Author Topic: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation  (Read 55321 times)

Prairie Stash

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #150 on: February 03, 2017, 03:06:03 PM »
Quote
Re: population - I remember when people were saying that 3B was unsustainable.  What are we at now, 7B?  Haha, that's some funny stuff.

A field of mice living there when a grain truck overturns on icy roads will have many generations of food for growth.  It doesn't mean that it's sustainable, it just means that they found something that lets them exceed the natural limitations for a while.  Fossil fuels, in the past few hundred years, have done that.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Overshoot_Day

We are living well, well beyond what the entire earth is capable of regenerating in a year.  So, yes, I do think 7B is unsustainable.  As long as we can continue extracting oil and natural gas, that can go on for a while, but it cannot go on indefinitely.  Well, I suppose, unless you're sucking down the "but asteroid mining!" kool-aid I hear a lot of, as the US currently has no man-rated lift systems.
I'll see your Earth Overshot and raise you a Flat Earth:
http://www.theflatearthsociety.org/home/

In other words, don't believe everything the internet has to say. The Earth Overshoot day links to some self professed experts, it doesn't make it true. If you refer to the wiki page it takes you to the home page which is filled with articles. Nowhere to be found is the process used for calculation....no science, just rhetoric. Can you provide a link that shows their peer reviews? I'm willing to be converted, but you'll have to raise the bar and provide some credible links. Show some math, not just articles.

It was pretty entertaining to read though, the FES is also great, highly recommended. The insight into the workings of the masses who believe in Flat Earth is a compelling insight into why people will believe what they want; all evidence to the contrary.

Prairie Stash

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #151 on: February 03, 2017, 03:17:02 PM »

No, it's not. Nitrogen fertilizer can be made without natural gas if we have plentiful sources of cheap electricity. Phosphorous is a harder wall. See also irrigation water, salification of crop land, loss of topsoil (although no-till is helping a lot with that last one).

So, coal fired plants for fertilizers? :)  We're building out solar and wind rapidly, but they are a tiny fraction of the total power production of the world.  However, nitrogen fixing can be done with excess power, so that is an advantage, potentially - handle some of it off peak production days.  Assuming the process can be ramped up and down quickly - I'm not that familiar with it.

Yeah, it's not like we have a super abundance of cheap renewable electricity now. But by 2050, who knows? And I've definitely already encountered semi-serious proposals to build nitrogen fixing plants out in areas with lots of stranded wind energy as a way to put the surplus energy to use. Here's on example: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.iecr.5b04909 (though not yet economically viable).
There's a reason the US fertilizer industry moved to Trinidad & Tobago, it was an attempt to use stranded Natural Gas deposits found on the island. With the glut of continental gas now there's a push to bring it back. There's still large reserves that are stranded, those supplies are destined for fertilizer (heating fuel isn't a big user in the Caribbean), Trinidad & Tobago aren't the only stranded resource.

An examples of stranded electricity is Iceland, their hydroelectric is more than they can handle, the smelters are estimated to use 70% of the islands power. Bauxite is shipped from Jamaica to produce aluminum, a high energy use product. The economics of shipping resources to areas with cheap electricity is interesting, there's lots of potential.

tyort1

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #152 on: February 03, 2017, 03:41:34 PM »
Syonyk,
Just curious, what would have to happen for you to not be worried about the future?  Is that ever even an option for you?

Metric Mouse

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #153 on: February 03, 2017, 03:46:05 PM »

No, it's not. Nitrogen fertilizer can be made without natural gas if we have plentiful sources of cheap electricity. Phosphorous is a harder wall. See also irrigation water, salification of crop land, loss of topsoil (although no-till is helping a lot with that last one).

So, coal fired plants for fertilizers? :)  We're building out solar and wind rapidly, but they are a tiny fraction of the total power production of the world.  However, nitrogen fixing can be done with excess power, so that is an advantage, potentially - handle some of it off peak production days.  Assuming the process can be ramped up and down quickly - I'm not that familiar with it.

Yeah, it's not like we have a super abundance of cheap renewable electricity now. But by 2050, who knows? And I've definitely already encountered semi-serious proposals to build nitrogen fixing plants out in areas with lots of stranded wind energy as a way to put the surplus energy to use. Here's on example: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.iecr.5b04909 (though not yet economically viable).
There's a reason the US fertilizer industry moved to Trinidad & Tobago, it was an attempt to use stranded Natural Gas deposits found on the island. With the glut of continental gas now there's a push to bring it back. There's still large reserves that are stranded, those supplies are destined for fertilizer (heating fuel isn't a big user in the Caribbean), Trinidad & Tobago aren't the only stranded resource.

An examples of stranded electricity is Iceland, their hydroelectric is more than they can handle, the smelters are estimated to use 70% of the islands power. Bauxite is shipped from Jamaica to produce aluminum, a high energy use product. The economics of shipping resources to areas with cheap electricity is interesting, there's lots of potential.
Shipping things via water is so incredibly cheap compared to shipping across land. On the order of 70 times cheaper; the economics are indeed interesting.

cheapass

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #154 on: February 03, 2017, 04:01:22 PM »
Syonyk,
Just curious, what would have to happen for you to not be worried about the future?  Is that ever even an option for you?

We all worry about an uncertain future, right?  That's why we buy insurance and have emergency funds and accumulate enough income-producing assets to no longer depend on a benevolent employer...

maizeman

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #155 on: February 03, 2017, 04:08:12 PM »
I hadn't heard about the Trinidad & Tobago story before, very cool!

Also, I don't know how I missed it earlier, but I'd be fascinated to hear how you ended up rhubarb (and lots of other crops) farming in a bunch of different people's yards. You're certainly right that the economies of scale with regard to labor just don't work out as well with lots and lots of time plots of land.

Syonyk

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #156 on: February 03, 2017, 04:09:17 PM »
Syonyk,
Just curious, what would have to happen for you to not be worried about the future?  Is that ever even an option for you?

In the context of this thread, a significant and ongoing global movement to live significantly within the resource bounds of our planet in terms of non-renewable extraction and use, and radically more robust systems (which can also be rephased as "inefficient in certain ways") we rely on for life.  Hyper-efficient just in time systems are insanely fragile and brittle.

I might not even be concerned if we were making good movements towards that.  But we're not, and as noted in this thread, multiple people have essentially said, "If we're heading to a cliff, we'd better keep going and stand on the accelerator more because stopping now would be bad."

So I'm not particularly optimistic about us making changes related to sustaining on a finite planet in time.  We will, as a civilization, be bound to our limits - eventually.  But if we don't accept that we have limits, then... well.  Nothing good this way comes.

Shipping things via water is so incredibly cheap compared to shipping across land. On the order of 70 times cheaper; the economics are indeed interesting.

It really is, especially if you're willing to go slow.  Sails are also absurdly efficient - for quite a while, coal for steamers was hauled by sailing ship.  There's a lot of problem with trying to do sail powered containerized shipping, though.

