"I can pin point the exact moment when the entire country realized what was happening"
October 2, 2008 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Notes from an economic collapse. With the shaky state of the economy, some are modifying their retirement plans. Fortunately, we have helpful tips from survivors of other collapsed economies to help us weather the (possible) approaching storm.

I have no idea if this is authentic or not, and it definitely reads like survivalist fan-fiction, yet I can’t quit reading it.

SLYT of images from Argentina's collapse.
posted by mecran01 (30 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Two weeks ago they were making the same preparations in anticipation of another terrorist attack. Unfortunately for us rational folks, fear is a reinforcing factor for more of the same politics, and is perpetuated by the right wing.
posted by SteveInMaine at 11:16 AM on October 2, 2008

SteveinMaine: I'm honestly not trying to contribute to the fear-mongering that is being used to push through the 700 billion welfare-to-the-rich plan--I just think this account of living through the economic collapse is gripping, despite its flaws and fondness for guns.
posted by mecran01 at 11:20 AM on October 2, 2008

Closing the Collapse gap, the Soviet Union and the United States
posted by infini at 11:21 AM on October 2, 2008 [4 favorites]

Reinventing Collapse, Dmitri Orlov's book comparing the US and USSR, is now available. I "enjoyed" it, for certain values of enjoy. (This is the author of the article in infini's link.)
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:25 AM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

That Youtube link is essential; not because that's where we're all headed but because it's a window on recent history we should all be viscerally aware of, and I, for one, was not.

posted by philip-random at 11:25 AM on October 2, 2008

Philip-random: Yes, I'm embarassed at how unaware I was of what happened in Argentina. I teach college in Utah--some of the Mormon kids who were there at the time said there were stories of government officials fleeing the country in loaded armored cars.
posted by mecran01 at 11:30 AM on October 2, 2008

That video just makes me want to beat on some fascist cop skull. Ugh.
posted by maxwelton at 12:01 PM on October 2, 2008


explains what is going on...why do you think the revised senate bill raises FDIC as much as it does? Not for your bank account or mine.
the system will not collapse. Too many of the Lords of the Universe are counting on YOU to make sure they are ok
posted by Postroad at 12:07 PM on October 2, 2008

Generally speaking, the revolver is more difficult to master than the pistol. The double action is hard and it affects speed and accuracy. It can be done, but I found that pistols are easier, as did many shooters. Also, even though they seem to be more simple, revolvers are not as rugged as service pistols, the mechanisms that cycles the cylinder and cocks the hammer is both complicated and fragile compared to auto pistols. - From "survivors of other collapsed economies" link.

[Reloading his revolver in the middle of a battle] Reloading like this... is a revolution!

Then there are several more paragraphs about shooting other people with guns. I feel like the biggest obstacle to surviving a collapse will be all the fucking survivalists shooting up the place and behaving like huge assholes. I'll be holed up with my anarchist collective and we'll be having a dance party or making an art project or group sex or not showering and I'm afraid that these "squirrels" (WTF that name?) will roll in and perforate our bodies directly or with stray bullets.

They are probably going to be more of a threat than the zombies. Hopefully they will all move out to the country and kill themselves off before they devolve in to hideous mutants from inbreeding.
posted by fuq at 12:17 PM on October 2, 2008 [8 favorites]

Some of the things he points out as being post-collapse have described parts of America for about 30 years now. Infrastructure decay has preceded the economic collapse by a few decades. Everybody knows about the existing medicine "shortage". Long term planning almost never happens in America because of the time requirements of political terms. He also quite incorrectly claims that total employment was an American goal. That has never been true and government policy quite carefully prevents this.

I also think he underestimates the ability of Americans to adapt. Fat and lazy now will be slim and industrious tomorrow if it is needed. There is no great hurdle to transitioning from a suburban lawn to vegetable garden. If you could grow grass you can grow tomatoes. Americans have disposable consumer goods because they can. Once they can't VCRs, cars, bicyles and jeans will be repaired, reused and passed down. People eat at McDonalds because they can. It makes economic sense sometimes. When it doesn't they will stop.

He points out the flaws of suburban living - public transit problems & isolation - while ignoring the benefits - Individually owned land that could sustain substantial small scale farming.

