February 22, 2009 – I spend a lot of time thinking about the future, maybe too much.
By The Cerebral Aesthetic Vagabond
During the last few years I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time trying to envision the future. I look at where individual trends are at the moment, the trajectory they’re on, and try to visualize where they will be at some time in the future. I repeat this process for numerous distinct trends and also consider how distinct trends interact because, after all, everything affects everything else to some degree.
While considering my own living situation recently, my vision of the future played the dominant role in my decision, much more than my own financial circumstances did. So for fun, here’s what I see for our future. These are no-brainers and there is nothing revelatory here. Unlike some people, I don’t see an abrupt change in, or collapse of anything in our immediate future, barring that caused by insane actions undertaken by people in power. However, as these trends progress in drawn out fashion they will weigh more and more heavily on us, eventually crossing some unarticulated threshold of tolerance, whereupon one day the great mass of people will wake up and wonder what the heck happened to their world while they were asleep.
More and more people will be forced by financial realities out of the health care system. Simultaneously, the quest for higher profits will cause costs to keep rising, especially for programs that are paid for by the government, such as the Medicare drug benefit. In order to forcibly create more “customers,” the health care industry will push for mandatory vaccine injections, especially if there arises any kind of disease epidemic, and mandatory health insurance. People that cannot afford to buy health insurance will have it paid for by the government. Either way the health insurance companies will enjoy a boost to their revenues. Drastic changes need to be made to the health care system, but the required changes are 180 degrees opposed to what’s in place now and what maximizes profits for the corporations that control the health care system. So no effort or expense will be spared to prop up the existing failed model.
Although we are enjoying a respite from high oil prices, sooner or later the diminishing supply due to peak oil will start driving prices back up relentlessly. In addition, natural gas is facing its own peak which is not unrelated to peak oil since the two resources are often found together. One-third of the electricity supplied in the U.S. is generated from natural gas, so as it goes up in price, so will electricity.
I know that the government’s thoroughly trustworthy CPI statistic shows inflation abating. Nevertheless, every time I go to the grocery store I encounter higher food prices, and that’s the statistic that matters to me.
Between financial problems, global shipping problems, rising protectionist sentiment, depletion of global grain stocks, droughts and the continuing folly of countries pursuing ethanol fuel, grain prices are poised to rise. Other foods, including breakfast cereal, bread, pasta, meat, cheese, eggs and liquor are derived from grains, so their prices will likely continue rising as well.
Besides the increased likelihood of food shortages stemming from a supply reduction, the food distribution system is quite fragile. Financial problems alone could cause a disruption in the distribution system. So I expect to see increasingly common shortages of essential goods, especially food. The government may attempt to “remedy” the problem by rationing goods, which will probably make them scarcer!
Paradoxically, there may well be huge surpluses of nonessential items, such as automobiles, televisions, computers, consumer electronics, recreational vehicles, furniture, granite for countertops, clothing, all cornerstones of our housing-bubble-fueled consumer economy, when people had more credit than cents.
What’s finally dawning on people today is that the last few decades of “growth” and “prosperity” have been an illusion. We gradually departed from our productive heritage, believing with hubris that we could substitute “services” for productive activities. Well, that worked out dandy as long as we could manufacture asset bubbles to create the illusion of wealth while masking our declining prosperity. Now, with no more asset bubbles left to blow, we’re having to acknowledge the truth: productive activities generate wealth; providing legal services, selling real estate, selling insurance, securitizing debt, selling retail goods, fast food and so forth do not.
The problems in our economy are structural and cannot be changed overnight, but we aren’t taking even baby steps in the right direction. Quite the opposite, we appear to be running headlong toward a mirage of the Goldilocks economy.
What we need to do is utterly remake our economy, emphasizing localized production and labor, and deemphasizing consumption, especially globalized consumption. Unfortunately, that’s 180 degrees opposite the design and desire of the oligarchy in charge of the economy and the government, so such change will not happen. Instead we will witness ever more desperate and harebrained schemes to prop up the failed system we have in place, which will delay the needed changes while dragging the nation further into debt and ruin. The government’s approach – or rather, the oligarchy’s approach – to coping with the financial crisis is only going to prolong it.
Meanwhile, more and more people will lose their jobs and their homes and predictably, crime will rise. Once enough people have nothing left to lose and can tolerate the pain no longer, civil unrest will begin to break out. At first it will be limited to small, infrequent pockets of eruption. As pain and desperation spread, the unrest will become more frequent and widespread, eventually becoming an endemic background simmer.
