COVID-19 and the economy: Where do we go from here?

The COVID-19 story keeps developing. At first, everyone listened to epidemiologists telling us that a great deal of social distancing, and even the closing down of economies, would be helpful. After trying these things, we ended up with a huge number of people out of work and protests everywhere. We discovered the models that were provided were not very predictive. We are also finding that a V-shaped recovery is not possible.

Now, we need to figure out what actions to take next. How vigorously should we be fighting COVID-19? The story is more complex than most people understand. These are some of the issues I see:

[1] The share of COVID-19 cases that can be expected to end in death seems to be much lower than most people expect.

Most people assume that the ratios of deaths to cases by age group, computed using reported cases, such as those included in the Johns Hopkins Database, give a good indication of the chance of death a person faces if a person catches COVID-19. In fact, the cases reported to this database are far from representative of all cases; they tend to be the more severe cases. Cases with no symptoms, or only very slight symptoms, tend to be missed. The result is that ratios calculated directly from this database make people think their risk of death is far higher than it really is.

The US Center for Disease Control has published Planning Scenarios, based on information available on April 29, 2020.* Using this information, the CDC’s best estimate of the number of future deaths per 1000 cases with symptoms is as follows:

Ages 0 – 49    0.5 deaths per 1000 cases with symptoms

Ages 50-64    2.0 deaths per 1000 cases with symptoms

Ages 65+       13.0 deaths per 1000 cases with symptoms

The CDC’s best estimate is that 35% of cases have no symptoms at all. Thus, if we were to include these cases without symptoms in the chart above, the chart would become:

Ages 0-49   0.5 deaths per 1,538 cases (including those without symptoms), or 0.3 deaths per 1000 cases with or without symptoms

Ages 50-64  1.3 deaths per 1000 cases with or without symptoms

Ages 65+    8.5 deaths per 1000 cases with or without symptoms

A recent study of blood samples from 23 different parts of the world came to a similarly low estimate of the number of deaths per 1000 COVID-19 infections. It reported that among people who are less than 70 years old, the number of deaths per 1000 ranged from 0.0 to 2.3 per 1000, with a median of 0.4 deaths per 1000.

The same paper remarks,

COVID-19 seems to affect predominantly the frail, the disadvantaged, and the marginalized – as shown by high rates of infectious burden in nursing homes, homeless shelters, prisons, meat processing plants, and the strong racial/ethnic inequalities against minorities in terms of the cumulative death risk.

[2] There seem to be things we can do ourselves to reduce our personal chance of serious illness or death.

General good health is protective against getting a bad case of COVID-19. Thus, anything that we can do in terms of a good diet and exercise is likely helpful. Staying inside for weeks on end in the hope of preventing exposure to COVID-19 is probably not helpful.

Continued exposure to huge amounts of disinfectants and hand sanitizers is likely not to be helpful either. Our bodies depend on healthy microbiomes, and products such as these adversely affect our microbiomes. They kill good and bad bacteria alike and may leave harmful residues. It is easy to scale back our personal use of these products.

There are recent indications that vitamin D is likely to be protective in reducing both the incidence of COVID-19 and the disease’s severity. Web MD reports:

Several groups of researchers from different countries have found that the sickest patients often have the lowest levels of vitamin D, and that countries with higher death rates had larger numbers of people with vitamin D deficiency than countries with lower death rates.

Experts say healthy blood levels of vitamin D may give people with COVID-19 a survival advantage by helping them avoid cytokine storm, when the immune system overreacts and attacks your body’s own cells and tissues.

While we don’t know for certain that vitamin D is helpful, there is certainly enough circumstantial evidence to suggest that it would likely be worthwhile to raise vitamin D levels to the amount recommended by the National Institute of Health (30 nmol/L or higher). People with dark skin living in areas away from the equator might especially be helped by this strategy, since dark skin reduces vitamin D production.

Masks seem to be helpful in preventing the spread of infection. A person’s own immune system can handle some level of germs. If two people meeting together both wear masks, the combination of masks can perhaps reduce the level of germs to within the amount the immune system can handle. Our immune systems are built to handle a barrage of small attacks by viruses and bacteria. Continued “practice” with relatively low combinations of good and bad bacteria (as occur with masks) will tend to build up our bodies’ natural defenses.

We see dentists and dental hygienists wearing face shields. These shields are readily available over the internet and can be worn with a mask or by themselves. We don’t yet know precisely how much protection they provide, but early models suggest that they can be helpful in two directions: (a) preventing the wearer’s droplets from harming others and (b) reducing the droplet exposure from others. Thus, they may be a worthwhile way to reduce exposure to the virus causing COVID-19, even when others are not wearing masks.

[3] The medical community’s ability to treat COVID-19 cases keeps improving.

There seem to be many small changes that are improving treatment of COVID-19. If patients are having trouble getting enough oxygen, having them lie on their stomachs seems to increase their blood oxygen levels. The cost of this change is pretty much zero, but it keeps people out of the ICU longer.

