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I had the pleasure to be invited by the SHARE people last year 2012 in Belgrade. For tame western European people Belgrade is synonymous with the proverbial wild side and traveling there was quite something. My “statement” in Serbia appears to have met with some subtle resonance in the blogosphere even though article that accompanies the presentation was quite too long to be casually read. This time I have been invited by SHARE to attend Republica festival in Rijeka, which included a stay with a bunch of “pirates” (?) on the famous yacht of former Yugoslavian President Tito, the “Galeb“. The theme this year is “cyberpunk”, which means I will be holding two separate presentations, which will both focus on the near future. I am delighted and proud to attend this conference.
I have had a deep fascination with Cyberpunk all throughout the 1980s, right after being smacked hard with the movie Blade Runner. I left the cinema in a dazed stupor after watching that one. All throughout the 1980s I moved on through the various Cyberpunk role playing games, specifically GURPS, Shadowrun, ICE and 2020. William Gibson seems to have borrowed heavily from the themes of Blade Runner (as well as Escape from New York) and he was pretty much the salesperson (with Bruce Sterling) for the idea we’d have a Cyberpunk future. All through the 1980s I ran Cyberpunk-ish roleplaying venues and while doing so I noticed I was becoming increasingly ambitious in creating consistent, surreal and elaborate imaginary worlds than I was in actually entertaining my players.
My “posse” was mostly interested in re-enacting at best the latest Tarantino drama in a “somewhat futurist styled” imaginary theme park. So I gradually abandoned my Roleplaying endeavors (with some minor relapses) and evolved into writing about the future. I can however claim that most of my adult life I have been deeply immersed in the genre. I noticed this same trends with other science fiction writers and future trend analysts. Many former roleplayers have taken up to think about the future in one or another format.
I like making alarmist statements when I deliberate about the future. The sad aspect of today’s global reality is that there is quite a bit to be alarmist about. There appears to be a certain escalatory trajectory about where history is headed and the jury is still out whether this evolution will culminate in to a catastrophic collapse or something else altogether. I find myself resonating with a sizeable number of pundits who claim we are headed for a crisis of some sort, where much of our existing globalist system will no longer function. Many futurists (especially those of the transhumanist persuasion) do acknowledge that there is a yawning chasm ahead of us, and while some people insist we might do well in “slowing down the speeding bus we have become”, many transhumanists insist we push the gas pedal – in terms of progress, since “we may not have much to lose anyhow”. Damn the torpedoes, etc.
In all cases – I am not an engineer and I am probably not overly competent in actual information technologies. I am just deeply fascinated and awestruck by how utterly strange this current era is in which I happen to be living, and I really like asking the uncomfortable questions.
No more “business as usual”
I prefer to be direct about it – Any way I look at it, the world as it being managed (insofar anyone is actually in charge) is ending. I welcome everyone to disagree with me, and I hope you will be able to convince me “all will be great” because that would certainly improve my nightly sleep. I do however understand that most people are either incapable of accepting any particularly distressing scenarios for the near future, or hostile to people arguing these ideas. The changes ahead of the human species are a mix of many contradictory influences of which some are “unambiguously bad”, others “potentially very disruptive”, others “promising” or “utterly unpredictable”. I am keenly interested in the process of “diminishung societal affluence”, which is pretty much the default scenario for nearly every analysis of the future I come across. Diminishing affluence is essentially bad news for everyone, and people don’t like bad news. But I feel confident that breaking bad news is fairly good content for a cyberpunk themed conference. Cyberpunk is a reflection of a set of values and narrative parameters which all stand to become more visible in the next few decades, so I feel quite safe to claim that the next half century the lives we lead will be more cyberpunk, complex, dystopian. It might even turn out a bit worse than “merely dystopian” that unless we take immediate steps.
Futurology is not a science. Futurist predictions are generally falsified some time after the career futurist has died. The future can only be modelled “in very cursory narrative frameworks”, which is pretty much calling futurology akin to dowsing. Futurological analysis is guaranteed to always turn out wrong, especially in periods where a lot of new things are happening.
The endless permutations of existing technologies
As an example – we as a species haven’t even scratched the surface of internet. In a hypothetical world we can have centuries of iterative improvements just based on today’s information technologies – today’s computers and internet are all in a relatively naive stage of development. One example of technology that would have been perfectly technologically possible in the 1990s is Bitcoin. It took someone more than a decade to look at the implications and trends in modern finance, look at what is possible with information technologies and come up with something like Bitcoin. Even without incremental progress literally hundreds of far more society-changing design solutions based already relatively archaic technology are plausible. This gradual iterative process of “discovering what is possible with new technologies” takes centuries, possibly millennia at the current intelligence level of the species. We still have considerable “application progress” going on right now, with matured technologies such as sailing or steam powered engines, let alone semiconductor technology. This makes progress a role of the dice, and since technological advance is so decisive in near future narrative, the near future becomes a whole lot of overlapping and mutually reinforcing dice rolls. How will all these maturing technologies interact?
The Good, the Bad, the Ugly (and the utterly Weird)
The decay of this world’s habitability can be labelled as “entropic”. Entropy is something that in practice reduces human freedoms and “affordances”. The emergence of new technologies as well as the steady march of humans coming up with practical applications of these technologies can be labelled as “extropic”. Extropic developments increase affordances and freedoms. Some people naively assume that this is a simple case of adding negative to positive, and “all will be well”. Entropic+Extropic =/= “things more or less muddle on”. Such an assumption is an extremely shortsighted.
If you listen to people I’ll slander as “techno-utopians” the future will be amazing. A pretty good example of a techno-utopian book is the one about “abundance” by Peter Diamandis, or “The Singularity is Near” by Ray Kurzweil. Techno-utopians occupy an extreme on the spectrum of futurology where they consistently claim that the future will be significantly better than the present. On the other end of the spectrum are people who assume total and imminent collapse. There are many examples of people who take “collapse” so serious they have started “prepping” for total disaster.
The synthesis between these two radically divergent worldviews does not imply an extension of “business as usual“. The claim is “sure there will be lots of problems and advancing technology will solve them”. Many futurologists assume that the world will simply muddle on in some form or another, and there will be an assortment of ever more sophisticated smartphones and possibly flying cars, but other than that the essential features of human society won’t change much. I find myself increasingly disagreeing with that callous optimism. The synthesis of the two extreme future predictions of respectively “Singularity” and “Total Collapse” is pretty much Cyberpunk, and as far as I can judge “Cyberpunk” is a form of “failed future”.
