2019: World Economy Is Reaching Growth Limits; Expect Low Oil Prices, Financial Turbulence

Financial markets have been behaving in a very turbulent manner in the last couple of months. The issue, as I see it, is that the world economy is gradually changing from a growth mode to a mode of shrinkage. This is something like a ship changing course, from going in one direction to going in reverse. The system acts as if the brakes are being very forcefully applied, and reaction of the economy is to almost shake.

What seems to be happening is that the world economy is reaching Limits to Growth, as predicted in the computer simulations modeled in the 1972 book, The Limits to Growth. In fact, the base model of that set of simulations indicated that peak industrial output per capita might be reached right about now. Peak food per capita might be reached about the same time. I have added a dotted line to the forecast from this model, indicating where the economy seems to be in 2019, relative to the base model.1

Figure 1. Base scenario from The Limits to Growth, printed using today’s graphics by Charles Hall and John Day in Revisiting Limits to Growth After Peak Oil with dotted line at 2019 added by author. The 2019 line is drawn based on where the world economy seems to be now, rather than on precisely where the base model would put the year 2019.

The economy is a self-organizing structure that operates under the laws of physics. Many people have thought that when the world economy reaches limits, the limits would be of the form of high prices and “running out” of oil. This represents an overly simple understanding of how the system works. What we should really expect, and in fact, what we are now beginning to see, is production cuts in finished goods made by the industrial system, such as cell phones and automobiles, because of affordability issues. Indirectly, these affordability issues lead to low commodity prices and low profitability for commodity producers. For example:

  • The sale of Chinese private passenger vehicles for the year of 2018 through November is down by 2.8%, with November sales off by 16.1%. Most analysts are forecasting this trend of contracting sales to continue into 2019. Lower sales seem to reflect affordability issues.
  • Saudi Arabia plans to cut oil production by 800,000 barrels per day from the November 2018 level, to try to raise oil prices. Profits are too low at current prices.
  • Coal is reported not to have an economic future in Australia, partly because of competition from subsidized renewables and partly because China and India want to prop up the prices of coal from their own coal mines.

The Significance of Trump’s Tariffs

If a person looks at history, it becomes clear that tariffs are a standard response to a problem of shrinking food or industrial output per capita. Tariffs were put in place in the 1920s in the time leading up to the Great Depression, and were investigated after the Panic of 1857, which seems to have indirectly led to the US Civil War.

Whenever an economy produces less industrial or food output per capita there is an allocation problem: who gets cut off from buying output similar to the amount that they previously purchased? Tariffs are a standard way that a relatively strong economy tries to gain an advantage over weaker economies. Tariffs are intended to help the citizens of the strong economy maintain their previous quantity of goods and services, even as other economies are forced to get along with less.

I see Trump’s trade policies primarily as evidence of an underlying problem, namely, the falling affordability of goods and services for a major segment of the population. Thus, Trump’s tariffs are one of the pieces of evidence that lead me to believe that the world economy is reaching Limits to Growth.

The Nature of World Economic Growth

Economic growth seems to require growth in three dimensions (a) Complexity, (b) Debt Bubble, and (c) Use of Resources. Today, the world economy seems to be reaching limits in all three of these dimensions (Figure 2).

Figure 2.

Complexity involves adding more technology, more international trade and more specialization. Its downside is that it indirectly tends to reduce affordability of finished end products because of growing wage disparity; many non-elite workers have wages that are too low to afford very much of the output of the economy. As more complexity is added, wage disparity tends to increase. International wage competition makes the situation worse.

A growing debt bubble can help keep commodity prices up because a rising amount of debt can indirectly provide more demand for goods and services. For example, if there is growing debt, it can be used to buy homes, cars, and vacation travel, all of which require oil and other energy consumption.

If debt levels become too high, or if regulators decide to raise short-term interest rates as a method of slowing the economy, the debt bubble is in danger of collapsing. A collapsing debt bubble tends to lead to recession and falling commodity prices. Commodity prices fell dramatically in the second half of 2008. Prices now seem to be headed downward again, starting in October 2018.

Figure 3. Brent oil prices with what appear to be debt bubble collapses marked.

Figure 4. Three-month treasury secondary market rates compared to 10-year treasuries from FRED, with points where short term interest rates exceed long term rates marked by author with arrows.

Even the relatively slow recent rise in short-term interest rates (Figure 4) seems to be producing a decrease in oil prices (Figure 3) in a way that a person might expect from a debt bubble collapse. The sale of US Quantitative Easing assets at the same time that interest rates have been rising no doubt adds to the problem of falling oil prices and volatile stock markets. The gray bars in Figure 4 indicate recessions.

Growing use of resources becomes increasingly problematic for two reasons. One is population growth. As population rises, the economy needs more food to feed the growing population. This leads to the need for more complexity (irrigation, better seed, fertilizer, world trade) to feed the growing world population.

The other problem with growing use of resources is diminishing returns, leading to the rising cost of extracting commodities over time. Diminishing returns occur because producers tend to extract the cheapest to extract commodities first, leaving in place the commodities requiring deeper wells or more processing. Even water has this difficulty. At times, desalination, at very high cost, is needed to obtain sufficient fresh water for a growing population.

Why Inadequate Energy Supplies Lead to Low Oil Prices Rather than High

In the last section, I discussed the cost of producing commodities of many kinds rising because of diminishing returns. Higher costs should lead to higher prices, shouldn’t they?

