your nation looks to the rest of the world sometimes. Fortunately, places like this one on the Internet reminds me of the rich diversity of your generous land, which has brought a lot of great things to the rest of the world in years now gone, and still has some rare valuables to offer to a trained eye.

jean-vivien said...

@ Rob : If you take a cold look at the technology Google has developped, and at the buzz around the Cloud in general, you will see a good example of corporations trying to exceed their reach on the rest of the economy, creating products that would automate everything else and ultimately standardize our lives in the way the Communist Party might have done it during the days of the USSR. Nowadays' corporations act as symbolic mechanisms of power the way ruling political parties used to in Communist regimes. That may also be why religious fanaticism, and its current warband offshoots, are so hard for the West to fight, because it is a mechanism of power which it is not used to subdue.
I was attending one of their (free to attend) conferences in our beautiful capital city, and it struck me : what i enjoyed the most there was definitely the "retro" things. The conference was set in a very trendy place, which used to be riverside docks. And what was so amazing during the event was the quality of the catering...

All of this paid for by one single corporation's ownership of millions of individuals' personal data. I felt increasingly uneasy during the mostly technical talks, because aside the boredom at the usual technomagic (again, to the tune of lyrical rock music...), I could not see how the new Cloud technology would create new jobs. Which is all the more critical as the rich industrial nations' economy is currently stuck to a standstill. That is exactly how a Medieval court must have worked : the powerful nobles du jour giving away magnificent dinners for free to people who felt like they were being granted a favor... while deep inside themselves they knew that the social roles were also stuck to a standstill, and the favors granted them were actually a manifestation of that rigid social order. Ultimately, we are just circling around the same patterns, and the more effort is given to ornate those patterns, the more unpleasant it will turn out for the commoners.

I could easily picture a hyped media figure made famous for her/his rebuttal of the mythology of Progress, comfronted with one of the defenders of techno-hype, calmly performing counterspells under the glare of TV cameras : just asking the hard questions, "what social role, responsibilities, possibilities, or life perspective does this exciting new piece of technology provide you with ?" "if you had to be deprived of all that for just one day, and started reflecting on your life, what insights would you derive from having perused that piece of technology ?"... and so on.

More generally, it was occurring to me how the war for Progress has already started inside us and not just around the middle-East region. Like any war, it features several battles : the inner battle of belief, which Progress has already lost as far as this audience is concerned, and the inner battle for concrete effort. Because it is quite one thing to believe that History does not go in any particular direction, and quite another to peel vegetables by hand when you could just buy your salad from a supermarket bag. Which of the two alternatives is cheaper ? Which is more satisfying ? I suspect these battles are also being fought in Mr Carr's own psyche as the story unfolds... identifying, and figuring out meaningful responses to, those inner conflicts is what gives the narrative a lot of its tension.

Rhisiart Gwilym said...

Toledo children being read that quintessentially English - not just British - story 'The Wind In The Willows'? That's nice! (Written by a Scotsman, of course…:) Suggests that NAmerican civilised education has revived well for the general public in Lakeland. I don't imagine many outside the educated, civilised minority in the current US would get the reference. It was read out like that in my primary school too, in Britain in the late '40s. Kenneth Grahame's one immortal masterpiece, as far as I know - messing about in boats, with great mythic adventures by the way.

MawKernewek said...

In place of the clatter of keys and the babble of voices that gave the libraries I knew their soundtrack

Surely in the Atlantic Republic they are not so retro as to use actual keyboards, with their array of black or beige blocks with letters in capital letters in some standard font? I would expect most people to only use touchscreens with their coloured buttons and fancy animations.

Vilko said...

Dear Archdruid,

You wrote: "The coffee, as mentioned in an earlier post, is an expensive foreign import"

Very likely. I was in Prague, Czech Republic, last week. Meals in restaurants were both good and cheap; but a coffee cup cost half the price of a meal. I guess that's a relic of the time when Czechoslovakia was a Warsaw Pact country and all imports were very expensive, when they were available. Coffee was a luxury. The Czechs were used to pay a lot for that rare pleasure, a cup of coffee. Several decades later, Czech restaurant owners still see no reason to make coffee cheaper than it used to be, even though the country is now part of the EU (In Prague, I saw Subway restaurants, McDonalds, and all the Western brands you can think of). Coffee is expensive but beer is cheap, and the Czech drink lots of it, even teenagers.

Tea is as expensive as coffee. In an old town Prague restaurant I had a very good menu for 109 crowns (a mug of beer, a plate of meat and legumes, and a piece of excellent local cake), but the cup of tea which I drank afterwards cost me 40 crowns. Still very cheap by French standards, though: 149 crowns = 5.42 euros, or approximately 7 US dollars. Tip not included. I still have the receipt.

What Lakelanders call "coffee" is probably either a very expensive import which only wealthy connoisseurs can afford, or, if it's something you can drink absent-mindedly while reading a newspaper, a vile chicory-filled concoction which tastes like coffee only if you've never had the real thing!

Phil Harris said...

American is an interesting language. Britain does not have a Capitol as in the ‘Capitol of Rome’, and we retain the distinction between a building for a legislature and the town or capital city in which it is located.

But there again Brits were wont to use the term ‘capitals’ for Upper Case until a few years ago. That usually meant we started a sentence with a capital. Presumably microsoft popularised what had previously been printers’ jargon? (Wikipedia tells me that in Romanian ‘capital’ refers to the first chapter in a book.)

But we share alas the jargon of capitalism and these days we can all type CAPEX. And we talk of decapitation as a military concept rather than more simply of beheading. And it is long since that an adventure yarn had a character exclaim, “That’s capital, old man!” And that last also was American in its day, I guess.

Phil H

whomever said...

It's quite possible there's been an Islamic reformation. Also, don't judge all Islam on ISIS or Saudi Arabia, that's like judging all christians on Bob Jones University or all Jews on the Satmar. I've known some pretty mellow Muslims in my time and have been to Istanbul, which is quite secular and has a great bar scene. It's just a shame the Saudi's ended up with the money; sadly, some of the biggest victims of their fundamentalism have been the likes of the Suffis and other more tolerant sects. But I agree there's probably going to be some memories.

Thaat said, it's not clear why people in Lakeland would suddenly go Muslim; aside from the large Arab presence around Detroit it's not really an obvious choice.
By this time, of course, much of the middle east will have likely have collapsed even more than today with large chunks of eg, Saudi Arabi having been depopulated, but I just don't see that many refugees having made it across the Atlantic.

I'd expect religious pluralism: The Jews will still be there, as they have been for millenia, and I'd expect some very leftist Christian sects (think like the Quakers) who have incorporated reverence for the earth into their central tenets. I wouldn't be suprised if a minority of todays secular greens evolve into some sort of animist/gaia religion similar to Shintos. And Druids! Maybe they will be big?

All up to JMG of course. He's said we'll find it very interesting.

As a side note, I just spent some time in Dubai, and boy do they depend on cheap energy. Think Los Angelese in Arabia. They are, however significantly less in denial about water; no tract housing with large lawns theere.

Rhisiart, Grahame's other masterpiece, though less well known, is The Reluctant Dragon, which I read growing up in early 1980s Australia. Though written in 1898, it has a number of useful messages for the modern world.

Martin B said...

I had my own attempt at a Lakeland flag. Problem: how do you divide a circle into seven parts and put the centers on a rectangle? I guess they teach coordinate geometry in Lakeland schools.

Thomas Mazanec said...

Midorbit, IIRC, is the realm of the VanAllen Radiation Belts...too radioactive for most satellites, and lacking the sharp resolution of Low Earth Orbit as well as lacking the stay-in-one-place of Geosynchronous orbit. No doubt why is is till 2065 that the Kessler process begins there.

Leo Knight said...

The bookstore reminded me of the now long gone Sherman's Book Store, at the corner of Park Ave. and Mulberry Street in downtown Baltimore. Mr. Sherman said much the same thing to people who browsed too long.

MigrantWorker said...

Good afternoon mr Greer,

I somehow doubt that gay marriage will become uncontroversial - but I can't quite put a finger on the reason why. But then, fifty years may be a long enough time to work out, through trial and error, a format for this type of union which would be acceptable for both homo- and heterosexual parts of the population. This format may be different to how we understand gay marriage today.

Incidentally, what would religiosity look like in the Lakeland Republic? Are we going to see the crowds wearing their best outfits on a Sunday walk to the church, or a distinct lack thereof - or maybe something in between? Earthly troubles of the civil war and reconstruction years would likely make looking for spiritual salvation an attractive prospect; but how permanent would this attitude be?


donalfagan said...

"By the time I turned toward her, she’d already unfolded herself from the stool and came over." Shouldn't 'came' be 'come'?

Regarding forgotten children's books, my office neighbor has a young daughter, but had never heard of Watership Down. So I gave her a copy of the movie picture book to get the daughter started. Another office friend has a very young daughter so I gave him Piggie Pie and Scarlett Angelina Wolverton-Manning to read to her as a Halloween treat.

I watched the Dutch findings on MH-17 on Liveleak. If only there had been a good guy with a tactical antimissile system nearby, tragedy could have been averted.

Regarding the sloped roofs, I can't imagine anyone will be making single-ply roofing materials in Lakeland. I wouldn't think flat roofs will even be possible without an affordable source of bitumen for built-up roofing, and plenty of fuel for the tar kettles.

Brian Kaller said...


This instalment hits home for me, as I boarded that sinking ship of newspaper journalism in the 1990s, even as newspapers were shrinking their articles and redesigning their pages to look more like web sites.

Before my time, newspapers carried a vast range of information. Many had labour sections written for the majority of people who work for a paycheque, and not just a business section for investors. Some ran synopses of the Sunday sermons of their area’s most prominent religious leaders – important not just for piety, but for politics, as the local preachers and bishops had enormous influence. Many came out twice a day, so people could read the news more often than most of us check web sites now.

Our modern culture tells us that we have more information today than anyone in history, because of the internet – but that assumes that information existing somewhere is the same as knowledge being disseminated. Few web sites will cover the library board meeting or the public works department, and if they do they are likely to be a blog by a single unpaid individual. Usually no editors would exist to review the material for quality or readability, and the writer would be under no social, financial or legal pressure to be accurate or professional, or to publish consistently, or to pass on their duties to another once they resign.
Transcripts of church sermons are even harder to find, so some of the most important shapers of public opinion go unknown by anyone outside their circles.

I’ve worked on a number of issues with community activists in the USA, some left-wing and some right-wing, but no one wanted to associate with a church unless they belonged to one, and then only with their own. When I suggested to one auditorium of activists (left-wing, in this case) that they go to various churches and learn about them, I was actually shouted down; animal sacrifice, I think, would have earned less outrage.

Of course, as people readily point out to me, you can surf the internet and do your own research, but you must work diligently to winnow the accurate material from the dubious claims – anyone can create a web site that says anything. Moreover, most people are not going to do all that trouble themselves – we have lives, after all – and you shouldn’t have to. That’s what journalists were for.

When I talk about newspapers this way, people often respond that we no longer destroy forests. Of course some people used to harvest trees for newspaper and not replant them, but it doesn’t have to be that way – you could plant willow and get ten tonnes of wood to the hectare per year in this climate, and never fell another ancient forest of giant trees. Contrast that with the mountains of coal we have to burn to feed server farms, the rare-earth-metal mining, the semiconductor factories and the global shipping that we need to employ just to create a short-lived computer, all to do most of what we did with a piece of paper.

Once a newspaper was read, moreover, it had only begun its useful life – then it would be used to wrap gifts or groceries, then to line insulation or chicken coops, then as tinder for the fire, and the resulting ashes could then make soap or fertiliser. Once an electronic device has a single minor problem, however, it tends to go into a dump, with all its heavy metals and plastics, perhaps to contaminate the soil for thousands of years to come.

Computers are useful for some things, of course – I’m writing this on one, and you’re all reading this on another one --- but we have used their monster footprint to substitute for everything.

Look forward to next week,

Brian Kaller
County Kildare, Ireland

Brian Kaller said...


By the way, several people mentioned the rice; that shouldn’t be a problem, as rice is already grown in my native Missouri, just across the Midwest from Toledo. To transport it from one to the other, they could go down the Mississippi River, up the Ohio and up the Wabash, with little land travel necessary. That’s at present; a few decades from now, I would expect climate change to move the line of viable rice planting further north.

Unknown said...

Thanks for Retrotopia! We've been enjoying your words for years but reading about what could be in a fictionalized from definitely brings issues closer to home, makes them feel more real and plausible.

Two things. One, here in Maine this summer I was part of a rice-growing trial. I successfully grew rice in 5 gallon buckets. Some large-scale permaculture farmers here are trying to develop commercial rice growing, with Northern Japanese and Siberian varieties. Farmers in Vermont are also growing rice.

Secondly, here's an idea for a future short story contest: people can write, let's say, a day in the life piece about someone in their current profession. You can set the parameters (time, climate and resource conditions, etc...). If the profession won't exist, imagine the life of someone with your current skillset. Even without a story contest though, I think it's a great mental exercise for all of us to imagine how our work would be done in the future under different circumstances. As a baker, I've begun to ponder, how would my bakery be in each of the different tiers?

My husband and I are Gen Xers who have always been drawn to lower-tech ways of doing things. I've inherited my dad's slide rule. He showed me how to use it as a kid and I was fascinated by it! Now he's gone I'll have to go online, alas, to relearn how it's done, so I can pass it on to the next generation.

Thanks again!
Ellen in Maine

William Church said...

Frogtown? ~snort~

Now there is a throwback to a gentler time. Any chance of a Rowdy Roddy cameo?

John I think your critique of sound bite news is spot on. It is just one portion of sound bite living. I believe that the ability to read more in depth articles and news is an acquired skill. But a good one to have. It is easier said than done to find these in depth sources though. A lot of chaff out there.


gjh42 said...

The Wind in the Willows was read aloud by my teacher in elementary school (around fourth grade) in the mid-sixties in upstate New York. I hope she continued that tradition for many more years. I looked forward to the next few pages each morning.

Tye said...

Your comments on leaks in Atlantic State building design struke a nerve. My dad was an architect and often derided Frank Lloyd Wright's designs as problematic due to his famous roof leaks. But still the designs were beautiful,even if not practical. One of FLW's notable quotes--perhaps relevant to this issue-- was:
"Beautiful buildings are more than scientific. They are true organisms, spiritually conceived; works of art, using the best technology by inspiration rather than the idiosyncrasies of mere taste or any averaging by the committee mind". - Frank Lloyd Wright
Inspirational beauty and practical reality sometimes butt heads, it seems.

Varun Bhaskar said...


Newspapers that actually do their jobs?! My gods you've gone off the deepend again!

Actually the library issue brings up something interesting. How do they select which books to keep, and prevent the printing industry from turning into a deforestation machine? I ask because I've been looking for an actual copy of Toynbee's "A study of History," and have only found the series available on one site for over $200. Same with many older and valuable books no longer considered useful.

By the way, would you be willing to look over one of my articles and gauge how it compares to something found in Lakeland? I'm afraid I grew up in the "death of journalism era," and only kinda know what a good article is ment to contain.



Nastarana said...

Dear jean-vivien, Many of us Americans know perfectly well how terminally stupid is, and does, our ruling class and fellow travelers, including hard-nosed "aspiring" immigrant communities, I might add; we live daily with and amid the toxic residue of said terminal stupidity. I think our (formerly) working class in particular suffers from an oppression of the spirit caused and brought about by the pervasive ugliness around us. Every part of the cultural ambiance, from the sleazy clothing to the gimcrack building to the screaming music to the chemically contaminated so-called food seems designed to induce psychosis or extreme depression.

Justin said...

Know we are continuing retropia, but in the spirit of last weeks digression...
So in this week, Russia has turned things around in Syria.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the U.S. has lost in Afghanistan.

The US defence secretary, Ash Carter, signalled the change in a speech on Wednesday in which he said: “The narrative that we’re leaving Afghanistan is self-defeating. We’re not, we can’t and to do so would not be to take advantage of the success we’ve had to date.”

Reading this right?

matilda said...

