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Page added on August 31, 2015

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Kunstler: Say Goodbye to Normal

Consumption

T he tremors rattling markets are not exactly what they seem to be. A meme prevails that these movements represent a kind of financial peristalsis — regular wavelike workings of eternal progress toward an epic more of everything, especially profits! You can forget the supposedly “normal” cycles of the techno-industrial arrangement, which means, in particular, the business cycle of the standard economics textbooks. Those cycle are dying.

They’re dying because there really are Limits to Growth and we are now solidly in grips of those limits. Only we can’t recognize the way it is expressing itself, especially in political terms. What’s afoot is a not “recession” but a permanent contraction of what has been normal for a little over two hundred years. There is not going to be more of everything, especially profits, and the stock buyback orgy that has animated the corporate executive suites will be recognized shortly for what it is: an assest-stripping operation.

What’s happening now is a permanent contraction. Well, of course, nothing lasts forever, and the contraction is one phase of a greater transition. The cornucopians and techno-narcissists would like to think that we are transitioning into an even more lavish era of techno-wonderama — life in a padded recliner tapping on a tablet for everything! I don’t think so. Rather, we’re going medieval, and we’re doing it the hard way because there’s just not enough to go around and the swollen populations of the world are going to be fighting over what’s left.

Actually, we’ll be lucky if we can go medieval, because there’s no guarantee that the contraction has to stop there, especially if we behave really badly about it — and based on the way we’re acting now, it’s hard to be optimistic about our behavior improving. Going medieval would imply living within the solar energy income of the planet, and by that I don’t mean photo-voltaic panels, but rather what the planet might provide in the way of plant and animal “income” for a substantially smaller population of humans. That plus a long-term resource salvage operation.

All the grand movements of stock indexes and central banks are just a diverting sort of stagecraft within the larger pageant of this contraction. The governors of the Federal Reserve play the role of viziers in this comic melodrama. That is, they are exalted figures robed in magical Brooks Brothers summer poplin pretending to have supernatural power to control events. You can tell from their recent assembly out west — “A-holes at the J-hole” — that they are very much in doubt that their “powers” will continue to be taken seriously. This endless hand-wringing over a measily quarter-point interest rate hike is like some quarrel among alchemists as to whether a quarter-degree rise in temperature might render a lump of clay into a gold nugget.

What they do doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is that a great deal of the notional “wealth” they conjured up over the past decade or so is about to vanish —poof! Perhaps that will look like a black magic act. That wealth seemed so real! The bulging portfolios with their exquisite allocations! The clever options! The cunning shorts. Especially the canny bets in dark derivative pools! All up in a vapor. The sad truth being it was never there in the first place. It was just an hallucination induced by the manipulation of markets and the criminal misrepresentation of statistics, especially the employment numbers.

There are rumors that the Grand Vizeress of all, Ms. Yellen, is flirting with possible indictment over the “leakage” of valuable information out of her inner circle to potential profiteers. Whoops. It may lead nowhere but to me it is an index of her more general loss of credibility. All year she has spouted supernaturally fallacious nonsense about how “the data” guides Fed decision-making. Only her data is contrary to what is actually happening in the pathetic Rube Goldberg contraption that the so-called US economy has become (Walmart + entitlements). Her “guidance” amounts to a lot of futile drum-beating on a turret of the Fed castle, hoping to make it rain prosperity. Her enigmatic utterances have kept financial markets in a narrow sideways channel most of the year until recently.

I’d say she’d lost her mojo, and the lesser viziers on the Fed board are looking more and more like the larval, sunken-chested dweebs that they really are. So where is the nation to turn? Why, to the great blustering Trump, with his “can-do” bombast about “making America great again.” What does he mean, exactly? Like, making America the way it was in 1958?” Behold: the return of the great steel rolling mills along the banks of the Monongahela (and so on)! Fuggeddabowdit. Ain’t gonna happen.

I have to say it again: prepare to get smaller and more local. Things on the grand level are not going to work out. Get your shit together locally, and do it in place that has some prospect for keeping on: a small town somewhere food can be grown and especially places near the inland waterways where some kind of commercial exchange might continue in the absence of the trucking industry. Sound outlandish? Okay then. Keep buying Tesla stock and party on, dudes. Hail the viziers in their star-and-planet bedizened Brooks Brother raiment. Put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye.

