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Where Did The Prosperity Go?


What’s the root cause for the disappearance of widespread prosperity in our modern world?

Last week’s post discussed low-wage work as the “new normal” for American workers. This is surely not the vision of resurgent prosperity that drew voters to “Make America Great Again” at the polls, despite overblown promises from the guy who won. Truth is, there’s not very much that Trump – or anyone – can do to bring back a truly booming economy. Why is that?

The economy of a modern industrialized nation as large as ours is a complex system with emergent properties, a juggernaut that can be pushed a bit, but which is hard to command completely. However, the economy still responds to the limits placed upon it by objective reality, even if the people living within it find it comforting or convenient to ignore those hard realities at all costs. At least two distinct fact-based limits are coming to the forefront these days, both of which have dire implications for those whose nostalgia-tinged memories of past prosperity form a default expectation for future returns.

First, there’s the infrastructure life cycle and bills coming due. Historically speaking, cities grew organically, at an incremental rate. As parts gradually wore out, they were replaced one by one (or dismantled to build something else). You can see it in the way the oldest cities look like tangled nests from above. Newer cities, especially sprawling “ring suburbs” built after WWII to give returning veterans and new families a place to live, were constructed relatively quickly, and as such, the infrastructure repairs are coming due in a short timeframe. Having to pony up for all these expensive fixes roughly simultaneously (or deciding not to fix things and, instead, accepting costs that accrue due to crumbling or outdated infrastructure) is a drain on the economy that erodes prosperity no matter what cities decide to do about it.

The second problem is even larger and harder to avoid. EROEI, or “energy returned on energy invested,” is a way of measuring the net gain from producing or extracting energy. It sounds pretty dry, but it’s important to consider in the context of present and future prosperity.

Everything we do and produce takes energy. Consider food: eating is how people gain energy to work, play, and keep their hearts beating. However, some of that energy must be reinvested in obtaining more food, or else it all stops. It’s the same for the energy on which we’ve based our industrial culture, mainly oil. Oil is an amazingly dense, versatile form of energy, and there’s nothing else like it for powering the diversity of tasks that underwrite the prosperity of modern civilization. Still, it takes some energy to get more of it, whether it’s drilling and refining oil, mining coal, or manufacturing and installing solar panels and wind turbines, not to mention transporting everything where it needs to go and cleaning up the mess afterward. After the cost of obtaining energy is paid, the surplus energy is used to power the economy.

Unfortunately, the amount of available surplus energy is on a largely irreversible downward trend. Once upon a time, oil was cheap and easy to get, so the surplus fueled previously unimaginable economic prosperity. Nowadays, we’ve already used the easy oil, and we have to invest more of the energy we extract in order to wring out a little more. We’ve gone so far as to exploit “tight” (hard to extract) sources like shale oil, tar sands, and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in order to slurp the bottom of the barrel as dry as possible in pursuit of now-mandatory growth. The more energy it takes, the more of our economic output must be spent on the extraction effort, with less left over to use for everything else, from rebuilding decaying infrastructure, to replacing lead water lines in a multitude of cities to, yes, increasing the pay of low-wage workers.

Caucasian hands holding open an empty leather wallet.
Image by Andrew Khoroshavin, courtesy of Pixabay.

Currently, the fracking industry in the United States faces a dismal future. Fracking outfits are running on debt (false wealth) and falling into bankruptcy. Investors are wary, sick of subsidizing a failing industry. This is where our prosperity went, into gaping holes in the ground, poisoned water, and as atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane, disrupting the once-stable climate, another emerging threat to our wellbeing, just as bills from a previous generation’s infrastructure spree are coming due. Imagine what we could have accomplished instead, if we had invested our wealth in more permanent goods for a better future for all.

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44 Comments on "Where Did The Prosperity Go?"

  1. Brent Georgeson on Tue, 4th Feb 2020 7:39 pm 

    All you have to do is read this article.

  2. Duncan Idaho on Tue, 4th Feb 2020 8:26 pm 

    It’s Missouri you stone cold idiot.

