Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Retrotopia: The View from Ottawa Hills

This is the twenty-third installment of an exploration of some of the possible futures discussed on this blog, using the toolkit of narrative fiction. On his last full day in the Lakeland Republic, our narrator pays a visit to industrial magnate Janice Mikkelson and gets a different perspective on the Republic and the lessons of its history...

The next morning I was up early, and walked to Kaufer’s News while the sky was still that vague gray color that won’t tell you yet whether it’s clear or overcast. The Blade had done the smart thing and printed extra copies of the morning paper—the stack in the bin was almost as tall as I was—and I watched three other people buy copies as I walked up the street to the newsstand. The Lakeland Republic flag snapped in a brisk wind from the flagpole out in front of the Capitol, and lights already burned in the windows. The Republic’s government had a long day ahead of it, and so did I.

Back in the hotel, I settled down in a chair and spent a few minutes checking the news. Most of the front section was about the war down south, of course; both sides’ naval forces were still duking it out with long-range missiles, and the Confederate advance toward Dallas-Fort Worth had begun to slow as Texan forces reached the war zone and flung themselves into the struggle. The presidents of Missouri and New England and the prime ministers of East and West Canada and Quebec had joined Meeker in calling for an immediate ceasefire and a negotiated settlement of the dispute over the Gulf oil fields; back home, outgoing President Barfield and president-elect Montrose would be holding a joint press conference later that day to announce something of the same sort. That last story made my eyebrows go up. The Dem-Reps had been sore losers in a big way since their landslide defeat a few weeks back; if Barfield had loosened up enough to appear on a stage with his replacement, things might have shifted, and not in a bad way.

There was more—another attempt at a ceasefire in the Californian civil war, another report by an international panel on the worsening phosphate shortage, another recap of the satellite situation that ran through a roster of collisions, and estimated that the world had less than three months left before all satellite services in the midrange orbits were out of commission for the next dozen centuries or so—but I folded the paper after a glance at each of those and tossed it on the desk. I had a little over a day left to spend in the Lakeland Republic before catching the train back home, and part of that would be spent with Janice Mikkelson. In the meantime, I had decisions to make that would affect the lives of a lot of people I’d never meet.

You learn to get used to that if you’re in politics, but if you get too used to it you land in trouble really fast. Half the reason the Dem-Reps had been clobbered in our elections a few weeks back is that they’d gotten into the habit of thinking that the only people who mattered politically were the people who had the money and connections to show up at fundraisers and get their interests represented by lobbyists—and much more than half the reason why Montrose’s New Alliance swept the legislative races and put her into the presidency with the strongest mandate in a generation was that she’d had the sense to look past the lobbyists and fundraising dinners, and reach out to everyone whose interests had been ignored for the last thirty years. I’d played a certain part in that strategy, and the choices ahead of me might also play a certain part in determining whether Montrose’s victory would turn out to be a long-term gamechanger or a flash in the pan.

So I sat there in my room for what seemed like a very long time, listening to the faint clop-clop of horsedrawn taxis and the clatter-and-hum of electric streetcars on the street outside, sometimes paging through my notes, and sometimes staring at nothing in particular while following a train of thought right out to its end. Finally I happened to glance at the clock, and saw that I had just about enough time to grab something to eat for lunch before I caught a taxi for Ottawa Hills, where Mikkelson lived.

So I made sure I was presentable, headed downstairs to the hotel restaurant, and got soup, sandwich, and a cup of chicory coffee. Sam Capoferro was playing his usual lunch gig on the piano, and he gave me a nod and a grin when I came in and another one when I went out. Half an hour after leaving my room I was tucked into the cab of a two-wheel taxi, heading northwest from the Capitol district through  one mostly residential neighborhood after another. I’d gotten used to Lakeland habits by then, and so it didn’t surprise me that the houses looked sturdy and old-fashioned, with flower beds out front that would be blazing with colors come spring; that trees were everywhere; that there were little retail districts at intervals, close enough that people could walk to do most of their everyday shopping; that the schools didn’t look like prisons, the libraries didn’t look like prisons—in fact, I passed something I’m pretty sure was the county jail and even that didn’t look like a prison.

The houses got bigger as we went up out of the Maumee River valley into the hills beyond. None of the trees looked more than thirty years old—I recalled from some half-forgotten history vid that there was a major battle west of Toledo during the Second Civil War—and all the houses looked better than a century older than that, even though I knew they were all recent construction. Finally the taxi turned off a winding road onto a circular driveway, and brought me up to the door of a genuine mansion.

The place was the sort of big half-timbered pile that makes you think of ivy-covered English aristocrats and nineteenth-century New York robber baron industrialists. I gave it a slightly glazed look, then paid the cabby and went to the door, and I kid you not, it opened right as I got there. The doorman asked my name and business in the sort of utterly polite tone that sounds ever so slightly snotty, which amused me, and then handed me over to some other category of flunkey in formal wear, who took me up one of the grandest grand staircases I’ve ever seen, down a corridor lined with the kind of old-fashioned oil paintings that actually looked like something, and into a big windowed room with a grand piano near one wall, an assortment of tastefully overpriced furniture, and Janice Mikkelson.

We shook hands, she asked about my preferred drink, and then sent the flunkey off to get a couple of martinis while we walked over to the windows. Down below was a formal garden, with a crew of gardeners doing whatever it is that gardeners do in late November; further off were the roofs of other houses not quite as fancy as the one I was in; further still was the Toledo city skyline, with the half-finished Capitol dome rising up over everything else, the bridges over the river beyond that, and green and brown landscape stretching off to the east.

“Quite a place,” I said.

She chuckled. “Thank you. I try to set an example.”

I gave her a startled look, but just then the flunkey came back in with the martinis. Mikkelson thanked him, which was another surprise, and then we took our drinks and waited while he vanished.

“I’d like to talk business first, if you don’t mind,” she said then. I’m not in the habit of arguing with the very rich, and so I agreed and we spent half an hour discussing the prospects of selling Mikkelson locomotives, rolling stock, and streetcar systems to the Atlantic Republic.

“I’ve got one requirement,” she said, emphasizing the number with a sharp gesture. “If other transport modes get a subsidy, rail and streetcars get an equal subsidy. If rail and streetcars don’t get subsidized, neither does anything else. Are you at all familiar with the way they handled funding for different transport modes back in the old Union?”
“Not to speak of,” I admitted.

“Roads, highways and airports got huge subsidies from federal, state, and local governments, and so did car and airplane manufacturers. Rail? Pennies on the hundred-dollar bill, and then the politicians yelled that rail was a waste of public funds and should get its subsidies cut even further. I won’t enter a market that’s run on those terms—it’s like gambling in a crooked casino. Equal subsidies for all modes, or no subsidies for any, I’m fine with that.”

“Do you do a lot of export on those terms?”

“A fair amount.  Missouri’s gone to a no-subsidies system, the same as we have, and they’re buying my locomotives and rolling stock as funds permit. Quebec treats urban transit as a public utility, which works for me—I’ve sold three streetcar systems there since the borders opened, and my people and theirs are negotiating two more. East Canada? The car manufacturers still have too much clout to allow parity for rail, so no dice. The Confederacy’s still sore about the way the ‘49 war went, so they buy from Brazil.” She shrugged. “Their loss. Our products are better.”

“I don’t happen to know about the subsidy regime back home,” I said.

“Don’t worry about it. You’ve got some highway and airport subsidies and a lot of public funding for roads, but no domestic auto or aircraft industries and no subsidies for buying those from overseas. If Montrose’s people are willing to negotiate, we can work something out—and from what I hear, your urban transit is a disaster area, so her administration could get even more popular than it is by getting streetcar systems up and running in half a dozen of your big cities.”

All in all, it wasn’t exactly hard for me to figure out why she was the richest person in the Lakeland Republic; we talked over the possibilities, I agreed to discuss the matter with Ellen Montrose when I got back home, and the conversation strayed elsewhere.

When we got to the third martini each, I asked, “You said you try to set an example. I’m still trying to parse that.”

That got me an assessing look: “I was the first of our homegrown millionaires here in the Lakeland Republic—there’s a good dozen of us now, and there’ll be more in due time, but I was first through that particular gate.”  She gestured around at the mansion. “Quite a place, as you said.  During the Second Civil War, my brother and I—we were the only two of our family who survived the bombing of Toledo in 2025—we lived in the basement of a wrecked house in a suburb thirty miles south of here. We ate a lot of rat, and were glad to get it, and so I decided then and there that if I survived, I was going to live in the biggest house in the state of Ohio, and all I’d have to do is snap my fingers and somebody would bring me a roast turkey, just like that.” She laughed reminiscently. “I got so sick of roast turkey.”

I laughed along with her, but I knew that she meant it.  ‘Did your brother survive the war?”

“Fortunately, yes—he’s younger than I am, and wasn’t old enough to be drafted by either side until the war was over. He’s a professor of political science at Milwaukee these days—he came out of the whole business wanting to know why it is that nations do dumb things. Me, I just wanted to get rich.” She sipped her martini. “And fortunately I learned an important lesson on how to do that and survive. Do you mind hearing an ugly story?”

“Not at all,” I said, wondering what she had in mind.

“This was right after the war, when I was working any job I could get, trying to put aside enough cash to start my first business. I got hired as day labor to do salvage on what was left of a gated community, west of here a ways. It was one of the really high-end places, where the very rich planned to hole up when things came crashing down; it had its own private security force, airstrip, power plant, farms, the whole nine yards.

“Now here’s the thing. There were sixty big houses for the families that lived there, and every single one of them was full of what’s left when you leave dead people lying around for four years. As far as we could tell, right after the old federal government lost control of the Midwest, the security guards turned off the alarm systems one night and went from house to house. They shot everyone but the domestic staff, took all the gold and goodies they could carry, and headed off somewhere else. That wasn’t the only place that happened, either.”

“I heard some really ugly stories from the Hamptons back in the day,” I said.

“I bet you did. The thing that really made an impression on me at the time, though, is that they didn’t shoot the domestic staff. All the skeletons were up in the family quarters. That told me that it wasn’t just about the money. There was a grudge involved—and if you know how the rich used to treat everyone else in the old Union, you know why.” She sipped more booze. “Rich people only exist because the rest of society tolerates us, you know. Have you ever considered why they do that?”

I shook my head, and she went on. “Part of it’s because we give them a place to anchor their unused dreams. Poeple here daydream about the rich the way that people in Britain follow the doings of their royal family. They’ll put up with the most astonishing things from the people they idolize, the people they allow to get rich and stay rich, so long as the rich keep their side of the deal. I could get by with a quarter of the staff I have here; I could get by without the four-star dinners with a big tip for everyone right down to the dishwashers, the big donations to every charitable cause in sight, the private railroad car with its own fulltime chef, for God’s sake—but that’s my side of the bargain.”

“It gives everyone else something to dream about,” I guessed.

“Yes, and it also pays one hell of a lot of wages and salaries.”

I took that in.

“They tolerate me because I live out their dreams for them,” Mikkelson said. “They can afford to tolerate me because I don’t let myself become too expensive a luxury, and they want to tolerate me because their sister’s best friend got a hundred-buck tip the last time I had dinner at the restaurant where she waits tables, and their cousin’s husband works in the garden down there for a good wage and a big bonus come Christmas, and a guy they know from high school just got promoted off the shop floor at the Mikkelson factory and is getting a degree in engineering on my nickel.”

“As I recall,” I said, “You get some pretty fair tax benefits from that last one.”

“Of course.” She smiled. “And I lobbied like you wouldn’t believe to get that into the tax code. Partly because I don’t mind being paid to do the right thing, and partly because I knew it would keep my work force happy.  Half the reason Mikkelson products are better quality than anybody else’s is that all my people know that if the company wins, they win. There’s a stock ownership plan, bonuses based on the  annual profit, plenty of opportunity to move from the shop floor to better-paying jobs.  All of it gets me a break on taxes, but it also means that I and all my limited partners do better in the long run, and so do my employees and the union.”

I gave her a puzzled look. “I didn’t know you still had unions here.”

“Couldn’t get by without them. Of course we have binding arbitration on contracts—if my people and the union can’t reach an agreement, the Department of Labor sends in an arbitration team and they decide what the new contract will be—but the union does a lot of the day-to-day management of the work force. When I need to sort something out with my factory employees, I can pick up a phone and call the local president here in Toledo, say, and settle it in ten minutes or less. They know their jobs depend on the company making a profit, and the union funds have a big stake in Mikkelson stock and seats on the board, so it’s in our interest to work together.”

She turned toward the windows, looked out over the Toledo skyline. “That was what nobody seemed to be able to figure out in the old Union,” she said. “You can cooperate and compromise, share the gains, and keep things going for the long term, or you can try to grab everything for yourself and shove the poor and the weak to the wall, and watch it all come crashing down. In world politics, the United States tried to grab everything; in domestic politics, the executive branch tried to grab everything; in the economy, the rich tried to grab everything—and down it came.” She glanced back at me over her shoulder. “I wonder if anyone thinks about that in Philadelphia.”

It was a hell of a good question, and I didn’t have an answer for it.


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NomadsSoul said...

Share The Wealth - Life Lesson 101

Eric Backos said...

Greetings to the assembled Wizardren!
We in Northeast Ohio are following Melbourne’s example by holding well-advertised monthly meetings.
The monthly joint meeting of the Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association, Tower Number 440, and Ruinmen’s Guild, Local 440 will be held at 11:30 AM on Saturday, September 24, 2016. Our location is Ruko’s Family Restaurant, 9385 Mentor Avenue, Mentor, Ohio 44060, (440) 974-1914. Shining the Green Light! Public Welcome! Tables for Failed Scholars. Look for the table topper with the Green Wizard Hat.
Many thanks to John for the posting space on his blog.

Howard Skillington said...

Thank you for permitting Janice Mikkelson to break America’s ultimate taboo with her “ugly story.” I remember vividly, early in the Reagan Administration, when anyone would point out that the wealth the rich were stealing was not trickling down to the rest of us the way we had been assured it would, the Gipper’s operatives would squawk “CLASS WARFARE! CLASS WARFARE!” like parrots being boiled alive. Because, of course, the best defense is a good offense: this tactic kept liberals from pointing out the obvious fact that class warfare was precisely the game that was being played.

Perhaps it was believed at that time that the one percent would be able to curb its greed short of the extremity we have reached today. But they could not, and today there are millions of people who, as Janice would say, have been shoved to the wall, and it’s too late to say “Oh – sorry about that!” Pushback is inevitable and, as we’ve seen throughout history, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

whomever said...

Great as usual. One question: Are you sure that the Canadas and Quebec would have Presidents? Even if they abandoned the monarch (big if), I'd see them sticking with Prime Ministers, or possibly sticking with Premier in the case of Quebec; any head of state/President would be purely honorary (much like Germany etc). Anyone in the Westminster system can't help notice the instability of the American system.

Your comment about the rich reminds me of what I've heard from a number of different people from poorer countries, who've made it good, moved back home and been firmly told, "no, you WILL hire a maid/cleaner/etc, they need the jobs and money."

Mark said...

I would like to do garden work for Janice Mikkelson! I'd happily be on the receiving end of that noblesse oblige.

25 years after communism went down, and 40 or more after any serious social or economic disturbance in the US that business leaders couldn't be insulated from, it's pretty obvious why said business leaders feel so untouchable. They have a long track record of getting whatever they want. And that entitlement breeds contempt.

But times are changing. I remember back in the early 90s, when I first moved to the US, how striking it was that US popular media treated CEOs like celebrities, great men (usually men), people to be admired. Having grown up the UK, where business leaders were treated with a bit of suspicion and mild contempt, at least through to the early 80s, it was a bit of shock. But there seems to be less lionizing of business leaders here now, a strengthening popular assumption that they are not to be trusted - more Henry F Potters than lovable Lee Iacoccas. That's certainly the case among my 20 something children. I hope that realization grows, and that it changes behavior. At the very least it could help to discourage some bright people from trying to join those doomed ranks in future.

Thanks again for writing Retrotopia. I am very much looking forward to the book. If it does well, maybe there could be room for an old fashioned tie-in board game, where players vie to take their respective parts of the old US back down the road of progress!

michael said...

An enjoyable continuation of the story, JMG. If you or anyone else here has read Wendell Berry's piece, "It All Turns on Affection" (, then I'd be interested in opinions on whether Mikkelson is a "boomer" or a "sticker." Her character almost seems to be a direct response to Berry's categorization, which has been rattling around in my head since I read his lecture ten days ago.

Robert Beckett said...

Greetings JMG,

Another hard-hitting episode, thank you! Wouldn't it be great if your readership included a few captains of industry(?), politicians, etc, i.e. the 0.01 percent? Perhaps some sober thought might seep in by philosophical osmosis!

As autumn approaches in Cascadia,
Under the soaring spruce & graceful cedars,

Robert Beckett

gwizard43 said...

Idly daydreaming about this chapter somehow showing up in next edition of The Economist...imagine the response! :)

Dennis Mitchell said...

I keep expecting a union to "get it". They have a wonderful product. A trained professional workforce. When I dealt with them we had plenty of paperwork and reports just to keep the union happy. Then we had all the government crap on top of that. If they would have handled the payroll it would have been so simple. Instead we doubled the red tape. Unions and buisness can't let go of the conflict to see how they could have helped each other. Too late anyway. That was a thought from the 90's.
Kinda like the rail thing. We just keep screwing ourselves.

Ben Johnson said...

Speaking of that last bit: The rich have been chasing out the blue collar folks here in Oklahoma for at least a year now. That said, the first of Oklahoma's four big shale gas companies is crashing down right now. I have it on reasonable authority from a white collar engineer just bought out by the company that everyone is taking the cash rather than the stocks, because the stock at this point will hold no value. Dominion today, probably Chesapeake Energy tomorrow. Are we finally at the popping of the shale bubble, JMG?

John Michael Greer said...

NomadsSoul, got it in one. It really is that simple.

Howard, exactly. One of the things I've tried to do in this narrative is point out some of the many ways that the privileged classes in today's America are sedulously knotting ropes, looping them about their own necks, and holding out the other end for the convenience of the first mob to show up.

Whomever, good catch; I've edited the story to put prime ministers in their proper habitats.

Mark, hmm! The idea of a board game is enticing -- set up the rules so that you can only win by going retro, but give players the opportunity to invest in high-tech gewgaws and go broke. It might be educational.

Michael, Berry's categorization is useful but a bit too rigidly drawn. Mikkelson is an old-fashioned industrial magnate who wants to be an enduring success; her goal isn't quarterly profits but the overall growth of her business; she's fortunate to live at a time when there have been immense rewards available to successful entrepreneurs and plenty of opportunity to start from square one; and she's also learned some hard lessons about reciprocity and sharing the wealth. Thus she's a sticker who's ridden a boom into great wealth.

Robert, in the immortal words of Wowbagger the Indefinitely Prolonged, a being can dream!

Gwizard, you mean other than quite a few ill-smelling stains in the seats of Brooks Brothers suits?

Dennis, one of the reasons I brought in binding arbitration for contracts is to keep unions and management on the same side -- if the alternative to settling for reasonable terms is that some government bureaucrat comes in and imposes a contract that neither side wants, you bet you'd see contract negotiations run more smoothly! More broadly, though, you're right; there's a lot of good in the old union system, and with a less adversarial (and immediate profit oriented!) attitude dividing labor and management, both sides could prosper.

Ben, thanks for the heads up! The fracking industry has been on the skids for more than a year now, with a steady drumbeat of bankruptcies; if Dominion goes, though, that may force things onto the front page.

thenoteswhichdonotfit said...

There have been filthy rich people here in San Francisco for as long as there has been a city here. I've read (and this is supported by what I know of San Francisco history) that in the past, even the despicable rich people did something to reinvest in the city (build a park and open it to the public, fund the construction of a public school, subsidize an arts organization, etc.). However, the new generation of young people who've gotten rich off the latest tech bubble aren't doing that, instead contributing their money to 'charitable' causes which are disguised schemes to grab more resources for themselves. There has been handwringing about how to teach these nouveaux riche to be more like the filthy rich of earlier generations...

Wondering Writer said...

Hello Mr. Greer,

Really enjoying Retrotopia but have been meaning to ask about all those newspapers...where do they get their trees/pulp/etc for all that paper? I grew up in Salem Oregon, with the smelly Boise Cascade pulp mill in the center of town (now gone) so the paper usage in the story always catches my eye.


Shane W said...

Well, I guess I got my union answer. How do I keep having these premonitions about what you are going to discuss?

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160901T032149Z

Although Lakeland industry as represented by Janice Mikkelson is an improvement on conventional present-day capitalism, it does not adequately empower workers. One would like, rather, an arrangement in which there are no plutocrats such as Ms Mikkelson, and in which the workers instead organize themselves into co-ops. They should own their own plant and tools. They should elect plain-living managers at ordinary (not at Janice Mikkelson) salaries from within their own plain ranks. They should eschew not only outside management but also outside capital, such as is in our current malign system raised by issuing shares on the malign public bourses.

That style of organization has been in place in Mondragon, in the Basque Country, since 1960 or so. Mondragon has manufactured appliances, the heavy "white goods" such as washing machines. The same style of organization is been in place since the 1950s in Britain, at a chemicals concern trading under the name Scott Bader Commonwealth (cf

What we ultimately want for industry is the same feeling that so many of us have upon walking into our credit union. We look in the case of our local credit union at the teller counters - and I presume in the case of Mondragon and Scott Bader industry, at the drill presses and lathes, or at the vats and pumps - and we say, "Yes, I myself own some shares in that, and all the shares are held by people like me - that is to say, by people who, like me, frequent these same rooms, and who share my modest and plain economic interests."

This mode of organization may prove economically inefficient. However, on a properly articulated theological anthropology, economic efficiency counts for less than human dignity. I here follow the view of one of the people JMG has cited with approbation, analyst Schumacher (a key early figure at Scott Bader).

Catholic readers of JMG's ADR should note not only that Schumacher was Catholic, but that the Mondragon and Scott Bader enterprises are current leading implementations of Leo XIII's Laborem Exercens.

