Fumbling Towards Collapse

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Howard Kunstler via Kunstler.com,

In all the smoke and fog emitted by Trump and his adversaries, it must be hard to make out the actual issues dogging this society, and even when you can, to find a coherent position on them. This was nicely illustrated in Paul Krugman’s fatuous column in Monday’s New York Times, “On Economic Arrogance” — the title describes Krugman’s own attitude to a T.

In it, Krugman attempts to account for the no-growth economy by marshaling the stock-in-trade legerdemain of academic economics: productivity, demographics, and labor metrics. Krugman actually knows zip about what afflicts us in the present disposition of things, namely the falling energy-return-on-energy-investment in the oil industry, which is approaching the point where the immense activity of getting oil out of the ground won’t be worth the cost and trouble of doing it. And since most of the things we do and produce in this economy are based on cheap oil — with no reality-based prospect of replacing it with so-called “renewables” or as yet undiscovered energy rescue remedies — we can’t generate enough wealth to maintain anything close to our assumed standard of living. We can’t even generate enough wealth to pay the interest on the debt we’ve racked up in order to hide our growing energy predicament. And that, in a nutshell, is what will blow up the financial system. And when that department of the economy goes, the rest will follow.

So, the real issue hidden in plain sight is how America — indeed all the so-called “developed” nations — are going to navigate to a stepped-down mode of living, without slip-sliding all the way into a dark age, or something worse. By the way, the Ole Maestro, Alan Greenspan, also chimed in on the “productivity” question last week to equally specious effect in this Business Insider article. None of these celebrated Grand Viziers knows what the fuck he’s talking about, and a nation depending on their guidance will find itself lost in a hall of mirrors with the lights off.

So, on one side you have Trump and his trumpets and trumpistas heralding the return of “greatness” (i.e. a booming industrial economy of happy men with lunchboxes) which is not going to happen; and on the other side you have a claque of clueless technocrats who actually believe they can “solve” the productivity problem with measures that really only boil down to different kinds of accounting fraud.

You also have an American public, and a mass media, who do not question the premise of a massive “infrastructure” spending project to re-boot the foundering economy. If you ask what they mean by that, you will learn that they uniformly see rebuilding our highways, bridges, tunnels, and airports. Some rightly suspect that the money for that is not there — or can only be summoned with more accounting fraud (borrowing from our future). But on the whole, most adults of all political stripes in this country think we can and should do this, that it would be a good thing.

And what is this infrastructure re-boot in the service of? A living arrangement with no future. A matrix of extreme car dependency that has zero chance of continuing another decade. More WalMarts, Target stores, Taco Bells, muffler shops, McHousing subdivisions, and other accoutrement of our fast-zombifying mode of existence? Isn’t it obvious, even if you never heard of, or don’t understand, the oil quandary, that we have shot our wad with all this? That we have to start down a different path if we intend to remain human?

It’s not hard to describe that waiting world, which I’ve done in a bunch of recent books. We’re going there whether we like it or not. But we can make the journey to it easier or harsher depending on how much we drag our heels getting on with the job.

History is pretty unforgiving. Right now, the dynamic I describe is propelling us toward a difficult reckoning, which is very likely to manifest this spring as the political ineptitude of Trump, and the antipathy of his enemies, leaves us in a constitutional maelstrom at the very moment when the financial system comes unglued. Look for the debt ceiling debate and another Federal Reserve interest rate hike to set off the latter. There may be yet another converging layer of tribulation when we start blaming all our problems on Russia, China, Mexico, or some other patsy nation. It’s already obvious that we can depend on the Deep State to rev that up.

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Skiprrrdog's picture

I would like to see a cage match between Kunstler and Krugman...

El Vaquero's picture

I would like to see Krugtron dropped on a farm with seed, a few months of food, surrounded by razor wire and have him be told "good luck!"

