Role of Wages of the Common Worker in Oil Prices, Collapse

In their book Secular Cycles, Peter Turchin and Surgey Nefedov point out the important role falling wages of the common workers played in early collapses. I got to thinking that this might be an issue with our current situation as well, including the low level of oil prices.

I explain this in two presentations. The first one is called “Overview of a Networked Economy“. The second one is called, “Economic Growth and Diminishing Returns.”

A couple of (amateurish) slides that need explanation are the following ones:

Standard definition of economic growth

The cloud above my representation of the economy is supposed to represent the cloud of goods and services that the economy makes. Many people would like us to believe that as long as this cloud is growing, everything is fine.

What Peter Turchin discovered is that there is a smaller cloud that really needs to be growing, as well.

This cloud is the after-tax income of the common worker. If this isn’t growing, then it is hard to collect enough taxes. The ultimate downfall comes from government downfall, because of the problems of the common worker.

Wages of Common Worker

The above slide is an attempt to show the after-tax income of common workers as a subset within the GDP cloud. (It probably should be much smaller.)

Common workers are ones who will tend to buy mostly goods and not too many services. In fact, the goods that they buy are not necessarily even high tech goods. If these workers cut back on goods that use a lot of commodities in their production, this cutback could contribute to all of the other pressures we are now seeing toward lower commodity prices, and make it much harder for oil prices to rise again.

If we want common workers to do better, it looks to me like we need an increasing supply of cheap-to-extract oil (low priced would help as well).

To see the full story, you will need to click on the links above.

I will be leaving on March 13 to spend four weeks lecturing and traveling in China. (My family will not be coming along, so I won’t be leaving an empty house here.) Hopefully I will have a chance to write a “regular” post between now and then–the two presentations are from this series. I don’t expect to be able to write posts while I am in China because China does not allow access to the WordPress site where I write my posts.

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
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332 Responses to Role of Wages of the Common Worker in Oil Prices, Collapse

  1. kulm says:

    I think it will end up like the middle ages, where the landowners have slaughtered most of the landless people and made the rest into serfs.

    • MG says:

      I do not agree. The end will be like an eschatologic punishment of the greedy man: the lack of energy and a lot of useless things will mark the end of the fossil fuels civilization. It was the abundance of cheap energy that allowed rhe rise of the human species and it will be the lack of it that will make the weak human beings the prey of other species in the nature.

      • Rodster says:

        “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” 🙂

      • edpell says:

        Let’s not get carried away. Human have not been significant prey animals since Homo erectus about 2 million years ago. Travel in groups, carry spears, have good visibility due to bipedal walking, warn each other with language of some sort even if just warning cries.

        • MG says:

          Dear edpell, the energy makes the difference: we live in a depleted world. The majority of the people are not prepared to believe that the collapse is unavoidable and are wasting energy looking for solution that simply does no exist. Accepting the low energy world is not possible for them as they are high-energy species.

          It is like inventing a totally new low energy human species that could occupy the depleted world. Who will not waste his/her energy trying to save the dying high-energy civilization and is not be required to do so.

      • kulm says:

        There were landowners before fossil fuels.

        some rich people know the end is coming and they have bought lots of land and forest in hard to reach areas. they will fly to their land, kill whoever coming near to their holdings, and will ride out the crisis to lord over their area till the end of time.

        • MG says:

          All will become poor without the energy of fossil fuels. There is no escape.

          • xabier says:


            I suspect you are correct: earlier power-structures had natural resources easy of access by slave labour: we are now using the most powerful machines to get hold of metal ore, etc, with very high pollution costs and using lots of energy, and that just won’t be viable quite soon. Prof. Bardi is very good on this. It’s going to be back to raw hides, sticks and stones, but even in the prehistoric period flint shortages occurred it seems, due to over- exploitation. Our civilisation is evidently doomed, but even the Stone Age might well be beyond most regions.