I have to admit to not having read Laboren Exercens yet. However, I have dipped a little, perhaps every few months, into what is perhaps the main current online magazine for today's Laborem Exercens thinkers, the Distributist Review (at


(Catholic proponent of Schumacher, in Estonian diaspora just north of Toronto;

John Michael Greer said...

Notes, good question. Historically, that's a common problem with nouveaux-riches -- they're arrogant, graceless and greedy, with no trace of the sense of noblesse oblige that comes with old money -- and again, historically speaking, they either get a clue or end up dangling from lampposts. Tolerably often, the old-money rich assist in the stringing-up process, since the nouveaux-riches risk the delicate balance on which all the rich depend.

Wondering, didn't you catch that? It's hemp paper, of course -- just like the sheet of paper on which the Declaration of Independence is written. The Lakeland Republic grows a great deal of industrial hemp and uses it for paper, fabric, and cordage, among other things. We'd do the same thing now if we had the brains the gods gave geese.

Shane, this time wasn't precognition. You raised a reasonable question, I mulled it over, and realized that Janice Mikkelson was just the person to answer it. Many thanks!

patriciaormsby said...

Announcing the first Kanto Green Wizards gathering Sunday September 4 from 11:00 a.m. at the Asakawa Kompira Shrine in western Tokyo.

Here is a map, with thanks to David Trammel. If you zoom in you can even see the steps going up to the small peak.

There is enough detail to find the main route up through the small community of Hatsuzawa-machi (初沢町) south-southeast of Takao Station. It is an easy hike to the shrine on a small mountaintop, taking about 30 minutes from the station. If you are concerned about gettng lost, if you RSVP here (I'll keep my eyes on the comments), I can arrange to meet you at the station. If you come by Keio Line, be careful not to overshoot or you'll wind up at Takao-sanguchi Station, which is popular with weekend hikers.

Anyone is welcome. A potluck picnic is normally held here on the first Sunday of each month, and the people who attend these are very like-minded with Green Wizardry. It is a small gathering, usually between 5 or 10 people. Please bring a dish or snacks to share.

Mike said...

"The Hamptons" – ha! A little tip of the hat to Jim Kunstler? (He's constantly going on about the fate that awaits the Hamptons-dwellers.)

Rob Rhodes said...

Thanks, we are continuing to enjoy and look forward to each episode of Retrotopia and I am equally eager to read your ideas around climate change action. Additionally I would like to thank you for recommending "Lean Logic". It is just as you describe it, an insight on every page. Did you know David Fleming?

John Michael Greer said...

Toomas, and no doubt there are Catholic activists in the Lakeland Republic advocating for Distributism, and maybe even a workers' co-op or three. Catholics are a minority in the Lakeland Republic, though, and Catholics interested in Distributism are a very small minority even in today's Midwestern states -- and of course this novel is titled Retrotopia, not Catholicotopia.

Mike, no, I just picked just the most widely known rich folks' ghetto in the territory of the Atlantic Republic.

Rob, no, alas, I didn't -- I knew of him only very dimly by name when the publisher contacted me and asked if they could send me a proof copy for review. At this point I regret never knowing the man.

steve pearson said...

This is more apropos last weeks discussion, which I had neither time nor computer to respond to, but in Honolulu I have seen one Trump house sign, zero Clinton and zero car stickers for either. There are a few mayoral and assembly signs, though not many. Sort of " What if they gave an election and no one came".
Cheers, Steve

Scotlyn said...

Excellent chapter! Mikkelson is a smart lady. And it may be that the first in many wealthy dynasties had similar ideas. Does the idea of reciprocity travel down the generatiins as well as the wealth?

Re unions and management, in Ireland we tried "Social Partnership" -supposedly if unions and management could agree everybody won. In practice, this created a class of palsy union bosses and managers who worked out how to screw workers together. The whole thing fell apart after the 2008 banking crisis, but an unfortunate side effect is almost no unionisation left in the private sector. Almost all union jobs are publuc sector jobs. Let's say the idea of unions and management working in cahoots would be greeted sceptically here at this time.

jessi thompson said...

Excellent chapter!!!

I will pick one not, and not with the story but with your comment :). There are a wide variety of worker-owned business models. They are more common than you think. In my hometown in Texas, the phone company is a co op (VTCI). Every year they divide up all the profits and mail them back to the customers as refund checks, which makes the customers very happy. Now, as a business, they don't want to send all that money back to the customers, so they have a strong incentive to invest in aand grow the business. That's why they ran fiber optic cable to a town of 400 people in the late '90's, (yes I know that's progress talking, but hopefully you still get the point, that without owners and shareholders, the business grew and innovated to a very high degree and still sent rebate checks back to all their customers every year. If you want to see loyalty, call any number 956-944-xxxx and try talk them into switching phone companies.). Second example, in the Illinois town where I live now, there's an employee owned steel company. It's by far the best job in town. You have to know somebody to get hired there. A high percentage of their employees retire in their 30s and 40s, and not executives, the regular guys on the floor. Final example, in Latin America there are factories closed by companies that moved overseas, leaving the buildings and equipment behind, and workers took over the businesses and illegally ran them, they suddenly became profitable when the money wasn't siphoned off the top. This led to a lot of lawsuits, in one country it led to a long, protracted application process for legally owning your guerilla business. I wish I remembered more detail about that for you. My whole point is that there are a lot of different ways for groups of people to own a business and I'm sure some of them would be viable in some places in lakeland. maybe there will be room for a few in the novel :)

John Michael Greer said...

Steve, fascinating. Maybe the Clinton supporters who read this blog -- we had two of them speak up last week, so I know there are some -- will mention whether they've put up yard signs and bumper stickers for their candidate, and if they know others who have done so.

Scotlyn, okay, that's a good point -- I should make sure the reader knows that the union bosses are subject to strict oversight by the union members and can be thrown out of office at will.

Jessi, of course such options exist. I was quarrelling with Toomas' implied suggestion that the Lakeland Republic should be running its entire economy that way.

Russell Cook said...

Hi everyone,

I've been reading for a couple years, adopting many of the ideas, but it's my first post.

My thought reading this post today was what's going to happen in China. I lived there for 5 years, and my impression is that contempt for the poor and lack of desire to share wealth is more serious there than other places I've been to. There's no real social safety net, not any charities like the Salvation Army with religious motivation to help the poor, lots of vulgar displays of wealth and people often declare that anyone who is poor is so because of their own lack of hard work. This coupled with the living conditions the poor have to endure there seems potentially explosive, in the light of this installment.

By the way, I'm in Brisbane and was wondering if any other readers are in Queensland?

P.S. As regards the CCP's attitude to this blog, it was blocked when I was living in China, but I could still read it if I went to Comments section is way better here :-)

PeakDoc said...

You might be surprised to know that there is a real place rather like Retrotopia, with Victorian horse drawn and electric trams, a steam railway and water-powered wheels, and I live here. I recently wrote an appraisal of the pros and cons of living here in the event of a collapse of civilisation:

Leo Knight said...

Lately, I find myself wishing I could emigrate to the Lakeland Republic. Money is tight, prospects for a better paying job that I can get to are seemingly non-existent. We don't own a car, can't afford it. My savings have dwindled to nil. Most days, I walk to work, 2.6 miles, 50 minutes, to save the $1.70 per trip bus fare. Presently, I have $46 in my bank account, and about $12 in cash. As bleak as this looks, we're better off than some. My daughter-in-law is living with her boyfriend and his parents. Three cars in their household, all about to break down. They just got their second eviction notice. We all might be joining Ms. Mickelson devising new recipes for rat. "Hello, is that rat tart?"

Cherokee Organics said...


Thanks for taking the time to explore this most important issue. My take on that issue is that when a perquisite or sense of entitlement is taken for granted then the foundations on which those two expectations were made are sitting on some very shaky ground indeed. And I see a lot of that going on. Your Janice Mikkelson character was clearly clever enough to know that she is tolerated as long as the demands don't become too excessive and/or her actions adversely affect other people who are doing the tolerating side of that equation as they are her foundation.

I've been pondering your recent discussion about the benefits of the page system employed in the middle ages which seeks to address this matter. It is really a very wise move.

I've had a bit of a rubbish day today as one of my prized leg horn chickens became sick and died, and another of my Isa Brown chickens was also showing advanced signs of sickness and I had to neck her. A very unpleasant business. At least the rest of the flock is looking healthy and sprightly. I used my very sharp, ceremonial Ghurka knife for that task too. Do you believe that is a bad idea?

Incidentally, I’ve noted time and again that it is the more commercial of the chicken breeds that seem the least hardy of all. I have a couple of chickens of let’s be polite here, you’d describe as: Uncertain parentage. And those two chickens are almost six years old now and showing no signs of slowing down, or falling off their perches (that observation may be more relevant to last weeks discussion though).



Hi M Smith,

Yeah, totally, that word is flung. It can mean very different things depending on the cultural context, but then it is also like today’s Retrotopia instalment in that it shouldn’t have to be flung around should it in order to receive the perquisites?

Hi Shane W,

Thanks mate! :-)!

Hi Helix,

Spot on!



Jo said...

@ Michael

Thanks so much for posting the Wendell Berry essay. The idea that affection for place, for land, people and community is a significant contributing factor to a flourishing local economy is not something discussed in economic circles.. but it follows.

Janice Mikkelson clearly shows affection for her country, city, home and employees. She is driven by past deprivation to pursue wealth, but she has worked out how to be sustainably wealthy - by reinvesting in her employees, her business and her community. Berry's example of James B Duke, who endowed a university, but drove his suppliers, small farmers, to the wall, reminded me of a story in Annie Dillard's 'An American Childhood' which she mostly spent in one of the free libraries established by philanthropist millionaire Andrew Carnegie. Apparently later in life she met one of Carnegie's steel workers who said, yes, the free libraries were nice, but being paid a living wage would have been much better.

No doubt Ms Mikkelson is also a patron of the arts and supports Lakeland's libraries, but crucially, she is treating her workers like human beings - paying them well and helping to educate them, and apparently being given tax breaks to do so.

One of the striking things about Lakeland is its human-centred politics. Imagine the well-being of humans being the central pillar of policy making. Oh right, that was the central project of democracy, wasn't it? Oops, clearly I haven't been paying attention..

Vilko said...

"The thing that really made an impression on me at the time, though, is that they didn’t shoot the domestic staff. All the skeletons were up in the family quarters."

It is well-known. That's why Louis XVI had Swiss mercenaries, and Gaddafi had Black African mercenaries. They knew that the local populace hated them even more than their boss, and if he were killed, they would be killed, too. And that's exactly what happened.

When you can't use immigrants because of local conditions, you create parallel forces. Saddam Hussein created a parallel army, called the Republican Guard. Hitler created the SS, who were deliberately designed to frighten ordinary Germans (black uniforms, professed fanaticism and ruthlessness) so that they had zero chance of being allowed to survive if Hitler had been toppled. The SS were a parallel army. Hitler, for good reasons, didn't trust the Wehrmacht, which was the regular army. Wehrmacht generals tried several times to have him arrested, killed, etc, but their attempts were always foiled by the SS.

What Janice Mikkelson does, incidentally, is what every Western expat in Third World countries learns he has to do: hire local servants. It is expected that the rich, as a civic duty, create jobs for the poor.

Until the Industrial Revolution, the European rich had servants. Lots of servants. The richer you were, the more servants you had. If you didn't have servants, you were an eccentric, ostracized by your peers. In 19th century France, to be considered a member of la bourgeoisie, you needed a maidservant (Jules Verne's heroes all have at least one servant). With the Industrial Revolution and the opening of overseas territories to colonization, those non-productive jobs ceased to be socially necessary, and they became almost marginal.

If you read "The Diary of a Chambermaid", by Octave Mirbeau, you can see that in late 19th century France, abortion (which was illegal) was nevertheless very frequent. The servant class were people who were discouraged from having children, since their wages were barely sufficient to feed them, they were housed in garrets, etc. They were the poorest fringe of 19th century European society, just above the homeless. Célestine, the heroine of the novel, is a maidservant because that's the only job she could have, except for prostitution.

I guess that Janice Mikkelson doesn't encourage her servants to have large families.

Don Plummer said...

Re. campaign signs, I personally don't do campaign yard signs or bumper stickers for any candidate or any election. I can recall one exception: I put up a yard sign once several years ago for a friend who was running for state representative in the Republican primary. He lost, unfortunately.

However, Steve Pearson's observations in Honolulu, from the informal information I have read and heard from friends, along with my own observations, seem to be repeating themselves across the country. I personally have only seen a small handful of Trump yard signs and no Clinton signs in my area. Regarding bumper stickers, I've seen a few for Clinton. Yesterday I saw my first Trump/Pence bumper sticker.

When I visited my younger son northeast of Pittsburgh last week, I noted a handful of Trump yard signs in his neighborhood. We are visiting our other son in Chicago this coming weekend; perhaps we'll see more Clinton displays there; we'll see.

A friend who lives in Waco, Texas, but who had been away from home on sabbatical for over a year, told me that upon his return to Waco he had seen one Bernie Sanders bumper sticker, two Hillary Clinton stickers, and zero yard signs for any candidate.

We can speculate as to the reasons for this apparent lack of publicly demonstrated enthusiasm for either candidate, I suppose. Perhaps a polling organization will conduct a more scientific evaluation of this phenomenon before the election is over.

shrama said...

Dear JMG,

Thank you for the Retrotopia series. I was looking forward to the meeting of Carr and Mikkelson. And the meeting was interesting in many ways. But I didn't get the answer to one important question which is: Why does Mikkelson choose to live in a society that seems to have embraced the principle "Progress is the enemy of prosperity"? You may say that she doesn't care much for that principle, but then why stop at building railroads or insist on an equal subsidy regime for all technologies? Why not also get into car manufacturing where subsidies make it possible for her to rake in the profits?

It is admirable that she believes in spreading the wealth but the challenge (more so for those who haven't ditched the myth of progress) is to do it in a way that does not just reproduce prosperity-destroying-progress. If not, how can we distinguish Mikkelson's charity from that of today's super-rich?

The only distinction that I can get from this episode is that Mikkelson's is a genuine rags to riches story and most of today's super-rich are those born and raised in privilege. So maybe her sensibilities are different. But is that one difference sufficient to answer the questions that I have raised?

Thanks once again for this entertaining story.

Don Plummer said...

Is Distributism strictly a Catholic, or even a Christian, thing? Can't someone of any religious background accept Distributist premises? Yes, I know, its roots are in Catholic social teaching, but still...

KoldMilk said...

“...but the union does a lot of the day-to-day management of the work force. When I need to sort something out with my factory employees, I can pick up a phone and call the local president here in Toledo, say, and settle it in ten minutes or less.”

Does this mean no ‘Human Resources’ departments in Lakeland Republic companies? HR, of course, having been invented for the dual purposes of eliminating unions and sedating employees. If so, another reason to go live in the Lakeland Republic where employees are treated like people and not ‘resources’ (to exploit).

Shane W said...

Question: lots of companies today tout that they're "employee owned", offer stock options/stock to employees, and offer educational assistance, but it doesn't seem to have made a bit of difference in the wage gap (chasm) or corporate work environment, and I'm not even sure that these companies are better to work for than their competition. So I wonder about its affect @ Mikkelson...

Sam Charles Norton said...

JMG -any chance you could do a map (or even describe one) showing where the boundaries are in this North America?

Shane W said...

I must admit I'm a little skeptical of getting rid of the powerful strike and its counterpart, the lockout.

Patricia Mathews said...

I saw a car yesterday with a Sanders sticker cross with a Trump sticker on top, giving us to realize the driver switched from Sanders to Trump. But yes, precious few signs of any sort. One lonely down-ballot yard sign along my regular route to the hairdresser's.

On a brighter note, I passed a lavender bush full of tiny quiet-feathered birds with their beaks deep in the blossoms. And there were bees everywhere.

beetleswamp said...

Just found the song "100 Little Curses" a couple days ago and it put a chill down my spine because it's exactly what those would-be murderous private security guards are currently saying to each other when they think nobody is listening. It's fun to schadenfreude fantasize about the scenario until we realize millions will also be either prematurely dead or catching rats for dinner.

This brings up the future role of law enforcement and how we get from Tactcial Jackhole back to Andy Griffith. Where I live the police are a constant source of embarrassing scandals and if the chief was an elected position he would have been booted long ago. Cult-of-personality Sheriffs can also be quite dangerous in other ways, so I'm curious what solution you propose to keep the officers of the peace from turning into a publicly subsidized paramilitary private security force for the well-connected (and increasingly at odds with everyone else).

Shane W said...

I didn't mention it either, but I live in the wealthiest part of KY (which only means that our wage gap is that much worse), so I'd imagine that our local GOP is run by a lot of Rand Paul and Cruz supporters and NeverTrump'ers (Trump only narrowly beat Cruz in our county)--having not actually talked to the people @ the GOP booth @ the street festival, that's my explanation for the lack of Trump signs. I'd say my local experience of yard signs is somewhere between Bill and JMG--a few Trump bumper stickers, a few Hillary yard signs. The sign that sticks out the most/the most popular is Jim Gray, Lexington's popular, openly gay mayor and businessman, who's running against Rand Paul for Senate.

Shane W said...

I wouldn't be surprised if a trip to eastern KY might yield results similar to JMG's, yard sign/bumper sticker wise...

jleagan said...

Being very familiar with Toledo and the area, it was a bit of a surprise when this series started, and a little strange and interesting to read the story as it rolls along, with the place being the setting of the story, and its place in the overall circumstances.

Today's chapter is a little amusing, though. Despite the name, I can tell you that there are not really any hills to speak of in Ottawa Hills, a place that is technically, in formal terms as a municipality, a village, although in real practical terms, it is basically just a zone of suburbia, with nothing you'll find that looks like a village in arrangement and function (although who knows how that might change in a future time as in this story).

It is, basically, upper middle class suburbia. It's also actually nestled, as it became over time in the past with the City of Toledo growing and annexing more area, largely within the city of Toledo, almost surrounded by it, with the exception of area where it's bordered by Sylvania, another suburban zone that was once a semi separate small city, with its own actual city center Main Street area, that eventually met the growing city of Toledo and became suburban territory for the general metropolitan area.

One little thing; the Ottawa River, one of the two rivers that run through Toledo, runs through Ottawa Hills, although as it runs through there, it's basically a small stream, which then passes through the University of Toledo campus as well. On the other hand, the river eventually opens out into quite a wide river as it reaches the area of Toledo called Point Place, a unique area in the larger Toledo area, as it nears the lake (and the area where I grew up).

That area is something of a subject of its own, and maybe something that might have played much more of a role in this story, in this possible future. Being where it is, it's quite a boating area, with a large marina zone near the lake (and Michigan). Local lore tells of the Prohibition era, when, apparently, that area was, aside from being a kind of outer semi separate zone in the greater Toledo area in those days that was a place where many people had small weekend cottages (for fishing and boating fun), also quite a hotbed of, shall we say, underground commerce, involving the import of adult beverages from Canada and some questionable characters. It would be interesting to consider how that area might be in the speculative future of this tale. (And of course, for a long time, Toledo has been, and is, an international port, being where it is, including being a part of the St. Lawrence seaway.)


Peter VE said...

JMG: I see Ms./Mrs. (what is the honorific?) Mikkelson doing a little too much talking about why she does what she does. I found it a little jarring, since your writing usually shows rather than tells.
On last weeks discussion of lawn signs: I have the only sign in my neighborhood of the East Side of Providence, where the default assumption is a Clinton vote, and there are usually signs for the local primaries in two weeks. I still fly a slightly bedraggled Bernie sign. I honestly cannot say who I will vote for in November, when there are so many to vote against.

Sébastien Louchart said...

Hello JMG,

It's one thing to read your non-fiction essays and it's really another experience to discover all your ideas put together in such a great tale. I especially likes to part from Mrs. Jannikken when she talked about the uprising of the praetorians :)

Thank you again, this definitely doesn't help me waiting for book :D

@Mark (and JMG)
I vie with you for that concept of a board game based on Retrotopia :) That's a wonderful idea given that every boardgame about civilization and empire building are based on progress as a monotonic function (always progress, be ahead or lose). I'm an amateur game designer myself and I have strong ties with this business. Feel free to contact me in case of need (sebastienDOTlouchartATgmailDOTcom).

John Roth said...

Well, since you asked about Clinton supporters, I consider her the least bad of the evils. I don't have a yard to put up a sign and wouldn't if I had one - that's a general policy, not specific to this campaign. If I did, it would be a Cthulhu for President sign.

Mister Roboto said...

And right on cue, here's a classic example of the rich throwing everybody else to the wolves with no regard to ugly and bloody consequences that will inevitably ensue at some point: Insulin price spike leaves diabetes patients in crisis

It's worth noting that about ten percent of the US population has type 1 or 2 diabetes, and this number is likely to increase if our rates of high fructose corn syrup consumption continue the way they have been lately.

Bill Pulliam said...

The yard sign digression since I started it last week... I think it reflects how unpopular thse candidates are even among their "supporters." I would have expected deep red rural TN to be rabidly pro Trump, but the lack of signs (for any candidate) even here suggests that it is only the media who are rabidly pro-Trump and in the Buckle of the Bible Belt perhaps people really are a bit ashamed about his morals even if they agree with his populism and xenophobia. You can't blame the lack of Clinton signs here on the Sanders effect, he only got about 1/3 of the primary vote here and what remains of the old Democratic establishment machine in TN is thoroughly in her camp.

More to the point maybe, I do take it as a sign of the death and irrelevance of politics as it has been practiced, a sign of an electorate that sees nothing they like in the status quo in any wing or branch of the mainstream, left, right, or center. So maybe JMG is not rushing the timeline in this story by thinking that there could be major upheavals as soon as the next decade.

Steve Morgan said...

A first-rate tour of a successful political economy of Scarcity Industrialism, given by a savvy member of the nouveau riche. It's interesting how much Mikkelson's perspective has in common politically with aristocracy on its more responsible behavior, and quite reflective of the national situation.

