Monday, January 26, 2009

Boondoggles to the Rescue!

Economic collapse has a way of turning economic negatives into positives. It is not necessary for the United States to embrace the tenets of command economy and central planning to match the Soviet lackluster performance in this area. We have our own methods that are working almost as well. I call them “boondoggles.” They are solutions to problems that result in more severe problems than those they attempt to solve.

Just look around and you will see boondoggles sprouting up everywhere, in every field of endeavor: we have military boondoggles like Iraq, financial boondoggles like the doomed retirement system, medical boondoggles like private health insurance and legal boondoggles like the intellectual property system. At some point, creating another boondoggle becomes the preferred course of action: since the outcome can be predicted with complete accuracy, there is little risk. Proposing a solution that might work runs the risk of it not working.

So why not, as a matter of policy, only propose solutions that are guaranteed to simply create more problems, for which further solutions can then be proposed? At some point, a boondoggle event horizon is reached, like the light event horizon that exists at the surface of a black hole. Beyond that horizon, the only possible course of action is to create more boondoggles.

The combined weight of all these boondoggles is slowly but surely pushing us all down. If it pushes us down far enough, then economic collapse, when it arrives, will be like falling out of a ground-floor window. We just have to help this process along, or at least not interfere with it. So if somebody comes to you and says, “I want to make a boondoggle that runs on hydrogen” — by all means encourage him! It’s not as good as a boondoggle that burns money directly, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Once you understand the principles involved, boondoggling will come naturally. Let us work through a sample problem: there is no longer enough gasoline to go around. A simple but effective solution is to ban the sale of new cars, with the exception of certain fleet vehicles used by public services. First, older cars are overall more energy-efficient than new cars, because the massive amount of energy that went into manufacturing them is more highly amortized. Second, large energy savings accrue from the shutdown of an entire industry devoted to designing, building, marketing and financing new cars. Third, older cars require more maintenance, reinvigorating the local economy at the expense of mainly foreign car manufacturers, and helping reduce the trade deficit. Fourth, this will create a shortage of cars, translating automatically into fewer, shorter car trips, a higher passenger occupancy per trip and more bicycling and use of public transportation, saving even more energy. Lastly, this would allow the car to be made obsolete on about the same time line as the oil industry that made it possible.

Of course, this solution does not qualify as a boondoggle, so it will not be seriously considered. The problems it creates are too small, and they offer too little scope for creating further boondoggles. Moreover, if this solution worked, then everyone would be happily driving their slightly older cars, completely unprepared for some inevitable, cataclysmic, economy-collapsing event. It is better to introduce some boondoggles, such as corn-based ethanol and coal-to-liquids conversion. Ethanol production creates very little additional energy but it does create some fantastic problems for further boondoggling: a shortage of food and higher food prices, malnutrition among the poor and inflation. It also reinforces a large existing boondoggle: by funneling resources to petrochemical-based agribusiness, which depletes and poisons the soil and has no future in an age when petrochemicals are scarce, it helps undermine future food security. Coal-to-liquids conversion offers similarly excellent opportunities. By attempting to alleviate a shortage of gasoline, it will cause a shortage of coal, resulting in power outages and dramatically higher electricity rates. It will add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, accelerating global warming. It will probably call for some coal imports, inefficiently moving a very bulky fuel from far away, and fostering energy dependence on suppliers such as China and Russia, further enhancing the trade deficit. Along with corn-based ethanol, this excellent boondoggle reinforces the erroneous notion that Americans will be able to continue to drive cars into the indefinite future, conditioning them to clamor for more boondoggles in place of any real solutions.

With a bit of practice, you should be able to come up with some excellent boondoggles of your own in your own field of endeavor. If your boondoggle works, it will create more problems for you to solve in the next round, as long as there is time for one more round. And if there is not, then you will be where you want to be: at a ground-floor window, staring into an abyss of only a couple of feet. Although by then it may feel unnatural, at that point you must resist the temptation to create yet another boondoggle by jumping down head-first. [Reinventing Collapse, pp 118-120]

46 comments:

Peter Dodson said...

In Canada we are preparing for a myriad of boondoggles with our new budget set to spend umpteen billion dollars on infrastructure (including roads), bailing out failing industries such as the forest industry and so on.