I was born in 1960 in Adrian, about 30 miles NW of Toledo, so I am very much enjoying Lakeland’s choice of a Capital.

My mother would tell me stories about taking a passenger train down to Toledo for a day of shopping and I was amazed and envious of that opportunity. On another occasion I asked her why certain streets in town had wide, planted medians and she told me that’s where the street cars used to run – and then casually threw out “all the towns had them at one time”.

Even as a kid I was stunned and angry they had been ripped out.

She said they would all go off to Lake Erie for day at the beach but by the time I was of age the lake was closed to swimming.

From my perspective it’s as if someone threw a switch sometime between ’68 and ’72 and the America that was so similar to your Lakeland vanished.

And for a bit of humor – The Toledo War of 1835-36

Howard Skillington said...

"I decided not to read the rest of the book, put it back in its place on the shelves"

When I read that line I was mildly concerned, because in my experience libraries have a posted policy of asking you not to re-shelve books. And then I reminded myself that the Lakeland Republic in Retrotopia aspires to be a nation of people who are responsible, conscientious, and entirely capable of putting a book back in its proper place on a shelf.

Thanks, also, for the detail about George Washington. I had never even known that the Father of our Country had an off ox.

Patricia Mathews said...

Is the Progresso IV satellite named for a mass market spaghetti sauce? Or what? Unless it's lip-service to the concept of progress, I missed the joke.

It was fun mapping the Lakeland papers onto Albuquerque's. In a city of half a million, we have the Albuquerque Journal, called by its detractors something more reminiscent of liquid waste; it generally repeats the Republican party line of economic growth at all cost, while low-balling everything a decent business would want. That's our only major daily. The Toledo Blade it's not. The Toledo Journal's niche would be filled by the Albuquerque Free Press, a biweekly with lively discussions about serious issues as well as the livelier stuff. Lakeland's Wholly Toledo is our Weekly Alibi, "the arts and lifestyle rag", actually "the GenX-oriented music scene rag, with secondary attention to movies and dining."

And the UNM daily Lobo, now in print twice a week, because they've gone digital for the other 3 issues and are proud of it. Sigh.

Wind in the Willows, YES! I've been providing my grandnieces and -nephews with that, and similar children's classics, as well as my grandchildren. Despite the fact that what they want is the latest kidlit series books! Sigh. Like pushing water uphill, but let's hope they grow into Peter Pan et. al.

I am rather surprised that Peter Carr can read, follow, and enjoy the stories-in-depth presented here, instead of shaking his head and wondering when they'll get to the bottom line, the sound byte he's grown up expecting.

Renaissance Man said...

Love the flag design. My two favorite colours, and it's what I painted my trailer, but with a golden horse, not a star.

Glenn said...

"(Deborah Bender)said"

"@Robert Mathiesen--{Snip!}the author of the navigation manual. You can see a photo of its cover on the Amazon listing, and the Library of Congress does have a copy. I wonder how many copies it sold in 1943, and whether more than three copies are extant."

Dutton's? When I was active duty every ship in the Coast Guard larger than a Patrol
Boat had it on board. Same with the Navy. I may have an old one in a box somewhere. I prefer editions of navigational books older than electronic navigational devices; even the current Bowditch isn't what it used to be.


in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

Odin's Raven said...

Criminalising the imposition of costs on other people seems like a good idea with implications beyond corporations and subsidies for them. What is the policy in this Utopia regarding the social equivalent? For instance, could a criminous group get away with causing excessive policing and private security costs on businesses and residents in attempts to limit their depredations? If they are allowed to degrade an area it could become a refuge and base for pillaging neighbouring areas.

Similarly, is there some means of detecting and preventing the imposition of costs by corrupt or incompetent politicians? (Experience shows that popular voting is incapable of performing this task.)For instance, the grotesque costs of the F 35 long after it should have been clear that it would not work properly. Also things like the current expenditures allegedly to create 'moderate' terrorists at $100 million apiece, when in truth the money has gone to create, fund and supply the people whom the US government claimed to be fighting. Is there some body, perhaps a Supreme Court, to automatically review the words and deeds of politicians and to implement condign punishment for corruption, incompetence, lying, lobbying, self-enrichment or acting as agents of a foreign power?

Glenn said...


Sam Capoferro? Brings to mind this chorus, "Caput apri defero". So, Sam "head bring"? Or did you mean the double "r" (ferro) to change it to Sam "head iron", i.e. Ironhead? I might be reaching, it could just be an Italian surname. But given your penchant for using pun names in your fiction...


in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

Glenn said...

"Rhisiart Gwilym said...
children being read that quintessentially English - not just British - story 'The Wind In The Willows'? That's nice! (Written by a Scotsman). I don't imagine many outside the educated, civilised minority in the current US would get the reference. It was read out like that in my primary school too, in Britain in the late '40s. Kenneth Grahame's one immortal masterpiece, as far as I know - messing about in boats, with great mythic adventures by the way"


Grahame and Milne were staples of most U.S. children's early childhood in the '50's and '60's. And I'm still messing about in boats. Albeit, I'm pushing 60 with a short stick, as a friend of mine is wont to say.


in the Bramblepatch
Marrowston Island
Salish Sea

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Thanks, JMG, for your reassurances a few weeks ago regarding Québec. It is good to learn that a diplomat from that nation will be joining several of us in these blog comments, who have been lamenting the transfer of the capital from Ville de Qu&ecaute;bec to big, bad Montréal.

One has to concur with your assessment that rising sea-levels are liable to give Montréal an economic boost, as an Atlantic port. We may in fact see by 2065 something of a return to what was considered a rather natural situation in Canadian North America from the early 1800s until after World War II - namely, to a situation in which it is Montréal that is the economic powerhouse of the region, with Toronto in a secondary position of undemonstrative prosperity. (People here used to speak of "Toronto the Good", with reference to a culture of beef and potatoes and King and Country, in other words of complacent Upper-Canadian propriety.)

Thanks, Unknown Deborah, for a helpful comment a few weeks ago on our local 77-hectare David Dunlap Observatory and Park conservation case. - If anyone needs to follow the case, details can be had by searching Google News on names of institutions and individuals. Additionally, I can upon private request to Toomas(dot)Karmo(at)gmail(dot)com supply PDF-formatted advocacy analyses.

And thanks, JMG, for this week's account of newspaper publishing and the library. I suppose the book trade, both in new titles and in second-hand, will be doing well? Have you some sense of the 2065 population of Lakeland, and of the number of new book titles published annually in Lakeland? Do curious readers in the grey, neo-Soviet Atlantic coastal republic buy Lakeland publications from the own local dealers in Pittsburg et al, or do they order book parcels from the Lakeland shops?

Or are things neo-Soviet on that Atlantic coast to the point that the book trade is outright censored? I remember here how things worked with the late, unlamented Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic. We, in the West, got their stuff easily enough. Relatives back home, on the other hand, did not get our stuff easily at all. It was said that one particular Canada-based Estonian publishing house specialized in small-format paperbacks because the slim paperback would slip easily enough into pyjamas, etc, in the depths of a tourist suitcase.



in the outer Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill

aiastelamonides said...


This is the best chapter yet, I think. "Wholly Toledo" is funny, and "Progresso IV" is a nice touch (Ordem would have almost as good, if it has set of Kessler syndrome). The flag came out nicely too. Most other combinations of blue and green wouldn't have looked good right next to each other.

Your Philadelphia Capitol Building reminds me of the beautiful old Strasbourg train station, which was, uh, improved by being encased in a gigantic glass dome, with the idea that you would be able to see the Past together with the Present, or something like that. The intended aesthetics and symbolism are questionable in themselves, of course, but the real problem was that the glass was left uncleaned for years and years, so that the old station became more or less invisible behind the featureless grimy panels. It was a German-built station, if I remember correctly, so perhaps that was the plan all along....

zentao said...

I think that the described future is rather interesting and that the move to paper and other "lo-tech" might be driven by conflict. Not sure how many others have read/researched about this but I think JADE (actually "Joint Assistant for Development and Execution") Helm was definitely part of the operational testing and early roll-out of a new AI system. See here for summary:

So with an AI performing all military coordination as well as monitoring pretty much everyone, what would a war look like? How would it be fought? Most electronics would be easily hacked and taken over by such a system including things like car black boxes...

theotokosbooks said...

I'm enjoying the story, but regarding the same-sex marriage bit, surely a return/regression to a previous level of technology will also involve a return to a previous set of moral standards - especially if a society has to be virtually rebuilt from scratch. Also, just wondering how the question of Spengler's Second Religiosity, which you dealt with in a previous post, ( would affect this question of morality. I recently read The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett, and although it is dated, it did seem, to me, to portray the sort of religious "revival" which could happen in the future. Anyway, thanks for your thought-provoking work!

Eric Backos said...

Dear Mr. Greer, Your Grace &c.
The weekly joint meeting of the Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association, Chapter Number 440, and Ruinmen’s Guild, Local 440 is posted on Apologies for the short notice.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Thanks, JMG and Peakfuture, for discussion of flags. It is good to see that Lakeland has emancipated itself free from the present-day American flag fetish. I am hoping that in Lakeland, as in present-day Canada, burning the national flag in political protest is merely ill-bred, rather than illegal.

I would like to quote here from my own rather unsuccessful Internet-uploaded circa-2003 speculative fiction, set predominantly in Kent, and entitled "Utopia 2184". in that fiction, I touched on flags along the lines adopted this week by JMG.

I should add in clarification, before pasting in my quote, that my narrative technique involved a first-person, essentially time-traveller, account from 2184, typeset in ordinary typeface, interspersed with commentary from our own (late 1900s, early 2000s) era, typeset in italics.

To keep things compact, I snip out a bit of stuff on Scottish nationalism and on the legitimate perduring cultural role of the European Union, with its reticent flag of stars.

There, less than a kilometre ahead of us, loomed the flag-adorned gates of our destination town. It was, I decided at once, a most British sight. For the flags were faded, ragged. No other region, I thought with joy, could conceivably treat flags, those harbingers of all that is perilous in communal life, with such proper contempt.

Cornmarket, 1970s Oxford. Woolworth's. The Union Jack blithely flying above that emporium, night and day, summer and winter, faded to a pastel, ragged at its trailing edge, less flag than bedsheet. Marked down to clear, so to speak.

Television, 1980s. The Two Ronnies are paying musical tribute to the Royal Navy. The Two Ronnies in drag, as English aunties. Singing with the uniformed seamen such old favourites as 'What do You Do with a Shrunken Sailor?' The programme ends with a rousing 'Rule Britannia'. At the climax, the Two Ronnies drop their knickers, of Union Jack fabric.

And this, over the town gates, was not even the Union Jack, the flag of a rightly discredited empire, but only - oh joy! - the tattered, disintegrating Cross of Saint George. ((SNIP))




Steve Thomas said...

I find that this post, and this whole series, raises very strong emotions in me.

I had the opportunity, earlier this year, to edit my grandfather's memoirs. He grew up in a small town in rural Pennsylvania. Technically, I grew up in the same small town, 40 years later-- at least, it had the same name and the same location, but there the similarities end.

I was going to describe it, but I think that readers here might appreciate a (slightly edited) quote:


"What did we have in our community of about 3,500 souls? Just downtown we had:

"Two supermarkets; two other complete grocery stores; Schultz’s meat market; four barber shops; Prave’s Beauty Salon; two banks; the [Name of Town] Building & Loan; two jewelry stores; three women’s clothing stores; two men’s clothing stores; five restaurants; three hotels; two hardware stores; the American Legion and Moose clubs; the public library; four car dealers; seven garages/full service gas stations; a taxi; The News Stand; Western Union; two drug stores, both with soda fountains and booths; four dentists; five doctors; the music store; The Flower Shop; Wolf Furniture Store with four floors of merchandise; two shoe repair shops; The Hi-Way Diner; an eight lane bowling alley; Hoke’s Appliance Store; the local newspaper and print shop; the feed store; a five and dime; many law offices; a bakery;
The Knights of Columbus Hall, with substantial meeting rooms and the Boy Scout hall in the basement; The Y; The lodge headquarters for the Masonic chapter; State Liquor store; Pennsylvania Electric Company offices; Bell Telephone Company offices; Ed Black Radio and TV; Mulvehill’s Electric; The Rivoli Movie Theater; the fire hall; Borough Offices; H. Justus Apel Plumbing and Heating; a coffee shop; The County Jail; and of course, the park.

"Beyond the downtown in other parts of the immediate community were the hotels, a beer distributorship; A Tinker’s Shop, where everything and anything could be repaired; a convenience store; several neighborhood stores; two complete lumber companies, each with a railroad siding; three funeral homes; the public elementary and high schools and the Catholic schools; the football field and three playgrounds.

"Then there were the fairgrounds, well over a hundred acres at the edge of town and home to Cicero’s Roller Skating Arena.

"All in all, it made for a very busy town.

"Parking was never an issue since everyone who lived in the community walked."

Steve Thomas said...

(Continued from above, with my apologies for the run-on post.)

Again, this was a town of 3500. He goes on to describe a world that sounds impossible today. People participated in community organizations and ran business from their homes. Cats, dogs, and children were all allowed outside unsupervised. Most surprising of all is his insistence that it was a "much less pretentious time than today:"

"The age and size and style of the house didn’t matter. What mattered were the people who lived within. Dan McAlaster’s family cooked over a coal fired stove. So did the family of the girl I took to the prom. No one considered Glenn or her any less than anyone else. Danfather was a barber. Heck, Jimmy O'Reilly was a barber and he was one of the best loved persons in town. Charlie Merchel was a barber and was one of the founders of the Democratic Party in the county."

I exaggerated a little bit. Some of this still existed when I was growing up. Of the five clothing stores described above, one was left; I remember when it closed, and it occurs to me now that that was not long after the Walmart opened up. The fairgrounds he described were still accessible, and near the house I grew up in. When I was young we could still take our sleds there in the wintertime. Now whoever manages them keeps them surrounded by barbed wire-- and who can blame them, since the county fair is primarily a place for teenagers to buy drugs and get into fistfights?

Most of my family has left Pennsylvania, myself included. My mother was back recently. She told me, "You would not recognize it. It's not the town you grew up in." And the town I grew up in in the 90s had already fallen so far from the world my grandfather knew in the 40s. And-- this is the worst part-- it is by far the most prosperous of all the small towns in the county.

I guess that's why this piece affects me so strongly. Instead of being simply a pie in the sky fantasy, it points the way back to a world that we really did have, and that we lost-- or had taken from us. Thank you for writing it!

daelach said...

Concerning low-tech - the US Navy stopped teaching how to use sextants in 1998. What could possibly go wrong with GPS? Well, back in 2007, China shot down a Chinese satellite. It was only in 800km altitude while the GPS satellites are roughly at 20,000km altitude, but.. it was a message. It took the US Navy only 8 years to understand that China might become able to switch off GPS the hard way, in which case the US Navy would uselessly sit there without orientation. This year, the US Navy re-introduced sextant courses:

The good thing is that this knowledge might well be passed on to Lakeland's sailors.

pygmycory said...

Three years back Canada got rid of the penny because it cost about 4x more to make than the face value of the coin. It doesn't make much sense to lose money when you're making it.

The flag looks like it should be possible to sew. I'd first sew the bottom and top together, then applique the stars on top if I were going to try and make one.

Out of curiosity, I understand that marriage is becoming less common among the US lower classes. Might Carr be more surprised that there was a wedding going on than that the newly-weds were both men? Or has that trend reversed by 2065? Or is Carr so upper class that he doesn't think about this? Or am I wrong in what I've heard? I don't live in the USA to have first-hand knowledge, after all.

The idea of a library with empty shelves makes me sad. There are a fair number of computers, CDs, DVDs etc. in the libraries here, but the main focus is definitely books. I get the impression that libraries in the US are often much worse-endowed and worse-funded than what I see here. I just wish the trend towards machines rather than live staff would reverse.

SLClaire said...

Re the LR library: yesterday the nearest library branch to me was re-opened after the previous building was demolished to be replaced by a new, larger building. Notice I'm not saying a better building. The old building dated from the early 1960s. Its major problem, from the viewpoint of the public library system, was insufficient space for computers, even after removing quite a few books. The system got a bond issue on the ballot and passed (I voted against it) to fund new and remodeled buildings for it and a few other branches. I could have gone to the new branch yesterday but chose not to. I'm sure I will not be pleased. More computers, probably not more books, maybe fewer books.