There actually is a great novel by the author Neal Stephenson which charts a fascinating synthesis of unambiguous technological progress squared with degrees of collapse and that novel is Snow Crash. I recommend the novel Snow Crash because at some level it seems to totally mock the assumption that the future is more or less a linear extension of the present. That wasn’t the case for people living in Russia in 1988, and it won’t be for most people living right now in the “developed” “neoliberal” world.
Whatever the case, the mixture of negative societal trends (see below) and empowering technologies (nanotechnology, AI, fusion, genetic modification, robotics, information technologies, etc.) has unique vicious and disruptive potential. “As if Collapse wasn’t bad enough”, the synthesis between ‘Singularization’ and Collapse is potentially more ominous than either extreme, since it makes people terrified of losing their income and property. People who get scared or feel threatened are more likely to use empowering technologies in anger. In my last presentation in Belgrade my article made the point that the default primate brain hardwiring of our species, combined with these empowering technologies, is allowing career psychopaths to literally destabilize the world’s economies, predate upon billions of human beings, and more obscenely rich than even royalty was rich centuries ago. The whole Cyberpunk genre is saturated with images of psychopats in charge. The problem here is that advancing technologies tend to specifically empower people who invest in these technologies.
The rich get richer, the poor are quarantined in ‘femavellas’
The consequence is the old familiar one – very rich and powerful people actively desire more power. The consequence of a small group of extremely rich and powerful government officials and corporate executives is becoming more severe than we can possibly imagine, anywhere in the world. A cavalier penstroke by a GoldMan-Sachs executive ruins nations and sinks millions of people in to mostly irreversible despair. This central feature in Cyberpunk is becoming a very recognizable trope in how the world works. The world is quickly towards a ruthless “Randian” global society where machiavellian realpolitik become the deciding factor for making important decisions. Coupled with literally exponentially improving technologies, the consequences will be particularly severe, if they aren’t already.
There is however another way to analyze what is happening – and that is from a fear-centered perspective. The above corporate iconic villains are the result of a ruthless world driven by scarcity and competition. Something made the ruthless of this world into what they are. The analysis of this pathology was made excellently by the movie “The Corporation“.
What is really happening ?
A highly dynamic, turbulent future more or less implies an increasingly unpredictable future. Nevertheless many (or most) people alive today still placidly assume that the reality we inhabit is one that is mostly a linear and rather static extension of past historical patterns, and that the times we live in are in a greater historical perspective “nothing much special”. It is often quite difficult to make clear to people that this is not the case, that from any perspective we inhabit an extremely unconventional and objectively significant era in the history of humanity and life on this planet (so far). People’s misunderstanding is a manifestation of the the normalcy bias. The variant at play here is the assumption that life will go on pretty much as it always has, like a family member of mine who used to insist “there is nothing new under the sun”. Lots of people actually believed till well in to the 1990s internet (as just an example) was a complete fad, and “it would never catch on”. There are many examples around us of people “who just don’t get it”.
It is very challenging for the majority of (even) educated people in developed nations to acknowledge what is happening under their nose, so it will become progressively more difficult for these people to speculate a few years ahead. This inability of most people to construct anywhere near adequate models of reality, and extrapolate meaningfully from those models in to (*) the motives of our leaders or (*) the consequences of advancing technologies is one of the biggest tragedies of current democracies. Intuition simply does not serve us for at least a decade after major historical events happened. Quite often the intuitive understanding of contemporary reality only slowly accumulates under a barrage of mostly duplicitous media icons.
My conviction is that humanity has become trapped in a completely unsustainable economic and post-industrial system. The problems we face are complex and can no means be exhaustive listed, but I’ll limit it to seven main problem areas. These traps are financial, petrochemical, atmospherical, complexity, political, employment and overpopulation.
I can easily argue that if we were a rational species, we would be capable of addressing each of these problems. Let that sink in for a moment.
We must conclude humanity is not nearly rational enough to acknowledge complex problems, let alone deal with them without making someone else suffer the misery. These complex interwoven problems I allude to are explained in considerable detail by Jared Diamond, Dmitry Orlov, Chris Martenson, Julian Assange, Max Kaiser, Marshall Brain, “Archdruid“, Noam Chomsky, Eben Moglen, Kyle Bass, Dennis Meadows, Joe Rogan, Mike Ruppert, Peter Joseph, George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Gerald Celente, Jacque Fresco, that guy from Stormcloudgathering, Chris Hedges and numerous other people a lot smarter than myself, and in large part I am just repeating what they say, shuffling the emphasis around a little.
1. The monetary system trap
Current geo-political order in 2013 is a construct purposefully created by bankers, to facilitate rapid turnover investment and financialization. The current global financial system is quite close to a permanent amphetamine rush. Politicians tend to not (appear to) understand what the implications of their policies are. The system is based on the pillars of – (i) the politically very one sided dollar reserve currency order we have had since WW2, (ii) all currencies world wide being fiat currencies generated by literally out of thin air on debt and (iii) pure force exerted by the US military. There is next to no way to opt out of this system – no country or population in the world can effectively “secede” from this geofinancial order, not even North Korea. If you try not to trade in dollars, if you try base your currency on something tangible (such as gold) or if you as a country try to challenge the monetary order that is forcefully imposed by the US (“pax plutonica“, especially since the collapse of the soviet union) you end up in trouble. The problem with this financial order is that it needs growth. There is no way to exist in the current system without steady expansion in the money base, or some kind of means to massively generate profits. If you don’t play along, someone somewhere isn’t paying interest on outstanding debts and investors experience they investments becoming worth less rather than becoming worth more, and that is unacceptable to these investors. This conspires to generate economic ‘bubbles’ at an ever faster pace, and this process has deteriorated as to create widespread civil unrest even now in 2013. Examples of negative consequences are starvation, mass migration, massive welfare programs, military-supported resource wars, collapsing pensions, overextended home owners, student debts, widespread racist nationalism, xenophobia etcetera. The system we are locked in to can only respond to these stretch marks by throwing more artificially generated money at the problem, thereby exacerbating the problem as well as worsening the eventual collapse.
Note that the US is ground zero for this pathological financial system. Once it hits, the consequences will be the US can import pretty much nothing.
