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General Discussion => Welcome and General Discussion => Topic started by: Syonyk on January 30, 2017, 09:32:03 PM

Title: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on January 30, 2017, 09:32:03 PM
Disclaimer: This has been something I've been thinking about since long, long before November, and have been working towards for multiple years, with a major move and life change a year or so ago related to it - so, let's try to avoid politics, because who the captain is doesn't matter that much if the ship is sinking.

Nations rise and fall - we see this throughout history.  Generally, a nation will last hundreds of years before falling down the dustbin of history into irrelevance, and nations that strive for stability over all else can last thousands.

If one assumes the average age of nations is a few hundred years, and that most humans will live to 60-80 years, that lifespan will cover a good chunk of a nation's life.  We're not that many human lifetimes away from the founding of the United States or many of the countries over in Europe.

And if one is making plans for, ideally, 30-60 years in the future (as many people here are), considering where a nation is on the arc through history is worth spending a bit of time on.

I'm generally of the opinion that the US is somewhat past our peak of our run, with a peak probably in the 60s or 70s.  A number of important metrics have been going down since then, but the exact dates don't matter that much.  If we are 25 years or 45 years past peak, that doesn't matter as much as the fact that we are past peak and, over our expected lifespans and retirement, will be in a nation that's heading further downhill.

So... starting with the assumption that the US (which is where I live) is a nation in decline, at some point past the peak of our arc, what are reasonable things to consider going forward, and how are you working those out?  I'm in my mid-30s, hope to live well past 70, and would like to cut back on work going forward, though I doubt I'll ever entirely retire - my projects do tend to generate income after a while.

I'd start by offering that I don't think the markets are going to be reliably going up for another 35+ years.  There are simply too many headwinds against continued exponential growth on a finite planet to rely on this.  The current economic systems are quite addicted to growth, and lots of things just fall apart if they don't get it.  If you're looking out 10-15 years - you might be fine, but longer?  Eh.  Growth is a risky gamble to make for another 40-50 years.

On top of that, nations in decline tend to do a poor job maintaining their infrastructure.  There's just no money to do it, and "Eh, I'm sure the roads will be fine for another year..." eventually turns into gravel roads where you once had pavement.  Not that as many people can afford fancy cars to drive on them anyway.

And things just generally don't work as well.  That which you relied on becomes unreliable, then goes away.  That which was certain becomes less certain.  And, historically, political polarization keeps increasing, and governments become less and less functional, and eventually fade out of the picture entirely (except, usually, for taxes - they'll happily demand money for services they no longer provide).  This is more true for large governments (national) and a bit less true for local governments.

Finally, as nations wind down, they tend to either get overrun from the outside, or fragment into regional nation-states.  Personally, I'm betting on the second.  I think there's a decent chance I'll see it in my lifetime, but I'm by no means certain on that point.

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That said: How do you go about designing for these potential futures, while not missing out terribly in the event that we can keep kicking the can for another century or so and not face the consequences?

I'd offer that, from my point of view, the best way to deal with this is to live a good bit below your means, gain useful skills in areas that seem important going forward, and work towards reducing your long term expenses as much as you possibly can while providing for your needs - and, if you have the space, look towards being able to provide a surplus to help your local community.

FIRE types are usually well set as far as living below your means goes - that's sort of how you get to that point in the first place.  If you're not on the edge financially, you can absorb a lot of shocks and be totally fine.  So that's not a problem.  I would offer that focusing on lower tech entertainment is probably useful.  Board games will last a long time.  XStations?  Meh.

Skills is an interesting area that, in my view, is worth a bit of a gamble.  If you're on the FIRE path, and especially as you transition out of work with a good chunk of wealth saved up, you can afford some gambles on "weird" skills.  Gardens, machining, making furniture - if things keep going up, great.  You've got a fun hobby.  But if the markets refuse to behave, you have some useful and, ideally, lower tech level skills you can fall back on.  Knowing the details of dense gardening in your local soil is of value.  Being able to build and repair things of value (including building parts for machinery and cars - that may be in demand).  Things like that.  Or even just being a good storyteller.

As far as expense reduction goes, this is one that's probably the most controversial, at least on this forum - but I think it's also one of the most important.  I've been working towards investing in productive property improvements that will reduce my long term expenses, even at the cost of spending more money now.

Solar is a good example.  The common way of doing solar right now is grid tied, with micro-inverters.  This is perfectly fine, as long as the power grid is reliable (and power companies let you use the grid as a free battery).  Most of the microinverters on the market, as installed, will not function without the power grid.  If we're heading into a future where infrastructure is less reliable each year, this is a problem.

An alternate way of doing solar is with inverters and a battery pack designed to run at least a set of critical loads (which, depending on your house, may be most of it) without the grid attached.  It's more expensive up front, but gives you the ability to keep the lights on if the grid, locally, becomes unreliable.  Or, more tactically, not keep the lights on, but keep the fridge and freezer on, the well pump running, etc.  Lead may not be the best battery tech here.  Nickel iron is inefficient, but long lasting, and some of the more boring lithium chemistries are pretty long lived as well.

If all goes well, you pay for your power bill going forward.  If all doesn't go well, you still have refrigeration in the summer when things are hot, and, well, if it's cold and dark outside, putting things outside will keep them nicely cold.

Another area worth looking at is food production.  My goal, mid term (5 years?), is to be able to feed my family (which includes grandparents) from our property.  This is a special challenge here because I live on a pile of basalt with alkaline soil.  But, I'm planning on trucking in some decent soil, working with compost, and working towards an aquaponics greenhouse (growing fish and plants in a synthetic pond ecosystem).  It's a good bit of work, but it's interesting, useful knowledge (see skills, above), and I'll have an idea as to where my food is grown.  It's hyper-local, and if things go well, I have plenty of surplus for a local gift economy, and if things don't go as well, I'm ahead of the curve in terms of knowledge and equipment.

Finally, at least for me, I've been working on my small electronics repair knowledge, and building local systems that don't rely on the internet and cloud to function.  There's just no reason I need a cloud based watering system - and I'd rather have one I designed and can maintain.

I'm also working with electric bikes, both in terms of repair and design, because they're a wonderfully cheap car replacement.  If things go forward exponentially, I have a neat hobby, and if things don't, I'm ahead of the curve in terms of understanding a great, wonderfully cheap, solar-chargeable replacement for cars.

My overall goal here is to hedge some of the risks of things not going as hoped.  I'm certainly putting money in the markets and index funds, but at the same time, if I have a productive property improvement I can get long term return on, I'll put money there over the markets.  And I do keep some value stored not in USD. 

I openly admit that this is not the most "efficient" way towards FIRE.  But it does seem reasonably robust against some of the risks that things might not go as hoped.  If things go great, I have a very low cost of living and money coming in from the markets and I can do whatever I want.  But if things go less-than-great (which, again, looking forward 40-50 years, I see as highly likely), I think I'll be better set, and ideally will have the resources to be useful and generous in my local community, which is what will matter.

Thoughts?
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: undercover on January 30, 2017, 09:43:21 PM
I didn't read it all, but my answer would still be the same:

It doesn't matter. You can't predict the future. You can only examine the past and hope for an optimistic future. Even if stocks completely crash someday, who cares?

Would your rather have a bunch of shit you don't need, or know you at least tried to create an ideal, secure future for yourself? Buy the stuff you need/want and invest the rest. You can always work at McDonalds in the future to pay for a new computer, shoes, clothes, etc. As you said, you don't foresee any issue with generating income in the future for yourself if need be.

Keep in mind that if stocks really do crash in a super meaningful way (sustained recessions over a long period of time), then there are likely larger issues at that point.

In general, I find the survivalist mentality to be completely counter-productive. I'd rather spend my time working to save the great system we have than to plan for a million contingencies in case of emergency.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on January 30, 2017, 09:55:35 PM
It doesn't matter. You can't predict the future. You can only examine the past and hope for an optimistic future.

I can't predict the future, but I can look through history, see trends, and apply them to current situations to see what paths forward seem viable given the range of likely futures.  I agree that one can't predict the future with clarity, but I'd argue that you can make some guesses about likely paths, and work towards something that is less vulnerable to those disruptions.

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Even if stocks completely crash someday, who cares?

I expect a large number of people on this forum who are heavily invested in index funds for retirement would care, quite a bit!

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Would your rather have a bunch of shit you don't need, or know you at least tried to create an ideal, secure future for yourself?

How are the two opposed?  If I'm going to put solar on my house, investing a bit more in the system to provide functional off grid water/refrigeration seems useful to me.  That lowered cost of living and better certainty about running refrigeration is useful, regardless of what the markets do.

And, quite honestly, "knowing I at least tried" is rather inferior, in my view, to having done something that's actually useful.  "Knowing I at least tried" and shoved a ton of money into index funds is not nearly so useful as having built a property that can provide for my own needs, regardless of what the index funds do.

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As you said, you don't foresee any issue with generating income in the future for yourself if need be.

Hopefully not.  But needing to generate less of it, based on improvements made when I'm making a lot, would be easier than needing to make more of it.

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Keep in mind that if stocks really do crash in a super meaningful way (sustained recessions over a long period of time), then there are likely larger issues at that point.

Yup!  And at that point, understanding local food and energy production seems incredibly useful to me.

If not, I've got some fun hobbies in the process.

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In general, I find the survivalist mentality to be completely counter-productive. I'd rather spend my time working to save the great system we have than to plan for a million contingencies in case of emergency.

That's why I start by talking about the arc of nations.  "Working to save the great system we have" is useful, if there's any evidence at all it can be saved.  Historically, that's not the case - and I'm not one to arrogantly claim, "But this time is different!" - because that was the case in every civilization that is no longer around.

I'm not really planning for "a million contingencies" - I'm working towards a generally robust property that can cover a lot of cases.  If we've got food and water (which, for us, requires having electricity), a lot else is flexible.

And, in the case that everything goes great, I simply don't scale my gardens as large, have one instead of multiple greenhouses growing fresh fish and plants, and don't have a rooster running around to increase the chicken count.

That sounds like a pretty good life to me anyway.

I put a lot of this more in the realm of "tweaks on the way to what sounds like fun anyway," instead of building my life around being a survivalist.  Again, in the best case, I produce a lot of my own power with paid-for equipment, and grow a lot of my own food locally - so not spending much on groceries.  At that point, if the markets are doing well, I have a huge surplus to do whatever I want with!
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: fattest_foot on January 30, 2017, 10:10:29 PM
Considerifng how global the world is, I'm not sure the old rules apply anymore. Countries may not fall as before. There's really no reason to believe the US will suffer some catastrophic collapse. At worst I see us becoming the 2nd or 3rd largest economy in our lifetimes.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: joonifloofeefloo on January 30, 2017, 10:14:05 PM
I hear ya, Syonyk.

Here's where I come from:
1. The whole stock market thing may or may not continue indefinitely. (I tend to think it won't.)
2. Regardless, 90% of my assets are in it.
3. ...because 100% of my assets still isn't enough to own a property I'd want in my preferred region.
4. And there's nothing else I crave (I also rarely crave a property, for what it's worth).
5. And if the market implodes, I'm in the same boat as almost everyone else on the planet (those that had stocks, and those that never did).
6. And I like sharing a boat with regular folks.
7. As comedian Bill Burr notes, folks who stock up for the zombie apocalypse are just "gathering supplies for" the most aggressive asshole. I paraphrased.

This noted, if I had energy, I would get property I could own outright, set up solar and chickens and stuff, and hope the guy from #7 finds it inconvenient. I don't have the energy, so I'm not doing that.

I do spend a wild amount of time building live community, which I think also helps me in any contingency. At best, we teach each other how to harvest wild quail. At worst, we die laughing :)

Finally, if you anticipate the US declining, will you not still have 40-60% of your stocks in other nations?
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on January 30, 2017, 10:20:00 PM
Considerifng how global the world is, I'm not sure the old rules apply anymore.

Mmhmm.  So, "But it's different this time!"

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There's really no reason to believe the US will suffer some catastrophic collapse. At worst I see us becoming the 2nd or 3rd largest economy in our lifetimes.

I'm not talking about a catastrophic collapse.  I'm talking about the general decline that nations go through, over time, in the context of the timescales that are relevant for FIRE types.

3. ...because 100% of my assets still isn't enough to own a property I'd want in my preferred region.

How much property do you want, where? :p  A few acres to work with isn't expensive most places.

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5. And if the market implodes, I'm in the same boat as almost everyone else on the planet (those that had stocks, and those that never did).

Certainly true.

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6. And I like sharing a boat with regular folks.

That's useful, but at the same time, having the resources to show up to a sinking boat with a pump to bail it out seems useful.

That's part of why my focus is to develop things enough that I can have a surplus to share locally.  I want to be able to help - partly because this seems a good thing to do, partly because it means I have something of value to offer locally, and ideally that would keep #7 from being quite as relevant.

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7. As comedian Bill Burr notes, folks who stock up for the zombie apocalypse are just "gathering supplies for" the most aggressive asshole. I paraphrased.

That is certainly a concern, and one of the reasons I'm not terribly interested in going "Doomsday Prepper."  Also, I cannot wrap my head around how stupid you have to be to go about doing that, then talk about it on TV.  Seriously.

But what I'm working towards isn't a huge cache of supplies or anything - more a system that nets me, annually, some reasonable amount of food and energy that I can use and share.

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I do spend a wild amount of time building live community, which I think also helps me in any contingency. At best, we teach each other how to harvest wild quail. At worst, we die laughing :)

Seems entirely useful. :)

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Finally, if you anticipate the US declining, will you not still have 40-60% of your stocks in other nations?

Unfortunately, as noted by the previous poster, we are rather global.  So I'm not sure that other nations will be radically better.

It's something I've considered, and something I'm working towards, but I'm not sure how much value it will actually have.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: FIFoFum on January 30, 2017, 10:41:10 PM
I generally agree, but I would include a lot of space for technological advancement that is clearly on the horizon.

To give just one example -

Taking a long view, people won't be owning their own cars for that much longer. They most certainly won't be the ones driving them. They aren't likely to be predominantly gas engines either, once individual ownership declines. So being able to repair cars that you don't own and aren't being built anymore is of limited use. And there is no reason to think that auto diagnostics and repair wouldn't become even more automated either.

This is not imminent. However, it is likely to happen within this same historical time frame. Personally, when I think about the idea of "aging in place" (I'm 40 now), I envision that I won't have to worry about being too old to drive. There is plenty of good and bad to imagine that comes with this type of change. For example, if corporate interests own all the cars, then they are the ones who would have the interest in repairing necessary roads and charging for it in the price of your ride. This would likely accelerate greater urban density. 

Anyway, this thought exercise gets much harder for technologies that are harder to predict or ones we know about that are unclear on timing (e.g., lab grown animal proteins for food consumption).

Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: joonifloofeefloo on January 30, 2017, 10:48:30 PM
How much property do you want, where? :p  A few acres to work with isn't expensive most places.

You're right. I'm addicted to my current community and province. Anywhere I'd consider living in BC is veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery expensive. I'm magically managing to pay only $500 for everything related to housing, so there's no incentive/need for me to uproot (again) just to own land.

If I get hungry for chicken-care, I'll just WWOOF.

That's useful, but at the same time, having the resources to show up to a sinking boat with a pump to bail it out seems useful.

Agreed. I basically live to contribute, and the only time I consider land is when I think about creating something others can access too. On the other hand, there's already a lot of landownership that needs human energy, so it seems simplest to move to one of those, commune there. (Are you familiar with WWOOF, and programs for connecting farm-owners with workers?)

...how stupid you have to be to go about doing that, then talk about it on TV.  Seriously.

lol! I didn't know people do that :)

But what I'm working towards isn't a huge cache of supplies or anything - more a system that nets me, annually, some reasonable amount of food and energy that I can use and share.

That sounds completely awesome to me!

Yeah, for me overall, it's about having enough set aside to support myself (disability-having) and my kid (disability-having) in this system, while eternally developing resources for others too. I develop projects, teach, WWOOF, write stuff, do heaps of community-building, help my neighbours for free, etc.

For some years I've been keen on creating something along the lines of permanent rural community where different people can live in tiny homes on site, garden, hang out together, offer safe housing to people who need that, etc. I mostly think it's going to happen! Either I'll join someone else's land and help them out, or co-own land, or ultimately buy something outright and do it myself.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: bacchi on January 30, 2017, 11:30:20 PM
Isn't this what the Transition Movement is all about? Making an entire town/region self sufficient so that it can handle upcoming crises certainly beats an individual doing what they can.

http://transitionus.org/transition-town-movement

The SO's parents are involved in a transition town; they've scouted out places to grow food and put up greenhouses. They re-started a local farmer's market and they're working on more town-owned solar and water access.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: joonifloofeefloo on January 30, 2017, 11:37:34 PM
Hadn't heard of that, bacchi! So thanks for sharing. Will check it out.

I've lived some really awful lessons in relation to self-sufficient village projects. Just a couple of bad apples can really impact what can happen, people's happiness, etc. For this reason, I've been moving toward sole ownership or ownership with just 1-2 parties I have good reason to trust the integrity of. I look forward to seeing if TM navigates that more successfully.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Dicey on January 30, 2017, 11:53:36 PM
It makes my head hurt to think this way. I choose optimism. Maybe even wild, unbridled optimism. Just saw Ted Koppel speak tonight about how the Chinese and the Russians have full access to the US energy grid*. They can bring us to our knees. Happily, we apparently have hacked theirs back. Is it true? Dunno. What can I do about it if it is? Live each day as if it were my last? Been doing that for thirty years. I reckon that's what will keep me going, no matter what the future holds.

* Among other interesting things. Great speaker.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Dicey on January 30, 2017, 11:58:29 PM
Off topic alert:

Hey Joon, I checked out that granola something or other blog yesterday. Left a comment. Got an email from Johnny! Had an interesting virtual conversation today. All because I wanted to help you out. Woot! Thanks!
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: joonifloofeefloo on January 31, 2017, 12:03:28 AM
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 :)
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Moonwaves on January 31, 2017, 02:48:52 AM
Isn't this what the Transition Movement is all about? Making an entire town/region self sufficient so that it can handle upcoming crises certainly beats an individual doing what they can.

http://transitionus.org/transition-town-movement

The SO's parents are involved in a transition town; they've scouted out places to grow food and put up greenhouses. They re-started a local farmer's market and they're working on more town-owned solar and water access.
Thanks for the reminder about this movement, I meant to check it out when I moved to see if there is a version of it near here. It has now officially made it out of my head and onto my to-do list. :)

Similar to Syonyk's thinking, I decided a decade or so ago to try and become more independent. I read a book called Tescopoly, which I found really disturbing, at around the same time I had, for other reasons, started reading a lot of blogs focused on simple living (it was called gentle living back then :) ). It seemed crazy to me that I was leaving so much power in the hands of the supermarket. Even if I didn't always do it, I wanted to at least know how to do things like prepare and store food from the garden. Turns out I really enjoy it so for me, it is definitely just a really fun hobby. But knowing that it's something so inherently useful does add another layer of satisfaction to it for me. Having said that, I don't think there are many hobbies which aren't inherently useful in some way. I did spend some time on a prepper board at one stage and it was really interesting (it was a UK-based, very down to earth and practical website rather than a fill-up-my-house-with-guns-whacko-conspiracy-type place). So based on some of what I learned there I'd add to your list, Syonyk, of useful improvements, music and the ability to make music. That was something I hadn't thought about before but definitely falls into the useful but more especially fun hobby, IMO.

On an only slightly related topic, has anyone read the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire? One of those books that you see in films from time to time and for years I've said I might read it. Apparently it's a substantial undertaking.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: SuperMex on January 31, 2017, 03:44:37 AM
I agree with almost everything you said. The way I personally am trying to deal with it though is different.

I have the property 50 acres in Mexico, 10 acres in Florida and several smaller chunks here and there. I have the knowledge to survive almost completely off the land if I have to.

When I go to Mexico every year on the second day I am there I catch enough fish to last me the whole month and still give about 25% away to my friends. I could probably catch enough off my dock to survive if I had to without a net or even a boat. I also have a bunch of things growing that constantly produce without me even being there.

Coconut, mango, avocados, oranges, lemons, grape fruit, bananas, pineapple, chayote, monstera deliciosa, Chicozapote, papaya.

My point is that having the knowledge, ability, and property to survive if the world goes south suddenly is the most important part. Like I told my son when the world goes to crap they need engineers and doctors not lawyers and politicians. (He is studying engineering now)

Another issue though as some have eluded to is that people in this world won't calmly starve to death as they did in generations past. When things turn ugly it will take the national guard stationed at every store to stop mass looting. If you have no means to protect your crops then you are just growing them for the first hungry guy with a gun.

While this is a back up plan I am living in the first world and investing with the hope it will take longer than me and my sons lifetime for things to get that bad. I also intend on buying a piece of property in either the northern U.S. (Michigan) or Alaska in the event global warming gets really bad for my grandchildren.

Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Cranky on January 31, 2017, 05:17:47 AM
I am naturally, and always have been, filled with gloom & doom. ;-)

My solution is to live quietly, comfortably, and cheaply in a very boring place, and to embed myself in the local community. My resources are - knowing people, and knowing people with a lot of different skills.

I think that we are living in a time of transformation, both nationally and globally, and I, for one, can't predict how that's going to shake out.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: boarder42 on January 31, 2017, 05:32:55 AM
It makes my head hurt to think this way. I choose optimism. Maybe even wild, unbridled optimism. Just saw Ted Koppel speak tonight about how the Chinese and the Russians have full access to the US energy grid*. They can bring us to our knees. Happily, we apparently have hacked theirs back. Is it true? Dunno. What can I do about it if it is? Live each day as if it were my last? Been doing that for thirty years. I reckon that's what will keep me going, no matter what the future holds.

* Among other interesting things. Great speaker.

i agree i couldnt go through life and enjoy myself if i thought with such pessimism.  At the end of the day if what you say happens who cares everyone will be in the same boat.  and those like you who have things setup will become the target of those without. Anarchy will reign so you probably need a wall and a bunch of ammo too.  i know you say you're not a doomsday prepper.  but if you're going so far as to have self sustaining power and food what makes you think people wont attack that take it and then why dont you take the next step to protect your property and interests.  it doesnt compute to me.

Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Linda_Norway on January 31, 2017, 05:57:05 AM
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. Than we need to find other productive ways to produce food (instead of using diesel tractors and green houses and transport of food around the world). We will also have a problem producing plastic and making asphalt roads. If you really think about it, so much on this planet and especially the first world is relying on oil.
Besides this, we are warming up the planet and this will have big impacts on the planet, maybe in the form of big migration waves. We also empty the seas and oceans more than in a sustainable matter. How long before there is very little fish left? I have the impression that much if this will become noticeable during my remaining lifetime, lets say another 40 years from now. I just hope I will have some decades left before it starts.

What to do about it? I have been thinking that our FIRE house (to be bought in 7 years time) needs to be a low or zero energy house. We need to have enough land containing trees to fire a wood oven. We need to have enough land to grow vegetables. In our climate at least potatoes, cabbage and carrots will do well. We need to be in the vicinity of lakes and/or the sea to catch fish for dinner. For a start.

Yes, learning skills should be useful. Things like working with wood, sewing, knitting, making shoes, growing food, having chickens, knowing edible wild plants and mushrooms, hunting (with other means than guns), welding, cooking and baking bread should all come in handy when the shit really hits the fan. There are probably many more.

I have also been thinking about the strongest guys with the gun. I have read numerous apocalypse stories and the behaviour of people in those stories is likely. Armed people will likely roam around after food. And if you have it, they will take it. I guess also the forest on your land will not be safe when other people in the village are cold and need wood. When this really happens big time, I think there will be no such thing as FIRE. Let's just hope it will last our time.

Maybe we people should offer Mercury and build a Dyson sphere around the Sun, to supply us with energy.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: boarder42 on January 31, 2017, 06:01:11 AM
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. Than we need to find other productive ways to produce food (instead of using diesel tractors and green houses and transport of food around the world). We will also have a problem producing plastic and making asphalt roads. If you really think about it, so much on this planet and especially the first world is relying on oil.
Besides this, we are warming up the planet and this will have big impacts on the planet, maybe in the form of big migration waves. We also empty the seas and oceans more than in a sustainable matter. How long before there is very little fish left? I have the impression that much if this will become noticeable during my remaining lifetime, lets say another 40 years from now. I just hope I will have some decades left before it starts.

What to do about it? I have been thinking that our FIRE house (to be bought in 7 years time) needs to be a low or zero energy house. We need to have enough land containing trees to fire a wood oven. We need to have enough land to grow vegetables. In our climate at least potatoes, cabbage and carrots will do well. We need to be in the vicinity of lakes and/or the sea to catch fish for dinner. For a start.

Yes, learning skills should be useful. Things like working with wood, sewing, knitting, making shoes, growing food, having chickens, knowing edible wild plants and mushrooms, hunting (with other means than guns), welding, cooking and baking bread should all come in handy when the shit really hits the fan. There are probably many more.

I have also been thinking about the strongest guys with the gun. I have read numerous apocalypse stories and the behaviour of people in those stories is likely. Armed people will likely roam around after food. And if you have it, they will take it. I guess also the forest on your land will not be safe when other people in the village are cold and need wood. When this really happens big time, I think there will be no such thing as FIRE. Let's just hope it will last our time.

Maybe we people should offer Mercury and build a Dyson sphere around the Sun, to supply us with energy.

I think the use of oil and gas is about to see a sharp decline in the next 5 years.  What tesla is doing is revolutionizing the electric and now autonomous car industry.  oil will peak and start to recede.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: 2Birds1Stone on January 31, 2017, 06:01:24 AM
We are only at the tip of the iceberg, of a new industrial revolution.....thanks to technology.

THe vast majority of the world is just beginning to consume online content and have access to e commerce.

In 2025, you can FIRE into the matrix.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: boarder42 on January 31, 2017, 06:05:23 AM
We are only at the tip of the iceberg, of a new industrial revolution.....thanks to technology.

THe vast majority of the world is just beginning to consume online content and have access to e commerce.

In 2025, you can FIRE into the matrix.


This its incredible that people see us as peaking right now.  we're 5 years away from every device talking to everything cars driving themselves everywhere. and not as reliant on their sensors anymore but their communication with other cars.  20 years from now you wont be able to drive a car on the interstate you will have to have an self driving car etc.  the growth of AI is coming at an exponential pace b/c it can learn and teach itself now. 

The future to me looks much more like wall-e and the jetsons than the aftermath of world war 3 .
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Metric Mouse on January 31, 2017, 06:12:09 AM
It makes my head hurt to think this way. I choose optimism. Maybe even wild, unbridled optimism. Just saw Ted Koppel speak tonight about how the Chinese and the Russians have full access to the US energy grid*. They can bring us to our knees. Happily, we apparently have hacked theirs back. Is it true? Dunno. What can I do about it if it is? Live each day as if it were my last? Been doing that for thirty years. I reckon that's what will keep me going, no matter what the future holds.

* Among other interesting things. Great speaker.

i agree i couldnt go through life and enjoy myself if i thought with such pessimism.  At the end of the day if what you say happens who cares everyone will be in the same boat.  and those like you who have things setup will become the target of those without. Anarchy will reign so you probably need a wall and a bunch of ammo too.  i know you say you're not a doomsday prepper.  but if you're going so far as to have self sustaining power and food what makes you think people wont attack that take it and then why dont you take the next step to protect your property and interests.  it doesnt compute to me.

A gradual decline will not produce the roving mobs of looters you may envision. By the time people are hungry enough to reach that point, they will begin by tearing apart thos nice walkable neighborhoods and dense urban centers. A property  even just a two-day walk from major populations would mitigate that greatly.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman on January 31, 2017, 06:31:43 AM
My goal in pursuing FI is allowing myself to sleep better at night. It sounds like, for you, grid independent solar and an aquaponics greenhouse/fishtank is helping you do that, so more power to you!

Even in a declining country, people still buy things, and pay their bills and rent so I think a retirement based on stocks is not out of the question. As discussed upthread, if you're talking about the decline and fall of the USA, more than half the global stock market is based outside the US (and more than a third of revenue from US companies comes from overseas), so that would be surviveable stock-wise.

I expect one of the symptoms of a declining country would be it getting harder and harder to find work,* so just having big piles of cash in the bank/stock market already feels to me like a useful preparation, and is the main thing I do to sleep better at night. (Also having an up to date passport with a valid multiple entry visa to my fallback country of choice.)

*This is also a symptom of improvements in automation and AI.**

**And just plain losing your job happens to millions of people each year, some of whom find a new one right away and others struggle to do so for months or years, so being preparing to survive without income coming in every month is one of the most useful and probably applicable "preps" out there, and basically everyone on this board is already working towards that.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Linda_Norway on January 31, 2017, 06:41:43 AM
I think the use of oil and gas is about to see a sharp decline in the next 5 years.  What tesla is doing is revolutionizing the electric and now autonomous car industry.  oil will peak and start to recede.

Buy we still need to build the electric cars and produce the electricity that they need to drive. We really need to produce A LOT more solar/wind/water power to be able to support as much energy us as we use today. And we need ways to store it for nighttime and windstil weather. It will be a challenge if the world continues to consume energy the way we do today.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Metric Mouse on January 31, 2017, 06:49:23 AM
I think the use of oil and gas is about to see a sharp decline in the next 5 years.  What tesla is doing is revolutionizing the electric and now autonomous car industry.  oil will peak and start to recede.

Buy we still need to build the electric cars and produce the electricity that they need to drive. We really need to produce A LOT more solar/wind/water power to be able to support as much energy us as we use today. And we need ways to store it for nighttime and windstil weather. It will be a challenge if the world continues to consume energy the way we do today.

And until we stop buying stuff made of oil by-products, there will always be a demand for oil.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: 2Birds1Stone on January 31, 2017, 06:52:36 AM
We are only at the tip of the iceberg, of a new industrial revolution.....thanks to technology.

THe vast majority of the world is just beginning to consume online content and have access to e commerce.

In 2025, you can FIRE into the matrix.


This its incredible that people see us as peaking right now.  we're 5 years away from every device talking to everything cars driving themselves everywhere. and not as reliant on their sensors anymore but their communication with other cars.  20 years from now you wont be able to drive a car on the interstate you will have to have an self driving car etc.  the growth of AI is coming at an exponential pace b/c it can learn and teach itself now. 

The future to me looks much more like wall-e and the jetsons than the aftermath of world war 3 .

I guess many people are luddites. I work in technology, so I have a unique insight into how rapidly it's changing the world around us. We can't even begin the fathom how much advancement is ahead of us in the next decade or two. It's going to be a VERY different world folks, grab your popcorn.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman on January 31, 2017, 06:55:27 AM
I think the use of oil and gas is about to see a sharp decline in the next 5 years.  What tesla is doing is revolutionizing the electric and now autonomous car industry.  oil will peak and start to recede.

Buy we still need to build the electric cars and produce the electricity that they need to drive. We really need to produce A LOT more solar/wind/water power to be able to support as much energy us as we use today. And we need ways to store it for nighttime and windstil weather. It will be a challenge if the world continues to consume energy the way we do today.

And until we stop buying stuff made of oil by-products, there will always be a demand for oil.

We have a much better shot at replacing the stuff made with oil byproducts with stuff made from plant byproducts than we do at replacing gasoline with biofuels. ... though I'm still waiting for a corn plastic spoon that doesn't get soft and flexible when used to stir hot coffee.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Prairie Stash on January 31, 2017, 07:40:01 AM
You need to read from a different perspective, try being from a country that's not the USA. Canada is likely to follow the same arc as the USA, I'll give you that. But leaving aside the doom and gloom, lets get to the bigger issue...

When it comes to investing, WTF ARE YOU DOING! Do you have all your investments in US stocks? Have you never heard of diversification? Your initial premise was you the USA is in decline, are you also predicting all the other world economies are in decline? If you look at the collapse of nations the people who are screwed are the ones who can't flee. The wealthy with foreign assets tend to move and are fine afterwards. I'm not saying this is a great system, its the one that's existed for centuries.

Look at every single war, the rich move pretty quickly and cash in jewelry and art in the new nations to get going again. The poor stay put and suffer the ravages, the famines and the persecutions.  If SHTF I'm going to move to a better country and leave all the woes of this one behind. Why would anyone stay when a better life can be bought? That's the power of money, you rise above the poor and have the opportunity to get out.

Go talk to refugees and you'll hear that the first to leave were the wealthy who could afford plane tickets, the last to leave are the ones who walk out on foot.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Metric Mouse on January 31, 2017, 07:45:24 AM
I think the use of oil and gas is about to see a sharp decline in the next 5 years.  What tesla is doing is revolutionizing the electric and now autonomous car industry.  oil will peak and start to recede.

Buy we still need to build the electric cars and produce the electricity that they need to drive. We really need to produce A LOT more solar/wind/water power to be able to support as much energy us as we use today. And we need ways to store it for nighttime and windstil weather. It will be a challenge if the world continues to consume energy the way we do today.

And until we stop buying stuff made of oil by-products, there will always be a demand for oil.

We have a much better shot at replacing the stuff made with oil byproducts with stuff made from plant byproducts than we do at replacing gasoline with biofuels. ... though I'm still waiting for a corn plastic spoon that doesn't get soft and flexible when used to stir hot coffee.
Ahh... I use wooden spoons. And civilization advances.

Alternatively, there are  these fun things (http://www.citylab.com/navigator/2016/04/environmentally-conscious-edible-spoons-are-also-delicious/476556/)
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Kriegsspiel on January 31, 2017, 07:48:46 AM
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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Tetsuya Hondo on January 31, 2017, 07:57:34 AM
Sure, countries rise and fall. But, many of them don't just suddenly hit a wall. It's more of a general deflating that occurs over fairly long periods of time. The Republic of Venice, which once dominated the seas and trade routes to Europe hit it's peak in the 1300/1400s and then just gradually declined (and partied on) for a few more centuries. Rome's decline took centuries.

In the shorter term, I think a lot of places are more resilient that you give them credit for. Hell, Japan and Germany were completely leveled in WWII. Look at them now. France and Spain are no longer world powers, but I wouldn't mind living there.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: boarder42 on January 31, 2017, 08:05:05 AM
I think the use of oil and gas is about to see a sharp decline in the next 5 years.  What tesla is doing is revolutionizing the electric and now autonomous car industry.  oil will peak and start to recede.

Buy we still need to build the electric cars and produce the electricity that they need to drive. We really need to produce A LOT more solar/wind/water power to be able to support as much energy us as we use today. And we need ways to store it for nighttime and windstil weather. It will be a challenge if the world continues to consume energy the way we do today.

And until we stop buying stuff made of oil by-products, there will always be a demand for oil.

i didnt propose no oil demand i said the demand would recede.  70% of all oil used in the united states is used for transportation.  electric transportation is here and growing. the demand for oil will drop significantly over our lifetime.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Tetsuya Hondo on January 31, 2017, 08:10:19 AM
A few more thoughts/snippets from history:


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]
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: undercover on January 31, 2017, 08:35:58 AM
Quote
Would your rather have a bunch of shit you don't need, or know you at least tried to create an ideal, secure future for yourself?

How are the two opposed?  If I'm going to put solar on my house, investing a bit more in the system to provide functional off grid water/refrigeration seems useful to me.  That lowered cost of living and better certainty about running refrigeration is useful, regardless of what the markets do.

Sorry, I wasn't trying to imply that your productive hobbies are useless or a waste of time. I think it's the motive behind what you're doing that matters. If you're preparing for doomsday scenarios because you feel like society could collapse in your lifetime, I personally think you're doing it wrong. If, on the other hand, you're doing it because you enjoy DIY projects and you feel like it will save you money and make you happier, then go for it.

I was honestly replying more to the general premise of the thread title than the contents of your specific application to it. I think in general many people want to find every excuse they can to not buy into the fact that they can live a good life, or that the future is anything but great. It doesn't sound like you're allocating all your "future" funds into doomsday/self-sufficiency prep rather than index funds, so I don't think the title of the thread really aligns properly with exactly how you're living. It's one thing to spend 5-10% of your income on stuff that will save you money, allow you to be more self sufficient, get enjoyment out of, and invest the rest. It's another to spend 50% of your income prepping for doomsday.

I definitely agree with others that, at any rate, the future is going to be vastly different 20+ years from now than it is today. I personally think we're nearing a post-scarcity economy in the grand scheme of human history. Retiring at 30 was unheard of even 100 years ago. You had to be part of the elite or completely self sufficient. Now, plenty of people can do it.

But, I mean, what is retirement? I guess in theory even 500 years ago you could have not had a "job", lived "off-grid", and just foraged for food and lived simply. Is the actual definition of retirement "being able to enjoy modern amenities whilst not having to be anywhere in particular"? I can appreciate your desire to be a little more off-grid and insource your own modern amenities rather than relying on the system.

The more and more technology advances, the easier it will be for everyone to live. I honestly think AR/VR will play the primary role in this in the distant future, but improvements in AI and biotech research will have a more immediate short-term impact.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on January 31, 2017, 08:58:35 AM
I generally agree, but I would include a lot of space for technological advancement that is clearly on the horizon.

That's a common enough sentiment, and I'm less optimistic.  The law of diminishing returns still applies to technology, even computer technology.  We'll see what happens, but sitting back and saying, "Technology will fix (the problems that technology has gotten us into)!" isn't a guarantee.

Quote
Taking a long view, people won't be owning their own cars for that much longer. They most certainly won't be the ones driving them. They aren't likely to be predominantly gas engines either, once individual ownership declines. So being able to repair cars that you don't own and aren't being built anymore is of limited use. And there is no reason to think that auto diagnostics and repair wouldn't become even more automated either.

Well, in our Tesla driven future, "repairing your own" isn't even an option, and you live 400 miles from a Service Center?  Well, sucks to be you.

The raw elements needed for a fleet of BEV batteries look an awful lot like "most of the currently known reserves of cobalt," 50% of which are in the Democratic Republic of Congo - not exactly a nice place.

Yes, I know, Technology(TM) will solve that, and... one of those batteries that doesn't yet work will magically start working for more than a few hundred cycles.

Quote
For example, if corporate interests own all the cars, then they are the ones who would have the interest in repairing necessary roads and charging for it in the price of your ride. This would likely accelerate greater urban density.

Or would just accelerate a corporate-owned dystopia, in which if you can't pay, you don't exist.  That's a possibility as well.

Maybe self driving magic will mean I can finally take an Uber to the airport.  I'm well inside the boundaries of their coverage map, and well outside the range at which anyone will actually come pick me up.  I have to schedule a taxi a day or two in advance at this point if I don't want to pay for parking that way.

=============

If I get hungry for chicken-care, I'll just WWOOF.

Not a thing around here, as far as I can find.  I'm also interested in "chickens vs cheatgrass."

Quote
For some years I've been keen on creating something along the lines of permanent rural community where different people can live in tiny homes on site, garden, hang out together, offer safe housing to people who need that, etc. I mostly think it's going to happen! Either I'll join someone else's land and help them out, or co-own land, or ultimately buy something outright and do it myself.

And, historically, that was called a rural town/village. :)

==============

Isn't this what the Transition Movement is all about? Making an entire town/region self sufficient so that it can handle upcoming crises certainly beats an individual doing what they can.

I'm familiar with the movement, but it doesn't seem like there's a huge amount going on with it anymore.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on January 31, 2017, 09:03:52 AM
It makes my head hurt to think this way. I choose optimism. Maybe even wild, unbridled optimism.

Ok.  That's entirely reasonable as a point of view, if a bit dependent on things going well.

Quote
Just saw Ted Koppel speak tonight about how the Chinese and the Russians have full access to the US energy grid*. They can bring us to our knees. Happily, we apparently have hacked theirs back. Is it true? Dunno. What can I do about it if it is?

Is it true?  Almost certainly.  Have we hacked them back?  Almost certainly.  What can you do about it?  A power system that doesn't rely entirely on internet and GPS connected substations would be a good start, and bonus if it's not actually hooked up to the internet. :)

At the end of the day if what you say happens who cares everyone will be in the same boat.  and those like you who have things setup will become the target of those without. Anarchy will reign so you probably need a wall and a bunch of ammo too.  i know you say you're not a doomsday prepper.  but if you're going so far as to have self sustaining power and food what makes you think people wont attack that take it and then why dont you take the next step to protect your property and interests.  it doesnt compute to me.

... and you think I'm silly enough to discuss details of such things on a message board?  I'm not a "This is my shipping container of MREs, and this is my shipping container of ammo, and this is..." type prepper.  However, I'm also not stupid.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on January 31, 2017, 09:12:38 AM
In 2025, you can FIRE into the matrix.

Plugging into VR for life sounds like a dystopian hell to me.  I guess if people want to do it, great...

This its incredible that people see us as peaking right now.

Now?  I put the peak in the 70s.  Plenty of interesting things happen post-peak, but the general trend is down.

Quote
we're 5 years away from every device talking to everything cars driving themselves everywhere. and not as reliant on their sensors anymore but their communication with other cars.

As a friend recently said, "The S in IoT stands for Security."  Everything talking to everything, cars talking to other cars, either means end users are entirely locked out of the things they "own" (already a common enough case), or it's just a security nightmare.  We'll see what happens, but the convoys of self driving cars thing... seems a bit less likely to me.

Quote
The future to me looks much more like wall-e and the jetsons than the aftermath of world war 3 .

... you realize Wall-E was a dystopian movie, right?

A gradual decline will not produce the roving mobs of looters you may envision. By the time people are hungry enough to reach that point, they will begin by tearing apart thos nice walkable neighborhoods and dense urban centers. A property  even just a two-day walk from major populations would mitigate that greatly.

Yeah, I'm not talking about overnight collapse, though there will certainly be sharp emergencies at various places at various points in time.

Just a general downward trend.  And, I'm sure plenty of people will have plenty of tech gizmos to wave and say, "But, look, I have an iPhone 12 with 3D VR, so everything is fine!" as more people are losing their home power or connectivity due to lack of being able to afford it, or just no options left due to infrastructure decay.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on January 31, 2017, 09:20:58 AM
Buy we still need to build the electric cars and produce the electricity that they need to drive. We really need to produce A LOT more solar/wind/water power to be able to support as much energy us as we use today. And we need ways to store it for nighttime and windstil weather. It will be a challenge if the world continues to consume energy the way we do today.

