Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Collapse Wager

Robert Avotin
[This is a guest post from Howard. I reformulated his wager somewhat. I am not a betting man myself. I also consider those who bet against collapse to be a bad risk. But to each his own, plus I think Howard's collapse wager may have some didactic value in forcing people to think hard about collapse even as they steadfastly refuse to be disabused of erroneous notions they hold dear.]

On the evening on April 14th, 1912, was someone banished from the Titanic’s captain’s table for being so rude as to mention that the ship was sinking?

It troubles me deeply that bringing up the subject of immanent collapse is regarded as uncouth, while blithely talking about the satisfactory present and an ever-more-agreeable future is not seen as irresponsible denial. (“Forget about the lifeboats, and try some of this pheasant. It’s delicious!”)

We were having dinner last week with two other couples. Both are considerably more affluent than we, but not One Percenters – perhaps Five Percenters. They were bloviating about the recovery and bright prospects for the future and I finally got exasperated and declared that the United States will suffer economic collapse within the next decade. This, of course, is a grievous breech of social etiquette today – especially if your dinner companions’ professions include information technology and the airlines industry. But I have been doing a slow burn for some time over the fact that people like these continue to be enablers for the scoundrels who have already destroyed our economy and political system. Why should their complacent denial be accepted as polite dinner conversation, when looking realistically at the situation or, indeed, even trying to warn people about what’s coming is considered antisocial?

Having already caused gasps around the table, and after being derided as foolish and delusional by the husbands, I decided to take them to the mat: I announced that I will back my declaration with a wager of a thousand dollars. One guy immediately backed off, while the other rose to the challenge. I told him that I would put the wager in written form for his consideration the next time we get together.

My first draft follows. If you have any thoughts or suggestions they are, of course welcome. If not, then I hope this might at least amuse you – or possibly even your readers – as an interesting thought experiment.

Collapse Wager

Wagering that collapse will occur (“Pro” Party):

Wagering that collapse will not occur (“Con” Party):

Date of Wager: ____________

Duration of Wager (“Duration”): ___________ years

Amount of Wager (“Amount”): _________ ounces of gold

This wager regards “Pro” Party's contention that “The American Way of Life” will have collapsed within Duration of Date of Wager. The Amount of this wager is in ounces of gold in bullion form. Each of the Parties to this Wager agree to hold said Amount in reserve in physical form, in private, non-commercial storage, and agree not to pledge it for any other purpose or encumber it in any other way. On or shortly before the Duration of the Wager expires, the Parties agree to come together and make a good faith effort to reach a consensus as to whether collapse has occurred. If they fail to reach a consensus, Wager is declared null and void; if they do reach a consensus, then the Party that lost the Wager will remit the Amount to the Party that won. This Wager can also be settled before Date + Duration, in favor of “Pro” Party, at “Con” Party's sole discretion. If the Parties are unable to meet on or before Date + Duration, Duration is automatically extended until such a time when the Parties are able to meet and settle the Wager. The Wager becomes null and void upon the death of either Party.

Since the word “collapse” is open to subjective interpretation, this document is intended to provide an objective framework for the Wager's resolution. In the context of this Wager, the term “collapse” means that key components of the infrastructure of American life, as enumerated and described below, will have been compromised so profoundly that our lives will have been fundamentally changed. For the purposes of this Wager, collapse will unambiguously involve all of the following elements:

1. The stock market will have suffered another collapse more severe than that of 2008.

2. Several major banks will have failed. The FDIC will be unable to compensate depositors.

3. The power grid at the regional level will have suffered numerous failures, the cascading effects of which will decimate commerce.

4. There will have been severe disruptions of the nation’s fuel supply, some of geopolitical in origin.

5. The Internet will have gone down with increasing frequency and duration, with catastrophic commercial repercussions.

6. Air travel will have become inaccessible for most people. Most shipping and transport will have reverted to more rudimentary forms of conveyance over much shorter distances.

7. Many schools, colleges and universities will have shut down. The old business model for higher education will no longer pertain for most providers or consumers and many young people will be pressed into service for vocations essential to survival.

