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Guest Post: The Best Of Times, The Worst….

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From Chindit 13

The Best of Times, the Worst….

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

This time is different.

There is nothing new under the sun.

All of us---by “us” I mean human beings---tend to think too much with our egos and not enough with our rational minds.  When we are young, we think we have unique and novel insight into life and the human condition, as if we are the first person to have ever thought certain thoughts.  We all read---at least back when I went to school---the classic literature, the Greek playwrights and Shakespeare, but it is only when we reread these works as adults that we realize that everything has been thought of before.  The best we can do is put a slight sidespin on it.  We are humbled.

We bring this same tendency---a belief in our uniqueness---into the issues that face our time on Earth.

“There has never been a better time to be alive.”

“This is all going to blow up faster than most people think, and it is TEOTWAWKI.”

Somewhere in the middle probably lies the truth.

Many of us---myself included time to time---fear that life as we know it is about to come to an abrupt and painful end.  Others---most visibly those who are wheeled out as guests on CNBC---think things are on a rise as far as the eye can see.  And for some---I am thinking John Paulson and David Tepper---times have never been better.

Who is right?  Maybe nobody.

Things have always been this way…wild optimists and wild pessimists.  If one is objective, one can see a time far worse than our own in the not so distant past.  It helps---me, at least---to try to put things in perspective and bring that perspective to today.

Consider a time that all of our parents or grandparents faced.  The 1930’s brought the Great Depression, soup lines, and 25% unemployment in the US.  Horrible it was, and an extra slap coming in the face of those who had lived through WWI and through the Great Spanish Influenza, or Weimar Germany.  At the same time, there was a Gilded Class who sailed through the 1930’s.  Think of those who bought the 1932 Duesenberg SJ or the 1937 Bugatti Atlantic or Royale, which might be the most ostentatious automotive displays of wealth ever created, Depression or Boom time.

Even darker clouds hung over the planet by 1939.  Japan had already invaded China and had carried out wholesale slaughter at Nanjing, and had “invented” aerial bombing of civilian targets.  Hitler had reached the height of his power, had already entered the Rhineland and was threatening Poland.  Neville Chamberlain, on the other hand, saw “peace in our time”.  Pessimists One, Optimists Zero.

By December 1941 the entire world was at war.  Eighteen year olds in all the developed countries were not worrying about Saturday night dates or what job to take, and certainly not about getting the next permutation of the iPad;  there were worrying about staying alive.  Rationing was widespread.  Jews were being rounded up in Europe for humanity’s latest attempt at genocide, not even three decades after the last attempt in Turkey.  To pay for the war, US budget deficits hit levels never before seen, and not seen since.

If one had thought the entire world was going to come to an end, it would not have been viewed as tin foil thinking.  It looked to be inevitable.

Then it stopped.  The war ended.  Germany and Japan were defeated.  People cleaned up.  Economies began to grow again.  Manufacturing turned toward building consumer goods rather than armaments.  People’s attitudes turned positive.  The world hadn’t ended;  in fact it reached one of the most prosperous times in history.  Of course, by the late 1950’s it wasn’t good enough for the young.  It never is.  Discontent defines the young, and is probably what leads not only to change, but to cycles both good and bad.

One could make quite a successful argument that today’s problem are minor in comparison.  That doesn’t mean that we will have smooth sailing, but in a relative sense perhaps it will seem so, at least to those who lived through the Great Depression and WWII.  Think of the way a cancer survivor might view a subsequent common cold.

For most of the rest of us, it might prove challenging, even upsetting.  Some of us will plan for TEOTWAWKI.  Some of us will believe it is the end for the US, or for Europe, forgetting that collapse is often a lengthy affair (Rome) that encompasses many generations at best, and a medium term event (Japan, 20 years and counting) at worst.  A country as large and significant as the US is unlikely to be Zimbabwe, or even Argentina.  Collapse, if it comes, likely will be an extended affair.

Admittedly US finances are horrible, both public and private.  Corporate finances are not so bad, although since many of their assets are cash and UST’s, they will be subject to some pain if the worst happens.  Their fixed assets, however, represent productive capability and should retain some value even if things turn nasty.  They should survive to the other side, whatever that other side might be.

Sometimes our mindset leads us to overestimate things.  One example I recently discovered, much to my surprise, was that today’s money printing, at least in the two common aggregates, is considerably slower than during the commodities’ bubble of 1980.  Most of us today bemoan the pace of money creation, but how correct are we to think we are in uncharted territory?  Using as an end point two silver market highs (1980 and now), in the two years prior to those highs, M1 growth in 1980 matches M1 growth today, averaging .65% per month in 1980 and .64% per month today.  M2 shows marked differences, however, growing three times faster in the period before March 1980, .75% per month vs. .25% per month today.  Surprise.  Where today’s money printing shows up is in the monetary base, or MB, which includes excess bank reserves.  That is the Sword of Damocles hanging over the market, and the future is dependent on how that is resolved.  (On a side note, I am suddenly far more concerned about the deficit than money printing, though both are worrisome.)

Some will say this post is too optimistic.  I might say the same thing myself, tending as I do toward being a Cassandra.  Being a Cassandra at heart makes me hedge, so it has merit.  Being a student of history, however, prevents me from going “all-in” in the TEOTWAWKI trade.

Three years ago, before the printing and the bailouts, I never would have expected that the S&P would be above 1300 today.  I wouldn’t have expected the RE bubbles to continue in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and many other countries.  I’m not sure what I expected the dollar to be, but being in a mid range of its recent performance against the euro probably was not what I thought, though overall it is not far from earlier lows.  Gold does not surprise me, though silver does.  Silver has spent its recent history jumping back and forth between being the Poor Man’s Gold and the Rich Man’s Copper, never quite making up its mind what it wants to be.  I’m not sure it ever will, and its schizophrenic behavior will provide many trading opportunities.