Right - that "renewable future" involves an awful lot of mining for battery metals, or a radical change in how we use energy.  The second is a lot easier than the first - "don't use energy when it's not streaming in."  But that's a huge lifestyle change that isn't particularly popular.  It also means that you need alternate ways of heating, since you can't rely on electricity during the winter as much.

I guess many people are luddites. I work in technology, so I have a unique insight into how rapidly it's changing the world around us. We can't even begin the fathom how much advancement is ahead of us in the next decade or two. It's going to be a VERY different world folks, grab your popcorn.

I work in tech (on the security side, so I am a paid pessimist in a way).  A lot is changing, and I'm not entirely convinced it's for the best.  In the last decade, we've gone from walking around and talking to people to walking around staring at glowing screens as our form of social interaction, and I'm not sure that's a radical improvement in the state of human affairs.

And in terms of planned obsolescence, the appliance manufacturers would love to be able to do what the tech gizmo makers do: "Oh, sorry, no more OS updates, your phone is too old."  A three year lifespan of security updates for a device is awful.

When it comes to investing, WTF ARE YOU DOING! Do you have all your investments in US stocks? Have you never heard of diversification? Your initial premise was you the USA is in decline, are you also predicting all the other world economies are in decline?

I think that it's reasonably likely that the headwinds of reduced oil availability, climate change, and a debt based global economy that requires exponential growth will hit quite a few of the industrial nations together, yes.

Quote
If SHTF I'm going to move to a better country and leave all the woes of this one behind. Why would anyone stay when a better life can be bought? That's the power of money, you rise above the poor and have the opportunity to get out.

Where?  And, will they take you if SHTF?

As to why stay?  Family, and an environment we know and understand.

I was honestly replying more to the general premise of the thread title than the contents of your specific application to it. I think in general many people want to find every excuse they can to not buy into the fact that they can live a good life, or that the future is anything but great. It doesn't sound like you're allocating all your "future" funds into doomsday/self-sufficiency prep rather than index funds, so I don't think the title of the thread really aligns properly with exactly how you're living. It's one thing to spend 5-10% of your income on stuff that will save you money, allow you to be more self sufficient, get enjoyment out of, and invest the rest. It's another to spend 50% of your income prepping for doomsday.

And, again, I don't expect a sudden, overnight collapse.  So I'm not trying to build for that.  I just expect a long, slow decline, and am focusing on making myself useful and prepared for that, as well as hedging in case that doesn't happen in my expected lifespan.

Quote
But, I mean, what is retirement? I guess in theory even 500 years ago you could have not had a "job", lived "off-grid", and just foraged for food and lived simply. Is the actual definition of retirement "being able to enjoy modern amenities whilst not having to be anywhere in particular"? I can appreciate your desire to be a little more off-grid and insource your own modern amenities rather than relying on the system.

That's up for everyone to decide. :)

Quote
The more and more technology advances, the easier it will be for everyone to live.

Conversely, the more and more technology advances, the more we throw perfectly functional older technologies in the garbage, and the more and more reliant we are on technology. :)
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: scantee on January 31, 2017, 09:45:27 AM
Americans have mostly failed to grapple with the extent to which the halcyon period post-WWII was an anomaly that is not replicable in the absence of a nations-destroying political upheaval. We tend to think of America from 1945-1965 as the way things should be without acknowledging that our country's ascendancy during that time period was likely only possible because our greatest competitor nations were completed wiped out, destroyed. They needed our resources, our time and our skills, to rebuild from the physical and human devastation they faced. Once they recovered, our dominance hasn't been quite so easily maintained.

The recent political events have shined on how much our society is desperate to get back to that time period of "easy" American dominance. Bring back coal! Bring back manufacturing! Reality suggests that we can't just bring back those things because there simply is no demand for high-priced American goods in the way there was during that period. For America to remain ascendant, we'll need to stop being so attached to the past, and start adapting to the world we live in now, a world that needs a smart, educated, and flexible workforce.

Instead of really coming to terms with that reality, by improving the mass education of our children and preparing them for the types of jobs we have available, by preparing a new knowledge-based workforce, we've panicked and are doubling down on our desperate efforts to return to the past. Sorry, but that's not going to work, it's only going to hasten our comparative decline, as other more nimble countries zoom past us by meeting the demands of the way we live and work now.

I guess I don't think that an America in decline is necessarily a pessimistic outlook. Civilizations and nations rise, and then they fall, the speed and timing of those ebbs and flows varies, but history shows that the trajectory itself is in many ways natural and to be expected. So it will go with America, hard to say when or how it will happen, but it will certainly happen. The thought of it doesn't fill me with a sense of doom and gloom though, it just the way it is, and I'll continue to live my life the best I know how, give the circumstances at any given moment.

The only thing I feel sad about it that I'll likely miss out on what I consider to be the most important human endeavor: widespread space exploration and colonization. That is where the future is, but we're probably at least 100 years or more away from it being something that is accessible to average people.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: joonifloofeefloo on January 31, 2017, 09:47:00 AM
Not a [WWOOF] thing around here, as far as I can find.  I'm also interested in "chickens vs cheatgrass."

I WWOOF near and far—at a neighbour's place, Europe, other side of Canada, Central America, etc. For WWOOFing, I don't limit myself to local, nor to the official site. I can just go "help a farmer" too, receiving room and board for my work, everybody happy.

What is chickens vs cheatgrass? :)

Quote
For some years I've been keen on creating something along the lines of permanent rural community where different people can live in tiny homes on site, garden, hang out together, offer safe housing to people who need that, etc. I mostly think it's going to happen! Either I'll join someone else's land and help them out, or co-own land, or ultimately buy something outright and do it myself.

And, historically, that was called a rural town/village. :)

Yep. And, that's what I'm in right now, without owning, so you can see my lack of motivation to move just to "own"*. I'm in my dream scenario...except that, without controlling the land, I don't have power to offer space to anyone else. That's the only discrepancy. So, I save up and when I can buy here, or I become willing to live far from my current people, I will snag land I can invite others to.

* I always feel compelled to put own in quotations because it doesn't seem like we own anything when a property still costs $6k/yr in taxes, fees, insurance, etc. Again, it seems to make more sense to keep the principle and pay $6k/yr or less for shelter. So I do.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: joonifloofeefloo on January 31, 2017, 09:51:25 AM
I guess I don't think thinking that America is in decline isn't necessarily a pessimistic outlook. [...] The thought of it doesn't fill me with a sense of doom and gloom though, it just the way it is, and I'll continue to live my life the best I know how, give the circumstances at any given moment.

I think you meant is? i.e., You don't see "decline" as necessarily pessimistic, correct?

If so, I agree.

Things shift, change, move, morph. "Decline" is different than terrorism, hell in a hand basket, war, etc. When things are merely shifting, we stay awake to that and adjust our living accordingly. No biggie.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: scantee on January 31, 2017, 09:54:26 AM
I guess I don't think thinking that America is in decline isn't necessarily a pessimistic outlook. [...] The thought of it doesn't fill me with a sense of doom and gloom though, it just the way it is, and I'll continue to live my life the best I know how, give the circumstances at any given moment.

I think you meant is? i.e., You don't see "decline" as necessarily pessimistic, correct?

If so, I agree.

Things shift, change, move, morph. "Decline" is different than terrorism, hell in a hand basket, war, etc. When things are merely shifting, we stay awake to that and adjust our living accordingly. No biggie.

Yep, that's what I meant! I updated the post to fix that.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: The Happy Philosopher on January 31, 2017, 10:33:06 AM
The rate of change with respect to technology and innovation is staggering. We just have a tough time seeing it because we are really bad at viewing the big picture. We fall prey to recency bias and project the present into the future. We assume that since other nations have declined in the past that so will we. Trying to predict what the world will look like in 10 or 20 years is just not possible, so I don't worry much about it. I suspect we will still be around and probably thriving.

The US is a big, resilient country with massive amounts of natural resources, geographically isolated from most major external threats and is still the biggest source of innovation in the world. Investment and people flow into this country, and will continue to do so in spite of recent policy. There is no better place to be in my humble opinion.

Becoming a prepper will probably be relatively useless in the long run. If it comes to that there are bigger systemic problems and no one will be safe. It is prudent to plan for short term disruptions though. Being able to survive off the grid for a few weeks or months is desirable.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: RWD on January 31, 2017, 10:46:41 AM
Well, in our Tesla driven future, "repairing your own" isn't even an option, and you live 400 miles from a Service Center?  Well, sucks to be you.
Might be changing: http://jalopnik.com/tesla-may-be-working-on-a-program-to-allow-owners-to-re-1791825456
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Metric Mouse on January 31, 2017, 10:46:59 AM
I think the use of oil and gas is about to see a sharp decline in the next 5 years.  What tesla is doing is revolutionizing the electric and now autonomous car industry.  oil will peak and start to recede.

Buy we still need to build the electric cars and produce the electricity that they need to drive. We really need to produce A LOT more solar/wind/water power to be able to support as much energy us as we use today. And we need ways to store it for nighttime and windstil weather. It will be a challenge if the world continues to consume energy the way we do today.

And until we stop buying stuff made of oil by-products, there will always be a demand for oil.

i didnt propose no oil demand i said the demand would recede.  70% of all oil used in the united states is used for transportation.  electric transportation is here and growing. the demand for oil will drop significantly over our lifetime.
I hope electric transportation has that effect. Cheaper gas for everyone as demand drops!
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Metric Mouse on January 31, 2017, 10:48:17 AM
Well, in our Tesla driven future, "repairing your own" isn't even an option, and you live 400 miles from a Service Center?  Well, sucks to be you.
Might be changing: http://jalopnik.com/tesla-may-be-working-on-a-program-to-allow-owners-to-re-1791825456
I honestly don't see Tesla being the majority player in the future, not without great changes driven by stiff competition from the other automakers.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: acroy on January 31, 2017, 10:51:50 AM
Hmmm, a lot of pessimism in this thread. Depressing.
An enjoyable read:
http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/10/03/the-practical-benefits-of-outrageous-optimism/
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: joonifloofeefloo on January 31, 2017, 11:07:11 AM
Hmmm, a lot of pessimism in this thread. Depressing.

A couple of folks have said something to that effect... Curiously, I'm not finding the pessimism! To those seeing it, what parts seem like pessimism?

I feel engaged, cheery, and delighted reading this thread, lol. Seems aware, proactive, positive to me!
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: scantee on January 31, 2017, 11:09:00 AM
We assume that since other nations have declined in the past that so will we. Trying to predict what the world will look like in 10 or 20 years is just not possible, so I don't worry much about it. I suspect we will still be around and probably thriving.

As far as empires go, the U.S. is pretty young, at 241 years. The Roman empire lasted 500 years, the Byzantine empire 1100 years. Will the U.S. be around in 10 to 20 years? Sure, of course. Will it be around in 200 or 500 or 1000 years? Who knows, but probably not, at least not in its current configuration.

Looking in my crystal ball, I expect that in the next 100 years we will begin to accept that consumer-based capitalism is not a sustainable or worthwhile organizing principle of human existence. Transitioning from consumerism to whatever follows will be an extremely painful process that will probably involve a lot of human degradation. Once we get to the other side of that, humans will need a new reason to live and thrive, hopefully one that is more positive and life affirming than the one it's replacing. I really only see one worthwhile endeavor....

SPACE COLONIZATION!!!

A big part of me feels like, since it's collectively dawning on us that consumerism is a dead-end path that mostly leads to misery, can't we just skip past all the human suffering that will come with its decline and move directly on to the much more exciting space travel stage?  I mean, Tesla? I don't give a shit, caring about that is part of the dying consumerism model, just a very brief stopover on the timeline to much bigger and better things for human beings. But no, here I find myself in 2017, surrounded by people having the same old tedious tribal disagreements we've had for millenia, just dressed up in modern clothing and with an iphone.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on January 31, 2017, 11:27:38 AM
What is chickens vs cheatgrass? :)

My running theory, supported by an occasional comment on the internet, that a herd of chickens running around on a patch of cheatgrass (a truly annoying annual grass that pops up early, sucks the moisture out of the soil, goes to seed, and spends most of the summer being an irritatingly flammable fire hazard) will help reduce the cheatgrass population in following years by digging around and eating the seeds.  Then reseed with something more suited to the area that isn't cheatgrass, and go on your way.

Or, at the very least, convert my endless supply of cheatgrass into tasty eggs.

Well, in our Tesla driven future, "repairing your own" isn't even an option, and you live 400 miles from a Service Center?  Well, sucks to be you.
Might be changing: http://jalopnik.com/tesla-may-be-working-on-a-program-to-allow-owners-to-re-1791825456

I saw that this morning.  That would be a welcome change - it's not just people who want to fix their own, it's the existence of things like small independent shops.  I take my vehicles to one of those if it's not something I feel like doing myself, and I have a range of options, including some quite local.  If I had a Tesla, I could currently take it to Salt Lake City or Portland if it needed work.

Hmmm, a lot of pessimism in this thread. Depressing.

If anything other than "Technology Singularity Growth Forever TO THE STARS!" is pessimism, sure.  I don't think spending some time and resources working out paths forward if that doesn't happen is particularly pessimistic, unless you've consumed the "religion of progress" kool-aid that says that anything that isn't progress is unthinkably bad.

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http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/10/03/the-practical-benefits-of-outrageous-optimism/

I'm familiar with that, and I think MMM is so well diversified and wealthy that he's pretty much untouchable at this point.  I'd rather make things work for a range of outcomes with a bit less cash saved up.

If things continue, great.  I'll have a solar powered house that is immune to power outages, eating food grown on my property, and requiring very little cashflow to live on, meaning that the wonderful results from the markets mean I can do more things.  It's not like I'm doing things that only make sense in decline.

SPACE COLONIZATION!!!

Imagine the worst, most inhospitable place on Earth.  That's a radically easier place to live than space.  Ocean floor colonies make living in space seem trivial, and we're not exactly doing those yet.

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But no, here I find myself in 2017, surrounded by people having the same old tedious tribal disagreements we've had for millenia, just dressed up in modern clothing and with an iphone.

Yup!  Human nature doesn't change - and humans are, as far as evidence shows, well optimized for living in small tribes (150 people is generally considered a tipping point).  If your plan starts with, "First, change human nature..." - best of luck. :)  It hasn't worked for thousands of years that people have been trying and I don't think the internet will magically make it happen.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: aschmidt2930 on January 31, 2017, 11:29:54 AM
I both agree and disagree.

I don't think the US is on the decline, but I do think our influence relative to the rest of the world is declining.  The US has been ridiculously ahead of most of the world for a long time.  The internet has been a great equalizer.  I see our influence settling into a more realistic position relative to our population size. The US will be fine, but we'll no longer call all the global shots (nor should we).

In addressing your allocation question, I tend to invest internationally more than most posters I see on this forum, partially for the reasons above.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: dougules on January 31, 2017, 11:32:02 AM
Wow, such doom and gloom.

Most of Western Europe is past its zenith, but nobody is mourning the way things are working out there.  The US doesn't have to be #1 to stay well off, although we probably will be at or near the top for a while just based on being the 3rd most populous and 4th largest country in the world. 

The world as a whole, including the US, is better off than it ever has been.  Are there threats to our way of life?  Yes, but there always have been.  Are the benefits unequally distributed?  Yes, but the US overcame it a century ago, so why not again?

And economic growth doesn't have to come from an ever-growing consumption of resources.  Leaps and bounds in efficiency are a great source of economic growth. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on January 31, 2017, 11:37:07 AM
And economic growth doesn't have to come from an ever-growing consumption of resources.  Leaps and bounds in efficiency are a great source of economic growth.

Certainly, though that's rather self limiting - the jump in efficiency from candles to incandescents to LEDs has been great, but there's not much more you can save on lighting from efficiency (unless you believe that 100% efficiency is just a minor nuisance and Technology will fix that soon enough), and the Jevons Effect observes that improvements in efficiency are usually met with a significant increase in use as opposed to pure savings.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: scantee on January 31, 2017, 11:41:37 AM
Wow, such doom and gloom.



I'm with Joon in not seeing the doom and gloom in this thread. The tenor of the conversation seems to be that they west, the U.S. in particular, are declining in comparison to developing nations, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, and living standards are still pretty good in the west.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Prairie Stash on January 31, 2017, 11:53:55 AM
[
When it comes to investing, WTF ARE YOU DOING! Do you have all your investments in US stocks? Have you never heard of diversification? Your initial premise was you the USA is in decline, are you also predicting all the other world economies are in decline?

I think that it's reasonably likely that the headwinds of reduced oil availability, climate change, and a debt based global economy that requires exponential growth will hit quite a few of the industrial nations together, yes.

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If SHTF I'm going to move to a better country and leave all the woes of this one behind. Why would anyone stay when a better life can be bought? That's the power of money, you rise above the poor and have the opportunity to get out.

Where?  And, will they take you if SHTF?

As to why stay?  Family, and an environment we know and understand.
Well, my ancestors moved to Canada when SHTF, at a local level they were poor, not facing persecution, the point there is they moved. The moving allowed their children, grandchildren and all progeny a better life, it would have screwed their descendants over pretty hard by staying. I've also heard of people moving to the USA, Britain, France, Germany, Brazil, Argentina...I work with people who moved here in the past 5 years. When life got crazy in Europe last century the first people to get out were the rich, the poor got left behind, society has always had a double standard for the rich.

Overall the optimal path for success is still the simplest, just get to FIRE as quickly as possible. Once there you can adapt to anything that might happen, its the people who aren't at FIRE that will fail before you do. At which point having extra cash allows you to purchase extra resources on the cheap.

The basic law of survival isn't being the fittest and fastest, its being more fit than the guy next to you (its the joke about 2 guys being chased by a bear, the one guy looks over and says "I don't need to outrun the bear, I just need to outrun you"). I don't need to prep, I just need to RE so I can adapt quicker than my neighbours.

Just for fun though, how do you plan on ensuring your grandchildren's survival? Mine will be living in a country that's great (since I'll move, following the footsteps of my ancestors). Yours could be in the waste lands of the declining empire, I disagree about the decline but I'll play along. Solar panels have a half life of 30 years, in 90 they're garbage, you still need to replace them once a lifetime. Nothing lasts forever and the ones who adapt quickest always do best (long term). The ones who tough it out get to do all the hard work for my descendants to move back to (life's not fair).
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on January 31, 2017, 12:09:05 PM
Well, my ancestors moved to Canada when SHTF, at a local level they were poor, not facing persecution, the point there is they moved. The moving allowed their children, grandchildren and all progeny a better life, it would have screwed their descendants over pretty hard by staying. I've also heard of people moving to the USA, Britain, France, Germany, Brazil, Argentina...I work with people who moved here in the past 5 years. When life got crazy in Europe last century the first people to get out were the rich, the poor got left behind, society has always had a double standard for the rich.

Sure, but where do you think will be a better place to be?  The observations about the US having an awful lot of land and resources are accurate, and being isolated by an ocean from whatever Europe turns into when resources get scarce will be a serious advantage.

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Just for fun though, how do you plan on ensuring your grandchildren's survival? Mine will be living in a country that's great (since I'll move, following the footsteps of my ancestors). Yours could be in the waste lands of the declining empire, I disagree about the decline but I'll play along. Solar panels have a half life of 30 years, in 90 they're garbage, you still need to replace them once a lifetime. Nothing lasts forever and the ones who adapt quickest always do best (long term). The ones who tough it out get to do all the hard work for my descendants to move back to (life's not fair).

Assuming you can find that country that's doing great, enjoy.

The panels certainly won't last forever, but they stand a good chance of providing usable amounts of energy for a long while.  We don't really know the lifespan of solar panels - they degrade with time, and are often considered junk at 80%, but even 20% of original output is better than 0%.

And, in general, by teaching my kids and grandkids useful things that will be relevant in decline - which is to say, useful skills, and particularly lower tech level skills that are useful if one is operating without our current infrastructure.

The vast, vast history of humanity has survived just fine without electricity and the internet, and at some point in the future, people will be doing that again.  May as well be ahead of the curve!
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: chaskavitch on January 31, 2017, 01:14:23 PM
My husband is kind of leaning toward this same train of thought.  He's worried about the availability of water in the future as habitable regions move farther north in the US, mostly, as well as what would happen to the food supply in major cities if there is ever a breakdown in society (or even a major gasoline shortage where semis couldn't get around to transport food), but I think also he just would love to live off the land and be more self sufficient.  It is actually what got him to be more amenable to the MMM way of life, because he wants to save up money to buy like 50 acres of land with water rights, so we can have all of our parents live with us and our new baby and have a homestead and grow huge gardens with bees and goats :)  We're still hoping to be near a city center so we can have real jobs if we need to, and so we have hospitals and stuff, but it'll be interesting.  Mostly right now we're focusing on saving up money, getting better at growing/preserving food, keeping our chickens alive, and learning new skills - welding, plumbing, more woodworking, etc.

Isn't this what the Transition Movement is all about? Making an entire town/region self sufficient so that it can handle upcoming crises certainly beats an individual doing what they can.

http://transitionus.org/transition-town-movement

The SO's parents are involved in a transition town; they've scouted out places to grow food and put up greenhouses. They re-started a local farmer's market and they're working on more town-owned solar and water access.

Apparently I already live in a town that is part of this!  I'm glad you posted it; now I can check them out and see what it is all about.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on January 31, 2017, 01:44:37 PM
I love how we are above 95% employment, the stock market is at an all time high, violent crimes are way down and we are so damn rich that we have entire communities of people online teaching each other how to FIRE, and people think we're in DECLINE????  Haha, that is some funny sh!t.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on January 31, 2017, 01:51:46 PM
I love how we are above 95% employment, the stock market is at an all time high, violent crimes are way down and we are so damn rich that we have entire communities of people online teaching each other how to FIRE, and people think we're in DECLINE????  Haha, that is some funny sh!t.

Well, then, do whatever you want.

The employment numbers are a target of policy, so are ~useless.  The workforce participation rate as a percentage of working age individuals is staggering along about where it's been since 2008 (and well down from the 90s), and quite a bit of the "employment" is underemployment or part time - if you have a Masters degree and are slinging coffee 25 hours a week, that's not really making use of your degree.

The stock market is either in a new normal or a bubble.  The second tends to be obvious, in retrospect, but about the time everyone starts asserting that (whatever) is a new normal that can continue forever, get out.

And, yeah, we've got a lot of surplus wealth floating around.  Things are good.  I'm just not willing to extrapolate the recent trends out for another 40 years, brush my hands, and say "Great!"
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on January 31, 2017, 02:00:49 PM
Man, I applaud getting solar and learning skills and building solar powered electric bikes as car replacements.  And especially planting/growing a garden.  Those are things that will cut your monthly recurring costs.  Immediately for the garden, and in the medium term for solar.  And being more self-sufficient is ALWAYS a good thing.  The fact that it makes you less dependent on the 'system' is a bonus. 

So, do you think things are in slow decline, or rapid decline?  Because the things above seem like they are a hedge against a rapid decline.  And if you think we're in a rapid decline, you really ought to get your $$ out of the market and go full on prepper.

If things are in slow decline, then FIRE is basically impossible.  And investing in the market is a fools errand.  So what do you invest in, instead?  If anything?  I mean after you have your solar up and your garden going and your bike's built, etc.  What do you do with the bulk of your $$?  Invest in the next nation that's on the rise?  How?  And which one?  Do you move to the rising country?  Stay in America?  Move to a farm? 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on January 31, 2017, 02:32:53 PM
So, do you think things are in slow decline, or rapid decline?  Because the things above seem like they are a hedge against a rapid decline.  And if you think we're in a rapid decline, you really ought to get your $$ out of the market and go full on prepper.

History indicates that decline is usually a slow process, with the occasional rapid shakes as things settle out.  That seems as reasonable a guess as any to me - far more likely, historically, than the catastrophic collapse.

I don't really see "stockpiling stuff" as a useful and sustainable path forward.  That does make you a target for people.

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If things are in slow decline, then FIRE is basically impossible.  And investing in the market is a fools errand.  So what do you invest in, instead?  If anything?  I mean after you have your solar up and your garden going and your bike's built, etc.  What do you do with the bulk of your $$?  Invest in the next nation that's on the rise?  How?  And which one?  Do you move to the rising country?  Stay in America?  Move to a farm?

That's... kind of the topic of conversation. :)

I'd say investing in local businesses and some international markets would be reasonable, though I'm not sure how well that will work long term.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on January 31, 2017, 02:37:50 PM
So, do you think things are in slow decline, or rapid decline?  Because the things above seem like they are a hedge against a rapid decline.  And if you think we're in a rapid decline, you really ought to get your $$ out of the market and go full on prepper.

History indicates that decline is usually a slow process, with the occasional rapid shakes as things settle out.  That seems as reasonable a guess as any to me - far more likely, historically, than the catastrophic collapse.

I don't really see "stockpiling stuff" as a useful and sustainable path forward.  That does make you a target for people.

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If things are in slow decline, then FIRE is basically impossible.  And investing in the market is a fools errand.  So what do you invest in, instead?  If anything?  I mean after you have your solar up and your garden going and your bike's built, etc.  What do you do with the bulk of your $$?  Invest in the next nation that's on the rise?  How?  And which one?  Do you move to the rising country?  Stay in America?  Move to a farm?

That's... kind of the topic of conversation. :)

I'd say investing in local businesses and some international markets would be reasonable, though I'm not sure how well that will work long term.

Or you could do what I do - live in a big city with big income and high savings, dump that into the market and bonds, and have parents that own a 100 acre farm with cows on it and a spare home you could move into if needed :D

I mean, these other things you are talking about are hedges - I hope you also are putting most of your money in the market or in real estate investments.  I have a traditional 80/20 split stocks/bonds, but within my stocks I have about 20% international.  That seems reasonable to me. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on January 31, 2017, 02:44:18 PM
Or you could do what I do - live in a big city with big income and high savings, dump that into the market and bonds, and have parents that own a 100 acre farm with cows on it and a spare home you could move into if needed :D

We moved away from "big city with big income" because the quality of life was terrible.  We don't care about any of the things cities have to offer, and what we value (peace, quiet, seeing wildlife when out camping, not sharing walls, etc) weren't things offered.

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I mean, these other things you are talking about are hedges - I hope you also are putting most of your money in the market or in real estate investments.  I have a traditional 80/20 split stocks/bonds, but within my stocks I have about 20% international.  That seems reasonable to me.

Right now, most of our income is going to property improvements.  The property we're on needs quite a bit of work, and due to me daring to take 3 months off between jobs, we couldn't get a mortgage either.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on January 31, 2017, 02:48:25 PM
Or you could do what I do - live in a big city with big income and high savings, dump that into the market and bonds, and have parents that own a 100 acre farm with cows on it and a spare home you could move into if needed :D

We moved away from "big city with big income" because the quality of life was terrible.  We don't care about any of the things cities have to offer, and what we value (peace, quiet, seeing wildlife when out camping, not sharing walls, etc) weren't things offered.

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I mean, these other things you are talking about are hedges - I hope you also are putting most of your money in the market or in real estate investments.  I have a traditional 80/20 split stocks/bonds, but within my stocks I have about 20% international.  That seems reasonable to me.

Right now, most of our income is going to property improvements.  The property we're on needs quite a bit of work, and due to me daring to take 3 months off between jobs, we couldn't get a mortgage either.

Interesting how everyone is different - we live on the edge of the city and 2 blocks from a large lake and park.  Beautiful area and we absolutely love living here.  Being able to work from home 100% of the time helps a lot, too. 

Nothing wrong with doing property improvements.  As long as they don't spiral out of control.  But as an MMMer I doubt that's even a remote possibility for you :)
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: caracarn on January 31, 2017, 02:52:37 PM
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That's why I start by talking about the arc of nations.  "Working to save the great system we have" is useful, if there's any evidence at all it can be saved.  Historically, that's not the case - and I'm not one to arrogantly claim, "But this time is different!" - because that was the case in every civilization that is no longer around.

As someone who does a lot of historical study, I do feel you are not giving any "credit" for differences.  I'd ask you a more pertinent question.  Since we have hit the Industrial Revolution which allowed people to move from subsistence farming because that is all they physically had time or capability for, what nations would you point to that have failed, i.e. that have followed your arc of nations?  Assuming you do not live in one of those tiny nations which struggles to support itself, I believe you'd be hard pressed to name one. 

It is tempting to look at the Greeks, Romans, Incas, take your pick, but like it our not I think there is a relevant case for "This time is different!".  The advances humans have made in the last 80 years are massive compared to all the history that predates it.  It is a paradigm shift, so I think making the case that there is a marked difference is not only possible, it is prudent. 

I also feel the ability for a given nation to run off and rule the world is much harder than is was.  America owes much of its ascension to physical geography at a time when technology made it difficult or impossible to easily attack in in the two world wars.  If those wars had taken place 50 years later that would not have been the case.  Europe was in ruins due to that lack of barriers and easy reach of aggressors.  Those nations with that arcs that I believe you refer to all rose and fell based on military conquest.  In our world with current technology that is increasingly unlikely. 

All that said, I would side with those responders who work towards a more optimistic viewpoint.  It's a lot more fun, and a lot more likely to be beneficial than assuming the sky is falling.  If we do progress back to the Stone Age, I'd really not want to be around anyway so building up the skills to make it and hang around for the misery you predict would not be something I desire to put effort into.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: caracarn on January 31, 2017, 02:57:55 PM
I love how we are above 95% employment, the stock market is at an all time high, violent crimes are way down and we are so damn rich that we have entire communities of people online teaching each other how to FIRE, and people think we're in DECLINE????  Haha, that is some funny sh!t.

Everything is relative.  When people want to worry, they will find a reason.  "I had 10 million gold coins in my pile yesterday, and today, I have 9,999,995.  I am in decline, even though I have 9,999,995 more coins then when I started and thought things were great!"  It is a sad way to view things.  Some may believe it is helpful, but I'm with you in thinking it's a lot more fun (and funny) to look at the blessings we all have compared to how the world was simply 100 years ago, when most people had no ability to save, no safeguards for their livelihood (insurance) and little ability for mobility beyond what their two feet or a horse could take them.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on January 31, 2017, 03:00:10 PM
Interesting how everyone is different - we live on the edge of the city and 2 blocks from a large lake and park.  Beautiful area and we absolutely love living here.  Being able to work from home 100% of the time helps a lot, too.

I got to sit in traffic every morning until I discovered the joys of ebikes.  They, at least, made the commute reasonable and I didn't end up sweaty at work.

Working from home wasn't a thing, unfortunately.  It is now!  Different employer.

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Nothing wrong with doing property improvements.  As long as they don't spiral out of control.  But as an MMMer I doubt that's even a remote possibility for you :)

... define "out of control"?  Is turning a hillside of basalt and alkaline soil into an area providing food and energy for my family and relatives out of control? :D

As someone who does a lot of historical study, I do feel you are not giving any "credit" for differences.  I'd ask you a more pertinent question.  Since we have hit the Industrial Revolution which allowed people to move from subsistence farming because that is all they physically had time or capability for, what nations would you point to that have failed, i.e. that have followed your arc of nations?  Assuming you do not live in one of those tiny nations which struggles to support itself, I believe you'd be hard pressed to name one. 

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

Quite a few of those listed have failed since the industrial revolution.

Great Britain has failed as an empire since the industrial revolution.  They've gone from controlling a huge percentage of the planet's land to being a nice little island.  It's an unusual end to empire, but it's certainly occurred in the timeframe you're talking about.  They were just able to hand enough over to those former rogue colonies to go their way peacefully.

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It is tempting to look at the Greeks, Romans, Incas, take your pick, but like it our not I think there is a relevant case for "This time is different!".  The advances humans have made in the last 80 years are massive compared to all the history that predates it.  It is a paradigm shift, so I think making the case that there is a marked difference is not only possible, it is prudent.

We've learned to extract insane amounts of carbon to get incredible amounts of high grade energy, yes.  That's at the base of the last century or so, but I don't see how it really changes the story much.  It does bind more of the planet together into one arc, though.

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All that said, I would side with those responders who work towards a more optimistic viewpoint.  It's a lot more fun, and a lot more likely to be beneficial than assuming the sky is falling.  If we do progress back to the Stone Age, I'd really not want to be around anyway so building up the skills to make it and hang around for the misery you predict would not be something I desire to put effort into.

At least you're honest about that, though I do wonder how many of the people who say, "Oh, I wouldn't want to be around for that horrific future..." will actually go quietly when the time comes that they've run out of other options.

And I can't say it sounds like misery to me.  You're welcome to your opinion of working outside.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: caracarn on January 31, 2017, 03:18:09 PM
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_former_sovereign_states

Quite a few of those listed have failed since the industrial revolution.

Great Britain has failed as an empire since the industrial revolution.  They've gone from controlling a huge percentage of the planet's land to being a nice little island.  It's an unusual end to empire, but it's certainly occurred in the timeframe you're talking about.  They were just able to hand enough over to those former rogue colonies to go their way peacefully.


I would say that entire list is ridiculous.  Either that our your and my definition of "nations" is vastly divergent.

Being absorbed or realigning yourself is not "failing".  I thought you meant "Rome covered most of the earth, and now is gone", not "North and South Vietnam failed because they became Vietnam".  That is the same fruitless argument with the long list of things under Germany or Italy.  Your best reference to what I speak of is on the tail end of your "evidence" in the section "Since the Middle Ages".  A) This is ridiculously short as it is and B) Literally has nothing on it that was not consolidated into a larger nation or overtaken in either World War I or II or the immediate aftermath and therefore "failed" because of that.  I assumed your "arc of nations" meant something other than cataclysmic falls off a cliff, meaning I thought you meant an actual arc.  Hence my reference to smaller nations that are unable to protect their own sovereignty. 

Great Britain certainly is not the power is once was (and as a proud citizen of one of her former colonies, I appreciate that), but I would not say Great Britain failed.  This is my point about no country being able to rule the world today.  Great Britain was just one of the leaders of that reality, but all the powers in the era of colonization still exist as nations today.  Not a single one of them is gone.  Short of nuclear annihilation I just do not subscribe to your sad view of inevitable decline and I believe there is ample evidence to indicate that.  Again, you reference in a recent post of how we will one day all be living without electricity just smacks of a much more dystopian view than your last comment in this response to me where you seem to reference an idyllic existence "working outdoors".  You appear to be trying to convince us (or yourself) that your view is in some way upbeat in it's final result for self sustained living while painting such a gruesome picture of why we get to that state eliminating all modern living standards which would have no realistic way of evaporating without massive warfare and inability to rebuild.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on January 31, 2017, 03:34:43 PM
Well, a few hundred years from now, one of us will be proven right and wrong!
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Gondolin on January 31, 2017, 03:51:26 PM
Quote
The advances humans have made in the last 80 years are massive compared to all the history that predates it.  It is a paradigm shift, so I think making the case that there is a marked difference is not only possible, it is prudent. 

This. On what basis are people thinking the US is "in decline"? The usual answer I see is that "things were better in the 50s,60s, and 70s!". However:

A) There's a good chance that the rate of technological change over the past 80 years is rendering obsolete all pre-20th century historical models for the fate of nation states.

B) There's a good chance what we are seeing is not 'crash into extinction' but rather a reversion to the mean after a (brief) post-WWII golden age. I mean, of course the US/USSR were dominant in the 50s and 60s, the rest of the developed world busy rebuilding all those smoking ruins. The dominance of the 50s and 60s will never be recovered since it is not likely that US will ever fight or win another world war (that wouldn't also destroy all of humanity).
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: doggyfizzle on January 31, 2017, 03:53:24 PM
The recent political events have shined on how much our society is desperate to get back to that time period of "easy" American dominance. Bring back coal! Bring back manufacturing! Reality suggests that we can't just bring back those things because there simply is no demand for high-priced American goods in the way there was during that period. For America to remain ascendant, we'll need to stop being so attached to the past, and start adapting to the world we live in now, a world that needs a smart, educated, and flexible workforce.

Instead of really coming to terms with that reality, by improving the mass education of our children and preparing them for the types of jobs we have available, by preparing a new knowledge-based workforce, we've panicked and are doubling down on our desperate efforts to return to the past. Sorry, but that's not going to work, it's only going to hasten our comparative decline, as other more nimble countries zoom past us by meeting the demands of the way we live and work now.

Well, when looking at the profit margins of major MNCs based in America, they COULD manufacture (some/all) goods in this country if they were to accept lower profit margins.  This would require the acquiescence of shareholders/board of directors and might result in a lower (maybe short-term) stock price, but could also serve as a hedge on foreign political instability, fluctuating transportation costs, supply chain diversification etc.  A company like Nike, with its very strong brand, could definitely afford to make some goods here, but for profit maximization purposes it does not.  A lower profit margin is not necessarily a competitive disadvantage when paired with high-quality/brand recognition of goods (New Balance/Red Wing/Danner for example).  Real manufacturing output (and exports) in this country are at all-time highs, so clearly this is more than an ample industrial base to work with.  That being said, with the present employment rate in the US, finding the large number of workers who would want to work in a garment factory (for example) might be challenging.

I completely agree with you about access to education.  I also have no problem with global trade, but also believe manufacturing job losses not due to automation are often times driven by corporate greed rather than true competitive necessity.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on January 31, 2017, 03:55:47 PM
B) There's a good chance what we are seeing is not 'crash into extinction' but rather a reversion to the mean after a (brief) post-WWII golden age. I mean, of course the US/USSR were dominant in the 50s and 60s, the rest of the developed world busy rebuilding all those smoking ruins. The dominance of the 50s and 60s will never be recovered since it is not likely that US will ever fight or win another world war (that wouldn't also destroy all of humanity).

That would be an ideal outcome, certainly.  What do you think the "reversion to the mean" will do to money invested in index funds and the like, though, especially if nobody is actually stating what's going on, and is simply panicing over lower earnings (at the C level)?

//EDIT: Money, not wealth, invested.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman on January 31, 2017, 04:45:19 PM
I was actually thinking about Great Britain, so happy to see it came up in the discussion. I think it fails the test of being a good story of a decline and fall of a nation, because for a person living in England proper, or in one of the former overseas colonies that became independent, nothing about the dissolution of the British empire prevented you from living out a conventional FIRE. People in England weren't missing meals or not getting electricity because India became an independent nation.

For failed states since the industrial revolution, my nominees are:

1) Afghanistan (failed sometime after the mid 1970s)
2) Somalia (failed in the early 1990s)
3) Yugoslavia (1990s)
4) Austro-Hungarian Empire (end of WWI).

I am sure there are others, but these are four examples of countries that had modern (for their times), functional societies, but then saw the rules of society break down to the point that anyone who didn't flee wouldn't have been able to carry on with a normal FIRE existence in their home country.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: ysette9 on January 31, 2017, 04:50:23 PM
I don't share the pessimism of this thread, though I do believe that the US is declining in world dominance. That isn't a problem for me. I have certainly longed before to be from a nation like Denmark or New Zealand that isn't on the world stage all the time, being expected to clean up messes around the world and be the number one scapegoat for people who have a beef with the west or whatever else we stand for in the eyes of people around the world. I hate that if our politicians f up then everyone knows it and I feel ashamed to be traveling the world on the US passport. I don't like how universal our culture is through movies and music and television. We constantly stream out content to the world but almost never reciprocate. What was the last foreign television show you watched? How frequently do you hear a song in another language gauge on your regular pop music station? These things are common in Europe.

That said, I agree with another poster that the decline could be a gentle one like the U.K. Brexit fears aside, that is a pretty decent place to live.

I recommend the book Collapse by Jared Diamond to everyone. He goes through the history of extinct civilizationsw to find common themes of what caused them to fail (think: Maya, Eastern Island, the Greenland Norse). I found it fascinating. Most of what he talks about centers on communities recognizing the limits of the resources their environment can provide them and putting systems in place to ensure they don't outstrip their land's ability to support their population. You could make a much more convincing argument to me that we in the US are on a bad path using that line of thinking.then again, mustachianism is a wonderful solution!
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on January 31, 2017, 04:58:22 PM
I am sure there are others, but these are four examples of countries that had modern (for their times), functional societies, but then saw the rules of society break down to the point that anyone who didn't flee wouldn't have been able to carry on with a normal FIRE existence in their home country.

From what I understand, an awful lot of the USSR was in that category as well for a decade or so after the government just... stopped existing, until something new got formed, took hold, and actually made a difference.

I recommend the book Collapse by Jared Diamond to everyone. He goes through the history of extinct civilizationsw to find common themes of what caused them to fail (think: Maya, Eastern Island, the Greenland Norse). I found it fascinating. Most of what he talks about centers on communities recognizing the limits of the resources their environment can provide them and putting systems in place to ensure they don't outstrip their land's ability to support their population. You could make a much more convincing argument to me that we in the US are on a bad path using that line of thinking.then again, mustachianism is a wonderful solution!

So, the fact that western industrial civilization, in general, is using far more than the globe can provide on an annual basis, and digging insane amounts of carbon out from underground to use... yeah.  Doesn't look good for us.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman on January 31, 2017, 05:39:19 PM
D'oh, how could I forget the USSR! Yes, I agree that's probably another example of a failed state. Although the lessons that can be drawn from that one and yugoslavia are complicated by the fact that when a communist country collapses some of the regular markers like "even if you have money you cannot buy food and electricity" don't have good logical parallels.

I'm not actually that familiar with what the transition was like. The collapse of the soviet union was in that weird blind spot for me of being too young when it happened to remember (much) news coverage but the events being far too recent to learn about in history classes.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: joonifloofeefloo on January 31, 2017, 05:57:21 PM
And I can't say [working outside] sounds like misery to me.

This ^.

Is that the definition some folks here are using for pessimism and others are using for optimism?

For me, a promise only of a high tech environment or non-earth habitat is what would leave me feeling pessimistic. But the idea of returning (not quite "to the Stone Age" but) to a more soil-based, nature-y one (somewhere between hunter-gatherer and agricultural, with environmentally-friendly technology for moderate daily comfort) is the dream!

