Nine Reasons Why Globalization Can’t Be Permanent

Since the late 1990s, globalization has seemed to be the great hope for the future. Now this great hope seems to be dimming. Globalization sets up conflict in the area of jobs. Countries around the world compete for development and jobs. If there is not enough cheap-to-produce energy to go around, huge wage disparity is likely to result.

We know from physics and history that economies need to grow, or they collapse. The wage disparity that high-wage countries have been experiencing in recent years is evidence that the world economy is already reaching energy limits. There are no longer enough jobs that pay well to go around. Any drop in energy supply is likely to worsen the job situation.

Most observers miss this problem, because they expect high oil prices to signal energy limits. This time, the signal is low wages for a significant group of workers, rather than high oil prices. This situation is possible in a networked economy, but it is not what most people look for.

Unhappy citizens can be expected to react to the wage disparity problem by electing leaders who favor limits to globalization. This can only play out in terms of reduced globalization.

History and physics suggest that economies without adequate energy supply can be expected to collapse. We have several recent examples of partial collapses, including the Great Depression of the 1930s and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Such collapses, or even more extensive collapses, might occur again if we cannot find energy alternatives that can be quickly scaled up to replace oil and coal in the very near term. These replacements need to be cheap-to-produce, non-polluting, and available in huge quantities.

The story that the economy doesn’t really need a growing supply of very cheap-to-produce energy is simply a myth. Let’s look at some of the pieces of this story.

[1] The world economy needs to grow or it collapses. Once all of the nations of the world are included in the world economy, one obvious source of growth (incorporating nations that are not yet industrialized into the world economy) disappears. 

The reason why the world economy needs to grow is because the economy is a self-organized system that operates under the laws of physics. In many ways it is like a two-wheeled bicycle. A bicycle needs to roll quickly enough, or it will fall over. An economy must grow quickly enough, or debt cannot be repaid with interest.

Also, government promises may be a problem with slow growth. Pensions for the elderly are typically paid out of tax revenue collected in that same year. It is easy for a mismatch to take place if the number of younger workers is shrinking or if their wages are lagging behind.

Figure 1. Author’s view of analogies of speeding upright bicycle to speeding economy.

I explain a little more about my bicycle analogy in Will the World Economy Continue to “Roll Along” in 2018?

Economies throughout the ages have collapsed. In some cases, entire civilizations have disappeared. In the past 100 years, partial collapses have included the Great Depression of the 1930s, the collapse of the central government of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the Great Recession of 2008-2009. Economic collapses are analogous to bicycles falling over.

[2] A growing supply of energy products is extraordinarily important for keeping the world economy operating.

We can see in Figure 1 that the energy of the person operating a bicycle is very important in allowing the operation of the bicycle to continue. In the world’s economy, the situation is similar, except that we are facing a problem of a world population that is continually growing. In a sense, the economic situation is more like a rapidly growing army of bicycles with riders. Each member of the economy needs goods and services such as food, homes, clothing, and transportation. The members of the economy can collapse individually (for example, growing suicide rate) or in much larger groups (collapsing government of a country).

Figure 2. World population according to the United Nations 2017 historical estimates and Medium forecast of population growth after 2017.

In an economy, we have a choice regarding how much energy to use. If more energy is used, workers can have many tools (such as trucks and computers) to leverage their productivity. If all goods are made with few energy inputs other than human labor, most workers find themselves working in subsistence agriculture. The total amount of goods and services produced in such an economy tends to be very small.

If supplemental energy is used, many more jobs that pay well can be added, and many more goods and services can be created. Workers will be rich enough that they can pay taxes to support representative government that supports many services. The whole economy will look more like that of a rich nation, rather than the economy of Somalia or Haiti.

Individual nations can grow their economies by using available energy supply to create jobs that pay well. Globalization sets up competition for available jobs.

If a given country has a lot of high paying jobs, this is likely to be reflected in high per capita energy consumption for that country. There are two reasons for this phenomenon: (1) it takes energy for an employer to create jobs, and (2) workers can use their wealth to buy goods and services. This wealth buys more goods and services made with energy products.

[3] One measure of how well the world economy is doing is world energy consumption per capita. On this basis, the world economy is already reaching limits.

Figure 3. World energy per capita and world oil price in 2016 US$. Energy amounts from BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2017. Population estimates from UN 2017 Population data and Medium Estimates.

It is clear from Figure 3 that energy consumption tends to move in the same direction as oil price. If “demand” (which is related to wages) is high, both oil price and the amount of energy products sold will tend to be high. If demand is low, both oil price and the amount of energy products sold will tend to be low.

Since 2014, energy consumption has remained quite high, but oil prices have fallen very low. Today’s oil prices (even at $70 per barrel) are too low for oil producers to make adequate investment in the development of new fields and make other needed expenditures. If this situation does not change, the only direction that production of oil can go is down, rather than up. Prices may temporarily spike, prior to the time production falls.

Looking at energy consumption per capita on Figure 3 (above), we notice that this amount has been fairly flat since 2011. Normally, in a growing world economy, a person would expect energy consumption per capita to rise, as it has most of the time since 1820 (Figure 4).

Figure 4. World Energy Consumption by Source, based on Vaclav Smil estimates from Energy Transitions: History, Requirements and Prospects (Appendix) together with BP Statistical Data for 1965 and subsequent, divided by population estimates by Angus Maddison.