8. Many occupations will have ceased to exist. The financial and information technology sectors will have been essentially wiped out.

9. The food supply will become almost everyone’s foremost concern. There will be widespread hunger and malnutrition. Supply lines will have collapsed to the local level and frequently-empty grocery store shelves will have given rise to widespread kitchen gardens.

10. Few will any longer regard whatever remains of the American political process with anything but bitter contempt. Regularly-scheduled elections at any level may no longer be taken for granted, and many citizens will regard some sort of non-elected leadership—perhaps even martial law—as preferable to further malfeasance by elected officials.


“Pro” Party:

“Con” Party:




Jason Heppenstall said...

Hmmm ... I have often felt the same kind of temptation.

In my opinion, though, the likely result of doing so is that a) You won't get invited to any more dinner parties and b) Should you be (un)fortunate enough to win you'll have great trouble collecting your reward.

Nick Read said...

wow, always pushing the envelope. as a long term follower of your work i have been in this position too many times. perhaps your wager is the solution....i assume you are 90% confident at the 10 year timeframe... would you have a confidence at 5 or 7 years?

i shall be following your lead and making a few bets now.

Jeff said...

If you dine with 'five percenters' don't expect them to buy into the collapse scenario; they are invested in the current system.

Is the bet for $1000 or $1000 worth of gold (currently less than one ounce)? If cash that $1000 will be worthless. If gold I suggest having a neutral third party hold the gold which should be purchased, not promised to be purchased, as it will be extremely expensive and impossible to get should this bet 'pay off'. In fact, the neutral third party will probably steal the wagered gold in the event of collapse because it will be quite valuable. So what's the point of this bet?

With a bet like this even if you win, you lose.

Matt Lindsay said...

8, 9, and 10 are going to be difficult to reach consensus on as they are kind of vague. It will be particularly difficult if #4 and #5 come true.

Also suggest a point on net immigration. Would not collapse result in a general migration out of the US?

Bilbo said...

That is good list. What if you are betting with a smug retiree? What about Social Security, our healthcare system or pensions such as public teacher pensions?

DaShui said...

If Americans become thin again, is a sure sign of collapse.

SandWyrm said...

I made a similar bet to this one back in '01 with a payoff date of 2012 (I figured it would be '08). But of course the inevitable economic hammer hasn't fully fallen yet, and may not for a few more years. Not that I have to worry overmuch about paying, since I almost never talk to those old friends anymore. Our world views became too divergent and we drifted apart after some dramas. The first cracks of which appeared after I made the bet.

So if I were you, I'd mutter something about having too much to drink and just let it lie. You're not fighting an educated, reasoned set of viewpoints here. Your friends' views are not based on an understanding of (or a desire to learn about) how the world monetary & political systems actually work. Neither do they really want to be properly informed, else they would do the research themselves. No, you're fighting a fuzzy, emotional, media-fueled attachment to things which are too intertwined into your friends' lives for them to see clearly.

And... if they did see clearly? Why they'd drop out of the 5% like a rock. That's what you're selling. You simply can't 'prosper' financially under this system unless you have the ability to accept it's delusions as your own. In a very real sense, you're dealing with a set of addictions (financial, social, and material) which are just as insidious and personally destructive as any drug habit.

Ever try to get an addict to admit they have a problem? Or that the local bartender/banker/executive isn't his best friend? They won't. Not until they hit a crisis that makes them re-evaluate their assumptions in life.

That moment of crisis is when you'll get the opportunity to explain WHY they got hit upside the head by financial and political forces they never really understood. That's when they'll be interested in learning about the system instead of watching whatever is on the happy-box. That's when you'll be someone that they need to listen to. Because your advice will actually help them understand and address their problems. As opposed to the morons on the TV that keep saying everything is great when it clearly isn't.

Otherwise, you're just that guy that starts arguments at parties. "Don't talk to him, he's a downer. Oooh! Kool-Aid!"

Because take if from me, even if you're right, you won't 'win'. Heck, they won't even remember the argument. Let alone give you credit for winning it. Even if, as has happened with me, the CIA comes out with a statement a year later and tells everyone you were right all along. "Huh? What was the argument about again?"

