Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
I think the theory of catabolic collapse has another perspective to add. Lifted from an interview by Alexander Ac, et. al. with John Michael Greer (emphasis mine):
JMG: Basically, the real short form of catabolic collapse is that society always depends on certain resources from nature, and it uses those resources to produce capital, by which I do not mean money, but built capital, buildings, educated people, all the different things that the society creates to do its work for it. When the resource basis runs short, basically the only source of resource that you still got is that built capital. So the society, when it pushes over into this state of collapse begins catabolising, begins feeding on its own capital. It begins tearing down buildings to get the raw material inside them, it disposes of its labor force, it cuts it down. In America, for example, our education system has gone down. That is basically stripping a piece of social capital, for temporary benefit. And that is how a society turns from a successful civilization with a lot of complex things, to 200 years later, when it is a bunch of ruins with trees growing out of it.

AA: Is the process self-inforcing?

JMG: Very much so. Once it gets under way, the only way you can break it is if you can reach a level, where the resource base, the resources that are coming in the society, are adequate to sustain the society at that level. Ancient China used to go through this all the time. They built up a mass of resources, they overran their resource base and they collapsed back down. But because the Chinese economy ran on a very stable system of agriculture, there was a floor, below which it would not collapse. Once the costs of maintaining the society dropped down to the level that could be supported by each year's rice harvest, you were fine. We do not have that good fortune, because we do not depend on rice, we depend on crude oil and we are using it up, so we could go all the way down to zero.

Expanding on what you wrote, this could all be a war for wealth between different factions on the way down. As we enter decline, the question is what capital gets 'eaten' first, who has to become more 'austere' first, who suffers the sharp stick of decline first?

Another strand of thought is that in a world of limited resources, there will be an inevitable movement towards equilibrium via redistribution of wealth (because of or despite crass asymmetries of wealth). Compare the rates of growth or economic momentum of the emerging countries with those of the OECD. One could argue that the Western middle class doesn't like 'sharing' with the rest of the world just as much as the higher echelons of finance&capital don't like sharing with the middle/under class. There used to be a (pretended?) yearning/sense of global social justice before economic confidence got shattered in the last two or three decades. Back then it was probably easier to pretend.

Another strand: The asymmetries will grow more pronounced - not necessarily a contradiction - inter- and intra-society. I remember reading someone from Africa writing something like "You can't believe the level of injustice and corruption that can become normal." (the new normal?) "For some people there is always money for SUVs and boob jobs."

The large majority will not and cannot think about calamity. With good reason, since the conclusions cannot be good. A hope that decline will somehow lead to more justice is a false romantic one. This is what John Greer calls the Terrible Ambivalence. We will grow and should grow but we can't grow. Hence, "There is no brighter future ahead." Business As Usual or Back To The Land will not provide it.

In light of that, the steps that should be taken to make the economy more resilient - predicament or not - probably won't be taken. Which increases the likelihood of calamity. After all, this could all be wrong-placed hysteria and current problems of overshoot could more or less resolve themselves. Not always in a nice way but in the long-term adequately. Who are we to complain? For we live better lives than all our ancestors. History is tragic and sometimes it demands its pound of flesh before it goes on.

It's not a nice picture.

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Wed Mar 2nd, 2011 at 06:46:05 PM EST
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