Makes me wonder what political parties are going to pick up the successful combination first. A dash of socialism, a good dose of populism, and a pinch or two of (dare-we-say-it?) nationalism. It'd sure be nice if it looked more like the New Deal than the glorious Fatherland, but that might mean laying off "racist" as a snarl word. I guess I just prefer lumberjack-chic to jackboots.

I find myself wondering just how closely the upcoming mix will resemble the period between the two world wars, and of which country's experience. Sauerkraut or liberty cabbage? How about some ternary kimchi?


Also, Mr. Carr's glance through the newspaper made me chuckle. Just the other day, my wife and I were listening to the morning news show on the radio on a weekday. Droughts and massive wildfires out west; a major flood in a coastal state, where less would be rebuilt this time around; bankruptcy in fossil fuel companies; a foreign war spinning wildly out of "our" control; and a story about the government, still unable to pass a budget after I-don't-know-how-many years, escalating a cyber war and coincidentally collecting data about everything everyone does with a phone or computer (without a warrant).

I'm old enough to remember when none of these things would seem "normal." She commented that it was a little bit like reading The Archdruid Report.


On another note, I'd like to compliment you on the paragraph that begins "So I made sure I was presentable..." Your comments last week and the month before about climate activism being about more than hair-shirt olympics were spot-on, and then you proceed to give a concise, many-layered example of just how much better a lower-carbon life can be with this paragraph. Talented professional musicians in every hotel bar to whom listeners can relate as people, walkable neighborhoods shaped to the human scale designed and managed with beauty in mind, and a society that values people enough to build institutions that don't look like prisons. All of this described just subtly enough to spark imagination in a few short sentences; now that is some good utopian fiction writing.

Love the story; looking forward to the book.

Ben Johnson said...

JMG - I suggested Chesapeake might be next in light of their ongoing financial troubles and CEO Aubrey McClrendon's , fatal traffic accident in March. His SUV hit an embankment off a highway in OKC at a very high rate of speed then burst into flames. Police said there was no evidence the vehicle tried to stop or swerve or avoid the wall. He was facing indictment, but in a macabre follow up to the story, Chesapeake's stock actually rose after his death. Maybe he should have had a chat with Ms Mikkleson before he took that drive?

Aron Blue said...

I have a data point. I just finished a south/midwest tour. On the way from Chicago to Columbus Ohio, I noticed how ragged everything became. Then we passed a sign in front of a house, on a white sheet or maybe a tarp, obviously homemade, and painted to be visible from the highway. It was just the name Clinton, in black, with a red circle and a crosswise slash.

lordyburd said...

Hello Mr. Greer. Mikkelson's exposition on the lower orders looking up to the rich interests me though its only superficially similar to what I have experienced. I belong to what the english would call 'village gentry'; and whenever I am in my ancestral village-home, our old family servant is unnerved and displeased if he sees me performing some 'menial' task; like washing the dishes, or doing the ironing. I am always a bit mystified as to why he would do so. Though it is true that the village pecking order is taken for granted by everyone, rich,poor, middling or aspiring, and no one seems to mind. Of course, there are injustices and grudges, but there is an almost-ritualised way in which the village poor make their voices heard. They will often appeal as victims of fate, and emphasize their helplessness, rather than directly condemn their 'superior'. As a former leftist I used to be offended by this 'class - indoctrination'. Its only by spending time in such situations, however, that one realises the cussedness of human beings. Oddly enough, I find that quite comforting.

gwizard43 said...

So, in regard to this passage:

"Part of it’s because we give them a place to anchor their unused dreams. Poeple here daydream about the rich the way that people in Britain follow the doings of their royal family. They’ll put up with the most astonishing things from the people they idolize, the people they allow to get rich and stay rich, so long as the rich keep their side of the deal. I could get by with a quarter of the staff I have here; I could get by without the four-star dinners with a big tip for everyone right down to the dishwashers, the big donations to every charitable cause in sight, the private railroad car with its own fulltime chef, for God’s sake—but that’s my side of the bargain."

I'm wondering how realistic this is - well, this is fiction, so let's say rather 'how consistent is this fictional world with the really real one?'

Would people in the conditions you've described in the LR truly daydream about the rich in the same way Brits follow the royal family?? This doesn't seem to ring true for me. Certainly, some small percentage, but would it really be a major social force as it's being presented here?

The notion that the 'common folk' need 'the rich' to put on such a big show - that they need this particular 'place to anchor their unused dreams' - as I read over this again and again, I found myself unconvinced, just not buying it.

Could just be me, of course.

Still, I'd like to understand if there is solid historical precedent to accept such a thesis - and also if there are other historical precedents for similar situations which proved unsustainable. For example, off-hand, it seems there may be good reason to believe that even systems that may begin in this way, with self-enlightened first gen rich folk, tend to disintegrate into the "arrogant, graceless and greedy"nouveaux-riches state of affairs after a brief period of time?

That is, JMG, are you proposing that such a situation might be sustainable? And if so, what would be the circumstances necessary to sustain it?

David, by the lake said...


Another intriguing chapter! For my own part, I've often thought that two things that could yet help today's industrialism would be 1) to make workers owners on a substantial scale, complete with voting rights, voice on the board, etc, and 2) incentivize management not with stock-options, but with actual stock which they could not sell until some fixed time (say 5 or 10 years, depending on the level of the executive) *after* their tenure with the company was complete. (This would link the value of their holdings to the long-term consequences of their decisions and the decisions of their successors.)

As a side note, my copy of DAM arrived yesterday and I am enjoying it (if that verb is appropriate) immensely. Thank you.

pygmycory said...

I assume that binding arbitration by the government actually attempts to be fair to both sides.

In recent years here, the BC government has been using binding arbitration on some of its own employee problems, and, surprise surprise, the arbitration keeps coming down on the side of the management. Over and over again. Or the government just legislates striking workers back to work by declaring them an essential service.

It makes for a lot of bad feeling, and any idea of independence is laughable.

pygmycory said...

I have to wonder about whether having union leaders that cosy with management is a good idea. The workers tend not to have a lot to bargain with, if striking is taken off the table as an option.

I assume workers do have the right to strike in Lakeland? Are there exceptions and/or conditions to it?

Sylvia Rissell said...

How does Ms Mikkelson keep everyone happy if the economy goes into a decline and the cash is no longer available? Lots of mansions were built for turn of the previous century industrialists who couldnt staff them after 1929 or so.

(I have a long comment, to be typed in later.)

BC Pagan said...

Hello,Just wanted to say how much I'm enjoying Retrotopia.Well done fiction is a
great way to explain ideas.Keep up the good work.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160901T173923Z

Oh jeepers. Now everyone will very pleased, but not in very good way: when I typed Laborem exercens under timestamp 20160901T032149Z, I meant to type Rerum novarum.

Toomas the Dim, near Toronto

RPC said...

Janice Mikkelson got rich by making stuff. Is there an investor class in Lakeland, the sort of people who use their money to buy stock and use the proceeds to buy stock etc.? It seems to me those are the folks that really suck up all the money and give nothing back.

Neo Tuxedo said...

the privileged classes in today's America are sedulously knotting ropes, looping them about their own necks, and holding out the other end for the convenience of the first mob to show up.

They're gambling that the mob will stay home and continue to fix on the most insidious drug around, the drug to which you are apparently immune.

"It was discovered that it didn't matter if a television could be made to watch you, as long as you could be made to watch TV all the time. This was achieved through increased use of subliminal and superliminal persuasion, sexdeath imagery and televised warsport." (Rev. Doktor Onan Canobite, Pope of Tennessee, "Life After X-Day"*)

The Lakeland Republic grows a great deal of industrial hemp and uses it for paper, fabric, and cordage, among other things. We'd do the same thing now if we had the brains the gods gave geese.

Or, at least, if those brains hadn't been damaged by decades of the War on Some Drugs (I forget his name, but they finally dug up tape of some Nixon humanoid admitting that the purpose of the drug war was to stigmatize black people and hippies).

* Stang, Rev. Ivan, ed. Three-Fisted Tales of "Bob": short stories in the SubGenius mythos. New York: Fireside [Simon & Schuster], 1990.)

temporaryreality said...

I haven't had a chance to read this installment (and will go back shortly to do so), but I just realized that my city is holding a planning commission meeting tonight to discuss its updated general plan.

Wouldn't you know it, it appears to be BAU and growth-oriented. This is in the Sacramento Valley where we're facing the ongoing drought (limited snowpack & rainfall limits our water) as well as forest die-off in both the western & eastern parts of the state (leading to more fires and worse air quality as well as limited ability of the mountain/coast soils to hold water). etc etc. all things most ADR readers are familiar with. We have inadequate public transit and a city that has recently developed by increasing paving and strip-malls and big houses.

I know this is a late request and I'm taking advantage of our gracious host's comment space, but if anyone has suggestions for ways to bring up appropriate (Retrotopia-inspired) objections to a BAU general plan and considerations that should at least be noted in the public record, I'd love to hear them.

I'm not much of a public speaker, but I can manage - I'm just not sure what I'd even say, but as I respect the focus and expression and the greater and deeper understanding of issues found here on the ADR and among the commentariat, I'd be very grateful for folks' suggestions.

Stuart Jeffery said...

Interesting chapter as ever. Mikkelson seems a lot better than many current bosses but I've long been a fan of Ricardo Semler who has taken this quite a few steps further with his worker engagement approach.

The concept of trickle down wealth is still evident in Mikkelson's company and I assume it would retain many of its problems even if it is more muted by her practice of large tips (which I have a problem with anyway - tipping always feels condescending and I would much rather pay a proper price for a meal and know the staff were being paid properly as a result) and good union pay agreements? Having large gaps between the rich and poorer people leads to a range of social ills in most current societies so I am assuming that you feel the other aspects of Retropia counteract the usual problems?

Eric S. said...

That's an interesting look at the role of the wealthy in a healthy society... and it's a bold position to take in a world where wealth has come to be so abused that mainstream discourse is beginning to sour on the concept of rich people altogether, and particularly the sort of wealthy class produced by industrial systems (in fact, anticapitalism seems lately to be the one thing that the radical fringes of the right and left can agree on these days). So taking the concept of wealth in an industrial capitalist society and engaging with it on its own terms, looking at benefits and drawbacks, and how it can be directed into something more useful and less self terminating than it is now is something that may be a pretty unique thing to do out here on the fringes. I'd never really given much thought to the reason that names like Walton and Koch bring such different emotions to people than names like Rockefeller and Vanderbilt. You've already mentioned the role the concept of noblesse oblige plays in managing the aristocracy, and that also plays into the Chivalric codes of the high Middle Ages. But another cultural motif I'm seeing playing out with Mikkelson (though it's a bit early for her), is the role generosity plays among the privileged classes in dark age societies. One of the things Mikkelson seems to be coming to realize is that, as resource constraints begin to tighten, holding onto wealth and power requires becoming an invaluable resource to the community... If she were living a few centuries from that time, she would be catching right on to the mindset that allows a Jarl with a mead hall to maintain the support of the masses by throwing massive feasts and public sacrifices that keep food flowing to the common folk. As it is, her empire probably doesn't have that sort of longevity, since after a few generations, there'll probably be less of a role in society for industrial magnates, but the obligation of the privileged to provide is definitely a lesson her successors will have to learn if they want to have a change.

MawKernewek said...

This is a fairly minor point, but I noticed Peter Carr's remark about "libraries that don't look like prisons". With the picture painted of the Atlantic Republic in this story, I would be surprised that he doesn't see a public library as a completely alien concept.

As far as maps of Retrotopia go, I produced a set a while ago.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160901T195022Z

(1) A further thought about Ms Mikkelson. She reveals something about herself when she says: People here daydream about the rich the way that people in Britain follow the doings of their royal family. They'll put up with the most astonishing things from the people they idolize, the people they allow to get rich and stay rich /.../ What she reveals is that she willing to accommodate people's daydreams. It's like the Government of Ontario here, feeding on the dreams of the poor by selling them lottery tickets. The Government is aware that its ticket-buyers - poor, for the most part - are living in a fantasy, and yet is even complacent, is even comfortable, in that awareness. Lurking in Ms Mikkelson is a certain quietly benevolent devaluing of the little guy.

I, for my part, do not want to see myself or my family benefiting from the Baroness's largesse. Better to be poor than to earn a handsome wage burnishing her carriage-lamps in Ottawa Hills. There is prostitution; and there is work for the Baroness; and no matter how poor we may be, there is a third possible thing to which we can at least aspire, namely work with tools and plant fully owned by ourselves and our immediate co-workers.

(2) @"jessi thompson"("9/1/16, 12:22 AM"): Thanks for examples of co-ops, both within and outside the USA.

(3) @"Don Plummer" ("9/1/16, 4:42 AM"): Distributism should not be seen as distinctively Catholic or distinctively Christian. It is part of a "Common Fund of Virtue", serving as calipers or voltmeter for testing and appraising particular theologies. In general, the decision to support one or another religious movement is taken by first deciding what is morally right and then seeing whether the movement under scrutiny backs it. It would be illogical to first join a religious movement and then decide, on the basis of the movement's edicts, what is morally right. (A closely related point is put by some influential 20th-century writer in the following terms: morally right behaviour is not morally right because approved by God; rather, God approves such behaviour because it is morally right.)

(4) @"Shane W" ("9/1/16, 5:27 AM"): A numerical test is helpful. If a company offers stock options, and yet only a minority of its shares are held by the workers, then the company is from a moral standpoint doing badly. If a company offers stock option with the result that a plurality percentage of its shares is held by workers, then the company is doing rather well. The larger the achieved plurality percentage, the better it is doing.

Tom (in Ontario, Canada)

zach bender said...

take a look at the magazines near the grocery checkout

Armata said...

Speaking of Retrotopia, have you seen William Lind's latest blog post? He has been promoting a similar concept he calls Retroculture and in this post, he lays out part of his vision. I think his concept of Retroculture and your concept of Retrotopia both have a great deal of merit, even if they differ somewhat. But that's where the value of dissensus and the Bulterian Carnival come into play.

Chuck said...

When Mikkelson speaks her piece about having a responsibility and setting an example, my first question is: How does a culture encourage that sort of thinking to last?

Or to turn it around a bit: What I gather from TheNotes&c., Whomever, and JMG's descriptions of the old rich, is that it's apparently the norm for a society to hold its rich accountable. What caused that to slip away in the run-up to the present day?

Was it just that there was so much wealth available that people who had less figured they could get more whether or not the wealthy were hoarding it? That's my guess.

So is it a problem that corrects itself when there's less wealth, or is Lakeland in danger of crystallizing its own echelon of selfish rich?

blue sun said...

Interesting, this lesson about the rich paying attention to the workers. It's a lesson that Donald Trump has learned, it seems. I wonder if you had this in mind while writing this. I was able to dig up and read a transcript of his "big immigration policy speech" from a few days back. (It is so hard to dig up anything of substance from most news or news aggregator sites these days! Especially if you want to get information on this candidate. It is almost exclusively sputtering froth about his "obviously self-evident" idiocy.) A surprisingly decent speech it was, all things considered. There was clear mention of American workers being a policy priority. A few mentions, in fact.

Donald Trump is certainly saying the right things in this respect, although based on his track record as a smoke-blower, I have doubts whether he will follow through on his promises.

While we're still in the "all-talk phase," however, it's startlingly refreshing to hear him speak so frankly about the plight of American workers. It's also amazing to hear him say he'll enforce current laws. (It's quite sad that for decades the enforcement of current law hasn't simply been a given in national politics. I wish somebody would talk about enforcing financial regulations.)

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually believe there's a chance he may follow through on his promises to try to help American workers. Enforcing existing law is straightforward and seems to be within the realm of the possible, and part of me believes he's narcissistic enough to follow through on at least some of his promises, if only because his ego could not bear to lose the source of his popularity.

Patricia Mathews said...

lordyburd: Your old servant's objections actually make sense. If you start doing for yourself, he's out of a job and out of a meaningful role --- and probably, onto the dole.

Nachtgurke said...

Nice idea to mention phosphate shortage... Very few seem to have this on their screen despite this issue will become a big problem for industrial agriculture, I suppose. Maybe "bio"fuel believers should have this in mind, too...


Justin said...

Interesting as usual. I do think the combination of meritocracy and noblesse oblige, which Mikkelson is a good example of is one of the keys to a great society. It's definitely a common pattern. I recently learned that much of the public infrastructure the Romans built was usually sponsored by one or more members of the aristocratic class rather than the government. If you got your water from an aqueduct or prayed in a temple built by an aristocrat, well, during tough times you'd feel much less inclined to pull out your torch and gladius.

Although I am uneasy with unearned income, of which Mikkelson certainly has plenty of, I do appreciate the difference between entrepreneurship and rent-seeking. At the same time, I find the notion that humans do not require hierarchy to function laughable. If I got to design a worker's co-op, I would apply Napoleon's insight that men will get themselves killed for a scrap of ribbon and reward more senior and more competent people with ranks, uniforms and relatively modest pay raises.

Steven said...

I must say, I really liked this installment-I kind of feel like the last generation had a kind of social contract between the rich and the lower class that has broken down. Although no one in my family is upper class, I do have a family member who owns a fairly successful accounting business in the town I live in-he isn't rich by any means, but has a storefront on main street and probably more money than is average for our somewhat depressed area. He's also fairly involved in our town's civic life-on the board of directors of pretty much all our local charitable and civic institutions, and he gives large tips and can go on long rants about businesses (like payday lenders) that he feels exploit poor people.

By contrast, I work for a large national electronics retailer. Said retailer has about four different posters in every break room about how much they care about you and how the company is such a great place to work-when in reality, they pay like crap, there's no real advancement except into management (which is very cliquish, and which has far fewer openings than applicants), and pretty much every employee is officially part time with the 39-hour-a-week routine (full time jobs are something of a reward for people who stick around a for a year or so and kiss the right behind). I'm a computer technician, so I'm somewhat more insulated from the above than, say, the cashiers, but it does not inspire confidence, and pretty much every employee I've talked too is quite cynical about the company and our leadership. (I remember one time, we where watching a training video with an actor in a cashier's uniform speaking, and someone turned to me, pointed at the person on the TV, and said "Haha, you don't work in a store, why the heck do we need to listen to you?") I feel like, in previous eras, most lower-class people, at least outside large cities, would have worked for employers like my family member who knew them and cared about them somewhat, rather than large faceless corporation that goes on loudly about how much they care about you while really doing anything but.

And on a somewhat unrelated note, I found this song from Quebec on youtube a while back and feel like it could be this blog's theme song if it were in English.

Nastarana said...

Dear Toomas, thank you for the reference to Distributist Review. I found a lot of interesting articles there. Particularly there seems to have been a school of agrarian writing in Russia and Romania of which I had not known.

Here in Oneida Cty., upstate NY, I have seen a few Trump signs, no Clinton signs or bumper stickers, and I have heard a number of conversations complaining about the electoral choices this year.

I notice that the Cascadian Republic, is that what it is called, remains behind its' deserts, mountains and rocky coastline, not participating in continental affairs. I think its' emblem must be the bighorn ram. I think it does have a navy, which closely patrols fishing grounds.

Cherokee Organics said...


You could also use the example of Mikkelson in the story and compare that to yours / our current crop of politicians. They are also a tolerated species, although they appear to have largely forgotten that.



PatriciaT said...

Enjoying this series. I like it that tax breaks are tied to the common good.

Caryn said...

Signage report from Wyoming:

I know a lot of Clinton supporters, (not in WY) and none of them would ever think of putting up a yard sign or plaster their car with a bumper sticker - for anyone. Ever. I don't think that's as much of a 'thing' these days as it used to be, but they are certainly not the 'type' to do such a tacky, showy thing anyway. (& yes, I do think that THAT says something about the declining relationship between politics and the public in this age.) OTOH: I also see in our little 'Red-State' town in rural WY loads and loads of yard signs - all for local, down-ballot candidates and positions. Zero for either candidate for the presidential race. Since I now work in a decidedly working-class venue, I can say with some authority: my fellow grocery clerks and food preparers HATE both candidates. Gary Johnson might do well here, or they'll secretly vote for Trump as the lesser of two evils.

On the installment of Retrotopia> Thank You immensely, JMG. I always enjoy this ride! I do agree with Janice Mikkleson on how we commoners do love to gawp at the lifestyles of the rich and famous. It's a Love/Hate and we're inclined to "love" them if they at least give a good show of being generous and charitable - good people. I thought it was a little weird that she just said it out loud like that. It's hard to say without coming off as a conceited sense of grandeur, hmm, choppy but whatever. It's true.

What I'd like to add, (as someone who has studied costume and fashion history) is that FASHION has a great deal to do with this. We humans have always always self-adorned. ((An old costume joke: "What separates us from the animals? Why our ability to accessorize, of course!")) Since we lived in caves, we painted ourselves, stuck shiny bones and bits of metal through our ears, noses, whatevers, we didn't just drape ourselves in animal skins, we painted, fringed and beaded those skins, cut them to interesting shapes…We figured out how to weave weeds into fabric and immediately started DYEING it pretty colors. We've always adorned ourselves, AND whenever we could throughout history - we changed, we followed the trends or fashions of the day. We are creative, and this is one way we can express it. We like change & fashion. It's a part of who we are as human animals.

A big part of the appeal of Royalty and the wealthy is fashion. What are they wearing? How is the cut of their gowns?, coats? How do they wear their hair? Then we copy them. It's as old as human societies and in it's own unique way - it's in every society. It's one of Maslow's needs, (oh you all thought the 'clothing' bit in " shelter and clothing" was to keep warm?! Hahahaha!

So here's me giving a writerly writing tip to a writer, ha! You can flip me the bird behind your keyboard, ignore my buttinski 2-cents, no worries, but I'm going to say it anyway. :) If La Mikkleson is aware of her role as the Lakeland Dowager, Patroness or Matron-About-Town - she would also be very very very aware of and considered in her clothing. She would trust her own impeccable sense of style or if she doesn't have one - employ someone who does. She would also hire a team of designers, seamstresses, cobblers, milliners as well as her train-cook. If she shows up dowdy and boring or heaven forfend…unkempt! in public - it's over for her. She will lose a lot of her good will. Unfair, shallow, but true.

