James Howard Kunstler: The Coming Economy Of "Less"
The important story is what happens in the financial sector and how it effects the economy in the next twelve to eighteen months. As we know, the financial system is the most abstract and fragile of all the systems that we depend on because the other systems can't run without it. The trucks won't make the food deliveries to the supermarkets unless the finance system works. The gasoline won't get to the pumps at the stations.
Nothing's going to move if the financial system cracks up. People no longer trust each other to transact, to get paid. And so they stop transacting.
We're talking about a falling standard of living and getting used to an economy of "less". It sounds kind of Ebenezer Scrooge-ish to suggest that people may have to do with less rather than more, because more has always been the expectation in our lifetime. But that's probably a fact. And as I've said more than once, reality has mandates of its own. Circumstances are going to inform us about how this economy is emerging and where we need to go with it. And we can either pay attention or just sit there with our fingers in our ears.
What we're talking about here is the armature of our culture and economy that people hang their lives on. And that armature is crumbling. There are fewer things that people can hang a life on in a meaningful way, or a way that even ensures that they can have a little bit of security looking into even a short-term future.
For example, I had a day yesterday that felt like national Murphy's Law Day. I got a screw in a tire. The screw was in a place where, under New York State law, they're not allowed to fix the tire if the screw is near the outside of tread. So I had to buy a brand-new tire. And then I was going to take the trash to the dump in my old pickup truck, which I keep around for that purpose. But the battery was dead. So I had to go down to the auto parts store and buy a new battery, and bring it home and put it in.
Now, I'm among the lucky people in this land who can actually buy a new tire and buy a car battery. But probably some enormous percentage of the population, like 78% or 84% -- I'm not quite sure what it is -- they don’t have enough money to buy a new car battery if their car dies on some god forsaken freeway shoulder 38 miles from home. Imagine how crazy-making that is. I can easily, because I was a truly starving bohemia until well into my 40s, struggling just to pay the light bill while writing book after book. So I know what it's like to live day after day in that kind of financial anxiety.
I imagine that the financial anxiety out there right now is just so extreme that there's a whole mass of people who are being pushed to the limits of their sanity.