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.


*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.




This entry was posted in Financial Implications and tagged , , , , , by Gail Tverberg. Bookmark the permalink.

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?

    • “From Thailand to Kenya and Argentina to Britain, coronavirus lockdowns abruptly left millions of people… unable to earn enough money to feed themselves and their families.

      “This is a new poverty and three months ago it did not exist,” said Angela Frigo, secretary general of the Brussels-based European Food Banks Federation.

      “Due the pandemic and lockdown measures, some persons who had a good or normal financial situation now find themselves in a situation of food insecurity,” said Frigo, whose non-profit works with food banks and organisations in 29 European nations.”

  1. “This period of national crisis has not inspired unity. Americans are aiming their anger at each other, talking past each other, invoking race, class and culture. They cannot even agree on the need to wear a mask to protect against a virus that has killed more than 130,000 Americans.

    These forces are converging as the country hurtles toward a convulsive presidential election.”

    • “New York City, hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, is mired in the worst economic calamity since the financial crisis of the 1970s, when it nearly went bankrupt.

      “The city is staggering toward reopening… Even so, the city’s unemployment rate is hovering near 20 percent — a figure not seen since the Great Depression.”

        • The Greatest Depression in world history is becoming more and more evident. Made possible by “more ons” in charge, who don’t understand the basics on how an eCONomy works.

      • This is what happens when career politicians such as Governor Cuomo decides for everyone that shutting down one of the world’s premier cities doesn’t have any consequences. Only a “more on” wouldn’t see that.

        What’s taking place is with just one lockdown, expect more. It’s becoming painfully obvious that the Deep State in the USSA has decided they want Trump out of Office no matter the casualties, since the Russian Hoax did not work, even if it means bringing on the Greatest Depression. I am not a Trump sympathizer since I did not vote for him because I have never voted and never will.

      • Governor Cuomo made the situation worse by his ban on travelers from a long list of states, with a 14 day quarantine:

        North Carolina
        South Carolina

    • “Americans are aiming their anger at each other…. ”
      Harry, this is just not true. It’s the left which is aiming anger at everything and everyone they can find, lashing out and using the useful idiots to do so. I see little evidence of any anger let alone looting, marching, burning and rioting from the center and the right.

      • john, I agree with you. But one would hardly expect the ultra left Washington Post to tell the truth: that a cabal of Marxist revolutionaries are trying to foment civil war, using black US citizens as mere cannon fodder.

  2. A bus driver in France was declared brain dead on Monday after being attacked for refusing to let passengers on board without face masks, in line with rules imposed to combat coronavirus.

    Can we chalk this one down as another COVID-19-related death?

    A French bus driver attacked over face mask stance is declared brain dead.

    “A police source in Bayonne, near the ritzy Atlantic resort of Biarritz in south-western France, said five people were now in custody over the incident on Sunday evening.

    The source said the driver, in his fifties, tried to prevent a man who was not wearing a face mask from boarding the bus with his dog. The driver also asked four other passengers, who had already mounted the bus without masks, to get off.

    Face masks are mandatory on public transport in France, where the Covid-19 outbreak has claimed nearly 30,000 lives.

    The driver was repeatedly punched in an assault that resulted in a serious head injury, said the source. He was unconscious when he arrived at a hospital, and doctors declared him brain dead on Monday.

    • Five have been arrested. But no pictures of the alleged perps? Odd.

      • If there are no pictures, we know exactly who is not being pictured.

      • in a country where a single truck can run over “286 people”, “killing 84” of them, performing at photofinish without a single drop of blood in sight, why waste your time with photos? L’état profonde there seems to be very active. Psy-ops galore in the last decade. C’est tres jolie.

    • The wearing of masks is definitely controversial. If face shields (with a clear transparent piece of plastic extending down below the chin line) would be acceptable, they might be a compromise. They allow easier breathing and they allow people to see each other, and to talk normally. They are mostly sold to medical places now, and perhaps to the food industry. They can be wiped off with soap and water after use, also.

      • If more people were concerned with improving their own health ( moving away from obese, slothful/sedentary, poor sleep and over-processed “food”) they wouldn’t need to worry about masks or face shields. Strong people are harder to hurt/infect/kill, and are generally more useful.

