Reaching the End of Early Stimulus – What’s Ahead?

Many people thought that COVID-19 would be gone with a short shutdown. They also thought that the world’s economic problems could be cured with a six month “dose” of stimulus.

It is increasingly clear that neither of these assumptions is correct. Despite the claims of epidemiologists, our best efforts have never been able to reduce the number of newly reported COVID-19 cases for the world as a whole for any significant period of time. In fact, the latest week seems to be the highest week so far.

Figure 1. Chart of worldwide COVID-19 new cases, in chart prepared by Worldometer with data through September 20, 2020.

At the same time, the economy, despite all of the stimulus, is not doing very well. Airlines are doing very poorly. The parts of the economy that are dependent upon tourism are having huge problems. This reduces the “upside” of economic recovery, pretty much everywhere, until it can be corrected.

Another part of the world economy doing poorly is clothing sales. For example, many fewer people are attending concerts, weddings, funerals, out-of-town business meetings and conventions, leading to a need for fewer “dressy” clothes. Also, with air travel greatly reduced, people don’t need new clothing for visiting places with different climates, either. Most clothing is bought by people from rich countries but made by people in poor countries. This cutback in clothing purchases disproportionately affects people who are already very poor. The loss of jobs in these countries may lead to an inability to afford food, for those who are laid off.

Besides these difficult to solve problems, initial programs set up to help mitigate job losses are running out. What kinds of things might governments do, if they are running short of borrowing capacity, and medical solutions still seem to be far away?

In Section A of this post, I outline what I see as some approaches that governments might take to try to “kick the can down the road” a while longer, as well as some general trends regarding near term outcomes.

In Section B, I explain how our current problems seem to be related to the more general “overshoot and collapse” problems of many prior economies. I show that historically, these overshoot and collapse situations seem to have played out over a number of years. In many ways, the outcome might look more like “overshoot and decline” than “overshoot and collapse” from the point of view of an observer at the time.

In Section C, I explain two different types of “breakage” we can expect going forward, if we are really dealing with an overshoot and collapse situation. In the first, oil production is likely to fall because of the collapse of some of the governments of oil exporters. In the second, the international trade system breaks down because of problems with the financial system and countries no longer trusting each other’s currencies.

[A] Ideas for “Sort of” Addressing the Economic Problems at Hand 

The following are a few ideas regarding possible mitigation approaches, and the expected results of these attempted solutions:

[1] Programs to keep citizens in their homes will likely be extended. Mortgage repayment programs will be extended. Renters will be allowed to stay where they are, even if they cannot afford the rent.

[2] New programs may be added, allowing those without adequate income to pay for electricity, heat, water and sewer connections. These programs may be debt-based. For example, homeowners and renters may be given loans to pay for these programs, with the hope that eventually the economy will bounce back, and the loans can be repaid.

[3] More food bank programs will be added, with governments buying food from farmers and donating it to food banks. There is even an outside chance that people will be given loans so that they can “buy” food from the food bank, with the hope that they can someday repay the loans. All of these loan-based programs will appear to be “cost free” to the government, since “certainly” the crisis will go away, and borrowers will be able to repay the loans.

[4] Loans to students will increasingly be put in forbearance, to be repaid when the crisis is over. Auto loans and credit card debt may be also be put into forbearance, if the person with the debt has inadequate income.

[5] Even with all of these actions, families will tend to move back together into a smaller total number of residences. This will happen partly because citizens won’t want to be burdened with even more debt, if they can avoid it. Also, older citizens won’t want to move into facilities offering care for the elderly because they know that COVID restrictions may limit with whom they can have contact. They will much prefer moving in with a relative, if anyone will take them in return for a suitable monthly payment.

[6] As extended families move in together, the total number of housing units required will tend to fall. Prices of homes will tend to fall, especially in areas where citizens no longer want to live. Governments will encourage banks and other mortgage holders to look the other way as prices fall, but as homes are sold, this will be increasingly difficult to do. In many cases, when homes are sold, the selling prices will fall below the balance of the debt outstanding. Governments will pass laws not allowing financial institutions to try to obtain the shortfall from citizens, at least until the crisis is over.

[7] Some businesses, such as restaurants without enough patrons and colleges without enough students, will need to close. Clothing stores without enough sales will also need to close, as will retirement homes without enough residents. All of these closures will lead to a huge amount of excess commercial space. It will also lead to the loss of more jobs, raising the number of unemployed people.

With these closed businesses, the price of commercial real estate will tend to fall. Lenders will be encouraged to “extend the loans” and “pretend that asset prices will soon recover,” when renewing loans. Even this approach won’t be enough in many cases, as businesses file for bankruptcy.

[8] With fewer residences and business properties occupied, the amount of electricity required will fall. Wholesale prices for electricity will tend to fall, pushing ever more fossil fuel and nuclear electricity providers out of business. Electricity outages will become an increasing problem, as renewables become a larger share of the electricity mix and are unable to increase supply when needed. Rolling outages will become more common.

[9] Pensions of all kinds will become more difficult to pay. Government programs, such as Social Security in the US, will have less revenue to pay pensions. There are funds set aside in the Social Security Trust Fund to cover a shortfall in funding, but these funds are simply non-marketable US government debt. In theory, the US government could add more debt to the Trust Fund and make payments on the basis of this added debt. Otherwise, the US will likely need to either raise taxes or increase the “regular” government debt level, in order to continue to pay Social Security pensions as planned.

Private pensions, backed by bonds and shares of stock (and perhaps other assets), will find the values of their available assets are falling. Governments, if they are able to, will try to hide this problem. For example, regulators may develop a new way to value assets, so as to make pension funding shortfalls mostly disappear.

In the case of pension bankruptcy, government insurance is often theoretically available. In the US, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation provides coverage; other countries may have similar programs. Unfortunately, this program is not set up to handle a large influx of new bankrupt plans, without raising taxes. The problem then will be raising taxes enough so that one year’s pension benefits can be paid, pushing the problem down the road a bit longer.

Bank accounts have similar guarantees, with similar funding problems. The guarantee organization has very little funds available, without raising taxes or somehow increasing debt.

[10] Stock market prices will tend to fall, leading those who have purchased shares using debt to want to sell quickly, pushing the stock market down further. Currency relativities will fluctuate wildly. Derivatives of many kinds will encounter payment problems. Many ETFs likely won’t work as planned. Governments will try to figure out ways to somehow mitigate these problems to the extent possible. For example, stock markets may be closed for a time to hide the problems. Or, additional time may be given to settle purchases, so that perhaps the deficiencies can be corrected. Eventually, some banks may be taken over by governments, to assure the operation of the parts deemed essential.

[11] Eventually, governments may find it necessary to nationalize a wide range of essential businesses. These could range from trucking companies to banks to oil companies to electricity transmission repair companies. If the balance sheets of these companies are too bad, governments may simply stop publishing them.