Originally, planners thought that ventilators would be needed for patients with COVID-19, since ventilators are often used on pneumonia patients. Experience has shown, however, that oxygen plus something like a CPAP machine often works better and is less expensive.**

The simple change of not sending recuperating patients to nursing home-type facilities for the last stages of care has proven helpful, as well. Many of these patients can still infect others, leading to infections in long-term care facilities. Tests to tell whether patients are truly over the disease do not seem to be very accurate.

Last week, it was announced that treatment with an inexpensive common steroid could reduce deaths of people on ventilators by one-third. It could also reduce deaths of those requiring only oxygen treatment by 20%. Using this treatment should significantly reduce deaths, at little cost.

We can expect improvements in treatments to continue as doctors experiment with existing treatments, and as drug companies work on new solutions. Looking at cumulative historical mortality rates tends to overlook the huge learning curve that is taking place, allowing mortality rates to be lower.

[4] More doubts are being raised about quickly finding a vaccine that prevents COVID-19. 

The public would like to think that a vaccine solution is right around the corner. Vaccine promoters such as Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates would like to encourage this belief. Unfortunately, there are quite a few obstacles to getting a vaccine that actually works for any length of time:

(a) Antibodies for coronaviruses tend not to stay around for very long. A recent study suggests that even as soon as eight weeks, a significant share of COVID-19 patients (40% of those without symptoms; 12.9% of those with symptoms) had lost all immunity. A vaccine will likely face this same challenge.

(b) Vaccines may not work against mutations. Beijing is now fighting a new version of COVID-19 that seems to have been imported from Europe in food. Early indications are that people who caught the original Wuhan version of the COVID-19 virus will not be immune to the mutated version imported from Europe.

Vaccines that are currently under development use the Wuhan version of the virus. The catch is that the version of COVID-19 now circulating in the United States, Europe and perhaps elsewhere is mostly not the Wuhan type.

(c) There is a real concern that a vaccine against one version of COVID-19 will make a person’s response to a mutation of COVID-19 worse, rather than better. It has been known for many years that Dengue Fever has this characteristic; it is one of the reasons that there is no vaccine for Dengue Fever. The earlier SARS virus (which is closely related to the COVID-19 virus) has this same issue. Preliminary analysis suggests that the virus causing COVID-19 seems to have this characteristic, as well.

In sum, getting a vaccine that actually works against COVID-19 is likely to be a huge challenge. Instead of expecting a silver bullet in the form of a COVID-19 vaccine, we probably need to be looking for a lot of silver bee-bees that will hold down the impact of the illness. Hopefully, COVID-19 will someday disappear on its own, but we have no assurance of this outcome.

[5] The basic underlying issue that the world economy faces is overshoot, caused by too high a population relative to underlying resources.

When an economy is in overshoot, the big danger is collapse. The characteristics of overshoot leading to collapse include the following:

  • Very great wage disparity; too many people are very poor
  • Declining health, often due to poor nutrition, making people vulnerable to epidemics
  • Increasing use of debt, to make up for inadequate wages and profits
  • Falling commodity prices because too few people can afford these commodities and goods made from these commodities
  • Gluts of commodities, causing farmers to plow under crops and oil to be put into storage

Thus, pandemics are very much to be expected when an economy is in overshoot.

One example of collapse is that following the Black Death (1348-1350) epidemic in Europe. The collapse killed 60% of Europe’s population and dropped Britain’s population from close to 5 million to about 2 million.

Figure 1. Britain’s population, 1200 to 1700. Chart by Bloomberg using Federal Reserve of St. Louis data.

We might say that there was a U-shaped population recovery, which took about 300 years.

A later example that almost led to collapse was the period between 1914 and 1945. This was a period of shrinking international trade, indicating that something was truly wrong. On Figure 2 below, the WSJ calls its measure of international trade the “Trade Openness Index.” The period 1914-1945 is highlighted as being somewhat like today.

Figure 2. The Trade Openness Index is an index based on the average of world imports and exports, divided by world GDP. Chart by Wall Street Journal.

Many of the issues in the 1914-1945 timeframe were coal related. World War I took place when coal depletion became a problem in Britain. The issue at that time was wages that were too low for coal miners because the price of coal would not rise very high. Higher coal prices were needed to offset the impact of depletion, but high coal prices were not affordable by citizens.

The Pandemic of 1918-1919 killed far more people than either World War I or COVID-19.

World War II came about at the time coal depletion became a problem in Germany.

Figure 3. Figure by author describing peak coal timing compared to World War I and World War II.

The problem of inadequate energy resources finally ended when World War II ramped up demand through more debt and through more women entering the labor force for the first time. In response, the US began pumping oil out of the ground at a faster rate. Instead of depending on coal alone, the world began depending on a combination of oil and coal as energy resources. The ratio of population to energy resources was suddenly brought back into balance again, and collapse was averted!

[6] We are now in another period of overshoot of population relative to resources. The critical resource this time is oil. The alternatives we have aren’t suited to fulfilling our most basic need: the growing and transportation of food. They act as add-ons that are lost if oil is lost.

