What to Expect When the Dollar Collapses — Part Two of Two

greatdepression2
Yesterday I contrasted the attitudes of people in 1929 with their attitudes today, on the precipice of another Great Depression. I said that I believe racism, religious hatred and the distrust between economic classes was more pronounced and more overt in affluent nations in 1929 than it is today, and that while economic disparity is just as great, our use of technology and automation to gut future generations’ share of resources to meet the needs of today’s mass of humanity means that both rich and poor are relatively better off now than they were in 1929.Here is the picture Pierre Berton, in his exhaustive study The Great Depression, painted of the way the Canadian people, their governments and corporate management behaved in response to the decade-long crisis seventy years ago:

  • “The historian of the future, when he writes about Canada and the Great Depression, will comment upon the remarkable ineptitude of public men when faced with this emergency. He will write of the obstinate refusal of governments to face realities; of their pitiful and tragic tactics of ‘passing the buck’; and of their childish expectation that providence, or some external power, would come to their rescue and save them from the consequences of their refusal to look into the future, foresee events that loomed black in the sky, and take steps to mitigate the fury of the storm. The condemnation will be measured by the extent of the power that was not used and the responsibility that was denied.” — Winnipeg Free Press, 1933
  • The police (by brutality) and the press (by anti-communist fear-mongering) supported the corporatist establishment in suppressing any popular opposition or demonstration against the established order.
  • Any idea that the state had any responsibility for the welfare of citizens was anathema — that was simply not the role of government.
  • Predictions of unprecedented prosperity were ubiquitous among politicians, economists and business leaders in 1929; throughout the 1930s, despite evidence to the contrary, they consistently insisted the Depression was just a minor adjustment, that it would not last, that worst was over and that the outlook for the next year was positive. The stock market collapse actually occurred in five stages over two months, in between which brokers claimed the ‘adjustment’ was over and encouraged people to borrow and buy more while prices were ‘unnaturally low’.
  • The government had been spending and lowering taxes, and driving interest rates up.
  • Throughout the Depression, racism and anti-Semitism were rampant, while contraception and divorce were illegal. The Liberal Prime Minister (in power in 1929 and re-elected in 1935) was a big fan of Mussolini, and the Conservative Prime Minister (in power 1930-35) was a big fan of Hitler until 1939.
  • When the Depression hit, throwing millions into the streets, the ‘problem’ perceived by the politicians was not public misery and poverty but rather ‘rabble’ and ‘rabble-rousing’ — their response was to strictly enforce vagrancy laws (which essentially made poverty a crime), villainize ‘hobos and transients’ jumping rail-cars to seek work, and pass laws making associations “deemed to be advocating violence” (including the Communist party) illegal. Prison populations soared, with many of the prisoners ‘political’. Torture of prisoners on the rack was regularly employed to extract confessions and stifle dissent.
  • The Depression hit the West so hard that farmers had to walk (gas was prohibitively expensive) 20 miles to find brackish water to bring back for drinking and washing (wash-water was saved and recycled), and lived on nothing but stewed rabbit and boiled Russian thistle (the only plant still growing on the Prairies); cows were sold and horses set free due to lack of feed. Most farms had phone service cut off and many had their farms foreclosed and were evicted. Despite this, the government steadfastly refused to intervene, saying it was up to local governments.
  • Schools closed as money to pay teachers (and for coal for heating) ran out; the teachers tried to keep them going without wages but with no social assistance had to give up and seek other work. Many social service organizations, including the Red Cross, went bankrupt and ceased operating as private donations dried up (they received no government support) and demands on their resources soared.
  • Unemployment rates soared steadily from 2% in 1929 to about 36% in 1932. At the time, there was in most communities only one doctor per 16,000 people dealing with soaring malnutrition and other Depression illnesses.
  • As the Depression deepened, xenophobia set in and thousands of foreigners new to the country were deported at the sole discretion of officials.
  • In response to the rising civil unrest, the unemployed were sent to remote slave work camps run by the army, where they were paid 20 cents per day. If they tried to leave they were arrested as vagrants. Contingency plans were made to use the military to suppress riots. Surprisingly, few riots occurred and many of them were provoked by ideological government officials or overzealous police.
  • Marriage and birth rates both plummeted by 25%.
  • Fascist parties were legal and protected by the police. As early as 1933 the Swastika was seen at public events, public singing of anti-Semitic songs could be heard, and nationalist groups advocating abolition of local governments and a one-party national government were drawing large crowds.