Strangely enough, higher costs translate to higher prices only sometimes. When energy consumption per capita is rising rapidly (peaks of red areas on Figure 5), rising costs do seem to translate to rising prices. Spiking oil prices were experienced several times: 1917 to 1920; 1974 to 1982; 2004 to mid 2008; and 2011 to 2014. All of these high oil prices occurred toward the end of the red peaks on Figure 5. In fact, these high oil prices (as well as other high commodity prices that tend to rise at the same time as oil prices) are likely what brought growth in energy consumption down. The prices of goods and services made with these commodities became unaffordable for lower-wage workers, indirectly decreasing the growth rate in energy products consumed.

Figure 5.

The red peaks represented periods of very rapid growth, fed by growing supplies of very cheap energy: coal and hydroelectricity in the Electrification and Early Mechanization period, oil in the Postwar Boom, and coal in the China period. With low energy prices,  many countries were able to expand their economies simultaneously, keeping demand high. The Postwar Boom also reflected the addition of many women to the labor force, increasing the ability of families to afford second cars and nicer homes.

Rapidly growing energy consumption allowed per capita output of both food (with meat protein given a higher count than carbohydrates) and industrial products to grow rapidly during these peaks. The reason that output of these products could grow is because the laws of physics require energy consumption for heat, transportation, refrigeration and other processes required by industrialization and farming. In these boom periods, higher energy costs were easy to pass on. Eventually the higher energy costs “caught up with” the economy, and pushed growth in energy consumption per capita down, putting an end to the peaks.

Figure 6 shows Figure 5 with the valleys labeled, instead of the peaks.

Figure 6.

When I say that the world economy is reaching “peak industrial output per capita” and “peak food per capita,” this represents the opposite of a rapidly growing economy. In fact, if the world is reaching Limits to Growth, the situation is even worse than all of the labeled valleys on Figure 6. In such a case, energy consumption growth is likely to shrink so low that even the blue area (population growth) turns negative.

In such a situation, the big problem is “not enough to go around.” While cost increases due to diminishing returns could easily be passed along when growth in industrial and food output per capita were rapidly rising (the Figure 5 situation), this ability seems to disappear when the economy is near limits. Part of the problem is that the lower growth in per capita energy affects the kinds of jobs that are available. With low energy consumption growth, many of the jobs that are available are service jobs that do not pay well. Wage disparity becomes an increasing problem.

When wage disparity grows, the share of low wage workers rises. If businesses try to pass along their higher costs of production, they encounter market resistance because lower wage workers cannot afford the finished goods made with high cost energy products. For example, auto and iPhone sales in China decline. The lack of Chinese demand tends to lead to a drop in demand for the many commodities used in manufacturing these goods, including both energy products and metals. Because there is very little storage capacity for commodities, a small decline in demand tends to lead to quite a large decline in prices. Even a small decline in China’s demand for energy products can lead to a big decline in oil prices.

Strange as it may seem, the economy ends up with low oil prices, rather than high oil prices, being the problem. Other commodity prices tend to be low as well.

What Is Ahead, If We Are Reaching Economic Growth Limits?

1. Figure 1 at the top of this post seems to give an indication of what is ahead after 2019, but this forecast cannot be relied on. A major issue is that the limited model used at that time did not include the financial system or debt. Even if the model seems to provide a reasonably accurate estimate of when limits will hit, it won’t necessarily give a correct view of what the impact of limits will be on the rest of the economy, after limits hit. The authors, in fact, have said that the model should not be expected to provide reliable indications regarding how the economy will behave after limits have started to have an impact on economic output.

2. As indicated in the title of this post, considerable financial volatility can be expected in 2019 if the economy is trying to slow itself. Stock prices will be erratic; interest rates will be erratic; currency relativities will tend to bounce around. The likelihood that derivatives will cause major problems for banks will rise because derivatives tend to assume more stability in values than now seems to be the case. Increasing problems with derivatives raises the risk of bank failure.

3. The world economy doesn’t necessarily fail all at once. Instead, pieces that are, in some sense, “less efficient” users of energy may shrink back. During the Great Recession of 2008-2009, the countries that seemed to be most affected were countries such as Greece, Spain, and Italy that depend on oil for a disproportionately large share of their total energy consumption. China and India, with energy mixes dominated by coal, were much less affected.

Figure 7. Oil consumption as a percentage of total energy consumption, based on 2018 BP Statistical Review of World Energy data.

Figure 8. Energy consumption per capita for selected areas, based on energy consumption data from 2018 BP Statistical Review of World Energy and United Nations 2017 Population Estimates by Country.

In the 2002-2008 period, oil prices were rising faster than prices of other fossil fuels. This tended to make countries using a high share of oil in their energy mix less competitive in the world market. The low labor costs of China and India gave these countries another advantage. By the end of 2007, China’s energy consumption per capita had risen to a point where it almost matched the (now lower) energy consumption of the European countries shown. China, with its low energy costs, seems to have “eaten the lunch” of some of its European competitors.

In 2019 and the years that follow, some countries may fare at least somewhat better than others. The United States, for now, seems to be faring better than many other parts of the world.

4. While we have been depending upon China to be a leader in economic growth, China’s growth is already faltering and may turn to contraction in the near future. One reason is an energy problem: China’s coal production has fallen because many of its coal mines have been closed due to lack of profitability. As a result, China’s need for imported energy (difference between black line and top of energy production stack) has been growing rapidly. China is now the largest importer of oil, coal, and natural gas in the world. It is very vulnerable to tariffs and to lack of available supplies for import.