When those of us excited and happy about homesteading, etc, get excited that this could be the path for Western society, is that what sounds pessimistic? Would that inherently sound "pessimistic" (despite our joy) only to folks such a lifestyle seems abhorrent to?
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Kriegsspiel on January 31, 2017, 06:01:59 PM
D'oh, how could I forget the USSR! Yes, I agree that's probably another example of a failed state. Although the lessons that can be drawn from that one and yugoslavia are complicated by the fact that when a communist country collapses some of the regular markers like "even if you have money you cannot buy food and electricity" don't have good logical parallels.

I'm not actually that familiar with what the transition was like. The collapse of the soviet union was in that weird blind spot for me of being too young when it happened to remember (much) news coverage but the events being far too recent to learn about in history classes.

I haven't read these yet, but Secondhand Time: The Last Of The Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B018CH9ZVW/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1) is on my reading list for that topic.

There's another one, The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse by Ferdinand Aguirre (https://www.amazon.com/Modern-Survival-Manual-Surviving-Economic/dp/9870563457) about the economic collapse in Argentina. From what I've heard, it's not a "get your beans and guns and head for the hills" prepper book.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman on January 31, 2017, 06:11:22 PM
Thanks for the recommendations, Kriegsspiel. Putting Secondhand Time on my reading list as well.

I've wondered about Ferfal's book (and the economic collapse of Argentina generally) for years. If there was a digital version I would have definitely read at some point. But from the excerpts I've found online, it sounds like the economic collapse of Argentina would be a reasonably analogy for the sort of decline and fall people in this thread are worrying about happening to the USA.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Indexer on January 31, 2017, 06:17:18 PM
If we start with the assumption that the US is in decline that doesn't mean it will lead to disaster.

This isn't Rome with the barbarians at the gates.

I agree with the other posters that if anything it is like the UK. The UK still exists, but they don't control territory all over the world.

Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: aceyou on January 31, 2017, 07:59:13 PM
Syonyk, you have mentioned that history gives a guide that our decline is inevitable.  You may be right, but my argument is that history's real lesson is things get better.

This is a very interesting thread.  I'm not worried about a decline, for several reasons:

Reason #1: A middling country in 50 years will likely be a far more badass place to live than the US is today.  Take the Roman Empire.  Your standard of living is unimaginably better in today's Italy as a lower-middle class person than it was for a super rich dude at the height of the Roman Empire.  Undeniably.  Some random Italian today has better access to health care, education, electricity, communication, travel, etc, etc, etc.  Do you think Italians are pining for the their country's lifestyle in the year 100AD back when they were the greatest empire on earth?  They had aquaducts...cool story Romans...today's poor italians can fly on airplanes and skype anyone in the world and bank in more badass ways than the roman emperor. 

If the US moves to #10 on world's richest list when I die decades from now (which I think is shortchanging the US big time), then we are still going to be living in a far better place than we are now. 

Reason #2(although very related to #1): Technology.  Like Boarder and others have said on here, advances to clean energy and AI will transform the world we live in.  Things like employment rates will have a new meaning decades from now, because labor won't even be a bottleneck for production.  The vast majority of things that today take tons of labor to do, will require a tiny fraction of people decades from now.  For example, today a people drive around all day delivering mail.  That will be seen as a huge waste of time in the future.  How big of a stretch is it to imagine a self driving car pulling into a neighborhood with 20 drones that each fly back and forth a few times delivering the mail to each persons home, then returning to the car as it drives itself to the subdivision.  Heck, I'm a math teacher.  Maybe virtual reality will make math teachers as we know them obsolete in the future.  In this world, stuff will become really cheap, because things require so little labor.  It will free people up to do even cooler stuff, like leisure, learning, the arts. 

In conclusion: The best dooms day prepping we can do is to help support policies that encourage science, protect our environment and climate, help ensure education and access to family planning to women around the world, and support poor nations to help them join the party, and implement things like universal income when it becomes necessary.  The important thing isn't going to be where the USA ranks 30 or 50 years from now.  The important question is can we all work together as a world to make sure this planet stays a kickass place to live for everyone.  Because if we do that, abundance will become inevitable.  A middle class Camboidan 50 years from now will look back at doctors/engineers/teachers from the USA in 2017 and say "jeez I'm glad I don't have to live that lifestyle". 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Gondolin on February 01, 2017, 07:22:28 AM
Quote
That would be an ideal outcome, certainly.  What do you think the "reversion to the mean" will do to money invested in index funds and the like, though, especially if nobody is actually stating what's going on, and is simply panicing over lower earnings (at the C level)?

I'm not really sure what you mean. I don't think the stock market will return to 60s levels if that's what you mean. Technological growth and profits march on...the reversion is mostly in the political and military spheres.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on February 01, 2017, 07:56:43 AM
I guess I have an issue with the whole idea that the country is in decline.  By what measure and standard?  If you mean standard of living and ease of life and/or how easy it is to become FI, well I'd rather live now in the US than anywhere else in the world or at any other time in the past.  Sh!t, we have so much freaking money and STUFF we have entire movements dedicated to trimming our excess possessions (minimalism).  People in the 50's and 60's didn't sit around and think to themselves "damn, I have SO MUCH stuff, what am I going to do with it all?" 

Seriously, if you are pessimistic nowadays, ESPECIALLY after discovering MMM and the strategies here, well then you just want to be a pessimist and nothing will probably ever change that....
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Prairie Stash on February 01, 2017, 08:59:41 AM
Well, my ancestors moved to Canada when SHTF, at a local level they were poor, not facing persecution, the point there is they moved. The moving allowed their children, grandchildren and all progeny a better life, it would have screwed their descendants over pretty hard by staying. I've also heard of people moving to the USA, Britain, France, Germany, Brazil, Argentina...I work with people who moved here in the past 5 years. When life got crazy in Europe last century the first people to get out were the rich, the poor got left behind, society has always had a double standard for the rich.

Sure, but where do you think will be a better place to be?  The observations about the US having an awful lot of land and resources are accurate, and being isolated by an ocean from whatever Europe turns into when resources get scarce will be a serious advantage.

Quote
Just for fun though, how do you plan on ensuring your grandchildren's survival? Mine will be living in a country that's great (since I'll move, following the footsteps of my ancestors). Yours could be in the waste lands of the declining empire, I disagree about the decline but I'll play along. Solar panels have a half life of 30 years, in 90 they're garbage, you still need to replace them once a lifetime. Nothing lasts forever and the ones who adapt quickest always do best (long term). The ones who tough it out get to do all the hard work for my descendants to move back to (life's not fair).

Assuming you can find that country that's doing great, enjoy.

The panels certainly won't last forever, but they stand a good chance of providing usable amounts of energy for a long while.  We don't really know the lifespan of solar panels - they degrade with time, and are often considered junk at 80%, but even 20% of original output is better than 0%.

And, in general, by teaching my kids and grandkids useful things that will be relevant in decline - which is to say, useful skills, and particularly lower tech level skills that are useful if one is operating without our current infrastructure.

The vast, vast history of humanity has survived just fine without electricity and the internet, and at some point in the future, people will be doing that again.  May as well be ahead of the curve!
Better place = a place better than the current one you're at. I don't pretend to know the future, its has been shown by the millions of refugees that the best thing to do when your state collapses is to get a better life somewhere else. Typically the ones left behind are the ones who do the rebuilding, its a lot of work rebuilding a nation.

I don't prescribe to the view that we'll ever resort to preindustrial society without electricity. You missed the point about panels, they degrade and its better to plan for the next 30 years. After 30 years passes, make a new plan. Then repeat again.

Adaptation to current events always works better than trying to predict the future 100 years from now. While you're preparing for an event that might/might not happen I'm able to prepare by doing nothing. We both end up in the same spot but I didn't have to work as hard to get there.

The ability to adapt to change within minutes is paramount. If my government collapses into anarchy, I'll move before the looting starts. History has shown us in Syria, Libya, Russia, Iraq, Vietnam, Germany etc. that the best way to survive armed conflict is to avoid it. I have two little children, they can't be wolverines from Red Dawn. I don't prescribe to heroic fantasies about surviving doomsday.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman on February 01, 2017, 09:08:03 AM
The ability to adapt to change within minutes is paramount. If my government collapses into anarchy, I'll move before the looting starts. History has shown us in Syria, Libya, Russia, Iraq, Vietnam, Germany etc. that the best way to survive armed conflict is to avoid it. I have two little children, they can't be wolverines from Red Dawn. I don't prescribe to heroic fantasies about surviving doomsday.

I certainly agree with this point. What fascinates me about reading the history of these sorts of events though is that so few people do seem to get out even when (with the benefit of historical hindsight) it seems obvious where things are headed. I don't know if that reflects an unwillingness to take drastic action (abandoning houses, family and friends), or if things that seem obvious in hindsight don't actually seem obvious at the time.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on February 01, 2017, 09:19:01 AM
(http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y10/tyort1/Wristshots/World_as_100_people_2_centuries_1%20Small.png)

Seriously, the USA and the world as a whole is a LOT better place to live now than ever in the past.  If you want to talk about the arc of history, well here's some relevant data.

Also see - http://www.vox.com/2014/11/24/7272929/charts-thankful

Seriously, it's worth your time to check those out.  We are in a period of a massive surge of improving life, not just for the US but for everyone. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Prairie Stash on February 01, 2017, 09:39:00 AM
The ability to adapt to change within minutes is paramount. If my government collapses into anarchy, I'll move before the looting starts. History has shown us in Syria, Libya, Russia, Iraq, Vietnam, Germany etc. that the best way to survive armed conflict is to avoid it. I have two little children, they can't be wolverines from Red Dawn. I don't prescribe to heroic fantasies about surviving doomsday.

I certainly agree with this point. What fascinates me about reading the history of these sorts of events though is that so few people do seem to get out even when (with the benefit of historical hindsight) it seems obvious where things are headed. I don't know if that reflects an unwillingness to take drastic action (abandoning houses, family and friends), or if things that seem obvious in hindsight don't actually seem obvious at the time.
Its hard to tell if its few, from the refugees I've met the story goes "they moved to Canada and lived happily ever after." It makes for a really boring movie, family gets on plane, flies over ocean, starts a regular life with family ;) Its too boring to register, people want to hear the stories of tragedy instead. 

I work with a guy who abandoned his house, car, etc. and had a single suitcase (he's mid 20's now, left 2 years ago, this is a modern day story). Although very dramatic he's now just a regular guy with a regular job. He went from death threats to having a mortgage. His country was in decline, now his wife and him are happy and safe. No amount of solar panels would have saved his life. The threat was fairly explicit, leave or die, from a country where people are routinely murdered and its reported in the regular news. Its not a hypothetical situation, it was his reality.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: joonifloofeefloo on February 01, 2017, 10:07:47 AM
re: mobility, I agree.

My life is amazing now, but was profoundly tricky for the first 40ish years. I learned that mobility was key to success. Keep moving, moving, moving, hopping around that checkerboard, until I'd reached something pretty rockin'. Both my parents, too, were immigrants and one was a refugee before that, running for their lives on short notice and in transition (multiple countries) for many years.

Interestingly, I notice I'm reluctant to move again now (so far). I'm extremely attached to the geography and my human community here. For the first time in my life, I can see why people stay in places where crap is developing. If there were signs that war, for example, might develop, I'd be inclined to wait it out, hope it doesn't. Because I'm so in love with the land and my peeps here. If all I had was my nuclear family (self, partner, kids) and I didn't care much for the land, I would just go, like before. Now, it would be terribly hard to leave. I would to save our lives, but I can see how I'd feel a need to be convinced I were almost immediately unsafe.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: retired? on February 01, 2017, 10:16:56 AM
Sure, countries rise and fall. But, many of them don't just suddenly hit a wall. It's more of a general deflating that occurs over fairly long periods of time. The Republic of Venice, which once dominated the seas and trade routes to Europe hit it's peak in the 1300/1400s and then just gradually declined (and partied on) for a few more centuries. Rome's decline took centuries.

In the shorter term, I think a lot of places are more resilient that you give them credit for. Hell, Japan and Germany were completely leveled in WWII. Look at them now. France and Spain are no longer world powers, but I wouldn't mind living there.

Yes, this was my thought, so just did quick search for Japan.  I think historically one nation has not been globally dominant for more than X years, it doesn't mean they fall apart after their dominance ends.  Only countries that come to mind are Greece and Italy and their reign was a long, long time ago.

Also, it's evident that the U.S. will be pulling back from globalization towards protectionism.  These words have different meaning to different people, but aiming to protect the interests of the U.S. first rather a big global kumbaya should help the U.S. be more competitive.  I'm for free trade, but smart free trade.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on February 01, 2017, 10:22:05 AM
Seriously, if you are pessimistic nowadays, ESPECIALLY after discovering MMM and the strategies here, well then you just want to be a pessimist and nothing will probably ever change that....

I'm paid very well to be a pessimist.  I recognize my bias, but it's been working fine for me.  Hope for the best, plan for a wide variety of cases.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: caracarn on February 01, 2017, 11:37:42 AM
I like to think of this thread as a microcosm of what we are talking about.  It was interesting to see how it started out as a lot of sadness, and then with just a few rays of light, it has blossomed into nearly the opposite with everyone beginning the discussion of how to make lemonade out of the lemons.  Again, I believe the situations that existed prior to the 20th century gave people very few options and resulted in many "failures", but now the results are what everyone has been talking about for the last day, just shifting around positions between nations in various level of "How terrific is it to live here and now!" 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on February 01, 2017, 11:50:45 AM
I certainly didn't intend it to start as sadness and pessimism.  I don't see it that way at all - it's just a different approach than "All in index funds!"
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: RangerOne on February 01, 2017, 12:40:15 PM
There are always hard times and good times ahead. I don't see any reason to believe that we will witness the complete and total collapse of western society in your lifetime. Governments change over time and nations sometimes fracture. Look at how long nations like Britain, France, Spain hell most of Europe have been around and how their governments have changed.

Germany started two world wars and conducted mass genocide and they are still standing strong and democratic as ever event though all of them spawned from Monarchies. There are still citizens living well in Russia under a socially oppressive dictator. They may have a weak middle class but there are still people there mostly living normal lives.

My point is things could get a whole hell of a lot worse in the USA and we would still wouldn't collapse and people would be a able to find a way to lead decent lives. Might FIRE opportunities dry up and people have to go back to work? Thats always a risk.

This is of course baring massive catastrophes like the worst climate change predictions coming true. But you can't really plan for that, unless you want to spend time investing in cold war style survival bunkers.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: cheapass on February 01, 2017, 01:01:12 PM
Great thread. It's only logical to think about contingency plans and hedge against unfortunate events. That's why we have financial products called "insurance". I don't think it's any more inconvenient to prepare for the worst than it is to say, live on less than you could "afford" to spend so you can retire early. Simply trading one thing for another and making choices to support the long-term strategy.

Our plan looks kind of like this... Job security ("real" undergrad degrees + graduate degrees) --> Physical security (alarm system, security cameras, firearms and training, body armor) --> Financial security (investments > 25x annual spending) --> Food/Water/Energy security

We're on our way to FI/RE. After that I want to move onto food + water + energy security. We'll plan on homesteading on the side of a mountain with clean water nearby and will have at least a large garden, if not animals as well. Hydroelectric, wind, solar energy, etc.

I'd like to get to the point where it won't really affect me that much if the economy collapses, there's riots in the streets, a pandemic, whatever. My family will be set. I really don't want to be living in a city when the SHTF.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on February 01, 2017, 01:24:35 PM
I think that the best way to deal with a decline is to already be rich.  If you are already rich, you become very flexible.  If that is correct, then the best thing to do is become rich, as fast as possible.  The fastest way to do it is cut costs and invest in Index Funds or Real Estate.  Unless you have a business that you love that blows up. 

I'd also note that the other things you listed (garden, solar panels, ebike), also cut your costs so they are certainly not a waste of time/money/effort.  As someone that has experienced job instability in the past, I am ALL FOR reducing recurring costs as much as possible.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: eljefe-speaks on February 01, 2017, 02:35:43 PM
Americans have mostly failed to grapple with the extent to which the halcyon period post-WWII was an anomaly that is not replicable in the absence of a nations-destroying political upheaval. We tend to think of America from 1945-1965 as the way things should be without acknowledging that our country's ascendancy during that time period was likely only possible because our greatest competitor nations were completed wiped out, destroyed. They needed our resources, our time and our skills, to rebuild from the physical and human devastation they faced. Once they recovered, our dominance hasn't been quite so easily maintained.

The recent political events have shined on how much our society is desperate to get back to that time period of "easy" American dominance. Bring back coal! Bring back manufacturing! Reality suggests that we can't just bring back those things because there simply is no demand for high-priced American goods in the way there was during that period. For America to remain ascendant, we'll need to stop being so attached to the past, and start adapting to the world we live in now, a world that needs a smart, educated, and flexible workforce.

Instead of really coming to terms with that reality, by improving the mass education of our children and preparing them for the types of jobs we have available, by preparing a new knowledge-based workforce, we've panicked and are doubling down on our desperate efforts to return to the past. Sorry, but that's not going to work, it's only going to hasten our comparative decline, as other more nimble countries zoom past us by meeting the demands of the way we live and work now.

I guess I don't think that an America in decline is necessarily a pessimistic outlook. Civilizations and nations rise, and then they fall, the speed and timing of those ebbs and flows varies, but history shows that the trajectory itself is in many ways natural and to be expected. So it will go with America, hard to say when or how it will happen, but it will certainly happen. The thought of it doesn't fill me with a sense of doom and gloom though, it just the way it is, and I'll continue to live my life the best I know how, give the circumstances at any given moment.

The only thing I feel sad about it that I'll likely miss out on what I consider to be the most important human endeavor: widespread space exploration and colonization. That is where the future is, but we're probably at least 100 years or more away from it being something that is accessible to average people.

Just wanted to say, absolutely fantastic post.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: hoping2retire35 on February 01, 2017, 02:46:22 PM
interesting discussion.

Most civilizations decline because they have a trade deficit for too long that is too big, which the US also has. Rome for example sent 10s of thousands of lbs of gold every year to the East in exchange for silk. They gradually inflated their gold by making it less pure. But the US is different, in my opinion, for two reasons.

1. We are on the top of a global economy, IIRC, 85% of world cash reserves are US dollars and treasuries. For now their is no one to replace us.
2. We don't send gold or some other tangible good, we send electronic version of green paper....that's it. For all the cars, computers and oil, we send an electronic message that says you now have access to pieces of green paper. Granted all US citizens savings is in this same green paper so if the US said, in one form or another, 'we will not repay' this debt they could do it, with a catch. It might involve giving every US citizen some type of New Dollar, ND, in exchange for their old greenbacks.

Not sure how much these differences make but in general I agree with synork. We may not have a complete destruction of our civilization but it could be a big (negative) change coming.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Gondolin on February 01, 2017, 03:03:00 PM
Quote
Most civilizations decline because they have a trade deficit for too long that is too big, which the US also has. Rome for example sent 10s of thousands of lbs of gold every year to the East in exchange for silk. They gradually inflated their gold by making it less pure.

Scholarship source for this extremely general statement? Poor monetary policy is only one of many reasons why the Western Empire collapsed.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: hoping2retire35 on February 01, 2017, 03:07:25 PM
Sure, countries rise and fall. But, many of them don't just suddenly hit a wall. It's more of a general deflating that occurs over fairly long periods of time. The Republic of Venice, which once dominated the seas and trade routes to Europe hit it's peak in the 1300/1400s and then just gradually declined (and partied on) for a few more centuries. Rome's decline took centuries.

In the shorter term, I think a lot of places are more resilient that you give them credit for. Hell, Japan and Germany were completely leveled in WWII. Look at them now. France and Spain are no longer world powers, but I wouldn't mind living there.

Yes, this was my thought, so just did quick search for Japan.  I think historically one nation has not been globally dominant for more than X years, it doesn't mean they fall apart after their dominance ends.  Only countries that come to mind are Greece and Italy and their reign was a long, long time ago.

Also, it's evident that the U.S. will be pulling back from globalization towards protectionism.  These words have different meaning to different people, but aiming to protect the interests of the U.S. first rather a big global kumbaya should help the U.S. be more competitive.  I'm for free trade, but smart free trade.

No thank you. you have to start when they were world powers and what they went through

French Reign of Terror
Spanish Civil War
WWI & WWII
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, post WWII.

Nope, I want to be on the other side of the planet or in some out of the way place that a marching army doesn't care about and the small brigades roaming the country knows that we are more trouble than we are worth.

All those countries are fine now but they went through thewood chipper to get there.

edits
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on February 01, 2017, 03:07:49 PM
I"m just curious - for the people that are preparing for a decline.  Lets say you do your prep work and you hedge against the things you feel will be problematic in the future.  At that point do you stop worrying and start enjoying your life?  Or do you keep worrying and/or think up new stuff to worry about?  That's not snark, its a serious question, I really would like to know.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: hoping2retire35 on February 01, 2017, 03:10:30 PM
Quote
Most civilizations decline because they have a trade deficit for too long that is too big, which the US also has. Rome for example sent 10s of thousands of lbs of gold every year to the East in exchange for silk. They gradually inflated their gold by making it less pure.

Scholarship source for this extremely general statement? Poor monetary policy is only one of many reasons why the Western Empire collapsed.
Ha, no way! Yes, I agree, only one contributing factor, still a factor, though to be fair to my previous statement it was mainly(of those two) the trade deficit.

Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: hoping2retire35 on February 01, 2017, 03:14:41 PM
I"m just curious - for the people that are preparing for a decline.  Lets say you do your prep work and you hedge against the things you feel will be problematic in the future.  At that point do you stop worrying and start enjoying your life?  Or do you keep worrying and/or think up new stuff to worry about?  That's not snark, its a serious question, I really would like to know.

You just do the fun stuff. build a solar powered, independent grid; grow your own food, learn to fix your tools, etc. What else do you do in retirement anyways? Can't just ride bikes, read, and have the occasional travel during retirement.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on February 01, 2017, 03:23:28 PM
I"m just curious - for the people that are preparing for a decline.  Lets say you do your prep work and you hedge against the things you feel will be problematic in the future.  At that point do you stop worrying and start enjoying your life?  Or do you keep worrying and/or think up new stuff to worry about?  That's not snark, its a serious question, I really would like to know.

Why can't one enjoy being reasonably self sufficient as an end, regardless of the situation of the nation around one?

Quite honestly, I intend this stuff to be ongoing, as both a way of gathering useful skills, a way of reaching out into my community (fresh fish fries?), and a way of keeping myself busy and having an endless supply of interesting projects.  If things go downhill, I adjust and adapt.  If things keep going the way they are, maybe I spend a bit less time on the property and a bit more time flying.

If things continue going very well, it's unlikely that I'll be feeding my family entirely from our property.  It's not worth the effort (though, if I understand properly, aquaponics fish are pretty low effort, and tilapia are tasty).

If things head downhill, that's likely to expand, and I'll probably have quite a bit of our hillside growing food for ourselves/the neighborhood/etc.  And then there's opportunity to help other people set their own properties up to be more self sufficient.

And that sounds like fun.

You're essentially asking the Dave Ramsey question, "Ok, how long do you have to live like nobody else before you can live like nobody else?" - whereas the MMM answer is closer to, "Learn to love the frugal lifestyle."

I don't really intend to separate decline preparedness from other things - it's all woven together, as opposed to, "Ugh, ok, garden is planted, now I can go do something I want to do."  I'm really, really looking forward to things melting enough to start working on the gardens.  Same for solar.

And there's always something new to try, research, or test. :)
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman on February 01, 2017, 04:00:21 PM
So if I had to sum up the discussion so far I would say people fall into one of nine categories based on the answers to two different questions.

First Question: Will America decline in coming years?

1. Nope, life will be better here in the future.
2. Maybe? Predicting the fate of nations is like trying to predict the stock market.
3. Yes. The signs are all there, it's just a question of when.

Second Question: How do you prepare for life in a declining nation?

A. Nothing you can realistically do, so why worry about it.
B. Leave when/if things get bad (so having money and not needing to worry about a job is quite helpful)
C. Be self sufficient (so not having to worry about grid electricity or buying food is quite helpful).

I'm pretty sure most of the nine possible combinations answers to these questions are represented among comments to this thread (except perhaps for 1C).
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Gondolin on February 01, 2017, 04:15:43 PM
Quote
Why can't one enjoy being reasonably self sufficient as an end, regardless of the situation of the nation around one?

I don't think anyone's arguing against this. It's just the title of the thread and the tenor of the original post pointed the thread down the road of arguing the likelihood of various geopolitical situations.

In general, sure, you're absolutely right. You may never need the ability to grow corn but, you'll never say, "Oh, how I wish I didn't know how to grow corn!".
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on February 01, 2017, 04:19:38 PM
I don't think anyone's arguing against this. It's just the title of the thread and the tenor of the original post pointed the thread down the road of arguing the likelihood of various geopolitical situations.

Sure, I just think that in the next 40 years, something nasty this way comes. :)  Obviously quite a few people have different opinions, and that's fine.

Quote
In general, sure, you're absolutely right. You may never need the ability to grow corn but, you'll never say, "Oh, how I wish I didn't know how to grow corn!".

So true, of so many things...
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: joonifloofeefloo on February 01, 2017, 04:28:15 PM
At that point do you stop worrying and start enjoying your life?

45 years ago, when I was born.

Preparing and diversifying are not one and the same as worrying :)   

Outside of my kid's health, I worry about very little.

I prepare and diversify cheerfully, happily, positively, delightedly.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: aceyou on February 01, 2017, 04:54:29 PM
Syonyk, I definitely agree that being self sufficient is perfect as an end in and of it self. 

I'm also trying to get to the point where I can install solar in the next decade, and I am gathering supplies to do hydroponics in my basement, just to name a couple examples.  It's just that preparing for a decline or a catastrophe is 0% of my motivation.  I just think it's fun to be self-sufficient, and I want to live with a small carbon footprint, and I want my children to see how things are made and how they work.  What a better way to learn than to be part of a family that just makes stuff them selves right from the get go, right!
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Metric Mouse on February 01, 2017, 06:46:17 PM
So if I had to sum up the discussion so far I would say people fall into one of nine categories based on the answers to two different questions.

First Question: Will America decline in coming years?

1. Nope, life will be better here in the future.
2. Maybe? Predicting the fate of nations is like trying to predict the stock market.
3. Yes. The signs are all there, it's just a question of when.

Second Question: How do you prepare for life in a declining nation?

A. Nothing you can realistically do, so why worry about it.
B. Leave when/if things get bad (so having money and not needing to worry about a job is quite helpful)
C. Be self sufficient (so not having to worry about grid electricity or buying food is quite helpful).

I'm pretty sure most of the nine possible combinations answers to these questions are represented among comments to this thread (except perhaps for 1C).
This is great. Simple, but accurate. Bravo.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: FireLane on February 01, 2017, 08:13:54 PM
Great thread! I've been thinking about this lately too.

In the long run, I think the U.S. is definitely going to decline, just because we've been the world's only superpower for a long time and there's nowhere to go from there but down.

As was pointed out earlier in the thread, population size is also a factor. China and India have so many more people than us that, if their per-capita income ends up being anywhere close to ours, they'll be much bigger economies and correspondingly more influential on the world stage. Ultimately, demographics are destiny (although, ahem, recent political events may accelerate the decline).

That doesn't mean the U.S. is going to collapse into anarchy or become a Mad Max-style dystopia. Most people will continue to lead decent, comfortable lives. You can warm yourself for a long time by the embers of a declining empire.

That's especially true for us FIRE folk, since we're better equipped than most people to ride out a collapse of the health-care system or a long depression. We can always adjust by cutting our spending, moving somewhere cheaper, or practicing self-sufficiency. It's the average-joe consumerists I feel bad for, since they have less of a safety margin built into their lives.

To get back to what Syonyk said, I'm fascinated by the idea of self-sufficiency. Even if you're not a doomsday prepper, growing your own food or powering your house with solar panels has obvious benefits. It's probably just a romantic dream for me, since I know nothing about this kind of stuff, and a small city apartment would be ill-suited for it anyway. But when I retire and have more time on my hands, who knows? Maybe I'll buy some land somewhere cheaper and see if I can't get back to the earth at least a little.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Telecaster on February 01, 2017, 09:05:10 PM

Now?  I put the peak in the 70s.  Plenty of interesting things happen post-peak, but the general trend is down.


Really?  I think things are waaaaaaaaaay better now than in the 1970s.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on February 01, 2017, 09:11:57 PM
Really?  I think things are waaaaaaaaaay better now than in the 1970s.

Environment?  Living within our means as a nation?  Income equality?  Political discourse?

Yes.  We've got iPhones now.  Woohoo.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: joonifloofeefloo on February 01, 2017, 10:08:55 PM
Our plan looks kind of like this... Job security ("real" undergrad degrees + graduate degrees) --> Physical security (alarm system, security cameras, firearms and training, body armor) --> Financial security (investments > 25x annual spending) --> Food/Water/Energy security

I really liked this :)

It got me thinking... It seems bizarre to me that we do $ security before FWE security, because the latter is what's needed above all else.

But, a lot of us who aimed to put FWE security first, soon found ourselves hungry, tired, and landless. Some of us then shifted focus to FI, but have continued holding FWS as the ideal.

My soul can't quite reconcile that this is so. But, my experience says that for me it is.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: lost_in_the_endless_aisle on February 01, 2017, 10:30:54 PM
Really?  I think things are waaaaaaaaaay better now than in the 1970s.

Environment?  Living within our means as a nation?  Income equality?  Political discourse?

Yes.  We've got iPhones now.  Woohoo.
Lead paint/leaded gasoline, chlorofluorocarbons, stagflation, oil embargo, violent crime (rate tripled from 1960-1980), Nixon/Watergate?

The US's relative peak in global power, prestige, and prosperity was post-Soviet breakup; my personal opinion is this moment:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzrJwzYBUkU (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzrJwzYBUkU)
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Metric Mouse on February 01, 2017, 11:05:23 PM
Really?  I think things are waaaaaaaaaay better now than in the 1970s.

Environment?  Living within our means as a nation?  Income equality?  Political discourse?

Yes.  We've got iPhones now.  Woohoo.
Lead paint/leaded gasoline, chlorofluorocarbons, stagflation, oil embargo, violent crime (rate tripled from 1960-1980), Nixon/Watergate?

The US's relative peak in global power, prestige, and prosperity was post-Soviet breakup; my personal opinion is this moment:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzrJwzYBUkU (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzrJwzYBUkU)

I just read your post to this beat:  We didn't start the fire. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2v2JcpolIQU)
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: lost_in_the_endless_aisle on February 01, 2017, 11:41:37 PM
^Ha, I would have moved the words around to make it even more fitting had I thought of that
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Drifterrider on February 02, 2017, 06:25:04 AM
Follow the Boy Scout motto.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: BTDretire on February 02, 2017, 07:10:42 AM
Syonyk, I definitely agree that being self sufficient is perfect as an end in and of it self. 

I'm also trying to get to the point where I can install solar in the next decade, and I am gathering supplies to do hydroponics in my basement, just to name a couple examples.
  Be sure to mitigate any problems caused by humidity in your home.
This could cause huge problems. Not from personal experience but
someone who kept a large pool for fish in their basement.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: aceyou on February 02, 2017, 08:10:11 AM
Syonyk, I definitely agree that being self sufficient is perfect as an end in and of it self. 

I'm also trying to get to the point where I can install solar in the next decade, and I am gathering supplies to do hydroponics in my basement, just to name a couple examples.
  Be sure to mitigate any problems caused by humidity in you home.
This could cause huge problems. Not from personal experience but
someone who kept a large pool for fish in their basement.


Thanks.  I'm not doing aquaponics, so the setup won't be that big.  But yes, it certainly can't hurt to make sure there's no chance for mold growth or anything like that.  Good call. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: golden1 on February 02, 2017, 11:18:42 AM
While I think a lot of this discussion might be hyperbolic, my anxious nature has always made me more conservative than MMM dictates in terms of investments.  We have a decent amount of money not in the market currently, enough to live on for awhile assuming we can access it.  We are focusing more on paying down our mortgage than is "optimal" according to MMM standards.  We have substantial investments in other countries. 

I am not really to the point of going off grid or self-sufficient. 

I also think that things are better in most respects than they were in the 1970's.  To think otherwise is very myopic, but very typically human.  That is not to say some aspects of our lives aren't worse, but in general, if I had to pick now vs. the year I was born, I'd pick now. 

Relevant podcast:  http://www.cracked.com/podcast/the-enormous-lie-about-modern-life-you-likely-believe/ (http://www.cracked.com/podcast/the-enormous-lie-about-modern-life-you-likely-believe/)


As for being in a declining nation, as long as our military stays close to the size that it is, we will likely stay near the top of the food chain in terms of global power.  Unless we become the next third reich and the rest of the world bands together to kill us.   
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: golden1 on February 02, 2017, 11:22:39 AM
Another good source to make you feel less pessimistic about the world: 

Hans Rosling

https://www.gapminder.org/ (https://www.gapminder.org/)

The US might be "declining" (and thats a maybe) but the rest of the world is rising.  Fast. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Cranky on February 02, 2017, 11:59:43 AM
I"m just curious - for the people that are preparing for a decline.  Lets say you do your prep work and you hedge against the things you feel will be problematic in the future.  At that point do you stop worrying and start enjoying your life?  Or do you keep worrying and/or think up new stuff to worry about?  That's not snark, its a serious question, I really would like to know.

I've always enjoyed worrying!

But... the future might be great, or then again, it might not. I like being ready for either version, and I am happy with my life in the meantime.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Telecaster on February 02, 2017, 04:43:44 PM
Really?  I think things are waaaaaaaaaay better now than in the 1970s.

Environment?  Living within our means as a nation?  Income equality?  Political discourse?

Yes.  We've got iPhones now.  Woohoo.

Actually, environment is a great example.  By virtually every metric, the environment in this county is vastly better off now than it was in the 1970s.   Huge improvements in almost every area. 

Current budget deficit is about 3.2% of GDP.   That's roughly the post-WWII average. 

Life expectancy has increased about six years or so over that period (too lazy to look up the exact number but close).   

Median (not mean) household income has increased by about a third.  GDP has tripled

Civil rights for blacks and women were pretty much still in their infancy back then.  Gays essentially didn't have civil rights.

I could go on and on.  Sure, you can find some things that are worse now than they were back then, but for each of those I bet I can name five things that are better.   



Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Telecaster on February 02, 2017, 05:29:21 PM
That doesn't mean the U.S. is going to collapse into anarchy or become a Mad Max-style dystopia. Most people will continue to lead decent, comfortable lives. You can warm yourself for a long time by the embers of a declining empire.


Just because the empire is declining it doesn't follow that things will be getting worse for the citizens.   By the end of World War II, the Britain had almost entirely lost its empire.  But in the subsequent decades the standard of living of the average Englishman grew by leaps and bounds.   
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Metric Mouse on February 02, 2017, 07:39:54 PM
Another good source to make you feel less pessimistic about the world: 

Hans Rosling

https://www.gapminder.org/ (https://www.gapminder.org/)

The US might be "declining" (and thats a maybe) but the rest of the world is rising.  Fast.
I love Hans Rosling! Thank you for sharing.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Metric Mouse on February 02, 2017, 07:44:26 PM
That doesn't mean the U.S. is going to collapse into anarchy or become a Mad Max-style dystopia. Most people will continue to lead decent, comfortable lives. You can warm yourself for a long time by the embers of a declining empire.


Just because the empire is declining it doesn't follow that things will be getting worse for the citizens.   By the end of World War II, the Britain had almost entirely lost its empire.  But in the subsequent decades the standard of living of the average Englishman grew by leaps and bounds.
And, largely, things have gotten better for most of their previous colonies as well... Not as good as other places, but generally much better than they were.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Linda_Norway on February 03, 2017, 12:28:15 AM
Yesterday I watched a documentary "feeding the world" on TV. I was mentioned that a part of the world is still hungry and that it is expected that world population will grow to 10 bil. I we in the western world continue to eat like we do, with large meat consumption, and some of the rest of the world will follow, we won't have enough agriculture area to feed the the world. We need to think new in many ways, otherwise we would risk a world war about food.
One of the solutions by the way was the thing that has been discussed in this thread: let people grow their own food on small scale, even use public parks and gardens to grow food. Aquaponics was also named as a future smart solution.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: lost_in_the_endless_aisle on February 03, 2017, 12:36:55 AM
^also growing meat in a lab without the animal bits is increasingly becoming viable
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Linda_Norway on February 03, 2017, 12:39:08 AM
^also growing meat without the animal bits is increasingly becoming viable

Yes, that was an interesting subject, too. It is just too expensive now, but they company producing this thought it would become cheaper than food in the future (20 years from now).

The Japanese in the documentary were growing salads without soil, in a factory the they could harvest 7 times a year.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Metric Mouse on February 03, 2017, 12:44:41 AM
Yesterday I watched a documentary "feeding the world" on TV. I was mentioned that a part of the world is still hungry and that it is expected that world population will grow to 10 bil. I we in the western world continue to eat like we do, with large meat consumption, and some of the rest of the world will follow, we won't have enough agriculture area to feed the the world. We need to think new in many ways, otherwise we would risk a world war about food.
One of the solutions by the way was the thing that has been discussed in this thread: let people grow their own food on small scale, even use public parks and gardens to grow food. Aquaponics was also named as a future smart solution.

What is stopping people from growing food now? I mean, obviously some people in cities don't have space for much more than a tomato plant in their window, but by and large most suburban and exburban and even residential city areas have enough yard space for some garden. It's not as if people are generally 'not allowed' to grow their own food.

Obviously using public green space would open up some land - but how much food would it offset versus the number of people that use that land for other enjoyable activites each day?  I ran the numbers on central park, and if the entire area was arable (843 Acres) and divided by the number of visitors that use the park each year (25 million)*  that would leave an areas the size of two sheets of paper per person, per year. I'm not sure that's worth taking away all of the great things green spaces in cities offer residents.

* source - http://centralpark.org/faq/ (http://centralpark.org/faq/)
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman on February 03, 2017, 05:02:22 AM
Yesterday I watched a documentary "feeding the world" on TV. I was mentioned that a part of the world is still hungry and that it is expected that world population will grow to 10 bil. I we in the western world continue to eat like we do, with large meat consumption, and some of the rest of the world will follow, we won't have enough agriculture area to feed the the world. We need to think new in many ways, otherwise we would risk a world war about food.
One of the solutions by the way was the thing that has been discussed in this thread: let people grow their own food on small scale, even use public parks and gardens to grow food. Aquaponics was also named as a future smart solution.

With the exception of India and some of the smaller countries which border it (lots of religious vegetarians), meat consumption shows a reasonable correlation with per capita income. Basically if people can afford to buy meat, they do. But yes, both the increase in demand for meat in countries with growing economies and the growth of population itself is going to put growing strain on the food supply in the next few decades.

So what do we do? The amount of land currently in public parks and lawns isn't enough to make a substantial difference in overall world food production although for lawns at least there certainly isn't a reason NOT to replace them with vegetable gardens (or permaculture food forests if you're feeling more ambitious).

The low hanging fruit is actually African agriculture. Looking at crop yields in most of Africa are often 1/3 or lower than the yields seen in the rest of the world, largely because of a lack of access to inputs, and secondarily because there has been far less investment in developing locally adapted varieties for Africa than most other parts of the world. So could potentially double or triple production from Africa which helps.*

In other parts of the world yield gains are slowing or have stopped completely (ie wheat in europe since the mid-90s, rice in Korea and California). There is debate whether this means we've hit the ultimate maximum potential yield for some crops in some environments, or whether this is a result of decrease investments in agricultural research by both governments and private companies. What is clear, is that the result of the slow down has meant that after twenty years of relative stability, since 2002 the amount of land used for agriculture is growing at a rate of close to 25 million acres (equivalent to all the farmland in California) each year. This "new" agricultural land is largely coming at the expense of rainforests and grasslands in South America, Asia, and Africa.

Is a big problem. I'm not sure what the answer is.

*If you bring African productivity per acre up to the global average (tripling it) that's about a 10% bump in world food production, so enough food for another 700M people or so. Which is a big thing. But not enough to get us from 7B to 10B, even before taking into account growing demand for meat.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman on February 03, 2017, 05:17:27 AM
I was thinking more about the lawn issue.

Here in the USA we have about 40M acres of lawns.* So converting all of that to agricultural production would be enough to mean the growing need for agricultural land around the world (~25M acres a year**) for about a year and a half. Which is certainly not nothing, and I hope my first post didn't sound too dismissive. But it also doesn't solve the long term problem.

*Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/lawn-largest-crop-america_us_55d0dc06e4b07addcb43435d

**http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms3918
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on February 03, 2017, 08:40:56 AM
The Japanese in the documentary were growing salads without soil, in a factory the they could harvest 7 times a year.

Growing calorie-light leafy greens and such in hydroponic/aeroculture bays is pretty easy, but they are mostly decoration, in terms of calories produced.  It's of less use for actually getting calories.

What is stopping people from growing food now?

HOAs.  In quite a few areas, you are contractually obligated to have lawns meeting a certain specification.

The low hanging fruit is actually African agriculture. Looking at crop yields in most of Africa are often 1/3 or lower than the yields seen in the rest of the world, largely because of a lack of access to inputs, and secondarily because there has been far less investment in developing locally adapted varieties for Africa than most other parts of the world.

"Inputs" being a term for non-renewable resources going into fertilizers?  If your increased production relies on rock phosphate and fertilizers from natural gas and such, it's not sustainable.

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In other parts of the world yield gains are slowing or have stopped completely (ie wheat in europe since the mid-90s, rice in Korea and California). There is debate whether this means we've hit the ultimate maximum potential yield for some crops in some environments, or whether this is a result of decrease investments in agricultural research by both governments and private companies.

Why would you expect constant growth in crop yields?  And, what of that increase is related to cramming fertilizers from non-renewable resources into the soil?

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Is a big problem. I'm not sure what the answer is.

Figuring it out before we hit the important walls seems a useful thing.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman on February 03, 2017, 09:21:15 AM
@Synonyk. I agree with you on growing salads. It make save money/carbon footprint, but it's really not a significant contribution to not starving to death.

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"Inputs" being a term for non-renewable resources going into fertilizers?  If your increased production relies on rock phosphate and fertilizers from natural gas and such, it's not sustainable.