  3. dave thompson on Wed, 5th Feb 2020 5:26 am 

    EROEI that is where the prosperity went. Brent, the Vice article does touch on this point however, when I see terms like “Although there is “plenty of oil left,” it is “increasingly expensive to access”. EROEI in a nutshell emerges.

  4. Abraham van Helsing on Wed, 5th Feb 2020 11:16 am 

    Another plane blooper, now in Turkey:

    – On 7 January 2020, Pegasus Airlines Flight 747, operated by Boeing 737-800 TC-CCK overrun the runway on landing at Sabiha Gökçen Airport, Istanbul. All on board evacuated via slides. There were no injuries.

    – On 5 February 2020, Pegasus Airlines Flight 2193, operated by Boeing 737-800 TC-IZK overrun the runway on landing at Sabiha Gökçen Airport, Istanbul.

    They either need to extend the runway or selling planes to Turks should be forbidden as they are bad for your company CV.

    You can’t blame them, as they historically have a total different approach to aerospace technology. Cultural thingy:

  5. makati1 on Wed, 5th Feb 2020 5:22 pm 

    Boeing can’t catch a break (pun intended) and that is a good thing. It put $$$ before safety and now it is paying the price. It cannot hide from a world now refusing to fly on its junk.

    It may not make it thru this bad publicity and that too is a good thing. It will likely become a military owned company to make similarly failed military planes, like the F35. Boeing going down!

  6. JuanP on Wed, 5th Feb 2020 5:32 pm 

    Mak, have you already started drinking? You sound deranged. Why are you so angry and unhappy?

  7. makati1 on Wed, 5th Feb 2020 6:10 pm 

    Davy, calling yourself JuanP does not hide the fact that it is delusional, arrogant, uneducated you. LOL

  8. Brent georgeson on Thu, 6th Feb 2020 12:15 am 

    Yes Dave

    I know what EROEI is I was just impressed that a corporate news outlet covered it so well. I did not see much hope for us getting out of this in the article.

  9. Kevin Cobley on Thu, 6th Feb 2020 4:10 pm 

    The wealth disappeared down the filler caps of cars, into the mega road industry to attempt to keep an appallingly inefficient space and energy consuming transport system for a handful of rich people in a few western nations.
    We’re now at the end of the road where all of the resources devoted to keep the system running is becoming very expensive.
    Vast sums of capital are being ploughed into another unsustainable system, EV’s which has an even more constrained resource base than the old oil fired system.
    People need to get out of their cars and start walking and using mass transit.

  10. makati1 on Thu, 6th Feb 2020 4:54 pm 

    I totally agree Kevin. I walk, use a motor trike, bus to the city and take a taxi to places I cannot walk there. I have cut my fuel use to less than 100 gallons per year.

    When I lived in the US, I used at least 1,000 gallons per year. Even flying to the US only takes about 80-100 gallons to haul me and my luggage round trip.

    Amerikans are trapped in a corporate lifestyle that requires a car to get to work, groceries, doctors, even friends and family. Only going to be more and more painful as that ‘for profit’ system collapse’.

  11. JuanP on Thu, 6th Feb 2020 5:14 pm 

    Mak, quit trying to make yourself look good. You are getting social security that is generated by economic activity that is from oil. You are such a peeve. You think your shit does not stink.

  12. Duncan Idaho on Thu, 6th Feb 2020 5:33 pm 

    One journalist remarked to me, “How in the world can these senators walk around here upright when they have no backbone?

  13. Duncan Idaho on Thu, 6th Feb 2020 5:35 pm 

    “Yes, they’re cowards. But they are empty people anyway, devoid of any convictions about anything but remaining in power.”

  14. More Lunatic Davy ID Fraud on Thu, 6th Feb 2020 5:43 pm 

    JuanP on Thu, 6th Feb 2020 5:14 pm

  15. makati1 on Thu, 6th Feb 2020 5:45 pm 

    D.Davy/JuanP, I don’t have to try. I AM good. I have cut my use of resources at least in half and probably by 2/3rds. Meanwhile you wallow in the pig trough called Amerika where waste is a way of life. Oink!