Re rice, it's grown in the Bootheel of Missouri today and could be grown in southern IL, IN, and OH as well from a climate standpoint. Rodale, in PA, did research on upland rices in the 1970s iirc.

hereward said...

Aargh! I seem to be in a minority of one, but I have to say that I am struggling with these Retrotopia posts. It's difficult to pin down exactly what it is, but I'll have a go. Please think of the following as constructive criticism!

In the first place, as also picked up by Joe above, the Lakelanders behave like the Cunninghams but without so much as the Fonz to worry about. Is life in the LR really so idyllic?

This leads me to the second point, which is harder to define, but which is linked to just how much 2015 America is left in the LR. In particular, there seems still to be such a heavy focus on money. The performance of the different tiers seems to be measured in monetary terms even though that surely isn't the point of the experiment. It starts with the tipping of bellhops, waiters etc. So people aren't nice to you or don't just help you because they like you, or take pride in doing their job to the best of their ability, they do it in the hope of scoring a fat tip. This undermines real social contact.

When Carr flipped the newsagent a quarter for her chat, it really made my flesh crawl and I had to stop reading!

In case you didn't know it, this is a major difference between Europe and the US. In mainland Europe, after a meal in a restaurant you just leave some small change on the table, not a percentage of the bill. This is because the service is already included in the bill. Leaving a big tip won't guarantee you good service next time anyway, because on the one hand, all tips go into a big jar to be divvied up between all the personnel including the cooks and bottle washers at the end of the week, and on the other, because European waiters and waitresses hate it if some big wad puts down a load of cash expecting everyone to come running next time. "Like you own me now?"

So the tier system in the LR seems to be predicated on which tier makes the most economical sense whereas it would surely be better to look at other measures such as which county feels the most comfortable, all things considered, or where you have the highest level of culture, or even where you get the best food.

The point is that different value systems do exist. I know, because I grew up in the England of the 1960s and 70s. Back then, most people had a station in life, be that butcher or lawyer, cleaner or teacher, and accepted it. Most people didn't even entertain ideas "above their station." They also didn't have more than fanciful ideas about 'getting rich quick'. Instead, many (most?) drew pleasure from doing their jobs and doing them well. Yes, of course, there was plenty wrong in those days, too, but I can't help thinking that in getting the entire population to embrace hard-core capitalism - as started in the 1980s in the UK - the country was severely impoverished in another way.

I shall continue to follow Carr's adventures as I'm interested to know how Lakeland functions, but sometimes my teeth will be gritted!

BoysMom said...

Jean-Vivian, you obviously didn't read The Martian if you expected aliens or xenoarcheology! Those of us who enjoyed the book would be Up in Arms if Hollywood messed it up that badly. (Which, they probably did mess it up, which is why I likely won't bother, but really, John Carter this is not. The title is probably a tribute to Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, if you can recollect the end of that it makes perfect sense.)
It's an excellent book, for what it is, which is your classic Man versus Nature, in this case the rather inhospitable Nature of Mars, and deals very well with the sharp and hard limits of resources available. If you like hard science fiction, you have friends who like hard science fiction, and you wish to start a discussion on Limits with them it would make a good jumping off point.

Aron Blue said...

Can't wait to hear more about the Harbor Club. At the end, I thought Sam (play it again lol) was going to hand Mr Carr a flyer, not a business card, and I got excited because I was handing out paper flyers for a show last week. It was a bit of a novelty in my scene that I wasn't just doing a facebook invite. Paper is fun.

Another awesome radio station that might sound a little like something on the AM Radio dial in Lakeland is KPIG from my home region in California.

Today instead of two songs I'm going to recommend a full album: Owl Call Blues from Tuba Skinny, recently released on Bandcamp.

redoak said...

I like the Progresso IV! Sounds like a space Cuisinart.

Jason Heppenstall said...

This part of your story reminds me that there is such a thing out there as responsible, engaging journalism. I've initiated and run three local newspapers in my life and I've been meaning to write a blog post about how disaffected journalists can do the same thing (spoiler: forget most of everything you learned at journalism school). In my view, local printed newspapers, with all the extra sections that people love to browse (what's on; buy and sell; wanted, births, marriages, deaths etc.) are the wave of the future. You won't earn megabucks, but you'll have an interesting job, be a central part of the local community, and maybe get a free dinner every now and again.

I haven't written that yet, but I did write a post yesterday about the latest 'We're going to Mars' film The Martian.

James M. Jensen II said...


Surely in the Atlantic Republic they are not so retro as to use actual keyboards, with their array of black or beige blocks with letters in capital letters in some standard font? I would expect most people to only use touchscreens with their coloured buttons and fancy animations.

My guess would be that that's one particular regression that the Atlantic Republic was forced to make. Touchscreens are better vectors for transmitting diseases than keyboards are, and with all the major bugs now resistant to all antibiotics a public touchscreen is a public health hazard.

August Johnson said...

Arggg... Now you've done it, JMG! Another project for when I have time to spare. I dug out a nice 1953 Philco B950 121 radio chassis from my junk pile. This was a plastic cased radio but a bit better than most at the time, It had an additional short-wave band covering 1.7-3.4 MHz (for "police and early TV") and an extra RF Amp stage. I'm going to have to make a nice wood case for it and extend the short-wave band up to the top of 80 meters. Then I can also listen to the Hams running the old AM transmitters. I'll have to make a dial as I don't have the old one.

I just wish I could use it to pick up the Lakeland AM broadcast band, has to be infinitely better than the cr*p on AM now. I miss listening to AM in the evening in the 1960's!

Rita said...

In some US states, especially those such as California in which the Progressive movement hds a strong influence, county and city politics are non-partisan. Candidates are not listed on the ballot by party, no party labels appear on advertising and the campaigns may not be funded by party funds. This was a deliberate effort to break the machine politics, such as Tammany Hall.

1ab9a86a-8991-11e3-899b-000bcdcb8a73 said...

Off topic but I thought you'd like to see this from the #1 scientific journal:

Myriad said...

I'm glad to see the Lakelanders have dispensed with the false but persistent notion that thrown rice is harmful to birds! Maybe next we'll find out they also don't wait a half hour to swim after eating.

I was thinking earlier about Lakeland sports, so it was good to see the paper of record has an entire sports section. My guess is that baseball would return to prominence in the LR, though it's the wrong season during Carr's visit. Not for nostalgia, but because baseball has the right pace and structure to be narrated live on radio. And those broadcasts can often be listened to while working, when the nature of the task permits. Other sports can and would also be broadcast of course, but most have a bigger difference in impact between a radio broadcast and what you can see and hear from the stands, and require more concentration to follow.

Speaking of radio, radio drama might eventually accumulate a longer history and larger body of work in Lakeland than it did in the 20th century U.S. That could get creatively very interesting.

I agree with Joe Roberts about the 1940s vibe. However, for me it won't completely feel like the 1940s until a character bursts into a room interrupting something, and someone protests, "Saaay, what's the big idea?" :)

Finally, does Sam Capoferro ever jam with Bonetti, Thibault, and Agrippa?

Patricia Mathews said... has a picture to go along with this narrative.

They've caught the newsstand and the putty-colored bioplastic suit, but Peter Carr seems to have aged 50 years overnight.

Tyler August said...

Like others, I am mildly suprized that Mr.Carr's attention span extends to take in Lakelander news, if he only gets soundbites back home. Perhaps he still has regular access to more in-depth material like the government briefs you mention? You might not have immersed yourself in cyberspace deep enough to notice, but attention span atrophies shockingly fast.

Unrelated, but this article captures the white hot rage that lurks in the heart of many young North Americans :
As the author says : "Our future has been looted. We might as well loot back." I suppose it's that unfocused rage and sense of betrayal that would in your narrative drive the second civil war. I had been having doubts about that one, to be honest, but now it seems all too common. I don't think of myself as hateful, but then I talk to older adults who expect me to live like I've 3x my current income (because that's what they had at my age/career stage), and BAM! That rage is in me, too. They say some men just want to watch the world burn; I think my generation is made of them.

August Johnson said...

JMG - Like others, I'm very interested to learn about Carr's background. He truly seems to have an incredibly better ability to absorb and stay interested in the longer and more detailed information he's receiving than any of the Internet/iPhone people I've ever met.

John Michael Greer said...

Jean-Vivien, thank you. I took the name from the national motto of Brazil, but yes, the irony is quite intentional.

Rhisiart, I'm not sure whether people on your side of the pond know just how much of the classic children's literature read in America was written in Britain. From The Wind in the Willows and The Hobbit to E.M. Nesbit and Lewis Carroll, there's a lot of it! As for Grahame, the day my wife was born, her father bought her a copy of The Wind in the Willows -- and this was in a farm town in the dryland West, not in some East Coast hotbed of transatlantic culture.

MawKernewek, shows you just how far behind the times I am. I'll have to look into that, and see whether that needs revision when this gets turned into part of a novel.

Vilko, you may be interested to know that in large parts of the American South, coffee cut with chicory is still enjoyed a century and a half after the (First) Civil War. It really does depend on what you're used to!

Phil, over here, there's a capitol in every state capital as well as in the nation's capital, and most of them look like the capitol of the Lakeland Republic. Here are photos of all fifty of them.

Martin, you find the center of rectangle by drawing a pair of diagonal lines between opposite corners; where they intersect is the center. Dividing a circle into seven parts can't be done precisely by any strictly Euclidean method, but you can always divide 360 by 7 and plop a protractor in the center of your circle. Yes, students in Lakeland high schools learn how to do these things!

Thomas, think again.

Leo, I based it on the Pike Place Market newsstand in Seattle, but there used to be plenty like it.

MigrantWorker, back in the 1960s, the same Southern states where some people are currently pitching a fit about same-sex marriage were pitching a fit about the abolition of laws that forbade interracial marriage. There were the same claims about how letting (insert labels here) marry would destroy the fabric of society, blah blah blah, and it all dried up and blew away when it turned out that, after all, the only people who are actually affected by an expansion of the right to marry are the individuals who exercise that right.

Donalfagan, I'm quite sure that by 2065, flat roofs are as extinct as brontosaurs in the Lakeland Republic, or anywhere else in the former US that gets significant amounts of rain.

Brian, exactly. For all the babble about "the information economy," people in today's America are far less well informed than people in most other countries, and let's not even talk about people in the pre-Internet era.

Unknown Ellen, you're welcome and thank you! One good source of info on using a slide rule is here.

John Michael Greer said...

Will, according to Wikipedia, "Frogtown" is a nickname for Toledo -- I'll have to look up Rowdy Roddy one of these days.

Gjh42, sweet. I don't imagine teachers are allowed to take time away from federally mandated lesson plans for such things any more.

Tye, Wright also said, "Anyone whose roofs don't leak isn't taking enough risks." There's a reason he ended up living in a desert! ;-)

Varun, the newspapers are printed on hemp paper; the Lakeland Republic is a major producer of industrial hemp, so there's no deforestation involved at all, and paper recycling is an ordinary part of life. As for your articles, let me see what I can do.

Justin, listening to official US propaganda about Afghanistan reminded me quite a bit of this bit of satire...

Matilda, and of course part of the point of this narrative is that the things that got torn up and replaced with junk are still an option -- in fact, a less energy- and resource-intensive option than what we've got now, thus better suited for the future we're facing. Thus Retrotopia.

Howard, of course he had an off ox -- every farmer who plows with a pair of oxen has a near ox and an off ox, those being the left hand and right hand oxen of a team respectively.

Patricia, the name of the satellite comes from the national motto of Brazil, but of course there's a bit of deliberate irony there. As for Carr's capacity for reading lengthy documents, remember the briefing papers he mentions from time to time? We already know that he's in politics and has some sort of behind-the-scenes job; the fact that he can process long chunks of text is a hint as to its nature...

Renaissance, you'll be even happier when Carr gets to see something of the Lakeland military!

Raven, stay tuned.

Glenn, in this case, it's just a convenient Italian last name, though Myriad (down a bit in the comment string) caught the source.

KevPilot said...


Like everyone else, I am dearly loving this story as it unfolds. I travel way, WAY too much doing IT process consulting and organizational change management: I'd move to the Lakeland Republic in a heartbeat.

The Project Manager in me feels that Lakeland's success is due wholly to proper planning. In this week's segment you give us a whiff of the process in the opening chapter of "Changing Tiers". I, too, want to read that book. Back in my real world these days, it seems like nobody thinks strategically. The best we can muster is some semi-gluteal tactical planning. The most basic view of how we're going to do it, but we never describe what the "it" is, the strategy part. Forced by economic reality, the Lakelanders HAD to describe the desired future state (the various tiers) as well as how to get there. Collective we have forgotten how to define the desired end state, how to measure success or failure of reaching that state and how to maintain and sustain that state once reached. Simple scarcity taught the Lakelanders all about resource management.

I would guess that our visitor's homeland knows none of this type of shared discipline. Those at the bottom are well aware of scarcity but not those at the top. For them, planning involves no end states but rather they see themselves as stocking the lakes with opportunities for a fish dinner. Planning goes no further than setting the stage for their friends to exploit the projects for their own gain and success. It is all about teeing up for success. (Gawd I hate that phrase.)

Planning with out its object being that all-important end state is all folly. The Treaty of Versailles ending the Great War planned only to extract retribution on Germany and look at what that yielded. The Allies deliberately and EXPENSIVELY planned for the re-integration of Germany and Japan into the post-war world, and look at what that yielded. Our own War in Iraq is a more recent object lesson in the dangers on poor (or no) end-state planning.

As a ode to poor planning, I want to print up bumper stickers and t-shirts with my brainchild, "There's nothing more permanent than a temporary solution."

I certainly hope you plan on sharing some of the mechanical details as to the relative success of Lakeland as well as their inevitable failures. I love nothing moire than a good Lessons Learn session.

Thanks again for all the wonderful reads.

John Michael Greer said...

Toomas, I don't happen to know how many books are published annually in the Lakeland Republic, but it's quite a lively industry: paper costs are low, literacy is high, and there are plenty of magazines in which aspiring writers can learn their trade and begin the process of attracting an audience. Until the Treaty of Richmond in 2062, there was a fairly tight embargo on all Lakeland products, and books weren't a major article of smuggling -- literacy rates in the Atlantic Republic aren't that good, and the metanet distracts a lot of people. As of the time of this story, there's a trickle of Lakeland books in Atlantic bookstores -- and some other things going on which will be covered later on.

Aias, thank you! The colors on the flag were Peakfuture's choosing rather than mine, but they look very good. I did consider Ordem as a name, but the irony of the other -- especially as things unfold -- was too tempting to pass up.

Zentao, we'll be getting into the downsides of excessively complex military technology as things proceed. The short form is that the more complex any technological structure becomes, the more vulnerabilities to monkeywrenching it has, and military actions that target those vulnerabilities become effective shortcuts to total victory on the part of the opponent.

Theotokosbooks, I wondered who was going to fall into that trap first. No, a decision to adopt older technologies doesn't require adopting the prejudices that happened to be in place the last time that technology was in use. If it did, you'd also have to insist that I shouldn't have had an African-American man in a position of responsibility in a bank patronized by white folks, since that wasn't done in 1940s America either. The argument you've attempted to use here is very common in contemporary American discourse -- it's standard to insist that "the past" is a unity from which nothing can be brought back without bringing back everything else -- but that's nonsense, and the fact that you've cherrypicked one social habit from the 1940s (prejudice against same-sex couples) while tacitly ignoring another (prejudice against African-Americans) shows that it's nonsense.

As for the Second Religiosity, we'll be getting to that, though the main thrust of it is further in the future.

Eric, not a problem. Enjoy the event!

Toomas, I don't think you'll see many Lakeland Republic flags in that condition; it's a new country, after all, with plenty of people still alive who fought and suffered to bring it into being, and even more who fought to defend it against the invasion mentioned earlier. Still, there's respect and then there's fetishism.