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).

But our options are A) Stop and let a lot of the world starve now (though people tend not to starve quietly, so expect to see governments toppled, the remaining tropic forests clear-cut for farmland, and a whole new wave of extinctions in the remaining african megafauna). B) Keep everyone alive for now, try to hold it together, and hope we manage to come up with solutions to each non-sustainable hurdle as it presents itself. Personally I choose option B, since the the worst case scenario with B is it ends up being just as bad as option A.

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Why would you expect constant growth in crop yields?  And, what of that increase is related to cramming fertilizers from non-renewable resources into the soil?

I don't expect them. I'm pointing out if we don't have increasing yields, and we do have increasing demand for food, people starve.

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And, what of that increase is related to cramming fertilizers from non-renewable resources into the soil?

Most estimates put it at about 50%

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Is a big problem. I'm not sure what the answer is.
Figuring it out before we hit the important walls seems a useful thing.

Agreed. Any suggestions?
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: undercover on February 03, 2017, 09:36:35 AM
"Buffett after Trump win: '100%' optimistic about America"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auukuYuizq4

My closing thoughts on this matter is that despite empires rising and falling, humanity has continuously trudged forward and will continue to do so with the exception of a catastrophic event that can't be prevented (natural events, whether it be locally or from space). Also, things are incredibly different today than they were doing the Roman era. America, nor any other well-connected country, will not just "fall". There will always be ups and downs, but the overall trend has and will continue to always be up (again, sans a catastrophic, unpreventable event).  Information is instant and tensions are overall lower since more and more people have access to a better life. The world is just too interrelated now that communication is instant and we are all operating as cyborgs rather than the "antiquated" ways of our ancestors.

Personally, I don't believe in a "survive at all costs" mentality. Realistically, would I want to continue to live in a world that doesn't look like the one today? Probably not. Survival should never be the objective, thriving should. The only way forward is the future, going backwards is not an option for me, therefore I don't plan in the slightest for it. I mean I may be inadvertently doing so by learning about DIY things or other things that I'm just genuinely interested in - but it's never with the intent of "survival" in case of emergency, it's always just to be a happier and more well rounded person.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Prairie Stash on February 03, 2017, 09:40:07 AM
I was thinking more about the lawn issue.

Here in the USA we have about 40M acres of lawns.* So converting all of that to agricultural production would be enough to mean the growing need for agricultural land around the world (~25M acres a year**) for about a year and a half. Which is certainly not nothing, and I hope my first post didn't sound too dismissive. But it also doesn't solve the long term problem.

*Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/lawn-largest-crop-america_us_55d0dc06e4b07addcb43435d

**http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms3918
I agree but who wants to take care of all the gardens? The math checks out but I've been harvesting from other peoples yards for a few years as they don't want to harvest their own stuff. Predominately I harvest Raspberries, apples, rhubarb, sour cherries and plums. Its labour intensive and then I'm spending a long time processing, the work doesn't stop. I enjoy it, so I keep doing it, but the average person doesn't seem to share my enthusiasm.

That said there's a pilot program in one of my city neighborhoods turning boulevards into garden space for supplying restaurants. The trick is to figure out ways of doing it cheap enough that you can pay someone to do the work (minimum wage), even farmers want to get paid. Maybe one day soon they'll figure out the economics and it'll spread.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Guesl982374 on February 03, 2017, 09:47:46 AM
We need to think new in many ways, otherwise we would risk a world war about food.

World war seems quite extreme. Why wouldn't the global market adjust to increase the price of meat / whatever food type was at a shortage making it unavailable to most people on the planet? Supply and demand / econ 101.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman on February 03, 2017, 10:44:55 AM
We need to think new in many ways, otherwise we would risk a world war about food.

World war seems quite extreme. Why wouldn't the global market adjust to increase the price of meat / whatever food type was at a shortage making it unavailable to most people on the planet? Supply and demand / econ 101.

The problem kicks in in the case where a person in the USA, China, or Brazil may be willing and able to pay more for a hamburger than a person in Sub Saharan Africa can afford to pay for the grain that would end up being fed to the cow to make the hamburger.

So the Econ 101 solution can end up with some people unable to afford enough calories to live.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Guses on February 03, 2017, 11:25:52 AM
I disagree with the premises of the OP. But I do think that the suggestions (consuming less, being self sufficient) are good ones.

My personal hope is that nations will gradually decline and give way to the Imperium of Man.


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).

What is your opinion of vertical farming?


http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwih4cqtxfTRAhUL3YMKHZHKASwQFgg4MAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.macrothink.org%2Fjournal%2Findex.php%2Fjas%2Farticle%2Fdownload%2F4526%2F3952&usg=AFQjCNEoTTdVZHqrT-fGJDL2usM40m2Neg&sig2=dNmrdKDJ5r6asR17c51kCA (http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwih4cqtxfTRAhUL3YMKHZHKASwQFgg4MAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.macrothink.org%2Fjournal%2Findex.php%2Fjas%2Farticle%2Fdownload%2F4526%2F3952&usg=AFQjCNEoTTdVZHqrT-fGJDL2usM40m2Neg&sig2=dNmrdKDJ5r6asR17c51kCA)



Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Metric Mouse on February 03, 2017, 11:36:34 AM
We need to think new in many ways, otherwise we would risk a world war about food.

World war seems quite extreme. Why wouldn't the global market adjust to increase the price of meat / whatever food type was at a shortage making it unavailable to most people on the planet? Supply and demand / econ 101.

The problem kicks in in the case where a person in the USA, China, or Brazil may be willing and able to pay more for a hamburger than a person in Sub Saharan Africa can afford to pay for the grain that would end up being fed to the cow to make the hamburger.

So the Econ 101 solution can end up with some people unable to afford enough calories to live.
Isn't this happening currently?
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman on February 03, 2017, 12:24:25 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).

What is your opinion of vertical farming?


Link to PDF on Vertical Farming (http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwih4cqtxfTRAhUL3YMKHZHKASwQFgg4MAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.macrothink.org%2Fjournal%2Findex.php%2Fjas%2Farticle%2Fdownload%2F4526%2F3952&usg=AFQjCNEoTTdVZHqrT-fGJDL2usM40m2Neg&sig2=dNmrdKDJ5r6asR17c51kCA)

With current innovations in LED growth lights, I think vertical farming -- or more generally growing food indoors with grow lights instead of outdoors in a field -- is starting to make a lot of economic sense for things like fresh produce. The lowest hanging fruit (pun intended) are things like leafy greens because their life cycles are fast and they don't ship well (so a lot of the cost right now is the shipping which is reduced if you can produce locally throughout the year). High value things like strawberries and tomatoes which still have reasonably short life cycles are likely the next frontier, and there is some exciting work suggesting you can actually alter the flavor of strawberries by modulating which wavelengths of light you provide them with.

But as Syonyk pointed out upthread, economic viability is not the same as saying vertical farming is ready to take over the task of generating a big chunk of the total calories consumed by humans around the world. More than half of all the calories we eat come directly indirectly (feed the grains to animals and eat the animals) from three grain crops: corn, wheat, and rice. Throw in sugar cane, potatoes, cassava and a couple of oilseed crops like soybeans, canola, and we're talking about most of total world calorie production, and we're a long way from growing any of these calorie dense, easily storable, easily shippable foods with indoor agriculture being able to compete with production out in the fields.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman on February 03, 2017, 12:33:05 PM
@Metric Mouse

You're right. It can get an awful lot worse (and did in both 2008 and 2011) but even right now there are people who cannot afford enough food to live.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on February 03, 2017, 01:10:32 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.

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But our options are A) Stop and let a lot of the world starve now (though people tend not to starve quietly, so expect to see governments toppled, the remaining tropic forests clear-cut for farmland, and a whole new wave of extinctions in the remaining african megafauna). B) Keep everyone alive for now, try to hold it together, and hope we manage to come up with solutions to each non-sustainable hurdle as it presents itself. Personally I choose option B, since the the worst case scenario with B is it ends up being just as bad as option A.

So, keep going on the un-sustainable path of exponential growth on a finite planet and hope they'll figure something out.  Doesn't... inspire hope, really.

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I don't expect them. I'm pointing out if we don't have increasing yields, and we do have increasing demand for food, people starve.

Certainly.  And that's part of why I'm interested in working on very dense, hyper-local food production - because, well, if you can produce food locally, at least you can eat.

My closing thoughts on this matter is that despite empires rising and falling, humanity has continuously trudged forward and will continue to do so with the exception of a catastrophic event that can't be prevented (natural events, whether it be locally or from space).

[citation needed]  History has been cylical, and even if you stand back far enough and squint hard enough to distort the arcs of history into a "continuous forward trudge," that's worthless to people living on the downside of a particular civilization.

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Also, things are incredibly different today than they were doing the Roman era. America, nor any other well-connected country, will not just "fall". There will always be ups and downs, but the overall trend has and will continue to always be up (again, sans a catastrophic, unpreventable event).  Information is instant and tensions are overall lower since more and more people have access to a better life. The world is just too interrelated now that communication is instant and we are all operating as cyborgs rather than the "antiquated" ways of our ancestors.

Thousands of years of recorded history show that human nature doesn't change over time.  How fast you communicate doesn't change humans.

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Personally, I don't believe in a "survive at all costs" mentality. Realistically, would I want to continue to live in a world that doesn't look like the one today? Probably not. Survival should never be the objective, thriving should. The only way forward is the future, going backwards is not an option for me, therefore I don't plan in the slightest for it. I mean I may be inadvertently doing so by learning about DIY things or other things that I'm just genuinely interested in - but it's never with the intent of "survival" in case of emergency, it's always just to be a happier and more well rounded person.

May I suggest that you read some writings on the "Religion of Progress"?  You've stated it, wonderfully clearly, and it's not a particularly useful model for predicting the future.

With regards to "Realistically, would I want to continue to live in a world that doesn't look like the one today? Probably not." - does that mean you will willingly die off if the world stops looking like it does today, or are you likely to change your mind and join those demanding that people "do something" instead of having done something for themselves?
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: marty998 on February 03, 2017, 01:20:01 PM
We need to think new in many ways, otherwise we would risk a world war about food.

World war seems quite extreme. Why wouldn't the global market adjust to increase the price of meat / whatever food type was at a shortage making it unavailable to most people on the planet? Supply and demand / econ 101.

The problem kicks in in the case where a person in the USA, China, or Brazil may be willing and able to pay more for a hamburger than a person in Sub Saharan Africa can afford to pay for the grain that would end up being fed to the cow to make the hamburger.

So the Econ 101 solution can end up with some people unable to afford enough calories to live.

Wouldn't the poor, destitute African farmer simply ask the very expensive lawyers hired by the very large, very powerful multinational to renegotiate his prices so he can charge them more for his beef?

Oh.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: marty998 on February 03, 2017, 01:23:53 PM
We need to think new in many ways, otherwise we would risk a world war about food.

World war seems quite extreme. Why wouldn't the global market adjust to increase the price of meat / whatever food type was at a shortage making it unavailable to most people on the planet? Supply and demand / econ 101.

The problem kicks in in the case where a person in the USA, China, or Brazil may be willing and able to pay more for a hamburger than a person in Sub Saharan Africa can afford to pay for the grain that would end up being fed to the cow to make the hamburger.

So the Econ 101 solution can end up with some people unable to afford enough calories to live.

Wouldn't the poor, destitute African farmer simply ask the very expensive lawyers hired by the very large, very powerful multinational to renegotiate his prices so he can charge them more for his beef?

Oh.

Ah... sorry for the double post, I've missed something here.

Your point is that the cows end up being fed not the people right?
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Dicey on February 03, 2017, 01:27:11 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman on February 03, 2017, 02:01:10 PM
Yeah. Or most specifically, the rich person can afford to pay more for meat that feeds one person than ten poor people can afford to pay for the grain that gets fed to the cow.

Did I just completely miss implied sarcasm in your original post? If so, apologies, always hard to tell in online forums.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on February 03, 2017, 02:16:31 PM
The general arc of all human history is toward a future that is better than the past.  There have been bumps along the way but the overall trend is up.  By almost every measure, life is better today than in the past. 

If you are going to say that things are going to get much worse, you'd need a pretty compelling reason that would counteract this entire arc of history.  To my mind, you have't presented anything compelling.  Maybe something will go wrong in the future.  Sure, whatever.  But then again, maybe you will have a car accident and die in it today.  The only way to hedge against that is to not drive.  You might get hit on your ebike too, so best to not ride that either. 

Re: population - I remember when people were saying that 3B was unsustainable.  What are we at now, 7B?  Haha, that's some funny stuff.  There will ALWAYS be chicken littles proclaiming the sky is falling.  By all predictions from the 70's and 80's, we ought to be in a post-apocalyptic world right now, but things are better than ever.  You could interpret that in one of 2 ways:

1. Hey, those chicken little types were wrong, maybe I shouldn't give credence to them, life is actually pretty good and likely to stay this way
2. Oh man, they were right, but they only got the timing wrong.  And now things are going to be even worse!

I was a sucker and fell for #2 for a while, but none of the crap that ever was predicted ever came true.  And it's the same dynamic that you see in religion ("hey, the Apocalypse is here this year!  Oops, I mean Next Year!) and you see it with the Stock Market ("Red Dow is here this summer!  Oops, I mean this winter.  Oh, I mean sometime in the future!)  It's all the same mentality and it's all useless. 

I am amazed how you can even get out of the bed in the morning and function at all.  Have you considered that you might be clinically depressed?  Because you have a pretty bleak outlook on the world and that's maybe something that can be fixed with professional help. I'm not saying that to be snarky.  I've been through a pretty bleak period of that myself and its insidious, because overall you feel fine more or less, but it seeps in and makes the world seem hostile and dangerous, much more so than it really is.  I got help and I feel much better and more optimistic now.  And happier.  I don't see how anyone can be happy if they aren't reasonably optimistic....
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on February 03, 2017, 02:36:59 PM
The general arc of all human history is toward a future that is better than the past.  There have been bumps along the way but the overall trend is up.  By almost every measure, life is better today than in the past. 

Sure.  But those "bumps" of failing civilizations are pretty rough times to live, and as periods measured in hundreds of years, aren't something we live through to see the end of.  Unless you're planning to live for 1000 years or something.

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If you are going to say that things are going to get much worse, you'd need a pretty compelling reason that would counteract this entire arc of history.

Do you think the people living at the end of Rome's time of dominance were excited by the future of the US?  Babylon?  Pick your empire?  We don't live on the "entire arc of history" - we have to eat on at least a weekly basis.

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To my mind, you have't presented anything compelling.  Maybe something will go wrong in the future.  Sure, whatever.

Then feel free to ignore me entirely. :)

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But then again, maybe you will have a car accident and die in it today.  The only way to hedge against that is to not drive.  You might get hit on your ebike too, so best to not ride that either.

Yup.  Shit happens.  I can, however, optimize towards less shit happening by, say, driving less.  And not drinking and riding.

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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.

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I am amazed how you can even get out of the bed in the morning and function at all.  Have you considered that you might be clinically depressed?  Because you have a pretty bleak outlook on the world and that's maybe something that can be fixed with professional help. I'm not saying that to be snarky.  I've been through a pretty bleak period of that myself and its insidious, because overall you feel fine more or less, but it seeps in and makes the world seem hostile and dangerous, much more so than it really is.  I got help and I feel much better and more optimistic now.  And happier.  I don't see how anyone can be happy if they aren't reasonably optimistic....

I'm reasonably certain I'm quite far from clinically depressed.  The world is far from bleak (though this past winter with the fog and ice, it's certainly looked it where I live), but I don't feel that the claim, "Exponential growth cannot continue for ever on a finite planet" is particularly pessimistic.

I quite enjoy life, designing for sustainability included, and I see a lot of opportunities going forward.  They're just less down the "But all the technology internet cloud VR WOO!" path.

And I'm a paid pessimist, by career.  I recognize my bias.  It's been serving me well so far.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman on February 03, 2017, 02:54:57 PM
But our options are A) Stop and let a lot of the world starve now (though people tend not to starve quietly, so expect to see governments toppled, the remaining tropic forests clear-cut for farmland, and a whole new wave of extinctions in the remaining african megafauna). B) Keep everyone alive for now, try to hold it together, and hope we manage to come up with solutions to each non-sustainable hurdle as it presents itself. Personally I choose option B, since the the worst case scenario with B is it ends up being just as bad as option A.

So, keep going on the un-sustainable path of exponential growth on a finite planet and hope they'll figure something out.  Doesn't... inspire hope, really.

*shrug* Like I said, what is the alternative? The people are already here. Either we try to feed them and maybe we fail, or we don't try to feed them and certainly do. Nothing is lost in the attempt that wouldn't be lost anyway in the failure.

Also, it's not a question of exponential growth forever. Population growth is slowing and looks likely to continue to do so.

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).
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Prairie Stash on February 03, 2017, 03:06:03 PM
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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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Prairie Stash 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 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?
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Metric Mouse 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: cheapass 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...
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 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. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk 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. :)
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Metric Mouse 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 .
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Kriegsspiel 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 (https://granolashotgun.com/2016/05/22/mind-the-gap/) of his that I really enjoyed. These people have built a very resilient life.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 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. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk 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.

Quote
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."

Quote
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."
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 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. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: lost_in_the_endless_aisle 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: lost_in_the_endless_aisle 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: babybug 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)...

Sent from my Nexus 5 using Tapatalk
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: The Happy Philosopher 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 :)
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 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. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Telecaster 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. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Classical_Liberal 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!
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: aceyou 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!!!
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman 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.)
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Classical_Liberal 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk 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.

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@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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: genesismachine 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk 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?

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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...

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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!
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman 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:

(http://i.imgur.com/S6dHtnO.png)

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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Rife 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.

Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Raenia 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Classical_Liberal on February 05, 2017, 12:21:42 PM
I think there are two issues here which are only partially intertwined.  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? 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: brooklynguy 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":

(http://www.davidrumsey.com/rumsey/Size4/D5005/1810001.jpg)

Enlargeable high-resolution version available here (http://28oa9i1t08037ue3m1l0i861.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/1810001.jpg).
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Prairie Stash 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Prairie Stash 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?
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk 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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman 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/

Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Prairie Stash 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Scandium 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Oliver on February 07, 2017, 01:21:27 PM
Hey Syonyk, I basically agree with your assessment of the future and I don't have much to add. Remember though, that the stock market is maybe not that good of an indicator of anything at all. There are plenty of failed states out there – a couple more every year – that are farther down the road that we're traveling. How are their stock exchanges doing? A cursory look says maybe they're not so bad.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: KayakMom on February 07, 2017, 01:43:50 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.

Thanks for posting. Love this site so far.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: TheAnonOne on February 07, 2017, 01:44:17 PM
This thread is so pessimistic, my facebook feed is so pessimistic, and I personally refuse to be pessimistic!

Life is so extravagantly amazing now that even if we lost 10 or 30 years of progress overnight we would live like literal kings of old.

The markets arn't going to drop to 0, the whole forum is entirely based around survival of downtimes and staying the course. I'm going to hold some VTSAX and VTIAX and work hard to build those numbers up. Is the 4% rule safe? Who knows, and honestly, fuck it. Work another 1 or 2 years and hit a 3%. Not a big deal. Need a chicken farm to feel safe? Build a god damn coop.

The mega nuclear war end-of-times talk is pointless, because I'll be a puff of dust in that case. Will oil run out? Sure, big fucking deal. We can litterally produce oil in factories with power and carbon if it came to that.

Will shit hit the fan occasionally? Hell yea! I'll be dammed if I can't enjoy the swings myself!

Yee, fucking, haw!
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on February 07, 2017, 02:11:26 PM
This thread is so pessimistic, my facebook feed is so pessimistic, and I personally refuse to be pessimistic!

Cool.  Don't come knocking if that doesn't work out for you.

Quote
Life is so extravagantly amazing now that even if we lost 10 or 30 years of progress overnight we would live like literal kings of old.

Not sure about that - 30 years ago, we didn't really have the internet or GPS, and now almost everything relies on those. :)

Quote
Will oil run out? Sure, big fucking deal. We can litterally produce oil in factories with power and carbon if it came to that.

Can, yes.  Can do so energetically favorably enough to actually run an industrial society?  I'll let you do the math on that and come back.  Don't forget, there's no solar panel fairy who waves a wand to make solar panels.

Quote
Will shit hit the fan occasionally? Hell yea! I'll be dammed if I can't enjoy the swings myself!

*shrug*  As long as you're able to convert your money into what you need (and get out to do that), great.  Have fun!

I really don't quite understand how applying history to our current point in the world makes one pessimistic, though.  Personally, I think the "ALL IN INDEX FUNDS" thing often proposed requires sticking one's head in the sand, but, hey.  Irrational optimism is still optimism, I guess?
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: TheAnonOne on February 07, 2017, 02:35:45 PM
This thread is so pessimistic, my facebook feed is so pessimistic, and I personally refuse to be pessimistic!

Cool.  Don't come knocking if that doesn't work out for you.

Quote
Life is so extravagantly amazing now that even if we lost 10 or 30 years of progress overnight we would live like literal kings of old.

Not sure about that - 30 years ago, we didn't really have the internet or GPS, and now almost everything relies on those. :)

Quote
Will oil run out? Sure, big fucking deal. We can litterally produce oil in factories with power and carbon if it came to that.

Can, yes.  Can do so energetically favorably enough to actually run an industrial society?  I'll let you do the math on that and come back.  Don't forget, there's no solar panel fairy who waves a wand to make solar panels.

Quote
Will shit hit the fan occasionally? Hell yea! I'll be dammed if I can't enjoy the swings myself!

*shrug*  As long as you're able to convert your money into what you need (and get out to do that), great.  Have fun!

I really don't quite understand how applying history to our current point in the world makes one pessimistic, though.  Personally, I think the "ALL IN INDEX FUNDS" thing often proposed requires sticking one's head in the sand, but, hey.  Irrational optimism is still optimism, I guess?

Yes, all index funds all the time is a bit hopeful, but I cannot fathom even 1 solution that won't fail under some situation. If the index fund thing works out, I'll be litterally rich. If not I'll have had years or decades of freedom and PROBABLY see an issue before I slam into a concrete wall of doom.

FIRE is all about remaining flexible. The tone of this thread to me is hopeless, as in, we're all dead so might as well end it now. This puzzles me, because life is, and had been on the upswing for 1000s of years.

The market itself has seen numerous 'big deals' and still exists in glorious abundance.

Who knows, maybe I'll keep working a whopping 2 or 3 months longer to have some cash for land, guns, and chicken coops. Those things are CHEAP.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on February 07, 2017, 02:41:40 PM
Huh? Who's talking about "ending it now"?

Recognizing the storm clouds on the horizon and doing something about it is literally the opposite.

Do you really expect to be successful your first year with chickens or a garden? The learning curve is why I plan to "work ahead."
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Prairie Stash on February 07, 2017, 02:59:45 PM

Quote
Will oil run out? Sure, big fucking deal. We can litterally produce oil in factories with power and carbon if it came to that.

Can, yes.  Can do so energetically favorably enough to actually run an industrial society?  I'll let you do the math on that and come back.  Don't forget, there's no solar panel fairy who waves a wand to make solar panels.

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/534996/megascale-desalination/
http://www.iea.org/
Here's the math on freshwater and energy. Desalination already is widespread, its more expensive then free rainfall, but its not unreasonable to supply drinking water to entire countries with desalination technology as it exists today. As for energy, maybe expand beyond solar? Wind, Geothermal, Nuclear and hydro all have proven track records and known costs. In my neck we already have small scale bio-energy popping up, its a popular heat source but can also make electricity. 

In the USA there's RFS - Renewable Fuel Standards specifically devoted to producing non-Fossil Fuel inputs for the US transportation sector. The sole goal is to develop technology to end the use of fossil fuels, but maybe ethanol and bio-diesel aren't your thing? In general if we were to do a widespread shift from Fossil fuels to non-fossil fuels the costs of energy would double to triple what it costs today - roughly to the price in Europe. If you're going to get stuck on ethanol from corn I suggest you research cellulosic ethanol. Its proven to work at a higher cost, there's still work to fine tune the catalysts, in the meantime the cheaper corn method is a stop gap measure.

Its not that it can't be done, technology already exists, people don't want to double their bills (the horror of electricity going from $100 to $200 a month!). When gas doubled in price around 2012 society didn't stop, people complained more. You're being pessimistic if you start assuming society can't adapt. How do you rationalize the behavior of $5 gallon gas? Its the perfect real world case study of high cost fossil fuels in the USA.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on February 07, 2017, 04:14:35 PM
As for energy, maybe expand beyond solar? Wind, Geothermal, Nuclear and hydro all have proven track records and known costs. In my neck we already have small scale bio-energy popping up, its a popular heat source but can also make electricity.

Right... and we aren't generating nearly enough solar panels, windmils, geothermal sites, or new nuclear plants to have a real impact on anything.

I'd love a bunch of newer nuclear plants with high burnup percentages and breeders for using the stuff we've got warming swimming pools, but NUKLEUR is a scary word to enough people that they're not getting built.

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...but maybe ethanol and bio-diesel aren't your thing?

Ethanol?  Depends on if it's a corn farmer subsidy or an energy source, and the US is quite on the wrong side of that now.  I'm all for biodiesel, but we don't have enough cropland to grow a significant amount of our liquid fuels, especially when they're a diesel-and-natural-gas intensive way of converting fossil fuels into "renewables."

Generally, if we solve energy, we solve a lot of other problems, and I don't see the rate of growth needed to "solve energy" before things get bad.

Quote
Its not that it can't be done, technology already exists, people don't want to double their bills (the horror of electricity going from $100 to $200 a month!). When gas doubled in price around 2012 society didn't stop, people complained more. You're being pessimistic if you start assuming society can't adapt. How do you rationalize the behavior of $5 gallon gas? Its the perfect real world case study of high cost fossil fuels in the USA.

Well, then, if society adapts, I'll be quite happy with things.  I've just read a number of reports talking about how a useful renewable response to finite oil supplies would have needed to start back in the 70s, and we're well, well beyond the point that things can adapt - and energy storage is useful, but plenty of problems in terms of available supplies of materials.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Kriegsspiel on February 07, 2017, 05:14:42 PM

FIRE is all about remaining flexible. The tone of this thread to me is hopeless, as in, we're all dead so might as well end it now. This puzzles me, because life is, and had been on the upswing for 1000s of years.


Vanishingly slowly, then really fast once we started using fossil fuels to free us from the Malthusian Trap. A Farewell To Alms makes this case and is really interesting otherwise.

Quote from: https://economicsandliberty.blogspot.com/2012/07/economic-history-of-world.html
The basic outline of world economic history is surprisingly simple... Before 1800 income per person--the food, clothing, heat, light, and housing available per head--varied across societies and epochs... the average person in the world in 1800 was no better off than the average person of 100,000 BC.  Indeed in 1800 the bulk of the world's population was poorer than their remote ancestors... Life expectancy was no higher in 1800 than for hunter-gatherers: thirty to thirty-five years. . . . average welfare, if anything, declined from the Stone Age to 1800.  The poor of 1800, those who lived by their unskilled labor alone, would have been better off if transferred to a hunter-gatherer band.  The Industrial Revolution, a mere two hundred years ago, changed forever the possibilities of material consumption.  Incomes per person began to undergo sustained growth in a favored group of countries.  The richest modern economies are now ten to twenty times wealthier than the 1800 average.

(https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-jA8wJoJN-78/UBAggJX7NSI/AAAAAAAAA_8/LgEig7rw8H8/s1600/econ+history+world+one+picture.jpg)

Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Prairie Stash on February 08, 2017, 10:04:02 AM
As for energy, maybe expand beyond solar? Wind, Geothermal, Nuclear and hydro all have proven track records and known costs. In my neck we already have small scale bio-energy popping up, its a popular heat source but can also make electricity.

Right... and we aren't generating nearly enough solar panels, windmils, geothermal sites, or new nuclear plants to have a real impact on anything.

I'd love a bunch of newer nuclear plants with high burnup percentages and breeders for using the stuff we've got warming swimming pools, but NUKLEUR is a scary word to enough people that they're not getting built.

Quote
...but maybe ethanol and bio-diesel aren't your thing?

Ethanol?  Depends on if it's a corn farmer subsidy or an energy source, and the US is quite on the wrong side of that now.  I'm all for biodiesel, but we don't have enough cropland to grow a significant amount of our liquid fuels, especially when they're a diesel-and-natural-gas intensive way of converting fossil fuels into "renewables."

Generally, if we solve energy, we solve a lot of other problems, and I don't see the rate of growth needed to "solve energy" before things get bad.

Quote
Its not that it can't be done, technology already exists, people don't want to double their bills (the horror of electricity going from $100 to $200 a month!). When gas doubled in price around 2012 society didn't stop, people complained more. You're being pessimistic if you start assuming society can't adapt. How do you rationalize the behavior of $5 gallon gas? Its the perfect real world case study of high cost fossil fuels in the USA.

Well, then, if society adapts, I'll be quite happy with things.  I've just read a number of reports talking about how a useful renewable response to finite oil supplies would have needed to start back in the 70s, and we're well, well beyond the point that things can adapt - and energy storage is useful, but plenty of problems in terms of available supplies of materials.
With nuclear there's 67 plants being built right now, mostly in Asia. In Utah there's the first pilot scale small nuclear reactor (50 MW) being slated for production in 2024. It might be a flop, but it won't be the last attempt. The trick is to get them built without doubling electricity costs, it can already be done at triple cost (nuclear subs, aircraft carriers are current example of small scale reactors), no one wants to pay triple though. Keep in mind that the lifecycle of coal power is about 60 years, its weird to expect change to happen quick when its already planned out for the next 30-60 years. Solar life cycle is 30 years, wind is 30, hydro is 100; these are long term plans and 2024 is actually pretty soon comparatively.

Ethanol is already producible for $2.50/gallon from cellulose. Ethanol from corn is cheaper and gasoline is cheapest. These are real world technologies already being use, not hypothetical futuristic tech. As soon as gasoline costs rise due to shrinking supply these plants become economical, but not a day before, apparently its already close to par. If you want to see society adapting, here it is: http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=17851

The switch from grain to cellulosic ethanol has started as predicted a decade ago. Everyone knows corn ethanol is just the transition, not the end goal. People lose track of the big picture that spans decades, society doesn't transition in 10 years.

I think I just made you quite happy, society is adapting. Technology is being deployed today, not in the future.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Telecaster on February 08, 2017, 11:01:28 AM
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 after it got worked out, Russia's GDP tripled. We've had lots of rough decades in the country.  Great Depression, Long Recession, etc.     To be 100% clear, there is a lot to admire in striving to be self-sufficient.  The old adage "Hope for the best and plan for the worst" is an old adage for a reason.   I'm not taking issue with the direction you are headed, I'm just trying to understand that rationale.   

Classical_Liberal points out the USA is losing its dominance in several areas, which is framed as a decline.  But I'm certain that if you examine those areas more closely, it becomes apparent that other countries are catching up, not that the USA is necessarily declining.  Overall, other countries catching up is surely a good thing, no?  Durrant joining the Warriors doesn't mean Curry got worse. 

Addressing a couple comments/ideas I've seen in this thread (in no order)

--World population won't be able to feed itself.  This is true right now, but the trend is towards less hunger.  First world nations produce a general excess of food.  Producing food really isn't the issue, affording food is.  In the last 25 years, extreme poverty has been cut in half.  The number of people living with hunger similarly has been about cut in half.   Globally we've made enormous progress in this area in a fairly short period of time. 

--World population in general is increasing, which causes all kinds of problems.  This is true, but fertility rates worldwide are plummeting.  If current trends continue, world populations will stabilize fairly soon, and may even start decreasing.  Providing sixth grade education for girls and access to television (believe it or not) are major drivers in lowering fertility rates.  This ties back to poverty levels, which are as noted above decreasing rapidly. 

--Peak Oil/Energy shortages.  The amount of petroleum on the planet is finite.  But as petroleum prices increase, new technologies for extracting petroleum become attractive (think the fracking boom), as does conservation, as do new energy sources.  It is more correct to call it plateau oil.  In recent years, we've seen GDP increase with less energy consumed, combined with dramatic drops in the prices of both conventional and renewable energy.   Renewables in particular are becoming competitive and even cheaper than conventional sources in some cases. For example, compare the price of wind energy vs. coal.  In some states, wind is actually cheaper without subsidies.  And here is another option:  nuclear.  Not much (but some!) new nuclear is in the pipeline, and sure some of that is NIMBYism, but most is because it is expensive.  If other energy sources became expensive, then nuclear would become attractive again.  Nuclear is a mature technology, the implementation is well understood.   If the pitchforks come out due to high energy prices we'll be building nuclear like crazy, I guarantee. 

--Loss of the Dollar as a reserve currency.   That's another trend I'm not seeing.  But there are disadvantages to the dollar being the reserve currency.  Specifically, it creates a demand for dollars, which in turn drives our trade deficit.  It wouldn't be entirely tragic to go to an international system for that reason.  All central banks print money.   Having a reserve currency is not a requirement for that.   

There certainly could be a Black Swan event that throws the world into chaos, and there is a lot of wisdom in preparing for the unexpected.  But I just don't see any significant trends that suggest the world is getting worse, or that the US specifically is in decline.   

Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: joonifloofeefloo on February 23, 2017, 09:21:04 AM
Hunted down this thread to share this... 

Thought of this thread (specifically the subtopic of surviving short term or long term environmental disaster, mobility, etc) when I watched it.

Highly recommend the documentary The Babushkas of Chernobyl, for the MMM-related reasons outlined in my post here:
https://brainquirkcash.com/2017/02/23/the-babushkas-of-chernobyl/
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on February 23, 2017, 11:31:02 AM
Its interesting, we all have access to the same facts (more or less), and some of us read them as pessimistic and others as optimistic.  I used to be fairly pessimistic but I've made a conscious effort to be more optimistic about things.  I find that my daily life is much more pleasant and happy now, as a direct result of this shift. 

If SHTF in 20 years, I'd rather spend all/most days during that time in a happy and optimistic mood.  20 years of happiness seems like a much better experience than 20 years of worry.  Especially since SHTF is not a certainty (or even really a probability, IMO).  You guys can build bunkers and stock up on guns.  Me?  I'm going to be having good times with my family, especially while my daughter is still young.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on February 23, 2017, 11:53:10 AM
I really haven't seen much "bunkers and guns" stuff in here.

Solar with grid down capability, gardens, greenhouses, food storage... hardly bunkering.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on February 23, 2017, 12:39:34 PM
True, and I like gardens and solar and being able to make/store food (although I am doing none of those things at the moment).  It just seems like a slippery slope to be on.  I guess I feel that if you're doing it because self-sufficiency is cool and fun, that's one thing.  But doing it because you think society will collapse is another thing. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on February 23, 2017, 12:57:53 PM
Why can't it be both?

If I'm right, I'm ahead of the curve. If I'm wrong, I eat well.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Linda_Norway on February 24, 2017, 02:25:12 AM
Although I have earlier in this thread been quite pessimistic about the future of the world, I would like to be more self efficient to save money during early retirement and because it is fun growing or catching your own food.

If the world really goes apocalyps, I don't expect my little vegetable garden to save me. I am also not the person to build a shelter full of arms and food. In that scenario, I am probably one of those who doesn't survive the worst case. So be it. Let's just hope it takes a long time before this happens.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Abe on February 24, 2017, 03:40:21 AM
I agree with an optimistic outlook regarding energy and overall growth. We have broken through the technology barriers that previously made solar (and to lesser extent, wind) unaffordable. This is evidenced by large-scale investment in them by countries without huge entrenched oil interests (China, India, most of Europe). We can quibble about subsidies, but all energy infrastructure is subsidized by governments. It's unreasonable to expect that our country will just stay with oil out of spite. We are stubborn, but also greedy and once prices for these energy sources becomes equivalent to fossil fuels, we will slowly switch. Yeah we may have a crappy climate before that happens, but we aren't going to burn up in an inferno unless we burn ourselves to the ground before that switch. In that case, there's also the possibility of moving to another country with more opportunities. My family has done it several times, it's not the end of the world. Presumably we will be financially independent at that point, making the move easier.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Linda_Norway on February 24, 2017, 04:02:46 AM
I agree with an optimistic outlook regarding energy and overall growth. We have broken through the technology barriers that previously made solar (and to lesser extent, wind) unaffordable. This is evidenced by large-scale investment in them by countries without huge entrenched oil interests (China, India, most of Europe). We can quibble about subsidies, but all energy infrastructure is subsidized by governments. It's unreasonable to expect that our country will just stay with oil out of spite. We are stubborn, but also greedy and once prices for these energy sources becomes equivalent to fossil fuels, we will slowly switch. Yeah we may have a crappy climate before that happens, but we aren't going to burn up in an inferno unless we burn ourselves to the ground before that switch. In that case, there's also the possibility of moving to another country with more opportunities. My family has done it several times, it's not the end of the world. Presumably we will be financially independent at that point, making the move easier.

Recently the Dutch government wanted to build a big windmill park in the North Sea. It turned out that the cost for building it was only half of what they expected. This means that in many cases clean energy is already a very good alternative. Think also about solar energy on places that lay far away from existing power stations. It probably paid off big time. In Greece every house has a black painted tank on the roof to warm up their shower water. As long as it pays off, people and governments will choose the cheapest alternative. And clean energy is getting very competitive.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: ChrisLansing on March 10, 2017, 06:46:48 AM
Syonyk

Starting with your OP I could tell you'd been reading JMG and reading about peak oil.    Me too.   

I don't want to dwell too long on peak oil but I'd like to say just a few things.    It's pretty widely accepted that US "production" peaked in 1970.  The question now is when will world "production" peak.   I'm not that concerned whether the date is Thanksgiving day 2005, or June 17, 2028 at 3:05 EST.    The facts are, oil is finite and we keep using it.  We can only use it once then, for all practical purposes, it's gone.  Forever.   We speak of producing oil, but of course humans can't produce oil.  We can only extract it and refine it.    There has been a steady decrease in the total amount of oil ever since the first oil well started "producing".    We know this because oil is finite. 
The fact that we are now pumping chemicals into the ground to help extract more oil is an indication that all the easy to get oil has been pumped, or is being pumped.   IOWs fracking is a good sign that peak oil is here or soon will be. 

Are we in decline?  Well, this is MMM, and there is that article about the benefits of outrageous optimism.   I guess I should be surprised that so many take the view that there's a bright shiny future just around the corner.  Maybe they live in a birght shiny present, going from their loft through their walkable neighborhood, to their bright shiny tech job and back.   I don't know.    What I see is crumbling roads, crumbling bridges, crumbling public buildings, vacant boarded up houses, poisoned city water systems,  and more frequent interruptions of electrical power.   These things can all be summed up as infrastructure problems, but there is also a problem with our priorities - we'd prefer to spend our tax money on regime change rather than fix our infrastructure.    We overbuilt during boom times and now, in our decline, we can't afford the maintenance.  The real unemployment rate is much higher than the phoney-baloney official rate.    Lot's of people are unemployed or underemployed.   How anyone can look around at modern America and not have the evidence of decline slap them in the face?     

I'm not sure why we need to look at the extremes of optimism/pessimism.   It seems to me it's wiser to be more nuanced - something like cautious optimism.    A sober assessment of real conditions isn't, to my mind, pessimistic.   

What should we do if we are in decline?   Well, I'm 60 years old, so I'm not going to do very much.   I plan to insulate my house and get rid of one car when I retire.   I'm going to start a garden but I'll never be able to be self sufficient in food production.   (yard too small)  Unless the oil runs out next Thursday I can probably live close to my present lifestyle until the actuarial tables prove to be correct.    If I were a much younger man I'd be making plans to live with a lot less access to oil, and a nation in decline.     

Learning skills is good, but it should be approached from the POV of what will help you, not so much what are people willing to pay for.    If we are in decline, and we are, there will be fewer and fewer people able to pay for your goods or services.   Let me give a few specific examples.  Perhaps you learn to brew beer.   If you can figure out how to do it I probably can too, thus neither of us will make much money selling each other beer.   We'd both benefit from producing it for ourselves.   The same rationale applies to soap and candle making, bee keeping, gardening, and many others.   If you want to sell your services to others it not only has to be something they need, but something they can't easily learn to do for themselves. 

The important thing is that the decline will probably be generally slow and gradual.  It will have some plateaus to interrupt the decline.    We won't go from cell phones and the internet to living in caves.   As we decline we'll slip back to older ways of doing things (what choice will we have?) and lower per capita consumption of energy.      We may find ourselves living as our grandparents or great grandparents did.   But that's still a long way from the caves. 

Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: BTDretire on March 10, 2017, 07:04:25 AM

Quote
Life is so extravagantly amazing now that even if we lost 10 or 30 years of progress overnight we would live like literal kings of old.

Not sure about that - 30 years ago, we didn't really have the internet or GPS, and now almost everything relies on those. :)


 It was really difficult, but I worked hard at finding things to
waste my time on before I got the internet at 40 trs old! /s/
 And I still don't have GPS.
 My daughter sent me a birthday card the other day, it said,
"Happy birthday to someone old enough to have lived through
the hardships of not being able to Google something. :-)
 And the beat goes on...
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Classical_Liberal on March 10, 2017, 10:34:24 AM
The important thing is that the decline will probably be generally slow and gradual.  It will have some plateaus to interrupt the decline.    We won't go from cell phones and the internet to living in caves.   As we decline we'll slip back to older ways of doing things (what choice will we have?) and lower per capita consumption of energy.      We may find ourselves living as our grandparents or great grandparents did.   But that's still a long way from the caves.

I tend to agree with this assessment.  The decline will likely continue to to be slow, even slower because the loss of energy per-capita will be compensated with new technology.  Meaning it's even possible that we can (on a "mean" global scale, at least) maintain current standards going forward.  It's likely that he changes will be notable over decades, not years.

Learning skills is good, but it should be approached from the POV of what will help you, not so much what are people willing to pay for.    If we are in decline, and we are, there will be fewer and fewer people able to pay for your goods or services.   Let me give a few specific examples.  Perhaps you learn to brew beer.   If you can figure out how to do it I probably can too, thus neither of us will make much money selling each other beer.   We'd both benefit from producing it for ourselves.   The same rationale applies to soap and candle making, bee keeping, gardening, and many others.   If you want to sell your services to others it not only has to be something they need, but something they can't easily learn to do for themselves. 