    My SS was earned and paid for long ago. At 3% interest, the old standard, I am still collecting my investment. I was forced to pay so I am going to collect as long as it lasts. Hopefully for another decade or more. You will never see it. I will pass the $250,000. mark this year. Thanks!

    If it exceeds my ‘investment’, that only makes up for the government’s corrupt money manipulation and lies for the last 50+ years. Its corporate wars for resources and profit I was forced to pay for. So be it. Keep paying your taxes so I get my SS. LOL

    BTW: US “economic activity” is mostly generated in the Stock Market Casino and the Fed printing press, not actual production.

  16. makati1 on Thu, 6th Feb 2020 5:47 pm 

    Duncan, they have a huge payoff from their corporate sponsors to lean on. the US has the most corrupt government outside any 3rd world country.

  17. JuanP on Thu, 6th Feb 2020 5:49 pm 

    “One journalist remarked to me, “How in the world can these senators walk around here upright when they have no backbone?”

    LOL, that was one of those wokster journalist from one of the many fake news liberal networks? ROTFLO. Duncan, you are a bigger peeve than Mak!

  18. JuanP on Thu, 6th Feb 2020 5:50 pm 

    “the US has the most corrupt government outside any 3rd world country”

    It looking a whole lot better than Asia about now, Mak! LOL

  19. More Lunatic Davy ID Fraud on Thu, 6th Feb 2020 5:50 pm 

    JuanP on Thu, 6th Feb 2020 5:49 pm

  20. More Lunatic Davy ID Fraud on Thu, 6th Feb 2020 5:53 pm 

    JuanP on Thu, 6th Feb 2020 5:50 pm

  21. JuanP on Thu, 6th Feb 2020 5:54 pm 

    This is some good Kunstler:
    TRUMP 2020!

    Meanwhile, the attempts at impeachment have a peevish Lilliputian flavor. Keeping it up —bringing a threatened second or third bill of impeachment with extra charges — will only reinforce Mr. Trump’s anti-fragility. Second to the economic issues is the question whether the firm of Barr & Durham will manage to pin some criminal responsibility on the people who undertook the RussiaGate coup against Mr. Trump — a ghastly mis-use of government power now celebrated by Democrats, who, you might recall, used to be against police states. A series of perp walks by the likes of Brennan, Comey, Clapper, and others could finally burst the bubble of credulity that the Mueller face-plant and the damning Horowitz report failed to achieve among the True Believers of Rachel Maddow. Of course, this matter has even greater significance for correcting the meta-problem of America chronically lying to itself. RussiaGate and its spinoffs was such a gargantuan edifice of malicious dishonesty that it must be deconstructed in the courts, or the mental health of the nation may not recover. It is the key to ending the regime of anything goes and nothing matters. Bottom line: if the markets or the value of the dollar don’t crash, Mr. Trump will be reelected.

  22. More Lunatic Davy ID Fraud on Thu, 6th Feb 2020 6:01 pm 

    JuanP on Thu, 6th Feb 2020 5:54 pm

  23. Duncan Idaho on Thu, 6th Feb 2020 6:17 pm 

    —the hedge-funder wing of the party split between Buttigieg, Biden and recently Republican billionaire Michael Bloomberg.

    Clueless idiots–

  24. Abraham van Helsing on Sat, 8th Feb 2020 5:22 am 

    Richard Spencer with the correct Brexit assessment in 4 minutes:

  25. Abraham van Helsing on Sat, 8th Feb 2020 5:36 am 

    Spencer refers to the British right-winger (yes, they do exist) Oswald Mosley, who in the thirties was campaigning for “Nation Europa” and a German-British alliance, which would have ensured that a 100% white Europe would be still on top, rather than the Anglo-Soviet globalist nightmare we got.