Jen said...

All the conditions are vague and it would be difficult to gain consensus with a philosophically-opposed betting partner. You could rewrite them on the following model:

1) The Dow Jones Industrial Average will drop below 6,600 points and remain below X for a period of Y {days|months].

2) Two major U.S. banks (ranked above X in assets or Y in market capitalization as of Date of Wager, list follows) will declare bankruptcy or be nationalized. At least one of the bank failures will be accompanied by the FDIC decision not to fully reimburse depositors up to the $250K insurance per insured bank.

3) The power grid in region A will encounter an average of B blackouts/year for C years, with an average blackout/brownout duration of D [hours|days|weeks]. Merchants in the area will indicate a loss of income approximating E in millions of dollars compared to the average sales/year as of Date of Wager, or F percentage of sales.

And so on. Simply set the numbers to your lowest definition of failure, and when they exceed your estimates by a factor of 10, your worthy opponent will have no choice but to concede defeat.

Or maybe when he sees unambiguously stated conditions and realizes how likely they would be, he will turn to preparing and you will have gained a new partner. Maybe.

Post Peak Medicine said...

"Would not collapse result in a general migration out of the US?"

No, because you're not all coming over here.

Worried, Canada.

Ventriloquist said...

My take is that this is a 50% chance payoff in 5 years, and 100% chance in 10 years, with the same ratios in the years in between (i.e. 60% at 6 years, 80% at 8 years, etc.)

In the 4 years since 2008 the cracks in the edifice have slowly but steadily widened. By the time 2022 arrives, the cracks will have widened to the point that only rubble remains.

Jerry McManus said...

How unfortunate to frame something so complex in this way, I would expect that anyone making the "pro" collapse bet will lose.

Not because I don't think we are in for a world of hurt, I most certainly do, but because I think it is fundamentally un-quantifiable.

Complex adaptive systems are notoriously slippery beasts, and any expectation that they will follow such a well defined script is likely to be sorely disappointed.

Is it not reasonable to say that the former Soviet Union "collapsed"? Last time I looked they still have airlines and electric grids.

Sure, I know, we're talking about a near future world with precious little energy and resources to spare for niceties like food and fresh water. Not to mention those nasty 100 year droughts and floods that seem to return every other year now.

Well, are there not at least two or three billion people who currently live in a world that already meets that description?

Yes, their lives are miserable, but they still manage to organize governments and economies, or some close approximation thereof, just as humans have done long before our fossil sunlight fiesta.

Gail Zawacki said...

"Would not collapse result in a general migration out of the US?"

No, because everything everywhere will collapse at pretty much the same time. For collapsniks, you seem to be incredibly unaware that economic collapse is the least of the carnage that is on track for humanity.

Overpopulation, overconsumption, pollution and extreme, dangerous droughts and floods from climate change are going to decimate our planet and our species in short order - it has already started. Life in the sea is fast disappearing, and so are forests. The great extinction has begun.

Luciddreams said...

"The great extinction has begun"

Now there is a chilling thought.

Whether it's true or not nobody is going to be willing to talk about it. It's just too depressing for conversation. I've had it many times with people who were willing and it always ends up with heads hung, nothing left to say, and a beer being cracked open.

Some things are just to depressing to think about, and I think the extinction of life on Earth is one of them.

Gail Zawacki said...

Extinction depressing? I call it soul-crushing. But the thing is, the SPEED at which it occurs, as the scope, is something we could influence, if we wanted to. We COULD, for instance, start conserving like crazy, and rationing the non-renewables, like oil. We COULD cultivate an ethic that values sacrifice and restraint, and encourages childlessness.

Almost certainly though, we won't.

