Understanding Our Pandemic – Economy Predicament

The world’s number one problem today is that the world’s population is too large for its resource base. Some people have called this situation overshoot. The world economy is ripe for a major change, such as the current pandemic, to bring the situation into balance. The change doesn’t necessarily come from the coronavirus itself. Instead, it is likely to come from the whole chain reaction that has been started by the coronavirus and the response of governments around the world to the coronavirus.

Let me explain more about what is happening.

[1] The world economy is reaching Limits to Growth, as described in the book with a similar title.

One way of seeing the predicament we are in is the modeling of resource consumption and population growth described in the 1972 book, The Limits to Growth, by Donella Meadows et al. Its base scenario seems to suggest that the world will reach limits about now. Chart 1 shows the base forecast from that book, together with a line I added giving my impression of where the economy really was in 2019, relative to resource availability.

Figure 1. Base scenario from 1972 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 added corresponding to where the world economy seems to be in 2019.

In 2019, the world economy seemed to be very close to starting a downhill trajectory. Now, it appears to me that we have reached the turning point and are on our way down. The pandemic is the catalyst for this change to a downward trend. It certainly is not the whole cause of the change. If the underlying dynamics had not been in place, the impact of the virus would likely have been much less.

The 1972 model leaves out two important parts of the economy that probably make the downhill trajectory steeper than shown in Figure 1. First, the model leaves out debt and, in fact, the whole financial system. After the 2008 crisis, many people strongly suspected that the financial system would play an important role as we reach the limits of a finite world because debt defaults are likely to disturb the worldwide financial system.

The model also leaves out humans’ continual battle with pathogens. The problem with pathogens becomes greater as world population becomes denser, facilitating transmission. The problem also becomes greater as a larger share of the population becomes more susceptible, either because they are elderly or because they have underlying health conditions that have been hidden by an increasingly complex and expensive medical system.

As a result, we cannot really believe the part of Figure 1 that is after 2020. The future downslopes of population, industrial production per capita, and food per capita all seem likely to be steeper than shown on the chart because both the debt and pathogen problems are likely to increase the speed at which the economy declines.

[2] It is far more than the population that has overshot limits.

The issue isn’t simply that there are too many people relative to resources. The world seems to have

  • Too many shopping malls and stores
  • Too many businesses of all kinds, with many not very profitable for their owners
  • Governments with too extensive programs, which taxpayers cannot really afford
  • Too much debt
  • An unaffordable amount of pension promises
  • Too low interest rates
  • Too many people with low wages or no wages at all
  • Too expensive a healthcare system
  • Too expensive an educational system

The world economy needs to shrink back in many ways at once, simultaneously, to manage within its resource limits. It is not clear how much of an economy (or multiple smaller economies) will be left after this shrinkage occurs.

[3] The economy is in many ways like the human body. In physics terms, both are dissipative structures. They are both self-organizing systems powered by energy (food for humans; a mixture of energy products including oil, coal, natural gas, burned biomass and electricity for the economy).

The human body will try to fix minor problems. For example, if someone’s hand is cut, blood will tend to clot to prevent too much blood loss, and skin will tend to grow to substitute for the missing skin. Similarly, if businesses in an area disappear because of a tornado, the prior owners will either tend to rebuild them or new businesses will tend to come in to replace them, as long as adequate resources are available.

In both systems, there is a point beyond which problems cannot be fixed, however. We know that many people die in car accidents if injuries are too serious, for example. Similarly, the world economy may “collapse” if conditions deviate too far from what is necessary for economic growth to continue. In fact, at this point, the world economy may be so close to the edge with respect to resources, particularly energy resources, that even a minor pandemic could push the world economy into a permanent cycle of contraction.

[4] World governments are in a poor position to fix the current resource and pandemic crisis.

In our networked economy, too low a resource base relative to population manifests itself in a strange way: It appears as an affordability crisis that leads to very low prices for oil. It also appears as terribly low prices for many other commodities, including copper, lithium, coal and even wholesale electricity. These low prices occur because too large a share of the population cannot afford finished goods, such as cars and homes, made with these commodities. Recent shutdowns have suddenly increased the number of people with low income or no income, pushing commodity prices even lower.

If resources were more plentiful and very inexpensive to produce, as they were 50 or 70 years ago, wages of workers could be much higher, relative to the cost of resources. Factory workers would be able to afford to buy vehicles, for example, and thus help keep the demand for automobiles up. If we look more deeply into this, we find that energy resources of many kinds (fossil fuel energy, nuclear energy, burned biomass and other renewable energy) must be extraordinarily cheap and abundant to keep the system growing. Without “surplus energy” from many sources, which grows with population, the whole system tends to collapse.

World governments cannot print resources. What they can print is debt. Debt can be viewed as a promise of future goods and services, whether or not it is reasonable to believe that these future goods and services will actually materialize, given resource constraints.

We are finding that using shutdowns to solve COVID-19 problems causes a huge amount of economic damage. The cost of mitigating this damage seems to be unreasonably high. For example, in the United States, antibody studies suggest that roughly 5% of the population has been infected with COVID-19. The total number of deaths associated with this 5% infection level is perhaps 100,000, assuming that reported deaths to date (about 80,000) need to be increased somewhat, to match the approximately 5% of the population that has, knowingly or unknowingly, already experienced the infection.

If we estimate that the mean number of years of life lost is 13 years per person, then the total years of life lost would be about 1,300,000. If we estimate that the US treasury needed to borrow $3 trillion dollars to mitigate this damage, the cost per year of life lost is $3 trillion divided by 1.3 million, or $2.3 million per year of life lost. This amount is utterly absurd.

This approach is clearly not something the United States can scale up, as the share of the population affected by COVID-19 relentlessly rises from 5% to something like 70% or 80%, in the absence of a vaccine. We have no choice but to use a different approach.

[5] COVID-19 would have the least impact on the world economy if people could pay little attention to the pandemic and just “let it run.” Of course, even without mitigation attempts, COVID-19 might bring the world economy down, given the distressed level of today’s economy and the shutdowns experienced to date.

