Monday, January 25, 2021

The Failure of Government Birth Incentives ⸻ A Tweet Essay by Glenn Campbell

Below is an unformatted transcript of my Tweet Essay on "Failure of Incentives", based on this Original Tweet Thread (#de_incentives). Also see my Master Index of Tweet Essays.

Go to the original thread to use links.


⦕  Failure of Incentives ⦖ #de_incentives

๐Ÿ‘‰My claim: Economic incentives will have little effect on low birth rates. You can't bribe people into having more babies.

๐Ÿ‘ถ๐Ÿ“‰ + ๐Ÿ’ฐ = ๐Ÿ‘ถ๐Ÿ“‰ 

Explored in a #dd_TweetEssay ๐Ÿงต⇩

๐Ÿ•บ๐Ÿป #dd_incentives #dd_BabyBust #dd_d #dd_e

➤ This ๐Ÿงต was prompted by an article in an official ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ#dd_cn news source. A professor laments the Chinese demographic crisis and offers the usual platitudes. http://epaper.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202101/20/WS6007778ba31099a234353615.html

His suggestion: Maybe the birth crisis can be "solved" with tax breaks for parents.

Um, no. ๐Ÿคฆ

➤ Government #dd_incentives for baby-making can take the form of—

① Tax breaks

② Direct cash payments ("baby bonus")

③ Subsidized daycare and other family-friendly services.

Nearly all such "solutions" require tons of ๐Ÿ’ฐ that most governments don't have.

➤ Incentives don't work because people aren't dumb. Given the huge costs, risks and lost freedom of raising a child, anything the government can offer is a pittance.

What might work: Paying mothers a full salary for childrearing. But no government can afford that.

➤ Anyone who WAS swayed by a financial incentive might not be an appropriate parent.

e.g. ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ#dd_RU offers a $8K bonus for a 2nd child. What is to prevent parents doing it for the money and neglecting the child thereafter?

➤ Evidence that incentives work is dubious, because there is no control group. There is only cherrypicking coincidences.

e.g. Incentive offered in 2013; birth rates rose in 2014

There's no proof one caused the other.

If rates fell in 2014, the government would have kept quiet.

➤ Couples who were ALREADY planning to have a second ๐Ÿ‘ถ are happy to take the government's money, but there is little evidence that the incentive actually changed anyone's mind.

➤ Here is my 3-minute video on the subject from 2017: https://youtu.be/TWCP0qGVgKY

"Do government incentives improve birth rates?"

Filmed at Wayside Inn, Sudbury #dd_usMA

๐Ÿ•บ๐Ÿป #ddv_incentives #dd_incentives #dd_video

➤ My January 2020 podcast episode on Government Birth Incentives (Episode 26, 25 min) youtu.be/SxDolYxrox8

๐Ÿ•บ๐Ÿป #ddpc26 #dd_incentives #dd_d #dd_video #dd_audio #dd_BabyBust ๐ŸŒŽ #BabyBonus #BirthIncentives #BirthIncentive #ChildTaxCredit

https://twitter.com/DemographicDoom/status/1222241006902341632?s=20

➤ My 8-minute video from January 2017: "Can better government services improve birth rates?" https://youtu.be/ZDN-HgGT5YU

Talking about child care, etc.

Man dancing #ddv_childcare #dd_incentives #dd_childcare #dd_f

➤ ๐Ÿ”Ž All my past Twitter mention of "Incentives"

Many articles on various government efforts to encourage births. Quite a collection! (Includes some unrelated #dd_perverse incentives.)

Standard hashtag: #dd_incentives ๐Ÿ‘ด#ddoom_incentives 



{Formatting complete: 
{This blog post referenced in Tweet essay: 1/25/21}
{This blog post backed up to email: 1/25/21}
{This blog post visual backup to Twitter: 1/25/21}

Video Index for Demographic Doom

Below is an ongoing index of all my (non-podcast) YouTube videos in the Demographic Doom project, latest first. A #Hashtag indicates a hashtag on Twitter. A j.mp references means there's a short link for this video.

2019


Sunday, January 24, 2021

Can other people use my "#dd_" hashtags?

Can other people use my special "#dd_" hashtags? I have no strong feelings about this right now, but I have created a this blog entry in case I do have any strong feelings later.

No one can "own" a hashtag on Twitter, so I can't tell anyone to not use the hashtags I invented. It sounds like a good idea in principle: other people can add their own references to the database so that is remains alive even without me. I would only ask that you use my hashtags according to the rules I have demonstrated. (You'll have to devine most of the rules because I can never put them all into words.)

What is to prevent a Troll๐Ÿ‘บ from trying to corrupt my system with spurrious hashtags? Nothing really, but this troll would have boundless energy and care an awful lot about what I am doing. If nothing else, I can overwhelm him with sheer volume.

If all else fails, a user can restrict their hashtag search to just my Twitter accounts. To search only for the hashtags I've used, insert this string in the Twitter search box along with your desired hashtag (#dd_sample below).

(from:demographicdoom OR from:baddalailama OR from:bdlnotes) #dd_sample

Glenn Campbell
24 January 2021 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Urban Planning: Is It Dead? ๐Ÿ’€ ⸻ A Tweet Essay by Glenn Campbell

Below is a formatted transcript of my Tweet Essay on Asset Valuation, based on this Original Tweet Thread (#de_urban). Also see my Master Index of Tweet Essays.


⦕ ๐“ค๐“ป๐“ซ๐“ช๐“ท ๐“Ÿ๐“ต๐“ช๐“ท๐“ท๐“ฒ๐“ท๐“ฐ ⦖ — Is it dead? #de_urban

Prompted by @JuliaGalef, I listened to Ep4 of ๐ŸŽ™"Order Without Design" #OWD_04 by @DevonZuegel, interviewing an #dd_Urban Planning super-couple, Marie-Agnes & #AlainBertaud

๐Ÿ”Š#4: Episode 4 Podcast and Transcript

My ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿ’ญ in ๐Ÿงต⇩

➤  ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฌ Cairo traffic is ๐–Ž๐–“๐–˜๐–†๐–“๐–Š!๐Ÿ˜ฑ #dd_eg

Cairo has 2 million cars and ๐™ฃ๐™ค [๐Ÿ”ด๐ŸŸก๐ŸŸข]s! (At least I saw none.) At intersections ๐Ÿš—๐Ÿš› just push in and sort themselves out.

I will ๐™ฃ๐™š๐™ซ๐™š๐™ง return to ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฌ. Not just traffic but the general sense of lawlessness & chaos. ๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿ”Š#kcpc04

➤ ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท It sounds like Paris๐Ÿ—ผ will soon be suffering the #dd_Exodus disease, like NYC, SFO & Chicago.

Liberated from their offices by the ๐Ÿฆ , many Parisians may flee the high costs of ๐Ÿ—ผ for the gentle life of the provinces๐Ÿท๐Ÿ‡๐Ÿง€, leaving ๐Ÿ—ผ in dire economic straits. #dd_fr

➤ ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท We'll always have Paris... or will we?

If enough people leave, it may start a #dd_DoomLoop of urban decline. Remember the ๐Ÿ—ผ riots of Dec. 2019? They could be back if economics get more out of whack.

๐Ÿ•บ๐Ÿป  #dd_unrest #dd_fr #dd_exodus

➤ ๐Ÿค” The Golden Age of #UrbanPlanning may be past.

#dd_Urban planning happens mainly when cities are growing, not shrinking. Some are still growing but the ⭐s are fading (NYC, SFO, London...)

You can't (rationally) redevelop a waterfront if there are no new tenants to move in...

➤ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ E.g.—This project strikes me as unlikely to succeed: Morton Salt☂️ in Chicago. #dd_usIL

Chicago is shrinking & primed for #dd_bankrupt'cy. Office space is already distressed.