Kunstler



22 Comments on "Kunstler: Say Goodbye to Normal"

  1. Makati1 on Mon, 31st Aug 2015 8:43 pm 

    “What’s afoot is a not “recession” but a permanent contraction of what has been normal for a little over two hundred years. There is not going to be more of everything…”

    This is one of his best articles in a long time. Spot on in every way.

    “Going Medieval” is the best we can hope for for our grand kids. I doubt that they will have it that good. Extinction seems our destiny.

  2. apneaman on Mon, 31st Aug 2015 9:12 pm 

    General Mills Warns Climate Change Will Lead To Global Food Shortages

    “A spokeswoman for the company, whose brands range from Yoplait yogurt and Pillsbury to Haagen-Dazs ice cream and Green Giant vegetables, went further, telling The Huffington Post that a failure to address climate change would make it extremely difficult to feed the world’s growing population, which is expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050.

    She pointed to extreme weather and the decline in pollinating insects as worrying signs that are already impacting food production, and she noted that climate change will place stress on vulnerable growing regions around the world that provide important ingredients to make food. For example: 70 percent of the world’s cocoa is sourced from two countries in West Africa; 90 percent of the world’s vanilla is sourced from Madagascar; and 80 percent of the world’s almonds are grown in California.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/general-mills-warns-climate-change-will-lead-to-global-food-shortages_55e45e5ce4b0c818f6186305

  3. apneaman on Mon, 31st Aug 2015 9:14 pm 

    Plastic Will Be Inside Nearly Every Seabird on Earth by 2050

    http://motherboard.vice.com/read/plastic-will-be-inside-nearly-every-seabird-on-earth-by-2050

  4. Rodster on Tue, 1st Sep 2015 2:20 am 

    “The World on Fire: Record-Breaking Wildfires, Greenland Melting and Earth’s Hottest Month Ever”

    http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32556-the-world-on-fire-record-breaking-wildfires-greenland-melting-and-the-hottest-month-ever-recorded-on-earth

  5. theedrich on Tue, 1st Sep 2015 3:06 am 

    There is only one component omitted in Mr. K’s mediævalist scenario:  the matter of power politics.  The Masters of the Moneyed Universe, from Sörös & Son on down, will continue to pervert the planet to their last penny.  They own not only the Demonic Party and a good share of the Repubs, but virtually all of the media, including the nostalgia-conjuring “conservative” outlets such as Fox News.  Their grip on Canada, western Europe and Australia/New-Zealand is even tighter.  No truly independent voice can affect this the least.  (Note the universal assault on Trump, who has dared to step outside the playpen a bit.  Falling in lockstep with the marionettes, Mr. K calls him “worse” than the Great Satan of WW II.)

    It is not just the spoiled brats of the White West who demand earthly immortality and infinite prosperity;  the exploding and invading populations of Sewerland are demanding their own chance to participate in destroying the earth.  The sob-story propaganda and Christian White-Guilt psychodynamics — to say nothing of emergent neo-slavery — are accelerating the collapse of our once great civilization.  Anyone who ventures to object to this is immediately branded a “racist,” and in Canada and Europe actually imprisoned.  The Sörös fantasy of an “Open Society” will be pursued to the bitter end, no matter what the lemmings want.  There will be no “popular uprisings,” no new “evil dictators” other than those appointed by the Masters.  It will be BAU all the way to the mass grave.

  6. Davy on Tue, 1st Sep 2015 3:43 am 

    Thee said “accelerating the collapse of our once great civilization”. Thee, I personally do not find our modern civilization great at all other than great at destruction. We are a species of extinction and ecosystem destruction. We are invasive and disruptive. The closest thing I can find to apes with large brains being adaptive and in partial harmony to nature currently is the Kogi of Columbia: http://bardofely.hubpages.com/hub/Kogi-warning-ignored-by-Younger-Brother-so-the-new-film-Aluna-is-made. I say partial harmony because I feel knowledge does not allow harmony because it is dualistic and by nature separates.

    I have done extensive reading on the Osage tribe of Central Missouri, Northern Arkansas, and Northeastern Oklahoma. Their pre-white culture was more harmonious and worshiped nature as the Great Spirit. I find that it is higher civilization to be in harmony and adapted to Nature than knowledge and temporary dominion over nature. I have used that word in many comments recently. It is really a word about slavery and control. It is hubris and reckless. It will be our end.

