Saturday, July 04, 2009

Liberty and Liberation: Independence Day and Survival+

I am posting my eBook Survival+ on Independence Day for this reason: we need to liberate ourselves from failed models of debt-based bogus "prosperity" and consumerist "happiness" and face the coming national insolvency head-on.

HTML version: Survival+: Structuring Prosperity for Yourself and the Nation

PDF version (111 pages): Survival+

This eBook is copyrighted but it is available for free distribution and personal-use printing because the subject--understanding the insolvency and unsustainability of the U.S. economy--is important, and I don't want the price of a book to be an issue which inhibits the national discussion we so desperately need to begin.

I don't expect you to agree with everything in this book--my goal is simply to add to the national discussion. Some chapters have been published as entries here, so those will already be familiar to you. What's new is the attempt at what I term anintegrated understanding.

Given that I spent over 5 weeks this year away on family matters, this 74,000-word work has required an extraordinary effort, given I have also written some 150,000 words this year on the blog and another 50,000 in emails to readers and correspondents (rough guesses). So yes, there will be typos and errors which I will be working to resolve as time permits.

This is my attempt at a comprehensive analysis of how we got into the current Depression; solutions are implicit in the analysis, and I will be working to complete an outline of a "Plan B" sustainable/post-financial collapse economy now that the "Plan A" economy is imploding. That section will be published (along with the 74,000-word analysis posted here) in Spring 2010 by Feral House Publishing.

That printed book will cost some small sum of money, as the publisher and author need some modest compensation to continue on.

If you find this eBook worthy, I would be honored by your distribution of the work to your friends and colleagues, and by any link you might post to it on the Web. Thank you, readers, for your kind support and encouragement over the past six months I have devoted to this project. I could not have done it without your contributions of cash, research and critical thinking.

Here are the first pages of Survival+:


Since launching my blog in May 2005, nothing seemed more important than warning readers that the unsustainably leveraged credit-mad global financial system was poised to break down. Once the system finally crashed in late 2008, my goal switched to writing a practical guide for not just surviving the coming Great Transformation but prospering: a concept I called Survival+ (Plus). This requires liberating ourselves from failed models of credit expansion, resource depletion, financial looting and a counterfeit prosperity built entirely on debt.

I immediately ran into several great difficulties. Many others had foreseen the same calamity, and their focus narrowed on individual survival: relocating to a remote/sustainable spot and preparing for societal collapse by stockpiling self-defense and food.

While prudent and practical on a short-term timeline, this response struck me as incomplete on several levels. Most importantly, stockpiling six months' supplies would not sustain anyone through a 20-year Crisis and Transformation; their own Crisis was simply being delayed a relatively short time. In other words: "what happens in month seven"?

Secondly, many "survivalist" proponents focus on individual preparation, as if a single person or household can prosper without a stable, caring community for reciprocal support. This notion ran counter not just to my own experience but to all of human history. While I understood the desire to "opt out" and become an Isolationist--a solution to general turmoil which has roots going back to the dissolution of the Roman Empire and the Warring States era in ancient China--I felt a more practical, longer-term option to Isolationism should also be presented.

The second great difficulty is that individuals, households and communities exist in larger units: city-states, counties, nations and continents. Even if nation-states were to break apart, the world would remain tightly interconnected. Events, weather, shortages and surpluses in distant places would continue to impact us all. States (by which I mean all forms of government) will continue to extend control over resources and wealth.

Trade has been a key component of security and prosperity since the dawn of civilization. Long before fossil fuels dominated the global economy, land and sea trade in both goods and innovations bound Asia, the Mideast and Europe. Thus a retreat to isolated islands of self-sufficiency, while understandable and practical on one level, does not align with what history teaches us about prosperity. Prosperity ultimately depends on stable communities, surplus production and trade. These essentials have been largely ignored in analyses of the coming Great Transformation.

Thus our individual survival and prosperity are inextricably bound up in larger contexts: we cannot just ignore community, State and trade forces as if they will cease to exist. Even as they no longer function as they did in the past, it seems wise to influence the larger Transformation rather than view ourselves in an isolation which is ultimately misleading.

That is why I subtitled this book "Structuring Prosperity for Yourself and the Nation." To believe that we can prosper individually without regard for the actions of our fellow citizens and the State (government) is simply not practical. Yes, a handful of very rugged people have the experience required to live in the deepest remains of wilderness; but the wilderness cannot support more than a handful of people, and most of us do not have the requisite skills or ruggedness to survive that splendid isolation.

This, then, is a practical book for the rest of us.

As I organized the book, another great difficulty quickly arose. I realized that the way a problem is phrased implicitly stakes out the eventual solution. As a result, the greatest challenge in understanding our plight, both as individuals and communities, is essentially conceptual. The forces which benefit most from the status quo are pouring all their prodigious resources into framing the "problems" in such a way that the "obvious solutions" leave their own power, influence and wealth intact.

Lest you wonder how this works, recall that all through the initial phase of the financial crisis in 2008, the mainstream media and standard-issue financial punditry (SIFP) blamed the entire crisis on foolish low-income homebuyers who had chosen to finance their purchases with subprime mortgages.