    Here Mosley in 1975, looking back:

    Here Mosley in his best years, in the thirties:

    And here a Mosley type, as portrayed by the British jew Anthony Horowitz in his wildly successful propaganda flick “Foyle’s War”, using all the demonization techniques that modern media have to offer:

    It is media products like these that caused England to opt for Brexit and yet again set itself up against continental Europe, with rich potential for a third and last armed exchange.

    Expect Peak Corona to occur around the Summer of 2020 and then decline. Expect China, with the economy in tatters, to blame the CIA-MI6 for it (doesn’t matter if it is true or not) and impose an ultimatum to the US to get lost from East-Asia, to begin with from the South-China Sea.

    I expect 60-40 that by the end of 2020 England will pivot towards the US rather than the EU (but it is by no means certain, witnessing the UK behavior around Huawei). Bojo is exclusively and opportunistically motivated by personal power ambitions and less so by geopolitics. If the EU serves his ambition better, the EU it will be (provided he can sell that to his clueless Brexiteers and truly anti-Europeans like Farage).

  26. Abraham van Helsing on Sat, 8th Feb 2020 5:55 am 

    Meanwhile, yesterday in America:

    The big international media jew Bill Maher, Henry Ford’s “world’s foremost problem”, is licking his wounds after the thorough defeat of the US left over the past week, applauded by clueless libtard whites and coloreds of both coasts. He is down, but not out. His intention is to sit out Trump, if necessary until 2024 (the most likely Donnie end-date), after which the demographic defeat of whitey will be final and irreversible, well within the current boundaries of the US that is and first world USA will be over for ever and third world standards will rule and Meghan Markle can take over:

    Unless whitey revolts…

  27. Abraham van Helsing on Sun, 9th Feb 2020 5:09 am 

    New York-London in 4:55

    No, it is not the Concorde, it is a hurricane:

  28. Abraham van Helsing on Sun, 9th Feb 2020 5:44 am 

    Gemini offshore windfarm (600 MW) has been shut off due to 20 m/s wind:

  29. Abraham van Helsing on Mon, 10th Feb 2020 6:44 am 

    Wow, Gemini is producing again, still with wind speeds of 22 m/s!

  30. Milton Friedman on Mon, 10th Feb 2020 6:47 am 

    Abe, your Europe will be in a depression in the 2020’s. Your only hydrogen will be hydrogen sulfide from decay

  31. Abraham van Helsing on Mon, 10th Feb 2020 7:00 am 

    “Abe, your Europe will be in a depression in the 2020’s.”

    I certainly hope so. This is no time for more Black Friday’s, this is the time for “geopolitical refactoring” (read: war).

    Talking about geopolitical refactoring…

    There goes Northern Ireland:

    “Could Sinn Fein derail a Brexit trade deal? Republicans win Irish election after urging hard EU line in talks with UK and reunification with Ulster”

    Bring in the Dutch:

    “So much for the flood defences! Storm Ciara leaves Yorkshire Dales and Pennines towns under water as £30m barriers finished last year catastrophically FAIL”

    Why women should NEVER be anywhere near a job with high stress level (like PM or defense minister):

    “Woman passenger screams in terror as plane attempts to land at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport FIVE TIMES during Storm Ciara before giving up and flying back to Madrid”

    Women’s realm is Eros, not politics:

    It’s Carrie versus Cummings! Boris Johnson’s partner Carrie Symonds and his chief adviser Dominic Cummings ‘are at war over Cabinet reshuffle’

    My money is on Eros, read:

  32. FuelShortageComing on Mon, 10th Feb 2020 8:54 am 

    Western vilification needs to die. whites people are caring too much parasite on our back.everyone is abusing whites generosity.

    Jews and blacks are abusing whites using guilt.

    Chinese are abusing whites by stealing patents

    arab are abusing whites people also

    so happy about corona virus. i hope this will collapse western civilization

    this a young man that gets it. his chanel has nice video

  33. I AM THE MOB on Mon, 10th Feb 2020 3:39 pm 

    FiveThrityEight election model has Bernie forecast to win all 50 states.