The fact that energy consumption per capita has been nearly flat since 2011 is worrying. It is a sign that the world economy may not be growing very rapidly, regardless of what government organizations are reporting to the World Bank. Some subsidized growth should not really be considered economic growth. For example, some Chinese cities have been buying off the country’s housing glut with borrowed money. A better accounting would likely show lower GDP growth for China and the world.

Looking more closely at Figure 3, we note that energy per capita hit a high point in 2013, just before world oil prices began sliding downward. Since then, world energy consumption per capita has been trending downward. This is part of the reason for gluts in supply. Producers had been planning as if normal growth in energy consumption would continue. In fact, something is seriously wrong with demand, so world energy consumption has not been rising as fast as in the past.

The point that is easy to miss is that (a) growing wage disparity plus oil gluts and (b) high oil prices are, in a sense, different ways of reflecting a similar problem, that of an inadequate supply of truly inexpensive-to-produce oil. High-cost-to-produce oil is not acceptable to the economy, because it doesn’t produce enough jobs that pay well, for each barrel produced. If oil prices today truly represented what oil producers (such as Saudi Arabia) need to maintain their production, including adequate tax revenue and funds to develop additional production, oil prices would be well over $100 per barrel.

We are dealing with a situation where no oil price works. Either prices are too high for a large number of consumers or they are too low for a large number of producers. When prices are low, relative to the cost of production, we tend to get wage disparity and gluts.

[4] The reason why energy demand is not growing is related to increased wage disparity. This is a problem for globalization, because globalization acts to increase wage disparity.

In the last section, I mentioned that demand is closely connected to wages. It is really wage disparity that becomes a problem. Goods and services become less affordable for the people most affected by wage disparity: the lower-paid workers. These people cut back on their purchases of goods such as homes and cars. Because there are so many lower-paid workers in the world, demand for energy products, such as oil and coal, fails to grow as rapidly as it otherwise would. This tends to depress prices for these commodities. It doesn’t necessarily reduce production immediately, however, because of the long-term nature of investments and because of the dependence of oil exporters on the revenue from oil.

Figure 5 shows that China and India’s energy consumption per capita has been rising, leaving less for everyone else.

Figure 5. Energy consumption per capita comparison, based on energy data from BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2017, and UN 2017 Population Estimates.

A major way that an economy (through the laws of physics) deals with “not enough goods and services to go around” is increased wage disparity. To some extent, this occurs because newly globalized countries can produce manufactured products more cheaply. Reasons for their advantage are varied, but include lower wages and less concern about pollution.

As a result, some jobs that previously would have been added in developed countries are replaced by jobs in newly globalized countries. It is probably not a coincidence that US labor force participation rates started falling about the time that China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

Figure 6. US Labor Force Participation Rate, as prepared by Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Lower wages for unskilled workers may also occur as the result of immigration, and the resulting greater competition for less skilled jobs. This has been a particular concern in the UK.

[5] Adding China, India, and other countries through globalization temporarily gives a boost to world energy production. This boost disappears as the energy resources of the newly added countries deplete.

Both China and India are primarily coal producers. They rapidly ramped up production since joining the World Trade Organization (in 1995 for India; in 2001 for China). Now China’s coal production is shrinking, falling 11% from 2013 to 2016. Both China and India are major importers of fossil fuels (difference between black line and their own production).

Figure 7. China’s total energy consumption compared to its energy production by type, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2017.

Figure 8. India’s total energy consumption compared to its energy production by type, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2017.

China and India’s big surge in coal production has had a major impact on world coal production. The fact that both countries have needed substantial imports has also added to the growth in coal production in the “Other” category in Figure 9.

Figure 9 also shows that with China’s coal production down since 2013, total world coal production is falling.

Figure 9. World coal production by part of the world, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2017.

Figure 10 shows that world GDP and world energy supply tend to rise and fall together. In fact, energy growth tends to precede GDP growth, strongly suggesting that energy growth is a cause of GDP growth.

Figure 10. World three-year average GDP growth compared to world three-year average energy consumption growth. GDP data is from the World Bank, based on 2010 US$ weights of GDP by country; energy consumption is from BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2017.

If a growth in energy consumption is indeed a primary cause of world economic growth, the drop in world coal production shown in Figure 9 is worrying. Coal makes up a large share of world energy supply (28.1% according to Figure 12). If its supply shrinks, it seems likely to cause a decline in world GDP.

Figure 11 shows energy consumption growth on a basis comparable to the energy consumption growth shown on Figure 10, except for different groupings: for the world in total, the world excluding China, and for the combination of the US, EU, and Japan. We can see from Figure 11 that the addition of China and Japan has greatly propped up growth in world energy consumption since 2001, when China joined the World Trade Organization.

Figure 11. Three-year average growth in energy consumption, for the world total; the world less China and India; and for the sum of the United States, the European Union, and Japan. Energy data from BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2017.

The amount of the “benefit” was greatest in the 2003-2007 period. If we look at Exhibit 10, we see that world economic growth was around 4% per year during that period. This was a recent record high. Now the benefit is rapidly disappearing, reducing the possibility that the world energy consumption can grow as rapidly as in the past.