Essentially, he equates a middle class suburban lifestyle with all of America ignoring large parts of America that are already more sustainable or already adapted to deprivation.

His solutions are also insane.
posted by srboisvert at 12:17 PM on October 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

More Orlov! Thriving in the Age of Collapse

The final profile we will consider is of “Steve,” who is 18 years old. He found out about Peak Oil after one of his on-line video game buddies sent him some links to Web sites, which he found deeply shocking. Now he is totally freaked out. Is he about to get drafted and sent off to fight for oil in the Middle East? How is he going to survive in a collapsing society? He works a part-time job and lives with his parents, who take his fears to be the folly of youth, and assume that he will be going to college, earning a respectable degree, and entering the workforce (while going into debt at the same time).

Let us suppose that Steve's parents are correct: there will be no economic collapse any time soon. Steve will go off to college, earn a degree in accounting, get married, take out a mortgage on a suburban home, and have children. Now, if Steve's parents are reasonably well-informed, can they believe that there is more than another forty years' worth of nonrenewable resources left at their current level of production, never mind the need for sustained economic growth? As they watch the endless parade of record-setting freak weather events, with fifty-year records being broken not every fifty years, but every one or two, can they believe that none of these, together or separately, will upset Steve's well-laid plans? Even if they feel certain that they will live out their own lives in peace, why should they want Steve to work hard to perpetuate a state of affairs that they know will not last for the duration of his lifetime? Is it not the tiniest bit unethical of them to try to push their son in such a risky direction? And is it not the tiniest bit incumbent upon them to try to propose something better?

posted by symbollocks at 12:20 PM on October 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

srboisvert, i hate to say this but i think you're wrong. granted his solutions are bit odd and he says so too but when I read some of the comments in the threads adn people arguing back about the US sense of entitlement and expectance of convenience, I worry that he may just be right about the 'shock'

except maybe on a farm in rural nebraska...

what's the proportion of populaton in rural vs urban America?
posted by infini at 12:54 PM on October 2, 2008

US Pop. is ~20% rural as the Census defines it.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:03 PM on October 2, 2008

20% rural -- we city folks like to call them "the edible 20%". Mmmm, farm-fresh...farmer. Heh.
posted by jamstigator at 1:11 PM on October 2, 2008

If you could grow grass you can grow tomatoes. ...Individually owned land that could sustain substantial small scale farming.

Well, ignoring the fact that most suburban yards are scoured of their topsoil (for re-sale by the developer) and, thus, aren't really good for growing much more than the aforementioned grass...People converting their small plots of land to small-scale farming will work only if the banks allow them to stay on the land. Even in an economic collapse, the surviving system will always find some way through to insisting you pay the mortgage.

I have to wonder whether Americans would even care to bounce-back if things turn to crap, anyway. I hear far too many people speak as if they've given-up on the idea of America. I hear a lot of people who have worked hard all their lives and tried to live responsibly only to get thrown away economically because it suited some corporation's profit line or Wall Street's forecasts. They've weathered insult after economic insult and they are tired and beaten. I honestly believe there is a sizable population in this country who will simply turn their backs and say "good riddance." if the system truly implodes. It's not like they have a whole lot left to save, themselves, anyway.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:37 PM on October 2, 2008

I made sure that I completely own my 5 acres, free and clear of the bank. That was really cheap ($12kCAD). When I build my house I will be forced to have a mortgage, but it will be built on one side of the property. They can take my house if there is a collapse, but they won't be able to prevent me from camping out on the rest of the land I currently own.
posted by Kickstart70 at 2:03 PM on October 2, 2008

Survivalist narratives almost seemed like porn to me. Notice the two paragraphs the guy dedicated to beating up a scum bag. It seems to reinforce this romantic image of a Good Guy who can finally be free of the useless restraints society poses on him to get his justice the anyway he can. I think I had the same fantasies when I was 12 years old, and I believe most boys go through a phase of ultimate independence fantasy. Need some beans? Fuck it, I'll roll my own cigarette and high tail it to the market, gun strapped to my chest and ready to bargain mano-a-mano with the shopkeeper. The hint of existential crisis in these posts is almost overwhelming, can we get these guys a copy of The Tartar Steppe? I imagine some Clint Eastwood character doing polishing his knife, not looking up at me and going, "One thing you're learn when The Crisis comes, that Targus of yours? Try firing all the rounds and reloading, you can't. Damn thing gets too hot, too quick. You'll be dead before you get the shells out." I do like the irony that the 4x4 driving, suburban Americans will be best positioned when It comes, with their big plasma televisions, nice yards and gun filled basements. Crossing my fingers on that meaning bands will fit the midwest into their tour schedule.
posted by geoff. at 2:10 PM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