We all worry about an uncertain future, right?  That's why we buy insurance and have emergency funds and accumulate enough income-producing assets to no longer depend on a benevolent employer...

That too... I'm just optimizing in a different way to get to the same end, I hope.

tyort1

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #157 on: February 03, 2017, 04:16:58 PM »
Syonyk,
Just curious, what would have to happen for you to not be worried about the future?  Is that ever even an option for you?

In the context of this thread, a significant and ongoing global movement to live significantly within the resource bounds of our planet in terms of non-renewable extraction and use, and radically more robust systems (which can also be rephased as "inefficient in certain ways") we rely on for life.  Hyper-efficient just in time systems are insanely fragile and brittle.

I might not even be concerned if we were making good movements towards that.  But we're not, and as noted in this thread, multiple people have essentially said, "If we're heading to a cliff, we'd better keep going and stand on the accelerator more because stopping now would be bad."

So I'm not particularly optimistic about us making changes related to sustaining on a finite planet in time.  We will, as a civilization, be bound to our limits - eventually.  But if we don't accept that we have limits, then... well.  Nothing good this way comes.

[/quote]

What can you do about that?  I mean it seems like you feel that the system/world is going to crash, no matter what. 

Syonyk

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #158 on: February 03, 2017, 05:09:54 PM »
What can you do about that?  I mean it seems like you feel that the system/world is going to crash, no matter what.

At some point, yes.  I think we'll see the impacts of decline in my life, and I think that the western industrial civilization will collapse into the dustbin of history at some point.

As to what to do?  See my first post. :)

Metric Mouse

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #159 on: February 03, 2017, 06:54:44 PM »
What can you do about that?  I mean it seems like you feel that the system/world is going to crash, no matter what.

At some point, yes.  I think we'll see the impacts of decline in my life, and I think that the western industrial civilization will collapse into the dustbin of history at some point.

As to what to do?  See my first post. :)
While I don't know your exact age, I disagree with your first point. Very hard to argue with your second point, however .

Syonyk

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #160 on: February 03, 2017, 06:56:35 PM »
While I don't know your exact age, I disagree with your first point. Very hard to argue with your second point, however .

I hope to have another 60 or so useful years on the planet.

Kriegsspiel

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #161 on: February 03, 2017, 07:16:20 PM »
I don't know what a granola or a Johnny is, but THANK YOU for wanting to (and taking action to) help me out! And lovely that you had that happy outcome, too :)

She must be talking about www.granolashotgun.com, Johnny's been writing a lot about practical disaster prep and what kinds of places are going to decline in the future.
Right and wrong. I mentioned his tiny house in Hawaii to Joon, and someone else (apparently not Joon) said that he has a blog, as you kindly linked to. I've read some of it so far. I am much more interested in his urban development perspectives and experiences, especially in Cincinnati.  I skipped over all the prepper stuff, because it just doesn't speak to me. I guess I'm too much of an optimist. Or too lazy to prep. Or something.

Johnny is a very good writer and has a wide variety of interests, so I look forward this reading through his site. I may even get to the prepper sections, but only in an "It's nice to learn about other people's beautifully articulated points of view" kind of way.

Dude, me too, that's why I moved here! Maybe you Californians would be more interested if it was called "earthquake discomfort minimization" or something like that?

Here is another article of his that I really enjoyed. These people have built a very resilient life.

tyort1

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #162 on: February 03, 2017, 07:19:11 PM »
I also think the western industrial civilization will not last forever.  But I think it will be replaced with something much awesomer.  Because that's pretty much what's happened through out history.  Hell, it's already happening, we're shifting toward a knowledge/technology society in the West already.  I also think we'll hit a tipping point with solar and fossil fuels will be a thing of the past.  Just like we had an oil boom at the dawn of the industrial age, I think we're in for a solar boom at the dawn of the information age. 

Syonyk

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #163 on: February 03, 2017, 07:37:24 PM »
But I think it will be replaced with something much awesomer.  Because that's pretty much what's happened through out history.

That's true, in some cases, given long enough time, but you seem to be missing the "collapse" period between civilizations, which lasts several lifespans, generally.

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Hell, it's already happening, we're shifting toward a knowledge/technology society in the West already.

Sure, but that relies, insanely heavily, on non-renewable and non-recycled resources.  Unless you count piles of ewaste in China "recycling."

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I also think we'll hit a tipping point with solar and fossil fuels will be a thing of the past.  Just like we had an oil boom at the dawn of the industrial age, I think we're in for a solar boom at the dawn of the information age.

The fossil fuels created the industrial age, not the other way around.

In terms of "tipping points," maybe.  But solar is only built out when it's cheap, and cheap solar puts companies building it out of business (which, currently, is in the process of happening, again).  And how to run a reliable power grid, like we're used to, on renewables, is an open question that's still in no way certain as far as an answer goes.

If you're willing to accept power based on the current weather conditions, sure.  You can do renewable energy.  But long periods of no power in the winter aren't something too many people seem excited about.

I could go on about the power grid issues, but it basically boils down to, "Maintaining stable voltages and frequencies, with renewables, is hard."  And then there are energy storage issues where the laws of physics show up pretty strongly and say, "No, you can't do seasonal energy storage that way."

tyort1

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #164 on: February 03, 2017, 07:48:39 PM »
True, but even if we used fossil fuels only in the winter and/or only on non-sunny days, that's a huge, massive improvement. 

Collapse is a loaded word, and you switch between collapse and decline in your language.  They are not the same thing.  A long gradual decline is not the same as a collapse.  A decline is noticeable while it is happening, but a collapse generally happens too fast for anything to be done about it.

A decline I'm not too worried about because it becomes quite manageable once you have enough wealth to be flexible with you living and working arrangements.  A collapse?  Well if SHTF like that, no amount of prepping will help you.  I'm sorry but it won't.  It's like a squirrel saving up nuts for the winter, and then a nuclear war occurs.  No amount of nuts is going to help.  I kind of feel the same way about a full on collapse.  In that scenario, solar panels and a garden won't help.  Not in the end.  At that point I believe there'd be roving gangs and massive looting and your garden and solar panels will simply make you an easy target. 

Luckily, I really, really, really don't think going to have a collapse. 

This whole thread I keep thinking about those people that sounded the alarm and headed to the hills in the 60's and 70's, convinced that it was all coming down.  Well, they've now pretty much wasted their entire lives and it is so freaking sad. 

lost_in_the_endless_aisle

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #165 on: February 03, 2017, 09:22:51 PM »

A field of mice living there when a grain truck overturns on icy roads will have many generations of food for growth.  It doesn't mean that it's sustainable, it just means that they found something that lets them exceed the natural limitations for a while.  Fossil fuels, in the past few hundred years, have done that.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Overshoot_Day

We are living well, well beyond what the entire earth is capable of regenerating in a year.  So, yes, I do think 7B is unsustainable.  As long as we can continue extracting oil and natural gas, that can go on for a while, but it cannot go on indefinitely.  Well, I suppose, unless you're sucking down the "but asteroid mining!" kool-aid I hear a lot of, as the US currently has no man-rated lift systems.
Your mention of field mice would be relevant if people had the cognitive powers of field mice. The carrying capacity of the earth depends mostly on the ability of humans to create new knowledge and technology. Ultimately, the bounds of attainable knowledge (assuming any such bounds even exist) are what constrain human progress rather than the amount of oil in the earth or arable land on its surface. As a comparison, the estimated "carrying capacity" of the earth during hunter-gatherer times was on the order of tens of millions.

