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Catalyst for economic collapse

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Re: Catalyst for economic collapse

Unread postby Squilliam » Sat 11 Mar 2017, 17:28:54

Fast collapse? The collapse of law and order. The instant law and order breaks down you have an immediate collapse of the local economy. You could even argue in EROEI terms like for instance when you break a car window to steal $15 you're doing $100 worth of damage to net $15 worth of resources. This is just a symptom of a wider problem because once law and order is lost then businesses slam shut (or are taken out), and people's primitive brains reassert themselves in a variety of unpleasant ways. This is where you get the story of a person shot over a can of beans or some such that is otherwise inconceivable to regular Joe.

Slow collapse? I would say the incongruities of the economy could do that nicely. Much of the inequality in the west is because of the unbalanced nature of the economy. Give a rich person $10 and they won't spend it, give a poor person $10 and it disappears in half an hour. Think of wealth as like water rights. People can happily trade water rights that don't correspond to the actual river all day and night and everything is fine until such time as people try to 'spend' their allotments. This is the reason why quantitative easing hasn't caused hyper inflation because whilst the number of water rights has increased substantially the actual river drawings have not changed much if at all.

A 'shock' in economic terms is inevitable because the quantity of water rights always exceeds the quantity of water. This is often precipitated by an external shock that exposes the sham that is already in effect. The rising cost of oil in 2007/8 shocked the economy because the total draw was larger than expected, so the system was 'found out' so to speak. Even if there was no oil shock the crisis was inevitable, but it just came sooner than would have otherwise happened. Another correction is of course inevitable because the fundamental problems have not been solved. The economy is a fictional entity based on concrete reality, so in a paradoxical way it represents both the power of human belief and the objective reality of the world.

We're in a strange paradoxical situation right now whereby there is a certain level of under-consumption (due to misallocation of water rights) that leads to excess capacity in the system. This means that consumption could increase if the rights were allotted more towards those that would tend to use them. On the other hand we have a massive over-subscription of rights where the wealthy hold such a large proportion relative to the total consumption that is possible that if they were to action their rights in a tangible real world way there would be a massive inflation shock.

Slow collapse: In my mind two ways. One a physical shock (climate change, disease, disaster, energy crisis) or a shock in the mindset (spending increases massively relative to the physical limits). Both would expose the incongruity of the system and lead to recession/depression.
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Re: Catalyst for economic collapse

Unread postby onlooker » Sat 11 Mar 2017, 17:42:50

Fascinating commentary Squil. You have touched in fact on what now appears to be the trigger that will collapse our socio-economic system. The rights you speak of meaning money as a representation of tangible goods/services. Yes, many poor people on the planet. They now cannot afford to buy the gas or oil which is the prime energy source. So, a shock is coming to the energy system. The Oil Industry is fast losing money as the combination of a weak consumer sector worldwide and rising costs and depleting reserves is making the production of Oil ever more problematic. So we are reaching fast the point whereby the weakness of the consumer Economy is precipitating fatal weakness in our most vital sector, the energy sector. Basically, around the point when the energy derived from producing in this case Oil is less than the energy required to produce it. So that now appears to me will be the catalyst for economic collapse.
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Re: Catalyst for economic collapse

Unread postby Squilliam » Sat 11 Mar 2017, 18:58:12

onlooker wrote:Fascinating commentary Squil. You have touched in fact on what now appears to be the trigger that will collapse our socio-economic system. The rights you speak of meaning money as a representation of tangible goods/services. Yes, many poor people on the planet. They now cannot afford to buy the gas or oil which is the prime energy source. So, a shock is coming to the energy system. The Oil Industry is fast losing money as the combination of a weak consumer sector worldwide and rising costs make the production of Oil ever more problematic. So we are reaching fast the point whereby the weakness of the consumer Economy is precipitating fatal weakness in our most vital sector, the energy sector. Basically, around the point when the energy derived from producing in this case Oil is less than the energy required to produce it. So that now appears to me will be the catalyst for economic collapse.