Shutting down an economy has a huge adverse impact on that economy because quite a few workers who are in good health are no longer able to make goods and services. As a result, they have no wages, so their “demand” goes way down. If the economy was already having an affordability crisis for goods made with commodities, shutting down the economy tends to greatly add to the affordability crisis. Prices of commodities tend to fall even lower than they were before the crisis.

Back in 1957-1958, the Asian pandemic, which also started in China, hit the world. The number of deaths was up in the range of the current pandemic, relative to population. The estimated worldwide death rate was 0.67%.  This is not too dissimilar from a death rate of 0.61% for COVID-19, which can be calculated using my estimate above (100,000 deaths relative to 5% of the US population of 33o million).

Virtually nothing was shut down in the US for the 1957-58 pandemic. When doctors or nurses became sick themselves, wards were simply closed. Would-be patients were told to stay at home and take aspirin, unless a severe case developed. With this approach, the US still faced a short recession, but the economy was soon growing again. Populations seemed to reach herd immunity quite quickly.

If the world could somehow have adopted a similar approach this time, there still would have been some adverse impact on the economy. A small percentage of the population would have died. Some businesses might have needed to be closed for a short time when too many workers were out sick. But the huge burden of job loss by a substantial share of the economy could have been avoided. The economy would have had at least a small chance of rebounding quickly.

[6] The virus that causes COVID-19 looks a great deal like a laboratory cross between SARS and HIV, making the likelihood of a quick vaccine low.

In fact, Professor Luc Montagnier, co-discoverer of the AIDS virus and winner of a Nobel Prize in Medicine, claims that the new coronavirus is the result of an attempt to manufacture a vaccine against the AIDS virus. He believes that the accidental release of this virus is what is causing today’s pandemic.

If COVID-19 were simply another influenza virus, similar to many we have seen, then getting a vaccine that would work passably well would be a relatively easy exercise. At least one of the vaccine trials that have been started could be reasonably expected to work, and a solution would not be far away.

Unfortunately, SARS and HIV are fairly different from influenza viruses. We have never found a vaccine for either one. If a person has had SARS once, and is later exposed to a slightly mutated version of SARS, the symptoms of the second infection seem to be worse than the first. This characteristic interferes with finding a suitable vaccine. We don’t know whether the virus causing COVID-19 will have a similar characteristic.

We know that scientists from a number of countries have been working on so-called “gain of function” experiments with viruses. These very risky experiments are aimed at making viruses either more virulent, or more transmissible, or both. In fact, experiments were going on in Wuhan, in two different laboratories, with viruses that seem to be not too different from the virus causing COVID-19.

We don’t know for certain whether there was an accident that caused the release of one of these gain of function viruses in Wuhan. We do know, however, that China has been doing a lot of cover-up activity to deter others from finding out what actually happened in Wuhan.

We also know that Dr. Fauci, a well-known COVID-19 advisor, had his hand in this Chinese research activity. Fauci’s organization, the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, provided partial funding for the gain of function experiments on bat coronaviruses in Wuhan. While the intent of the experiments seems to have been for the good of mankind, it would seem that Dr. Fauci’s judgment erred in the direction of allowing too much risk for the world’s population.

[7] We are probably kidding ourselves about ever being able to contain the virus that causes COVID-19. 

We are gradually learning that the virus causing COVID-19 is easily spread, even by people who do not show any symptoms of the disease. The virus can spread long distances through the air. Tests to see if people are ill tend to produce a lot of false negatives; because of this, it is close to impossible to know whether a particular person has the illness or not.

China is finding that it cannot really contain the virus that causes COVID-19. A recent South China Morning Post article indicates that roughly 14 million people are to be tested in the Wuhan area in the next ten days to try to control a new outbreak of the virus.

It is becoming clear, as well, that even within China, the lockdowns have had a very negative impact on the economy. The Wall Street Journal reports, China Economic Data Indicate V-Shaped Recovery Is Unlikely. Supply chains were broken; wholesale commodity prices (excluding food) have tended to fall. Joblessness is increasingly a problem.

[8] If we look at deaths per million by country, it is difficult to see that lockdowns are very helpful in reducing the spread of disease. Masks seem to be more beneficial.

If we compare death rates for mask-wearing East Asian countries to death rates elsewhere, we see that death rates in mask-wearing East Asian countries are dramatically lower.

Figure 2. Death rates per million population of selected countries with long-term exposure to the virus causing COVID-19, based on Johns Hopkins death data as of May 11, 2020.

Looking at the chart, a person almost wonders whether lockdowns are a response to requests from citizens to “do something” in response to an already evident surge in cases. The countries known for their severe lockdowns are at the top of the chart, not the bottom.

In fact, a preprint academic paper by Thomas Meunier is titled, “Full lockdown policies in Western Europe countries have no evident impacts on the COVID-19 epidemic.” The abstract says, “Comparing the trajectory of the epidemic before and after the lockdown, we find no evidence of any discontinuity in the growth rate, doubling time, or reproduction number trends.  .  . We also show that neighboring countries applying less restrictive social distancing measures (as opposed to police-enforced home containment) experience a very similar time evolution of the epidemic.”

It appears to me that lockdowns have been popular with governments around the world for a whole host of reasons that have little to do with the spread of COVID-19:

  • Lockdowns give an excuse for closing borders to visitors and goods from outside. This was a direction in which many countries were already headed, in an attempt to raise the wages of local workers.
  • Lockdowns can be used to hide the fact that factories need to be closed because of breaks in supply lines elsewhere in the world.
  • Many countries have been faced with governmental protests because of low wages compared to the prices of basic services. Lockdowns tend to keep protesters inside.
  • Lockdowns give the appearance of protecting the elderly. Since there are many elderly voters, politicians need to court these voters.

[9] A person wonders whether Dr. Fauci and members of the World Health Organization are influenced by the wishes of vaccine and big pharmaceutical companies.