If we want world energy consumption per capita to rise again, we need a new large rapidly growing source of cheap energy to replace the benefit we received from China and India’s rapidly growing coal extraction. We don’t have any candidates for a suitable replacement. Intermittent renewables (wind and solar) are not candidates at all. According to the IEA, they comprised only 1% of world energy supply in 2015, despite huge investment. They are part of the gray “Other” slice in Figure 11.

Figure 12. Figure prepared by IEA showing Total Primary Energy Supply by type from this IEA document

Academic studies regarding wind and solar have tended to focus on what they “might” do, without considering the cost of grid integration. They have also overlooked the fact that any energy solution, to be a true energy solution, needs to be a huge energy solution. It has been more pleasant to give people the impression that they can somehow operate a huge number of electric cars on a small amount of subsidized intermittent electricity.

[6] On a world basis, energy consumption per capita seems to need to be rising to maintain a healthy economy. 

When energy consumption is growing on a per capita basis, the situation is similar to one in which the average worker has more and more “tools” (such as trucks) available at his/her disposal, and sufficient fuel to operate these tools. It is easy to imagine how such a pattern of growing energy consumption per capita might lead to greater productivity and therefore economic growth.

If we look at historical periods when energy consumption has been approximately flat, we see a world economy with major problems.

Figure 13. World per Capita Energy Consumption with two circles relating to flat consumption. World Energy Consumption by Source, based on Vaclav Smil estimates from Energy Transitions: History, Requirements and Prospects (Appendix) together with BP Statistical Data for 1965 and subsequent, divided by population estimates by Angus Maddison.

The flat period of 1920-1940 seems to have been caused by limits reached on coal production, particularly in the United Kingdom, but also elsewhere. World War I , the Great Depression of the 1930s, and World War II all took place around this time period. Charles Hall and Kent Klitgaard in Energy and the Wealth of Nations argue that resource shortages are frequently the underlying cause for wars, including World Wars I and II.

The Great Depression seems to have been a partial economic collapse, indirectly related to great wage disparity at that time. Farmers, in particular, had a difficult time earning adequate wages.

The major event that took place in the 1990 to 2000 period was the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The central government collapsed, leaving the individual republics to operate independently. The Soviet Union also had strong trade relationships with a number of “satellite” countries, including Cuba, North Korea, and several Eastern European countries. In the next section, we will see that this collapse had a serious long-term impact on both the republics making up the Soviet Union and the satellite countries operating more independently.

[7] The example of the Soviet Union shows that collapses can and do happen in the real world. The effects can be long lasting, and can affect trade partners as well as republics making up the original organization.

In Figure 14, the flat period of the 1980-2000 period seems to be related to intentional efforts of the United States, Europe, and other developed countries to conserve oil, after the oil price spikes of the 1970s. For example, smaller, more fuel conserving vehicles were produced, and oil-based electricity generation was converted to other types of generation. Unfortunately, there was still a “backfire” effect related to the intentional cutback in oil consumption. Oil prices fell very low, for an extended period.

The Soviet Union was an oil exporter. The government of the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, indirectly because with these low oil prices, the government could not support adequate new investment in oil and gas extraction. Businesses closed; people lost their jobs. None of the countries shown on the Figures 14 and 15 have as high energy consumption per capita in 2016 as they did back when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Figure 14. Per capita energy consumption for the Soviet Union and three of its satellite countries. Energy data from BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2017. Population data from UN 2017 Population data and Middle Estimates.

The three satellite countries shown on Figure 14 (Bulgaria, Hungary, and Poland) seem to be almost as much affected as the republics that had been part of the Soviet Union (Figure 15). This suggests that loss of established trading patterns was very important in this collapse.

Figure 15. Per capita energy consumption for the three largest (by population) republics that made up the Soviet Union. Energy data from BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2017. Population data from UN 2017 Population data and Middle Estimates.

Russia’s per capita energy consumption dropped 29% between peak and trough. It had significant fossil fuel resources, so when prices rose again, it was again able to invest in new oil fields.

Ukraine was a major industrial center. It was significantly impacted by the loss of oil and gas imports. It has never recovered.

The country that seemed to fare best was Uzbekistan. It had little industry before the collapse, so was less dependent on energy imports than most. Of all of the countries shown on Figures 14 and 15, Uzbekistan is the only one that did not lose population.

[8] Today, there seem to be many countries that are not far from collapse. Some of these countries are energy exporters; some are energy importers.

Many of us have read about the problems that Venezuela has been having recently. Ironically, Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world. Its problem is that at today’s prices, it cannot afford to develop those reserves. The Wikipedia article linked above is labeled 2014-2018 Venezuelan protests. Oil prices dropped to a level much lower than they had been in 2014. It should not be surprising that civil unrest and protests came at the same time.

Figure 16. Monthly average spot Brent oil prices, through December 2017, based on EIA data.

Other oil producers are struggling as well. Saudi Arabia has recently changed leaders, and it is in the process of trying to sell part of its oil company, Saudi Aramco, to investors. The new leader, Mohamed bin Salman, has been trying to get money from wealthy individuals within the country, using an approach that looks to outsiders like a shake-down. These things seem like very strange behaviors, suggesting that the country is experiencing serious financial difficulties. This is not surprising, given the low price of oil since 2014.