Thank you. :-)

If you consider the human body for instance you could argue that the heart is the most important organ because once it stops beating the body dies. However if you took out the liver, the stomach the digestive system, the kidneys etc you're equally fucked, but just in a different way. Oil is just one important part of the overall system. Oil production could increase 3% per year compounded and it'll just be something else that will precipitate problems. I think people shouldn't get too attached to the details when talking about overall systemic problems because there are too many unknowns.

Liquidity is a metaphor for money, so I just took that metaphor one step further. You can imagine the whole of the economy and ecology of the planet as represented by just one river. This makes a problem that is far beyond the scope of a human mind into something a lot more manageable. Of course there are limits to the metaphor because it attempts to simplify something that is incomprehensibly complex into something that isn't, so some details left out and contradictions are inevitable.

The ability of the system to withstand shocks is represented by the under-drawing of the river. If the river volume diminishes then it doesn't necessarily mean that economic shocks are inevitable. However over the long term the economy will fluctuate relative to the real world capacities of the system. If the total quantity of water will inevitably decline then it is inevitable that the systems derived from that will also contract because this is the fundamental reality. I guess this is the theme of economic collapse. Economies only really collapse long term if the fundamentals are broken (if they aren't they quickly recover for instance the return of Germany after WW2 to economic power). So the question at hand really in my mind is this: Are the fundamentals sound long term, and what positive changes are left that could significantly alter the pessimistic forecasts (energy, climate change, disease, soil depletion bla bla bla) are there?
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Re: Catalyst for economic collapse

Unread postby onlooker » Sat 11 Mar 2017, 19:51:23

Yes and I would add we live in a fundamentally closed system which is our planet. It is useful to employ an ecological term which is Liebigs Law of the Minimum derived from agricultural science defined as: It states that growth is controlled not by the total amount of resources available, but by the scarcest resource (limiting factor), thus my reference to the current situation with energy. But certainly the full range of economic/environmental factors is very complex. However, in answer to your query, in my opinion the fundamentals are very unsound especially long term. We have a huge and growing population that by virtue of its size and its propensity for materialistic consumption is inflicting damage on the Biosphere and drawing down resources even while rising population depends commensurately on said resources and Biosphere.
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Re: Catalyst for economic collapse

Unread postby Squilliam » Sat 11 Mar 2017, 20:07:56

Going back to Liebig it could actually be a fundamental problem of ecology rather than energy that does the system in. The biggest ecological drawdowns such as climate change, soil depletion, water depletion/pollution etc could be the fundamental problem that throws it all out of sync. Then it becomes something of a war of semantics in terms of how you define things because even then you could still define it as a problem of energy because nothing humans do in this world is possible except in light of the energy supplied by fossil fuels.
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Re: Catalyst for economic collapse

Unread postby Ibon » Sat 11 Mar 2017, 20:28:16

I would say technology and cultural adaptation are the two biggest wild cards even more so then the draw down of ecological sinks. The reason is that if you consider all the energy and food expenditure that is non essential then we have a mountain of non essentials to work through before we hit the bottom of raw survival. As we work our way down through that discretionary food and energy usage there will be huge forces on technology and culture to adapt. Processed packaged food disappears. discretionary travel and flying to Panama to watch birds disappears, etc. etc. etc. long before we hit any kind of raw survival limits.

On the other hand there are some bio-regions and some economies where the majority of citizens already are living pretty close to the bone in terms of essentials where 100% of what you earn goes to your essentials. Countries also already not self sufficient in food production. Some of these areas and countries and bioregions are going to be devastated. They will be the sacrificial lambs and watching them from afar will hone countries and bio-regions better off to willingly start to make the collective sacrifices necessary.

Cultural adaptation will accelerate watching hundreds of millions perish in less fortunate areas. This will act as a major catalyst also prioritizing technology away from consumer goods and towards essentials. We wont make any meaningful transition without watching regional die-offs unfold. This will sober the energy gluttons into self sacrifice.