Figure 9. China energy production by fuel plus its total energy consumption, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018 data.

A second issue is that demographics are working against China; its working-age population already seems to be shrinking. A third reason why China is vulnerable to economic difficulties is because of its growing debt level. Debt becomes difficult to repay with interest if the economy slows.

5. Oil exporters such as Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria have become vulnerable to government overthrow or collapse because of low world oil prices since 2014. If the central government of one or more of these exporters disappears, it is possible that the pieces of the country will struggle along, producing a lower amount of oil, as Libya has done in recent years. It is also possible that another larger country will attempt to take over the failing production of the country and secure the output for itself.

6. Epidemics become increasingly likely, especially in countries with serious financial problems, such as Yemen, Syria, and Venezuela. Historically, much of the decrease in population in countries with collapsing economies has come from epidemics. Of course, epidemics can spread across national boundaries, exporting the problems elsewhere.

7. Resource wars become increasingly likely. These can be local wars, perhaps over the availability of water. They can also be large, international wars. The timing of World War I and World War II make it seem likely that these wars were both resource wars.

Figure 10.

8. Collapsing intergovernmental agencies, such as the European Union, the World Trade Organization, and the International Monetary Fund, seem likely. The United Kingdom’s planned exit from the European Union in 2019 is a step toward dissolving the European Union.

9. Privately funded pension funds will increasingly be subject to default because of continued low interest rates. Some governments may choose to cut back the amounts they provide to pensioners because governments cannot collect adequate tax revenue for this purpose. Some countries may purposely shut down parts of their governments, in an attempt to hold down government spending.

10. A far worse and more permanent recession than that of the Great Recession seems likely because of the difficulty in repaying debt with interest in a shrinking economy. It is not clear when such a recession will start. It could start later in 2019, or perhaps it may wait until 2020. As with the Great Recession, some countries will be affected more than others. Eventually, because of the interconnected nature of financial systems, all countries are likely to be drawn in.

Summary

It is not entirely clear exactly what is ahead if we are reaching Limits to Growth. Perhaps that is for the best. If we cannot do anything about it, worrying about the many details of what is ahead is not the best for anyone’s mental health. While it is possible that this is an end point for the human race, this is not certain, by any means. There have been many amazing coincidences over the past 4 billion years that have allowed life to continue to evolve on this planet. More of these coincidences may be ahead. We also know that humans lived through past ice ages. They likely can live through other kinds of adversity, including worldwide economic collapse.

Note:

[1] Note that where the dotted line for 2019 is placed is based on where I see the 2019 economy relative to the downturn in industrial output per capita, based on a number of kinds of evidence, not all of which is cited in this article. The 1972 base model would give a slightly different timing of the downturn, a few years earlier. Also note that while the original “The Limits to Growth” book is no longer in print, Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update by the same authors is available for sale.

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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1,243 Responses to 2019: World Economy Is Reaching Growth Limits; Expect Low Oil Prices, Financial Turbulence

  1. Flipper says:

    Hi Gail, thanks for the new post. I’d appreciate your thoughts on Orlov’s latest: https://www.patreon.com/posts/23727644

    • Rodster says:

      Typical Orlov rant, i.e. USA/West = bad…Russia, China, Iran = good. He doesn’t see the over all problem or the big picture taking everything down, including the main players in the East. Which is a lack of cheap and abundant energy.

      • Well, I don’t follow him regularly, but his basic message was comparing USSR collapse with the unfolding trajectory for the USA.. That the “victory for Asia” might be relatively short lived and sour grapes in the end is an area where he is not going very often or in detail..

        But again the sequencing and timing is unknown, and although old historical parallels are not tight fit, something like Byzantium v2.0 carrying the civ a bit farther, be it sort of echo boom only anyways for few more decades after Western implosion is not zero probability hypothesis, albeit relatively small chance indeed.

        • Rodster says:

          I’ve read enough from Orlov to detect a certain “GLEE” in his musings when the USA collapses.

          • couldn’t be posted bellow:

            The oil price was one of the top factors for the USSR implosion, not the key or single driver. The biggest failure was the internal debacle to govern and mount serious (asymmetric and cunning) response to US post 1970 / 80s debt print fest, the Glasnost-Perestroika* reform attempt was in later stage misdirected in sort of typical “color revolution grand finale” with foreign meddling, hence Soviet old weak hardliners faction vs. Yeltsin & oligarch boyz coming in..

            *in contrast similar economic maneuver eventually managed and kept the country in China & few other Asians since the late 1970s – mid 1980s, while Putin & his boyz had to slowly wrestle at least some of the major sections of the country back from foreigners during past 20+ yrs

          • piers says:

            Remember when school shootings in the US were so unusual that the big-mouthed narcissist Bob Geldof even wrote a song about one?

            Just look at those tramps, back there in the 1980s!

            • Uncle Bill says:

              We’ll be eating RAT if we are lucky….according to his Kingship FE….

              Hope FE is doing OK….BAU is sputtering….

      • Vincent Oil Price says:

        Good point.

    • The title is “The Year the Planet Flipped Over.” In some sense, I am saying the same thing. I think 2018, in retrospect, will be peak and 2019 will be a step down. Or perhaps, at most, there will be a one year delay in the process.

      Orlov looks for winners and losers, given where we are now. I didn’t really evaluate his list. I think that the populists may win, ultimately, and overthrow governments. Or governments may collapse from within, like the Soviet Union. Government shutdowns can’t really restart. And the European Union may fail.