Steve, and of course that's exactly the point -- this is a real option. Nothing prevents Americans from building such communities again, given a willingness to make some hard choices and stick with them.

Daelach, I'm quite sure that the Lakeland coast guard (which also functions as a navy on the Great Lakes) teaches navigation by sextant!

Pygmycory, remember that Carr isn't a member of the lower classes! He's quite used to weddings.

SLClaire, probably fewer books. I sometimes wonder if it's going to be necessary to borrow a leaf from Ben Franklin and found some private lending libraries that will fill the niche public libraries are abandoning -- that is to say, places that have lots of books to read.

Hereward, understood -- but in the US, tipping is an ordinary part of life, and the Lakeland Republic is set in part of what used to be the US. I have to deal with British characters eating Marmite, so you'll have to deal with American characters tipping... ;-)

John Michael Greer said...

Aron, the Harbor Club is one of the two main jazz clubs in Toledo; Sam Capoferro and his Frogtown Five are doing very well to have a stint as their house band on Friday and Saturday nights. There are other clubs with other kinds of music, of course -- as Carr noted, there's quite a lively nightlife scene in Toledo, and in most other large towns in the Republic.

Redoak, well, it basically got fed through a space cuisinart...

Jason, I wonder if old journalism textbooks might be worth finding and putting back into circulation. When I took journalism classes in high school back in the late 1970s, the textbooks (which were far from new) put a lot of work into explaining how to write clear, balanced, responsible stories in that odd but useful newspaper style, where everything you have to know is in the first paragraph, and the further down you go the more fine detail you get.

August, heh heh heh. I'd like to be able to tune into a Lakeland station or two myself -- between the live music broadcasts, the news programs, and the radio drama, it's worth listening to.

Rita, yes, and it succeeded in breaking the machines -- usually by handing over power to local business interests. Oh well.

1ab, thanks for this. The comments are a hoot -- an article like that is guaranteed to bring out the irrational rationalists in force.

Myriad, ha! I hadn't thought of that, but yes, that's where I got the name, of course. I may just borrow the last names of his band members from the same source; I bet there's a Silver, too. ;-)

Patricia, it's always interesting to see what they come up with.

Tyler, well, he's referenced government briefing papers often enough, so that should give you a hint. Many thanks for the article -- I'd encourage anybody who thinks the USA isn't close to insurgency or civil war to read it.

August, yep. That'll become clearer as we proceed.

KevPilot, you're welcome and thank you. One of the things that enables the bad planning we see around us these days is that there are basically no penalties for failure. The Lakeland Republic didn't have that luxury, and so had to get its act together.

Varun Bhaskar said...


Ahhhh, that's brilliant and makes perfect sense.

Shall I email the article to you, or just post a link up here?

And I kinda figured that Carr was a spook. Some of the things he was noticing had me going "hmm," why ever would a civilian notice something like that?!



Glenn said...

John Michael Greer said...

"Glenn, in this case, it's just a convenient Italian last name, though Myriad (down a bit in the comment string) caught the source."

So, if we are on rocky ground, the name does not mean what I think it means. Considering how many times I've seen the movie and how many Western Historical Martial Arts friends I have, I should have picked up on it. Alas, being limited to English, I've only read George Silver, and just on Glaives.


in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

onething said...

But Hereward,

My daughter tells me that in Europe the waitpersons are paid a living wage, whereas here they live on their tips, being paid something like one third the minimum wage by the restaurant.

Also, I have never felt that tipping someone obligated them to be servile or single me out for preferential treatment. Perhaps in Europe it does? Perhaps then, in Europe, I'll be careful to tip very poorly, so as not to offend!

Glenn said...

John Michael Greer said...

"Myriad, {Snip!}ha! I bet there's a Silver, too. ;-)"

IIRC there's no love lost between George Silver and Rocco Bonetti.


Justin said...

Yes, but...
Obama pledged to get out of Afghanistan.
Ashley Carter, member of the military, says that anyone who talks about leaving Afghanistan is self defeating.
Obama says he is leaving troops in Afghanistan for whoever comes next.

Who is wearing the pants? also destroys credibility of next Dem for large constituent of party that cares about this and pinned hopes of ending wars on BO/democrats.

Also found it of interesting timing that we are acknowledging defeat in the graveyard of empires at the same time as Russia is making moves in the ME.

Marcu said...

The inaugural meeting of the Melbourne Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association, Chapter Number 1223, and Ruinmen’s Guild, Local 1223, (Green Wizard's Association of Melbourne for short, GWAM for shorter) will be held on the 31st of October 2015 at 13:00.

The venue is Vapiano, 347 Flinders Lane, Melbourne Victoria, Australia.

Please RSVP, or send queries and comments to limitstogrowth1972[at]
Just look for the green wizard's hat.

Also posted on the Green Wizard's Forum.

Denys said...

thank you to the commenters here for recommending for news. It's been so interesting this past week reading the news in Syria from a Russian perspective and for a US perspective.

nuku said...

@JMG: As a fan of "older technologies" and a life-long ocean sailor (in cruising and racing sailboats), I note that the US Navy is now reverting to training their cadets in the practice of celestial navigation with sextant, paper charts, chronometers, and navigation tables. This is prompted "because of rising concerns that computers used to chart courses could be hacked or malfunction."
Also, I might add that computers tend to make people stupid and that navigation is both an art and skill. There are plenty of examples of yachties running their boats onto reefs (even in broad daylight) because they relied on GPS data for their position. Ultimately, a GPS "position" only tells you latitude and longitude which then have to be plotted, either by hand on a paper chart or electronically on a screen. The problem is that the charts themselves may be inaccurate. I've personally encountered islands as much as 4 miles off their charted position.
Visual look out, being able to tell the presence of reef/islands from the way waves are bent around them and the color of the water, knowing which birds hunt at sea, but sleep on land, etc, are all skills that work even when all the batteries die!
URL of article:

Vesta said...

Apropos Tye's comment on architect FL Wright. Due to circumstances I shouldn't describe, I once found myself alone in a very fancy home by Wright that is now preserved as a 'museum', having been converted to that use not long after it was finished for it's wealthy owner. It retains all the original FLW seating, cushions, bedding etc., and not wanting to waste the opportunity, I tried it all out. Almost every bit of it was awkward and uncomfortable. The chairs were particularly bad, which any idiot could predict just by looking at their straight, tall, vertical backs. There was water damage to the ceiling.

I'm not familiar with the quote cited by Tye, but it seems confused, which may be unsurprising. If buildings are organisms, the last thing to do is ignore the millennia of selection that has proven the wisdom of pitched roofs, weather-boarded cladding, curving, sloped-back seating, etc.

John Michael Greer said...

Varun, drop me an email -- that's sufficiently far off topic that we should take it off list.

Glenn, good heavens -- many of those writers have been translated into English, though, ahem, a certain translation of Gerard Thibault's Academie de l'Espee is out of print until a publisher can afford the rights to the original graphics.

Justin, oh, granted. It still reminds me of bad comedy.

Nuku, no surprises there. One of the ways that computers make people stupid is that they provide the illusion of certainty, while concealing the often shoddy data that the illusion is based on. I can well see how, in sailing, that would quite readily put you on the rocks; it does much the same thing in foreign policy.

Vesta, that matches everything I've heard about Wright's houses. The attempt to turn architecture into a fine art missed the fact that a house is a place to live, and produced some really abysmal failures.

Scotlyn said...

I haven't got through all comments yet, but the sports section of Carr's paper snagged my attention. It so happens there IS a large, independent, member-run sports association that would be right at home in the Lakeland Republic without changing a thing. It is organised geographically by parish and by county,throughout the whole island of Ireland, borders notwithstanding. At every level member elected committees run things, sorting out sports meets, fundraising, etc. Every parish hosts dozens of teams from the children's mixed teams to the teenage and adult women's and men's teams, with the best players feeding into the county level teams. The ethic is amateur sportsmanship and the revival & preservation of Gaelic games. It is wildly successful at cultivating local participation and has built pitches, stadiums (stadia?) and sports facilities entirely from member raised fundraising and ticket sales since its founding. I am talking of the Gaelic Athletic Association(GAA). It's televised Gaelic football or hurling matches are really worth watching if you like sport at all.

Martin B said...

I used to think that the goal of a school education should be to turn out a young adult who could read a quality newspaper and understand what he or she was reading, including finance, sport, etc, and also appreciate why it was in the newspaper, i.e. understand what the current world and local political and social concerns were.

But I must confess it's a long time since I've read a newspaper cover to cover. I don't seem to have the time or the attention span any more, not to mention that they have become quite expensive.

Long gone are the family Sundays when father would come in with the Sunday papers and we would all fight to get our favorite sections and lie on the lounge carpet reading them for hours on end, learning from grown-ups' comments what sports teams and political parties to support.

Jason Heppenstall said...

Yes - the classic upside-down pyramid is the key to conveying information efficiently. It's been blown up in recent years by the digital information revolution, but in terms of newsprint I can't see much of an alternative.

I have formulated three simple rules for writing an article: 1) Make it engaging 2) Don't treat the reader like an idiot 3) Make your bias clear (if you have one).The kind of weekly digest newspapers favoured by expats are a good example of news being done properly because they don't assume the reader already knows the backstory.

earthworm said...

JMG said:
"Hereward, understood -- but in the US, tipping is an ordinary part of life, and the Lakeland Republic is set in part of what used to be the US. I have to deal with British characters eating Marmite, so you'll have to deal with American characters tipping... ;-)"

Do the people receiving these tips receive a wage that is enough to live on (and a tip is effectively a bonus for good service), or do they rely on tips to make-up the money they receive from employers?

"Tipping is an ordinary part of life" - An American friend told us over dinner one time that her mother said (in exasperation at her lifestyle choices) "I brought you up to be a good consumer". Being a consumer was, to her, an ordinary and core part of life. Perhaps the things we take as ordinary can also be the most insidious?

hereward said...

I think I may have inadvertently stood on an Archdruidic toe and for that I sincerely apologize. I have never felt guilty about reading your blog knowing that I have bought nearly all your books! Nevertheless, I understand that the way things are set up in the publishing business, precious little of the retail price of any book ever gets back to the creative soul who wrote the bloomin' thing. Moreover, it's a one-off for each person who buys each book - few people come back and buy a second copy - the royalty cheque comes in and then you need to sell more books, mainly by writing some new ones for, let's be honest, quite a niche market. It's clear that you put an enormous amount of time and effort into writing this blog each week (for which I am very grateful) and any tips into the Archdruid's hat are, therefore, obviously very welcome.

So, mainly to assuage my guilt and partly to make a point, I have slipped you a bung (as they say in the land of the Marmite-munchers) via said hat. Now, please derogate me with your very worst invective, anything less and I shall feel insulted!

The point, however, that I singularly failed to make with my post, was not that it is wrong to tip a waitress when that is an important source of her income. No, what I was trying to say is that throwing money at anyone who says something nice to you results in obsequiousness and fawning behaviour. You often point us in the direction of the French Revolution as a guide to how a seemingly robust civilization can quickly descend into violence and chaos. If I think of the epitome of obsequiousness and fawning behaviour then I think of the royal court of Ancien Régime France. I also think of the TV show The Apprentice with Sir Alan Sugar in the UK and, er, who is it in the US? errm... oh, yes, a certain Mr. D. Trump.

@onething, your point about a living wage is absolutely right, but please remember when next on your travels, that I am talking about mainland Europe (where I live), not the UK, which does have a tipping culture.

Mean Mr Mustard said...

'The short form is that the more complex any technological structure becomes, the more vulnerabilities to monkeywrenching it has'

Hopefully, the excellent Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum collection survived the Second Civil War, by being dispersed in barns across Indiana and Ohio? Including their condemned zero-mileage VW diesel acquired from the 2017 bankrupt stock, where it had been impounded at a dockside? That one turned out to be an important exhibit in terms of motoring history...



August Johnson said...

JMG - The concern that computers affecting the way that decisions are made has been around for a while. I remember back in the late 1970's, just after some well publicized structural collapse, reading an editorial in an engineering journal expressing concern about how computers were more and more enabling people to do architectural design without understanding the underlying structural design requirements. If the computer program said it was OK, then there was no need to look further.

The editorial was expressing great concern that the future held more disasters like the recent one because of this blind reliance on the computer program and not the designer's own knowledge.

Tony f. whelKs said...

Hmm, interesting that this week's episode has flagged up the two things I find most jarring in terms of cultural differences between my English upbringing and the norms in the USA, namely tipping and 'flag-fetishism'.

In my youth, tipping was very rare, and limited to very few occupations. Taxi-drivers and hotel porters (and you never gave them a 'tip', you said 'get yourself a drink'... ;-)) As a youth, I'd have missed buying bar-staff a drink, of course. About the only other example I can recall from my childhood was leaving a 'little something' out for the dustbin men just before Christmas, because it was such a cruddy job and done in all weathers. Occasionally, you might leave the change behind at a cafe or similar, if the staff had been exceptionally nice or over-worked. But the pertinant word here is 'gratuity', from the Latin 'gratis', implying 'freely given' - NOT an expectation or obligation as it appears to be in the USA. I feel the American practice is exploitative of both staff and customers. I personally expect the business to pay the staff properly, and to advertise to me an honest price for their wares, and not expect me to pay extra to cover their own penny-pinching. Needless to say, I committed a major faux-pas the first time I ate in the USA, and the graceless way in which it was pointed out led to me saying: "You want a tip? Unionise - that's the best tip you'll get today."

Flag-fetishism, though, really makes my skin crawl. I find it very ugly, largely because those who are most prone to going bug-eyed and frothy-mouthed about it are exactly the same ones who insist that burning the Quran is 'freedom of speech'.

As for architecture - well, if it doesn't work as a building, they should give up the pretence and just call it sculpture, and leave building to someone competent.

Patricia Mathews said...

@JMG - as a longtime reader and sometime writer, I'd suggest you have Carr, reading the newspaper, note how much like a very well-written briefing paper it seems, and how his boss has been trying to get people to write clearly and concisely. (Grammatically is too much to ask these days; I assume it would be worse in 2065.)

And, yes, while I sincerely doubt he does the sort of active spying that gets the James Bonds of the world in trouble, he's definitely Intelligence of some sort. But the sort who gathers information on the ground, not the sort who breaks into locked rooms for it.

william fairchild said...


Boy howdy, you do make a feller nostalgic for a bygone era. I remember when many cities of any size had two papers, plus the weeklies, and underground papers. In Denver (my old stomping stomping grounds) we had the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News "The Voice of the Rocky Mountain Empire". The Casper Star-Tribune was another good one when I lived in WY. After we read the paper each morning, me and my coworker would take turns and do the crossword. We almost always finished. They had an awesome letters section, where lively political debates would go on for sometimes weeks.

Now opinion is fact, and thoughtfulness is sacrified to pith and humor in the quest for a viral tweet.

Patricia Mathews said...

More on Mr. Carr's profession: I think he's an analyst-in-training, not a spy-in-training. And why Lakeland? Well, it seems to me the Powers That Be -- those with any sense -- are wondering if Lakeland's seeming prosperity can be imported, even though both experience and analysis have proven it to be politically impossible for the Atlantic Republic as it currently exists. Smart planners have alternate plans and worst-case-scenarios for all contingencies, whether or not they can be implemented at any given time. And Carr isn't stupid (though profoundly ignorant); therefore I'm going to guess the head of Intelligence isn't stupid, either, or he'd be chafing at the bit .... a lot!

william fairchild said...

I also found it interesting there was a same sex wedding. All the trappings of a normal wedding, and no angry fuss. Not all regression is good...

John Michael Greer said...

Scotlyn, good to hear. That's roughly how I imagine Lakeland sports being organized, with townships in place of parishes.

Martin, I'm far from sure today's newspapers deserve that kind of attention, but yes, I remember the same phenomenon!

Jason, a good clear summary.

Earthworm, as we'll be seeing in a couple of upcoming episodes, wages in the Lakeland Republic are kept relatively high, by eliminating those elements of the tax and regulatory codes that discourage hiring and drive down wages in today's America (and in some cases, replacing them with policies that have the reverse effect). Henry Ford's observation -- if the people you're hiring to build your product aren't being paid well enough to afford your product, you're doing it wrong -- is standard economic policy in the LR. Thus the waitstaff Carr tips are getting a living wage. The newsstand -- well, the woman who took his money there is the owner, and her income is dependent on how she manages in a very competitive business, of course.