Looney's picture

...  a cage match between Kunstler and Krugman

There would be a lot of pinching, spitting, and nipple-twisting.  ;-)


P.S. I just gave myself PTSD... I think?  ;-)

gatorengineer's picture

Anyone else notice the Tylers are publishing alot of left leaning drivel as of late....

Remember when you were growing up and early in the 21st century we would be out oil, and global cooling will really have taken its toll?

BigFatUglyBubble's picture

How is this lefist?  He criticized Krugman, who espouses centralized fiat monetary control i.e. Communism 

gatorengineer's picture

This like it or lump it is the American Dream

And what is this infrastructure re-boot in the service of? A living arrangement with no future. A matrix of extreme car dependency that has zero chance of continuing another decade. More WalMarts, Target stores, Taco Bells, muffler shops, McHousing subdivisions, and other accoutrement of our fast-zombifying mode of existence?

The antithesis of this is gray, 1950s  Eastern Block apartment blocks, unless you are assuming that we are going the way of the Postman movies....

gatorengineer's picture

Boy good thing missile systems are like centrifuges and don't have back doors....

Also a good thing that there is no way in Hell Trump lets this deal close.

TahoeBilly2012's picture

Oh no, not Cuntsler again...

Stuck on Zero's picture

The only way you are going to improve the economy is by improving the quality of the people who contribute to it. A good look at the quality of our young people and the educational system yields only a frightful prediction for the future.

Creative_Destruct's picture

Hate to say it, but we're coming to the end of so many long term development cycles and have poisoned the economy with so much debt that I don't think ANYTHING, including better people will prevent a great reckoning. The die is cast...

slammin_dude's picture

Let?????.... lol, like its up to him or anyone else other tyan Russia and Iran whats going to close or not....soverign countires last i checked and not occupied vassal states like hapan and all,of Europe....

BuddyEffed's picture

"Some rightly suspect that the money for that (maintained infrastructure) is not there "

They money is there for the making with a few keystrokes.  But the resources to back the money are more scarce than ever.  And making claims on those resources and putting them to use would force some others with current resource access to give those resources up and do without.  That's my educated guess on this.

lucitanian's picture

And how do you think he can stop it? Of course Iran Russia and China will stick together, and the price of being easy on Israel will get higher, and the cost of attacking Iran will get too high for Bibi to afford, militarily, politically, and economically. I'm afraid the US has little of interest to offer Russia, and even that which is offered is fools gold. Their threats and sword waving, even up to the borders of Russia just makes their position worse. So, what's the Trump going to do about it?

algol_dog's picture

If Trump was really a good deal maker, he'd be selling Iran the missile defense systems and still blow them out of the water. By the way, you can thank Obama who was able to transfer that frozen money to Iran.

JohninMK's picture

This is not new news.

THe S-300 systems were delivered last year and were expected to be fully operational by the end of March.

lucitanian's picture

The contract was replaced by the more advanced S-400 being delivered.


JRobby's picture

Mufflers don't rot out like they used to. Technology.

Did you work in a muffler shop at one time?

BigFatUglyBubble's picture

Maybe he went overboard, but Wal-Mart has a lot of subsidies and special deals.  Should be called Gov-Mart.

Mustafa Kemal's picture

Moreover, if you mercantiled the Wall of Mexico, you could have WalMart on both sided.

BTW, in Socorro NM, Walmart is on Wal Street.

xythras's picture


TuPhat's picture

Kunstler is always proposing that the government should change the way everyone lives.  Even a world government that might be necessary to change the whole planet.  You might not call that 'leftist' but it sure is not freedom.  We will adjust and make changes to correct problems as they arise but I hope sensible people will understand that the government should play a very small role in all that and that such decisions should be made on an indiviual and personal level.  The collective does not make decisions unless force is used to make everyone agree.  I do not want to live in such a world no matter how little oil is left but it seems Kunstler does.

FriendlyAquaponics's picture

JHK is right. Except history is not "pretty" unforgiving, it's completely unforgiving.