2. The petrochemical trap
We have “a few thousand billion” barrels of oil infused in porous sediments on the planet. This oil in effect an inheritance. It is a free gift nature left humanity. We have used up a trillion barrels by now. The oil we consumed has been the oil that was easy to recover. Humanity has maneuvered itself into a nightmarish escalation of using ever more of these petrochemical resources (oil, gas, coal) every year, finding additional deposits ever more expensive and problematic to find, retrieve, purify, process and transport. The problem is that by now we need a substantial amount of these petrochemical products just to have 7+ billion humans merely survive. If all the oil would magically be stolen tomorrow, the consequence would be that in a year half of humanity would be dead. Oil depletion is a horrible political mess. There is literally no solution, despite what many pundits claim. Alternative energies might work, but even if we started implementing these this very moment people in the third world still literally starve by the hundreds of millions before long (probably somewhere between 2020 and 2040) and nearly anyone on the planet would suffer a dramatic degrade in accumulate affluence. Again – without oil (with substantially more expensive sources of easily transported high density fuels) we as a species are screwed much as a few hundred of people shipwrecked on a desert island would be screwed. The strong tend up eating the weak in such scenarios and that is what we are already starting to see.
Note that the US is extremely dependant on oil imports. Once the US might become unable to import sufficient oil the US would no longer function.
There is man made climate change. It is real. Many don’t agree (or don’t want to agree) but this thing a real phenomenon, as much as it has become irreversible. The phenomenon is bad by itself, but it is also triggering runaway effects. Global society can not deal with these consequences. The main escalation problems will be permafrost melt, ice cap melt and clathrate release. Right now we are at around 400 ppb CO2 in the atmosphere, and the guesstimate suggests we will experience at the very least 2 average degrees temperature increase globally. That is substantially more temperature increase over land. And that’s before runaway effects – with runaway effects we may experience the full 6+ degrees average increase. Note that by the educated analysis of most climate experts the vast majority of humans are dead or dying long before 2150 with a 6 degrees rise, and the planet loses more animal and plant species than it did at the cretaceous extinction event 65 million years ago. I no longer seek to argue these widely accepted views.
Note that the US lies squarely in the impact zone for land loss, severe storms and the formation of dust bowls. In effect the US will be the one suffering the most severe economic damage from climate change of the developed world.
The more stuff humans construct, the more this stuff interacts, the more the stuff needs maintenance, repair, cleaning up and modernization. We aren’t, and the consequence is that this stuff is starting the break down or do things we didn’t expect it would do. Bridges constructed in the 1950s are starting to collapse, and topsoil worldwide is washing in to the sea. This is an escalating problem and it transcends any management system we care envision. The problem seems to be caused by a mixture of declining (and incompetent) government spending. A few decades ago everyone seemed to be in total agreement that human society needed strong government to act as protector and investor of shared resources. As that conviction has evaporated we clearly see telltale results. Yet whatever way we propose to “manage” collectives of millions of human animals, there is a point where the combination of increasingly self-interested human actions, the increasingly conflicting claims from these authoritative humans, squared against countries full of decaying infrastructure, education, natural variants and (again) technological advances constantly changing the operational rules, and all this in a climate of corrosive economical cycles, and the end result is that things break more often, and the consequences of stuff breaking gets more catastrophic. Twenty years ago a telecommunications failure would have been an annoyance. Right now a significant disruption in internet services alone would probably signify a major economic crisis – if not considerable loss on human lives.
Note that the US has rather dismal and outdated infrastructures (energy grid, bridges, internet, water) at this time and has become extremely vulnerable to decrease maintenance budgets.
The global civil order “needed something” to make sure poor people didn’t get too desperate, and somewhere 2-3 centuries ago humanity came up with democracy. Democracy is the best system for making sure people have an electoral defense mechanism against rich people getting consistently richer (and the majority getting poorer), however democracy is a really lousy organizational system for dealing with unwelcome or painful choices. I’d personally rather die in a democracy than die in a tyranny every day of the week, but pretty soon we may no longer have much of a choice in the matter. The inability of any political system worldwide to generate solutions is a massive spectacular crisis, especially since many problems are so easily solved. The problem is that deciding how to act and then acting is painful for voters and voters want to outsource or export that pain elsewhere. The nett result for democracies is that we end up with nations that suffer all the pain (mostly the developing world where people don’t have much of a vote), or the democracies find people to predate upon – the elites of this planet find means to bribe politicians so they don’t suffer minimal pain of unpopular measures.
A second crisis of the particular form of “democracy” we have in the United States is that it (more than in others) is extremely susceptible to being co-opted by corporate or other types of investor sponsorship. In effect the US no longer has anything resembling functional democracy.
Note that the US is in a severe political crisis, with polarization so severe it seems to have become a precursor to civil war.
It has become somewhat easier to argue the simple fact – automation destroys jobs. That has been happening for over a century, and for many years people have been changing educations and careers for as far as anyone can remember, while politicians catered to voters in mopping up civil unrest and to stifle calls for “socialism”. The problem is that automation, robotization and information-technology organizational changes on society have been accelerating. The impact is getting steadily worse world wide. The trend is towards a lot of people losing their jobs, because producers of goods and services will be able to make considerably more money if they don’t have to pay wages. Yes – by any metric you care to apply, collective productivity of society has been increasing for a long time, and the end result is people that become dependant on other ways to generate an income. That is bad news, because the alternatives tend come down to taking rich people’s money – either through criminal activity – or through collecting taxes. Those “more affluent” people are having none of that.
While “technological unemployment” will hit every developed nation globally very hard in some 5-15 years from now, the US economy has become highly dependant on service jobs to keeps its population working.
All earlier problems are in effect exacerbations, causes or contributing to the main challenge human society on the planet faces. The big problem is such a big dilemma largely because there exists right now no democratic solution, no consensus and no failsafe peaceful (or humane) means to address overpopulation. There isn’t even a workable solution to constrain currently expanding population growth trends, and in many cases people can’t even find themselves in agreement that this is an actual problem. Even worse, some regions are decreasing in population over time and suffering very negative consequences of doing so (europe, japan), while other regions on the planet are experiencing rapid growth in very lowly educated populations. In case you were wondering, estimates are currently being revised upwards (2). Right now the odds of people in developed nations retaining anywhere near the same standard of living look slim indeed, so the chances for anyone being born right now (in any overpopulated, underdeveloped, chronically unstable and completely unsustainable regions) having a fair shot at a dignified affluence existence look fairly slim indeed. All this can only mean one thing – a lot of desperate people in unstable regions, many of which actively looking to migrate to places where they might be better off. Literally by the tens of millions.
