A matter of life and death

If you believe your life depends upon water coming out the taps and food showing up at the grocery store, you’ll defend to the death the system that keeps water coming out the taps and food showing up at the grocery story. News flash: If your life depends on that system, you’re a very unusual human, especially historically, and you support a culture of death. And you’re sorely mistaken, besides.
Let’s review.

Start by studying these premises. I mean really studying them. Pick them apart. Find everything wrong with them. If you cannot refute them, then you support the culture of life. Welcome aboard. Now please help me bring it all down.
If you can refute the premises of Endgame, please do so. I’d love to keep the current game going, knowing I am not sanctioning murder by doing so.
The problem is ecological overshoot, as a handful of ecologists have been saying for decades (thereby echoing Malthus). We’ve far exceeded the human carrying capacity of the planet. As a result, we threaten every species on Earth, including our own, with extinction by the end of this century.Currently, there is not nearly enough food to feed every human on the planet, even at the expense of nearly every non-human species. Actually, tens of thousands of people have been starving to death every day for a few decades, but they’ve been beyond our imperial television screens. Will somebody out there please explain to me how supporting the industrial economy gives life, instead of destroying life?
The root cause of the problem is complex, but it can be reduced to a few primary factors: agriculture (i.e., western culture), industrialization (the epitome of western culture), and their contribution to human population growth. The genus Homo persisted on the planet some 2 million years, and our own species had been around for at least 250,000 years, without exceeding carrying capacity. We actually lived without posing a threat to the persistence of other species. During those good ol’ days, humans had abundant spare time for socializing and art, spending only a few hours each week hunting, gathering, and otherwise feeding themselves (i.e., “working”). Contrast with today’s humans, and how much time we spend working (and rarely enjoying that work, if talk around the water cooler is any indication. Agriculture leads to food storage, which leads to empire, which produces slavery, oppression, and mass murder (all of which were essentially absent for the first couple million years of the Homo experience). Lives were short, but happy by every measure we can find. In short, without agriculture there is no ecological overshoot. The human population explosion is effect, not cause. The industrial revolution exacerbated the problem to such an extent we’ll never be able to recover without historic human suffering. We are only beginning the witness the impacts of reduced energy supplies on the industrial economy, and we’ll be squarely back in the stone age, fully unprepared, within a very few short years.
At this point, our commitment to western culture (i.e., civilization) is so great that any attempt to power down will result in suffering and death of millions (and probably billions). Nonetheless, it’s the only way to allow our own species, and millions of others, to persist beyond century’s end and squeeze through the global-change bottleneck (which, as we know, resulted from industrialization). Every day in overshoot is another day to be reckoned with later, and therefore another few thousand humans who must live and die in Hobbesian fashion. There are no decent solutions. A collapse in the world’s industrial economy is producing the expected results, finally, too late to save thousands of species we’ve sent into the abyss, but perhaps barely in time to save a few remaining species, including our own. If you care about other species and cultures, or even the continued persistence of our own species, then you support our imminent return to the post-industrial stone age. Such a return saves the maximum number of human lives, over the long term.
When you realize the (eco)systems in the real world actually produce your food and water, you’ll defend to the death the systems that produces your food and water. I’m in that camp. How about you? What do you support? The industrial culture of death, which sanctions murderous actions every day? Or the culture of life?

Comments 27

  • As a person in limbo, I question the notion that my support of anything matters more than a trifle.
    I do support making changes in my own behaviors, but I am frustrated by a preponderance of roadblocks. For most of us, simply throwing off the trappings of “Empire” and returning to the simple life is as impossible as a trip to the moon.
    It isn’t as though we could all simultaneously drop our briefcases, shed our suits and wander off into the piney woods to begin foraging again en masse. If it were that simple, things wouldn’t wallowing in such a morass of collective befuddlement.
    ( And most of the land for “foraging” belongs to someone else or the state anyway…purchasing the land only means having to fight for it later…a battle likely to prove futile for all but the most ruthless…as history suggests…and even then, only until ill health or old age come to take the victory away…anyway.)
    While there is part of me who secretly wonders when Obama will go on the idiot box announcing the distribution of loin clothes and setting a date for the final shut down to the power grid…I know it isn’t going to happen. Even if they know the jig is up for what we’ve known so far, they don’t have a clue how to deal with it.
    So, my guess, is that society will cling to “normal” as “normal” descends and mutates.
    That the current status quo in first tier countries around the globe jeopardizes the health and well-being of everyone within and without isn’t a question in my mind. Since my mind is more average than average, I know there are probably a good number of people (even if I haven’t talked to them directly) who feel the same.
    Since I consider myself a peaceful person, all I can do is wait. While I wait, I try to keep busy making positive changes where I can (reduced consumption, recycling, helping others, learning new skills like nursing, supporting local business, etc), or else enjoying the curiosities of this age (ie the internet) before they pass away.
    I’ll grant you that it is important to use time wisely, but only time and entropy can bring things down as you wish. Hastening the collapse would likely lead to actions only capable of adding to misery…
    Put more succinctly: damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
    We’re on the Titanic. We’ve hit an iceberg. I for one, will be playing in the band.
    Might as well.