Anonymous said...

i think the initial point of how very unpopular it is to mention any sort of sustained economic contraction based on fossil fuel depletion or environmental degradation or mineral/water/soil limitations or, heck, all three, is what really catches my attention. it is very much like a Bible belt inhabitant (like myself) saying they are not Christian - shunning would be the best possible outcome, harassment the most likely, and physical attack not outside the realm of possibility, at all. which leads me to think that when we talk about collapse to other people, the resistance we face may come from the realm of belief, not rationality, not denial, not tunnel vision, perhaps not even addiction, though that is a very interesting idea, SandWyrm, but belief. history has demonstrated that belief will fly in the face of facts, necessities, pressing reality and even death. thus, in the face of unreasonable optimism, instead of flat out denying that there is any rational hope that the future will be ever bigger and better, i plant seeds of doubt - mention flat oil production in the face of rising prices, mention that the price of nat gas does not support the cost of fracking, that sort of pesty thing. i also advocate good future skills, like learning to garden, staying fit, hobbies like smithing, so on, on the basis of their non-future-survival related merits. but mostly, i just keep my mouth shut, something the Christians taught me to do...

Susan Norris said...

Maybe add these:
1. Fish/seafood will no longer be available in the open ocean since the food web will have collapsed.
2. Martial law will be declared openly in the U.S.
3. Civil unrest will be widespread as evidenced by martial law being declared.
4. Hyperinflation. Money will be worthless, having been debased several more times.

Picador said...

What Jerry McManus said above. You seem awfully confident about a very specific set of things happening in a pretty short time frame. I think you're being overly pessimistic -- not because I think these things won't happen, but I think they will play out over a significantly longer period. As long as someone out there (e.g. China) wants what the US has, they will do what it takes to prop them up in exchange for an increasing share of the country's resources (land, minerals, food, etc). Life as a five-percenter will become impossible in the US long before the entire power grid collapses.

Jerry McManus said...

Gail has been in an extremely pessimistic mood lately, as followers of her Wit's End blog already know.

On behalf of other "collapsniks" who are indeed quite well aware that our predicament is far, far worse than a few economic troubles, I would offer this: think of it like the climate.

We can say with complete certainty that humans are changing the climate. We know beyond a doubt that this is making weather worse, and will continue to do so, probably with much worse to come.

What we cannot predict is what, when, or where specific floods, droughts, storms and other disasters will be caused by this change in climate.

Now, we can also say with complete certainty that humans are degrading the Earth. We know beyond a doubt that overpopulation, overconsumption, and pollution are making things worse, with probably much worse to come.

What we cannot predict is what, when, or where specific wars, famine, pestilence or death will occur due to these depredations on the Earth.

Anyone who thinks they know with certainty how events are going to play out in the decades to come needs to step back and get some perspective, that's all.

izzit said...

Yup, no more free lunch invites for you!It's the American Way - the idea that if you are optimistic you will surely be rewarded, and that if you have suffered misfortune you obviously brought it on yourself with your negative attitude. (Look at all the "scientific conclusions" that fail to consider that poor health, desperate economic straits, and insufficient education may cause depression, rather than the other way around.)
So in your fellow-diner's minds, your cynical Russian attitude likely brought down the USSR and will surely infect this country... Europe's superior recall of events like the Hundred Year's War, Stalin's purges, the Black Plague, etc. should have no effect on our American opportunity. [This despite the fact that our previous opportunities arose from a "clean slate", a "fresh start", relative lack of a class system, and less red tape - unlike now, when credit history/state registries/terror watch lists must be consulted before mundane transactions like washing dishes can take place - but I digress.]
Wealthy Americans not only think that infinite growth is possible, they also think that nothing restricts anybody now, and assume that despite their social connections, their elite education, their superior healthcare, and their neverending credit, they are just an "average Joe" with no more advantages than the most unfortunate American, let alone citizens of a truly desperate country. Some of them even think they are poor! I think it is unlikely that such an unequivocal collapse will come to pass, but it is a moot bet, since even then the 1% would be like frogs in boiling water.
As a side note - Is anyone else finding the Blogspot "prove you're not a robot" nigh impossible as a human being?

Stanislav Datskovskiy said...

There is a Russian phrase, which if I'm not mistaken, originates from the Gulag: "Ты умри, а я еще поживу." "You go die; I'll live a bit more." The likely context is a slightly-stronger and better-connected prisoner snatching a bowl of swill away from a less-fortunate wretch. I believe that Mr. Orlov once related it in his books, translating it as: "You go die today, so that I can die tomorrow."