The recommendation to try to “flatten the curve” is, in part, an attempt to give vaccine and pharmaceutical makers more time to work on their products. Is this really the best recommendation? Perhaps I am being overly suspicious, but we recently have been dealing with an opioid epidemic which was encouraged by manufacturers of Oxycontin and other opioids. We don’t need another similar experience, this time sponsored by vaccine and other pharmaceutical makers.

The temptation of researchers is to choose solutions that would be best from the point of their own business interests. If a researcher gets much of his funding from vaccine and big pharmaceutical interests, the temptation will be to “push” solutions that are beneficial to these interests. In some cases, researchers are able to patent approaches, even when the research is paid for by governmental grants. In this case they can directly benefit from a new vaccine or drug.

When potential solutions are discussed by Dr. Fauci and the World Health Organization, no one brings up improving people’s immunity so that they can better fight off the novel coronavirus. Few bring up masks. Instead, we keep being warned about “opening up too soon.” In a way, this sounds like, “Please leave us lots of customers who might be willing to pay a high price for our vaccine.”

[10] One way the combination of (a) the activity of the virus and (b) our responses to the virus may play out is as a slow-motion, controlled demolition of the world economy. 

I think of what we are experiencing as being somewhat similar to a toggle bolt going around and around, moving down a screw. As the toggle bolt moves around, I picture it as being similar to the virus and our responses to the viruses hitting different parts of the world economy.

Figure 3. Image of how the author sees COVID-19 as being able to hit the economy multiple times, in multiple ways, as its impact keeps impacting different parts of the world.

If we look back, the virus and reactions to the virus first hit China. China’s recovery is moving slowly, in part because of reduced demand from outside of China now that the virus is hitting other parts of the world. In fact, additional layoffs occurred after Chinese shutdowns ended, because it then became clear that some employers needed to permanently scale back operations to meet the new lower demand for their product.

Commodity prices, including oil prices, are now depressed because of low demand around the world. These low prices can be expected to gradually lead to closures of wells and mines extracting these commodities. Processing centers will also close, making these commodities less available even if demand temporarily rises.

As one country is hit by illnesses and/or shutdowns, we can expect supply lines for manufacturing around the world to be disrupted. This will lead to yet more business closures, some of them permanent. Debt defaults tend to happen as businesses close and layoffs occur.

With all of the layoffs, governments will find that their tax collections are lower. The resulting governmental funding issues can be expected to lead to new rounds of layoffs.

Natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes and forest fires can be expected to continue to happen. Social distancing requirements, inadequate tax revenue and broken supply lines will make mitigation of all of these disasters more difficult. Electrical lines that fall down may stay down permanently; bridges that are damaged may never be repaired.

Initially, rich countries can be expected to try to help as many laid-off workers as possible with loans and temporary stipends. But, after a few months, even with this approach, many individual citizens and businesses will likely not be able to pay their rent. Default rates on home mortgages and auto loans can be expected to rise for a similar reason.

We can expect to see round after round of business failures and layoffs of employees. Financial systems will become more and more stressed. Pensions are likely to default. Death rates will rise, in part from epidemics of various kinds and in part from growing problems with starvation. In fact, in some poor countries, lower-income citizens are already having difficulty being able to afford adequate food. Eventually we can expect collapsing governments (similar to the collapse of the central government of the Soviet Union) and overthrown governments.

Longer-term, after this demolition ends, there may be some surviving pieces of economies. These new economies will be much smaller and less dependent upon each other, however. Currencies are likely to be less interchangeable. The remaining people will need to learn to make do with many fewer goods than are available today. It will be a very different world.

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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3,869 Responses to Understanding Our Pandemic – Economy Predicament

  1. Herbie R Ficklestein says:

    Joke of the Day..
    Wall St. set for higher open on prospects of economic recover
    June 2, 2020, 6:43 AM Est
    (Reuters) – Wall Street’s main indexes were set to hit fresh three-month highs on Tuesday as optimism over reopening businesses overshadowed fears of more disruptions from protests in the country over the death of a black man while in police custody.
    Some of the worst-hit stocks in the travel sector, including American Airlines Group Inc , United Airlines , Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Corp , rose between 1.3% and 2.9% in premarket trading.
    Improving economic data, trillions of dollars in stimulus and a restart of business have helped the S&P 500 climb about 38% from its March lows, leaving it only about 11% below its Feb. 19 record high.
    Investors, however, are keeping a close eye on Sino-U.S. tensions and anti-police brutality marches and rallies that have often turned violent in many cities.
    Yep, us investors are keeping an eye out…our banker, The Fed, is investing our money in the market

  2. Rodster says:

    This is just the beginning. There will be no V-Shape recovery but it was the politician’s who decided to blowup the eCONomy for the Covid 19 “Plandemic”

    “California Faces “Financial Collapse” As It Moves To Allow Businesses To Walk Away From Commercial Leases”


    • It is not possible for businesses to take money, when they are forced to operate at half-capacity or lower, especially if their rent charges stay the same. It is pretty clear that rent charges have to drop; if they drop, the value of the building drops. Debt defaults are much more likely.

      The whole social distancing scheme is terribly disruptive for businesses. It will be almost impossible for them to make money. It is only fair if the pain spreads to the owners of the buildings as well. It will also spread to the banks and others owning the debt.

  3. CTG says:

    I know people here at OFW read a lot. Can anyone give me any good news, especially economic, social and cultural?

    1. COVID19 numbers going down is not good news.
    2. Numbers going from “disastrous” to “horrible” is not considered as good news.
    3. Easily manipulated numbers going back to normal when the overall situation does not is not good news
    4. Stock market is not the economy. It is not good news that stock goes up
    5. Gasoline/petrol prices cheaper is good news for consumers but bad news for the producers

    Anyone can help to cheer up the mood here? If not, the timeline for collapse is pulled forward.

    • Rodster says:

      Good news? Perhaps most out there were sold an above average flu which targets a certain segment of the population (elderly, chronic illnesses, obese) that was turned into the Black Plague II.