  • Charlene, thanks for the ironic statement (at least to me) about going to the moon.
    I find myself traveling (as long as able) between two vastly different situations. One is a suburb two miles from NASA’s back door, where I and two other family members have worked at various times over the past 40+ years. The other is a Northern California rural homestead that I and two partners bought as raw land four years ago, planning ahead for the End of the World as We Know It.
    Here in Houston (for the time being), the rocket scientists and “cowboys” seem oblivious to the situation as we understand it on this list. I saw a “Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less.” bumper sticker on a very clean (read that “non-working” – not on a farm or ranch anyway) extended cab, double axle pick-up truck yesterday.
    In rural California, our back-to-the-land hippy neighbors settled there in the 70s, decades ahead of the green-hype curve. Many have beautiful estates, sustainably built over the years, completely off-grid with organic gardens, vineyards, stables and party spaces. And yes, some of Northern California’s favorite medicinal herbs, including those needed for headaches (feverfew), immune support (echinacea), etc. The ones who haven’t had ponds before are putting them in now.
    I’m back-and-forthing it to help my sister take care of my mother in Houston, using fossil fuel at a rate I haven’t in years! Further irony — ain’t it great! While in the suburbs of Houston, my sister and I are putting in a vegetable garden. We’d love to put in a well, but the title of the home gives all “mineral rights” and everything else a foot below the surface to Enron. Oh my, the irony just never quits!
    I watch the manifestations of the collapses of unsustainable practices with awe: the pope telling Africans not to use condoms; governments throwing money at the financial situation; politics still hampering the scientists that could have helped come up with useful options decades ago; Coca-cola claiming on TV (something I don’t see much up on the ranch) that they are *helping* thirsty folks in less-developed nations get water; the financial woes causing the closures of the non-profits who help homeless people; and on and on.
    In nature, everything eventually takes care of itself. Other species have self-regulating mechanisms that keep them from over-shooting their system’s carrying capacity. Even the non-native wild pigs on our land die out with regularity. As a technologically savvy species, we can only hold off the inevitable for a while. And unless we get extremely creative, and start our own attrition program, Mother Nature will dispense with us like a dog shaking off fleas.
    The really pesky humans (those invested in capitalism and “the life to which we’ve become accustomed”) are not allowing the innovative folks to implement ideas that are sustainable. Well, those ideas won’t return an additional 8% each quarter! In the US of A, that’s not legal: It is not legal for publicly-held companies to make a decision for a long-term good over a higher financial return. Seriously.
    My strategy when faced with such absurdity is to laugh as much as possible. I’ve been renting as many rosy-eyed, optimistic, laugh-out-loud silly DVDs as I can. While I still can. It keeps my spirits up while I’m digging up my mother’s gorgeous green lawn.