Rational discussion of collapse would make more headway among the uninitiated if the above phrase didn't pop up between the lines quite as often as it does. Everyone who says "I'm prepared; I'm off-grid; I'm part of a close-knit, low-tech collective of future survivors; bring on the collapse!" is saying, to those of us less-fortunate: "...я еще поживу." "I'll live a bit." But the unspoken "ты умри" is clearly audible to those of us whose lives are quite impossible (or perhaps merely meaningless) without an intact power grid, an intact economy, centers of learning, law and order, and so forth.

No one wants to hear: "There isn't room for you on the lifeboat. Kindly hop overboard and sink, so that others, more deserving, can reach the shore." Hence I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Orlov's approach, that of ministering to the uninitiated. Talk of collapse is best confined to the like-minded few, and attempts to spread the message among the doomed are likely to be met with a heavy oar across the face once the talk of lifeboats turns from the metaphorical to the literal. Especially given the amount of "let's shut it down now!" rhetoric I've been hearing among those who think of themselves as survivors. All the canned food, "food forests," etc. in the world are of no use if an angry lynch mob is at your doorstep, one that suspects (worse: knows) that you have played a part, however small, in bringing about their misfortune. And have a hoard of nice things, to boot. Avoiding being brought up in front of a firing squad for being a "wrecker" is pretty high on my priorities list. How about yours?

rpauli said...

Great notion.

But the economic collapse is moot, since the 1% have buy out clout ... and any government collapse already happened a decade ago (corrupt corp buy-out and supreme court coup d'etat ).

The only collapse that will affect everyone is the climate collapse - drought, fires, famine, sea level rise etc. In that most all humans are substantially equal.

All other collapses - like economic - will be fully buffered by wealth - that may extend to the 2% to 20% folks... only those left over will feel it.

The only universal is the environmental. Soon those caves in Tierra del Fuego will be selling at a premium.

Only questions are:

How soon? 2030 maybe. [if methane speeds things up a bit - a few years ]

How bad? Very. [ CO2 lag momentum assures continued pain long after we decide to stop it - so it could be far worse than we would want.]

Social collapse may be like Jared Diamond describes - only taking place during an environmental holocaust.

A better question would be "When is the last rational action that is effective to future survival?" It may be in the past.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful article, as always. I like the commenters too and the commenter I agree the most is Gail´s, just because he is so realistic, not pessimistic (like some other commenter refers to him).
It is true. The least of our worries is the ECONOMIC COLLAPSE which already occurred, with the collapase of the society and the decadence of it, slowly but surely. And it will deepen more, which will bring the world to lack of medicine, diseases (there is already lack of production of DMII -diabetes mellitusII- and some cardiology medicine). And I am not a pessimistic person, just a realist who loves life and bicycles like a nut, everyday. Good luck to you all. Be commenting more often. Thank you this awesome blog, English is my second language, so have some mercy on me. Gracias :)

Cynthia Q said...

I second javogh's comment, which chalks denial of reality up to "belief".

Capitalism, in particular, is held up as a secular religion in the West and—as is said of American conservatism—"cannot fail but can only BE failed" by insufficient obesience to its cruel and intransigent doctrines, even forgetting the fact that its abstract mathematical rules IMPEL an acceleration of collapse, and render impossible alternative responses to resource constraints other than maximum extraction.

I can't find the link now, but unsurprisingly Romney was touting maximum extraction at the RNC, it seems.

As I wrote in a long-ago comment that didn't make it through, "Political systems like communism, socialism, and so forth are evil to the degree that they are subject to certain defects in human nature, but the evils of capitalism are physically, materially, *mathematically* inherent to the system itself." This renders it unique, I believe, and paradoxically uniquely difficult to extirpate, because it "makes sense" to a wide range of people holding vastly different tribal, social, and religious positions and views, and of different economic castes.

There's a "blinded by science" aspect to it that seems to shut down rational debate.

simon.dc3 said...