  • Although socialist parties sprang up, especially in the hard-hit West, they achieved limited popularity. The people, brainwashed that socialism was just communism lite, instead preferred right-wing autocrats with populist or law and order platforms, electing governments that were essentially fascist in both Alberta and Quebec which stifled the press, effectively nationalized the banks, and seized property of ‘suspected communists’ (including, conveniently, many Jews).
  • Business executives did very well during the Depression, as costs plummeted. Labourers who were paid 50 cents an hour in 1929 were now working 80 hour weeks in sweatshops for 5 cents an hour. Complaints about hours, wages or working conditions resulted in firing and blacklisting (corporations shared lists of names of ‘uncooperative’ workers). Big retailers exploited the situation to squeeze manufacturers that did not employ such tactics. Meanwhile the salaries of executives did not change at all.
  • In rural areas, with clothing too expensive, most children wore cloth grain and flour sacks for clothing, and, if their schools were still open, often took turns going to school and sharing clothing.
  • The situation in cities was only marginally better. When a Windsor steno-bookkeeper’s employer folded in 1934 and she went to Hamilton seeking work, she wrote to the Prime Minister: “My clothing had become very shabby. Many prospective employers just glanced at my attire and shook their heads. I cut down my food and a poor but respectable room at $1/week. First I ate three very light meals per day, then two and then one. During the past two weeks I have eaten only toast and drunk a cup of tea every second day. As a result of this deprivation I am so very nervous and through this very nervousness I was ruled out of a class [of job applicants] yesterday. Today at an examination I was told ‘you are so awfully shabby I could never have you in my office’. That almost broke my heart. I know no one here and the loneliness is hard to bear, but, oh, sir, the thought of starvation is driving me mad! The stamp that carries this letter will represent the last three cents I have in the world yet before I will stoop down to dishonour my family, my character or my God, I will drown myself in the Lake.” Prime Minister Bennett apparently did not bother to reply.
  • By 1935 the situation was so desperate that a large group of unemployed Western Canadian men decided to make the trek to the capital, Ottawa, to try to meet with Bennett personally. The picture above shows how they made the trek, helped by citizens and low-level railway workers in the towns they passed through. The railway was blockaded by government order in Regina, and a rally to decide on next action was brutally disrupted by the RCMP, using truncheons and tear gas, leading to what was called the Regina Riot.
  • By this time a massive migration of Western farmers North from the drought- and locust-stricken areas was underway. Farms were left unlocked to allow other farmers to use them overnight on their journey.
  • By 1937, when a second stock market crash occurred, a pro-fascist government had been elected in Ontario, supported by the Toronto Globe & Mail which asserted that “most communists are Jews”. It failed to bring about a one-party provincial government “united against communism” (two years later the Globe would launch a fascist Leadership League, calling for the abolition of provincial governments and creation of a one-party national government — it’s growth would be interrupted by the start of WW2).
  • 1937 was the eighth consecutive year of Western drought, and the year of the “black blizzards” when what was left of the soil was whipped up and carried away by a long cycle of gales, and much of the remaining machinery was rendered useless by sandstorms.
  • By 1938, the government was finally realizing that their inaction was prolonging the Depression. The slave camps had been replaced by equally repressive farm camps, leading to a sit-in in Vancouver by half-starved farm camp workers, isolated from families and all contact with women. It was brutally put down, resulting in what is now called Bloody Sunday.
  • Also in 1938, Toronto’s largest theatre, Massey Hall, hosted a hugely-popular national convention of fascist organizations, guarded by a massive police presence.
  • On September 8, 1939, the Canadian government entered WW2, and immediately created millions of jobs in the war effort. The pay for soldiers was six and a half times what the same men were paid a year earlier in the farm camps. Munitions factories paid twenty times as much to labourers as nearby sweatshops. The grim irony — that it had taken a world war to make the government realize that it could ‘spend its way’ out of the Depression by creating employment on public works projects (as FDR had done in the US) — was completely lost on the governments and media of the day.

The authors of The Fourth Turning expect that the next fourth turning — the next cycle of stark authoritarianism — to begin between 2010 and 2020, about eighty to ninety years after the last. The economic fragility of massive US debt and trade deficits, the End of Oil, ideological wars and terrorism, threats of pandemics and the spectre of eco-collapse precipitated by global warming all add fuel to their argument that the fourth turning is imminent, as such turnings are generally sparked by a crisis. We certainly have plenty of candidates to choose from for such a crisis.