  • Far be it for me to disagree with my brother the scientist, who has done much more study of the subject than I, but at least two or three of Jensen’s premises seem problematic, at best.
    “Premise Seven: The longer we wait for civilization to crash—or the longer we wait before we ourselves bring it down—the messier will be the crash, and the worse things will be for those humans and nonhumans who live during it, and for those who come after.”
    As they say in court, it appears to me that this “assumes facts not in evidence.” So the obvious best answer is immediate worldwide nuclear war? Interestingly, Jensen touches on that same issue two premises later and then tempers his earlier premise with “the violence will ALMOST UNDOUBTEDLY be far more severe, the privation more extreme.” (emphasis added)
    “Premise Ten: The culture as a whole and most of its members are insane. The culture is driven by a death urge, an urge to destroy life.”
    Asylums are full of people who proclaim that everyone else is insane. Chances are they’re right about a lot of us–but I’m not trusting Jensen to decide which ones. I’d also argue that the destruction of life is more a byproduct than it is a desire for “the culture as a whole” (whatever that means, assuming a culture can “desire”), and probably most of its members. No person who buys a cell phone “desires” to kill Africans, for example, just as no person who smokes a joint intends to kill Mexican police.
    That same argument, of course, applies to the final “Re-modification of Premise Twenty: If you dig to the heart of it—if there were any heart left—you would find that social decisions are determined primarily on the basis of how well these decisions serve the ends of controlling or destroying wild nature.”
    I actually agree with much of what Jensen says, and enjoy his writing, though he (like another of our mutual heroes, Edward Abbey, and many of the rest of us) pretends to know more about the future than any of us can, and he writes bigger than he acts. Fortunately.

  • “Agriculture leads to food storage, which leads to empire, which produces slavery, oppression, and mass murder…In short, without agriculture there is no ecological overshoot.”
    What about squirrels? While they might become a plague, I doubt that a mast of nuts will support diabolical overseas hi-jinks. Food storage itself is not inherently evil. Something else leads to empire.
    My prime suspect is racism. Or, more inclusively, the desire to unify for destruction of any group that can be identified as different and therefore a danger due to perceived foreign-ness. -Which includes thinking of other people as stupid, or bringing “order”(god/freedom and liberty) to native ecosystems with a plow.

  • I’ve spent time on the psychward several times in my life, and I have to say, James, they’re pretty similar to the rest of us. I think Premise 10 is pretty accurate.
    Either that, or the term “sane” is something akin to the notion of “pure altruism” (ie who knows if it actually exists). And I want to say, I think it is a distinct possibility.
    The only thing I can figure out about insanity or sanity is that the line drawn between the two has a lot to do with four aspects:
    a) Whether anyone is bothered by the antics of said crazy person.
    (ex. did they kill the neighbor’s cat…did that bother the neighbor? If the answer is yes to either of those questions..yes, crazy…if no, counsel to take up hunting acceptable sorts of animals and send home)
    b) Whether anyone notices said crazy person is in fact crazy.
    (This is closely related to #1 and backed up by evidence found in The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson…which indicates that many wackadoos are well employed and sometimes are the heads of whole wackadoo organizations filled with people who love them…in which case locking up said wackadoo would entail locking up the other wackadoos and generally upset the applecart)
    c) Whether the person, notices they are, in fact, crazy.
    (This can occur in the presence of a or b, but can also happen on its own. Lots of crazy people are running around covering couches in plastic and participating in daily conversations with what they believe to be the voice of God or an alien or even their surprisingly articulate pet weimaraner…many still deem these occurences quite normal and would never think of voluntary treatment.)
    d) Whether being crazy bothers that person enough to seek help for the problem.
    (Sometimes being crazy also involves recognizing the world is crazy, leading to an inability to effectively cope, which eventually leads to actually going crazy. Other times, people have a moment of clarity in which they realize/become desturbed by the fact they’ve been plotting to blow up the local bishop for the perceived threat of him trying to control their thoughts via satellite…and start to think it might be indicative of diseased thinking…)
    Mad? We’re all mad here.
    Time. Entropy. Sane forces of the universe will put it all to right until the next go around. Better leave it to Time, rather than passing it into the hands of crazy chimps with a serious God complex.
    Marg, my in-laws are in N. CA. Beautiful country. I think they’d like it better if their neighbors hadn’t sued them, though. As for trips to the moon, I watch the sci channel sometimes and hear talk of going to back to the moon and then to mars…I see that and can’t help thinking I’m just not crazy enough to be alive right now.