In Closing the Collapse Gap that Infini mentioned, I thought Alexander Solzhenitsyn's mantra (and how he survived the Gulag) - "Don't believe them, don't fear them, don't ask anything of them"- should work for surviving most things.

I hated that Orlov recommended moving back in with your family. I hope it never gets that bad.
posted by Bitter soylent at 2:18 PM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

He also quite incorrectly claims that total employment was an American goal. That has never been true and government policy quite carefully prevents this.

Not total employment, but full employment as the dude said, yes. I give you the Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1978 (otherwise known as the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act). Before it came the Employment Act of 1946, which was meant to more or less enshrine the same goals as the 1978 bill, but was watered down.
posted by raysmj at 2:24 PM on October 2, 2008

I do like the irony that the 4x4 driving, suburban Americans will be best positioned when It comes, with their big plasma televisions, nice yards and gun filled basements.

I'm thinking that if shit really does get to fan, they'll be ready-fire-aim types using all that weaponry on each other before it occurs to them to head downtown for the real easy pickins.
posted by philip-random at 2:45 PM on October 2, 2008

He points out the flaws of suburban living - public transit problems & isolation - while ignoring the benefits - Individually owned land that could sustain substantial small scale farming.

Only a tiny fraction of "suburban" livers could reasonably do this in any meaningful capacity. And they still face all the worsening sustainability, transportation, water, and employment problems. Some might be able to have "victory" gardens and the like. But that certainly no reason to encourage further growth in the suburbs as that WORSENS our ability to adiquitly grow and transport food.

It's a terrible trade off.
posted by tkchrist at 4:52 PM on October 2, 2008

I do like the irony that the 4x4 driving, suburban Americans will be best positioned when It comes, with their big plasma televisions, nice yards and gun filled basements.

"Suburban?" No they won't. Where will they work? First of all many will be foreclosed on. And the guns will be used mostly on each other.

"Rural" living people, with ag skills, in places with larger areas of land and water will fare just fine.

"Suburban" people that don't out-right own their properties or have cleared their debt (and suburban livers have the largest share of debt in this country) will find them selves up a frigg'n creek.
posted by tkchrist at 4:57 PM on October 2, 2008


I live in a big city, sure. But I come from a long line of accomplished Mormon red necks from south eastern Idaho. Ranchers. Farmers. People who really do live off the land. Hunt. And fish. In fact I just got back from a fly fishing trip around Soda Spring Idaho. And places like that, if the water and electric grid holds out, will weather a collapse like pretty much nothing happened. If it REALLY goes to shit that's where I'll head. Otherwise I'm staying put. My big city has lots of water, good infrastructure, plentiful energy resources and is a good engine of commerce no matter what. And I have some guns.

But. The fact is that most American "suburbs" are worse equipped to deal with these crisis if the money runs out than the cities. Except for the break down of law and order in dense population centers there is relatively little advantage to suburban living for poor people (and everybody will be poor in a collapse) with out modern economies and cheap fuel.

All the food is going to go to the densest markets. The markets with the rail infrastructure and ports. The cities.
posted by tkchrist at 5:09 PM on October 2, 2008

tkchrist I was speaking with my tongue firmly in my cheek. If you noticed his list of things to get you through a bad depression (televisions, 4x4, land, etc.) were generally describing suburban America. I have a feeling that any sort of crisis we'd see all sorts of examples and counter examples, some suburb survive others die out, some urban areas survive, others become war zone, and with no rhyme or reason why some survived and some didn't. Sort of like what we would experience anyway, only in a compressed time frame.
posted by geoff. at 5:13 PM on October 2, 2008

reading these comments makes me realize just how many of us have read the appropriate sci fi novels, I see hints of Brin's "The Postman"; King's "The Stand"; even "nightfall" ....
posted by infini at 1:04 AM on October 3, 2008

Don't get me wrong. I am definitely not pro-suburban. I grew up in Mississauga, a giant parking lot for Toronto where every spot comes with a house and a yard, and I hated it. I much prefer what I currently enjoy in the UK, with the village style neighbourhood with high street within walking distance.