#dd_MyPrediction: Failure. Either failure to fund๐Ÿš€ or failure to rent.

Chicago Tribune Tweet

➤  ๐Ÿ’€ What passes for #UrbanPlanning in a dying city is often desperate and expensive taxpayer-funded redevelopment projects intended to reverse the #dd_Exodus. The blind faith is "Build it and they will come," but no one has a clue if they will, and they probably won't.

➤Case in point: Dying Gary, Indiana ๐Ÿ’€ built a gleaming convention center to try to revitalize its downtown. Didn't work, and it's been a burden to the city ever since. #dd_usIN

The "Bargaining" stage of the #FiveStagesOfGrief can be very expensive. 

Chicago Tribune Article

➤ ๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต The only realistic #UrbanPlanning for most #CitiesOfTheFuture๐Ÿš€ is orderly downsizing.

...Like the Mayor of graying & shrinking #Toyama, Japan—mentioned in the ๐ŸŽ™—who wants to shut down the expensive suburbs and move the ๐Ÿ‘ด๐Ÿ‘ต to the center city. That makes sense.

➤ ๐Ÿ“‰ Demographic trends:

⸻ ๐Ÿ‘ถ๐Ÿ“‰

⸻ ๐Ÿ‘ด๐Ÿ‘ต๐Ÿ“ˆ

⸻ Young people fleeing provinces for city

⸻ Lucrative taxpayers fleeing headline cities for smaller, cheaper ones

Losers: headline cities, small towns, rural areas

No so losers: mid-size cities

➤ ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ  Suburbs are in a weird place. They're still desirable places to live, but they are infrastructure ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐–๐–Š๐–‘๐–‘๐Ÿ”ฅ because there is so much space between buildings. Cost to maintain aging roads/sewers/etc is huge.

You can see ๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ตToyama mayor's position.

Link to Ponzi Scheme Thread



{Formatting complete: 1/23/21}
{This blog post referenced in Tweet essay: 1/23/21}
{This blog post backed up to email: 1/23/21}
{This blog post visual backup to Twitter: 1/23/21}

Friday, January 22, 2021

Ponzi Schemes Of The Biden Era ๐Ÿ˜Ž⁴⁶ ⸻ A Tweet Essay

Below is a reformatted version of my Tweet Essay started on the morning of Joe Biden's ๐Ÿ˜Ž⁴⁶ Inauguaration (20 January 2021). Begun before dawn in Key West and continued as Biden was sworn in. See Index of All My Tweet Essays

Red  indicates later tweet inserts out of its original order. 


➤ ⦕  ๐“Ÿ๐“ธ๐“ท๐”ƒ๐“ฒ ๐“ข๐“ฌ๐“ฑ๐“ฎ๐“ถ๐“ฎ๐“ผ  ⦖ at the time of the Biden Inauguration - #de_ponzi

๐Ÿ†My new #dd_TweetEssay listing the ๐Ÿ˜ฑ economic crises #dd_Biden ๐Ÿ˜Ž⁴⁶ is facing.

➤  ๐Ÿ“† Today we’ll get a normal President, and soon—we hope—a normal post-pandemic world…

And then we’ll find that “normal” isn’t normal anymore. No economy, market or monetary system is sustainable. All the Ponzi schemes will start collapsing, and the bills will be coming due.๐Ÿงต⇩

➤ ๐Ÿ˜Ž This is a terrible time to be a responsible president. There are no “solutions” to anything, only costly no-win mechanisms to delay the inevitable. ๐Ÿ™

➤  ๐ŸŒŽ The world is now an interlocking system of #Ponzi schemes: stocks, gov't debt, etc.

A #PonziScheme ▲ is a false investment where early investors are paid off by later ones. All these schemes collapse eventually—but when?

In this ๐Ÿงต I will try to inventory some of them...

➤ ๐Ÿ”Š In my latest podcast #DDpc52, I discuss the general mechanism of "overpromises", or selling more chickens than you produce ๐Ÿ“ http://youtu.be/RiO0MadMlo0

If you sell more future ๐Ÿ“s than you can deliver, eventually someone gets stiffed, and in this case "someone"="everyone". ✂️↓


▲ The Ponzi schemes and overpromises range far and wide in the current economy.

In fact, it's hard to find any corner of the economy that ๐™ž๐™จ๐™ฃ'๐™ฉ infected by a ▲ scheme. They're interrelated and one often ๐Ÿฉธs into another.

Here are the main ▲s I've identified. ๐Ÿงต⇩

▲№1⸻Stocks

A stock is the promise of a ๐Ÿ• of the future profits of a company. As of now, US markets are at ALL-TIME HIGHS despite a ๐Ÿฆ  that has devastated the real economy. Pure๐Ÿฆ‡๐Ÿ’ฉ๐Ÿคช!

Argue about "why" all you want. US stocks are in a massive ๐ŸŽˆ and have to ๐Ÿ’ฃ๐Ÿ’ฅ eventually.

▲№1.1⸻Stocks⸻Exhibit "A"

Can making money be as easy as this couple suggests? ๐Ÿ“บ⇩

Just buy low sell high. Reminds me of the advice every shoeshine boy had in 1929. Get in now or you're gonna miss out!  ๐ŸŽ‰๐Ÿฅณ๐Ÿ’ƒ


 Re ▲№1

๐ŸŽˆ One way to judge the relative #dd_Bubble of #dd_Stocks is #MarketCapToGDP. Today it’s a massive 190%. If stocks were overpriced when ๐Ÿคก⁴⁵ took office, they are 50% more overpriced now.

๐Ÿ•บ๐Ÿป #dd_sven #dd_e ๐ŸŒŽ #MktCapToGDP

▲№2⸻US Government Debt

In 2020, 2021 & maybe beyond, the US Gov't is spending ~2x what it collects in taxes. Even in pre-๐Ÿฆ  "good times" of 2019, it was ๐Ÿ’ฐ๐Ÿ“ค >25% more than ๐Ÿ’ฐ๐Ÿ“ฅ. The rest is borrowed and can never, ever, EVER be repaid or even paid down. It only GROWS. ๐Ÿ‘น

▲№2.1

The US Gov't can ๐™ฃ๐™š๐™ซ๐™š๐™ง again balance its budget because—

① Demographics: Too many costly ๐Ÿ‘ด๐Ÿ‘ต. Not enough active ๐Ÿ‘ท๐Ÿ‘จ‍๐Ÿณ๐Ÿง‘‍๐Ÿš’๐Ÿง‘‍๐Ÿญ paying taxes. Few ๐Ÿ‘ถs in pipeline.

② Politics: Balancing the budget would mean cuts to "essential" programs that voters wouldn't accept.

▲№2.2

The budget was balanced 1998-2001 only because the #BabyBoomers were at the peak of their earning power. Now they're ๐Ÿ‘ด๐Ÿ‘ต๐Ÿฆฝ and draining gov't resources.

The happy #DemographicDividend of many taxpaying ๐Ÿ‘ท️๐Ÿ‘จ‍๐Ÿณ๐Ÿง‘‍๐Ÿš’๐Ÿง‘‍๐Ÿญ and few taxdraining ๐Ÿ‘ด๐Ÿ‘ต will never again be repeated. 

▲№2.3

Technically, the US Gov't can never "default" on its debt because it can print more ๐Ÿ’ตs, but that's not a real solution. It only screws up the rest of the economy—and the gov't itself—in ways we're only beginning to understand.

๐Ÿค”Inflation? Yes, but it's a twisted road.

▲№2.4

Bottom Line เดง____

If you buy a 10-year Gov't bond today (at ~1%) it won't be worth what you think it will upon maturity. Either through inflation or default, this paper will not return full value. Once the market assimilates this, all hell will break loose.