  • I’m happy to see that my first post has stirred things up a bit here–this is one of the unintended consequences of our technological world that makes groups like Al Qaeda possible: small inputs can have large nonlinear effects.
    I strongly suspect that our ideas of what is sane and insane are going to undergo a rapid shift as people come to grips with the magnitude of our predicament. If the entire “progressive” program created by rational scientific thinking has led us to this abyss, you can hardly blame people for deciding to dispense with it entirely and go “crazy”. I don’t think there is any precedent for these times in recorded history–maybe humanity faced such cataclysms in the distant past, but any records were erased along with their civilizations. Personally I’m expecting a total planetary freak out real soon now, at which point all the apocalyptic prophecies of every spiritual tradition will start to look quite reasonable, as will the ideas of uber-doomers like Jensen and Kaczynski. I just don’t see a sane way out of this, so please don’t talk to me about sanity.

  • I guess I went on a bit, and that is what caused my message to get muddled.
    Time and entropy are sane forces because they are “forces” and not emotional beings running hither-tither like we emphemeral apes.
    No one I know truly deserves to be called “sane” or “rational”. I also don’t know of any purely altruistic people; I consider both states impossible for any human mind.
    People are insane. They were act in strange ways under duress. All the same, those aware of the situation and capable of doing so should strive to act peacefully in the face of it. Please not that the word “strive” does not imply “succeed”.
    And Kaczynski’s a crazy (read: pain in the arse) bastard, would have been, probably, just as crazy in a hunter-gatherer society. The only difference being he would’ve been banished rather than locked up. He strikes me as the sort who would’ve gone batty and tried to off half his tribe because they didn’t bury their poo properly or pitched his teepee the wrong way.
    Will there be more antics from the likes of Mr. Kaczynski? Probably. It doesn’t make the action correct; I stand by my conviction that his sort have problems well beyond facing the ills of society.
    Take one of my in-laws for example, running around chatting up the voices in his head, threatening to kill people. He’d probably be that way no matter what environment he found himself plopped into.

  • The main problem with agriculture is that it was the first step into dependence and fragility.All technology is self defeating.The natural progression then was to the 1500
    mile Caesar salad and deadly derivitives on Wall Street.Nuclear attack is coming–we just don’t know when.

  • A premise is an assumption upon which an argument is based. It is logical, but it need not be supported by empirical evidence.
    So far, people have found fault only with premises 7 and 10 (and, implicitly, with 20). Actually, one person has found fault. I’ll address these premises, and assume everybody here agrees with the other premises.
    Jensen in no way supports “immediate worldwide nuclear war.” Like me, he believes humans should live on the planet, and therefore as part of nature. Like me, he does not call for large-scale human mortality. Like me, he recognizes it might result from the decisions we’ve made, largely because we have created a system that allows, and in many cases forces, us to live apart from nature. But, like me, he realizes that the further we go into ecological overshoot, the more difficult the situation becomes. If you think ecological overshoot is problematic with nearly 7 billion people, imagine what it will be like when we have 10 billion. Or 20 billion. Of course, by the time we get there, we’ll have depleted even more of our planetary endowment of resources, thereby making it increasingly difficult to get humanity through the global-change bottleneck. Sooner is better, and faster is better, when it comes to terminating the industrial economy.
    Premise 10 merely reflects our distance from nature, which allows our survival. If you’re cheering for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, as I assume is the case for most readers, you’re begging for the industrial economy to keep on chugging away, depleting the planet of life. The link between the industrial economy and extinction of cultures and species is well established. Supporting American-style capitalism is supporting the death culture. Eliminating species and landbases on which our species depends for survival seems like insanity to me. Please explain how it’s not insane to support a system that demonstrably threatens our entire species with extinction.
    Do we buy cell phones specifically to kill Africans? No. Do we know buying the cell phones will Africans? Yes. Do we buy them anyway? Of course.
    And yet people keep accusing me of sanctioning murder.

  • As compelling, thoughtful, sensitive and impassioned as Jensen is,
    (I appear to be one of the few who have read some of his work)
    as far as I know he is sitting at his lap top in Oregon.
    And we are the better for it, I dont want to see him locked up!
    My very wise septegenarian (sp?) neighbour said that the level of
    actual physical enviro activism is actually much less now than what it
    has ever been. He reasons the internet has turned all the potential activists
    into bloggers. As great as the internet is in providing information,
    it has allowed in his opinion greater environmental (read global) atrocities
    to occur/continue unchallenged.
    Bubbleboy, you need to do more research on ag, check out Jared Diamond’s
    6 page PDF readily available online. I think its called something like
    ‘The worst mistake in human history.’ Controlling the surplus creates
    an exploitative hierachy. (sp?)
    I agree with you Guy, economic growth is an irrational death urge.
    A German minister said recently that perhaps the economic indicators
    should be qualitative rather than quantitative. Herman please step forward!
    What are we going to do?
    Turbo does have a point with regards to extreme measures.
    (eventhough its agreed that the economic growth model is fundamentally
    flawed, ie exponential growth on a finite planet is impossible)
    Matthews island near Alaska is worth googling in terms of
    understanding overshoot. The consequences for the human
    population if reindeer are a worthy analogy is pretty dire.