[12] These types of actions will mostly be available to “rich” countries. Poor countries can tap their “rainy day” funds, but these will soon be exhausted. In this case, poor countries will find that there is little they can do unless international organizations bail them out. Because of cutbacks in tourism and in orders of finished goods, such as clothing, these countries are likely to encounter high levels of unemployment. Without aid, the poorer citizens of these countries will find it impossible to afford an adequate diet. With inadequate nutrition, the health of low income citizens will decline, and they will easily succumb to communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria. Death rates are likely to skyrocket.

[B] What Happens When an Economy Outgrows Its Resources? 

Most people think that the issue we are dealing with is a temporary problem associated with a new coronavirus. I think that we are dealing with a much worse problem: The world’s population has outgrown the world’s resource limits. This is why our current problems look so difficult to solve from a financial point of view. This is part of the reason many people feel that shutting down the economy for COVID-19 is a good choice. There are really many reasons for the shutdowns, besides preventing the spread of COVID-19: Keeping people inside stops the many protests related to low wages. The shutdowns appear to restore order to a troubled system. Broken supply lines from shutdowns elsewhere reduce raw materials availability, making it more difficult to keep production in one part of the world operating, when others are closed.

Overshoot and collapse is a problem that many smaller economies have encountered over the years. If I am right that we are now encountering a similar situation, there is a big change ahead. The change will not be instantaneous, however. The big question that arises is, “Over what time scale does such a collapse take place?” If it takes place over a number of years, it may look more like “overshoot and decline” than “overshoot and collapse” to those who are living through the era.

A recent partial collapse was that of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Soviet Union was an oil exporter. Oil prices had hit a high in 1981 and had been declining for 10 years when the Soviet Union collapsed. With low oil prices, it had been difficult to earn enough revenue to reinvest in new oil fields to replace the production that naturally declines as oil is extracted. Oil, directly and indirectly, had provided many jobs for the Soviet Union. After ten years of stress, the central government of the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Low oil prices first slowed production growth between 1982 and 1987 (Figure 2). Oil production began to decline in 1988, three years before the government collapsed. Production gradually rose again in the early 2000s, as oil prices rose again.

Figure 2. Oil production and price of the former Soviet Union (FSU), based on BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy 2015.

What was surprising to me was the fact that consumption of all types of energy by the Soviet Union fell at the time of the central government collapse in 1991, even hydroelectric. The overall level of energy consumption never bounced back to its previous level.

Figure 3. Former Soviet Union energy consumption by fuel, based on data of BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy 2018.

What happened was that many inefficient industries were forced to close. Some of these industries were in the Ukraine; others were in Russia and elsewhere. As they closed, less electricity and less oil and gas were used.

The loss in energy consumption was pretty much permanent. The manufacturing that left the Soviet Union was replaced by other, more efficient, manufacturing elsewhere. Also, without their previous manufacturing jobs, the people of the former Soviet Union were poorer. They could not afford to buy cars and homes, keeping fuel consumption lower.

Another indicator regarding the speed of collapses is the analysis done by researchers Peter Turchin and Sergey Nefedov, regarding collapses of eight agricultural economies from earlier periods. I compiled the information they provided in the book Secular Cycles in the chart shown in Figure 4. In the cycles they analyzed, the “crisis period” seemed to last 20 to 50 years. One thing that is striking in their analysis is that epidemics often played a major role in the declines. As wage disparity grew, poorer workers ate less well. They became more vulnerable to epidemics and often died.

Figure 4. Chart by author based on information provided in Turchin and Nefedov’s book, Secular Cycles.

In these early cycles, the major industry was farming. These collapses were in the days before electricity use. In these situations, collapses tended to play out over 20 to 50 years. Our more modern economy, with its just-in-time supply lines, would seem likely to collapse more quickly, but we can’t know for certain. This analysis is thus another data point that suggests that what may be ahead could be closer to “overshoot and decline” than “overshoot and collapse.”

[C] What May Be Ahead

[1] We are likely to experience the collapse of central governments of several of the oil exporting nations, in a manner not entirely different from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Oil prices have been low for a very long time, since 2008, or at least since 2014.

Figure 5. Weekly average spot oil prices for Brent, based on data of the US Energy Information Administration.

Most OPEC oil producers seem to require prices in the $100+ per barrel range in order to be able to fund the programs their people expect (Figure 6). One important program provides subsidies for imported food; other programs provide jobs. Without these programs, revolutions to overthrow the current leaders seem much more likely.

Figure 6. Estimate of OPEC break-even oil prices, including tax requirements by parent countries, from APICORP. Figure is from 2014.

At this point, oil prices have been below $100 per barrel since 2014, a period of 6 years (Figure 5). Stress is increasing; OPEC producers have cut production in an attempt to try to get prices up. Prices are now in the low $40s.

We should not be surprised if, over the next few years, oil production starts to fall in several areas around the world because of internal problems. Another possible impetus for the drop in production may be wars with other nations. Some such wars might be started simply to try to get the price of oil up to a more acceptable level.

We have been falsely led to believe that oil is not important; renewables can handle our needs in the future. In fact, oil is essential for today’s farming. It is essential for transportation of goods and services of all kinds. It is essential for the construction industry and for mining. Researchers in academic institutions have received grants, encouraging them to put together models regarding what could be ahead. These models tend to be extremely unrealistic.

One of the most absurd models is by Mark Jacobson. He claims that by 2050, the world economy can operate almost entirely using wind, solar, and hydroelectric. Unfortunately, we don’t have until 2050; world oil, coal, and natural gas supplies look likely to decline in the 2020 to 2025 timeframe because of low prices. Another problem with this approach is that there is not very much fossil fuel to extract, because most of what appears to be available from resource studies cannot really be extracted at the low prices set by physics. 

The underlying problem is confusion about which direction prices go, as an economy reaches limits. Economists assume that scarcity will cause prices to rise; the real story is that fossil fuel prices are set by the laws for physics because the economy is a dissipative structure. As the economy approaches limits, prices tend to fall too low for producers, rather than rise too high for consumers.The sad truth is that we can’t even count on the continued extraction of the small amount of fossil fuels that Jacobson assumes will exist after 2050.

[2] We are likely to see a huge change in the international financial system and in the international trade system in the next few years. 

As long as there were plenty of resources, relative to the world population, the optimal approach was to do as much international trade as possible. This approach would maximize world GDP. It would also add jobs in developing areas of the world without too huge an impact on job availability in the countries moving their manufacturing to lower-cost areas.

In the last few years, it has become increasingly evident that there aren’t enough jobs that pay well to go around. This is really the underlying problem with respect to the increased hostility among nations, such as between the US and China. Tariffs are being used to try to bring jobs that pay well back to those who need them. Strange as it may seem, it takes fossil fuels to create jobs that pay well.