      • Blacks are definitely over-represented in the death statistics. I am sure they are over-represented in the number of illnesses as well. They tend not to have as good health insurance. If they are off work, they generally do not have “sick days” that they can take, either.

    • Social distancing and the other COVID-19 requirements amount to mandated inefficiency. It is hard to get any good news out of mandated inefficiency. In theory, people will be somewhat less likely to get COVID-19 now, but they may still get it later. If they go out and participate in demonstrations when they are not at work, it negates the benefits of the COVID-19 restrictions.

      Distance learning is the most detrimental to poor, single parent families. This pushes the gulf between the rich and the poor farther. Also, the rich can often work from home, while the poor cannot.

    • Tim Groves says:


      Everything here in Japan is back to the “new” normal. It’s the same as the old normal except that 90% of people are wearing masks. In Tokyo, all the department stores are now back open so women who can’t live without their Chanel or their Prada, can breathe easy again. Tens of trillions of helicopter money is flooding into the system and it is hoped that this will kick start the economy.

      For some reason, butter and full cream milk have disappeared from our local supermarkets recently, but I’m hoping this is just a temporary glitch and not an attempt to force us to embrace margarine.

      The virus is going to mutate, as RNA viruses are wont to do, and those mutations are going to render it less deadly and dangerous over time. Until that happens, keep optimizing your vitamin D and vitamin C intake and keep wearing a mask, even if only for reasons of etiquette or superstition. Once the virus has weakened, throw away the mask but keeping taking the vitamins.

      Is collapse inevitable or are we all going to just slow down and take it easy from now on? Are our rulers intent on a controlled demolition? And if so, how much of the old normal is going to be blown away? Can a new paradigm save us? Do we deserve saving? If I had a crystal ball that could show me the answers, I don’t think I’d want to look.

    • Matthew Krajcik says:

      Depends on how hopeful you are for a possible recovery. These will seem wildly optimistic to many here:
      1) Electric Cessna can go 100 miles on $6, compared to ~$200 for gasoline: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUI3ZjCq11A

      So even if we have half the energy, if we can use it much more efficiently, we can do more work with less.

      2) SpaceX first commercial manned spaceflight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XinU9iuUBwM

      3) ITER gets its cryogenic base installed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0ewQR2rJak
      Fusion would be a game changer, combined with electric vehicles.

      4) Tesla getting closer to solid state batteries, which are a proven thing that exists that other companies like Dyson have working versions of:

  4. Malcopian says:

    Police in the U.S. are abusing tear gas and rubber bullets in possible violations of international law


    10cc – Rubber bullets,

    • Robert Firth says:

      Against rioters and looters, police should not be using tear gas and rubber bullets. They should be using lethal force. Salus populi suprema lex.

      • Tim Groves says:

        Once this wise old Roman custom declined, so did Rome.

      • GBV says:

        This strikes me as a naive comment.

        Law enforcement (formerly “peace officers”) should never use lethal force unless their lives, or the lives of civilians, are clearly in danger.

        The attitude that police forces should be able to monopolize and apply violence (particularly that which is lethal) with next to no consequence is a large part of the reason we see such animosity towards our modern day police forces.

        And while this isn’t a defense of those foolish individuals who choose to loot and riot, it may be worth considering that when so many citizens across a nation rise up in revolt, the problem might not lie with the citizens themselves but with those that govern them.


        • Robert Firth says:

          First, rioters and looters clearly do threaten the lives of civilians, so I’m not sure where we disagree. Secondly, I agree that the police should not have a monopoly of force; that is why the US has a Second Amendment. But when the people are disarmed, and the police refuse to defend them, then indeed we have a collapsing polity.

  5. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Earnings for North American coal miners may plunge by more than half this year as the coronavirus pandemic makes a weak market even worse, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

    ““Coal consumption will be crushed in 2020,” analysts led by Benjamin Nelson wrote in a report Sunday. “We expect a sharp and sustained slowdown in economic activity will result in lower economic growth, reduced demand for electricity and reduced demand for steel.””


    • Coal miners have had difficulties as their employers became bankrupt before. Wages have fallen, and pensions have disappeared. Coal mining towns likely have few other jobs available, either. Wages of coal miners fell in Britain before WWI. This is what happens with peak coal.

  6. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The COVID-19 pandemic is a blow to an already fragile global economic outlook.

    “The health crisis, sharp downturn in activity, and turmoil in global financial markets caught emerging market and developing economies at a bad moment. The past decade has seen the largest, fastest, and most broad-based increase in debt in these economies in the past 50 years.”


  7. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations are facing their worst economic crisis in history amid the double shock of plunging oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) said.”


  8. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced his government would end the coronavirus lockdown despite the rising number of infections and deaths in the country citing economic losses and urged people to “live with the virus.”

    “The Pakistan government has lifted almost all shutdown restrictions, primarily to avert an economic meltdown…”


  9. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The economic crisis associated with the Covid-19 pandemic is unprecedented in nature and scale. Some EU economies look set to be hit significantly harder than others.

    “There is a wide discrepancy in the scale of the fiscal response by EU member states. Important unresolved tensions remain in relation to the EU-level response.”


  10. CTG says:

    For those who are still thinking of pavement repair…

    More Bricks Appear In Advance Of Monday Demonstrations In Baltimore, Texas


    • Strange!

    • GBV says:

      A possibly-related comment I texted to a friend that might tie into this “mystery brick” story:

      Interesting side note: a Zerohedge commenter pointed out that yesterday Hillary Clinton was (via the legal system) fighting to avoid having to be dragged back into court to avoid more charges related to her deleted emails, Rosenstein was supposed to testify with regards to his actions and involvement in the Russiagate scandal (i.e. deep-state instigated investigations of Trump/Russia collusion), and the Senate was to vote on indicting 53 Obama administration officials too.

      Just conspiracy theory at this point, but in my mind or doesn’t seem completely crazy to assume that if right-wing / Republican leaders ever decided to play hard ball and go after Democrat leaders, one “nuclear option” would be to ignite racial tensions even further to grind the nation to a halt… or even rip it apart

      Interested to hear if anyone else considered this angle, or if I’ve just gone (further) off the deep end?


