2023-2030: Artifice Vs. Doom-Loops

June 22, 2023

If you prefer reality to artifice, oh, you wretched doom-and-gloomer. Just look at our social media feed, that's what real.

The shift from real to fake occurs because it serves somebody's interests. The married couple who have fallen out of love continue the pretense of a "happy marriage" for a good reason: the facade of lovey-dovey normalcy plays well socially and in their careers. The kids know better, of course, and so they're told that propping up the facade presented to the outside world is "non-negotiable." They can snark to their friends privately but must dutifully play the part in public lest their warring parents make life even more miserable than it already is.

The shift from fake to fraud is an easy one, because reality cannot be allowed to break through the artifice. The artifice is the business is doing great, but the reality is the enterprise is sliding into insolvency. And so the partners start cutting corners: stop paying taxes and invoices, start borrowing money to cover expenses, and eventually, begin defrauding others to maintain the facade of success and normalcy.

It's a slippery slope, and it all starts when we decide that reality is unacceptable because it demands painful sacrifices and trade-offs. So we choose artifice over reality. At first it's just a matter of omission: we leave out the unpleasant bits and hype the happy facade. Here we are on vacation, look how luxurious it is, look how happy we are.

But artifice isn't real, it's fake, and the costs are not just financial. Living a lie saps us of integrity and moral cohesion to the point that we can no longer distinguish between the artifice being propped up and the real world. All that matters is sustaining the illusion of stability and success, and to do this as reality weighs on the fake facade demands ever larger servings of artifice.

The end-point of artifice is the emperor has no clothes: those propping up the facade insist a risibly obvious lie is the truth. Since those propping up the facade have invested everything they have in the artifice, they're now totally dependent on everyone accepting the fantasy as if it was real.

In other words, once everyone accepts the artifice as if it was real, it becomes real. But this too is artifice. Reality is not a matter of public opinion or approval. We don't decide what's real and what's fake / fraud by opinion polls. Real is real, artifice is fake.

You already know I'm talking about the US economy, and indeed, the global economy because like the onlookers suppressing their mirth at the naked emperor's supposed finery, we all know the "growth" and "prosperity" are functions of artificial stimulus, the ever-greater conjuring of "money" out of thin air, pushing interest rates underwater and fiddling with statistics.

We all know it's as fake as the luxurious lifestyles posted on social media by youths struggling to pay rent. The craving for artifice over reality has infected the entire culture and economy. What's real no longer matters, all that matters is the public facade is maintained at all costs.

The problem is those clinging to a world of artifice lose the ability to deal with the real world. They believe that maintaining their fake facade is a substitute for dealing with reality, and so they lose the practice of dealing with the real world via difficult solutions that demand sacrifices and trade-offs.

Unfortunately for all those beavering away at maintaining their world of artifice, reality is implacable, and it manifests as doom-loops which feed on artifice and become stronger until they break through the facade and the artificial construct collapses.

A current example of a doom-loop is the collapse of commercial real estate in downtowns emptied by remote work. The loop is the decline of the commuting workforce feeds the decline of demand for office space and the decline of small business that served the workforce and paid rent. As the area decays, fewer people seek office space or are willing to start a new business. The decay feeds on itself.

The facade of artifice demands a happy story solution, which is to convert all those empty office towers into luxury apartments and condos that will be inhabited by free-spending folks who will spark a renaissance with their wealth.

The problem is that it's not cheap or easy to convert office space to dwellings. It's horrendously costly and therefore risky. And since the downtown has already decayed, there is no certainty in the assumption that high-income people will flock to a barren cityscape of homeless encampments and vehicles with smashed windows.

The irony here is the doom-loops are generated by our refusal to deal with reality. We want artificial solutions that cost us nothing and require no sacrifices, fake-fixes that maintain the facade we value more than our ability to function in the real world.

Doom-loops don't occur in isolation: they interact with each other, reinforcing each other. Attempts to suppress one doom-loop by papering over the unwelcome reality accelerate other doom-loops.

There is a structure to our artifice: those benefiting the most have the most to lose should the facade crumble. Those at the top of the heap are thus fanatically devoted to propping up the illusion of stability and "growth," regardless of the damage being done behind the happy-story facade.

There is no master-plan in the desperate machinations to keep the facade intact. There is only the day-to-day plugging of holes that reality is leaking through.

And so the fraudulent farce continues: the social media facade of luxury behind the five roommates crammed into one flat struggling to pay rent, the "stability" of the banking sector, the permanence of "growth," the tired joke that "debt doesn't matter because we can always conjure more money," and the absurd confidence that speculation is a substitute for a functioning economy that doesn't depend on financial trickery for its survival.

A desire to restore our collective ability to deal with reality gets one labeled a bitter doom-and-gloomer, because this would require the collapse of artifice. And that, of course, is non-negotiable to those who have confused their artificial world with the real world.

The era of 2023 to 2030 will be a titanic struggle between the forces of artifice and the multiplying doom-loops generated by artifice. Artifice has been the official policy since the Vietnam War era, and the conventional view holds that the past 50 years are proof that artifice can be successfully maintained forever.

This confidence can only be maintained by refusing to look at the doom-loops gathering momentum behind the facade. The effort required to keep the facade intact increases geometrically, and eventually the system can no longer keep it all glued together. At that point reality intrudes and we'll have to regain our ability to deal with a world stripped of financial trickery and fraud. That won't be easy because we've spent 50 years in a world of artifice.

Those who find this hard to swallow, answer this: what would happen if the Federal Reserve ceased to exist and the federal government could only borrow 1% of its revenues for additional deficit spending? What if all the trillions in stimulus, borrowing and trickery went away tomorrow? Does anyone seriously believe the economy would chug along, unperturbed, rock-solid and stable? This is the difference between artifice and reality.

If you prefer reality to artifice, oh, you wretched doom-and-gloomer. Just look at our social media feed, that's what real. Hungry and can't eat an iPhone? No problem, just have AI conjure up an image of a banquet and post that on your public-perception feed.

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