  • Guy, I totally agree with the vast majority of your last post.
    The longer “it” takes to happen the steeper and deeper the cliff we fall off of will be. As much as that sounds unfortunate to me, the actions we talked about in the last blog entry are unnecessary simply because it will probably happen anyway regardless of whether we sit back and drink Coke or jackrabbit our vehicles day and night. We would successfully hasten it a matter of months, which in the grand view of everything we wouldn’t have accomplished squat.
    Humanity, however, will get through one way or another. If not, then we weren’t supposed to in the first place and Darwin’s law stands that much more firm. That which cannot adapt will not survive, and humans just so happen to be an extremely adaptable species. Whether we’re here or not the Earth isn’t going to care one bit. It will go on with or without us.
    “Do we buy cell phones specifically to kill Africans? No. Do we know buying the cell phones will Africans? Yes. Do we buy them anyway? Of course.
    And yet people keep accusing me of sanctioning murder.”
    If one group does it, does it condone another group of doing it too? Particularly when the creation and purchase of a cell phone isn’t specifically done to damage, destroy, or kill to get your point across?
    Africans have shown time and again their propensity and delight in the killing of each other day and night for years, no cell phones required. They were even doing it long before the invention of cell phones, they’ll be merrily machete-ing each other long after the collapse. It seems like a spectator sport to them.
    The announcer says: “The Gold medal for genocide atrocities in this year’s Olympics goes to: The Hutus of Rwanda! Nobody’s killed people faster in history!”
    Does this excuse the fact that the vast majority of stuff we buy, including cell phones, comes at the cost of blood? No. Are they going to keep themselves busy killing each other regardless of what we do? Chances are, you betcha.
    My issue with your position is that you were talking about having people do things that would be specifically and spectacularly dangerous. If I’m making phones, I’m not doing it to destroy or kill, I just want profit. If you made a bomb, derailed a train, kicked an arse to disrupt energy shipments, the argument could be easily made that you’re doing so was to hurt someone more than it was to produce the intended outcome. Also it’s a very slippery slope. You, Guy, may not want anyone to get hurt or killed during your escapade of destruction, but if it happened your views on people that are innocent could justify their untimely death in your mind for your actions. The ends do not justify the means, especially when you would only do so to hasten something you believe is going to happen anyway.
    Is speeding things along going to help anyone or anything? Probably not. Would extra time for you to prepare for what you believe is coming? Most definitely. Couldn’t your energy be better spent bettering yourself rather than dragging everyone else down? I like to think so.

  • Turboguy.
    Tough philosophical point being discussed ad nauseum. There is no clear answer. It depends on an individual’s premises regarding war. Jensen clearly sees the atrocities being perpetrated by empire as a war on the biosphere. He feels, I believe, an ethical obligation to engage (even if only philosophically) as a combatant in that war. He defends salmon the same way you would defend your family. You can feel strongly that he is wrong in his estimation that there is a moral equivalence there, but that is just an opinion.
    Personally, I think Charlene’s is the voice of reason. It’s no surprise that she would engage collapse as a newly minted nurse; her focus is on compassion, not outcomes. We live a short time. We are answerable, ultimately, only to ourselves. The biosphere is our larger self. It (I) is being assulated from every direction. Do I fight? Do I kill the enemy? Where is the line? I could easily kill to defend my son from an immediate threat. I could not kill to defend him from climate chaos. Somewhere between the two there is a line you can draw only for yourself. It is the rubicon of compassion. At some point the threat is so diffuse that the legacy of personal action overtakes desired outcome. You are left standing naked before the mirror of the universe, alone, responsible for each moment of your life, understanding, finally, that all life is is a series of moments. The potential quality of this moment is no different from the potential quality of a moment 5 billion years in the future. Sure, we all have a perferred outcome. We all want to help write the future. No one wants to sanction mass extinction. But for me, and maybe Charlene, compassion, if possible in this moment, is the larger good.
    That said, even the Dali Lama is getting pissed. We all have lines in the sand.