  11. Hubbs says:

    As far as the energy, I did what most people would consider very strange -in that I bought 20 new gaskets for my 20 Liter (5 gallon) NATO Metal Jerry cans -20 of them. ($70 for a NATO can to hold less than 10 dollars of gas? Crazy! ) Because gas is as cheap as it’s going to get for now- maybe -and no one in their right mind would be buying gaskets when they are so cheap. But if things go south, I want the ability to fill up quickly, transport to two 55 barrel drums- all of which I bought ten years ago and which have been sitting idly, brand spanking new, – monuments to my stupidity or gullibility I guess.

    But, things are so flip-flopped these days that I wonder if there could be a situation where the price of gas, even if less than a dollar a gallon, will be too cheap to transport to the gas stations and in the extreme paradox, there suddenly may not be any gas at the pump- due to disruptions in supply because of disruptions in credit or demand falls through the floor, and truckers can’t make payments on their rigs or even may get stranded on the road with the inability to pay for gas via their credit cards, and just shut down their engines. One thing for sure, if the trucks ain’t running, we’re dead!

  12. Covidinamonthorayearoradecade says:


    you know…

    because it’s just me…

    bAU tonight, baby!

    • JMS says:

      And in that you are definitely right (till the day you don’t, of course). It was another wonderful night on planet earth. I’m gonna sleep now, blissfully knowing that nobody wiil storm my door to robber my bean cans.

  13. Tim Groves says:

    Possibly coming to a town near you sometime soon, the strategy of tension is a method of social control involving a series of covert attacks upon a population, intended to promote stress and fear among them.

    The purpose is, according to some observers, to induce a mistrust of one another and of the world at large, in order to instill a child-like dependence upon perceived authority figures (such as national and indeed international governments), or to foster the wonderful chaos out of which order can be brought forth and property had for pennies on the dollar.

    The English phrase originates from the Italian (strategia della tensione), as the strategy was first applied to Operation Gladio in Italy during the decade after the Second World War.

    • JMS says:

      Once we find out what were the tension strategy and the Operation Gladio, we never see the world of politics, and its show, the same way again.
      Politically there’s two kind of people: 1) those who are familiar with the concept of state terror-ism and 2) those who don’t.

      • Kim says:

        Certainly it is the strategy of tension. “The worse, the better” as Lenin used to say.

        Here is a university professor (archaeology) providing extensive advice on twitter on how rioters can pull down the Washinton monument. Note well that Jack Dorsey is allowing this long series of explicit tweets are allowed to stand despite the fact that it encourages violence.


        While John Brennan (former CIA head) and General Michael Hayden (former Director NSA) have also come out in support of the rioters.


        • JMS says:

          It’s all a big show, and even interesting if we care to watch it. I dont’ close follow politics, too boring and distracting and unimportant.

          • Covidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

            if the ryots are just a big show by the anti-Trump camp, then politics (which I also don’t follow closely) has descended to new lows…

            which is probable, given that much of civilization seems to be in a fast descent…

            • Xabier says:

              Hard and painful times for any civilized and rational person: the US is becoming an epi-centre of madness and obvious civil and economic decay.

        • Covidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

          not that the ryots themselves will directly remove Trump…

          but chaos from now to November could be a wish from the anti-Trump side…

          who said desperate times require desperate measures?

          the D side (Biden… is the D for Dem(ocrat) or dem(entia)?) is desperate…

          either way, 2021 might very well begin with a mentallly unstablle POTUS…

          • JMS says:

            It’s very hard to see how this play out, since most of of us here are not seers. Norman antecipated that somewhere in the course of events a Trump-like figure would seize the crisis opportunity to propose himself as emperor.. And why not? By now, anything goes. But i dont believe in long lived emperors in an age of fast diminishing returns.

            • Covidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

              so NP is 99 out of 100…

              the November election will happen…

              both sides may be engaged in massive election fraud, but nevertheless, it will proceed as scheduled…

              and if it doesn’t, NP is 100 out of 100…

          • Lidia17 says:

            I wonder whether they won’t be thinking this:

      • Xabier says:

        Quite true: but non-state terrorism doesn’t cease to exist, or to be dangerous, just because the spooks play such games and are as cynical and power-hungry as the average self-declared revolutionary.

    • JMS says:

      Wow. Thanks for this TG. Pretty cool. I love “Utopia”.

      • Tim Groves says:

        Thanks for that, JMS. So it looks like Trump and Gates are on the same team after all.

        Although I am willing to believe Bill Gates is sincere and that he wants to do good for the world, I find it hard to take him seriously on account of his whiny, nerdy, Woody Allenesque demeanor.

        Melinda is a much better front-person for this agenda. Listening to her sensible and concerned explanations, I’m convinced that vaccinating everyone against six dozen diseases is just what the doctor ordered.

    • Malcopian says:

      But where will it all end?

  14. JMS says:

    The new terrorists are… the old commies again! Yea!
    From TPTB point of view (and some of OFW’s reader) it makes all the sense. Target the troublemakers now so as not to have to deal with them later on, in perhaps tighter circumstances. Capture now the alpha males of discontent, in the belief that without their guidance (and seeing their fate) the sheep will return obediently to the fold and wait there for the next ration.
    I would say THE Plan is going on, and for now it seems to be faring quite well, at least in USA.


    WASHINGTON — Secret Service agents rushed U.S. President Donald Trump to a White House bunker on Friday night as hundreds of protesters gathered outside the executive mansion, some of them throwing rocks and tugging at police barricades.

    Trump spent nearly an hour in the bunker, which was designed for use in emergencies like terrorist attacks, according to a Republican close to the White House who was not authorized to publicly discuss private matters and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

    • Right. I am trying to write a post about the energy cause of violence.

      • JMS says:

        I am sure it will be most timely, and as thoughtful and reasoned as ever.

      • when their energy source severely depletes, or disappears altogether, violence is the only reaction available to most people.
        The majority don’t react violently because they are passive by nature, but as the energy crisis deepens, so the tendency to violence must increase.