      His final paragraph is

      This is the big picture I see as the planet sails into 2019. The ultimate loser is the US, followed by the EU and their Middle Eastern allies. The ultimate winners are Russia and Iran, followed by China. And everybody else is stuck in the middle, forced to quickly reassess the situation and rearrange their alliances and trade relationships. It seems likely that, looking back on the past year, we will come to see it as resembling 1990—a year when the world suddenly flipped over surprising just about everyone. Let’s hope that it all goes down just as peacefully now as it did then. Happy New Year!

      I am not very sure which countries will be the winners and losers, near term. I do think alliances will be rearranged. We cannot count on China being our friend. Europe is in deep trouble as is the Middle East. The US seems to be farthest ahead now, so, in that sense, it has most to lose. The year 1990 was the year immediately preceding the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In that sense, 2019 may very well be like the year 1990. Quite a few neighboring countries were already feeling major pain, as the Soviet Union was feeling severe pressure from long-term low oil prices.

      Note that the downturn in oil consumption sometimes comes even before 1992 (the collapse was at the end of 1991).

      • Baby Doomer says:

        The USSR collapse due to peak oil and an oil shortage its easy to prove..Also the CIA accurately predicted it around a decade before..
        https://www.scribd.com/document/389023088/Impending-Soviet-Oil-Crisis-CIA-1977

        Peak Oil And The Fall Of The Soviet Union: Lessons On The 20th Anniversary Of The Collapse
        http://www.businessinsider.com/peak-oil-and-the-fall-of-the-soviet-union-lessons-on-the-20th-anniversary-of-the-collapse-2011-5

        In 1989 three things happened.

        1.) natural gas production increased. How was it able to increase if there was internal economic turmoil?

        2) Oil production decreased. How can natural gas production, which uses similar engineering, capital and labor as oil production, go up while oil production goes down. The only way for that to happen is if there was no new oil reservoirs to exploit. The reason oil production went up again in 1996 was due to a new technology, not available in the 1980s, called tertiary oil production, also called enhanced oil production (EOR).

        3) the Ruble devalued by a magnitude in 1989. What other possible reason could have caused the devaluation in that exact year?

        And your claim Gail of long term low oil prices is baseless and bogus..

        • USSR collapse was due to low oil prices. Admittedly, production in the area that exploration and drilling had been done had peaked, but if the price had stayed high, the USSR would have had funds to drill elsewhere. Its later production is higher. I am using BP data here.

          CIS Oil, Natural, Gas and Coal production dip at pretty much the same time, as shown in the above chart. I don’t understand your statement about Natural Gas production increasing while oil production decreases.

          What is different is the export pattern. Oil was exported a lot earlier than natural gas. Exports dropped off after the peak year in oil production, which was 1987. The collapse was in 1991. I don’t notice anything happening in 1989.

          Natural gas was not really exported until the early 1980s. There were pipelines and long-term contracts, which no doubt made the pattern a little different. I would expect that in the early years, natural gas that could not be used locally was simply flared (even if it was a byproduct of oil drilling). Natural gas is so difficult to ship that it was considered a waste product at one time. No one counted flared gas.

        • You are going a bit far, if that’s addressed for me, I never wrote here nor implied Gail’s argument is “baseless and bogus” – read it again..

          The Western economies weaseled out from their 1970s stagnation via massive print fest (and geopolitical subversion), hence also the funds available for (technology) shelf drilling UK/NOR etc.

          If you did not get the related other point, lets explain it again, in contrast the Chinese grasped (and acted on) the reality of sanctioned and cornered socialists-communists economies facing uphill impossible battle against bottomless global credit money. Also thanks to their offshore Chinese folk diaspora got the idea lets ease on the past dogmatic theory a lets have mixed economy instead, i.e. ~free market and state controlled sector together under the single political umbrella.. That’s exactly what happened, they opened up zones for foreign investors, and the rest is history, no regime/statehood collapse.

          In contrast ~similar Soviet/Russian maneuver ~mid 1980s was a failure, and in its latest culmination stage (Yeltsin) was directly color revolutionized by the West, hence the era of mineral rights transferred to the West, which was later trimmed step by step, and in many cases completely reversed (Putin).

          So, it’s evident apart from objective “stressors” there was a chain of self inflicted errors on the part of the Russian govs control leading to a very dramatic collapse event pictured on these horrific graphs and “enjoyed” daily by the local population.

          Perhaps I’m too hard on them, and some sort of mild (deep) recession and partial secession process (like dropping Ukraine/Kazakhstan/Belarus/..) would be necessary and inevitable at any event for any “best case” transformation period possible.

        • Tim Groves says:

          I have a simpler explanation for the collapse of the USSR. It happened because Mr. Gorbachev tore down that wall.

          The rest is history, and spy thrillers have never been the same since.

  2. Harry McGibbs says:

    More concern about leveraged, corporate loans:

    “…A growing chorus of global leaders spent 2018 warning that the leveraged loan mountain was getting dangerously large and inviting comparisons with the financial crisis a decade ago.

    The Bank of England, Australia’s central bank, the International Monetary Fund and members of the US Federal Reserve have raised red flags over so-called leveraged loans, which are offered to companies already in debt but often come with few strings attached.

    “In October last year the Bank’s financial policy committee, which monitors the health of the financial system, pointedly raised the spectre of the 2007-08 credit crunch. It said the “global leveraged loan market was larger than – and was growing as quickly as – the US sub-prime mortgage market had been in 2006”.