        We most often get what we focus on, at any rate, so a focus on improving strength/health/robustness seems most wise overall.

        Masks and face shields do not improve health in any way.

      • I don’t think the problem is the cumbersome nature and/or deficiencies of whatever PPE is selected. I think it’s that people don’t like to be told to do things they don’t want to do, especially when they don’t see the benefits (perceived or otherwise) of having to do said thing.

        On top of that, I’m sure some people – myself included – get frustrated by anyone who tries to suggest another person’s decision not to wear PPE in a public place puts their health at risk, as if suddenly everyone else in the world became solely responsible for our personal health & well-being. A bit like peanut allergies I suppose… perhaps we should scour the world for every last peanut and obliterate them from existence, because god forbid someone with a peanut allergy should come in contact with one. Probably should eliminate all bees, cats, dogs, smoke of any kind, and artichoke (my personal allergen-kryptonite) while we’re at it… 😐


        • Good point! My mother had a master’s degree in medical technology. She was convinced that we needed to keep away from germs of all kinds. But that was years ago. Somehow, our thinking needs to evolve.

  3. “Global oil demand could fall by 2.5 million barrels per day as coronavirus cases surge in several countries, including the U.S., according to a new report.

    “If coronavirus-stricken regions impose new restrictions on business and travel, global oil demand could fall to 86.6 million barrels per day, down from the current 89 million barrels per day, a report from Rystad Energy said.”

    • “U.S. crude supply is falling at its quickest pace ever… Weekly U.S. output recently fell to 10.5 million barrels a day, down from a near-record of 13 million barrels a day from late March, government data show.

      “With companies from Chevron Corp. to Continental Resources Inc. shutting in productive wells in response to the coronavirus, the slide marks the biggest 11-week drop on record in figures going back to 1983.”

        • This story is about the impact of the recent court ruling, disallowing the use of one of the pipelines taking oil away from the Bakken. According to the story:

          “This court ruling will create major obstacles for producers in North Dakota, who’ve been struggling to rebound,” said Sandy Fielden, director of research for Morningstar Inc. The buyers of Bakken crude, he said, will simply turn elsewhere for supplies once the pipeline dries up.

          On Monday, a U.S. district court ruled that Energy Transfer LP’s Dakota Access pipeline will have to shut by Aug. 5. If the ruling survives appeals, it would be the first time a major pipeline in service was ordered shut because of environmental concerns. Exactly how long it will be down is unclear — the court has decided it should remain closed until a proper environmental review is complete. That process could extend into 2021.

    • In another example of falling demand, I saw that in Poland production and consumption of electricity for April this year was down 11.55 for production and 9.76 for consumption compared with April 2019. May was down 12.2 for production and 8.25 for consumption.

      • Surely production and consumption of electricity are the same. If there is a difference where does it go?

        • Production decrease in country could be greater than consumption decrease because they also import some from neighboring countries. That was my guess at explaining the difference.

        • There is a lot of importing and exporting of electricity among European countries. Intermittent electricity leads to a lot of shortages and oversupply. Electrical transmission capacity is not necessarily sufficient to do as much swapping of supply as desired. Some countries want to keep out German exports of unwanted electricity because they lead to negative wholesale electricity prices.

    • Actually, the MSN story says that before the big drop in demand in April, global oil demand was 100 million barrels per day. The story is about a double dip forming. After the dip, consumption will be down to 86.6 million barrels per day, or about 13% off of pre-collapse consumption.

  4. “Growth in company profits has slumped in recent times as the worldwide economy has cooled. Investors need to brace themselves for a shocking annual fall in 2020 too as the Covid-19 outbreak weighs, a report shows…

    “According to the asset manager corporate earnings will sink by more than a fifth (22%) year on year…”–janus-henderson/#584666102549

  5. Dmitry Orlov was in a pithy mood in his latest post “Charting the Collapse of the American Empire”.

    He says: ” . . . this empire, just as any other, rests on three pillars: Culture, Ideology and History. Knock out any of these out, and the empire’s collapse becomes likely. Knock out all three, and its collapse is assured. Since the 1970s the US was at the top of their game in all three of these categories; today—not much any more.”

