Oh, the conundrums faced by TPTB.
Consider Ben Bernanke and the other goons at the Federal Reserve Bank: They have to raise interest rates. But they can’t. If they raise them, thereby strengthening the declining American dollar, they destroy any hope for economic growth. And if they don’t raise them, the dollar plunges straight down the toilet (the flush kind, not the composting kind).
And then there’s Congress and the Treasury Department: They have to bail out Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. But they can’t. If they use taxpayer money to bail out these institutions, they’re passing along a $5 trillion bill to future generations. That’s nearly half this country’s annual GDP, so it’s automatic endgame for the U.S. dollar. If they don’t bail out Freddie and Fannie, the failure of these institutions will forever destroy the mortgage market. Either way, the jig is up. The sloburbs are belly-up, with no ambulance on the way.
People keep asking me for solutions. But, as illustrated by the choices facing the Fed, the Treasury Department, and Congress, there are no solutions, at least not at the level of society. There simply is no way to prop up civilized society when oil costs more than $100 per barrel.
Well, there might be one option: fascism. Oh, wait. We’re already there. As Vladimir Lenin said, “fascism is capitalism in decay.” Or, as I pointed out — with far more words than Lenin — in one of my recent books: “The administration of George W. Bush is characterized by powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism, identification of enemies as a unifying cause, obsession with militaristic national security and military supremacy, interlinking of religion and the ruling elite, obsession with crime and punishment, disdain for the importance of human rights and intellectuals who support them, cronyism, corruption, sexism, protection of corporate power, suppression of labor, control over mass media, and fraudulent elections. These are the defining elements of fascism.”
For more about the increasingly marginalized mass media, see my older and wiser brother‘s recent book, Conservative Resurgence and the Press.
Even if there are no solutions for society, there are individual options. Matt Simmons, uber-wealthy energy adviser to BushCo, is pinning his hopes on wave power in Maine while starting to learn how to garden. Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens is investing heavily in wind power. Both men know the oil game has nearly run its course.
We’ve been discussing individual options at the level of normal folk for a while on this blog, and several people have asked me pointed questions, on and off the list. By an overwhelming margin, these questions focus on two topics: my religious beliefs and my personal outlook. That is, they focus on what I believe and what I live for. The latter is a recurrent theme among my acquaintances, many of whom wonder, given my outlook on civilization, how and why I choose to keep going.
I’ve given much thought to these questions during the last two decades. So it’s time I articulate some responses. Within the next month or so, I will post entries about, and perhaps even titled, “What I believe” and “What I live for.” These topics require considerable introspection and more than a little effort, so the posts will be longer than usual, and they’ll take more time than usual to post. I’m spending a lot of time at the mud hut, too, so that’ll slow me down.
I’ll give a glimpse about both forthcoming posts. One of my favorite quotes is from Arundhati Roy’s book, Power Politics (p. 7): “In the midst of a bloody military coup, for instance, you could find yourself fascinated by the rituals of a purple sunbird, or the secret life of captive goldfish, or an old aunt’s descent into madness. And nobody can say that there isn’t truth and art and beauty in that. Or, on the contrary, in the midst of a putative peace, you could, like me, be unfortunate enough to stumble on a silent war. The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There’s no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.”
If you’re interested in surviving the ongoing apocalypse, the coming month looks like a great time to take a break from the self-indulgent entries on this blog. In the meantime, you might want to study the report my students prepared last spring, Dmitry Orlov’s excellent book, or any number of other websites dedicated to peak oil preparedness.