I agree with what Jen said on the 28th. The itemized elements are vague.

Further, the contract says "will unambiguously involve ALL of the following elements."

I agree it is likely to be the case when people look back 40-50yrs from now, but within a decade?

Seems you're setting yourself up to lose badly, and then ridicule.

Consider fully describing what "American Way of Life" is and making all on the wager agree to that description. Then listing a percentage of those items making up the Way of Life that will fail in order to consider it a 'won' wager.

Even then, consider being extra gracious and gregarious and even giving up your dinner instead of collecting on the wager.
For if collapse happens and you won that bet, you and your kin are likely to be persona non-grata to anyone affected by the collapse (which will be most of us).

One thing is to be persona non-grata when everything's fine-and-dandy and all the zombies are busy in the consumerist matrix, quite another when the matrix fails, zombies start looking for scapegoats, and you need all the kindness from strangers you can get.

If you study a bit the Middle Ages, have you considered the much of that communal homicidal tendencies of those times could be attributed to the cyclical collapses those communities went through and people looking for scapegoats for tension release, entertainment, etc?

Better yet, set about explaining and describing what the American Way of Life is, what it has become, and what it should be. I bet that would tone down the tension a lot better than such a wager and make the breaking of bread together a whole lot more pleasant without setting yourself as a target when communal discontent occurs.

Jayhawk said...

You will lose your bet. Not that the collapse will not come. It will. But a) it will involve many things on the list but not all of them and b) it will be more than one decade but less than two.

Patrick said...

To address an observation made in the essay, that others here have not commented on: Imminent economic/social collapse is, indeed, "impolite" — in the same way that to openly question even the most absurd religious statements is. People get away with the wildest proclamations, but the rest of us are supposed to just listen and "respect" another's "faith," no matter how delusional. It's just not polite. It's not NICE. Would we be expected to just nod and smile if someone said the earth actually rested on the back of a giant turtle? Or if they said they heard voices in their head, and the voices said to invade a country and murder its inhabitants? Or that a woman's ovaries can tell the difference between sperm from a rapist and sperm from a lover?

aJoe said...

I just vacationed with inlaws and experienced confrontation number 3 with a brother in law who 'will come to my house and take whatever he needs' if there is a collapse.

I think you are right about this being a 'belief' as each time this inlaw has said this he gets rather emotional.

Belief itself I describe as an emotion which is used to support that which is not true. I try to remind this idiot in-law he is a Christian but he says when reduced to starvation that won't matter. Great! Then get insurance now, stock up! Help your kids and grand kids!

Oh no! I don't believe it will happen in the next 50 years!

His belief in that is what he uses to not get insurance as this pot ramps up towards boiling, and damn if anyone will stand between him and survival for his family. Except his own stupidity.

He ended with saying I wouldn't be able to pull the trigger because I know him to which I replied, I hope you don't mind if I practice with your face on my target do you?

One whole hearted slap on the back and we dropped the subject and had a nice vacation.

If someone don't come to you about their preps (which of course is stupid) then don't open up to them. They may just say oh yeah, I have this, I have that, and what'd you say you have again?

These people are not autonomous and their dependency on this hand-delivered handout society will have to be their down fall.

Bakhirun said...

For a number of years I taught a course called "Intercultural Communication", the practical objective of which was go help nice, good-looking but overly innocent Indonesian kids to be able to function in a highly-competitive, exacting and ruthless multinational corporate work environment. One of the principles distilled by Dutch researchers to define and contrast cultures is "uncertainty avoidance / uncertainty tolerance". Traditional cultures (such as most Asian ones) stress predictability in behaviour, including linguistic aspects. Surprises and unorthodox expression is unwelcome. One of the reasons Japanese don't like foreigners is that "...I don't know how he's going to respond..." or "...he might suddenly speak to me in a foreign language, and I won't know how to respond..." which may sound silly but they take it very seriously.

The ultimate uncertainty would be a situation completely external to one's own experience and world view. Encounters with UFOs and abduction comes to mind here (Dr. John Mack's research deals with this).

