by Bill Bonner
"Utter piffle," is how Terence Blacker of The Independent describes it. He is the voice of Fair Reason. To him, the idea that the sky is falling now is an "insult to past generations who have faced more grievous threats with courage and calm." But that's the trouble with Fair Reason; she never looks up. Like the wife who thinks her husband 'would never do something that,' she's appalled when she finally sees what he's been up to.
Nassim Taleb has made a career out of warning people. His "Taleb distribution" describes the occasional apocalypse: usually, things happen in a respectable, bell curve kind of way...the way Fair Reason thinks they should...and then, all Hell breaks loose.
The last time the sky fell was 96 years ago. Few saw it coming; no one panicked. But panic wouldn't exist if it weren't a useful instinct from time to time. The celestial bricks came unglued in August 1914. By 1918, 40 million people had died. But that was just the beginning. WWI bankrupted or destroyed almost every major government of
But that was only the half of it. Between the two wars, came hyperinflation and destitution in
First spotted in young soldiers at
Before the 1914-1945 catastrophe was the 1789-1812 calamity – roughly the period from the French Revolution to the Battle of Waterloo. It not only included the collapse of five different forms of government in France – Monarchy, First Republic, Directory, Consulate, and First Empire – but also inflation, 3 currency collapses, major political debacles throughout Europe, the Napoleonic Wars, as well as the last major famine in France in 1795.
War, bankruptcy, chaos, plague and famine – when trouble comes, it comes with a mob at its back. As usual, the Greeks provided an early example.
Later, it was the Romans' turn. Bankruptcy, wars, stupidity – all took their toll. Then, in the 6th century, came another major onslaught: disease. Of the 80 monasteries around
Again, in the 14th century, came 100 years of war in
New Scientist magazine comments: "Many people dismiss any talk of collapse as akin to the street corner prophet warning that the end is nigh." But, more and more scientists are taking the end of civilization threat seriously, the magazine continues. Complexity – such as derivative financial instruments and "just in time" inventory systems – is making "our society...ever more vulnerable."
In his 1988 book, The Collapse of Complex Societies , Joseph Tainter argued that all societies – like all organisms – are doomed. Each challenge requires a solution. Each solution takes resources. Eventually, the solutions – and readers may substitute the word "bailout" for solution – brings more challenges and takes more resources. Eventually, the system collapses under the weight of if all.
When the stars fall, even the angels get out of town.