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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3,868 Responses to Understanding Our Pandemic – Economy Predicament

  1. Fast Eddy says:

    As sections of the global economy tip-toe toward reopening, it’s becoming clearer that a full recovery from the worst slump since the 1930s will be impossible until a vaccine or treatment is found for the deadly coronavirus.

    Consumers will stay on edge and companies will be held back as temperature checks and distancing rules are set to remain in workplaces, restaurants, schools, airports, sports stadiums and more.

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-05-23/fate-of-global-economy-rests-more-than-ever-on-finding-vaccine?srnd=premium-europe

    Confirmation that this is as good as it gets.

    • Rodster says:

      They’re just conditioning the “Sheeple” for forced vaccinations. It’s all part of their plan. Supposedly they are paying 100,000 to test a Covid 19 vaccination. And people will Willingly line up for this sh*t.

      As comedian Ron White used to say “ya can”t fix stupid”.

    • Rodster says:

      They’re just conditioning the “Sheeple” for forced vaccinations. It’s all part of their plan. Supposedly they are going to pay 100,000 test subjects to test a Covid 19 vaccination. And people will willingly line up for this sh*t.

      As comedian Ron White used to say “ya can”t fix stoo.pid”.

    • Dennis L. says:

      FE,

      There are no temperature checks for you when you board your Gulfstream, all the crew has already been tested, you are ready to go. No sarcasm, sort of a hint that things may be changing and a broader focus sometimes is helpful.

      Dennis L.

  2. Fast Eddy says:

    How does one define an economic “reopening”? I think most people would say that a reopening means that everything goes back to the way it was before the crisis; or at least as close as possible. Most people would also say that a reopening is something that will last. Simply declaring “America has reopened” while keeping many restrictions in place in certain parts of the country is a bit of a farce. And, reopening with the intention of implementing lockdowns again in a matter of weeks without explaining the situation to the public is a scam of the highest order.

    For example, states like New York, California, Illinois and New Jersey have extended their lockdowns; with LA’s extension remaining ambiguous after they initially declared restrictions for another 3 months. New York’s lockdown is extended to the end of May (so far). This is the case in many US states and cities, while rural areas are mostly open. This is being called a “partial reopening”, but is there a purpose behind the uneven approach?

    As I predicted in my article ‘Pandemic And Economic Collapse: The Next 60 Days’, the restrictions will continue in major US population centers while rural areas have mostly opened with much fanfare. The end result of this will be a flood of city dwellers into rural towns looking for relief from more strict lockdown conditions. In about a month, we should expect new viral clusters in places where there was limited transmission. I suggest that before the 4th of July holiday, state governments and the Federal government will be talking about new lockdowns, using the predictable infection spike as an excuse.

    This is happening in Northeast China right now – another resurgence has occurred and 100 million people are now subject to quarantine restrictions. China’s reopening is barely two weeks old, and concerns of infection “flare ups” were widespread when the announcement was made. Now the mainstream media seems to be confused; is China open, or locked down? Of course, we may never know how bad the problem is and was in China as their numbers have been shown to be utterly rigged and suppressed from the beginning, but the point is that the phrase “reopening” is meaningless there, just as it will be meaningless here in the US.

    This is part of the plan.

    http://www.alt-market.com/index.php/articles/4229-the-economic-reopening-is-a-fake-out

    He did a good job up until that point … then he goes full illogical…

    I do wonder how many of these blogs are actually intended to redirect anyone who is suspicious of the real intentions…

    • Dennis L. says:

      FE,

      Not a taunt, not a challenge, not an effort to win an argument. My guess, there will be no second spike, it is over. I have only a guess why it is over but if that guess is correct, it is over. There is no conspiracy in my guess, could be, but a very long shot. Some are going to get sick, some will die, it has always been this way, it is not in our hands. Sweden should be a good bellwether.

      We have been on this earth for a long time and if this is the worst life can throw at us, we will be fine.

      I shall see you on the fourth, if things get worse, then my reasoning was not correct and I shall adjust accordingly.

      It would seem wise to stop some of this silly viral research, it did not end well.

      Dennis L.

    • Minority Of One says:

      Why is it illogical?

      >>but in the long run the goal, in my view, is total centralization of production and distribution.

      According to the video you posted, The Century of the Self, episode 1, that was one of the first things the Nazis did once they were ‘elected’ into power in 1933.