The new State Paradigm : The Crazies are in Charge
Things change overnight in our time. Since I started writing this article I had to literally revise my statements based on current events. In essence : the world has become so dynamic it can literally compel me rewrite an article while it is being written. Enter Edward Snowden.
Presentations and articles such as these need to have a “punchline” to make sense. I am as a presenter trying to sell you a particular paradigm, and my message can be quite simple summarized as “we’ll all get a lot poorer by bad planetary management, and the rich and powerful are making sure get least poorer, by dismantling democracy and the rule of law”. I was anticipating a hard struggle trying to explain to you how this works. Fortunately in the last month we have all come to understand that certain parties in the world are racing to remove freedoms, implement a pervasive infrastructure of control, implement an apparatus of sharply increased government force, and so forth.
This me emphasize this is pretty bad. There is no functional difference with what we call “fascism”.
Nowhere is this process more evident than in the United States and since the last month it has become glaringly obvious the US has been active in exporting this model of societal management worldwide as the new normal. Everyone who hasn’t been living under a rock can see that the US devolved in the last 15 years from “merely” a superpower, to something altogether more sinister. We aren’t just back in a new and fully automated McCarthyan era – what is happening in the US is a far more sinister infrastructure of state force than even the DDR was capable of.
It is easy to surround this societal change with a mass of conspiracy theories, and maybe some of these paranoid conspiracy theories are correct. I prefer however to focus on the simplest analysis, and extrapolate from that. The facts are that on the one hand the United States is still by far the most powerful political entity on the planet, and by far the most powerful political entity that has ever existence on this planet (by relative, abstract, theoretical or objective measure). A subsidiary fact of this immense and surreal accumulation of power comes a simple fact – a lot of people in the Unite States are extremely rich, and have lifestyles they are not willing to part with.
The Seven and the United States
To compare this simplified model what we are having is (first) a United States that will lose out significantly in any reshuffling of the economic system, as the monetary system we currently have is effectively on its last legs. The current international dollar order will end very soon. The second problem was a petrochemical decrease in collective planetary means; i.e. while there is still oil in the ground to last us for quite a few decades, the remaining petrochemical resources will be extremely expensive to extract, and for a country such as the US whose entire societal order is completely and irreversibly dependant on abundant (one might even say gluttonous) flow of petrochemical means the US as a system will stop functioning somewhere over 10$ oil (per gallon). What is worse is that the financial clusterfuck (one) and the oil problem (two) is deeply interwoven for the United States. Then there is the third problem the US faces, which is the as yet not widely accepted theory that somehow burning petrochemicals has a significant effect on global climate conditions. Again, this exemplified a massive challenge for the US, as even the most modest measures or political determination to address this “alleged” problem of climate change will considerably diminish standards of living the higher you go up the US totem pole. If we magically had political will to implement a world wide carbon tax scheme, then the very rich in the US would experience a roll-on sequence of massive challenges to maintain their standard of living. This makes it quite understandable why so many political interests emanating from the US have been consistently attacking the core idea that specifically CO2 (as well as other greenhouse gasses) might ‘in some arcane manner’ contribute to world wide climatic conditions, all much in the same manner as 150 years ago coal based industries fiercely denounced the effects of pulmonary diseases such as lung cancer, asthma, bronchitis. And yes, the fourth problem also serves to exacerbate problems for the relatively more affluent americans, since upgrading the derelict US infrastructure means sharply raising taxes. And let me say this bluntly – from what I have seen up close of US infrastructure – it is impressive and it is big, but it is also in severe disrepair and extremely inefficient. And again, the effects of unmanageable complexity of depleting or outdated infrastructures interact viciously with the pathology of the international financial system, with climate change (ask anyone living in New Orleans), with oil depletion (ask a hundred million people in the US how they’ll drive their pickup truck to work on 10$ a gallon gas). And yes, there is problem number five, i.e. completely broken politics. In effect the US system has become an oligarchy, and any pretense this is a form of democracy is just silly. Politics in the US has degenerated to conditions of legalized corruption you would be embrarrased to unearth in a third world nation. This is a self-reinforcing process, but the problem is that any (few) politicians of reasonable intent find their hands so viciously tied by special interests, right wing media, the omnipresent threat of slander, that actual acts of trying to move to something vaguely resembling a solution are next to impossible. And yes, the political cancer we see in the US is spread all over the world, as the US is aggressively using its interests abroad to benefit US based corporate interests (and more importantly, US centric investors). Yes, a few decades ago the US has bountiful natural resources and a motivated young and very healthy generation of highly educated hard working people. That era is pretty much over – people in the US are on average getting older, find themselves in consumptive or derivative careers that involve shuffling around a lot of money, but don’t do much in terms of actual economic growth. A lot of people in the US have become severely unhealthy by decades of godawful overconsumption, and many people in the US have become dependant on grotesqueries of pharmaceutical industry that fittingly deserve the twin labels of “cyberpunk” and “dystopian”. Tens of millions of americans are addicted to psychoactives and the consequences of these people NOT having access to these substances next month are nothing short of societally horrifying. Again, the synergy with the other aforementioned problem areas should be obvious in each and every case. The sixth problem is again a problem US society is unable to deal with in any meaningful manner. While some western European countries still enjoy some level of rational welfare systems, the US in the guise of the WTO has slavishly exported a geo-political ideology of “neo-liberalism”, of which a core value seems to be (no work == you deserve to starve). In case of problem six, this ideological crutch will bite the US in the ass real hard. Technological unemployment is already causing a societal collapse as people are forced to sell for significantly less paying jobs. The end result is that in a typical middle class US family bills are rising sharply (again, higher food prices, higher oil bills, increasingly feral weather patterns, sharp depletion of ability to import goods, etc.) with the resilience to generate income. Nevertheless the US is full of people that demand a percentage on their investments right now, which is fueling both severe societal inequalities, proven unsustainable debts, increasingly short-sighted politicians, increasingly stupid national policies to scrape out the last bit of continental hydrocarbons (shale oil, fracking, sponsored biofuels) as well as desperately trying to maneuver geopolitically to get oil the oil (sponsoring extremist islamic dictators in the middle east with ever more lethal weapons systems). Then of course there is the last and seventh problem, and that as far as I am concerned signifies the Coup de Grace for US society. Globally oil consumption is increasing, as countries formerly dependant hand-to-mouth from US support, find themselves now with fully maturing economies capable of meeting the US on its own economic rulebook. As an interesting example – in a decade Iran will stop exporting oil, but will need that oil for domestic consumption. This will even happen to Saudi Arabia in a few decades, and by 2030 there will be very little economic market in terms of affordable crude left. In other words – the US desperately needs oil, sadly global non-US populations and will pay for their share of the oil and might be a little better equipped to pay for it.