    He asserts that economic damage such as that (self) inflicted by COVID is survivable for an empire, but when belief in the stories at the foundation of a culture are lost, then collapse follows.

    “Public statues that are being toppled in the US right now. Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and many lesser ones are coming down from their pedestals. While they stood, they served as bungs in barrels full of history that was said to be full of heroism and virtue. But what do you think will come pouring out once the bungs are removed?”

    And finally:

    “It may be painful to admit that the American Empire may be collapsing . . . [but] the good news is that, to save yourself the pain, you can always follow contemporary American political tradition and just blame it all on Russia.”

    Question: Who will Putin elect this Nov – Trump or Biden?

    The joke may also be on Australia because we’re 100% a US lapdog politically. E.g. we’re busy screwing up our #1 trading relationship with China with no plan B in sight.

    • “He asserts that economic damage such as that (self) inflicted by COVID is survivable for an empire, but when belief in the stories at the foundation of a culture are lost, then collapse follows.”

      And I would have to disagree with him because the Global eCONomy along with it’s supply chains are highly complex. When they become disrupted bad things happen even to the periphery. Let’s see Russia try and sell oil which it is highly dependent on to customers who no longer need it or have the money to pay for it.

      Let’s see China run its eCONomy with customers who no longer have the money to buy their trinkets. Let’s see China run its eCONomy without oil because production is way, way down, because oil producers are either out of business or find the oil not worth pulling out of the ground because of costs. Orlov, tends to think USA = bad, Russia and China = good.

      • Notwitstanding, Russia has a better survival rate than most countries: big area, vast ressources. Population peaked at 148 M. in 1991. One hundred years before, in 1897, their pop. was ~70 M. USA IOW has ~60 M people in 1890 and 320 M now. Five times more against two times more in Russia. Who’s a shorter way to go?

    • For psychopayhological reasons that perhaps only he could explain, Orlov lives for his anti-American schadenfreude. Don’t anyone let him in on the secret that it’s the whole shebang that is going down, not just the US.

        • It does get tiring and obvious that he hates the West and the good guys are in the East. Yet he lives in a Western Nation.

            • I no longer read Orlov. His anecdotes and attitude were sometimes amusing, but why should I pay money to read recycled stuff from Oswald Spengler, Halford John Mackinder, and others who thought better and wrote better.

      • He turned into a propagandist, it’s really only the old Soviet line about the uniquely corrupt and doomed West.

        A pity, as he wrote some informative stuff in the past.

        • Jason said it best, his thoughts sounds more like sour grapes

  6. An update on China’s woes from Crossroads. Again, impressive flooding images. Bubonic plague makes for eye-catching headlines, but it is easily controlled with antibiotics, for now.

    Bubonic Plague Re-emerges in China; 17.7 Million Impacted by China’s Floods, as Situation Worsens

      • Kim, what changes did you make to your diet to resolve the health issues you mentioned a couple of days ago? Add new food items, remove some, both?

        • There are two intertwined goals to this diet: 1) reduce inflammation and 2) improve digestion. They are two sides of the same coin.

          1) Reduce inflammation and improve the state of the intestinal biome. So that basically means resolving leaky gut and stocking the intestine with good bacteria.

          Key points:
          – Eat little to nothing that comes in a packet, jar, etc. There are exceptions of course but you have to be careful.

          – Low carb. This doesn’t mean no carb, but my diet revolves around steamed vegetables, lots of green leafy and and orange vegetables. I am not a nutcase about it but I stay away from high glycemic vegetables like potatoes and so on. Do not eat corn. Most corn is GMO and very suspect wrt leaky gut. I eat avocadoes in season. They are great.

          No wheat. No rice. And so on. That is, no grains. This is the hard part for most people, I think.

          Remember that bad bacteria in your intestines thrive on carbs.

