Fri, 31 December 2010
By far the most requested guest from listeners is John Michael Greer and I am pleased to have finally have him on as a guest. Although at first glance I wondered why listeners were so enamored with this gentleman with the long beard who writes for the blog The ArchDruid Report, but I soon found out that JMG's perspectives on many subjects pertaining to economic, techno-industrial, and Peak Oil concerns were in-line with typical guests on Two Beers With Steve.
In this discussion we delve into many topics starting with Druidry and then moving into Peak Oil and the ASPO conference. Interestingly enough JMG was a guest speaker at the ASPO conference and details that difference between the 'suits' and 'sandals' crowd. We also talk about the impact of a world affected by oil shortages and I ask John Michael if he holds out hope for any new technologies that will fill the gaps left by diminishing oil production (and I asked that question with a straight-face mind you).
For the hardcore crowd who can't get enough Two Beersy talk I added on a five minute after-interview discussion I had with JMG that I thought would be interesting to anyone listening. Just let the music play and the credits roll at the end of the podcast and you'll be rewarded.
Direct download: Episode_78_-_The_Mythology_of_Progress_with_John_Michael_Greer.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00 AM
@Bill First, put down the Jim Rogers cool aid - and perhaps do a little listening to Hugh Hendry. "An Army of Engineeers" - sounds like Japan or Germany has more to fear than the US, we don't have any engineers. The US debt to China is denominated in US dollars, so we are truly the masters in this situation, and China is the dog. China's entire business model is based on exporting cheap products overseas; how does that work in a peak oil world? I do agree with your observations that the Chinese people are not spoiled and entitled like Americans; but wishing for the non-spoiled or good guy to win is simply wishful thinking for what you observe to be a "just" world - life is not fiar, sometimes the rich spoiled trust fund kid remains rich.
Steve, regarding your keen observation regarding our lack of investment in the sciences - I have a friend who retired from law enforcement. He moved to China to teach English. Why not? (he ended up with a 20-something girlfriend after all). When he returned, he stated that what we are up against could be daunting. He instructed classroom after classroom of polite, focused, and eager to learn students. They took nothing for granted and devoured information and learning. He believes that this is now the norm among the rising Chinese generations. I do believe that if China can get their politics right and create stability for their economic machine, we will face an army of engineers, industrialists and businessmen that will rival that of our own culture in the 1950's. Burdened by massive debt, sub-par education and an entitlement mentality, I fear that the American populace is about to face a rude awakening.
Bill, excellent analysis on this episode. I also remain optimistic that when hard times hit that we will experience 'social cohesion' and will begin to focus our efforts on what is most important, rebuilding a New Future. The problem with that rationalism is that the country that I imagine is far from the one we live in today. A society invests its capital in what it deems the most important to its survival. In the US those investments are being made in our ederly (medicaid, medicare, social security) and the war machine ($700B of $3.2T budget). You should really look at the budget breakdown and see how little is being thrown at the sciences, it's appalling. You can't move onto the next source of energy without inventing it first. We need investment in science to have any hope. All the advanced economies are suffering from short term crises to even consider the longer term. This should worry anyone who is looking down the road a bit. I disagree with China being the next rising empire. The environmental damage is considerable and many are resisting the ecological damage. Maybe it won't because the government is complicit in the damage. China may also suffer from the same Empire of Debt that we do. If growth were ever to stall to even reasonable rates then they may implode under the weight of the debt. These two examples of Chinese disaster could be easily overcome though by growing their way out of the problem and shoving the environmental damage onto another poverty strucken third world country. Much like we did to the chinese. Ahh, but I live in this world and work in this world and as long as things stay the same I still get paid a salary, HI HO the Status Quo.
A very interesting interview. I was at first skeptical about receiving an hour of education from a Druid, a disciple of that darling religion that invented "The Wicker Man" for its dazzling human sacrifices. Listening to Greer, I found him very astute. He's clearly a logical thinker who maneuvers his way through anticipated events without the burden of emotion. I agree with Greer's basic premise that the numbers don't lie. The debt load itself predicts a very tough future for the United States. The cavalry isn't coming. We are in deep, deep trouble. I think Greer veers into speculation on several fronts, however. I hear no hard facts that we are already 5-years past Peak Oil. If that is accurate, then he is right and we are heading for a precipitous roller coaster-style decline. To say that the "entire" United States is going to become a third world country seems to be a bit of an overstep. The rich and large corporations aren't going anywhere. The United States will continue to churn out wealth, it just won't be as widely distributed. The true crushing burden of the coming restructuring of the American economy will first be born by the middle class as white color jobs continue to disappear. Soon thereafter, I predict that the social welfare state will implode, and the rug will be pulled from under those who have become reliant on the narcotic of government assistance. As basic goods, services and energy become increasingly expensive, what is left of the middle class will join the impoverished masses in a constant struggle to put food and basic necessities on the table. Note the synergy already between government entities and large corporations. We are already seeing "crony capitalism" in play. The first corrupt sign of a country in decline. While China now takes its place as a world leader, the x-factor for China will be its political climate. Capital runs from turmoil and conflict. If China can modernize politically and socially on par with its economic and manufacturing machine, China will be the dominant force in the world. Greer is just dead on when he identifies the common thread of your audience - people who understand that the narratives we are being sold are terribly wrong and that change of a shocking a variety is at hand. My ray of hope is that I do believe in that deep sense of optimism that defines the American character. When the hard times take serious hold, I believe that eyes will open and that the pain will be accepted and met with a "can do" attitude. Let us hope that we can awake from our national sleep, achieve awareness, and rise collectively to meet the challenges ahead.
I think peak oil will go down exactly like Greer and others think; there will be no major long-term crisis, just a slow erosion of our standard of living over a long period. The good news is that I think those who can earn enough money to pay for expensive oil can keep their living standards - that is my plan.