Notice I didn’t include “terrorism” or “militarization” or “Fukuyama” in the list? Those three are small fries in comparison. I hope.
How far are you willing to go to depend what is “yours” ?
I have provided you with a world view that is pretty much too big to rationally contemplate. My theory is simple – the US is not just people – it is people who have this religious belief system in a series of completely untrue assumptions, and it is a very small elite of people who have grown very rich fostering this system of completely mistaken assumptions. This is in effect an extension of the manifest (and highly racist) belief in a “manifest destiny” in the United states.
I understand and appreciate full well that as a human being I would be willing to do some “gruesome” things if I were faced with a perceived existential crisis. The “cornered cat” cliche fully applies. However for people in the international community it is important to realize that the US does have viable alternatives over its alleged immoral behavior. For all of the seven problems there are several solutions which I do not need to belabor any more. We can solve all these problems if we had the damn sense to put our minds to it. All solutions I can envision for any of the above seven major problem areas the US might have entertain the consequences is a sharp reduction in collective societal affluence. Solving problems costs money. And we are clearly seeing the denial happen wholesale in the US. US median middle and lower class household spending power has not increased since the 1980s, despite overwhelming advances in collective societal progress in productivity. To compensate for rising costs of living the US middle classes have been borrowing, thereby benefiting investors and bankers. The true winners since Nixon ended gold-dollar convertibility have been the very rich of US society, and in some cases in a measure of hundreds if times anyone they would probably regard as inferior. So it seems obvious that the rich will have to pay the bill of addressing these problems, since mostly everyone else is experiencing the pain already.
There has always been a major problem politically for this strategy in the US. People in the US have guns, and quite a lot of them. So the US can be argued to have evolved a societal infrastructure of industrial control mechanisms to compensate for the naturally free-spirited attitudes in the US. I fully accuse this process of having been by intentional design, and not some historical bug.
I am referring to the militarization of police forces in the US. I am referring to this so-called “war on terror”. I am referring to this sinister overlapping patchwork of Intelligence agencies, and whatever actions they might deem necessary. I am referring to the by now well-documented infrastructure of espionage. I am referring to this malignant “war on drugs”. I am referring to the sinister shadow of suspicion cast by FEMA camps or the widespread industrialized prison infrastructure having more people interned by percentage of the population than anywhen since the Khmer rouge turned whole parts of the country in a de facto prison. I am referring to the Department of Homeland Security. I am referring to a polarizing, one-sided, monopolist and corporate “mainstream” media. These various elements can only be read in a light that would make perfect sense to people who have firsthand experienced authoritarian governments in the past.
And that is where I give myself permission to share a few scenarios about where this might be headed in the next few decades.
Four escalatory scenarios : Scenario One
* Total failure of the government
* Maximum failure of services
* Maximum human suffering, especially in densely populated urban and isolated rural regions
* Formation of a dustbowl in the midwest
* Massive capital flight out of the US
* Short but severe economic crisis world wide, quick recovery
The most commonly entertained scenario for a ‘collapse’ of the United States based on the above is entertained by people such as Dmitry Orlov, and it is quintessentially a simple replication of what transpired when the Soviet Union collapsed. I wrote an article on this kind of collapse transpiring in the US a few years ago. As Dmitry Orlov has abundantly (and quite often highly entertainingly) made clear in his videos and blog articles is that (1) collapse is not a guarantee to restrict itself to the US (the subsidiary economic collapse will spread world wide), (2) the collapse of the US will end the current political state order that exists at this time and (3) the collapse of the united states will be accompanied by weimarian dollar inflation, widespread violence, widespread suspension of state services (such as welfare, medicare, rent control and disability), very high oil prices and sharply increased taxes. This first scenario ranges from a collapse of the US with “considerable potential for balkanization”. This balkanization might in fact perpetuate existing state infrastructures (who would remain wholly in denial a collapse has occurred) parallel with widespread localized variables in “super-privatization” a la the novel Snow Crash.
This first scenario for US collapse I’d refer to as the historical default for any “large empire” collapse. This scenario does not acknowledge the effect of new technologies. A default crash scenario would only occur in the US if its leaders were to be completely incompetent and in total denial. The problem with countries systemically managed by means of the most sophisticated technologies in the world is that we don’t have much experience what happens in a collapse. We get contradictory clues by thinking about the varying technologies that emerged in the last 10-20 years – For instance drones would be quite capable of enforcing central control for quite a long time, and the effect of these “semi-automated” mechanisms might have considerable effect and as such drones might mitigate collapse through “affordable force projection”. Another technology is logistics and “On demand” economy. That technology has considerably different effects in collapse – when it falls away, the existing food distribution systems simply stop functioning in a matter of days. This dependance on JIT economy makes the US extremely vulnerable. That seems to strongly emphasize the conclusion that upon a collapse there is no reserve resilience in the system, which is extremely bad for national coherence. The worst case scenario is a quick escalation in state secession and eventually even city secession, a process that would strongly fit with the “Snow Crash” scenario.
Note that the collapse scenario would almost certainly imply a lot of deaths – police forces will almost immediately become feudal centers of local control while at the same time a lot of very state dependant people (welfare moms, people heavily addicted on antidepressants, senior citizens) will completely panic and loudly demand a continuation of these services. That seems to equate local police militia gunning down protesters, and that escalation will display a very localized feudal medieval character. The problem for the US is that upon this collapse the US will become largely unable to extract anything like meaningful taxes from a shellshocked population.
