Change we can believe in

Recent events in Mumbai serve as a reminder, lest there was any doubt at this point, how fragile the world economy has become. The virtual center of globalization, Mumbai serves as call-center central for many of the world’s large companies. If stock traders are paying attention, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the major stock indices shed a quarter of their so-called “value” this week.

Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke have employed every trick in both their books to prop up the industrial economy. Despite their efforts, or perhaps because of them, the economy is running on empty. We’ve nose-dived into a depression and we’re taking the world with us into the abyss. The biggest shopping day of the year produced a slight uptick on the economic radar screen, but nobody’s calling the season an economic success. A trampled Wal-Mart employee is viewed as collateral damage, tragic grist for the consumptive national mill.
What’s left to try for the financial wizards? They could cut the interest rate to zero, and start running the printing presses 24/7. But I doubt either tactic would generate economic growth at this point.
Barack Obama, the perceived economic savior for the vaunted American middle class, will be lucky to inherit an economy with any fumes in the tank. All the wishful thinking in the country can’t resurrect a long-dead corpse. By the time president-elect Obama takes the oath of office, he’ll have all the power of a quadriplegic EMT without a medical kit, much less a resuscitation device. And he’ll be staring at a patient with a DNR order, courtesy of a lethal combination of inevitable geology and abysmal policy. Growth for the sake of growth — the ideology of our national economic policy, the neoconservative nightmare, and the cancer cell — ultimately invites humbling despair.
I used to believe the experts who claimed we were headed for a series of recessions, each one worse than the last. But I don’t see us recovering from the current depression with a nine percent decline in availability of the world’s oil supply, year after economically dreadful year.
An annual decline rate of nine percent works out to 66 million barrels per day next year, down from 73 million b/d this year. As if that’s not dire enough, picture dropping from 73 million b/d in 2008 to about 38 million b/d in 2015. It’s tough to imagine we’ll have anything resembling globalization, a functional industrial economy, or national policies that matter to you and me when we can’t keep the lights on in half the world’s cities.
Fortunately, the ongoing world financial collapse offers a ray of hope to those few hardy souls who survive the rumbling herd headed for the big-box bargain bin, not to mention our non-human neighbors. We just might stop runaway greenhouse, if only because we’re forced by geology. It’s becoming increasingly clear we won’t voluntarily take the necessary action to save our sorry asses and, even if a few of us do manage to take action, it won’t have any measurable impact. The UK’s Public Interest Research Centre (PIRC) cites Arctic climate scientists who predict “an Arctic ice-free in summer by 2011-2015, eighty years ahead of predictions made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).” PIRC’s report recognizes what many scientists have long known: The consensus-building approach used by IPCC leads to forecasts that are too conservative to be meaningfully useful.
The PIRC report is far more scary than a collapsing industrial economy. Unlike the smoke-and-mirrors con game of the dismal science, the PIRC report is based on serious scholarship. Now there’s change we can believe in.

Comments 12

  • I get many calls and of necessity make many calls to India.I always ask the person on the other end,”how’s the weatherin Mumbai” or New Delhi.It is comical, because they are instructed to deny their location,one insisted he was calling from San Francisco.This is great fun.One person was so friendly he called about four times to chat.This is a gross violation of the rules which would have terminated his employment if caught by a supervisor.My approach engenders the entire gambut of human emotion,from extreme friendliness to insensate antagonismThis is so comical because the Sub-Continent accent is unmistakable,sometimes so thick it’s unintelligible.
    As mentioned before,a decline in world stock prices is the quickest way to destroy pernicious capital.Monday’s action is well on the way to fulfilling Professor Guy’s prognostication.The inverse correlation of the health of the world economy and nature is so heartening.

  • I, for one, believe that change is in the air. It is the change from bad to worse, from storm clouds and overcast to full-fledged storm. For many, it will be a change from prosperity to survival. But survival will not be guaranteed for anyone and Peak Oil, according to Professor William Catton, may cut through the standing crop of human flesh like a sickle through a field of wheat.
    I feel panic brewing and the Blue States will not be exempted. In Biblical terms, think “Great Tribulation” and then remind yourself: “God does not exist.”
    Stan Moore

  • Our Stan is the master of the metaphor.
    “God does not exist”. Stan,I’m not trying to be snide.But as a valued member of our coterie I’d like to better understand your personal epistemology.So please tell us why you put that phrase in quotes,if you would.If you choose not to I’ll understand.
    I just reread the Book of Revelation.I believe the Bible is a great historical work,but is it apposite to your above blog?

  • Meridth Whitney is one of the very few people on Wall Street that dares to tell us,”the emperor has no clothes”.
    But we already heard that above from Professor Guy.I’m still going to get her comments today–will be instructive.
    I used to call myself “The Grim Reaper”.Our Stan has just co-opted that title.
    I defer to his superior wisdom.

  • …………….and both the bond and stock markets are 5(five) standard deviations from the mean.This should occur once every 7,000 years–unless the mean is meaningless in the Terminal Depression,which I suspect is the case.Everything you hear in the media is based on models SINCE THE LAST DEPRESSION.But what they don’t know is that you must toss out all fundamental and technical guidelines in a Depression.This is a whole new ball game.