Figure 7. World Trade as a percentage of GDP, based on data of the World Bank.

Figure 7 shows that international trade was rising as a percentage of GDP for many years, and it hit a high point in 2008. Since then it has bounced around a little below that high point. In 2020, it will clearly take a big step down because of all of the cancellation of trade related to COVID-19 restrictions.

We saw earlier that commodity prices tend to fall too low for producers. Indirectly, this means that profits tend to fall too low. Interest rates tend to follow these low profits down, since businesses cannot afford to pay high interest rates.

With these low profits and low wages, the financial system gets strained. “Debt and more debt” seems to be the way to fix the system. Growing debt at ever-lower interest rates is encouraged. These low interest rates tend to raise asset prices because monthly payments to buy these assets fall with the falling interest rates. Stock markets tend to rise, even when the economy is doing poorly.

If the many strange approaches I outlined in Section A are used to add even more debt to keep the system afloat, eventually some part of the system is going to “break.” For example, banks will stop issuing letters of credit with respect to purchases made by buyers that don’t seem sufficiently creditworthy. Banks may stop trusting other banks, especially if the banks do not really seem to be solvent. At some point, the international financial system seems likely to start “coming apart.” Eventually, the US dollar will stop being the world’s reserve currency.

My guess is that a new two currency system will develop. Governments will issue a lot of currency for local use. It will not be useful for buying goods from other countries. Much of it will be used for buying locally produced food and other locally produced goods.

Very little international trade will be done. Any international trade that will be done will occur between trusted partners, at agreed upon exchange rates. Perhaps a special currency will be used for this purpose.

In this new world, individual countries will be very much on their own. With very little fossil fuel, countries will tend to lose electricity availability very quickly. Transmission lines will go unrepaired. It will become impossible to fix existing wind turbines. Road repair will become impossible. Electric cars will likely be as unusable as gasoline powered ones.

There will likely be fighting about resources that are available, leading to countries subdividing into smaller and smaller units, hoarding what little resources they have available.

Note:

1Energy prices tend to fall too low because, as the economy gets more complex, wage and wealth disparity tend to grow, reflecting differences in training and responsibility. The problem occurs because low-paid workers cannot afford to buy very large quantities of goods and services produced by the economy. For example, many cannot afford a car or a home of their own. The spending of high-paid workers does not offset the loss of demand by low-paid workers because high-paid workers tend to spend their wages more on services, such as advanced education, which require proportionately less energy consumption. Ultimately, the lack of demand by low-paid workers tends to pull down the prices of oil and other commodities below the level required by producers.

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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.

2,450 thoughts on “Reaching the End of Early Stimulus – What’s Ahead?

  1. “Thousands of [UK] horses are at risk of being abandoned because of the economic downturn predicted due to Covid-19, the CEO of the RSPCA has said as he encouraged those with money and land to adopt a pony.

    “During the ‘equine crisis’ caused by the 2008 recession, the number of horses in care of the charity increased threefold. As the economic crisis hits, along with predicted cold weather, flooding and a potential second wave of the virus, the future for the country’s horses is bleak.”

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/09/26/horses-will-abandoned-economic-downturn-caused-covid-warns-rspca/

  2. The UK now has a brand new political party that is seeking a return to old traditional ideas, practices, mores, and customs. It’s calling itself the Heritage Party. And this is its provisional manifesto.

    For a nation to thrive it must be connected to its roots. We as the living generation are responsible for looking after the heritage which has been passed to us from our forefathers, and we have a duty to pass it on to the generations which will come after us. This is the basis of social conservatism.

    Successive governments have eroded our freedom, given away our sovereignty and mismanaged our economy.

    The Heritage Party exists to return to the principles of social conservatism, to reverse the cultural destruction wreaked by politically correct ideologies and to return to our true traditions and heritage. In embracing these principles, we believe the United Kingdom can once again become a great and prosperous nation.

    https://www.heritageparty.org/manifesto/

    • Any idea who cooked it up, Tim, or who is leading it? I can imagine it striking a chord with many UK voters.

    • Tim

      I hope and trust you jest in posting stuff about the ‘Heritage Party’

      I hadn’t heard of it. Thank you. Are you sure it isn’t Nige Farage in a white pointy hat with eyeslits?
      I read their manifesto with interest.

      Another bunch of nutters wanting to make Britain great again, with not the slightest idea of what made it ‘great’ between 1800-1900.
      And that it has now gone.

      Has more than the whiff of Trump about it. And the same wackos will follow in its wake, blaming everyone who doesn’t look like they do for all their woes

      Love the idea of returning to the old customs etc. Boys up chimneys , transportation to the colonies, hanged for stealing anyting over the value of a shilling.

      Like much else, I still can’t decide if it’s a windup. It is only a week old

      • This bit from their blurb amused me ….. “The traditional nuclear family where a mother and father bring up their own children is the best and most successful model for bringing up healthy and well-balanced children, and building stable communities.”

        There is nothing traditional about a nuclear family. It has brought us to where we are now. Tribes are traditional.

        They blame single parents (ie women) for all our woes – they sound just like the tories.

        • @ may hem

          There is nothing traditional about a nuclear family. It has brought us to where we are now. Tribes are traditional.

          Everywhere you go in the world, with no exceptions that I am aware of, although some may exist, one finds families, nuclear families, on every continenet and on every island, with fathers and mothers who are solely or principally responsible for the care, feeding clothing and discipline of their children. Sometimes the families include the care of the elderly or there may be an adoption. But parents + children is the rule.

          In some societies, like the historical American Indians, families made up “bands” of 10-50 which were loosely asociated with other bands in what may be called “tribes”. I am not aware that tribes have been a part of the Chinaese or Eurasian or subcontinental Indian tradition for many thousands of years and even thne if it over-ruled the family. I very much doubt it.

          Around the world today, people also live in villages, and have done since time immemorial. These villages are made up of families. I live in such a village. The only people repsonsible for the children of a man and a women are tha man and woman theleves. The village has very little to do with it. In othr words, it does not “take a village” in any usual sense.

          So I don’t know what planet you were raised on, or what pseudo-history you are reading, but here on Earth, parents + children + personal responsibilities = the traditional nuclear family, and it has been with us forever.

      • Norman, I also sense this has the feel of a windup. It reads like a Monty Python skit. Like most old folks, I am personally filled to the brim with nostalgia for the good old days. I’d restore Camelot, Christendom, and the Tudor, Stuart, Georgian, Regency and Victorian ages if I could. But the idea of a political party actually working to turn back the clock on Merrie England is too fantastic for me to take in.