▲№2.5

All it would take to bring down the government would be a modest rise in bond rates to their historical norm of 5%. The gov't couldn't pay even the interest costs.

The #FederalReserve avoids this by holding rates low and printing new money to buy bonds—which leads to...

▲№3⸻Currency Bubble

In any ๐ŸŒ republic, printing as much ๐Ÿ’ตs as the Fed has would lead to rampant consumer inflation. The fact that it hasn't so far should not be reassuring.

Something will go bad. It has to. No government can print new money indefinitely to pay its bills.

▲№3.1

I'm not gonna go down the ๐Ÿ‡๐Ÿ•ณ️ of #MMT. That's ๐Ÿคช-talk.

If unlimited ๐Ÿ’ต printing were possible, you have to ask, "Why pay taxes at all?"

⚙️⚡ There is ๐—ป๐—ผ ๐—ณ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฒ ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ด๐˜†. Every #PerpetualMotionMachine has its fatal flaw, and it will be known soon enough.

▲№4⸻Residential Real Estate

As of this writing, commercial real estate is taking a bath but ๐Ÿ s, like stocks, are flying high.

Commercial ๐Ÿ“‰ reason: ๐Ÿ -bound workers during ๐Ÿฆ  don't need offices.

Residential ๐Ÿ“ˆ reason: ๐Ÿคท

Won't go on forever. Something has to break.

Re: ▲№4

Chart shows ๐Ÿคช surge in ๐Ÿ  prices since mid-2020.



▲№5⸻Infrastructure Bomb

Build it and they will come⸺
and come
and come,

until whatever you built wears out and needs to be repaired.

Lots of those projects are coming due, and if the work isn't done soon, stuff will start falling down. ๐ŸŒ‰s collapse. ๐Ÿ›ฃ️s turn to rubble.

▲№5.1

Infrastructure is easy to skimp on because it can always be put off. Roads only ๐˜จ๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ฅ๐˜ถ๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜บ deteriorate until something really bad happens.

Local gov'ts don't have the ๐Ÿ’ฐ for repairs, so the Feds must step in, using—you guessed it—borrowed money. (See ▲№2)

▲№5.2

The single-family suburbs are a special kind of infrastructure ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐–๐–Š๐–‘๐–‘๐Ÿ”ฅ because their streets and sewer lines are long relative to tax revenues.

New subdivisions <20 years old are all gravy. Older ones—like ๐Ÿ‘ด๐Ÿ‘ต—are a net drain on local government resources. 

▲№6⸻Urban Flight

Many workers who have been freed of a fixed office by the ๐Ÿฆ  are fleeing Big๐Ÿ’ฐ cities like NYC, LA, SFO, Chicago for lower cost ones, leaving them in dire straits.

Local gov'ts can't print ๐Ÿ’ต like the Fed, while raising taxes just ⇧s the ๐Ÿ›ซ. No way out!

▲№6.1

Premiere cities are facing a #dd_DoomLoop: The more people move out, the worse life gets, encouraging more to flee. (This may not ๐Ÿ”ฒ with ▲№4 yet, but it will.)

These cities have huge debts, which will become unpayable as tax base shrinks. They'll need Fed bailouts...

▲№6.2

…with borrowed money, of course, and the urban decline will be chronic.

Even if the ๐Ÿฆ ๐Ÿ˜ท ends tomorrow, the damage is done. Freed now to "phone it in", few knowledge workers need a Manhattan apartment anymore๐Ÿ™️

Or a California pad๐Ÿ–️ Who needs it? You can always visit.

▲№7⸻Wealth Inequality

More a ⏳๐Ÿ’ฃ than a ▲ scheme. In the computer era, efficiencies of scale have made the rich richer and poor poorer.

e.g. Once there were 1000s of inefficient but profitable ๐Ÿš–co's. Now there's hyperefficient Uber/Lyft. Only execs make money. ...

▲№7.1

The ๐Ÿฆ  has widened the wealth gap. 1000s of small businesses have been wiped out while many big ones have thrived. Jobs are still available from the big guys, but they are mostly low-paying "fulfillment" positions—like Uber/Lyft drivers, fast food, etc—with few benefits.

▲№7.2

As of now, jobs are available everywhere in USA! I see it as a traveler. ๐™€๐™ซ๐™š๐™ง๐™ฎ fast food restaurant, everywhere in ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ, has Help Wanted signs—but these are unhappy jobs to those who have built their lives on a higher wage. A whole nation can't live like this. ๐Ÿ”๐Ÿคฎ

▲№7.3

Unhappy workers are bad for society.
They get ๐Ÿคฌ.
They cause unrest.
They vote for populist charlatans.

Perilous to democracy is a populace whose personal lives are consistently getting worse.

Workers are another form of infrastructure we're not adequately maintaining.

➤ Also see my related Tweet Essay:

⦕  The Big One  ⦖

on the coming economic collapse.๐Ÿงต⇩




{This post backed up to email: 1/22/21}
{This post blacked up to Twitter as image: 1/22/21}

Thursday, January 21, 2021

A Parable of Asset Values ๐Ÿš›๐ŸŽ ⸻ A Tweet Essay

Below is a formatted transcript of my Tweet Essay on Asset Valuation. Based on this Original Tweet Thread. Also see my Master Index of Tweet Essays


⦕  ๐Ÿš›๐ŸŽ= A Parable of Asset Values ⦖

If you've got a ๐Ÿš› of ๐ŸŽs and you sell one to a ๐Ÿšถ for $1, it doesn't imply you can sell the whole ๐Ÿš› for $1 each. Every sale is unique and limited. It depends on the market at the time and may not predict the price when you come to sell.

➤ Investors make this mistake all the time. They look in the ๐Ÿ“ฐ to see the latest sale price of whatever asset they hold and treat it as "money in the bank" when it's not.

Today's prices reflect a small volume of sales and the mindset of the handful people doing the deal.

➤ For your ๐Ÿš› of ๐ŸŽs, a lot of things can happen before you sell—

① Your๐ŸŽs can go ๐Ÿคฎ

② ๐ŸŽs can ๐Ÿ“ˆ due to short supply

③ ๐ŸŽs can ๐Ÿ“‰ due to surplus

④ You selling all your ๐ŸŽs at once can flood the market, ๐Ÿ“‰ the price.

⑤ People lose their taste for ๐ŸŽs

⑥ A better ๐ŸŽ comes along

➤ You selling one ๐ŸŽ to one ๐Ÿšถ for one ๐Ÿ’ต suggests that there may be a demand for your product, but it doesn't prove the value of your whole ๐Ÿš›load.

The only thing that proves the value of your whole ๐Ÿš› is actually selling it.

➤ ๐ŸคฆCommon mistake:

Day1: You sell an ๐ŸŽ for $1

Day2: You sell an ๐ŸŽ for $2

Day3: You sell an ๐ŸŽ for $3

Day4: You hoard your ๐ŸŽs, waiting for $4 ๐Ÿ“ˆ

Day5: No sales

Day6: No sales

Day7: Your ๐ŸŽs go bad

๐Ÿ‘ฉ‍๐ŸŽ“ Lesson: Most "trends" are a lie. Just like in ๐ŸŽฒ๐ŸŽฐ

➤ I might buy the whole ๐Ÿš› of ๐ŸŽs from you, but certainly not at $1 each, even if recent verified sales were $1. That's because I am considering all the risks above. I am expecting a "risk discount" (or #RiskPremium) to compensate me for my gamble. Otherwise, you can keep them ๐ŸŽs.