  • Hey all! I’m in DC! Lots of history here, I’m as I write this, looking at the Masonic temple across the street from my hotel.
    Anyways. I keep looking to our Prez.-elect’s appointments and laughing at what he’s going to do to keep the support of his base.
    Now I’ve said before that I don’t claim to be a genius, but has anyone else looked at the stark realities that we’re making all the mistakes that led us to the last depression all over again? Reading history straight out of a textbook right now is almost like looking at a current events almanac! As much as I despise NAFTA, Protectionism is one of the big reasons that we got into that mess back in 1929… That and raising taxes. Both of these dealies are exactly what Obama ran on, and I think he’ll either go out in a blaze of glory to pull it off, or renig on his campaign promises. Either way it’s not going to be good for him.
    If he decides to raise the capital gains tax (Wrecking investment) and killing NAFTA (Protectionism) while at the same time turning on the presses full blast (major inflative issues) the only piece of the pie we’d be missing would be a dust bowl! Would an oil based collapse fill that niche? I think so. We were still mostly an agragarian country at the time, nowadays we’re far more energy intensive.
    Is it going to happen? Well, I’m still looking at it with a suspicious sideways glance. Some are hoping it comes, as Charlene said, “Tomorrow at teatime.” I’d rather it waited until I’m living a little more South where it’s warm.

  • Hey Total Turboguy,
    You’re right on–as I’ve said before here,since human nature never changes,economic history must always repeat itself in the essentials every 3rd Generation.Treasury Secretary Paulson said this happens once or twice every 100 years.It is well documented that we have a Depression every 50-60 years.Professor Guy,myself,you and others think this is the last one–Nature Bats Last.
    Now that we got that trivial matter out of the way, what’s the latest with you and the beautiful waitress at Maria’s?
    I’m so grateful for beauty–my father told a friend that my mother was the prettiest girl he had ever seen,the result
    allowes this to be typed.

  • The reason for The Terminal Depression is GLUT. Glut of everything.Glut brought on by the blind,insensate,furious rush of greed,vanity,and envy–all vices.All always repeated every 3rd Generation because these cause the 3rd Generation to ignore the lessons their fathers and grandfathers learned painfully the hard way.
    Ask yourself this question: If I had a billion dollars ,would I cnange? If so, how would I change my lifestyle?

  • you guys are far too negative,
    and too keen on being prophetic,
    the long undulating plateau awaits…
    I would not rely on history to crystal
    ball the future, anything is possible,
    to quote another blog – ‘if you want to
    hear god laugh tell her your plans’
    the future is far too fluid to project
    a historical linear narrative,
    best laid plans etc etc
    turboguy’s retort to roboto made me laugh
    out loud, first time on this blog, much
    Frank, get off this blog you will feel better,
    you use this blog as a channel for your
    negativity and repetitive miserable perspective,
    as I have said previous, I want to be inspired,
    I want solutions – not the foetal position,
    I am off to blog elsewhere, thanks for the
    comments and the ‘insight’
    Matt C

  • A good Obama analysis can be read at:
    Democracy Now played a recent speech by Noam Chomsky in which he credited Obama’s victory to shrewd marketing, which meant deception through lack of good information under the modern marketing paradigm.
    In reply to Matt of Oz, please give me a reason to be hopeful! I would LOVE to see a rational, factual argument that things are not as bad as I portray them!
    And I would love to see a new movie produced that is clever and sharp like maybe “The Brothers McMullen” or “The Aquatic Life of Steve Ziscou”. Which reminds me that I once spent a day with Tony Huston, son of famed film director John Huston and brother of Angelica Huston of “The Life Aquatic…” Tony is a fine falconer and I watched his trained peregrine take a duck at a meet at Vernal, Utah and I watched Dr. Ken Tuttle take a duck with his trained prairie falcon the same day. And just this week I heard syndicated columnist Amy Dickinson talk about her favorite way to spend Thanksgiving morning with her brother-in-law, who is also a falconer. Amy did not name her brother-in-law, but I think he is Tim Gallagher, the editor of the journal “The Living Bird” and the book “The Grail Bird” (about the ivory-billed woodpecker alleged sighting. I once sat at a banquet table with Tim Gallagher at a Raptor Research Foundation banquet and also enjoyed visiting with Drs. Grainger Hunt and David Ellis at the same banquet (both veteran raptor biologists with falconry connections).
    It is a small world and getting smaller until the final implosion…
    Been seeing a lot of merlins lately in the field — at least ten in the past week.
    Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • Memo to Matt C:
    Thanks Matt.I feel very happy,and positive– for Nature.When you are negative on that which is bad,and positive on that which is good it’s a great feeling.The wonderful inverse coorelation between the health of the world economy and
    the health of nature makes me want to jump out of bed in the morning with joy.Try getting that feeling Matt and you can be happy also.

  • reference:
    I wonder what this old tortoise would think about all of this. He probably thinks he has seen it all :) I think the old tortoise might think that Barack Obama is like a bright high school senior addressing the valedictory class thinking he has got it all completely figured out and believing his own schtick. When I see the broad grin in the news photos of Obama it seems he must be very excited about his new job and yet somehow blissfully naive about how it is going to affect him over the next few months and years. But the tortoise knows …
    Stan Moore