On the oil-importer side, Greece seems to frequently need support from the EU. The lower oil prices since 2014 have somewhat helped the country, but the basic shape of the energy consumption per capita chart makes it look like it is struggling to avoid collapse.

Figure 17. Greece energy per capita. Energy data from BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2017; population estimates from UN 2017 Population data and Medium projections.

There are many other countries struggling with falling energy consumption per capita. Figure 18 shows a chart with four such countries.

Figure 18. Energy consumption per capita for Japan, UK, Italy, and Spain. Energy consumption from BP Statistical Review of World Energy; population from UN 2017 Population data and Medium Estimates.

In a sense, even though oil prices have been lower since 2014, prices haven’t been low enough to fix the economic problems these countries have been having.

China is in a different kind of situation that could also lead to its collapse. It built its economy on coal production and rapidly growing debt. Now its coal production is down, and it is difficult for imports and substitution of other fuels to completely compensate. If slowing growth in fuel consumption slows economic growth, debt will become much harder to repay. Major debt defaults could theoretically lead to collapse. If China were to collapse, it would seriously affect the rest of the world because of its extensive trading relationships.

[9] Leaders of countries with increasing wage disparity and unhappy electorates can be expected to make decisions that will move away from globalization. 

Unhappy workers are likely to elect at least some leaders who recognize that globalization is at least a small part of their problems. This is what has happened in the US, with the election of President Trump.

The hope, of course, is that even though the rest of the world is becoming poorer and poorer (essentially because of inadequate growth of cheap-to-produce energy supplies), somehow a particular economy can “wall itself off” from this problem. President Donald Trump is trying to remake trading arrangements, based on this view. The UK Brexit vote was in a sense similar. These are the kinds of actions that can be expected to scale back globalization.


Having enough cheap energy for the world’s population has been a problem for a very long time. When there is enough cheap-to-produce energy to go around, the obvious choice is to co-operate. Thus the trend toward globalization makes sense. When there is not enough cheap-to-produce energy to go around, the obvious choice is to try reduce the effects of globalization and immigration. This is the major reason why globalization can’t last.

We now have problems with both coal and oil. With the decline in China’s coal supplies, we are reaching the point where there are no longer enough cheap energy supplies to go around. At first glance, it looks like there is enough, or perhaps even a superabundance. The problem is that no price works. Producers around the world need higher oil prices, to be compensated for their total cost, including the cost of extraction, developing new fields, and the tax levels governments of exporting countries need. Consumers around the world are already having trouble trying to afford $70 per barrel oil. This is what leads to gluts.

We have been told that adding wind and solar to the electric grid can solve our problems, but this solution is simply absurd. If the world is to go forward as before, it somehow needs a new very large, very cheap supply of energy, to offset our problems with both coal and oil. This new energy supply should not be polluting, either.

At this point, it is hard to see any solution to the energy problems that we are facing. The best we can try to do is “kick the can” down the road a little farther. Perhaps “globalization light” is the way to go.

We live in interesting times!

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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2,343 Responses to Nine Reasons Why Globalization Can’t Be Permanent

  1. interguru says:

    For those expecting fusion energy to bail us out.

    ITER is a showcase … for the drawbacks of fusion energy

    This is as predictable as the sun rising. All of the issues were known before a shovelful of dirt was moved. I was at the Office of Fusion during the early design phase. We all knew it was a boondoggle. We nicknamed it “Money ITER.”

    Side comment: The amount of $$ is huge, but it is less than was used to bail out one bank so the sleazy bankers could get their bonuses.

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

      it’s good income for many scientists…

      isn’t that what science is all about?

      so, in a few decades, after FF declines so much that progress has reversed and the world is in universal poverty…

      some fusion “believers” may still be alive to say:

      “if only we had 10 more years, we could have had fusion by now!”

    • Lastcall says:

      The parasite class tends to change host as circumstances dictate. In times past this fungi used religion as its vector, or it used royal-patronage to do its dirty work. Then it used nation-states, and now it uses technology to extract its pound of

      So this parasite-class will always be with us and will k.ill its’ host then move on. To restrain its influence society needs to be socially healthy and united. This is not the case so we find ourselves burdened again with an oversize ‘hot-air economy’. The larger the bonus, the nearer the endpoint.

    • JH Wyoming says:

      I think one bit of information regarding the ITER that gives it a bad taint, is the simple fact they are not designing in a way to use it for power generation. That in an of itself speaks volumes about their expectations, because if it is so well planned out, then why not include in the plans a way to draw energy if in fact it produces a net energy return? So it’s a boondoggle from day one.

      An overblown, extremely expensive science experiment and the trouble with that is if anything unexpected happens and they realize that some integral part cannot be changed after it’s completed, then to make an alteration would require building a whole new one from scratch, and where’s that money going to come from. But if they can’t even plan how to use the net energy it produces, then that suggests they don’t really know what to expect. They’re just hoping it all turns out good. Even something simpler, like a car will have issues and things will need to be altered, so how could something this complicated not have issues once they begin testing?

      Also, if something works right, it can be made smaller, but in this case they are going super incredibly massive. Therefore it’s not ever going to scale down to fit into a car, a truck, a train, a ship, a jet. If the best case scenario is that it works but can only work if it’s super massive and outrageously expensive, then will it even make sense to build them around the world?