          Fruit? I do eat some fruit, in particular papaya, pineapple and mango (occasionally and in season), but papaya and pineapple are rich in papeine and protease, which are digestive enzyme. Still, you have to be aware that they are high glycemic, so you can’t overdose.
          The overall point, especaily wrt carbs, is to have a steady insulin level throughout the day with no big spiking. High insulin means low cortisol and low testosterone. That is not good for body repair. In this connection, also do not eat two hours before dinner as that will spike insulin and lower cortisol. You need the cortisol to be operating as long as possible while you sleep, for body repair.

          Alcohol? I have a drink a couple of times a year.

          Don’t smoke.

          – Adequate protein. So anything you want but personally I eat plenty of fish. I tend to cook things in advance and put them in the fridge so I always have a few different meals to choose from to go with my veges. I also eat eggs, beef, liver ( you can just par-boil it and keep it in the fridge then slice it into all kinds of things you are knocking up), whatever

          – No dairy. I am not against it except that modern milk is not remotely like real milk, which I love, I have a guy here who can give me raw milk. My God, it is heavenly, but it is at least 30% fat. I would end up like Old King Cole if I drank it daily. Modern milk is just all carbs. Diabetes fuel.

          – No legumes (e.g. peas, garbanzo beans, peanuts) and nuts unless they are fermented. So, soy sauce is usually fine because it is fermented. Soy products like tofu are usually fine because they are usually fermented. Fermentation stops the soy from being estrogenic. We don’t want more estrogen. We already have plenty from plastics, from being overweight, etc.

          – Get most of your calories from fats and oils. But make sure the oils are good. Do not use modern factory seed oils like canaola or safflower or corn oil or peanut oil. I use only palm oil (cheap and tastes good) or coconut oil which is easy to get here and i like the taste. Olive oil is fine of course (if it is not a Mafia fake product).

          Lard is great, even though people don’t cook with it any more. My mom used to save the lard from the lamb roast and cook with it. Everyone used to. It is as healthy for you as can be. Enjoy the fat on your steak. It is the best part.

          Make soups with a nice sheen of marrow from the cow’s shin. Mmm mm.

          – Must, must, must eat sauerkraut or similar (like kim che) every day. Home make sauerkraut. Easy and delicious. Sip the juice if you like. I make it with some grated fresh turmeric and eat it as a vegetable with my meals. It is probiotic of course and will help your system build up its good bacteria and crowd out bad bacteria.

          – I do take vitamin C daily. I get adequate sun – D3 is linked to digestive health too – but if I am not getting enough sun for whatever reason I take a D3 supplement. Adequate D3 is needed for good sleep. Good sleep is needed for body repair.

          2) Improve digestion: specifically restore proper levels of hydrochloric acid (HCl) to the stomach and – a downstream result of that,- increase the production of protein and fat-processing enzymes.

          A very common problem many people have, especially as they age, is low or weak stomach acid. Our stomach acid is a first line of defense against all kinds of hostile microbes entering our systems and of course it is involved in adequate digestion. We don’t want poorly-digested food entering our intestines as that can lead to leaky gut (undigested proteins penetrating the intestinal wall and provoking auto-immune reponses, possibly leading to chronic inflammation).

          So, first thing, no coffee. Coffee is alkaline. We want to have an acid stomach. This was very hard for me as I was a big coffee drinker, but it definitely worked. I still miss coffee.

          If you have a chronic long term problem with low stomach acid (indigestion), you might try a course of Betain HCl. It is an over the counter product. You take it before meals as a digestive assistant. You start with a higher dose and over a few weeks reduce it. Our bodies recycle HCl, so over the course of a few weeks your stomach acid levels will improve as yu retain the HCl and you will no longer need the Betain HCl.

          Low stomach acid leads to low enzyme production. Enzymes for digesting fats and proteins are produced in the gall bladder in response to the stimulus of increasing HCl levels in the stomach. You get hungry, HCl levels rise, this rise signals the gall bladder to produce enzymes.

          A great way to supplement and stimulate enzyme production is to eat papaya seed. Papaya seed is chock full of papeine, the enzyme used in meat tenderizing. Fresh seed is best but dried is okay too. This stuff works like a charm. Buy a papaya, scoop out the seeds, dry in the sun if yu want to keep them. Modern papyas from Hawaii and California are GMO. I do not know whether that is a problem. Maybe not.