        Now, if Morrissey were to form a party…. That would be something…

        I decree today that life
        Is simply taking and not giving
        England is mine, it owes me a living
        But ask me why and I’ll spit in your eye
        Oh ask me why and I’ll spit in your eye
        But we cannot cling to the old dreams anymore
        No, we cannot cling to those dreams….

        • Big believer in the good times (1960s)->bad times=> arts (oil press on humans) theory, glad to be around in the late 1980s very early 90s as this particular British (“Thatcherite revulsion” ) culture scene was winding down..

        • With a silver tankard of foaming ale, (heated with a hot poker -aye aye, wink wink) and a lusty, busty, wench on one’s knee, one can revive Merrie England any day of the week.

          Ask Norman, you don’t think he spends all his time contemplating Doom, do you? 🙂

          • knot at all

            doomthoughts between gf and myself cancel each other out

            dont go for the ale heated with a hot poker anyway

        • Tim, a good ambition. But I, however, would not restore the Tudor (Welsh), Stuart (Scots) or Georgian (German) dynasties. I would restore the House of Plantagenet, and put an English king on England’s throne for the first time since 1485. And along the way, we could perhaps restore to this island its old name: Albion.

            • Norman, we tried. Every major city petitioned the Romans to stay. The major landowners did the same. They left anyway.

              I witnessed a similar situation in the 1960s. Between Nigeria and (French) Cameroon was a UN Trust Territory, British Cameroon (part of the spoils of the Great War). The UN held a plebiscite: join Nigeria, join Cameroon, or remain under British rule. The population voted overwhelmingly for option 3. The UN held the plebiscite again one year later, but with only two options. So much for upholding democracy.

  3. “Commercial properties hit by the economic effects of coronavirus could have lost as much as one-quarter of their value or more, laying bare the scale of the damage being wrought across American malls, hotels and other commercial buildings.

    “Evidence emerging in the commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) market from recent appraisals also raises questions over the value of the collateral backing commercial mortgages throughout the financial system.”

    https://www.ft.com/content/a34e131c-bf6f-4b7d-9a2c-84c632243e87

  4. Slugger has an article on c 19 and spirituality that may interest some OFW readers.

    I am amazed that only 29% of UK believes in life after death. I do not ‘believe’ in it myself but I am suprised nevertheless, as final mortality is a pretty demanding perspective – or maybe not for most British. Most British may be psychologically tougher than I had credited.

    My guess is that more people may be contemplating what life ‘means’, if anything, during the time for it provided by c 19, and worrying about their loved ones, but they will not necessarily see any traditional take on it reinforced by the pandemic – which I suspect is different to how people reacted in past pandemics.

    Religion is not as structural as it used to be to society and to human experience and the churches may find it difficult to find any relevance in that context.

    > Religion, Spirituality and the Search for Meaning during the Covid-19 Pandemic

    According to many accounts, there has been a modest resurgence of religious practice in Ireland and the UK during the covid-19 pandemic. Nationally representative surveys commissioned by the Iona Institute and Tearfund found that surprisingly high numbers of people were accessing religion virtually, and that people were praying more.

    My own survey of faith leaders on the island of Ireland confirmed these trends, as have further polls by Christian Aid, Catholic Voices/York St John University, Dublin City University, and Durham University.

    But last week, media outlets described the finding that nearly one in five practising Catholics in the Republic of Ireland are ‘unsure’ if they will return to mass after the pandemic as ‘a wake up call’ (Belfast Telegraph, Irish Catholic).

    In light of these seemingly contradictory results, we might ask: is the pandemic prompting people to turn to religion, or is it accelerating a loss of faith?

    …. In Ireland, 45% believed that there is life after death (heaven, hell, reincarnation), compared to just 29% in the UK. When asked how the pandemic had changed their personal attitudes towards death, 48% in Ireland and 30% in the UK said they have become more worried about the death of their loved ones; while 52% in the UK and 46% in Ireland said the pandemic has not changed how they think about death….

    https://sluggerotoole.com/2020/09/27/religion-spirituality-and-the-search-for-meaning-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/

    • The thought of an afterlife terrifies me. If it exists, are we eternal? Or else what comes next? Reincarnation? Surely it’s hard enough to get safely through one life.

      Barbro Karlen is a Swedish woman born in 1954. She allegedly had memories of being a Dutch girl called Anne Frank, before the Anne Frank story was even widely known.

      • My post-death anxiety occasionally pops up like the old Victorian fear of being buried alive – with the horror movie spin on it where consciousness does not shut down after death and people are just lying there rotting but conscious. Which is silly, consciousness is a brain function (hopefully lol).

        • ‘consciousness is a brain function’

          Partly – but entirely? I’m not so sure. Watch all those videos in which people relate their ‘near death experiences’, when they were technically brain-dead in hospital wards but their consciousness floated free. One woman, on being revived, asked the nurse for her dentures. ‘I can’t remember where I put them’, answered the nurse. ‘In that drawer over there’, replied the woman, and she was right, even though she had been technically brain dead when the nurse put them there.

          And there’s a nice video about the experience of dying by Peter Fenwick:

        • Edgar Allan Poe: “The Premature Burial”, 1844. It captured beautifully a significant worry of the time. One of his other stories, “The Black Cat” is about a man who kills his wife and buries the cat alive with her. Forgetting that cats have nine lives, and so of course it squeals on him.

      • Terrify yourself no more. In layman’s terms, you are a temporary mortalprojection of the divine eternal sacred perpetual timeless thingy onto the screen of secular time and physical space. Once the source of the beam of life is turned off, it will be like you were never here.

        Incidentally, I read this on the back of a packet of cornflakes, so eating breakfast cereal really can increase your knowledge.

    • We don’t know the very true nature of things, the ultimate reality. We perceive an image of it. Think about Plato’s cave story.
      Or think about the old video game pac man. Imagine pac man has a conscious and cognitive capabilities. He understands that his universe has 2 space dimensions. If he’s really brilliant he may elaborate a mathematical system where the 2 spatial dimensions of his universe could be the surface of a torus in a 3 dimensional space, despite it would be extremely difficult for him to represent this space, as he’s a 2 dimension creature living in a 2 dimensions universe. He could imagine that his creator could live in this 3d hyperuniverse. Maybe we are 3d pac men?

      • Rufo, your pacman could easily prove his conjecture, by creating a map that needed seven colours. n this real universe, we have a similar phenomenon: the electronic orbitals of some excited states of the hydrogen atoms are not simply connected; they are clearly three dimensional projections of a four dimensional reality.

    • OK, so we could be pac man in Plato’s cave, end up floating about the grave yard in an out of body, or coming back as Anne Frank.

      Interesting.

      • At about minute 13, Charlie Hall brings up my name. He says something like, “As Gail Tverberg has pointed out, the price of oil has to be high enough so oil producers can make a profit and low enough so that oil consumers can afford to buy goods and services made with it.