      The elite today (excludes politicians) tend to be self-obsessed and interested only in themselves (Jeff Bezos was worth about $150 billion a year or two ago whilst many of the full time workers of Amazon barely earned enough to put food on their tables). Whatever they are planning, they intend to come out on top, and alive. A command economy where the elite control everything (including economically) and puppet politicians do as they are told, they more or less have up until now, and most of the masses die of starvation and diseases related to malnutrition, and well-armed and motivated police, secret police and armed forces control the survivors, seems like a plan to me.

      This is what could be called ‘Controlled Demolition’, the other side of the coin is how far and how fast it becomes uncontrolled.

  3. Fast Eddy says:

    Retail landlords are sending out thousands of default notices to tenants, a situation that could tip already-ailing retailers into bankruptcy or total collapse.

    Department stores, restaurants, apparel merchants and specialty chains have been getting the notices as property owners who’ve gone unpaid for as long as three months lose patience, according to people with knowledge of the matter and court filings.

    “The default letters from landlords are flying out the door,” said Andy Graiser, co-president of A&G Real Estate Partners, whose firm works with retailers and other commercial tenants. “It’s creating a real fear in the marketplace,” Graiser said.

    Pressure from default notices and follow-up actions like locking up stores or terminating leases was cited in the bankruptcies of Modell’s Sporting Goods and Stage Stores Inc. Many chains stopped paying rent after the pandemic shuttered most U.S. stores, gambling that they could hold on to some cash before landlords demanded payment.

    The stakes are enormous, and landlords are suffering, too. An estimated $7.4 billion in rent for April hasn’t been paid, or about 45% of what’s owed, according to data analyzed by CoStar Group.

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-05-22/default-notices-are-piling-up-for-retailers-unable-to-pay-rent

    • Rodster says:

      We are in a Depression and it will be a deep and very long depression. And that’s with just one lockdown. Imagine when the next one and the one after that arrives. We’ll be even lucky if there will be a BAU Lite.

      • Covidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

        I agree… depression is already here now…

        and you’re on to something… a continual series of lockdowns will give almost no chance of even a bAU lite…

        but imagine if the lockdown mostly ends by Summer…

        I bet most people will at least have half a notion that the lockdown was reediculous and that resuming activities with masks is good enough…

        and once most people have their freedom of movement back, they ain’t gonna wanna lock down again… ever…

        I’m not sure this will become a prevailing meme but:

        I hope that almost everyone will come to realize that every person who wants to continue to hide in their home will still have the personal freedom to do so…

        • Covidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

          https://www.wsj.com/articles/america-is-reopening-for-summer-and-tensions-are-high-11590163644

          “My biggest fear is a resurgence of all this, a rolling lockdown type situation,” he said. “That’s the big question with everything opening back up: Is it the right time? I don’t know that and I don’t think anyone knows.”

          or…

          “Finally!” Ms. McIntyre said, a few days after Wisconsin’s top court overturned the state’s coronavirus shutdown order. “I think people are tired of staying home and they’ll do whatever they can to get back out.”

          or…

          “Americans are tiptoeing—or in some cases sprinting—their way back into a public sphere reshaped by the coronavirus. Scenes playing out across the country show that reopening will be fitful, divisive, and in some ways far more difficult than closing it down.”

          or…

          “Tensions are intensifying between those celebrating the end of shutdowns and those fearful of the virus’s re-emergence, between those driven by economic desperation and those eager to resume a semblance of normalcy.”

          • Rodster says:

            All this talk is just conditioning the masses for “forced vaccinations”. They want to stir the pot about rolling lockdowns and wearing masks. And the Sheep will buy into it because they want their sports back. They don’t realize that they have once again been worked by Politicians and the Corporate Media who is bought and paid for by the Gov’t

    • fred_goes_bush says:

      C’mon FE. That’s just mainstream medical, scare the Sheeple BS. It harum scarums about people from NZ & Oz, both places with f-all cases taking the virus back to HK, another place with f-all cases.

      Try this about medicine as the new religion instead: http://thesaker.is/medicine-as-religion/

      • Tim Groves says:

        I think this is a really excellent idea although it could do with being re-written in easier-to-understand prose. It’s absolute medical heresy. And I can hear the WHO shouting, “Anyone who believes this must be off their meds!”