          Also, don’t graze all day. Give the system a rest. Let your insulin drop back and flatline. Eat just once or twice a day. You might like to research a little on “intermittent fasting”.

          Anyway, the emphasis on HCl and enzymes is important because the goal is to reduce inflammation and you can’t do that if you have leaky gut and undigested rogue proteins are penetrating your gut wall and entering the bloodstream. We have to have good, thorough digestion.

          Finally, if you do have intestine wall damage, you can help repair it by consuming twice a day 5 grams of the amino acid L-glutamine. You don’t have to keep this up. Just do it until you heal. It really does work.

          So that’s about it. Probably more than you expected, but I hope it helps.

          • “do not eat two hours before dinner”

            Sorry. I mean “two hours before sleep”

          • Like a lot of US people, I had my gall bladder taken out quite a few years ago. (It wasn’t even causing a problem. Some doctor saw something he thought looked abnormal on an image of some kind, and told me that I should have it taken out. Might be pre-cancerous, he claimed.) I wonder whether being without a gall bladder reduces my ability to digest fats. I tend to eat a fairly low-fat diet, and I don’t seem to have a problem.

            • A lot of people who have the gall bladder removed will supplement with Ox Bile tablets or similar. But why remove the gall bladder? Who knows? I don’t know why doctors do a lot of the things they do.

              As to your eating a low fat diet and having no problems, I expect that you would need an enzyme supplement if you were to eat a fattier or more high protein diet. Fats and proteins don’t digest themselves.

              But as always, if you are having no problems, then there is probably no reason to mess with things. Some people get sick easily. Other people just have the constitution of a mules. Just seems to be how it goes.

          • I agree with the health benefits of most of your recommendations. Though, I still consume a significant amount of grains in my home made and 100% whole grain sourdough bread. Sour dough fermentation enables your digestion to absorb the plentiful minerals in the whole grains, it also turns the bread into a much more easy to digest product. Gluten is partly to almost fully broken down for instance. Sour dough breads are also more delicious and quicker no bake than ordinary breads, a couple of minutes of work for each bread to mix the ingredients. No kneading. Of course you have to wait a day or two in order for it to ferment (depending on the level of sourness you wish).

            Cooked potatoes are not that bad. I always consume them unpeeled, many nutrients in the peel, similar to grains. White rice and sifted wheat flour are much worse than potatoes.

            Dairy products seems good except for the processed low fat milk. Butter is an excellent fat, tasty on sour dough bread.

            Beside eating decently, training and fasting are important contributors to health. I indulge in intermittent fating most of the days, only eat within a 6-7 hour time span. Feel energized from it, even when doing forestry work at home. Of social reasons I sometimes consume breakfast, no need to fast every day.

            • Interesting. I’ve never felt ‘energised’ from fasting, although people do refer to it as a common experience. My clarity of thought is pretty high anyway, and energy levels.

          • Right about lard, the traditional fat, of course, for frying an English breakfast, roast potatoes, batter pudding – simply delicious stuff!

            And in this climate you could rub yourself down with it for the winter.

          • Thanks for the detailed reply. Plenty for me to chew on, so to speak. Most of the foods you suggest I already eat, and like. GMOs I try and avoid like the plague, I think they are uncommon in the UK, but you never know. I have read that although you don’t get gmo milk here (whatever that means), the animals can be fed on gmo grains from abroad, so I usually buy organic. One of the few products where there is not a big premium for buying organic.

          • Very close to Dr Gundry’s “Plant Paradox” diet (no processed food, no grains or animals fed on grains, no legumes, no nightshades, no vegetable oils, no dairy from northern European cattle). Dr Gundry also emphasises the importance of a healthy gut biome and the prevention of leaky gut. Perhaps the main difference is Gundry recommends olive oil for cooking rather than animal fats.

            You were on your diet long before Dr Gundry’s book came out. How did you find out about healthy eating? The only thing I can remember being taught about a healthy diet in my school biology classes is our teacher telling us fish and chips is a well balanced meal!

    • The first part of the video talks about the floods and other natural disasters affecting China.

      The latter part of the video is about how China manipulates world thinking through its influence of the stories news reporters write. It does a lot of influence peddling, by building mansions for leaders of underdeveloped countries, and bribing them with projects.