  • Thank you, Mike. I completely agree.
    As for the Dalai Lama, I’m really amazed by the articles all over the web suggesting he is a liar and that “Chinese Officials” are more honest. There was an article on the BBC site the other day claiming that videos of Chinese military beating Tibetan monks was a…fake? Then, I saw some other articles were “Chinese Officials” claimed to have liberated Tibet from the Dalai Lama.
    Alls I can say is, I don’t think I’d want “Chinese Officials” coming to liberate me.

  • That should say “where Chinese Officials” not were. And, I wanted to say, a lot of the “informative” articles on the Dalai Lama seem to issue from the Xinhua News Agency.

  • Coming back to add: everyone is human. The truth lands probably somewhere in the middle. Every human being (alive or once alive) ends up with an agenda. You know, the whole question of pure altruism… At the end of the day, even the Dalai Lama is human. He’s probably a human with more restraint than average and a treasure trove of scholarly knowledge–but he’s still human as much as the pope or mother Teresa or or Ghandi or anyone else. I imagine, if one wanted to, they could dig up some kind of dirt on any one of those figures.
    So, it still comes back to individuals striving for compassion and trying to work out the imperfections in their own heart/actions.
    I find it kind of amusing–sadly amusing–that the whole of spiritual/financial/environmental worlds’ problems come down to the same simple problem: the problem of convincing people to be more thoughtful and caring in their thoughts/actions. Really, that’s it. That’s all that it is once you boil it down.
    The person who cares about their fellow man won’t pick up a gun against him. The person who cares about the starving will take less and give the hungry a share of his food. The person who cares about the person he is selling an item to won’t sell that person a fuffle (see Orlov’s post) and the person who cares about the person they are buying from won’t do trade that harms the maker of the product.
    Same applies for deforrestation, polution, medical care, government, employment situations, education….ad infinitum.
    I guess what pisses me off the most is the impossibility of people doing something simple.
    We really are a bunch of stupid apes.

  • Memo to Charlene:
    When you say “We really are a bunch of stupid apes”, just who do you include in the “We”?

  • Notice to all:
    I take no little pride in my ameliorative effect on Total Turboguy.Please note that he no longer gives himself even a single exclam after his name.
    Hey,we acknowlege progress when and where we find it.

  • Is there a more noble extractive industry than producing food that will nourish people?
    Perhaps the problem with agriculture is the staying in one place part. Or perhaps things go awry with the ability to forsake one’s homeland when food supplies are stored.
    (To disrespect your land-base.)
    I refuse to own a cell phone and for some time now have survived without a vehicle. You’re welcome. I challenge you to do the same.
    Nothing is more fun than poverty!

  • Bubbleboy, poverty sucks. I never want to have to live in that situation again. I grew up poor in the extreme (By American standards) just scraping by. On a nice note I learned that the big block of government cheese can make a grilled cheese sandwhich that I get hungry now just thinking about.
    I also don’t get the luxury of living without a damn wireless chain either. Job requirement is to have one in case someone needs to get ahold, and invariably it always seems to happen as soon as I sit down to relax.
    Back on poverty: I do understand that if something bad happens that we’ll all be living like I as a child, but without that nice block of government cheese. I will miss that cheese. At that point, we’ll see the world grow exponentially, and not all of it will be a bad thing. Countries that are now antagonists will find considerably better things to do with their time than screw with everyone else or for that matter build a bomb to drop on someone half a world away.
    Money will be reduced in wealth to the point that it might find a better use as kindling than as a tradable good and barter will be the norm. People will suffer, but we’ll get through. I wonder at that point what the difference between rich and poor will be? Hopefully not like the Hutus and Tutsis of Rwanda where the difference between the two tribes is in one (Tutsi) you happen to own twenty or more cows. Silly really…
    And Frank, I apologize for my lack of exclamation punctuation. I am at work and simply typed my screen alias in without. I will be sure to rectify the situation in the future and thank you for pointing it out. I was posting near naked!
    Also it seems that it is a spreading contagion…

  • Memo To Total Turboguy:
    How did we fail you? Reminded of the famous line Paul Newman spoke in Cool Hand Luke,”what we have here is a failure to communicate”.