Technology and cultural adaptation triggered by the catalyst of consequences of less fortunate regions. This will be a major driver.
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Re: Catalyst for economic collapse

Unread postby onlooker » Sat 11 Mar 2017, 20:31:56

Yes environmental constraints and energy constraints are closely tied together especially because of how have been utilizing energy to artificially boost carrying capacity. However, the bitter irony is we are reaching limits on abundant cheap fuel sources even while hard environmental limits are also apparent. But worse of all is that both the ongoing damage to the Biosphere and the drawing down of non-renewable resources is in fact reducing effective carrying capacity
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Re: Catalyst for economic collapse

Unread postby Newfie » Sun 12 Mar 2017, 12:20:30

And I would say TRUST is the fundamental that will take the system down.

Does anyone really believe that the system we have now is sustainable? Maybe some knock hatted economist, but real folks? I've read that a large proportion of stock traders and silicone valley types have some form of investment in doomsteads or doom survival plans. They largely say they don't expect doom/collapse but rather that they have enough money that such investment is a way of diversifying.

I say baloney. Somewhere inside their is a deep rooted distrust of the financial system. They all know it's a rotten Ponzi scheme but they are playing it for all its worth until it collapses. They think they have their "out." Kind of like musical chairs, someone will be left hurt but it won't be me. Yeah, right!

This kind of thinking means that to survive collapse you need to be on the lookout for the first signs and then bail QUICK. I'm betting that some number of guys are freaking and bailing n they get back in. But someday we will have a sufficient number bailing that it will start a market panic. Kind of like fission.

That sudden manifestation of the fear will collapse the international markets. They will be hard to restart once the carnage has been realized. People will be more openly afraid.
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Re: Catalyst for economic collapse

Unread postby Ibon » Sun 12 Mar 2017, 13:35:57

Newfie wrote:
This kind of thinking means that to survive collapse you need to be on the lookout for the first signs and then bail QUICK.


There was a time not all that long ago that most folks had a sense of civic duty so that their first instincts when faced with a perceived societal threat would be to pull together. Back then they would think of someone with the above sentiment as aberrant and very abnormal.

I also think this is very aberrant.
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Re: Catalyst for economic collapse

Unread postby Squilliam » Sun 12 Mar 2017, 14:32:30

Ibon wrote:
There was a time not all that long ago that most folks had a sense of civic duty so that their first instincts when faced with a perceived societal threat would be to pull together. Back then they would think of someone with the above sentiment as aberrant and very abnormal.

I also think this is very aberrant.


Relatively homogeneous societies tend to be better at dealing with natural disasters because there is a higher level of trust. People tend to drift towards ethnic community when they choose their places to live. One significant reason for the creation of the suburbs in America was for the European populations to move towards ethnically homogenous areas. In my city in Auckland suburban areas are increasingly becoming mono-cultural even though the city itself is technically one of the most diverse in the world.
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Re: Catalyst for economic collapse

Unread postby evilgenius » Sun 12 Mar 2017, 20:17:08

During the Cold War many smaller communities had plans and developed places for survival. They had an understanding, and belief it was possible, of how to function as a civilized sociocultural entity after a calamity. That kind of thinking seems less prevalent today. I wonder sometimes if that isn't due to the same thing that drives suicide above all other drivers, affluence. It distorts thinking such that a minute difference becomes more important than it really is. People are emotional creatures. During the Cold War many of the more advanced things we enjoy today, such as the way we implement equality amongst ourselves, didn't exist. We have created more points of contention that determine how we think. We can't be separated from them. They will distort our reasoning, no matter how hard we try not to let them. That can be a good thing too.

I'm always surprised when a sci fi movie or TV show goes to explore another world, and winds up oversimplifying it and making it into a society out of our past, even our distant past, when high technology is also involved. A lot of people consider this prophetic. I think it makes a statement about our emotional intelligence. We aren't born very giving, and to become that way seems like it is around a future, as opposed to a past, corner.
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Re: Catalyst for economic collapse

Unread postby Newfie » Sun 12 Mar 2017, 20:22:30

It seems to me pretty obvious that we are reverting to smaller, more nationalistic alliances. I'm not Suprised. It's the instincutual way we behave, for better or worse.
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Re: Catalyst for economic collapse

Unread postby evilgenius » Mon 13 Mar 2017, 05:12:08

Another example out of our past, one older than the Cold War, might also be relevant. Back in my dad's time people used to make their own roads to places in the woods. They had to get to some place, so they drove their old Willy's jeeps around the trees. Other people had to get there too, and they tended to use those same tracks. Other than logging roads placed into the woods, that was how most of the trails taken in the back country came into being.

