Saturday, July 23, 2016

Preparing Ourselves for Difficulties by Thinking about All Possibilities

As lovers of the Bible, we should be acquainted with the reality of sudden reversals of fortune. In 2349 BC (Ussher), Yahweh caused a great flood which only Noah, his family, and two of each animal and bird escaped (Genesis 6). Although Yahweh sent the prophet Amos around 800 BC to warn the people of Israel to repent or face destruction, his words were ignored until that nation was in fact destroyed in 721 BC. Yahweh sent Jeremiah to Jerusalem with the same message, but the people of Jerusalem and Judah also ignored Yahweh’s warnings and were likewise destroyed in 588 BC. Jesus used the story of Noah to remind his listeners that [i]n the days before the flood people ate and drank, men and women married, up to the very day Noah went into the boat; yet they did not realize what was happening until the flood came and swept them all away. That is how it will be when the Son of Man comes (Matthew 24:38-39, Good News Translation).
These biblical examples may helpfully remind us that sudden reversals can happen even to people who understand themselves to be God’s people. Christians in America today, for example, will be no exception to this.
Facing significant global challenges today, we do well to logically consider the whole range of logical possibilities. Logically, those possibilities range from 0: total nuclear annihilation, to 10: a new period of unprecedented peace and prosperity, through 2.5: significant civilizational collapse, 5: a world similar to our own in 2000, and 7.5: a world similar to our own in 1970 (before the US abandoned the gold standard).

I have mentioned that the world is currently dominated by one Global Technological System (GTS) and that I think this GTS started to collapse in 2008 and continues to do so at an accelerating rate. So, along the range of logical possibilities, my position right now is somewhere around 2.5: significant civilizational collapse. I regard this scenario as most likely, not because I am a pessimist or anything of the sort, but because I think that’s the most logical possibility. I hope I’m wrong.
I am concerned, however, that despite the reasons I’ve shared, civilizational collapse may still seem too unpleasant to be likely and we will face greater difficulties because we failed to prepare together for it. As an exercise in logic, then, I want to share with you a forecast, worse than my own, but not as severe as nuclear annihilation. I would put it at about 1: severe civilizational collapse and depopulation. In sharing it, I’m not implying it’s true. I’m only trying to increase the flexibility of our thinking by getting it out of the rosy range of scenarios between 7.5 and 10.
In 2014, Edwin Deagel predicted severe decline for America by 2025:

     Year                     2014                                    2025
     Population           319,000,000                       65,000,000
     GDP                     $17 trillion/$78t world       $.89 trillion/$48t world
     GDP per capita    $54,627                              $13,591
     Military budget     $756 billion                       $7.2 billion

Edwin claims that most of the data he used came from sources such as the US government or the UN. He points out that we should remain skeptical of such official sources especially as reality grows more challenging. Under such circumstances, anyone with a stake in the status quo is strongly tempted to lie and usually does. He compares, for example, statistics by Dagong Global Credit Ratings Company, based in China, with those of the US government. While the US government says that US Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is about $15 trillion, Dagong says that, realistically, it lies somewhere between $5 and $10 trillion. Of course, the statisticians at Dagong might be mistaken or misleading.
Edwin points out that changes in quality affect quantitative statistics. Right now, at least 50% of the people who contract the Ebola virus die. This is the death rate of people with access to excellent medical care. If Ebola becomes pandemic, the quality of health care will decline and the death rate will likely climb to over 90%. We therefore can’t accurately predict future quantities without considering likely changes in important qualities.
He thinks the US will suffer a precipitous decline in population due primarily to migration (he chose not to consider the possibilities of a pandemic or nuclear war). In the past, the US benefitted immensely from people migrating to the US. The collapse of the American economy will reverse that. The stock market will crash and pension funds will disappear. The currently high American standard of living will swiftly decline to a significantly lower level. Instead of simply moving factories overseas, corporations currently based in America will move everything overseas. Large numbers of Americans will be forced by necessity to migrate to Latin America and Asia. “The death toll will be horrible.”
He mentions the experience of Russians between 1987 and 1994, before and after the collapse in 1991 of the Soviet Union. That collapse caused a dramatic drop in the birth rate, a sharp rise in the death rate, and a painful sense of national humiliation. Edwin anticipates that Americans, enjoying a much higher standard of living now, will suffer a much greater collapse. Everyone will suffer severe disillusionment. Retirees will see their retirement funds vanish. The robust American service economy, which provides all the people who care for retirees and make their lives more comfortable, will vanish too. The extraordinarily large number of retirees, suddenly disillusioned in addition to losing all means of support, will likely rapidly die off. Their children will emigrate. Hundreds of millions of other Americans will suffer far greater agony than Russians did in the 1990s.
Again, my point in sharing Edwin’s dark predictions was simply to increase the flexibility of our thinking by considering a position along the generally ignored end of the range of logical possibilities. It was also to increase an open-mindedness toward the plausibility of other positions between 0 (nuclear annihilation) and 5 (a world similar to the one in 1970).
My hope in all of this is to discern, together, how we might respond, as creatively as possible, to the difficult days ahead, whatever form those difficulties may take, for God’s glory and our good.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.