Hereward, good heavens, no -- I wasn't offended, but thank you anyway. As for tipping leading to obsequiousness, hmm; I tend to tip as well as I can afford, and though I know it gets me better service at some of my regular haunts, it doesn't seem to generate any particular urge to grovel on the part of waitstaff. That may be another difference between cultures.

Mustard, I'm sorry to say that just about anything with wheels on it got used as a military transport during the Second Civil War -- yes, even Volkswagens -- and most of what survived on Lakeland territory was scrapped and had the metal parts melted down during the embargo years.

August, that doesn't surprise me at all. One of the things that makes me most skeptical of all that blather about "the information economy" is the ease with which information that doesn't fit preconceived worldviews gets roundfiled these days.

Tony, well, I've fixed one of your two issues in the Lakeland Republic! ;-)

Patricia, I'll keep that in mind when editing begins.

William, it's often forgotten how effective a technology for disseminating information a competently written and edited newspaper actually is.

Patricia, heh heh heh.

William, why, yes -- see below.

Tidlösa said...

The best part is when Carr goes into the library and is surprised to find that it´s stashed with...wait for it...books?!

Funny thing. Here in Stockholm, the university library actually has a "hushed section" on its second floor. When you enter it, a huge high-tech video screen greets you, with a recording of a librarian-like woman giving the "hush" sign!

A typical Swedish compromise between retrotopia and technotopia?

I accidentally ended up on the *first* floor, and was really annoyed at all the young students talking loudly to each other all the time, ha ha.

I think I could survive in the Lakeland library, I´m a quiet guy who likes books and I even know (or used to know!) how to use a card catalogue!

I can´t say I like the Lakeland flag, though. It reminds me too much of the European Union flag.

Funny that the satellite was called "Progresso", I take it Auguste Comte has finally become the patron saint of Brazil in 2065? In the really, really distant future (when Brazil becomes Eco-topic), they will have another patron saint: Alan Kardec, the - ahem - Archdruid! ;-)

Denys said...

Enjoying the unfolding of the story and wishing I could visit that library. Our local libraries are full of computer stations for kids and adults and walls of DVD's for rental. Gotta give people what they want, or so I am told.

I've read many of your thoughts on healthcare and looking forward to touring that part of Lakeland. One thing I've found truly puzzling about American healthcare is we completely or mostly cover retirees health expenses. Twice when I had surgery I shared a room with women in their 80's who had been in two weeks or more. They were each struggling to survive from an assortment of chronic and acute conditions I gathered from the various nurses, doctors etc. I'm estimating their daily cost in hospital was $25,000-$45,000 and I'm assuming all covered by our government.

Then there is me with two children and a husband having a necessary surgery to keep me functioning and we have to pay 20% of the cost of that and the overnight in the hospital. If I were to pass away right now, the impact of losing a mother and wage earner to our family and our community would be significant, and so we have to pay out the nose to stay this side of the dirt.

And I'll go there and say this.....i do not understand why the government competely covers the costs of extending the lives of people in their 80's or older. They have lived a full life and have no responsibilities of raising children or no longer can work. Then for every month or year their life is extended they collect social security - a system originally set up to pay out for a life expectancy of 65-67, not 78 years of age or more that people live to today (thanks to modern medicine and prescription drugs).

This extending of life (through extreme measure at times) seems to be one of those topics that just isn't ever brought up, although I think when it was touched on with the ACA it was quickly called "death panels" and dropped. But our thinking and approach to senior care has got to change because we just won't be able to pay to keep working people and seniors in the health care system. At the rate the cost has gone up, maybe five years it comes to a decision point? I keep waiting for a cultural shift in how we treat end of life for seniors. instead the big cultural shift has been mass shootings in schools and colleges.

John Michael Greer said...

By the way, I've fielded and deleted several saliva-flecked tirades objecting to the fact that I included a brief reference to a same-sex couple in this week's post. Yes, I know that some people take offense at such things; no, I don't particularly care. (The Archdruid Report didn't rise out of total obscurity to attract a quarter of a million readers a month by avoiding controversy, you know.) There is, however, a specific reason for the inclusion, and the tone of some of the tirades makes me think that the reason is probably worth stating outright here.

Recovering the technologies of an older time does not require, or even imply, adopting the ideologies of that time. Those of my readers who recall my posts on the "steampunk future" will recall the commenters who insisted that going back to Victorian technology inevitably had to mean bringing back child labor and so on. That's a common straw man, reliably pounded to chaff by the evangelists of the religion of progress. The same-sex couples, the women and people of color in positions of responsibility and authority, and a variety of other things that will be appearing in this narrative are there to forestall attempts to misinterpret and reject Retrotopia along those lines.

We could have a long discussion sometime about how the changes in the concept of marriage that have taken place in the western world over the last nine centuries or so have made same-sex marriage a reasonable option at this point in history, but that's somewhat beside the point just now. The thing I'm trying to get across is that technology is not destiny -- that a human society can choose the technologies it finds useful and valuable, and reject others, and it can also choose the social habits it finds useful and valuable, and reject others, and these two sets of choices are in large part independent of one another. A retro-tech society with emphatically non-retro social habits is a very effective tool for making that point.

Lenny Brown said...

The part about reading a newspaper about political issues was especially interesting. It seems that so many of the thoughstopping pseudo-issues that dominate American partisan politics today will have been replaced by more serious and real world issues in that future world. For example, I sincerely doubt anyone in the 2060's will still be either Republican or Democrat and all the issues their adherents think of as eternal truths will have been revealed to be just as historically contingent and trivial as they are. For example, even if there are Christians left in some form in the 2060's Lakeland Republic, I doubt (or at the very least, very sincerely HOPE) that they'll no longer be practicing the form of Christian Republicanism you so brilliantly noted has more in common with Satanism than Jesus Christ.

In my own past days as a former member of the Religious Right before becoming a disillusioned agnostic, I can tell you that the ideology is astonishingly reductive (basically, every problem in the world, whether economic or social or political, can be reduced to a conspiracy theory of abortion and homosexuals, and occasionally, muslims, so voting Republican to ban abortion and ban homosexual marriage will be sufficient to solve all those problems.) I regret the way that the particularly fanatical sectors of this movement have hijacked Christianity itself and turned it basically into an extremist anti abortion group that sometimes carries out a few literal terrorist attacks on doctors or clinics. I don't think I even need to mention that banning abortion or banning homosexuals won't do much to solve our lack of cheap abundant energy, nor would it do much to prevent an economy that depends on that energy to not crumble into chaos and mass poverty, but it's a comforting narrative and the simpler the narrative, the greater the hope that a solution just as simple COULD work.

I think that in the 2060's, when the Republican and Democrat parties as we know them today are long forgotten bitter memories of a failed past, that CHrisitanity may be freed up to revision itself in more useful terms. Heck, it might even go back to stuff Jesus actually said in the Gospels. Anyhow, thanks for the great posts!

August Johnson said...

earthworm - You will be aghast at how perverted the tipping wage situation is in the US!
First take a look at this: Tipped wage in the United States
In many (most?) states the employer only has to pay $2.13/hr. "The American federal government requires a wage of at least $2.13 per hour be paid to employees that receive at least $30 per month in tips. If wages and tips do not equal the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour during any pay period, the employer is required to increase cash wages to compensate."

In many cases the tips don't benefit the wage earner at all (if the tips don't cause the total wages to exceed $7.25/hr), they just serve as a subsidy for the employer. Only when the tips go above that level do they go (supposedly) to the person who "received" the tip. In many cases it's even worse than that, often all tips that are "received" have to go into a pot and are then distributed by a pre-determined formula among the co-workers. This will sometimes even include bus-persons and dishwashers.

donalfagan said...

"The attempt to turn architecture into a fine art missed the fact that a house is a place to live, and produced some really abysmal failures."

Architecture always was a fine art. There used to be a gradation from high-style architecture down to vernacular construction. For the more prominent public buildings they'd hire a prominent artist, perhaps a goldsmith like Brunelleschi, who would prepare some renderings, then hand the work over to an executing architect, or master builder. For more modest buildings they'd engage a builder, who might indulge a client's whims, but who generally stayed within the bounds of tradition and good practice. The builder would not have claimed to be any sort of artist, though he may certainly have been a fine craftsman.

One of my profs felt that a type of building, which he called 'parody', arose in which people put up buildings that were trying too hard to look like something else. His examples included a Japanese Tea House in an English garden, a colonial cupola on a service station, or a mansard roof on a convenience store. Your Atlantic Legislative building sounds like it was trying to be an abstract sculpture instead of a public building.

There was of course the machine aesthetic, and Wright fell somewhere between that and the arts-and-crafts movement. We used to laugh at how Wright's buildings looked so good but his chairs were so uncomfortable, while Mies van der Rohe's buildings looked so sterile but his chairs were great.

hereward said...

Actually, I was hoping for a lot more in the way of non-retro habits. On the one hand in LR you have same sex - no problem there, whatever floats your boat - but on the other you have marriage with a service, the rice and everything, which, from the point of view of a country like the Netherlands, where I live, seems very retro. Here, hardly anybody seems to get married any more, they just shack up together and, if it seems vaguely permanent, get themselves officially recognized by the local council as being in a registered partnership.

Patricia Mathews said...

@ Denys: From someone 76 years old and struggling to regain my physical health:

OK - my take. Part of it is the clout the AARP has, and worked very hard to get. Part of it is that seniors are apparently the votingest generation currently on deck; probably because we were reared to it from the cradle, and well into our adult years. The youngest of the War Babies was 20 when Kennedy was shot.

And part is the feeling "We're entitled to this; ***we paid into it all our working lives.****" (Even though that's not how these benefits work. Feelings are not rational. Also, we were reared to the concept and took it for granted clear into midlife.)

But, no, the imbalance is NOT fair to the younger people and children of today and well I know it. The question has never been put to me in any sort of vote, and writing one's congresscritter today without an organized bloc behind you, is paying nearly $0.50 to add to said congresscritter's overflowing paper recycling bin.

The question is, since these benefits are not transferable, what to do? Drop out of the healthcare system entirely? And BTW, the Death & Dying group I belong to (5 old ladies and one middle-aged organizing type) is totally committed to palliative care at home and green funerals if they can have one (harder than you think.) And so am I.

It is a predicament that I, for one, have no answer for.

Pat, really trying. (Extremely trying at times.)

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

In the United States, minimum wage applies to everyone who is paid hourly wages, AFAIK including waiters. There is a federal minimum wage which is not enough to support a full time wage earner except in states that have a very low cost of living, which are the poorest states. In most states, people who earn only the minimum federal wage are below the government standard poverty level and eligible to apply for various kinds of government support such as food assistance and some free medical care. States and cities may establish a minimum wage that is higher than the federal one and some do, particularly wealthier areas where rents are high.

I was a waitress long, long ago and I pay attention to working conditions in the occupation. People who tip usually tip on a percentage of the bill. As a result, tips are a more significant part of the pay of staff in expensive restaurants than in cheap cafes. This is partly offset by the fact that diners tend to linger over their meals more in expensive restaurants, so waiters there serve fewer customers. At the upper end places, it's not unusual for a 15 percent gratuity to be automatically added to the bill rather than leaving the amount of the tip to the customer. This is probably a protection for a waiter who spends all evening serving a table of big spenders and then gets stiffed.

Some restaurants and cafes have unionized staff; most do not. Tipping isn't influenced by that. In some restaurants, all tips have to be deposited in a common kitty and the hostess, bus boys and cooks, none of whom get tipped, receive a portion of it.

Tips are taxable income. When I was a waitress, it was customary not to report most of one's tips, and at one cafe when I was hired, the other waitresses told me firmly what I should report in order to stay in line with what they were reporting. The Internal Revenue Service eventually dealt with that universal practice by making a blanket assumption that waiters get tipped a certain percentage of their regular wages, and adding that to their gross income regardless of whether the earner reports it (or received it) or not. So if you don't tip your server, he or she still gets taxed as if you had, up to a point.

I routinely tip a little above the median range. In the places where I am a regular, that sometimes makes a difference in small ways like quicker or more willing service on minor requests like drink refills or a special menu request. Depending on the personality of the waiter, it sometimes also inclines them to chat for a minute when they stop at my table. That's about it for special treatment. I tip because it's part of the social contract.

Being a waiter or a waitress is both lifetime work for some and an early job for young people of all classes and races. Because of the language requirement, it hasn't been taken over by immigrants the way dishwashing, table clearing, construction work and other entry level jobs have been. Consequently, the relationship between waiters and customers is a remnant of old American egalitarian attitudes, and isn't a servant-master relationship.

latefall said...

With regard to not just going back in time, income and wealth inequality are pretty defining features of a society as well. Those don't have to mirror the tech tiers time equivalent. Thomas Piketty has some concise info on this matter.

When started reading the library scene I wondered how lighting is done (or not) in retrotopia/LR. Specifically I wonder if you could modify old techs in a way that they don't burn down the houses all the time. And, if that involved higher tech tiers - if they'd have regular tariffs on that or there would be some sort of subsidy allowed.

@1ab: Thanks, that one dodged the radar. Interesting indeed. By the way if there are Europeans here that have strong feelings about the current health system(s) and would like to get active in changing them I hope I can give you some more news in a couple of weeks.

@tyler re Ultras-com: Very interesting read. Confirms my impression of (parts of) Occupy. What was it? Amateurs talk tactics, experts talk logistics (or demography, no?).

ed boyle said...

I sort of thought the reference to gay marriage is a bit too PC, a sop to a perceived liberal readership,, perhaps in reality it dates the blog entry to the current time period where that is a controversy. Your point is well taken though that history retraces itself not directly. The tiers idea includes technological differences but deeper social change which the tiers differences would mean are not discussed. I find personally doing light physical activities like paperwork for a living and doing hard physical labor produces mentality changes. Since the crisis started I have made this shift successfully due to fitness. Basically I think hard labor at low tier societies results in conservative mind sets. High tier, low labor societies results in liberal mind sets as seen in toledo or modern san francisco. In other parts of the republic with lower tiers i suspect to find extreme conservative social laws approaching scarlet letter mentality. This is the problem with writing a schematic futurist story from above as opposed to an experiential novel from within an individual. This is where less is more, as long as it rings true for the individual, but one has to fight through the deep night of the soul, like each of shakespeare's sonnets is a deep personal story in short. For example if shakespeare were de vere and actually gay as suspected it makes no difference to the truth of those sonnets, but emphasizing the point simply loses its universality. Gays in the west have fought for their rights over decades but just like women's rights, technological liberation from familial support structures must btaken into consideration, anonymous metropolitan areas, cheapbirth control, women's equality forcing men from breadwinner role thereby emasculating them, empowering women, reversing emotional roles and encouraging if not directly a translation of personality into sexuality, i.e. in a bisexual personality, all that would count in a partner would be emotional preferences, not social conventions of an extended family, local churches. I had a single uncle, a care giver at a nursing home. I never suspected he was gay, until recently. In the 40s coming out was no option. In the 70s to 80s this was normal for my generation. I expect social regression to occur. We see in Europe the EU falling apart and nation states as well along ethnic divisions, scotland, catalonia, etc. To presume that ethnic cleansing and politically motivated cleansing of people of other social modes or religions or parties would not happen could only happen in an ivory tower as the wars described to break up America must be bloody. Would minorities, gays, women want rights associated with the hightech atlantic states, be perceived as traitors, be driven out, killed, subjugated? We would have to experience what life will be like. It is otherwise just speculation.

I think canned goods, mass marketing in large chain stores, Television keeping people from knowing neighbours all inhibits deeper community and social control, along with stron conventions. Anonymity brings promiscuity. See internet dating as example, having lots of partners in parallel is not amoral anymore or promiscuous, it is called polyamory. Gay rights is just the start. Try a lrgal marriage framework with everyone having multiple shifting relationships, partial child and property rights perhaps? Modern love life is getting to be like a regulated commune 60s style.