Syonyk

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #166 on: February 03, 2017, 09:32:08 PM »
Your mention of field mice would be relevant if people had the cognitive powers of field mice. The carrying capacity of the earth depends mostly on the ability of humans to create new knowledge and technology. Ultimately, the bounds of attainable knowledge (assuming any such bounds even exist) are what constrain human progress rather than the amount of oil in the earth or arable land on its surface. As a comparison, the estimated "carrying capacity" of the earth during hunter-gatherer times was on the order of tens of millions.

I would argue that it depends, radically more, on our ability to generate reliable energy supplies.  Technology without power is generally worthless.

The bounds of attainable knowledge are limited by the physics of the universe we live in, as is our ability to make use of that knowledge.  And, like anything else, technology is subject to the law of diminishing returns.  And physics.

We'll see.  I would quite like to be wrong, but I'm not convinced enough to not prepare in case I'm right.

lost_in_the_endless_aisle

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #167 on: February 03, 2017, 09:43:04 PM »
Your mention of field mice would be relevant if people had the cognitive powers of field mice. The carrying capacity of the earth depends mostly on the ability of humans to create new knowledge and technology. Ultimately, the bounds of attainable knowledge (assuming any such bounds even exist) are what constrain human progress rather than the amount of oil in the earth or arable land on its surface. As a comparison, the estimated "carrying capacity" of the earth during hunter-gatherer times was on the order of tens of millions.

I would argue that it depends, radically more, on our ability to generate reliable energy supplies.  Technology without power is generally worthless.

The bounds of attainable knowledge are limited by the physics of the universe we live in, as is our ability to make use of that knowledge.  And, like anything else, technology is subject to the law of diminishing returns.  And physics.

We'll see.  I would quite like to be wrong, but I'm not convinced enough to not prepare in case I'm right.
Humanity in general has done/is doing perhaps too little to hedge against existential threats. Initiatives like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault or the Long Now Foundation and Future of Humanity Institute are outliers.

Regarding power, the sun outputs a million times more energy each second than is used by humans in a year. The problem is with how to effectively capture that power. Once that problem is solved, any physical "resource" constraints will be solvable through nuclear transmutation. On longer timescales, the problem becomes interstellar travel.

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #168 on: February 03, 2017, 09:53:24 PM »
Humanity in general has done/is doing perhaps too little to hedge against existential threats. Initiatives like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault or the Long Now Foundation and Future of Humanity Institute are outliers.

And, you note, those organizations assume something pretty bad happening.  Long Now is designing a clock to run without human intervention for thousands of years.

Quote
Regarding power, the sun outputs a million times more energy each second than is used by humans in a year. The problem is with how to effectively capture that power. Once that problem is solved, any physical "resource" constraints will be solvable through nuclear transmutation. On longer timescales, the problem becomes interstellar travel.

IF that problem is solved.

We have a reasonably limited remaining period of time before fossil fuels become too energetically and economically infeasible to extract to make a transition, assuming we can reasonably mine enough of the various materials needed to transition to renewable energy.  Which is a big if.  A global fleet of electric cars requires about the known global reserves of cobalt - I've done the math with current battery tech (yes, I know, some furious handwave will show up about how battery tech will improve, and I'm still waiting for a viable lithium sulfur battery that I can actually buy to test and evaluate).

And... you have faith in nuclear transmutation and interstellar travel.  Great.  I'm obviously an awful lot less optimistic about those.

babybug

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #169 on: February 03, 2017, 09:55:18 PM »
If you look around at nations that have actually faced economic crisis such as Venezuela recently: the people who thrive are the ones who have cash  (short term) and assets + no debt (longer term).  Short of a massive natural disaster, there'll always be a micro economy that depends on the same fundamentals.

I grew up in a third world country that underwent this. Again, same principles. The folks living marginally will fall off the wagon and have to scramble for food. The upper middle might struggle and have to rent out rooms and stop buying clothes, but they and the elite will be just fine (and have the means to emigrate which I did)...

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« Last Edit: February 03, 2017, 09:57:55 PM by babybug »

The Happy Philosopher

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #170 on: February 04, 2017, 10:01:27 AM »
Humanity in general has done/is doing perhaps too little to hedge against existential threats. Initiatives like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault or the Long Now Foundation and Future of Humanity Institute are outliers.

And, you note, those organizations assume something pretty bad happening.  Long Now is designing a clock to run without human intervention for thousands of years.

Quote
Regarding power, the sun outputs a million times more energy each second than is used by humans in a year. The problem is with how to effectively capture that power. Once that problem is solved, any physical "resource" constraints will be solvable through nuclear transmutation. On longer timescales, the problem becomes interstellar travel.

IF that problem is solved.

We have a reasonably limited remaining period of time before fossil fuels become too energetically and economically infeasible to extract to make a transition, assuming we can reasonably mine enough of the various materials needed to transition to renewable energy.  Which is a big if.  A global fleet of electric cars requires about the known global reserves of cobalt - I've done the math with current battery tech (yes, I know, some furious handwave will show up about how battery tech will improve, and I'm still waiting for a viable lithium sulfur battery that I can actually buy to test and evaluate).

And... you have faith in nuclear transmutation and interstellar travel.  Great.  I'm obviously an awful lot less optimistic about those.

Although blind optimism is probably not desirable, it should be noted that everyone who has predicted permanent collapse and much of the doom and gloom has been wrong. The reason is that they always forecast current trends into the future and assume nothing will change. Efficiency, innovation, technology and the seemingly insatiable appetite for humans to push continuously forward is assumed to abruptly stop.

Preparing for doomsday is very likely a poor use of time (unless those activities make you happy anyways). Preparing for a short term disruption (weeks - a couple months) is a great use of time. Building a huge pile of diversified and liquid assets is the best use of time, because it is so versatile. It will work for both disaster and retirement :)

Syonyk

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #171 on: February 04, 2017, 10:16:16 AM »
Although blind optimism is probably not desirable, it should be noted that everyone who has predicted permanent collapse and much of the doom and gloom has been wrong. The reason is that they always forecast current trends into the future and assume nothing will change. Efficiency, innovation, technology and the seemingly insatiable appetite for humans to push continuously forward is assumed to abruptly stop.

Over what timeframe?  There are hundreds or thousands of civilizations that no longer exist, in any form.  Presumably, there were people pointing out that they would have problems at some point in the future as well.

