When I talk or write about the ongoing economic collapse, I sometimes use the term, “the Greatest Depression.” Increasingly, people are asking me what I mean. That is, what do I think will happen as the current downtown worsens? What, precisely, is the Greatest Depression, and why is it terminal?
I’ve discussed economic collapse previously, but I have not dwelled on the situation with a focus on the United States. So, here goes.
I agree with Drake Bennett, writing in the Boston Globe: I don’t think we see anything resembling the Great Depression 1.0. For starters, we were able to crawl out of that abyss on the back of a strong governmental response that put people to work building public infrastructure. And ultimately, a convenient, contrived war that gave us full employment while ensuring ready access to cheap fossil fuels (e.g., see the writings of Howard Zinn).
The days of a strong federal government, flush with gold-backed dollars and the respect of its citizens, are history. Ditto for ready access to cheap fossil fuels. We’ve pissed away all our time and money to develop a way of life that never had a future. Suburbia, the suburban home as ATM, and our entire banking system are based on cheap energy. In other words, we’ve built a set of living arrangements that relies on infinite access to a finite resource. That set of ill-conceived living arrangements is comprehensive, including capture and delivery of water, production and delivery of food, construction of shelter, the systems of health care, education, and finance, our sense of community (or absence thereof), and thousands of attributes we take for granted on a daily basis.
It all ends soon.
When the U.S. economy collapses, unemployment will approach 100%. Nobody will work when the bank will not distribute or cash checks, and the currency is recognized as a worthless piece of paper based on debt. Stock market capitulation — the metaphorical Dow zero — means a sudden and total lack of confidence in the ultimate con game, fiat currency. Shortly thereafter, the sheeple go home, burning the last tank of gas along the way, demoralized because they can no longer spend their way to happiness. And what’s at home to greet them? A poorly insulated, purposely obsolescent piece of crap.
Welcome to the ultimate throw-away society, the United States of Absurdistan.
Then what? The grocery stores run out of food. The water stops coming out the taps. The lights flickering out seem like a minor inconvenience relative to the deepening hunger and maddening thirst. The spreading darkness marks the end of civilization.
Most importantly, the end of civilization marks a renaissance for all non-industrial cultures and non-human species. Even our own species stands of chance of squeezing through the global-change bottleneck, if civilization falls quickly.
Will somebody remind me, again, why we need to keep the current game going?