My worst fears did not materialize.  Some of you might be thinking “yet”.  Maybe you are right.  It is very difficult to figure how we can escape this fiscal mess, the over capacity mess, the general public and private debt messes, the EU mess, the natural resource shortage, Japan’s mess, and the assumed future collapse of the various bubbles around the world.  I don’t how it can happen.  I am modest enough to admit that just because I cannot think of a way does not mean it cannot happen.  I suspect that if I was eighteen in mid 1942 and on a boat toward the South Pacific, I would not have been able to see how the world could possibly escape complete collapse.  Yet it did. 

I think most of us develop mindsets that become our comfort zone, our steady state.  For some that is optimism, for others pessimism.  If we drift from that comfort zone, we find a way to push ourselves back into it, even if it is bad.  Some people like to be miserable, because it is something familiar and human’s have an odd tendency to resist change, even in the face of emotional misery.  Others always try to see the bright side, and seem to be able to find a way back there whenever they drift away.  Personally, I think I try to find a middle ground, which I might call the world of cynicism, where I can see things that can and should upset me, but I try to make fun of them and find some humor in them.  (My own definition of cynic is a hopeless romantic in a suit of armor.)  Something that is truly difficult is moving oneself from one mindset to another and trying to stake out that new ground.  Consider this:  how many find themselves gravitating toward the bleakest articles here and find themselves in a kind of joyous agreement with the most pessimistic and negative comments (“this is all going to blow up faster than most people think”)?  How many have the opinion that they can hardly wait for everything to blow up, even though few have had any first hand experience in a Mad Max type of world?  Would people regret it if they get what they wish for?  I suspect almost all would.

Most people know where their sentiments stand.  Just for fun, here’s a test.  Suppose the following links to articles appear on a financial website.  In what order would you read them, if at all?

1)  SNAP Recipients Reach All-Time High
2)  Major Economist Sees Long End of the Yield Curve Collapsing
3)  Signs of Recovery in Spending, Hiring Figures

I’m guessing 1-2-3 and 3-2-1, pessimists and optimists in those orders.  The second fictitious article is a trick, as it probably generates a lot of cognitive dissonance.  A major economist?  What the heck does an economist know?  On the other hand, it sounds negative, so maybe it’s worth taking a look. 

Personally, I’m going with cynicism and history, and hedging my bets.  If I am wrong I may be swept away by events.  If it turns out as bad as many people are predicting, however, I am not sure survival is the more attractive alternative.

Some say hope for the best but plan for the worst.  I prefer hope for the best but plan for the worst one is willing to accept.

 

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Mon, 05/09/2011 - 07:35 | 1254887 Robslob
Robslob's picture

This time is different..."they" have a plan.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 07:43 | 1254895 Sudden Debt
Sudden Debt's picture

yes... problem is that they wrote it down on that roll of toilet paper they forgot to take with them when they left the gas station...

They did recover most of it:

THE PLAN IS TO "piece of shit" AND TO "piece of shit" "hughe chunk of shit" "something greenish" AND THEREFORE THE TAXPAYER WILL GET LOT'S OF "piece of shit" piece of shit" AND THE REST OF THE MONEY WILL GO TO THE 200K+ INCOME PEOPLE.

 

 

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 09:00 | 1255088 Re-Discovery
Re-Discovery's picture

There have always been optimists.  There have always been pessimists.  Yadda, yadda, yadda . . .

I'm sure there were optimists in Buchenwald, but the situation was pretty f***'d up. 

Your article could have been condensed to your final sentence:  Prepare for the worst. 

How anyone feels about where we are just defines how long they are willing to risk/trade that the worst is not tomorrow. 

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 09:33 | 1255185 SWRichmond
SWRichmond's picture

“There has never been a better time to be alive.”
“This is all going to blow up faster than most people think, and it is TEOTWAWKI.”

Somewhere in the middle probably lies the truth.

I genuinely don't understand why the OP thinks the first two statement are mutually exclusive.  They are not.  This IS going to blow up faster than most people think, and there has never been a better time to be alive.  The genuine liberty our ancestors knew, right here in North America, is within our grasp if we have the courage to seize it.

After all, never let a good crisis go to waste, eh?

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 07:35 | 1254888 Sudden Debt
Sudden Debt's picture

It gives more and more people time to prepare for what is comming.

And when the shit comes down and you didn't to squat: HA HA HA!!

Only the idiots will be running circles than!

It's a luxury that we all get this extra time to prepare against the shitstorm endgame that's comming. You can chose to spend now like there is no tomorrow or save up and be able to spend 50 times as much when the shitstorm hits the economy as we know it.

 

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 07:39 | 1254890 samsara
samsara's picture

Good Job Chindit

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 08:05 | 1254922 Sophist Economicus
Sophist Economicus's picture

Ditto that

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 10:49 | 1255428 old naughty
old naughty's picture

DittoX2 that.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 12:23 | 1255857 DoChenRollingBearing
DoChenRollingBearing's picture

Make mine a + 4.

Nice perspective Chindit13, well done.  Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 23:54 | 1258041 chindit13
chindit13's picture

Thank you.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 07:42 | 1254900 Robslob
Robslob's picture

Weird?