Four escalatory scenarios : Scenario Two
* Total loss of democracy – permanent state of emergency
* Considerable loss of services
* Severe economic and lasting crisis worldwide
* Very sudden and painful resource depletion in the continental americas
* Considerable environmental damage
* Extreme government violence in the US likely to spread elsewhere
* Very rapid technological escalation scenarios
The second scenario assumes a widespread economic collapse in the US, almost certainly based on a failure of the dollar, where the state apparatus is geared to perpetuating itself at any cost. In the second scenario the emphasis is somewhat similar to what happened in North Korea after it was severed from the Soviet Union 2 decades ago. The state apparatus of North Korea didn’t as much fail as “tighten”, possibly as an emotional response to hating a foreign enemy. I’d personally regard the DDR scenario for the United States as a result of a collapse to be a little more probable at this stage than scenario one. In the last few years it has become clear that (1) a lot of people invested personal resources in prepping, or preparing for collapse. This in itself has somewhat increased resilience of over-all state. Similarly local police forces have also militarized, in tandem with DHS/FEMA and military (national guard) militarization. This has in effect created the immediate precursor infrastructure for a completely authoritarian state. In essence – some people in Washington may have become so terrified of the increasingly credible outcome of collapse that these people have been consistently pressing the only button electorally accessible to them – throw more money at prisons, police, armored personal carriers, guns, espionage infrastructures and domestic drones.
In case you were wondering scenario two is more frightening than scenario one, since it is borne of necessity – i.e. the state becomes an infrastructure protecting the assets of the very rich “at all costs”. In scenario the US more or less transfigures in to something closely resembling a third world country in a manner of several months. This process might be gradual, but the end result would be a United States where people are routinely killed in large amounts using industrial means. As we have seen in other countries all throughout the 20th century this can happen pretty much without anyone noticing. The process of extermination will be markedly dissimilar to the process of extermination used in nazi germany. It will be more that people need food, and the government distributes some small amounts food, as long as people behave and do what the government says. The nett effect will be slave labour for food – tens of millions of very desperate people serving in a DDR style police state; people with criminal tendencies (read: people with no work, darker skin colors) going to some prison (and never returning). This will invariably produce home grown terrorism of all stripes – christian radical domestic terrorists won’t necessarily be compatible with socialist-leaning domestic revolutionaries.
The difference between scenario 1 and 2 is anything but subtle. In scenario 1 the US will be very dangerous because of rogue elements, bandits, secessionists. In scenario two the best chance to get shot is not to bow your head to the local ‘samurai’ police forces.
Four escalatory scenarios : Scenario Three
* Sharply reduced collective affluence in the US
* Severe political disorientation and unpredictable political change
* Very communally and localized repressive regimen
* Permanent state of emergency
* Massive capital and human flight from the US
* Sharply increased tax regimen in the US
Scenario three is a marked variant of either scenario – it assumes that in the US the general population becomes angry quickly enough and succeeds in breaking the national economy and state apparatus very quickly. In this scenario the US becomes paralyzed by protest, the economy collapses and politicians and rich people either go in to hiding, “change stripes” and join the revolution or migrate to Europe. The third scenario could still come with quite a bit of “disorientation violence” as people bicker for a long time over what to do next. By far this third scenario is the best case for the rest of the world economically since it creates a somewhat accountable union run by comittees, bureaucrats, local police forces and political activists. This scenario is essentially a United States where the occupy movement and the tea party take over.
By default this scenario ends Washington as the US capital, probably physically. I can envision the place getting ransacked or otherwise change beyond recognition. Many Americans have a considerable residual nationalism, and to have this belief system collapse produces some pretty severe cognitive dissonance. In this scenario the US decides to hang together as good or as bad as it can, and more or less goes through the motions to reorganize. This will probably mean the formation of some kind of multi-party parliamentary system where neither current “democratic party” or “GOP” will attract many sentimentality votes. Looking at events in Egypt and Turkey, the potential for well-informed police forces to decide that they have little to gain serving the status quo is becoming considerable. In scenario 3 local and state law enforcement first joins the side of a quickly escalating protest movement. It would be “one million people” protest marches in the Capital for months, every single day, till the feces of the protesters runs sloshing up the white house lawn. This is basically the scenario of a government becoming too terrified of its own angry people to act intelligently.
Nevertheless this would be a collapse. The US would be unable to service its debts, the dollar would deflate, and some people who need food and medicines would find themselves fed by their local communities. The US would for several decades find itself progressively more impoverished (much like the soviet union under Yeltsin) and chaotic but the unified anger of a mobilized several hundred million people would keep the political entity together in some form.
Four escalatory scenarios : Scenario Four
Wild cards and black swans.
The three previous scenarios are all variants of familiar historical collapses. We need to come to terms with the simple realization that collapse itself is becoming an altogether new animal, and that is pretty much the message of this entire article. Precursor conditions for collapse in the US are uniquely new. At no period in history have we seen the mix of utterly unprecedented technologies and a ruthless willingness to use these technologies. Likewise no countries has ever been so armed with lethal means at both state as well as private levels. Never have we seen greater populations completely dependant on government assistance, food, subsidies, medical care and psychoactive medication. Never before in history have we seen a super power who spends over the economic equivalent 1000 billion dollars on military and law enforcement tools. Never have we seen millions of fairly average people languishing in prisons. The US collapse is a paradox – a mixture of very dependent and politically naive people on the one hand, and a large percentage of ruggedly individualistic and determined individuals on the other hand. This is the point where I suggest bitcoin. What would happen in in five years every single BitCoin would be sufficient to buy a house?
That would be a pretty strange world.
How will all of this affect the rest of the planet?
In the recent Novel by Charles Stross “Rule 34“, the novel describes in several key places what (by 2019) has happened in the United States. Let me state that Stross can be frigging hilarious in this regard and he doesn’t pull any punches. In one section the book describes how the US went “feral” at some point and is systematically predating on the rest of the world, by the most sleazy business practices available. I am pretty certain that this will in fact happen, and it will happen increasingly. Within a few months to a few years (if not already) the US will know a segment of society driven to increasingly ruthless desperation, and they will try and take the rest of them with them, as they slide in a flood of shit down the raging torrential manhole. There are many people of ample means in the US that greatly overextended themselves in terms of mortgages, second third and forth wives (alimony), massive consumer debts, business expenses – and these people will have the motive and resources to go after whatever moneys they would be able to liberate, given half an opportunity. But other than that, face it, any degree of scenario of a US collapse, whatever the collapse may have in terms of morphology, or whatever the severity of the collapse, if the US suffers from the flu, the rest of the world sneezes along.
