Monday, June 8, 2009

More Intelligent Choices, Please

Another weekly installment from the inimitable J.H. Kunstler:

Americans will never again buy as many new cars as they were able to do
before 2008 on the terms that were normal until then: installment loans.
Our credit system is completely broken. It choked to death on securitized
debt engineered by computer magic and business school hubris. That complex
of frauds and swindles coincided with the background force of peak oil, which
meant, among other things, that economic growth based on ever-increasing energy
resources was over, and along with it ever-increasing credit. What it
boils down to now is that we can't service our debt at any level, personal,
corporate, or government -- and that translates into comprehensive societal

The efforts of our federal government to work around this now, to cover up
the "non-performing" debt and to generate the new lending necessary to keep the
old system going, is a tragic exercise in futility. I'm not saying this to
be a "pessimistic" grandstanding doomer pain-in-the-ass, but because I would
like to see my country make more intelligent choices that would permit us to
continue being civilized, to move into the next phase of our history without a
horrible self-destructive convulsion.

The political dimension of the collapse of motoring is the least discussed
part of problem: as fewer and fewer citizens find themselves able to buy and run
cars, they will feel increasingly aggrieved at the system set up to make
motoring virtually mandatory for all the chores of everyday life, and their
resentments will rise against the elite that can still manage to enjoy it.
Because our car-dependency is so extreme, the reaction of the dis-entitled
classes is liable to be extreme and probably delusional to an extreme,

You can already see it being baked in the cake. Happy Motoring is so
entangled in our national identity that the loss of it is bound to cause a
national identity crisis. In places like the American south, the old Dixie
states, motoring lifted more than half the population out of the dust, and
became the basis of the New South economy. The sons and grandsons of
starving sharecroppers became Chevy dealers and developers of suburban housing
tracts, malls, and strip malls. They don't have any nostalgia for the
historical reality of hookworm and 14-hour-days of serf labor in hundred-degree
heat. Theirs is a nostalgia for the present, for air-conditioned comfort and
convenience and the groaning all-you-can-eat Shoney's breakfast buffet off the
freeway ramp. When it is withdrawn from them by the mandate of events,
they will be furious.

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