    “As with the sub-prime crisis, the bank added, underwriting standards had slipped – in other words, risky corporate debt was too easy to get right now. “Given the decline in underwriting standards, investors in leveraged loans are at increasing risk of loss,” said the Bank.

    “The key question now is whether a bubble in a different corner of the debt market could trigger a market panic. “A quote wrongly attributed to Mark Twain fits here: history rarely repeats, but it does rhyme,” said Rasheed Saleuddin, a research associate at the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jan/12/subprime-timebomb-back-companies-lighting-the-fuse

  3. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, in his early days on the U.S. central bank’s board of governors, argued frequently and forcefully for an end to the bond purchases undertaken to support the recovery from the financial crisis, transcripts of policy meetings from 2013 released on Friday showed.

    “The release of the transcripts from the Fed’s eight policy meetings in 2013 gives more insight into policymakers’ thinking and deliberations during and after the 2007-2009 financial crisis and recession.

    “The year 2013 marked a turning point in Fed policy as it took its first steps to end the massive support it had provided, including cutting interest rates to near zero and accumulating more than $4 trillion in bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

    “The bond-purchase program, known as quantitative easing and designed to keep a lid on long-term borrowing costs to help stimulate the economy, was hugely controversial and had its critics within the Fed itself…

    “A key source of tension, then as now, was that the Fed saw one path forward, and the markets saw something entirely different.

    “Last month, Powell sent markets tumbling with a message that the bond-shedding program is on “auto pilot” and then. Last week, he sent markets soaring when he said the Fed was listening to concerns and would be flexible…

    “The 2013 transcripts show Fed officials generally, and Powell specifically, misjudged markets ahead of the taper tantrum.”

    https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-usa-fed-2013/powell-sought-fast-end-in-2013-to-feds-bond-buying-program-idUKKCN1P522P

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “Should political deadlock in Washington again bring the world’s biggest economy to the brink of a debt default, the U.S. central bank has a playbook that includes options one policymaker once labeled “loathsome,” but, perhaps, necessary.

      “The policymaker was Jerome Powell, now the Federal Reserve chairman and a Fed governor in October 2013 when a political debate over federal spending brought the country to the verge of reneging on trillions of dollars of financial obligations.

      “To prepare for that possibility, two Fed staffers penned a memo outlining nine actions the Fed could take if failure to raise the U.S. debt ceiling triggered a debt default…

      “Options included several that policymakers readily supported, including expanding ongoing bond purchases and providing emergency lending.

      “Two were far more controversial: purchasing Treasuries with delayed coupons in an effort to take them out of the market, and swapping Treasuries that weren’t in default for those that were.

      “Those actions, Powell warned, would carry huge “institutional risk.”

      “…the very idea that such tools were being considered was deemed such a bombshell that when the Fed published minutes of the meeting a few weeks later, after the immediate threat of default had been averted, the specifics of the most controversial options were omitted.

      “Even some five years later, the full memo has not been released.”

      https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-fed-2013-default/if-us-again-risks-default-fed-has-loathsome-playbook-idUSL1N1ZB1D5

      • Chrome Mags says:

        This move to unfund the govt. is happening right after the Dems took over the House. So it’s a strategic maneuver to control their decisions to his liking. It’s for that reason Trump has no incentive to fund the govt. He’s going to play this out for as long as he can. There is nothing in the constitution that says the president has to sign something to fund the government, so he’s not going to do it, not even if they give him the money for the wall. At least, that’s my view of it.

        • piers says:

          That’s why I say Trump’s life is in danger. How long till he get’s totalled?

          • Then Pence takes over.

            • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

              and half the country will be celebrating for days, maybe weeks…

              uh, not celebrating incoming Pence…

              no matter how different Pence will be as the next POTUS, there will be no course correction for the looming recession and End of Growth…

              same downward course even if a Dem becomes POTUS in 2020…

              same downward course even if Yellow Vests come to the USA…

              the noise for the USA to turn to socialism will also grow louder, but the same downward course applies here as well…

              at some point in the near future, there should be a tipping point of knowledge where it becomes understood by the common person that the End of Growth is here…

            • the vast majority are certain that infinite prosperity can be voted into office

              over years of face to face conversation, this is the only conclusion one can draw

              utterly stupid, but that’s the way things are

            • then it’s hooray for the jesusfreaks

              Pence is seen as someone in waiting till trump makes his final mistake, then Pence prepares the WH for the second coming

              already we’ve had Pompeo saying he’s awaiting the rapture.

            • aubreyenoch says:

              We find numerous logistical challenges in our studies and modeling of the population readjustment that is approaching. Our top scenario is Operation Rapture. The Rapture “explains” how the billions of souls will go to meet their maker. Whether those souls go up or down, the result is a smaller number in the capita side of the energy per capita equation.
              After Operation Rapture there will be plenty of energy for those left behind.

            • Only if the economic system stays together. If it falls apart, the smaller number of people will not be able to make our current infrastructure operate. We can’t make it operate now with sufficient profit (and small enough pollution) to keep it going. What makes us think that a smaller group could do any better? The total amount of energy available will be close to zero; it doesn’t matter how small the population is.

              If the current economy collapses from lack of cheap energy resources, how is the smaller group supposed to build a new economy? How do they raise enough draft animals, for example?