Where did Math Man's quote go...he was the first poster right above me...hmmm

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 07:55 | 1254913 swanpoint
swanpoint's picture

I saw it, too.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 08:04 | 1254921 Math Man
Math Man's picture

Don't know.  Apparantly ZH is in to censorship these days.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 08:04 | 1254926 Math Man
Math Man's picture

Repost:

All of us---by “us” I mean human beings---tend to think too much with our egos and not enough with our rational minds.

Which is why ZH readers are still trying to buy the dip in silver.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 08:13 | 1254944 Sean7k
Sean7k's picture

It appears you are the dip in silver. 

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 08:28 | 1254980 Poor Grogman
Poor Grogman's picture

While some others are busy posting crap that nobody wants to read.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 08:50 | 1255038 simonsito
simonsito's picture

angry you missed 33? :) nobody still trying, everybody DID BTFD last week....! Maybe you might wanna look at OI in silver.... I mean, youre the math man in here, so theres some pretty bullish math, isnt it?

but I appreciate your service for the community, and deeply regret your comments being deleted, although I think its a technical issue more than censorship...

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 10:41 | 1255392 old naughty
old naughty's picture

@1254926

I am confused...Are you saying only humans would buy the dip in silver...And you are not?

Hummmm.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 08:15 | 1254943 Henry Chinaski
Henry Chinaski's picture

Benevolent dictatorship.  As it should be.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 14:06 | 1256222 FEDbuster
FEDbuster's picture

I nominate Ron Paul for the role.

BTW my take is that we slide into a Mexico like economy (rich and poor), TPTB will move towards inflation and WW3 (and maybe a man made pandemic to thin the herd).

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 07:44 | 1254901 Gold 36000
Gold 36000's picture

I was supposed to take over for Village Idiot while he was on vacation.  Sorry I forgot until today.  Did my best.  Now mom is telling me to get ready for school.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 07:49 | 1254902 Robslob
Robslob's picture

Hi Math Man...I mean Gold36000

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 07:50 | 1254903 gaoptimize
gaoptimize's picture

What will you say 12 months from now, when there is unlikely to be a FY2012 budget and the miracle of compound interest along with the predictable delay and pray takes us another year closer to the brink?  I think you way over-estimate the duration of the inevitable crisis/collapse, and as the pesimist in me prepares to survive it, the optimist in me is motivated by the explosive growth in a freshly liberated economy that will take us to the unbounded alternatives of the Kurzweil Singularity.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 07:50 | 1254905 jesse livermoore
jesse livermoore's picture

HEY LOOK math man is back....now i feel confident the bottom is in, when this troll yells sell sell sell.. I will do the opposite, and buy buy buy.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 07:56 | 1254912 razorthin
razorthin's picture

"Corporate finances are not so bad, although since many of their assets are cash and UST’s, they will be subject to some pain if the worst happens."

Wow yet another commentator either with a short memory or clueless to the FASB acounting fraud caper.  Corporations are not "flush with cash".  They are flush with crushing debt that they are allowed to keep off the books - especially the banks, as we all  know.

Anyone in this information age with eyes willing to see knows that beneath the veneer of lies things are enormously worse than they appear.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 08:08 | 1254927 gordengeko
gordengeko's picture

Actually a lot of major corporations(especially automotive) are flush with tons of cash.  That's why these financial institutions are sitting on a shit ton of reserves and haven't started lending out a lot because the companies they lend to don't need it, they have their own for right now.  Also a lot of companies were/are being tight with their money.  They are starting to make moves now and spend their cash and hire more.  We'll see how it goes, these CEO's aren't stupid and they know the bernanke is in a spot.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 10:00 | 1255260 SoNH80
SoNH80's picture

Yeah, well, they ought to get off their button and pull some triggers, etc., since the natives are getting restless these days.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 08:08 | 1254934 Sean7k
Sean7k's picture

Nicely written piece Chandit.

Unfortunately,it has an emphasis on economic rather than political theory. While I think you're right about how the economics of the world present a pendulum swing that slow and deliberate in it's actions, this account fails to measure the gain or loss of liberty.

Ignoring the consequences of the actions of a group of Elites to regain their control over productive labor and resources diminishes the impact on all our lives. During the 1800's, much of the world was continuing to experience economic and political freedom they had never had. 

In America and Europe, this translated into better standards of living, as well as more rights and freedom from the wealthy class. It allowed more groups to participate (Blacks, Women, Hispanics, etc) than ever before. Labor had organized and used their strengtgh to negotiate better conditions- often at terrible costs to the organizers.

Since the early 1900's, America has seen the labor movement coopted, debt slavery in the form of a central bank, corporate and banking control of their government that has traded freedom for a creeping police state. This are the actions of an elite class that is re-establishing control. Lower wages, lower living standards, more police control and ridiculous levels of wealth for a selected few.

There is a danger in confusing quality of life with the quantity of life. Yes, we will always survive as a species (I am an optimist, see!), but when is survivial enough? 

The costs of much of the advancement of the general population has usually come at a high price (revolution, pandemics, genocides), it is the nature of the Elites and their methodology that is a major causation. That, and our collective ignorance of the power of numbers. 

 

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 09:42 | 1255207 mtomato2
mtomato2's picture

I really like this article, and I really like your response.  Both very even-keeled and prescient.

The writer really singled me out when he discussed those who yen for an end.  Every time I am behind a Yukon that's on it's way to the grocery store (or even better: school) with a gaggle of zombified kids in back watching a video on the DVD player I think:  This simply must end.  We are through.  When is natural selection finally going to have its way with us?

It hurts to think that maybe we have beaten it, and the insanity can, in fact, go on forever.  It's so unjust.

On the flipity-flip, I have an investor for an invention of mine, and I need a strong economy for it all to work out.  So, Cognitive Dissonance.  To the max.