        The alternative is starving or freezing to death, or watching that happen to your nearest and dearest.

        The question then is, are you willing to do that? Are you willing to become violent in order to live a little while longer?

        If not, then the level of violence can range from simple shoplifting (noticed that all the expensive cuts of meat are now security tagged?)—to bank robbery and murder.
        Most violence is about acquisition of resources

        All depends on motivation and personality

        The ultimate violence as I see it, is fighting for space on a planet that used to support 7.5bn people, and is shrinking to support only 1bn or less.

        The drive to violence is ultimately about denial.

        The violence in the USA right now is a white supremacist POTUS ‘denying’ that there is anything wrong with the ‘infinite growth’ model he offers to his own tribe, while denying it to lesser tribes.

        We are seeing another ‘Krystallnacht’. Exactly what the new dictator wanted, even though he couldn’t have planned it

        Hit ler did it in the 30s. He promised ‘infinite growth’ to his Aryan tribe. To make good those promises he had to loot ‘lesser tribes’. Germany needed ‘leibensraum’. Hit ler assumed his violence would remain outside Germany’s borders.
        That fuh rer stamped ‘gott mit unz’ on the belt buckle of his troops. The current fuh rer waves his bible and threatens the use of troops. He even issues orders from his bunker! And condemns those beneath him as weak and ineffective. How many fuh rer markers do we need?

        The correlation is exact, the intention is the same.

        The dictator must keep himself in office at all costs.

        I was forecasting this before the Don took office. (I wasn’t the only one) Chaos is delivering the excuse to declare martial law and suspend the constitution, and the next election if he can spin it out till then. Just as I said it would.

        At least it can be said of Hit ler that he didn’t make a personal fortune out of it. Unlike the current one. Though those around him did
        The current fuh rer is consumed by personal greed:


        • Tim Groves says:

          I for one don’t think this line of argument has any merit whatsoever. I also think it demeans you Norman. Please reconsider the gravity of what you are claiming and implying. And while you’re at it, check all the screws on all your hinges, because you are beginning to sound as unhinged as Trump’s most rapid critics in the Resistance. You are doing Hit-ler and Trump both a grave injustice here.

          Peace and love, brother!


          • Norman Pagett says:


            feel free to itemize my comment, and point out which part is in serious error— (I don’t pretend to get every detail correct, nits can be picked elsewhere). You appear to condemn all of it.

            If I was the only one forecasting this, I would accept your criticism, but far greater intellects (not hard to find) than mine are saying the same thing.

            Nations are held together only by the energy resource that created them. Remove that energy source and they collapse

            My comment above is a likely description of that collapse. I do not pretend that it is exact. But my guesswork so far hasn’t been too bad.

            • Tim Groves says:

              Tell me you’e kidding me, Norman.
              Tell me this is a joke.

              You want me tell you why Trump is not A.H. and why the current riots in the US are not Trump’s equivalent of Kristallnacht? You’ll have to excuse me for not climbing down into that particular sewer with you.

            • Norman Pagett says:

              fair enough

              but I take comfort in the fact that you would have said exactly the same thing, if you had read my piece in 2011: that by 2016 or 20 at the latest, a fascist right wing POTUS was inevitable.

              Or that economic collapse looked likely by early 2020s

              The point I will grant you, is that if there is a slide into dictatorship, Trump wont last long. There are those far better qualified than he to do the necessary dirty work in that respect


              In reply to Niko,

              There is no ‘deep state’, merely opportunists who might allow the Don to continue as figurehead for a while, and then get rid of him. He is, as you say too stupid to hold that particular set of reins for long.
              They too will be in denial, because as you say the nation will disintegrate into 5 or 6 ‘regions/nation states, who will fight for resources and supremacy on the continent.

              Pence is awaiting the ‘second coming’
              Pompeo is waiting to be raptured
              (Their actual stated beliefs)

              Trump has surrounded himself with jesusfreaks. If they take control , their actions will be way out from my modest suggestions i can assure you.
              They have put up with Trump’s antics because they are no in striking distance of the control they are after/
              Waving that bible around is a sickening insight to the man

            • NikoB says:

              The biggest issue I have with this thesis is that the deep state hates Trump and they are not likely going to let him sieze control that easily. I also think that Trump is too stupid to manage the situation to his advantage. i think it more likely the US will disintegrate before a dictatorship takes power. interesting times ahead Norm.

            • Herbie R Ficklestein says:

              Appropriate comparison , Norman, in my mind very similar in nature, even if it is not intentional. Words are not the actual. Trump can speak whatever he wishes, but actions and dynamics of societies revolve around constraints.
              The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein is being played out here, and in no manner is our current economy free enterprise capitalism. Managed Central Planning is more like it.
              Trump’s rhetoric and follow up unleashing of the police/military force displays his true nature, no kidding.

          • Norman Pagett says:

            you’ll be in good company in my sewer:

            ////Democrats and a former military official condemned the president’s surreal display of authoritarianism. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) called Trump’s orders “the actions of a dictator.” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, said Trump was “unleashing authoritarian violence on our fellow Americans.” And retired Gen. Martin Dempsey, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared on Twitter, “Our fellow citizens are not the enemy.”

            Other members of Congress, including Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Val Demings (D-Fla.), likened Trump’s speech to fascism. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) called his actions “naked authoritarianism.” ///

            it was noted that republicans remained silent

            • GBV says:

              Sorry Norman, but I don’t quite understand the point you’re trying to make by offering up commentary of individuals who have likely painted Trump as a dictator for almost every decision he’s made since the beginning of his presidency?

              The problem lies with the obvious partisanship as well as the lack of credibility within the political class. Unless you’ve got, say, Ron Paul, outright declaring Trump to be a dictator, it’s all unfortunately just more “Orange Man Bad” gobbledegook.

              Hell, I’m even at the point that I don’t much trust the historic accounts of Nazi Germany and Hitler (“so bad and eeeeevil!”), as the old saying “victors write the history books” is so obviously true.