For a long time now the Forest Service has been against back country road use. As the number of people has increased they have shut down a lot of access. It makes sense when you consider that you can't allow that many people to do their own thing, as used to be the case when people made their own roads. What it stands against is the idea that most of us won't make our own roads. Most of us will respect what is around us enough only to do that when it is necessary. The Forest Service has actually taken it upon itself to protect us from the aberrant people who don't care, or have no sense about such things. In doing so, though, they've made a decision about everybody's future that has been dictated to us over fear of how bad the bad people can be.

What isn't being recognized is that most of what are now called trails in the back country were pretty good dirt roads in my dad's time. People used to go everywhere on them. They took care of them too. People used to do things like tie lengths of railroad track behind their jeeps and drag them as they went along as a means to help keep the roads from getting too washboardy. Nobody called the cops on people who acted on their own in this manner. It was understood that regular maintenance was necessary on the roads too, and nobody used to gripe about how much it cost.

Today we have highways. There is a bias toward using them. There is such a bias toward using them that they can become swollen to excess, and very expensive to consider alternatives to, since large scale alternatives are what most people consider, not networks of smaller roads. This is an extended metaphor for the change in mentality that has taken place, putting us in a place where we are more vulnerable to black swans. We are learning that without a network of alternatives we have to fear those things more.

The real crisis, however, may be over trust. We don't know how to bring people up so that we can trust them when they are out there on their own. When life was more communal, back in my dad's day, I suppose they used consternation toward each other. The Forest Service discovered you can get to a place where that doesn't work anymore. They couldn't respond in a manner that could build trustworthiness in people, so they had to close old things down. People accepted that because it was easy to buy into that fear, easier than figuring out how to create a more advanced world where we could trust each other.

These days we have lots to complain about economically too, and want to close things down. We like for everybody to have to use the same systems both monetarily and physically. You can stand on a corner in most built out places now and you can't tell where you are from what you see around you, every place looks the same. It's like how we like big highways so much and prefer not to build a contemporary infrastructure of local relevance. We frown upon walking. We separate ourselves from nature, alienating ourselves from the order suggested to us by the outside world and our own internal nature. There is this other thing, and it is much more corporate in its nature. It seems pretty strong too, but where it does get weak it gets weak in unexpected ways. We lose strength by not being able to trust each other when we deal with that when it happens. It's almost like that kind of thing is actually a skill, and we are way out of practice.
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Re: Catalyst for economic collapse

Unread postby Tanada » Mon 13 Mar 2017, 08:25:16

Speaking of alternatives to the major highways, by 2005 GPS civilian systems were all the rage. then in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when the refugees had spread out to other communities as far away as Houston another hurricane came along, I think it was Wilma? Anyhow when it came towards Houston everyone and their spouse jumped in the car/truck/SUV and set the GPS for Dallas or other major cities inland. All of the GPS units automatically selected the 'fastest route' which meant the expressway network and you got instant gridlock because the roads could not handle that volume all at once.

A few rugged individualists still knew how to use maps so they looked at the map and took the two lane highway instead. Those folks got to their destination city in a few hours, while at the same time those blinded by the technology ran out of gas on the highway stuck in a traffic jam that went 20 miles at zero to 1 mph.

