One of the conclusions that I try to coax, lead, and/or nudge people towards is acceptance of the fact that the economy can’t be fixed. By this I mean that the old regime of general economic stability and rising standards of living fueled by excessive credit are a thing of the past. At least they are for the debt-encrusted developed nations over the short haul — and, over the long haul, across the entire soon-to-be energy-starved globe.
There is no “silver bullet,” no magic solution that will turn back the clock to an era of abundant resources and easy growth. For now, all that governments can do is buy time through further deficit spending—ideally, using that time to build infrastructure that will continue to function in the coming era of reduced flows of energy and resources. Meanwhile, we must all find ways to come out from under a burden of debt that will otherwise crush us. The inherent contradiction within this prescription is obvious but unavoidable.
The reckoning will be global because the money and banking regime is global — and deeply flawed.
“Municipal” bonds include bonds issued by states, as well as bonds issued by cities and by many types of smaller entities, such as hospitals and toll roads. To date, everyone has assumed that there is not much risk of default, and even if there is, someone else will handle it. But if one looks at the long term oil situation, and the problems states and cities are having already, it is pretty clear that the debt default problem is likely to get worse over time, and there is really no one set up to handle the default risk.
The central assertion of this book is both simple and startling: Economic growth as we have known it is over and done with. The “growth” we are talking about consists of the expansion of the overall size of the economy (with more people being served and more money changing hands) and of the quantities of energy and material goods flowing through it. The economic crisis that began in 2007-2008 was both foreseeable and inevitable, and it marks a permanent, fundamental break from past decades—a period during which most economists adopted the unrealistic view that perpetual economic growth is necessary and also possible to achieve. There are now fundamental barriers to ongoing economic expansion, and the world is colliding with those barriers.
If this essay were to serve as an economics primer, then plenty more financial terms should be defined and discussed; however, the aim instead is merely to provide the essential background (by way of history and terminology) necessary to understand the recent financial events and trends that have led industrial society to the point where we are today—the end of growth