So suppose we map the behaviours and events of 1929-39 on the situation we find ourselves in at the dawn of the 21st century. How might we expect people, governments and corporate management to behave if the crash of the dollar brings about another Great Depression? Will our 21st century ingenuity, pragmatism, connectedness, collective wisdom, resilience, and more tolerant, democratic outlook lead us to a quick and radical correction of the excesses that produce the coming Depression, a rapid and relatively painless end to it, and a more humane response to the suffering it does produce? And is this all complicated by the fact that this time, unlike 1929, we are facing permanent, absolute ends to the critical resources on which our society relies for its existence? Here are my guesses on these questions:

  • I think Europe, and Canada if it ousts its ideological neocon minority government, will have both the will and financial room to invest heavily in public infrastructure projects, and hence keep enough money and work flowing to the vast majority of citizens to minimize the misery of the Depression. I am much less optimistic about the willingness of the US and UK to do this, and about the ability of the US to do so when it has already bankrupted its treasury, so I believe the poor and middle class in those countries are likely to suffer much more, and for longer. Canada unfortunately has allowed its economy to become utterly dependent on US and Asian purchases of our raw materials, and hence is likely to face a much more severe economic Depression than Euro-currency countries.
  • Middle Eastern and Asian economies that currently depend on US purchases and the strength of the US dollar will fare worst of all, as they have nothing at all to fall back on, and many of them are already living in ecological disaster zones comparable to the Dust Bowls of the West in the 1930s. I think it would be unrealistic to expect anything less than violent uprisings, equally violent repression of the masses, fascist totalitarianism and the extreme suffering that we have historically seen in struggling nations that have no mechanisms to cope with economic collapse: civil war, attacks on neighbouring states conveniently blamed for the disaster (this time with nuclear weapons), genocide, famine, and cannibalism. These will spill over into other countries taking sides with the combatants and lead to global repression, militarism, and authoritarianism, exactly as the Fourth Turning predicts.
  • Corporatists have already shown their stripes during the current boom: They are unlikely to do anything that will further worsen the situation of their ‘shareholders’ (i.e. controlling shareholders and senior management) beyond the collapse in share values, and will lay off workers and write off pension plans and other bankrupt employee benefit funds without a second thought. Just as they did in Argentina, they will liquidate and pocket what they can, chain the doors, and walk away from all responsibilities to others. People without the ability to make a living for themselves will therefore be as badly off as the ‘transients’ of the 1930s — at the mercy of opportunistic employers, reduced to virtual slavery.
  • With stock and real estate values plummeting, and (as interest rates spike) bond markets doing almost as badly, most people, especially those with their money tied up in US dollar denominated investments, will see their net worth wiped out. Those with debts will see them called by financial institutions and will probably become bankrupt, forced to cede any assets they have. However, those who can continue to pay mortgage debts at least for the first part of the Depression will probably keep their homes, as banks realize they cannot get blood from a stone, and that it’s better to have people looking after these assets even if they are not paying mortgage debts, than evicting them and leaving them to squatters. Only those who default on mortgages early in the Depression should expect to get foreclosed and evicted.
  • The US New Deal experiment of FDR, loathed as it is by neocons, will be the model for the next Depression in all affluent nations that can afford it (ironically, the US will not be able to afford it). It will be embraced relatively quickly (probably two years into the Depression) because of the broad global consensus that it worked last time. So I think much of the inhumanity that was exhibited even in affluent nations during the last Depression can be avoided this time around; I also believe that on the whole we have become more tolerant of others in the last 70 years.
  • I am very concerned that, just as phone lines for most citizens were cut off for non-payment in the last Depression, the Internet, with its social networking, sharing, open source developments and collective organizing capabilities, will be rendered largely inaccessible by its sheer unaffordability when the US currency becomes essentially worthless. The infrastructure supporting the Internet is hugely complex and expensive to maintain, and in most countries privately owned, so if no one can afford to pay for it, it will simply cease to operate. And with gasoline becoming, as in the 1930s, prohibitively expensive, the situation in the suburbs will be dire indeed, as most social activity will revert to face-to-face, enabled by bicycles, roller blades and shoe leather.
  • Hard-copy media will have a resurgence, and we will find ways to keep radio and television media operating. Local, community-based media that are not IP-dependent will explode in importance, and centralized national media will stumble — as faraway governments show themselves impotent to deal with local crises (remember FEMA and New Orleans), all attention will be focused on media that communicate local relief, organization and facilitation efforts.
  • While it would be easy to look at the response to the New Orleans disaster and despair, the difference we will have in the Depression is that it will occur much more gradually, allowing a lot of peer-to-peer activity to occur, as we realize we cannot rely on government. I am optimistic that our learned helplessness and distrust of neighbours will gradually give way to an awareness that there is a lot we can do together to make the Depression less cruel. This collective energy was evident in the recent economic collapse in Argentina, and I think we will emulate it.
  • And also on a positive note, while I think entrepreneurial skills are in terribly short supply, I think we will learn how to be entrepreneurial by looking at entrepreneurs as local role models, and establish local enterprises to produce and share food, water, energy, and other essentials collectively. In the process, many of us who are currently ‘helpless’ because we cannot, without money from an employer, provide for ourselves, will learn essential survival skills that will put us in good stead to deal with the End of Oil, disease pandemics, and disasters precipitated by global warming.
  • I have no sense of what kind of economy we will build to replace the one that the coming Depression will shatter. I would like to believe it will be more local, using local currency, a Gift Economy with essentials provided at little or no cost and surpluses distributed through disintermediated networks, and highly resilient. But the existing oligopolistic quasi-market economy is so well established as the ‘only economy that works’ I think it is just as likely we will try to rebuild that failed model. Likewise, it is hard to say whether national governments will emerge stronger (if they have successfully invested in infrastructure for the benefit of most citizens) or weaker (if they cling to laissez-faire ideology and actually make the situation worse by bungling and/or neglect).
  • Another issue I am undecided upon is the degree to which the majority have a proclivity to cede authority and responsibility to ‘leaders’ in a time of crisis. History suggests that in crisis we are much better working collectively and locally, but it also suggests that we also tend to look for heroic leaders, grant them enormous control over our lives and expect surprisingly little in return. We don’t need to look far to see that that is still the case. I mentioned yesterday the idea of culture as our meta-master, the one we turn to especially in time of great stress. Is it just human nature to defer to authority in bad times, even when it is not in our best interest to do so? Or have we just been so brainwashed by our culture that we lack the self-confidence to take matters into our own hands?