    Bernie 44% chance of winning dem nomination

    Biden 17% chance

    After Bernie beats Trumps ass. Were gonna LOCK HIM UP!

  34. Abraham van Helsing on Mon, 10th Feb 2020 4:15 pm 

    “After Bernie beats Trumps ass. Were gonna LOCK HIM UP!”

    You are then forced to lock up half America as



  35. Davy on Mon, 10th Feb 2020 5:10 pm 

    “After Bernie beats Trumps ass. Were gonna LOCK HIM UP!”

    Bernie is going nowhere. The US doesn’t want a commie as Pres. Most of the democratic party doesn’t want a commie either. It is just the extremist crazies that Bernie is pandering to. People like MOBster that lack an education.

  36. I AM THE MOB on Mon, 10th Feb 2020 7:19 pm 


    Bernie is going to crush Trump like a paper bag. And then we will LOCK HIM UP! Throw him in Epstein’s former cell.

  37. I AM THE MOB on Mon, 10th Feb 2020 7:20 pm 

    Communist Manifesto quoted at Oscars!

  38. I AM THE MOB on Mon, 10th Feb 2020 7:33 pm 

    Socialist far left wins in stunning election in Ireland!

    Sinn Féin to try to form ruling coalition after Irish election success

  39. Duncan Idaho on Mon, 10th Feb 2020 7:37 pm 

    1898 — Germany: Marxist playwright Bertolt Brecht lives, Augsburg. Doctor, poet, playwright, theatrical reformer. Fled rightwing German Nazis. After moving to the US, fled from the Land of the Free when HUAC’s right wingnuts come after him during the Cold War.

  40. Duncan Idaho on Mon, 10th Feb 2020 7:44 pm 

    “Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable…. A man full of faith is simply one who has lost (or never had) the capacity for clear & realistic thought.
    He is not a mere ass: he is actually ill.”

    — H.L. Mencken

  41. Davy on Tue, 11th Feb 2020 4:00 am 

    “Bernie is going to crush Trump like a paper bag. And then we will LOCK HIM UP! Throw him in Epstein’s former cell.”

    MOBster, the DNC already has Bernie crushed. He can’t even make it out of the primaries and he is crushed. They are going to try to push Butt boy their corporate lackey. Biden is damaged goods. For the life of me I can’t see why the dims don’t come out for Tulsi?? She is smart and not damaged. She is moderate. She is a women and of color. Her problem is she is a real threat to MIC and the deep-state. Instead what will happen is the Clinton witch will slim in and get a brokered run at it. Butt boy can’t get er done. LOL.

  42. Davy on Tue, 11th Feb 2020 4:04 am 

    “Communist Manifesto quoted at Oscars!”

    Yea, did you see the Oscar ratings are at a low. I have not checked but likely an all time low! This is how the friggin dims lose elections. Why do you think the dim establishment is afraid of Burn.bur.Bernie!

  43. Davy on Tue, 11th Feb 2020 4:17 am 

    “Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable…. A man full of faith is simply one who has lost (or never had) the capacity for clear & realistic thought. He is not a mere ass: he is actually ill.”

    Fuck that! Faith is an essential part of hope and hope gives people morale. Morale wins battles of smaller armies over bigger ones. Morale is essential in the human fight with entropy. It is those people that discount faith that are living in an unrealistic world. What is realistic these days?? These intelligent “Idaho” people live in fantasy as much as a peasant Christian in Guatemala. It is just a different degree. Atheist are just as lost in their own brand of unreality. Look at the bullshit coming out of our best and brightest minds today in academia! What is really bad is the finger pointing without humility of these logical illogical people with the reality of human nature. This is similar to the typical extremist liberal who is politically correct incorrect or when they censor to protect free speech. Somebody that is truly enlightened and awakened would never call faith illogical because they would know they do it too but it is unconscious and hidden by subterfuge. Faith is human nature so it is what it is. “Clear and realistic thought brought us weaponized viruses and weapons of mass destruction. Fuck that!

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