If you choose to limit it to "People who have predicted the end of our current arc of civilization are wrong, so far," sure.  I agree.  But that's not a very useful statement.

Quote
Preparing for doomsday is very likely a poor use of time (unless those activities make you happy anyways). Preparing for a short term disruption (weeks - a couple months) is a great use of time. Building a huge pile of diversified and liquid assets is the best use of time, because it is so versatile. It will work for both disaster and retirement :)

Sure.  And I'm diversifying into local food production and energy. :)  It should even be reasonably "currency-reset" proof.

tyort1

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #172 on: February 04, 2017, 10:38:44 AM »
Are you also investing in guns and shooting lessons for your family?  Because those are also very useful skills to prep for a collapse. 

Syonyk

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #173 on: February 04, 2017, 11:04:08 AM »
Are you also investing in guns and shooting lessons for your family?  Because those are also very useful skills to prep for a collapse.

Please don't consider my discussions here as a comprehensive list of things I'm doing. :)

I just don't particularly believe in discussing other things on a public forum.

Telecaster

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #174 on: February 04, 2017, 12:38:21 PM »

Over what timeframe?  There are hundreds or thousands of civilizations that no longer exist, in any form.  Presumably, there were people pointing out that they would have problems at some point in the future as well.

There have been been hundreds or thousands of governments that no longer exist.    If you take away civilizations that were destroyed by external invaders (I assume by "decline" you're not expecting that we will be invaded by hostiles externals or something), then there have only been a handful of civilizations that actually just stopped existing.     Anasazi, and a few others spring to mind. 

For example, The Russian Tsars were replaced by the communists, who were replaced by the oligarchs.  The rulers changed, but the basic institutions and culture stayed the same. 

Syonyk

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #175 on: February 04, 2017, 12:47:56 PM »
For example, The Russian Tsars were replaced by the communists, who were replaced by the oligarchs.  The rulers changed, but the basic institutions and culture stayed the same.

Sure, but even with those transitions, "normal" broke down pretty badly.

Read some of the stuff written during the recent Soviet collapse and transition - it was a pretty rough decade for people living there as power transferred and new forms of government got worked out.

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #176 on: February 04, 2017, 04:46:12 PM »
Fascinating discussion, I'm chiming in to support of the point that this does not seem like a pessimistic post. 

Personally, I would be at 2 (leaning towards 3)/B in the previous summary from maizeman.  I would point out the B (leave) crowd, have many fun lifestyle improvements and temporary self sufficiency options to play with as well.  Some of which I am currently exploring.  Not because I think the US is about to have massive disruptions (although I agree that it is likely past peak from a historical perspective), rather because the thought of having a mobile lifestyle is fun!  Some  days I'm kid at disney world excited about my ideas. The hobby just has a side benefit of insulating me from (temporary or not) local or region disruptions that may occur.

I dont see any justification why Syonyks hobby of becoming more self sufficient is any different than those on this forum who have income producing side gigs.  Sure, it's likely neither is the most efficient way of achieving FI, but each provides entertainment along with an added level of security for FIRE if the whole "living off of investments" idea doesn't pan out quite as expected.  Syonyks' hobby benefits are far less antifragile than most side gigs and they're good for the environment.  This is in total alignment with the general ideals of the MMM community.

@Syonyk, I read your blog post that inspired this conversation.  You have a new reader!

aceyou

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #177 on: February 04, 2017, 06:01:18 PM »
For example, The Russian Tsars were replaced by the communists, who were replaced by the oligarchs.  The rulers changed, but the basic institutions and culture stayed the same.

Sure, but even with those transitions, "normal" broke down pretty badly.

Read some of the stuff written during the recent Soviet collapse and transition - it was a pretty rough decade for people living there as power transferred and new forms of government got worked out.

And in all those times, wealth was probably the #1 most valuable thing that that made the difference.  It was probably FAR less rough for people who were FI than those who were not.  That probably smoothed the ride 100x's more than being a good shot or other survivalist skills. 

Disclaimer: I'm a huge advocate of self-sufficiency, want to install solar, and live very much like you do most likely.  My only point is that being FI in all likelihood gets you at least 90% of the way home in the event of political/economic distress.  The other stuff is for the fun and because it makes our world better and more fun to live in!!!

maizeman

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #178 on: February 04, 2017, 06:13:17 PM »
I've also really enjoyed this thread, thanks to Syonyk for kicking it off.

These ideas have been in the DNA of the FIRE community for a very long time. I believe Jacob (of ERE) was or is a doomer. Maybe the mindset of really planning half a century or more in advance means people on FIRE forums are more likely to be aware of the substantial challenges our country/civilization/planet will have to overcome in the 21st century? (Which is not to say different people won't respond to the awareness of those challenges in different ways ranging from faith in human ingenuity to resignation.)

Classical_Liberal

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #179 on: February 04, 2017, 07:31:06 PM »
And in all those times, wealth was probably the #1 most valuable thing that that made the difference.  It was probably FAR less rough for people who were FI than those who were not.  That probably smoothed the ride 100x's more than being a good shot or other survivalist skills. 

I would argue this depends on the type of wealth.  Some of the most traditional ways to build/hold wealth are not easily transferable to either a new location or a new social order.  Hence, wealth could actually become a liability insofar one would put themselves in jeopardy to try to protect it.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2017, 07:33:22 PM by Classical_Liberal »

maizeman

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #180 on: February 04, 2017, 07:47:46 PM »
And in all those times, wealth was probably the #1 most valuable thing that that made the difference.  It was probably FAR less rough for people who were FI than those who were not.  That probably smoothed the ride 100x's more than being a good shot or other survivalist skills. 

I would argue this depends on the type of wealth.  Some of the most traditional ways to build/hold wealth are not easily transferable to either a new location or a new social order.  Hence, wealth could actually become a liability insofar one would put themselves in jeopardy to try to protect it.

Hadn't thought about it that way before. But yes, I could certainly see this (reluctance to get out of dodge because your wealth is immobile and would have to be left behind) being an issue, particularly for the folks who are doing most of their stash building when real estate.

Syonyk

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #181 on: February 04, 2017, 08:30:56 PM »
Fascinating discussion, I'm chiming in to support of the point that this does not seem like a pessimistic post.

Thanks.  I really don't see it as particularly pessimistic, and I certainly wouldn't put myself as clinically depressed - just focusing on a different approach to FI that I find more robust/antifragile.

Quote
@Syonyk, I read your blog post that inspired this conversation.  You have a new reader!

Thanks, I try to keep the blog interesting.  It's a pretty weird corner of the internet by most standards, but it's generating me beer money now, and sending an awful lot of pack rebuilds my way, which are quite worth the time, though I've started paying another guy to do some of the grunt work. :)

And in all those times, wealth was probably the #1 most valuable thing that that made the difference.  It was probably FAR less rough for people who were FI than those who were not.  That probably smoothed the ride 100x's more than being a good shot or other survivalist skills.