I welcome your comments on any of these questions and forecasts. We may never be ready for such crises (it is our human nature to be reactive, and not to do anything until we have no choice), but at least we can know what to expect. And our response to an economic crash may help us cope better with the additional crises that almost inevitably await ourchildren and grandchildren as this century progresses.

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22 Responses to What to Expect When the Dollar Collapses — Part Two of Two

  1. Paul Howson says:

    Dave,How do you think Australia will fare in this coming depression? Are there similarities with Canada?

  2. bubu says:

    You are probably on crack – Middle East has THE OIL and Asian economies have THE FACTORIES – so generally the pressure will be on US if the oil will be at 200 US$ and ALL non-US products about 2-4 times more expensive :)

  3. Robert says:

    Dave – Robert (laughingcat) from Political Physics checking in. Your post is spot on. I have raised such concerns from time to time over there, and I completely agree with almost all of your assessments, except perhaps the future of the internet, which I believe will be a source of connectedness for some time to come. bubu, Asian factories will close due to no buyers for cheap junk, the rift between Northern China and Southern China is on the verge of exploding into outright rivalries, and oil has already become so unstable that there’s a full-on push in the American midwest to find alternatives. Not just corn, but actual cellulose powered vehicles. There are distilleries already producing alternative fuels, and the next few years we’ll see a lot more. I believe the environmental trainwreck coming will impact every nation far more than the stupidity, selfishness, and short-sighted manipulations that are setting up the crash of the US economy. And individuals will become more cooperative with each other out of sheer necessity. Great post, Dave.

  4. Joe says:

    I don’t think that Europe will fare that much better than the US, you’re comment about the “bankrupt” US Treasury is innacurate, most European countries have worse debt per capita(http://www.optimist123.com/optimist/2006/03/mar_2006_intern.html). That’s OK though, almost anyone who reports on the US debt (including most financial reporters) discount growth and the tremendous size of the US economy. For example, at current growth rates, the current US budget deficit will disappear in 2 years, moving into surplus.Also, you didn’t mention race/religion as a flashpoint. We’ve all seen what happened in France recently with Muslim youths, this effect could happen throughout Europe, Canada and the US.