So you're saying I should support these endeavours as it will only hasten collapse? I'm in!

Alex said...

Great post, every time I hear the word boondoggle it brings to mind my favorite comedian WC Fields, he liked to do little boondoggling himself as you can see here at appox 2:48

BoondoggleAtTheElksClub

We all need a little comic relief from this nightmare we're going through, I hope this brings some...

kollapsnik said...

Peter-

You have my blessing to support these endeavours, provided you do so poorly. What sort of boondoggle would it be if you do a good job?

Anonymous said...

Education in the US has been fertile ground for a seemingly endless series of boondoggles (with a fair amount of recurrence disguised by new verbiage). The recurrence usually comes accompanied by the word "more".

But I think oil depletion and its relation to the car economy will top them all when it comes to boondogglery. Already the contortions are manifest. Out of this non-logic only worse things can come.

In all of this there is a remarkable level of abstraction. Dare I say the word scholasticism?

Anonymous said...

Dmitry asks:

"You have my blessing to support these endeavours, provided you do so poorly. What sort of boondoggle would it be if you do a good job?"

I believe that in the current scholastic parlance, that is called a successful failure at success.

RebelFarmer said...

Is there such a thing as a boondoggle that does not require stealing my hard earned cash through my taxes? There must be a boondoggle or two that only boondoggles the folks that have already benefited from previous boondoggles. That way the boondogglers would only boondoggle each other instead of us! Any suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Politicians WILL attempt dramatic and large scale solutions to solve the problems facing the nation. Personally, I prefer the International boondoggle type - the type where many countries and institutions are involved together with a great deal of publicity. I think the International Boondoggle is Great because they are so hard to understand by layman like myself. They have to be trusted on face value.

Jon said...

RebelFarmer wants to know if (s)he can opt out of the boondoggle. Of course not! As the ministry of mixed metaphors says, "You're on the roller coaster, now pull your oars!"

Jon.

Menduir said...

kollapsnik wrote:
"financial boondoggles like the doomed retirement system"

Here's a detail of that boondoggle:
I'm not sure how many of you are aware of this: they cut taxes for old people for this year. How? They used to require retirees to take out some of their retirement funds (IRAs, etc.) after they reach age 70 1/2. It was called Required Minimum Distribution (RMD). Of course, the distribution would be taxed by the IRS. But late last year, the Former Occupant of the White House signed a bill eliminating the RMD for 2009.

Thus the boondoggle: remove a source of government revenue even as the government spends trillions on other boondoggles and, at the same time, "allow" people to keep their money in their ever shrinking retirement accounts (instead of holding it as cash in hand), so that when they are forced to take money out later, there's even less of it to tax.

Honestly, I'm not sure I could do any better than that as a way to not only drive the government bankrupt faster ... but also reduce the money held by US citizens faster.

The mind boggles at the boondoggles.

~ Jas.

Anonymous said...

You are quite brilliant in observing our ridiculous boondoggling behaviors! I only hope to teach my kids how to grow their own food and how to defend it. American's will boondoggle ourselves back to the medieval ages. It pains me to teach my children about serfdoms knowing that they'll soon be living that reality.

Anonymous said...

And here is a perfect example of yet another boondoggle (Spend More On Defense To Create Jobs), carefully taken apart by the esteemed Winslow Wheeler in this Counterpunch article:

http://counterpunch.org/wheeler01272009.html

Aleš said...

Eric Sevareid's Law:

The chief source of
problems is solutions"



From Prof Bartlett's lecture "Arithmetic, Population and Energy" - this engaging speaker claims that

the Greatest Shortcoming
of the Human Race
is our Inability
to Understand
the Exponential Function

In very simple and entertaining terms he explains how any 'growth' is unsustainable and calculates the Peak Oil in 2009 (the video is probably pre 9/11).

Do take a look. 10min YouTube Video, one of eight.

Bilbo said...

These boondoggles remind me of Tainter's "Collapse of Complex Societies." Societies reach a point where they are so complex that investments in even more complexity result in the society being even worse off. The society continues to invest in complexity (more boondoggles) because they have so much prior investment in complexity that they cannot imagine giving up that investment and besides, years in the past, complexity used to work so well. This trend continues until the system collapses to a much simpler state.