It really depends.  Wealth, in the form of paper gains preferred on this forum, is vulnerable to loss through either government seizure or currency devaluation - both of which have happened, repeatedly, throughout history.

Local physical wealth is often more useful, but that looks like fertile soil and esoteric knowledge, not so much "index funds."  The easily movable stuff is certainly vulnerable to seizure if things go bad enough, but some of it less so - and part of that is my focus on helping out the local community and being a valuable person to keep around.  "Annual generation" is harder to grab in one swoop, and if I'm part of a hyper-local community growing our own food and such, it's historically more likely to be robust.

I would offer that, among other things, I hedge against currency devaluation in a few different ways.

Hadn't thought about it that way before. But yes, I could certainly see this (reluctance to get out of dodge because your wealth is immobile and would have to be left behind) being an issue, particularly for the folks who are doing most of their stash building when real estate.

A lot of it ends up, in survivalist terms, being a case of "bug out" vs "bug in."  I've got the property that I can "bug in," and focus on keeping my little hillside sustainable and useful.  That it's an unfarmable south facing hill... makes for an interesting challenge, but also an interesting opportunity, because I can terrace up it and have an awful lot of dirt exposed to sun.

maizeman

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #182 on: February 04, 2017, 09:00:00 PM »
An awful lot of electrons have been burned on "bug in" vs "bug out" discussion, probably because there really isn't one right answer. It really depends an awful lot the details of what type of crises actually happens and people's individual situations.

But I wasn't actually meaning to critic your approach of investing in greater self sufficiency at all with the comment you quoted. The scenario I was envisioning was a forum member who owns a couple-three duplexes in a city somewhere (say Buenos Aires as Argentina's currency crisis settled in, or in Greece more recently). In both cases either pulling up stakes and leaving (bugging out) or being able to retreat to a self sufficient property away from big masses of people who can form angry mobs and riot would be far superior options to just trying to carry on collecting rents and living life like nothing had happened.

genesismachine

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #183 on: February 04, 2017, 10:47:05 PM »
    A few more thoughts/snippets from history:

    • 1968 - Society is coming apart. All the kids are on drugs. Race riots. We're trapped in Vietnam. The Soviets could nuke us at any point. WWIII is imminent.
    • 1940 - Fascism and communism are overrunning the world. We're in the biggest war the world has ever known.
    • 1930 - Our economy has collapsed. There's no end in sight.
    • 1862 - Our country is torn apart by civil war!
    • 1814 - The British have invaded. They've burned the White House! We're under a blockade. Hope is lost.

    Just a few select examples from history. And this is just US history. Think of what Europe, China, Russia, and others have been through.

    [/list]

    1850 - The US will never have a civil war
    1910 - Germany is doing great!
    1928 - The US is doing great!
    1935 - Germany is doing great!
    1989 - Japan is taking over the world, Nikkei at 36000! (the Nikkei is currently at 18000 28 years later)
    2006 - Housing always goes up! No more economic cycles due to advanced planning!

    The truth is nobody knows what will happen in the future. If I was in Germany in 1900 and told everyone that Germany would be basically destroyed not once but twice in the next 50 years, could you imagine the reactions I'd get?

    Stock markets don't always go up. History is full of examples of this. If you invested in all stock markets of the major powers prior to WW2 and 'diversified', you will still not have recovered. I always get a kick out of people here behaving as though everything will be fine if they just wish it so.

    Now, this isn't to be all doom and gloom either, the preppers are just the flip side of the same ridiculous coin. It's also entirely possible that we will have a bright sunshiny future ahead of us.

    There's a book called 'Prosper' that has a lot of good tips on how to prepare yourself for the future, no matter what it is. I don't agree with everything in it, and you can just ignore the first 1/3 of the book. If for instance, there's a civil war, which is entirely a possibility, there are steps you can take to make yourself much better off. They may not even cost much money or take much time. Stuff like learning to garden, having some land, being in good shape, etc... Things that really don't take away from your life as you are currently living it, but can help tremendously if things go bad some day.
    « Last Edit: February 04, 2017, 10:51:30 PM by genesismachine »

    Syonyk

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    Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
    « Reply #184 on: February 04, 2017, 11:18:00 PM »
    1850 - The US will never have a civil war
    1910 - Germany is doing great!
    1928 - The US is doing great!
    1935 - Germany is doing great!
    1989 - Japan is taking over the world, Nikkei at 36000! (the Nikkei is currently at 18000 28 years later)
    2006 - Housing always goes up! No more economic cycles due to advanced planning!

    Shush with your "facts."  They're nonsense!  Why, what sort of paranoid nonsense are you peddling with your historically accurate comments?

    Quote
    Stock markets don't always go up. History is full of examples of this. If you invested in all stock markets of the allied powers prior to WW2 and 'diversified', you will still not have recovered. I always get a kick out of people here behaving as though everything will be fine if they just wish it so.

    But... but... Index Funds?  IDSIX?  You know, markets always go up, except when they don't...

    Quote
    Stuff like learning to garden, having some land, being in good shape, etc... Things that really don't take away from your life as you are currently living it, but can help tremendously if things go bad some day.

    Yup.  Worst case, I provide for my own needs and eat wonderfully local food.  Darn!

    maizeman

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    Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
    « Reply #185 on: February 05, 2017, 07:58:11 AM »
    If you invested in all stock markets of the major powers prior to WW2 and 'diversified', you will still not have recovered.

    Could you expand a bit on this statement?

    Intuitively it feels unlikely to be true, because while you'd take a huge hit with the complete loss of stocks in germany, japan, russia, and china, the investments you had left would have gone through the postwar boom in the USA, and you'd be rebalancing out from there into the new stock markets of japan and germany which would start their booms as the USA's slowed (but not until russia and china because there wouldn't be any stocks to buy in communist countries).

    My gut isn't a particularly intelligent analyst though, so I'd be interested in hearing more about the numbers and assumptions here.

    I DO know that World War II is the reason you see articles from time to time pop up about how the 4% withdrawal method doesn't work in many countries other than the USA. Having enough wealth so you can carry on with your retirement completely normally without either fleeing the area or being able to withdraw to a largely self sufficient retreat while bombs are falling and people are fighting and dying in the streets outside your house is not a reasonably goal.

    This also gives me an excuse to bring out one my my favorite economic charts:



    Looking at it, I guess another question is whether your statement would be based on a cap-weighted investment into all the major world powers prior to worldwar II or equal allocations to each country.

    Rife

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    Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
    « Reply #186 on: February 05, 2017, 10:31:27 AM »
    This thread did motivate me to read a few articles on the collapse of industrial civilization.I feel they are intentionally confusing about discussing a specific government/economic system or culture and all of civilization. Yes, "Entire civilizations have been weeded out when their belief system proved maladaptive to a changing environment" and also more have been wiped out when they were conquered by technologically superior enemies, but  so what?

