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Kunstler: The Zeitgeist Knows

General Ideas

Who said the global economy was a permanent installation in the human condition? The head cheerleader was The New York Times’s Tom Friedman, with his 1999 book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, the trumpet blast for the new order of things. Since then, we partied like it was 1999, with a few grand mal seizures of the banking system along the way, some experiments in creating failed states abroad, and the descent of America’s middle-class into a Disney version of Hieronymus Bosch’s Last Judgment — which is kind of what you see on the streets of Los Angeles these days.

Guess what: the global economy is winding down, and pretty rapidly. Trade wars are the most obvious symptom. The tensions underlying that spring from human population overshoot with its punishing externalities, resource depletion, and the perversities of money in accelerated motion, generating friction and heat. They also come from the fact that techno-industrialism was a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end — and we’re closer to the end than we are to the middle. There will be no going back to the prior party, whatever way we pretend to negotiate our way around or through these quandaries.

The USA-China romance was bound to end in divorce, which Mr. Trump is surreptitiously suing for now under the guise of a negotiated trade rebalancing. The US has got a chronic financial disease known as Triffin’s Dilemma, a set of disorders endemic to any world reserve currency. The disease initially expressed itself in President Nixon’s ditching the US dollar’s gold backing in 1971. By then, the world had noticed the dollar’s declining value trend-line, and threatened to drain Fort Knox to counter the effects of holding those dollars. Since then, all world currencies have been based on nothing but the idea that national economies would forever and always pump out more wealth.

It turns out that they pump out more debt in the pursuit of that chimerical wealth until the economic viziers and banking poohbahs begin to declare that debt itself is wealth — and now all the major players around the world are choking to death on that debt, especially the USA and China, but also Japan and the dolorous commune known as the EU. Everybody’s broke, one way or another, even though they are up to their eyeballs in products designed to fall apart in a few years. Better learn how to fix stuff, especially machines, because a lot of it won’t be replaced going forward.

Notice that Mr. Nixon’s escape from the dollar gold standard coincided with America’s first oil production peak. It was actually more than a coincidence, though it is unclear that anyone but James Schlesinger (then head of the Atomic Energy Commission, and later Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Energy, and CIA Director) understood what that signified. Now America is back at a second and even higher production peak thanks to the illusory boom of shale oil. The difference now is that only 10 percent of the companies producing it make a red cent. For the rest, the main result is just more and more debt, contributing to the larger global debt fiasco. It’s now down to a race between the sensational depletion rate of the shale oil wells and the country’s flagging capacity to generate more debt with a dim prospect of it ever being paid back.

Who knows whether the Golden Golem of Greatness and the people advising him in the White House get where all this is taking us in the history of the future. One might suppose it’s behind Mr. Trump’s wish to Make America Great Again, the vision of a return to the economy of 1955, of men toting lunchboxes through the factory gates, and seventy million boomer schoolchildren dreaming of trips to the moon, and the hard-fought, transient blessings of Pax Americana. All that is a comfort to simpletons, no doubt, but not wholly consistent with what can be observed actually going on — which is a culture and a political system seemingly bent on suicide.

The zeitgeist knows something that we don’t. The arc of this story follows the breakup of old arrangements, including trade relations, alliances, nation-states, and widespread expectations about what ought to be. Some observers claim the US will be the “last man standing” in this journey to the post global economy. (We surely would want to avoid a situation where nobody is left standing.) But all the participants in the orgy now ending will be left at least cross-eyed and flummoxed in the new cold dawn of a world without the old mojo. If the center is not holding, better look for a place on the margins as far from the emerging economic black hole as possible.


110 Comments on "Kunstler: The Zeitgeist Knows"

  1. makati1 on Wed, 5th Jun 2019 8:49 pm 

    JuanP: What problem? There is no shortage anywhere I shop.

    “The country’s palay (rice) production exhibited a decline of 2.2 percent for October-December 2018. In contrast, corn grew by 10.82 percent from its level in 2017. On the other hand, palay and corn annual outputs were lesser by 1.09 percent and 1.81 percent from their respective levels in the previous year.”

    Many seem to forget that we have a 12 month growing cycle here. Several crop seasons in one year. So people will eat more corn and less rice. No problem. Rice is about $0.40/lb here. An ear of cooked corn is about $0.25 each. I can buy canned Philippine corn for $0.49 or less.

  2. makati1 on Wed, 5th Jun 2019 8:51 pm 

    Oops! Rice is about $0.20/lb. Wrong conversion. lol

  3. Davy on Thu, 6th Jun 2019 3:58 am 

    “Only if you believe the US propaganda. The US has never left the last recession and is really in a depression, true facts be known. The US makes war, nothing else. Well, except DEBT! The US is a rotting shirt, not just dirty.”

    makato calls anything that does not fit his agenda propaganda. Typical shit from the washed up old man whose agenda is failing. The numbers don’t lie makato you just can’t handle it.