  5. theresa says:

    From your description it seems that there was less social unrest in the last depression than those of us living today would expect. Perhaps the internet, and the fact that everybody has a digital camera makes it easier to organize and amplify unrest. I wonder if this is the reason you believe the internet will not be as available during a depression, simply because it is a threat to stability? I have never found it difficult to get access to the internet at a public library so I see no reason why having your service disconnected would make the internet less accessible to people who have more time on their hands to wait for a turn. So maybe the threat to the internet is political? The binder idea with the “actionable” causes begins to make more sense now. People are much more educated now than in the 30s and there are more people in poorer countries who can speak or read English and have English speaking friends from other countries. The problem I have with reading literature from the 1930s is that the authors do not seem to have much to say about how the elderly fared during that time. Perhaps this is because the authors were relying on memory of personal experiences when they or their sources were young. The fact that they were young and healthy leads me to wonder if there were not many stories left untold.

  6. Richard says:

    >>And is this all complicated by the fact that this time, unlike 1929, we are facing permanent, absolute ends to the critical resources on which our society relies for its existence?<<Oh really?Do you mean that people today are facing an absolute end of energy? No, because that would be absurd considering the growth of wind energy, the easy availability of nuclear power (getting easier and cheaper with PBR), or the enormous potential of solar (competitive if mass produced today, which it never is, and unlimited potential with future technology)?Or do you mean an end to gasoline? Well no because gasoline can be made from many sources, even at an energetic loss (like any other commodity) if you have to.Then what do you mean? I suspect you don’t mean anything other than regurgitating the peak oil propagandists’ lies and distortions.

  7. Richard says:

    The internet is very unlikely (P=0) of collapsing due to the depression. Contrary to propaganda, the internet is not that expensive to operate. For anyone who wants to look this up, read Andrew Odlyzko. To summarize, long-distance fiber optic links are dirt cheap and you can build a good network for a small fraction of the telcos’ (and cable companies’) capitalizations. The big problem is, and has always been, the last mile to a person’s home. And that’s not a problem since, first of all, the installed capacity is a sunk cost which doesn’t need to be maintained and so it doesn’t matter if the telcos can recoup that cost (it’s not like the telcos can rip out copper to sell it for scrap; they couldn’t afford to). And second of all, wireless is the way to go anyways. A metropolitan wireless network can be built for a small fraction of what the telcos pay for copper installation. There are metropolitan wireless networks out there built dirt cheap for a 50-100$ per home one-time cost. And the routers necessary are all falling in price! If internet users suddenly couldn’t afford broadband, not one person would lose internet because of it. The telcos might bankrupt but someone would pick them up for a fraction of their currently vastly overinflated cost.

  8. Richard says:

    The prediction that deprecated print media will undergo a resurgence coupled with the prediction of the collapse of the internet denotes two things.It first denotes a small and antedeluvian mind incapable of forward progress. Think of an old codger yelling for kids to get off his lawn.Second it denotes someone with no grasp of economics at all. The internet infrastructure which you denigrate as “hugely complex and expensive” is in fact literally thousands of times cheaper than print publishing. A computer is literally thousands of times cheaper than a printing press, and the cost of publishing a web page is millions of times cheaper than the corresponding cost for a newspaper (which at 2-5$ an issue is mostly covered by advertising).You claim that people in a depression will do away with the cheap option in favour of the expensive option. Why? Obviously because deep down in the dark recesses of your psyche you’re uncomfortable with the fundamental disruptive change that the internet brings (the death of the mainstream media which is the lynchpin of corporatism). Hell, your very reading of Pierre Berton’s book on the 1930s depression demonstrates a yearning for the past more than a comprehension of the present.And this is furthered by the fact that while you complain about people being unable to make up their own mind, you expect the mainstream media (which is thoroughly discredited by any intelligent person and which is *inherently* authoritarian due to intrinsic structural reasons) to save people during a depression. Come on!Oh, and you really show your environmental credentials when you “predict” (wishful-think really) the pulping of millions of trees in favour of the internet.

