Prescription for 2016: Collapse Early and Often
By Dmitry Orlov
January 05, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" -
We are in the time of year when most sensible
animals living in northerly climates are hibernating
in burrows and hollow tree trunks, while the
somewhat less sensible pundits make their
predictions for the coming year. My prediction is
always the same—things will go on more or less same
as before, until something major breaks, while the
probability of something major breaking goes up with
each passing year. I have called this event
“collapse,” and have predicted, year after year,
that it will eventually happen. And so, instead of
repeating this less than useful prediction, this
year I will instead provide a prescription.
Not too many people, I expect, will want to follow
my prescription; not too many of my family members,
or friends, or acquaintances, or you who are reading
this. And that's fine because, as I have learned
over and over again, there is no strength in
numbers. Quite the opposite: the probability of any
given trick working is in inverse proportion to the
number of times it is tried, or the number of people
who try it. And so, if you are reading along and
think “I can't possibly do this because of [insert
lame excuse]!” then—good! Fine with me. Fewer people
equals more oxygen.
And that applies to the few people who will actually
bother to read this. Lots more people will not want
to read this, because—what collapse? Gasoline prices
are low, Obama has shut down most of the wars, the
economy is strong enough for the Fed to have started
hiking rates, and once Bernie Trump gets into the
White House, everything else will be set right too.
To the people who think that, someone like me, who
predicted collapse a while back, was clearly wrong,
and needs to be psychoanalyzed, not followed. Again,
fine with me, so long and thanks for all the
The reasons it's all bullshit are as follows.
• Gasoline prices are low because high oil prices
crashed the economy. In turn, low oil prices are
destroying the North American oil patch, which was
only showing new signs of life thanks to fracking
and tar sands, which are expensive to produce and
only make sense when oil prices are high. Rest
assured, prices will go back up, and then back down,
until, in the end, oil comes to be regarded as
useless toxic waste. A year ago I described
exactly this scenario.
• The wars are over because all of them pretty much
ended in defeat for the US. None of them achieved
any of their stated objectives. Now, some of you
will jump up and try to comment that the stated
objectives were not the real objectives, which were
to sow chaos and destruction for the sheer hell of
it while enriching defense contractors. That's fine
too, because such “real” objectives are consistent
with imperial collapse: empire wants to steal a
precious vase; empire smashes it instead; success!
Moreover, whatever the objectives, they don't matter
any more, because now they can't be achieved no
matter what. The new Russian/Chinese/Indian/Syrian
ordnance, such as the S-300/400/500 air and space
defense systems, the Kalibr long-range supersonic
cruise missile, along with various electronic
warfare systems such as Khibiny, has rendered most
US forces obsolete. You can say that defeat is
victory but, as I explained two years ago,
it isn't. Cancel Red Alert and set course for
nearest dry dock.
• The Fed is pretending to hike rates to
avoid the impression that it has lost control. This
is not the only sort of pretense being attempted in
the financial arena; there are plenty of others. The
US economy isn't growing, and if you subtract out
the effect of runaway debt (which will never be
repaid no matter what scenario you consider as
likely) then it's actually shrinking. More
accurately, it can be said that it is sucking in
whatever it can in order to avoid collapsing.
It is a black hole, as I described half a year
• As far as the “Bernie Trump will save us” theme,
it is well understood by now that the US is no
longer a democracy. (Maybe it was one once upon a
time, maybe not; it doesn't matter.) Consider the
matter settled. Anyone who thinks that it is still
possible to effect positive change in the US by
voting is a conspiracy theorist of the most
miserable, deluded kind.
* * *
There are some general properties of collapses to
keep in mind.
1. All things that must collapse eventually do. All
empires collapse—no exceptions. All buildings
collapse—unless they are demolished first. All Ponzi
schemes—such as the current financial system, based
on runaway debt—collapse when you least expect them
to. Seeing as collapses aren't optional, it makes
sense to get used to the idea of them happening, and
to learn how make the best of them. Some people
consider this and are filled with grief. As I
pointed out before, collapse is the worst possible
time to suffer a nervous breakdown, so please get
your blubbering over with ahead of time.