It seems we have more levels of complexity to come. The solution is make things more simple.

Russian President said...

Mr. Orlov is quite right. Simply put it's "if you cannot solve a problem, - make it larger".

badnewswade said...

"make economic collapse like falling out of a ground-floor window"- Like it!

Anonymous said...

"Mr. Orlov is quite right. Simply put it's "if you cannot solve a problem, - make it larger"."

The other day I heard a wonderfully zany exchange on one of the gossip channels. The question was:

Question: "Should we then make a few banks big enough so that they are too big to fail?"

Answer: "Absolutely!"

A graphic analogy: if there are some, or many, scattered dog turds in your yard, make a big pile of them, consolidate them and and declare this consolidaded unit a statue, a conceptual-artistic statement. Then you declare to every scandalized visitor that this is your design, your plan.

logic11 said...

Education is actually a great example of this. As education gets worse and worse eventually, when education stops getting funded at all and schools simply disappear, it will make very little difference because the graduating students from last year will be basically functionally illiterate anyway, all in the interest of teaching to the test.

Jon said...

Corollary to 'Too big to fail.'

For every ship that is too big to fail, there is an even bigger iceberg.

I read somewhere (that's the only citation you are going to get, but hey, it's the internet) that the costs of administering an empire increase exponentially while the population’s needs increase lineally. Even today we refer to an out of control bureaucracy as ‘Byzantine’ after the world’s favorite bloated government system from antiquity.

I am also reminded of the old PBS miniseries “I, Claudius.” Claudius is looking over some sketches for a new bridge and complaining that the costs are so high. “Why does this cost more than in Julius Caesar’s time? Do bridges cost more now than they did when Julius Caesar reigned?” At this point in the story, as I remember, somebody tried to assassinate him. Even back then you weren’t supposed to look too deeply into the pork, I mean, ‘stimulus’ barrel.

Jon.

VK said...

Brilliant articles Mr Orlov. Absolutely wonderful and insightful into the nature of man. I haven't read your book yet but it's on my to do list!

:-) Keep up the great work.

Farmer Mark said...

I was at a conference today and learned a few interesting tidbits about wind energy. To meet our 10% renewable energy standard here in Michigan we would need to spend $11 billion. It would take thousands of yards of concrete and thousands of tons of steel not to mention plenty of copper, huge cranes and epic effort. A little math gets us to $110 billion to meet all our needs, and a few pumped storage facilities to help with the occasions when the wind got low for a bit (PSF = a big lake with a pump to fill it and a turbine to tap the power when you need it.) Could we do it? I suppose we could. Some boondoggels might be more worthwhile than others for posterity. I would suggest an effort to shape our boondoggleing in manners that will make the post crash world somewhat more livable could be a good use of our time. Sure better than feeding those fat swine on wall street. Do bank runs count as boondoggles?
Farmer Mark
Fennville MI

kollapsnik said...

Hi Farmer Mark

Here's a question: how many windmills would it take, running for how long, to generate the energy to build these windmills? And, after that, how many windmills would it take to generate to the energy to maintain all of these windmills. (Please include all energy costs, from mining to toxic waste disposal, in your calculation).

Next time you are at one of these alternative energy fiestas, could you please discretely pop the question?

Anonymous said...

Dmitry says:

"Here's a question: how many windmills would it take, running for how long, to generate the energy to build these windmills? And, after that, how many windmills would it take to generate to the energy to maintain all of these windmills. (Please include all energy costs, from mining to toxic waste disposal, in your calculation).?

This question is key. If you isolate a subsystem and treat it as a closed system, you can get very excited. But if you look at energy in the larger system of everything that requires non-free inputs, the picture is less rosy. Finding fossil fuels was great, but I bet the sail and the bicycle will outlast the technologies based on fossil fuels. Unless my memory fails me, the bicycle is the most efficient vehicle ever invented. I don't know if burros are efficient, but I am betting that they will outlast, too! Oldies but goodies... and they keep you company, they do surprising things.

Schwerpunkt International said...