      One thing the latter part of the video mentions is that the EU is resuming air flights to China, but not to the US or Taiwan.

    • The weather section on the BBC’s website often does special videos on areas of the globe that are experiencing weather extremes. At the moment there is a video re India and Bangladesh, and another on Japan.The country that lies in-between, China, is missing. Oddly it gets a passing mention at the end of the Japan video. 200-300 mm of rain over the next 5 days. The same weather system is affecting China and Japan. Not sure that you can see this video outside of the UK.

      Japan expects more rain after weekend of flooding [plus China] (06/07/20202)

      • I could see the video. The amount of rain that China has been getting is simply amazing. The fact that it is supposed to continue is even more amazing.

        It would seem like such a huge amount of rain would have an adverse impact on crops, even apart from the flooding. Of course, the northern part of China always seems to be quite dry. We don’t know whether that is continuing.

        • Northern China is in for a dousing, too:

          As downpours continue to batter vast stretches of China, especially areas in the south, leaving at least 121 people missing or dead, forecasters have warned of a grim flood control situation in the north, which hasn’t seen major floods for years, from precipitation that is expected to be much heavier than normal.”

  7. Dear Gail,
    with the huge amount of money created by the Fed and ECB, could it be that the plan would just be destroying the dollar and euro (and any fiat money) to create a new crypto-currency?
    This was said in february by Lael Brainard “The prospect for rapid adoption of global stablecoin payment systems has intensified calls for central banks to issue digital currencies in order to maintain the sovereign currency as the anchor of the nation’s payment systems”
    full speech here:

    • I don’t think cryptocurrencies really work because, as i understand it, they rely on electricity to do computations to generate them. We can’t keep wasting electricity on this kind of activity. Electricity isn’t here for the long term either.

      Money of any kind cannot work across country boundaries very well, either. Relativities need to keep changing. This is a big problem with the Euro. The southern countries in the group need a lower relativity relative to the northern countries than they currently have. (In fact, pretty much all of the countries are doing poorly, even Germany.)

      • I do fondly remember the days of the Greek Drachma which without failure would devalue every year against Sterling to compensate for the price inflation of things we tourists bought. As soon as they entered the Euro all that changed, prices unfortunately kept going up and things eventually got too expensive for us to afford going there on holiday. Never been back since.

        • Not only have they really messed things up economically by joining the Euro, they threw away centuries of progress towards settled, localized cultures and more devolved, self-governing power.

          The Greeks threw off their dynasts – the Ottomans and their satraps -in the 1820s only to then have the same system reimposed on them by the EU. It has been the same all over Europe, in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, in Italy and Germany – two centuries of trying to throw off the dynastic and imperial powers (including the Soviet powers) and then being caught in the net again. There had been so much progress for the people to free themselves from enslavement to the old centralized model of dynastic empires under the Windsors, Hohenzollerns, Romanovs, Habsburgs, Ottomans, etc, with their satrapies and exploitation and neglect of the periphery.

          Even more for Greece, what was the point of the population exchange of 1921 (The Treaty of Lausanne) that swapped 1.4 million of the people of Turkey and Greece, if less than a century later Greece once again found herself powerless under the governance of the banker representatives of a centralized empire and being forced to reintegrate with the Ottoman Empire redux and Islam via mass immigration?

          A few of things we know about the dynasts (globalists, imperialists): they take a very long view of history, they do not like the nation state (less power for them), and they are utterly determined to reverse and overthrow it.

          Oh, and most of our leaders are on the side of our enemies.

          • Kim, much of this was foreshadowed over a hundred years ago, in a very long epic drama by Thomas Hardy, called, I kid you not, “The Dynasts”.

      • “Electricity isn’t here for the long term either”
        I tend to disagree because electricity may remain as the only affordable energy in the future and this is the only way to control people with all the data it can provide through mobile phones, for exemple. I take the bet!

        • The prices we pay for electricity are not high enough to keep the whole supply chain in place to obtain the electricity we need. Parts of the supply chain will at some point break.