We love the Royals, Still swooning over Princess Di. We can forgive the Kardashians their vulgarity, They are where they are because we love to hate-watch them, but they know better than to show up in public without full makeup, hair and cool clothes.

whomever said...

For those discussing whether the Union structure the Archdruid posits would work, you can look at Germany, which is at least presented to outsiders as like that (down to having Union members on the boards. Germany, of course has also been incredibly successful in keeping it's manufacturing base in the face of Globalization, much more so than the US or UK. If there are any Germans reading I'm curious if they feel it's as successful as portrayed to outsiders?

Of course, a few years ago VW (yes, the actual company) wanted to introduce a similar structure to what they had in Germany to their US plants. Well, the US Powers That Be did everything they could to block this, down to U.S. Senator Bob Corker making some not-so-subtle threats if they Unionized. I believe the process is still grinding forward.

ganv said...

Clean and simple business. The problem is when abstractions like 'markets are efficient' and 'wages are set by supply and demand' are used to simplify the really complex social contract that brings capital, labor, and resources together to allow industry to function. It is not a moral question. There isn't a 'right' way for labor and capital to interact. There simply are cooperative models, hostile models, and the more common which is dysfunctional models where the truth about who is benefitting and who is controlling the system is obscured by all kinds of abstraction, traditions, and outright deception.

Amy Olles said...

I want to second Steve Morgan's opinion and say I particularly enjoyed reading "So I settled down in my chair..." it brought back memories of my father and grandfather sitting at the end of the sofa reading the paper. There was a worn spot in the couch thanks to the simple act of reading the newspaper, and as a small kid I often ended up there when reading my books, because you know, that's where the adults sat to read, so that's where I would be too! Your addition of simple details makes this story feel familiar and comfortable, something you reminiscence about and yet, realize you want to create in your own life.
To Steve's point, I'd never thought about how "the people of Walmart" (a real website, that is a true testament to the fact that people today often don't bother to make themselves presentable) would run out of fodder were the environment in which people lived something that inspired them aesthetically. I should have made the connection. I work in a cube environment and the walls are grey. Everywhere. Grey. And as such I dress, in a most minimal effort fashion, in a revolving set of 'office appropriate' outfits that are black, grey, and white, because, frankly, it feels like a funeral to me, so I'm not going to show up dressed like I'm going to a party.
As to riches and generosity, you are right, the two do go hand in hand. I've been quite remiss, as I focus on paying off a few things and my own life, to give generously to those in my community who might need it. I need to work on changing that.

Caryn said...

Blabbering on about fashion history now, so feel free not to post if this is dull or irrelevant:

Pre-Industrial fashions changed very noticeably about every 100 years. The only things that changed season to season were small things like a feather in the cap, what kind of feather, what color, where at what angle on the cap. Boots with buckles, or laces and bows. same boots -just altered, (our ability to accessorize.) Even the poor could grab a nice looking feather and stick it in their caps, or buy a scrap of fabric to make shoe bows. Even the poor could sew and alter the cut: high or low waist, loose or close fitting of their skirts or breeches. Only the truly destitute were left out. Royalty in Europe set the trends on both sides of the pond, for good and sometimes for ill.

Post Industrial Revolution, fashion in the 20th Century changed noticeably about every decade. Season to season there would be small new things, but the big changes happened only every 10 years or so, with overlap of course. In America, the very rich Industrialists, Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Astors: Society ladies and gents set them. That is why Edward Bernais used society girls to launch his tobacco smoking campaign and thus give birth to the advertising industry. Getting people to buy what they don't even need! In the UK & Europe, still Royalty and Titled Gentry. Then Hollywood stars and starlets nudged into the society pages and joined their ranks. Towards the end of the century, advertising took over and even the paid ads, (models) were superstars we commoners followed.

Now in the 21st Century we seem to have filled all of the notional space here too. Fashions have changed so fast, so often there really is no overall trend one can find. Consumers of fashion or people who like fashion, are bombarded with everything, like spaghetti on the wall - the design houses & fly-by-nights just throw it all at once and hope something sticks. So of course, nothing really does. You can't show you're the head of the pack when the pack is meandering cats all going their separate ways.

Interestingly - now is also the time period we have little 'love' for our celebrities or even Royals and often active hate and disdain for our Society Ladies and Gents. I know there are more concrete reasons for this, but I can't stop feeling: We cannot hope to emulate them or their look, (and that 'look', playing dress-up, is a lot of the dreaming Janice Mikkleson talks about in Retrotopia.) or use them as inspiration for our own visual adornments. Fashionwise: they're as confused as we are. We have little to no use for them anymore.

Armata said...

Oops, meant to write Butlerian Carnival, not Bulterian Carnival. I suppose that's what happens when one tries to type too fast and doesn't stop to double check. Live and learn...

John Michael Greer said...

Russell, China's bought into the standard global-hegemon package, right down to the small details -- neglect of the poor and weak is one of those details; check out how Britain treated its poor during its imperial phase! -- and will go through the same trajectory as the others: up with the rocket, down with the stick.

PeakDoc, glad to hear it. I'd be delighted if there were many, many more.

Leo, I get that. My wife and I lived very close to the edge for many years, before my writing became a steady enough income stream that we could move someplace where the cost of living is very low. Life in a nation in steep decline is not easy.

Cherokee, condolences on your chickens! I'm not at all surprised that the mongrel hens are more robust, of course. With regard to your more general point, exactly -- one of the things I hope to point out with this story is the role that mutual obligations have in maintaining any kind of functioning society.

Jo, exactly. As I pointed out in an earlier episode, the Lakeland Republic's tax code is set up to reward employers who treat their work force as an asset worth investing in. In the US today, our tax code is set up to punish employers who do that, and reward those who get rid of as many jobs as possible. That's a fine example of the sort of perverse incentives that are playing so large a role in running this country into the ground.

Vilko, my guess is that Mikkelson doesn't concern herself with the family size of her servants, but they don't get a raise just because they have extra children. The entire Lakeland Republic system is set up that way; because earned income isn't taxed, there's no deductions for child care, no per-child exemption, none of that. If you choose to have children it's your responsibility to cover the costs yourself.

Don, thanks for the report. I suspect, honestly, it's because we've got a race between the two most detested people in American public life, and many of those who support one or the other candidate are holding their noses.

Shrama, why shouldn't she? She lived through the same experiences as the other Lakelanders we've met; she's obviously on good terms with politicians, as shown by her first-name basis conversation with Melanie Berger; she has every reason to share the same values as the other citizens of her nation, and she's been able to fulfill her dreams in that nation, while upholding those values. What would make her ditch her values and do something she has every reason to see as self-defeating and stupid, just because it corresponds to some outside notion of how rich people behave?

KoldMilk, good! I may just put something on that into the revised version of the story: "We don't treat people as resources. What do you do to a resource? You exploit it."

Shane, that's because their CEOs didn't have to clean out corpses from a gated community where it was all too obvious where current notions of privilege led...

Sam, if you'll scroll up a bit, MawKernewek has one. There are several in circulation just now.

Shane, it's the strike and lockout that, more than anything else, turned labor and management into each other's enemies. The policies I set in place in the Lakeland Republic are designed to make those unnecessary by having a third party come in and force a settlement.

Patricia, the bees are more important than the bumper stickers, no question.

John Michael Greer said...

Beetleswamp, my take is that much of what's wrong with policing in today's America has to do with the way the federal government has been preparing local police forces to serve as cannon fodder to throw against a domestic insurgency. That's why the police are getting issued all that military kit, and being trained to regard all citizens as potential enemies; it's also why they're spending less and less time on ordinary crimes. They've been turned into soldiers, without the public ever quite realizing that, and active-duty soldiers by and large don't make good cops.

Shane, I hope Gray wins -- I'm not a fan of either of the Pauls, by a long shot.

Jleagan, thank you! I was basing my portrayal on what I could glean from Google and a few other sources, and will adjust accordingly.

Peter VE, much of Retrotopia has been in exactly the same conversational form, when it's not simply Carr's interior monologue. That's standard for utopian fiction, since there's usually a lot of information to get across.

Sebastien, thank you! I'll be in touch.

John, the Cthulhu for President campaign is even more mordant than usual, since both sides are using lesser-evil arguments for all they're worth!

Mister R., thank you. That's pretty ghastly -- and absolutely typical these days.

Bill, that's certainly the way I'm reading it.

Steve, thank you -- and the phrase "ternary kimchi" is a keeper. It so happens that I enjoy kimchi a great deal, enough that I'm probably going to learn how to make it fairly soon, and mulling over exactly what should go into ternary kimchi is a mouthwatering activity... ;-)

Ben, he should have had a chat with Ms. Mikkelson a long time before he took that drive. It might have saved a lot of people, himself included, a lot of misery.

Aron, interesting. The one non-Trump sign I've seen here recently simply said "No Trump, Not Now, Not Ever."

Lordyburd, it's partly custom and partly that servants have a living to make, and if you do their work for them, how are they going to eat?

Gwizard, as someone else pointed out, look at the magazines and tabloids on display the next time you're at the supermarket. A lot of people in America these days obsess about the doings of celebrities. A hundred years ago, it was the rich who filled that niche of popular entertainment -- every daily newspaper used to have society pages, which chronicled the doings of local wealthy families. It's a common human phenomenon, and so I don't think it's unreasonable to see it repeating in the Lakeland Republic, with Janice Mikkelson as one of the objects of popular fascination.

David, both of those would be useful steps. Yes, you can enjoy Dark Age America -- what's life without a little historical schadenfreude?

Shane W said...

considering our previous knock down, drag outs, I must admit I'm shocked you're coming around to the idea that we're coming closer to an inflection point of catabolic collapse and a major stair step down...

John Michael Greer said...

Pygmycory, and of course that's also an issue. I've shown in earlier episodes that the Lakeland political system is rather more subject to popular moods -- the fact that there are a lot of political parties, and coalitions can be brought down if one party decides to bolt, helps with that -- and also that politicians have figured out that popular sentiment against big business is something they can ride into power. Like every other system, though, Lakeland's isn't foolproof.

Sylvia, and that's another challenge that every system has to face. As I showed when Carr visited the stock market, though, speculation is heavily taxed, so there are fewer triggers for stock market crashes like the one in 1929.

BC Pagan, thank you!

Toomas, well, as I can't reliably tell a papal bull from a holy cow, I didn't notice...

RPC, as noted back when Carr visited the stock market, a lot of people, even of very modest means, invest in the stock market in order to get dividends. Any time you're making money off money, though, you face steep tax penalties, so the investor class is relatively small.

Neo, got it in one. There are reasons why the Lakeland Republic doesn't have television. I wonder if the SubGenii have a presence there? ;-)

Temporaryreality, I wish I'd had more time to offer suggestions! I suspect it's rather too late as I type this, but my immediate thought is to suggest that you bring up reality -- the issues that you've raised would make a good start. Ask the assembled political flacks if they're going to make any plans for dealing with the real world, or are they going to keep on living in la-la land?

Stuart, one of the things that has to be kept in mind with Retrotopia is that it is, in fact, a Retrotopia -- that is, a society that's set out to improve things substantially by bringing back things that worked in the past, to replace things that don't work now. That imposes certain limits on the proposals I'm making. Of course there are plenty of things that could be done to restructure a technic society to eliminate extreme wealth disparities and so on, but if they weren't in evidence somewhere in America's past, they're not relevant to this particular project. Does that make Retrotopia flawed? Of course -- and thus it's like every other human society.

Eric, good. Yes, that's exactly what I'm doing, and one of the reasons I'm doing it is that it's possible that at least some wealthy people will end up reading this and might just take a second look at what they're doing and what it's likely to bring down on their heads. You're right, by the way, that the Mikkelson industrial empire is a temporary thing; she became as rich as she is largely because the Lakeland Republic had to rebuild all its infrastructure from the ground up, and barring another massive war, that won't be needed again. Three or four generations down the road, the company will be much smaller, and her massive stockholdings will be dispersed among dozens of her brother's descendants -- but it'll be a different society by that time, and tier three may be the highest one that's still viable.

MawKernewek, you may have forgotten this, but in an episode late last year Carr visited a public library, and we got to see what public libraries are like in the Atlantic Republic through his eyes. So, yes, he knows what they are!

John Michael Greer said...

Toomas, and you have that right, of course. The fact remains that a lot of people are happy to do otherwise.

Armata, fascinating. No, I don't read Lind regularly, but it almost looks as though he's been reading me -- it stood out, for example, that he used the same two states I did when talking about how idiotic it is to try to force the same social habits on widely disparate parts of the US. Certainly, though, he's talking about many of the same themes I am, though coming at them from a different angle, and his take on the predicament of our times makes more sense to me than that of most other self-proclaimed conservatives. I wonder if he'd be open to getting a review copy of Retrotopia when it comes out; of course he'd have the same reaction to Toledo sexual mores as Toomas, but the rest of it might well be of interest to him and his readers.

Chuck, the kind of self-terminating idiocy we see among today's American rich is really quite an anomaly in history. Far more often than not, elite groups figure out early on that they have to keep the loyalty of the masses if they're going to avoid tumbrils et al., and do the necessary things as a matter of course. The reason our rich aren't that smart, I think, is because most of today's rich aren't old money; they're nouveaux riches, and those are notoriously selfish, graceless and grasping until they've been around long enough to get a clue. Mikkelson got a clue by another route, and her example has helped set a fashion among the emergent rich; the relative stability of the Lakeland economy, which discourages the boom and bust cycles that bring nouveaux riches to the top, ought to take it from there.

Blue Sun, exactly. Whether or not he wins -- and I still think he has quite a good chance of winning -- his candidacy is a major inflection point in US politics. From here on in, anyone who wants a shot at power knows how to get it...

Nachtgurke, glad to see that someone caught that. I've mentioned half a dozen shortages and will be putting in more as I revise -- basically, every time Carr opens the paper, he's going to read about another shortage!

Justin, human beings love to be honored. The scrap of ribbon is simply an anchor for the feeling of being regarded with admiration and respect -- and yes, people will readily die for that. One of the catastrophic failures of industrial society is its refusal to grant that to anyone outside a very narrow circle.

Steven, your relative the accountant is an example of what was once the foundation of American society -- the successful businessperson who is active in his local community and keeps the public welfare in mind. The twilight of that class is in many ways the twilight of this nation. Thank you for the song, btw -- very listenable!

Cherokee, hah! A very good point.

PatriciaT, thank you. One of the idiotic things about current American tax law is that it's set up to punish actions that further the public good and reward actions that do the opposite.

John Michael Greer said...

Caryn, that's an excellent point, and one that I can weave into the story as the revisions proceed. (I've already got most of the planned revisions made, so everything's on schedule.)

Whomever, thanks for this! I'll look into the German example and see if I can borrow some details.

Ganv, nicely summarized!

Amy, glad to hear I helped wake some good memories! As for esthetics, though, you're quite correct, and that's something I can weave into the story as revisions proceed.

John Michael Greer said...

By the way, as a note to all: if there's something else from the past you think I should have covered in the course of the story, by all means mention it. I'm in full-scale revision mode now, putting in additional scenes and scenelets -- I've just written an entire scene at the University of Toledo that won't appear anywhere until the book is published -- and I can easily add another 10,000 words or so to the current 68,000-word manuscript. The floor is open for suggestions. Mind you, I may not agree, and if it's not something from the past (remember: Retrotopia) it won't go in, but if you've got something to suggest, post something about it here.

Bill Pulliam said...

Shane - well I have always been one to incorporate new information. But I am still not sure what to make of this mood... if it is the dead zone before Something Big, there are so many options for what the Something Big could be. It might not take the outward form of collapse per se; judging from Sanders a very large chunk of the populace is ready to throw all remaining resources at one last ditch effort to resurrect 20th Century Democratic Socialism with all its grand ideas and big programs. My young hillbilly friend with the large Anarchy tattoo on his chest also is all in favor of British-style National Health Care here... so go figure. Revolutions could be social, political, and/or militarized. They might swing anarchic or fascistic or anywhere in between, or they might just fizzle back into the gray goo the political and cultural wasteland.

The real thermodynamic catabolic collapse has been ongoing for decades. I'm not necessarily expecting that to accelerate; but it is already happening faster than most like to notice or think about. Almost half a century ago, we sent people to the moon and back 6 times using slide rules. Now our "finest" private sector tech moguls can't even reliably launch a satellite.

But I can still hop in my truck tomorrow morning and run off to the corner of the state for a weekend of birdwatching and fishing. And I will enjoy that privilege while it lasts...

temporaryreality said...

Thank you, JMG for even thinking of things to say (re: the general plan for mid sized Sac Valley city) - the good news, I learned, is that I have two weeks until the public comment period is over (so there's still time if anyone has suggestions). I sat through about half of the meeting (very staid going, but I was with my elderly father who, being unable to hear well got bored so I had to leave)... I had the sense that while comments were invited, it seems rather like a done-deal. I missed whatever meeting was held in which exit clauses were brought up (if they were). One commentor spoke a few times about topics like "zero net energy" (without defining what she meant by it), and limiting fossil fuel use (while promoting electricity (insert eye-roll here). One commissioner mentioned, in the "healthy communities" section, a hope for increased efforts to encourage kids to walk to school (so, defining school attendance boundaries for walkability and having programs to improve safety and encouraging parents to allow their kids out of the car. I had to leave before the major land-use chapter was discussed.

In general it seemed like (and I'll confirm this after I read the behemoth of a document) that the focus is on new development rather than ways to improve the existing infrastructure (so, more low-income housing by creating dense new tracts rather than re-zoning and infill in existing areas) - someone commented that the current plan adequately covers some aspects that new development claims to solve - but you know... GROWTH!

Since I write more eloquently than I speak, I'll probably submit my comments in writing (for the record) - and indeed raise the points I mentioned earlier. I'll probably refrain from terms like "political flacks" or "living in la-la land" but I'll do what I can to at least make sure there's one voice for ... well... a sense of what the future is likely to hold. ;)

Bukko Boomeranger said...

JMG, did you have John Galt in mind when you wrote the details about Janice Mikkelson? She comes across as the anti-Galt. A woman who builds better engines and thinks about others, instead of a selfish mansnob who's itching to shrug off everyone else aside from his ilk. Cheers for creating an opposite to the Rands you can't stand.

Shane W said...

Considering the tone and animosity this year's election is generating, I wonder how many yard signs or even bumper stickers are getting removed or defaced? I wonder how many people never put one in their yard or on their car in the first place out of fear of retribution.

lordyburd said...

Mr.Greer, maybe I am forgetting this from the previous episodes of retrotopia, but some exploration of the legislative and judicial branches of government would perhaps be to your taste. Following a the passing of a new bill, or the legal procedures pertaining to the kind of case that would push buttons in today's America. OJ Simpson comes to mind.

Shane W said...

forgive me, but Mikkelson seems decidedly butch, and I don't see her following fashion in any particular regard. She would probably wear a practical pantsuit as butch as she could get away with. Now, her fabulous, more femme, wife, now that's the one who would put on a show and be more likely to conform to fashion norms.

Shane W said...

for shorthand, Mikkelson is Ellen Degeneres, if not butcher (Ellen is a soft butch, at best), while her wife is Portia di Rossi

Candace said...

@ Caryn
I find the more recent trends (the last 50 years) in fashion incomprehensible. I'm glad there's someone who understands it. I do enjoy the costumes that my niece and her friends make for their cos-play conventions. Along with board games maybe we should develop cos-play and have people post pictures of the clothing of the regions. Maybe someday there could be a Retrotopia "rendezvous" event. :-)

As a campaign sign up date. Have t seen any presidential posters. I think one Clinton bumper sticker. And definitely an anti-Trump bumper sticker. All the signs Re for local races, school board, state senate , state house. My dad says the atmosphere is similar in the city he lives in in Iowa.

As far as the story having a rich industrialist and not showing other configurations. If you want cold prickliest to shut down people's thinking the easiest way to do that in the U.S. Is to endorse or suggest ideas that can be labelled socialism or communism. In my experience the fastest way to kill a movement is to get it conflated with those things. I all ready get the feeling that people who don't like BlCk Lives Matter.are trying to imply that they are socialist who want to redistribute wealth from white people to black people. Maybe some aspects of socialism might get rehabilitated in the U.S., but I honestly don't expect to see it in my life time.

Genevieve Hawkins said...

One of the earlier commenters said something random and along these lines, but having grown up in Toledo I cannot fathom where in Ottawa Hills you would be able to see a view of the Toledo city skyline. It's not hilly at all but I think is in a lower lying area of the town, mostly surrounded by massively towering oak trees but even if you chopped down the trees, assuming the city buildings are still located further north on the Maumee river, I can't imagine where in that nestled area even with a very large house that you could see much of anything. Now you get a pretty nice view of the current city skyline out on route 2 heading out towards Maumee Bay State Park but that's going east. Maybe you could see it from Point Place too..

shrama said...

Dear JMG,

I can see that Mikkelson is a patriotic citizen of Lakeland Republic and must therefore share its most cherished values. My point though was a bit different. There are two aspects to any individual's economic and financial choices: How to make money and how to spend money. I think that Mikkelson's conversation with Carr addresses the latter but not the former. The only obvious point that deals with the former is that Mikkelson will not gamble in a rigged casino. But then what if the casino was rigged in her favour?

It is true that doing so would have been, as you say, stupid and self-defeating. Yet, I am not at all sure that today's super rich share those sentiments or for that matter, have sufficient reasons and facts to agree with that assessment. That is why hearing a well articulated justification from Mikkelson's mouth for her money making choices would have made the conversation more complete.

Put in other words what I am asking is: Does recognizing that progress is the enemy of prosperity put any constraints on how the super rich make their money or not (and distinct from how they spend their money)? But I also understand that there may not be any general enough claims that can be made to answer that question.

HalFiore said...

I don't know if I count as a Clinton supporter, but I already voted for her once this year, and will likely be voting for her again in November, for reasons I made an attempt at laying out a month or so back. So I'll bite on that hook.