  2. WorldisMorphing says:

    Hi Gail. I would like to reiterate that your work is immensely helpful and enlightening, and I thank you again. I never miss a post …and probably never will. It appears we have some friends in China who feel your input could be valuable at this juncture. Valuable enough to keep you for 4 weeks anyway… 😉
    Can’t say I blame them, but I must ask this, the curiosity is gnawing my inside right now;
    I’ve read in a comment reply that you already had been there before.

    [” I will be lecturing for two weeks at Petroleum University in Beijing (some to students, some to faculty). Afterward, I will be seeing some aspects of the Chinese economy–perhaps leaving Beijing, with someone from the university.”]

    – “…some to faculty” – Interesting…
    -Who’s the individual responsible for inviting you and how did he approach you ? What is the overall objective. Can you give us details ?

    • Read the post about my previous trip to China.

      There is a group of people who are working on some of the same kinds of things–oil and coal depletion, and how this will work out. Quite a few of us know each other from speaking at the same conferences. One place we have met is at Professor Charles Hall’s Biophysical Economics conferences.

      Back in 2010, when I was speaking at an Association for the Study of Peak Oil USA meeting, I happened to mention that my husband and I would be visiting China in the summer of 2011. A graduate student of Professor Lianyong Feng heard that I would be visiting China, and wrote back to Professor Feng about it. Professor Feng (whom I already knew) wrote to me, asking me if I could please extend my trip, and visit Petroleum University for a few days before our vacation trip. I could meet with him and his graduate students for two days, and then I could speak at a meeting he would host and invite several important officials to. He would pay for the extension to my vacation trip.

      Since then, I have co-authored two academic papers with Prof. Feng and with his graduate student (now Ph. D.) Jianliang Wang. Wang is now teaching at the university as well. The two papers are “China’s unconventional oil: A review of its resources and outlook for long-term production” which is just now being published in the journal Energy, and An analysis of China’s coal supply and its impact on China’s future economic growth, published in “Energy Policy”. The coal paper has been cited several times already in other academic articles.

      Profesor Feng has hosted a series of invited professors for four week visits of the type I am doing. I know Mikael Hook (another co-author on the new paper) who is a professor at Uppsala University went on such a visit to China in late October 2014. Mikael and I were both speakers in October in Spain, so I was talking with him about his upcoming China trip. A few months ago, Prof. Feng wrote to me, asking if I could come on a similar four week visit. He would pay my way and offer a stipend.

      So I know these folks fairly well, and the program is a well-established one.

      • WorldisMorphing says:

        Thanks a lot Gail. As much as I would very much like to be a fly on the wall during your sessions, I will settle for wishing you a fruitful and wonderful trip. Hope you come back to us with a nice bagful of noteworthy experiences and juicy anecdotes…

  3. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail
    Incomes across all education levels are falling in the US

    Link supplied by Charles Hugh Smith

    Don Stewart

    • edpell says:

      Oddly enough the cellphone industry to hot to automate medicine. So, even doctors are going down.

    • Rodster says:

      No surprise there. When you factor in the cost of the education and the debts associated with it and having to pay it back that itself can be viewed as a wage reducer. Secondly there is more supply than demand for most well paid jobs even more so than for low wage workers.

    • Thanks! Very interesting.

  4. kulm says:

    The only real job is to be in a field where million dollar incomes are possible and real savings can be made. except for the lucky very few who had the background to afford the education to make this possible, the rest of the world will be in a very horrible state.

  5. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and All

    I have described Permaculture in particular and the broader field of Biological Farming as disciplines which utilize industrial products to make natural systems which are dependent on sunshine, rain, gravity, biology, and other factors more productive. Some of you who are not familiar with small farms may want to see more about how that operates. Here are two items you may want to look at.

    The first is a virtual tour of a 4 acre farm very close to where I live. The pictures were taken by the county extension agent:

    The second thing you may want to look at is this description by the same farmer of how she starts her seeds for transplanting. Her explanation is in response to a question posted on our listserv. So, first of all, we have a rather primitive version of the internet (a listserv with no commercials) and then you will see a description of exactly how some selected industrial products are used to get good germination and initial growth during the cold winter months when seeds cannot yet be successful in the cold soil.