    Civilization as a whole is still thriving, we are far more advanced than ever, and support far more people on the planet. Ok, that doesn't mean it will continue forever, but there is nothing in the past that supports all of civilization collapsing since it didn't. The parts of the articles that try to talk this just make no sense.

    If we are talking about just the U.S. being overtaken by other countries, then many would argue that already happened. Countries like Finland and Norway dominate lists on the best overall counties in which to live. Our cultural influence may be at a peak, but again, many people would argue the world will be better off without the US influence driving it to economic inequality and environmental ruin.

    Capitalism is often targeted along with the corporate elite as a reason for collapse. I do agree that capitalism is a driving force on the destruction of the environment. I don't know anyone else that has solar panels despite most everyone I know being able to afford them easily (if they made better choices). They will spend 30000 on a new car without blinking, but tell me how solar is just too pricey. They won't change until the economics make sense.

    This will of course flip at some point, and it is already starting to turn. Eventually, society will be driven by necessity to power generation that doesn't destroy the environment. We will have to get better at storing energy, and it is likely that nuclear will be in the mix.

    There have always been doom and gloom predictions of a dystopian future. 1984 was a prediction forward of where society was heading. When I was a kid, nuclear war was the reason we would destroy ourselves. A common saying was "I don't know what WWIII will be fought with but WWIV will be fought with sticks and stones." None of that has gone away, and the world governments aren't more stable. Millennials simply don't believe anyone will intentionally destroy the world by launching widespread nuclear attacks.

    At some point we will have to get more serious about solving global warming. I am all in favor of encouraging people to become more self-sufficient, but messages about the end of the world has never done the trick. No one knows the future which is why it is just as valid for me to say that we will find solutions the the problems. Over time it will become more and more difficult for deniers to persist and eventually it will even be economically viable for major corporations to work on global warming. Saying we don't know the future doesn't make the most pessimistic outlook any more true.

    I do think that we are talking about a gradual decline and not a sudden change like a nuclear war which gives people time to shift. I do hope to use my retirement to build a more sustainable lifestyle. Not because I think all of industrial civilization will collapse. We shouldn't need that motivation. Why would anyone want pollution and environmental destruction?

    Last thought, looking at it through the lense of pessimism, the government may take your land, a better armed group could take over your area or any number of things. I don't think that me having a nice garden and solar panels will be of much help when the rest of the country is starving. This easily leads down a slippery slope of paranoia. This is also why going too far down pessimism road doesn't convince many people. A jealous neighbor can just kill my chickens and shoot up my solar panels. You always have guns in the fallout shelter to shoot anyone that tries to get in after all.

    Live a more sustainable lifestyle yes, but not because it will give special advantages if all of civilization collapses.


    Raenia

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    Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
    « Reply #187 on: February 05, 2017, 10:51:29 AM »
    Millennials simply don't believe anyone will intentionally destroy the world by launching widespread nuclear attacks.

    Speak for yourself.  I am a millennial, and I and most of my social circle are in fact terrified of this precise eventuality, particularly given current events.  I don't want to get into politics, but please don't make generalizations about entire generations.  Most millenials I know are MORE cautious and afraid for the future than our parents and older coworkers.

    As for the actual topic, I'm all for sustainability and self-sufficiency.  I'm in the crowd whose ideal retirement is homesteading with chickens, goats, gardens, etc.  Not because I thing the world is going to fall apart, but because that is a lifestyle I enjoy.  That it's more sustainable and could help my family manage in a decline is just a bonus.

    People seem to be talking about two very different things, though.  A slow decline from being the foremost nation is one thing, and we have plenty of examples of countries that faded peacefully from the top without a collapse of social structures or a decline in quality of life.  Others are talking about the fall of the Soviet Union as an example - I would call that a collapse, not a decline.  Preparations for these two models would be very, very different.  If you're predicting a slow decline, then I think most people won't feel the need to prepare more than amassing wealth in order to cope with increased cost of living, difficultly of travel, etc.  If we're talking full on collapse a la Soviet Union, then the two options of A) fortifying and becoming self-sufficient or B) preparing to drop everything and leave for greener pastures, really comes down to personal choice.  Both are valid strategies, which you choose depends more on your own skills and priorities, and the kind of lifestyle you enjoy.

    Classical_Liberal

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    Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
    « Reply #188 on: February 05, 2017, 12:21:42 PM »
    I think there are two issues here which are only partially intertwined. 
    • Is the US in decline as a world superpower/empire?
    • Is the entire planet doomed to decline due to the inevitable exhaustion of cheap energy from fossil fuels and/or climate change?
    In regards to the first point, I would say “yes”.  Viewing the US from a historical context it has, in fact, reached a peak of influence and is declining.  We see this internally from a cultural standpoint and externally from the increased cost of maintaining military and economic superiority (ie empire maintaining).  The US is rather efficient is the way it manages its “constituent states”.  It prefers means like currency manipulation,  IMF loans for resource access, super secret coups, and only uses more expensive outright military options when all others fail.  Still, it’s becoming too expensive to maintain when the citizens continue to selfishly demand higher standards of individual living.  The eventual “nails” in the coffin for US super power status is yet to be determined.  I can think of a few things that would hurt;  loss of world currency status, collapse of free trade agreements, ever increasing internal strife.  I think its likely to be a combination of these and other, not yet predictable factors.  The end result may only be a weakened, but intact US, or it may divides along ideological or regional economic lines, but again, not predictable.  So the question becomes will this happen in the next 30-50 years?  I think it’s possible.  More possible than worldwide nuclear devastation or zombie apocalypse.  Decline, however, is much more likely than reemergence to peak power and influence.
     
    I am not qualified to address the second point effectively.  I simply know that a great many people, much more intelligent than I, have deep concerns about peak oil.  My amateur opinion is with the current trend towards renewable and a large supply of natural gas and coal remaining for relatively efficient electric energy (with grids already in place), we will likely see a transition in which fossil fuels the developed world uses.  Increases in energy cost, likely increased volatility in prices, but not world devastating in the near or midterm.  At least, until these resources begin to dwindle.  Who knows, by that point we may have zero point energy or some such scifi solution.   Climate change being another world wide issue I’m unqualified to speak towards, but it will also likely add costs and volatility to world food production.   Together, my guess is the next 100 years will see much less growth and productivity gains than the last 100, any gains will likely be used to simple to maintain status quo. I doubt, however, this will be enough to hamper my personal ability to “live the good life” for the next 40 or 50 years as long as I remain attuned to these changes.

    Simply because I believe the US is declining and the world will have some serious challenges ahead does not mean I’m a “doomer” or “prepper”.   In fact, I’m optimistic these transitions will result in a better world for humans down the road.  I’m also optimistic about my and this community’s ability to deal with these issues as they arise.  I simply think the transition periods will make the next 100 years a bit tougher than the last 100. Having an enjoyable hobby that may help my FIRE go more smoothly in certain possibilities isn’t crazy or pessimistic, it's fun.  I wouldn’t judge someone who chooses different hobbies. However, I would argue being optimistic to the point that one does not see changes in the US and the world, if they begin to happen, will have a huge disadvantage.
     