    I feel we must reject this feeling of greatness of any period of modern man. I know of no civilized human period as great. If we could do one thing now it would be reject the past as a failure and take steps to prepare so many for the death and destruction that likely faces us. This would be in humility and honesty to what is clearly evident from multiple warning signs. We can also just accept we are a failed species who thinks themselves exceptional and ride the horse over the cliff to our death. Let’s put ourselves out of our misery in blind deception and lies. Is that what we want?

  7. apneaman on Tue, 1st Sep 2015 4:12 am 

    If you reread the passage in it’s intended context, it’s worse that Hitler was as a demagogue telling the sheep what they want to hear. As in even more absurd for an absurd populous. In no way did he imply that Trump has done things as bad a Hitler after Hitler took power, although many seem to need to cling to that reading to support their own fantasies. Reading comprehension difficulties? No just apes interpreting things to support their stories.

  8. Plantagenet on Tue, 1st Sep 2015 4:19 am 

    Makati clearly doesn’t have a clue what a recession is.

    Far from being I recession as he wrongly claims US GDP grew by over 3% last quarter

    Cheers

  9. onlooker on Tue, 1st Sep 2015 4:43 am 

    Makati, yes Kunstler article can be summed up by saying fictional money does not amount to nothing and at some point they all the players have to confess to themselves that fact. Then the real economy is showcased and the economic players either adjust or have to retire from the game. Davy, harmony seems to be diametrically opposed to what civilization is at the present which is that we are living simultaneously with feverish and delusional denial of the rather unpleasant truth of what is the reality of the Earth and of humanity.

  10. Davy on Tue, 1st Sep 2015 5:08 am 

    Planter, what is GDP? Who’s GDP? Wall Street and DC? What about main street and traditional economic growth and productivity? Sorry Planter, I can no longer believe in these numbers that represent extend and pretend, mal-investment, over capacity, and ecological destruction. If you change the definition to GDD (gross domestic destruction) I will agree with you.

  11. Makati1 on Tue, 1st Sep 2015 6:10 am 

    Plant, You saw that where in my comments? I don’t remember writing that here anywhere or time. The US is in a depression, and has been since 2008.

  12. paulo1 on Tue, 1st Sep 2015 8:41 am 

    Alaska must be on a different economic planet. My sister lives in Wash state and there, the news is all Amazon, Microsoft, and Boeing Hype. The commercial strip malls are half empty and major worries are the price of food and will my medical insurance cover…….? The 3% growth bullshit is all phony. Boeing gets concessions on the ttreat of moving to a non0union southern state and Amazon is exposed for what it is, a company that has never made a dime of profit only stock gains while exploiting its workers.

    This is good? People are freaking mad down there. So mad, they are losing their common sense. If Trump’s bid doesn’t indicate angry desperation and outright stupidity, pray tell, what does?

  13. GregT on Tue, 1st Sep 2015 9:44 am 

    “If Trump’s bid doesn’t indicate angry desperation and outright stupidity, pray tell, what does?”

    Hillary Clinton?

  14. Rodster on Tue, 1st Sep 2015 11:37 am 

    “The US is in a depression, and has been since 2008.”

    Correction!

    The WORLD has been in a DEPRESSION since 2008. All across the EU youth unemployment has been a staggering 50-70%. China’s GDP was all based on lies to keep the world from imploding which is NOW finally starting to catch up to them. Their current adjusted GDP according to Asian economists is now either 0% or even worse -1.1%.

    You can only build so many “Ghost Cities and Factories along with Bridges to nowhere” before it finally destroys your e-CON-omy.

  15. Boat on Tue, 1st Sep 2015 2:09 pm 

    So where is the nation to turn? Why, to the great blustering Trump, with his “can-do” bombast about “making America great again.”

    Trump is wrong as well as the depression since 2008 rhetoric. The US is stronger in every way as with much of the developed world. Health care access is better than ever. Excellent choices of appliances, building materials and heating The savings of efficiency make the actual price of the products net cheaper over a home lifetime. This is a great time to be alive. To bad some just can’t see it.

  16. GregT on Tue, 1st Sep 2015 3:23 pm 

    Jeez Boat,

    What planet are you living on buddy?

    My wife has worked in healthcare for the past 33 years. Never, has she seen the system in such disarray, as it has been for the last few years. Underfunded, overpriced, short staffed, and the wait times are horrendous. It is only expected to get much worse as more and more baby boomers come up for retirement. This has been a regular topic of discussion on the news for at least the last five years.