If we look back at Figure 2 above, it shows that since 2008, the world has again fallen into a period of shrinking imports and exports, which is a sign of “not enough energy resources to go around.” We are also experiencing many of the other characteristics of an overshoot economy that I mentioned in Section 5 above.

Figure 4 shows world energy consumption by type of energy through 2019, using recently published data by BP. The “Other” combination in Figure 4 includes nuclear, hydroelectric, wind, solar, and other smaller categories such as geothermal energy, wood pellets, and sawdust burned for fuel.

Figure 4. World energy consumption by fuel, based on BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Oil has been rising at a steady pace; coal consumption has been close to level since about 2012. Natural gas and “Other” seem to be rising a little faster in the most recent few years.

If we divide by world population, the trend in world energy consumption per capita by type is as follows:

Figure 5. World Per Capita Energy Consumption based on BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy

Many people would like to think that the various energy sources are substitutable, but this is not really the case, as we approach limits of a finite world.

One catch is that there are very few stand-alone energy resources. Most energy resources only work within a framework provided by other energy sources. Wood that is picked up from the forest floor can work as a stand-alone energy source. Wind can almost be used as a stand-alone energy source, if it is used to power a simple sail boat or a wooden windmill. Water can almost be used as a stand-alone energy source, if it can be made to turn a wooden water wheel.

Coal, when its use was ramped up, enabled the production of both concrete and steel. It allowed modern hydroelectric dams to be built. It allowed steam engines to operate. It truly could be used as a stand-alone energy source. The main obstacle to the extraction of coal was keeping the cost of extraction low enough, so that, even with transportation, buyers could afford to purchase the coal.

Oil, similarly, can be a stand-alone energy solution because it is very flexible, dense, and easily transported. Or it can be paired with other types of less-expensive energy, to make it go further. We can see our dependence on oil by how level energy consumption per capita is in Figure 5 since the early 1980s. Growth in population seems to depend upon the amount of oil available.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, the economy is a self-organizing system. If there isn’t enough of the energy products upon which the economy primarily depends, the system tends to change in very strange ways. Countries become more quarrelsome. People decide to have fewer children or they become more susceptible to pandemics, bringing population more in line with energy resources.

The problem with natural gas and with the electricity products that I have lumped together as “Other” is that they are not really stand-alone products. They cannot grow food or build roads. They cannot power international jets. They cannot build wind turbines or solar panels. They cannot put natural gas pipelines in place. They can only exist in a complex environment which includes oil and perhaps coal (or other cheaper energy products).

We are kidding ourselves if we think we can transition to modern fuels that are low in carbon emissions. Without high prices, oil and coal that are in the ground will tend to stay in the ground permanently. This is the serious obstacle that we are up against. Without oil and coal, natural gas and electricity products will quickly become unusable.

[7] A major problem with COVID-19 related shutdowns is the fact that they lead to very low commodity prices, including oil prices. 

Figure 6. Inflation-adjusted monthly average oil prices through May 2020. Amounts are Brent Spot Oil Prices, as published by the EIA. Inflation adjustment is made using the CPI-Urban Index.

Oil is the primary type of energy used in growing and transporting food. It is used in many essential processes, including in the production of electricity. If its production is to continue, its price must be both high enough for oil producers and low enough for consumers.

The problem that we have been encountering since 2008 (the start of the latest cutback in trade in Figure 2) is that oil prices have been falling too low for producers. Now, in 2020, oil production is beginning to fall. This is happening because producing companies cannot afford to extract oil at current prices; governments of oil exporting countries cannot collect enough taxes at current prices. They hope that by reducing oil supply, prices will rise again.

If extraordinarily low oil prices persist, a calamity similar to the one that “Peak Oilers” have worried about will certainly occur: Oil supply will begin dropping. In fact, the drop will likely be much more rapid than most Peak Oilers have imagined, because the drop will be caused by low prices, rather than the high prices that they imagined would occur.

Amounts which are today shown as “proven reserves” can be expected to disappear because they will not be economic to extract. Governments of oil exporting countries seem likely to be overthrown because tax revenue from oil is their major source of revenue for programs such as food subsidies and jobs programs. When this disappears, governments of oil exporters are forced to cut back, lowering the standard of living of their citizens.

[8] What our strategy should be from now on is not entirely clear.

Of course, one path is straight into collapse, as happened after the Black Death of 1348-1352 (Figure 1). In fact, the carrying capacity of Britain might still be about 2 million. Its current population is about 68 million, so this would represent a population reduction of about 97%.

Other countries would experience substantial population reductions as well. The population decline would reflect many causes of death besides direct deaths from COVID-19; they would reflect the impacts of collapsing governments, inadequate food supply, polluted water supplies, and untreated diseases of many kinds.

If a large share of the population stays hidden in their homes trying to avoid COVID, it seems to me that we are most certainly heading straight into collapse. Supply lines for many kinds of goods and services will be broken. Oil prices and food prices will stay very low. Farmers will plow under crops, trying to raise prices. Gluts of oil will continue to be a problem.

