Friday, August 12, 2011

The Long Emergency gathers pace....

Coverage of the "Global Financial Crisis" appears to suffer from a lack of perspective. Most of it is focused on the most obvious and immediate elements and lacks any real attempt to understand the event (if a process can be called an event) in a wider context. 

In 2003, James Howard Kunstler correctly anticipated that what he calls “The Long Emergency” was imminent and unavoidable. His perspective was based on the consequences of Peak Oil hitting the global economy and societies everywhere, initially producing a bumpy plateau of recession and recovery as energy prices fluctuate on the event horizon of growing scarcity. 

We can add to this the gathering effects (and huge and growing costs) of climate change and the economic and fiscal consequences of a decade of outsourcing jobs to countries with cheaper labour which has destroyed literally millions of manufacturing jobs in the West and / or converted them into lower-paying service jobs….whose workers either pay less tax on lower incomes or have no income and rely on state assistance or family members who still have an income. At the same time, taxes were cut for those on the best incomes, making matters even worse. De-regulation of the banking sector in the late 90s appears to have been a catalyst in exaggerating the consequences of bad debt due to poor (or non-existent) risk assessment. This failure with respect to risk appears to remain unresolved as central banks everywhere continue to use interest rates to manipulate money supplies apparently divorced from any concept of risk.  

The fuller picture, very broadly, is one of people on a declining income base (thus shrinking the tax base) being offered cheap credit secured by whatever assets they had on hand to maintain a lifestyle that isn't sustainable by any measure with the global economy on the threshold of a transformation driven by the twin engines of climate change and ever more expensive energy. 

So here we are…and this civilisation-changing process is only now getting underway and gathering pace. Our world is on the cusp of huge change and our leaders (and most voters) haven’t got a clue….eyes riveted to the rear-vision mirror in their feeble attempts to chart a viable course into the future.

People need to start paying attention. Sleep walkers everywhere will end up road kill on the highway of life.