I would posit that the enormity and finality of collapse is simply too much of a conceptual overload for most people to get their minds around, no matter how "rational" it is. Just as bringing up the topic of UFOs in a conversation will elicit responses like "witches on broomsticks", the concept of irrevocable and sudden decline is too much for most people to take in.

These discussions remind me a lot of the well-founded paranoia we had in the early 1960s, when I for one was convinced there would be a massive thermonuclear exchange between the USA/USSR. During the Cuban Missile Crisis I had a pickup truck full of gas and groceries, ready to head for the Mexican border (knowing full well a less-than-friendly reception might await me). Most people were frightened but did not comprehend what nuclear war would lead to. I'd read Herman Kahn, ha ha.

Justin Kase said...

Collapse is already underway and few yet perceive it. It is unlikely (though not certian) to reverse direction significantly until world population is reduced to 10% of today's level. Having said that, i would not make the proposed bet. Most of the things on your list will happen, and within the ten years, but probably not all. The internet, is likely more resilient than most credit.
Suggestions: I would let my opponent define some conditions, and then keep those we both agree on. Then we would call 80% of conditions fullfilled a win for the collapse side. If you cannot agree on enough conditions with someone, probably better to not bet.

DougDavis said...

Y'all are bringing me down. What a bunch of buzzkills.

Collapse is going to happen. Nobody knows when it will come, or what it will be like.

Just try to get along with people as much as you can, and realize that most don't want to live without dreams/fantasy of at least a little future prosperity.

I hope for something good in the future, realizing that what I want right now might get scaled back considerably depending on how bad things might become in a global collapse. They may only be dreams, but if you don't have any, your life probably bites anyway. Personally, I could be happy with a dry place to sleep and a little bit of squirrel every now and then (it's what's for dinner).

Think back on what was happening in eastern Europe 70 years ago (or China 55 years ago, or Cambodia 35 years ago,.....) and realize if you grew up and live in the US, odds are that you've had it good. Enjoy it, and try to find peace of mind by focusing on what is good.

john said...

5 years, 10 years, 20 years? Yes probably somewhere in that time frame.
The hopeful point to ancient civilizations and say Rome took 200 years to fully disintegrate. Yes, at the pace of an ox cart 200 years sounds right. At the pace of a high frequency trading algorithim, things will go much much faster.
Look to Japan for clues on how long an economy can pump up debt and hang on, decades. However, in our hockey-sticking, exponentially expanding crisis things appear to be well on their way. Enjoy your dinner parties, but tuck something into your napkin to stash.

Joy said...

The plot has been lost, the list above has nothing to do with American values, only the consumer economy. Mark Twain and Walt Whitman never had internet or air travel, but they were more authentically American than any of today's Walmart shoppers. If consumerism, fast internet, and good paying jobs are the definition of Americanism, then Singapore is far more American than America.

The original poster's list shows a complete lack of appreciation for what I consider to have been the "American Way of Life". Certainly that is a moving target, which once included chattel slavery and the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans. The good part of America was originally an idea of Liberty, at first confined to white male property owners, but gradually greatly expanded (and unfortunately diluted in the process).

The 20th century American Way of Life included some bad things, such as imperial wars by presidential decree, federal and state income tax, fiat money, and national police agencies, which were definitely not part of the original constitutional concept. Yet some core liberties endured for the most part through the end of the century. Although constantly being eroded by such police state tactics as asset forfeiture prior to trial, the Bill of Rights was still at least nominally respected.

Now all of the rights have been swept away. Freedom of speech and assembly are gone. The press/media are wholly owned by a corporate oligarchy, and have submitted to censorship. Dissident people (so far only a few) have been indefinitely detained in prisons, psychiatric institutions, and military bases. Torture is an official policy, as is targeted executions by executive decree. Law abiding gun owners had their guns confiscated in 2005 in New Orleans, including little old ladies in neighborhoods not affected by the flooding. People submit to random searches without probable cause or warrant. The rights of habeas corpus and the posse comitatus act have been swept away. Black box voting with results tallied by corporate contractors has eliminated any possibility of restoring the old rights through the act of voting.