      • JH Wyoming says:

        The one other final thought on fusion which should be scary to everyone, is if they have to be built this big, then we are stuck with centralized energy production which leads to investors and board members demanding ever bigger payouts, which means the end consumer gets shanked.

      • interguru says:

        There are some issues with power generation that have not even been solved on paper. The main one is a first wall, that is the inside of the torus, that will stand up to neutron bombardment, stop the neutrons and transfer the heat to a power generator.

        There are alternative schemes, one of which, Trisops (, I worked on, but they suffer from problems, but their cost is much less. There is so much $$$$ and emotion sunk into the Tokamak design that the powers that be cannot back out.

        • doomphd says:

          “There is so much $$$$ and emotion sunk into the Tokamak design that the powers that be cannot back out.”

          Robert Hirsh called the predicament “circling the wagons”.

  2. Artleads says:

    Sorry; this is all over the place, but I had to give it a try.

    JMG has this to say (which I find disappointing):

    “If evolution has no inherent direction, then we aren’t the predestined masters of the cosmos — we could just be one more oddity spawned by evolution, with no guarantee that we’ll be bailed out of the cascading consequences of our own stupidity…”

    This bespeaks too literal a view of reality. Does the universe even exist in some literal way. (?) We understand what exists by comparing or contrasting it to something else, while we have nothing to compare or contrast the so called universe with.

    There are two opposing views as to human specialness: 1) We are just another species of animal. (We are not.) 2) We are above the other animals and are superior to them. (We are not.) We might just be a problem looking for a solution. There is far more intelligence around us than we’re aware of, and time is not long enough for us to ever understand it. We might as well stick to the here and now and make our religion that of surviving.

    Thinking that we’re so special that we can’t kill unwanted fetuses doesn’t help us to survive. That is a scenario of being above other living creatures, which we are killing at an astronomical pace. And since those animals are products of the intelligence around us that we don’t understand, killing them tends to be like cutting off the limb we’re perched on. We also destroy the intelligence in past human culture by destroying their artifacts…with similar effects. Extolling polygamy because it is “our culture” should not be left unchallenged when it comes with no appreciation of what it is destroying. To have more children while not planning for how they affect surrounding living systems might just be folly..

    It would seem that the “cascading consequences of our own stupidity…” results from the belief that we know more than we are capable of knowing. That doesn’t lead to the conclusion that we’re just like other species, or that we have the obligation to displace them.

    • xabier says:

      The only species -probably – which can feel shame when contemplating itself…….

    • The issue is survival of the best adapted to the changing conditions. The random variations allow different approaches to be tested, as conditions change. Thus, there very much is a direction to which variations are chosen. In particular, the best combination for the time/place is chosen. Clearly color of skin is one example. Another example: if intelligence is highly desired in one time/place, it will be selected for; if physical strength and speed is highly desired in another time/place, it will be selected for. I believe that this is why we have as much difference as we do among the races. In the Far East, intelligence and mathematical ability was selected for, because with the high population level, great attention to order and planning was important. We end up with a group that is very good on certain kinds of tests. In Africa, physical strength and speed tended to get selected for. In other parts of the world, it was more of a mix. So we have some groups that do better than others on tests of a particular kind, even if we don’t like the result. Elite schools that use test scores to determine entrance end up with a lot of Asians in the mix. I haven’t seen percentages of actuaries by race, but my impression is that Asians are also over-represented in those who pass the actuarial exams.

      • Ed says:

        Gail I would say more generally areas with long histories of urbanization produce genetic populations with math and business skills China, India, Palestine. Gail, thank you for OFW one of the few places in the world were these ideas can be discussed in public.

      • xabier says:

        There are other subtleties: for instance, at my old college, they found that Chinese maths students educated in the West did well in the entrance exams but tended to be not quite so brilliant in the longer term (still very good of course); in comparison, those who had been educated in China did better later on -more originality.

        Perhaps tougher conditions and selection-pressure in China itself have something to do with this?

        I think I saw that by the 14th century 95% of the population of England were part of the money economy, and so had to know how to calculate. With ‘contactless’ charge cards, we can only regress ie spend and don’t think)?

      • Artleads says:

        No. It’s not all about speed and strength of the African. Africa is very misunderstood. An excerpt of something I posted before. The issue is complex and subtle:


        I single out Africa, for the west, critically the US, denigrates Africa, whereas Africa offers the US, as the hegemonic western power, a second chance. American Africans comprise 13% of the US population, while American African culture predominates throughout the nation. America has such a historical intermingling with African culture that it clearly would have the advantage over China in establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with Africa. But it would have to stop using black Americans for target practice and for other oppressive purposes. Meanwhile, all the energy in the room is taken up by people who want to do exactly the opposite of what I recommend, and do it in the name of “making America great again!” A few points about Africa and energy:

        – The surplus energy derived from African slaves’ production of sugar and cotton underpins the industrial revolution.

        – Western civilization overlooks that, and overlooks the natural world that was the catapult draw for African peoples. Western civilization, by the nature of its thought structure, can’t relate to the Africa/nature connection. No wonder the west treats nature as a dead thing and the African as cursed, and no wonder it would destroy its very self by so doing.