➤ ๐Ÿคฆ Another mistake:

Elon #dd_Musk is said to be the "richest man in the world" right now, "worth" ~$185 trillion, but most of his "wealth" is $TSLA stock, which is—um—a bit speculative.๐Ÿคช In 1 year it rose ~8x with little change in business fundamentals. Forbes Article on Musk's Wealth

➤ It's a long road from #dd_Musk being wealthy "on paper" and wealthy in cash he can do something with. In fact, he acknowledges being #CashPoor. He supports his lifestyle by borrowing against his $TSLA stock—which sounds a little scammy and bubblicious. What if $TSLA tanks? ๐Ÿ˜ฑ

➤ Who determines that $TSLA is worth 8x what it was a year ago? Investors who trade it. This is limited to people who FERVENTLY BELIEVE IN $TSLA ๐Ÿ‘. Those who DON'T BELIEVE ๐Ÿ‘Ž don't trade it. IOW: Only the True Believers are setting the price of $TSLA. ...

➤ Trading by True Believers can be sustained for a while, especially if volumes are small, but ultimately every business must be proven by PROFITS, which are currently scarce at $TSLA.

To prove its price, not only must $TSLA sell it's ๐Ÿš› of ๐ŸŽs, but each must be golden.๐Ÿ’ฐ๐Ÿ’ฐ๐Ÿ’ฐ

➤ Gentle reminder: I'm sure #CharlesPonzi and #BernieMadoff would have been considered among the "richest in the world" at the peak of their scams.

Just sayin'.


{This blog entry added to Tweet essay: 1/21/21}
{This blog entry backed up to email: 1/21/21}
{This blog entry visual backup to Twitter:

Sunday, January 17, 2021

52. A World Without Money: An Allegory For The Coming Collapse ⸺ Demographic Doom Podcast Script

This is the script for my Demographic Doom podcast episode #52 recorded in Key West on 18 December 2021 and released on 19 December 2021. It may differ slightly from the final broadcast. This episode is available on major podcast platforms like iTunes and Google Podcasts. The audio master for this episode is found at Podbean and a video version is on YouTube (below). See the description on the YouTube version for extensive annotations, links and corrections. You can also comment on this episode there. The main website for this project is DemographicDoom.com

I'm Glenn Campbell. I call myself a demographic philosopher. I'm looking at life and trying to predict the future through the lens of demography or the study of human populations. I'm trying to view humanity from a distance like aliens would see us from space.

In this episode, I want to take another stab at explaining the messed up macroeconomics of the world in the simplest possible terms. I've tried to do it before on other episodes, but it's so important that I'm going to try it again from a different angle.

This time around, I want you to imagine a world without any money. That's my rhetorical device of the day. If we lived in a world without hard currency, like dollars or  yen, would the economy be as screwed up as it is today, and the answer is, Yes, it could be, because there are other things that stand in for money, and they can become just as distorted as money can.

Imagining a world without money shouldn't be too hard, because humanity has lived most of its existence without it. In a medieval village, for exampl, most people might not have had access to currency, so what did they do? They bartered, of course. Barter is the only truly honest monetary system. If one farmer has an excess of chickens and another an excess of beets, they can trade with each other and both parties win, at least gaining a more balanced diet.

You can barter anything for anything, like goods for services. For example, you can work in the fields for a farmer, and he might pay you one chicken for each day of your labor. If you don't happen to need a chicken right now, you can trade it to some other villager for something you do need. If you're a blacksmith, you take raw metal and add value to it by turning it into a useful tool, which you can then sell for chickens or beets. Whether you grow a vegetable, raise an animal or form a raw material into a tool, you are creating value that that can be traded for other things.

I call this an honest monetary system because you always know the value of things, and the objects you are bartering are right in front of you and can't easily be faked. The only problem, of course, is that trading chickens and beets and tools can get really awkward, given all the merchandise you got to carry around with you. It would be much easier if you could trade your chickens and beets for something more compact, like little disks of various kinds of metal. Then you wouldn't have to carry around all those chickens.

And that's how money was born. Initially, it still would have been an honest system, because the disks of metal would have had value in themselves. In the days before mass production, copper and iron would have been mined and smelted by hand and would have been quite valuable even as a small disk. Those disks of metal in your pocket could be melted down to make nails or hinges. Even when being used for trade, the metal itself was worth what it was being traded for. It was just more convenient than the chickens or beets.

This isn't really "money" yet, at least not as we now know it, because those disks being traded were intrinsically worth something. There is a long history of how metal disks inherently worth their face value turned into paper bills and computer entries worth nothing at all, but we're going to skip that history in this episode. We are assuming, for the sake of argument, that money was never invented.

So if you have a civilized society and no money, how do you  trade with others—that is, without carrying around a lot of chickens. A chicken has intrinsic value, in that you can eat it, but it's hard to to use as a medium of exchange, at least in its physical form. You can't stick chickens in your pocket, and they're a pain to maintain. So how do you remedy this problem? How do you make a chicken more portable.

Well, it's pretty easy. Let's say you know you're going to need to a chicken in the future, say for a chicken soup party you're having a month from now, but you don't want to house and feed the chicken for a month. You just want to assure a future supply of chicken, so you pay a bushel of beets to the chicken farmer, and the farmer gives you a piece of paper promising to give the bearer of that paper a chicken one month from now,

So what can you do with that piece of paper? Well, you could cash it in a month from now for a physical chicken, or you can trade it to someone else for something else you might need right now, like a sword. The sword maker can then turn the paper for a chicken.

So you don't really need a government issuing a currency, which is the standard definition of "money". Any merchant or product manufacturer can issue a promise, a sort of de-facto currency that can be traded just like it was money. Merchants used to do this all the time in the 20th Century: issuing various coupons or gift certificates that consumers could trade among themselves and eventually redeem for stuff. For example, McDonald's only had gift certificates that could be redeemed for hamburgers, which kids can trade with other kids to get other things they wanted.

Even there is no money in the world, in the traditional sense, you can still have a vibrant economy just dealing in these paper promises of things. Here's a piece of paper; it can be redeemed for one chicken. Once you have this coupon in your hands, you can trade it like a dollar bill for the things you really want. I call this a "representative economy", which is when you trade symbolic tokens that represent other things. You don't need government money because the token is the money, with no government involved.

An this is essentially how most of our present economy works. What financial markets do is not trade things, per se; they trade the promises of things. That's what a stock is. It's a piece of paper that says you own a certain share of the future profits of a company. It used to be that you'd physically own a piece of paper, a stock certificate, that you kept in a safe and that proved your ownership. Nowadays, we've dispensed with the paper itself, but the same ownership system still holds. If you own a company's stock, you're holding a promise of future profits—or future chicken—that's eventually going to come your way.

Money is just an intermediate medium to facilitate these transactions. Most investors don't hold onto their money for very long. Instead they turn it into promises for things. They can buy a stock, which is a promise of future profits, or they can buy commercial real estate, which also promises future profit. A bond or other debt instrument is a promise that someone will pay you its face value at a certain future date. Even if you deposit your money in a bank, you are exchanging cash for the promise that the bank will eventually pay you back.

All this representative trade in the promises of things doesn't need a currency. A currency is certainly convenient but not essential. I can trade chicken futures for beet futures without any intermediate currency involved. If currency didn't exist, we could just hand pieces of paper to each other. And this is what would probably happen if the US dollar or other major currencies broke down. Someone would set up an online clearinghouse where promised of chickens could be traded for promised of beets or anything else you wanted. Anyone could create a promise of something, like future chickens, and trade it for a promise of something else. Merchants would be expected to actually deliver on their promises, or they'd be booted off the platform. In fact, this could very well be where things are headed if currencies collapse.

But before we get to that stage, we need to think about how this system could possibly go bad. What could be wrong with trading the promises of things. The problem is actually quite simple. It had happens again and again throughout human history, wherever a market has sprung up for promises. The inherent risk of any promise-based system is that people promise more than they can deliver.