No, I won't be displaying a Clinton sign for the simple reason that I don't want to take the risk of being shot. That's not an exaggeration. The amount of rage out here in this corner of Dixieland by the losers of the last two presidential contests is greater than I've seen since the 1960s. The abuse that a white person gets on social media for daring to defend any action by the current president or for doubting any of the conspiracy theories about Ms Clinton is all the warning I need. Black people, oddly enough, get a pass even by the most screaming partisan Republicans, because it's a given that they are going to be Democrats.

As far as signage in town: No Clinton signs seen yet, several Trump signs in the whiter sections of town, and they're almost all on houses that also display Confederate flags or the Mississippi flag and signs for keeping it the way it is, that is with the Confederate battle flag as part of it.

Of course, it makes little difference what I do. The Republicans could have nominated a giraffe and it would get Mississippi's electoral votes. Or, to put it another way, if it turns out that this state is in play, it will already be a landslide for MS Clinton. So I try to relax about politics and connect to people in other ways.

John Michael Greer said...

Temporaryreality, by all means revise to remove the mackerel-across-the-face verbiage! No doubt whatever you write will be ignored this time around, but it might just allow reality to begin to seep into a mind or two in the process. If you feel up to the publicity, a letter to the editor of the local paper might also be a useful idea.

Bukko, I didn't have Galt specifically in mind -- I find Rand's fiction stunningly dull, and so it doesn't come to mind without an effort -- but you're quite right: Janice Mikkelson is the anti-Galt, and I'm delighted to say it.

Shane, I could see that!

Lordyburd, thank you and so noted. I'll put that in my notes.

Shane (if I may), yes, Janice Mikkelson is distinctly butch -- that's certainly how I mean to portray her -- but what that means is that her fashion sense will be expressed in roughly the same way that a rich male industrialist's would have been a century and a quarter ago: impeccable tailoring, fine fabrics, elegance just understated enough that it sneaks up behind you and clobbers you. It's not necessary to be fluffy to be fashionable!

Candace (if I may), I find the idea of Retrotopia cosplay enticing. Just according to the base dates of the tiers, you've got 120 years of sturdy, elegant, mostly comfortable clothing to choose among! As for socialism, exactly; this narrative is meant to speak to people outside of the far-left fringe, thus it needs to use forms that most Americans find understandable and comfortable.

Genevieve, many thanks for this. My only experience of Toledo involved the train station, so I'm grateful for tips about details of local geography I get wrong!

Shrama, thanks for clarifying. Yes, that may be worth working into the discussion.

HalFiore, thanks for this. Perhaps we can talk one or both of the parties into nominating a giraffe next time around; having one as president would at least limit the harm that would be done...

mgalimba said...

John Michael Greer,

As I mentioned some time earlier, and got promptly flamed for, I am voting for Hillary Clinton with enthusiasm, and no I don't have a yard sign or bumper sticker because I never have done that, plus I live so far off-grid nobody would even see it except a few hunters. Anyway I live in a deep blue state, so much so that nobody really bothers with presidential election signage. And another thing...the signage, what a colossal waste of material. The sooner we outgrow the custom the better.

I thought we were not going to talk about the presidential election here, at this point it's really so much tilting at windmills.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

Back in 2008, more than half the cars where I live had Obama bumper stickers. They weathered on for the next several years, though not many new ones were added in 2012. I live in a town with a lot of homeowners and the last local election elicited many yard signs for local candidates and for and against the hot topic which was a flood control measure.

I think I've seen one Clinton and one Trump bumper sticker on cars recently. It's very blue here, but not a hotbed of Bernie support.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

JMG, if the Lakeland Republic combines more than two major parties with a non-parliamentary system, I think you need a different voting system. Plurality wins or a simple runoff of the top two will knock out the third party pretty quickly. In the US model, third party candidates split the vote of the more like-minded voters and ensure the victory of the candidate who is least representative of the majority's views. AKA spoiler candidate or throwing away your vote, the Bush-Gore-Nader election being a notorious example.

You could fix this by having a different voting system such as ranked choice (currently used for local elections in Oakland, CA and San Francisco) or approval voting (about which I know nothing) or primary elections with different rules, or an electoral college with electors allowed to exercise their own judgement. The latter would be really retro; you would have to go back to the Federalist period to see that working the way the Framers envisioned.

Mikep said...

Hi John, thanks for sharing another instalment with us. If you don't object I have a couple of questions about the future that you illustrate in the story, firstly I have gone back over the last four episodes and made a note of the character's names then divided them into two lists.
List 1 Pre Hart-Celler
Peter Carr
Ellen Montrose
Janice Mikkelson
Sam Capoferro
Melanie Berger
President Meeker
Velma Streiber
John Bayard MacElroy
Hank Barker
President Applegate
Stuart Macallan
Jonathan Two Hawks
Vera McTavish
Lashonda Marvell
Meg Amberger
Fred Vanich
Michael Bickerstaff

List 2 Post Hart-Celler
Jaya and Ramaraj Patel
Maria Vargas Ruz
Sharon, a gorgeous Asian woman

The Pre Hart-Celler list is quite a bit longer which leads to my first question. What have you done with all the mestizos? If we assume that Trump wins the forthcoming election ( quite possible) and that he comes good on his promise to deport all illegal aliens (less likely but not inconceivable) it would remove several millions, but that still leaves tens of millions of Latinos who hold US citizenship. Where are they? Trumps deportations would likely have the effect of reducing competition for jobs and housing among the working class which would probably cause wages to rise and home prices to fall to some extent. Wouldn’t this delay the collapse of the USA, possible by several decades?
If on the other hand “She who must not be named” wins, we can expect an amnesty, plus an open border for years to come. Bill Clinton has recently suggested up to 10,000 Syrians could be housed in Chicago, I’m sure the “Dindus” will have something to say about that! Then, I think that your date for collapse mid 2020s looks altogether more realistic. But that still leaves my original question unanswered. Where are all the Mestizos, not to mention the Arabs, Somalis, Sudanese, Afghans, Pakistanis, etc.
Incidentally, I like the way that you slipped in a “solution” to today’s (((Hostile Elites.))) Nicely understated, let’s hope you didn’t leave too many loose ends, we don’t want a repeat of last time.
I look forward to more episodes.

DarkOptimism said...

@JMG and Rob Rhodes: So good to hear that you're finding in "Lean Logic" what I did when I first discovered the manuscript.

You might be interested in this interview I did with the publishers the other week on David Fleming and his work:

And Rob, if you're up for doing an Amazon review for the book, that'd be much appreciated as I work to spread the word about his genius.


Unknown said...

JMG, enlightening, as always. Re peak phosphate. I work on a dairy farm, and the discussion at breakfast time in the dairy turned to clover in dairy pasture and its companion curse, bloat. The older generation of my employers had plenty of experience, but the younger generation missed out on the fun because by the time he was involved the pastures had been converted to rye grasses, which are fertilised with urea. I can recall my father cursing clover and wishing for some modern pastures just before selling his dairy farm in 1971. For the non farmers, clover in a pasture mix fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere in the soil, and nitrogen promotes grass growth. In a cows rumen in large quantities it can create excessive gas which can cause the cow discomfort, and if untreated, death. Cures include running the cow, shocking with the wash down hose, puncturing the rumen with a large needle(don't stand behind the needle when you do this, folks!)and bloat oil in the water trough. In modern temperate dairy farming, clover is replaced with synthetic urea fertilizer derived from gas via petrochemical processes. As peak oil passes, dairying will have to re-aquaint itself with clover, and bloat.


eagle eye

Chris, there is a technical term for the reason mongrels do better than purebreds,
hybrid vigor.

Fred said...

@Caryn What source are you quoting for rate of fashion change? This doesn't align at all with our experience in creating clothing for historical reenactment for 1775-1850. About every 25-30 years women's fashions completely changed over in style, construction (type of sewing), and fabric patterns. It varied by rural and urban, ethnic group, and state. This is a site we use to research and purchase the fabric itself You'll see that the fabric patterns and colors totally change every 20-30 years.

The style of clothing and fabric used quickly showed what class of person and how in tune with the times you were. City people in early America looked to the courts of Europe to see what royalty was wearing. Rural people who worked all day with their hands had simpler dress, but their "going out to town" outfit tried to model what was in style.

In terms of fashion today.....well that is dictated by corporations who have teams of people tell us what is next. And the glitterati too of course. It varies every year what the fashion conscious would wear. Thus the trend "trashion" - clothes meant to last for 5-7 wearings - making it through a season and then can be thrown away. H&M, Forever 21 and Primemark all sell trashion.

The disturbing trend I see now is that 40 something women and men dress like teenagers. A trip to a fashionable mall - the kind full of skinny people - and you will see the phenomena. A mom and daughter will walk by - both with skinny jeans or pixie shorts or yoga pants, and have a matching spaghetti strap tank, or tissue paper thing t-shirt. Fathers and sons both wear jeans and t-shirts with some sort of graphic on it. Thankfully the baseball caps are finally fading among the fashionable. One time my teens and I played a sort of bingo game with it; the winner being who could spot five matches first and it took a disappointing short amount of time.

It is still extremely easy to tell by looking at what an adult is wearing and their haircut what kind of job they have, if they live with their parents, how educated they are, and if they are "going somewhere" in life or just kind of existing. I think this is why Facebook loves our photos and has developed all this tech to analyze them. The marketing data it produces must be extraordinary and tell them a lot about who we really are, not what we say is so in the words that accompany the photo.

latefall said...

@Nachtgurke, JMG re phosphate:
In Europe a lot of the phosphate comes from Marocco, and it has a significant amount of uranium mixed in. Enough to start screening for it in some water sources in Germany. Of course with soil chemistry being difficult to predict there is some potential that a lot more is already on its way. Baked into the cake so to say.
Not sure if the US sources have similar issues, or are likely to exist by the time of the story.

Justin said...

JMG, if you're taking suggestions for things to include in the book which were not covered in the blog posts (forgive me if I'm wrong), crime and punishment would be interesting. Obviously, the way that crime and punishment is handled in North America and Europe is simply too expensive for a society with resource constraints, and given that crime tends to rise with poverty, something is going to break.

In recent news, President Duerte of the Philippines has legalized bounty hunters to deal with the drug problem in the country. Recent comments by the governor of Maine about drug dealers indicate that such thinking is not too far away in the united states. Of course, there's a hefty dose of racism involved, but I think it's foolish to simply dismiss his sentiments as mere racism.

I'm sure the Lakeland Republic has a more measured approach.

Don Plummer said...

@jleagan and John
As someone who also spent a lot of time in Toledo, mostly during the 1980s and '90s, and as jleagan already suggested, I would like further to suggest that the use of the word "hills" in the name Ottawa Hills is somewhat of a misnomer. Nobody who lives where John lives would call the little rises along the bank of the Ottawa River hills. They are hills only with respect to the utterly table-top flat ground of the entire northwest Ohio region.

The idea that one could climb "out of the Maumee River valley into the hills beyond" is not a very accurate reflection of the geography of the city. :)

Janet D said...

One quick note about political signs: I will echo what other posters have said re: a lack of signs for either major candidate. I just commented on this to my husband a few weeks ago.

Living in the reddest corner of WA, I usually see MANY signs and bumper stickers for the Republican Presidential candidate (this is my third election cycle here). I have seen NOTHING for Trump. NOTHING. I still expect this corner of the country to go heavily Trump, but I find it telling that so few people are willing to go public with it. And I don't think people here are brave enough for a Hillary sticker. Might be dangerous.

I can't vote for Trump. We regularly hire (legal) Mexican immigrants for help with yard work. They are honest, peaceful and most are reasonably priced. Many are struggling to survive, which is one of the main reasons I hire them. The money they receive goes to support the 8 other people living in their 2-bedroom apartment. One county over from us is 72% Hispanic and there are a LOT of migrants brought in to work the farms here. My kids attend a martial arts program in that county and I have a friend whose children go to school in a school that is 65% ESL. What I have learned from these regular contacts is that the Hispanic community here is TERRIFIED of Trump, terrified of what will happen to families and friends if he is elected (they are also resentful of Republicans for 'turning their backs' on the Hispanic community). Hispanic kids talk about it at school and at martial arts, twisting their hair and holding their breath. It's really sad. Yes, immigration is a problem (although I don't see any white people lining up to take the hand-harvesting agricultural 'jobs' for dirt wages and 14-hour days....) and we need to secure the borders. And maybe it's hard to do that without terrorizing other people by villanizing them. I don't know. I sure hate what I see, though. Life on the downslope is not fun.

Shane W said...

one thing you haven't discussed so far, that I'd be interested in knowing about, is how Lakeland handles entitlements/social safety net. Has anything resembling Social Security or Medicare survived? Also, how do they avoid the problems these programs cause (Ponzi scheme, cannibalizing future generations, attitude of entitlement)
Related to that, we haven't yet seen the rich life of Fraternal Organizations in Lakeland. I'm sure Lakelanders are joiners and community minded, and I'd love a fleshing out of fraternal life in Lakeland.

James Gemmill said...

While I'd be astonished if the Lakeland Republic had achieved the level of recognition of the Cape Breton/Québécois fiddle traditions, might I so humbly implore that some manner of folk music traditions may have been revived?

In addition, while it's been alluded to shortwave/AM radio broadcast schedules in the daily newspapers our protagonist has been acquiring real, in-depth journalism from, as opposed to the equivalent of "twits", "tweets", I was rather hoping he'd be tuning into some radio programs at some point, his schedule and the unfolding crises permitting, of course.

Donald Hargraves said...

Waiting on your final installment with a sense of foreboding, of all things (about WHY Carr would have to return).

As for political signs, I've yet to see any yard signs for Trump or Clinton. I see a few Trump bumper stickers (though, oddly enough, no Trump/Pence stickers) here in NW Indiana, and a few Hillary stickers in Chicago itself. I see a lot more "Pence Must Go" signs around NW Indiana (even with Pence having to resign his office to run as VP, oddly enough) and, even more rare, a "Gregg For Governor" sign. I'm willing to wait until the beginning of October to make an official report, although about the only thing I think a flood of signs would show is one side gaining confidence that their side was about to win.

As for your University of Toledo, is it a general college, or specifically aimed at a specific group (say, a Normal College, which focused mainly on training teachers and from which we get many of our second-tier universities)? And how much of the present-day University system is still around – do we still have the tOSUs and Central Michigans, or has the University of Toledo had to remake itself from whole cloth?

David, by the lake said...

It has been noted in other comments, I believe, but the kind of noblesse oblige exemplified in this chapter is precisely one of the aspects of our social matrix which has been filtered out by the layers of intermediation and impersonal markets. In more direct, personal relations (as John points out as forming the basis of feudal relationships) the necessity of such a thing is much more apparent.

To augment the yard-sign reportage (and hopefully not breach the threshold of John's tolerance!), my rather rural county tends Republican, though the cities (including my own smaller city) tend Democratic. The only yard signs I see are Trump, mostly though not exclusively outside or on the edges of town. What is notable, however, is that during the primaries, I saw a number of Sanders signs scattered about (not a large number, but not insignificant either) -- these have *not* been replaced by signs supporting the current nominee...

inohuri said...

When writing scenes that include topographic details or views you could use Google Earth.

Ground level view is crude but gives an idea of what can be seen from a point.

elev in the lower right is quick and accurate enough. It can include depth of water.

There seems to also be some sort of flight simulator that I have started a couple of times by mistake. I can't resist trying to figure out the controls before crashing but of course it never works.

Some of the keyboard controls are worth learning.

Shane W said...

speaking of thermodynamic collapse, we're in the midst of an oil bust/glut, once fracking officially bites the dust, and Saudi Arabia and perhaps a few other petrostates goes bust, we could be up w/the rocket again in less than a few years, looking @ $8+/gal. gasoline along w/all our financial bubbles bursting (higher ed, personal debt, national debt, health care, etc.)

Shane W said...

the establishment may just find enough duct tape to jerry rig BAU one more time, but I wouldn't bet on it. Too many plates spinning @ this point, and things too fragile...

Nastarana said...

Dear Caryn, speaking of modern fast fashion, you may have noticed that huge international shipper, Han Jin, has just declared bankruptcy. Han Jin cargo ships are sitting outside of ports, including San Diego, around the world, not being allowed to dock for fear that docking fees, truckers wages and so on won't be paid. Han Jin is a South Korean company. China has seized some of their ships for salvage to pay debts which the company owes, and other countries may do the same. Han Jin carries about 8% of world container traffic, and much of that 8% is clothing from Asian sweatshops.

latefall said...

Re Retrotopia tech
Let me first throw you a couple of new(ish) techs that you may want to poke holes into as to make your case more watertight:
- Software defined radio with field programmable gate arrays a la HackRF One or Lime SDR, see
- Glass fiber (possible bottleneck: platinum iridium crucibles), pitch based carbon fiber (bottleneck: continuous process/control), aramide fibers (Kvevlar, if I remember right a product of the last Oil Embargo) (maybe people would rather invest into arachnide fibers?)

Retro techs:
- Stilts
- Wooden shoes, Wadmal, charcoal hand (and more) warmers
- didactic Herbarium collages (larger arrangements convey information on plant/ecological properties)
- Really good optics [just had a déjà-vu] widely used (reading glasses, scopes, or
- Conflict resolution and avoidance by poison, cheap effective healthcare using some of the same
- Multi-generation homes
- walking canes for fashion and function
- there is probably a lot of potential in some branches of math and statistics, including some technological opportunities deriving from them.

Caryn said...

@Shane: Hmmm, I think Ellen Degeneres is decidedly casual. She's purposefully emitting an easy-going, approachable vibe in her boating shoes, and beautifully drapey/tailored, but slightly sloppy threads. It's a great look, but If I were to costume 'Retrotopia' the movie: I'd be looking a lot at Christine Lagarde, (Head of the IMF). I agree with JMG, from his writing of her position and how she got there, where she came from, the seriousness of it and her perspective and grit. Impeccable bespoke tailoring with just a small hint of flair - like a beautifully batik or embroidered LLR hemp scarf, or a single piece of divinely crafted LLR made jewelry. (She also understands foreign made fashion is likely to rankle peoples' feathers.) And OF COURSE that sleek cropped white hair. Yes, mostly if not always trousers, not skirts. I'd also look at Robin Wright's character Clair Underwood on 'House Of Cards', but without the skin-tight cut to the clothes. And no high heels. I love a shined wing-tipped shoe on women in fine wool trousers. THAT is an elegant, but strong look. :)

I do like the idea of the more flashy Portia De Rossi wife though. She would be loads of fun to dress!

@Candace: Agreed. Although, I've kind of given up on fashion around 15 to 20 years ago. The overriding trends of each decade visually express the political and social feelings, attitudes, identifications of the populace in their times. The 80's - a reaction to the austerity and crunchy-granola lifestyle of the 70's, all about patent leather/plastic, big hair, flashy ostentatious shows of wealth, or at least glitz! the 90's - a reaction against that - grunge, and deconstructed/ kind of post-punk: thrift store finds in asymmetrical layers, lots of buckles and hardware. Doc Marten shoes or boots. 2000 - started with a cleaned up version of those deconstructed clothes - all neutral colors, weird asymmetrical angles and layers…. but then as described on a post in Green Wizards - "Fast Fashion" a la Zara, Abercrombie & Fitch and H&M took over and a new exciting 'trend' hit the stores and streets every single week. Thrift stores are pretty well tapped out of the good finds. There was/is no cohesion, so nothing is out of style, therefore nothing scan be IN style. The designers and knock-off shops together just threw everything at us like spaghetti on a wall.

So yeah, not at all decipherable - Hey! I guess that also mirrors our feelings and attitudes about our socio-political life now!!

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160902T135718Z

Thanks, everyone (JMG included) for being kindly when I raise dissident points.

I do have to concede to JMG that this is a Retrotopia, and that radical Catholic social programmes along G.K.Chesterton lines therefore do not fit JMG's narrative framework in an altogether natural way.

Today taking the prescribed narrative framework as a given, I note JMG's call ("9/1/16, 8:05 PM") for aspects of the past that could be added. Leaving out the worst things from the past that most of us remember - the Swanson "TV Dinner"; the TV itself, with "My Favorite Martian"; the ubiquitous smoking ("Kindly fasten your safety belts and extinguish all cigarettes in preparation for takeoff") - I pick out three that JMG might or might not want to ponder.

(1) Cinema. Oh boy. Although we still have cinema, it felt different during the Cold War. Cinema used to be above all a production - even in rather sleepy Truro, Nova Scotia, we had dark red upholstery in the cavernous screening room, and special elegant little lamps along the walls, and lots of incandescent bulbs in the street marquee. Part of what had to be projected onto the Silver Screen was Glamour. One wonders if Lakeland has cinema, and if so, to what extent it penetrates into lower-tier villages. (Here I recall how in my one-room 1958-1962 schoolhouse well outside Truro, someone official would occasionally come with a projector, and all of us kids would stare entranced. This again was Glamour.) - Another part of the pleasantly earnest visual culture was the Home Movie, on 8 mm Kodachrome. - People who could not justify the expense of the Home Movie still sometimes did what Dad and I did, shooting endless 35-mm slides. It was considered great fun to set up a bulky, clumsy screen, and a projector, and show slides, of such dull matters as a Day at the Beach. Thinking back, the slide show seems nuts, akin to Victorians sitting in parlours, handing round a stereoscope with sepia views of Venice. And how seriously everyone took it!

(2) Postal service. In 1960s Nova Scotia, the mails were as regular as they must have been in 1960s West Germany. You knew for sure that a letter picked up by the rural letter carrier from the roadside box on Monday would reach Cousin Jaan and Cousin Maret in Montréal on Wednesday. Part of the secret in this was the mail-sorting car on trains: the Monday-morning letter probably went out on one of the two or so daily Montréal-bound trains, from the Truro station, later in the day (we had the fast "Ocean Limited" and the slower "Scotian"), to be sorted en route. - In 1974-1978 Britain, I encountered something still more impressive, namely a cheap first-class service. You could put onto a so-called inland letter either some modest postage for "second class" or just a little bit more for "first class". "First class" was perhaps capable of getting an envelope from Oxford, in the morning, to Leeds-Bradford in the evening.