            • Sheila chambers says:

              I expect they won’t as most of them will have been eaten, same for grain seeds.
              Survivors will have to do the back breaking work of farming by hand using hand tools just as the Chinese did generations ago.
              If you can find it read “Farmers of fourty centuries” by F.H. King.
              Farming without animals or machinery is very hard WORK!
              Farming the old way left nothing go to waste, everything was saved & used, night soil & dredging from the canals was put onto the land, ALL organic “waste” was returned to the land.

          • Nope.avi says:

            The danger with any coup or Revolution, which my friends like to call it, that no one ever considers in the company of others is that the new leaders might be even worse than what we have now.

            If Trump is removed violently, it will be clear that the new leader or leaders will have less reservations about killing political opponents.

            If it happens it will set a precedent and it will be a clear sign that collapse is happening.

            In less complex societies settling disputes with violence is more common.

            • xabier says:

              Once the killing of political opponents started in Republican Rome (with the beating to death of a major politician by another, with a chair leg in the Forum!) it quickly became common practice, although most killings were of smaller fry in order to seize their property and pay off debts to soldiers and to political campaign lenders. Watching the US degenerate today is simply fascinating…….

            • Good points.

              But the precedent was set a long time ago, Kennedy bros. slaughtered in daylight for daring to alter (-replace? – perhaps just clean out) large part of the legacy/perennial deep state. It’s largely culture driven and dependent, pirate-ranger-gangster mentality in action..

              Again the US is only a host entity, sort of a substrate for a given role, which is now likely past the useful lifespan. The owner’s of the system mostly don’t live, visit doctors or school their children in the US. It’s just elementary to observe..

            • piers says:

              “If Trump is removed violently, it will be clear that the new leader or leaders will have less reservations about killing political opponents.”

              It will not be clear to the average low-intelligence citizen, who will be told (and will swallow it) that the assassination was carried out by Burkina Faso or the Freemasons of Iceland, or some such nonsense.

            • after economic collapse, civil chaos will be inevitable

              Trump isn’t strong enough to deal with that, but others are

              the military will side with whoever pays their wages (they always do)

              the no-neck trump supporters will back whoever shouts loudest about jesus and in no time youll have a theocratic dictatorship—maybe under Pence

              Its happened before

              Handmaids Tale anybody?

          • Duncan Idaho says:

            Trump is a failed real estate developer and TV personality.
            No one will touch him financially except the Russians.
            From this cognitive point, I don’t think it matters.
            May possibly be the perfect late stage capitalism leader.

            • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

              if he’s bumped off, the story will be that it was the Russians… to silence him…

              it’s always “the Russians”…

      • I don’t think that I would have released this much information.

    • perhaps he is just a slow learner, and will eventually catch on.

  4. Sergey says:

    Gail, what do you think of continuously expanding role of government in economy? This is direct inefficiency growth and a headwind for economic growth, isn’t it?

    • I think the expanding role of government is almost inevitable. Governments are themselves dissipative structures. They will grow as long as energy is available to them to allow them to grow. The aging population means that there is an ever-growing population of retirees to look after. And growth in complexity leads to a need to supervise ever-more activities.

      Growing energy consumption by governments is just one of the reasons why non-elite workers get squeezed out of having money to buy homes and cars, and have families. Governments need to get taxes somewhere, so they put in place regressive taxes (sales tax, and the US Social Security “contribution” for example) that will squeeze the poor especially hard.

      • xabier says:

        Every civilized state above a certain threshold of population and wealth seems to end up with a top-heavy bureaucracy (in earlier times, priests), which becomes a vested interest, accelerating decline and eventual collapse -there seems to be no alternative to this, however we explain it.

        • Duncan Idaho says:

          Tainter—–

          • its as if you own a mansion

            you then need servants to clean it—protect it, –and more energy to support it and so on.

          • xabier says:

            I’d like to get a copy of Adrian Goldsworthy’s ‘How Rome Fell’, to see if he addresses Tainter’s thesis, I suspect not.

            His ‘Pax Romana’ is very good for how the Empire actually worked in its prime, and ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ is excellent. A change from reading about peasant life……

  5. Chrome Mags says:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2019/01/12/we-had-no-idea-she-was-pregnant-call-details-woman-giving-birth-vegetative-state/?utm_term=.1ff5762f4f17

    ‘We had no idea she was pregnant’: 911 call details woman giving birth in vegetative state’

    How come? Didn’t she have morning sickness? Didn’t she get cravings?

    My theory of how and why this vegetative state woman got pregnant has to do with slow collapse. That is, someone working at the hospital that was maybe a late night cleaning person/guy, realized he didn’t make enough money to start a family, and the only chance he had was to get this comatose woman pregnant. So he asked her one day if she’d like to have a kid and she said nothing. He took her silence as a green light. He figured if he ever got called into court, he could claim it’s a man inherent need to procreate, to move forward his lineage, his DNA. But that his wage and future prospects of making a sufficient wage to start a family was unlikely. So he took the only opportunity available. She didn’t reject him and the relationship, although lacking two way conversation, was pleasant. He also figured the child would be taken care of, i.e. given up for adoption.

    What is probably going to happen is he’s going to be one of the legal parent’s of the child and either bring the kid up or pay something monthly. As long it’s what he wanted, there’s no harm as long as he never comes out of the coma. If she does, she’s going to mad as heck and then look out.

    • piers says:

      “But the 29-year-old new mother at the center of the crisis unfolding at Hacienda HealthCare a few days after Christmas was a special — and especially dangerous — case: She had been in a persistent vegetative state since 1992.”

      So she was around 2 years old when she became vegetative? And they have kept her alive all this time? Unheard of. Sherlock smells false news.

