Dude, We Are So Doomed   (June 11, 2008)

What can you say when four long cycles of history all turn negative within the next 13 years? Dude, we are so doomed.

Here are the four profound cycles which intersect/converge within the next few years:

1. Peak oil, or the depletion end-game of the global economy's complete dependence on inexpensive, readily available petroleum/fossil fuels.

2. The cycle of credit expansion and contraction, which is now beginning the transition from unsustainable credit expansion (bubble) to renunciation of debt (credit collapse) and global depression.

3. The generational cycle (4 generations or approximately 80 years) of American history which leads to nation-changing social, political and economic upheaval. (The American Revolution: 1781 +80 years = Civil War, 1861 +80 years = 1941, World War II + 80 years = 2021)

4. The 100+ year cycle of price inflation and stagnation of wages' purchasing-power which began around 1901 is now reaching the final stage of widespread turmoil, shortages, famine, war, conflict and crisis.

But wait, you might say; historical cycles aren't causes--might these be mere artifacts of imagination, patterns we have discerned amidst the chaos of history? Perhaps. But there are causal factors behind each cyclical turn for the worse. Here are a few books which provide the causal conditions and contexts for each cycle:

The coming generational crisis:

The Fourth Turning

The Coming Generational Storm: What You Need to Know about America's Economic Future

Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future

Peak oil/Hubbert's Peak/depletion:

Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak

The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies

Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy

The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century

Cycles of stable prices and rising wages, and rising prices and stagnant wages: (recommended by Cheryl A.)

The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History

Cycles of social, geopolitical and financial turmoil:

The Rhythm of War

The Rise and Decline of Nations: Economic Growth, Stagflation, and Social Rigidities

And as a lagniappe--the fragility of global supply chains:

End of the Line: The Rise and Coming Fall of the Global Corporation

Refute any one cycle if you can--and there's still three left. Refute any two, and there's still two left. Any one of the four promises status-quo shattering consequences, and if you read all these books with any sort of objectivity then it's difficult to come away with the cheery certitude of the financial or mainstream press that "the worst of the (insert choice here--derivative, housing, Iraq, oil, etc.) crisis is past."

Not so fast. Let's see how we're faring in, say, 2012 before we reach for the pom-poms and happy-talk. Or better yet, 2021--a mere 13 years hence.

Given the convergence of historical cycles illustrated above and documented by the above books, I think it is safe to state--in the vernacular--Dude, we are so doomed.

Late-breaking addendum:

Terence Parker, author of the highly recommended (by me) and highly concise The Rhythm of War, sent in this chart of the famous Kondratieff Cycle as it pertains to commodity prices:

Terence comments:

Re cycles: see attached Kondratieff figure produced in 1920s plus some notes I have added.

From this, we could have predicted the 1920+53 = 1973 commodity peak. We can also predict the next 1973+53 = 2026 commodity peak. If the Iraq 'war' drags on beyond 2015, it is likely to intensify and then come to an ignominious but very emotional end in or around 2026. Speculators are rubbing their hands in anticipation!

I experienced 1973 whilst I was a MOD procurement project manager; it was a wild time. Even Rolls Royce was nearly bankrupted. During the decade after 1973, the British Government more-or-less lost control of the country.

I recently visited our 'National Memorial' in Staffordshire. The stone mason already has a massive backlog of work; he was chipping away next to a large plastic sheet which covered the outline of very many names.

Thank you, Terence, for the charts and commentary.

Regarding the reference to Britain's National Memorial, readers should know that Mr. Parker does not take war lightly and wrote his book as a means of exploring how wars could be avoided. Here is an excerpt from his website about the author:

In 1957, after achieving top marks in the Armed Services Entrance Examination, he entered the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Commissioned into the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, he gained an Honours Degree in Electrical Engineering before serving in a variety of appointments in the United Kingdom, Europe and North America.

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