I partially disagree with this assessment.  Yes, there will likely be a trend towards self-sufficiency, however, economic specialization has brought society a great deal of benefits from an efficiency standpoint.  Consumers purchasing goods which are are produced very cheaply far away will decline due to increase costs associated with fast shipping (think foodstuffs).  This will be a direct relationship with energy costs.  However, specialization will not go away anytime soon.  Even prior to fossil fuels communities has cobbers, seamstress, farmers, beekeepers, etc.  Some humans (and companies) have the means, capital, and ability to produce things more efficiently than others. This is why currency exists. So, investing the time to become a very good and efficient producer of beer will still provide cash flow as others will not have the skill level to produced it as well.  They will choose a different specialization, perhaps alternative power generation.  You will sell her beer and she will sell you the means to produce electricity (hopefully at a discount after consuming generous amounts of your beer)... It is the way of things.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: ChrisLansing on March 10, 2017, 11:40:30 AM
Yes there have always been specialists.  That's a very valid point.    I'm just talking about the average person, not someone who becomes a craftsman.     Soap and beer were made on "commercial" scales 100, even 200 years ago.  But they were also made at home.   I'm just saying that home crafts won't be sold to others, to any appreciable extent.   What you can make at home I can make at home.   If you want to open your own micro brewery and make beer on that scale, yes, there may be opportunities.   

This whole "survival" thing takes us into exactly what you mention and what's implied - specialization, division of labor, economies of scale.   I'm trying to point out that many shifting into "survival mode" whether of necessity or just because they want to, are still approaching skills as something to sell, rather than something to employ in your own behalf.   If you want to be a furniture maker, and make items for other people to buy with cash, you'd better be very very good at it.   Perhaps 10 or more years as an apprentice and at least another 10 a a journeyman before becoming a furniture maker in your own right.   If you just want something for your own use made of plywood then your skills can be mediocre.  Cabinet making isn't a survival skill, it's a craftsman skill.   It isn't something you'd teach yourself to do along with learning gardening, brewing, soap making, sewing, etc. etc.  It's something you'd have to dedicate yourself to for decades.   You can become passably competent in a dozen or more skills, but you can only master a few, if even that many, in a lifetime.     I do agree with you though, there will still be specialists after the oil runs out.   
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on March 10, 2017, 09:46:47 PM
Starting with your OP I could tell you'd been reading JMG and reading about peak oil.    Me too.   

Certainly true.  Sounds like JMG is taking a break from his blogging activities - perhaps some new books coming out? :)

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The fact that we are now pumping chemicals into the ground to help extract more oil is an indication that all the easy to get oil has been pumped, or is being pumped.   IOWs fracking is a good sign that peak oil is here or soon will be.

My preferred Greer quote (expanded a bit) on that is, "We're busy scraping the bottom of the barrel and pretending that the muck we're scraping out means the barrel is still full of sweet crude."

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What I see is crumbling roads, crumbling bridges, crumbling public buildings, vacant boarded up houses, poisoned city water systems,  and more frequent interruptions of electrical power.

Even in those "Bright, shiny areas," a lot of that is the case.  I felt like I needed a dirtbike's suspension to deal with a lot of the roads in Seattle.  They were bad.  And the usual boarded up buildings lit on fire by squatters, you couldn't leave your bike out, even locked, because a methhead would swipe it, etc.  You know, Utopia!

I expect more of that in the future, at least if we follow Greer's Catabolic Decline theory, which seems decently backed by history (and, annoyingly, doesn't have that "Well, nothing we can do, so may as well enjoy it!" sudden wall at the end so many hope for).

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These things can all be summed up as infrastructure problems, but there is also a problem with our priorities - we'd prefer to spend our tax money on regime change rather than fix our infrastructure.

A sad image meme I saw recently was basically, "Wait... with the state of our infrastructure, what exactly is the military supposed to be defending here?"

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We overbuilt during boom times and now, in our decline, we can't afford the maintenance.

Suburbia is going to be hit the worst here.  They were built ~50 years ago, for a ~50 year lifespan.  Huge swaths of it are going to need major infrastructure work - roads, sewers, water mains, electrical... all of it.  And that's not likely to happen, and suburbia is uninhabitable without infrastructure.

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What should we do if we are in decline?   Well, I'm 60 years old, so I'm not going to do very much.   I plan to insulate my house and get rid of one car when I retire.   I'm going to start a garden but I'll never be able to be self sufficient in food production.   (yard too small)  Unless the oil runs out next Thursday I can probably live close to my present lifestyle until the actuarial tables prove to be correct.    If I were a much younger man I'd be making plans to live with a lot less access to oil, and a nation in decline.

Not a bad strategy.  I'm slightly over half your age, so I'm likely to see it, though our little rural corner may weather things better.  Or maybe not.  Either way, I have plenty of acres to work with (2 in our name, functionally 8-10 connected that's family land), so we should be able to run a nice little garden and aquaponics setup out here if I try.

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The important thing is that the decline will probably be generally slow and gradual.  It will have some plateaus to interrupt the decline.    We won't go from cell phones and the internet to living in caves.   As we decline we'll slip back to older ways of doing things (what choice will we have?) and lower per capita consumption of energy.      We may find ourselves living as our grandparents or great grandparents did.   But that's still a long way from the caves.

Certainly likely - which, unfortunately, will lead to a century or so of howling from people who've sucked down the Religion of Progress about how this [whatever] can't possibly be happening, because Progress Has to Make Progress!  And, of course, refusing to do anything useful about it, because if they just elect the right savior person, all will go back to normal.

The problem with going backwards in terms of tech levels is that most of that older technology has been forgotten and destroyed in the rush towards Internet Connected Things (which are then promptly hacked by... whoever, not like there's a short list).  The skills of our great grandparent's generation are dead or dying, and very few people keep those up.  That's actually one of the reasons I'm trying to get stuff going now - so I can learn the hard lessons while I can afford the screwups that are inevitable.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on March 11, 2017, 12:14:16 AM
I'm just curious about something, if you wouldn't mind a small hypothetical.  Much of the concern here seems centered on fossil fuels running out. 

Hypothetically, if we switch over from fossil fuels to something renewable like solar without too much difficulty, do you then stop worrying?  Or do you say, in effect: "Well there's always the next thing that's going to bring it all down"? 

Put another way:  Do you prep because you see a real existential threat and you'd stop prepping if that threat was avoided?  Or do you just keep finding more threats to justify being a prepper?

Have you considered that you might be depressed and life seems hopeless and fragile because of that? 

Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Metric Mouse on March 11, 2017, 02:13:01 AM
I'm just curious about something, if you wouldn't mind a small hypothetical.  Much of the concern here seems centered on fossil fuels running out. 

Hypothetically, if we switch over from fossil fuels to something renewable like solar without too much difficulty, do you then stop worrying?  Or do you say, in effect: "Well there's always the next thing that's going to bring it all down"? 

Put another way:  Do you prep because you see a real existential threat and you'd stop prepping if that threat was avoided?  Or do you just keep finding more threats to justify being a prepper?

Have you considered that you might be depressed and life seems hopeless and fragile because of that?
On the plus side, shale gas plays have been much, much larger than expected in the United States. Peak oil has been a concern for decades; so far we keep finding more oil (Smiths Bay, etc.) And using even more natural gas that comes out of these same holes, further extending an already distant future free from oil. While it is a (probably) finite resource, the end of recoverable stashes has yet to be seen.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: ChrisLansing on March 11, 2017, 06:27:37 AM
I'm just curious about something, if you wouldn't mind a small hypothetical.  Much of the concern here seems centered on fossil fuels running out. 

Hypothetically, if we switch over from fossil fuels to something renewable like solar without too much difficulty, do you then stop worrying?  Or do you say, in effect: "Well there's always the next thing that's going to bring it all down"? 

Put another way:  Do you prep because you see a real existential threat and you'd stop prepping if that threat was avoided?  Or do you just keep finding more threats to justify being a prepper?


Have you considered that you might be depressed and life seems hopeless and fragile because of that?


I suppose this was directed more at Syonyk but I'd like to answer anyway.   It's a fair question.   

If the switch to renewables goes smoothly and we can maintain present lifestyles, then the only thing to worry about is the decline of the American empire.   Decline and fall happens to all empires, sooner or later, for multiple reasons.       As others have pointed out, it need not be a catastrophe.    As Syonyk has pointed out, it does tend to be a bumpy ride. 

The word "prepper" brings to my mind the image of someone digging an underground bunker, filling it with Army surplus MREs, and collecting automatic weapons.   I don't consider this an intelligent response to decline, whether it's due to running out of oil, or due to other factors that make empires decline.    I don't think of myself as a "prepper".   

It's confusing to me why people keep insisting that a forecast of the future which is less than "bright and shiny" is a sign of depression.  When you listen the the weatherman and he forecasts rain, do you assume he's depressed?    Do you channel surf until you find a more optimistic meteorologist?   Might there be valid reasons to predict rain and thunderstorms, or is it all due to one's state of mind?   

Oil is finite.  It's not a theory.   This ball we call earth is of a certain size and can only contain X amount of oil and coal.  Unless we can colonize other planets, we are stuck with the amount of oil and coal this ball contains.   No more.   How much is left?   We don't really know.   As Syonyk pointed out, we are scrapping the bottom of the barrel now.  But possibly we'll discover more oil and it will be relatively easy to get at.    The day of reckoning may be put off further into the future.     We may be getting ready for an age of decline that isn't coming for several hundred years.  Some of us look at present trends and conclude that it looks like rain.   If we are wrong, then we carry our umbrellas needlessly.   What if we're right?   

I'm skeptical that diffuse sunlight can be substituted seamlessly for highly concentrated energy sources like coal and oil.     I could of course be wrong.     

Finally, individual response to the "end of oil" must look crazy to the majority.    But individual response is pretty much the only possible response.    It would be great if we could just get our fellow Americans to agree to lifestyle changes that would take our per capita consumption of oil down to European levels.    Germany uses about 2/3s what we do, per capita.   Czechs about 1/3.   Life is not horrific in either place.    If we could bring our consumption rate down to those levels we might buy a considerable amount of time to transition to other energy sources.    But the chance of getting Americans, as a group, to ride trams instead of driving SUVs, and the many other lifestyle choices that would be required to reduce per capita oil consumption are pretty much nil.    As MMM constantly has to point out, most Americans won't even make lifestyle changes to save their own money.       
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: FireLane on March 11, 2017, 06:46:47 AM
I'm skeptical that diffuse sunlight can be substituted seamlessly for highly concentrated energy sources like coal and oil.     I could of course be wrong.     

Probably not seamlessly. The biggest advantage oil and gas have is that they're highly concentrated, which is why you can drive your car hundreds of miles on one full tank. We haven't invented a battery that offers that kind of storage density for electricity. Range anxiety will probably always be an issue with electric cars, and it's hard to see how it could ever work for planes.

But in terms of overall energy consumption, there's no problem at all. The statistic I've seen is that the earth gets as much energy from the Sun in an hour as humanity uses in a year. Even if they never get any more efficient, we could supply our entire civilization's energy needs with 25,000 square miles of solar panels. That's about the size of West Virginia. Ambitious, but absolutely doable, especially if that capacity is spread over rooftops:

http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Energy-Voices/2014/0729/How-many-solar-panels-would-it-take-to-power-Earth
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on March 11, 2017, 09:50:00 AM
"The declining American Empire" idea ignores the fact that other empires (oh, like the UK) that declined, now have average citizens that live FAR better than anyone lived at the peak of their so called empire.  The world as a whole is on a massive upward swing as far as quality of life is concerned. 

The idea of empires is a red herring.  Even right now, America is not rated as a #1 place to live in a lot of categories.  So in a sense, the 'empire' has already declined relative to other parts of the world.  Doesn't mean America is not still an awesome place to live.  It is. 

And you didn't really answer my question.  ASSUME that we get past coal and oil and onto something like Solar.  What do you do at that point? 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Abe on March 11, 2017, 10:00:39 AM
I'm skeptical that diffuse sunlight can be substituted seamlessly for highly concentrated energy sources like coal and oil.     I could of course be wrong.     

Probably not seamlessly. The biggest advantage oil and gas have is that they're highly concentrated, which is why you can drive your car hundreds of miles on one full tank. We haven't invented a battery that offers that kind of storage density for electricity. Range anxiety will probably always be an issue with electric cars, and it's hard to see how it could ever work for planes.

But in terms of overall energy consumption, there's no problem at all. The statistic I've seen is that the earth gets as much energy from the Sun in an hour as humanity uses in a year. Even if they never get any more efficient, we could supply our entire civilization's energy needs with 25,000 square miles of solar panels. That's about the size of West Virginia. Ambitious, but absolutely doable, especially if that capacity is spread over rooftops:

http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Energy-Voices/2014/0729/How-many-solar-panels-would-it-take-to-power-Earth

Two thoughts on range anxiety:
1. Range anxiety assumes we use electricity to charge batteries, which I agree are currently limited in their energy density compared to oil-based products. However, using electricity for hydrogen production is still being researched as an alternative. Hydrogen storage suffers from different issues with energy density, but that is improving faster than with batteries.

2. Range anxiety for commuters is more of a society/lifestyle problem than a real roadblock for electric cars. Initial cost of battery production is probably going to remain a bigger issue for some time. If one is commuting >50 miles a day, then either there's a problem with where they live vs. where they work (90% of people, I'm guessing) or they just travel a lot for business and an electric car at this stage isn't the right mode of transportation. I already have a stupidly long commute (11 miles each way to primary hospital, 11 miles another way for secondary hospital) yet wouldn't need a 300mi+ vehicle to make it. At any rate, once we upgrade our charging infrastructure (which we already essentially have, just need to upgrade the cables for higher voltage charging), this will be even less of an issue.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Classical_Liberal on March 11, 2017, 11:07:33 AM
range anxiety:

The other issue being the more infrequent, but longer range trips people take via their vehicles.  I would imagine most folks on this forum who follow rule # 1* put on most of their vehicle miles in such a manner. I am definitely in this category.  Proper infrastructure building for the future would alleviate this problem (think Hyperloop (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperloop)).  Sadly, one of the hallmark problems with a declining empire is too many resources are spent maintaining decaying, old infrastructure vs inovative building for the future. If we stop fighting last centuries battles the US still has the resources to minimize it's decline.

*Rule # 1, live close to work!
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: goateeman on March 11, 2017, 01:07:29 PM
I found this reddit thread interesting:  https://www.reddit.com/r/todayilearned/comments/5y0alt/til_of_ossip_bernstein_a_famous_chess_grandmaster/

This Russian genius basically built 3 fortunes and lost them all.  Things can get pretty shitty.  But relatively speaking, a lot more russians, jews, never lived through WWII..so he is pretty lucky in comparison.

If you're lucky enough to be FIRE in this time period, consider yourself lucky, period.  Enjoy the brief time we have on earth, and don't waste it worrying about shit you can't control.

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Bernstein was a successful businessman. He earned considerable wealth before losing it in the Bolshevik Revolution, earned a second fortune that was lost in the Great Depression, and a third that was lost when France was invaded by Nazi Germany in 1940. Bernstein was exiled in Paris, only to be driven to Spain by the Nazis, because of his Jewish origin.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Telecaster on March 11, 2017, 03:20:14 PM
"The declining American Empire" idea ignores the fact that other empires (oh, like the UK) that declined, now have average citizens that live FAR better than anyone lived at the peak of their so called empire.  The world as a whole is on a massive upward swing as far as quality of life is concerned. 

I was about to post the same thing.  For the average Englishman, losing the empire was the best possible thing that could have happened to them. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on March 11, 2017, 09:20:01 PM
Hypothetically, if we switch over from fossil fuels to something renewable like solar without too much difficulty, do you then stop worrying?  Or do you say, in effect: "Well there's always the next thing that's going to bring it all down"?

First, I think the likelyhood of switching over to renewables and maintaining our current energy budget very, very low.  And since there is a very, very strong correlation between GDP per capita and energy use per capita, that means a good chance that a financial system that requires exponential growth in order to survive is going to do some very interesting things.  None of them particularly useful if you're planning on investment returns.

There are also very real problems with high renewable penetration - how to keep the grid stable and function with high DER (distributed energy resource) connection rates is quite an open problem, and there are all sorts of interesting feedback loops and paths to blackouts.  The UL listed grid tie inverters are part of the problem - by design, they have basically zero frequency or voltage transient ridethrough capability, and will shut down completely if things go marginally out of spec.  Oh, and you often get a bonus feature since they all implement the minimum shutdown period - if they all go out at once, they all come back at once, which is a great way to get another voltage or frequency transient to shut them down again.  Lots of interesting behaviors, and that's not even counting the fact that the security of them (because, of course, everything has to be internet connected) ranges from "adequate" to "awful."  And any large scale DER based power grid has to have some sort of centralized control over the devices.  Do you trust a computer from 10 years ago to be secure on the internet today?  Inverters last an awful long time...

I think there are things that can be done that would at least prolong our nation/empire, but historically, those things don't happen.  Political systems end up dysfunctional, frozen, and incapable of action, even in the face of obvious actions to take.  Sound familiar?  Historically, it doesn't get better - so, consider that we're dealing with a useless political system going forward, and on top of that, have a system optimized for short term thinking - who cares what happens after you're out of office?  That's the other guy's problem.

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Put another way:  Do you prep because you see a real existential threat and you'd stop prepping if that threat was avoided?  Or do you just keep finding more threats to justify being a prepper?

I can't speak to other people in the thread, but I really don't consider myself a "prepper" - though I suspect some people would consider me one.  I'm looking at ways to reduce my costs and improve my anti-fragility regardless of what happens.  Solar on the roof and things keep going well?  Great, I've paid for my power for a long while, and it should continue to pay off in the future.  Things aren't going well?  Great, I can keep my house powered, run cables to the neighborhood, and have the basis of a small hyper-local power station.  Either way, I don't see a huge downside.

Same for food - if things go well, darn.  I eat a lot of garden-fresh stuff and know where it grew (and while I'm not deep down the GMO-is-evil rabbit hole, Monsanto and Bayer merging scares the hell out of me, because they now have a seriously perverse set of incentives to make people sick).  If things go poorly?  Great, I have local food production, and the local knowledge to helps scale that in my community.

I can't see myself "not having a reasonable set of supplies stored up," because that's just generally wise.  Were I more confident in the direction of the country, I'd probably be a bit lazier about getting gardens and greenhouses set up, but it's a direction I want to go anyway, and it's useful in a wide range of futures.

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Have you considered that you might be depressed and life seems hopeless and fragile because of that?

... why does everyone seem to think I'm depressed?  I quite enjoy my life out here on a few acres with family nearby and no HOA to tell me that my cracked basalt path (current project) is against some regulation or other.  I'm radically happier out here than I was in the Seattle metro shithole, with neighbors complaining that my truck never moved (which was not true, I just happened to have a good way of parking it within a few inches of the same spot every time, and once I started parking crappier, the complaints stopped), that there was an apple in the back yard attracting rats (complaint on file with the city, and, yes, there was an apple tree back there), etc.

Nations have their arc through history, and there are an awful lot of nations that no longer exist - why do so many people seem to think that "Things are Different Now"?  It's just one of those facts of life - people age and die, nations age and die.  Nations that live on "change" seem to die faster than nations that value stability over all else - the nations that have lasted thousands of years without serious disruptions didn't have much in the way of technological change.

I certainly don't feel that "life is hopeless and fragile" - I just see that there's a good chance of things going in a direction that is not commonly considered, and am working to handle that case as well.

To borrow an analogy from myself (in some unpublished work), if you're on a boat, it's taking on water, and the crew is busy insisting that it's not sinking, and besides, it's the other guy's fault, would everyone just stop being so pessimistic - at some point, the wise action is to go find yourself a life jacket and put it on.  Maybe the ship is sitting a few feet above a sandbar and won't actually sink, or maybe somehow the crew will do something useful, but just in case, there's no harm in a lifejacket.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on March 11, 2017, 09:29:52 PM
On the plus side, shale gas plays have been much, much larger than expected in the United States.

They have been, but the well decline rates on the shale wells have been awful - 70+% reduction in flow in a year is reasonably common on those, and some are worse.  When you factor in that the best spots are drilled first, it's a short term relief, at best.  On the plus side, I haven't been hearing any yapping about 100 years of Saudi American Energy recently - so, at least, some truth has blasted through skulls.

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Peak oil has been a concern for decades; so far we keep finding more oil (Smiths Bay, etc.) And using even more natural gas that comes out of these same holes, further extending an already distant future free from oil.

We live on a finite planet.  Evidence seems to indicate that using the atmosphere as a sewer for long-buried matter may not be the best idea we've ever had.  We will run out of economically extractable oil at some point.

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While it is a (probably) finite resource, the end of recoverable stashes has yet to be seen.

The problem isn't running out completely - it's running out of the stuff that can be extracted cheaply enough (in both an energy and economic sense) that you can run an economy on it.  Oil where you spend as much energy getting it out of the ground as you get from the barrel isn't useful as an energy source.

It's confusing to me why people keep insisting that a forecast of the future which is less than "bright and shiny" is a sign of depression.  When you listen the the weatherman and he forecasts rain, do you assume he's depressed?    Do you channel surf until you find a more optimistic meteorologist?   Might there be valid reasons to predict rain and thunderstorms, or is it all due to one's state of mind?

Good analogy, thanks.  I will keep that in mind for future reference. :)

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But possibly we'll discover more oil and it will be relatively easy to get at.    The day of reckoning may be put off further into the future.

This is in the realm of "Possible, but absurdly unlikely" - the planet has been pretty well explored for recoverable oil and gas deposits, and the rate of discovery of new fields has been lower than the rate of extraction (I agree that "production" is a bad term) for quite some time now.  Even with better technology, we're still not finding huge amounts of oil we can get at.

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Finally, individual response to the "end of oil" must look crazy to the majority.    But individual response is pretty much the only possible response.

Sadly, that's about where I've ended up as well - I don't expect a useful response as a nation/civilization, so individual responses are the option left.

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But the chance of getting Americans, as a group, to ride trams instead of driving SUVs, and the many other lifestyle choices that would be required to reduce per capita oil consumption are pretty much nil.

It's also that we've built infrastructure that assumes individual point to point transport.  Mass transit just isn't feasible in an awful lot of areas, and suggesting using less energy on transportation leads to a huge comedy of excuses.  An electric bike uses 1/10th the energy per mile of an electric car - casually suggest it sometime in a group and see how rapidly people explain that they couldn't possibly ride one because...
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on March 11, 2017, 09:36:51 PM
But in terms of overall energy consumption, there's no problem at all. The statistic I've seen is that the earth gets as much energy from the Sun in an hour as humanity uses in a year. Even if they never get any more efficient, we could supply our entire civilization's energy needs with 25,000 square miles of solar panels. That's about the size of West Virginia. Ambitious, but absolutely doable, especially if that capacity is spread over rooftops:

Unfortunately, getting power useful to an industrial civilization from the sun requires solar panels, which require their own energy to produce and quite a bit of material.  So the question then becomes, "Can we either obtain enough of the materials needed to build solar panels to do this, or can we build good-enough solar panels out of things easily obtained?"  The answers to those are still up in the air, but it's not like there's a solar panel fairy who can simply conjure panels into existence.

The world as a whole is on a massive upward swing as far as quality of life is concerned. 

On the backs of cheap energy, certainly.  If that energy gets less cheap, or less useful for, say, container shipping (which basically burns the sludge left over from refining oil that we haven't figured out how to make useful for anything else), that global rise in living standards is in peril.  Especially when you look at just how much food production is tied to oil use in terms of energy and fertilizers.  We quite efficiently turn oil into food, but other inputs are starting to run into issues (rock phosphorous being one that's likely to be a major issue in the next few decades).

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And you didn't really answer my question.  ASSUME that we get past coal and oil and onto something like Solar.  What do you do at that point?

Answered above, but energy is far from the only issue that is a concern.

And, again, if I'm wrong, then I eat hyper-local food, produce a lot of my own energy, and have more money from investments than I know what to do with.  I'm OK with having that problem.

1. Range anxiety assumes we use electricity to charge batteries, which I agree are currently limited in their energy density compared to oil-based products. However, using electricity for hydrogen production is still being researched as an alternative. Hydrogen storage suffers from different issues with energy density, but that is improving faster than with batteries.

Hydrogen production for transport only makes sense if your problem is that you have so much energy, you can't figure out how to waste it fast enough.  The end to end efficiency of a hydrogen system is awful compared to batteries.  It's a great way to get government subsidies from politicians who don't understand physics, and it's a dreadful way to actually transfer and store energy.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Doubleh on March 12, 2017, 01:35:59 AM
Thanks Syonyk for a fascinating and thought provoking thread. I hear a lot of where you are coming from, and I agree that having an enjoyable hobby and lifestyle that also happens to make your life more robust or even anti-fragile sounds like a no lose proposition.

Plenty of others have pointed out the difference between declining geopolitical influence of the US and the imminent end or decline of all western civilisation as being to completely different scenarios. I do think reading your posts that you seem to be taking evidence of the former as support for the latter, which seems to be a pretty America-centric view which is understandable for someone living in the USA. But while we often cant escape our own biases it is helpful to try and learn to recognise them, I think doing so might help you to upgrade your assessment of the future.

Speaking as someone living in a formerly great superpower (UK) I'm pretty comfortable with our diminished global importance. (With a caveat for the colloidal act of self harm that is brexit, long term I'd guess we'll likely be ok just materially less well of than we wouldn't have been otherwise) Would I rather be alive in 1917 when the UK had an empire on which the sun never set, Sterling was the global reserve currency, Britannia ruled the waves and official government policy was that the Royal Navy must at all times exceed the strength of the next two largest navies combined? Or 2017 as only the sixth (or so) largest global economy? I don't think I need to answer that. America's growth as a superpower in the intervening decade has not made living standards here worse, and there is little reason to think that growth of economies like China should do that for USA.

Not saying you shouldn't do your self sufficiency, just maybe do it more for the satisfaction of it and less for the fear of catastrophe. I do understand the attraction of self reliance, it's one of the things I love about long distance sailing, which is our planned post fire lifestyle.

In fact I'm surprised more people worried about the future don't look to sailboats as a way to "bug in & out" - a well found blue water boat say 45' equipped with solar, wind and diesel generators, generous diesel and water tankage and a reverse osmosis water maker can be had for $100k or $150k and is about the closest you can get to being fully self sufficient. This can support a family of 4 easily for 6 months, cruisers travelling to remote areas will often provision for this long. And on survival rations you could probably stretch this to 18 or even 24 months. Provided you can catch fish, which most cruisers do, your main limitation will be diesel for making water but with good tankage and careful conservation you can stretch this pretty well.

Factor in that you have satellite and short wave radio to communicate with whatever is left of civilisation, and can travel under your own sail to literally anywhere in the world in that timescale, you should be able to sit out a short term crisis or get to somewhere less affected by a longer term one. Heck even the total collapse of western civilisation would have almost negligible impacts on the more remote Pacific islands. Sure you may struggle to outrun a nuclear winter, but then what better alternatives would you have in that scenario?
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Metric Mouse on March 12, 2017, 04:30:26 AM
On the plus side, shale gas plays have been much, much larger than expected in the United States.

They have been, but the well decline rates on the shale wells have been awful - 70+% reduction in flow in a year is reasonably common on those, and some are worse.  When you factor in that the best spots are drilled first, it's a short term relief, at best.  On the plus side, I haven't been hearing any yapping about 100 years of Saudi American Energy recently - so, at least, some truth has blasted through skulls.

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Peak oil has been a concern for decades; so far we keep finding more oil (Smiths Bay, etc.) And using even more natural gas that comes out of these same holes, further extending an already distant future free from oil.

We live on a finite planet.  Evidence seems to indicate that using the atmosphere as a sewer for long-buried matter may not be the best idea we've ever had.  We will run out of economically extractable oil at some point.

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While it is a (probably) finite resource, the end of recoverable stashes has yet to be seen.

The problem isn't running out completely - it's running out of the stuff that can be extracted cheaply enough (in both an energy and economic sense) that you can run an economy on it.  Oil where you spend as much energy getting it out of the ground as you get from the barrel isn't useful as an energy source.
I hope you don't think that I am arguing prepping (sorry, I  know that is not your favorite or even most accurate description, so please forgive my lazy use of the term) is a bad idea. For all the reasons you listed, most of all your own enjoyment, it is a fine activity to engage in. For me the benefits are greatly outweighed by the costs, for all the reasons I have discussed. The math shows that there is an overwhelming likelihood of the country remaining comfortable for my lifetime, so since I  do not get the same joy from solar panels and green houses as many do, I have not put many of my resources towards such things. I'm more of a "lounge in the life boat on the pool deck, drinking and listening to the band" than a "walk around with a life jacket" kind of guy. Love hearing your perspective though!
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on March 12, 2017, 06:38:52 AM
I'm more of a "lounge in the life boat on the pool deck, drinking and listening to the band" than a "walk around with a life jacket" kind of guy. Love hearing your perspective though!

Even if the engines have stopped, it looks and sounds like there's water flooding into the lower decks, and balls all rapidly roll forward on the deck? :)

To flip a previous question, what would it take to convince you that your country was not in good shape and stood a decent chance of undergoing severe issues in your lifespan? And, what would you do about that?

"Don't worry, money takes care of it" is certainly a decent option, it's just that history says that such options have a way of stopping being options very quickly at times.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: ChrisLansing on March 12, 2017, 08:55:47 AM
"The declining American Empire" idea ignores the fact that other empires (oh, like the UK) that declined, now have average citizens that live FAR better than anyone lived at the peak of their so called empire.  The world as a whole is on a massive upward swing as far as quality of life is concerned. 

As Syonyk has already pointed out, this is largely due to the burning of fossil fuels.   If we are right about peak oil -that is, we've already peaked or soon will - then expect this trend to reverse.    Unless of course we can substitute green energy sources.

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The idea of empires is a red herring.  Even right now, America is not rated as a #1 place to live in a lot of categories.  So in a sense, the 'empire' has already declined relative to other parts of the world.  Doesn't mean America is not still an awesome place to live.  It is.   


No, it's not a red herring.   We are a nation in decline.   We can't afford to maintain our current infrastructure.   We are not building much new infrastructure.   We have a real unemployment rate roughly twice the official rate.   We have a massive underemployment problem.   Few blue collar workers could support a family on one job (e.g. spouse not working) What's a red herring is this "relativity" you've introduced.   Yes, America is a better place to live than Bangladesh, and many other places.   But no, life is not getting better for blue collar people in the US.  It's getting harder.   

Of course we don't have to spend our money on the military (nearly as much as all other countries combined).  We don't have to engage in endless war.  But these are the things empires do.     When the empire was extending it's reach and dominance, life was getting better for the average American.   For many people that simply isn't the case anymore.    The cost of empire is too great for the working class and they benefit from it hardly  at all anymore.    So far from being a red herring, this is the very heart of the problem.    It's not THAT our empire is declining (that could be a good thing) it's the WAY our empire is declining.   We're trillions of dollars in debt because we can't let go of our empire.    I'm doubtful that we'll have the wisdom to simply step back the way the British did and settle for 2nd or 4th or 8th place. 

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And you didn't really answer my question.  ASSUME that we get past coal and oil and onto something like Solar.  What do you do at that point?

Hopefully my response above goes some way towards answering your question.   If we set aside peak oil and assume green technologies are going to fill the gap, we still have a declining empire that seems resolutely determined to hang on as long as possible, at all costs.   This is already making life worse for millions of us, and promises to get worse.   

To put things in slightly different perspective, countries were life is getting better and better all the time do not have crumbling infrastructure and unemployment/underemployment problems that get swept under the rug.    You may have heard of the epidemic of heroin use in the USA ?   That's not a feature of a country where life just keeps getting better all the time.    (But it primarily effects blue collar workers, so who cares?) 

But hey, everyone has a smart phone and the internet, so life is pretty cool.   
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Classical_Liberal on March 12, 2017, 10:11:29 AM
Speaking as someone living in a formerly great superpower (UK) I'm pretty comfortable with our diminished global importance. (With a caveat for the colloidal act of self harm that is brexit, long term I'd guess we'll likely be ok just materially less well of than we wouldn't have been otherwise) Would I rather be alive in 1917 when the UK had an empire on which the sun never set, Sterling was the global reserve currency, Britannia ruled the waves and official government policy was that the Royal Navy must at all times exceed the strength of the next two largest navies combined? Or 2017 as only the sixth (or so) largest global economy? I don't think I need to answer that. America's growth as a superpower in the intervening decade has not made living standards here worse, and there is little reason to think that growth of economies like China should do that for USA.

Views expressed here are US-centric, partially because of where the OP is located and partly because the US is the worlds superpower today.  Agreed, we all need to step back and look through other lenses and recognize our biases. This is helpful in all macro-analysis.

Regarding your point about the UK being just as good or better place to live today vs 1917.  This may be true, but remember the British Empire did not go silently into the night.  If I recall my history, the UK had a decades long ride on the "struggle bus" getting from there to here.  Was 1910 UK  better for most than 1915-1945?  It seems the period of change, as empires fall apart, where the worst problems arise.  Edit: These periods can span an entire lifetime.  30 years doesn't seem that long from a historical perspective, but from a perspective of a single life, its a very long time to muddle through.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Metric Mouse on March 12, 2017, 01:33:54 PM
I'm more of a "lounge in the life boat on the pool deck, drinking and listening to the band" than a "walk around with a life jacket" kind of guy. Love hearing your perspective though!

Even if the engines have stopped, it looks and sounds like there's water flooding into the lower decks, and balls all rapidly roll forward on the deck? :)

To flip a previous question, what would it take to convince you that your country was not in good shape and stood a decent chance of undergoing severe issues in your lifespan? And, what would you do about that?

"Don't worry, money takes care of it" is certainly a decent option, it's just that history says that such options have a way of stopping being options very quickly at times.
Even if all that is happening, it's dry and warm in my life boat. When the water reaches my deck I have to cast off my line so I don't get dragged under, which will take a bit of work, but then it's smooth sailing.

Honestly, to convince me, I will need to see oil prices begin to rise, food trucks from thousands of miles away stop showing up at my local grocery, food prices rising, unemployment rising, increased armed conflict in other western nations. While some of these things have happened at some times in the past few decades, there has been no total collapse of society. With America's natural resources and massive military power and geographic superiority, I  honestly see it being great for the longest, allowing people living within its borders the most time and greatest flexibility and resilience to decline.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on March 12, 2017, 02:39:35 PM
You know, I totally missed the "in a life boat" part of that. :)
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on March 12, 2017, 04:47:30 PM
Look, we all have access to the same facts and information.  You guys interpret it differently that I do. 

I don't know if you hang out at all in the Investors Alley on these boards, but I see this type of difference in thinking over there all the time.  The markets are at an all time high.  For some that means "great, keep investing its a wave".  For others it's "Red Dow is coming, crash, crash, crash!!" 

Again, everyone is working from the same set of facts, but the interpretation of those facts is vastly different based on your core view of the world. 

If you are so convinced of the fragility of the world that you're doing things like moving your family to a farm and investing in firearms and independent energy because S will HTF, that's a deeply, deeply embedded belief, and I'm pretty certain that nothing will ever change your mind about it.  Me (or others) pointing out that it hasn't happened yet is not convincing because your natural response is "it hasn't happened yet!  But it will.  Peak Oil!"  Or, if you go back to the height of the cold war, people were prepping because of "Nuclear holocaust".  In 20 more years they'll be prepping because of "Global Warming". 

Personally I think all of these things are real, but unlikely to cause serious disruptions that can't be worked around.  Even if we get results that are sub optimal, 'sub-optimal' is not the same as 'disastrous'.

It is funny though, the longer we go without a major disaster, the more some people feel like we are 'overdue' for one.  It's almost like they don't trust prosperity itself, and that being prosperous itself sets one up for a fall.  The idea that the world can get better and keep getting better is just a foreign concept.

BTW, I'm not speaking quite so directly to the people in this thread as much as musing on observations I've made after similar discussions with others in real life. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on March 12, 2017, 08:45:40 PM
Of course we don't have to spend our money on the military (nearly as much as all other countries combined).  We don't have to engage in endless war.  But these are the things empires do.     When the empire was extending it's reach and dominance, life was getting better for the average American.   For many people that simply isn't the case anymore.    The cost of empire is too great for the working class and they benefit from it hardly  at all anymore.    So far from being a red herring, this is the very heart of the problem.    It's not THAT our empire is declining (that could be a good thing) it's the WAY our empire is declining.   We're trillions of dollars in debt because we can't let go of our empire.    I'm doubtful that we'll have the wisdom to simply step back the way the British did and settle for 2nd or 4th or 8th place.

Certainly.  The UK stepping down and handing off control to that bunch of traitors across the pond is, historically, very unusual.

Empires normally spend their dying decades insisting that they're not dying, they still have it, and, look, this carefully chosen military engagement means that they still have it!  The song, "Glory Days," seems relevant.  "Man, we kicked ass in WWII, let's do that again!"  "Ok, well... that didn't work, but next time - next time, we'll really show them!"  On and on.

Views expressed here are US-centric, partially because of where the OP is located and partly because the US is the worlds superpower today.

Certainly.  I think Europe is likely to go through many of the same issues, but I simply don't know enough about it, and it's not particularly relevant to me.  As someone who lives in the US, intends to remain in the US (though I do have a valid passport), other countries just aren't something I pay attention to quite as closely.

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Regarding your point about the UK being just as good or better place to live today vs 1917.  This may be true, but remember the British Empire did not go silently into the night.  If I recall my history, the UK had a decades long ride on the "struggle bus" getting from there to here.  Was 1910 UK  better for most than 1915-1945?  It seems the period of change, as empires fall apart, where the worst problems arise.  Edit: These periods can span an entire lifetime.  30 years doesn't seem that long from a historical perspective, but from a perspective of a single life, its a very long time to muddle through.

"The foreshortening of history" is a term I've heard applied to this - looking back far enough, things feel like points in history.  WWI.  The Great Depression.  WWII.  On and on.  They're not points - they're often quite long periods for those living through them.  "A few years" sounds short, until that's the length of time you can't reliably get food at the grocery store (Soviet collapse) - days and weeks matter then.  Living through those times is a prerequisite of getting to the better times at the far end.

While some of these things have happened at some times in the past few decades, there has been no total collapse of society.

No, but those times haven't been great times to live through, and a reasonable amount of self sufficiency would go a long ways if we hit more rough patches.

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With America's natural resources and massive military power and geographic superiority, I  honestly see it being great for the longest, allowing people living within its borders the most time and greatest flexibility and resilience to decline.

That falls into the realm of, "Technically possible, politically infeasible."  If the US would, say, stop spending our huge chunk on the military and focus that money internally, on infrastructure and energy, we'd be in a much better spot.  But, we can't do that for a variety of reasons, and dying empires, historically, keep overreaching until they get their asses kicked, and even then don't manage to learn the lessons.  I expect that with the US - we're very unlikely to willingly contract our overseas military, and one day or another, we're going to get our asses kicked by a country that builds their military aircraft to win, not to be an endless funnel of money into the contractors involved (*cough*F-35*cough*).  And an awful lot of the US heavy bomber fleet is third generation - as in, "The third generation in a family has flown the same tail number."

I figure there's a decent chance that said ass kicking will probably happen closely in time to the general loss of the dollar as the global reserve currency (complete with a media blitz insisting that the dollar is still, totally, for real, the reserve currency), and then the nice little debt ball we've wrapped up will unwind in a hurry.  Very little good comes out of that.

Look, we all have access to the same facts and information.  You guys interpret it differently that I do.

Certainly, though the last election has demonstrated rather convincingly that people actively filter their news sources.

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I don't know if you hang out at all in the Investors Alley on these boards, but I see this type of difference in thinking over there all the time.  The markets are at an all time high.  For some that means "great, keep investing its a wave".  For others it's "Red Dow is coming, crash, crash, crash!!"

Historically, about the time that the lower-grade mainstream newspapers (think "USA Today") start talking about how the latest thing (tech stocks, house prices, tech stocks...) is the New Normal that can continue forever, said New Normal convincingly demonstrates that it was really a bubble by popping in an impossible-to-ignore manner.

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Me (or others) pointing out that it hasn't happened yet is not convincing because your natural response is "it hasn't happened yet!  But it will.  Peak Oil!"  Or, if you go back to the height of the cold war, people were prepping because of "Nuclear holocaust".  In 20 more years they'll be prepping because of "Global Warming".

"It hasn't happened yet!" in no way means, "It won't happen."  And per my understanding of events, the only real reason the Cold War didn't turn very radioactive during the Cuban Missile Crisis is that the Soviet diesel subs weren't reliable enough to make it across the ocean (something like 4 set out with nuclear torpedoes, one made it, and that one didn't launch a nuclear tipped torpedo while getting pounded with depth charges because of one man's decision).

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It is funny though, the longer we go without a major disaster, the more some people feel like we are 'overdue' for one.  It's almost like they don't trust prosperity itself, and that being prosperous itself sets one up for a fall.  The idea that the world can get better and keep getting better is just a foreign concept.

Again - foreshortening of history is required to make that "the world just keeps getting better and better" claim.  It doesn't matter if what came out of the failure of the Soviet Union is better (for some sense of better) if you don't live through the disruption involved.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on March 12, 2017, 09:03:40 PM
Right, and at this point we are officially talking in circles. 

I don't think that S will HTF at a level that's truly disruptive.  You do.  We aren't going to agree on this, it comes down to different perspectives. 

I will say this as a parting thought.  To my mind, if S really does hit the fan badly enough to be disruptive, you're going to need to do a lot more to survive it.   If the food supply and the energy supply ever become truly unstable, it's going to be very bad very quickly and a couple acres and some solar is not going to do anything to guard against that type of collapse.

Oh and I totally agree with you that our military spending is absurd and we'd be way, way better off re-investing that $$ into infrastructure and R&D for moving off oil & gas.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on March 12, 2017, 09:15:36 PM
It should help if I've got local community support and can scale quickly.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on March 12, 2017, 09:53:02 PM
It should help if I've got local community support and can scale quickly.