Think of the chicken farmer, issuing promises of future chicken. If he finds himself in a financial bind and needs resources right away, it is going to be very tempting to him to issue more promises than he has chickens. At the least, he may use the most optimistic estimate when predicting his future chicken production, which assumes that everything goes right in the chicken business. At worst, he can just make up imaginary chickens that he know he can't deliver, maybe because he hopes to flee the country or come up with another plan before the promises come due.

Wherever a system of promises exists, overpromising is bound to creep in, because the temptations are huge. This is especially true when there are big financial pressures in the present and the promises don't have to be fulfilled for years. And that's exactly the problem with the economy today. There are far more paper promises in the world than can possibly be fulfilled.

In other words, in a variety of realms, there are far more chicken futures in the world than there are chickens, and sooner or later, the people holding those futures will realize the chickens can't be delivered, and the market for these futures is going to crash. And this is going to happen all over the economy, because everywhere you look, there are too many promises. 

This overpromising is obvious in the stock market which, at the time of this episode, is flying higher than ever before in spite of the pandemic. Those stocks are a promise of future profit that, in most cases, will never justify the current price. It is not necessarily true that anyone has lied. Companies are required by law to be honest about their profits. It's just that naรฏve investors have bid up the prices too high. 

There are all manner of other debts and assets in the world that can't possibly fulfill their promise, but the one example I keep coming back to is government debt. To talk about government debt, I should probably throw in some currency, because everything ultimately gets valued in terms of dollars or euros or yen. To avoid complicating things, let's just assume there's no inflation. A dollar will always be worth a dollar and will always buy you, I don't know, a hamburger or something. 

Any debt, be it a consumer loan or a government bond, is a promise to pay dollars in the future. And these paper promises are a sort of currency that can be traded between investors as though they were cash. Technically, only the Federal Reserve can issue currency, but in practice, the US Government does it whenever it issues a bond. The bond is traded among investors as though it were cash. When an investor buys a 10-year bond at something around 1%, they are buying into the belief that 10 years from now, the government will pay off on that debt and that inflation won't erode its value—both of which are huge assumptions.

The fact is, there's no way the U.S. government can pay off its debts—ever. Even if there's no inflation ever again and interest rates remain close to zero, no paydown is ever possible, because there's no way the government can ever again balance its budget. Things are too far gone. Like the chicken farmer promising more chickens than he has, the government has promised more future value to bond holders than it can possibly generate. 

The government's chicken is called "taxes" and in 2020 and probably 2021, the government is spending roughly twice as much as the taxes it is taking in. Think of it as taking in 3 trillion chickens a year but spending 6 or 7 trillion chickens.  This isn't just a result of the pandemic. In 2019, in nominally the best of times, the government was borrowing one of every 4 dollars it spent—or one in every four chickens, to use our analogy. So even if we get back to 2019 normalcy, the debt is still impossible to service. The government just can't pull a trillion chickens out of a hat. The best it can do is promise people a trillion chickens they can never deliver

All around the world are people and institutions who hold this debt, who think they have a $10,000 bond that they can redeem for $10,000, but they really hold nothing but paper promises, promises of chicken that can never be delivered. So far, the government has been able to make good on its debt. Every maturing bond has been paid off—so far—but that's only because the Ponzi scheme hasn't collapsed yet. And that's what this is, a Ponzi scheme: earlier investors being paid off by later ones. Like any other Ponzi scheme, there's not viable business plan in the works. There's no plan just to break even, let alone make a profit that can start paying down this debt.

Investors say, "The government can never default because it owns the printing presses and can print as much money as it wants." Well, yeah, but what are we talking about here: chickens or the promises of chickens. The government can always print more promises. What it can't do is print more chickens. The chicken inflow—meaning the actual value coming into the government—is limited to the actual number of chickens collected in taxes, which is limited to the number of chickens the economy actually produces.

I don't know how to count chickens here, but it is basically the core output of the economy that can be taxed, and that remains fairly constant over time. The government has income of about $3 trillion a year no matter how much it promises.

Printing more chicken promises than that $3 trillion encourages just a different kind of default, called inflation. The risk here is, you buy your $10,000 bond now, turn it in and get your $10,000 back, but that $10,000 buys only what $2,000 buys now. Maybe $10,000 only buys you a hamburger.

I take no comfort from the fact that, at the moment, $10,000 still buys 10,000 hamburgers. It will not always be so. The fact that there's little consumer inflation right now doesn't comfort me. You can't just keep printing money forever. Someday, the dam will break and all the inflation will come spewing out.

A representative economy, an economy of paper promises, is a relatively recent thing. It's been supercharged by the computer revolution which has made the trading of promises incredibly fast and easy. Humanity just hasn't had the time to develop the wisdom to manage it. You can't keep the farmers from selling more chicken than they've got, and in the case of government bonds, you've got the government regulating itself with no hope of restraint.

It's just so easy to sell paper promises. That's what every politician in the world is doing right now. Many of them won't even be around with the bills come due, so there's no incentive to balance the books. No one's addressing the debt right now. They're trying to save lives during the pandemic, which is admirable. It's just that those saved lives will be living in a very bleak world.

So what does it mean, in a practical sense, when there are too many promises in the world. It means that the perceived wealth of the world is much greater than the actual wealth. 

Think about how someone measures their own wealth. To figure out how wealthy they are, they're going to inventory all their assets—all their stocks, bonds, real estate, gold, etc.—and then they are going to look on the internet to see what the current market value of each of those things are worth. You see that the value of a stock is currently "X" dollars a share, and you look at Zillow, and you see that a house in your neighborhood similar to yours recently sold for "Y" dollars. And you add it all up, and you get a net worth of eleventy-seven million dollars. 

That's what you think you're worth, but it's an illusion, because it's only what you'd get if you sold everything today and the value of a dollar remains fixed. What can happen almost overnight is that the bottom falls out of an asset market, so maybe you can get only half of what you expected to get, and you're really only half as wealthy as you thought you were. That's an evaporation of wealth, and it can happen almost in an instant, as soon as people realize, "This promise isn't worth what I thought it was."

And with every oversold promise, they day of reckoning always comes, sooner or later. You don't know when, but it will come. Every Ponzi scheme collapses, and the world is an interlocking system of them right now, starting with the government Ponzi scheme of selling far more bonds than it can ever repay.

In a world without any money, you know the system has collapsed when you take your chicken coupon to the farmer, and he can't redeem it because he's run of chickens. In a modern economy, it might happen in a variety of different ways. A formerly high-flying stock can collapse to zero. Inflation can eat away at the value of an asset, even if the nominal prices doesn't change. Certain unique assets like real estate might not be sellable at all.

The only thing certain when promises collapse is that the holders of those promises—the owners of the stocks, bonds and real estate—will find they've lost all or part of their wealth.

There were just too many chicken promises and not enough chickens to pay them off.

———

Written, recorded and edited by Glenn Campbell. For annotations, links and corrections, see the description on the video version of this podcast. You can also leave comments there. See here for all my podcast scripts on this blog.

{This script backed up to Email on: 1/20/21}
{Visual version of this script backed up to Twitter on: 1/20/21}
{Reconciled with actual: 1/20/21 - after the above}

Saturday, January 16, 2021

The Coming "Big One": Economic Collapse and Why It Must Happen ⸺ A Tweet Essay ๐Ÿงต by Glenn Campbell


Below is a reformatted version of my tweet essay called #de_BigOne, starting on 16 Jan 2021, . This long series of tweets is merged into a single document here for ease of reading. The beginning of most tweets is marked by ➤. Text in [brackets] was added after the original tweets.



➤ ꧁ The Big One ꧂ #de_BigOne

The economic “Big One” is coming.