        – Rhythm, a major asset of the African, greatly extended a given amount of material energy. The role of rhythm and fractals in producing energy needs to be studied. I suspect that it is the convergence of fractals with rhythm that has led to the predominance of the African in sports and music. Rhythmic work songs helped withstand brutal, killing forced labor.

      • Sven Røgeberg says:

        A reference or a link for these assumptions, Gail? I think the genetical variations are considered the greatest in Africa, due to the fact that the rest of the world has just the few tribes that left Africa around 70,000 years ago as ancestors. So it could be that the best adapted to a polluted and poisoned world after a collapse are the ones living on wast dumps digging after the electronic remains the affluent world has shipped there.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        Every heard of the Tiger Mom? Maybe that is why Asians do well in school…

        I would suggest that this is a cultural thing … combined with the fact in places like China… it was not many years ago that the people were living in brutal poverty — observing and wanting the affluence of the west very badly…

        And realizing what had to be done to get that….

        I suspect math skills in America were far better 120+ years ago … when people were ‘hungrier’

    • Tango Oscar says:

      Our knowledge can’t go beyond our knowing, that is nonsense. What’s happened is our technological capabilities have exceeded our understanding of them. It is totally false that humans are superior or special when compared with other life forms. That is pure ethnocentric projections from ignorant westerners. Our technology hasn’t made us superior, it’s merely highlighted our ignorance.

      • It isn’t our technology that has made us superior. It is our use of energy products that has given us an advantage over life forms. We started with burned biomass, and then moved on to all kinds of other approaches. We don’t necessarily understand where we fit in however, and in many ways our technology has made a new, terribly fragile system that has many disadvantages over what nature provides. It temporarily looks wonderful, but if any necessary piece disappears (for example, international trade, electricity, oil extraction, financial system, adequate profits), the system is subject to collapse.

        • greg machala says:

          I agree, it seems the more energy a society has available, the more technology is also available.

        • Tango Oscar says:

          I agree. And I never thought our technology made us superior, it just seems to be the mainstream way of thinking. Clearly the energy that powers said technology is critical.

  3. Lastcall says:

    Letting off steam takes many forms.

    ‘The Algerian government’s toleration of sheep fighting is a tacit acknowledgement that outlets for male aggression are needed. “Letting these guys have their fun reduces violence in other contexts,” said Youcef Krache, a photographer from Algiers who has spent years documenting sheep fights. “Authorities prefer they get swept up in spectacles rather than politics.” ‘

    • A variation on bull fights?

      • grayfox says:

        This appears to be a forced challenge of ram (male sheep) vs. another ram…not man vs. animal like bull fighting. Somewhat like cockfighting with roosters or dogfights with pit bulls, but those battles are more bloody and more often illegal.

    • xabier says:

      Yes, let them fight sheep, preferable to the alternatives. Algerians were among the worst rapists and murderers of WW2 – the French authorities let them loose to punish ordinary Italians and Germans, something not often referred to.

      • xabier says:

        Hasn’t wild boar killing with a knife become something of a sport in Australia?

        • HideAway says:

          Xabier, it is called locally ‘pig sticking’ and there are many people I know have been involved. It is usually in outback NSW where there a lot of wild pigs, people go there to help the farmers rid the place of feral pigs, and for the ‘sport’.
          It involves letting the dogs loose to catch the pig/pigs (not just boars), the dogs catch up to the pigs and start mauling them. The hunter then comes along with a knife to dispatch the wounded pig.
          The meat is kept and eaten by both hunter and dogs. It must be well cooked to make sure no parasites/deseases cross to humans.

      • Ed says:

        xabier, you should write a book. You bring a southerners point of view and background knowledge that northerners do not have. I often learn new things from you.

        • xabier says:

          Thanks Ed, very kind of you: What I really like is making things that last, which is ironical given what we discuss here!

  4. JH Wyoming says:

    Is this a sign of austerity? Nurses and firemen in Uzbekistan told to ride their bicycles to provide faster, better service. Got to see the pic for the expressions on the nurses – they don’t look too happy.

    • It seems impossible to go “backwards,” even when the result saves time and expense. Once we are used to the warmth and convenience of having a car to drive in, we cannot imagine doing something else that would perhaps work better and give us some exercise at the same time.

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

      Lagarde probably has no understanding at all of how FF energy resources are the one true primary support for the global economy…

      she cannot “connect the dots” if her education is missing that dot…

      very much like what has been said here about Pinker…

      her remarks can be ignored.

      • Rufus says:

        A few years ago, I was attending a conference by Yves Cochet, who was at this time leading the green French party. He is a ‘peak oiler’, and the conference theme was about oil depletion and all its consequences. He had been minister for environment in the French government, and also member of the parliament. I had the opportunity to ask a question, so I asked him : ‘I can’t believe that our political leaders are perfectly aware of the primary role of energy in economics, the major role of FF, the fact of depletion, and the predicament of it : how do they take consideration of it ? ’
        His answer was just astonishing (and I just still can’t believe it) : ‘I spoke many times to many leaders about these matters, for example recently to Mrs Lagarde (our minister of economy at this time) : she, or they in general, just simply don’t understand : it’s just out of their frame of mind !’
        In my opinion, it could be just denial. It’s too big.
        But I know that our French political leaders have in general an educational (university) background in ‘political sciences’ (what is that ?), economics, or laws. We have many former lawyers … like the famous Nicholas Sarkozy or Christine Lagarde. ‘Let the scientists and engineers (those weird guys we don’t understand) discover and produce new stuffs, and we, business lawyers and economists will organize the system to make money out of this.’
        I was told that in China, most political leaders have a background in science and engineering. Sounds better to me.

