Dec 092013
 December 9, 2013  Posted by at 3:21 pm Finance

Dorothea Lange She likes to sit and watch the geese 1939
Home of Ola self-help sawmill co-op member, Gem County, Idaho

What worries me most about the world today, in the last weeks before Christmas and New Year’s Day 2014, is that all the plans we make for our futures and more importantly our children’s futures are DOA. This is because nobody has a clue what the future will bring, and that’s more than just some general statement. Is the future going to be like the past or present? We really don’t know. But we do exclusively plan for such a future. And that’s not for a lack of warning signs.

One might argue that in the western world over the past 50 years or so, we’ve not only gotten what we hoped and planned for, but we’ve even been to a large extent pleasantly surprised. In a narrow, personal, material sense, at least, we’ve mostly gotten wealthier. And we think this, in one shape or another, will go on into infinity and beyond. With some ups and downs, but still.

While that may be understandable and relatively easy to explain, given the way our brains are structured, it should also provide food for thought. But because of that same structure it very rarely does.

The only future we allow ourselves to think about and plan for is one in which our economies will grow and our lives will be better (i.e. materially richer) than they are now, and our children’s will be even better than ours. If that doesn’t come to be, we will be lost. Completely lost. And so will our children.

The ability of the common (wo)man to think about the consequences of a future that doesn’t include perpetual growth and perpetually improving lives (whatever that may mean), is taken away from her/him on a daily basis by ruling politicians and “successful” businessmen and experts, as well as the media that convey their messages. It’s all the same one-dimensional message all the time, even though we may allow for a distinction between on the one hand proposals, and their authors, that are false flags, in that their true goal is not what is pretended, and on the other hand ones that mean well but accomplish the same goals, just unintended.

This all leads to a nearly complete disconnect from reality, and that is going to hurt us even more that reality itself.

We extrapolate the things we prefer to focus on in today’s world, with our brains geared for optimism, into our expectations for the future. But what we prefer to focus on is, by definition, just an illusion, or at best a partial reality. We don’t KNOW that there will be continuing economic growth, or continuing sufficient energy supplies, or continuing plenty food. Still, it’s all we plan for. Not every single individual, of course, but by far most of us.

The last generation in the western world old enough to live through WWII fully aware, i.e. the last who knew true hardship – as a group -, is now 75 or older. Everyone younger than 70 or so have lived their entire lives through a time of optimism, growth and prosperity. That this could now be over is therefore something the vast majority of them either fail to recognize or refuse to.

They stick to their acquired possessions and wealth, which they view wholly as entitlements, and fail to see even the risk that they can continue to do so only by preying on their children, their children’s children, and the weaker members of the societies they live in. That notion may be tough to understand, even tougher to process mentally, and for that reason provoke a lot of resistance and denial, no doubt about it, but that doesn’t make it less true. The more wealth you want to retire with, the less your children and grandchildren will have to retire with, and even to live on prior to retirement. That is because there is a solid chance that the pie is simply no longer getting bigger.

As societies we must find a way to deal with these issues as best we can, or our societies will implode. If trends from the immediate past continue, then, when the entire baby boomer generation has retired, 10-15 years from now, income and wealth disparities between generations will have become so extreme that younger people will simply no longer accept the situation.

That is what should arguably be the number one theme in all of our planning and deliberations. It is not; indeed, there is nobody at all who talks about it in anything resembling a realistic sense. Every single proposal to deal with our weakened economies, whether they address housing markets, budget deficits, overall federal and personal debt, or pensions systems, is geared towards the same idea: a return to growth. It doesn’t seem to matter how real or likely it is, we all simply accept it as a given: there will be growth. It is as close to a religion as most of us get.

And while it may be true that in finance and politics the arsonists are running the fire station and the lunatics the asylum, we too are arsonists and loonies as long as we have eyes for growth only. That doesn’t mean we should let Jamie Dimon and his ilk continue what they do with impunity, it means that dealing with them will not solve the bigger issue: our own illusions and expectations.