  5. What Do Economists Mean When They Talk About “Capital Accumulation”?
    In every other science, this inability to measure the key category of the theory would be devastating. But not in the science of economics.
    Inteteresting essay with the following conclusion:
    When capital first emerged in the European burgs of the late Middle Ages, it seemed like a highly promising startup: it counteracted the stagnation and violence of the ancien régime with the promise of dynamism, enlightenment and prosperity, and it replaced the theological sorcery of the church with an open, transparent and easy-to-understand logic. But once capital took over the commanding heights of society, this stark difference began to blur. The inner workings of capital became increasingly opaque: its ups and downs appeared difficult to decipher, its crises seemed mysterious, menacing and hard to manage, and its very nature and definition grew more slippery and harder to grasp.

    Political economy – the first science of society – attempted to articulate the new order of capital. In this sense, it was the science of capital. The rule of capital emerged and consolidated together with modern science, and the methods of political economy developed hand in hand with those of physics, chemistry, mathematics and statistics. During the seventeenth century, the scientific revolution, along with the processes of urbanization, the shifting of production from agriculture to manufacturing and the development of new technologies, gave rise to a mechanical worldview, a novel secular cosmology whose intellectual architects promoted as the harbinger of freedom and progress. And it was this new mechanical cosmology – itself partly the outgrowth of capitalism – that political economists were trying to fit capital into.

    Their attempts to marry the logic of accumulation with the mechanized laws of the cosmos are imprinted all over classical political economy and the social sciences it later gave birth to, and they are particularly evident in the various theories of capital. Quantitative reasoning and compact equations, Newtonian calculus and forces, the conservation of matter and energy, the imposition of probability and statistics on uncertainty – these and similar methods have all been incorporated, metaphorically or directly, into the study of capitalism and accumulation.

    But as we have seen in this paper, over the past century the marriage has fallen apart. The modern disciplines of economics and finance overflow with highly complex models, complete with the most up-to-date statistical methods, computer software and loads of data – yet their ability to explain, let alone justify, the world of capital is now limited at best. Their basic categories are often logically unsound and empirically unworkable, and even after being massively patched up with ad hoc assumptions and circular inversions, they still manage to generate huge “residuals” and unobservable “measures of ignorance”.

    In this sense, humanity today finds itself in a situation not unlike the one prevailing in sixteenth-century Europe, when feudalism was finally giving way to capitalism and the closed, geocentric world of the Church was just about to succumb to the secular, open-ended universe of science. The contemporary doctrine of capitalism, increasingly out of tune with reality, is now risking a fate similar to that of its feudal-Christian predecessor. Mounting global challenges – from overpopulation and environmental destruction, through climate change and peak energy, to the loss of autonomy and the risk of social disintegration – cannot be handled by a pseudo-science that cannot define its main categories and whose principal explanatory tool is “distortions”. You cannot build an entire social cosmology on the assumptions of individual rationality, equilibrium and perfect markets – and then blame the failures of this cosmology on irrationality, disequilibrium and imperfections. In science, these excuses and blame-shifting are tantamount to self-refutation.

    What we need now are not better tools, more accurate modelling and improved data, but a different way of thinking altogether, a totally new cosmology for the post-capitalist age.
    https://evonomics.com/what-do-economists-mean-when-they-talk-about-capital-accumulation/

    • Thank you, Sven; your essay is one I shall think about overnight. Just one initial comment: four hundred years ago, “capital” meant savings. Today, it means debt. As different as day and night. And today, the night is falling fast.

    • Let me try and make it simpler.

      This year I have more potatoes than I can use or store, my neighbor does not have enough and has nothing that I want at this time. He gives me a piece of scrip and states his son will next year farm vacant land next to his and he will have excess potatoes with which to repay me, he borrowed 10 potatoes and next year promises to repay 11 potatoes. I have saved my 10 excess potatoes in the form of scrip and I will participate in the growth of the economy by his son producing from vacant land.

      That is simple growth economics, everything else is a skim off the 1 potato interest.

      If a central bank controls the scrip they can issue 12 pieces of scrip and yet next year there are still only 11 potatoes, so my 12 pieces of scrip are now worth 11potatoes/12 pieces of scrip or ,91…potatoes. 11 pieces of scrip for 11 potatoes is 1 potato per scrip. That is called inflation, one can also return smaller potatoes.

      People being people will always want to become the banker so they can skim the system, they get .09 potatoes free per transaction. Ideally scrip grows with the number of potatoes, but free potatoes will always win out over ideal.

      If things are goin the opposite way, there is not only no excess land but less land, then the inflation is more as there are say only 10 potatoes next year, each year some have less and less to exchange. When there are only 9 potatoes by the borrower, then negative potatoes come into play or negative interest.

      What do you think?

      Dennis L.

      • Dennis, now you have to factor in the excess potatoes allowing you and/or your neighbor to have another kid, who needs to then eat still more potatoes.

        In the article to which Sven has linked, the authors go on at great length about what they perceive as disconnects, but leave us with only the hackneyed “we need [mumble]” non-conclusion conclusion.

        Stepping back, “capitalism” was always about getting energy and resources from Outside the System, and fraudulently pretending they organically came from Inside the System. I don’t see it being any different for people who put up money to build sailing ships to bring back gold and spices, as for people who invested money in tulip bulbs or potatoes, or the people who construct derivatives today, or the idiots who think they are going to get stuff from other planets. The idea has always been to get money (or energy, or resources) from “somewhere else”. Up until lately, there’ve been “somewhere else”s from which to get energy and resources.. but it’s always been the same game, as far as I can tell.

        Back in the early ’80s, MIT economist Lester Thurow (he later became Dean of the Sloan School of Management) wrote a book about what he called “The Zero-Sum Society”. I read it when it came out, and I remember that it got a lot of flak for its premise that, for there to be economic winners, there needed to be economic losers. He subsequently wrote “The Zero-Sum Solution” (probably the “we need” declaration necessary to rehabilitate his image and cinch the deanship, though I have not read it).

        I had not given Thurow a thought until just now, while reading the linked article. It’s possible that Thurow (on a conscious or unconscious level) was recognizing (to the extent that a modern career economist could) the Limits to Growth for the US economy in that historical moment at the verge of post-peak domestic conventional oil production.

        The keg was empty, and sucking beer out of the carpet was set to commence. Thurow seemed to be writing at a plateau period where things could appear “zero-sum” for a time, but I can’t see how we are not now in a full “negative sum” economic regime. Nothing can be done in terms of marshalling “real” capital forces to leverage “stuff” into our lives anymore. Hence the retreat into pell-mell fraud and “racketeering” (as JHK would say) as the only form of economic activity (viable for a decreasing number, but still viable). When, in the game of musical chairs, the chairs are being taken away, it’s hardly a surprise folks will turn up to sell contracts for phantasmagorical chairs.