        It’s difficult to summarize this writing, but the central idea is that science/medicine as a dogma or an orthodoxy has taken some of the roles formerly played by Christianity in the lives of Westerners. The conclusion is as follows:

        Just as at other critical junctures in history, philosophers will need to engage in debate and dispute with religion; this time not with Christianity, but rather with science, or at least that part of it that has assumed the guise of a religion. I’m not sure if we will see a return to the burning and blacklisting, but as already evident, the views of those who seek the truth and refuse to accept the dominant fictions will undoubtedly be excluded from public discourse, or met with accusations of purveying fake news (news, not ideas, because news is more important than reality). As in every emergency, real or simulated, the ignorant will smear the sages and scoundrels will seek to profit from the misfortunes that they themselves have provoked. All this has already happened and will go on happening, but those who bear witness to the truth will continue to do so, since no one can bear witness for the witness.

        • Xabier says:

          Very true: they think that any old gang of scientist who are in agreement should be able to shout down anyone who questions their orthodoxy, just as theologians could – and still do
          in some cultures, eg Islam – vote for the death of heretics and ‘blasphemers’.

          Mankind will probably go down into the long night gibbering rubbish.

          • Robert Firth says:

            All cultures have a red line somewhere. The Roman church killed Giordano Bruno, perhaps the most creative thinker of his time. Earlier Christians killed Hypatia of Alexandria. The Soviets killed Vavilov, their greatest geneticist. The US killed Wilhelm Reich and burned all his research.

            • Kim says:

              Wasn’t Wilhelm Reich a kiddie-diddler? He was the one with the “orgone” machine and “sexual liberation”.

              It would be a straight line from him to Trannie Library and Child R*pe Hour, no?

              Should have burned him instead of his “research”.

            • Robert Firth says:

              For Kim: No, Reich was not. his bad reputation comes largely from two books: Christopher Turner’s “Adventures in the Orgasmatron”, written by a follower of Kinsey who approved of the latter’s sexual abuse of children, and E Michael Jones’ “Libido Dominandi”, which also was mostly slander. Reich, unlike Kinsey and many in the “free love” counterculture, understood that true sexuality was a fusion of body, spirit, and soul, as others had said before him, all the way back to Diotima Mantinike. Or, for that matter, Sappho of Lesbos.

    • Matthew Krajcik says:

      They aren’t just going to be returning. Looks like there could be a few million Hong Kongers permanently on vacation in Australia pretty soon.

  4. Dennis L. says:

    When you as an individual are branded – no not with an iron but with being accepted into the elites.
    From the intelligencer again:

    “The strongest brand in the world is not Apple or Mercedes-Benz or Coca-Cola. The strongest brands are MIT, Oxford, and Stanford. Academics and administrators at the top universities have decided over the last 30 years that we’re no longer public servants; we’re luxury goods. ”

    OFW seems to assume it is game over, I am not seeing that. What is valuable is becoming more valuable not less. We have acknowledged we need a new economics, left, right, center, upside down. Is it in front of us? The billionaires are worth more now than before this pandemic began, they have done something right. We laugh about going to Mars, they are building spaceships.

    Healthcare is next, Covid test, again from the referenced article: ” I think Jeff Bezos is going to offer the COVID-19 test as part of Prime membership.” Were it a bet, anyone want to take the other side with real money?

    It is very ironic, but Greta was right and she accomplished her goal, the air is cleaner, there is less CO2. Yes, she is irritating to many, but how many here saw reducing emissions to the extent that has happened? Greta’s goals and the goals of many on this site as I understand them are congruent. Those are Davos ideas, OFW is closer to Davos than one might think. Solar does not have to grow to become a larger proportion of electrical energy production, coal can become less and the effect is growth of solar energy. It is a finite world, new economics, someone is going to get it right.

    These are scenarios, not predictions. I come here seeking ideas, somehow I found the aforementioned site, I assume it was through a number of links related to OFW. We can see what we wish to see, we can see a long line of chickens in a dark tunnel, or we can see a bright future. It has been said, “What do you have to lose?”

    Dennis L. .

    • Jason says:

      ” The billionaires are richer now than before this pandemic began. They have done something right” That’s some serious Ayn Rand bullshit. You need to read up on the thermodynamics of civilization. Violent revolutions occur when the balance of wealth between rich and poor gets too great and it always does because the system is set up that way. We cannot prosper going from an highly dense and transportable fuel soure to a much less dense and non transportable fuel source. The system will collapse, there is no amount of positive thinking or manifesting a better future through will that will change the laws of physics. All these fortunes and technology are the result of huge amounts of excess energy that humans seem to be great at using up as fast as possible. Basic population dynamics shows a pooulation boom to a predator free isolated species until the energy of the environment is used up then a huge crash. We are no different. Stop being mesmorized by our technical civilization. You may not see the fall before your time is up but that doesnt mean you are right.

      • Covidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

        “We cannot prosper going from an highly dense and transportable fuel source to a much less dense and non transportable fuel source. The system will collapse, there is no amount of positive thinking or manifesting a better future through will that will change the laws of physics.”

        prosperity is guaranteed to decrease…

        as less energy flows through the economy, there must be less economic activity…

        if the worldwide flow of energy collapsed to zero this year, then IC would collapse completely…

        if the energy flow declines slowly, then there is a chance that gov/CBs/elites could manage the decline in ways where the economy doesn’t break down…

        or not… the Great Turning from more energy to less energy could be grossly mismanaged to the point where the system collapses even though there is still much FF energy to enable a reset economy at a lower level of activity…

        it’s all balanced on a cliff edge…

        I think nationalization of USA energy production may be coming in the near future, which could keep enough energy flowing to maintain a lower level bAU…

        it’s not over til it’s over…

      • Tim Groves says:

        Violent revolutions occur when the balance of wealth between rich and poor gets too great and it always does because the system is set up that way.

        The balance of wealth between rich and poor is just a social construct, surely. 🙂 The penniless and landless people ruled by the Pharaohs or the Incas and roped into their pyramid schemes never revolted, presumably because by and large they were happy with their place in the scheme of things.

        We are coming to the twilight of a period of unprecedented material abundance and physical comfort for the masses. But by and large, the masses in the West have never been very happy with their place in the scheme of things since they were given affordable access to cars, credit cards and color TVs and deprived of their unshakeable faith in what used to be called “the Truth” of Christianity. What we have today in the West is immense, monstrously immense amounts of misery, resentment, dissatisfaction, and our old friend mutual animosity. That will make violent revolution inevitable once the supermarkets run out of food, regardless of how much the likes of Bezos and Gates have to their names.

    • Matthew Krajcik says:

      You’re missing the entire point. It is all about the flow of energy. The units of account and government systems are almost irrelevant. The billionaires are richer because they are closest to the spigot. The new units of currency, which are claims on energy, go to the center of the hurricane first – New York, and now in the era of tech, San Francisco. The periphery gets the currency and the energy last.

      • Tim Groves says:

        I think Dennis was making an entirely different point. What you regard as the entire point may be bigger and more important as points go, but that shouldn’t invalidate what he has to say.

    • DJ says:

      Emissions might be down but levels in the athmosphere keep rising.

    • Tim Groves says:

      It is very ironic, but Greta was right and she accomplished her goal, the air is cleaner, there is less CO2. Yes, she is irritating to many, but how many here saw reducing emissions to the extent that has happened? Greta’s goals and the goals of many on this site as I understand them are congruent. Those are Davos ideas, OFW is closer to Davos than one might think.

      Certainly Greta and the Davos group have a similar goal in reducing FF combustion, and they appear to have made a giant leap forward on getting that done. Where this will take the world from here on is anyone’s guess though.

      Solar does not have to grow to become a larger proportion of electrical energy production, coal can become less and the effect is growth of solar energy.

      Thanks for pointing out that solar is playing a larger part without a single new panel being installed simply because there is now a smaller energy supply pie. That is something I’d never though of before. i rate it a brilliant insight.

      It is a finite world, new economics, someone is going to get it right.

      Yes, in the end, that always happens. But squeezing the current population into a lower-energy economy is not going to be easy or pleasant for most people and not even survivable for a good many of us.

    • Kim says:

      “What is valuable is becoming more valuable not less.”

      I think you are confusing “valuable” with “costly”. What is valuable to me is my health, freedom, family, and hopes for the future. Stanford and the big universities are garbage heaps tended by sociopaths. They have value only to other sociopaths.

      • Robert Firth says:

        Kim, I agree. I have health, freedom and family (twelve including spouses) and at 75 my main hope is that I shall enjoy all that a little longer. The other things of great value to me are all the work of the Nine Muses, especially music and poetry. But these days I tend to be thinking more about Clio, who seems to be teaching us a much needed but much unheeded lesson.

    • JesseJames says:

      Dennis is missing or ignoring the fact that billions will starve to death…all while being so grateful the skies are more clear and solar is now a larger percentage of a vastly reduced global energy footprint.
      Yes, it will be a brighter future for Jeff Bezos and members of Amazon Prime. Jeff will be worth another 100 billion electronic monetary units.