Great blog and sad I only discovered it lately. I work in "education" which is the boondoggle of them all since the wreckage we bring occurs both in the short term - money we suck up and waste - and the long term - children who cannot read entering the... "workforce." I spend much of my day compensating for the shoddy work of others that it made me mad, until I realized that my job is dependent on children and youth not actually learning on their own and getting resources directly rather than through complex fake "accountable" and "sustainable" systems. I now work hard to further boondoggles.

Bilbo said...

While windmills, solar cells and other types of alternative energy may not be sustainable in the long run without fossil fuels, they are a better investment of our remaining fossil fuels than driving an SUV, for example. I am not sure of the maintenance requirements of windmills, but I do think that dispersed, non-centralized electrical generating sources are a good idea in the coming collapse. They should provide a source of power as our fossil fuels dwindle.

Or do you advocate weaning our society cold turkey off its addiction to fossil fuels?

kollapsnik said...

Bilbo-

I think you've answered your own question. A large SUV is a perfect post-collapse habitat. It provides shelter, housing, and if the alternator is moved atop a small tower and fitted out with windmill blades, it also provides illumination, entertainment (radio) and cooling (ventilation fans). It has a large tank, which, once it is thoroughly cleaned out, can be used to capture rainwater. It even has an electric pump to dispense that water. While not exactly transportation, it is somewhat mobile: several strong-backed individuals can push it around on a level surface. Lastly, there is plenty of real estate it can occupy, which would otherwise go unused - parking lots, that is. In short, far-sighted Americans have provided themselves with excellent post-collapse survival capsules.

Anonymous said...

On solar energy, wind, etc., of course they should be used, but the advantages are mainly environmental, not energetic. For serious energy, the only alternative to fossil fuels right now is nuclear power. If you want the Obama-Santa Claus version, "green nuclear power"...

But there is a slight problem: you can't run the current US transportation system of private cars and trucks on electricity. And I am not sure the US knows how to build nuclear centrals anymore. And they would not get approved easily (morass of regulations). And they are dangerous. And they take time to build. And...

But worry not: the "stimulus" package will hand out condoms to everybody who needs them. Or did they cut that out?

Anonymous said...

On the nuclear 'solution':
Codswallop! If all known reserves of uranium were magicly available intantainiously the total energy equivalent is 4 months worth of what we use now as oil.
The decomissioning of plants alone is enough to make anyone aware of peak oil horrified at the thought.
This is a boondoggle too serious to even consider.

Aditya Kulkarni said...

Great post! I think all governments are doing nothing but creating more boondoggles. Otherwise, how will a politician make money? He can only make money by creating more problems, not by providing simple solutions :-(.

Anonymous said...

"Codswallop! If all known reserves of uranium were magicly available intantainiously the total energy equivalent is 4 months worth of what we use now as oil."

Correct. But the context of the comment was the use of wind, solar and other ways of generating power. Ruling out nuclear power seems foolish to me. I do agree, however, that there is no technological solution to replace fossil fuels. The entire way of life based on those fuels will have to change - some say "retrograde", I prefer to say "readapt to Earth".

Ultimately, the population of the world will have to decrease vastly. There are limits to production of grain, and if you subtract nitrogen fertilizers, those limits are much lower.

Another bondoggle: in Europe, several countries have been talking about a "catastrophe" if the population decreases... for example, Italy. The other day they were discussing this on the RAI, the catastrophe thesis was aired dutifully, one listener called and asked "Why is it a catastrophe?" but nobody addressed the question. What they mean, I think, is that the current system is based on "growth", that is, the current standard of living is predicated on borrowing against the future, a future with more people to provide tax revenues. It is a terrible assumption...

Meanwhile, Kurzweil and other futurists want to extend people's lives... sounds crazy to me.

Anonymous said...

And I forgot to add that fishing is in serious trouble as well. The figures are frightening.

It looks like nobody's taking care of anything other than keeping the "system" going. It looks suicidal.

Anonymous said...

A very cogent debunking of boondoggles regarding money:

http://informationliberation.com/?id=26471

Meanwhile, notice the boondoggles that are being piled up daily about "fixing" the financial system. The idea that by getting people to take on more debt things will go back to normal is a huge boondoggle, perhaps the biggest financial boondoggle.