      • Chrome Mags says:

        Wow, you know, that vegetative state stuff is going way too far if that’s the case. I knew someone once that knew a family with a young boy that hung himself, either on purpose or accidentally. Anyway, he had been in a vegetative state in a hospital for two years!

        All I could think of was the hospital was sure making a lot of money on the emotions of the situation. Common sense says, if the person doesn’t come out of a comatose state within say 90 days, all bets are off, pull the plug. But there’s no time limit to the benefit of the hospital. Think about it, it’s a whole room so that’s big bucks, it’s day after day which really adds up and it doesn’t take much to care for the person and there aren’t any complaints, like this meal was awful or anything like that, so it’s just money heaped upon money for the hospital.

        • piers says:

          You’re talking massive amounts of money, from 1992 till now. Only a billionaire could afford it.

        • Hubbs says:

          I am a retired physician who spent the last year doing wound care in nursing homes and I can tell you some stories about what goes on. Unfortunately, most are based on second information, but I quit at one nursing home in particular because of all the drugs and a case of a male worker caught sexually assaulting a patient. Four residents were expelled in one month, three of them women in their 20s /30s for failed drug tests. I suspect, but can not prove, that these female patients, drug addicts, were handing out sex to the male employees in exchange for drugs. As you know, drug counts are carefully kept, or supposed to be kept. However, narcotics scheduled for one patient can be withheld and diverted to another resident in exchange for sex.
          Finally, when my 14 year old daughter showed me this article, I said I’ll bet she was in a car accident or something like drowning victim and young.
          It is one step away from necrophilia.

          • Nope.avi says:

            Not to condone this, but it is difficult for people are generally well off to imagine how desperate people. operATE;

            In simpler societies, there was a social incentive to bully or sacrifice these people so they would not create problems later on.

            Having an unprecedented number of desperate people around is just asking for trouble.

            • we are all inclined to stay alive for as long as is possible/practical

              are you going to volunteer for euthanasia despite being fit and healthy.

              I would volunteer when I’m not—but so far I am—who’s to say when I cross over from one to the other?

          • The people working in nursing homes earn low wages. If the facilities do not have mechanical devices for moving bedridden patients, they often hurt their backs trying to lift people who are too heavy for them to lift. There certainly is the opportunity to have bad situations arise.

          • piers says:

            Urban Gothic – “Necromance”.

          • Rodster says:

            I knew a neighbor who wanted to call the State of Florida for Nursing Home violations and abuses. He died shortly after due to prostate cancer. How about the story of the Nursing Home where a retired WWII Vet needed oxygen and the Staff was laughing he was gasping for air, he later died.
            https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/11/18/veteran-dies-calling-help-gasping/876787001/

            I hope and pray I never windup in a Nursing Home.

            • Nope.avi says:

              The majority of workers there tend to be women. I thought women are nurturing and compassionate. Why would they let someone on their watch die out of malice?

              Let me guess…this was a “race” thing, right?

              from the comments on the video
              “I have a feeling this has something to deal with racism. I noticed that both of the nurses were African American/Black. They must have known that the man was in the WW2 and fought for America.”

              Looks like I was right.

            • Chrome Mags says:

              “I hope and pray I never windup in a Nursing Home.”

              I went to one and came away with the attitude, they’ll never get me. Life needs to be about more than just existing. I also think they are places for people with no faith. But if you assert to having a soul, then why suffer. Do as they did in Logan’s Run, go for Renewal. Get on the other side, they review your life, you digest it and claim you’ll improve, you help some other souls then at some point you’ve built up enough credits and they send you back down into a womb. By the time you’re really conscious you’ve forgotten all about the transition, in part because baby’s have a chemical that eliminates memory. Think about it, you can’t remember anything before about age 3-4. But this all requires some faith and many don’t have it. For those that think this is the only life they will ever live I suggest they end up in a nursing home and suffer whatever indignities come their way until the bitter end so as to have experienced as much life as possible.

            • Artleads says:

              Nope.avi, I assure you there is more than enough inhumanity to go around. Poorly paid and trained people, who are in a dysfunctional system anyway, can treat anybody badly, regardless of racial composition one way or another.

          • Sheila chambers says:

            I used to work in nursing “homes” way back in the 1960 to 1980’s. I too remember what went on there.
            Too few aids, too many patients is just asking for abuse & neglect. The pay was very low, the work hard, DIRTY with no benifits. We were expected to shove food into their mouths as fast as possible, too many patients choked, we had to get them up, change their diapers which we had to make up from rags before our shift started, dress them & some were taken to showers. The patients were too often drugged out to keep them quiet.
            The food was cheap & they made “puddings” out of stale bread for desert . Ugh!

            I remember how they were warned when an inspection was coming up, nurses & aids who were off had to come in to make it look like there was more staff on hand than they usually had, they even wanted us AIDS to wear nurses caps so we would like like RN’s – CRIMINAL!
            Fortunatley the aids refused!
            They had us clean the place up real good before those WORTHLESS “inspections”.

            I was strong then, I could lift a lot of weight & I took care to lift in a manner that protected my back, we had no mechanical assistents for lifting them & the beds were all hand cranked to raise the heads or foot, that too was hard on our backs.

            I have told my doctor I do NOT want to be “kept alive” I WANT DOCTOR ASSISTED “SUICIDE”. In Oregon, that’s suppose to be LEGAL.
            Some person in a persistent vegitative state for more than 90 days should have the “plug” pulled or euthanized when there is no reasonable chance of a MEANINGFUL recovery, just breathing, peeing & pooping is not “recovery”.