Grow more food.

hedgeless_horseman's picture


Growing one's own food gives one choices, regardless of what the future holds.

Looking forward to hearing your aquaponics lecture in Marfa!  

Our home-grown grass-fed beef and yard chickens are great, but I do enjoy adding fish to our meals.


A. Boaty's picture

Thanks for the food porn. I just ate my screen.

Last1Out's picture

now that was funny right there...

Payne's picture

food control/safety is key next is personal control over Healthcare independent of State Controlled resources.  Backyard Aquaponics and Ducks is a great start,  I have not worked up to Rabbits yet.

JRobby's picture

Lovely china. Overall presentation is +1,000!!


In the immortal words of The Magic Negro............

" You didn't grow that. " 

forestwind's picture

How could the food possibly be prepared without some petroleum derivative plastic product? Wherever I look, most things I use, are plastic. No oil. No plastic.

Elco the Constitutionalist's picture
Elco the Constitutionalist (not verified) gatorengineer Feb 20, 2017 3:19 PM


They dress it up in a preface or intro of right wing populism and them slam their round peg thesis of neoliberalism into the square hole of reality.

This article had me going until it got to the part where infrastructure spending is foolish. I mean how obtuse must one be, to avoid seeing that infrastructure has the same function as money supply and velocity (i.e. It greatly improves the efficiency of economic activity).

So a typical jew dialectic where the problems are contrived, misidentified and a deleterious solution offered.

wangshui's picture

There would be a lot of pinching, spitting, and nipple-twisting.  ;-)

doh! almost made me snort wine on my monitor

TeamDepends's picture

Give him a sporting chance and let him bring his pussy to catch mice.

WernerHeisenberg's picture

The artwork at the Denver Airport tells the story.  Note the lack of old people in the murals.  Imagine no pensions, no free health care for pensioners, a cashless society followed by a network failure... After 45 years in the work force my options would be as follows:

Starvation, death by violence, death by a medical condition which would have been treatable by 20th century medicine, or a dignified suicide.  Oh well.  As Bill Hicks said, life is a ride. My ride was mainly good, certainly eventful.  I am ready to get off.

JRobby's picture

Old people and people with lung and coranary disease can't breathe at altitude.

Next observation wingnut man

rent slave's picture

That's why I can't move to Nevada to take all of the jew's money at the sports books.Vegas' altitude is even too high for me.


I would like to see Krugman as lamp post art, the first of a long line of them.

Start off with a set - Krugman, Paulson, Greenspan, and Timmah.  

The Saint's picture
The Saint (not verified) Skiprrrdog Feb 20, 2017 2:17 PM

"I would like to see a cage match between Kunstler and Krugman..."

With guns or knives?



No - with wet noodles, and dangling participles. 

markpower49's picture

I want to see Alt-Right death squads cleansing this great nation of all of Trump's opponents.

doctor10's picture

all oligarchies ultimately commit suicide. They run out of minds, and consequently, they run out of ideas.

a society, to renew itself, continually has to dilute its oligarchs-both individual and corporate

its why there are anti-trust statutes on the books; its why term limits are needed, and most importantly, its way past time to increase congressional apportionment- so we get the Fed.gov back under Constitutional supervision by Congress-ultimately the only real job of the House.

algol_dog's picture

There's this new thing called nuclear power. Yes, new in that it is light years ahead of what we previously considered, and are currently using, as nuclear power. Coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

gatorengineer's picture

Spoiler Alert --- It doesnt end well....

buttmint's picture

.....I wish I could get all rah-rah behind J. Kunstler's Vision of the World Made By Hand.

If one included SkyNet zapping organic gardeners at local Farmer's Markets, perhaps he is onto something?

My own view of the messy future evolves along the lines of Ridley Scott's 1982 masterpiece, The Blade Runner: Techno Anarchy.

Where anything goes and taxes are placed on everything, every action, every transaction....