    Don Stewart

    We have been very happy with our “home-made” germination mat for years- we simply attached a heat cable to a sheet of construction insulation (the type of foam that has shiny side)- depending on what size you want/need your mat to be (ours is 6′ x 2′), you can find the heat cable in various lengths from Growers Supply or FarmTek. Look for a Gro-Quick cable, and use the chart to find the right length (we buy the 48′ cable)- it is now about $45 SEE BELOW
    We then cover the mat with a piece of aluminum “window” screening and top off the whole thing with a rubber “rug runner” mat to “waterproof” it- the beauty of this system is you can fit a lot of trays on it; and we even stack the trays on top of each other (plastic sheeting in between) and get great germination because “heat rises”!

    I have attached a couple of pictures of the setup- good luck, Cathy Jones

    ———————- NOTE: As of today 3.1.2015, Gro-Quick cables also available on Amazon, $36.95

    Attachments area
    Preview attachment Gro Quick germination mat.pptx

    Gro Quick germination mat.pptx

    Click here to Reply, Reply to all, or Forward

    • Don Stewart says:

      Dear All
      One more comment, which may help you put small farms, biology, and industrial products into perspective.

      You will notice that Kathy Jones uses a commercial potting mix as part of her ‘secret seed starting mix’. The small farm I worked at used deciduous leaves plus horse manure. We got the leaves from the city, which collects them in the fall, and we got horse manure from a stable, which gives it away free if you shovel it out yourself. The leaves are left in a big pile for two years to compost. The horse manure is left for about a year. Manure and leaves are mixed by hand and sifted by hand and make a wonderful planting mix.

      You can see that the farm I worked at was investing more work and time in making the planting mix. If you look at all the different things which are going on simultaneously on Mike and Kathy’s farm, you may appreciate that there are limits as to how many balls an individual farmer, or family, or even family plus hired hands, can keep in the air simultaneously. So every farmer has to make decisions about what to make and what to buy.

      These farmers are NOT trying to farm using stone age methods. That would have to be done in a museum farm which was heavily subsidized. While I have no doubt that, in the event of collapse, Kathy and Mike would have no trouble feeding themselves and their workers, they could not be commercially competitive in 2015 using stone age methods. In their favor is that they paid off the mortgage on the farm several years ago. So far as I know, they have no debts at all.

      Don Stewart

      • MG says:

        Dear Don Stewart,

        the farm yard manure is a good fertilizer:

        The problem is that it needs machines (or animals) for transportation. Nowadays, it is more economical just to spread artificial fertiliziers. But the soil degrades, lacks organic matter. It is sure, that the structure of the soil is completely different, when you use manure or compost, even ploughing with the tractor is easier.

        • Don Stewart says:

          Dear MG
          One of the things I have been trying to communicate to people is that a commercial farm simply can’t restrict itself to stone age methods because, someday in the future, that may be all that is available. So being ‘holier than thou’ when you see a small farmer driving a battered pickup truck to get some horse manure just demonstrates lack of comprehension.

          In a collapse, both the leaves and the horse manure would not be available. The city will stop picking up leaves, and nobody will be able to keep horses as a hobby. But for right now, both inputs are very cheap. Driving the pickup about 2 miles to get the manure costs a couple of dollars, even counting the depreciation on the battered pickup.

          Carol Deppe, a PhD, recalls that when she was a kid growing up in Japan in 1958, vegetables were never eaten raw because raw manure and night-soil were used as fertilizers. In a collapse, manure of all kinds would suddenly become very valuable again, and would be transported in carts and buckets and such. Today, if a small farmer tried to farm that way, the US Government would jail them.

          Kathy and Mike make good use of their poultry manure, but they are careful to compost it according to Organic standards…although they are not certified organic. They do not use night soil.

          One of the things I try to communicate is that having SOME industrial products, such as the plastic hoop houses and plastic drip tapes, survive the crash of Wall Street would be very important in terms of our ability to feed ourselves.

          Don Stewart

          • Don Stewart says:

            Dear All
            One more thought. When Dallas Federal Reserve President Richard Fisher was asked about the impact of the crash in oil prices, he said ‘it’s not a problem, we are a consumption economy, and lower prices help consumption’.