My kid is an Eagle Scout and an honor student who plays Varsity Football and baseball.  He hopes for an EMP.  He simply can't stand the insanity.

He's one who would make it through.  Teach your children well.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 10:43 | 1255398 mayhem_korner
mayhem_korner's picture

When is natural selection finally going to have its way with us?

Be careful not to universalize your sentiments.  Not all of "us" have lost our way.  Some of "us" have dinner with our families every day, do not allow our kids to text on i-phones, have "no tv" times, do chores regularly, and invite others to attend worship services on Sundays.

I'd also suggest you research your "natural selection" myth a little further...

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 15:17 | 1256490 mtomato2
mtomato2's picture

Mayhem, grow up.  You response is ridiculous.  Obviously, I didn't mean to be taken literally insofar as to include "everybody" as "us!"  As evidenced by the fact that I extolled the virtues of my oldest son.

 

As to your pithy comment on natural selection, grow a brain.  Even the most ardent of us traditional Orthodox Christians acknowledge that, given certain environments, certain species are more likely to adapt or fail than others.

 

Your all-or-nothing approach is running some otherwise good thinking people off the reservation.

Wed, 05/11/2011 - 08:21 | 1262298 mayhem_korner
mayhem_korner's picture

1) Say what you mean and mean what you say.

2) I don't know what ardent, traditional, Orthodox Christians describes.  The Pharisees would have claimed the same, no?  I'm still waiting for the examples of those adapted species. Not a single new "evolved" species has been proven as yet - not one.

3) Happy to oblige on the reservation thing.

While you're at it, take some time to inventory what you believe are absolute truths.  Given your response to me, I suspect you will struggle with that.

Tue, 05/10/2011 - 01:24 | 1258190 chindit13
chindit13's picture

Good comment.

I am of the view that the "elites" may well have less control today than they did at most any other time in history.  There are simply too many variables for any group, no matter how clever, to control, and access to information and the ability to spread opposing views has never been easier.

Consider the control the Catholic Church has had during its history.  It took the excesses of the Borgias, coupled with a critical mass of free thinking (Erasmus, Galileo, Copernicus, etc.) to begin to chip away at its power.  They hung on to "acceptable thought" in Spain far longer, hence the Inquisition.  Eventually, though, perhaps owing something to Gutenberg, they lost out.

I have resided or visited a certain country for a decade and a half.  In my early time here, the population lived in total fear.  People did not dare share their thoughts even with family members, as no one knew whom to trust.  Every block had overseers, who ran groups of eyes and ears, who reported (or made up) anything that suggested less than total admiration for the government.  People did disappear in the middle of the night, never to be seen again.  The government itself split amongst the top players upwards of 95% of total revenues.  THAT is control.

Much, though by no means all, of that control has been lost.  The arrival of many more outsiders had some to do with it.  Better communications also contributed.  The internet, and things like SOCKS proxies, blew things wide open.  Where it goes from here remains to be seen, but the genie is out of the bottle here.

In the world at large we have too many competing groups whose interests do not overlap.  The US and Europe no longer hold the majority of the world's wealth and power.  It is highly unlikely that Soros and Wen see eye to eye, or Jamie Dimon and Muhammed Mahathir.  Greed and ego also breed intramural competition, though at times players do cooperate if everyone benefits (bank lobby is an example).

Neither the USG nor the MSM can control the narrative one hundred percent anymore.  Even within we have Fox and MSNBC, and to a much lesser extent, Dems and Repubs (whose major difference seems to be regarding gay marriage).  Outside there is a spectrum of contrary opinions, each with its own audience, ranging from Chris Martenson to Infowars.

For the most part the USG and MSM have retained majority ownership of the message, but that is changing rapidly, just as in China the Party is losing control via the same internet and proxies I use here.

Obama emerged as the first internet President, though his message was roughly the same as what has come before.  I suspect we will have a new leader emerge who will see the change taking place and stake his or her ground with a message aimed at those looking for an alternative.  The time is ripe for it.  I even suspect that those who use whatever they can to maintain what they have achieved understand that things are moving out of whatever control they have established.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 08:12 | 1254935 Sean7k
Sean7k's picture

dp. sorry.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 08:08 | 1254936 TIMMAYYY
TIMMAYYY's picture

ha..hahaha, i wonder if this commentator has a golden ticket.

 

calming the crowds before they jump ship. please report to your concentration camp muther uckers. you will be screened and implanted. We will move forward, no matter how many eggs we break.

 

in 1930 they had no means of wiping out the planets population with with a flick of a switch.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 08:52 | 1255036 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

Spot on Timmay. And good piece Chindit13.

The big difference between WWII and now is precisely that a non-nuclear world is now nuclear. And it there ever was a game changer, globally, Nuclear power/weapons have to be it.

And if not the weapons, th epower got us, via Japan, surprise.

More surprises coming too. Nuclear and Unclear ones.

I'd say prepare for the worstest.

ORI

http://aadivaahan.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/movement-water-radioactivity-etc/

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 09:55 | 1255238 mtomato2
mtomato2's picture

Interesting link.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 11:25 | 1255584 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

Thanks mtomato2.

ORI

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 10:48 | 1255414 old naughty
old naughty's picture

Just as G2 is strategically preparing for it...eh, ORI?

They must have found a bigger (badder) OBL. Unclear who that is tho.

Water and nuclear...or nuclear and water...

Que sera sera...Sadness engulf me.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 11:25 | 1255582 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

What will b we'll c, eh, Old N?