  5. Dennis L. says:

    Jason,

    Man has been around for a long time, we have not crashed, I remain an optimist; there is no other choice. I did take honors thermodynamics at Madison, I did more than passably well, neat stuff.

    Many have a better future now than ever before in history, we live in the present, we plan for tomorrow and accept what comes. So far, tomorrow is always been pretty damn good. The air is cleaner now than it was in 2019, CO2 emissions are down if oil consumption is an indication. These are pretty basic things, the remainder are details.

    There will be a new economics, it probably is already happening around us, it will work.

    Dennis L.

    • Jason says:

      People have been around a long time?
      Gee, thanks for informing me, I hadn’t thought about it. Tomorrow has always been better? You were born late 1940’s, gosh I can’t imagine why your tomorrows have always improved. Maybe I should read some info, like on this site that Gail has been very thoughtfully explaining, about, I don’t know, that oil stuff that we have increasingly used since you were born and how its correlated with increasing GDP. If you disagree, come with some data, facts, cause and effect mechanisms about how the next 20 years of tomorrows will be better. Anybody can spout unsupported opinions, that’s not what is helpful. My views are pretty much in line with Gail as far as economics and energy are correlated in sytems. I’m not interested in how good of a painter such and such an artist is, how innovated or how much his paintings are worth. I’m interested in where the paint comes from, how its made and what happens when its all used up. I guess I am a macro guy and you are a happy bussiness man. Anyway, I do wish you and your family well and hope you stay safe and healthy.

      • psile says:

        And 200k years is actually pretty pi$$ weak, where it comes to species longevity, before extinction. 1 million years is on the low end of the average.

  6. Danoto says:

    People here want to throw out thermodynamics as the end all be all but we live in a world of money velocity and money printing, quantitative easing etc…. The system is much more complex and it is not black and white as many people on here would have you believe. That being said who knows what will happen next Dennis is right. But if you want to live in moralistic ideal and think that this should happen to these people and this should happen to those People because that is the rules you will be sorely disappointed. There are no rules only luck and bad luck…

    • Covidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

      yes, it’s not just physics…

      but at the base of IC is the fact that an increasing flow of energy allows an increasing prosperity…

      humans could mess that up and crash IC even though there is almost as much net (surplus) energy this year as there was in 2019…

      I’m closer to the camp of the optimists…

      there seems to be little to gain by looking for/planning for the total collapse of IC…

      as D said, the air would be cleaner!

      I don’t think cleaner air is worth it if it also means worldwide poverty for 99+% of us…

      • Xabier says:

        Ir reminds me of the old peasant proverb, to the effect that if your farm is clean and tidy it means you have no animals left and are about to die of starvation.

        In short:

        ‘No shit, no life.’

      • Harry McGibbs says:

        “…as D said, the air would be cleaner!”

        It might also be hotter. Loss of global dimming from reduced pollution, leading to more direct (ie less diffuse) sunlight may have contributed to Amphan’s ferocity by super-heating the Bay of Bengal:

        • Matthew Krajcik says:

          On the other hand, the clear nights let out a lot of heat. Water vapour is a powerful greenhouse gas. It gets down to near frost still this late in May where I am, with the clear nights. So, a stronger day/night heat gradient which may help keep the day time highs down a bit.

        • JesseJames says:

          Or, warming oceans due to an unknown number of underwater volcanoes is releasing more moisture in the air, contributing to storms, etc. recent discoveries that part of the Antarctica ice sheet in the ocean seems to be directly over heat sources….these are most probably underwater volcanoes.
          Always so quick to think that hair brained theories that man controls this earth, including the climate. I will give you credit….you did say “may”.

    • psile says:

      I hate to break it to you, but the velocity of money is in the toilet.

  7. Covidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

    https://www.mediaite.com/news/incalculable-loss-new-york-times-front-page-features-names-obituary-excerpts-of-over-1000-coronavirus-victims/

    “‘Incalculable Loss’: New York Times Front Page Features Names, Obituary Excerpts of 1,000 Coronavirus Victims”

    no, it actually is calculable…

    a very large % were older unhealthier Americans would didn’t have many years left anyway…

    old news…

  8. Fast Eddy says:

    Here we go … much bigger numbers on the streets in HK … tear gas…

    I pray… to see a running dog burned alive

    https://freehk.live/

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