There is however a difference in degree. I would vehemently insist that a collapse of sorts inside the US would have dire and violent consequences particularly in the developing regions of South America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. There will be food riots everywhere, since a collapse in the US implies an almost immediate collapse in the ability for the US to export foodstuffs. We have tasted some of the causal bile reflux as the US switched to “some” biofuel production, primarily as a result of local elected officials skimmed of some farm subsidy pork from the washington troughs. In other words – ‘biofuels’ has always been a dudd, at best a PR construct to impress the impressionable on ‘just how energy independent the US is’, but at the end of the day it involves turning X petrochemical products in to
One The EU doesn’t use the dollar and still has a fairly robust alternatives to the international reserve currency; Two Europe is substantially more able to function under conditions of oil scarcity or with very expensive oil. Europe has densely knit cities with superb public transportation infrastructures. Western Europe has been driving just fine on 8$ a gallon oil for over a decade, whereas the US is all scatterbrained urban planning, with shopping malls and endless suburbs miles away from where people get their foods. I can literally walk to a nearby store – several hundred million americans need to drive for close to an hour. Three human-made global climate change is pretty much established political fact in the EU. Four Western Europe has pretty damn good infrastructures and actually has the tax climate allowing government to consistently invest in all aspects of society. I have had americans over that called my country “the best managed place on the planet” for that reason alone. Five most of the EU has government that is actually democratic, nuff said, Six the EU has functional social safety nets and there is already talk of “basic income” on EU parliamentary levels, which is pretty much the only way in the current system left for dealing with technological unemployment. And finally Seven – the EU is decreasing in population levels, and would be better equipped to deal with disaster immigration that the US. And even though some countries still have a fairly affluent upper crust, we are experiencing none of the insane corporate entitlement culture as is so common in the US (where red states will get welfare dollars by the wagon loads no matter what happens). My assessment – there is a storm coming, and once this storm hits the EU is considerably more weatherproofed than the US, but I suppose that will observation remain a subject for disagreement for quite some time.
Let me remind you – These ideas are “dangerous”
The best way to describe what is happening in the United States is strikingly similar to a terminal autoimmune disease. The easiest way to parse all the bizarre behavior emanating from US authorities is to make a bland statement along the lines “these people have all gone insane”, but that is too easy. It is simply to easy to allege that all those bizarre things happening in the United States emerge from systemic irrationality. I agree – there are many parties and players at work that are deeply pathological and dehumanized. There are people in the US government that are so conservative they are effectively suitable for clinical doses of tranquilizers. There are actual imperialist gun crazed hawks at many levels of the US government. I might even conclude be has been a remarkable number of suspicious things happening on 11 September 2001, even though me mentioning such a possibility effectively disqualifies me in many circles of “polite debate”. The US seems at times overrun by xenophobes, reactionary zealots and career racists. Yes, I insist that the US knows many truly insane people in charge but that is pretty much the case in any country.
But even at that we can not blankly claim that the US is acting irrationally. The US signifies the epicenter of global business interests and the conclusion is self-evident that the US is run like a business entity, with a clear profit-interested agenda, and an almost rancid eagerness to treat elements in society that do not actively contribute to collective societal profit “as something that must at times be scared off their jingling spurs”. The US is a ruthless society, and even that is understandable and rational in the light of a colonial era and decades of being a largely unaccountable superpower. But the US is collapsing before our very eyes. In a few months, maybe a few years the lights will go out in the US and the population of this once proud and noble country will be left shellshocked, disoriented, very angry and very afraid.
Me writing this actually comes with a tangible risk of me ending up on some kind of terror watch list or some kind of no-fly list. Even worse, at some sinister point in the future I might have some online accounts cancelled, or the forces of iniquity might decide to place me under some form of electronic surveillance. That wouldn’t be the first time, actually. But the sad fact is that the US is a dangerous, frustrated entity and it can lash around indiscriminately. Quite a few people in the US are angry and disappointed, and these people see very little in terms of easy solutions. So yes, if some wise-ass European comes along and makes fun of this misfortune for cheap laughs at some conference in Croatia, they are likely to notice and no, they will not be entertained.
The White Rose – Taking a stand against Evil
A hyperpower that has consistently spent a trillion on weapons for half a decade with the a severe case of “cornered cat” psychology is a problem for the world – and it signified a clear and present danger for everyone who might agitate against the US. This country has some deep pockets and there is sufficient polonium isotope in those pockets. Look at what happened a few days ago – a president of a South American country has his goddamn plane rerouted because he “might” have a guy onboard that (while formally not yet accused of anything) might have become the world’s biggest whistle blower. Countries that in public discourse call themselves US sceptics suddenly bend over backwards to lick the collective American posterior. Clearly, the US is powerful in more ways than one, and there are still plenty lackeys around to prove it for them.
It is the year 2013. We live in a world governed by cynical world spanning alliances and oligarchies. So many interlocking Oligarchies implies that these people are pretty damn rich. Being pretty damn rich means they have a shitload to lose. The american people may in fact be extremely nice and sociable people by and large, it doesn’t matter one bit – the state they bought does not play nice. If the powerful feel threatened they get their wish. Sadly I must conclude the EU is not a player of much significance compared to NATO. The other two remaining players are in effect Russia and China, and I don’t think they are especially influential either. Newly emerging factions in south America or the Middle East have even less opportunity to exert. India and China are players of some economic sway, but it is militarily inconsequential and very weak compared in many other ways.
China and Russia routinely commit crimes against humanity and war crimes. Israel routinely has European citizens “disappeared”. We must now also conclude that the US has abandoned any pretense of respect for human rights, international law, justice, the ideal democracy, respect for privacy of its own citizens or foreigners, economic fairness. The US does not play by civilized rules. While the US may not be as fully dehumanized and fascist as (say) China or Saudi Arabia, the nett effect is that the immense power of the US greatly magnifies its ability to do evil.
Make sure you don’t get caught between that power and a hard place.
Opportunities to profit from a US collapse
So my thesis is – in a few months to a few years we’ll have the US completely transform in some manner which would be very hard to predict. This will be some form of collapse, and the collapse may have some similarities with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now comes my much anticipated punch line for today.
In purist Cyberpunk stories and movies all the anti-heroic characters are rather selfish, hard, cynical persona. Some may be more protagonistic inclined, but all are realists and if need be, able to do the hard necessary thing survival in a morally depraved world demands. I would postulate the classical Cyberpunk antihero as antithesis for the anti-revolutionary Randian ethos. These are people that aren’t easily fooled by false promises or hubris and they are perfectly willing to “stick it to the man”.