Anyway, this video lecture (University of Colorado) should be an eye-opener, a good summary of why these boondoggles to "save the economy" are not only doomed but are contrary to the most basic common sense.

Anonymous said...

For those reader who are philosophically inclined (I would guess most are), here is an interesting interview with philosopher Simonovic, speaking of latter day capitalism and the crisis. His work is relevant to the collapse:

Part 1:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jsbVtL8ME4

Remaining parts easily findable on YouTube.

Farmer Mark said...

Dimitry,
Windmills are of course far from perfect as a solution to anything, but my thought was they make a better boonboggle than say bailing out wall street or the big three. The clowns I saw talking couldn't even tell us what the economic pay back time would be, getting them to account for all the "externalities" would be a mind blower on par with a double feature of LSD and methamphetamine. BTW one of the speakers worked for John Deere, JD now has a division to install wind farms.
So I'll try and shake the worldview a bit given another chance, but really fellow travelers does anyone think things are bad enough to get thinking that deep going?
Farmer Mark


kollapsnik said...
Hi Farmer Mark

Here's a question: how many windmills would it take, running for how long, to generate the energy to build these windmills? And, after that, how many windmills would it take to generate to the energy to maintain all of these windmills. (Please include all energy costs, from mining to toxic waste disposal, in your calculation).

Next time you are at one of these alternative energy fiestas, could you please discretely pop the question?

Anonymous said...

"Windmills are of course far from perfect as a solution to anything, but my thought was they make a better boonboggle than say bailing out wall street or the big three."

As long as the installation is subsidized, those mills are a good deal. The problem is the initial cost and the subsequent maintenance. I've seen them work in Southern Spain (Atlantic coast, very windy much of the time). But the regional government subsidized them and I don't think the farms that have the mills get paid much. The disruption caused by the mills is minimal. The cows don't shy away from them, access roads are narrow and discrete. I believe they used Danish technology. The Danes are big in this field.

Anonymous said...

I am reposting this, since it appeared as a comment to the wrong article:

In case anyone is interested, this Wikipedia article gives information on the use of wind power in Spain (wind produces 10% of all installed power):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_Spain

Tim Auld said...

Hi Dmitry,

I understand the logic of promoting boondoggles. Dependency creates complacency, so successful projects prevent people standing on their own. I'm wondering though if you can see any worthwhile projects governments might pursue apart from the Collapse Party Platform actions. I am thinking specifically of projects to redistribute land to people who can work it and train them in ecologically sound farming practices. Geoff Lawton has set up a model Permaculture farm in Jordan (hyper-arid and salty), using only 20% of typical irrigation and no chemicals, self-employing local people and improving health. Perhaps if a government ran with this it may morph into some other beast, but I really do not want the whole house of cards to come down before we really get to work.

Details of the farm here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sohI6vnWZmk

http://permaculture.org.au/2005/02/01/use-of-permaculture-under-salinity-and-drought-conditions/

Anonymous said...

This is what I found on one of the Russian sites:

Little by little people wake up. Could be too little too late though.