We allow the decisions for our future to be made by those people who have the present system to thank for their leading positions in our societies, and we should really not expect them to bite the hand that has fed them their positions. But that does mean that we, and our children, are not being prepared for the future; we’re only being prepared, through media and education systems, for a sequel of the past, or at best the present. That might work if the future were just an extrapolation of the past, but not if it’s substantially different.

If there is less wealth to go around, much less wealth, in the future, what do we do? How do we, and how do our children, organize our societies, our private lives, and our dealings with other societies? Whom amongst us is prepared to deal with a situation like that? Whom amongst our children is today being educated to deal with it? The answer to either question is never absolute zero, but it certainly does approach it.

Obviously, you may argue that we don’t know either that the future will be so different from the past. But that is only as true as the fact that neither can we be sure that it will not. So why do we base our entire projections of the future on just one side of the coin, the idea that we will have more of the same – and then some more -, without giving any thought to what will be needed when more of the same will not be available? That looks a lot like the “everything on red” behavioral pattern of a gambling addict. But who amongst us is ready to admit they’re gambling with their children’s future?

I see the future as completely different than a mere continuation from the 20th century past and the 21st century present. I even see the latter as very different from the former, since all we’ve really done in the new millennium is seek ways to hide our debts instead of restructuring them. You can throw a few thousand people out of their homes, but if you label the by far biggest debtors, the banks, as too big to fail, and hence untouchable, nothing significant is restructured. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to go away by itself, the by far biggest debt in the history of mankind. At some point it must hit us in the form of a massive steamroller of dissolving and disappearing credit. In a world that can’t function without it.

And if we refuse to consider even the possibility that the debt will crush us under its immense weight, and profoundly change our societies when it does, then we will be left unprepared. And lost. That should perhaps scare us into action, not denial. Denial simply doesn’t seem very useful. Is there a risk that business as usual will no longer be available? Yes, and that risk is considerable. But we plan our futures as if it’s non-existent. That is a huge gamble. Not to mention the worst possible kind of risk assessment.

The best, or most, that people seem to be able to think of doing, even if they feel queasy about their economic prospects, is to stuff as much manna as they can into their pockets. That is the sort of approach that may have worked in the past, but it offers no guarantees for the future. It’s just another gamble.

We love to tell ourselves how smart we are. It’s time we walk that talk.

Home Forums All The Plans We Make For Our Futures Are Delusions

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    Dorothea Lange She likes to sit and watch the geese 1939 Home of Ola self-help sawmill co-op member, Gem County, Idaho What worries me most about the
    [See the full post at: All The Plans We Make For Our Futures Are Delusions]


    Hi Ilargi,

    Its 18 degrees outside,and perfect weather to speak of the future….I do not see a lot of sunshine in our future,unless its the kind you see on a brilliantly crystal clear day that is so cold your spit freezes before it hits the ground.The kind of days that wise folks cut their work out of doors to ensuring the animals are safe,and plenty of wood is close at hand for the woodstove.

    Your words remind me of another time and place where the future was a complete coin-toss….I mean the y2k non-event.The reason it was a non-event,[outside of spawning a number of profitable small,and not so small businesses] was that those in a position to affect the needed changes in the physical structure of our civilization…did so…pulled out the old white-haired geeks of a bygone era and fixed the code our banking structure and other systems needed to stay functional.

    In my Heart-of-Hearts,I honestly doubt what we are facing now can be “fixed”as easily as that old code.The elite in this country very carefully built the political and judicial structure,we here in the USA live under, into a conservatives [plutocratic] dream.They spent 40 years and a lot of treasure making things the way they are,and will spend whatever it takes to keep things just as they are,with the countries wealth going to their “strong”hands..
    This system has such a massive,intrusive politically set-in-concrete rigidity,true change is impossible.[Those who look at Obama and see a liberal are blind,the decisions his administration has made could have been made by Bush 2] .
    What has been created has one intrinsic flaw,one characteristic that all such systems of control have,Its rigidity.The one ray of hope I see in this orwellian nightmare that has been oh-so-carefully built,is that strong/hard systems of any kind are “brittle”and subject to catastrophic failure when stressed.
    We see the stresses building daily,…you see them,…the comment from a housewife at a store about the inability to feed a family…Another 1.5 million {!!!} thrown under the economic bus,unable to find work,and now unemployment money cut off.[There will be some seriously hurt people by that one].
    I do not know what will come.I know there is a rage in the hearts of my fellow americans that was not there 20 years ago.People start to pay attention when things hurt,and they have hurt for a good long while now.They know who is hurting them,and i am expecting some ugly things to start sooner than later.