    Look to the world of biology; over the long term, species that are the most adaptable are better off than those who over specialize to only one particular environment.  Although, the latter may have an advantage in its specific environment.  So I guess the question is, will things change or remain the same? 
    « Last Edit: February 05, 2017, 12:26:21 PM by Classical_Liberal »

    brooklynguy

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    Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
    « Reply #189 on: February 06, 2017, 08:58:22 AM »
    This also gives me an excuse to bring out one my my favorite economic charts

    Thanks for sharing -- that chart is very interesting, and it, in turn, gives me an excuse to post the following (hopelessly unscientific, but nonetheless interesting, and germane to the topic at hand) diagram, of which your chart reminded me, and which can almost be thought of as a drastically expanded version of the same thing, in which the timeline has been extended from one century to four millennia, and the scope of the subject matter has been expanded from "equity capitalization" to an undefined (and therefore amorphous) general concept of "power":



    Enlargeable high-resolution version available here.

    Prairie Stash

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    Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
    « Reply #190 on: February 06, 2017, 12:28:41 PM »
    I hadn't heard about the Trinidad & Tobago story before, very cool!

    Also, I don't know how I missed it earlier, but I'd be fascinated to hear how you ended up rhubarb (and lots of other crops) farming in a bunch of different people's yards. You're certainly right that the economies of scale with regard to labor just don't work out as well with lots and lots of time plots of land.
    its pretty simple. I wandered around the neighbourhood and saw a lot if fruit crops going to waste I knocked on a few doors and some people said I could harvest and some turned me away. Last year I started a raised bed in the alley behind my neighbour, my limit is turning into time, I could probably do 200 feet by 2 feet in the alley, its a creative solution to finding garden space. Growing is the easy part, the real work is the harvest and storage. Overall I stick to high cost stuff like berries, its the best return on my time (I would like to do more, there's only so many hours in a day). In practice what I do is equivalent to prepping, I keep a large supply of food and its renewable every year. Its a hobby now, it reminds me of my youth.

    When I was young we raised the majority of our food; milk, eggs, beef, chicken, potatoes, corn, peas, etc. It was a lot of work, I like to do the basics for fun now.

    maizeman

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    Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
    « Reply #191 on: February 06, 2017, 03:58:30 PM »
    Wow! Clearly a labor of love by someone who had spent many years of their life studying the history of human civilization. Thanks for posting that. I'm tempted to see if I could track down an extant hard copy somewhere.

    Prairie Stash

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    Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
    « Reply #192 on: February 07, 2017, 08:29:44 AM »
    The chart is pretty cool. I understand that its incomplete, lacking all of North and South America pre USA for example, apparently the relative power for the Incan empire was 0. 

    What it does poorly is the implication that relative power is important. Through much of the time the available power has been increasing. Canada is likely on the wane relatively but its absolute standard of living is increasing. Its pretty great having an improving standard even of others are increasing faster than myself. A large part of the relative loss will go to India and China, I'm not worse off if they improve. if you convert relative power to absolute power the chart becomes an inverted pyramid. 

    Relatively my power decreases, that hardly matters since I'll still have a better quality of life than my parents generation. What the OP struggles with is that the rest of the world can be improving to create even more largess for everyone, it doesn't mean you go down as a result. Taking England as an example, the English empire is almost gone but the people are all better off than they once were. France too, would you rather live in Napoleonic France or modern day France? Even Napoleon recognized the problems with Paris, his greatest monument of all time is the expansion of the Sewer system, an engineering marvel that has saved millions of lives (through disease prevention, waste management has saved more lives than penicillin). France might not be as powerful, relatively, as it once was but the inhabitants live a lot better than they use to.

    If the USA declines in relative power does that mean the standard of life goes down?

    maizeman

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    Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
    « Reply #193 on: February 07, 2017, 09:17:26 AM »
    Yeah, I feel like I need to add a third dimension to my classification scheme above. Did you read the title of the thread to mean:

    1) The USA becomes less powerful on the world stage and/or the difference in standards of living between the USA and other countries declines.
    2) The quality of life in the USA declines in absolute terms (either gradually through eroding infrastructure and employment rates or suddenly through riots, coups, lost land wars in North America, nuclear exchanges etc (in order of increasing badness))
    3) Human civilization as a whole takes a nose-dive.

    As you point out #1 is nothing to worry about.
    The effects of #2 can be moderated by either being rich and mobile, or being self sufficient without outside inputs
    #3 Is basically going to suck regardless, but still having wealth and/or self-sufficiency will probably make it suck less, or at least suck less rapidly than if you have neither.

    Syonyk

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    Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
    « Reply #194 on: February 07, 2017, 09:48:41 AM »
    This thread did motivate me to read a few articles on the collapse of industrial civilization.I feel they are intentionally confusing about discussing a specific government/economic system or culture and all of civilization. Yes, "Entire civilizations have been weeded out when their belief system proved maladaptive to a changing environment" and also more have been wiped out when they were conquered by technologically superior enemies, but  so what?

    Well, based on recorded history, it sort of sucks to be living in those civilizations on the downswing!

    Quote
    Civilization as a whole is still thriving, we are far more advanced than ever, and support far more people on the planet.

    "Well, I can't feed myself or my family, but people on the other side of the planet are doing great, civilization is awesome!" is... less than a useful response to your immediate conditions of being unable to eat.

    Quote
    Eventually, society will be driven by necessity to power generation that doesn't destroy the environment. We will have to get better at storing energy, and it is likely that nuclear will be in the mix.

    Or we'll kick that can long enough that irreversable environmental damage is done.  Which, empirically, seems to be the case.  The crowing about how rapidly solar and wind are growing miss the fact that it really doesn't produce that much of our energy yet, and is on track to take over in another 50+ years.  Energy storage, in particular, is tough.

    Quote
    There have always been doom and gloom predictions of a dystopian future. 1984 was a prediction forward of where society was heading.

    And now everyone carries around GPS-enabled, always-on, wirelessly connected location trackers! :D  Orwell wasn't nearly optimistic enough about technology for tracking people's every move and thought.

    Quote
    At some point we will have to get more serious about solving global warming.

    No, we don't have to.  Eventually, we'll run out of economically accessible stored carbon to burn, but things look pretty gnarly at that point.

    Quote
    Last thought, looking at it through the lense of pessimism, the government may take your land, a better armed group could take over your area or any number of things. I don't think that me having a nice garden and solar panels will be of much help when the rest of the country is starving. This easily leads down a slippery slope of paranoia. This is also why going too far down pessimism road doesn't convince many people. A jealous neighbor can just kill my chickens and shoot up my solar panels. You always have guns in the fallout shelter to shoot anyone that tries to get in after all.

    Sure... which is why the focus also needs to be on community sustainability, and why a deliberate part of my plan is overproduction to share locally.