If we try to transition to renewables, this leads directly to collapse as well, as far as I can see. They are not robust enough to stand on their own. Prices of oil and other commodities will fall too low and gluts will occur. Renewables will only last as long as (a) the overall systems can be kept in good repair and (b) governments can support continued subsidies.

The only approach that seems to keep the system going a little longer would seem to be to try to muddle along, despite COVID-19. Open up economies, even if the number of COVID-19 cases is higher and keeps rising. Tell people about the approaches they can use to limit their exposure to the virus, and how they can make their immune systems stronger. Get people started raising their vitamin D levels, so that they perhaps have a better chance of fighting the disease if they get COVID-19.

With this approach, we keep as many people working for as long as possible. Life will go on as close to normal, for as long as it can. We can perhaps put off collapse for a bit longer. We don’t have a lot of options open to us, but this one seems to be the best of a lot of poor options.

Notes:

*The CDC estimates are estimates of future deaths per 1000 cases. Thus, they probably reflect the learning curve that has already taken place. It is unlikely that they reflect the benefit of the new steroid treatment mentioned in Section 3, because this finding occurred after April 29.

**I have been told that disease spread can be a problem when using CPAP machines, however. Using ventilators at very low pressure settings seems also to be a solution.

 

 

 

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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.

2,824 thoughts on “COVID-19 and the economy: Where do we go from here?

    • “About 11.9 million Americans who are unemployed as a result of the pandemic, or about 7.2% of the workforce, have no hope of returning to their old jobs, while 5.7 million workers, or 3.5% of people, expect to get called back to work but probably won’t, writes Heidi Shierholz, senior economist and director of policy at EPI.

      “That puts the share of the workforce currently out of work with no reasonable chance of returning to their jobs at roughly 11%, or about 17.6 million people.”

      https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/01/millions-of-unemployed-americans-wont-return-to-their-old-jobs.html

      • “A senior Federal Reserve official has warned that a wave of business failures owing to the pandemic could still trigger a financial crisis, as he justified the central bank’s continuing efforts to prop up capital markets.

        ““We’re still in the middle of the crisis here,” James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis, said…”

        https://www.ft.com/content/04ee5988-7864-431a-95ff-f18388f29894

        • do you think the millions of grads are counted in the unemployment rate?

          I doubt it.

    • Government workers are also getting pay cuts, at least around here. When taxes are too low, governments have to figure out ways to work around the problem.

      • For the purposes of modelling income versus expenditure, i.e the budget deficit, going forward, our university has assumed that the economy / flow of students will have returned to pre-Covid19 levels by 2023. They are working with three scenarios for the period, optimistic, middle, pessimistic. I should image by Xmas they will need to add a forth option, beyond pessimistic. Then the cut in hours and job losses will start.
        Make the most of this summer, if you can.

        • I’m looking forward to September, which is usually perfect weather in Britain.

          I believe that last summer, with evidence of an imminent recession growing, I ventured to suggest that it was a kind of ‘Summer of 1914’ , a golden time before the cataclysm: I certainly couldn’t guess how right I was!

          • “Like many others, I often summon up in my memory the impression of those July days. The world on the verge of its catastrophe was very brilliant. Nations and Empires crowned with princes and potentates rose majestically on every side, lapped in the accumulated treasures of the long peace. All were fitted and fastened—it seemed securely—into an immense cantilever. The two mighty Europeans systems faced each other glittering and clanking in their panoply, but with a tranquil gaze. A polite, discreet, pacific, and on the whole sincere diplomacy spread its web of connections over both. A sentence in a dispatch, an observation by an ambassador, a cryptic phrase in a Parliament seemed sufficient to adjust from day to day the balance of the prodigious structure. Words counted, and even whispers. A nod could be made to tell. Were we after all to achieve world security and universal peace by a marvelous system of combinations in equipoise and of armaments in equation, of checks and counter-checks on violent action ever more complex and more delicate? Would Europe this marshaled, thus grouped, thus related, unite into one universal and glorious organism capable of receiving and enjoying in undreamed of abundance the bounty which nature and science stood hand in hand to give? The old world in its sunset was fair to see.”

            Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, The World Crisis.

  1. “The World Bank projects the recession in Latin America and the Caribbean will be the worst downturn since reliable data began in 1901…

    “[It expects a] gross domestic product contraction of more than 7% for 2020, making it worse than any crisis of the past century, including the Great Depression, the 1980s debt crisis and the global financial of 2008-2009…”

    https://www.aljazeera.com/ajimpact/latin-america-caribbean-face-worst-downturn-100-years-200701202047239.html

    • According to the article:

      Economies in the region are going to look different after the pandemic, and nations need legal systems that allow restructuring when there are business failures so that capital can flow from from old industries to new ones, Malpass [President of the World Bank] said.

      What might these new industries be? Taking in each other’s washing? Uber and Lyft? Electric cars?