    My father brought up a family of five, on one income. We had a house in the city, a cabin at the lake, a travel trailer, a boat, two cars and a truck. We took three holidays a year. He put all of us through college and university, paid for braces for all of our teeth, and put three square meals on the table each and every day. He is long since retired now, they live in a 1.5 million dollar home, with 3 lucrative pension plans, and a very substantial nest-egg.

    My daughter is a professional, and her husband a lieutenant firefighter, as well as a part time worker for a mechanical distribution company. They make very good coin. They cannot afford to buy a home in the city, without taking on a 650,000 dollar mortgage. In their early 30s, they have put having children on hold, because they don’t feel that they can provide a good enough home. My Mom had me when she was 21.

    My parents still own the very first refrigerator that they ever bought. It is in the garage now, and has been running every day since the day that they bought it back in the 50s. They have probably gone through 6 or 8 more efficient fridges in the kitchen during the side time period. Appliances today are built to break down Boat. They have built in obsolescence and are destined for the landfill.

    I owned a home in the city that was built in 1953. Full 2″ x 4″ edge grained, old growth, fir studs, 3/4 inch shiplap exterior walls, covered in stucco. That house was bombproof. Many homes here today are built with 1.5″ x 3.5″ finger jointed pine, spruce, or hemlock studs, with 7/16 OSB exterior walls, cover in vinyl siding.

    This is a great time to be alive Boat. We are extremely fortunate, many of us here in the west that is. If people didn’t feel that this was great time to be alive, they wouldn’t be so concerned about what we stand to lose.

  17. apneaman on Tue, 1st Sep 2015 4:07 pm 

    boat we all love the gizmos and gadgets, but how you can celebrate when the costs for only a few generations of easy living are going to be horrific is beyond me. If you do not give a shit about anything other than your own comfort and ease then at least say so, but just stop it with the fucking cheerleading and pretending there is not going to be a huge price to pay for all those toys. Here boat, here’s the other benefit of science – we get to know the price.

    Humans could be among the victims of sixth ‘mass extinction’, scientists warn

    “If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover and our species itself would likely disappear early on,” lead author Gerardo Ceballos of the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico said.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-20/s … ys/6560700

    Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction

    http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/ … 00253.full

    Humans face extinction if plant destruction continues: ‘Laws of thermodynamics have no mercy’

    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/humans-face-ex … ign=buffer

    Human domination of the biosphere: Rapid
    discharge of the earth-space battery foretells
    the future of humankind

    https://collapseofindustrialcivilizatio … 353112.pdf

  18. Boat on Tue, 1st Sep 2015 5:38 pm 

    apneaman,

    An individual can do little about climate change. According to many experts it is already to late. If it is not to late it will take societies across the world led by Religion, government and industry. That is not going to happen for a very long time. Just the way it is, no matter how much of the gnashing of the teeth and the pulling of the hair your frustration will continue.
    In the meantime I will support any efficiency gain and renewable. I try to support local growers. I support a carbon tax. Dissipointed with coal ash and flaring, But I will never apologize for being a hard working, tax paying citizen trying to do the right thing.

  19. apneaman on Tue, 1st Sep 2015 6:08 pm 

    Boat, so gleefully doing more of what is causing it and not even so much as suggesting your government take precautions to protect the citizenry is the new patriotism? What makes you think I’m frustrated? Hell no, watching apes like you do mental gymnastics to try cling to your stories is the most fun I have ever had. What could possibly more absurdly hilarious? You have no idea how much I am praying for Trump to become your next president.

  20. theedrich on Wed, 2nd Sep 2015 4:37 am 

    Davy, you might want to read “Wild in Woods:  The Myth of the Noble Eco-Savage” about your wonderful primitives.  Romantic concepts of eco-friendly Indians do not reflect reality, regardless of Margaret-Mead-type sociological blather.  There are also very few of those sweet nature-lovers who would not quickly escape from their paradise to invade Whitey’s nasty culture in order to “find a better life,” as the immigration lawyers bleat.  Our civilization was (i.e., past tense) the greatest ever achieved, in art, science, politics and virtually everything that could be considered magnificent.  Unfortunately, our system of government has also fostered grotesque egotism amongst the oligarchs and intellectual sloth among the TV-hypnotizees.  We are not immune to overreach or, as Tainter explains, diminishing returns.  Yes, chimpanzees are more ecologically friendly.  But the direction of evolution is inexorably toward ever higher consciousness, not camping out with the wild animals and using buffalo jumps to annihilate the bison.