            You might compare Fisher’s attitude with the attitude of small farmers actually trying to produce something.

            Don Stewart

          • xabier says:


            By coincidence I have just been reading about the meeting between the famous diarist James Boswell and an agricultural experimenter in 18thc Holland.

            The Dutch scientist was trying to produce handy blocks of concentrated manure.

            Boswell observes that this would be wonderful, as the transport of manure to the fields by cart was one of the heaviest expenses of a farming estate in his day,and the distribution a very slow business.

          • Jan Steinman says:

            Small farmers need to be self-sufficient, to the greatest extent possible.

            Our 28 goats supply almost all our manure needs.

            • garand555 says:

              If I’m ever out you way, I will hit you up for some free goat’s milk;) That’s some good stuff. People are going to have to get over their yuck factor with it.

          • MG says:

            The problem of todays reality is that the price of food is more and more distorted by the subsidies. That is why having a cow at home (which was normal 50 years ago in Slovakia) is no longer truth: today, there is no cow at home in my village, only a few goats or sheep, some chickens and rabbits, pigs.

            Before, the houses were made of adobe brick. Today, many of the former fields were turned into plots on which terribly big brick and concrete houses were built.

            And majority of the brainwashed young people of today have no idea about the life in the past. Their perception of the reality is completely distorted.

            One can see the difference using this map, where the reality of 1950 can be compared with the reality of 2010 (2nd button on the upper right corner bar allows comparing both aerial maps using the slider in the middle of the screen):


            The comming low energy reality will be like losing ground under one’s feet for many of the people living on the surface of the bubbles that pop and let the people hit the bare ground…

          • garand555 says:


            You make a good point when it comes to surviving today vs surviving tomorrow. I have tons of free manure available to me without using any fossil fuel myself. However, much of that will go away when others lose use of fossil fuels.

            As for night soil, I have thought long and hard about that. I know that you must put back into the soil what you take for long term sustainability, but I also understand germ theory and what it implies with human waste. The two easy ideas that I have regarding that are composting that lasts a year or two and moving an outhouse around the fallow sections of a farm where you bury the stuff several inches deep.

            We think of human waste as nasty vile stuff for a good reason. We know what is in it. Yet we will need it more and more as fossil fuels go away. We had better figure out a way to use it while minimizing the spread of disease that is associated with handling it.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              “As for night soil…”

              Google for The Humanure Handbook, by Joe Jenkins. There’s an older edition that is freely downloadable.

              “Night soil” is un-processed, fresh human faeces. No one should be doing this.

              “Humanure” is properly composted human faeces. It is perfectly safe. Most people should be doing this.

              Urine is sterile, except in a few exceptional forms of illness. Simply mix it 9:1 with water and put on your plants. Everyone should be doing this.

              Like you said about goat milk, the “yuk factor” is immense, but it’s all in the head.

            • garand555 says:

              But what about the idea of burying your waste throughout a fallow field and letting it sit for a full season? Shouldn’t that be the equivalent of composting it?

              Either way, raw human poo is something that you want to minimize contact with.

          • Steven Rodriguez says:

            Pyrolizing night soil might be one way to get that organic matter back to work. Of course once it is bio charr it needs to be aged with active compost so that you don’t have a nitrogen lock up when applying it. But given the amount of ‘biosolid’ we produce and then landfill, night soil is a huge cache of nutrients we have yet to (and someday must) tap into. Any one care to guess how long it takes us in California to “go dry”? – by that I mean stop wasting water by mixing it with shiznit?

            • Jan Steinman says:

              “Pyrolizing night soil…”

              Would use lots of energy, and strip the night soil of all nitrogen, enzymes, and beneficial bacteria.

              Just compost it properly! Low-tech, low-energy, best end product!

      • Jan Steinman says:

        “You will notice that Kathy Jones uses a commercial potting mix as part of her ‘secret seed starting mix’. The small farm I worked at used deciduous leaves plus horse manure.”