        No new invented “cosmology” is necessary to understand this; we just need to better comprehend the sciences we already have: physics, chemistry, biology.

        Our very existence is “negative sum”, as whatever we use to maintain our organisms degrades the resources around us and generates waste heat, as it all goes “into the cool”. It never was any other way, never could have been any other way, and never will be any other way. The unique set of conditions which allowed for capitalism to function as well as it did are (imo) unlikely to be repeated.

        • Lidia> thanks for the post.

          It reminds me about some of the zealot (most) permaculturalist / regen AG guys, who import grains from elsewhere off site – turning their own pastures into lush fantastically rejuvenated properties.

          It’s possible to use these techniques in general but not aiming for the size of this pop and consumption rates..

      • “What do you think?”

        When A’s neighbor’s potato crop failed, B might not have immediately advanced him the calorie shortfall. Instead, he could have denied B any assistance at all, waited for Bto become even weaker and more dependent, and then driven a fiercely hard bargain where B would sign over his land to A and B and his descendants could then work that land for A as a serf for all of eternity.

        Alternatively, B could have simply slit A’s throat and taken what he and his family needed.

        Even more alternatively – and this is a crazy, way-out idea – A could have said to B, “I have more than I need. I will share it with you. Don’t worry about repaying me. After all, aren’t we all brothers here together?”

        • I suspect the issue is one will always be better at growing potatoes than an other, after a year or two the better grower will get tired of working for the lesser. Tough problem.

          Dennis L.

          • Why woud you suspct that? Potato growing is not an advanced technology.

            Of course some people are lazy. And some are greedy. And some are mentally ill. I regard the one who wants to not help his neighbor through a tough time as being among either the greedy or the mentally ill.

            • Kim,

              My theory on relations between people is we put a certain amount of good will into the “bank” as we do not need exact reciprocation at the same time, we need help at different times. We do a good deed and it goes into the social bank account, when we in turn need some help, there is a history of our giving help so we receive help in turn. This is within the limits of the overall environment to support a group. If one or too many continually draw out of the bank, they tend to be shunned.

              Planting seeds requires the correct depth which is dependent on the correct soil temperature which is dependent on the amount of cover from previous plantings and is dependent on luck and knowledge of planting not too early, not too late and also dependent on different seeds having different times to bearing fruit. How do I know that? Well, mechanical planters need to be adjusted for seed depth, the farmer gets out of the tractor and measures the seed depth, he/she observes root growth and learns how his/her land holds moisture, holds heat and how the cover over the ground affects this.

              Kim, the exchange of potatoes in time of want is a metaphor that the receiver of the potato values it and the payment of interest is returning good will to the bank. If the granter of the potato gets nothing back and has a child, that child may go hungry because the grantor trusted the wrong neighbor, he/she went bankrupt as it were. For me we build trust through the ability to do what we say we will do, a willingness to do that when necessary, and finally not deliberately deceiving the grantor of the trust which is the moral aspect of trust.

              Dennis L.

    • One chart in the article that this quote is from is this one.

      It is titled, “The Quantity of US Capital.”

      The two lines represent two different views of ways of calculating the quantity of US Capital. One is the sum of the value of all US stocks and bonds. The other is “Current Cost of Corporate Fixed Assets.” I would presume that this might be something close to the initial cost, less depreciation, adjusted for inflation.

      Right now, the market value of bonds would be very high, because of the very low interest rates. We can see the market value of stocks is very high as well. This indicates, in a sense, that “all is well.” Our investments have very high value.

      Another way of looking at the value of corporate fixed investment is in terms of the present value of what it will produce in the future. If we are facing overshoot and collapse, the return these investments will provide in the future is very low. The value of these investments (including commercial real estate investments in New York City, and unneeded jet airplanes everywhere) is very low.

      This is another reason why the value of stocks and bonds has to collapse to essentially zero, at some time in the future. Of course, the linked article doesn’t say that.

  6. Avatar
    Tom Christoffel • 2 days ago • edited
    First problem of efficiently combining all planning under the rubric of urban planning in 1960s is that all land, not just that within municipalities, towns and cities, is assumed to have to reach its highest and best use.

    Nature has been reduced to Green Infrastructure that supports the built-environment. The WUI, wildland-urban interface, is not simply the edge of a municipal boundary, but hundreds of thousands of McMansions in the woods on sides of mountains, some HOA governed, with County and State blessing.

    A return to historic City-building, without the segregating “separate but equal” racism, is a retrofit forward goal.

    Early suburban development, the basis of what has become R-1 Flat Earth US Highway Urbanism, is a product of Cold War population dispersion. The City was the A-Bomb target of the Soviets, so get a home 10+ miles from the City-center. Hard to believe? Watch this short 1955 Civil Defense film simulating H-Bomb attack on NYC and Detroit’s bridge to Windsor, Canada: Frontlines of Freedom
    As a 1955 adult watching this, where would you want your home to be?

    FHA financed the new, distant developments, also segregated by their policies, as highways urban renewed by fragmenting neighborhoods. Low amenity high rise public housing for those left with the cities.

    Fear of density has its roots here in the American psyche. A 1946 Boomer, when I learned of this history in 2004, I understood immediately because I had lived the fear. It took the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 and 1990s reduction of weapons to finally be relieved of the fear of Mutually Assured Destruction, the Cold War standoff.

    It is assumed that Cold War defense was all about weapons. It changed development in US, flattening it, distancing it. As the cannon eliminated the walls cities once built, aerial bombardment increased risk, needing fall-out shelters, the long-range bomber and ICBM, were like a siege machine so powerful it could threaten every city on the planet.

    Some countries hardened the targets, fortified buildings, designed underground infrastructure to double as shelters, such as subways, while the US opted for dispersion. Not enough money to do that and Interstate Highway System, but Interstates could be used for evacuation.

    Urbanized America expanded while Cities and Towns declined. Census Defined Places are clusters of homes, often mostly in HOAs. A mall becomes the Town-less Towne Center for a portion of an Urbanizing County. Personal private vehicles needed forever. Distance is designed in; it will never die.

    Artleads Tom Christoffel • a minute ago
    Thanks. Got some insights from this. But I was never even slightly afraid of nuclear attack. Mutually assured destruction always seemed to preclude that. I do love the land use analyses. otherwise.

    • @ Artleads

      A return to historic City-building, without the segregating “separate but equal” racism, is a retrofit forward goal.

      People who are being endemically victimized like segregation from their victimizers. The United States has 100 black-on-white rapes per day. 37,000 a year. Zero white-on-black rapes.

      Blacks murder whites at a rate 18 times higher than whites murder blacks.