;-)

ORI

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 11:49 | 1255720 chumbawamba
chumbawamba's picture

The other things that actually are different this time:

- Deficits were in the billions in the 1980s, now we're in the trillions.  Small percentages swing a lot farther on a trillion than on a petty little billion.

- The entire basis of our reality is going through changes that, while not unprecedented, are unprecedented in our lifetimes and in the lifetimes of every generation that came before us going back hundreds, probably thousands of years.  Sun is doing odd things with Earth.  The weather patterns are changing, the energy in the air is different, something is not right.

- Our system is much more complex and much more dependent on electricity than even in 1980.  If we don't have electricity, we don't have the internet.  Today, the internet IS reality.  One major solar flare will wipe out 70+ years of technological development in a very short multi-hour period.

Yes, this time it is different.  As it always is.  It's just that the difference this time is orders of magnitude/geometric, rather than simply mathematic.

I am Chumbawamba.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 12:33 | 1255893 DoChenRollingBearing
DoChenRollingBearing's picture

^---  The above observations are why we need the Chumbas, The Chindits and the ORIs here on ZH.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 15:16 | 1256500 mtomato2
mtomato2's picture

chumba,

Excellent comment.

Sincerely,

Mtomato2

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 23:43 | 1258015 chindit13
chindit13's picture

chumba,

I see your point.  I would call your view the Snowball Effect, gathering size as it goes.  Before guns, we killed with swords.  Guns let us kill faster.  Airplanes and poison gas let us kill faster still.  Then nuclear.  Yes, our ability to destroy grows in leaps and bounds.

Your other points are equally well taken.  I remain of the view that the actual problems we face, rather than the possibilities, are not quite as dire as 1940.  I also recall that the Black Plague wiped out somewhere between 25 and 30% of Europe's population (and during one plight gave us calculus as both Newton and Leibniz had lots of free time to think).

I also maintain that my own preferences for the manner in which I am willing to live life have me preparing only to the extent that I can survive in a world I would enjoy, or tolerate, living in.  Plus, I have found a few places to hide and ride out the worst of it.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 23:34 | 1257989 chindit13
chindit13's picture

Yes, ORI, nuclear can be a game changer. I remember seeing "The Day After Trinity", and in particular a clip where J. Robert Oppenheimer is being introspective and revealing the thoughts he had when the device was set off.  He is almost in tears.

Most everyone has read that as Oppie feeling guilty about what he helped create.  I saw if differently, that his sadness came from the realization that such a device was possible.  Oddly, he thought its development inevitable, but in point of fact the only group in history that independently developed the nuclear bomb were the people at Los Alamos.  Everyone subsequent was either given the technology, stole it, or bought it.

 

Tue, 05/10/2011 - 02:12 | 1258028 chindit13
chindit13's picture

in 1930 they had no means of wiping out the planets population with with a flick of a switch.

Well, I guess nobody can have a "golden ticket", eh?  Or maybe only Elon Musk, Bert Rutan and Richard Branson.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 08:10 | 1254938 Henry Chinaski
Henry Chinaski's picture

I went back and re-read the classics, Homer, the Old Testament, etc. and came up with my own unique insight:

It's all about barbeque.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 09:55 | 1255241 mtomato2
mtomato2's picture

It's all about bar-b-que and single malt scotch.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 23:26 | 1257966 chindit13
chindit13's picture

Like I said, nothing new under the sun.  Those silly Texans think they started something!

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 08:14 | 1254945 nmewn
nmewn's picture

"I’m guessing 1-2-3 and 3-2-1, pessimists and optimists in those orders."

I guess I'm an optimist.

Good post Chindit.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 08:28 | 1254981 DaddyO
DaddyO's picture

 

Nice article, I find myself having those same arguments in moments of quiet reflection. I have prepared the best I know how given the circumstances I face. Just like the recent pullback in PM's caught many by surprise, I've seen things like this before. I got crushed several years ago trading soybean futures after making a ton of money in crude oil.

I am a prudent man and have stocked up on a little food due to living in a hurricane prone area. I have also considered a TEOWAWKI event and have begun to consider how that will unfold. Will these things happen, who knows. i am prepared none the less.

Again, a well written honest article.

DaddyO

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 23:14 | 1257939 chindit13
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Thank you.

My internet connection was off for about fifteen hours (one of the prices paid for residing where I reside), so coming late and seeing the flow of comments is interesting.  Clearly people bring their own biases to the reading, unless I was more obtuse than I thought.

Nowhere did I write that everything is fine.  It is definitely NOT fine, and has the potential, even likelihood, for trouble.  That being said, I do think the world faced worse problems at other times in history, and just because I cannot see a way out doesn't mean Mad Max is gassing up his motorcycle and taking to the roads.  Japan has largely fallen off a cliff, yet it is still a pleasant place to live.  The USSR fell apart, but after a relatively short period of pain, it has emerged as Russia and offers its citizens more than they could have imagined under Communism.  Arrive at Bangkok Immigration at the wrong time, and you can see how life has changed for the average Russian citizen.

There is a prevalent mindset on this site that it MUST be hell on the horizon, and that anyone who doesn't see it, or in some cases anyone who doesn't want it, is wrong, blind, hoodwinked, a sheeple, etc.

As I wrote, I hedge, and will prepare for the worst case I am willing to accept.  While I doubt that many of the self-proclaimed warriors on this site would make it through a Mad Max world if it were to occur, as with few exceptions they have absolutely no experience in a world or society gone mad, I suspect I would not enjoy sharing a world with those types if I were to survive.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 08:30 | 1254985 Tinfoil Hat
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I agree that empires take a long time to fall (ie:rome) however things ARE a bit different today than grand scale collapses of the past.  The information age has changed the dynamic of how the world does business and the public learns.  The upper crust of ancient rome would have some idea of what was happening but the people on the streets could know very little aside from what traveling merchants might say or until one day there's no food or work to be had.  Imperial England would take days and weeks to recieve a letter from a colony that times were rough and people were getting unruly.  By the time a courier could make it from Africa to England the whole ordeal could be over and the colony left as burnt rubble.