    Bee good,or
    Bee careful



    Everyone who has bought a Lotto Max ticket has dreamed of how they would spend it. The odds of winning are 1 in 86 million.
    70% of the winners are broke within a few years.

    If you can avoid the scammers, by hiring good advisors, $10 millions could generate 7% per year or double in 10 years. That would mean that you would be getting richer by $1 million per year or over $100,000 per month. Avoiding scammers would be an every day problem and growing every day. Doing investments would need to be your full time job, even with a good investment advisor.
    Since all the readers here are smart, and knowledgeable they would be among the 30% that would not go broke in a few years.
    ( insert)
    ” All The Plans We Make For Our Futures Are Delusions”

    “Everything Is Fine In A Parallel Universe”


    All of the worldly troubles are in another parallel universe.

    I hear reports that many other people are experiencing one step forward and two steps back.

    Unusual and unexpected weather events, revolts, repression, starvation, loss of income burdensome debts.

    Things are changing and getting more difficult for many people.

    Parallel universes are the individual future projections of the present.

    “We love to tell ourselves how smart we are. It’s time we walk that talk.”

    We are the 99%. Don’t dream. Play/plan/prepare with those odds.


    Most people around me are still not paying attention. They still have their paychecks, their pensions, their cars and houses, and buying the latest gadgets for Christmas. These people are still living in bubble world, and it is still great. It will only be when the big bubble busts that they will start hurting, not before.

    John Day

    (This essay posits a really Buddhist worldview, ya’know?)
    To be less hypothetical, we can all start engaging in “powerdown”, the voluntary reduction in energy use. There are lots of aspects to it, and as I became a bike-commuter in 2006, I began to conceptualize my needs and travel activities differently. Powerdown is a process, upon which we can voluntarily embark, and in a number of ways. I’ve dug up the back yard a foot deep and taken out all the stones, and I’ve planted a winter garden.
    I’m a baby boomer with 4 adult kids in higher education.
    My wife and I work hard, and the kids work hard.
    We all have low expectations for the future.
    Eat real food. Be active in productive labor, like food gardening.
    Death is the easy part.

    John Day

    Oops, Powerdown essay link.

    Powerdown: Let’s talk about it


    @John Day – Nice article. But what I have found is that people who have not yet opened their eyes to the global Ponzis, are not receptive to powering down. And they won’t willingly powerdown, until they have no other choice.

    John Day

    @ Bluebird,
    How do paradigms shift? Who starts that process?
    Yes, it is a smallish percentage who see the global cheap oil Ponzi collapsing, but it is not so hard to see that oil will run out. The poor can see what they have not. A majority of Americans and plenty of Europeans and Asians can see that fuel and food and rent have gotten expensive.
    There is a certain resonance to growing a food garden. I can’t claim that for bike commuting. At least doing something, and being seen, will begin the process of normalization of the activity for others.
    Supposedly 5% who openly change paradigms can start that process along.
    Anyway, it’s easier to change before the harshness forces it in a regimented way.
    Sudden, regimented change is not always survivable.
    I remember when, by the early 1980s, everybody agreed that energy efficiency and high mileage were good.
    Understanding global Ponzi schemes, global elites, the JFK assassination, the suspension of laws of physics on 9/11/01; all of these can be chosen as markers for the kind of mind that can look into a future of “degrowth”
    This site (blogspot incarnation) really got me looking at financial collapse issues in the spring of 2008.
    Thanks Ilargi and Stoneleigh (Nicole)!


    It certainly looks bleak. I think that there might be some reasons for optimism, though. One small example is the end of the cheap oil era is already leading to reduced gasoline consumption. This has at least two benefits. First, less gasoline burned means less pollution. It also means that some of those miles that were not driven will be walked, meaning healthier people and reduced health care costs. Also, to the extent that burning of hydrocarbons contributes to global climate change, perhaps that might be mitigated a bit.