Framed in this way, the "problem" appeared to be caused by credulous citizens in the lower socio-economic levels. The "solution" was thus to eliminate these people from the pool of potential homebuyers, and auction off their foreclosed homes to worthier buyers.

But subsequent events revealed this framing of the problem to be highly selective: the "problem" extended far beyond feckless subprime borrowers into the top rungs of American Capitalism: the money-center and investment banks, and a politically driven absence of oversight by the very governmental agencies tasked with protecting the public.

The status quo's convenient "framing of the problem" insured that any "solutions" would leave their power, wealth and influence entirely intact; only the impoverished subprimers would suffer, not those who profited so immensely from the housing/credit bubble.

It was thus clear that a practical analysis of the crisis and coming Transformation requires a deep understanding of how "solutions" are set in the framing of the "problem." Indeed, what is "obvious" must be questioned on the deepest levels, for what is "obvious" has two powerful characteristics: it can be managed/manipulated via the mass media, and it directs "solutions" which leave the rentier-financial Power Elite (what I call the Plutocracy) intact.

The nature of propaganda in a so-called free State must then be explored in depth as well.

The last great difficulty is also conceptual. It is relatively straight-forward to present the causes of the coming global crisis: Peak Oil, disintegration of the credit bubble, demographics, etc. Many books do a fine job of outlining the nature of these interlocking crises.

The books attempting to present solutions typically focus on either individuals (along the lines of "get rich as the world falls apart") or idealized policy "fixes" based on academic understandings of large-scale structures (articles on G-20 trade policies, etc). The flaw in both approaches is that neither flows from what I call anintegrated understanding of the actual problems. (Key concepts are italicized when introduced.)

Practical solutions must follow from this integrated understanding. Without such a comprehensive conceptual framework, then all proposed solutions will be ungrounded and thus dangerously misleading.

Any "solution" which ignores key elements of the problem is doomed to solve nothing. As in our example of the so-called "subprime crisis," the "solution" of limiting uncreditworthy borrowers did nothing to address the actual problems: highly profitable and highly fraudulent practices riddling every level of the mortgage/rating/securities industries, perverse incentives that created unprecedented opportunities for windfall exploitation, over-reach and looting, etc.

I cannot claim that reaching such an integrated understanding will be easy. Many of the concepts presented here may be unfamiliar and thus difficult to grasp at first. Many are so alien to status quo "explanations" that they may well strike you as the opposite of "obvious." But since I have thought about these concepts and forces for years, they seem "obvious" to me. In the language of our Declaration of Independence: I hold these truths to be self-evident.

So let us begin.

We stand on the threshold of a Great Transformation that will unfold over the next 20 years--a generation. The exact turn and sequence of events is unknown, but a clear-eyed appraisal of the forces, trends and cycles already at work will help us, collectively and as individuals, weather the challenges and turn what could be a catastrophe into a positive transformation.

To the status quo understanding of how our world works, this appraisal will be anything but "obvious." (Sorting out what is "obvious" is a big part of the analysis which follows.)

A number of other writers have addressed preparing for the Depression which has just begun. These books are, within their limited scope, practical and useful. This book aims at a different goal: once we understand the complex forces at work, then we can structure a response on all three levels: household/family, community and nation. For if there is anything we can confidently predict, it's that the nation's crumbling finances will drastically affect every family and every community.

Key concepts in this Introduction:

Plutocracy (rentier-financial Power Elite)

integrated understanding

windfall exploitation


Chapter One: An Overview

A great clash between what we are told is unfolding and what is actually unfolding lies just ahead.

The status quo "Powers That Be" and its mainstream media repeatedly insist that:

  • We have abundant cheap energy for a long time to come; Peak Oil is decades away. We have plenty of time for technological wonders to arise and replace petroleum.
  • The Social Security and Medicare entitlements promised to all Americans, though totalling some $50 trillion in excess of projected tax revenues, will be paid; all that is needed are modest policy adjustments.
  • The current financial meltdown was unexpected and could not have been foreseen; it is a temporary "bad patch" which has already been fixed by government intervention and modest policy/regulatory adjustments.
  • Environmental issues such as the stripping of the world's fisheries, dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay, dwindling fresh water acquifers, etc. can all be fixed with modest policy adjustments.
  • The consumerist culture which has evolved over the past 60 years is a natural and highly successful perfection of capitalism, prosperity and American values; Americans are the happiest, most prosperous people on the planet.
  • The fast-growing epidemic of obesity and related chronic diseases in the U.S. are puzzling and worrisome, but we have the finest healthcare system in the world.

    Yet all of the above is demonstrably false. To continue reading, please click on one of the eBook links:

    HTML version: Survival+: Structuring Prosperity for Yourself and the Nation

    PDF version (111 pages): Survival+

    Of Two Minds is now available via Kindle: Of Two Minds blog-Kindle

    Thank you, Craig M. ($30), for your superbly generous contribution to this site. I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

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