The crash to end all crashes.

The collapse of the modern economic system.

I can’t tell you when it will happen, how it will happen or what it will look like. I can only offer the humble #dd_TweetEssay below. ๐Ÿงต…

➤ The biggest story on the ๐ŸŒŽ right now is not the ๐Ÿฆ . It is unrestrained money printing by the #dd_Fed and other central banks, partly in response to the ๐Ÿฆ .

➤ The ๐Ÿฆ  has broken the back of any fiscal restraint. The US Government no longer has any hope of balancing its budget or paying its debts—ever! The debts are too large and the shortfall too great.

➤ The debts of the US Government are transferred to the #dd_Fed:

The government issues bonds.

The Fed is obligated to buy those bonds to keep markets from tanking, “printing” money to pay for them.

➤ In effect, the government is funding its operations by printing money—either money created by the Fed or bonds traded by investors as though they were money.

In 2020 and probably 2021, roughly half the government budget is “printed” instead of collected in taxes.

➤ This system can’t work forever.

If it could, it would be a sort or perpetual motion machine providing “free energy” without any energy input.

If the government can print its way out of any crisis, the logical question arises: “Why pay taxes at all?”

➤ Money has no value in itself. It is “representative” of value. It’s an intermediary device instead of directly trading, say, bread for chickens.

You can’t create more ๐Ÿž or ๐Ÿ“s just by printing more ๐Ÿ’ต. Instead, you are devaluing the ๐Ÿ’ต... 

Eventually.

➤ The traditional equation is: money printing = inflation. That’s what happens in any ๐ŸŒ republic.

Our situation is more complex. We’ll get inflation at the store someday, but in the meantime we are passing through some unexpected intermediate steps, like asset inflation.

➤ The greatest economic absurdity of the Microbe era is that US stock markets have ๐Ÿ“ˆ not ๐Ÿ“‰ ⸺ reaching ALL TIME HIGHS!

It’s ๐Ÿคช!

Even an attempted coup on #dd_Jan6 caused markets to rise, not fall. ๐Ÿคฆ

This is not normal investor behavior.

➤ For now, stock valuations seem to bear no relation to the profit-generating capacity of the represented companies.

They are speculative assets propped up solely by Fed intervention in the economy.

Stocks rise on bad news because investors assume it means more Fed intervention.

➤ To try to keep the economy afloat, the Fed (and #dd_ECB) has vowed to keep interest rates near 0% for the foreseeable future.

This has the perverse effect of forcing investors out of “safe” investments like bonds and into speculative ones like stocks, inflating asset values.

➤ There is no conspiracy here.

The Fed and ECB aren’t part of some omniscient cabal manipulating the economy in favor of a ruling elite. That’s giving them too much credit.

They are as helpless and incompetent as everyone else.

One rule rules them all: NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING.

➤ Fed ๐Ÿ’ต-printing is a #dd_Ponzi scheme that WILL fail, but no one knows when or how.

The saying goes: “Markets can remain irrational longer than you can stay solvent.“

I call this #KeynesCurse and I have a ๐Ÿงต on it.

➤ Like any other Ponzi scheme, the endgames for the economy and government are knowable. What is not knowable is how we get there.

➤ The Endgame๐Ÿ”š for government bonds is they can’t be redeemed for their full value. Either—

① The government defaults, or

② Inflation erodes their value

Government debt is a true #PonziScheme where early investors are repaid by later ones until ๐Ÿ’ฃ๐Ÿ’ฅ

➤ The Endgame๐Ÿ”š for assets like stocks or real estate is that they collapse at least to a value consistent with the realistic future profits of the underlying business. ๐Ÿ“‰

➤ The Endgame๐Ÿ”š for currencies ๐Ÿ’ต๐Ÿ’ถ๐Ÿ’ท๐Ÿ’ด is inflation, even #hyperinflation, as the value of money is rationalized with the growing money supply.

➤ The Endgame๐Ÿ”š for large governments is either—

① They collapse entirely, or

② They learn to function at a greatly reduced level on the taxes actually collected.

The latter is hard because there’s no political will for the Draconian cuts required.

๐ŸŽฒ I’m betting on ①

➤ If large governments collapse, humanity will persist, just as it did after the Fall of Rome™, but many services we take for granted could be lost.

We can only speculate about what those lost services may be. Aqueducts? ๐Ÿšฐ Roads? ๐Ÿ›ฃ Public order? ๐Ÿ˜ฑ

➤ The economic "Big One" is like the coming Big One on the San Andreas Fault. Every year, it builds up tensions. You know it has to snap sooner or later, but you don't know when.



This tweet essay, like others, could resume in the future.

{backed up by email: 1/16/21
{backed up as a giant image on twitter: 1/16/21

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Africa & Middle East ⸻ Index of Glenn Campbell's Social Media Resources


This page is intended to be an index of all my social media resources from Africa and the Middle East, including about 13 countries. This page is an ongoing project that will be built over time.

For all Facebook albums, always check the "Feed View" for hidden posts.

Africa

Morocco
Kenya
  • x
South Africa 

Kenya: Nairobi
  • x
Ethiopia: Addis Ababa
  • x

Post-Nuclear Family: Q & A


[Future Use] This page is intended for questions and answer on my Post Nuclear Family system. To be built over time. Questions are collected in a semi-private Tweet Essay.

Q. Is it Communism? Is the PNF a commune where adults share everything?

A. No. As explained in Podcast #47: The Post-Nuclear Family: Is It Communism? ☭

Q. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

๐Ÿ”Š KC5. The Tyranny of Ideology: Why Free-Speech Has Its Limits

Below is a Script for my Kilroy Cafe Podcast, Episode #5, released on 13 Jan 2021. It may differ slightly from the final broadcast.

This episode is available on major podcast platforms, including Podbean and a video version on YouTube. See the description on the YouTube version for extensive annotations, links and corrections. You can also comment on this episode there.

I'm Glenn Campbell, and my Tweet of the Day is this: 

There is no ideology that won't eventually lead to tyranny.

This tweet that I just posted was inspired by events of recent days. This is January 13, 2021. On January 6, a week ago, President Donald Trump incited a riot at the US Capitol. You know about it. It's in all the history books.

In the ensuing days, Trump, with only a few days left in his term, was banned from Twitter and virtually all other mainstream social media—along with many of the groups that were touting his claims. I think even PornHub banned him, theatrically at least. This has raised concerns among free speech advocates that this sets a dangerous precedent. You can't ban speech just because it is distasteful. All opinions deserve a platform.

And my position is, No, not all positions deserve a platform. Everyone has the right to free speech but not the right to be heard or broadcast. If Trump had been banned back in 2015, the country might have avoided the four disastrous years of his reign.

But I can also see the free-speech position. Once you start censoring people, where do you stop? When a government or a giant social media company censors information in the name of "safety", there's a huge potential for abuse. 

For example, in another news story today, the government of Uganda has blocked all social media in the run-up to their elections. I haven't looked into this in detail, but I'm pretty sure the government has some kind of self-serving motive for this, and I'm also pretty sure that they're using Trump's Twitter ban to bolster their position. The free-speech advocates will say, "You see, this precedent is already having a chilling effect around the world," but I suspect that the Uganda government was already prepared to censor social media. Trump's Twitter ban just gave them a new excuse.

My higher-level take on this is that there's no ideology that won't eventually lead you into trouble, be it free speech or free markets or globalization or any other theory that people get hooked into. There's always a point where you've gone too far and you have to pull back.

There has to be a good term for this, and I don't really have a good one yet. It's related to the Cobra Effect: No matter what your theoretical framework is, there's a good chance it is going to go bad when it's put into practice, because the real world is complex and can easily subvert you intentions.