          The subsidies given to wind and solar are a big part of the problem. Because of their intermittency, their value to the electricity system is very low. Yet, they are given priority on the grid. When they are available, the price of electricity for other providers drops very low or even negative. This drives all kinds of other providers out of business. Nuclear power, which has historically been a much bigger source of low-carbon electricity than wind and solar, is driven out of business, unless the companies get local subsidies. Wholesale electricity prices are too low for other fuels are too low as well. These leads to closed coal mines and less drilling for natural gas. Fires under electrical transmission lines get to be an increasing problem.

          At some point, the electrical system will stop functioning. In fact, pieces may stop functioning sooner. California had outages and fires last year. Venezuela was in the paper for its outages too. These, too, were related to fires set by transmission lines. Getting these fixed and keeping them fixed, is a huge issue.

          • Perhaps when the grid goes down we will see pockets of semi-modern life continue near hydro-electric dams and, perhaps, near large solar and wind farms (those that can be kept in service post-collapse, at least for awhile, anyway)?


          • I live in France in an area where we have a nuclear plant and a lot of hydroelectricity. We do not depend here on renewable or fossil energies to produce electricity. I guess this is more resilient than most areas in the world.

            • The parts and other inputs to keep that nuclear plant going probably rely on a lot of fossil fuels (and a JIT delivery system) though…


        • Thierry, try moving to parts of Puerto Rico which are now dark, due to their electric utility being bankrupt, even before hurricanes destroyed most of the grid. Explain why the largest electric utility in California, supposedly one of the richest nations in the world, has declared bankruptcy multiple times, and cannot afford to maintain the grid. Try moving to those areas where your house will go dark regularly, then permanently.
          The truth is that grid operators will increasingly lose money, cut corners, and let the grid fall into disrepair.
          Go to parts of the Mideast, that have blackouts every day.
          Our civilization is based on electrification and as Gail has so well explained, we are killing our grids by forcing solar and wind on them.
          You are not immune, even though you are presently near a functioning nuclear reactor.

      • Actually, the whole idea of cryptocurrency stays in line with de-complexification progress. It allows to process and register transactions in ‘cheaper’ (energy-wise) model. Block-chain / DLT solutions allow to get rid of complex, centrilized, prone to hacking systems. It might consume more energy in terms of IT system operation, but it offers much more savings (in terms of people and infrastructure) in maintenance and especially in IT security area.
        IMO the concept of ‘cashless society’ will be required to:
        a/ control interest rates – including negative values to support consumption,
        b/ control money flows and eliminate grey/black zones of the economy.


      • Gail, if cryptocurrencies don’t work because they rely on electricity, then nor do millions of other things….like electric lights, cars, dishwashers, you name it. Or the Internet.

        On the contrary, cryptocurrencies are incredibly smart and useful. They are

        And distributed…ie, not controlled by any central authority.

        In these three respects they mimic the design of nature. You find trees everywhere – they’re global. They need nobody’s permission to grow – they’re permissionless. And they’re not centrally controlled by anyone or anything.

        So you can send money with a cryptocurrency anywhere in the world without having to ask anyone’s permission. Also, there are many cryptos that will do this at zero cost. And there are many that will do it anonymously too – just as a cash transaction is anonymous.

        But there’s much more. They are programmable too, so that payment is irreversible once certain conditions are met, eg, your goods are shipped.

        Finally, they are recorded in an encrypted ledger thatq cannot be hacked. And they can’t be created out of thin air either.

        Their only problem is that the establishment in all its forms hates them because they disintermediate the establishment. You no longer need banks, insurance companies, all manner of middle men and regulations, governments even.