  9. Thomas Watson says:

    Umm, richard, you don’t actually *read* peoples blogs do you. If you did I doubt you’d come up with that golden line: “Obviously because deep down in the dark recesses of your psyche you’re uncomfortable with the fundamental disruptive change that the internet brings”Dave isn’t uncomfortable with the internet. He’s just a bit pessimistic at times. Also, the end of oil influences much more then simple energy problems. Many of the by-products of oil production have become intergated into our way of living. Where are we going to get plastics from? Bananas?!!? (Another story…)Its also great that you answer your own questions! You’re so hot right now!

  10. Joe Deely says:

    Here’s a quick viewpoint of the near-term future (2025) that is a little different from Dave’s doom and gloom. Some Observations from 2025 In 2025 the world population will be nearing 7.8 billion. However, due to declining birth rates everywhere and declining population in over 50% of the world’s countries, only 55 million people will be added to the overall world population in 2025. This compares to the 89 million that were added in 1989 and the growth rateof 0.7% compares to the maximum growth rate of 2.2% in 1963. In 2025 the world will be well on its way to a declining population. This decline will begin sometime between 2050 and 2070. Of these 7.8 billion people, 6 billion will have cellphones up from 2 billion today. However, in 2025 cellphones will have made huge advance versus today’s models. All of these phones will have the capability of Internet access and will be able to easily store as much data as today’s largest desktop computers. Because of this, over 5 billion people will have Internet access in 2025, up from about 1 billion today. Looking back we will see that the primary UN Millennium goal for 2015 – Reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than $1 dollar a day and reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger has easily been meet. In fact , we will be able to see that this goal was reached by 2010. So, new goals were established for 2025… eradicate hunger entirely and reduce by 75% the number of people living on less than $2/day. Both of these goals were attained. In fact , in 2025 the biggest health problem facing the world will be obesity not hunger. Energy and global warming will still be “issues” in 2025. However, the “peak oil” scenarios that many doomsayers had predicted will not have come to pass. Oil prices will have have risen substantially more, but substitutes are being used. Also, because of huge increases in efficiency due to nanotechnology , demand for world energy will be peaking sometime near 2025. Finally, photovoltaics will be a $25 billion dollar market by 2025. This along with an increase in the use of wind and nuclear energy will mean that CO2 emissions worldwide will peak sometime around 2020. However, by 2025 the world will have felt the effects of global warming and much more work will lie ahead to cut CO2 further. One final observation from the year 2025. Due to the declining birth rate in Mexico and an improving economy there will no longer be a positive migration of Mexicans into the US in 2025. In fact, there may be a negative migration as thousands of retiring baby boomers will be moving to Mexico from the US.

  11. Yesterday I read the article and I was inspired to bake bread. It wasn’t so much that your view of the future might happen, but that it caused a conversation here at work that we really don’t make alot of our stuff anymore. There is such a web of dependency. I think we have so much stuff here in America that it would be bitching about how we couldn’t get our coffee from Starbucks becasue we couldn’t afford it and having to go back to the local bakery who sells it for 50 cents. Until Starbucks lowered it to 50 cents.It also seeemed like other countries might be in worse shape such as China because we would stop buying so much stuff from them and start producing it here. For example more people would just buy used clothes from goodwill rather than new stuff. But who knows maybe more people would shop at Walmart.There seems to be more options than ever (so much so it makes my head spin) that I wonder if it would just alter the way we do things rather putting us all homeless on the street.

  12. Richard says:

    Thomas, if you knew anything about hydrocarbons you would be able to answer your own question. Industry can make petroplastics from natural gas or coal. Hell, it can even make oil from coal. Not exactly the environmentally friendly way to do it but it’s certainly doable. And all of this ignores bioplastics which yes indeed can be made from bananas. For now, since the banana doesn’t look to be long for this world. At the end of the day, oil simply doesn’t matter. Two things matter; energy and its economics. Energy isn’t a problem with literally a thousand years’ supply of thorium on our planet, so that leaves economics. And tenuous as their grasp on reality is, economists really do have a better grasp on economics than either geologists or environmentalists.

  13. theresa says:

    It seems that some of the people who disagree with this post are focused on pointing out ways people can adapt or rebound from some of the individual challanges that a depression in our time would create. That is well and good but it overlooks the fact that Dave is pointing to a series of possible converging and cascading changes that just might be too complex and overwhelming to adapt to or rebound from. In that case a little preparation and forsight might have come in handy. Whether or not you believe the future holds that much crisis it doesn’t hurt to speculate and discuss contingency plans for how the world might be better prepared for such an eventuality. No harm in that.