Near my home there are three (YES 3) secondary or tertiary roads where a bridge has been out of service for a decade or longer. Nobody touched any of them when the "shovel ready jobs" money was being spread around a few years ago. Why? Because even a decade ago the only projects that get studied are the BIG projects, Expressways. For what it cost to widen I-75 to three lanes for a mile you could replace every bridge on every secondary road in this county, but I-75 sucked up all the money. Contractors are focused on the big jobs because they last a long time and pay very well. Country and state governments focus on the expressway because their economic forecasts are all structured on moving stuff through the county, be that goods or people, not moving them within the county.
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Re: Catalyst for economic collapse

Unread postby Cog » Mon 13 Mar 2017, 08:42:56

I know exactly what you are talking about Tanada. I've worked on several of these mega-size road projects. Most of which were not necessary at all. Entire expressways ripped out and new ones put in their place when there wasn't anything wrong with the old one that some patching and sealing couldn't solve. New mega-bridge crossing the Mississippi when the current four were handling the traffic load quite well. The politicians at the state level are always over-represented by the urban areas when it comes time to spending money on infrastructure.

By the time I left construction surveying as a consultant, I was thoroughly disgusted with how my state funded roads and bridges. Its all politics. I got much more enjoyment doing work on a local bridge in the country, that the people who lived out there needed fixed, than any big project I ever worked on.
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Re: Catalyst for economic collapse

Unread postby GHung » Mon 13 Mar 2017, 09:55:23

Probably another case of smaller is better. Our county is between 50-60 miles from the nearest interstate (as the crow flies), about 20 miles from the nearest divided state 4-lane, and has a whopping 1.5 miles of four lane in the county. Two traffic lights. Not a lot of main road infrastructure to maintain, and I suspect that, at some point, many of the secondary roads will go back to gravel as they were 30-40 years ago.

Bridges were another matter until recently. Some were even condemned by the Feds in the 80's after that spell of bridges collapsing under school buses, all that. All public roads in NC are state roads, and we've seen those funds going to big projects in the cities to our east, or to rebuild roads and bridges on the coast after storms. Anyway, after a lot of bitching and moaning, and a couple of law suits, we've managed to get all of the important bridges that needed it rebuilt. One fairly important bridge was on the state and fed critical list for 30+ years. Finally done last year. Other smaller bridges in the county (many) are either being replaced, or could be done with local resources. Covered wooden bridges, anyone?

Image

Point being, small rural communities may have an advantage going forward because they simply don't have, or need, the level of infrastructure that the cities and suburbs have to maintain. We certainly aren't overbuilt in that respect, as so much of the country is. Also, as the level of traffic drops, these roads and bridges can last quite a long time in our climate with minimal maintenance.
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Re: Catalyst for economic collapse

Unread postby Newfie » Mon 13 Mar 2017, 10:14:51

It's similar in mass transit.
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Re: Catalyst for economic collapse

Unread postby Cog » Mon 13 Mar 2017, 11:12:14

At a certain level its understandable. The benefits of fixing a road system or bridge that services hundreds of thousands of commuters a day outweighs the needs of a few hundred who are serviced in a rural area. But what I have seen is perfectly serviceable urban roads and bridges that just need repair versus a complete new build or other expensive option.
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Re: Catalyst for economic collapse

Unread postby vtsnowedin » Mon 13 Mar 2017, 11:31:20

The problem with wooden covered bridges is the weight of concrete trucks, county plow trucks and fire engines. Some of these top out at 100,000 lbs when fully loaded so a safety factor of three requires a bridge built for 300,000 and that takes steel and concrete.
VTAOT is replacing the decks of two nearly identical bridges in my village. Bid price for the two over four million dollars.
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Re: Catalyst for economic collapse

Unread postby GHung » Mon 13 Mar 2017, 12:03:14

vtsnowedin wrote:The problem with wooden covered bridges is the weight of concrete trucks, county plow trucks and fire engines. Some of these top out at 100,000 lbs when fully loaded so a safety factor of three requires a bridge built for 300,000 and that takes steel and concrete.
VTAOT is replacing the decks of two nearly identical bridges in my village. Bid price for the two over four million dollars.


I'm thinking farther into the future as collapse proceeds. Of course, if you have concrete and big trucks to haul it (and rebar, etc) you can still build your bridges that way, assuming the funding is there. In a "world made by hand", smaller rural/agricultural communities will eventually have an advantage, IMO. A world made by hand scenario won't be much good in urban/suburban areas.
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