        We use commercial “container mix” for one reason only: we sell starts. People don’t appreciate paying for other people’s weeds, and horse manure, even composted, is notorious for containing viable seed.

        Ruminant or fowl manure is much “cleaner,” seed-wise, than horse manure. Very little viable seed gets through a goat or chicken.

        • Don Stewart says:

          The question on potting soil drew about 50 or 60 responsesl Everyone has a system, and everyone has at least one opinion. Questions like these are what keep the reception discussions interesting at farmer meetings.

          The farmer I worked for used manure only from the finest pet horses. He was convinced that the owners fed them better, which led to better potting soil, which led to healthier starts. To each his own.

          Don Stewart

        • garand555 says:

          I’ve found that, while a lot of work, hot composting helps a lot with the weed issue on horse manure. Now then, if I could just stop the elm seeds from blowing in like a blanket of snow…

          • Jan Steinman says:

            “while a lot of work”

            Yea. I find “lazy composting” works better for me.

            Hot composting is one of those “would be a good idea” things that tend to get swamped out by the “must do” things. At least for me.

            • garand555 says:

              You can combine lazy composting with hot composting. Turn it enough times to ensure that enough has been in the hot zone to kill any seeds or pathogens, then ignore it for a year. I throw any compostable materials in an area that doesn’t get enough sun to make it worth growing anything, then compost once per year. This year, I’ll probably do it twice due to all of the stuff that wound up on my property from the neighbors’ properties. I’m greedy with organic material like that. It is a lot of work that can be done in short bursts during late fall/winter/early spring. I’ve still got a yard or two left, and I have a pile that is several yards cooking right now.

    • Jan Steinman says:

      Woa, those seed heating mats are expensive! They seem to be priced for the employed kitchen gardener, but will send you running to the bank if you want to grow food in any quantity.

      If you’re handy with electrical stuff, you can easily make seedbed heaters for free! (If you aren’t handy with electrical stuff, you need to learn now!)

      We put an ad on our local electronic bulletin board for baseboard heaters and thermostats, and got a whack of them for the hauling. (We “gifted” some canned tomatoes in each case.) We stripped the heating element out of the baseboard heaters, put them underneath our greenhouse tables, and wired them to the thermostats. That made for a “hot spot” in the middle, so we got hold of some aluminum sheeting from the dump, out of the metal recycling bin. That spreads the heat out nicely. We drape the whole thing with poly to keep the heat and humidity in. (Yea, I know. I hate using plastic!)

      Now we have ten metres (33 feet) of heated planting table space, for less than the cost of one 16″x20″ heated mat!

      Not that everyone needs ten metres of heated seeding beds. You could do the same thing with one 24″ baseboard heater, though.

      Those who have more money than time will soon be short of either.

      • MG says:

        I always say that there is/will be a lot of remnants of the industrial civilization that can be reused: my composting place (where some chickens are fed) is made of old railway platform concrete blocks as seen here:

  6. Don Stewart says:

    Jan Steinman
    As far as the choices Mike and Kathy have made…

    I try to keep any critical thoughts to myself if small farmers meet two criteria:
    1. The mortgage is paid off
    2. They are nice guys.

    Mike and Kathy meet both criteria. I have learned a lot from them.

    Don Stewart

    • xabier says:


      The lack of debt is of course important, indeed crucial. You are right to place great emphasis on it.

      But the lesson of history is, surely, that failing complex power structures will screw the small farmers with taxes and theft on their property and produce for as long as the system retains coercive force: this was true of Rome, of the Persians, of the Ottoman Turks, the Mughals, etc.

      One might be free of debt to a money-lender, but totally crushing taxes can be thought up in the blink of an eye by the central controllers – and even by the petty rulers of a devolved region. And raiders and bandits will come stealing where governments have no power.

      This is of course not an argument for doing nothing, but it is important to understand how things always work out. This is not to mention the hidden taxes of over-regulation which you have yourself written about as making life impossible for practical people.