But the thing about these apocalyptic predictions for America's future is that they assume Americans will just lie down and die rather than changing and adapting. Now, it is certainly true that they don't show a lot of ability to change in anticipation of events but that is no reason to believe they won't change in response to actual events that do occur.

This is like people who argue you shouldn't feed birds because the birds will become dependent on the feeders. All the evidence indicates that birds take the food when it is there but if it isn't they make the unsurprising decision to get food elsewhere.

If the dire predictions come true you will see corner stores, farmer's markets and vegetable gardens pop up in the suburbs. You'll see politicians adapting to the needs of the constituents or getting voted out of office. Transportation will be an issue but if there is a major collapse there won't be jobs for people to commute to anyway (and in fact there was already a shift of manufacturing out into the suburbs when I last lived in Mississauga).

Will the suburbs be less attractive? They already are for me as a non-driving cycle commuter who prefers city living. For other people? Maybe or maybe not. Major urban-center living comes with no garden space (no largely free food), less living space, more crime, and lots of competition.
posted by srboisvert at 8:03 AM on October 3, 2008

Most Suburbs would dry up completely that is how they will adapt. Suburbs are there to feed a workforce to the cities. People only live suburbs as a by-product of the modern economy and modern automobile transportation. If those two things evaporate there is no REASON for a suburb. Just becuase there are houses built in culdesac people won't just stay there. Principally because most don't own those homes and if the economy melts down they will lose those homes. There won't be the critical mass in most places to sustain "adaptation" to productive suburban villages. People will either move out FARTHER to cheaper rural productive areas or, most likely since people don't have agricultural skills any longer, they will move IN to the cities to find work.

Think about the depression. Entire small towns were abandoned. Particularly in the mid west during the dust bowl droughts. people flooded to the cities or to productive rural areas out west. Basically the same thing will happen. The conditions for the dust bowl are still in effect basically. I mean the only thing that mitigates it is cheap credit, cheap energy, cheap fertilizer, cheap labor, and irrigation. If we have a melt down... BAM. Three legs are kick out from under that chair. Water problems are a big deal in out "heartland" and they are gonna get worse.

A few cities will die back seriously. For sure. LA. Las Vegas. Phoenix. Tuscon. Atlanta. They have already stretched their natural resource base past the limits now. The crucial determiners will be water and weather. But the burbs around those areas will be wastelands.
posted by tkchrist at 11:14 AM on October 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

PS. Some suburbs will indeed flourish. But only those where people own the property out right in mild climates and good transportation infrastructure that doesn't rely exclusively on the auto. But in my mind most of those kinds of burbs are where the wealthier people live anyway.

BTW. Lot's of cities that have reasonable climates and good water can also raise a surprising amount of food if they get creative with it. But not enough to support current populations. But possibly enough to prevent out-right famine. Civil unrest is a real concern in big cities. And the fear of the rise of a police state to deal with it. That scares me. Civil unrest usually is brief and intense and burns itself out rapidly. So if you can secure yourself for a couple months you can ride it out.
posted by tkchrist at 11:53 AM on October 3, 2008

I have to wonder whether Americans would even care to bounce-back if things turn to crap, anyway. [...] I honestly believe there is a sizable population in this country who will simply turn their backs and say "good riddance." if the system truly implodes. It's not like they have a whole lot left to save, themselves, anyway.

But what will they do then? Kill themselves? Starve? You can't entirely "turn your back and say good riddance" if you intend to stay alive...
posted by Juffo-Wup at 1:25 PM on October 3, 2008

This is the third time I've come to this thread now, even though I don't know whether to take it seriously or not. So I don't know whether I should buy 55 gallons of peanut butter (just in case), or simply say "PENIS!" and be done with it.

Aw, fuck it. PENIS!
posted by Marla Singer at 7:22 AM on October 4, 2008

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