 

Now though, the instant anything happens the entire world can know.  Someone hears something in a corporate meeting or closed door government session and fires off an anonymous e-mail that gets posted and tweeted all over within minutes.  Agree though that middle ground should be the aim of most foaming-at-the-mouth rants and raves. 

I fully claim to be one of those "oh #$%! we're gonna go tribal" types and foresee collapse on a grand scale.. But it certainly isn't going to happen tomorrow, or next month, or probably even in the next few years (hoping).  History is a grand and extremely important teacher, but it is also important to recognize differences between then and now.  Romans are different than English, French, and Spanish, who were different than persians, so on and so forth.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 08:34 | 1254992 Tinfoil Hat
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Some food, some camping gear, and some wilderness skills are good to have anyways.  You never know when your car is going to breakdown in the backwoods somewhere (Canadian lady just found in Nevada wilderness after 7 weeks..)

So it's possible to stock up and be prepared without seeming like a complete Lunatic.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 09:06 | 1255102 mayhem_korner
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If things collapsed in the next few months or few years, you would see in the 20/20 rearview mirror that the collapse has been brewing for decades.

Look at the New Deal, the '71 completion of gold-standard decoupling, the hyperinflation "dry run" in the late 70s, the expansion of entitlements, the expansion of credit, the overly loose money policy of Greenspan, the super-funding of multiple wars and military logistics, and the reserve structure of banking and futures markets...

A collapse of some sort is unavoidable, but it is not sudden.  If 2008 wasn't a bright red flag, I don't know what is.  We are way too close to the edge for a whole lot of optimism...

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 09:12 | 1255115 Tinfoil Hat
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The frog in the pot..

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 09:57 | 1255252 mtomato2
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See:  "Normalcy Bias"

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 09:59 | 1255248 mtomato2
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Tinfoil, I have been arguing the same point for a couple of years now to those who suggest that this time is just like any other.  It isn't.  The best illustration I ever heard regarding the impact of information was that there was once a time when one person could know and understand all that was known and understood.  Now it's like trying to fill a thimble with a firehose.

The MENA is currently on fire because of the perfect storm of history and lightning speed information transfer.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 10:49 | 1255435 mayhem_korner
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Highly debatable. Let me offer another perspective.

All of the information needed for people to realize that the U.S. and world economic systems have completely failed is currently available.  While the "information age" speeds the transfer of information, it also catalyzes the veiling of truth because so much of the "info" moving around in the virtual world is designed purposely to mislead and cover up reality.

Case and point - are there any conspiracy theories about the fact that the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank in the middle of the N. Atlantic?  No.  Fast forward 89 years - are there any consipiracy theories about what happened on 9/11/01?  Yes, despite hundreds of millions of people seeing with their own eyes what happened.

Data/information does not always promote clarity or reality. 

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 15:22 | 1256512 mtomato2
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Sorry.  I should have stated the obvious:  COMMUNICATION of information is more effective and efficient than ever before.

Read: Twitter, Facebook, IM, etc.

Wed, 05/11/2011 - 08:26 | 1262308 mayhem_korner
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Agreed.  Communication is at a peak.  The issue is discerning what's true and what's not.  Twitter, Facebook, IM, etc. don't advance truth any more than any other form of communication, they simply increase speed and volume.

You seem a tad sensitive.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 08:40 | 1254999 Corn1945
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I'm pessimistic because none of the problems that got us here have been resolved. We've attempted to cover up the underlying, structural rot with more debt and bad decisions.

Frankly, if you aren't pessimistic, you aren't paying attention. The debt is out of control, all asset classes are being floated higher with billions of printed dollars while siumultaneously devaluing the currency, and none of the criminal Wall Street enterprises are being investigated for fraud.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 09:23 | 1255160 mayhem_korner
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We've attempted to cover up the underlying, structural rot with more debt and bad decisions.

As good a description in a sentence as there is.

+1

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 11:07 | 1255519 Cardinal Fang
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"Frankly, if you aren't pessimistic, you aren't paying attention"

Actually, I believe the quote goes something like this "They're not paranoid, they're just better informed."

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 23:00 | 1257901 chindit13
chindit13's picture

Pessimism just leads to misery.  That's why I choose to be a cynic.  I've got all the pessimism I need, but can laugh at it while I try to get through.

I used to work on a high floor of a Tokyo skyscraper.  On occasion we would get a good earthquake.  The entire building would sway, almost to the point of making walking impossible.  The buildings were built that way, as kind of giant carnival rides.  My colleagues used to cower under their desks, which reminded me of the "plans and procedures" we were given in grade school in the event of a Soviet nuclear attack.  Silly and pointless.  I used to make my way to the window, figuring that if we were all going to die, I was going to get a spectacular view on the way down.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 08:53 | 1255022 Urban Redneck
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MB, M0, M1, M2, M3, MZM, we have many more ways to count money now than we used to, and much faster methods of moving large quantities of money from point A to B, whether physically or within the silo of the domestic money supply.  Risk management ability is measured within the silos of specialization, and ignores much of the growing interdependence.  600 pips in EURUSD, "no problem", they'll just sacrifice a few institutions now, and worry about consequences and counter-parties later.  If a straw breaks the camel's back- regardless of whether the straw originates from attempted management of the money supply, borrowing costs, or currency strength, it will be a direct result of the arrogance of men- who in their own minds believe their intellect is capable of sustaining the unsustainable, eliminating the need to reform, and can overpower both the cycles of history and the laws of economics.  Many have tried, none have succeeded.

