Tom Whipple of the Falls Church News is one of the best at discussing the social implications of peak oil. He makes the following observation:
Buried in the millions of words that were written about the shootings in Arizona last week was a recent poll showing that only 13 percent of the American people think favorably of the U.S. Congress. The implication, of course, is that as 87 percent or roughly 270 million Americans harbor some level of animosity towards their elected federal representatives, the emergence of people who believe that exercising their 2nd Amendment rights is solution to the nation’s woes is inevitable.
Why are so many, so mad at the Congress? The answer is simple – they have no idea what is happening to their lives. Since the beginning of the great recession way back in 2007 they have been told by two Presidents, their senior officials, 99 percent of the Congress, and most of the media that recovery was on the way and that prosperity would return shortly.
As unemployment in the U.S. grew and grew, every politician with a prayer of winning positioned him or herself as the “jobs” candidate who could and would get us all working at good high-paying jobs again. This of course has not returned and is unlikely to do so. We are not only contending with a growing debt bubble of gigantic proportions, we are also rapidly running out of the cheap, abundant energy that allowed us to be so prosperous for the last 200 years.
One of the problems with a Democracy is that politicians have to be elected and to get elected they think they can’t tell you what you don’t want to hear. The truth that US voters don’t want to hear is that the economy we enjoyed in the 50s, 60s and 70s will never return. The stimulus favored by the Democrats won’t do it and the illogical supply side economics tax cuts favored by the Republicans won’t do it. Whipple explains:
The real problem, of course, is that without a continually growing source of cheap and abundant energy, such as that provided by fossil fuels, there will never again be significant economic growth in the sense to which we have become accustomed. It is inevitable that we are all going to get much poorer, in a material sense, and this is the great secret of our age that so far few have had the courage to express. The easier path has been Keynesian stimulation of the economy, government bailouts of what were held to be key financial and industrial institutions, and tax cuts to mollify those who believe all problems stem from taxes. These measures were accompanied by endless expressions of hope that things would soon be better.
However, as the real economic situation continues to deteriorate in the midst of so little appreciation of why it is happening, frustrations with the political system grows and grows. In America, we have now had a run of well over 100 years with minimal domestic unrest on the scale of the Civil or Indian wars. This, however, may not continue to be the case much longer. As unemployment grows and people see the standards of living they have always known slipping away, their frustrations can take many forms. Last November as a nation we threw out dozens of politicians and replaced them with new faces equally devoid of any comprehension of the problem or what we as a nation will have to do next in order to survive, much less prosper.
Next year we will face another round of elections and all indications suggest that 20 odd months from now our economic situation will be materially worse and gasoline will be approaching unaffordability for many. While realism could surface in the intervening time, the odds are it won’t and next year we will be faced with a plethora of silly proposals to deal with imagined problems. As the situation deteriorates further however, some may see violence as the answer to their woes. So far in America violence against individual public officials has been perpetrated by individuals with mental problems or a cause to further. This may not always be the case.
While telling the truth may be politically dangerous not explaining how the world is changing threatens the country. Meanwhile the oligarchs that dictate policy are just trying to get as much as they can while they can. They are becoming increasingly insulated from the population as a whole travelling from their gated communities in armored cars surrounded by private security guards. At the same the budget for local police forces is being cut leaving fewer and fewer officers to protect the ordinary citizens.
As has been frequently noted by the media in recent days, the level of political discourse in America has been dropping markedly in recent years and while no one of any stature seems to be openly advocating violence, some are getting mighty close. Another few years of economic stagnation and increasing unemployment could easily bring us to the point where the line will be crossed.
All this is by way of saying that there is a serious downside to simply ignoring the realities of the current situation and relying on hope rather than leveling with the American people. By failure to guide the country to real solutions to real problems, our leaders are risking increasing violence as the frustrations of an unknowing people continue to grow.
What people don’t understand is while we are going to have fewer “things” it doesn’t mean we will be less happy. We have been convinced by non stop TV advertisements that we need more and bigger things to be happy and content. I have lived or spent extended periods of time in both Europe and Asia. In both cases while they have less “things” than those of us in the US I found they were more content. They enjoyed their families more, they enjoyed their neighbors more and they worried less.