      How about food for a potentially starving population?

      • Gail, most of those “old industries” don’t have any capital; they already have unsustainable debt. There is nothing to flow: the bucket has been taken to the well too often. MMT says you grow your way out of debt by taking on more debt; the economy is now at the end of that road.

  2. The real-world examples of ‘living with less’ are just mounting up now aren’t they? Mass redundancies, failing economies, the spectre of starvation. Inspirational!

    The Guardian recently published an excellent article on the exhausting struggles of ordinary people in Zimbabwe just to get to work, due to the imbecilic govt. lock-down which has deprived them of adequate transport.

    Women in particular now have to hitch-hike very dangerously, risking robbery, rape and murder. But if they don’t, they and their children will starve. And everyone has to squeeze on to the very few over-crowded buses which the state will still permit to run.

    But I suppose it’s all so much more ‘meaningful’ and takes them out of their spoiled comfort zone enabling them to develop profound spiritual qualities like exhaustion and permanent anxiety.

    Maybe Charles Hughes Smith could get away from his keyboard and see a bit of the real world…..

    • I don’t know Mr Charles Hughes Smith, but I guess “living with less” doesn’t apply to Zimbabwe people , nor poor people in western world who lost their incomes and are left with nothing.
      “living with less” is an utopian idea that could save us if only we would all be willing to share what is enough to have a satisfying and meaningful life. This a alas not the nature of human beings.

    • I think you’re attacking a straw man there by pointing out examples of the collapse of the current system – something I think almost everyone on OFW recognizes is inevitable? – and suggesting it is the outcome individuals like CHS talk about when the speak of an “inspirational” post-collapse world.

      Trying to maintain a system that no longer functions and is on the verge of dying is not the same as the new beginning of a community / society that recognizes limits and cooperatively tries to do “less with more”.

      Again, I haven’t seen anyone suggest collapse is avoidable – that process needs to occur before anything new (and even remotely stable in the longer term) can begin. In fact, I’m constantly baffled by the hypocrisy I witness here at OFW – a blog that focuses on the inevitability of collapse due to energy / resource constraints, but where every third comment seems to suggest (sometimes subtly, sometimes not) that BAU should be extended at all costs and that any action taken now (especially those which may jeopardize any remaining BAU we have left) to try to improve the chances for those is a post-collapse world is folly.

      I sometimes wonder if, by dismising anything can be done to improve our chances in an uncertain future, people here are reinforcing their belief that they have no accountability / responsibility for the future and thus can kick back and enjoy BAU for as long as possible.

      “Everyone’s gonna die and it’s not my fault, so f*ck it, might as well spend the rest of my time enjoying BAU and the smug intellectual superiority I feel by sh*tting all over any ideas of what I can do to improve my future and the future of generations to come!”

      Apologies Xavier – I’m kind of using this response to vent about a trend I’ve witnessed here at OFW in general, and in doing so have kind of sh*t all over you as if you were the only one guilty of this (you’re not, and I’m sure I’ve even done the same on occasion during my time here at OFW).

      Cheers,
      -GBV

      • >>any ideas of what I can do to improve my future and the future of generations to come!

        I am inclined to think that we have had millennia to improve our future, change our ways, and so far, nothing. The general population is not interested. We are donkeys run by donkeys. Probably our last chance was post-WW2.

        As an example, here in the UK we don’t have much native woodlands left, typically they are small, scattered, and deteriorating due to invasion by non-native species and over-grazing by 4 different species of deer. But what little we have left we are determined to get rid of. The new HS2 rail project will partially or fully destroy 108 of these woodlands. They are being cut down now, before the real work starts, before the project gets stopped. Damned few are interested in the future of civilisation or the planet. As was sung in the Grizzly Adams theme tune:

        Walkin’ through the land
        Where every living thing is beautiful
        Why does it have to end
        We are calling, oh so sadly
        On the whispers of the wind
        As we send a dying message

      • GBV I think we ALL use this excellent site to vent a bit! I only just hold myself back from ranting about the UK government and mankind in general at great and pointless length.

        But I will explain why I really can’t stand CHS and his ‘richer fuller life’ rubbish: my grandmother , an innkeeper’s daughter, was born into a real peasant community, Eugi, in the Spanish mountains in the 1920’s, where in many ways life hadn’t changed for about 200 years, and some of the clothing was 18th century or even Neolithic (sheepskin cloaks, shoes). Ox carts of the same pattern the Romans knew were still in daily use, and so on.

        Sadly she died rather young, so I never had the chance to discuss these things with her. She,a great beauty, helped saved the life of my grandfather, an aristocrat, in the Civil War, and left that world anyway.

        But I have watched some interviews with elderly village people who had known that time, and whenever the interviewer asked ‘What was it like in the past?’ the old people pulled faces , shuddered and said ‘Horrible, hard, so hard’. Go back to that ‘richer fuller life’ in a real community’? No way!

        The reality is that we will be living trapped in a collapsing global industrial system which will physically – if not spiritually – take us down with it.