Agreed.  Community is key I think - in a real breakdown of national and international supply lines, local community is a critical part of self sufficiency.

Another option would be to just move.  I mean if you are FI, you'll have the means to get somewhere that's doing well and do it pretty quickly and easily.  If America is in decline, it's probably more of a local/state problem and less of a national issue.  IE, the Bay Area is doing way better than Flint Michigan.  If I lived in Flint and was FI, I'd move to some place like the Bay Area, or Denver, or Salt Lake City or Austin or any of a bunch of other prosperous areas. 

If those places were going down the tubes, then I'd look at other countries.  If your idea that America and Europe are in decline, then that means that there's some other area that must be on the rise (I mean, we have to have empires, right?).  So just move to whatever country is doing well.

Unless you feel the entire planet is on a permanent and dramatic SHTF scenario and there's literally no where to go? 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Taran Wanderer on March 12, 2017, 09:58:54 PM
Posting to follow.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on March 12, 2017, 11:20:32 PM
Another option would be to just move.  I mean if you are FI, you'll have the means to get somewhere that's doing well and do it pretty quickly and easily.  If America is in decline, it's probably more of a local/state problem and less of a national issue.  IE, the Bay Area is doing way better than Flint Michigan.  If I lived in Flint and was FI, I'd move to some place like the Bay Area, or Denver, or Salt Lake City or Austin or any of a bunch of other prosperous areas.

See, the problem with those places is that they are what I quite seriously call "Urban Shitholes."  I do not do well packed in with other people.  Multiple people have told me, quite seriously, that "You're why HOAs exist... I mean, you don't even see a problem with someone painting their house purple."  I live a few miles from someone with a very, very purple house now, and I see no issues.  Like, "You imagine a purple house" shade purple too.  Very, very purple.  And I see no problems with a vehicle or two as a work in progress.  Not on cinderblocks, though!  No, I'm classy.  I use jackstands!

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If those places were going down the tubes, then I'd look at other countries.  If your idea that America and Europe are in decline, then that means that there's some other area that must be on the rise (I mean, we have to have empires, right?).  So just move to whatever country is doing well.

Yeah, but I don't like the Chinese view on the world, and I don't speak Russian.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on March 12, 2017, 11:51:52 PM
Just don't let it turn you bitter.  I do in fact know people that predicted it was all going to shit back in the 70's and 80's and they ended up quite bitter that it never actually happened.  When you put yourself into a position to hope for bad outcomes, it is a very slipper slope.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Linda_Norway on March 13, 2017, 02:29:29 AM

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If those places were going down the tubes, then I'd look at other countries.  If your idea that America and Europe are in decline, then that means that there's some other area that must be on the rise (I mean, we have to have empires, right?).  So just move to whatever country is doing well.

Yeah, but I don't like the Chinese view on the world, and I don't speak Russian.

This is why many American FI's are moving to New Zealand, especially those who want to be prepared for when the shit hits the fan, with the shelter room full of storage. This was an article in the Guardian that I read recently. Those Americans think New Zealand is so far from everything, that it might have better survival chances. Apparently New Zealand has no problems with these immigrants who are wealthy.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman on March 13, 2017, 08:26:13 AM
Yeah, but I don't like the Chinese view on the world, and I don't speak Russian.

This is why many American FI's are moving to New Zealand, especially those who want to be prepared for when the shit hits the fan, with the shelter room full of storage. This was an article in the Guardian that I read recently. Those Americans think New Zealand is so far from everything, that it might have better survival chances. Apparently New Zealand has no problems with these immigrants who are wealthy.

Advanced degrees from western universities with experience working in the country seems to be the big thing you need to get into New Zealand. (At least I did their official online points calculator and managed to come in, barely, over the 100 pt cutoff to be eligible.) I imagine a couple dozen million dollars doesn't hurt though.

Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Metric Mouse on March 13, 2017, 08:47:26 AM
Yeah, but I don't like the Chinese view on the world, and I don't speak Russian.

This is why many American FI's are moving to New Zealand, especially those who want to be prepared for when the shit hits the fan, with the shelter room full of storage. This was an article in the Guardian that I read recently. Those Americans think New Zealand is so far from everything, that it might have better survival chances. Apparently New Zealand has no problems with these immigrants who are wealthy.

Advanced degrees from western universities with experience working in the country seems to be the big thing you need to get into New Zealand. (At least I did their official online points calculator and managed to come in, barely, over the 100 pt cutoff to be eligible.) I imagine a couple dozen million dollars doesn't hurt though.
This. Being rich is helpful, but being rich and having an in demand job seems to be even more helpful as far as immigrating to NZ. Whereas cental America will take people with large 'staches, NZ is a bit more picky from my research. Considering the last time I was held in a police station was in NZ, it may be even more difficult for me than an average mustachian to immigrate.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on March 13, 2017, 09:53:00 AM
Just don't let it turn you bitter.  I do in fact know people that predicted it was all going to shit back in the 70's and 80's and they ended up quite bitter that it never actually happened.  When you put yourself into a position to hope for bad outcomes, it is a very slipper slope.

There's a huge, huge distance between "hoping for bad outcomes" and "recognizing that bad outcomes are a possibility, and preparing to deal with some of them."  I put myself firmly in the second category.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: joonifloofeefloo on March 13, 2017, 12:03:38 PM
There's a huge, huge distance between "hoping for bad outcomes" and "recognizing that bad outcomes are a possibility, and preparing to deal with some of them."  I put myself firmly in the second category.

+1.

Bonus: 100% of my own (relative) wealth was built on that second approach.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on March 13, 2017, 03:18:32 PM
There's a huge, huge distance between "hoping for bad outcomes" and "recognizing that bad outcomes are a possibility, and preparing to deal with some of them."  I put myself firmly in the second category.

+1.

Bonus: 100% of my own (relative) wealth was built on that second approach.

You'd think a lot of people in this thread either don't wear seatbelts, or are depressed if they do wear seatbelts, based on some of the arguments made...
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: joonifloofeefloo on March 13, 2017, 03:39:49 PM
You'd think a lot of people in this thread either don't wear seatbelts, or are depressed if they do wear seatbelts, based on some of the arguments made...

lol, yes :)

I have an acquaintance who lands there, so have had opportunity to observe, explore, and discuss this in person. According to him, nothing bad will ever happen anywhere to anyone. So, he (in fact) wears no seat belt, leaves his tiny kids in a vehicle in an unsavoury area with the keys in, leaves same in unfamiliar house for hours in the night with no phone, breaks countless other laws (no concern for safety, jail time, etc), and so on. He describes himself as an optimist and people like me -who, oh, ensures there is an adult home at night with a four year old- as a pessimist. Different definitions, for sure...      Me, I feel like it's no skin off my nose to click my seatbelt in, and totally worth it to me to bring my kid with me. No biggie.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: dougules on March 13, 2017, 03:41:26 PM
Just don't let it turn you bitter.  I do in fact know people that predicted it was all going to shit back in the 70's and 80's and they ended up quite bitter that it never actually happened.  When you put yourself into a position to hope for bad outcomes, it is a very slipper slope.

There's a huge, huge distance between "hoping for bad outcomes" and "recognizing that bad outcomes are a possibility, and preparing to deal with some of them."  I put myself firmly in the second category.

You've also got to prepare for good outcomes.  Every preparation for a bad outcome comes with a risk of losing out on possible good outcomes.  You have to weigh risk in proportion to its likelihood as much as its severity.  I could spend half my stash on a shelter to get me through the next asteroid impact, but it would come at the risk of losing several years of FIRE. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman on March 13, 2017, 03:50:23 PM
Well one argument is that there are things you can do that prepare for both good AND bad outcomes.

That was my argument way, way, upthread: that having a significant, liquid, stash is a great preparation for both good outcomes (because you can FIRE) and bad outcomes (because you have the resources that would allow you to leave the city, region, country if things got bad).
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on March 13, 2017, 03:51:07 PM
You've also got to prepare for good outcomes.  Every preparation for a bad outcome comes with a risk of losing out on possible good outcomes.  You have to weigh risk in proportion to its likelihood as much as its severity.  I could spend half my stash on a shelter to get me through the next asteroid impact, but it would come at the risk of losing several years of FIRE.

And that's why my interest has been in things that are generally useful if things go well also.  Solar?  Perfectly useful going forward.  Gardens?  Also widely useful (seriously, store vegetables are so bland).

And a lot of options don't have an ongoing expense.  Having a year's worth of food in rotation (like the Mormons do) doesn't actually cost anything extra past that initial purchase, and if you're equipped for that type of food storage, you can find very nice bulk deals every now and then and buy six months or a year's worth of something-or-other when it's on sale for stupid-low prices.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Classical_Liberal on March 13, 2017, 07:41:52 PM
Well one argument is that there are things you can do that prepare for both good AND bad outcomes.

That was my argument way, way, upthread: that having a significant, liquid, stash is a great preparation for both good outcomes (because you can FIRE) and bad outcomes (because you have the resources that would allow you to leave the city, region, country if things got bad).

Right!

The "hunker down" vs "be mobile" variations of dealing with crisis.  As I eluded to before, my way is the latter.  This isn't because it provides some statistically significant improvement to survival rates in a peak oil nightmare scenario, rather its just one benefit of a lifestyle which compliments other goals & interests. Mobility has significantly increased income and savings rate for FIRE.  New skills have been refined which provide me with personal accomplishment, confidence, and independence.  My travel bug is being satiated while I earn, rather than having to spend. My carbon footprint is relatively low. I'm much happier than I was living in a fixed suburbia location. Prosperity or catastrophe, I'm living the life I want to live.  I'd really rather it be in prosperity, if not, oh well.

Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: joonifloofeefloo on March 13, 2017, 07:53:33 PM
The "hunker down" vs "be mobile" variations of dealing with crisis.

Yeah, I think that's it. I too prefer the cash + mobility approach, but I do think both (hunker/move) are perfectly valid and reasonable. Like C_L notes, if your choice lines up with your lifestyle preferences, you're gold. Mine is a bit of both: mobile myself over to those who hunkered down and could use an injection of dollars, labour, or skill in a tough time.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: baffi piu grandi on March 14, 2017, 09:49:42 AM
First time writer been lurking for several years.

Has anyone noticed the correlation between the RISE in Progressive Liberalism / Socialism and the decline in the USA that people imply.
The 1960's, the great give away that Senator / then President L.B. Johnson perpetuated to secure the minority vote. P.S. He was a true racist, however without the minority vote he would not have been elected. And this was a way of trapping minorities on the wheel of quid pro quo. Which is a race down a rabbit hole with only losers, we the people.

Instill good Family and Faith and conservative  values, ie: live within/under your means. Random acts of kindness, you will see our system will work.

There was a radio station in upstate New York that there sign on/off was and i believe still is "Be Big Be A Builder".

Progressive / Liberalism / Socialism does not build, it takes away from someone else work.

So my synopsis is you can sit on the fence and complain and become the problem, or get up and do something constructive, Capitalism is the only way.

If you don't believe me go to Cuba today 3/14/2017.

Go into a local store and TRY to buy toothpaste, suntan lotion, or anyone of a 1000 things we take for granted, PS you can not use a debit or credit card there, so bring cash and be ready for the cabbies that will try to rob you blind, because they cant make money off the locals.


I'm on the cusp of FIRE. My wife and children say pull the trigger.

you might try this website to run a Monte Carlo Retirement Simulation. I like including a higher stock market crash probability. I use  30% with 100% stocks  est. returns of 7% and inflation at 3%.

www.retirementsimulation.com


Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: baffi piu grandi on March 14, 2017, 10:07:14 AM
I forgot to mention I use 30% possibility of a crash in the market at age 67, figuring worst case .

In 1976 I received a windfall, I bought and sold a piece of property PDQ and walked with $7500 in about 60-90 days. All my friends told me I should by myself a new car, Volvo at the time was Hot. 

I did not buy a new car, my 1949 Plymouth had taken me across country several times and was fun to drive, wish i still had it!!

I invested those dollars in the market, not a great time. I have never added to that account, however I always reinvested dividends etc. $7500 is now sitting at plus $500,000.

Just saying. I love CAPITALISM...
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: joonifloofeefloo on March 14, 2017, 10:23:37 AM
^ A lot of folks on the forum are economically conservative and socially liberal. I.e., We don't have to restrict who people are in order to implement sound financial policy. Diversity, support for the less-lucky, and financial sense can all happen at the same time :)       I look forward to that world.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman on March 14, 2017, 11:17:04 AM
Well said jooniperberries.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: baffi piu grandi on March 14, 2017, 06:33:37 PM
A lot of folks on the forum are economically conservative and socially liberal. I.e., We don't have to restrict who people are in order to implement sound financial policy. Diversity, support for the less-lucky, and financial sense can all happen at the same time :)       I look forward to that world.

Social Liberal means many things. On one level what a person does in their bedroom is there own business.

Diversity and support for the less lucky, this can be dissected many ways.

Diversity sounds like affirmative action, is that what you mean? If so does it build self esteem to tell a person your not good enough but because your________. We will lower the standards.

Support for the less lucky, from a government entity, never works, churches and families are what work and build people up. Government hand outs are just a demeaning trap.

Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: joonifloofeefloo on March 14, 2017, 07:17:57 PM
Diversity sounds like affirmative action, is that what you mean?

No.

Support for the less lucky, from a government entity, never works...

It did for me. And thousands of my clients... And countless friends... And some neighbours...

, churches and families are what work and build people up.

I'm sure they do for some people, in some cases. (It wasn't so for me, and for others in toxic families or congregations.)

Government hand outs are just a demeaning trap.

They weren't for me. For me, they were necessary, life-changing, and I would daresay lifesaving. Professional reports share that opinion. (Thank you governments, social workers, support staff, and the medical folks who ensured I received those!)
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Just Joe on March 15, 2017, 10:04:01 AM
Some of Cuba's problems are related to the embargo the American gov't imposed on them. They may have done as good as they could considering the circumstances. If you study their history - their embrace of communism was at least partially in response to monopoly situations where the owners paid workers tiny wages. A little studying reveals that this same situation was the origin of communism in other countries as well. Communism might not have come to be the primary political system but it shaped politics. Italy is one example I know pretty well.

Churches CAN be a positive influence but some fail to ever become a positive one and instead become exclusionary or abusive.

Capitalism is fine and dandy but taken to its extremes can create a monopoly situation that takes away opportunities to excel and prosper from everyone else. This goes back centuries and there are many, many examples to read about.

We as a country have internal needs that need to be addressed more so than a military larger than any other in the history of mankind. ACA Healthcare is a big topic that the GOP is hellbent on tearing apart probably b/c it represents a cash cow for some of the largest GOP supporters. So buying bullets and bombs are more important than taking care of each other? The American political playbook is worn out. Time to do what is right for the majority of Americans and quit just making the rich richer. Time to quit demonizing people b/c of who they are born (sexuality, gender, ethnicity, religion, etc).
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Telecaster on March 15, 2017, 10:16:33 AM
First time writer been lurking for several years.

Has anyone noticed the correlation between the RISE in Progressive Liberalism / Socialism and the decline in the USA that people imply.
The 1960's, the great give away that Senator / then President L.B. Johnson perpetuated to secure the minority vote. P.S. He was a true racist, however without the minority vote he would not have been elected. And this was a way of trapping minorities on the wheel of quid pro quo. Which is a race down a rabbit hole with only losers, we the people.


It is an interesting theory, except the standard of living is vastly better now than it was in the 1960s, especially for minorities. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on March 15, 2017, 10:32:12 AM
Some of Cuba's problems are related to the embargo the American gov't imposed on them. They may have done as good as they could considering the circumstances. If you study their history - their embrace of communism was at least partially in response to monopoly situations where the owners paid workers tiny wages. A little studying reveals that this same situation was the origin of communism in other countries as well. Communism might not have come to be the primary political system but it shaped politics. Italy is one example I know pretty well.

Churches CAN be a positive influence but some fail to ever become a positive one and instead become exclusionary or abusive.

Capitalism is fine and dandy but taken to its extremes can create a monopoly situation that takes away opportunities to excel and prosper from everyone else. This goes back centuries and there are many, many examples to read about.

We as a country have internal needs that need to be addressed more so than a military larger than any other in the history of mankind. ACA Healthcare is a big topic that the GOP is hellbent on tearing apart probably b/c it represents a cash cow for some of the largest GOP supporters. So buying bullets and bombs are more important than taking care of each other? The American political playbook is worn out. Time to do what is right for the majority of Americans and quit just making the rich richer. Time to quit demonizing people b/c of who they are born (sexuality, gender, ethnicity, religion, etc).

This is true - capitalism does tend toward monopolism.  We learned that in the US the hard way (hello Standard Oil) so we have anti-monopoly regulation.  But the truth is that the nature of the beast is to aggregate a lot of money and power into the hands of a few.  That's the whole reason we have anti-trust, anti-monopoly and anti-insider trading rules at all.  Because people did self-serving crap which screwed over everyone else, and ended up super wealthy and powerful as a result. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: FI4good on April 30, 2017, 03:26:08 PM
My money is invested the USA .

Population there looks good although not a bell shape it isn't an inverted bell like japan, Taiwan or recently the UK ( possibly the uk will get worse post brexit due to limiting immigration ) .

The markets in the USA are attractive to world class business, why else would Alibaba be there, being a constituent of the s&p 500 or DJIA is huge , money from around the world floods in, in investment .

The US economy is huge, if it sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold, this is still true . on a relative wealth basis if the USA declines so will everywhere else.

The USA is the bread basket of the world and it supplies huge amounts of cheap food . Really when it comes down to it food is the basic building block of an economic system you have an abundance.

Also it's hugely wealthy in natural resources coal, oil, natural gas, fish , animals , land .
 
The dollar is the worlds reserve in currency , do you think i invest or look for companies doing the bulk of their business in £ sterling that goes up and down like a yo-yo .. walk along any street in the world with gold coins , US dollars or bitcoin nearly everyone willing to take payment in a non local currency would choose the USD.

If yellowstone blows then the whole world has had it , the second largest natural disaster i can think of happening is the san andreas fault levelling SF, even then the USA has the power and dynamism , the human capital and can do attitude to bounce back .

Where else is my money safe ?
 china & hong kong in the hands of the communists and bureaucrats, the isolationist and possibly breaking up UK ? the EU with its unemployment and pension issues in the south, with the north footing the bill ? japan with an ageing population and decline in births and lacklustre growth ? India with its bureaucrats and restrictive markets ?  maybe NZ or Australia but the population is relatively small for a diverse economy there is no MGM or Disney to speak of there, a few good miners ..

Nope it's USA all the way for me or should i say the mega-corps listed on the markets there. It's the only game in town and in my opinion the people who own the world, do a lot to make sure it stays that way.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on April 30, 2017, 07:02:35 PM
The US economy is huge, if it sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold, this is still true . on a relative wealth basis if the USA declines so will everywhere else.

And if the US catches a cold? :)

Quote
The USA is the bread basket of the world and it supplies huge amounts of cheap food . Really when it comes down to it food is the basic building block of an economic system you have an abundance.

I certainly agree that we have a lot of cheap food - but that cheap food is heavily based on diesel, rock phosphorous, and other non-renewable inputs.

Unfortunately, it does seem that the cheap food is "fucking awful" for humans.
 
Quote
The dollar is the worlds reserve in currency , do you think i invest or look for companies doing the bulk of their business in £ sterling that goes up and down like a yo-yo .. walk along any street in the world with gold coins , US dollars or bitcoin nearly everyone willing to take payment in a non local currency would choose the USD.

USD is certainly the world's reserve currency - right up until it isn't.  Russia, China, and a good chunk of Europe are working to make that not the case anymore.  The US's addiction to debt works quite nicely - as long as we're the reserve currency.  And given US politician tendencies to not really do much useful, we'll keep trying to print money long after we're no longer the reserve currency.  Which will kind of suck once reality does what reality does to such situations.

Quote
If yellowstone blows then the whole world has had it , the second largest natural disaster i can think of happening is the san andreas fault levelling SF, even then the USA has the power and dynamism , the human capital and can do attitude to bounce back .

Yellowstone is a problem.  Flattening SF?  *shrug*  The world will survive.

Quote
Nope it's USA all the way for me or should i say the mega-corps listed on the markets there. It's the only game in town and in my opinion the people who own the world, do a lot to make sure it stays that way.

And when that game stops working?  What then?

History shows, rather clearly, that empires eventually stop being empires.  And when they refuse to admit it, it ends poorly.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: former player on May 01, 2017, 02:45:58 AM
maybe NZ or Australia but the population is relatively small for a diverse economy there is no MGM or Disney to speak of there
Sounds perfect.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: albireo13 on May 01, 2017, 04:36:48 AM
I'm more worried about our own government (US) raiding the SS system down the road.
Politicians have already talked about such things.

Our national SS resources sit there like a Twinkie sits on a plate in a room full of hungry fat kids!
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on May 01, 2017, 07:07:44 AM
I'm more worried about our own government (US) raiding the SS system down the road.
Politicians have already talked about such things.

Our national SS resources sit there like a Twinkie sits on a plate in a room full of hungry fat kids!

I just treat SS as a tax. I don't expect a thing out.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: boarder42 on May 01, 2017, 07:11:57 AM
I'm more worried about our own government (US) raiding the SS system down the road.
Politicians have already talked about such things.

Our national SS resources sit there like a Twinkie sits on a plate in a room full of hungry fat kids!

I just treat SS as a tax. I don't expect a thing out.

the social disruption that would be caused by 0 payout would be monumental.  that being said i treat it the same way since we'll quit around 35-37.  too difficult to plan that in IMO. b/c we know ages likely will change. i doubt highly it goes to 0 unless the US govt dissolves, then thats a different story.  Some form of universal income is likely to exist by the time our generation reaches 70 anyways.  AI is coming fast.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on May 01, 2017, 07:18:41 AM
Ages will creep up, payouts will go down in real terms (failing to track inflation is a useful way to do this), and I expect at some point in the next 30-someodd years it will become means tested to avoid "giving rich people more government money they don't deserve or need" - or whatever the popular phrasing at the time is.

The means testing is the most likely to impact RE types - and that would drive payouts to zero.

I'm a whole lot less optimistic about basic income. I know paying people to do nothing sounds popular, and I don't think the US will make it happen.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: PizzaSteve on May 01, 2017, 07:57:20 AM
I'm more worried about our own government (US) raiding the SS system down the road.
Politicians have already talked about such things.

Our national SS resources sit there like a Twinkie sits on a plate in a room full of hungry fat kids!
You do know that the SS Trust fund is just IOUs from young US workers to older US workers, right?  Payments are funded from current taxes.  If there is a surplus they buy govt debt with it. So i am assuming by raid you mean lowering or taxing future benefit payments.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Rimu05 on May 01, 2017, 08:46:34 AM
We are only at the tip of the iceberg, of a new industrial revolution.....thanks to technology.

THe vast majority of the world is just beginning to consume online content and have access to e commerce.

In 2025, you can FIRE into the matrix.


This its incredible that people see us as peaking right now.  we're 5 years away from every device talking to everything cars driving themselves everywhere. and not as reliant on their sensors anymore but their communication with other cars.  20 years from now you wont be able to drive a car on the interstate you will have to have an self driving car etc.  the growth of AI is coming at an exponential pace b/c it can learn and teach itself now. 

The future to me looks much more like wall-e and the jetsons than the aftermath of world war 3 .

 
I guess many people are luddites. I work in technology, so I have a unique insight into how rapidly it's changing the world around us. We can't even begin the fathom how much advancement is ahead of us in the next decade or two. It's going to be a VERY different world folks, grab your popcorn.

I think a lot of us though adjust to technology and reduce it to mundaneness (is that even a word?). Furthermore, when new technology is introduced, it doesn't just rock our socks off over night and often, it's not very accessible. I mean has there ever been life changing technology that has been instantly accessible to the masses? From a car to computers, these initially cost a fortune. Even now the electric car is very pricy. Self driving cars too have been around for a couple of years now but it's not accessible. Another funny thing is with technological improvements we look back and marvel at how things we thought were amazing now are just not. I mean, have you ever whipped out your playstation 2 and every game you thought was amazing just looks terrible. Heck, now virtual reality gaming is slowly becoming a thing.

I'm not sure the future looks like the Jetsons or Wall-e on account of billions of people not having access to things like clean water. While there are amazing technological advancements being made around the world, there is also the opposite side without access to any of it much less basic necessities.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: boarder42 on May 01, 2017, 10:00:23 AM
We are only at the tip of the iceberg, of a new industrial revolution.....thanks to technology.

THe vast majority of the world is just beginning to consume online content and have access to e commerce.

In 2025, you can FIRE into the matrix.


This its incredible that people see us as peaking right now.  we're 5 years away from every device talking to everything cars driving themselves everywhere. and not as reliant on their sensors anymore but their communication with other cars.  20 years from now you wont be able to drive a car on the interstate you will have to have an self driving car etc.  the growth of AI is coming at an exponential pace b/c it can learn and teach itself now. 

The future to me looks much more like wall-e and the jetsons than the aftermath of world war 3 .

 
I guess many people are luddites. I work in technology, so I have a unique insight into how rapidly it's changing the world around us. We can't even begin the fathom how much advancement is ahead of us in the next decade or two. It's going to be a VERY different world folks, grab your popcorn.

I think a lot of us though adjust to technology and reduce it to mundaneness (is that even a word?). Furthermore, when new technology is introduced, it doesn't just rock our socks off over night and often, it's not very accessible. I mean has there ever been life changing technology that has been instantly accessible to the masses? From a car to computers, these initially cost a fortune. Even now the electric car is very pricy. Self driving cars too have been around for a couple of years now but it's not accessible. Another funny thing is with technological improvements we look back and marvel at how things we thought were amazing now are just not. I mean, have you ever whipped out your playstation 2 and every game you thought was amazing just looks terrible. Heck, now virtual reality gaming is slowly becoming a thing.

I'm not sure the future looks like the Jetsons or Wall-e on account of billions of people not having access to things like clean water. While there are amazing technological advancements being made around the world, there is also the opposite side without access to any of it much less basic necessities.

there is about to be a car released for 35k that has the option to drive itself.  in today's consumer america thats a car available to the masses. which means in 6 years i can buy the old tech version of it people dont want for pennies on the dollar.  the biggest question will be.  is it still getting updates.  cars unlike phones arent disposable every 2-3 years and musk has indicated he will not make things retrofitable.  the question is to what level will the car still be updated so it can still drive itself.

as far as the 3rd world countries i see your point. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Classical_Liberal on May 01, 2017, 11:33:53 AM
Large scale technological change brings with it large scale social change.  The industrial revolution brought then end of agrarian society, which in turn brought a huge increase in standard of living for Western countries.  It eventually lead to the consumerist culture so many on this forum rally against, so one could argue it's not all good.

The current technology revolution has many differences from previous changes. Perhaps chiefly the speed (ie timeline) at which these changes can affect the daily lives of the masses.  A point OP has made many times is that these transitions may end up good (but not guaranteed good) over the long term, but there can be substantial suffering in the short/mid-term.  It's easy to breeze over the very long transition periods of history where a large number of people suffered.  I wouldn't have wanted a family farmer in the 1880's, or made a living with horses in the 1910's.  These folks suffered, economically and socially. Maybe they were all Luddites, but I think its very difficult to truly predict the future and make changes in advance.  To think that we know the outcomes of technological changes decades in advance, even as an expert, is probably wishful thinking.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Jrr85 on May 01, 2017, 11:56:20 AM
I'm more worried about our own government (US) raiding the SS system down the road.
Politicians have already talked about such things.

Our national SS resources sit there like a Twinkie sits on a plate in a room full of hungry fat kids!

Well the good news is that unless the road you are traveling on is taking you back in time to 1983, you don't have to worry about that any more.

 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on May 01, 2017, 12:03:20 PM
Large scale technological change brings with it large scale social change.  The industrial revolution brought then end of agrarian society, which in turn brought a huge increase in standard of living for Western countries.  It eventually lead to the consumerist culture so many on this forum rally against, so one could argue it's not all good.

The current technology revolution has many differences from previous changes. Perhaps chiefly the speed (ie timeline) at which these changes can affect the daily lives of the masses.  A point OP has made many times is that these transitions may end up good (but not guaranteed good) over the long term, but there can be substantial suffering in the short/mid-term.  It's easy to breeze over the very long transition periods of history where a large number of people suffered.  I wouldn't have wanted a family farmer in the 1880's, or made a living with horses in the 1910's.  These folks suffered, economically and socially. Maybe they were all Luddites, but I think its very difficult to truly predict the future and make changes in advance.  To think that we know the outcomes of technological changes decades in advance, even as an expert, is probably wishful thinking.

You are in the wrong thread, the OP and others like him are convinced that there's a fundamental lack of sustainability with the present and we're in for a pretty dramatic downturn.  When exactly that happens, or whether it's an abrupt or gradual shift, and the duration of it are all a bit fuzzy.  But dammit, it's gonna happen!  Haha, sorry I know I shouldn't even post in this thread anymore because the OP and I simply disagree about this point. 

I did want to reply to Rimu05 though.


I think a lot of us though adjust to technology and reduce it to mundaneness (is that even a word?). Furthermore, when new technology is introduced, it doesn't just rock our socks off over night and often, it's not very accessible. I mean has there ever been life changing technology that has been instantly accessible to the masses? From a car to computers, these initially cost a fortune. Even now the electric car is very pricy. Self driving cars too have been around for a couple of years now but it's not accessible. Another funny thing is with technological improvements we look back and marvel at how things we thought were amazing now are just not. I mean, have you ever whipped out your playstation 2 and every game you thought was amazing just looks terrible. Heck, now virtual reality gaming is slowly becoming a thing.

I'm not sure the future looks like the Jetsons or Wall-e on account of billions of people not having access to things like clean water. While there are amazing technological advancements being made around the world, there is also the opposite side without access to any of it much less basic necessities.

Rimu, I hear you about what seems like a basic inequality.  More work needs to be done.  But as an optimist (and someone that is data driven), here's some interesting data points to know, re: quality of life now for people around the world:

(https://singularityhub.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/more-abundance-charts-11.png)

(https://singularityhub.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/more-abundance-charts-21.png)

(https://singularityhub.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/more-abundance-charts-41.png)

(https://singularityhub.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/more-abundance-charts-91.png)

(https://singularityhub.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/more-abundance-charts-101.png)

(https://thehigherlearning.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/world-stats3.png)

(http://ceoworld.biz/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Democracy.jpg)

Could things be more equitable?  Yes, absolutely.  But don't let that obscure that humanity has made some incredible strides across the world. 

And everyone benefits from this - as the rest of the world comes out of poverty, it adds to the overall robustness of the world itself.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on May 01, 2017, 12:08:20 PM
You are in the wrong thread, the OP and others like him are convinced that there's a fundamental lack of sustainability with the present and we're in for a pretty dramatic downturn.  When exactly that happens, or whether it's an abrupt or gradual shift, and the duration of it are all a bit fuzzy.  But dammit, it's gonna happen!  Haha, sorry I know I shouldn't even post in this thread anymore because the OP and I simply disagree about this point.

Yup.  We use radically more each year than the (finite) planet we live on can recover.  It's by definition unsustainable.

We live in a nation that believes it can spend more than it brings in, every year, indefinitely.  That's another thing that, throughout history, has been demonstrated to work - right up until it suddenly doesn't. 

Quote
And everyone benefits from this - as the rest of the world comes out of poverty, it adds to the overall robustness of the world itself.

And the destruction to the environment done from bringing the rest of the world out of poverty, or even just done by the US population, will catch up - eventually.  I'm glad I'm not living near one of the coastlines...
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on May 01, 2017, 12:14:02 PM
You are in the wrong thread, the OP and others like him are convinced that there's a fundamental lack of sustainability with the present and we're in for a pretty dramatic downturn.  When exactly that happens, or whether it's an abrupt or gradual shift, and the duration of it are all a bit fuzzy.  But dammit, it's gonna happen!  Haha, sorry I know I shouldn't even post in this thread anymore because the OP and I simply disagree about this point.

Yup.  We use radically more each year than the (finite) planet we live on can recover.  It's by definition unsustainable.

We live in a nation that believes it can spend more than it brings in, every year, indefinitely.  That's another thing that, throughout history, has been demonstrated to work - right up until it suddenly doesn't. 

Quote
And everyone benefits from this - as the rest of the world comes out of poverty, it adds to the overall robustness of the world itself.

And the destruction to the environment done from bringing the rest of the world out of poverty, or even just done by the US population, will catch up - eventually.  I'm glad I'm not living near one of the coastlines...

Oh, you know, one question I didn't ask before but I am curious about.  If you had a magic wand and could have people make the changes necessary to prevent the pending downturn, what would it be?
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Classical_Liberal on May 01, 2017, 12:31:18 PM
You are in the wrong thread, the OP and others like him are convinced that there's a fundamental lack of sustainability with the present and we're in for a pretty dramatic downturn.  When exactly that happens, or whether it's an abrupt or gradual shift, and the duration of it are all a bit fuzzy.  But dammit, it's gonna happen!  Haha, sorry I know I shouldn't even post in this thread anymore because the OP and I simply disagree about this point. 

Ha!  Maybe I am, but I do agree with his assertions that the current state of society is not sustainable. I do think western society has peaked and we are due for some very substantial changes that will be painful for many. What I may disagree with is extrapolating today's use of resources (or current state of affairs) decades or centuries into the future.  I don't think we can take a single point in time and then make an accurate model or future assumptions based on that point.  Rather, I believe, the model will change.  That may mean new technology allowing for continued standard of living increases (optimistic?),  it may mean a slow decrease of standard of living, or it may be fast & devastating change (pessimistic?). Nassim Taleb would probably say we refuse to acknowledge the vast amount of things we just don't know.

In any event, I am also curious to the answer of this:
If you had a magic wand and could have people make the changes necessary to prevent the pending downturn, what would it be?
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on May 01, 2017, 12:52:50 PM
Oh, you know, one question I didn't ask before but I am curious about.  If you had a magic wand and could have people make the changes necessary to prevent the pending downturn, what would it be?

"What magic wand could you wave to make a person live forever?"  It's the same question - civilizations and nations have their arc, and pretty reliably go through it.  There's no quick fixes.

At this point?  I don't think there's much that can be done - one of the things history teaches is that the only way to make a civilization last a very long time is to have things be very, very static - you get stability, but not much in the way of technological progress or anything.  You can have Egypt under the Pharoahs, which was very stable and long lasting, but had very little change over time, technological or otherwise.  China managed to find a way to maintain some sort of cultural thread through their repeated cycles, but it wasn't particularly stable over the long run either.  They just kept doing it over and over again.

There's no way to take a nation or civilization that's heading down the backside of their arc through history and turn it around that anyone has found, so far.

That said, things that would radically reduce the impact of what I view as the coming likely storms, and likely prolong the nation:
- A return to a focus on local manufacturing and local economies - and not debt-backed ones, either.  Those work great right up until they don't.  Having heavily distributed production facilities means that you don't lose as much when one area fails due to a natural disaster.  It's very inefficient, but "efficient" systems have little or no redundancy - look at Toyota when their one supplier of brake cylinders a few years back had a problem.
- A radical reduction in energy use - this would be the biggest one in terms of having an impact.  We should be designing housing to work with the local environment, not fight against it (typical suburban homes are uninhabitable without a lot of energy spent on climate control, and a properly designed home for the environment doesn't have that issue).  Renewable energy sources are fundamentally intermittent, and designing low energy housing systems that work with that goes a long ways.  There's no excuse for homes being built without solar hot water, proper thermal mass, earth coupling (if in a cooling dominated climate), proper solar exposure, etc.  Unfortunately, you can't retrofit that into a home easily.
- A focus on distributed food production - industrial scale food production has major problems if the debt and non-renewable resources (phosphorous is the most likely to get exciting soon) aren't available.  The same thing with distributed industrial capabilities applies here.

If we are going to try and maintain an industrial civilization, on top of that, I'd like to see a good high voltage DC grid built out for regional interconnection in the US (it's a lot easier than AC for long distance now), and I'm a fan of breeder reactors to make use of our waste sitting around (the amount of unusable nasty stuff in reactor waste is pretty small - most of it is either short lived or still entirely unburned and useful uranium).  But I'm not sure that building new reactors is a good idea at this point in our arc.

And then there are the cultural aspects.  We've passed the point where politicians are particularly useful - and people look at the political process mostly as, "What can I get for me out of who I vote for?"  Again, history shows that this doesn't end well.  I can dream of a few politicians with their heads on straight, but when the whole system is focused on short term thinking and funneling wealth to whoever scratched their back last, a few people don't make a difference.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on May 01, 2017, 01:07:21 PM
Ok, so that was a lot of text!  But thank you for the detailed reply.  I'll just point out a couple of places where I think we disagree the most, because a point by point rebuttal would be, well, pointless.  Haha!

You posit stability as the desired goal, and correctly point out that static cultures are very stable.  True.  But that means progress is the enemy of the stability.  I think that's true.  And I embrace improvement even if it causes some instability.  I'd rather live in 'unstable' 2017 USA than 'stable' 1500BC Egypt.  Sorry, but life is just better now.  Much, much better. 

I'm glad you brought up Toyota.  Because I think the system we have in place is actually self-healing.  Its becoming more robust over time, not less.  Having the problem with brakes caused Toyota some short term problems, but they are still around and doing  as well as ever. 

I am not sure that producing food locally is ever the answer.  The vast majority of local climates simply won't allow the production of enough food to support the populations that are there.  So you produce food where you can grow a lot of it easily and transport it to where it's not easily grown. 

And... well I'm going to stop typing because I can already feel my words having zero impact with you.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on May 01, 2017, 01:34:45 PM
Ok, so that was a lot of text!  But thank you for the detailed reply.

That was the summary... :/

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I'd rather live in 'unstable' 2017 USA than 'stable' 1500BC Egypt.  Sorry, but life is just better now.  Much, much better.

Certainly.  But, the thing that you don't seem to be willing to think through is, "What happens when that unstable 2017 USA does what unstable civilizations quite reliably do?"

If you agree that a static culture tends to be stable, and agree that if you want to see improvement (or change - I prefer "change" to "progress" as a description), you require an unstable society, then that unstable society is, one day, no longer going to exist.  Perhaps you expect things will remain stable enough for the remainder of your life?  If so, that's a reasonable enough approach.  I'm less optimistic, but I certainly understand my bias as a paid pessimist.

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I'm glad you brought up Toyota.  Because I think the system we have in place is actually self-healing.  Its becoming more robust over time, not less.  Having the problem with brakes caused Toyota some short term problems, but they are still around and doing  as well as ever.

No, it's not becoming more robust over time.  A robust industrial system is dreadfully inefficient, but shrugs if a supplier burns down because they've got months of parts stocked in the factory warehouses, and goes about trying to find a replacement at some point.  JIT is literally the opposite of robust.  It's a truck breakdown away from a line stoppage, in the ideal case.

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I am not sure that producing food locally is ever the answer.  The vast majority of local climates simply won't allow the production of enough food to support the populations that are there.  So you produce food where you can grow a lot of it easily and transport it to where it's not easily grown.

That then should raise the question, "Are those environments suited to having massive numbers of humans in them?"

Phoenix is uninhabitable desert without an insane amount of energy and water, as an example.

I would argue most coastal cities have radically exceeded the number of people that should be there as well, but more people keep piling in.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: joonifloofeefloo on May 01, 2017, 01:44:27 PM
Also, not all cultures relied on leafy greens and oranges -opting for the local whale fat and fermented fish, etc. Granted, previous peoples had much shorter life spans that we do now. I don't know that we should all have such long ones, though. And I think I'd prefer everyone live well for 30 years than a percentage live wildly well for 98 at the expense of others' wellness.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on May 01, 2017, 01:47:26 PM
See, and here's the problem.  The conversation starts out as "hey, we should change our behavior to stave off bad stuff" and always ends up with "well, it's the population itself that's unsustainable". 

So you start talking about what?  Population control ala China?  Mass planned starvations ala early USSR?  That's a lot of misery you're willing to inflict now, on actual living people, for the sake of something that 'might' happen in the future. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on May 01, 2017, 01:55:17 PM
Also, not all cultures relied on leafy greens and oranges -opting for the local whale fat and fermented fish, etc.

Sure - Vietnam has a great history of fermented food, because it works wonderfully for food preservation in their climate.

Quote
Granted, previous peoples had much shorter life spans that we do now. I don't know that we should all have such long ones, though. And I think I'd prefer everyone live well for 30 years than a percentage live wildly well for 98 at the expense of others' wellness.

Be careful - "Average lifespan" numbers normally include the infant/youth mortality rates.  If you survived to adulthood, expected lifespan was quite reasonable in a lot of cultures.

See, and here's the problem.  The conversation starts out as "hey, we should change our behavior to stave off bad stuff" and always ends up with "well, it's the population itself that's unsustainable".

Well, yes.  That does seem quite likely.  My focus for this thread was more on individual plans, not ways to forcibly reshape society.

I've made no claims about population control, though.  Nature has a way of handling excess population, eventually.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on May 01, 2017, 02:09:15 PM
That's the interesting thing about how we (as humans) reason.  We aren't objective, and what's reasonable to us (or not) depends upon our initial premises. 

For example, if your premise is that our current course is not sustainable, then nothing I post (or anyone else posts) will ever change that.  And vice versa. 

I see this all the time in the Investor Alley.  Stock markets are regularly hitting all time highs.  For some people it's "yay, more money things are going great".  For others, it's always "Now things are REALLY gonna crash!"

Crashes do happen, and nations do lose their spot at leader of the world.  But the world (and the market) march on.  Onward and upward. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on May 01, 2017, 02:15:38 PM
For example, if your premise is that our current course is not sustainable, then nothing I post (or anyone else posts) will ever change that.  And vice versa.

You say that...

Quote
Crashes do happen, and nations do lose their spot at leader of the world.  But the world (and the market) march on.  Onward and upward.

And then you follow up with that.

A 100 year view isn't useful to people if they can't feed their families today.  Read some of the stuff from people who lived through the transition period from the USSR to the current Russian government - it was not a pretty time.