If we are to express our admiration for the classical Cyberpunk heroic icon we express admiration for strong butch catlike women and sleek pantherlike deadly men. We express admiration for street lethal ninja’s of the backstreets who operate under the radar, and we express our desire to be like them, much like modern day Jack Sparrows in InfraRed absorbing stealth kevlar, brandishing the equivalent of monofillament katanas and condensed small high power flechette caseless submachineguns bristling with accessory parts. We imitate the evil agents of the corporate sector and become a negative mirror image of the Samurai Elite, the West Indies Corporation or Blackwater. However in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity we should not pick the battles that will end up with any of us blackbagged, deported to guantanamo and urine-boarded and analprobed for a few years.
That is why I suggest you pick the battles you can win, and if I am halfway correct that the US is on the verge of collapse, let’s be the swarms of rats rats that conquered the Tyrannosaurus Rex at the end of the Cretaceous.
There is an increasing number of extremely rich people in the world, and these people became rich because of a sequence of new technologies. These people were already rich to begin with at the start of the 20th century. After WW2 these extremely rich people benefited from a social, military and financial order that for the first time became truly geopolitical. During the 1950s to 1970s this affluence percolated down to the middle and lower classes world wide, and at the same time the collective affluence of the people everywhere resulted in a population growth from two billion to over seven billion right now. Sadly most people take this for granted and assume we live in a “fairly average” period in history. But this isn’t the case. We live in a transitional period from having collectively become very rich to a period where we will soon lose half that affluence. The problem is that a lot of very rich people fear they will have to pay a very large share of their accumulated affluence when this forced decrease of affluence arrives. The institution of “democracy” empowers people to actually demand this, so the consequence is that democracy is rolled back world wide.
Our world wide economy hinges on the United States, and in large part on a range of force tools used by the United States. The United States also houses a very large number of extremely affluent people. These people want nothing less as to remain as wealthy and they are investing their resources to actively roll back democracy and make the US state entity use force to constrain privilege. This makes the US an oligarchy that predates on its own population.
We are years away from the current “system” collapsing in a manner ranging from “somewhat” to severe. The US is clearly anticipating on this collapse by implementing a historically unprecedented control system. This control system is not intended to “maintain order”. It is solely intended to “maintain privilege”.
How a collapsed or collapsing United States might become vulnerable
This last paragraph is not an invitation to commit crimes against US laws. The US will be a significantly violent state entity that will protect its strategic and national interests more ruthlessly than any organized crime syndicate. While most people are far beneath the notice of the US intelligence apparatus, the US will seek to extradite suspects from satellite (or otherwise subservient) nations, or even neutral states. That means – the US has ways to reach known enemies mostly anywhere in the world. Likewise – me highlighting any real or imagined “vulnerabilities” of the United States or its citizens is likely to mark me as politically antagonistic to some strategic interests of the United States.
Having said that – if I would be discussing certain business opportunities in Germany around the year 1942 “that might emerge after the rule of the Nazi party ends” this would be legal. Similarly, some kinds of acts that may be illegal inside the United States while placing you on flight restriction and security watch lists. For instance – starting a subsidiary of “cop watch” in Europe that benefits native US “cop watch” activities would by itself not be illegal, but would probably impair your ability to travel through or to the continental United States, and may get you questioned in some other travel destinations that are overly friendly with the US.
Collapsing state entities are generally violent, ruthless, desperate, its constituents and agents display signs of aberrant psychological behavior (such as furious anger, paranoia, anxiety, substance abuse, alcoholism, anxious obesity). Thus any action of foreigners seeking to exploit any national ‘vulnerabilities’ of a future post-collapse US will be met with extreme levels of hostility. This is curious, when realizing the US is rampantly abusing vulnerabilities of countries and its people world wide this very moment, but I suppose what goes for the more equal goose does not so appropriate for the less equal gander. This is of course much the same for similarly inclined countries, including Russia, China, France, etc.
The example of a state entity who became more subject to “making a profit” were all USSR emerging states at the end of Soviet Union. I dare conclude we may very well see a similar vulnerability in many (allegedly soon to be former) US states and territories soon. My suggestion is to decypher these opportunities that emerged between 1990 and 1995 in the former USSR and translate these to US exponents.
To willy-nilly ‘target’ a collapsed US and its people may of course be immoral, unless you regard yourself as a cosmic manifestation of karma. But even then, I personally would not want to associate with people who would use particularly immoral methods of predation on suddenly quite desperate USians (such as young impressionable women who might suddenly find the prospect of serving as prostitutes somewhere outside the US, or former highly trained specialists with high student debts who might find immigration in Europe a good way to evade sharply increased US taxes and/or nigh unbearable student debts) but to each his or her own.
What I would find a very interesting target for enterprise would be any number of indefensible US patents that might quickly become effectively void after the collapse of a US global hegemony. I strongly urge anyone to target these patents, once they become available, and create businesses mercilessly exploiting these. After a collapse a US will whine and mutter but will be largely defenseless for several years. There is no moral conundrum here – look at how outspoken US policy and the US corporate sector have purposefully conspired to enforce US patent laws, and look at what degree human beings world wide have suffered at the hands of a largely unilateral and unaccountable corporate sector. Some countries worldwide were fed some scraps, as long as national governments signed along with mercantilist contracts.
I can speculate and brainstorm about hundreds of variants in the collapse of the US, and I can list the possible ways on how to profit from a collapse stage, as well as to exploit a collapsed states. The essence of my message is simpler. Let’s no longer look at the US as a formidable and fearful empire, but let’s instead focus on how the clay feet of this steel colossus have long since crumbled. Look closely and you will see that gravity has already overcome inertia, and the statue is well in the process of collapse. Yes it is best to stand a little to the side when it truly comes down, and yes the collapse may take a while. But once the dust settles, it is time to dismantle the wreckage and profit from this.
And in case any Americans are reading – yes, this is precisely the attitude America has fed the rest of the world. Americans have dispassionately discussed various similar demographic shifts worldwide (if not outright facilitated them) and Americans have openly discussed the prospect of making a quick buck on the misery of people experiencing such tragic transitions.
Now it’s your turn. This isn’t “blowback” any more. This is a wholly different stage, where the rest of the world will have an opportunity to go through your possessions during this period of state insolvency and pick and choose what they might like to take home.
Update: Tom’s Dispatch