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Grim Future For A Bankrupt America

By James Donahue

We noticed with interest a projection by James Howard Kunstler of a possible future image of the American scene after the financial collapse of everything.

Writing amid what he called the “consumer baboonery” of Black Friday, Kunstler outlined the current state of the American economy as follows: “Accounting fraud is still the order-of-the-day in everything from Fannie and Freddie to your neighborhood HMO. Government at all levels is dead broke. Did I leave out endless war at endless cost of money we don’t have? There is a lot to feel uncomfortable about. But the question remains: what will be there when we break on through to the other side.”

Kunstler believes the nation “will be dragged kicking and screaming through” a painful workout of all of the exposures, imbalances and obligations now paralyzing it and then emerge as “a society with much less money and perhaps with a lot of things in disarray.” If, by then, we have not blown up the planet, he said we will be faced with a job of reconstructing our failed society. And what we end up with will not look much like what we have now.

“Basically,” he writes, “we’re looking at a re-set to a lower-scale type of economy and smaller, more local, autonomous units of governance. We have to move from unmanageable levels and layers of complexity to more direct, local modes of activity.

“We would necessarily have to let go of a lot of things that have provided comfort, convenience and incessant diversions from reality. I’m not altogether confident, for instance, that we can even keep local telephone systems operating – let along cellular networks.”

Kunstler suggests that trade will be reduced to gold or silver coinage, written notes by those possessing such money, or just plain bartering. The use of plastic credit cards and Internet banking will be a thing of the past.

“I see agriculture coming back to the center of economic life,” he wrote. He said the big industrial farms will be gone, and in its place will be the need for small family-sized farming operations that go back to doing things the hard way.

Fortunately, Kunstler writes that there are still people around who remember how to farm that way. There is still knowledge to be shared in how to breed working animals, train mules and oxen, and grow edible food without consuming volumes of oil, gasoline and chemicals.

“We have no idea how we’re going to make useful products when the conveyer belt from China to WalMart grinds to a halt, as it surely will.” Indeed, it will take some time for innovation to be rekindled in a nation where workers have been idled for a very long time, and where it will take money and resources to get such industry operating again, if even just on a local level.

We perceive that people will be treasuring old still unable products and perhaps even digging through landfills in search of other discarded things that may still be of value. Our old throw-away system of operating, so we can run to the store and buy new things, will be a thing of the past.

If we have electricity it will be because someone knows how to build a local generator and use local energy sources like water, solar and wind to make it go. The dispersion of such power will be very limited.

Automobiles and aircraft will no longer be common because fuel oil will be in short supply and costly to obtain.. Kunstler suggests that railroads may be the primary mode of long distance transportation. Unfortunately, most of the track that once led to nearly every small city and village in the land has long been torn up. Much of the right-of-way has either been sold or turned into public bicycle and snowmobile trails. Unlike countries in Asia and Europe, Americans never invested in high speed rail. We didn’t think it was important.

Finally, Kunstler warns that from his vantage point, “there’s no guarantee that the USA will hold together as a continent-sized federal republic, and if history is any guide the fact is that political boundaries constantly shift over time. If anything, the federal government can only become more broke, more ineffective and finally irrelevant.

“I’m convinced that a sore beset public, broke, hungry, idle and hopeless will beg somebody to push them around, or at least tell them what to do. Our new ‘leaders’ will range in style and disposition.’ And once this happens, Kunstler asks, “Who knows what residue of Anglo-American law will persist.”

In case you are wondering, Kunstler’s article appeared on his own website Clusterfuck Nation. This man writes well and has something to say.