      Maybe the future lies with nomads? It was interesting to read recently that when the Mongols settled down to tax and exploit the societies they had conquered, one of the few communities to escape domination was that of the Turkmen, who were good enough fighters – and fast enough movers – to evade them. Very interesting people,the Turkmen. The horse and the sword beat the plough any day.

      The peasant is just a donkey tied up and waiting to be beaten, I’m afraid. Sorry Jan, I do admire what you are doing very much, but…. This is why most peasants, when given the chance, have fled the land for something safer and better.

      I’ve been associating a lot with educated Turks, Russians and Iranians, recently at the University here and this has generated lots of interesting historical and cultural discussions, much more so than people in the too-comfortable West can manage. A history of war, defeat, slavery and tyranny does sharpen the mind!

      The truth is that this is a beautiful but harsh and dangerous planet, and human beings very cruel. There are no solutions, only a slim chance to alter the odds of survival of some very few of us marginally in our favour.

      • Debt to governments and debt to money lenders are not a whole lot different. The governmental debt can be imposed at will.

        It seems to me that both systems tend to fail at the same time. The problem in collapse was a lack of government to prevent attacks by roaming bandits. One comment by Turchin was that people would tend to settle in easy to defend areas (tops of hills) rather than good farming areas, for this reason.

        • garand555 says:

          I’ve toured several hilltop ruins. El Morro is one that comes to mine. The ruins near Cabezon are another. Some of these were permanent living areas, and others were purely defensive positions. I suppose they probably stored food up in those places back in the day, but it should be noted that permanent or purely defensive, if they had to use it, they still had to send somebody down on a pretty good hike for water. One thing that struck me with El Morro’s water supply was that it didn’t flow. I’m sure that dysentery was a major problem if they didn’t boil their water. There is also Acoma, which is still inhabited, but you can look and see what the Juan de Onate did to the Acoma Pueblo several hundred years ago to see that living up on a Mesa with only one route up does not always keep one safe.

          And there are some key differences between government debt and debt from money lenders, and they all stem from one simple fact: If there is going to be real enforcement of that debt, it is the government that will become involved at some point. (Barring illegal loan sharks, of course.) Compare government backed debt to non-government backed debt when it comes to bankruptcy. Student loans are not dischargable for most. Also, with some debts, such as property taxes, you aren’t entering into an agreement with the state, you are paying for the privileged of owning land. Governments can create debts that you owe against your will. It is their power to enforce debts that allows this.

          • I agree–government debt, if the government is still in power, is a big problem. Even its ability to tax is a problem. Not having a government becomes a problem as well.

        • Jan Steinman says:

          “One comment by Turchin was that people would tend to settle in easy to defend areas (tops of hills) rather than good farming areas, for this reason.”

          And Christopher Alexander says to build on your worst land, rather than you best land!

          As long as it’s a painless commute by foot, I don’t have a problem with this. A Permaculture design would tend to build at the “key line,” the point at which the shape of the slope changes from convex to concave. This way, you’re out of the “cold sink” valley bottom and out of the windy cold of the top, and convection fires aren’t so bad as they are further up.

          So I think I’d find me a cliff part-way up the hill. Military strategy is to move quickly through easily manouvered valley bottoms; military tactics is to gain the high ground. Perhaps in-between is not a bad place to be?

          • garand555 says:

            “As long as it’s a painless commute by foot,”

            See my post above, specifically the part about “a pretty good hike for water.” The ruins that I toured were on mesas with steep cliffs on most sides. The Cabezone ruins were probably the shortest hike down to the bottom, at about 1/4 mile or a little more, but that was a steep hike. Also, at the bottom, there is no water. They would have gone further (I can’t say exactly how much further,) to the Rio Puerco to get water, and the Rio Puerco does not flow year round, which means digging.

            El Morro was a much more permanent settlement than Cabezone. Cabezone had a few kivas. El Morro had significantly more in terms of structures. I don’t know where they did their farming or what kind of farming they did (i.e. dry vs irrigation,) but I do know where their water was. It was somewhere between 3/4 of a mile and 1 1/2 miles from the pueblo. This was a bigger mesa, and it is possible that they did some agriculture up on top, though it’s been long enough and I didn’t pay attention to the soil situation up there for me to say for sure.

