Submitted by James Howard Kunstler – The KUNSTLER Blog
It ought to be a foregone conclusion that Mr. Obama’s replacement starting January 20, 2017 will preside over conditions of disorder in everyday life and economy never seen before. For the supposedly thinking class in America, the end of reality-optional politics will come as the surprise of their lives.
Where has that hypothetical thinking class been, by the way, the past eight years? Don’t look for it in what used to be called “the newspapers.” The New York Times has become so reality-averse that the editors traded in their blue pencils for Federal Reserve cheerleader pompoms after the Lehman incident of 2008. Every information-dispensing organ has followed their lede: The Recovery Continues! It’s a sturdy plank for promoting the impaired asset known as Hillary.
Don’t look for the thinking class in the universities. They’ve surrendered their traditional duties to a new hybrid persecution campaign that is equal parts Mao Zedong, the Witches of Loudon, and the Asylum at Charenton. For instance the President of Princeton, Mr. Eisgruber, was confronted with a list of demands that included 1) erasure of arch-segregationist Woodrow Wilson’s name from everything on campus, and 2) creation of a new all-black (i.e. segregated) student center. He didn’t blink. Note: nobody in the media asked him about this apparent contradiction. That’s how we roll these days.
Don’t look for the thinking class in business. The C-suites are jammed with people still busy buying back stock in their own companies at outlandish prices with borrowed money. Why? To artificially boost share price and thus their salaries and bonuses. Does it do anything for the fitness of enterprise? No, in fact it makes future failure more likely. Why is there no governance of their insane behavior? Because they’ve also bought and paid for boards of directors composed of a rotating cast of praetorian shills, with fresh recruits entering the scene weekly through the fabled “revolving door” between business and government regulators.
Oh, and then there’s government. Anyone viewing the boasting-and-defamation contests that the cable TV networks call “debates” knows that these spectacles are based on the opposite of thinking. They are not only reality-optional, they’re thought-optional. Hence, it appears for now that America is fixing to elect either a primal screamer or a road-tested grifter to preside over the epochal collapse of our hobbled, exhausted, way of life.
The recent carnage in the stock markets will probably see a retracement after the President’s Day hiatus. They’re bouncing up in other parts of the world today, the triumph of hope over all the available evidence that something fatal has happened out there in Tom Friedman’s supposedly permanent global economy. Some observers suspect that it has something to do with the price of oil, because the oil futures market and the stock indexes seem to go up and down in tandem. But they don’t really get it.
How hard is it to understand that A) that something adverse happens to oil companies when it costs them $70-a-barrel to hoist the product out of the ground and then sell it for $30-a-barrel? And B) that all of the infrastructure of techno-industrial civilization was designed to run on oil under $30-a-barrel and founders when the price goes higher? That’s how it is. That’s your basic reality.
We’ve been trying to work around this vexing problem — the non-linear manifestation of the supposedly bygone predicament called “peak oil” — since the early part of this century. Mainly, we worked around it by borrowing money that wasn’t there. Having created this matrix of borrowed money, we’ve also created an expectation in market obligations that it must be paid back. In fact, the process of paying back money owed is the only thing that supports confidence in a system based on that essential trust — even if that expectation was unreal to begin with. When it is violated, terrible things happen in markets and economies.
Those terrible things are underway. We’re going to be a much-distressed and poorer so-called republic when this year is done with us. The markets will crack and the trade relations that comprise globalism will fall apart as nations and regions of nations struggle to survive. We’ll move inexorably to a very possibly disastrous election. We’ll face the basic choices, as distressed societies always do, of freaking-and-acting-out (usually in the form of war), or opting for a reunion with reality and its mandates. So far, it’s not looking good for the better option.
If you are a thinking person, the months ahead might be your last chance to protect whatever wealth you have and to move to some part of the country where, at least, you can grow some of your own food and become a useful part of a social and economic network that might be called a community.