By James Howard Kunstler
on February 11, 2013 9:09 AM
The fog of chatter about Federal Reserve money-printing shenanigans, currency wars, fiscal intransigence, exchange rates, and alphabetized rescue operations conceals the central reality of the historical moment: that all industrial economies now face epic contraction, even rip-roaring China in its absurd and spectacular bid to become the latest drive-in utopia. The so-called advanced nations of the world are all sliding toward something less than they wish to be, and the so-called developing nations will backslide further into poverty and anarchy where development will never happen.
The implacable contraction underway is the simple result of growing scarcity of cheap oil, the master resource. Thus, in a world where fantasy has replaced analysis, the propaganda channels brim with false news of America’s coming “energy independence” and the rebirth of domestic manufacturing, the coming electric car fleet, and space tourism. There is also chatter among the paranoid that an imagined elite has deliberately engineered American collapse for fun and profit, with sideshows about the Department of Homeland Security promoting social upheaval in order to make a show of putting it down. This is all bullshit concealing the futile machinations of people so unfortunate as to hold political office in an unraveling they can’t control. Where control is no longer possible, paranoid fantasies fill the vacuum of wishing for control.
One thing you can be sure of: the current sociopolitical weather will change. A front will blow through and sweep the fog away. So many circles of hazard are spinning around events that some fast-turning object will come off its axis and start smashing all the fantasies. When that happens, it will be every community for itself, and where there are no real communities — for instance, the vast matrix of suburban noplaces that America emergently composed itself out of in a tragic quest to become its own televised fantasy — we’ll discover the dark side of the “liberty” that so-called conservatives endlessly invoke, in all its screaming eagle iconography.
Not since the Civil War (1861 – 65) has anything bad of this scale happened within the United States itself and the public is unprepared despite our total immersion in the on-screen ersatz heroics of avatars such as Dwayne Johnson. The terrible convulsion of the 1860s was preceded by a political time much like ours is now, with figures (calling them leaders is inaccurate) of no conviction backpedaling furiously toward strife.
Remember these things if you tune in to watch President Obama move his lips on Tuesday amid the incessant applause in the House chamber. He’ll speak the words “climate change” and the hall will rock with thunderous handclapping — but it won’t mean anything because both the president and the people have no intention of changing the way we live. Mr. Obama will cheerlead for economic growth and he will be talking out of his ass. It’s the nature of this contraction that economic growth is absent. You can have plenty of economic activity — especially if you re-form (literally) the systems we depend on, such as farming, commerce, medicine, and transportation — but it won’t be expressed favorably in the GDP stats or the balance sheets of CitiGroup and Morgan Stanley.
At the core of this contraction is the disappearing act of real capital — that is, accumulated wealth — for the excellent reason that we are squandering what remains of it in the futile effort to keep living the way we do. But it will be vanishing fast, contrary to the view of such fantasists as David Leonhardt, Washington bureau chief of The New York Times — catch him on the current Slate Political Gabfest — who thinks that the Growth Fairy is about to land on the south lawn of the White House.
The State of the Union Address is happening in a peculiar quiet moment when all the financial brushfires of the time have been reduced temporarily to a smolder that conceals the full involvement of the roots under the surface. Our economic system is burning down. Nobody wants to talk about the system that will have to replace it, which I call a world made by hand.
The fortunate few will be those who have already established themselves in an authentic community of helping hands, who have some tools — and I don’t mean Adobe Photoshop or the latest iPhone app — and laid in some bits of silver and gold.
I’d be more concerned in the immediate future about the collapse of the student loan bubble than any rise in oil prices. With student debt increasing at a rate of $150 billion per year and a likely default rate far in excess of anything we saw during the housing collapse this is the most toxic pile of debt yet created. When it starts going bad hundreds of colleges and universities are going to go bust because they will not be eligible for further government guaranteed loans ( at least under current law) and another part of the Potemkin economy this administration has created will crumble into nothing.
JHK is using language that sounds a whole lot like Strauss and Howe, isn’t he?
“A front will blow through and sweep the fog away.”
“Not since the Civil War (1861 – 65) has anything bad of this scale happened within the United States”
Notice he carefully uses a disclaimer, because he knows WWII was a Fourth Turning.
Admin I think you’ve done more for generational theory than S&H’s publisher, by a long shot.
FWIW I feel we are way past due for a whole flock of Black Swans, myself. I hope someone like Dr. Carson is ready to step up to the plate. It made me feel better to hear him say “If we don’t deal with our problem of debt then we’ll all be destroyed” (pardon my paraphrasing). I think it’s the first time I’ve heard someone outside the alternative press (or Ron Paul) say that in public. It’s about time.