  • Frank,
    Of course, my apes comment was intended for humanity, including myself, but excluding one wisened soul we already know to be too modest to be named.

  • To our beloved Charlene:

  • Frank, you seriously crack me up.

  • Matt, I saw the Australian housing bubble is bad and getting worse. Are you seeing this or is it BS?

  • turbs,
    the housing thing here has been scary for awhile (my sense of it anyway,
    I have been banging on about this to family and friends for a about 4-5 years,
    ie size of home loans, high prices relative to rental returns – 3%! return on an investment is crapola). I had the Warren Buffet syndrome when there was blue sky
    ie – be fearful when everyone around you is greedy.
    However, prices may have fallen about 10% recently (or unchanged), apparently we have a housing shortage, so the likely decline in house prices is likely to be more benign.
    But the average house price is about 6-8 times average income ($60k), historically it is has always been 4 times. The government has been giving money to first home buyers,
    between $14-21,000. This has just inflated the house prices. The prices of houses in
    Melbourne is ridiculous. For eg I bought house for 90,000 in 94, anyway trading up,
    renovating, my current house is worth $800,000. This is insane. This is probably
    somewhat typical, most house prices would have at least tripled/quadrupled over the last 15 years.
    Where did this money come from? Another eg I bought a block of land for $100,000
    back in 2001, sold it 13 months later for $190,000. The economy is an illusion
    it is all based on debt.
    Anyway, as the yiddish saying goes – dont buy real estate until you see blood in the street. I have no more current investments in real estate other than the family home.
    Apparently, aussies and brits have been buying up in the mid west. Taking advantage
    of the misery. Be greedy when people are fearful.
    So turbs, I agree it is potenially much worse here. We are waitng for the fall, but the housing market has been amazingly resilient. The smart money (jewish) has been doing this – selling expensive family homes 1.5-2 million, renting in the same area
    for half the price. That is yield is 3%, loan rates are 6%. A million $ house yields
    about $1000 per week in rent, but beyond that the yield falls dramatically relative to the value of the house. So, its better to cash in, and earn 5% in a deposit and rent
    a similar property for about 3% to the value of the property. This is ok in the short
    term, however, if the market turns upward (highly unlikely) your left holding deflating
    However, a well known economist here has put is money where his mouth is, he is our
    very own Dr Doom (roubini) – Prof Steven Keen, from a Uni in Sydney. He has sold up
    his over valued home and is now renting, my money is on him.
    I joked to the wife that when the crash comes, we will be able to pay cash
    for a couple of houses.
    on your bike Captain Amerika!

  • Haha, It’s a bit different here, at least where I live. Aus dollars are .68 american cents per, that’s frikin’ incredible! If you live in a huge house with oceanfront I could see that amount. That is literally double what we’re paying here!
    A $200,000 house will net you right around $1000/month rent. I charge $800/unit and have a three plex that I live in. Smartest thing I ever did was pay it off as quickly as possible. When I bought it, it was going for $180,000 but then jumped nearly $40,000, but is now back down.
    I have no trouble with my property value going down. Lowers my property tax and I already have it all paid off. During the boom I had all kinds of people telling me to refinance when I had three years left so I could profit from my house. I’d have been a fool, and now in hindsight, I made exactly the right choice. Now I make nothing but profit from my tenants and all those that refinanced are facing the probability of foreclosure.
    As for debt, we’re dealing with the exact same problem. Our shiny new Prez is talking about how we need to give the banks more money so they’ll lend it to people who are already in debt up to their eyeballs! I am probably a simpleton, but at which point does borrowing *MORE* money get your out of debt? This is worse than an illusion, it’s a mirage in the distance, and we’re parching in the desert trying to get to it.
    There’s a “C” in my name, thank you Avenger.

  • Sometimes borrowing that extra bit of money does help in the short term, yes in the longer run you have a bigger debt but if you are really desparate for cash what else can you do. Everywhere is stuck in recession, and until globablly the situation is sorted, more and more people will become unemployed in huge amounts of debt.