Patricia Mathews said...

@Denys - also - the generation you want swept into the dustbin is the last living repository of knowledge of how to do things with less, under the conditions that are starting to prevail world-wide. Ask me about hand-mending clothing, cooking from scratch, and one-egg cakes.

Ezra Buonopane said...
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Ezra Buonopane said...
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Varun Bhaskar said...

@ Jason Heppenstall

For the love of all the gods please write those blogs.



Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

My late father wrote a manual on celestial navigation when he was a young naval officer. It's not the famous one that two people have mentioned.

An Outline of Navigation
prepared by Irvin Jack Frankel
Student Outlines Co.
Boston, Mass. 1943

It's printed from a typed manuscript and bound in a soft cover.
There's a copy on sale on Amazon!
You can see what it looks like here:

PS Frankel is my legal last name. Bender is a pen name.

Raymond Duckling said...

Denys, I am sorry to hear about your ordeals. I too agree with the idea that in general young children grown stronger and healthier with their mothers around than otherwise, and therefore a sane society ought to prioritize the lives of mothers over those of old people that are already in obvious decline anyways.

I do believe that collapse will eventually take care of this, but as of today, we have a tiered system where the privileged can get unbelievably long lifespans while the lives of the downtrodden get cut sort due to preventable diseases/accidents. Of course this has always been the case, but the way technology amplifies the natural and social order is fascinating. There is a vampiric quality in this state of affairs that arouses my imagination powerfully - and not in a sanitized Twilight way, nor Anne Rice's seductive decadence... I am talking about Count Orlov kind of horror.

earthworm said...

JMG said:
"Thus the waitstaff Carr tips are getting a living wage."
So, trying to understand the idea of tipping being a part of ordinary life; are there certain times/professions where a tip will be given vs other times where it is not?
i.e. how does one know when to tip or not?

Apologies - not trying to be deliberately obtuse, and this is not a critique of the story, just puzzled about the root idea of when tipping is deemed appropriate or not. For example - passing through the Suez canal in the 70s it was standard practice to offer 'tips' to get things done; however, it was called other things.

The idea of a 'tip' being part of ordinary life is fair enough [looking in as an outsider how could I say otherwise], but understanding different ways of doing things takes some examination.
I guess what I am asking is: You seem to be saying that tipping is an ordinary part of US life and I am asking: why is that so - what is the root of this?
i.e. if a charge is made for something, what determines that a tip is required on top of that?
Sorry - I guess I should have studied the 'Alien Visitation 101 Guide' more closely.

Marian Veverka said...


No, the government does NOT completly (or even incompletely) cover the medical expenses of people in the 80;s (or over 65) Medicare pays a percentage for people who have worked all their lives and the rest is either out-of-pocket or private insurance (which is paid for by the private person.

Where did you get an idea like that? Veterans can get their care paid for in a VA hospital or have VA insurance depending on their service, ect.

I am over 80, so I will stop my completely useless typing and continue my completely useless existance reading JMG's column while my insurance payments
are quietly being deducted from my bank account.

HalFiore said...

Light bulb just went off. If I was the newly-elected leader of a hopelessly technology-dependent country, and had a pretty good idea that a major link in the technology infrastructure that we depended on was about to be about as useful as canned spaghetti sauce, I might be sending my most trusted adviser to a neighboring country that I thought might be able to teach us a thing or two we ought to know for a quick tutorial.

I'm still thinking that Carr isn't an ordinary spook, but, being aligned with the heretofore marginal party, is a knowledgeable supporter of the new president, possibly an academic appointed to the new government, who has been furiously reading very scary briefing papers for the last fortnight or so.

onething said...

Hmm. Looks like I'm being locked out of blogger. They want a cell phone number, which I don't have. I gave them my home phone yesterday, but now they again nixed my comment and demanded that I verify it. They want to send me an SMS. I have no idea what an SMS is. And, if I am having trouble, I should clear my browser cache and cookies, which I have no idea how to do.

onething said...


I don't think we should go too far in denying people a longer life if a little surgery will give them a new lease, but I certainly agree that we are not stopping in time. I've read history and physicals on old people who have quite an array of very serious conditions, and some of them have had 20 or 30 surgeries! Apparently it now costs at least 7K a month to stay in a nursing home, and for the most part, those in nursing homes are there because they are mentally and/or physically decrepit. I think almost anyone in a nursing home should be a DNR.

But then again, for the most part, the bigger problem is that health care is a bubble, utterly corrupt like every other aspect of our society. We can't just worry about who has coverage. We've got to start reigning in costs. Keeping people glued together with duct tape and string is surely part of that, though.


I was thinking about the tiers, and realized those in the first and second tier ought not to have telephones. But, the people living in the Lakeland republic aren't doing all that to engage in a period reenactment. So, if a technology is later than 1830 or 1860 but not expensive, I would think they'd go for it. So, do they have telephones? Are telephones expensive?

Kevin Warner said...

Reading an article on the introduction of technology into the 20th century household made me wonder about the five-tier system employed in your novel. I am thinking that there is probably a split between the first 2 tiers and the last 3 simply due to how electricity comes into play which has an effect on the social & political order. Electricity is an enabler for a whole range of other technological suites and on the face of it would be mostly available to the 5th and 4th tiers.
Yes, you can have these things in the other three tiers if you are prepared to pay for it but not if you face hostility on the part of your neighbours for doing so. Your Restorationists political party would probably find their political base in the 3rd, 2nd and 1st tiers and may be even puritanical about it to boot. Why else would they have wanted to force their views on rest of the Republic by trying to get rid of tier 5 (while not having to sacrifice anything themselves by such a move, of course) and are so sensitive to the costs of technology introduced.
Having electricity is not just a matter of having lights that can turn on. An article at mentions that "Techniques like pickling, potting, smoking, and salting defined 19th-century cuisine because, before reliable refrigeration, cooking and food preservation were barely distinguishable tasks."
In other words, a large chunk of your time is spent preserving food as it cannot be simply put in a fridge. This may be part and parcel of a farmer's way of life but once you get into the range of occupations that a town or city employ, this is more problematical as there are so many hours in a week which was why as the electrical grid was introduced, refrigerator use skyrocketed in the twenties.

Allexis Weetman said...

Good for you John! And hooray for retrotopia. May the light of reason never go out, though it may travel through a dark age.

Bruno Bolzon said...

JMG, will Carr be exploring income inequality in the Lakeland Republic? I would like to see if the richest Lakelanders are as much richer than the average Lakelanders as the richest Americans are richer than the average Americans...

patriciaormsby said...

I bought a chicory plant a while back, but lost the seeds, not realizing it would make a decent "coffee." I'll have to keep my eyes open because they are not common in Japan. Each spring, however, I harvest a large bunch of fat sunny dandelions, juice some of the leaves, then chop up the roots and roast until they smell fantastic. Every time I get concerned about my liver, I brew some up. I brought some of this to my students once, saying "See? No matter what happens, you do not need to worry about having enough coffee in the future." I add some stevia from the garden too, and I may have put in a bit of cocoa, but one of my students asked me if it was the especially expensive special kopi luwak that has been through a civet. Having tried the latter, I can say it beats my dandelion special. Mine, however, definitely beats some of the oxidized stuff you find at the supermarket.

Bless your heart, JMG, that you are laying it out straight that under less technologically-dominated conditions we do not have to revert to notorious travesties that came before. Even with some degree of localization and a need to produce much more by hand, there are things about which we continue to have a choice. I doubt very much that any of the pre-industrial Native Americans embraced child slave labor, despite not having any cell phones.

I suppose likewise that having cell phones does not necessarily mean one has to blunder out in front of on-coming traffic, either, but some times it sure looks that way.

Unknown said...

I'm surprised Yaupon hasn't become a major contender for "morning joe" in the LLR. Advantages of Yaupon over chicory (or dandilion root for that matter). Yaupon tastes way more like tea than chicory tastes like coffee (and can be processed in either "green tea" or "black tea" style). Yaupon actually has caffeine, enough to be a stimulating drink. The labor involved in harvesting the usable part is less strenuous (no digging), less unpleasant (less bending over) and doesn't need any tools. Yaupon can prepared with less fuel inputs, dried and fermented, as opposed to chicory root which needs to be oven roasted.

Of course chicory can be put to many other uses than just a hot beverage, but using it as a hot beverage takes away from those other uses. Whereas Yaupon's current main human use is as a yard decoration and harvesting a quarter of the year old leaves wouldn't take away from that use at all.

Currently Yaupon is mainly a plant of the carolina and gulf plains but since you've got rice and cotton in LLR so I'm sure Yaupon would do fine. I'd imagine that tier 1, 2 and 3 rice and cotton farmers would love to have their very own "tea" hollies growing right outside their front doors.

Jamie said...

Hi JMG, I just finished catching up on the Retrotopia story and I had to chuckle. I moved back to Atlantic Canada in 2012 after living most of my life in the US (Philadephia area, Boston, California, Arizona) and then to Ireland. The funny part is that when I came here, living in a small community near the northern border, there are few in any chain stores, mostly small mom and pop shops. Like your Lakeland Republic, there is little advertising and you find most places by word of mouth. The initial impression is run down compared to bright shiny corporate America, but you find it feels better. I think the division between public services and private is well described in your story and people need to fight for that. Here in Ireland, people are fighting the privatisation of water by boycotting the Irish Water company set up to be solf off to Wall Street. Hopefully we can create more Lakeland Republics, but people will have to make those choices to stop using those cheap corporate services and support their local businesses... Looking forward to reading more installments!

John Roth said...

Wedding: If rice is a fertility symbol, it’s use at that wedding seems to be more than a bit out of place.

Tipping: there’s a current trendlet to eliminate tipping, and for good reason. See, for example,

Radio: I’d expect FM rather than AM. It’s not substantially more complex, and the sound is a lot better because of more bandwidth. Since there won’t be any television, bandwidth won’t be a problem.

Non-aligned local politics: Here in Albuquerque, the city council is so right-wing it’s absurd - in a blue state in the major city. Eliminating party labels wasn’t a really good idea - it helps keep people from knowing easily who's going to be doing what.

Denys said...

Ok so I am totally confused about health care apparently. At my last yearly physical (required by our health insurance), I overheard two elderly couples talking about their shared health woes. Out of four people there were twelve back surgeries, two knee replacements, and a hip replacement. Who paid for all that? If you are telling me private insurance, no wonder our rates are so high.

I'm not trying to snuff anyone out - although that accusation is lovely to read - just trying to understand how retired people have so much health coverage to get all those surgeries. It can't be paid for the way we have to pay for it working and having health insurance through our employer.

Our health insurance requires us to have a yearly physical and blood tests. If our BMI, cholesterol and blood pressure are under specific target numbers, then the company kicks some money into a health fund to cover deductible costs. Oh of course there is no smoking allowed. They aren't saying they won't cover overweight people, but basically if you are then you'll pay for it.

Robert Mathiesen said...

My own ancestors' experiences sharply contradict Ed Boyle's suspicion that "hard [physical] labor at low tier societies results in conservative mind sets."

In the ancestral lines I know the most about (for up to 13 generations before me) there was a lot of hard physical work that had to be done every day to survive, but most of the ancestors were the very opposite of conservative and conformist: they were heretics, rabble-rousers, revolutionaries, free-thinkers, and the like -- most of them rather skilled at "flying under the radar" and so forth.

I think there may well be a genetic component to such things as a preference for conservative or liberal, repressive or permissive social institutions. This could account for the consistency of attitudes among my own ancestors across so many generations. There have been a few studies of identical twins separated at birth nd raised in very different communities that seem to indicate such a genetic component.

And there is also what one might call the Chameleon Principle at work here, where a person often tends to take on the attitudes of the other members of his or her primary social group.

So, in contrast to Ed, I find nothing at all implausible in JMG's contention that "Recovering the technologies of an older time does not require, or even imply, adopting the ideologies of that time."

Patricia Mathews said...

About coffee: a few years ago, someone in Northern New Mexico was selling Navajo Tea in tea bags, and I was drinking it, which was helping my drive to wean myself off coffee. A forest fire followed by a flood wiped him out, so I bought a couple of small plants and am only now beginning to get the hang of processing them to make a decent tea. So there's a good Southwesterm (Nuevo Aztlan) equivalent.

@Raymond Duckworth - thanks. Glad to give you some chills and thrills. Now headed back into my coffin for an early nap. (signed) Countess Orlova.

Denys said...

Back to Retrotopia - what is the health care situation? You mentioned antibiotic resistance has occurred so I suspecting that people just don't do any kind of elective surgery any longer. What kind of technology exists? Is it tiered like the other technology? What kind of subsidies exist for people to pay for doctors, hospitalization and recovery? How does the situation in Lakeland compare to the other areas of what was America?

Ed-M said...


Have you been channeling James Howard Kunstler again? Because in the second paragraph of Mr. Carr's narration, the one about the LR Capitol building and the other one back in the AR that looks like it was done by some deconstructivist starchitect, it really sounds like Mr. Kunstler wrote it! And as a result, Mr. Carr's voice became, for me, identical to that of JHK. ;^)

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

The current situation in the US, in which middle aged and elderly people receive a disproportionate amount of government assistance and control more wealth than younger generations, results from a convergence of several historical trends.

1. President Lyndon Johnson in his first term attempted a massive expansion of New Deal social programs, some of which were labeled The War on Poverty. LBJ had the benefit of his party controlling both houses of Congress, extensive experience as a legislative leader, and the economy was still in post WWII expansion with plenty of tax money available (the escalation of the Vietnam War had barely begun). LBJ got most of his social legislative program passed.

At that time, a disproportionate percentage of poor people were elderly. Some of the War on Poverty programs aimed to reduce the numbers of elderly poor, and they succeeded, possibly because they were straightforward grants and subsidies to people who didn't have a lot of social problems other than lack of money.

The War on Poverty had mixed results for the other groups it was intended to help. The outcomes of the Vietnam War and Johnson's support of Civil Rights then resulted in a backlash against liberalism and in the Democratic Party gradually losing control of all three branches of government. Most of the War on Poverty programs were dismantled and replaced by a War on Drugs which severely impacted the poor. As Patricia Mathews wrote, the elderly have been well organized politically and have held on to their benefits and assistance programs while other groups have not.

2. One of the successful campaigns of the Right has been the near abolition of estate taxes. This is most beneficial to the wealthy, but during the fat years many middle class (mostly white) people also accumulated some wealth which they did not have to spend on to support themselves in old age because of the aforementioned government programs for the elderly. At the same time, family sizes were shrinking. Older Baby Boomers have benefited not only from receiving subsidized education and opportunities for decent jobs, but some of us have also received inheritances that amount to more than old furniture.

3. The generation which immediately followed the Boomers was small in number, and since the Boomers were older and had had time to entrench themselves in positions of economic, political and cultural power, the succeeding generation was blocked from succession and wasn't able effectively to defend its interests.

4. I generally agree with JMG's observation that during the 1970s-1990s, middle class voters readily sold out the working class to protect their own class interests. Now that the labor movement and other working class organizations are no longer available as allies, the middle class's position is untenable and it is disappearing. When it is gone, there will be no one left to protect the elderly.

5. The Millenarians are more numerous than the Baby Boomers now, and the developing generation gap is likely to become explosive.

I'm a tax-and-spend liberal for the most part and when asked to be taxed to support programs that give educational opportunity and a chance at a more decent life to people who don't have a lot of money, I usually consent. But I'm only one person.

Denys said...

I've been doing genealogy research off and on for the last couple of years. What is interesting on the death certificates is that until the 1960's my ancestors died at home. I don't know if that was standard or just the fact they were laborers and farmers, and not of the managerial class. There was a space on the death certificate from the 1960's and older where the physician signing off could fill in details across several lines and there was a period of dying allowed. One great great grandfather was listed as on his death bed for 3 weeks before he died, and the person who was attending him was a neighbor and listed on the form also. The neighbor was also considered a witness of last breath. The physician also listed several causes leading up to the death such as injuries and chronic diseases.