2. Some collapses are actually good for you. Some
really important things could be saved provided
whatever less important thing that would cause them
to collapse collapses first. For instance, if
indistrial civilization were to collapse soonish,
this would avoid ecosystem collapse, leaving
whatever survivors would be left with breathable air
and a survivable climate. And if the gigantic bubble
in human population, which grew apace with the
burning of fossil fuels, were to pop before turning
the planet into a giant smoldering trash heap, then
the few survivors would have a reasonable chance of
3. Bigger collapses are nastier than smaller ones.
For example, if you had lots of local banks and
credit unions making loans to people who then
couldn't repay them, then some large number of these
banks and credit unions would collapse, insured
depositors would be repaid, bad debts would be
written off, and the entire system would eventually
recover. But if you have a handful of gigantic banks
and financial institutions holding most of the bad
debts, and they fail all at once, then that brings
down the entire system. And if you bail them out,
then the entire system ends up on life support for
the rest of its life, because nobody has any
incentive to stop generating bad loans, since now
everyone expects to be bailed out again and again.
4. Frequent collapses are better than infrequent
ones. This is because unless things—be they
populations, Ponzi schemes, economies, cities or
empires—collapse on a regular basis, they tend to
get too big. And when they get too big, their
collapse (which is inevitable, see Point 1 above)
becomes bigger, making them worse (see Point 3
above). Plus, frequent collapses of the nonfatal
kind can be actually good for you (see Point 2).
• If the electric grid collapses now and again, then
you will eventually learn that you need to get
yourself a 12V system, a generator, some solar
panels, a wind generator, and install LED lights.
• If water pressure goes down to zero periodically,
then you will learn that you need to put in some
cisterns, a filtration system, a demand pump, and
collect water off the rooftop.
• If garbage collection stops for periods of time,
then you will learn to incinerate and to compost,
and will try to minimize the amount of
nonbiodegradable trash you generate.
• If paid work disappears for periods of time, then
you will learn that you need to keep a few months'
worth of savings around to ride out these periods.
• If stores run out of food on a semi-regular basis,
then you will learn that you need to grow your own
food, put a chicken coop in the back yard and figure
out how many lazy beds of potatoes you need.
• If banks periodically confiscate all your money
(that's called a “bail-in,” and it's actually been
made legal not too long ago), then you will learn to
keep an absolute minimum of money in the banks, and
figure out other, more reliable forms in which to
store your savings.
• If you were to periodically find yourself cut off
from the medical system, then you would find out
ways of staying healthy and of treating yourself.
• If you periodically found it impossible to buy
gasoline, you would learn that you can't rely on
your car, and would instead bicycle, or walk, or
take public transportation.
• If your country's government periodically turned
fascist and started detaining, torturing and killing
people indiscriminately, then you'd learn that you
need to get yourself a second passport, and practice
getting out of the country in a hurry.
These are all examples of small, frequent collapses
that are good for you.
But that's not what everyone seems to be aiming for,
now, is it? What everyone seems to be aiming for is
preventing any and all of these small,
frequent, nonfatal collapses. However, such efforts
are in direct contradiction with Point 1: “All
things that must collapse eventually do.” Instead of
preventing collapse, such tactics guarantee a
single, huge, catastrophic collapse that can very
well turn out to be fatal for huge masses of people.
But that's OK: see Point 2: if “the gigantic bubble
in human population... pops before turning the
planet into a giant smoldering trash heap, then the
few survivors will have a reasonable chance of
And so, what if you aspire to being one of these few
survivors who might stand a reasonable chance of
making it? My prescription is simple: Collapse Early
Orlov is a Russian-American engineer and a writer on
subjects related to "potential economic, ecological
and political decline and collapse in the United
States," something he has called “permanent crisis”.
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