Мир на пороге глобального энергетического кризиса. Добывать нефть невыгодно
23.01.09 11:46
Москва, Январь 23 (Новый Регион, Андрей Романов) – Средняя себестоимость добычи барреля нефти в мире достигла почти $40, в результате чего при нынешнем уровне цен добыча нефти становится не рентабельной и возрастает риск глобального энергетического кризиса в 2010-2011 годах. Об этом, как передает корреспондент РИА «Новый Регион», говорится в обзоре экспертов компании «АТОН», которые проанализировали нынешнюю ситуацию на рынке и подсчитали возрастающий уровень издержек нефтяников.
Согласно расчетам экспертов компании «АТОН», которые были получены на основе анализа открытых данных американских нефтяных компаний, работающих по всему миру, средняя себестоимость добычи нефти дошла до $39,6 за баррель в 2008 году, поднявшись с 2004-2006 года с уровня $24,3.
Аналитики отмечают, что даже сумма $39,6 может быть заниженной, однако в любом случае многие новые месторождения при текущих ценах на нефть уже стали нерентабельными. В частности, себестоимость добычи на шельфе США уже в 2006 году достигала $63,7. Если нерентабельная шельфовая добыча нефти будет приостановлена, США необходимо будет в срочном порядке возместить 5% поставок. В результате возникает проблема – откуда взять другую, более дешевую нефть.
Фактически, значительные свободные мощности есть только у ближневосточных государств. Но ОПЕК недавно снизил производственные квоты на 4,2 млн баррелей в сутки. К этому необходимо добавить еще одну серьезную проблему – Мексику, где за 11 месяцев 2008 года добыча нефти сократилась на 9,3%. «У страны истощается ее крупнейшее нефтяное месторождение – Cantarel. Соответственно объемы экспорта нефти в США продолжат снижаться, и это снижение тоже придется возмещать», – отмечают аналитики.
Эксперты обращают внимание, что пока проблема возмещения недостатка нефти не стоит остро благодаря экономическому кризису, который вызвал снижение спроса на топливо. Однако, по их мнению, нынешняя ситуация может вызвать серьезные последствия в перспективе 2-3 лет, когда спрос на топливо постепенно начнет восстанавливаться, а предложение может не вернуться к необходимому уровню.
Более того, добыча нефти продолжит дорожать, а из-за обвала цен в этом году многие новые проекты будут отложены. Не случайно эксперты Международного Энергетического Агентства предупреждают, что в 2011 году мир может столкнуться с полноценным энергетическим кризисом, – констатируют эксперты.
По оценкам аналитиков компании «АТОН», на рынке нефти сложилась ситуация, аналогичная недавней ситуации с никелем. Средняя себестоимость добычи никеля в мире составляет около $9000 за тонну. Динамика никелевых цен показывает, что это отметка уже несколько раз тестировалась участниками рынка в конце прошлого года, но так и не была пройдена вниз. Фактор себестоимости добычи имеет одно из ключевых значений на любом сырьевом рынке. В этой связи эксперты не исключают, что рынок нефти в определенной степени может повторить судьбу никеля. Средний уровень себестоимости уже несколько раз тестировался и в этом, и в прошлом году, но закрепиться ниже $40 нефти пока не удалось.
«Уровень $39,6 за баррель является сильнейшим фундаментальным уровнем поддержки для нефтяных цен в среднесрочной перспективе. Но сейчас рынок захвачен спекулянтами, так что близость уровня себестоимости, к сожалению, не гарантирует восстановления цен в краткосрочной перспективе», – считают эксперты.
По оценкам аналитиков, цены на «черное золото» не растут из-за того, что за предыдущие периоды страны накопили значительные запасы нефти, и пока они находятся на высоких уровнях, цены на нефть продолжат двигаться синхронно с фондовыми рынками, ориентируясь, прежде всего, на новости о состоянии экономики.

kollapsnik said...

Here's the executive summary for the Russian article:

Oil now costs about $40/bbl to produce. Price lower than that means no sale. Price around that level means US offshore production is at a $20/bbl loss. In any case, such prices mean no new exploration. Meantime, Mexican production is falling by close to 10% a year. Conclusion: major energy crisis by 2011.

Pangolin said...

In California we have the "Prison Building" boondoggle. The government hands out money to build prisons. The prison guards fund petitions to make more things illegal and sentences longer. The prisoners are out of jobs so their kids grow up damaged and they break laws; then they go to prison.

The state of California is bankrupt but nobody inside government has proposed releasing people inside prisons for possession or sale of marijuana. The prison guards union would bust their chops in the next election.

Instead, we're building more prisons. I'm sure this boodoggle will work where you live since there is always something else the little old ladies want to make illegal.

Anonymous said...

Tim said:

"I'm wondering though if you can see any worthwhile projects governments might pursue apart from the Collapse Party Platform actions. I am thinking specifically of projects to redistribute land to people who can work it and train them in ecologically sound farming practices."

Certainly, the local production of food would be a good enterprise to support, but you forget.... property rights!

States own a fair amount of land, but they wouldn't even know how to begin if they were to hand it out, say, in 99-year leases for cheap or for free (with obligation to farm or leave). Would there be a lot of takers? People are so used to being spoonfed that they may not want anything to do with farming of any kind. Even the poorest people in the city slums might refuse such an offer.