    Another reason for optimism is that as new technologies are developed, they are not all lost in an economic melt down. We still have the wheel, despite quite a few economic cycles since its invention. One small modern day example is the agricultural practice known as ‘Hugelkultur’. Apparently, it has been around for centuries, and more recently has been practiced in Austria, by a guy named Sepp Holzer. And with the internet, it has pretty much gone viral in the gardening sphere. Basically, Hugelkultur is a method of drought proofing your crops by burying organic matter. This technology is now widespread and will not be lost during the coming depression. In fact, it will be a huge factor in the mitigation of the ravages of economic contraction.

    My general point on technology is that it would almost take a nuclear war for humans to lose all our newly gained technology, not that I’m saying a nuclear war is unlikely. I can’t handicap its probability. More likely, it seems, will be many nuclear power incidents. Might be better to be in the southern hemisphere.


    I want to make an observation about “THE PIE”.

    ref. living standards, a return to growth, multiple claims for the same piece of pie.

    1. The pie makers are increasing and getting less for their contribution to the pie.
    2. The system of capitalism/socialism has evolved so that only a few can extort bigger and better pieces of the pie from all gov. agencies.
    3. There is useable lifetime of a piece of pie, (infrastructures).
    4. Replacing a piece of pie that has deteriorated does not raise standards of living.

    (Nice to see that naked capitalism has this blog entry.)


    Ilargi: “All The Plans We Make For Our Futures Are Delusions” – well, sure.

    I actually agree with that statement- pretty much entirely. But- hasn’t that really always been the case? “Literature” – as far back as we can trace it- seems to most often deal with stories where plans did not work out. The best laid plans ganging agley all over the place.

    This is our universal condition- I grant you, we rarely understand that- but all our philosophers and comedians have agreed on this; forever. The trick is to not let realization lead to despair – and paralysis.

    Of the dead ends lurking before us- I think paralysis is a deader end than daily self delusion. Or as the great Zen Masters put it “Oh, what the hay.”



    In a bizarre little bit of cosmic synchronicity, shortly after making that comment someone commented on a very old blog post of my own; which deals with poverty, definitions, and other salient stuff. One line: “Would you be willing to put on a sweater for a couple weeks – so a village in India could have a doctor? That’s what it could come down to, in the centuries ahead.”

    it’s all systems speculation- not practical; but interesting I think.

    TAE Summary

    * Disappointment is a dish best served cold; Keep you firewood dry and have plenty of firewood; Y2K was a non-event because the people who caused the problem were still alive to fix it; Our economy is more complex and harder to fix than Windows Vista; The system is set in concrete; There is a rage in the heart of the populace

    * The odds of winning Lotto Max and not being broke in 10 years are 1 in 123 million; Avoiding scammers is a full time job for Mitt Romney; The elite live in a parallel universe where Planck’s constant 1.6; Things are changing; Play/Plan//Procrastinate

    * Most people are not paying attention; They live in a bubble world; People who expect the party to continue aren’t about to turn down the stereo

    * Powerdown voluntarily; Work hard and expect less; Death is easy; The reason people are happy at births and sad at funerals is because they are not the party involved (Twain)

    * We mostly see what we don’t have; Growing food resonates, especially bell peppers; 5% can start a paradigm shift or a bank run or both; Whether there be Ponzi schemes they shall cease whether there be global elites they shall fail, whether there be suspensions of the laws of physics they shall pass away

    * Things look bleak; The end of oil will lead to reduced gasoline consumption; Not all technologies are lost in an economic meltdown; Hugelkultur and Linux will endure; Only nuclear war can stop us now

    * The Pie
    – The bakers get less and less
    – The king gets more and more
    – The pie eventually spoils
    – The bakers will have to pay to replace it
    – The maid will have her nose pecked off and be denied coverage

    * Dead ends lurk before us; Paralysis is deadly; The best-laid schemes of mice and men gang aye agley; We guess and fear; If the world were to end tomorrow I would still wear my sweater today

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