        • So, what he said was…

        • HideAway says:

          I can relate to this in a conversation I had with a mining executive last year, with a geology background. I was a large investor in the company and was questioning him about the feasibility studies on a forthcoming project. In the numbers were figures that projected LOWER fuel prices for the project and transport. I brought up this point in light of the lack of investment of over $2Trillion in oil projects over the last few years and how everyone from GS to Haliburton are forecasting Higher prices in the next few years.

          His answer was straight out of the ‘denial’ handbook, the tight shale oil from the US was going to lower oil prices for years to come, probably decades.
          The companies future rides on this project, so the figures in the feasibility studies are made to make it look profitable, irrespective of their credibility.

          I started to sell my shares straight away.

          The people in high places or power, both in govt and business, just don’t want to look at the real problem because they already know what is there. However not looking gives them “plausible deniability” if/when caught out. They all hope to kick the can down the road a bit longer, get out on top with a nice pension and let someone else worry about the future.

          • Dennis L. says:

            Upon retirement one is faced with the same problem; the shares are not backed by resources so they are comforting digits until they are nothing. Having a “nest egg.” is a constant issue with what is real and what is not and everything becomes more weird each day which is a way of saying less real. I personally very much miss being useful as I was in my profession prior to retirement; it was also my greatest sense of “security.”

          • The issue, unfortunately, is that we cannot run our economy on higher energy prices. Ultimately, that is what is likely to be our downfall. Prices can’t rise, when they need to rise to cover rising costs.

            People have been lied to about it being OK if renewable energy prices are higher. No, it is not. They will collapse the economy, just as any other kind of high-priced energy will. It is the full installed cost that matters, including the extra transmission and other costs.

            This doesn’t really solve our problem. Peak oil people have preached that oil prices must rise, but they really can’t without collapsing the economy.

        • Baby Doomer says:

          I just read the book “Oil and the Western Economic Crisis” …And the author is an Economist at Cambridge University. ..And she argued in the book that the only people in America that really understood how oil and economics are related together was the Federal Reserve. She argued that ever since the 1970’s that basically most economic models had been disproved by the oil shocks we have had.

          • A self-organized system would not be expected to follow the type of models economists put together, based on looking at past patterns regarding a few variables. The whole approach is wrong.

        • Well, overly visible actors like Sarkozy, Lagarde or most of the biz executives are in reality quite far from the true levers of power and the proverbial top of the ladder.

          It’s now very evident the geopolitical events of early-mid 2000s were inspired by some deep state think tank “imminent peak oil” analysis scenario, which simply didn’t pan out (despite the factor of economic build up China/Asia) or taken as precautionary manner anyway at least helped some faction to stay in the prime position for another ~2decades..

          In this light I’d be very skeptical about the near/mid term future for ordinary people say till mid 2030s, if they assume deleting few billion humans might help, they will just do it..

          Again, especially the prop up of China/Asia on purpose is quite stunning development, this could be only explained simply by greed – extension of paradigm for the global order owners, or they for some reason believe in their supreme powers as in later demoting what they had put to work previously. Not sure how they could proceed with such sub scenario given the complexities-cross dependencies of global JITs, but perhaps something like weaponized genetics might be eventually unleashed by this faction to alter the course of recent globalization vectors.

        • Even if they sort of vaguely understand the problem, I think that they think, “Of course, technology will fix it.”

          One thing I discovered in China is that the business/government leaders I met read the same material that everyone else was reading. They read that we had plenty of oil and gas available by fracking. Now that oil prices are low, I am sure that they have no doubt that our problems are gone forever. China decided to let its oil production fall, and buy more oil from outside, because with today’s low oil prices, this was the most economical approach to use.

          Regardless of their background (science or economics), I think that optimism easily takes over.

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

      some books are still printed on paper?

        • ITEOTWAWKI says:

          Yeah Mark, he’s the most annoying commenter I have ever seen on any blog…c’mon David come up with a little joke to my comment, go ahead! I’m happy to see though that his comments rarely get any responses…but yours was, how can I put this…touché

          • Mark says:

            ‘The Greek shall inherit the earth’
            ‘Did anyone catch his name?’

          • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:



            you still mad that The Collapse hasn’t happened yet?

            “it’s going down, and soon!”

            I’m no great comic, but, you know, if I AGREED with your lame view that The Collapse was coming SOON, you would surely think I was funnier…

            by the way…


            BAU tonight, baby!

            • Mark says:

              That “lame view” is held by the host here, but not in a dogmatic way.
              Ever heard of verbal diarrhea?

            • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

              yes, Mark, I tend towards borderline Asperger…

              my interpretation is that our excellent host foresees a financial crisis coming soon.

              and though I try to avoid triangulation…

              our fellow poster iteotwawki seems to think The Collapse is very near…

              thus my memory of his bold assertion many months ago:

              (paraphrased) “you’re right FE, this is going down, and soon!”

              I could be wrong, but I’ll repeat it for the thousandth time: I think The Collapse is a decade or two away.