And, again, I've been trying to focus on things that are useful either way.  If things go well, great.  I make a chunk of change selling home grown aquaponic fish at my local farmers market.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on May 01, 2017, 02:30:09 PM
Well, what you are doing is hedging against that temporary condition.  I can respect that.  At least you aren't advocating that no one be allowed to live past 30!  Or some other population control BS which always ends up with a lot of people getting murdered. 

I think Britain is a great example to look at - used to be the world leader, now it is not.  Would I rather live in Britain now, or in the 1800's?  Now.  For sure now.  Because it's a better place to live now than it was even 100 or 200 years ago. 

If you look historically at who tends to do well/best when things like that shift, it's usually the wealthy because they can be flexible in a way that the middle class and the poor cannot.  That's my plan.  Have a lot of $$.  Get the hell out of Dodge, if SHTF. 

Oh, which reminds me - one other question that popped into my head:  When do you think this will happen?  Our lifetime?  Kids lifetime?  100 years?  And do you think it'll be a gradual decline or a drop off the cliff decline/reset?
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on May 01, 2017, 02:34:35 PM
If you look historically at who tends to do well/best when things like that shift, it's usually the wealthy because they can be flexible in a way that the middle class and the poor cannot.  That's my plan.  Have a lot of $$.  Get the hell out of Dodge, if SHTF.

That's fair.  It works, if there's somewhere else to go, and you manage to get out with your head, which isn't always the case.

Quote
Oh, which reminds me - one other question that popped into my head:  When do you think this will happen?  Our lifetime?  Kids lifetime?  100 years?  And do you think it'll be a gradual decline or a drop off the cliff decline/reset?

I expect a long, gradual decline, which is what generally happens throughout history, and I think that it will certainly be noticeable within my expected lifetime.  I'm in a rural area, so it's likely to happen earlier here than in the coastal cities, but the coastal cities are going to have to figure out how to deal with the ocean increasingly trying to occupy their basements.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on May 01, 2017, 03:10:15 PM
If you look historically at who tends to do well/best when things like that shift, it's usually the wealthy because they can be flexible in a way that the middle class and the poor cannot.  That's my plan.  Have a lot of $$.  Get the hell out of Dodge, if SHTF.

That's fair.  It works, if there's somewhere else to go, and you manage to get out with your head, which isn't always the case.

Quote
Oh, which reminds me - one other question that popped into my head:  When do you think this will happen?  Our lifetime?  Kids lifetime?  100 years?  And do you think it'll be a gradual decline or a drop off the cliff decline/reset?

I expect a long, gradual decline, which is what generally happens throughout history, and I think that it will certainly be noticeable within my expected lifetime.  I'm in a rural area, so it's likely to happen earlier here than in the coastal cities, but the coastal cities are going to have to figure out how to deal with the ocean increasingly trying to occupy their basements.

Yes, agreed about the coasts.  Well, I guess they'll all just move to Denver.  Seems like they are already doing that anyway!  Haha, as I sit here and watch the real estate market here in Denver/Boulder/Golden go insane.

I guess my last question for you is this - do you think only the US is on a long slow gradual decline?  Or the world as a whole? 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: joonifloofeefloo on May 01, 2017, 03:20:06 PM
Be careful - "Average lifespan" numbers normally include the infant/youth mortality rates.  If you survived to adulthood, expected lifespan was quite reasonable in a lot of cultures.

Yes. But I also think we are new in living this long, that people died at 50/40/30 depending on the time and culture. i.e., Maximum expiry date vs average.

I'm saying I support local diet, even if that means shorter lifespans across humanity.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on May 01, 2017, 03:23:12 PM
I guess my last question for you is this - do you think only the US is on a long slow gradual decline?  Or the world as a whole?

"Yes"?

I think that the mostly global civilization known as "industrial civilization" will eventually complete its arc through history (not through the stars, notably).  However, the United States as a former empire is subject to some different forces that aren't applicable to all nations.  Things like our political dysfunction are probably going to be exported out eventually, but will hurt us more than some other countries.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Reynold on May 02, 2017, 12:49:17 PM

If you agree that a static culture tends to be stable, and agree that if you want to see improvement (or change - I prefer "change" to "progress" as a description), you require an unstable society, then that unstable society is, one day, no longer going to exist.  Perhaps you expect things will remain stable enough for the remainder of your life?  If so, that's a reasonable enough approach.  I'm less optimistic, but I certainly understand my bias as a paid pessimist.

The instability of the US system may be one of the things that keeps it going longer than might be expected, perhaps even "relatively" indefinitely.  Something it has that the earlier civilizations didn't is a lot of complex feedback loops.  Just as with ecosystems, very simple ones tend to be fragile, complex ones have some resiliency in that if you knock out a piece, something else will move in and replace it.  Capitalism, for all its faults, tends to have a lot of people in it who really want to help others resolve problems, for money (one reason for being FI).  Democracy, for all its faults, tends to have a lot of people in it's government who really want to help others resolve problems, for reelection.  Having the partially Federalist system the U.S. does even allows the luxury of running 50 simultaneous experiments on "what works". 

Thus, providing you don't have a sudden and catastrophic failure (asteroid strike, Carrington event solar flare, etc.) there tends to be time for someone to provide some solution.  It may not be perfect, but it should be able to keep up with oil getting harder to extract and going from $50/barrel to $100/barrel (already seen, and society adapted) to $200/barrel, with each increment making other supplies economically viable.  By the time it is $300/barrel, giving us European gas prices, a lot of alternative energy and storage schemes work, and somebody will be happily making money selling them to everyone. 

(Toyota)
A robust industrial system is dreadfully inefficient, but shrugs if a supplier burns down because they've got months of parts stocked in the factory warehouses, and goes about trying to find a replacement at some point.  JIT is literally the opposite of robust.  It's a truck breakdown away from a line stoppage, in the ideal case.

And yet you could still buy cars, even brand new ones.  Trucks were still bringing food to grocery stores.  I note that in my experience of the semiconductor industry, a few failures like that have gotten the major manufacturers to require their suppliers to have more than one production facility for critical supplies.  There will still be issues like that in the future, and companies that go out of business because of it, but it won't take down a large, modern economy.   

(local food)
That then should raise the question, "Are those environments suited to having massive numbers of humans in them?"

Phoenix is uninhabitable desert without an insane amount of energy and water, as an example.

I would argue most coastal cities have radically exceeded the number of people that should be there as well, but more people keep piling in.

If Phoenix produces and "exports" enough value to pay for the energy and water it uses, it will continue to survive, if it doesn't, it will wither.  Though be cautious about predicting the latter, even Detroit may be having a bit of a rebound.  There are a lot of cities in the U.S. that had pretty horrible down towns in the 1970s who have revitalized them, so things can turn around on a local level.  I agree that a city in the desert is terribly inefficient, but for some odd reason, governments that try to centrally plan who will live where and do what based on efficiency don't seem to have either thriving economies or very happy people.   

Coastal cities are an even easier case, they will be able to afford to desalinate water, and they have good, cheap water based supply lines.   I'm also not sure who gets to decide how many people *should* be in a city.  As Zubrin's book, "Merchants of Despair" points out, there is a very good correlation between more people interacting and progress of civilization.  Pretty densely populated areas seem to spawn a lot of the innovation in our society, which includes solving problems as well as generating new ones. 
 

Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Jrr85 on May 02, 2017, 02:34:51 PM
I guess my last question for you is this - do you think only the US is on a long slow gradual decline?  Or the world as a whole?

"Yes"?

I think that the mostly global civilization known as "industrial civilization" will eventually complete its arc through history (not through the stars, notably).  However, the United States as a former empire is subject to some different forces that aren't applicable to all nations.  Things like our political dysfunction are probably going to be exported out eventually, but will hurt us more than some other countries.

This is what is going to make it difficult for people worried about the U.S. declining.

Pretty much all of Western Europe and the U.S. have entitlement systems that are going to create a sovereign debt crisis or quite a bit of political upheaval from telling a bunch of people who are (or expected to be) wards of the state that they can't afford to pay what was "promised" to them or from telling the working population that they are going to have to pay crushing taxes to pay for entitlements, or more likely that working people are going to get to enjoy a crushing tax burden but that instead of receiving government services in return, the government is just going to send all that tax revenue to old people.

Then you have China that is going to have a demographic crisis caused by its one child policy, presumably before it has a chance to get rich enough to manage it like Japan has. 

I guess India is a candidate for the next economic engine of the world, but India still has a lot of growing pains to go through and plenty of opportunities to misstep. 

There will presumably be smaller, less developed countries that have developed a respect for the rule of law and property rights (maybe Chile? Estonia?), but even if they were open to accepting anybody with money to emigrate, where is all the money going to go?  If the U.S. is starved for revenue, is there going to be a dominate stock market where you can put your money in an index fund and be reasonably certain that your money is safe over time? 

I think we are advanced enough that the above scenario won't mean starvation and despair, but I do think it is going to make it hard to simply change countries and retire on a simple index fund portfolio.  At least for the people that wait until after the slide is eminent.     



Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Telecaster on May 02, 2017, 03:37:14 PM

This is what is going to make it difficult for people worried about the U.S. declining.

Pretty much all of Western Europe and the U.S. have entitlement systems that are going to create a sovereign debt crisis or quite a bit of political upheaval from telling a bunch of people who are (or expected to be) wards of the state that they can't afford to pay what was "promised" to them or from telling the working population that they are going to have to pay crushing taxes to pay for entitlements, or more likely that working people are going to get to enjoy a crushing tax burden but that instead of receiving government services in return, the government is just going to send all that tax revenue to old people.

Facts not in evidence.   Medicare and Social Security are not in particularly bad shape.  Medicare in particular has been in far worse shape in the past than it is now.  Back in the early 1980s for example.   And only modest tax increases would keep both programs solvent for decades more.  In the past, taxes have been raised  to fund both programs without any particular political or social upheaval.  In the case of Social Security, benefits have been reduced as well, by increasing the age for full benefits and even instituting taxes on the benefits.   Again, no particular political or social upheaval followed. 

That says to me those same things could happen in the future without any real issues.  And in general taxes have been higher in previous decades, particularly for the wealthy.  For example, at one time the top marginal rate was 90%.   Capital gains taxes were raised to 28% back in 1987 and weren't rolled back until the late 1990s.      Point is, there are many solutions to these problems that have already been tried, including tax increases and benefit cuts.  And again, we only need modest changes.

One thing that won't happen in this country is a sovereign debt crisis.   We're only one country and we control our own currency.   It could happen in a country like Greece, where they don't control their own currency. 

Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Jrr85 on May 02, 2017, 05:11:44 PM

This is what is going to make it difficult for people worried about the U.S. declining.

Pretty much all of Western Europe and the U.S. have entitlement systems that are going to create a sovereign debt crisis or quite a bit of political upheaval from telling a bunch of people who are (or expected to be) wards of the state that they can't afford to pay what was "promised" to them or from telling the working population that they are going to have to pay crushing taxes to pay for entitlements, or more likely that working people are going to get to enjoy a crushing tax burden but that instead of receiving government services in return, the government is just going to send all that tax revenue to old people.

Facts not in evidence.   Medicare and Social Security are not in particularly bad shape.  Medicare in particular has been in far worse shape in the past than it is now.  Back in the early 1980s for example.   And only modest tax increases would keep both programs solvent for decades more.  In the past, taxes have been raised  to fund both programs without any particular political or social upheaval.  In the case of Social Security, benefits have been reduced as well, by increasing the age for full benefits and even instituting taxes on the benefits.   Again, no particular political or social upheaval followed. 

That says to me those same things could happen in the future without any real issues.  And in general taxes have been higher in previous decades, particularly for the wealthy.  For example, at one time the top marginal rate was 90%.   Capital gains taxes were raised to 28% back in 1987 and weren't rolled back until the late 1990s.      Point is, there are many solutions to these problems that have already been tried, including tax increases and benefit cuts.  And again, we only need modest changes.

One thing that won't happen in this country is a sovereign debt crisis.   We're only one country and we control our own currency.   It could happen in a country like Greece, where they don't control their own currency.

Just because you have your own currency doesn't mean you can't have sovereign debt in other currencies.  It's hard to imagine the U.S. having a sovereign debt crisis right now because what other currency would people demand the debt be denominated in?  But it's also difficult to imagine people continually loaning into the teeth of inflation.  The U.S. is a different case because of how dominant it has been and there aren't any likely rivals for reserve currency right now, but that is likely what will allow it to get bad enough to be a crisis. 

The U.S. could relatively easily reform entitlements from a finance perspective, right now.  But from a political perspective, it's much easier to continue racking up debt in a low interest rate environment until even without good safe alternatives, creditors are no longer willing to continue to lend to them at rates low enough to avoid a crisis, when the gap between promises and revenue cannot be easily bridged. 


 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tipster350 on May 02, 2017, 08:30:26 PM
I love the way "entitlements" is used, as if there is something wrong with anyone who dares to want Medicare and SS, and in effect drag the nation into dire financial consequences. I've paid into these programs my entire working life; I'm 56 years old. You are damn well right that I feel entitled to collect on what I paid for. It is so easy to shore up SS it's ridiculous, by simply removing the income cap on which the funds are collected. There is no factual basis whatsoever for saying or alluding to the idea that keeping the programs at their current payout will negatively impact our debt situation or any other situation.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman on May 02, 2017, 08:37:43 PM
One also has to remember the huge unfunded or underfunded pension obligations at the level of individual cities or states. They're good for another $7 trillion or so.

San Jose just passed a $40M/year tax hike that was promoted as "improving police response to reduce violent crimes and burglaries, speeding emergency response times, repairing potholes and streets, and expanding gang prevention." but 3/4 of the new revenue is actually just going to keeping up with growing spending on pensions. http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/02/20/will-san-joses-pension-costs-consume-revenue-from-new-taxes/
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Telecaster on May 02, 2017, 09:27:34 PM

Just because you have your own currency doesn't mean you can't have sovereign debt in other currencies.  It's hard to imagine the U.S. having a sovereign debt crisis right now because what other currency would people demand the debt be denominated in?  But it's also difficult to imagine people continually loaning into the teeth of inflation.  The U.S. is a different case because of how dominant it has been and there aren't any likely rivals for reserve currency right now, but that is likely what will allow it to get bad enough to be a crisis. 

The U.S. could relatively easily reform entitlements from a finance perspective, right now.  But from a political perspective, it's much easier to continue racking up debt in a low interest rate environment until even without good safe alternatives, creditors are no longer willing to continue to lend to them at rates low enough to avoid a crisis, when the gap between promises and revenue cannot be easily bridged. 


Why not? 

Inflation has been much, much higher in the past (see the 1970s and early 1980s) and US government bonds flew off the shelves. 

Similarly, in the late 1990s, the government was retiring debt, and there was a concern that there would be no government bonds at all in the future.  OMG!  What will anyone do without the risk-free return?   Are you absolutely certain that debt will always be increasing when we know for sure that's not the case?  Oh, and what does the inflation scenario do to that debt?  Crushes the value of those bonds, right? 

I'm just old enough I've seen several crisis come and go, and what we're looking at now seems like roses compared to the past.  Rose.  And I'm not even that old.  So if we're looking at comparatively great times--which we certainly are--then I'm not  sold on the doomsday scenario.  Right now, the country is in waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better shape than it has been at numerous times in the last several decades.  Somehow, the Republic survived.  And if you go back to the 1800s--not counting the Civil War--there were lots and lots of periods that were again, waaaaaaaaaaaay worse than anything we are seeing today. 



Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: cheapass on May 03, 2017, 08:08:17 AM
One also has to remember the huge unfunded or underfunded pension obligations at the level of individual cities or states. They're good for another $7 trillion or so.

San Jose just passed a $40M/year tax hike that was promoted as "improving police response to reduce violent crimes and burglaries, speeding emergency response times, repairing potholes and streets, and expanding gang prevention." but 3/4 of the new revenue is actually just going to keeping up with growing spending on pensions. http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/02/20/will-san-joses-pension-costs-consume-revenue-from-new-taxes/

I listened to an interesting podcast on this topic the other day. Apparently with this huge bulge of baby boomers retiring and straining the insolvent pension system we're going to see quite the disaster in the next decade or so. If taxes in these areas increase too much, they're going to see an exodus which will strain the system even more. Chicago/Cook County is losing many many taxpayers every year.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Jrr85 on May 03, 2017, 10:03:17 AM

Just because you have your own currency doesn't mean you can't have sovereign debt in other currencies.  It's hard to imagine the U.S. having a sovereign debt crisis right now because what other currency would people demand the debt be denominated in?  But it's also difficult to imagine people continually loaning into the teeth of inflation.  The U.S. is a different case because of how dominant it has been and there aren't any likely rivals for reserve currency right now, but that is likely what will allow it to get bad enough to be a crisis. 

The U.S. could relatively easily reform entitlements from a finance perspective, right now.  But from a political perspective, it's much easier to continue racking up debt in a low interest rate environment until even without good safe alternatives, creditors are no longer willing to continue to lend to them at rates low enough to avoid a crisis, when the gap between promises and revenue cannot be easily bridged. 


Why not? 

Inflation has been much, much higher in the past (see the 1970s and early 1980s) and US government bonds flew off the shelves. 

This argues against your point.  10 year treasury notes were paying anywhere from 6% to over 15% in the 1970's and 1980's.  Right now we pay around 6% of federal revenues on interest.  Even if we didn't increase our debt compared to GDP, tripling our cost of debt (which is what I think a change to 6% average weighted cost of debt would do) would put us up to 18% of federal revenues.  Slightly different scenario from the 70's and 80's. 

Similarly, in the late 1990s, the government was retiring debt, and there was a concern that there would be no government bonds at all in the future.  OMG!  What will anyone do without the risk-free return? 
That was a stupid concern and not related to anything at issue here. 

Are you absolutely certain that debt will always be increasing when we know for sure that's not the case?
Certainly not sure but we routinely have meltdowns when the federal and many state governments simply slow down the rate of their spending increases in areas no involving entitlements, significant increased entitlement spending is scheduled.   Barring a miracle on the productivity side (certainly possible with AI), it doesn't look like we're going to have the political will to bring spending in line with revenues without a crisis. 

  Oh, and what does the inflation scenario do to that debt?  Crushes the value of those bonds, right? 
  Which debt are you talking about?  If you are looking at just your typical government bonds, you can inflate your debt away, once, if you are running a primary surplus.  But depending on what you consider "debt", lots of government debt (primarily entitlements at the state and federal level, including pensions) adjusts with inflation.  So even if we get to a primary surplus and decide to inflate away our debt, without being willing to tell Social security, medicare, medicaid, pension recipients, etc. that they are going to bear some pain, it's not going to fix the problem.   

I'm just old enough I've seen several crisis come and go, and what we're looking at now seems like roses compared to the past.  Rose.  And I'm not even that old.  So if we're looking at comparatively great times--which we certainly are--then I'm not  sold on the doomsday scenario.  Right now, the country is in waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better shape than it has been at numerous times in the last several decades.  Somehow, the Republic survived.  And if you go back to the 1800s--not counting the Civil War--there were lots and lots of periods that were again, waaaaaaaaaaaay worse than anything we are seeing today.

What we are facing is pretty rosy in a lot of ways.  We have the economic capacity to produce way more than we need.  Our main problem is that the developed world has already promised multiples of our projected future production to different people, primarily bond holders and entitlement recipients.  If you're just worried about not starving to death, we're not facing a crisis.  If you are worried about preserving the assets that you live on, it's a little more challenging, as everybody is going to be a political target to prevent other people from having to bear any of the pain from promises that can't be met.   
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: maizeman on May 03, 2017, 10:41:44 AM
One also has to remember the huge unfunded or underfunded pension obligations at the level of individual cities or states. They're good for another $7 trillion or so.

San Jose just passed a $40M/year tax hike that was promoted as "improving police response to reduce violent crimes and burglaries, speeding emergency response times, repairing potholes and streets, and expanding gang prevention." but 3/4 of the new revenue is actually just going to keeping up with growing spending on pensions. http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/02/20/will-san-joses-pension-costs-consume-revenue-from-new-taxes/

I listened to an interesting podcast on this topic the other day. Apparently with this huge bulge of baby boomers retiring and straining the insolvent pension system we're going to see quite the disaster in the next decade or so. If taxes in these areas increase too much, they're going to see an exodus which will strain the system even more. Chicago/Cook County is losing many many taxpayers every year.

Yup. A number of cities in CA are in the same boat. Raising taxes to pay old pension obligations while cutting services, which makes the city a less attractive place to live, shrinking the population and property tax base, thus requiring further tax hikes and services cuts driving further population loss and property value declines and so on.

Would be interested in listening to that podcast if you'd be willing to post or PM me a link.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: cheapass on May 03, 2017, 11:00:42 AM

Would be interested in listening to that podcast if you'd be willing to post or PM me a link.

It's called Adventures in Finance, episode 11. I've listened to a few of their episodes and while I could do without all of their gum flapping about "time the market, short this, long that", there are some really interesting perspectives and ideas. I'd recommend checking out episode 6 as well.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Telecaster on May 03, 2017, 03:59:01 PM

This argues against your point.  10 year treasury notes were paying anywhere from 6% to over 15% in the 1970's and 1980's.  Right now we pay around 6% of federal revenues on interest.  Even if we didn't increase our debt compared to GDP, tripling our cost of debt (which is what I think a change to 6% average weighted cost of debt would do) would put us up to 18% of federal revenues.  Slightly different scenario from the 70's and 80's. 

That's not the way bonds work.   As interest rates go up, the value of the all the existing bonds goes down, so the price of debt service stays the same.    At least until those bonds have to be re-issued.  New debt of course is more expensive.   All that said, the inflation you speak of is an unlikely scenario.  The high inflation we experienced in the 1970s was due to an enormous spike in the price of oil coupled with easy money policies of Fed Chairman Arthur Burns.   Oil is now a much smaller portion of economy than it was then, and the Fed has set aggressive targets to keep inflation in check.   So I don't see that situation reoccurring.  Now, there could be a combination of unforseen future events that cause high inflation.  But there could also be a combination of unforseen future events that cause deflation too.  So I don't see why high inflation is the default assumption.

All that said, the original claim was that the U.S. government won't be able to issue USD denominated debt in the event of high inflation.   That's clearly not true, because it has been done in the past. 

Similarly, in the late 1990s, the government was retiring debt, and there was a concern that there would be no government bonds at all in the future.  OMG!  What will anyone do without the risk-free return? 
Quote
That was a stupid concern and not related to anything at issue here. 

Actually it is pretty central to what I am talking about.  In the early 1990s, the US went into a recession and was in worse financial shape than we are now, especially in regards to  deficits, debt service, and entitlements.   Ross Perot ran for president on those issues.   The result was Bill Clinton implemented a small tax hike and small adjustments to entitlement spending.   The result was in a few short years, we went from the "Panic!  The Deficit Monster is Coming to Eat Us!"  To, "Wow!  Look at all this extra money!"

A couple lessons there.  One is to be skeptical of straight line projections from now into the future.   The other is that not very long ago we faced worse problems and everything turned out fine, with minimal pain or agony.   Since the problem can be solved, and we know how to solve it, those problems don't seem particularly worrisome.   

  Oh, and what does the inflation scenario do to that debt?  Crushes the value of those bonds, right? 
Quote
Which debt are you talking about?  If you are looking at just your typical government bonds, you can inflate your debt away, once, if you are running a primary surplus.  But depending on what you consider "debt", lots of government debt (primarily entitlements at the state and federal level, including pensions) adjusts with inflation.  So even if we get to a primary surplus and decide to inflate away our debt, without being willing to tell Social security, medicare, medicaid, pension recipients, etc. that they are going to bear some pain, it's not going to fix the problem.   

You and I were both talking about bonds.     But if you want to include entitlements that's fine, but entitlements like Social Security and Medicare are paid for through future revenues.   As I pointed out before, payroll taxes have been hiked a bunch of times over the years, including a whopper by Ronald Reagan, who won election after he raised payroll taxes, so I don't see any particular structural barrier to doing so again, other than people don't like taxes in general.  But they don't like losing entitlements either.   Social Security benefits have also been cut, by by raising the age for full benefits and by taxing the benefits for upper incomes.   So that's possible to do again as well. 

Similarly, back in 2010 CMS estimated that Medicare would be insolvent by 2017--that's this year.  However, some structural changes were made to Medicare as well as small tax increase, and now Medicare will be solvent through about 2028, without any cuts to benefits.  I suspect most people don't realize that.  Point is, you don't need draconian or drastic measures to deal with these issues.  In most all cases, small changes are enough to make big differences down the road.   

Keep in mind as well,l that right now federal taxes in general aren't particularly high compared to the last 50 years or so, and if they were on the higher end of that range, most of these problems become pretty small.  If taxes have been higher in the past, they can be higher in the future as well.   

Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Jrr85 on May 04, 2017, 10:36:00 AM

This argues against your point.  10 year treasury notes were paying anywhere from 6% to over 15% in the 1970's and 1980's.  Right now we pay around 6% of federal revenues on interest.  Even if we didn't increase our debt compared to GDP, tripling our cost of debt (which is what I think a change to 6% average weighted cost of debt would do) would put us up to 18% of federal revenues.  Slightly different scenario from the 70's and 80's. 

That's not the way bonds work.   As interest rates go up, the value of the all the existing bonds goes down, so the price of debt service stays the same.    At least until those bonds have to be re-issued.  New debt of course is more expensive.   All that said, the inflation you speak of is an unlikely scenario.  The high inflation we experienced in the 1970s was due to an enormous spike in the price of oil coupled with easy money policies of Fed Chairman Arthur Burns.   Oil is now a much smaller portion of economy than it was then, and the Fed has set aggressive targets to keep inflation in check.   So I don't see that situation reoccurring.  Now, there could be a combination of unforseen future events that cause high inflation.  But there could also be a combination of unforseen future events that cause deflation too.  So I don't see why high inflation is the default assumption.
  Bonds absolutely work by an entity selling bonds, buyers giving that entity money (ignoring the intermediaries for simplicity), and then (hopefully) the issuer paying that money back.  So if you are running a primary deficit, and have an average maturity of 5-6 years, then your interest costs will basically lag the market by about 5-6 years.  It doesn't help that some of your older debt is now worth less because interest rates have moved against those bonds.  Yes, you could buy it back for cheap, but that's because it's your low interest rate debt.  Why would you go buyback your low interest rate debt when you are currently borrowing money at higher rates just to cover your current spending, even before you have to pay interest costs. 

All that said, the original claim was that the U.S. government won't be able to issue USD denominated debt in the event of high inflation.   That's clearly not true, because it has been done in the past. 
  That was not the original claim.  The original claim was that such an environment would cause the U.S. problems in the future.  In the 1970's, our debt to GDP was significantly different.  The U.S.'s interest rates went up (all the way to 15%), but that didn't mean that the U.S.'s interest payments were going to eat up 40% of federal spending (I'm not sure what the actual weighted average cost of debt peaked at, but say you split the difference and put it at 10% or even 8%, you're still talking about 20% plus of federal spending on interest on debt).   

Similarly, in the late 1990s, the government was retiring debt, and there was a concern that there would be no government bonds at all in the future.  OMG!  What will anyone do without the risk-free return? 
Quote
That was a stupid concern and not related to anything at issue here. 

Actually it is pretty central to what I am talking about.  In the early 1990s, the US went into a recession and was in worse financial shape than we are now, especially in regards to  deficits, debt service, and entitlements.   Ross Perot ran for president on those issues.   The result was Bill Clinton implemented a small tax hike and small adjustments to entitlement spending.   The result was in a few short years, we went from the "Panic!  The Deficit Monster is Coming to Eat Us!"  To, "Wow!  Look at all this extra money!"

A couple lessons there.  One is to be skeptical of straight line projections from now into the future.   The other is that not very long ago we faced worse problems and everything turned out fine, with minimal pain or agony.   Since the problem can be solved, and we know how to solve it, those problems don't seem particularly worrisome.   
I'm sorry, it was always stupid to assume that hitting a surplus for a few years, was going to be an endless problem.  There is never a problem finding enough voters that want lower taxes and/or enough handouts to cause a deficit.  And we didn't solve any problems.  We didn't think medicare and social security were set up to be funded long term.  We just kicked the problem down the road.  If you assume that we can continually raise taxes on workers and/or continually slash benefits, we don't have a problem.  But the longer we wait to do it, and the more reliance people place on receiving what they've been "promised" the more dangerous it is.   

 
  Oh, and what does the inflation scenario do to that debt?  Crushes the value of those bonds, right? 
Quote
Which debt are you talking about?  If you are looking at just your typical government bonds, you can inflate your debt away, once, if you are running a primary surplus.  But depending on what you consider "debt", lots of government debt (primarily entitlements at the state and federal level, including pensions) adjusts with inflation.  So even if we get to a primary surplus and decide to inflate away our debt, without being willing to tell Social security, medicare, medicaid, pension recipients, etc. that they are going to bear some pain, it's not going to fix the problem.   

You and I were both talking about bonds.     But if you want to include entitlements that's fine, but entitlements like Social Security and Medicare are paid for through future revenues.   As I pointed out before, payroll taxes have been hiked a bunch of times over the years, including a whopper by Ronald Reagan, who won election after he raised payroll taxes, so I don't see any particular structural barrier to doing so again, other than people don't like taxes in general.  But they don't like losing entitlements either.   Social Security benefits have also been cut, by by raising the age for full benefits and by taxing the benefits for upper incomes.   So that's possible to do again as well. 


Well, if you assume that entitlements won't be paid, then no, the bonds don't cause a problem.  But assuming we're not just going to tell retirees to go pound sand, that money is going to have to be paid from somewhere. 

And the point is that future revenues are unlikely to be enough, barring drastic tax increases, to pay for the future benefits. 

 
Similarly, back in 2010 CMS estimated that Medicare would be insolvent by 2017--that's this year.  However, some structural changes were made to Medicare as well as small tax increase, and now Medicare will be solvent through about 2028, without any cuts to benefits.  I suspect most people don't realize that.  Point is, you don't need draconian or drastic measures to deal with these issues.  In most all cases, small changes are enough to make big differences down the road.   
  If we would make small cuts right now, this wouldn't be an issue.  But we are a voting populace that elected Donald Trump and our backup was Hillarying freaking clinton.  We run ads depicting poilticians dumping the elderly off cliffs if anyone talks about being realistic about entitlements.  I'm a little skeptical that we're going to do anything while the pain will be small.  I think we're going to wait until the cuts/tax increases necessary will be significant. 

  Keep in mind as well,l that right now federal taxes in general aren't particularly high compared to the last 50 years or so, and if they were on the higher end of that range, most of these problems become pretty small.  If taxes have been higher in the past, they can be higher in the future as well.
  Federal revenues as a percent of GDP are above average right now.  We also have more burdensome state and local taxes.  We are also running up huge future debts right now at the federal and state level.  It'd be painful but doable to close that right now.  But the longer we wait, the more painful it will be. 

All that to say, I'm not saying it's eminent or unavoidable.  I'm just saying I'm skeptical we're going to solve the problem by suddenly acting reasonable through the political process.  It's going to have to be self-driving cars or other type of AI or something else that is not predictable that changes our trajectory.  I'm reasonably optimistic that something like that will happen.  But since I will be looking to have some assets when the Baby Boomer pinch is the worst, I just want to have some options. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: ChrisLansing on May 24, 2017, 08:08:55 AM
Quote
...My focus for this thread was more on individual plans, not ways to forcibly reshape society. 

Therein lies part of the problem of communicating between people with disparate views - some are relying on individual plans, while otheres believe "society" will find a way to deal with problems, so why worry?   

I'm largely in agreement with the sentiments expressed in the OP.   Our current energy intensive lifestyles are unsustainable and, IMO, this will be true even when solar power replaces fosil fuels.   

I see a slow gradual decline in our economy because we've organized ourselves on the basis of cheap ever abundant fosil fuels.    In reality fosil fuels are finite.   We've long passed peak oil production (extraction, to be more precise) in the USA and we are likely past peak production world wide.   That means either a decliine, as the oil and coal run out, or a change to another energy source.   

Many here seem to believe that we'll have a relatively seamless trasition to solar/wind power and that our industrial economy and energy intensive lifestyles can therefore continue indefintiely.    I'm not an engineer or scientist so it's difficult for me to say what exactly will happen.   I'm betting that the diffuse and intermittent nature of solar/wind means that the transition will not be seamless.    I doubt the energy intensity of oil/coal can be completely substituted for by sheer quantity of solar panels or windmills.    I might be wrong.     

I'm not predicting a return to cave dwelling and torches for lighting, but I think we'll be much more restricted in the future than we are now.   

To return to the quote at the top, the focus in this thread has been on individual response.   As much as I'm in agreement with the basic premises of the OP, and as much as I'm starting to respond, as an individual, to the situation, I don't really think that individual responses will be sufficient.   As a society we're going to have to figure out what to do about it.   Of course, at present, we don't even agree there is a problem so the solution (if there needs to be one) won't come about until things get considerably worse.   
 

Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: nara on May 25, 2017, 12:41:57 PM
I've heard the quote about all great civilizations inevitably collapsing again and again. However, what I think is different and unique to our time is that we are more integrated with other countries than ever before. Bogle & Buffet both do not believe in international diversification because if you are invested in the S&P500 you are already diversified due to the majority of US corporations being heavily invested in foreign markets. When corporations are more powerful than many small countries, are actually countries onto themselves--the old rules don't seem to apply. Maybe if the US collapses in some way, I don't necessary agree that the market will either..
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: caracarn on May 25, 2017, 01:31:47 PM
I've heard the quote about all great civilizations inevitably collapsing again and again. However, what I think is different and unique to our time is that we are more integrated with other countries than ever before. Bogle & Buffet both do not believe in international diversification because if you are invested in the S&P500 you are already diversified due to the majority of US corporations being heavily invested in foreign markets. When corporations are more powerful than many small countries, are actually countries onto themselves--the old rules don't seem to apply. Maybe if the US collapses in some way, I don't necessary agree that the market will either..

+1

If there is one thing that studying history has shown me, is that human ingenuity finds a way, and I will add to the fact that the integration created by the internet of all knowledge in the world is the differentiator.  Almost everything we consider important technology was invented hundreds or thousands of years earlier in China than it was in the Western World, yet that technology was not shared because of the difficulty in communicating it.  Now you can know anything learned anywhere in the world a few seconds after it is placed on the internet.  I've said many months ago in this thread, declines do not occur in a matter of weeks, they take a long time.  In the period of "decline" there are people building on the knowledge of others to make that incremental improvement that will solve the problem we currently face that was insurmountable.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on May 25, 2017, 02:08:40 PM
Therein lies part of the problem of communicating between people with disparate views - some are relying on individual plans, while otheres believe "society" will find a way to deal with problems, so why worry?

Certainly.  And assuming that "society" will figure it out is certainly easier than refactoring one's life to provide for more of one's own needs locally.

Quote
We've long passed peak oil production (extraction, to be more precise) in the USA and we are likely past peak production world wide.   That means either a decliine, as the oil and coal run out, or a change to another energy source.

But... but... ethanol!  I mean, uh, fracking!  I mean, uh, solar panel manufacturing!  My favorite phrase about oil in the US is along the lines of, "Fracking is the process of frantically scraping the bottom of the barrel, and pointing to the muck you extract as evidence that the barrel is still full."

Quote
I'm betting that the diffuse and intermittent nature of solar/wind means that the transition will not be seamless.

That's an understatement.  If we had paired nuclear base load with solar/wind for peaking, it would be a lot more feasible, but reliable solar/wind base load is just not a thing - even with batteries.  The amount needed to handle winter in regions of the country is insane.

Quote
As much as I'm in agreement with the basic premises of the OP, and as much as I'm starting to respond, as an individual, to the situation, I don't really think that individual responses will be sufficient.   As a society we're going to have to figure out what to do about it.   Of course, at present, we don't even agree there is a problem so the solution (if there needs to be one) won't come about until things get considerably worse.   

Oh, I don't think individual responses will make a bit of a difference at the societal level.  Just locally.  And offer some tested solutions that can scale in hyper-local climates.

The problem with waiting until things get considerably worse is that, usually, by the time people actually decide they should do something, it's far, far too late to do anything that would be useful.

However, what I think is different and unique to our time is that we are more integrated with other countries than ever before.

"But it's different this time!"

... and I will add to the fact that the integration created by the internet of all knowledge in the world is the differentiator.

"But it's different this time!"

A quite common phrasing throughout history - that doesn't seem to make a bit of difference.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Stachless on May 25, 2017, 02:48:01 PM
Bill Gates (and I) think (most of) you are all wrong!!!

If avid reader Bill Gates could give every member of the class of 2017 a graduation present, it would be, fittingly, a book. Specifically, a copy of "The Better Angels of Our Nature," by Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker.

"Pinker makes a persuasive argument that the world is getting better, that we are living in the most peaceful time in human history," the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft writes on Mic.

"When you tell people the world is improving, they often look at you like you're either naive or crazy," he says. "But it's true. And once you understand it, you start to see the world differently."

This level of optimism "doesn't mean you ignore the serious problems we face," he says. "It just means you believe they can be solved, and you're moved to act on that belief."
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Classical_Liberal on May 25, 2017, 05:36:25 PM
The world has improved greatly!  Over a very long-term span, if humans destroy ourselves completely, will likely continue to get better over time.  This improvement, however, is just like tracking the S&P.  Long term upward trend with very dramatic ups/owns in the short term.  The difference being "short term" in the scale of human history is decades or centuries that span multiple human generations. 

I just happen to think the last few generations are a bubble, this bubble is going to deflate as cheap energy runs out and we will have a "secular bear" for society.  How bad the bear is really depends on how well society prepares itself for the impending change (diversification).  It doesn't do anyone any good to say "hey, no worries, we'll come out of this in a few hundred years and society will be better than ever", when food and clean water become daily concerns again (as they have been through 99% of all human history).
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on May 25, 2017, 07:21:39 PM
I just happen to think the last few generations are a bubble, this bubble is going to deflate as cheap energy runs out and we will have a "secular bear" for society.  How bad the bear is really depends on how well society prepares itself for the impending change (diversification).  It doesn't do anyone any good to say "hey, no worries, we'll come out of this in a few hundred years and society will be better than ever", when food and clean water become daily concerns again (as they have been through 99% of all human history).

The problem is that industrial civilization is a one shot function.  All the easy resources are gone - you can't bootstrap an industrial civilization with deep coal mining and offshore fracking, if you don't have the resources.  There's plenty you can scavenge from the remains of the previous industrial civilization, but it's unlikely to get you to anywhere near the same level.

Also, those few hundred years in the middle, historically, suck.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Classical_Liberal on May 25, 2017, 09:12:08 PM
Also, those few hundred years in the middle, historically, suck.

Yes, that was really my point, which I evidently did not make clearly.

The problem is that industrial civilization is a one shot function.  All the easy resources are gone - you can't bootstrap an industrial civilization with deep coal mining and offshore fracking, if you don't have the resources.  There's plenty you can scavenge from the remains of the previous industrial civilization, but it's unlikely to get you to anywhere near the same level.

I agree, but in many ways most past civilizations were set up as "one hit wonders".  After an initial advancement that provides huge expansion, the advantage is lost through lack of additional resources or an equalization of technologies and the civilization back-steps or disappears.  If our current society used the remaining resources effectively, then the eventual disappearance of fossil fuel based energy would be felt less dramatically.  IOW use remaining resources wisely so you have some QE available for the upcoming secular bear. This means more sacrifice now before it gets "too bad".  Historically, it rarely happens and the current state of affairs is no different, but the wisdom of doing so is present throughout history (Joseph telling pharaoh to save for the seven lean years?).

I'm not arguing that we will ever achieve such wealth with such a large global population again, although some revolutionary technological advance may make it possible.  Rather, the overall upward trend will probably be entirely different and unexpected in the next secular bull.  This may just be a difference in opinion, but if knowledge is not irretrievably lost, vis-a-vis  the burning of the library of Alexandra, then I believe human society can eventually adjust to a much lower carrying capacity with sustainable energy.  If we manage to learn from any of the social and governmental experiments of the past, perhaps a more equitable social order can arise out of the ashes of industrialism in several generations.  I guess I'm just an optimist at heart?


Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Telecaster on May 25, 2017, 10:13:30 PM
I just happen to think the last few generations are a bubble, this bubble is going to deflate as cheap energy runs out and we will have a "secular bear" for society.

PV cost in USD/watt:

1977 $76.00
1985 $12.00
1995 $8.00
2005 $4.00
2015 $0.30

http://www.visualcapitalist.com/experts-bad-forecasting-solar/

Let's not make the mistake of assuming that trend will continue on forever, but we're also rapidly approaching stupid cheap. 


Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Classical_Liberal on May 26, 2017, 12:22:32 AM
@telecaster

Interesting, I don't pretend to be an expert in this area.  Earlier in this thread I stated just that.  That said, it's my understanding that these huge advances in solar are highly dependent on other resources.  Meaning that without petroleum (think past direct uses) can these panels/inverters/charge controllers continue to be produced, maintained and replaced at those costs?  With out significant new advances in batteries a grid also needs to be maintained, correct?  So we need nuclear or coal.  Can we even adequately maintain those without petroleum?

Seriously, I wouldn't mind an overview on the subject.  My knowledge is really limited to individual/household use and I have very little understanding of large scale grid and industrial requirements/needs (can we maintain industrial electric machines in a cost effective way without petroleum?). Unfortunately, most of the information out there for non-experts(I probably don't even know, what I don't know) has an agenda, one way or the other. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Prairie Stash on May 26, 2017, 09:32:07 AM
@telecaster

Interesting, I don't pretend to be an expert in this area.  Earlier in this thread I stated just that.  That said, it's my understanding that these huge advances in solar are highly dependent on other resources.  Meaning that without petroleum (think past direct uses) can these panels/inverters/charge controllers continue to be produced, maintained and replaced at those costs?  With out significant new advances in batteries a grid also needs to be maintained, correct?  So we need nuclear or coal.  Can we even adequately maintain those without petroleum?