        No doubt we would happily exchange that fate for the hard life of the old Basque mountains,endemic typhus, TB, regular semi-starvation, and all, – but it is out of reach. We destroyed that world with modernity.

        Personally I incline to telling people to man up for a rough ride, rather than promising them impossible ‘Transitions’ to something better. Maybe that’s the old peasant blood in me?

        • Re: old people speaking about how “hard” the old days were, consider that they lived through one of the largest and perhaps quickest explosions of “wealth” ever known in human history, so it kind of make sense that they would remember their (tangible) past as “hard” – things are far easier (though more complex) today. But they’re only reflecting on their material wealth / physical ease of their life, not of the value of the community, shared living experiences and simplicity of the lives they used to have.

          For those of us that survive collapse, it will likely be the other way around – in a few decades, we’ll look back at how easy our physical lives were, but if you ask us about our community, our sense of family, the complexity of our lives, our freedom of thought / speech, etc., all these (intangible) things may be improved in the future.

          Which leads me to my next comment…

          Re: rough ride vs. impossible transition to something better, I see it as both. It will be a rough ride as we transition to a freer (intangible) but more difficult (tangible) future. But perhaps I should stop using the word “better”, as I guess how good or bad something is depends on the subjectivity of the person judging it.

          Cheers,
          -GBV

        • A good number of peasants I came across where I lived in Italy were happy to give up damp ruins and photogenically worm-eaten furniture to idiot Anglos: they wanted reliable central heating and Formica that was easy to clean. The old places spoke to them of the endless toil and want of earlier times.

      • “people here are reinforcing their belief that they have no accountability / responsibility for the future and thus can kick back and enjoy BAU for as long as possible.”

        GBV, on this planet no form of life is concerned with the future of its own species. The motto of life is to grab what you can and move on, “following the energy gradients”, as Megacancer James would put it.. Why should the human species be any different?

        OTOH, OFW is a den of antropological pessimists. I, for one, don’t believe in human agency. Humans are not much more than puppets (of other or themselves). Any “punch and judy” show summarizes prety well The History of Humankind. And this show is now as stale as last sunday breakfast. Time to curtain close for IC. What’s next, not even my dog (who knows it all) can say.

    • Xabier,

      The world is still a better place today than it was ten years ago, part of what is happening is exactly what some of the elites, e.g. Greta as an example only, have been preaching for years, echoed by MSM and even the Catholic Church which I respect greatly. Even the ancient Bible has a passage relating to a camel passing through the eye of a needle. We are going green, it is an experiment, the skies are bluer, the air less polluted.

      Zimbabwe is now a “domestic” economy, they stopped being a colony and one of the breadbaskets of Africa. They have very few if any white farmers anymore, they have what they wanted.

      Women in the US are now seeking to become combat marines, enter the special forces, why should women have to put up with the various crimes you mentioned; they only have to man up to stop all this. Buses don’t run, why don’t these women run the bus lines?

      Spiritual, “relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.” Exhaustion can be spiritual in a manner of speaking, look only at all the runners in our developed world, they run for fun to exhaustion. This is a bit argumentative but if one is always comfortable, one does not grow. Historically we had religion to help us deal with anxiety, stress. The atheists relieved us of that weekly stress called worship, now we have drugs and endless commercials selling us things we don’t need, well, back to paragraph one.

      Ad hominem attacks are not very helpful though all of us sometimes get worked up at the keyboard. It is a time of change, we all know it is a finite world, what we are seeing is the end of the infinite world, what did you expect? Not a few here already are making popcorn to watch it play out. Charles may have bugged out to a simpler world, some might envy his planning.

      Dennis L.

      • If I criticise CHS it’s not ad hominem, it’s his ideas.

        Then again, he does set himself up as an authoritative commentator, so ‘fair game’?

        I’m a cheerful person day to day, but sometimes I can’t stomach such crap about serious matters.

  3. Thanks for the headline need, Harry,…most disturbing…
    Here is a human interest story that caught my eye…
    https://news.yahoo.com/feud-ends-gunfire-pastor-kills-210431443.html

    Miami Herald
    Feud ends in gunfire as pastor kills two in front of his daughter, Las Vegas cops say

    Neighbors say a long-running dispute between two Las Vegas homeowners began as a complaint over nude hot-tubbing activities, the Las Vegas Sun reported.
    Police say the neighborhood feud ended Thursday when Andrew Cote, 36, killed his 71-year-old neighbor and her friend with a shotgun, KVVU reported.
    Cote’s young daughter was present when Cote shot neighbor Mildred Olivo and her friend Timothy Hanson over a brick divider between their back yards, KLAS reported. Cote told police he “noticed Hanson was still moving and shot him in the head a second time.”
    When police later asked Cote why he didn’t take his daughter inside and call 911 before resorting to gunfire, he told them “words to the effect of ‘not tonight,’” KLAS reported.
    Cote also told police he opened fire because he “was in fear,” but no weapons were found on Olivo or Hanson, who had reportedly been shouting at Cote’s daughter, according to the station.
    He is listed as the pastor of Iglesia Bautista De Fe Y Amor, an independent Baptist church in Las Vegas, on its website.
    Olivo had reportedly sprayed Cote and his daughter with water from a hose earlier in the day, KVVU reported. Cote said he had called police then, but nothing happened.