    Most of the contributors on this site seem to want the European-based West to provide nicey-niceness and philanthropy to the entire Third World.  They fancy that the Third World could not possibly be comprised 95% of brutal parasites incompatible with Western values.  This is Sörös-type thinking.

    The laws of evolution were determined at the Big Bang.  They are not going to be abrogated by a gang of genosuicidal Whites who think that Christian charity is the solution to an impending Tainteresque doom.  Nor will the Marxists — who conveniently ignore the fact that Communism murdered about 176 million in the last century — present any escape from what is coming, even though they may again seize power and repeat their absurdities.

    To cut to the chase:  note that the operative word in Darwin’s formula of “survival of the fittest” is survival.

  21. apneaman on Wed, 2nd Sep 2015 5:20 am 

    theedrich, your suggestion that “Our civilization was (i.e., past tense) the greatest ever achieved, in art, science, politics and virtually everything that could be considered magnificent” is just romantic and delusional as the noble savage story. It’s obvious to me that you are intelligent and mostly well read, yet still shackled by your own tribalism and self serving “golden age” story.

    Humans responsible for demise of gigantic ancient mammals

    “The researchers ran thousands of scenarios which mapped the windows of time in which each species is known to have become extinct, and humans are known to have arrived on different continents or islands. This was compared against climate reconstructions for the last 90,000 years.

    Examining different regions of the world across these scenarios, they found coincidences of human spread and species extinction which illustrate that man was the main agent causing the demise, with climate change exacerbating the number of extinctions”

    http://phys.org/news/2015-08-humans-responsible-demise-gigantic-ancient.html

  22. Davy on Wed, 2nd Sep 2015 6:09 am 

    Thee, The Osage were connected to their surroundings. They had an oral tradition passed on for generations. These traditions gave all in the tribe a place. Looking at this from the POV of species in an ecosystem they had a place. I find any humans in any society ecosystem disrupters but these primitives were less so. I will also say ecological disruptors are natural and vital to an ecosystem. They promote evolution and change which is vital to life. In this respect maybe we can find a silver lining for the Anthropocene. It is natures ‘will’ to have destroyers so she can rebuild anew testing and refining life.

    Within our species and our fight for survival of our species your judgements are part of the insanity we are habituated to and that is the thinking we are civilized. What good is civilization if it leads to a possible extinction event? I find that a poor example of “greatest”. We are the greatest “fuck-ups”. Spiritually we find something similar. Our dualistic separateness of civilized philosophy and theology has not succeeded in attaining high spirituality except in rare isolated cases. Most are unable to attain this level of spirituality because it requires deep humility and otherness. Knowledge corrupts in most cases by the deadly sins of the ego. One must discards ones ego and submit to the truth completely. There can be nothing attained from the highest of spiritualties. We civilized(s) mostly have found ways to use deep spiritual truths to enslave and exploit. That is the lowest of spiritualties or put religiously evil.

    I have done lots of research and I have come to the conclusion man in small semi-nomadic groups with a place in a local ecosystem was the best of what is human. We fool ourselves with our knowledge. It is proving out our civilized man will likely have a 10,000 or so year run compared to many thousands of years for semi-nomadic hunter gathers with a natural culture. Real knowledge is found in and through Nature. Only nature can overcome nature.

    Knowledge is an every deeper trap of opening door to unopened doors. It is a vicious circle of not trusting ourselves and our environment. Thee it is true these peoples were savages and superstitious yet, that is alive and well in our so called civilized society. They were human. They also would enjoy the wonders of knowledge when it was encountered yet, unless forced into this world of civilization they would only incorporate what worked within their cultural tradition.

    The Osage who I have studied extensively, avoided the white man as best they could. They had a wonderful culture in an exceptional ecosystem that was Middle America pre-white. They were healthy and strong. Their diet was far superior to ours or any earlier agrarian cultures I have studied. We can agree to disagree but your POV is plain to see in the failure of man currently. You can’t blame someone within this failure of civilization. If civilization was truly great there would be no failures. My noble savages did not fail on their own they were enslaved and conquered by that lower human trait of dominion and separateness.

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