            Acoma is also a long hike up, and I don’t know where they got their water, but it is still inhabited and it is known that it was originally picked for its defensive location. The other two almost certainly were picked for their ability to be defended too. El Morro is not quite painless by foot when the most that you’re carrying is a 5lb backpack, but if you have to carry your water every day, carry crops, carry firewood, etc… then it is non-trivial. Often non-trivial and defensible go hand in hand.

            Dang it, now you have me wanting to go to El Morro again;) (I should have been an anthropologist.)

            • Jan Steinman says:

              “I should have been an anthropologist.”

              You forgot the words “independently wealthy” in there.

              One of our members is a newly-minted anthropology PhD… looking for work.

            • garand555 says:

              LOL, it’s like a non-petrolium geologist. Both are fascinating subjects.

      • Jan Steinman says:

        “Maybe the future lies with nomads?”

        I’ve long thought that a reasonable energy-niche for humans between industrial civilization and hunter-gatherers might be pastoralism.

        It would essentially require the decimation of population and real property. Or perhaps laws favouring pastoralism over absentee ownership. which could happen if these nomads became a majority and did not need a permanent address in order to vote. (Yea, right.)

        “The peasant is just a donkey tied up and waiting to be beaten, I’m afraid. Sorry Jan, I do admire what you are doing very much, but…. This is why most peasants, when given the chance, have fled the land for something safer and better.”

        I don’t know why I’m associated with this part of your comment. Landed peasants could conceivably enjoy the rights and privileges of landed nobility, no? I mean, as much as anybody can. In case of war, and the government building with all the property records gets blown up, it’s going to be the ones with the guns who get the land, no?

        I do agree that landless peasants have no reason not to “flee the land,” but if it comes to that, what is going to be “safer and better?” A post-carbon industrial ghetto, mining landfills for bits of copper so rich people can continue to enjoy electricity? No thanks. I’ll take the soil, any day.

        • garand555 says:

          “In case of war, and the government building with all the property records gets blown up, it’s going to be the ones with the guns who get the land, no?”

          I know that I won’t respect the property rights of out-of-state property owners in that kind of situation. An out of state cattle company that holds land 30 miles from me? Guess what, that’s a resource that I might need. In a total collapse where they have no fossil fuels, most of those cases are cases where they would never be able to get to those resources anyway.

      • Kulm says:

        The Turkomens then conquered Egypt and stopped the Mongols at northern Israel. They called themselves Mamelukes.

        However they would be eliminated , 5 centuries later, by an Albanian named Mehmet Ali (originally called Muhammad Ali but now referred this way to avoid confusion with Cassius Clay Jr).

      • Don Stewart says:

        Dear Xabier
        Consider the absurdity of the current soap opera in Europe. Greece needs a few billion to live to to fight another day. But BW Hill and Gail both think that the write-offs will be 88 trillion or thereabouts. I think your chances of selling the story in Berlin that a few write-offs to save humanity will get you points in heaven, and won’t cost you very much on earth, are pretty slim. And notice how the ‘socialist’ countries in Europe are all absolutely insistent that Greece pay its debts…otherwise, they have to bail out their banks themselves. So the even marginally solvent will gang up on the insolvent.

        I pretty much buy the story that it is impossible to predict the distant future of any complex adaptive system. But in the near and medium term, I am fairly confident that having no debt is preferable to being in debt up to your eyeballs.

        In the long term, if we are lucky, we end up somewhere like Edo Japan. Yes, the aristocracy imposed a tax, but they also perceived that, unless the farmers prospered, they would not prosper. And so they made rules that fostered the prosperity of everyone.

        Don Stewart

        • John Doyle says:

          Don, there is not a dollar in existence that doesn’t have interest attached. Debt precedes dollars.
          No debt, no economy. Simple and direct as that. Fact not theory.

          • Don Stewart says:

            John Doyle
            Steve Keen makes the point somewhere that the gold standard is really a barter system; If we had barrels of oil as the backing for paper money, it would be a barter system. The gold or the silver or the oil or the stones from the island of Yap all facilitate barter. A fiat money system with fractional reserve banking is quite a different beast.