In the case of free speech, it works pretty well among intelligent people, who should be able to evaluate ideas on their own and choose the one that works best for their. They naturally want an open marketplace of ideas, with none of them excluded.

But then you have the non-intelligent people who believe everything they're told. Instead of evaluating information on its own merits, they evaluate the person providing the information. If the person is perceived as part of their tribe, they're going to believe everything that comes out of that person's mouth. That's why some people believe Trump no matter what he says. He's perceived as part of their tribe.

And you can see the evolutionary value in this. early humans survived because they pulled together with tribe. They defended their tribal leader, whether he was right or wrong, and this may have given you an advantage in passing on your own genes to the next generation.

So any modern society has to accommodate not only for the intelligent people who can evaluate information and the idiots who can't, and that's why free speech can never be absolute. At a certain point, those who control social media have to say, "That's enough. You can't say that here." 

Frankly, I think it should have been done long ago, back in 2015, because we came perilously close to the abyss this time. Joe Biden won the 2020 election by only a very thin margin, and if only a few votes had changed, our country would have been in a terrible place.

Free speech is important but its not worth losing your life or country for.

———

Written, recorded and edited by Glenn Campbell. For annotations, links and corrections, see the description on the video version of this podcast. You can also leave comments there. See here for all my podcast scripts on this blog.

{This post backed up to email: 1/16/21

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Glenn's Forgotten Media Streams

 


I have produced so much stuff over the years, that I have forgotten where I put it all. This page will keep track of the forgotten corners of my oeuvre as I rediscover them.

  1. Facebook Notes — Around 2008 through 2018, Facebook has a primitive blogging system called "Notes". I produced dozens of them over the years, especially around the time of my first cancer treatment in 2018. The system was discontinued in October 2020, and there is no longer any public index of all of my notes. Notes are still viewable by URL aren't changeable. Fortunately, I tweeted links to many of my notes on @BadDalaiLama, knowing that they could be hard to find later. Try searching for "note" on my account. I can access all my notes through this link, but you can't. (1/12/2021)

  2. Photosynth — This website from Microsoft knitted together individual photos into 360&deg; panoramas. I took 100s of them, but they are all lost now. My only record of them are the low-resolution thumbnails appearing in my Facebook album. Each one has a link to the now-defunct Photosynth site. In retrospect, I shouldn't have been wasting my time on things like that anyway. (1/12/2021)

  3. Abandoned Twitter Accounts — The following are Twitter accounts I have abandoned but that still might be useful to browse...

    • @BadLamaFunny — A place where I retweeted the funniest of my posts between 0000 and 000.
    • @PopeyesSpinach
    • @BadLamaEureka
    • @BadLamaNirvana
    • @BadLamaWisdom — Repurposed in Jan. 2021 as @DoomLite. Previously, it was used to retweet the my best philosophical content from @BadDalaiLama and @KilroyCafe (see here)
    • @KilroyCafe
    • @KilroyLite
  4. X


Glenn Campbell's Tweet Essays on @DemographicDoom — A Master List (actively updated)


Below is a master index of all my known Tweet Essays on @DemographicDoom and @BadDalaiLama, starting in December 2021 and going back as far as I can. Each link below leads to the top-node tweet of the series. If the link is broken, please let me know and search for the given hashtag instead. A ✔️ means the top node has been retweeted on @DoomLite™. See the bottom of this post for more notes. ↓

A Tweet Essay is never "finished". I may resume a thread if you comment on it and give me something new to work with.

๐Ÿ† Most Important ๐Ÿ†


๐Ÿ“Reproduced in Blog


๐Ÿ’ฐ Economics

๐Ÿ“ˆ๐Ÿ“‰ Demographics

๐Ÿค” Applied Philosophy

๐Ÿ—ณ️ Politics

๐ŸŽญ Arts/Popular Culture

๐Ÿ›ซ Travel/Advice

๐Ÿ‘ถ Family/Babies

Recurring Features

Below are linked by keywords and are not in the same thread.

⚖️๐Ÿ—ฃ️๐ŸŽ™ Responding to RSP

Some essays below may be duplicated above with different #de_ codes.
The above list is partially indexed on Twitter, via #dL_essays


Notes On My Tweet Essays

  1. Sometimes I know when I'm going to start an essay. Other times, they just evolve organically and I go with it. If I know I'm creating an essay, I start off with the proper header. If it evolved organically, I add the header later by quote-tweeting the top of the thread.

  2. All Tweet Essays are tagged with #dd_TweetEssay on the top node only (only once for each essay). The top node also contains a unique hashtag starting with #de_ (for "doom essay").

  3. If #dd_TweetEssay and the #de_ tag don't appear in the tweeted link above, they appear in a quote-tweet for that tweet.

  4. The only firm rule of Tweet Essays is that I can't "break the chain". Once a tweet is added and another is added after it, I can't delete the first tweet. I have to live with it forever. (However, if a tweet is the last post on the thread, I can delete and repost it as many times as I want.) The fact the each tweet in the chain is permanent and unchangeable has a profound effect on how I write.

  5. I may add more posts to a Tweet Essay whenever I am inspired to do so—even years later—so no essay is ever "finished".

  6. A Tweet Essay is usually hierarchical, starting with the most important information first and drilling down to the details.

  7. My first use of the #dd_TweetEssay hashtag was 4 July 2020, but I didn't start using it comprehensively until 2021. Old tweet threads will be repackaged as Tweet Essays and retweeted to @DoomLite as I rediscover them.

Shortlink for this post: http://j.mp/de_blogmaster

{This blog post backed up to email: 1/16/21

Saturday, January 9, 2021

8. The End of “We”—Why Governments Can No Longer Solve Problems

Below is a transcript for my Demographic Doom podcast episode #8 released on 4 October 2019. This transcript was prepared on 9 January 2021, more than a year after the original broadcast. I transcribed it because it is an important episode I am often referring to. (See references on Twitter.) This transcript was derived from the automatically generated YouTube transcript, with only minor editing for clarity.

This episode is available on major podcast platforms, including PodbeanApple Podcasts and a video version on YouTube. See the description on the YouTube version for extensive annotations, links and corrections. You can also comment on this episode there. The main website for this project is DemographicDoom.com 

I'm Glenn Campbell. I call myself a demographic philosopher. I'm looking at life and trying to predict the future through the lens of demographics, or changes in human populations.

Today, I want to talk about the collapse of “we”—meaning the collapse of collective action or government action. In other words, governments don't solve problems anymore. They put out fires, but they don't solve problems. Why is this happening, and is there any hope that they ever will? 

Well first of all, when you read an article these days about any big problem—be it climate change, or collapsing birth rates in South Korea, or rising debt—near the end of the article, you're going to find some pundit or expert saying "We must do this," we must go through A, B and C to solve this problem. And by “we”, these pundits are referring to the government. The government must do this. The government of South Korea must do certain things to make having families more economical. The government must do something to address its rising debt. 

All of these “we's” are impossible. There is no government action anymore. There is no government solution to problems anymore, so it's kind of silly for opinion writers to say we must do this or we must do that, because we know from experience that it's not going to happen. Governments just don't work anymore. 

What do I mean by solving problems? Well, let's say back when Hitler invaded Europe, America and Britain had a problem. They pulled together. They pulled themselves together. They organized, and they solved the problem. “We” as a collective country, America, solved the problem of this external threat. We ramped up war production. We organized ourselves. The whole society got involved in solving this problem, and evil was beaten back. 

Almost as remarkable was recovery of the world following World War Two. America led the led the recovery of Europe and Japan, and they were wildly successful. "We" solved the problem. We solved the problem of these war ravaged countries and brought them back brought them back from the brink. We can be proud of ourselves. 