    Seems this was going on for some time and Votes even built a brick wall😎 between his place for more privacy….
    Temper, temper…sad and just imagine when the real🤢 issues arise between neighbors arise …
    Not good

    • You are welcome, Herbie. I am coming across the odd optimistic article, so this may cheer you up:

      “By all suppositions, the Covid Crisis should have butchered the economy. Fear, panic, and hysteria gripped even the smartest, most logical people like no other time in recent history, for good reason: according to every textbook, the pain should have been intolerable.

      “Instead, everyone got a check. It’s truly extraordinary. To many, it is still – in a very literal sense — incredible. Policymakers around the world, led by the U.S. in both our swiftness and size, decided to stop calamity in its tracks. Now, supported by the most disruptive technology companies since the invention of the internet, the stock market came back.

      “This was only possible because the marketplace of investors around the world continue to acknowledge America’s economy as the most stable…

      “America is on top… Being able to sidestep economic collapse means saving livelihoods; the ability to stop a depression is the economic touch of God.”

      https://www.forbes.com/sites/oliverrenick/2020/07/01/the-second-quarter-comeback-shows-america-has-the-economic-touch-of-god/#5cebbacd19a8

      • I agree…it use MOST Extraordinary event in our lifetimes and indeed ALL of human History and likely will not be repeated again….sorry, seems they are planning another round, at least here in the United States.
        You know, I’ve been around a long time and seems odd folks are so complacent…
        Record debt, record unemployment, an out of control pandemic, folks not paying rent or mortgages or credit cards, Bankruptcies, and more layoffs looming…
        Yet Stock market booming! Now a second wave ….V shape recovery ….
        Nope, another handout coming by the Government and like a fella said we are going to expect these on a regular basis….when will it end?

      • This is more comedy than good news story. In both the UK and the USA above all else what is keeping the system going, badly, is furlough payments. In the case of the UK, those are to almost half the ‘working’ population. Once these stop, I doubt too many Americans will think ‘America is on top’. But you never know.

        • “This is more comedy than good news story.”

          As you may have surmised, Minority Of One, my tongue was firmly in cheek.

    • Why should nude hot tubbing on ones private property behind a brick wall be a cause for complaint? But yes, the pastor of an independent baptist church decides to destroy the infidels. “Faith and Love”, made manifest.

  4. Gail is right again, probably can not curtail the human hoard of OVERSHOOT…here are examples..
    As Bernie Ecclestone, 89, welcomes a fourth child, we chart the older celebrity dads’ club
    https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/bernie-ecclestone-dad-again-89-older-celebrity-dads-club-
    102536616.html
    The former Formula One boss and his wife, Fabiana Flosi, 44, welcomed a son.
    “We have a son named Ace. I am so proud,” he told Blick magazine about the new arrival.
    Ecclestone already has three daughters with his previous partners.
    His eldest, Deborah, 65, was born to his first wife Ivy Bamford before welcoming Tamara, 35, and Petra, 31, with his second wife Slavica Radic.
    The new dad also already has five grandchildren.
    Ecclestone isn’t the only celebrity to join the older dads’ club.
    Sure it might be more common for men of a certain age to be new grandfathers than new dads, but that hasn’t stopped a whole host of celebrity men embracing fatherhood in their 50s, 60s, 70s and even, like Ecclestone, their 80s.
    Like…
    Alec Baldwin, 62, and his wife Hilaria Baldwin, 36, are soon to become parents again. The couple announced they are expecting another child together.
    The couple already have four children – Carmen, six, Rafael Thomas, four, Leonardo, three, and Romeo, two. Baldwin also has a 24-year-old daughter, Ireland, with ex-wife Kim Basinger.

    So, refraining from multipling just allows others to do so and pass on their traits to their children of doing likewise…ugh

    • A large share of the current population explosion is in Africa and the Middle East. The UN publishes estimated Net Reproduction Rates by country and by area for five-year periods. For the period 2015-2020, the places with reproduction rates higher than 1.00 include:

      Africa – Overall Rate is 1.903.
      Middle Africa is 2.309
      North Africa is 1.497

      The Middle East has a very high birth rate. There is no aggregate given by the UN. These are a few countries with problems:
      Iraq 1.703
      Israel 1.473
      Palestine 1.735
      Syria 1.351
      Yemen 1.715

      The “Stan” countries of Central Asia have a net reproduction rate of 1.283
      Also Pakistan has a NRR of 1.543

      Afghanistan has a net reproduction rate of 1.984

      India is close to balanced at 1.002

      Mongolia has a NRR of 1.387

      Phillipines has a NRR of 1.198

      Oceana excluding Australia and New Zealand has a NRR of 1.544

      A few low countries:

      Southern Europe is especially low, with an average NRR of.649

      This would include Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, among other places.

