Saturday, July 24, 2010

Economic apocalypse and The Terror

I'm putting these links onto Bearwatch because they're too hot to include on the Broad Oak Blog, where I try to maintain a cooler view of the economy and investment. But pace my attempts at sanity and balance, it may be that the urbane attitude is fatally mistaken, and that matters are approaching a crisis of apocalyptic proportions.

Let's start with an absolutely magnificent rant by Joe Bageant, whose fireball sermon takes as its text the principle that "at ground zero of human species economics [...] the only currency is the calorie" - here he is.

I came upon that link from a comment on this blog, which foresees a new feudalism that begins by victimising the poor and goes on to terrorise the middle class. Again, as we slide into accepting permanent structural unemployment, I begin to doubt the continuance of democracy as I grew up knowing it. On the way, this post tells me things about mainstream Eng Lit icon poet and preacher John Donne that I almost wish it hadn't. And bloggers should take note of the fate of protesters against the Outland-style Virginia Company: "For making “base and detracting” statements against the governor, the Company managers ordered one servant to have his arms broken, his tongue pierced with an awl, and finally to be beaten by a gauntlet of 40 men before being banished from the settlement. For complaining that the Company’s system of justice was unfair, a man named Thomas Hatch was whipped, placed in the pillory, had an ear cut off, and sentenced to an additional seven years of servitude." Read the whole post here.

And in its turn, that came from the sidebar of Jesse, an investment / economics commentator who has been turning (or progressively revealing himself to be) more radical over the last year. His archly-named section "Matières à Réflexion" contains much that is indeed worthy of reflection.

More than once I have quietly challenged James Higham on his "Them" conspiracy theory, but that was to see if he really could prove the links. Perhaps such proof is impossible, just as (thanks to the careful exclusion of fussily minuting civil servants) it is impossible to know exactly what was said by whom at Tony Blair's sofa-style inner Cabinet meetings. Coming from the financial angle, all I can say is that there seems to be growing unease at what many feel to be a crooked manipulation of the entire economic system for the benefit of a rich and powerful elite - to the point where the system may break down altogether. Which, to quote the now tarnished Johne Donne, "makes me end, where I begun": do read Bageant - I think the drink and drugs have merely fuelled his oratory, rather than turned his brain.


James Higham said...

I think you're both right and wrong and the same with me. That there is collusion is now beyond question and the slightest amount of delving into economic history establishes that, especially with Peabody/Morgan/GS.

That they're fiendishly working away to enslave us, everyone working to the same plan, is far-fetched. There certainly is a game plan but methinks that many of the nominal devotees are more into themselves and their place in the pecking order than into any mystical global new age.

The bottom line though is that there are people dropping off the middle-class order more quickly and hardly any coming into it. The upper MC are having it both ways - crash and penury or filthily obscene profits and salaries - before they crash.

The middle of the country just doesn't want to know - real head in the sand stuff.

As for challenging me to "prove", it's hardly about that. The very fact that you're running this post now and wouldn't have two years ago is a testament to the unfolding story.

The things I wrote three years ago are still not mainstream but let's see what time does to those as well.

Sackers, there's no mystical knowledgeability to any of this - just pure hack-like research. Time will tell.

Anonymous said...


Sackerson said...

Thanks for your studied response, James. I've never bought into the Dr Evil theory, but what with the financial sector having recently grown to 4 times what it used to be compared to GDP, clearly there is a - power bubble, should we call it? What is concerning is the sense that the uber-rich/powerful don't seem to understand that they could be sawing at the branch they're sitting on.

Sackerson said...

P.S. That's also not to say that society will not evolve into a feudal state / police state, from whatever muddled motives. See the new European Investigation Order:

Nigel Sedgwick said...

In the linked rant/article, Joe Bageant writes: "Capitalism wouldn't be around today, at least not in its current pathogenic form, if it had not caught a couple of lucky breaks. The first of course, was the expansion of bloodsucking colonialism to give it transfusions of unearned wealth, enabling "investors" to profit by artificial means (death, oppression and slavery). But the biggest break was being driven to stratospheric heights by inordinate quantities of available hydrocarbon energy. Inordinate, but never the less finite. Consequently, the 100-year-long oil suckdown that put industrial countries in the tall cotton, now threatens to take back from subsequent beneficiary generation everything it gave. The Hummers, the golf courses, the big box stores, cruising at 35,000 feet over the Atlantic -- everything."

Well, I'm not too keen on his dissing of 'trade', but I'll concentrate on the energy issue.

There is no shortage of energy flow (and do note it is the flow of energy that is useful to us).

Solar irradiance of the planet runs at over 13MW per person (yes that is mega). Energy use by the planet's top species is actually around 2kW per person (yes that is kilo), so a ratio of around 6,500:1. On top of that, we have oil and coal (storage of past solar irradiance), solar/wind/hydro (mechanisms for tapping more current solar irradiance), tidal (tapping a minuscule portion of the rotational kinetic energy of the planet - did you know the Earth has slowed down its rotation by over 9% since it was formed - and that was not anthopogenic), nuclear fission and eventually (doubtless) nuclear fusion.

Such issues as there are with energy flow relate to cost, not to availability.

Thus the matter is one of sensible economics, ie use of the cheapest supply first (also cost according to location and need WRT storage and distribution), and not one of existence of sufficient tappable energy flow on the planet.

Best regards

Sackerson said...

Thanks, Nigel, a valuable contribution. To continue the debate, it'd be interesting to see some calculation of the other ways in which solar energy is already being productively used, e.g. growing crops and woodland.

"Such issues as there are with energy flow relate to cost, not to availability"...
I too understand that many of the ways in which we might seek to harness renewable resources are not worthwhile once you've factored-in all energy costs of construction, transmission, decommissioning etc. It's a bit like the fantasy that electric cars are clean, whereas all that system does is relocate the pollution - at a further cost.

I think Bageant (and James Kunstler, and Charles Hugh Smith) are correct in intimating that there must eventually be a more radical reorganisation of daily life - though no-one knows when that will or must come, and I don't necessarily share in their visions either of apocalypse or of bucolic bliss. We need to reassess what must be done ("is your journey really necessary?") as opposed to what we're used to doing, and we may end up with something of a command economy spuriously justified by a powerful bossy elite who'll tell us "don't you know there's a war [for ec0-survival] on?"

BTW: As a matter of fact I did know that the Earth's rotational speed has slowed, apparently the result of tides pushing on coasts and a sort of planetary gravitational friction with the Moon. Oxygen level's a lot lower than it was in Jurassic times, so I've read.

Nick Drew said...

based on this, and the blog you cited in your last post, I begin to think that a very important strategic action for Cameron to take, is to revoke various one-sided extradition treaties ...

one morning ... unilaterally ...

just as a simple balancing action while getting on with figuring out other complicated stuff

Sackerson said...

Hmmm... grabbing American tourists transiting the UK from holidays in Eastern-EU countries, using the European Arrest Warrant and extraordinarily rendering them Eastwards would concentrate the mind, wouldn't it?