 

Chindit- I'll raise a JW Black Label in toast at my next dirty 3rd world watering hole break - some things are universal.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 08:54 | 1255063 simonsito
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true that!

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 23:25 | 1257961 chindit13
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Make sure that JW isn't a Chinese knock-off.  They've got the Third World market pretty well covered.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 08:55 | 1255050 pazmaker
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Yes empires take a  long time to fall, but you talk like you know when the collapse started for this USA empire.  I think it started years ago so maybe we are in the last stages of the collapse.

 

what makes you think it has just started?

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 08:55 | 1255055 medicalstudent
medicalstudent's picture

very insightful post. and all generally correct.

 

we want to believe we, and our time, are and is different, respectively.

 

so is it?

 

the human population to available silver ratio is due for a major correction.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 09:00 | 1255083 wharfdaddy
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"The plan always goes to hell when the bullets start flying".

Sergeant Major Jim P.

You are right. Things are not bad just yet. I still got 3 hots and a cot and the eagle still shits every month. Yet this sence of impending doom seems to be out there, permeating every twist in the road. Like the World Trade Center, one minute it was there and then it was gone. We have no illusions about who is in control so we wait and play and shudder to think of what Might be. There is a quadruple amputee beggar here in Bangkok who starts each day in a crowded soi with a beggars bowl between his teeth. Each day he sort of slimes his way down the sidewalk like a pathetic human snake. I curse him when I have to step over him or if my children have to see him. I figured out that if I threw a few buck in his plate (even though I know it's going to the Beggar mafia) that I felt better. So there it is. Life in a nutshell. We do what we have to do to feel better then fuck all. Someone once said "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition." I say ,if we gotta go down I wanna take a few of these fuckin bankers with us!

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 09:20 | 1255140 Tinfoil Hat
Tinfoil Hat's picture

Only problem there is, who do you think is going to be able to afford all the mercenaries?  Blackwater will be a bankers best friend if things go down.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 09:15 | 1255129 sullymandias
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Collapse, if it comes, likely will be an extended affair.

Great post CogDis. I have a friend who is way into the Roman history allegory, and he always reminds me how long a collapse like the Roman Empire takes. I'm not expert in history, but I'm always a little wary of this comparison. The Roman example and ours have a lot in common, but on the other hand, a whole lot is different. For instance, I do not believe that the Romans had any major ecological calamities or critical resource depletions to deal with. I cannot imagine that Roman debt levels matched ours. And there is the simple fact that information travels so much faster and farther now than it did then.

So, I don't know, just some thoughts and not a fully formed opinion, but I'm always suspicious of this claim that our collapse will carry out over centuries like the Roman one.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 09:19 | 1255144 Tinfoil Hat
Tinfoil Hat's picture

Precisely.  Rome wants to know what's going on in Egypt?  well send a ship, let us know in a few weeks!

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 10:04 | 1255266 mtomato2
mtomato2's picture

Research The French Revolution.

Looks a LOT more like that.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 22:53 | 1257872 chindit13
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Rome was followed by Japan, three centuries to twenty plus years.  No, I don't think we get three centuries, and maybe not even Japan's two decades.  At the same time, I don't think we get Mad Max.  Maybe we get USSR>>>>>Russia, unpleasant, but quite survivable.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 09:24 | 1255156 tradewithdave
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Tyler, I thought I told you no more Bible reading until you finish your homework.  Mom.

 

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 09:30 | 1255173 SuperRay
SuperRay's picture

you should just masturbate, dude.  At least you'll have a better ending...

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 09:28 | 1255175 samsara
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The Optimist believes this is the best of all possible worlds.

The Pessimist is afraid that he's right.

 

 

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 09:50 | 1255228 treemagnet
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Nice article, enjoyed it alot.  Couldn't help but wonder if the author was finishing his first joint or starting his second?  The optimist in me had to discount the possibility of something more potent yet the lingering pessimist deep within my soul suspected he was also viewing...possibly, porn.  Prepare anyway I say.

Tue, 05/10/2011 - 00:39 | 1257856 chindit13
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Actually, I was watching an early morning thunderstorm and torrential downpour as the monsoon has arrived a little early this year.  Streets rapidly flooded, so I decided to give it a little time to drain before venturing out.  I started scrolling through the endless and repetitive comments on ZH, where like minded posters congratulate each other when they write just how much more terrible everything is going to be than anyone else thinks.  They all seemed so self-absorbed, I thought I would take a shot at offering a different perspective, knowing full well it flies in the face of what many want to believe.

It is funny that perspective, restraint and moderation of thought---in fact anything short of rabid fear mongering and hate speech---are only thought possible under the influence of drugs or porn.  Have we fallen that far? 

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 09:54 | 1255243 Imminent Collapse
Imminent Collapse's picture

Its the end of the world as we know it.

And I feel fine.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 10:48 | 1255433 buzzard
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The problem with comparisons with the Romans is that I believe that time itself is speeding up. We all feel it but are mostly unsure of what it is. Optimism or pessimism will have very little to do with it. Don't get too enamored with looking at the cycles of history. Yes the cycles have been there for some 500 years. However there was a time before these cycles began and there will be a time after they cease.