              I guess I just don’t trust anything anymore…



            • Tim Groves says:

              Congresswoman Wexman tweeted:

              Americans gathered outside of the White House to exercise their constitutional right to peacefully assemble.
              Donald Trump responded by authorizing federal forces to tear gas protestors for a photo op.
              These are the actions of a dictator—not an American President.

              I wasn’t there, but maybe his security people aren’t taking any chances after what happened on Friday.

              The Philadelphia Enquirer tells me:

              Secret Service agents rushed President Donald Trump to a White House bunker on Friday night as hundreds of protesters gathered outside the executive mansion, some of them throwing rocks and tugging at police barricades.

              Who knows how many Lee Harvey Oswalds could have been in that peaceful crowd? If the President or his wife had been hit by a rock or two, or a bullet or two, you wouldn’t have minded one bit, would you Norman? No, the way things are between you and Trump, I believe you’d have actually smiled—as would have Jennifer and Nancy.


        • This is a physics problem, not a “personality of Trump” problem, in my opinion.

          Citizens saw that the economy was not going well. They sensed that a different kind of leader was needed. Physics says that with less energy, a smaller population can be supported. Some group needs to be marginalized and left out, even if that hurts most of our sensibilities. The question is, “Which group?”

          The time of the depression was a very low energy per capita period. Peak hard coal was being reached in Germany. Some out-group needed to be marginalized, if there was to be enough to go around for the rest. The result was terrible, but they correspond with the expected result from the physics of the situation.

          Ecosystems work in a way that allow some segment to carry on, even when conditions are very poor. Economies operate the same way. We may not like the results, but that is simply the way the system works.

          • Norman Pagett says:

            of course it’s not a ‘personality of Trump’ problem

            It’s a ‘Trump personality’ problem

            meaning that the looming and actual conditions were certain to throw up someone of his type, because collective ‘voter instinct’ believes that infinite prosperity is something that can be voted into office.

            That is why I refer back to Germany of 1933. AH promised infinite prosperity and was voted into office

            The German people were convinced that he could magic wealth out of thin air.

            Instead he have them all jobs manufacturing weapons and used them to loot weaker nations. It was a Ponzi scheme basically.

            When Berlin started burning, he retreated into his bunker too, berating ‘underlings’ for not doing their jobs properly

            The ‘dominate’ thing was one of his favourites apparently.

            • Tim Groves says:

              Norman, where have you been?


              Every last one—including JFK and Jimmy Carter!

              Noam said this pre-Trump, and the Donald has been adamant about not getting into any new wars and trying to get out of existing ones. He7s hardly going to make it to Number One on Noam’s war criminal list.

              All he ever wanted to do was Make America Great Again! and help every American earn a decent living. And all the opposition wanted to do was prevent that happening by hook or by crook. They want to keep the poor on the plantation.

              They have been against using oil and coal and gas and nuclear power, against getting rid of regulations that stifle innovation, and against putting America’s interests First, Second and Third. They’ve been against taking action to rectify the trade situation, preferring to let American power and wealth continue to disappear through the skylight and to cede its dominance to the People’s Republic of China.

              They’ve been pushing for impeachment since the day Trump was elected and have spent the past three years engaged in seditious and illegal attempts to destroy his presidency.

              They have talked openly about the need to defeat Trump in 2020 and let slip that their only chance would be if the economic boom were to turn into a recession. COVID-19 was their hammer of choice to smash the economy and turn the country into even more of a police state.

              Now that COVID has fizzled out they need a new angle of attack, and so they have come up with nationwide rioting designed to provoke a draconian response that can be used to label this sweet, sweet man a dictator, a pussycat of a man who in three years has done no worse than fire off a few cruise missiles at abandoned targets in an effort to look tough on Syria.

        • Z says:

          Wow. This is a most clownish comment from someone who obviously does not live in the US or has many ideas about it except what they see on TV.

          Trump is no “White Supremacist”. If anything, do a good amount of research into his background and he is in bed with Israelis and various Jewish financiers.

          Furthermore, this is no Kristallnacht being directed by “White Supremacists”

          The majority of the looters and those doing violence come from Black Lives Matter and Antifa groups which are leftist organizations.

          Tons of videos out there showing black on white violence especially directed at shop-keepers. This is in line with crime stats which show blacks commit the most inter-racial violence and it is directed at whites and asians.

          Lastly, if you want to understand the criminal element in America, just look at statistics, black americans are 13% of the population yet commit over 50% of violent crimes.

          • GBV says:

            Not defending the black community or the recent (or historic, for that matter) riots/looting, but I think a person of intelligence asks WHY black individuals are disproportionately represented in violent crime statistics… and doesn’t just assume it’s because they’re black 😐


        • Matthew Krajcik says:

          Do they have eviction bans in USA for COVID? With rent covered and SNAP, you’d think that people would have the minimum for food and shelter, at least. Once you start burning down the grocery stores and taking out the power grid, you’re going to be much worse off.

          The Democrat governors put sick people into nursing homes and killed thousands. Now, they restrain the police and refuse to use the National Guard to stop the riots. Meanwhile, very little rioting in Red States, except in Blue cities in Red States. All because they think pandering and submitting to the masses, and hurting the economy, will help them win in the elections.

    • Xabier says:

      In these unstable times, we can well do without the kind of egotistical, power-hungry, idiots and narcissists who are usually the leaders of radical Left ( or Right) revolutionary movements.

      They stand up for nothing except themselves, bring only disorder and violence, get high on manipulating their followers, and make rational responses to issues ever more difficult to achieve as politics becomes polarized.

      We had plenty of experience with this kind of person in Spain – ETA – and they made life hell for decent people during decades.

      I’ve met some of them, and the overwhelming impression they made was vanity, arrogance and pyschopathy – a total lack of conscience.

      If ‘the system’ is bad, they are not the kind of people to lead one to better times.

      If the forces of the state take an opportunity to get rid of them and smash their organizations, well done!