Initially, the government may succeed in hauling the unresty citizens off to detention camps, but eventually the number of malcontents will reach proportions too large for the government to handle. That, combined with failing government finances and the means to pay local police forces, will lead to a toleration of increased levels of violence, crime and general lawlessness. We the people will increasingly be left to defend ourselves and our property, ironically, even as the government continues trying to take away our guns while offering us less protection!
A lot of people and governments outside the U.S. use the U.S. Dollar and have an interest in propping it up. The dollar will also continue to benefit from a lack of alternatives. The Euro, once the most promising alternative to the dollar, suddenly appears doomed. A new regional currency, sponsored by countries such as Russia and China, perhaps under the auspices of The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and backed by gold could challenge the dollar’s global dominance.
Nevertheless, with all the bailout activity, expanding military “adventures,” soaring federal budget deficits and the disinclination of foreigners to lend us more money, not to mention the unfunded entitlement obligations increasing right now as the baby boomers retire, I don’t see how the dollar can escape being severely debased, even if it takes far longer than I think it should. (One observation about making predictions is that it’s relatively easy to predict what will happen, but it’s difficult to predict when it will happen.) After a prolonged debasement, public sentiment may shift, lose confidence in the currency and usher in hyperinflation as people try to get rid of their dollars as fast as possible, especially to purchase necessities that are in short supply.
War has often been used to “recover” from, or conceal the cause of economic problems, and so it may be again. In addition, competition for resources, particularly oil and water, is intensifying, another age-old rationale for war. I think war is likely to break out in the Middle East and draw in more and more combatants, eventually reaching the proportions of a World War. Countries far from the Middle East may use that war as an opportunity to reign in recalcitrant territories or acquire resource-rich territories of their own, causing the World War to spread wider. In addition, there appear to be some rather evil people in positions of power who see major wars as convenient opportunities to kill off significant numbers of people whom the evil ones regard as “useless eaters.” And, of course, governments like wars because then they can usurp additional powers as exigencies of war.
Believe it or not, we still have a lot of freedoms left to lose. Gun restrictions, vehicular mileage taxes, carbon taxes, mandatory health insurance, censorship of free speech, forced labor, banking restrictions and travel restrictions are all in the offing. Ironically, as governments and corporations extract more from us, they will deliver less to us.
The “insane” bailout activity is just a taste of what we can expect from government in the future, as is the Israeli government’s ‘insane” attempt to portray Israel as a “victim” in its barbarous assault on the Palestinians. Governments and their corporate partners are increasingly in competition with the people for survival because there isn’t enough wealth available for both parties, so the government-corporate fascist bloc is hoarding the wealth for itself, at our expense.
As I told a friend recently, the upper echelons of government and business worldwide have been taken over by psychopathic criminals. They are behaving exactly as one would expect such people to behave, but unfortunately, their behavior is being mimicked by their underlings (anyone care for a ride on the taser?). With any luck this trend will eventually be arrested, hopefully in conjunction with the arrest of the people in charge. But for the foreseeable future, we’d better prepare ourselves for continual assault from the deranged people who are in charge of everything and sincerely believe they are in charge of us as well. As I said in a comment on a blog recently, I’m ten times as afraid of people who work for the government as I am of petty criminals. Maybe that’s what the government wants, for people to fear it.
In truly Orwellian fashion, crimes against society, humanity and nature are now legal and opposing this new order is criminal! Of course, the people responsible for this perversion control the governments, write the laws and own the media corporations that dispense so much propaganda, so they are in a position to declare what is a crime and what is not. What was the golden rule again? Oh, yeah, he who owns the guns makes the rules.
Maybe after all this coming turmoil, people will get fed up with the “system,” abandon it and form their own communities based on old-fashioned moral, even religious values. By necessity, such people will become productive and trade among themselves, content to eek out a sustainable existence. Meanwhile, the failed “system,” starved of its diet of tax and “consumer” revenue, will wither away and die. That is my hope and my dream.
Sure enough, Mr. Obama’s plan for forced labor is speeding through Congress with its enthusiastic blessing. Legislation birthed featuring innocuous “voluntary” participation has, through discrete, back room amendment, morphed into legislation which introduces the concept of mandatory service. What’s more, the same legislation, H.R. 1388, with the Orwellian nickname of “GIVE,” and which sailed unobstructed through the House of Representatives, includes a rather sinister attack on the First Amendment of the Constitution itself. Now that’s “change we can believe in”!