  4. Davy on Thu, 6th Jun 2019 5:11 am 

    African Swine Fever Is Spreading Fast and Eliminating It Will Take Decades bloomberg

    “The deadly pig virus that jumped from Africa to Europe is now ravaging China’s $128 billion pork industry and spreading to other Asian countries, an unprecedented disaster that has prompted Beijing to slaughter millions of pigs. But stopping African swine fever isn’t so easy. The virus that causes the hemorrhagic disease is highly virulent and tenacious, and spreads in multiple ways. There’s no safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection, nor anything to treat it. The widespread presence in China means it’s now being amplified across a country with 440 million pigs—half the planet’s total—with vast trading networks, permeable land borders and farms with little or no ability to stop animal diseases.”

    “Studies show that the strain in China closely resembles one that’s been spreading in Russia and other parts of Europe for more than a decade. But scientists still don’t know the route it took to get into the world’s most populous nation. Without knowing how the virus got in, China’s customs officials will have a harder time preventing repeated introductions. The disease is now in Mongolia, Vietnam, North Korea and possibly other neighboring countries that lack the resources to identify and control the disease. That increases the risk that, even if China does manage to control the disease domestically, it could re-enter the country via people or pork products that cross the border.”

  5. Davy on Thu, 6th Jun 2019 5:28 am 

    Ecco Farm peak surfer

  6. Cloggie on Thu, 6th Jun 2019 12:07 pm 

    “Danish PM resigns after left-leaning parties’ election win”

    Deceptive WaPo title.

    The Danish “left” has taken over positions from the populist right, and see, they are back in business again, unlike every other social-democrats parties in Europe.

    The Social Democrats are promising to put welfare first again and reverse some of center-right government’s cuts. But they also say they will seek support from the right on immigration issues, and that they will continue the current government’s tough anti-immigration stance.

    The socialists now say that “Denmark needs to be protected” (against foreign invaders).

    Denmark is too good to be pissed away to Islam.

  7. Cloggie on Thu, 6th Jun 2019 2:54 pm 

    The best man for the job, the Gaullist Barnier:

    “Brexit Chief Barnier Continues Unofficial Push for Top EU Job”

  8. Cloggie on Fri, 7th Jun 2019 1:36 am 

    Oops, poor globalist Nigel Farage didn’t do as well as expected and did NOT get his first MP in Westminster:

    “Shock as Labour squeak by in Peterborough by-election – but with less than third of the vote – giving a chilling glimpse of Corbyn at No10 if Tories flunk Brexit and have to fight Farage in election”

    For continental Europe, the alt-right part, this is good. I referred to Corbyn as the British Lenin, but that si too internationalist. It is probably more correct to call him the British Enver Hoxha. Anybody remember him?

    This guy from Albania managed to maneuver Albania in total isolation and Corbyn is just as introvert, geopolitically speaking.

    Corbyn doesn’t really like Europeans (few British do) and is hence a real Brexiteer, but he dislikes Americans even more and more important he dislikes their billionaire (((owners))) the most. Now that’s interesting! We have a little Hitler in our midst! Well, sort of.

    Corbyn (where did he pick up that Dutch name, Glorious Revolution?) is the hero of the little guy and although he is not a white nationalist, not in a long shot, it is unlikely that he will open the flood gates of Britain for the third world, like New Labour did under the Bliar. It could very well be that he seriously intends to represent the interests of the little British guy only (regardless of color), an aspect he has been softly criticized for by his buddies in the media.

    Corbyn wants to withdraw from NATO and from the EU, but is interested in keeping Britain economically integrated into Europe. He wants to create an isolated British worker paradise and finally abolish the last class society in Europe, where London is the richest and 5 rural British regions the poorest in western Europe.

    If I had a British passport I would seriously consider voting for him, albeit with the utmost disrelish.

  9. Cloggie on Fri, 7th Jun 2019 1:46 am 

    It’s D-day time again! Time to commemorate the heroes that sacrificed themselves for our liberty! Time to throw dementing 95 year olds out of a plane with a parachute.

  10. Antius on Fri, 7th Jun 2019 4:19 am 

    “Corbyn doesn’t really like Europeans (few British do) and is hence a real Brexiteer, but he dislikes Americans even more and more important he dislikes their billionaire (((owners))) the most. Now that’s interesting! We have a little Hitler in our midst! Well, sort of.”

    I do feel for Corbyn, though could never bring myself to vote for a Marxist that wants to turn my country into Cuba. But I suspect he would make a better (or at least less disastrous) prime minister than any of the Tory contenders, for the reasons you suggest.

    I have never liked Farage and have always understood exactly what he was. Most of the political problems that Britain faces stem from the fact that most Britons are virtually clueless as to what is really going on around them. They react to feelings and moods that are conveyed to them by a ZOG controlled media. Very very few ever suspect the real motivations behind the dominant actors.

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