Nuclear and coal are not suitable as backups for solar power. Nuclear and coal are base load suppliers whereas solar and wind are intermittent suppliers (research base load, its a big step in understanding electric grids). As part of the economic analysis you'll find natural gas is preferable due to its quick response time and its smaller incremental turbines. Whereas a nuclear generator might be on/off at 500 MW for maximum efficiency a natural gas turbine is on/off in 30 minutes (or less) and can be scaled to run at peak performance at 30 MW, so you have 15 units that can be deployed to run at maximum efficiency instead of a single unit, it drastically cuts down marginal cost of production. The natural gas option is currently being deployed and alleviates grid batteries. Why have batteries when you can produce power on demand?

As for maintain industrial electric motors without petroleum, that's already been accomplished several decades ago. Without fossil fuels the maintenance would not significantly increase in cost, its a few pennies of cost, but the labour cost is approximately 100 times as much. Its like worrying about a piece of paper in a photocopier when you get paid $30/hour.

The argument you're proposing about petroleum used for solar is based on petroleum being a significant cost of production. Do you have any proof that its more than 5% of the total cost? Lets say its really 10% of the total cost of production and the alternatives to petroleum currently cost 5 times as much (there are fossil alternatives, in fact PV is an example of a coal alternative). That would mean the cost to produce PV with fossil fuel alternatives would raise the cost by 40%, bringing us back to 2012 levels from 2015 cost levels, 3 years. Feel free to find the exact cost of petroleum in PV, at most it 90%, the argument still holds up, at most we go back to 2005 costs from 2015, but that's not remotely possible because technology will continue to progress and still bring the costs down.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on May 26, 2017, 09:53:45 AM
This may just be a difference in opinion, but if knowledge is not irretrievably lost, vis-a-vis  the burning of the library of Alexandra, then I believe human society can eventually adjust to a much lower carrying capacity with sustainable energy.  If we manage to learn from any of the social and governmental experiments of the past, perhaps a more equitable social order can arise out of the ashes of industrialism in several generations.  I guess I'm just an optimist at heart?

Here's an interesting (depressing?) question to ask yourself: How do we store knowledge today, what is required to access that knowledge, and how well will that knowledge be accessible in 20 years or 200 years?

To get yourself started, go find a paper you wrote 20 years ago (say, 1997), and access it.

We store knowledge in digital form, which requires a seriously functional industrial civilization to work, reliable electricity, and regular copying of the data to new media.  "The Cloud" doesn't really change any of this - it just adds regular payment requirements and internet access as base requirements to access knowledge.

Get rid of that, we drop back to a 1970s-1980s technology base in terms of knowledge, simply because most of the newer knowledge is in digital form.

I can read a book from 100 years ago.  I would struggle to read a floppy with some calculator programs I wrote in high school right now.

Let's not make the mistake of assuming that trend will continue on forever, but we're also rapidly approaching stupid cheap.

"Stupid cheap" is not a winning solution if you cannot pay for and maintain grid stability on the power grid with that cheap solar.  I think the power grid is pretty neat, and if you pay attention to Hawaii, you'll see a solid case of grid defection in action (it's cheaper to put up your own solar and battery, if you have the money for that) - I expect Hawaii will lose their power grid in the next 30 years, or at least major chunks of it, because they simply cannot afford to pay for the maintenance.  Grid maintenance is more or less coupled to miles of line and area covered, not power delivered.  Fewer people using it, less money, less reliability or more money for the remaining people.

Meaning that without petroleum (think past direct uses) can these panels/inverters/charge controllers continue to be produced, maintained and replaced at those costs?  With out significant new advances in batteries a grid also needs to be maintained, correct?  So we need nuclear or coal.  Can we even adequately maintain those without petroleum?

Correct, correct, and "probably not."  Renewables make for great energy sources if you have intermittent demands that can work with the available energy, they make acceptable peakers if you put some batteries on, and they're dreadful base load.

Quote
Seriously, I wouldn't mind an overview on the subject.  My knowledge is really limited to individual/household use and I have very little understanding of large scale grid and industrial requirements/needs (can we maintain industrial electric machines in a cost effective way without petroleum?). Unfortunately, most of the information out there for non-experts(I probably don't even know, what I don't know) has an agenda, one way or the other.

One of the big questions that is still an active research area (of which I play in, slightly) is simply grid stability - how do you maintain a stable power grid with high renewable deployment?  The power generation and power production have to match, almost exactly, at every moment of every day, or things go out of whack.  One of the biggest issues here is that the UN requirements for residential inverters are designed for when those inverters were owned by a few fringe hippies, not contributing meaningfully to power production, and nobody cared.  They don't do a thing for grid stability, and are actually harmful - they require a fairly tight voltage and frequency band to sync up, and if that goes out of sync, they trip off.  So if you have a grid transient and the frequency changes, you can drop off a bunch of residential production in a hurry and drop the whole segment of grid.  It's a pain to get those lit back up again as well, because once power comes on, you have a surge of inverters joining in at certain intervals you have to deal with.  Those inverters don't have any sort of synthetic inertia in them, they just follow the grid.  Fine when you have a few, a serious problem when you have a lot.  Plus, you can end up with interesting flows of power through the grid when areas get clouds.  The grid is designed implicitly assuming one way transmission - from generating plants to transmission lines to distribution lines.  Residential solar breaks that assumption.

I'm all for commercial solar - love me that stuff.  I do plan to put rooftop solar on my place, since I can, but I would love to be able to buy inverters that provide grid stability services and get paid for those (since I'll have a battery bank, I could agree to stricter requirements on what I push on the grid, and I'll have power source/sinks to push/pull frequency, but I can't in terms of inverters available or legal requirements).

It's... complex.  Grid stability is heavily tied to inertia, which, historically, was literal inertia of spinning generators and turbines.  Thousands of tons of spinning metal at 3600 RPM stores a lot of energy.

And then there's the storage issue, which Prairie Stash touched on quite nicely.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: surfhb on May 26, 2017, 10:18:10 AM
I love how we are above 95% employment, the stock market is at an all time high, violent crimes are way down and we are so damn rich that we have entire communities of people online teaching each other how to FIRE, and people think we're in DECLINE????  Haha, that is some funny sh!t.

No kidding!   

 I remember my dad and grandfather spewing the same shit back in the 70s.   

Times were tougher back then.    Gas was $6-7 a gallon in today's dollars, unemployment, inflation and London had an IRA bombing on a weekly basis.   

World Wars, financial crisis, etc.  Yet we are still here.   

Btw....we're actually all lucky to be alive.   In 1963 we almost committed nuclear holocaust.   

I say to the doomers and gloomers: 

Shut the fuck up and enjoy what you have and stop whining!!  :)


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: caracarn on May 26, 2017, 11:13:33 AM

However, what I think is different and unique to our time is that we are more integrated with other countries than ever before.

"But it's different this time!"

... and I will add to the fact that the integration created by the internet of all knowledge in the world is the differentiator.

"But it's different this time!"

A quite common phrasing throughout history - that doesn't seem to make a bit of difference.

Did you read anything past these line in either or our posts?  Totally serious.

Do you not feel that this knowledge sharing has vastly improved our ability as a group to respond to any event that occurs and therefore lessen the poor outcomes?
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on May 26, 2017, 11:53:56 AM
Did you read anything past these line in either or our posts?  Totally serious.

Do you not feel that this knowledge sharing has vastly improved our ability as a group to respond to any event that occurs and therefore lessen the poor outcomes?

I question whether "Doing the same thing that got us into the problem" will successfully get us out.  Just like it hasn't throughout history.

In particular, the "Well, you can keep doing exactly what you're doing if you buy this brand new Green(TM) thing for lots and lots of money!" trend is particularly absurd - wasteful consumerism has caused a lot of the problems we're facing, so I don't think wasteful consumerism will get us out (and from what I've seen of the useful lifespan of the new Green(TM) things, they're pretty well wasteful - I make a lot of money supporting systems that are under a decade old that the manufacturer would rather people throw out).

I also think that the fact that we can't think outside of the "exponential growth on a finite planet" paradigm is going to be another contributor to problems - you cannot grow your way out of problems caused by growth.

So, no, I don't think that "We can share cat pictures across the world instantly by using a ton of energy!" is likely to solve most of our problems.  Having exported our ability to remember, think, and store information locally, however, will be a serious problem when people can't look things up on the internet at some point in the future.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: caracarn on May 26, 2017, 03:02:31 PM
Did you read anything past these line in either or our posts?  Totally serious.

Do you not feel that this knowledge sharing has vastly improved our ability as a group to respond to any event that occurs and therefore lessen the poor outcomes?

I question whether "Doing the same thing that got us into the problem" will successfully get us out.  Just like it hasn't throughout history.

In particular, the "Well, you can keep doing exactly what you're doing if you buy this brand new Green(TM) thing for lots and lots of money!" trend is particularly absurd - wasteful consumerism has caused a lot of the problems we're facing, so I don't think wasteful consumerism will get us out (and from what I've seen of the useful lifespan of the new Green(TM) things, they're pretty well wasteful - I make a lot of money supporting systems that are under a decade old that the manufacturer would rather people throw out).

I also think that the fact that we can't think outside of the "exponential growth on a finite planet" paradigm is going to be another contributor to problems - you cannot grow your way out of problems caused by growth.

So, no, I don't think that "We can share cat pictures across the world instantly by using a ton of energy!" is likely to solve most of our problems.  Having exported our ability to remember, think, and store information locally, however, will be a serious problem when people can't look things up on the internet at some point in the future.
OK, just such a vastly different worldview we have.

I get all the things you list as problems and certainly we need to address those, but I go back to what I said to you long ago in this thread.  It's an incredibly dystopian view to feel that everything globally will just collapse.  The internet is not US focused, so even what I though was your point when you started this thread that the US is a declining nation has now progressed to gloom and doom on the whole world. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on May 26, 2017, 04:30:24 PM
OK, just such a vastly different worldview we have.

It seems so, yes.

Quote
I get all the things you list as problems and certainly we need to address those, but I go back to what I said to you long ago in this thread.  It's an incredibly dystopian view to feel that everything globally will just collapse.  The internet is not US focused, so even what I though was your point when you started this thread that the US is a declining nation has now progressed to gloom and doom on the whole world.

The Internet is quite heavily US-centric.  The rest of the world certainly uses it, but it's heavily US-centric in operation and core companies involved.  Get rid of Google, Facebook, Amazon, eBay, Netflix... that's an awful lot of what pays for the internet.

I don't think things will "just collapse."  I think they will head down the long, slow decline that is common for nations and empires throughout history.  And, since everything is so heavily intertwined globally at this point, I think there's a good chance that can happen globally.  I assume that people observing that the Roman empire wasn't doing so hot were told to stop being doom-and-gloom dystopians, same for the Mayans, Egyptians, etc.

My focus is certainly on the US, because that's where I live, but I don't think "Well, just rely on the rest of the western world!" is a particularly great strategy either.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on May 26, 2017, 05:49:41 PM
Yep, it's like belief in god.  Either you have it or you don't.  No amount of discussion will sway either party.  Same holds true re: optimism for the future.  Either you are an optimist or a pessimist.  No amount of discussion will bridge that gap.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Classical_Liberal on May 26, 2017, 06:00:51 PM
Yep, it's like belief in god.  Either you have it or you don't.  No amount of discussion will sway either party.  Same holds true re: optimism for the future.  Either you are an optimist or a pessimist.  No amount of discussion will bridge that gap.

I disagree.  Armed with more facts, either from a historical or from a current state of affairs perspective has a huge impact on how I see the future developing.  If we discover a sci-fi zero-point energy tomorrow, my outlook for 20 years down the road changes.   Maybe I just tend to be fickle.

Thanks to @syonyk and @prairie stash for taking the time to arm me with a few more facts. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on May 26, 2017, 06:14:43 PM
Yep, it's like belief in god.  Either you have it or you don't.  No amount of discussion will sway either party.  Same holds true re: optimism for the future.  Either you are an optimist or a pessimist.  No amount of discussion will bridge that gap.

I disagree.  Armed with more facts, either from a historical or from a current state of affairs perspective has a huge impact on how I see the future developing.  If we discover a sci-fi zero-point energy tomorrow, my outlook for 20 years down the road changes.   Maybe I just tend to be fickle.

Thanks to @syonyk and @prairie stash for taking the time to arm me with a few more facts.

One thing I've learned - given the same set of facts, people can come to wildly different conclusions.  If you go back and read some of the writings 200 years ago you will see that people thought that America was 'in decline' almost from the very beginning.  Many of them had compelling arguments that were well reasoned (from their perspective).  And when one prediction of doom didn't come to pass, well then it was time to jump on another.

You can also see this with financial news - people have been predicting doom and gloom since the beginning.  The ones from the 80s are particularly amusing.  When one dire prediction doesn't work out, just move on to the next. 

Same with the concerns here, around energy.  If/when these issues are decisively fixed, people like Syonyk will merely move on to the next dire prediction.  For people like that, we can never be 'anti-fragile' enough.

Which is fine.  But it would be nice if the doomers and preppers would admit, at least on occasion, that they were wrong.  But instead they merely move the date to a later date and say "well just you wait!". 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on May 26, 2017, 10:21:54 PM
Same holds true re: optimism for the future.  Either you are an optimist or a pessimist.  No amount of discussion will bridge that gap.

And, again, going back to the original point of discussion, my intention was to look at things that are useful in both cases.

I'm absolutely not looking to be a "buh muh MREs, got muh guns, got muh bunker, gonna wait fer the world to end" type prepper.  I think those types are pretty stupid.  But I'm OK spending a bit more on my household solar power setup to maintain grid down capability (if I could find an inverter and power company that would pay me for grid stability services, which are broken out in the UK, this would be even better).

I don't see a huge downside to gardens and greenhouses, especially if I can automate parts of it (not cloud-based nonsense, locally designed stuff that works autonomously).

And that puts me in a much, much more robust position if "Put it all in index funds!" doesn't work out as hoped.

If we discover a sci-fi zero-point energy tomorrow, my outlook for 20 years down the road changes.

Absolutely and totally.  If we solve energy in a manner that doesn't require much in the way of natural resources to harness (solar panels and transistors don't come out of nowhere, and there actually is some concern about sand supplies - http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21719797-thanks-booming-construction-activity-asia-sand-high-demand), we solve most known problems.  I mean, if you have enough energy, you can just make whatever matter you want.

I don't think that's likely - and I'm willing to make some decent bets that it won't happen in my lifetime, or my kid's lifetime.

Quote
Thanks to @syonyk and @prairie stash for taking the time to arm me with a few more facts.

No problem.  I delve deeper into electronics than a lot of people, and power systems are fascinating.  I read a lot of papers on grid stability and renewables, and none of them come to the "Yay, this is solved!" conclusion outside relatively small technical corners, and even those corners tend to be at odds with the UL requirements for inverters.  So... yeah.  Nothing good comes from ignoring all this, when ignoring it leads to a grid that can vary enough in exceptional conditions to trip a huge number of inverters off all at once.

You can also see this with financial news - people have been predicting doom and gloom since the beginning.  The ones from the 80s are particularly amusing.

And you see rather massive "corrections" on a pretty regular basis, so, yeah, some of those warnings are accurate.  It turns out that everyone using their house as an ATM, and everyone giving out loans for zero down, zero a month, and zero requirements beyond a heartbeat, weren't ideal.

Quote
Same with the concerns here, around energy.  If/when these issues are decisively fixed, people like Syonyk will merely move on to the next dire prediction.  For people like that, we can never be 'anti-fragile' enough.

Energy is just one concern that happened to be brought up recently.  I have plenty of others. :)  Given that society is active moving in the direction of "increased fragility" (efficiency), yeah, I think it's hard to be anti-fragile enough.  The collapse of the Soviet Union involved a people and industry that was hugely anti-fragile (mostly because Communism hadn't been feeding people, so they had impressive gardens, and the factory inventories were high), and it was still rough.

Quote
Which is fine.  But it would be nice if the doomers and preppers would admit, at least on occasion, that they were wrong.  But instead they merely move the date to a later date and say "well just you wait!".

"Just you wait!" is a reasonable thing when talking about the collapse of nations/empires, because historically, they all have - except for the relatively recent ones that haven't passed their expiration date yet.

I'm certainly not making any predictions about timelines and dates, beyond "I think that in my hopeful 60 years more of life, I think some of these things will cause enough problems to make life difficult."
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Telecaster on May 28, 2017, 03:17:18 PM
"Stupid cheap" is not a winning solution if you cannot pay for and maintain grid stability on the power grid with that cheap solar.  I think the power grid is pretty neat, and if you pay attention to Hawaii, you'll see a solid case of grid defection in action (it's cheaper to put up your own solar and battery, if you have the money for that) - I expect Hawaii will lose their power grid in the next 30 years, or at least major chunks of it, because they simply cannot afford to pay for the maintenance.  Grid maintenance is more or less coupled to miles of line and area covered, not power delivered.  Fewer people using it, less money, less reliability or more money for the remaining people.


Sure you can.  You simply charge a flat fee for grid connectivity in addition to charging for the power.   Already being done in many places. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: lemonde on May 28, 2017, 03:23:33 PM
Meh, we just focus on trying to live well together as a family while making the world better (a lot of charity, volunteering, activism, etc). It's all we can do.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on May 29, 2017, 02:15:30 PM
Sure you can.  You simply charge a flat fee for grid connectivity in addition to charging for the power.   Already being done in many places.

Right, but if that's the full infrastructure fee, it gets reasonably expensive - go look at industrial rate schedules for things that are broken out that way.

And that then drives more grid defection.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Telecaster on May 29, 2017, 07:06:43 PM
Sure you can.  You simply charge a flat fee for grid connectivity in addition to charging for the power.   Already being done in many places.

Right, but if that's the full infrastructure fee, it gets reasonably expensive - go look at industrial rate schedules for things that are broken out that way.

And that then drives more grid defection.

Remember the claim was that "cheap energy would run out."  If energy is cheaper off the grid is cheaper than on the grid, that means energy is pretty farkin' cheap, right?    If grid energy is needed, then people will pay for it (just as they do now).  But there is lots of evidence that says utility scale solar is cheaper than distributed solar, so maybe that's the way things are headed.  It would take some regulatory changes, but those changes are already well under way. 

Either way, I don't see how cheap solar is going to contribute to the collapse of this nation.  And FWIW, wind power has also become dramatically cheaper over the decades to the point where it is competitive with natural gas in many markets, and natural gas itself is pretty cheap.  So, I don't see the era of cheap energy end and causing ruin. 






Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: ChrisLansing on May 29, 2017, 07:17:04 PM
We keep having this optimism/pessimism discussion and I think it's out of place.   I don't see much pessimism, just the realization that finite non-renewables will run out someday, at any rate of consumption.   Whether that's next Thrusday, or 300 years from now I don't know.    But we all know a civilization/economy based on extration and burning of fosil fuels has to end someday.   

The intelligent and interesting part of the discussion has been whether or not renewable energy sources can be substituted for ff w/o much change in individual lifestyles or nationwide impact on the economy.   Reasonable minds can disagree.   I'm all for more solar/wind power.  In my opinion we may have trouble mainting our current level of industrial production on diffuse intermittent power supplies.   But I could be wrong. 

The really frightening part of the discussion has come from those who insist "You've got to admit it's getting better, it's getting better all the time".      Some of you live in a bubble.   If you're 32 and FIRED from you $90K job and have enough income from your index funds to live well the rest of your life then yes life probably looks fantastic.  But you represent a tiny fraction of the total population.    For many - a much larger % than is FIRED at 32- are suffereing long term unemployment, or underemployment.  They are driving, if they can still afford a car, on roads that get steadily worse year by year, despite the patchwork repairs.  Some live in cities where they cannot drink the tap water.   People in Flint MI. can't even bath in the tap water.    We pretend there is less than 5% unemployment but we can only keep up the make-believe by not counting those who've given up looking for work, or those who's unemployment benefits have expired.   You may not be aware, in your bubble, about the heroin epidemic. You may not be aware that people who work at Burger King are not living as well as you.    Things are getting better for a tiny fraction of the people, but for many that's not the case.   There is much evidence pointing to a decline in living standards for a great many people.   There is much evidence of a decline in infrastructre which is a mark of a nation in decline.   Recognizing decline when it's all  around you isn't pessimism, it's realism.   
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on May 29, 2017, 07:24:54 PM
Some cities are in decline, others are booming.  That's just how it always is and always will be.  I feel bad for people suffering in regions where jobs are not in abundance. 

Where I live, things are booming.

I've posted much data and many graphs in this thread to back my assertion that the world is getting better.  You should rebut those with your own data and graphs, otherwise we're just throwing anecdotes and gut-feelings at each other.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: ChrisLansing on May 29, 2017, 07:29:20 PM
Quote

Either way, I don't see how cheap solar is going to contribute to the collapse of this nation.


 And FWIW, wind power has also become dramatically cheaper over the decades to the point where it is competitive with natural gas in many markets, and natural gas itself is pretty cheap.  So, I don't see the era of cheap energy end and causing ruin.


I don't think anyone is trying to make the case that cheap solar contributes to collapse.   The question is this - can solar prevent a collapse when the oil/coal runs out.     

Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Telecaster on May 29, 2017, 11:23:49 PM
And FWIW, wind power has also become dramatically cheaper over the decades to the point where it is competitive with natural gas in many markets, and natural gas itself is pretty cheap.  So, I don't see the era of cheap energy end and causing ruin.

I don't think anyone is trying to make the case that cheap solar contributes to collapse.   The question is this - can solar prevent a collapse when the oil/coal runs out.   

The first post in this thread posited that a collapse/decline might happen within 30-60 years, within the lifetimes of most people reading these posts.  A different poster posited that the era of cheap energy would end and contribute to that collapse/decline.  I disagree.  There is exactly zero evidence that will be the case in our lifetimes.  For one, the US has enormous coal reserves which will outlast all of us.  Coal is cheap.  We got lots.  To answer you question, coal is not going to run out while we are all still vertical.  But as cheap as coal is, it is in a death struggle with cheap wind, cheap natural gas, and now cheap solar.

Petroleum is perhaps a different issue, but we're currently awash in oil.  For most of the previous four decades we were a major oil importer and somehow we survived, and even prospered.  We may again become an oil importer but that doesn't automatically follow we will collapse because of that.  While there is certainly a finite amount of oil in the country, technology allows us to extract more and more of it.  Think plateau oil rather than peak oil.  That said, a major consumer of oil--transportation--is rapidly moving towards electric vehicles. See: Cheap wind, cheap natural gas, and now cheap solar.  With cars becoming more and more efficient and moving away from petroleum, we are approaching have already moved past peak demand.  Petroleum consumption peaked a decade ago.  Production is up, consumption is down...this is a recipe for collapse?

Syonyk pointed out that perhaps all the rooftop solar folks aren't paying their fair share for grid connectivity.   That could well be true.  But if it is true, then ultimately grid connection fees (which already exist in lots of places) will be increased, with the result of making utility scale solar more attractive, which is probably already more attractive when the smoke clears.   And right now, rooftop solar is a rounding error in the energy mix.   It isn't a major problem, and it is a problem with easy solutions.

In short, I don't buy the notion we will run out of cheap energy in our lifetimes.  We are awash in cheap energy, and it is rapidly getting cheaper.  And not only that we are using less.   
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: caracarn on May 30, 2017, 09:06:26 AM
We keep having this optimism/pessimism discussion and I think it's out of place.   I don't see much pessimism, just the realization that finite non-renewables will run out someday, at any rate of consumption.   Whether that's next Thrusday, or 300 years from now I don't know.    But we all know a civilization/economy based on extration and burning of fosil fuels has to end someday.   

The intelligent and interesting part of the discussion has been whether or not renewable energy sources can be substituted for ff w/o much change in individual lifestyles or nationwide impact on the economy.   Reasonable minds can disagree.   I'm all for more solar/wind power.  In my opinion we may have trouble mainting our current level of industrial production on diffuse intermittent power supplies.   But I could be wrong. 

The really frightening part of the discussion has come from those who insist "You've got to admit it's getting better, it's getting better all the time".      Some of you live in a bubble.   If you're 32 and FIRED from you $90K job and have enough income from your index funds to live well the rest of your life then yes life probably looks fantastic.  But you represent a tiny fraction of the total population.    For many - a much larger % than is FIRED at 32- are suffereing long term unemployment, or underemployment.  They are driving, if they can still afford a car, on roads that get steadily worse year by year, despite the patchwork repairs.  Some live in cities where they cannot drink the tap water.   People in Flint MI. can't even bath in the tap water.    We pretend there is less than 5% unemployment but we can only keep up the make-believe by not counting those who've given up looking for work, or those who's unemployment benefits have expired.   You may not be aware, in your bubble, about the heroin epidemic. You may not be aware that people who work at Burger King are not living as well as you.    Things are getting better for a tiny fraction of the people, but for many that's not the case.   There is much evidence pointing to a decline in living standards for a great many people.   There is much evidence of a decline in infrastructre which is a mark of a nation in decline.   Recognizing decline when it's all  around you isn't pessimism, it's realism.   
All valid points about regionalism of circumstances, but I come from the perspective that MMM fostered early on on this board, is that this "decline" is from an insanely luxurious, decadent lifestyle compared to people even just a hundred years ago.  Even quite poor households, have a roof over their heads they did not have to cleave out of the wilderness and assemble with their own bare hands while their family huddled in a lean-to for the months it took them to build  it.  They have running water to keep disease down, even though some of that water may have terrible issues, though those are limited.  They have little gadgets and helpers and tools that once again, people could not just go around town and obtain but had to make themselves or do without.  They have stores or food pantries or other places where piles of food are available for purchase or are given out free of charge to the truly needy versus having to figure out how to kill a rabbit, start a fire and share it amongst a family of 10 with the prospect of catching another rabbit being days away and having to subsist on plants in the interim.  There is a heroin epidemic, but that does not define a nation, that defines a subset of people who have lost hope and choose to cope with it by numbing the pain.  We're not passing out heroin in the classroom as the cure to all our declining national woes and the way to deal with the world, it's still a conscious choice people make to bring into their lives.  We're a long way from our infrastructure declining to rutted tracks for our wagons and gravity fed aqueducts for our water, and those nations made it hundreds of years with just that level of infrastructure.  I don't know.  Maybe the reason there is not a lot of bandwagon jumping on this thread is that this site is based on learning to live within your means and adjusting as circumstances change, so few are crying "woe is our nation" as we will just adjust to what comes as we always have.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Jrr85 on May 30, 2017, 10:07:21 AM

All valid points about regionalism of circumstances, but I come from the perspective that MMM fostered early on on this board, is that this "decline" is from an insanely luxurious, decadent lifestyle compared to people even just a hundred years ago.  Even quite poor households, have a roof over their heads they did not have to cleave out of the wilderness and assemble with their own bare hands while their family huddled in a lean-to for the months it took them to build  it.  They have running water to keep disease down, even though some of that water may have terrible issues, though those are limited.  They have little gadgets and helpers and tools that once again, people could not just go around town and obtain but had to make themselves or do without.  They have stores or food pantries or other places where piles of food are available for purchase or are given out free of charge to the truly needy versus having to figure out how to kill a rabbit, start a fire and share it amongst a family of 10 with the prospect of catching another rabbit being days away and having to subsist on plants in the interim.  There is a heroin epidemic, but that does not define a nation, that defines a subset of people who have lost hope and choose to cope with it by numbing the pain.  We're not passing out heroin in the classroom as the cure to all our declining national woes and the way to deal with the world, it's still a conscious choice people make to bring into their lives.  We're a long way from our infrastructure declining to rutted tracks for our wagons and gravity fed aqueducts for our water, and those nations made it hundreds of years with just that level of infrastructure.  I don't know.  Maybe the reason there is not a lot of bandwagon jumping on this thread is that this site is based on learning to live within your means and adjusting as circumstances change, so few are crying "woe is our nation" as we will just adjust to what comes as we always have.

Adjusting to what comes is relatively easy as long as the U.S. remains a reasonably free country.  Even if the stock market were to no longer be a vehicle to grow wealth, just having it as a place to preserve wealth relative to inflation would leave a manageable situation.  But the biggest threat to the world outside of a large meteor strike is probably that the U.S. pulls a Venezuela and decides to commit national suicide by stupid policy.  Then you'd have the traditional economic engine of the world being a disaster, China facing a demographic crisis driven by its one child policy, western europe and Japan facing a slightly less catastrophic demographic crisis driven by low fertility rates, and no clear leader going forward.  India maybe? 

I think it's unlikely the U.S. goes that route for the foreseeable future, and we're more likely on a long, long gradual decline like most of Western Europe, where "decline" is really self imposed limits on growth, but our entitlement situation is pretty similar to most of western Europe or worse, so maybe we are not as far behind them as it seems and maybe we go full stupid in the next three or four decades rather than declining gradually over the next couple of hundred years. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on May 30, 2017, 11:58:59 AM

Recognizing decline when it's all  around you isn't pessimism, it's realism.   

Just wanted to point out that all pessimists think they are realists.

People talk about the middle class shrinking.  Some of the are slipping into poverty (which is bad), but some of them are becoming wealthy (which is good!).  That's a lot more nuanced and accurate than just saying "Things are in decline". 

But I'll point out again, same set of facts can be interpreted very differently.  A pessimist looks at that and says "oh, more poor people", an optimist looks at it and says "Oh, cool more rich people!".  See how pre-existing perspectives color perceptions?
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: qval on May 30, 2017, 02:04:32 PM
I've ready maybe 40% of the posts in this thread, and while I in general agree with the specific points (high debt is bad, declining industrial capacity, etc.), I don't agree that the US is the nation in decline.

I'll include links at the bottom to videos to watch, but the US is going to be fine. We are safe from international invasion, we have a domestic market that is relatively strong (compared to everyone else), and we have lots of energy. These points are made by Peter Zeihan in The Accidental Superpower and The Absent Superpower. I think he's possibly overstating his case, but the jist of it is real: We've got 30+ years of prosperity ahead of us, just based on cheap energy.


Two videos to watch, maybe at 2x speed?(search Peter Zeihan on youtube to find more):

https://www.commonfund.org/2017/04/27/de-globalizing-superpower/
This is the most recent version of his talk I've found on the internet: it explains how US geography, demography and energy makes us a superpower by default. It also goes into US politics a little, and how things might be bad for the next 15 years while the Baby Boomers retire and stop saving money and instead spend it.
I'd actually like some Mustachians to weigh in on how us millenials acting like boomers (saving for retirement rather than spending and going into debt) is affecting the economy (probably not much) and how the coming demographic timebomb will affect us. This is probably going into market timing territory, but is there an argument for jumping into safer investments before the bulk of the boomers to so?


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FseKcahmDiA
NPR debate on whether America is in decline. Zeihan is on one side with Josef Joffe, who argues that Americans have been debating on whether America is in decline for over 100 years. But we keep entering the next decade stronger than we entered the last. And relative to Europe, Japan, China, and almost all other countries, the USA is in great and improving shape.

I don't mean to say there won't be setbacks, but the US is not going to decline back to the backwater it was before industrialization. Be optimistically realistic about this country.


So, now that we're talking about how to retire in a declining nation like Japan, Germany, China, Italy, Spain, or Russia, what do you do? Make sure your Stash is mobile enough to be able to get to the US when TSHTF. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: ChrisLansing on June 03, 2017, 11:47:57 AM
I'm reluctant to resurect this thread, but, I thought this would be interesting to the various optimists/pessimists who've posted.

https://www.currentaffairs.org/2017/06/pessimism-is-suicide
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: tyort1 on June 03, 2017, 03:19:55 PM
I'm reluctant to resurect this thread, but, I thought this would be interesting to the various optimists/pessimists who've posted.

https://www.currentaffairs.org/2017/06/pessimism-is-suicide

I think there's a correlation between high intelligence and pessimism (see this very thread).  The smarter you are, the more ways you can think of for things to go wrong. 

Or as I joke - "Being smart just makes you better at worrying".  Hahaha.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on June 03, 2017, 04:40:47 PM
That's... a rather bizarre article.

And, here.

Quote
Predictions are tricky things to make about anything, let alone the destiny of the species.

Here's one of mine: I predict that exponential growth on a finite planet cannot continue forever.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: undercover on June 03, 2017, 07:28:55 PM
I think there's a correlation between high intelligence and pessimism (see this very thread).  The smarter you are, the more ways you can think of for things to go wrong. 

Conversely, the smarter you are, the more likely you will be able to come up with solutions to all of the problems you worry about. And then, refer to sig. It's all an endless loop.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Classical_Liberal on June 03, 2017, 09:10:20 PM

Conversely, the smarter you are, the more likely you will be able to come up with solutions to all of the problems you worry about. And then, refer to sig. It's all an endless loop.

Agreed, but isn't this what the OP is doing? 

Hey, I think X and Y are a couple of not so great things that may happen in my life-time.  I really like playing around with Z and it should help alleviate personal hardship if X and Y happen, so I'll get serious about doing Z. 

For that decision he's getting beaten up a bit, at least by the causal reader.  It seems very logical and a healthy way to deal with the anxiety that comes along with being one of those intelligent folks.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: AnnaGrowsAMustache on June 03, 2017, 10:30:08 PM
This seems to me to be a fear driven thread. I might have misread it, but that's my impression. Nations tend not to rise and fall so much as change markedly over time. The whole rise and fall thing is only seen in far, FAR hindsight. So really, you're just talking about a nation in flux. Change is a time of growth and opportunity as much as it is crisis. When there's blood in the streets, buy property and all that.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on June 03, 2017, 10:44:37 PM
I'll certainly admit to a fear of not being able to provide for my family in extreme situations, but moving in the self sufficiency direction has benefits even if that worst case doesn't happen - which was the point.

Ugh. Damned quail, though. Fat and happy on my garden.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: joonifloofeefloo on June 03, 2017, 10:49:23 PM
I wonder if the optimists are reading it as optimism and the pessimists are reading it as pessimism? I can't imagine the whole BoyScouts motto reflects a pessimist perspective. They have too much fun out there for that :)
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: AnnaGrowsAMustache on June 03, 2017, 10:56:35 PM
I'll certainly admit to a fear of not being able to provide for my family in extreme situations, but moving in the self sufficiency direction has benefits even if that worst case doesn't happen - which was the point.

Ugh. Damned quail, though. Fat and happy on my garden.

Self sufficiency is a funny thing. It's quite appealing, but the prepper sites are so much garbage. Their research seems to be based on political worst case and quite a lot of what the military might do to survive. Not a one of them seems to have actually looked at what happens in real disaster scenarios - and having lived through a city destroying series of quakes and the aftermath, I feel qualified to comment. You're not going to be able to grab a bug out bag and toddle off to a pristine cabin somewhere after a major natural disaster. You won't get across town, let alone across country. And that'll be 100x worse if the cause is social/political, unless you manage to recognise it coming about 24 months before it actually does. And if that was all that easy, there wouldn't have been anywhere near the number of Jewish people in Germany when things got very bad, would there? By the time most people see it, it's too late.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on June 03, 2017, 11:11:09 PM
Where, in this thread, have I come across as a "prepper"?

It's certainly not intentional. Most of them are loons.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: AnnaGrowsAMustache on June 03, 2017, 11:19:10 PM
Where, in this thread, have I come across as a "prepper"?

It's certainly not intentional. Most of them are loons.

LOL! Sorry. I'm in NZ and I just assumed that our "self sufficiency" is your "prepping". Most of our self sufficient types are loons! It's less about FI and gardening, and more about "freedom camping", which basically means hippy-ing your way around the country pooping in streets and generally annoying everyone.

Many apologies for dumping you in with the loons!
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Rife on June 04, 2017, 08:26:26 AM
I guess I have an issue with the whole idea that the country is in decline.  By what measure and standard?  If you mean standard of living and ease of life and/or how easy it is to become FI, well I'd rather live now in the US than anywhere else in the world or at any other time in the past.  Sh!t, we have so much freaking money and STUFF we have entire movements dedicated to trimming our excess possessions (minimalism).  People in the 50's and 60's didn't sit around and think to themselves "damn, I have SO MUCH stuff, what am I going to do with it all?" 

Seriously, if you are pessimistic nowadays, ESPECIALLY after discovering MMM and the strategies here, well then you just want to be a pessimist and nothing will probably ever change that....

I think what I am confused by is more are we talking about changing world powers or a worldwide decline that leads to us back to the 1800s. We have some problems to work on such as Global warming, but denile will also become harder over time. Regression to the mean would suggest that the dominant country is likely to slow relative to others, but that is a long way from not having food or power distribution.

It is a hobby, and overall probably a good one to have compared to many others. I would stop pretending you need to predict a dire future to do it though. Just say you find it a fun challenge to become more self sufficient.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on June 04, 2017, 01:44:49 PM
Many apologies for dumping you in with the loons!

No problem.  I don't think the "Got mah gunz, got mah beans, got mah bunker" types are worth paying any attention to, since I think the type of thing that works for is incredibly unlikely.  I'm much more interested in the generally sustainable property path, since that works both for quick sudden shocks, as well as for long term decline, and has a lot less to seize/to go bad.

I think what I am confused by is more are we talking about changing world powers or a worldwide decline that leads to us back to the 1800s.

Both, though different people pick different aspects.  We have a very fragile technology base that handles things like "food" and "communication" at this point - so if something in that chain fails, we have problems, quickly.  There's certainly a lot of effort that goes into maintaining the order of things, but look at how much chaos even short power outages cause.

Quote
We have some problems to work on such as Global warming, but denile will also become harder over time.

So, once we're deep into runaway positive feedback loops, people will look up and scratch their heads, and do... what, exactly?  "Too little, too late" applies to pretty much anything, at that point.

Quote
It is a hobby, and overall probably a good one to have compared to many others. I would stop pretending you need to predict a dire future to do it though. Just say you find it a fun challenge to become more self sufficient.

Going back to my original post on it, I was trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, to have a discussion about things that are useful both if things keep going well, and if things don't.  Ideally, it's things that can scale a bit as needed - having a good understanding of how to garden on my soil is useful if I need to expand it quickly in a few years.  Having a good working understand of off grid solar is proving surprisingly useful (I'm starting to get invites to all sorts of fun places to go look at systems and make recommendations).  Etc.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: GodlessCommie on June 05, 2017, 08:55:45 AM
Having lived through the collapse of the Soviet Union, I find the doom and gloom scenarios amusing but irrelevant. Human societies are way more resilient than we give them credit for. Don't get me wrong, it was no fun - but it didn't take long for things to hit a bottom and start to improve. Electric grid continued to function, even if not 100% stable. Running water kept running. Having a plot of land and knowing how to grow staples helped but was not 100% necessary. Lawyers and politicians and a lot of other people with seemingly impractical skills did just fine - much better, in fact, than people with practical skills who faced a lot of competition and diminished incomes.

Things that one should really be afraid of are
- war
- totalitarian/hardline authoritarian regime

This is when S really HTF. But a country in decline can be perfectly livable for a long, long time. Heck, most every European country is well past its prime and they are full of happy, healthy, affluent people. On the other hand, China and India are on the rise but Chinese and Indians are not necessarily happier, healthier or wealthier.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Jrr85 on June 05, 2017, 09:42:46 AM

I think what I am confused by is more are we talking about changing world powers or a worldwide decline that leads to us back to the 1800s.

I'm sure there are some people worried about maybe an asteroid strike or carrington event that actually calls our relatively complex (and possibly fragile?) supply chains to break down and leave us with a few months or a year of scarcity, but my impression is that most of them are looking for things like Venezuela. 

 
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: StephenP on June 06, 2017, 12:32:30 PM
Nations rise and fall - we see this throughout history.  Generally, a nation will last hundreds of years before falling down the dustbin of history into irrelevance, and nations that strive for stability over all else can last thousands.

Kind of an over generalization, especially in the context of FIRE. England is often considered a "declining nation." Their FIRE industry is still one of the largest and strongest in the world. The US has one advantage that no other country in the world has, the currency *is* the global currency. Over 84% of global transactions are conducted in US dollars, so even countries that are competing for the top spot have a vested interest in seeing the economy succeed. The yuan will be a close competitor if it ever goes convertible, but China's debt problems are bigger the than any problem in the US right now.

The US isn't on the massive decline that everyone thinks it is, a quick look at the equity and fixed income markets will tell you that.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: qval on June 12, 2017, 02:49:16 PM
Having lived through the collapse of the Soviet Union, I find the doom and gloom scenarios amusing but irrelevant. Human societies are way more resilient than we give them credit for.

At the risk of being a pessimist, I'd argue that the USSR was better prepared for collapse than the US will ever be: They didn't have a foreclosure crisis: people had their houses/apartments. Food was more scarce, but eastern Europeans had much worse famines in living memory. Even jobs kinda just kept going  (we pretend to work, they pretend to pay us).

I think a collapse in the USA will be way uglier than the 1991 collapse, but I also think it's muuuch less likely... Us Americans live pampered lives; taking that away can cause some bad convulsions.

Syonyk, I think building up those skills is not a bad idea, but make sure your priorities align with your values. Don't raise chickens because that'll help you survive the apocalypse, do it because you like their company and their eggs.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: Syonyk on June 12, 2017, 03:01:33 PM
At the risk of being a pessimist, I'd argue that the USSR was better prepared for collapse than the US will ever be: They didn't have a foreclosure crisis: people had their houses/apartments. Food was more scarce, but eastern Europeans had much worse famines in living memory. Even jobs kinda just kept going  (we pretend to work, they pretend to pay us).

Orlov has certainly made that argument, having lived through it.

Quote
Syonyk, I think building up those skills is not a bad idea, but make sure your priorities align with your values. Don't raise chickens because that'll help you survive the apocalypse, do it because you like their company and their eggs.

Actually, mostly, I'm hoping they eat cheatgrass... everything else is a bonus.
Title: Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
Post by: powskier on June 12, 2017, 11:30:08 PM
I am constantly amazed about this obsession that Americans have with everything collapsing.

So many people are now just like that crazy old guy waving around his "The end is near" sign for the past many centuries. it's the same silliness as calling a top or bottom to the market.
Further more, even if everything did collapse, preppers would become targets for the hordes.
I find it much more reasonable to train the mind to adapt to new situations, rather than dig a mental ditch and build a wall around it. This allows for taking advantage of opportunities now and likely being able to adapt to whatever the future brings.