Collapse Early and Often

In today’s National Post Full Comment Rocco Rossi writes on “The Human Cost of the Eurozone Crisis”. His story of Enrique, who lost his job (when the factory closed), then his family, and now walks endlessly looking for odd jobs puts a human face on the real cost of our collective policies to bankrupt the middle classes and transfer wealth to the banks (so that the banks, in turn, avoid failure, as their pool of toxic assets and overcommitments lead to one collapse after another).

I am mindful, at times like this, of the advice given by people who do think this game will end in the banks collapsing anyway — the Charles Hugh Smiths, John Michael Greers, Karl Denningers, James Howard Kunstlers and others — that we should best prepare for this disaster by consciously and deliberately going into collapse personally first.

What does this mean? It means shifting downward ahead of the need. It means wiping out your debt, either by converting holdings to cash to pay it off, or simply handing the “system” a bankruptcy petition. It means acquiring a community to live in, and skills you can bring to it. It means radically reducing your needs from the money economy, whether done from dietary changes, or simply shifting to exchanges of value outside of it. It means taking charge of your own health, to get away from the prescription treadmill.

It means preparing, in other words, for days when these will be disrupted.

This is not survivalism. It is not about finding a cabin in the mountains far away from others, stockpiling years’ worth of supplies, and becoming a good shot. It is about anticipating that an economy built on the financial system’s instruments will be disrupted if those institutions fail — and “fail”, in this case, simply means “I don’t trust that you’ll honour your paper, so I’ll refuse it now”.

That’s how Lehman Brothers went under in 2008 (and nearly took the rest of the US banking system with it, just as RBS and Northern Rock shook the British system). Yes, there’s been no end of looting done by the “banksters” before that moment, and since. Yes, there’s been behaviour that ought to have seen charges, arrests and trials.

But you do remember, I’m sure, the story of catching the tiger by the tail. One cannot let go once the tail is in hand, for the tiger will hurt you. That’s where we are now: unable to let go of the system as it exists, for the moment we do it hurts us by falling apart — and every day that passes raises the chances a little higher that it will fall apart anyway (since none of the causes of the problem are being tackled — to do so requires “letting go”).

The smart answer, as a society, would be to let go in a spectacular way: to have a “debt jubilee” for individuals (wiping out their debts by putting cash into each and every person’s hands — yes, it will be printed and inflationary, but it puts capital into the hands of the debt-free and near-debt free (most financial instruments will become worthless or nearly so with the banking system and retires the debts of those deeply in the hole. All of a sudden all homes are owned free and clear (prices can then reset).

Then let go of the banks, and let them collapse, taking the toxic sludge of hundred-folded collateralised debt obligations, lines of credit, bets on nations declaring bankruptcy for which no one has the money to pay out if they’re called, etc. with them. As Iceland did, new banks can then be chartered to handle the utility functions involved.

Were it me in charge, I’d take similar steps to deburden the public accounts, as well — and end with a currency revaluation, to knock off the extra zeroes printing all that money would do.

Well, that’s just not going to happen. So collapse the hard way will instead.

That is why those who think about this talk about getting there ahead of everyone else. How a Robert Paterson moved himself across the country to Prince Edward Island, grabbed control of his health, and now is involved in community-building is a prime example of this. Greer has talked about the role of fraternal service organisations (Knights of Columbus, Loyal Order of Moose, etc.) in the past, and possibly again in the future, providing for common medical care, funeral services, etc. for members’ families — which requires that these been revitalised back to the higher level of participation we had before long commutes in private automobiles to distant suburbs to watch television tore community life apart.

As the money world collapses, it will take the commercial world with it — and shortly afterward most of the upper levels of government. Unions, bureaucrats, corporations: all will suffer, most will die out. The world will become much more local.

These are step functions: things will struggle on in diminished form, then hit another tipping point. Hence the second half to “collapse early”: “collapse often”. Being prepared to re-evaluate if you need to take further steps is a good one.

Lest you walk away thinking this is a gloomy picture, I don’t see it that way. It’s an opportunity to take back our lives from hulking behemoths, restore pride of place, start building communities for the future — and kick our “cheap junk” habit. That it is also likely to be a path to sustainable living is a bonus.

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