            Don Stewart

  7. edpell says:

    I have read the follow nations will not exist in ten years
    Israel Henry Kissinger
    Russia Starfor Corporation
    U.S. Russian think tank (hey turn about is fair play)
    Yemen OFW
    various other states in middle east without resources OFW

    This is getting interesting and they are likely all correct. For pretty much the same reason..

  8. kulm says:

    What do you think about dark enlightenment and the energy shortage? it does not take too much energy to feed these ultra smart people, and even if their wealths decline they will still be wealthier than most of the rest. I do think they will get their wish even if oil production falls into 1/10 of now.

    • garand555 says:

      20% of the US’s energy goes towards food. It is highly inefficient. How are those smart, ultra rich people going to get food if the system breaks down? Most of them have far, far less knowledge regarding non-industrialized food production that most people on here, and I don’t care if you’re a billionaire or a bum, you have to eat, drink, deficate, and bullets to the face are still bad.

      • Jan Steinman says:

        “How are those smart, ultra rich people going to get food if the system breaks down?”

        If they control the land, they might be able to easily assemble hoards of starving people to work the land for them — them taking the lord’s share, of course.

        • garand555 says:

          That might be a dicey situation in the US with no fossil fuels. First, the ultra wealthy would have to send people hundreds or thousands of miles away from their homes to manage that land. It takes energy to do that, and second, there an awful lot of guns here. In a post fossil fuel world, the idea of a global mogul gets a little different.

  9. Quitollis says:

    This “Quitollis” is a hijacked name. it is coming from IP address Please write to and ask them to shut them down because he is making death threats.

    I am writing using the spammer’s name for security reasons. The “real” Quitollis’s email address no longer works, and he would never post such mindless ignorant drivel. — Moderator

    • I have blocked the IP address. If the problem pops back up with another IP address, I will block it as well.

      I don’t know how to stop the problem of people using names that aren’t theirs. One person whom I blocked a while back wrote a post under the name Ron Patterson, but wasn’t the real Ron Patterson. I had someone try to post things under a name similar to mine as well (May have been the same person). On other sites, people have selected names such as Adolf Hitler. I don’t like to point out this issue because making people aware of this problem may increase its incidence. I can write to WordPress about it.

      • Jan Steinman says:

        “I don’t know how to stop the problem of people using names that aren’t theirs.”

        I see two things, both with disadvantages: 1) moderate all postings, an incredible time-sink, or 2) require email-verified sign-up and log-in, which discourages casual commenting.

      • Daniel Hood says:

        You can tell who the trolls are, don’t hesitate, remove their comments and kick them off if found to be suspect. Period

  10. The psychopathic threats from should be reported to the FBI.

    • Quitollis says:

      “The psychopathic threats from should be reported to the FBI.”

      Unfortunately, that IP address comes from British Telecom:

      inetnum: -
      remarks:        *******************************************************************
      remarks:        * Report abuse via:,3024 *
      remarks:        *******************************************************************
      netname:        BT-CENTRAL-PLUS
      descr:          IP pools
      country:        GB
      admin-c:        BTCP1-RIPE
      tech-c:         BTCP1-RIPE
      status:         ASSIGNED PA
      remarks:        Report abuse via:,3024
      mnt-by:         BTNET-MNT
      mnt-lower:      BTNET-MNT
      mnt-routes:     BTNET-MNT
      source:         RIPE # Filtered
      remarks:        *******************************************************************
      remarks:        * Report abuse via:,3024 *
      remarks:        *******************************************************************
      address:        BT
      address:        Wholesale
      address:        UK
      admin-c:        PC487-RIPE
      tech-c:         SR401-RIPE
      nic-hdl:        BTCP1-RIPE
      mnt-by:         BTNET-MNT
      source:         RIPE # Filtered
      % Information related to ''
      descr:          BT Public Internet Service
      origin:         AS2856
      mnt-by:         BTNET-INFRA-MNT
      source:         RIPE # Filtered

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