I am not surprised. and I do think that there is a synergy among the best of the alternative writers on the net. You influence each other, critique each other,and all of us who read your depressing truth-telling are beneficiaries.
A somewhat schizophrenic article, complete with paranoia and delusion.
He rips Republicans, and appears to criticize Obama, but doesn’t really, does he? And, as usual, no mention of the debts (public or private).
Since he did mention healthcare, I’ll tell you a story. It concerns those of you on ponzi SS and Medicare, and what Obamacare is doing to your benefits.
There was a nursing home nearby here, and the socialist state of Illinois wasn’t making payments, and they couldn’t survive on the pittance paid by Medicare. The owner got tired of losing money, and closed the nursing home. There isn’t another in a 30 mile radius. After the residents were sent elsewhere, the owner had the place bulldozed because he was sick and tired of the ridiculous property taxes he was paying. Now it’s an empty lot. A similar thing happened to a nursing home in the town where I practice.
I know a doctor who, since the passing of Obamacare, decided it would be best to retire. He is closing his practice, and is bulldozing the building so he doesn’t have to pay the ridiculous property taxes.
Pharmacies, nursing homes, hospitals, doctors offices, and other healthcare related places are closing at an alarming rate. This is happening not only in Illinois, but nationwide. The healthcare system is systematically being destroyed, and as you will remember, 84% of doctors now plan on retiring or quitting medicine as a result of Obamacare.
Just though you might be interested in what is going on. In the future, when you need healthcare and have Medicare or Medicaid, you may not have a place or person to get healthcare or meds from.
Admin – I don’t know whether this video is new or old, whether you’ve already posted it or whether it’s any good (as I don’t know U.S. history too well), but was a very interesting watch. It’s 43 minutes long, done by Michael Rivero, and it’s called “All Wars Are Bankers’ Wars”. It was posted February 4, 2013.
In other words, prolonging everyone’s old age for as long as possible is cost prohibitive to everyone.
Both of my grandmas had the misfortune of living too long. They both ended up blind, deaf, senile, and incontinent, sleeping away their days in a nursing home for YEARS.
Death is scary, but there are worse things. When my expiration date comes, if I can I think I will use the opportunity to try and track down the departed and dearly missed pets I’ve had over the years.
You can keep your old age “health” programs. I don’t go to the doctor and don’t intend to start.
Muck – I, the echo of Smokey, occassionally bounce around the ether to keep his memory alive. Smokey was such a fan of JK, this thread presented a good opportunity to echo one of his most beloved expressions.
May the echo be replaced by the real thing, but I despair that will not happen.
“This is all bullshit concealing the futile machinations of people so unfortunate as to hold political office in an unraveling they can’t control.” – referring to conspiracy theories as paranoid.
I don´t know. I don´t think you have to be paranoid to know that boys want power and that there are a lot of immature ones who will do anything for it. Why should one expect that these ever recurring mutants would NOT organize if they can?
The burning of the Reichstag turned out to be a conspiracy, after all. So maybe 9/11. Or maybe not. But who cares? Central banks are very real. The City of London and Wall Street are very real. The Bilderberger-meetings, the Bank of International Settlement, the Council on Foreign Relations, the IMF and you know who, are very real. The Dept. of “Homeland” Security is very real. And the Internet Reformation unmasks all the so far hidden relations and agendas.
Where would I hide a conspiracy? Among conspiracy theories!
AWD, there will be NO retirement in a few years. What do you think is going to happen when the dollar is Charmin? That we will just continue BAU and SS, unemployment, food stamps and the Meds are going to continue? Really? What universe do YOU inhabit? The one I inhabit sees the safety nets being the first to go in a crisis. Energy and resources will flow to the military and government as long as possible. (Think TSA, etc.) The central government will be supported until it cannot be. Major energy systems will be maintained for a while, but eventually fail. You will be on your own.
If you are unlucky enough to be on meds or treatments that you require to live, you will not last long enough to worry about the future. They will disappear quickly in a total collapse. The ‘just in time’ delivery system will break down and never come back. The global economy will fragment into 200+ separate parts (countries) all trying to survive. The 3rd world will actually be better off. They don’t have far to fall to the bottom. The West, on the other hand, will be in a lot of pain for years, maybe decades.
If you don’t believe Kunstler, that is your choice. Better to prepare for the worst and, if it doesn’t happen, be thankful.