And there are many other examples in 20th Century history of cases where governments did solve problems. We did fix things. In the 1950s, we started building our Interstate Highway System in America, during the Eisenhower administration, and it was wildly successful. It solved a problem. It stream-lined transportation, and even today, this day, I am using the Interstate Highway System. It's one thing that American can be proud of: We have great highways in America. 

But what problems have government solved lately? I mean, in the 21st century. In America, the only problem that I can think of that has been solved is Obamacare almost ten years ago. America had a problems of people not having health insurance, and through this very complex legislation, that problem was solved. Lots of things to not like about it, but essentially we pulled together and we solved a problem. 

Can you think of any problem that has been solved by the US government since then? All that governments seem to be doing these days is putting out fires that the governments themselves started or that their people started. 

This is October 2019, and in America we have the Trump fire burning out of control. America is trying to deal with that fire that half of Americans started back in 2016. And in Britain they're dealing with a great forest fire of Brexit, which half of their voters started back around the same time. And in the European Union, the richer countries in the European Union are dealing with the collapse of the poorer countries. I mean, we've all these fires raging, and governments are desperately trying to put out those fires, but in the meantime no problems are being solved. 

So why don't governments work anymore? I don't have a definitive solution to this, but I have my theory, and my theory has a population element to it. In the 20th Century, especially after World War Two, we had a huge population gain through the Baby Boom, and there were similar baby booms all over the world. We had lots of lots of babies coming online, which eventually, 20 years later, started powering the economy. 

So in America, we had a big building boom in the 70s, 80s and 90s, because all of these babies that were born in the 50s and 60s had to have homes. There weren't enough homes for them, so we built homes for them, and we opened restaurants and shopping malls and provided all sorts of services for the growing population. 

Relatively speaking, civilization was very prosperous during this period. When a civilization is prosperous, it's much easier to find common ground. It's much easier to get Republicans to agree with Democrats, conservatives to agree with liberals, if your society is prosperous to begin with. There's more honey to go around, so there are less sources of conflict, and it's easier to get a political consensus on things. 

What's happened in the 21st century is that prosperity is drying up. It may not seem it today, because it looks prosperous on the streets, but we don't have that same population punch that we had back at the end of the [20th] Century. For one thing, the baby boomers who powered the prosperity of the late 20th century started retiring around 2011, and when you retire, you stop powering the economy. You're drawing on resources instead of generating resources. 

So that's one of the reasons that things have taken an economic turn. We don't have this underlying prosperity anymore. There are a lot of people being left behind. There are a lot of people in Trump country who feel they've been screwed by their society, which is why they voted for Trump. The prosperity, if it still exists, isn't being spread around anymore, so you have a lot more divisions in society. 

So if we're facing a vague threat like climate change, which is hard to visualize and certainly hard to solve, so you've got half of America saying that climate change doesn't exist. If that's the case, you're not going to solve climate change. And it's the same if you're talking about demographic problems. The demographic problems all over the developed world are not having enough babies to power your economy at the same level you had before, while at the same time, everybody is accumulating so much debt that you need the same growth that you had before. These are vague problems that are difficult to solve, and if half of America is frustrated and just who wants to burn everything down, then nothing is going to happen.

And this is replicated around the world. What sort of problems has the British Parliament solved since Brexit? They've been totally crippled, paralyzed by the Brexit process and all sorts of legislation to solve Britain's many other problems has fallen by the wayside. The same thing in Germany and in France, where they're grappling with their own crises, like the crisis of the eurozone that they themselves created by joining all these countries into a single currency.

So what this means is that you cannot in good conscience write an article and say “we” must do this or “we” must do that, because it's not going to happen. It's just kind of silly to say that. It's silly to say “we" must make our country more friendly to families, “we” must offer incentives to mothers, “we” might do this or we must do that to address our huge debt, because these are just words that people put down on paper, that you should know very well are not going to happen in real life, mainly because most of these solutions involve spending money and there is no money. Governments are already so heavily in debt that you don't have the money to take great initiatives—at least without jacking up the debt even more. 

When I say “we” has collapsed, that “we” has ended, I mean we as a country and we as a society no longer have power. The only thing that we do as a collective unit these days is we watch the same television shows, we see the same clips from Donald Trump. We are all hooked into the same popular culture, but that does not mean that we can solve problems together. Those times have passed. 

So I know this is a very pessimistic view. I'm saying the governments, if they don't collapse outright, they've at least lost their ability to solve problems. They haven't solved problems in the last 10 years, and I don't expect them to solve problems in the next 25 or 30 years. Things have devolved to such a state that big governments don't work anymore. 

Which means we've got to redefine the definition of “we.” When we talk about “we” today we're talking about the whole damn country or the whole damn world. “we've” got to do this, or “we've” got to do that, and that's simply silly. “We” doesn't work anymore, at least on those scales. The only “we” that does work is the local “we”. You can do things personally. You and your friends can do things. You and your neighborhood can do things, assuming you're properly motivated. 

If you and your neighbors are surrounded by hostile forces, then you and your neighbors will get together, and “we” will do something to protect ourselves from those hostile forces. So “community” needs to be redefined in your mind from “we” the national government to “we” my town and my local tribe—“we” the people that I can communicate with directly., who may not be able to fix the problems of the world, but we can protect ourselves from the effects of those problems on our neighborhood. 

So I'm not pessimistic in the sense of humanity surviving. Humanity is clever, and humanity will continue to survive, but it may not survive as these megalithic countries that we've come to focus on. Everybody today is focused on national politics. We're all tuned in to what Donald Trump is saying. Very few people now are focused on local politics, which is what is your city or state is doing, because if big governments like the United States collapse, then those are the governments we have left. If the US federal government collapses, then what you have left is the government of Massachusetts and the government of Boston. And whatever local governments there are, those are going to have to take up the slack of whatever the federal government can't do anymore.

Ultimately the only "we" that you can rely on is “we the people” that you are in immediate contact with—“we the people” that you live with and “we the people” of your neighborhood. We don't pay much attention to those tiny little “we’s” anymore but humanity was built on them. Back before there were these massive civilizations, humanity survived in tribes. You lived in a tribe of maybe 60 people, of hunter-gatherers, and your tribe pulled together to survive together.

And it worked. The tribe would travel from place to place in search of resources, and you had people in your community elders in your community who knew about these resources because they had more experience with them, and they taught the younger members of the tribe, and your tribe survived. 

You could think of the tribe as the natural organizational unit of human beings. Human beings evolved to live in small tribes, and maybe that's what we end up going back to. If all governments above the tribe collapse, that's what you end up going back to. You end up going back to joining together with your neighbors for mutual protection from whatever the outside threats may be. 

So I'm not entirely pessimistic. I'm pessimistic in that I don't think the US government will ever solve problems again, but I think that humans can solve problems. They just have to be pushed into units that are small enough that they can be effective. Unfortunately, this means that big problems like climate change don't get a get addressed, but frankly, climate change isn't being addressed anyway. I mean, even if you get all countries to cooperate, the damage is already done, and we have to respond to climate change not try to change it.

So what I see ahead of us in the short term is just a series of fires. There was the election of Donald Trump. There was the Brexit vote. And you know this year or next year, there will be a massive recession, and this could be lead to even more fires. There will be fire after fire that governments will desperately try to put out, but in the meantime, no solutions, no problems will be solved. And eventually governments will probably collapse. 

So if governments do collapse, then you've got to think of another solution. The other solution is, so here I am; I've got problems in front of me. I can't solve them alone, so let me call on my neighbor, and maybe we together as neighbors can solve our problems.

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Written, recorded and edited by Glenn Campbell. For annotations, links and corrections, see the description on the video version of this podcast. You can also leave comments there. See here for all my podcast scripts on this blog.

{Proofread and announced on twitter 1/9/21.}