(3) Ham radio. - JMG and I did somehow some months ago jointly touch on a related topic, a possible public radiotelegraph service. I think we both rather felt that Lakeland might have public radiotelegraph offices in even lower-tier villages. This would call to mind the interesting telegraph arrangement, admittedly with landline rather than with the more efficient radio, featured by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Holmes and Watson sometimes have to send a wire from deep in the English countryside, and it seems to be taken for granted that even single-pub villages will boast a telegraph office.

Tom (in Estonian diaspora, near Toronto)

Phil Harris said...

One of the things I feel I am picking up from you and in comments etc. is the sense of comfort that some people in the USA draw from the diversity of geography and culture and in the diverse strands of national history.

At its most basic this seems to be remembering or imagining other places where people think differently from those in the immediate neighbourhood and/or State. I am thinking of one person wisely not voicing opinions, thus avoiding being screamed at by the local white OTT 'Republican' voice. That loudness could seem like another attempt to voice or assert the value of homogeneity? For others, re-location has provided an alternative and better means of resolving issues.

I just wrote a long screed about the oddity of this when seen from the outside, (not sent), but standing back from Retrotopia I wonder if despite the lengths you have gone to, you might have underestimated the impacts of war on home turf, especially civil war. Basil Liddell Hart’s essay in my copy of 70s’s ‘Civilian Resistance as a National Defence’ sums up some of the lessons from historical violent resistance, particularly guerrilla warfare. Recurrent patterns over perhaps centuries are worth avoiding at almost any cost. (Our youngest daughter is recently returned from her first visit to Belfast. The aftermath still looms conspicuously over an otherwise familiar looking British environment.)

I know that US State boundaries resemble lines on a map of post-colonial sub-Saharan Africa, but I actually take Bill Pulliam’s point on the unlikely imminent fragmentation of the USA, though I am not in a position to argue one way or the other. Your legendary US facility for frequently physically re-locating and subsuming opinions within rolling modernity and novel sub-cultures may yet outlast the chasms of class / minority / origin expressed in gun ownership, homicide, incarceration and health and poverty statistics, where the USA is a clear outlier among well-off urban industrial countries.


Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160902T144502Z

Oh heavens: news, news, news. A nice Catholic lady in Australia, visually impaired and not capable of easily using JMG's blog-commenting interface, asks me to post here for her, in relation to JMG's call (""9/1/16, 8:05 PM") for topics to be added to his narrative. I copy her e-mail communication to me, ultimately intended for the blog, herewith:


Would you be so kind as to draw Mr. Greer’s focus towards the lot of the blind/vision impaired and perhaps consider including a cameo appearance by an individual using a guide dog/Braille reading etc? Braille production at its simplest (hand slate and stylus for private use, moveable type press printing for larger scale publication) would have been possible in the high middle ages and definitely within the reach of a tier 1 community. Prior to light-weight metals such as aluminium becoming available, slates and embossing plates for larger scale publication were produced from brass and timber. Braille writing machines for private use were available from the mid 1880’s in continental Europe and the US from 1892 with the invention of the Hall Braille Writer upon which one of its first demonstration typists could produce Braille in excess of 90WPM. Needless to say, use of the Long Cane, not finally perfected until the early 1950’s coupled with good sound travel training, along with the abovementioned adaptations makes good sense in the Lakeland republic.




T Bruce said...

JMG, I’ve been reading this blog for several years without comment. But this week’s installment of Retrotopia hit a little too close to home, literally. I live in Ottawa Hills. This morning I rode my bicycle through the ‘Estate Section’ as it’s called, past a few of the mansions that could have served as the blueprint for Mikkelson’s home in a future rebuilt Ottawa Hills. Over the last year my wife and I have enjoyed comparing the capitol of the Lakeland Republic to the Toledo that we know. We’ve been impressed that you’ve gotten so much of the city and northwest Ohio right without spending time here yourself. Jleagon and Genevieve were right though - there really aren’t any hills in Ottawa Hills, just a small valley along a creek that we grandly call the Ottawa River. You can’t see the Toledo skyline from here. Most of northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan are pretty flat and so you’d also be hard-pressed to get gravity systems to do much work for you. The canals are long gone, but there is one beautiful canal section in a park along the Maumee River with a canal boat, functioning lock, and a water-powered lumber mill.

I think Toledo is a good choice for a future capital for the same reasons that people built a city here in the first place -a strategic center for transportation via water and surrounded by some of the best farmland in the world. And Toledo is full of clever people who can fix anything that breaks, old or new. A few problems would have to be solved however. Without annual dredging, the Toledo shipping channel in Lake Erie would quickly silt in and shipping would be restricted to shallow-draft craft that would be unstable on the open lake. On the other hand, without highly mechanized agriculture, hundreds of thousands of acres of present farmland would return to the former Great Black Swamp, which would reduce the siltation problem. With the return of more wetlands, waterfowl populations would increase and duck could be an important protein source for the population.

If, in the process of completing the book, you feel the need to spend some time in Toledo please let us know!

Eric S. said...

Re: Unions, especially on the subject of the relationship between union bosses and management: One thing that stands out to me in American labor history, especially when reading older literature, are the specifics of the role unions used to have in American labor culture beyond striking. I've often been struck by the role unions traditionally had in helping people seeking employment find jobs within an industry, in which a job seeker would go to a union office, show an up to date union dues card, and be directed to hiring opportunities. Many unions had relationships with the management of companies that would give union members preference in hiring, and union membership protected not only wages and working conditions, but job security. Membership in voluntary organizations also used to play a huge role in labor culture and could help members find work. Those aspects of labor culture seems to have gone out of style beginning with the second half of the twentieth century, and since the role of voluntary organizations, trade unions, fraternal orders, etc. in American community life has been explored on the Archdruid Report in the past, it may count as another retro thing worth discussing in the finished novel at some point, and could be pretty easily worked into the events of Chapter 7 when Carr visits the Mikkelson factory (since suggestions were requested). It's all a far cry from today's labor culture of spamming every business in a 200 mile radius with resumes before finally giving up and lying on a Wallmart resume so they don't reject you for being overqualified.

Fred said...

How does home/land ownership and rental/leasing play a part in Retrotopia? I can't seem to recall if it was in the story. Does it matter to how things work in that society? It seems like currently there is a distinct difference in a place made up mostly of renters vs. a place made up of owners. Where I live we had a "main street" with little shops. 90% are rented/leased and these turn over every 2 years. The few that are owned - luckily one is a shoe repair shop - I can count on being there. I guess I could sum it up as renters don't seem to have the same skin-in-the-game as owners.

David, by the lake said...


Re technologies for the story, two things come to mind. First, and the university scene you mentioned may already encompass this, something demonstrating how analytical calculations were done using slide rules and similar non-electronic computing technology. The tracking of the satellite fragments previously mentioned would be a candidate.

Secondly, perhaps printing technology? Books and/or newspapers printed using mechanical means rather than digital. Even old-school letterpress. (I saw that you had mentioned letterpress as something you'd like to pursue. If you ever get up in NE Wisconsin, my city has a well-known working museum dedicated to wood type and letterpress: Hamilton Wood Type Museum

BoysMom said...

There are still the sort of old rich around who fit all the ideas about noblesse oblige Janice Mikkleson espouses. The difference is they don't fit into the richest of the rich who make the news, but rather they're the wealthier families in any number of smaller towns, falling into the upper middle class in terms of amounts of income, but getting it from businesses and property, often inherited, but in which, as kids, they started out pushing a broom. (Maybe all small towns, but I haven't investigated exhaustively.) I'm sure our host is drawing from real life local examples. They write big checks to help build town parks, restore old libraries, and support the local arts scene, tip very well (especially if they know their waitress has fallen on hard times), do all these things fairly quietly, and are, generally around here, fairly conservative in their politics. Not Republican, necessarily, but conservative.

Helix said...

@Shane W: re "I wonder how many people never put [political signs] in their yard... out of fear of retribution."

Here in central VA, Clinton signs are pretty much viewed as free targets. The ones with Clinton's portrait on them are particularly delectable. The upshot (heh heh!) is that there aren't very many around.

Helix said...

@Toomas Karmo: re "...there is a third possible thing to which we can at least aspire, namely work with tools and plant fully owned by ourselves and our immediate co-workers."

While I agree with this sentiment, I think it underestimates the challenges that disenfranchised people are up against. First, how are they going to acquire the capital needed to get those tools and that plant that they "fully own"? Prostitution? Working for the Baroness?

Secondly, they are up against some pretty vicious competition, at least here in the USA. Will they be able to sell their products at all? In particular, will they be able to sell them at enough of a profit to pay for their groceries and have enough left over to cover the rent or their property taxes?

And beyond these obvious issues, disenfranchisement very quickly becomes a state of mind. Those afflicted simply cannot imagine what a successful enterprise such as you describe would look like. Their neighborhoods are case studies in squalor that provide few opportunities for gainful employment and fewer markets for their products. The schools do absolutely *nothing* to educate them in running a successful enterprise. In short, there are practically no examples they can look to for inspiration or guidance.

Perhaps a few of exceptional ability and ambition can make in enterprises such as you suggest. For the rest, what's left is welfare, drug trafficking, prostitution, extortion rackets, or, for those lucky enough to get it, a job working for "the man".

It's a hard place to live, and hard indeed to make a decent living in.

Fred said...

JMG - your comment to Beetleswamp spurred me to do some research in the history of the police and exactly what their duties are. Essentially they were created in most major cities in the late 1830's early 1840's. (Interestingly this maps with the formalization and standardization of the postal system in the early 1840's and production of fountain pens, but that is another tangent.) So as the first hints of industrialization and corporations began in the United States in the early 1840's we got police. Huh. (scratches head) I've heard people rant that the police are there to protect private property and keep people in their place, but I never went back and looked at the history and connected the dots.

The other sad fact I read was that even though their slogan is "to protect and serve", in 2005 the Supreme Court ruled that it is not a police officer's duty to protect citizens from harm. So now I know the answer to "protect and serve who?" and it ain't me!

Patricia Mathews said...

Yes! Those of you who watch videos, check out Doctor Mac's outfit in Miss Fisher's Mysteries. Perhaps minus the plaid waistcoat? Since the good doctor is a Scotswoman. That's a marvelous look for Janice Mikkelson. And I'll bet Janice's wife really is the Hostess with the Mostest. said...

Great post John.

I really enjoyed the fictional article, it was gripping and realistic.

I also liked your little indirect reference to the Trump campaign bypassing the wealthy donors and the lobbyists and appealing to the masses, leading to a landslide victory in the election.

On that note, the Mexican visit looks like a potential turning point for the Trump campaign. I watched it live and Trump was presidential, serious and engaging. He walked, talked and looked like a president.

Of course, the red meat speech afterwards was designed to keep his right-wing base happy. What was most interesting was the fact that he has massively moderated his position (only criminals will be deported now, the rest will at some stage become legalized - no details yet) on illegal immigration.

Trump has moved to a political space which the majority of Americans would be happy with. Criminals get deported but otherwise hard-working illegal immigrants who have stayed within the law will find some kind of legalization down the line. Will love to see Clinton defending the right of murderers and rapist illegal immigrants to stay in the States - good luck with that one with Middle America!

Regarding political signs, my sense is that in such a polarized country, folks are keeping their political allegiance more private to avoid unnecessary grief from rabidly pro-Clinton or pro-Trump relatives and friends.

Certainly I have kept my views of the US election to myself among my circle of friends and family. I would do the same in the States.

In summary, I agree with you that Trump has a good chance of winning in November. I would say that on a balance of probability he will win.

I have reviewed your book Twilight's Last Gleaming on my website and I hope you enjoy it. Hopefully will get a bit more traffic for your novel.

Regarding the wealthy, they would be smart to follow the example of what us Brits call "old money" aristocracy. Old Money families might live in a big family estate, but they drive old cars, wear old clothes and happily pop into the local to have a beer with the local village folk. Down to earth, not flashy and keep up good relations with the local community. Its a smart way to operate and it has avoided a revolution in this country for centuries.

The American rich would be wise to learn from their example!!

Regarding your views on Europe, I am inclined to agree with you. I still think that the crisis will need to escalate to some degree of violence on the streets before your forecast of mass deportations of Muslims becomes a reality. We are a little away from that yet, but the mood music on the continent is changing rapidly the populist right wing/nationalistic parties are looking stronger by the day. Interesting times ahead.

LB3 said...

Regarding my previous post, here is the link to my blog with my review of your superb novel Twilight's Last Gleaming;

Hope you enjoy the review.

donalfagan said...

@ Yardsigns. I never see any on my bike route. Today I rented a car and drove Routes 40, I-70, 97 & 200 to Shady Grove Road. I-70 and 200 are limited-access highways, but 40 traverses urban/suburban Baltimore residential areas, and 97 traverses rural MD farms and residences. I saw exactly one political sign: Cox for Congress. He lives in Frederick, so it wasn't his house.

Howard Skillington said...

Just saw this headline: "An innovative new fabric made from plastic can keep you cooler than cotton." Dare we hope for a modern alternative to wool socks next?

Armata said...

Hillary Clinton's latest excuse for mishandling classified info, one that will no doubt fuel questions about her health and whether she is fit to be President. This election is turning into quite the soap opera.

gwizard43 said...

I haven't had a chance to read the latest comments, so someone may have beaten me to it. I'd LOVE to see some discussion of alternative voting systems, such as instant runoff voting or other systems that reduce the need to 'not waste your vote' and thus allow easier access for third parties.

The fact is that instant runoff systems are used all around the world at every level of election, from provincial to national.

In fact, that's really the one major component of our current corrupt politics that I don't recall seeing discussed in Retrotopia. I think it would make a really fine addition, if for no other reason that to inform people that there are numerous other ways of voting aside from all-or-nothing.

gwizard43 said...

@ Toomas

I'm a huge fan of co-operative businesses, but regarding Mondragon - let's not forget their recent bakruptcy:

Mondragón Corporation's historically most important unit is Fagor Electrodomésticos Group, which makes consumer appliances - "white goods" such as dishwashers, cookers and other related household items. It is the fifth-largest manufacturer of such products in Europe. It employs roughly 2,000 people in five factories in the Basque region and has and additional 3,500 in eight factories in France, China, Poland and Morocco. ...Mondragón recently announced that Fagor was failing and that the company would be filing for bankruptcy protection.

I've long thought that co-ops may be better suited to weather economic contraction, but only under specific circumstances - much depends on things like subsidy regimes favoring non-co-ops, over which such businesses have little control. In such situations, competing in a purely profit-driven market, especially a commodity market, can be disastrous for co-ops, and I'd be inclined to lean more toward customer owned co-ops rather than the producer owned type you seem to favor. At least until the playing field begins to favor the former.

Armata said...

Several people have brought up the issue of campaign signs and what they may or may not signify. In the area where I live, I have noticed a complete absence of Trump and Hillary campaign signs. There are the usual signs for state and local races, but even those seem to be less prevalent then in any previous election season I can remember. There were some Bernie Sanders signs and bumper stickers, but I haven't seen any for a while. Spengler points out the Decline of the West that one of the signs of a failing democracy is that people become more and more apathetic to the point where respectable people cease to take part in elections at all, which paves the way first for the sort of special interest corruption we see on display in abundance and then the rise of populist demagogues like Trump.

I wonder if the lack of Hillary and Trump stickers and yard signs is because people know that both candidates are widely loathed and people are afraid to show their support for either for fear of triggering an unwelcome reaction for neighbors, co-workers, etc? That's the impression I get.

I did observe something that I found very interesting when I went to the local county fair. I made a point of going to both the Democratic and Republican Party booths and talking to the people who were volunteering there. At the Democrat booth, they had the obligatory Hillary Clinton cardboard cutout and campaign posters, but there seemed to be a distinct lack of enthusiasm for her candidacy. Mainly, the local Democrats were interested in talking about their local and state level candidates and spent a lot of time discussing how bad Trump is.

But as Eric Hoffer pointed out in The True Believer, you can't win people over solely by talking about how bad the other side is, you have to give people a reason to support your side. I remember in our discussion of why the environmentalist movement failed, that was one of the key reasons. You can't expect to win people over with doom-and-gloom hairshirt rhetoric, especially when so many of the people in the environmental movement are obviously talking the talk but not walking the walk. You have to offer people a positive alternative and something to hope for. That doesn't mean you have to lie to people and blow green smoke up their posteriors, but you do have to offer them a vision of how things can be better by getting rid of the current order of things and replacing it with something saner and more sustainable, which is one of the things I appreciate about your Retrotopia series and Lind's vision of Retroculture.

In the course of my conversations at the Democratic Party booth, which included discussions with local Democratic candidates for office, I brought up Hillary no fewer than three times and made a point of not criticizing her, but all three times the people at the booth quickly steered the conversation in other directions. There appeared to be an undertone of embarrassment. It was like being at a family get-together and bringing up a touchy issue like an alcoholic father or crazy aunt. It was really something to behold.

Continued below:

Armata said...

(Continued from above)

I later went to the Republican booth and it was a whole different story. There were several people there who were wearing Donald Trump t shirts and seemed to be very fired up about Trump's candidacy. The difference in enthusiasm was unmistakable.

I also had a very interesting conversation with an older lady who is a longtime friend of the family and a longtime local conservative activist. She and her husband both volunteered to work at the Republican booth during the local Fourth of July festival as they have done for a great many years.

She said the thing that really struck her this year was how many young people came up to the booth and expressed support for Trump. She said the she couldn't remember the last time she saw that much enthusiasm for a Republican candidate among the young, except for maybe Reagan or Nixon. She also said that several of the young people she spoke to told her they were Bernie Sanders supporters who felt cheated and screwed over by the way the Democratic primaries were rigged in favor of Clinton. They said that they will not vote for Clinton and are now supporting Trump. We had a LOT of local Democrats, especially the young, who turned out in support of Sanders and I wonder how many of them will end up voting for Trump instead of falling in line behind Clinton. I get the sense that many of Sanders' supporters felt betrayed when he sold out to Hillary at the Democratic National Convention.

Like Lord Beria, I suspect there are a lot of Trump supporters out there who won't come out and say so because of the way that Trump and his supporters have been relentlessly demonized by the mainstream press. I suspect that like the Brexit vote, we will see a lot of people who tell pollsters and people they know they are voting for Hillary or that they don't support either and then vote for Trump in the privacy of the voting booth.

M Smith said...


I'm sorry to hear your chickens died. I've read your blog and your comments here, and I feel sure of this much: they had only one bad day in their entire lives.

I think I get your point. People who contribute to the common good as a matter of course have earned my respect, and my thoughts drive my actions. In the absence of external pressures or limitations, I will choose to collaborate, cooperate and cohabitate with respectable people, and would expect that as another willing contributor to the common good, I would be deemed respectable and worthy of social and professional commerce. So far, no need for (and no point in) anyone to demand respect.

When things prove unpleasant for me, I look to myself first and see what I did to help bring that about. Rarely, I encounter pure bigotry. In that case, the answer is obvious: keep it in perspective, or find another collaborator. But usually the fault lies with my either having acted foolishly or having had dishonorable intentions myself. There is no need or reason for me to demand respect in either case.

I recollect from sharp experience that those who lead with a demand for respect are not the most deserving thereof. That aside, given my mindset, it follows that if I shun someone, then either he has not proven to be a contributor, or proven to be a detractor, or I am too dull to recognize his true worth. If it's the third, why is he bothering with me at all? Why does he not choose to collaborate with those who do respect him, and get on with his respectable life? Why choose instead to be angry, and pointlessly so?

Raymond Duckling said...

@May our host permit, an offtopic report from the field. The source is mostly Radio Metropoli (local news and public interest AM station).

Trump's visit to Mexico.

As some of you probably know, last Wednesday DT came to Mexico City to meet with president Enrique Pena-Nieto (EPN). There are some interesting developments that I would like to share within this readership.

1. Even if DT may have presented a "though on Mexico" spin in his Arizona speech (I've avoided the US media to prevent mental polution on this issue), the guy came down here as a true politician. Local news report that the guy addressed the migration issue as a "Humanitarian Crisis" for the first time, and reframed the immigration problem as a Central American issue that affects both US and Mexico. Also for the first time, he addressed the elephant in the root that is the gun traffic from US to Mexico (which to my knowledge, Obama's administration has been pretending not to exist since the leaks about "Fast and the Furious" operation came out). Last but not least, he's reported to have said that he will not be rejecting NAFTA, but renegociate it so that US, Mexico, Canada, and eventually the rest of the Americas can better protect their interest against the external forces of Asian economies.

In other words, the man came to smooth out past insults and seek allies. Not that he's not going to weasel out of any and every thing said there, but at least he knows how to play the game.

2. The population could not care any less about what DT said, they're just mad at the fact he had the audacity to come down here. ie. People call to a radio show and ask how is it that he's not been formally declared "persona non-grata" already. Furthermore, they're incensed with EPN for extending the invitation in the first place. Our president popularity is probably at an all-time low. People are already comparing him to Santa-Anna (you know, the one-legged bozo who happened to lose half our national territory to the US in the 19th century). I've heard the question "how is it the Brazilians kicked out their president, again?" to be raised at least once.

2.a. A related note. There was a huge mistake in protocol during the visit. I don't know the details, but basically, EPN received DT *as* *equals*. The political analyst said something about appearing together in public or so, which is a kind of de-facto acknowledging DT as a chief of state. Same analyst claimed that the experience of the presidential staff is not consistent with the sort of crass mistake this was, but I cannot think of a rational reason for having done that on purpose. Whatever if might be, it seems like a big vote of confidence for TP, and another big political cost for EPN.

3. This is mostly speculation for my part, but it feels like people are now waiting for Hillary Clinton (HC) to also come (they were both invited, but only DT accepted so far), and to be received at least as well as DT was. I don't think she will, and this will be perceived as a rebuff and offense. I don't think this will cause a violent explosion, given that the timeframes will allow for pleanty of time for tempers to cool off; but I think that it will create resentment, and that would set the tone of how she'd be perceived here if she were to win November election.