 

Looking at history through the lens of economics gives us an incomplete picture at best of the world's situation. We are quickly reaching the end of unreplacable resourses. When that happens there is no rebuilding of the old normal. Pessimists frequently underestimate the extent of the upheavals they see.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 11:02 | 1255494 rwe2late
rwe2late's picture

From a historical perspective, “in the short run we are all dead”.

Chindit 13 evinces the fatalist tendency created by denigrating current miseries with misapplied historical juxtapositions.

On the one hand he argues (speciously long-term) that current conditions are not so bad as Buchenwald, nor our leaders as bad as Hitler.

On the other hand, he argues (speciously short-term) that major change takes time, so  “the end of the world as you know it” probably won’t happen in your lifetime.

Besides, not everyone suffers equally, so maybe you’ll be one of those who can afford a Dusenberg.

Aside from the implied smug immorality, he is factually wrong. For many, the tortured in prisons around the world, the starving in poverty-stricken nations, the physically and psychologically scarred by wars, it is quite miserable.

TEOTWAWKI can occur quite rapidly. Remember the Incas, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Iraq?

Falsely equating a fall of empire time-span with TEOTWAWKI, and over generalizing about past and present hardships, both only serve to denigrate the significance of events that will and are affecting ourselves and those we know.

Wars are ongoing, economic hardships are increasing, the planet is being polluted and poisoned, plutocratic rule is hardening, and liberties are being curtailed.

The historical end and beginning points are arbitrary. It may not immediately be the end of humanity or empire, but it is happening now, step by step, in our lifetimes.

It is wrong to denigrate the significance of what we do now.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 11:17 | 1255553 Cardinal Fang
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The Apocalypse is a metaphor. We all face it sooner or later, in our own way.

The problem occurs when a lot of people face it simultaneously.

Men without options are very dangerous.

This is why I don't like crowds.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 22:23 | 1257811 chindit13
chindit13's picture

Your own perspective is in evidence. 

"for many, the tortured in prisons around the world, the starving in poverty stricken nations, the physically and psychologically scarred by wars, it is quite miserable"

I do not believe I said we are all currently residing in Shangri-la.  What you noted is with us, has always been with us, and sadly, will always be with us.  My point was that there have been times even worse for more people than what we are facing today, and that somehow a large percentage of the population came out on the other side.  Yes, if you are amongst one of the imprisoned or impoverished, then things are as bad as can be.  Hence, the title of this piece.

You bring up the USSR and its rapid collapse.  Perhaps we define collapse differently.  Many on this site see no possibility except for Mad Max.  The "collapse" of the USSR was no Mad Max.  Painful, yes, but not Mad Max.  I would bet that if someone did a poll amongst older Russians, those who went through WWII and Stalin's pogroms, they would not rate the USSR "collapse" as the worst thing they ever faced.  Today, most Russians are living better than their parents, a scant two decades after "collapse".

It may be a moot point, but I would guess---contrary to your view---that more people have a greater degree of freedom than at any time in human history.  It may not be full freedom, and some countries (eg, US) are taking steps backwards, but in a population of nearly 7 billion, the range of free choices is expanding.  Contrast 2011 China with 1965 China.  Almost the same in India.  And in what was the Eastern Bloc.

Perfect?  Of course not.  I think, as I wrote in the article, that we tend to believe our times are most significant and representative of all of the extremes of history.  This is simply not born out by the facts.  I think it is ego and lack of perspective that leads us to feel that way.  I have seen many times on this site people stating that the "US is the most corrupt and least free country on Earth".  As one who has long resided in a land ruled by a military junta, I have to laugh at such statements and attribute it to kind of a petulant naivete and woeful lack of real world experience.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 11:22 | 1255581 Cardinal Fang
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I am sorry, but I am having trouble equating Aristophanes to Napoleon Dynamite, could you please help me with that?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzgwEMKZgBg

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 22:34 | 1257840 chindit13
chindit13's picture

Good one!  Perhaps art is repetitive while entertainment has infinite possible permutations, particularly when the audience isn't especially demanding.  Still, I don't think that two thousand years from now college freshman will be studying Napoleon Dynamite or Lady Gaga.  Those, sadly, are our scourge, our cross to bear.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 13:55 | 1256151 Híppos Purrós
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"I think I try to find a middle ground, which I might call the world of cynicism, where I can see things that can and should upset me, but I try to make fun of them and find some humor in them.  (My own definition of cynic is a hopeless romantic in a suit of armor.)..." - Chindit...

Brilliant piece, Chindit.  A humble thank you - from someone who persists in being Cheerful InTheFace 'o Adversity, but always as tempered by a healthy dose of PragmaticRealism.

As for TEOTWAKI??  Well, when 'planning' for WorstCaseScenarios - optimal event modelling is a poor paradigm to employ...  Ergo, perhaps we can forgive the apparent 'excesses' of the more paranoid amongst those of us here in 'TheCloud'.

That said, if you're sufficiently - optimisitically - supertstitious, it could be argued that the mere act of 'preparation' forestalls/denies the UnpleasantEventOccurence (kind 'o a Schrödinger's Cat thing).

Thanks again!

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 17:06 | 1256912 AldoHux_IV
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Certain things that have been on a longer cycle are going to change and some will view it as TEOTWAWKI because for them it is.

Don't fear it unless you have something to regret.

Tue, 05/10/2011 - 08:10 | 1258557 SWRichmond
SWRichmond's picture

Certain things that have been on a longer cycle are going to change and some will view it as TEOTWAWKI because for them it is.

As I recall, when the Pound Sterling was losing its reserve status, and at the peak of rejection, it had lost net 90% of its buying power.  For some, including the entire dependency / government employee leechfuck class, that WILL be the end of their world.  No regrets here. 

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