      • JMS says:

        ETA is certainly one of the most moronik and archaic organizations ever seen. So stupid they are that the Spanish state did not even need to organize terrorist attacks in their name, since ETA moronz shoot their own feet repeatedly, for decades. And the same could be said about PLO, although in this case the Israelis had to point them the way to their own perdition. The only terror-ism that work is the state-sponsored kind.

      • GBV says:

        For your (and everyone’s) consideration:

        What if the “alt-right” and “at-left” are mostly just idealistic windbags who talk a big game? What if the truth is that most of the individuals committing atrocities are just people “in the middle” who don’t really care about the BS demagoguery of chants to the tune of “Skin Colour X Lives Matter!” or “Make X Country (that was never really all that great or exceptional in the first place) Great Again!”? Not good “in the middle” people, like the oblivious worker drones who put in 8 hours a day and then come home to their microwave dinners and brain-deadening TV sitcoms and dramas, but the bad “in the middle” people who aren’t content with the stifling, gilded cage that modern society affords?

        In other words, what if there’s just a lot of centrist, opportunistic individuals out there who just have a lot of hatred and/or antisocial desire in their hearts? A person who feels like life has jilted them, and that they haven’t received their due from an unfair and unjust society?

        I could see a person like that chanting any dogma they need to as long as it suits their current needs and helps them get what they want at any given moment. I could see a person like that not having any qualms about setting a building full of people on fire because, hey, they’re just others to compete with in an unjust society that grinds you up and spits you out anyway. I could see a person like that taking enjoyment in watching others suffer – the over-equipped authoritarian police officer who feels entitled to a fat paycheque and government pension for “putting their life on the line”, the screeching human rights activist who ignorantly pushes for the rights of special interest groups rather than shared/common rights, the young and arrogant man of ethnic background in his youth who believes himself to be invincible, etc. – as their suffering would make that antisocial person’s suffering seem less, or at least like suffering was distributed more fairly in this unfair world.

        If I can imagine this angry “centrist” construct of an individual to be real (perhaps from my life experience, or perhaps it’s just my overactive imagination), one has to wonder how many other people can imagine the same?

        Perhaps the worst monsters – angry, unfulfilled people with a grudge to bear – are the ones we’ve created in our quest for such a well-mannered, controlled and heterogeneous (in terms of social norms) society? If that’s true then take this as a warning – those monsters live all around you, in plain sight.


  15. Herbie Ficklestein says:

    Perfect timing…

    The timing could not have been worse. All of a sudden we have 90% of the population in the U.S. in a phase back state, and now you are trying to reopen the small businesses and the social unrest really derails the economic recovery. I think more than anything it pushes [the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic] back. I don’t think this is going to be something that permanently hampers economic output, but it really makes concerns,” said Deutsche Bank Wealth Management Americas CIO Deepak Puri on Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade.
    Puri still sees the S&P 500 reaching 3,100 this year in the face of the macroeconomic risks from the social unrest and upcoming presidential elections. The U.S. economy is likely to expand by 5.6% in 2021 after falling by a similar amount in 2020, according to Puri’s work.
    Despite the upside S&P 500 target, Puri is advising clients to be cautious at the moment.

    2020 the year that will go DOWN in HiStOrY

  16. Yoshua says:

    The energy equation forces the governments to shut down parts of the economy and choose winners and losers.

    This will then lead to protests and riots.

    The governments are then forced to restore order through force.

    FE was basically right that the CDP is in play.


    • Covidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

      Foil Eddie was basically wrong…

      the “energy equation” is forcing the world economy to self-organize at a lower level…

      of course, total collapse would be the 0% level…

      but it’s not over til it’s over…

      as Gail correctly says, a lower economic level will tend to freeze out many people from prosperity…

      yes, THAT will lead to protests and ryots…

      governments will then make it up as they go, in response to the protests/ryots…

      • Pintada says:


      • NikoB says:

        Dang, you had to go use logic again.

      • Matthew Krajcik says:

        “Foil Eddie was basically wrong…”

        Gail wrote about the economy like leonardo sticks, and insisted as well that BAU Lite cannot be. I wouldn’t get to hasty in claiming the current state is anywhere near an equilibrium that will last for years, though.

        • el mar says:

          Gail said: “When a person realizes how tightly integrated the world economy is, and its need to grow, it becomes clear that using less is not a solution.“

      • Yoshua says:

        We are getting somewhere… as long as we don’t agree on nothing.

    • Matthew Krajcik says:

      Its funny, the places where everyone is brandishing a firearm, no one gets shot or stabbed, no looting, nothing set on fire. It seems the areas where everyone is unarmed, that is where the chaos happens. Turns out, most people don’t want to die.

      • Dennis L. says:

        Okay, why aren’t Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, maybe Libya some of the safest countries on earth?

        Dennis L.

        • GBV says:

          Because of US hegemony and overseas US military installations? 😐


        • Matthew Krajcik says:

          Because America carpet bombed them and destroyed their governments and then left them as wastelands?

      • Kim says:

        There are also other significant factors at work that are disapproved if one mentions them.

        • Lidia17 says:

          Bro y’all got owners pullin up with shottys to their stores here in Rochester, NY!!
          The guy taking the video is laughing, exhilarated. He thinks this is all great fun.

          I don’t think violence is simply a factor of energy or economics. Westerners, particularly modern Westerners have domesticated themselves; other groups less so. This protest shit is the Rollerball of 2020, except there’s no sympathetic protagonist to make the final cinematic score.

          Can’t go to the stadiums, so just turn out on your street and enjoy the ruckus. It’s free!

          • Xabier says:

            Violence really IS fun, and a kind of theatre, for various human types – or should I really say sub-human?

            No, unfortunately it’s characteristic human behaviour.

        • Matthew Krajcik says:

          Alabama and Georgia have lots of black and white people, lots of guns, the will of the government to put down riots, and there doesn’t seem to be much going on there.

      • Kim says:

        The issue is not in fact guns. It is racial conflict. In the United States, in the Middle East, in Africa or wherever you care to name.

        And wherever we find racial conflict, the unarmed lose and are enslaved.

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