      90% of inter-racial crime (which is 20% of total US crime) involves black-on-white victimizations.

      One in three black adult males in the United States is a convicted felon. And no, it isn’t “just for holding a little weed”. I can list the top 20 felonies if you like. It isn’t a pretty list.

      Facts like these are why certain people like to live separately from certain other people. People whose eyes are open tend to notice these kinds of things and do not bother trying to parade their ludicrously counterfactual “anti-racist” pseudo-virtues on internet forums.

      • When you look at it that way, it almost makes sense to be a racist–a white nationalist, even. Right, Kim?

        • My perspective as someone who regards everybody as my neighbor unless they are out to do me harm:

          Most black and white people can get on with each other, and white and black people could have lived in love, peace and harmony in the US but too much mutual fear, loathing, anger, disgust and resentment has been fed into the body politic for so long that this is no longer even remotely possible.

          The “racist/white nationalist” tendency is being forced on white Americans one act of violence and injustice at a time, just as the “racist/black nationalist” tendency has been forced on black Americans for even longer. Stirring the melting pot has always been profitable for the stirrers, but it makes victims out of almost everyone else.

          This guy’s grandstanding alone created a lot of “white nationalists” among people who didn’t appreciate the subtlety of his message—or maybe they did?. And there are a lot more where he came from.

          https://preview.redd.it/rtoo6x8yb0o41.jpg?auto=webp&s=e8d5846f9252ffd8b57de02c76784eebf858a267

          • @ Tim Groves

            You live in Japan, I think. You can live there very safely. Because the people around you are Japanese.

            I live in Indonesia. People around me live on $2 a day. I don’t lock my doors. Poverty has not made these people thieves, muggers, urglzrs drug addicts or rapists.

            Would I have to lock my doors in Barbados, Rio, Johannesburg, or Philadelphia?

            Certainly I would. And any burglars or muggers I met would be wearing $200 sneakers and have never missed a meal in their lives.

            • Kim, I see you are ~60/40 (bottom case / or more) correct, there are basically two megatrends colluding;

              Firstly it’s indisputable that the family tree of humans shows various branching out and adaptation which took dozens of thousand years for each. The “black branch / sub segment” was the “least mobile” in that sense.. vs. Asian-American and Euros..

              Another thing is the perennial oppression of the late stage of domesticated human reality, meaning lower caste ghetto status, which cycle looped for at least past ~3k yrs (old Egypt) and fast prototyped known social pathologic maladaptation of this particular branch.

              This topic is bottom less pit of worms and few are able to discuss it rationally..

            • KIm, thanks for your comment.

              There are huge differences between individuals in terms of their propensity to violence, even among a single ethnic or cultural group. Going by statistics of reported crimes of violence, it is easy to see that some ethnic groups are on the average more prone to violence than others, and that some cultures are likewise more prone to violence than others.

              I live in Japan, where I don’t have to lock my front door and I have never been attacked or intimidated. But back in medieval times, when Japan was going through the Sengoku or Warring States period, the country was much more violent and everyone lived in fear of their life for over a century. Japanese people haven’t changed much genetically in the interim, so something in the society around them must have made them thieves, muggers, rapists and murderers back then, and I guess that that something is not present in Japanese society today. It had something to do with the entire country being a war zone back then.

              The racial designation “black” covers possibly 80 percent of human genetic variability. I seriously doubt whether the genetic propensity for violence differs very much across the spectrum of black people or of humans overall. But in this I may be wrong.

              I do know there is a tremendous difference in homicide rates between countries. Two mostly black West African countries, Benin and Guinea-Bissau, have rates of 1.1 per 100,000, which is a little lower than the UK or France. Russia, which is has a very low black population, has a homicide rate of 8.21. Of course, there are many countries in Southern Africa, Central America and the Caribbean that have astronomical homicide rates, while others—such as Martinique— are remarkably less murderous places to live.

              I am sure that you can hit on an explanation of why the streets of Benin or Guinea-Bissau are so much safer than those of Philidelphia, Baltimore or Chicago without bringing genetics into the argument. And it may well have something to do with the fact that significant parts of Philadelphia, Baltimore and Chicago today are essentially “war zones”.

            • Tim> with that Japanese civil war and disorder aftermath you are describing temporary low on completely different trajectory of civilization/specie adaptation already in different level to begin with..

          • Sure, worldofhumanotg. But my point is that the current situation in the US is also temporary. One way or another, a century from now the social conditions are likely to be very different from today’s.

            Look at how the US homicide rate varied throughout the last century. Such a quiet, peaceful, safe country it was until 1904.

            • Tim, I think the turning point came a little earlier, in 1893. Before that, there was “the frontier”, where malcontents could migrate to , or be expelled to when they became obnoxious. Incidentally, homicides in unorganised territory were typically either undercounted or not counted. But when Frederick Jackson Turner officially declared the frontier closed, that safety valve was firmly shut off. Your graph shows the consequences.

        • @ Bei Dawei

          Strange question. Would be alright if I were a Chinese nationalist? Or an Indian nationalist? Or an Arab nationalist? Or an Israeli nationalist? Or a Black nationalist?

          For some – it appears – it is allowable to have racial interests. For others, mysteriously, it is not.

          So, like I said, strange question. Maybe you should think through what it is you are asking me and why you are asking it.

          • Because comments like that tend to come from white nationalists. What’s wrong with being a white nationalist? (Setting aside the moral issue.) On an individual level, it means they’re more likely to go to prison than college. On a political level, such people may have identified some genuine social problems, but offer nothing in the way of practical solutions–more like masturbatory fantasies.

            • As for your questions about other nationalisms, I would distinguish between healthy nationalism (pride in one’s country), and extreme nationalism. If your nationalism is primarily directed *against* some other group, that’s a bad sign.

      • You pick up on the weirdest things. Race was so unimportant in the the context of the unexamined drivers of urban development that I didn’t even notice that quote. Things like the fear of nuclear attack were much more to be wondered at. But you have so much venom in your soul over race–and you do know of course that race is a social construct, unlike ethnicity, which it is erroneously named for?–that it must leave little room for anything else.

        • It is important to be alert to the naturalization of false presuppositions, don’t you think.

          For me, insidious propaganda is the most dangerous propaganda of all, and it certainly is not a flaw in me nor in my ways that I draw attention to it.

        • Race is a social contruct? Silly. Are German Shepherd and Labrador Retriever social constructs too?

          Your personalizing reply – there must be something wrong with the “soul” of anyone who disagrees with you (really Padre?) – is just your cognitive dissonance speaking.

          The (FBI) cime statistics nonetheless still stand. You cannot refute them. The gulf between black and white is vast. You can’t explain it away. So instead you cover your eyes and ears and yell “I can’t hear you!”

          Childish and deluded.