4. It does not help EPN that he presented the report of his 4th year just yesterday. The news this morning were filled to the brim with critics for the inconsistencies and the attempts of spinning for positive angles. This and the State Congress giving themselves a raise to match their peers at Mexico City - and a raise that is in the ballpark of the median wage in the State - stole the news this morning.

jdmeth said...

Socialist love equality, they want to show up and be co-owners of what ever business needs help. Janice Mikkelson worked hard, saved money, probably went into debt, risking more than her life savings yet the guy who can only pilot a broom wants a seat in the boardroom. Sometimes the labor force does invest in the business. A guy may be a wiz at boiler making but what does he know of marketing. Same for the market expert, how should he know the best bearings to use in the trucks?

My cousin, known as Big Charlie, had to go Galt. As a teenager he was on a work crew at the Daytona speedway. On one job heavy bundles had to be toted up a ramp, the other guys struggled while he easily lifted his. Soon he was walking all the bundles up the ramp while they smoked and watched him. Guess who got the biggest paycheck come Friday? Socialism, they all got paid the same. Guess who didn't come back Monday? Yep, Big Charlie.

I have owned, and lost, my own farm. I spent the next fifteen years doing things I was skill at and a few times I was just a laborer. At one job I was a skill technician maintaining automated packing machines and being assistant plant manager. I was paid twice what the guys stacking bundled produce on pallets were. Yep, with my thirty years of technical study and training I was worth two illegal immigrants with strong backs. When I was first hired I did my stint loading pallets so I could do their job. The boss considered that part of his social responsibility and paid the workers way above minimum wage. I made as much as I did when I worked for myself so I didn't complain.

Glenn said...

Yard Signs and Fashion;

We drove to Eastern Washington last week to buy our annual supply of canning fruit; peaches, apricots and a few pears. East of the Cascades we saw a few Trump signs, usually medium or small billboards on large farms or ranches, but not many, and no others. We live in Eastern Jefferson County, near Port Townsend (with a significant population of SF Bay Area ex-pats), we are 36 Nautical Miles West and Left of famously liberal Seattle and King County. In the last presidential election, the conservative, rural areas of the county voted for Obama two to one over Romney, and the ratio was _much_ higher in Port Townsend. I see a lot of cars that still have Sanders stickers, and a few houses with signs. A lot of cars with Clinton stickers and quite a few houses. I saw one house with a Trump sign, it disappeared right after the wrath of Khan incident; I may infer the owner was either a veteran or simply didn't wish to publicly acknowledge such stupidity. There is one Cruz sign on the island, it's on a recent clear cut; which says something to me.

It's my observation that many people's fashion sense locks in about high school, coming of age, or college graduation. I still dress the way I did at 18, but have switched from Levi's to Carhartts because of the pockets. As a reenactor I'm familiar with styles of many periods. Most pre 1900 Western men's clothes are more practical than current, and I really prefer the looks of pre 1800. With the exception of the 17th century, as far as I'm concerned, Cavalier is just ghastly; YMMV.


in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

Varun Bhaskar said...


Now I know you're talking about a utopia. I've never in my life witnessed rich people who actually care about the poor. Everything they do, everywhere in the world, seems to be directed at screwing over the under class.

As for an addition to your story, maybe a little more about the darkside of retrotopia? A little about the fanatically deindustrial? Crime and punishment? The avenues of corruption?



Kevin Warner said...

Re: "if there's something else from the past you think I should have covered in the course of the story, by all means mention it." OK, how about these three.

Have an export law that says nothing that is not surplus to the Republic can be exported elsewhere. During the Irish Famine when a million people starved to death, that country was still forced to export food out of the country. An earlier famine was averted when food exports were banned from leaving Ireland. Russia recently learnt that not growing enough food is now a weapon against it and has over the past two years embarked on a major campaign to grow or make enough for themselves and it is working. This export law would stop a self-sufficient Lakeland Republic introducing a major vulnerability in to itself down the track.
As another suggestion, how about a strong mention of fraternal organizations. Here in Oz, they were a major part of life with people contributing a weekly sum to such organizations to cover themselves for when they were sick or to pay for funeral expenses. There was also a major social aspect to them and it served to bind the bonds of community together. Members would also be able to help each other out via the contacts made with work and other such matters. All this mostly died out when this country federated and then not long after introduced social security.
This next suggestion is not something, as far as I know, part of the past and hence not right for your Retrotopia though I think deserves consideration on its own merit. When people go to vote, they do it in private so as to ensure a secret ballot, right? OK, how about this then. When the Legislature of the Lakeland Republic votes on measures and laws, they also us a paper-based secret ballot. Can you hear the lobbyists scream already? No party would know how each representative would vote and if they toed the "party" line or not. The party whip would be obsolete. Industries and lobbyists could not simply bribe a politician and know that that person would stay bought as is the case right now. Essentially, each vote would be a conscience vote. In addition, anyone trying to subvert such votes would be charged with treason. At the moment, doing so seems to carry no costs for those caught doing so but a charge of treason (which it is) may give pause to thought.

Golocyte Golo said...

Wasn't planning to comment, but others have been speculating wildly on Janice Mikkelson's family life on the basis of no evidence, brazenly speculating on her lesbianism and opining on the stunning Portia di Rossi she doubtlessly keeps behind embossed doors on some high floor of that estate of hers.

Since the most fun way to speculate is on the basis of no evidence, I'm going to throw in!

--- Retrotopia offers historical economic relations and progressive social relations, so keeping a stunning wife, even a lesbian wife, is too conservative, Christian, and white for Janice.

So I think Janice has a stunning husband. Pampered and lavishly dressed, his duties are to see to the running of the household, the education and proper cultivation of the children, managing Janice's philanthropic obligations and running charity drives, keeping the couple's social schedule, throwing parties, and entertaining guests with his charm and musical talents.

Their relationship is comfortable and proper, and they couldn't see life without their languid evenings by the fire after her tiresome day's work.

But she has a villa up north where once a month she flies to her passion: her Brad Pitt boytoy she keeps hidden from the respectable set. Mr Mikkelson of course suspects but says nothing, and in fact now and then has a woman on the side himself, discretely, of course. Though really he has no passions like larger-than-life Janice does, and in moments of quiet, he feels an emptiness he can't make go away.

--- On the other hand, maybe Janice is VERY retro. History shows powerful women like Elizabeth or Catherine the Great have no equal, and they certainly don't marry down. But powerful or not, Janice has a woman's heart, to say nothing of a grown woman's loins. She has a great love.

She has a Prince-Consort. (Not sure that's the right term but I'm going with it.)

He is an industrialist himself, though for his best efforts is not as rich or prominent. But he's talented and outgoing, and to Janice he seems positively swashbuckling. His ethical standards are if anything even more progressive and high-minded than hers, and she admires him desperately. They can't marry, for complicated reasons involving politics and an agreement with an ex-wife, but they're seen together universally at social functions, comfortably laughing amid a crowd or exchanging quiet confidences in each other's ears. She brings him along even to meetings with politicians and industry magnates; this is seen as a minor embarrassment, maybe a weakness, but in no other way is Janice weak, so it passes by with only the usual amount of gossip. They exchange near-daily handwritten letters, and in their moments alone together, she is truly happy.

---- On the other, OTHER hand, maybe she's full progressive. She's bi and poly, and is married to a band of men and women---like a progressive, inclusive biblical patriarch. They collectively raise one another's children. Now and then Janice marries a destitute woman and adopts her kid, saving them both from a life of poverty. The public appreciates this as another admirable beneficence, like hiring lots of gardeners or donating the public a new park.

zach bender said...


i don't know whether your local newspaper provides any meaningful coverage of this kind of thing, but if so

(a) the next time there is a public hearing, please do be sure to show up and speak up, and then make yourself available to the local press immediately after,

(b) when you submit your public comments this time around, please send a copy to the reporter who covered this meeting, and to any reporters from other local media who should have,

(c) if there was coverage of this hearing, please write a short, pithy, but complete letter to the editor, referencing the story.

(d) if there is a local org also pushing back against these developments, please contact them to see if there is any way you can be of help to them -- possibly even taking on a leadership role.

you will note i have said "please," as though this were my fight. as a grassroots activist in my own community, i can tell you this is a lonely fight.

Shane W said...

just b/c they're lesbian, doesn't mean they can't have a "trophy wife"--happens all the time! :) I think it would be so fun for all us Green Wizards/ADR readers to get together and put on deindustrial theater and act out JMG's fiction, among other things. There's so much talent here!

John Michael Greer said...

Mgalimba, so noted. I asked about signage because there seems to be a remarkable discrepancy between this election and previous elections along those lines.

Unknown Deborah, yes, and that's definitely something to specify. I'm thinking proportional representation on the European model might be a good choice, as that's proven itself in practice on a national level in more than one country. Still, I'll look over the options and see what makes most sense.

Mikep, according to the 2010 census, Hispanic people accounted for only 7.4% of the population of Toledo, and Asians for 1.1%. (You've missed an Asian name, by the way -- Fred Hayakawa, whose clothing store S. Ehrenberger praised.) My take on the likely future of the US is that the Hispanic population is likely to decline significantly for a while as ethnic strife redefines itself from white vs. black to Anglo (any race) vs. Hispanic (any race). Between that and the class differential -- remember that Carr is a significant political figure and is mostly running with the upper to upper middle classes -- the proportion of names is about right.

DarkOptimism, many thanks for the link!

Unknown Eagle Eye, there are plenty of other plants that fix nitrogen in the soil. Do none of them make bloat-free cattle fodder?

Latefall, I think the US sources are mostly gone at this point; if you want phosphate in your soil, you pretty much have to start recycling urine and feces...which of course the Lakelanders do, as already noted.

Justin, it does indeed, and yes, I'll be inserting something on that. (The very short form is that you don't have a massive drug crime problem if, like the Netherlands today or the US before 1919, you treat it as a health issue rather than a crime. More generally, the US used to get by with many, many fewer laws, and that was an important part of the much less burdensome legal system we had back then. Passing laws is also subject to the law of diminishing returns!)

Don, so noted and thank you!

Janet, thanks for the data points.

Shane, so noted and I've added 'em to the list.

James, those are on the list also.

Donald, there are two more installments, but the next one is the big one -- after that it's denouement. As for the university, the entire higher education system was basically flattened during the war and had to be rebuilt from the ground up. Since apprenticeship plays a much larger role in Lakeland professional training, the universities are much more like universities in the 1890s, say, when they focused on the scholarly disciplines and the higher reaches of medicine and law, rather than providing job training for every imaginable profession.

David, exactly. Thanks for the yard sign data point!

Shane W said...

umm, Golocyte, you need to reread the previous Retrotopia posts, Janice is most certainly a lesbian, and JMG introduced her Asian wife @ the opera. It's right there in the Wagner opera post.

John Michael Greer said...

Inohuri, so noted and thank you.

Latefall, it's always possible to point to this or that recent technology and say that its benefits outweigh its costs, therefore progress must be good; I don't propose to go chasing after that mirage. Thanks for the proposed technologies!

Toomas, thank you for those three suggestions -- they're on the to-consider list.

Phil, the difference between Belfast and Toledo is that in my imagined future, the Midwest solidly supported the rebel side, and won. It's rather more like the Republic of Ireland, which also went through a lot of really nasty guerrilla warfare in the 20th century but has settled down relatively calmly since then.

Toomas, please thank your correspondent! I'd been careful to insert some bits about accommodations for the mobility impaired, in the scenes with Tom Pappas, but hadn't included corresponding accommodations for sensory impairment. That can easily be remedied, though.

T Bruce, thank you! It took me all of five minutes looking at the map of the midwest, scoping out the Lakeland Republic, to realize that Toledo's the natural capital -- centrally located, with straightforward rail and waterway links to every part of the country, and an important lake port as well. I've already corrected the geographical issues; regrettably, I don't expect to get to Toledo while I'm writing this, but maybe I can schedule a booksigning there once the book is out. ;-)

Eric, yes, yes, and yes. Thank you.

Fred, another good point to consider.

David, those are on the to-consider list. I'm imagining an analog computer for orbital calculations, though -- some gorgeous things were once done with metal gears!

BoysMom, exactly. In an important sense, the supplanting of local old money by national new money is a major factor in what's gone wrong in America over the last century or so.

Fred, the next thing to consider is how law enforcement was handled in the US before that time. It makes an interesting contrast.

Patricia, well, I can't comment on the videos, but Sharon Mikkelson (nee Wu) is indeed one of the premier hostesses in Lakeland high society.

Lordberia, many thanks for the review -- I'll get that to my publisher, who will doubtless splash it around. It would be helpful if the American rich were to learn something -- they seem more or less incapable of learning anything just now!

Donalfagan, thanks for the data point.

Howard, no doubt. Probably produced by electric sheep.

Armata, a soap opera indeed. I suggest titling it "As the Republic Burns."

Gwizard, so noted. As I mentioned above, I tend to think highly of proportional representation, as it's been used successfully for many years in Europe, but I'll look at some of the others.

team10tim said...

Hey hey JMG,

I liked the economics in this episode. My primary understanding of economics is that it is a subset of ecology, thermodynamics, energy flows, resources, etc. My secondary understanding of economics is that it is a social phenomenon, a study of incentives. The current system has fewer and fewer incentives to participate, to do one's best. The incentives are becoming more and more perverse. Pretty common in the collapse of civilizations as I understand it and we can all see it happening, but I like that you made the connection explicit.


nuku said...

@ Raymond Duckling,
Thank you for modelling in your post the proper usage of acronyms!

On the topic of Retrotopia suggestions: a mention of men wearing braces or suspenders might be appropriate. I believe they were used much more back when men led active lives.
I’ve given up wearing a belt myself unless its a dress up/sit down occasion like going out to dinner; braces are much more comfortable and I believe promote healthy breathing.

Melissa M. said...

Mr. Greer, for possible additions to Mr. Carr's journey, two thoughts come to mind.

First, it'd be neat to see what museums are like in the Lakeland republic. And a sordid description of the travesties that are called museums in Mr. Carr's country, would be delicious!

Second and perhaps more critically, I'm paraphrasing (badly), but someone way back when said, 'Nobody who loves horses regrets the rise of the automobile.' Our modern treatment of animals could definitely stand improvement. But the domestic animals we see everyday are there because people like them and choose to seek them out, not for economic necessity.

When economic necessity kicks in, and people who are looking for a tool or a machine end up with something that breathes, it increases the chance of an animal being mistreated. Even excluding the worst abuse cases, (old stories of horses dropping dead in harness etc), jerking on the wheel of a car in anger, or jerking on a horses mouth in anger have very different effects, even if the emotion and physical action is similar. So how does the Lakeland Republic respond to and handle the welfare of working animals?

I had the whimsical and perhaps, annoying idea of an animal welfare society subsidizing and selling rugged bicycles at a reduced cost as one of their good works, but would enjoy seeing how your utopia handles things.

Al said...

@Toomas and JMG:

I'm also visually impaired. I'm in the "needs large print" group rather than the "current Braille users" group. (I am a huge fan of the children's novel _From Anna_ by Jean Little. It's wonderfully accurate, or at least it was for me--even though it's set in the 1930s, and I was a child in the 1980s.)

I've been quietly contemplating the way that ebooks have been such a godsend to those of us who need large print books. When I was a kid, we had to make do with the few books the library happened to stock in large print. And there weren't many. Today, we can take any ebook and just put it on a screen and zoom it to whatever size we need. When we can no longer do will be a loss.

At least there do still exist those old large print typewriters that used to be used in "sight saving" schools, or for headings, or to type speeches so people could read them off the podium. If someone wanted to create a zine in the old-fashioned way (typed and then mimeographed), they could do a large print version with one of those typewriters.

Some newspapers currently still produce large print editions (I know the New York Times does). I don't know if Lakeland would find it sustainable. Even if a few such editions were printed, I don't know if a newsstand would have a section for them (or would it?). But the library might.

Al said...

BTW, I tried to preview my comment, but it wouldn't. Weird. Hope it didn't come through three times!

Unknown said...

JMG, clover is favoured because it works well with a grass pasture in terms of making silage and hay, and in terms of growth habit to fit in with the pasture rotation. Other nitrogen fixing plants, not so much. Lucerne is used, but tends to be planted in solid stands without other plants, and it is much fussier about soil conditions and moisture. Whether the other nitrogen fixing plants cause bloat is something I need to research, but I suspect the matter is moot due to the incompatibility with grasses for hay and silage.


eagle eye

Unknown said...


That's exactly what the bankers have done during the foreclosure crisis, by yelling to the courts "free house! free house! that's what this deadbeat borrower wants, a free house." When, in fact, the only entities getting the free house are the bankers who are foreclosing with fraudulent paperwork, as they have no skin in the game at all.

John Michael Greer said...

Armata, that corresponds with what I've heard elsewhere, but we'll just have to see.

Raymond, that's fascinating. I wonder if receiving Trump as an equal was some kind of signal -- and to whom? If Clinton keeps on failing to show up for the photo ops (the Louisiana floods, and now this), it's going to cost her, and feed those rumors about her health.

Jdmeth, I sometimes wonder if Americans who use the word "socialism" know what it means...

Glenn, I feel the same way about Regency clothing; I'd feel like a trussed turkey in one of those outfits. There's a reason I've highlighted the comfortable, practical fashions of the 1930s and 1940s in this story!

Varun, that's because you've lived in two dysfunctional societies. There have been functional ones. As for the dark side, er, remember that this is a utopian narrative! Still, it's on the list.

Kevin, okay, those are on the to-consider list. You may recall from an early episode that it's ironclad policy that the Lakeland Republic must be able to meet all essential needs from within its own borders, so strict export controls would be in keeping with existing law.

Golocyte, nah, I've already established that Janice Mikkelson is married to another woman; you'll find the episode here. That being the case, the speculations made by other commenters are entirely appropriate. Readers generally may want to know that Sharon Mikkelson, nee Wu, is a retired operatic soprano; she and Janice met at an end-of-season party in 2051, just after a performance of Mozart's "The Magic Flute" in which Sharon sang the role of Queen of the Night.

Tim, nicely put. The lack of incentives to participate -- that's crucial, and embarrassingly neglected by cheerleaders for the status quo.

Nuku, so noted! I've been considering suspenders myself now that comfortable middle age has well and truly arrived.

Melissa, two good points. Those have both gone onto the to-consider list.

Al, duly noted! I think it's quite possible that the Blade, as the paper of record, would have a large type edition, and a well-stocked newsstand like Kaufer's might well carry that. More generally, I'll put large print on the to-consider list. (No, you only submitted one copy -- not sure why it wouldn't let you preview.)

Unknown Eagle Eye, duly noted.

Unknown, that's standard practice among the American rich these days -- push everyone else to the wall, and if they object, scream about class warfare. As I've noted before, that kind of behavior leads to unusual shapes dangling from lampposts.

James Gemmill said...

Hmmm...This may be more ambitious than you're inclined to consider, but I wonder if Retrotopia could be more than one novel--the first one as outlined in the past months and a sequel showing the Atlantic Republic making the transition.

Possibly one with Peter Carr taking a look at the Missouri Republic as it scraps its metanet and adopts older, more reliable technologies.

Ahhh...You'll probably kick this notion to the curb, but I'm looking forward to when the print version is available.

Cherokee Organics said...


I look forward to reading your thoughts on "mutual obligations". I have another term for that concept which I often use: "social currency". When I have dealings with some people, they "get" that concept, but many others can ignore it quite easily. It is an issue that concerns me greatly. I tend to invest in social currency, but it doesn't always work out well as people are fixated on the monetary side of social relationships whether they are honest about that or not.

I may have mentioned to you that the last people who I gave a tour of the farm to, I did at the behest of a friend. I didn't know these people and my wife and I gave them half a day of our time talking about this place and their plans (they have land nearby). At the end they said thanks for our time. I sat down to write my blog, but they took my wife out to a nearby pub for dinner, and they did not even offer to pay for her dinner or even buy her a drink as a thanks despite the evidence that they were very well financed. And I saw them a few weeks after that in the nearby area and I thought to myself: Fracking townies. True story. I explained their actions to my mate who instigated the visit and he knows me well enough to be mortified by that couples actions. I couldn't believe it that they would so alienate people in the area before they even moved in. What's with that?

Sorry, I'm probably ranting as I have "man flu" which is not something that anyone wants.

You may be lucky enough to have fresh quinces in your markets? Yum!



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi M Smith,

Thank you for writing that. The chickens do indeed live a charmed life here. And neither suffered for too long.

Exactly, respect goes in both directions in a relationship. You have to earn it and they too have to earn it.

I hear you about that point, but it is also worth remembering that some people are just broken and damaged in ways that you would not want to know, so it is not always possible to internalise issues where there has been a major falling out. Some people are simply bad, others are self interested, and some may be in thrall to their obsessions to the point where they are indulging that behaviour at your expense. Dunno, that is a complex matter and some social bridges simply can't be built in the first place.

That is good advice too. Leading with a demand for respect is a major social warning bell.



margfh said...


Is it possible to add anything to Retrotopia regarding intellectual disabilities and/or mental illness? I'm guardian of my brothers with mild developmental disabilities and one of them also has a pretty serious mental illness as well. Government support as expected is less and less and it's really a challenge for family members to support them in having a meaningful life.

Quite a few years ago I saw a segment on "60 Minutes" about a town somewhere in Europe (I've not been able to find the segment again) where the entire town supported such people and their families. It seemed like a wonderful arrangement.


Howard Skillington said...

"Probably produced by electric sheep"

Did you just slip a Dick joke past the AR censor?

John Roth said...

@Kevin Warner

While I'm not a big fan of insurance companies, having worked for one for quite a few years, one of the problems with fraternal organizations self-funding insurance is that most of them simply weren't big enough to weather fluctuations, let alone use decent actuarial statistics. In insurance, and the "sickness and burial expenses" thing is insurance, size matters. My impression is that the Masons are big enough for self-funding to work; JMG would probably know. A lot of others weren't, and went under for that exact reason.

Patricia Mathews said...

I know what the people who scream about "Socialism!" say it means - they always call up the Communist regimes. Of Cuba if they're in a good mood; of Stalinist Russia if they're not.