I don't see anything remotely like this in Obama's plans, though. Perhaps it's buried somewhere.

Somebody told me that Obama did include something about trains, though not much. I didn't find it on his website.

For quick ways to spend money not on stimulus but on survival, the obvious choices are collective kitchens and medical clinics.

Tim Auld said...

Thanks Anon. I didn't forget about property rights, just didn't mention them. It's obviously a sticky issue, but one for which there may be a reasonable approach. In Australia the government is buying up irrigation rights from farmers to save the Murray-Darling river system. Buying up (possibly degraded) land and redistributing it with some kind of agreement to small holders to restore the land is conceptually similar and significantly more productive. I would personally pounce on such an opportunity, and in the process may employ others.

The point I'm trying to make is that natural forces in the population will likely go in this direction anyway, but in a more chaotic fashion. The way could be paved with a government policy framework.

Anonymous said...

Neil Lori agrees that many of the government stimulus plans are actually boondoggles that will make things even worse. I live in Montclair,NJ and we could really use a BAT or Bloomfield Ave. Trolley from Newark to Fairfield. Instead of that Team Obama is giving nearly a billion dollars to NJ for Highways, roads and car bridges. The politicians think inside of the box. We also need to legalize hemp and marijuana immediately. Instead of increasing Prison Industrial Complex and the Jail Industrial complex we must release most non-violent and elderly from jail and prison.

Instead of Roads Roads Roads the Obama team needs to build trains, tracks, trolleys {the 3 T's} plus encourage apple tree planting, local farms and victory gardens.

Neil Lori Montclair NJ thinks it is great Dmitry Orlov is blogging again!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

"The point I'm trying to make is that natural forces in the population will likely go in this direction anyway, but in a more chaotic fashion. The way could be paved with a government policy framework."

The forces may go in that direction, but the tradition of keeping the town contained and having common land (owned by the township) surrounding it has does not exist in the US.

In the small town in SOuthern Spain where I live part of the time, the township owns all the land around it, and it has for over 500 years. It is leased to local farmers and every 5 years, each resident gets a little money from the lease. It is a symbolic amount. The main thing is that these plots of land are well taken care of, they produce a lot of food, and the town cannot sprawl. It is a medieval arrangement that continues to work. Other countries have similar systems. Better than building malls and trash alleys on the edge of town. After a few decades, you don't have a town but a spread out pile of trash. The town I am speaking abou thas about 10,000 people in an area that would accomodate only a few parking lots... people live OK, no yards, but boy do they eat well. They can also walk anywhere, old people are not pariahs, and so forth. They live in small dwellings but they spend a lot of time outside.

Americans would hate this model, though, because they always feel they need to go somewhere else and they also want "privacy". In other words, this very rational model that I am describing presents insurmountable cultural problems in the US of the 21st century.

IceyPancho said...

Hi, I've read a couple of your articles including this one and it is refreshing to see someone explain things in a manner that acknowledges the realities we are facing. Quite a contrast from American politicians and media outlets. I recognize and agree that lack of fuel is a big problem. However, the vast majority of the industrialized world has per capita oil consumption rates which are 40-60% lower than the U.S.'s. It seems to me that we could reach such levels here in the U.S. not necessarily by waiting for technological advances to become economically feasible but by transforming the socioeconomic structure of our society. For example, the U.S. can no longer afford the car as the primary mode of transportation and we should increase the gasoline tax and fund the mass transit systems our society direly needs. My analysis of California's situation gives me reason to believe that this very doable here in California. What do you think?

The Stracia Team said...

Great post. We wonder why people continue to have faith in "the hot air coming out of Washington," as you mention. Maybe because the alternative is even bleaker: Why Do We Think We Can Stop This Decline?

Martin said...

While this was one of the more hilarious subchapters of your book (which I bought and read this week) I have a hard time deciding how serious you were, writing this. :) Surely some steps to prepare for the future are better than these misguided attempts to preserve the status quo? Some of these boondoggles also seem more akin to trying to push a car running out of gas toward the cliff it would otherwise not quite reach than preparing the car for a soft landing.

Are you just trying to comfort those of us looking on in dismay at what counts as public policy these days with some heavy comedy? :)