  8. Economics, money, and rule of law in my opinion have now been relegated to the dustbin of useless thought experiments, now that the specters of true energy costs, resource depletion, population demographics, and wild out of this world money printing have emerged.
    At some point, it will dawn on people that fiat currencies of the world are meaningless and worthless, just like the imaginary monopoly game money.
    People then will flock to “own” hard assets. So then what will be the new certificate of “ownership” in this new scheme? Stock certificates? I am not sure these haven’t been rehypothecated by Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation (DTCC), so if you don’t own the actual stock certificate issued by the corporation, you may be out of luck, just as you would be if you suddenly want to exchange your paper gold for physical. You own a certificate in a pool of non -allocated certificates.
    The implication is a breakdown in rule of law that follows. How do you “prove” you own your farmland? A deed locked up in the court house? Yet another piece of paper.
    My surgeon colleague whose family immigrated from Cuba at the onset of Castro’s regime related to me how the government officials just showed up at the door one morning. Suddenly his house, the family warehouse distribution business, and the building had become government property. This, like your bail-in-able bank accounts, belong to the bank or the government. Even the US government has issued under an Obama executive order that in the event of an emergency, the government can commandeer private property, and more.
    Maybe Mao? was right- justice comes at the barrel of a gun- and it really depends which side of the barrel you are on.

    • In a state of emergency you don’t own even your own skin, it’s always been so.

    • “My surgeon colleague whose family immigrated from Cuba at the onset of Castro’s regime related to me how the government officials just showed up at the door one morning. Suddenly his house, the family warehouse distribution business, and the building had become government property.”

      I came to a similar realization after hearing about local government officials ordering businesses to shut down indefinitely, and with no “relief” which guarantees that business will go bankrupt in a couple months. Most businesses don’t have a year’s worth of revenue in savings. Co vid gives governments the precedent to seize property at will. This does not bother socialists or Communists because they are hoping it will only be the rich, “The Man” or some other privileged group who will be deprived of their wealth and will be redistributed to them. Unfortunately, that’s not how things work out. Governments don’t only turn to the rich for money and resources, like physical land if they want to take some.

      ” Even the US government has issued under an Obama executive order that in the event of an emergency, the government can commandeer private property,” I thought the U.S. government could already do that in times of war. Since September 2001, the U.S. has two long emergencies… and since then Those Who Will Not Be Named have been chipping away at Constitutional Rights. It’s not Safe. Now, hand over the car keys, before you hurt someone. Self driving cars are safer.

      • Castro died of old age.
        Batista was so bad, Castro and Che just walked into power.
        A little conservative for my taste.

      • Yes, these Covid shut-downs are clearly a government taking. I tried to talk to a local rep. about this and got no traction at all. I don’t have a business any longer, but if I did, I would be up at the State House screaming every g-d day.

    • Might makes right. But I assume that some forms of might are better evolved toward compassion and commonsense than others.

    • You cannot count on having anything permanently. Government can take it away. Bandits can take it away. Protester can burn what you have down. You can lose the electricity, sewage disposal and fresh water that you are accustomed to, making your home no longer useful where it is, especially if no food is available either.

      • Reminds me of a saying somebody once said:

        “Two is one and one is none”
        – Somebody


        • When stocking essential goods and tools, the saying is:

          ‘Three is two, two is one, and one is none’. If you only have one of something, one loss of breakage is a potential disaster.

          This is probably why I have such a large collection of axes (OK, I just love axes) lamps, work tools, boots, stoves…….

          I’m working on two or three wives, in order to have a spare on hand at all times, but that’s not an easy purchase -at the moment.

          • Multiple wives seems like a good idea at first, until you consider the idea of her having multiple husbands…

            But hey, who am I to say polyamory is wrong? 🙂


      • That is also true of life itself. Stuff has two parts, acquiring and then maintenance, maintenance of all sorts.The more you have, the greater the maintenance.

        Reminds me of a patient who when I inquired how she was doing gave the reply, “Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance.”

        This damn virus has taken away real social interaction, confusing facts regarding the disease make socializing a throw of the dice, a sneeze at the wrong time can take it away.

        If you have the aptitude for it, what can be kept is what is between one’s ears, it is portable and with a bit of luck grows until a person’s death. The only way to have it taken from you is to lose life itself, and then who knows?

        All the best,

        Dennis L.

        • Exactly so, Denis.

          ‘You only truly possess what you would not lose in a shipwreck.’ Persian proverb.

      • That’s if you assume ownership of anything to start with. Maybe Dennis is right: maintenance, maintenance, maintenance is all there should be. Maintenance of relationships, communities and systems that work, included. I understand that a portion of the San people in the SA desert have been there since the dawn of the modern human. I’m sure they never looked at possessions the way we do.

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