Current death certificates have a date and time of death as if a person's switch got flipped off, and one cause is listed in a small space. I guess this makes it easier for data tracking but it loses the complexity of what occurred. Plus I imagine that if one died at home these days without hospice present, the police would immediately open an investigation because it would considered suspicious.

earthworm said...

August Johnson said:
"First take a look at this: Tipped wage in the United States"

Where I read:
"Proponents of a different wage for tipped and non-tipped workers point out that the law guarantees tipped employees the same minimum wage that other workers receive. They argue that because restaurants have very thin margins, an increase in the minimum wage could lead to higher prices for consumers and fewer jobs available for potential employees."

The argument seems thin.

In the UK over recent years there have been things called 'tax credits' which appear to work as a taxpayer subsidy to employers paying low wages - there is currently some friction as the current government seems set on reducing these credits which could have unforeseen repercussions.

Has the Lakeland Republic taken steps to reduce the impact of the rentier class?

onething said...

Deborah Bender and JMG,

Even if the wait staff at your regular haunts are a bit nicer to you, I think it is in part because it is always nice to deal with a person you have gotten to know, and also they can relax knowing that they will not be working for $2 an hour when they serve you.

Regarding medical care and the baby boomers -- I see here something divisive going on. Pick your enemies carefully. Don't fall for divisive rhetoric. Plenty of baby boomer contemporaries of mine around here are pretty well off (more than I) but when they were in their 20s and 30s and even 40s they were really very poor. Poorer than some of the complainers here. They had outhouses. Woodstoves. Old cars or no cars. It takes years to get ahead. I never bought a house till I was 40. I lived hand to mouth until my mid 40s when my kids more or less took off. Only then could I catch up, and yes, I helped them through school. Their dad also helped them. They got scholarships and grants. They worked. And still they had student loans! And if things get rough out there, they know exactly where to head. I bought this place for all of us and they know it, although they may never live here.

It is silly to be angry with boomers for getting social security and medicare. This is the system that was in place and so they are part of it. Medicare was set up because a lot of old people were in poverty and too old to make any money. Back then, medical care was not a bubble. Paying for a surgery was difficult, but not impossible for a working family. I'm talking about paying out of pocket.

Because of all the corruption, they've got this entire nation over a barrel. We should not be bickering with one another over crumbs.

Caryn said...

Thanks for another fun installment. I enjoy my time exploring LLR through Carr's eyes and am always eager for more. I do understand your point about social mores, changes and what we see as advances not having to be connected to technological advances; buuuuuut, I'd have to agree with Ed Boyle. I do think it has a correlation with abundance or lack. I just suspect it is human nature, that in hard times we circle the wagons, become insular, become prejudiced and mistrustful of 'the others', latch onto a convenient scapegoat for our ills. Not a pretty part of human nature, but I do think it's there. IMHO, It would have taken a concerted effort on the part of normal everyday Lakelanders and their leaders to maintain the gains in social equality in the aftermath and hardship of the post-war years without falling prey to this worm of our baser instincts.

Maybe I am being too hard on people and they would not revert back to old prejudices. Maybe it's just my own 20th C. USA conditioning.

@Denys: Yikes! I'm hoping that you are just thinking out loud / throwing ideas out there for consideration….

I don't think that 'Logan's Run' scenario would ever fly or be a great solution even if it did. I get that in older societies - where medical tech, knowledge and resources were limited - that people simply accepted the limitations of human lifespan - and that was (is) a healthy thing. I think it's crazy self destructive to actually strive for immortality.

I was under the impression that a Do Not Resuscitate option for elderly with severe health problems, (or anyone actually) is already a voluntary option in US hospitals, (no?), to be signed by the patient if they are of sound mind, to be signed by a family member if they are not. The key word being voluntary.

From a practical view - it sounds like, "My body is sick, my feet feel the worst and take up the most of my attention/resources, so I'll cut them off - then I can easily make myself well". The overall sickness is the problem, not solved by cutting the feet off. IMHO, Our overall insurance driven "healthcare" (sickness) industry is the problem, not that some patients cost more than others. Of course young healthy productive adults use up less resources - small children and the elderly use up the most - they are physically the most vulnerable in these organic mortal coils we inhabit. Where is the cut-off point in determining how productive one has to be to deserve available, but costly care? How costly is too much? Who decides? If it's OK to dispense with the costly unproductive elderly, what about Down's Syndrome babies or others born with severe disabilities? Will they ever be productive? Who determines what 'productivity' or usefulness is? Is my beloved wise Granny 'unproductive' if she can no longer get out of bed, just dispense advice, humor, wisdom and love from her bedside?

You know where I'm going with this right? Who it reminds us of? OK, yeah, it's 'Godwin's Law' :)

Patricia Mathews said...

@John Roth - as a citizen of the People's Republic of 87106, I cast my vote for the young radical, and of course the Establishment Progressive (not a contradiction in terms up here in District 6) won by a landslide. I figure the other districts get the City Councilors they want.

As for our beloved mayors, what is it about the office that makes vanity projects look like such a good idea, whether you're Democrat Marty Chavez or Republican Richard Berry?

However, the turnout was abysmal (sp? That's what the spellcheck insists upon) even though the local elections are the ones where you have the best chance of having your voice heard at all!

We now return you to retrotopia, where the 'utopia' part is that their politics seems to make sense.

FLwolverine said...

@Denys re dying at home: Through some prudent planning and a great deal of effort by their sons, my in-laws were able to stay in their own home until their deaths. Both were completely bed-ridden but very well cared for, and each one died of natural causes in their sleep (at ages 89 and 96). In each case, it was mainly the efforts and reputation of my brother-in-law (a lawyer known and respected in their small city) that prevented autopsies and police/social welfare investigations. So yes, there can be complications in a death at home. I think having hospice involved might help avoid those problems.

Raymond Duckling said...

@Patricia Mathews,

Sorry to have offended you, and thanks for reacting to my comment with humor. I understand Boomers and Silents did work and contribute all their lives for the services you are receiving now. You already paid the price and it make sense to collect the benefits now for as long as there are some to be had.

But as someone in the tail end of Gen X, I can say that I have not worked or contributed any less than previous generations, without any expectation of having those same perks available by the time my health begins to fail me. At least I am grateful to have had a career that I enjoyed and that allowed me to provide for my family, at least for a while. I think it did make sense for me to have collected those benefits for a time.

Though I understand perfectly well that some young man coming of age today, with much more limited prospects in spite to having been on less diligent student, I understand he would not feel kindly of some old forty year old with a full time contract, paid vacations, a company health care plan, etc.

Neither I feel guilty for the luck I had nor I think I have specially deserved my lot in life, and I am Ok with that. I am just trying to do some good with my time here, and hope to end with a positive balance.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

The discussion about dying at home is apropos for the season.

An elderly member of my family received a terminal diagnosis, chose palliative care over heroic measures, filled out a form to that effect, was cared for at home by relatives with regular visits from a hospice nurse, and eventually died. A family member was present and there was no fuss about the death certificate. This was a couple of decades ago.

The filling out the form part can present difficulties, even with plenty of notice and what passes for expert advice. Advance care directives present a limited number of choices, which may not cover exactly the situation that arises after the patient is no longer able to express his or her immediate wishes. It's not the most pleasant thing in the world to contemplate questions like, "Do I want to die of thirst while under sedation, or would I rather starve or suffocate?" Leaving it to the relatives to decide what care will be given or withheld can be a recipe for survivor guilt or recriminations.

Cherokee Organics said...


Of course, your amusement shines through your writing and it is even clearer to me when you hold up a mirror to our society to show what other people and other cultures perceive to be our quirks and short comings. Most people that I know travel to other developed nations, but for some reason I was born with a contrary perspective (and also importantly a lean wallet) so in my younger days I travelled to third world countries and the people there were only too happy to share their opinions of our society. One classic was in Laos where Australian's were described in the terms: "Imperialist running dogs"; and the under-current of that culture looking down on us in scorn and pity was not lost on me. I don't travel much anywhere these days - especially now that I fully understand the true impact of such activities. Anyway, people seek confirmation bias and only want to hear what they want to hear and not something that may shock them.

Speaking of which I noticed that your introduction to the story plot of a gay marriage, brought out the usual homophobia and I've wondered for a long time about why some people seem to have such angst. I had a step father for a very short period of time that used to get drunk, beat my mother and go on long rants about gay people (including calling me that descriptive as an 8 year old - I mean seriously!). My gut feeling is that deep down people know that: what they contemplate, they imitate and therein lies the problem - such vocal concerns are a tacit acknowledgement of the individuals own insecurities. Why else would they display such fear and loathing of a frankly arbitrary biological act? The logic behind that fear and loathing seems just weird to me.

A couple of good friends of mine are gay and I can hang out with them because I feel secure in who I am - it doesn't bother me one bit who they sleep with - not in the slightest. But I reckon a whole lot of people are actually insecure in their own skins and also enjoy dysfunctional relationships with their partners and who knows what those people think about in the dark of night?

Incidentally has anyone noticed that the green in the flag is for the earth, whilst the blue is for the sky?

Total respect for writing this story, I’m enjoying it and it is a great way of letting us know of our societies short comings and introducing the idea that perhaps there is a better way forward (plus showing the way at the same time).



Denys said...

The graph on this link shows US health spending related to life expectancy. We are the dot all the way to the right and our people don't even live as long as many other first world countries.

Patricia Mathews said...

@ Caryn - you're right in the big picture, mistaken in the details. Both as a senior who's seen it, and a reader of history, I agree wholeheartedly. Yes, a recovery from a crisis is indeed when people circle the wagons, vow "never again", and grow conservative. Driven by fear, as a child of a depression survivor noted in Studs Terkel's HARD TIMES. (Note: this is very enlightening, informative, and distressing, but do not make it your bedtime reading.)

That the details will be the same as last time, no. A different set of "others" will be defined, as note a headline from the online news that today's people fear robots more than death these days. Where the wagons are circled will change. During the Decline of Rome, the lines were religious, but within those lines there was "neither Jew nor Greek,slave nor free, citizen nor barbarian."

The post-Civil War era had a lot to say about the Irish, very little of it good, but in the McCarthy Era a few elders merely asked "Are you sure that youngster from Boston won't be answering to the Pope?" And were very roundly answered in the next election.

That said - the drive for same-sex *marriage* is actually part of that conservatism! Our beleagured age doesn't want flamboyantly costumed drag queens etc parading down the street except on Gay Pride Day; they want Janet and Eve next door, raising a family and joining the neighborhood association. This from observation. Come to think of it, St. Patrick's Day is the only day when the old Irish stereotypes are lovingly brought out of the closet and celebrated, too.

I do think the next drive for inclusion will be the incorporation of the "good" i.e. loyal Muslims. Ask you Japanese-American's grandparents how that worked this time.

Patricia Mathews said...

@ Denys - yes, indeed, my health insurance is from my former employer. That was one of the benefits we had by contract back in the day, though the premiums are skyrocketing under the pressure to make us carry our own weight.

And a member of my Circle is a Gen-Xer working for the same employer who got cut off at the knees before she ever came to work, since it's much easier to say "This will not apply to new hires" than to say "OK, we're going back on our contract with you."

So, yes, I do know all about it. BTW, I suggest you find a copy of Strauss & Howe's FOURTH TURNING and read it; it went into such detail at least 10 years before 2008 I have been using it as a how-to guideline. For example, that instead of being "the least you can do," kindness and a gentle manner is the one valuable thing my generation has to contribute to yours! Besides whatever we are able to leave to our children, that is. And that when we go, the upcoming youngsters will feel its lack severely and seek to reinvent it, just as mine did.

("But, Dad, why CAN'T we finish the job and give the black people their rights?" "Because we're EXHAUSTED, that's why. Why don't you do something about it?" "OK. Dad? I'll write you from Selma...." "NO! That's Dangerous!")

patriciaormsby said...

@John Roth
When I helped marry a couple of fellers, I put forth a prayer not that they have mobs of children (standard in Shinto ceremonies), but that their other successes together multiply like rabbits.

Patricia Mathews said...

@ Raymond - one final word on Countess Orlova asleep.

I was joined by two fanged, slit-eyed, predatory, silent creepers in the night, sent into a deep sleep by a rhythmic, hypnotic drone from deep within their bodies. One of them is as pale as new-fallen snow, and the perfect parasite. He toils not, neither does he spin, but accepts tribute from his human servant like an empire unto himself. The other, a sickly, undersized little castrato (but don't be fooled! He is the dominant member of this unholy team) is capable of extemporaneously singing a complete grand opera based on The Hunger Games in perfect Siamese several times a day. His human servant has been heard to protest "The little beggar's draining me dry!" But short of putting a stake through his heart, which she is unable to do, she is helpless against him evil will. Bwa-haaa-haaaaahhh.... and here ends your Samhain treat for the week.

Dennis D said...

I took the colors of the flag to indicate water and land (Lake+Land). I also dug out my 6" slide rule and did a little more learning with it from the site you linked. I found that it has cursor marks to show the area of a circle directly from the diameter, and a Hp to Kw converter. Things you find out when you actually look! As for the gay wedding, the root of the prohibitions seem to be about breeding/multiplying the flock. Anything that interfered with raising large families, beholden to the religious system and care of elders was verboten. On the other hand, if the responsible limitation of population growth is a desired outcome, then choices that do not result in children are acceptable. This also implies a system to take care of the elderly that does not rely on direct blood ties.

Patricia Mathews said...

Pets in Retropia?

My guess is that they eat table scraps and, except for lapdogs, are put outside at night, unless there is a flap-door in the kitchen for them to come and go (any carpenter could make one.)

At any rate, no canned pet food industry, no cat litter industry. No advice columns urging you to keep your pet indoors for its own sake and then selling you toys and, Gaia forbid, psychoactive drugs (no kidding!) for their various neuroses as if they were 1960 housewives. (Or why I find this abominable, and even break city law by letting the cats come and go freely.)

Vet care for shots and making obvious repairs, long-term illnesses cared for with a final shot and a quiet grave in the garden.

Denys said...

@patricia I read the Fourth Turning in 2003 after doing some prepped classes with members of the LDS church. I've read many of the books JMG recommends, plus his books, and so many other and websites. Part of me is so weary of reading and preparing. I want to scream "collapse already!"

It's this life I live in keeping in one reality of life in America - this is my complaints on health insurance and costs and unequal burdens - and the other life in world without progress. For now we work while there are still jobs to be had and save what we can and life as simply as we can.

It's incredibly stressful and I'm probably just going to have to stop reading ADR and all the other collapse blogs. When it happens I'll know and there is really nothing new to learn. Lots of old things to learn though. And lots more to improv about.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Salutations JMG, et all - I waited a lot of tables, slung a lot of hash and did a bit of bar tending. I worked in privately owned places, and, a few times, big corporate outfits. I never minded sharing tips. The bus people and dish washers worked very hard and helped keep the whole enterprise spinning.

I don't know if it still exists, but besides the low base wages, due to the "tip credit", in Washington State in the 70's, there was also the "meal credit." Even if you didn't take a meal during a shift, the meal credit was still applied, even if you didn't eat the stuff you were serving. That drove your hourly wage down, even lower.

Here's my situation as an old retired guy. For awhile, I got government help to pay part of my medicare costs (part B) and, my prescription drug costs (part D). No great loss there. I am on no medication. I also got a bit of help on my telephone costs (about $10 a month) from the State. Then I inherited a small amount of money from my Dad's estate. All those things ended. To get State aid, you can't have more than $7,000 worth of assets. To get Federal Government aid, you can't have more than $20,000 in assets.

My "free", welcome to Medicare check up had many hidden costs. Even though I hadn't been to a doctor in 15 years, and the doctor I saw thought some lab tests were necessary, they were not covered. I appealed. The appeal goes, not to the Government, but has been outsourced (as have many other things we don't generally know about) to a private company, Noridian.

If I have a health problem, I'll still be expected to pay 20% of costs. Which, at the current cost of health care, and my finances, I will not be able to afford. So, I'm taking most of that inheritance and getting all my end of life directives, in order. Carefully choosing my medical directive representative (no heroic efforts, do not resuscitate, pull the plug). I'm pretty pragmatic. the trick is, finding someone who is equally pragmatic ... and is in good enough health to survive me. :-). Lew

Iuval Clejan said...