In my opinion the American Way of Life completely collapsed in 2001. What remains is a tyranny. By the way, Myanmar and North Korea still have electric grids and airports.

Unknown said...

The collapse will be much more spread out over time and space; it will not be apocalyptic. There are plenty of people living in "collapse" conditions (even in your own country), yet we're still waiting for the big C. The world is connected. Those connections will only be severed slowly. When one resource fails, some other, slower, more expensive will still be able to be found. The whole processs will take centuries, and by that thime, some regions will have stabilized long before.

One wildcard: environmental catastrophe, in particular something like a sudden (i.e. within a decade, not in movie format) release of methane.

Jim R said...

It's sort of like predicting that a glacier will destroy your town (in a hypothetical time of advancing glaciers). It's almost impossible to forecast the date on which it will calve that berg which squashes your house, but you know it will happen. To continue with this weak metaphor, we can clearly see the glacier looming, and it will happen in most of our lifetimes.

Oh, and the word is "imminent" ...
The phantom etymologist

Gail Zawacki said...

"One wildcard: environmental catastrophe"

More than one are imminent: ice melt making weather extreme and ruining agriculture; acidification of ocean destroying the food chain in the sea; the parallel (though almost universally ignored even though it's perfectly obvious through a cursory examination) death of forests from air pollution. The latter two will cause almost total loss of carbon sinks (and production of oxygen) creating an unprecedented increase in average heating.

It won't be centuries before famine strikes every single location on earth. More likely a few years. Those who think so will be able to say (for a very limited period of time) "zawacki"...a verb that means "I told you so". http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2010/10/zawacki-is-verb-that-means-i-told-you.html

balaenoptera said...

I myself am sincerely hoping for less than five years.

from the bleachers:
-...a horta é onde está o coração...-

Anonymous said...

I've made bets similar to this (though not as specific). It has never been my intent to "profit" from the wager.

The point of the wager is to get people thinking about collapse, not to win some gold off of somebody.

It doesn't actually matter if every prediction turns out to be true so long as the people I'm with consider the possibility of collapse.

ABR said...

Of course if collapse really occurs then there will be no way to collect as there will be no government to enforce contracts.

If collapse occurred it would probably mean all of America becoming like Detroit is now.

I think that it's more likely that America will become like Russia is now - a state dependent on natural resource extraction but with not much else.

The big question is whether the American empire will collapse like the Soviet Empire (peacefully) or like the Japanese Empire (in war).

Anonymous said...

Why wager on a collapse? It will either happen or not, but it is not a matter of betting for or against, but preparing for.

If one absolutely must bet on it, it is better to limit the number of items on the list, especially if it is stated that ALL of them have to take place. The more items on the list, the deeper the pit from which you have to climb up to win.

It could easily happen that e.g. fracked natural gas - whether financially sustainable or not - postpones the collapse for 10-15 years or so.

Adrian Skilling said...

Just to clear up one thing. This is a guest post. It isn't by Dmitry as many have implied. He says "he isn't a betting man".

I've felt similarly tempted but now think its largely pointless. You'll get no satisfaction when you 'win' and probably still get criticized for not warning the other party!

My personal experience of convincing people of collapse (mostly my wife) is that they reject it outright until 1-2 years later and then echo your concerns back to you as their own! Only slow convincing and self realization works - buts its TOO SLOW!

My parents are far from getting it and still think that stock markets will recover. But given their age they'll be fine.

I won't have to convince my 3 and 6 year old children. Its deeply saddening that they grow up with an ongoing collapse I think.

David said...

Make the criteria simple: When world population growth reverses (possibly quite sharply).

The most likely causes are war, starvation and disease - all are showing rising liklihoods. All that is needed for the end of the world is for the summer grasses not to grow - look at the increasing droughts. We can also be burned out of huge areas by forest fires - its happening now. And religio/nationalism rises with overcrowding and resource depletion - Chinese mobs calling for nuclear war with Japan over some uninhabited rocks, Islamists murdering over a cartoon or video.

But don't mention any of this at your dinner parties - it is considered to be rude, makes everyone uncomfortable and won't get you invited back.