  14. second law says:

    To all you non-believers of the factual evidence of peak oil (and there are plenty of facts). Everything is gonna be O.K.! ,really don’t worry. Mommy and Daddy will take care of you. But remember you’re going to need at least 50 mommys and 50 daddys a piece because all of you 21st century energy pigs use the equivalent of 100 slaves worth of energy to make your cushy lives soooooooooo special!!!!! spoiled rotten. how ’bout a big ice cream cone junior!!!!!!!!have a nice day. P.S. Ever lived on potatoes for 6 months?

  15. fallout says:

    Great article, Dave. Richard, you are obviously a self-delusional idiot with absolutely no background in hard science. Try harder.

  16. super390 says:

    Many of the critics of Dave’s article also seem to be entirely ignoring one of his points: the suffering of Canada was exacerbated by capitalist dogma. “It can’t happen here,”, “The market will fix itself”, “The government must not help the poor,” are all doctrines of the worshipper of unrestrained greed. I wonder how many of those critics share those core values with the smug Wall Street barons who blew it in 1929, then tried to shift blame by using their control of the media to promote bigotry and fascism? For 75 years greed-freaks have tried to prove that if it only hadn’t been for that damned FDR, America would have become a super-paradise in which inferior lazy people magically vanished. Now Dave shows the counterfactual – Canada tried it the Hoover way and simply accumulated more suffering than the US did, and its capitalists only cast envious eyes on the 3rd Reich. If technology fails to save capitalism this time, how quickly will people like that turn to, say, detention camps, domestic spying and torture? Oh. Forget I said that, NSA.Joe, by the year 2006 Iraq will pump record amounts of oil, gas will be a buck a gallon, all our troops will be home and Bush’s approval rating will be 80%. The superiority of Western civilization mandates it.

  17. Janelle says:

    How would Central America fare, specifically, Costa Rica and Panama? Since Panama uses the same US greenback, would it be tougher there?

  18. Steve says:

    Maybe the dollar should be stronger. As long as the US maintains a military larger and better equipped than all others, the empire can be maintained. As long as the world is confident that the US will use arms whenever necessary, the dollar will have value. (If we really believed in free trade, we wouldn’t need to maintain the preposterously large

  19. Solarpower says:

    Thought provoking article I’ve been dwelling on for a few days now. I don’t understand why Dave says the Internet will disappear because of expenses either. How much more expensive could it be to run a TV station? Cameramen, makeup, script, lighting, etc. Surely the internet will be one of the indspensable tools for communication when other things begin to fail or break down. I just read an interview with one of the survivors of the famous airline crash in Chile in 1972, made into a movie called “Alive”, this guy is today a succesfull business man. He says one of the reasons they survived the post-crash circumstances (they were stuck at 6.000 meters for nearly three months) and the way they survived (they cannibalized fellow passengers) was because there was a deep underlying civility within the survivors. They had been brought up with the values of respect, honour, ethics and friendship. He says they survived on instincts, that they were never better people than when they were up there on that mountain; “primitive just like cave men, yet with toay’s education.” There’s no doubt in my mind that those values in today’s American and European societies are thoroughly eroded, and I don’t hold much hope for a civilized descent into primitive survival techniques should the economy crash as it did in the Depression.

  20. Greyzone says:

    Your assessment is interesting but ignores that we are just about where The Limits to Growth predicted we’d be at this point and which the 30 year review on those limits confirmed. In short, in addition to the economic disaster, this will be occurring at a time when human population is in some degree of biological overshoot and when human consumption of finite resources has reached a dangerous level.In short, I suspect that the post-collapse aspect most likely is harsh repression, far harsher than anything we’ve seen in the near past, coupled with widespread suffering and death due to disease, starvation, and exposure as large scale systems fail across the board due to lack of maintenance, investment, and various levels of violence as the entire culture convulses. I don’t see the existing economic model arising again from those ashes but something more akin to the medieval model.

  21. sychronicity says:

    I would like to be absolutely clear on something. This depression will make the 1929 episode look like a walk in the park. It will come quick and hit most of us with out warning. It will not be gradual, as the 1929 depression was. The U.S. was well within the cycle by the time 1929 came around, economists and politicians simply had their eyes closed. Our eyes are closed now. We can avert this but we would have to start today! I don’t see mush chance of that happening. Prediction: look at the months between January and september 2010 for a stock market crash.

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