          • Kim, you have a point about the FBI crime statistics.People who are classed as or identified as black commit violent crimes at a much higher rate in the US than people classed as or identified as white. Why this is the case is something people can argue about and it is bound to be a lot more complicated than “because they’re black” or “because they’re oppressed” or “because they’re more violent by nature”, but the statistics themselves are clear. This should be admitted by any honest observer who has an interest in the subject.

            • Tim, I saw this phenomenon myself in the US. The “blacks” with the violent crime rate are a subset; the others are just as law abiding as anyone. And that subset is characterised by two features: organised crime, or welfare. My take is that they are the result of Johnson’s “Great Society”, which he himself admitted was designed to trap urban blacks into endless dependency on the State. And its main method was the destruction of the black family. After three generations of single mothers raising feral children, with the only male role models being the feral adults from the previous generation, the plan has succeeded. The cure, if any, will also take generations.

          • It’s like there’s a wound in the society, and you keep picking at it in such a way as to make it fester and spread. It would be constructive to look at the responses other than mine, and see if there is something to learn from them. Picking at the wound and wantonly making it spread is not the wisest way to attend to it (IMO). You are also very invested in sticking to your points and not trying to go beyond what you tend to believe right now. That is likely to keep you limited and not useful for any other agenda than to increase pain and suffering. Finally, I don’t know how you analyze the term “black.” In American white supremacist mythology, black means having one drop of blood traceable to African ancestry. (That in itself is a mind boggling concept.) But has there been universal DNA testing of groups you would consider “white” to see how many are spared from the all telling one drop of African blood?

            Listen Kim, we all have busy lives and are doing the best we can in a next-to-impossible global mess. Taking the time to go over and over issues with someone who refuses to grow and learn makes no sense.

            • I would agree with Artleads. In the US, we have been dealing with the Black-White issue for a very long time. We have been trying everything we can think of and we basically can’t make it work very well. There seem to be too many differences in abilities and backgrounds.

              You are not here in the US to experience all of the pain and steps that have been gone through. Colleges, for years, have been admitting black students who did not do well on tests of various kinds. Colleges have found out that these students tended to disproportionately drop out. They often were left with a lot of debt. They weren’t necessarily helped by the experience.

              Also, if test scores are given priority, students of Asian background tend to do disproportionately well. If you discriminate in the direction of one group, you tend to handicap another group. There have been lawsuits by Whites that they are being discriminated against.

              I think we have heard enough of your views regarding the horribly high crime rates of Blacks against Whites. If they had good job opportunities, I don’t think this would be a problem. Going forward, I am not convinced that anyone will have good job opportunities.

      • People with no real options to earn a reasonable income and raise a family often fall into crime, especially as young adults. I am not certain we can exactly blame them. There aren’t necessarily good models for them to follow. Many young Blacks have borrowed money to attend expensive higher education classes (often at for-profit schools with low admission standards). They find, when they graduate or are forced to drop out, that they have a huge amount of debt, and little prospect of earning enough money to pay it back.

        I was reading today that California has, in the past, relied disproportionately on the labor of current inmates to fight fires in California. This year, it is having troubles. It has only been able to recruit half as many prison laborers as in the past (1,000) for fire fighting, indirectly because of COVID-19. Some prisoners had been released early, so as to reduce prison crowding as COVID-19 advanced. Others were out sick because of the illness. After getting out, some former prisoners go on to become fire fighters.

    • MAD was only a part of the calculation, perhaps even more powerful was the realization on the capital side faction (this even precedes WWII), that assuming “never ending” exponential tap into energy resources we can furbish every guy/gal with enough credit to authorize demand filling up that suburban house-garage combo (fridges, lawn movers, radio/TVs, furniture, consumer novelty crap of the day/shopping season..) for ever.

      As domestic surplus energy stagnated, this was obviously later offloaded in terms of manuf base to Asia, so the goal of skimming the surplus value had been retained by the same faction. Various Asian tigers being small potatoes the tables really turned only with billion pop China, which by saving pennies on such gigantic turnover could have eventually saved up for own development goals (civ mis-allocation of their own choosing) since reaching certain escape velocity threshold ~2000s onward.

      • Obviously, this was short summary.
        In fact some Asian tigers, notably S. Korea (e.g. domestic nuclear industry / NOW) and Japan (e.g. fast rail / THEN) were able to propose and execute radical – highly beneficial projects for themselves..

    • Artleads,

      The cold war with Russia was indeed one of the impetuses for moving out to the suburbs. But I think that there were other impetuses as well:

      1. The growing availability/affordability of individual cars for both husbands and wives. The growing availability/affordability of school buses, to transfer children quite some distance. Thus, a person could drive to more distant locations to get “better” shopping, or schools, or churches. No need to know the neighbors any more.

      2. The growing influence of “numbers people,” who figured out that bigger schools could theoretically be more efficient. They could have school nurses, student counselors, and sports teams. The cost per student would theoretically be lower. They could have all kinds of special classes, such as for the mentally retarded and for gifted students.

      3. The financial ability of people to buy their own homes and gain from their higher value, with inflation. Also, the concern that a change in schools or neighborhoods would adversely change the value of the homes.

      4. The shift from racially segregated schools to racially integrated schools, enabled by bussing. This shift seems to have taken place mostly in the 1960s and the early 1970s.

      5. A shift from services such as swimming pools and parks being provided by city governments to similar services being provided by neighborhood associations. These neighborhoods were (and are) segregated by income, not by race.

      Anyhow, wives often went to work in the late 1960s and early 1970s to enable a suburban lifestyle. Homes would be newer and nicer. One major benefit seemed to be “better schools” in the suburbs, since the impact of integration would be less of a worry. There might be a few Black children, but those would be children of high-income families. If Black children didn’t do well, they perhaps would end up in mentally retarded classes. Their own children might end up in “gifted” classes. Central cities tended to go downhill, as Whites left for suburbia.

      At least where I am, there is a mixture of housing in different price ranges. There are groups of apartment buildings with their own recreational facilities. There are groups of homes in different price ranges, some of which are in groups that have their own recreational facilities. (The area where I live has a pool, golf course, and restaurant, but choosing to join was optional, and we never chose to join.) The schools are quite integrated, because they include students from multiple different housing areas. No one would claim that the schools are particularly good. My neighborhood was mostly built in the mid-1970s, as was most other housing around here.

      People who want the newest, highest-priced homes, with the best schools will go elsewhere.

      • Thanks! The matter is more complex than us average types could imagine. Reading this, I had a twinge of nostalgia/regret over the pool in the apartment complex we rented into from the late 70’s to early 90’s. It had a clean-enough pool which I used only a couple times in all those years. Hardly anyone else used it. It was as though we were living on the leftover “energy” from a slightly earlier economic order. Presentable enough, but lackluster.

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