    Syonyk

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    Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
    « Reply #195 on: February 07, 2017, 09:59:32 AM »
    Most millenials I know are MORE cautious and afraid for the future than our parents and older coworkers.

    That you, as a generation, got the shaft end of the "Uh... take all this debt, go to college, it'll be totally worth it, and HAHAH WOW LOLZ Losers..." stick and are now labeled as, "Millenials don't show an interest in owning cars or houses..." instead of "Millenials cannot afford cars or houses with all that student loan debt" - yeah, I can understand why you don't see the future as rainbows and unicorns.

    The US is rather efficient is the way it manages its “constituent states”.  It prefers means like currency manipulation,  IMF loans for resource access, super secret coups, and only uses more expensive outright military options when all others fail.  Still, it’s becoming too expensive to maintain when the citizens continue to selfishly demand higher standards of individual living.  The eventual “nails” in the coffin for US super power status is yet to be determined.  I can think of a few things that would hurt;  loss of world currency status, collapse of free trade agreements, ever increasing internal strife.  I think its likely to be a combination of these and other, not yet predictable factors.

    Prediction: Blowback from the first list causes the various failures from your second.  Because not all other countries appreciate being manipulated, hoodwinked, and tricked, repeatedly, and a bunch are wising up.

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    The end result may only be a weakened, but intact US, or it may divides along ideological or regional economic lines, but again, not predictable.  So the question becomes will this happen in the next 30-50 years?  I think it’s possible.  More possible than worldwide nuclear devastation or zombie apocalypse.

    Generally, unless empires are overrun, they split into regional nationstates, so that's my bet.

    "Zombies" are just the socially acceptable way of not sounding like one of those "crazy paranoid right wing preppers" when having, literally, the exact same conversation.

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    Who knows, by that point we may have zero point energy or some such scifi solution.

    Bet we don't. ;)


    If the USA declines in relative power does that mean the standard of life goes down?

    If our decline in relative power means that we can't print and spend money we don't have because we're no longer the world's reserve currency, it's a pretty sure bet our absolute standard of living will go down, a lot.


    1) The USA becomes less powerful on the world stage and/or the difference in standards of living between the USA and other countries declines.
    2) The quality of life in the USA declines in absolute terms (either gradually through eroding infrastructure and employment rates or suddenly through riots, coups, lost land wars in North America, nuclear exchanges etc (in order of increasing badness))
    3) Human civilization as a whole takes a nose-dive.

    As you point out #1 is nothing to worry about.
    The effects of #2 can be moderated by either being rich and mobile, or being self sufficient without outside inputs
    #3 Is basically going to suck regardless, but still having wealth and/or self-sufficiency will probably make it suck less, or at least suck less rapidly than if you have neither.

    Mitigating #2 with money requires that the money remain unseized, which is far from a solid bet if standards of living are dropping rapidly.

    maizeman

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    Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
    « Reply #196 on: February 07, 2017, 11:38:40 AM »
    Yes if you're really worried about #2, you shouldn't keep your money/stocks/etc all in a single country (or in a single currency). But similarly, if standards of living are declining extremely fast, food and agricultural land are also vulnerable to seizure by either angry mobs or the government. Look at Zimbabwe.*

    Personally, my guess is that a rapidly declining US government in scenario #2 would more likely to make cash and dollar denominated debts (bonds, pensions, etc) worth less or worthless through inflation than to actively seize money and assets. *shrug*

    In terms of currency controls, witness the heroics currently being undertaken by the Chinese elites to move money out of the country. The three most ridiculous I've seen are, in ascending order: bitcoin,** setting up a company in another country and arranging to have that company sue your company in China and win (so the settlement money moves to the out-of-china company),*** and having a baby born to a surrogate in Japan so the child can open up japanese bank accounts.****

    *https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_reform_in_Zimbabwe#Fast-track_land_reform_and_violence
    **http://www.businessinsider.com/china-behind-latest-bitcoin-craze-2016-12
    ***http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2016/02/16/china-capital-flight-2-0-lose-a-lawsuit-on-purpose/
    ****http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/2100173-fearing-purges-chinese-officials-seek-japanese-nationality-for-their-children-through-surrogate-mothers/


    Prairie Stash

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    Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
    « Reply #197 on: February 07, 2017, 12:43:25 PM »

    If the USA declines in relative power does that mean the standard of life goes down?

    If our decline in relative power means that we can't print and spend money we don't have because we're no longer the world's reserve currency, it's a pretty sure bet our absolute standard of living will go down, a lot.
    I'm not American, just north, so its interesting. You're life will go down hill but mine won't. I've never lived in a superpower, likely never will. When you say 'our" it doesn't mean me and you, just you. Its important to note the different perspectives we come from, I'm use to living in a country that doesn't dominate.

    In that scenario, you aren't talking about needing to prep though, if its a slow decline the best thing is to have extra money and pick up some great deals. Having been on the receiving end (Canada) of a decline relative to the USA I have experienced the joy of holding foreign currency :)  Basically holding money outside Canada meant I became a lot richer than my countrymen, relatively. Magically $100,000 USD turns into $150,000 CDN but my house price stays constant, which means that I can purchase 50% more local goods than 5 years ago or pay off my mortgage 50% faster. That's the beauty of a relative decline, local goods purchased with foreign currency get cheaper. The trick is to hold foreign currency, its easily done by holding foreign stock on foreign exchanges which are priced in foreign money. This is second nature to investors in Canada, we buy a lot of American stock, currency fluctuations can create some eye popping returns. 

    In absolute terms both countries prospered during this event.

    Scandium

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    Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
    « Reply #198 on: February 07, 2017, 12:56:27 PM »
    This topic is very much describing my thoughts. I think the road to decline is speeded up by our excessive use of oil and gas, which there will be less and less of in the years to come. And what there is will be more expensive to get out of the ground (lower EROI). Eventually oil will be so expensive that normal people and farmers will not be able to afford it.

    Lots of people were freaking out about this "peak oil (supply)" stuff not long ago. But then the opposite happened! Now there's too much oil and demand is dropping. Massive tankers are drifting around the ocean full of oil, waiting for prices to go up again. Whole tank fields are overflowing. Renewable are increasing and displacing oil. So is natural gas, of which we still have large supplies.

    Syonyk

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    Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
    « Reply #199 on: February 07, 2017, 01:06:55 PM »
    Lots of people were freaking out about this "peak oil (supply)" stuff not long ago. But then the opposite happened! Now there's too much oil and demand is dropping. Massive tankers are drifting around the ocean full of oil, waiting for prices to go up again. Whole tank fields are overflowing. Renewable are increasing and displacing oil. So is natural gas, of which we still have large supplies.

    The peak oil folks did miss the impact of demand destruction, yes.

    And the low oil prices will drive quite a few producers out of business.  So, give it a few years, we'll be dealing with expensive oil again, and this boom/bust cycle will probably bounce back and forth a few more times, doing more and more economic damage each time.  Ask people who had pension funds heavily invested in fracking bonds how that's gone.