          • Tim Groves says:

            Hear that, David? It appears that our genius is not universally appreciated.
            But whether your detractors are truly annoyed or just envious we shall probably never know.

            • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

              I appreciate your genius, Tim!

              meanwhile, it’s a noble calling to annoy those who think The Collapse is mere hours away!

              onward we go!

            • DJ says:

              You will always be correct. Until the last few hours.

            • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

              yes, I am correct as of now…

              if The Collapse happens before 2030, I will admit I was wrong.

              I think it’s the very slow grinding process of Creeping Collapse that annoys many people…

              many of us want to see big spectacular events happen…

              but life usually refuses to be anything but mundane.

            • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

              once in a while, Feeble Eddy posts something worthwhile…

              and once in a while I do also…

              rumor has it, he invested in a vineyard recently…


              The Collapse is imminent.

      • Baby Doomer says:

        Paper sales actually outsold e books last year..They are making a slight comeback for whatever reasons…Personally I buy all my books on kindle and I listen to them through my Alexa echo device.

  5. futhark says:

    Apocalypse now for Britain’s retailers as low wages and the web cause ruin.

    Big-name stores are teetering on the brink. Without radical action to bring back shoppers, UK high streets will be wrecked.–gloom-high-street-shift-consumers

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

      aren’t these things just symptoms?

      there must be a disease as the root cause.

      the UK is ever more susceptible to disease because they are growing more deficient in vitamin FF.

      • futhark says:

        They’re symptoms of more people using the internet to find bargains, because they can no longer afford what used to be normal prices.

        • Duncan Idaho says:

          Actually, this is currently a resource deficient country, and with Brexit, the financial dominance of London is possibly on the wain.
          The UK will wither if this continues.

        • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

          and WHY can’t they “afford what used to be normal prices”?

        • xabier says:

          Another factor in the UK is that, with over-population, physical shopping is often a real pain, and also the cost of car parks has gone up considerably – much more pleasant to stay at home and order online from a reliable retailer. The best online services are really very good, I’ve never been disappointed.

      • JH Wyoming says:

        How can you have your pudding if you won’t eat your FF?

      • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

        thanks, BD…

        I suppose “A Nation” refers to the USA…

        but this must be the situation in the UK as well…

        or even worse over there…

        since the USA has many times more FF than them.

        • jupiviv says:

          I’m a classical music enthusiast, and I’ve bought many of my CDs from Amazon. The more popular ones are good deals, but the historical/old recordings are ludicrously overpriced. RCA’s Arthur Rubinstein boxset sells for the equivalent of 900 dollars, whereas I bought it in a local store for about 250.

          Same for electronics. More common items like flash drives or popular smartphones tend to be underpriced, whereas enthusiast items like desktop gfx cards or audiophile headphones are way overpriced. So it seems Amazon does cater to the broke/near-broke demographic.

          • Baby Doomer says:

            Best Buy just announced they are going to get rid of their CD’s for good. And Target wants to only pay the music companies for the CD’S they sell in their store..

    • JH Wyoming says:

      Shopping via a mouse is now a developed world phenomenon with walk in retail quickly becoming obsolete. No getting dressed up. Forget the risk and cost of transportation. No worries about getting randomly shot by someone going nuts. Just wait for it to get dropped by the front door.

    • JH Wyoming says:

      Oh no, not the Winn-Dixie Stores!

      • The Second Coming says:

        Here in South Florida, they closed a Winn Dixie store in to locations in the city I live at and reopened them as a Hispanic Supermarket named BRAVO, which have been doing extremely well these past years with lots of low cost meats, fish and produce.
        Maybe here its a cultural shift as part of the change.

  6. adonis says:

    we are on the verge of a new economic system coming in, which will not be based on exponential growth but first we need the current financial system to implode. T.hat is coming on june the 1st of this year. As the old saying goes ‘ eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die’ so just enjoy what’s left of our current llifestyles they are soon going to permanently change.

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

      I think you have the wrong date…

      it took me a long time…

      but I finally found the answer on a “secret” internet site…

      it’s actually February the 18th of this year…

      oh no, that’s TOMORROW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • JH Wyoming says:

      June 1st? Wow, so little to do and so much time. Reverse that.

    • Baby Doomer says:

      My birthday is June 2….Can the end of the world wait one more freaking day? Just my luck….

    • Yorchichan says:

      Not that I doubt you, but what is your evidence?

      PS. Who is T Hat?

      • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:


        I’m pretty sure it’s that the moon will be in the seventh house…

        and Jupiter will be aligned with Mars…

        and June is the 6th month…

        and Saturn is the 6th planet…

        and Saturn has 6 letters…

        so there’s the number of The Beast…

        which means that it will be The Collapse…

        isn’t it obvious?

    • jupiviv says:

      I’m sorry but no. June the first isn’t a monday. The collapse will most definitely happen on a monday.

    • DJ says:

      I remember how you broke down and admitted you were wrong when Dow had a large drop two weeks ago.

  7. Baby Doomer says:

    This Mall Is Only for the Rich, and It’s Doing Fine

    The fanciest shopping center in America is expanding while the rest face a looming retail apocalypse.

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

      sure, it is, for now…

      but wait and see on June 1st!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Comments are closed.