      Japan’s rate is .662; China’s rate is .780

      The US is.855; the UK is .846

      • Hint:
        We added 83 million to the planet last year.
        The population of Germany.

        • Thank you you OLD Guys who are be oming DAD DADS😳🚀😘

    • Younger wives want ‘anchor babies’, not for a passport but the Cash and the old boy is probably amazed he can still achieve it. So funny.

  5. On a roll today! Read about this man a while back…first powetball lottery winner
    Be careful what you wish for…

    https://news.yahoo.com/powerball-winner-scandal-jack-whittaker-171720251.html
    But he quickly fell victim to scandals, lawsuits and personal setbacks as he endured constant requests for money, leaving him unable to trust others. Several times, he was quoted as saying he wished he had torn up the ticket.
    His wife left him. A friend of his drug-addicted granddaughter was found dead at his home in 2004. Three months later, his 17-year-old granddaughter was gone, too.
    His daughter, Ginger Whittaker Bragg, died in 2009 at age 42 after struggling for years with cancer.
    And in 2016, he lost a Virginia home to a fire.
    He struggled with drinking and gambling. His home and car were repeatedly burglarized. At a strip club, thieves broke into his Lincoln Navigator and stole a briefcase stuffed with $245,000 and three $100,000 cashiers’ checks.
    That time, at least, he caught a break — the briefcase was later found, with the money still inside.
    Whittaker was charged twice with driving while under the influence and sued repeatedly, once by three female casino employees who accused him of assault.
    In a 2007 interview with The Associated Press, Whittaker knew his legacy was already written.
    “I’m only going to be remembered as the lunatic who won the lottery,” Whittaker said. “I’m not proud of that. I wanted to be remembered as someone who helped a lot of people.”

    Dead at 72 years old. And won 415 million at age 55

    • Radix malorum est cupiditas. One of the (many) beauties of the Vulgate is its brevity, and those four words say a great deal.

    • Persian proverb: ‘I’ll turn you into a lion, if that’s what you want: but are you ready for all the problems of a lion?’

      • Xabier, if memory of my time in Africa serves, lions have very few problems. The problems are taken care of by the lioness.

  6. “Europe’s businesses are desperately hoping they can save something of the summer holidays as coronavirus infections drop and lockdown measures are loosened across much of the continent…

    “As José Luis Yzuel, who represents an association of Spanish hotels and restaurants, says: “If the tourism industry can recover 50 per cent of last year’s sales that will be a triumph — but then if you compare something with complete annihilation, anything looks good.””

    https://www.ft.com/content/f20f0b0a-200d-40ff-8d26-894dc97dc6c0

  7. “The coronavirus pandemic and the oil price collapse are accelerating the pace of bankruptcy filings in the U.S. shale patch this year. The number of filings had already started to trend up in 2019 after a drop in prices in Q4 2018, but this year, the U.S. energy industry is setting some grim records as indebted cash-strapped producers face a day of reckoning from the borrowing exuberance of the past years.”

    https://www.zerohedge.com/energy/40-oil-isnt-enough-prevent-wave-shale-bankruptcies

    Cheers,
    -GBV

    • I can believe that we will see more shale patch bankruptcies. The question is: After the bankruptcy, with the owner/new owner keep drilling? Someone will lose out on debt, but what else will happen?

      • I was listening to a podcast a few weeks ago – I believe it was a Chris Irons Quoth the Raven podcast, but I can’t remember – where the guest was talking about the restaurant business. I believe he suggested a general rule of thumb in the restaurant industry based on his experience: until a restaurant has gone bankrupt at least three times, it’s probably not profitable. If I remember it correctly, the (general) idea I think he was trying to get at was that the margins that could be made on a restaurant were so low that you had to wait until a restaurant went bust so many times that you could get the building and furniture / equipment / appliances at such a discount that you could actually make a profitable go at running the place.

        Maybe this idea is applicable to some of the bankruptcies we’re seeing today – i.e. after a bankruptcy or two, an investment may finally pan out as the related assets / equipment / land / etc. finally fall to a reasonable enough price that some profit can be made (assuming debt levels are kept low)?

        Cheers,
        -GBV

        • Probably true. When a friend left banking he looked into starting a restaurant in London, aiming to be very good mid-level. But the margins! ‘How do they ever make anything in this business?!’

          The shrinkage in size of portions and rise in cost became noticeable several years ago in London, but take that too far and customers simply feel cheated.

          • Would that mean that if we abolished all debt, prices couldn’t get to the point where three bankruptcies are required for any business to be viable? 🙂

            I don’t know much about it, but I thought I read something somewhere once about St. Thomas Aquinas making usury out to be a big sin in the 13th century… right around the time you had the Dark Ages 😐

            Perhaps debt and balance go hand in hand… too much, or too little, becomes a problem?

            Cheers,
            -GBV

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