And remember, a huge amount of our Cold War propaganda was based, not on our traditional values, but on "Look at all our lovely consumer goods!" I remember that quite vividly.

My sight is not the best, either, and at least Lakeland had probably spared us the fashionable magazine graphics like light gray print on a dark gray background and similar unreadable horrors. But I'll bet Lakeland has audiobooks.

Wendy Crim said...

JMG, you don't need to publish this comment and my apologies if someone else has shown you this but- bioplastic is coming our way!

Martin B said...

Re: Unknown Eagle Eye's cure for bloat: "puncturing the rumen with a large needle".

In the 1980s I was surveying pipelines on an irrigation scheme when a farmer invited me in for a cup of tea. As we sat chatting in his study a farm worker came running in, very excited. There was some rapid chatter, the farmer grabbed a tin of veterinary instruments off a nearby shelf, and ran out of the office saying, "Follow me. You'll want to see this."

In the corral was a very unhappy-looking cow. I couldn't tell if it was excessively pregnant or someone had inflated it with a bicycle pump. Its midriff bulged out hugely to both sides, one side more than the other.

The farmer explained there was a certain weed in the pasture that made them blow up like this.

He took a needle from his tin of instruments. It looked like a skinny 9" nail. He put it inside a pipe which it fitted snugly with the point protruding, and stabbed the pipe and needle with some violence into the most blown-up side of the cow. He pulled the needle out, leaving the pipe stuck in the cow, and the cow proceeded to deflate like a balloon going down with a hiss of gas.

Once the hissing stopped the farmer repeated the procedure on the cow's other side.

The cow seemed to take all of this in its stride. From memory, once it was back to normal it behaved like any other cow. I was pretty shattered. I doubted I could have done what the farmer did. I resolved to steer clear of stock farming if that sort of action was needed.

Callum said...

Bioplastic, anyone?

Shane W said...

don't go knocking universal smoking. Mortality has only one way to go during decline on a planet of 7 billion people, and I'd much rather see voluntary mortality like smoking, drug addiction, alcoholism, and suicide take those who already have a death wish, then the much more gruesome, involuntary forms of death like starvation, warfare, and disease. To me, voluntary things to increase mortality are the low hanging fruit to turn away from our biophobia. If we could simply go back to being agnostic, indifferent, permissive, or fatalistic about these voluntary death wishes, it could go a long way to reducing population pressures and the more gruesome involuntary forms of death. Now, I'm sure that you're probably like Nestorian about death, but not all of us are like that...

Donald Hargraves said...

@Unknown (Debra Bender):

Actually, Ralph Nader played a minor role in the Elections of 2000 – that of scapegoat. Most people who voted for Nader in Florida (and New Hampshire, another close race where Nader outvoted the difference between the two) were more conservative than other places, and were more likely to have either not voted or actually voted for Bush. Bush would have had a wider margin of victory without Nader:

Daily Kos – The Nader Myth – from a proudly leftist website, so you know.

More important reasons for Gore's 2000 loss: Inability to win Arkansas (Clinton was still loved back then) OR Tennessee (Gore's Home State), the casual tossing aside of West Virginia to the Republicans, millions of voters all over the nation who were let go with the derogatory dismissal "Farewell, former DINOs*," and a half-hearted attempt to cherry-pick which votes were recounted in Florida by Gore. A full recount of Florida's votes would have given us a Gore presidency, yet he steadfastly avoided demanding that.

Similar looks at the 1992 and 1996 elections point to Ross Perot drawing from both sides, with the Democrats suffering a bit more of a hit from Perot than the Republicans. If nothing else, remove Ross Perot and Clinton would have been over 50% both elections.

*DINO: Democrat In Name Only. As if identifying in a party meant letting the party leadership dictate everything from economic stand to which coffeeshop you visited in the morning. Republicans were actually the first group to use their variant of the term on their own people (RINO was their term), but my observation is that it's come back with a vengeance on the left side this election season.

(and yes, I have a chip on my shoulder. This is the fifteenth time I've reposted this article, each time to someone shouting "A Vote For A Third Party Candidate Is A Vote For [The Major Party Candidate That I Consider Evil Out Of Habit And Believed Past Debts]!" Most have been at Clintonistas trying to bully (now former) Sanders Voters to march in lock-step, but I've had to post a couple of times at some Trump voters.)

Robert Douglas Castle said...

Hello John,

I'm really enjoying the Retrotopia series! It's become a real page-turner for me; when I'm reading it, my eyes can't seem to wait for the next sentence.

A data point for you... Here in Miami, I'm definitely seeing a lot fewer signs and bumper stickers than I saw in 2012. I doubt if I've seen more than a handful. In my solid blue neighborhood of Coconut Grove, there were some Bernie signs during the primaries, but the only ones I've seen since are for local races. Even the guy at work with the Rubio and Rick Scott bumper stickers has yet to add a Trump sticker.

A while back I read "Farmers of Forty Centuries" on your recommendation and learned that the Chinese used to dredge up mud from the bottoms of their canals and apply it to their fields to improve the soil. I don't know if this belongs on your list, but LR does seem to have a lot of canals.

p.s. Having some trouble posting - hope this doesn't come thru twice.

Shane W said...

I want to second JMG's observations about Midwestern diversity, having lived in Ohio. The Midwest/Rust Belt functions roughly the same as the South did in the 1800s-mid 1900s, an economically depressed area that is a source of outmigration, not in-migration. Therefore, it is much less diverse than other parts of the country save certain areas (Chicago comes to mind). When I lived there, it was decidedly less Hispanic, more "white bread" than the South, save some well established Hispanic communities near Findlay and Lorain. If we do enter insurgency soon, I'd expect most of the Midwest to remain less diverse than other parts of the country. Although, in all fairness, Northwest OH and greater Detroit MI are home to the largest Arab American community, so more Arabic names would be in keeping w/the areas current ethnic mix, unless they were run off or worse during the wars/uprisings...

team10tim said...

Hey hey JMG,

I recommend that you include old school conservation technologies, especially heating, cooling, and refrigeration. I apologize if I missed anything from the story but I don't remember and hot water solar, insulation, passive heating and cooling, ice boxes, hay boxes, etc. I don't have a comprehensive list, but basically everything that you've already talked about to the green wizards.


Christine4 said...

Regarding the lack of hills in Toledo, it would be a shame to cut the scene describing the view of the skyline. How about Mikkelson having a 'folly' tower in her landscaped garden that they climb, like the aristocrats of previous centuries here in England. Follies were very public displays of wealth that no doubt employed local builders.
Christine (England)

Shane W said...

I second what you said. I live in the Southern US, which was European feudalism transferred to the New World, and we had a rich history of a strict class system. Although the Twelve Southerners warned against it in I'll Take My Stand, we embraced industrialization, and during the 20th century, the Solid South flipped to fundamentalist neoliberalism and the GOP, a nouveau riche metastasized along with some of the worst suburban sprawl the US has ever seen, and the Old South/old money faded away. Had we simply taken a Burkean approach and left the class system in place and simply adjusted the wealth gap to defuse the racial animosity it spawned, perhaps through land redistribution or other creative policies, then we wouldn't be facing the deindustrial mess we've created for ourselves by going whole hog for Yankee industrialism.

Phil Harris said...

JMG wrote
“Phil, the difference between Belfast and Toledo is that in my imagined future, the Midwest solidly supported the rebel side, and won. It's rather more like the Republic of Ireland, which also went through a lot of really nasty guerrilla warfare in the 20th century but has settled down relatively calmly since then.”

A very good point, but I still fear you misunderstand Ireland and long term recurrence of the effects of guerrilla and civil war. Violence has been endemic recurrently in Ireland over centuries, despite initially at least in the 20th C being initiated against the wishes of the majority. These things, however, work long term. An independent Eire (1923) lost the industrial north of the island (Ulster) mostly because there were elements within a majority population there – mainly protestant - who were prepared as early as 1912 for armed insurrection in favour of Union (remaining in Britain). See the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force 1912, Sir Edward Carson, gun running 1913 and etc.

The initial 20thC civil war was put off by the 1914 conflict. The course of Irish politics and its relationships with Irish Diaspora and larger polities, Britain (initially British Empire), USA and latterly EU, usefully starts here in this summary.

Quote “In the 1918 [British] general election Irish voters showed their disapproval of British policy [post 1916] by giving Sinn Féin 70% (73 seats out of 105,) of Irish seats, 25 of these uncontested. Sinn Féin won 91% of the seats outside of Ulster on 46.9% of votes cast, but was in a minority in Ulster, where unionists were in a majority. Sinn Féin pledged not to sit in the UK Parliament at Westminster, but rather to set up an Irish Parliament. This parliament, known as the First Dáil, and its ministry, called the Aireacht, consisting only of Sinn Féin members, met at the Mansion House on 21 January 1919.”

Civil War against the British administration escalated violently from 1919 until mid-1921 when a truce was called. However, the civil war continued sporadically and elided into a military conflict between Republican armed factions after Irish partial independence in 1922 (in The Irish Free State). The politics of that time have continued to the present day - a similar split in the IRA 1970 signalled a resumption of armed struggle. The most recent civil war from 1970 until May 1998, was conducted across Eire, Northern Ireland (Ulster), and England, but not in Scotland. Some minority factions of militias, Republican and Unionist, have not fully stood down. Currently half of Belfast housing estates are plastered with Union Jacks. It is not clear yet whether we have seen a permanent end of civil war.

Footnote – context and background
Agrarian Eire never got materially separated out from the British mainland, at least arguably not until Eire modernised after joining the EU in 1973. (A similar ‘modernising’ trajectory was seen in Spain and Portugal). Rural populations, as elsewhere, migrated into industrial urban areas through the 19th Century and this continued in the 20th C. The population of Eire (from 1922) continued to decline until 1970s. Net emigration continued; for example 250,000 out of a then population of 3 million went to work in Britain’s 1940’s wartime economy and 50,000 joined British armed forces despite majority approval in Eire for 'neutrality'.

Population started its modern increase from circa 1975. Rapid economic acceleration in Eire was 1989 to 2008, in contrast with the decline of old industrial areas in Britain. A significant part of the Irish population in the past has worked permanently or frequently in mainland Britain. (Apparently 10% of UK citizens have at least one Irish grandparent. Parts of previously industrialised West Scotland are 50% Catholic as a result of persistent migration from Catholic Ireland.)

I can only add that in my personal experience all this has happened among lovely peaceful people who are as horrified as you and I.

team10tim said...

Hey hey JMG,

Another old technology, lodges. You should put in some Odd Fellows or something, and have them contract a doctor through lodge practice. Lodges and fraternal societies are a social technology but you might want to include one.


Golocyte Golo said...

My fun has been spoiled. Oh well; I never could keep track when it comes to fiction. Things seem so arbitrary. No offense. Back to things that are more my speed.

Marryin' Al said...

Remember that the more versions of copies of hand typeset broadsides there are, the much higher the cost per piece and the greater the cost for paper, a precious resource if hand made.

It must be reclaimed by rag and paper pickers, from whatever waste stream exists, new fiber stock added, laboriously calendared (beaten in water) and made sheet by sheet, dried in stacks of blankets of felt (another industry) and then on racks in drying rooms or yards if not too rainy.

Ink must be manufactured, type must be re-cast, lead reclaimed, presses maintained (and manufactured) and pressmen raised up.

Printing used to be a very big deal; we no longer see it with almost on-demand printing of anything you desire in almost infinite numbers and only trivial effort to create iterations. All of our old type has been turned into trinkets,batteries and water pipes (ha ha), and the old presses of the hand variety are just too old now. There are many letterpress printing systems using smaller electric motors or some hand wheels (platen presses) still intact,but not for long.

Linotype machines represented the iPhone of the printing age - complex, prone to system failure, and absolutely amazing in what they did for letterpress. They required specialist operators, specialist repair systems and parts, and an underlying analog world of mechanics and manufacturing.

Save those old textbooks and hand tools. I think we'll need them sooner than later. And maybe a reader at the library will read that newspaper or that textbook to you for a small fee, after the transition.

John Roth said...


According to a different source, Han Jin carried about 3% of world container shipping, not 8%. . There's a bit of analysis, but the takehome is that there's too much capacity in the ocean shipping business, mostly due to excessively rosy economic predictions. Short-term prediction: prices will go up since shippers are taking the opportunity to get back to where they can make an (in)decent profit. There won't be as much supply for Christmas shopping. The Panama Canal improvement project seems to have been based on the same rosy predictions.

Nastarana said...

About costume and fashion; I am of the opinion that Tudor (16thC.) costume was the ugliest clothing ever invented by insolent tailors for the humiliation of their customers. I like the clothes of the high middle ages, tunics and loose trousers or hose for men and shifts (blouse plus petticoat) with outer garments tied or buttoned over the shift for women, but I doubt either would have much appeal in the present century. I do think that the era of fast "trashion" is coming to a welcome end. The most beautiful of all women's garments, IMO, are the sari and the Greek chiton, but neither are appropriate for cold weather.

About the book version of Retrotopia, I would be curious to read more about agriculture. What crops are grown; are useful greens like dandelion, plaintain and nettle grown commercially? Does Retrotopia maintain a seed bank? Did the government demand the return of Midwestern seeds from Svalbord--Mr. Greer, you might not want to get into that one, but I do wonder. Is foreign ownership of farmland prohibited? Has there been a national effort to restore wetlands, prairie and forest? Physicians using herbal remedies must be a good market for herb growers. I take it that apothecary is again a respectable profession.

Cherokee Organic, are you hatching and raising chicks from your mongrels?

John Roth said...


Slight correction on the Han Jin story: it's 8% of US container traffic, not world container traffic. And there's apparently a cry for a US bailout of the situation. .

This looks like it could be pretty big. Not that it was entirely unexpected: Wikipedia says that they filed for some kind of protection back in April of this year.

inohuri said...

Your mention of analog computers caused me to remember an optical computer that I saw at the Frankfurt Auto Show in about 1963. I was about 13.

A WWW search came up with

Footnote 37 is dated 1953

It looks like they have all of Encyclopedia of Computer Science and Technology digitized.

Lotsa ideas in there.

M Smith said...

Unknown who posted about banks foreclosing:

The bank does not want or get a "free" house when it forecloses. The bank wants its money back, not a physical property to maintain and pay taxes and insurance on. The bank can't just let the weeds grow or the taxes accrue, or the city/county will seize the property. The bank has to hire people to maintain and fix up the houses, and that's very labor intensive and costly. Furthermore, often the borrower who's being foreclosed upon will deliberately vandalize and ruin a property right before leaving. Toilets and sinks torn out of their moorings, walls demolished with hammers, broken windows, broken pipes, ripped-out wires, filth everywhere. Banks don't make their money on foreclosures, they make it on good loans to reliable borrowers. The bank does not "steal" houses, not even from those who rashly signed what they later claimed not to understand.

The other thing that often happens with foreclosures is that the owner has borrowed 2 or 3 times on the house. If the bank holds the 3rd mortgage, forecloses, and ends up owning the house, it must keep the 1st and 2nd paid up, or the 1st or 2nd will foreclose on the same property. These are a couple of reasons that it's hard for a person to get a good deal on a foreclosed house. It's the rare property that's unencumbered and in good shape, and if it is, then it sells for market value anyway.

I'm not saying that banks are always honest and upright. I am very much against the equally fallacious and offensive idea that the Evil Rich Whites (bankers, in this case) always STEAL from The Poor, who in turn are always honest in thought, word and deed, and never make bad decisions - especially about money.

M Smith said...

Janet D,

Why are the legal Mexican immigrants you hire for yard work TERRIFIED of Trump? Legally immigrated families don't get torn apart. For that matter, neither do illegal ones, unless the family refuses to stick together. No one can deport one and prevent the others from going with the deportee. I don't understand why citizens, legal immigrants, or those with valid work visas are so fearful for themselves. In fact, I keep hearing that citizens of latino descent are very angry at illegal latino border-jumpers, so it doesn't make sense for them to resist the carrying out of our laws.

I look at it this way: I'm not a drug dealer, so I have no reason to be TERRIFIED of the sheriff just because of a dealer who lives up the road. If I were a customer, or if I had my own dealership, I'd have reason. As it is, I'm TERRIFIED of the dealer, his angry addicted violent wife who's coached their kid to say I threatened to kill him, and his customers who drive past my house impaired. I wish there were more the sheriff could do to get rid of the "family".

If there's a legitimate reason I'm overlooking for any legally-present person of hispanic descent to feel terror toward Trump or toward the enforcement of our laws - and "privilege, disenfranchisement, denied access" are not reasons, they're hashtags - I'm all ears.

It's also perplexing and annoying to read that they:

1) deliberately created something they call the hispanic community;
2) excluded non-hispanics, or as you say, white people (though no employer, landlord, or govt entity would be allowed to engage in race discrimination - except for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus - oops, and the Congressional Black Caucus);
3) are now "resentful" that the Republicans (read: whites) "turned their backs" on a deliberately created community that excluded them from the start!

Rob Rhodes said...

Regarding your invitation to suggest more things from the past to include in the published novel I'd like to suggest that there may be little need to build locomotives in the LR but a good market to rebuild them. This article from the Daily Impact includes a picture of unused locomotives stretching almost to the horizon

As well as being much less energy intensive than new building (even from recycled steel and copper), rebuilding the engines and cars might be more consistent with catabolic collapse. Just finding the energy to run all the machine tools needed for a rebuild (or a new build) would be a formidable accomplishment.

Armata said...

CIA backed hippogriffs fighting Pentagon backed hippogriffs as Syria descends into a chaotic free-for-fall thanks to the incompetence of the Dubyobama administration.

In his book Civil War II, a particular horrifying phenomenon that Thomas Chittum discusses is what the Germans call Bandenkrieg (literally "war of the bands"), in which order breaks down completely and a war degenerates into rival warbands preying on each other and the civilian population. It was Bandenkrieg that played a huge role in turning Germany into a real-life Grand Guignol during the Thirty Years War back in the 17th century.

It just so happens that among the people responsible for bringing the horrors of Bandenkrieg to Syria are Hillary Clinton and her fellow neoconservatives in the Dubyobama administration. People might want to remember that when they hear her talking about human rights or when she says she is fighting for "the women and children".

Armata said...

@ Raymond Duckling, many thanks for the SITREP from Mexico. Its great hearing from someone on the ground who can observe what's going on and how people are reacting.

Armata said...

John Michael,

It seems you aren't the only one who suspects there is more to the Mexican President's alleged "breach of protocol" then meets the eye.

My own suspicion is that President Nieto knows full well that Trump will likely the next President of the USA. He also knows that Trump has been highly critical of Mexico and Mexican government policies, so he is trying to placate Trump and win him over before he becomes President.

Maxine Rogers said...

Hi, This is a present for Leo.
I was sorry to hear that your family is having such a tough time of it. I am sending you a recipe that friends took to a pot luck at the University of British Columbia. It was a wild success and went viral on campus. It is so tasty and cheap that it is my go to comfort food.

1/2 cup red lentils
3 Tbls oil
1 medium onion chopped
1 clove of garlic chopped
1 large carrot grated
1 large potato grated
2 cups of stock, tomato juice or water
1/2 tsp each ground coriander, ground cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, cayenne pepper
Soak the lentils in boiling water and drain before using. Fry the onion until transparent, stir in the garlic and spices, add the drained lentils, carrot potato and stock. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes. Add salt to taste.
Hope you like it.
Hugs from Maxine Rogers on Denman Island

Hubertus Hauger said...

There is something from the past I consider you should have covered in the course of the story.

Because you concentrate on a city setting, there is missing, what in pre-fossil societies was dominating. That’s agriculture. Historically growing food made up 80 to 90% of the population being occupied with. The majority so to speak. Therefore I would find it quite sensible, to include a part, showing what people would eat and more so, how its grown.

Our industrialized economy has so much deformed that part, that it is rather hard to imaging and to count, how people can get food produced and processed without the subsidies from fossil fuel. I consider it would be continuative to shade a light on food-making.

Might be for you helpful factually; Chris Smaje is just reckoning it in his last few text’s, in order to give an overview on how non-fossil agriculture could work. You find his contributions on

Flagg707 said...

For those of you looking to get in on the ground floor of a new wave of Progress in clothing, I'll just leave this right here:

Stanford engineers develop a plastic clothing material that cools the skin
Researchers have engineered a low-cost plastic material that could become the basis for clothing that cools the wearer, reducing the need for energy-consuming air conditioning...

Patricia Mathews said...

Lodges like the Odd Fellows and the Masons are a very good idea, but what about women who are not connected to, say, a male Mason? Because from what I've read and heard, they have women's auxiliaries for wives, Rainbow Girls for girls (tried it once, as suited to it as a badger at a cat show), and something for the sons.

Grange, now, would be a good fit for farmers, and civic organizations like Jaycees for businesswomen, but --- please, fill in the blanks?



David, by the lake said...


Re voting 3rd party. I've had similar experiences with hardcore Dems when I mention my intention to vote for Stein and my refusal to vote for HRC.

Glenn said...

Nastarana said...
"About costume and fashion; I am of the opinion that Tudor (16thC.) costume was the ugliest clothing ever invented by insolent tailors for the humiliation of their customers. I like the clothes of the high middle ages, tunics and loose trousers or hose for men and shifts (blouse plus petticoat) with outer garments tied or buttoned over the shift for women, but I doubt either would have much appeal in the present century. I do think that the era of fast "trashion" is coming to a welcome end. The most beautiful of all women's garments, IMO, are the sari and the Greek chiton, but neither are appropriate for cold weather."

I've got mixed feelings about Tudor clothing, though like you, I prefer the earlier periods. It's worth noting that during the Bronze Age the Chiton was worn as far north as Scandinavia. There were some warm centuries then, but not all of them. Both the Greeks and Scandinavians wore wool cloaks, hoods and stockings when required. I don't know about you, but quite a few of even the non reenacting women I know like comfortable dresses and bodices. When my work doesn't involve crawl spaces or tree climbing I prefer my Utilikilts to my Carhartts.


in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

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