Whenever I have tried to look anything out of the mainstream on the internet, I didn't get far. For example I tried to look out why all the 100 or so communities of work, worker owned cooperatives in France mostly after WWII, failed. One reference had a speculation, without much backing evidence.

I tried to contact an academic who mentioned these communities in a book, but he didn't know. It never occurred to him to ask...

OK, you might say, but this is ancient history, more than seventy years ago. But I tried to find out what happened to the alliance that was supposed to happen just a few years ago between Mondragon and the United Steel Worker's Union. Again, nothing.

I will try the library next, but maybe it isn't as regressed yet as one would hope to see in the Lakeland republic...

bdon said...

I have been a regular reader of The Archdruid Report for years, since almost the first report. I have been totally impressed by your erudition and incredibly readable, yet accurate, essays. I think you are one of the preeminent thinkers of the day. I have never commented before, but have a couple of comments that I would like to share. Besides, I also feel it is time I took part in this wonderful conversation.
Regarding tips, it is hard to overestimate their importance for those in the service industry in the U.S. My prime example is that of my daughter, who has been a server in restaurants in Honolulu for years. She is working on her AA degree at the same time. She got a new position this summer, working the poolside shift at a nice resort hotel. This entailed 8 hour shifts in 90 plus degree weather, walking back and forth with heavy trays and remaining pleasant the whole time. She called me in tears when she got her first paycheck. It was for $165 for 88 hours of work for 2 weeks! It turns out that the hotel subtracts taxes for the amount of tips they presume she made (from the pay rate of $7.75/hr), as well as all the other miscellaneous deductions included. I doubt many of the servers manage to figure out if they have made less tips than is assumed, and if they did could they get HR to reduce the tax? Clearly without the tips she could not afford to eat, let alone pay rent!
My other comment is to do with the (inherent?) conservatism of farmers. I found this discussed in a fascinating book called Women’s Work, the First 20,000 Years, by Elizabeth Barber. Her point was that both women and subsistence farmers tend not to be willing to try new technologies because they don’t have the time to waste or the seed to risk on unknown results. It was how she explained that it was men, not women, who actually invented the spinning jenny and clothing related technologies. With everyday tasks or raising children, making clothes, cooking food, and otherwise maintaining the household, there just wasn’t time left in the day. For farmers, if they used their seed crop on a new method of farming, and it failed, they would all die of starvation over the winter. The risk just was not worth the possible failure.

Scotlyn said...

@Lenny Brown - believe it or not, I was raised as an evangelical (missionary's daughter) BEFORE abortion became an evangelical issue. Lets put it this way, lots felt uncomfortable about it as a ethical issue, but mostly felt it should be up to the consciences of those involved. It was definitely not a red-line, heresy-detecting issue. I still remember the mental "change of gears" that made this happen (late 70's early 80's) even though evangelicals my age today will mostly tell you "we were always against abortion" - so that's how quickly a thing like that can change, and lose awareness that it changed.

ed boyle said...

Conservative and liberal definition changes with ethnic, generational, class differences over time. My Irish catholic working class father voted left butwas socially conservative in terms of behaviour, savings, work, investment vehaviour, church going and had inherent antigay and racist tendencies. He could however travel easily, mix with any people from anywhere due to his temperament and got used to us kides with our mixed racial, sexual, ethnic partners. My middle class university educated , protestant,british mother was conservative politically but more tolerant socially and less racist than my working class father. Due to this strange mixture of influences I have difficulties with these labels. As I live in germany where any american would see a socialist paradise with a hard work ethic, moderate social attitudes to abortuion, gays, religion it is more difficult to latch on to American concepts. I suppose the constant mass immigration, religious and ethnic mixing, technological development are misused by corporate interests to manipulate the political debate to divide and conquer. It also seems that money is less important to people than sexual or racial identity. So the banks can control the debate and hide their real agenda. Women's liberation means cheap workers for example. This is manipulation. Once women are free of male support and birth of children is optional then heterosexuality afterr several decades for new generation is widespread. Gay marriage shows gays are conservative too. Polyamory will be next wave of sexual chaos where defined relationships will be oldfashioned and marriage to just one person will be passe. Take Islam. In Europe and America it is suspect and radical. In Russia it is a long established conservative part of a conservative tradition similar to orthodoxy. Read saker on this point. Will an economic breakdown in Europe result in pogroms against islam with jews, african and Arab christians being accepted as European? In American collapse who will be scapegoat? Falun gong served recently in china. Moderate centrist opinion nowadays is government whereas internet mob is extremist left and right, sanders vs. Trump. NSDAP intelligently combined both as JMG once pointed out to bring workers wanting communism together with conservatives, middle class nationalists. Trup could try similar by ignoring ideology completely and even teaming up with Putin and Chinese to create a new global system based on gold, respect for borders, relative isolationism and protection of status quo in current social terms until current immigrants, sexual mores are digested. In this case EU could make a big house with Russia and peace in middle East based on noninterventionism of Western powers would be accepted. Putin's gambit is critical as is Merkel's fate for Europe. By the time of US elections a lot more will be clear.

Scotlyn said...

It strikes me that Denys and others are under the impression that healthcare systems in modern societies are systems for the delivery of healthcare services to patients.

They are not. They are primarily systems for the delivery of customers to "healthcare providers". When you see it that way, it makes perfect sense to ensure the profitable "customer needs" of the over-65's are covered.

Any actual healthcare that occurs is a side effect.


Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Dennis D,

That is a fair explanation too - I hadn't considered that aspect of the flag.



Thomas Prentice said...

The Looming Apocalypse in plain English. From RT
Use of narrative fiction is, indeed, a good way to communicate with humans as opposed to heaping reams of data points which do not necessarily indicate either evidence, knowledge, understanding or wisdom. Thank you for this, a truly engaging story. You are communicating values the way linguistic professor George Lakoff has repeatedly advocated -- to deaf ears on the Left except, possibly, potentially, now.

For Your Consideration, this morning's news: "America [and the West] is a bomb waiting to explode" -- from RT

EXCERPT: "Nowhere to run

In the past, people were in rural communities. They could >>>>> grow food. They had >>>>> real communities. They also had >>>>> self-control and a conception of morality.

Today, if the supply lines go down, you are stuck in a house you can’t heat surrounded by millions of FDA-approved drug addicts who are going psycho because they have run out of juice and >>>>> people who would murder their own grandmother to get a cut-price iPhone.

I would argue that the right shock event – or combination of shock events – will detonate the explosive.

jean-vivien said...

Interesting... a Reuters' front page implicitly criticizing Walmart. Some strange wind is blowing, and since I know as much about life in the USA as I do about Walmart, it's up to you folks to figure it out. Please take care.

Spread the pain around

Suppliers of everything from groceries to sports equipment are already being squeezed for price cuts and cost sharing by Wal-Mart. It's about to get worse.

(link) Wal-Mart bribery probe finds few major offenses in Mexico: WSJ

Donald Hargraves said...

Pets in Retrotopia? How about pets in 1950s (and likely earlier) rural Iowa?

I have a friend who lived on a farm back then, and she says pets didn't necessarily spend any time in the house - they generally helped with farm chores. The cats kept the press in control and the dogs helped out where needed. Also, they tended to eat what the household didn't (usually excess eggs and uneaten foodstuffs from stubborn children).

Also, when a dog or cat was about to die, there was usually a stray or two looking for a home that "magically" showed up at the door.

Lau Raffnsøe said...

I found it so weird that, the same sex marriage, have been a focus point for commenters. I come from a place in the world where same sex marriage became legal in 1989 and today it is no big deal. Only religious extremist take notice. Our American Ambassador here in Denmark (northern Europe), Rufus Gifford, recently got married to his boyfriend.
I find it very likely that 50 years from, same sex marriage is widely accepted in American society. It takes about a generation for social changes to take hold and be universally accepted. The old conservative generation simple have to die.

Disinterested Observer said...

Re: the FLW house designs. In my late teenage years I dated a young lady who was raised in two different FLW designed houses. She despised them. It was not just all the things mentioned above, but also that you could not rearrange furniture as they only fit one place or change the kind of furniture to a type you preferred more.

I live not from from Arcosanti in AZ and have visited it a few times. Another interesting conceptual failure in architectural design.

patriciaormsby said...

@Donald Hargraves
That is very much like what I observed in Siberia, a decade ago, and it probably continues despite some degree of economic recovery. In the cities, you could buy pet food, but it was quite costly. Every house had cats and dogs, and nearly every apartment had at least a cat or two. I got much of my idea on how I wanted to collapse from Siberia.

Moshe Braner said...

Funny that tips became a big topic this week. Despite 35 years in the US, I've always hated tipping. Yes those workers are not paid much. But tipping is being complicit with that arrangement. And why should those who work where the food is less expensive deserve lower tips, since the custom is to make it a percentage of the bill? My solution is to cook my own food. I know, that does not create jobs. Or does it? The money I thus save can be used for other purchases. Some jobs should not exist.

team10tim said...


I don't understand Mr. Carr's role in this besides the obvious one as a character driving the narrative. It's weird that Lakeland has open borders that people are migrating across but it doesn't have an embassy for the Atlantic Republic. It's weird that Carr has a prearranged meeting with the higher ups in LL but his administration doesn't have access to their news papers. It's weird that LL has business relationships with other countries and ship born trade but that the intel folks in AR seem to have a total gap in their knowledge from after the war to the present.

I can see the AR administration being completely dependent on the metanet but the reverse wouldn't be true. Lakeland should have ambassadors in neighboring countries, especially if it has thriving trade relationships with them. Carr is probably clueless about LL because he is part of a new administration and his culture doesn't put any stock in their low tech ways so the old administration probably ignored them. My guess is that he is there to begin the process of normalizing relations between the two countries, probably a part of the new administration's plans to benefit from it somehow. How, I don't know, I'm not picking up anything malicious from him.

We'll find out in time. I certainly enjoy watching the story unfold.


Randy Darrah said...

On the subject of older technologies. I work for a mechanical contractor in the St. Louis area. Yesterday, the touch screen for one of our automated press brakes went haywire and had to be over-nighted to British Columbia for repairs. I asked the lead man for the sheet metal shop if they were down without that piece of equipment. After a moment of reflection, he stated that they were not. They would have to bend larger pieces of metal by hand and it would take longer because measurements and stops weren't automated. My point to him was that he was out of practice because of the reliance on technology. At least the Union he was in had taught more than just pushing buttons.

Iuval Clejan said...

Dear Moshe Braner:

If you go there, I would say most current jobs are stupid, insulting to the human soul, destroy community and nature. So they should not exist. I am compiling a spreadsheet classifying all the jobs currently available in the current economy in broad categories, and scoring each category according to certain criteria (such as the opposites of the ones above, but also cost efficiency, money made per hour of labor, etc), then multiplying each score by a coefficient that depends on one's value hierarchy. According to the prevailing value hierarchy of the global industrial market (with cost efficiency and money made as top values) most current jobs are not so bad for those who are good at them (which for waiters means getting alot of tips). But if you value the soul, community and nature, then the current economy is dismal. Pre-industrial economies are usually much better. Not sure about Lakeland Republic--so far I have seen mostly services and distribution of goods being provided with less intermediation and more personalism. But what about PRODUCTION of goods, the shadow of our current economy which we don't want to talk about too much because it is nasty and putrid?

pygmycory said...

Canada has gotten rid of Stephen Harper and his Conservatives. Hurrah! I'm not expecting wonderful things from Trudeau's liberal majority, but an amelioration of general right-wing nastiness shouldn't be too much to ask for.

RPC said...

JMG, putting my nit-picking engineer's hat on again (I believe that would be a fedora; I like being able to squeeze the front to take it on or off)...bricks. While I like brick buildings (I grew up in one), bricks need to be fired. In kilns. With coal or electricity or lots and lots of wood. (In 2065 they may be digging out the high-sulfur Illinois coal that the EPA prohibits us burning now, but it doesn't sound like Toledo in 2065 has air like Pittsburgh's in 1950.) So I think larger buildings are more likely to be built of the limestone that underlies much of the LLR.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi team10tim,

Maybe they believe that it just doesn't matter? That attitude is far more pervasive in our culture than you'd imagine and the Atlantic Republic is merely an extension of that culture.

Intelligence gathering requires a sharp eye, diplomacy skills and a deft hand and such skills are in short supply - even these days.



Ricardo Rolo said...

Hum, now I think I got the gist of what Mr Carr is. His attention to detail , quick grasp of the social networking, extensive knowledge about the old and new days politics, and ,above all, the willingness and swiftness to go native and to collect as much intel as possible ...he is a ol'CIA school diplomat-spook like the ones that plague every ex-Soviet union country US embassy nowadays ;) I just wonder what are both the visible and concealed objectives behind Mr. Carr trip ...

That said, the explanation you gave for the introduction of the tier system ... basically pure necessity, the strongest of all reasons to do anything.

Moshe Braner said...

Who would have thunk? Consumer Reports says: "Groundbreaking technology comes with a heightened risk of malfunctions over the life of a vehicle, compromising the reliability car owners enjoy from more mature technology."

Raymond Duckling said...

@Countess Patricia

Seems like you keep quite an infernal company over there. I am sure the populations under their claws and their vigilant eyes must be terrified.

Happy Samhain to you as well.

John Michael Greer said...

I've had very limited internet time of late for a variety of reasons, not least because tomorrow I've got posts due on both The Archdruid Report and The Well of Galabes! Apologies to all whose questions I haven't had time to answer. Those questions that have to do with the Lakeland Republic -- why, yes, I'll do my best to get to all those things as we proceed.

I've fielded a couple of questions about reprinting or translating pieces of mine that have appeared online. The answer remains the same: by all means! As long as it's something that I've posted on the internet for people to read free of charge, it may be posted elsewhere (in English or another language) under the same conditions, so long as my name and a link to The Archdruid Report are included with the republication. Many thanks for asking!

Dan the Farmer said...

JGM, I saw this and thought of you and Retrotopia:

Michael Kimmitt said...

This would be an astonishingly good graphic novel. The imagery is so lush and so arresting.

HalFiore said...


Well, it took a certain suspension of belief to make the original Ecotopia work, too. It was, after all, set in 1999, a mere 25 years from the time it was written (I had to look that up to remind myself) and yet the main character was apparently completely unaware of everything that had happened behind the "Redwood Curtain" during the intervening years.

pg said...

Of course, yes yes yes, I love handwoven carpets; before I got into my dog phase (rescuing old dogs nobody wanted) I cherished the wool prayer rugs, etc, my mom had finagled during a two-yr tour in Madras. I also grew up cleaning those rugs, mostly with a rag and vinegar water.
No, my thought was to combine the genius of tile of Gaudi's Barcelona with the considerable manufacturing of glass, porcelain ware in the Ohio River valley area (much of which serms to have died by 1970 or so). I don't know Toledo, but I did live in the Cleveland area 1968-74, and in Barcelona from 1974-77.

Both are 41 degrees North, which is easily forgotten.

I really hope tile will make a solid comeback. Maybe, if temperatures shift so much that Ohio doesn't have to worry about the bitter freeze/thaw cycles tile could work outdoors.
By then lots of broken pieces should be around: perfect as the Legos of the future.
(Am thinking of Gaudi's tile work in the Parque Guell, and the smaller residences he worked on.)
Before you tell me to get on it, I am. Doing it the currently accepted way with Thinset, etc. is easy. Recovering the older ways is trickier.
Maybe your Toledo will be warm enough to accommodate Saltillo tile--I deeply encourage a foraging into YouTube for Saltillo tile installation. For a glimpse of how clay can become lovely and utterly dignified. Saltillo is deeply satisfying.

Tile culture is ancient. I suspect the recent hoopla about Lego (tm) is a pale offspring.
I can tell you that I taught 20 plus students in classrooms whose walls were three foot granite, and some floors were clay tiled. Those were happy classrooms. Washington Hall, West Point.

If you are thinking wall-to-wall carpet for your fictional library: Sir, the only place that has historically valid "walk to wall" carpeting is the sheich's tent, which has several individual carpets arraigned in a precise way, in sequence.)