            I expect that when we collapse, the “vegatables” will cease to get “watered” & they could end up becoming the new “mystery “meat”.
            Don’t knock it, when starvation hit Europe during the black death, human meat was hung in the butcher shops, disguised of course but people knew what it was, if your hungry enough, you WILL eat ANYTHING!

            • Workers’ compensation claims from nursing homes have historically been very high. I no longer am in a place where I see claim information, but I know that it used to be a problem.

              Not all nursing homes are this way. Before my mother passed away, she was in a nursing home in Minnesota that seemed to be quite nice. But of course, it was away from family members. She needed the help of a strong person or a lifting device to get her from her chair to the wheelchair to the bathroom. None of the children were able to provide this kind of assistance. One time, when she was visiting her condo from the nursing home, I tried to help her to use the bathroom. We both ended up falling on the floor. Fortunately, neither of us broke any bones.

              Assisted living facilities take people that are not as severe in terms of their impairments. They tend to be nicer places.

            • Sheila chambers says:

              Assisted living places are nicer because they are VERY EXPENSIVE. Most of us in our declining years cannot afford such places especially those without families to help with the expenses or to keep an eye on them so their not abused or taken advantage of.
              Most of us never had 6 figure incomes, we can’t pay thousands of dollars a month that these places require, what savings we have would quickly be exhausted then they get thrown out for lack of funds, then where do they go?
              I saw one video that showed where some people end up when their money runs out, put out ON THE STREET in a WHEELCHAIR!
              She was “black” of course & a kind “black” man took her back inside the hospital because she was not only in a wheelchair but just in a thin patients gown on a dark & freezing night, she was also obviously mentally disabled.
              I will have to take care of myself until I cannot then I have a 45 cal “solution”.

            • Artleads says:

              “Workers’ compensation claims from nursing homes have historically been very high. ”

              I think we’re not really in that world anymore. The third world is actually still slightly better as an ideal. There’s still an underclass of sorts that get no benefits and are paid relatively little. It was hairy, and she was not happy, but I somehow got people to look after my mother at her home (with me absent) without her slipping into the worst kind of destitution. The “helpers” in turn tended to have children who would accommodate them in old age. But that system is changing more and more, and we need something new.

            • as an older person still very fit and active, I’d like to think that there will be ‘something new’, but I cant figure out what it might be.

              i have contemporaries who are in care—some have been for years. Whatever assets they had have been used up in doing that, now they are reliant on the (temporary) wealth of the state. When that fails……….???

              old age seems to offer three choices:

              1 stay fit or die trying (rowing machines are deathtraps, but I don’t care)
              2 be cared for and die slowly
              3 die as inconveniently as possible

              3 applies to everyone in the end anyway

              if one is unfit then care represents energy input by other people. In a caring (rich) society, this is ok for a few years, in an uncaring one, its best to move on the ‘3’ as soon as possible.

              This level of social care has only existed during our era of fossil fuel usage, effectively for only 2 generations in uk. Before that, things were very unpleasant indeed.

            • xabier says:

              If it’s any comfort, we will see malnutrition and shortage of the drugs and surgery that over-extend life now, leading to quite rapid death from simple infections and changes in temperature, so an awful old age will not be quite the threat it is to us now.

            • Artleads says:

              “I’d like to think that there will be ‘something new’, but I cant figure out what it might be.”

              My neighbor is in and out of the hospital. She can barely walk. If she goes back to the hospital within 90 days, they’ll put her in a nursing home (at whose expense is unknown). Fo around 6 months now, I’ve been getting her mail down the road and taking it to her. Last night she called, asking (uncharacteristically) for a favor to go to the village store and pick up three tubs of sherbert that were being held there for her. It was freezing, and there were piles of slippery snow on the road, and I wondered why anyone would want sherbert on a night like this. But my wife drove me to the store. (I had loaned my 23 year-old car out to another neighbor whose car broke down.) The sherbert lady slipped me (unbeknownst in the snowy confusion) $5 beyond the price of the product (for which she also overpaid me). I’m hoping not to be asked for too many more favors. I have a wonderful, able partner, and seem to be able to do without villagers’ help. I go on tirelesslessly about the serious times acomin, and how we need to get involved in preparing, but the response is frustrating. If people could hear me, though, instead of continuing their ignorantly blissful foolishness, our village might weather a future storm or two.

    • aaaa says:

      I wonder if he perp drives a pu$$y wagon

      • Sheila chambers says:

        Male perps might but female perps would drive a dick wagon, fair is fair after all.
        But as long as we can get silicone dicks, I’ll stick to those, they don’t get you pregnant & their always “ready”.
        But to return to the subject at hand, the economy is toast!
        We have an economy dependent upon endless growth, any nutter would know that’s impossible to sustain but economist are “nutters”.
        How can anyone believe we can kill millions of jobs that people must have to support this economy & replace them with machines or outsource their jobs?
        Clearly we cannot & the economy shows it, big, substantial shops are closing all over the
        country, the homeless population is growing, the death rate for pregnant women & children is growing & the greedy “titans” of industry are drooling for the day when they can replace more of us with self driving cars & trucks & robots flipping burgers.

        Have these MORONS ever realized that bots won’t be visiting their place of business anytime soon if ever?
        Or are these MORONS going to “milk this cow” until she’s dried out then retreat to their luxury bunkers to wait out the collapse to crawl out to rule again, “rule” WHAT?

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